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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Wed Dec 28, 2011 5:14 am

Spoiler:
 

Ha’el watched, transfixed, as the camera locked on Synton as she soared through the air. She and Epimor had been missing since they arrived, yet… what was this feeling of emptiness in his chest? Something was missing.

Why was I so drawn to her? he thought as Synton landed on the Leviathan, her hands digging into the giant eyeball. As she began to tear at it, Ha’el grew confused. What was this feeling?

As Synton destroyed it, Ha’el turned and dejectedly left to the heart of Section C. He was sure Torvald would be fine, and he could do nothing there – but he would need to have a strong bond with Alpha if the Legion was supposed to defend itself in the future.

That is my responsibility, he thought to himself. He brushed away thoughts of Synton for the time being.
__________
Lee looked around excitedly, but unaware of what was happening. Was there a fight on the screens?

She looked for Tachi, but could only see her twins – clones, she had said. How many did she say there were? There were two here and one on the screen, but she didn’t recognize any of them as the one she knew.

If something exciting is happening, I want to be a part of it! Lee thought.

A large robotic thing ran on the screen, and a grating, amplified voice pierced the control room. “I have arrived at the scene,” Nami said, “But the threat appears to have been neutralized. I apologize for my tardiness; the freight elevator took some time.”

Boisen made a mental note to look at increasing the lift’s speed later and stored it in his onboard memory’s ever-growing folder of notes.

“Nami, please check on Torvald and the RR team. They should be in the warehouse to your left. I’m sorry, your right.”

Moments later, Nami said, “Torvald appears to be stable, though he is unconscious. The Response Team Leader has called in medical aid.”

Iliad, though glad the demon was dispatched (or so it seemed), went to Muchi, who was operating an auxiliary command panel. He keyed the Team Leader on his chat and asked for the deceased’s registration.

Ananke looked at Lee and lowered her head; she already knew the truth.

Iliad had Muchi bring up a list of infantry to find the soldier who’d been swallowed by the Leviathan saving Torvald – RR 01-002. He would have to make a note to inform the soldier’s family, probably on Mars.

Muchi made a sound and Iliad looked down, suppressing a groan. Section C, which had started leaving the room, stopped to look as Muchi covered her mouth and managed to say, “It’s Tachi.”

“Tachi’s dead.”
__________

Ananke looked grimly at Lee, whose face was contorted in horror. She seemed ready to shout This can’t be happening! but, instead, she took a deep breath and ran away.

Ananke started as the Fates shifted in ways she hadn’t seen before.

This –

She trembled as she watched reality unfold and reform.

This changes everything.
__________

A clear voice rang out in the back of Boisen’s head: She’s still alive. Boisen immediately began a diagnostic of his interneural components to find out where it was coming from, but he was cut short when he heard the voice again and realized it wasn’t coming from his mechanical brain(s).

Tachi’s alive.

Save her.


An image of Synton’s face – or rather, an emotion that resembled Synton – flickered over his senses for an instant. Telepathy?!

Boisen jumped up and hesitated for an instant before saying anything. A commotion had formed around Muchi’s terminal; he didn’t want to escalate any emotions.

Also, he wasn’t sure he could save her.

Wordlessly, he began running as fast as he could manage to the lift while communicating with Nami: “There is a survivor inside the eye. Do what you can to bring her here – Section D, that is.”

He received Nami’s affirmative and closed distance to the elevator, his boots impacting the laminated tile floor with a repetitive slapping.

Boisen’s choice to retain many biological body parts, such as his legs, is something that he has come to regret every now and then. Even with a short sprint, he found himself gasping for breath.

He examined the elevator panel and selected an appropriate jack for the port, and then he was in. As he was gulping down air, stinging as though cold daggers were thrust into his throat, his mind suddenly entered another world, constructed on tenets of order and stability, efficiency.

It was calming.

This particular elevator was incredibly simple to control; nothing like setting up Chandra. He sent the lift to the first floor and began examining its limitations.

As he thought, its speed was not limited by the strength of the motors that moved it, but by software that could be modified with the appropriate authentication. Boisen doubled and then tripled the maximum speed.

When the lift reached the top, Boisen received word from Nami that he was on his way down and the lift began its fast descent. With his mechanical arms, Boisen pried the elevator doors open and waited for it to arrive.
__________

Iliad had followed his research head, and finally saw him, apparently about to commit suicide in an elevator shaft. He shouted from a distance, “Boisen, what are you doing?!” but Boisen only looked back as the elevator passed him and then jumped down after it.
__________

Torvald came to on a hard stone floor, coated in darkness, before trying to stand. He only vaguely remembered the demon – the Leviathan – but then he blacked out…

“You’re finally awake,” he heard. The voice was like glass, crisp and clear. Torvald looked behind him and saw the Knifeman mask, which caused him to come to his senses much faster.

“What do you want, Knifeman?” Torvald asked coldly. From staying with the Templars, he had acquired a dislike of the Knifemen – not to mention how they always seemed to cause trouble.

“Please, calm down. I want to propose an alliance.” The Knifeman was perched on a ledge like a Gargoyle.

This was unlike the Knifemen. Normally (from what Torvald had seen with Alamir and Leucin) they strong-armed until they got their way.

“Allow me to explain. I am no longer a Knifeman.” There was a small clink and a dagger, dug into the ground, emitted light like a lamp.

The supposed Knifeman was wearing, instead of a black cowl, white hooded robes. The difference was striking, especially with the same Knifeman mask.

“The Knifeman Order is now all but destroyed, and I wish to become allies against their remnants.”

There was a long silence and then Torvald said, “What, that’s you’re explanation? Why are they destroyed? Why aren’t you with them? Why, now, should I trust you?”

The Knifeman mulled over this for a moment. How to earn the wizard’s trust?

“There was a civil war of sorts in the Order. Of the original members, I have killed one hundred forty-three thousand, nine hundred and ninety-five. I know three survived, and there is one more I am not sure about.”

“How…? Aren’t the Knifemen supposed to be bound together? How could you rebel? And why?”

“Even we do not understand the nature of our connections due to their complexity. In such a network, mutations of sorts are possible. In this case, the mutation was significant enough to cause the Order to self-destruct. It allowed me to realize the Order was making a mistake in their decisions.”

Torvald was spellbound by listening to a Knifeman like this – almost like a person. “What mistake?”

“The Knifeman Order, as you know, collects and protects knowledge. History, current events – much of what has occurred or is occurring is known to us. And, most interestingly, some cases of the future may be known. This allows us to, with some limitations, influence future events.”

The rogue Knifeman jumped down in front of Torvald. “Through our agency as human beings, we can change the future, but moments of prophecy cannot be changed. Another prophecy is close to fulfillment, and the Order was intending a course of action I deemed irresponsible and antithetical to our mission.”

The Knifeman took several steps away. “What are you talking about?” Torvald asked. “What was the disagreement? What is the prophecy? You still haven’t told me anything.”

“The Apocalypse. Armageddon, Ragnarok – a battle to decide the fate of the world.” The Knifeman’s sullen mask turned back to face him. “It is approaching, heralded by many signs, such as the death of Thor and the destruction of the Knifeman Order (however incomplete it may be). Our belief… my belief is that the battle itself will be with either the Extemos or the Hammer.

“Key in this battle will be an event (described by prophecy) of two gods being born on Earth, at least one of which was born here. The Order was planning to interfere with your Legion’s plans, and they probably still will. I need you to ally yourself with me to stop them.

“Personally, I want to regain access to the Knifeman Library, but a higher priority for me in the short time is protecting the Legion. If I go to the library two of them can stay for me while one comes for you; they can outmaneuver me. If I stay put in a safe place, they will have to act – I believe this is mutually beneficial for us, since I will be protecting you from them as well.”

The Knifeman watched as Torvald considered the offer.

Of course, you wouldn’t mind if they interfered.

If they
tried to make you stronger.

But from our privileged position, we can’t be allowed to dictate fate.

We must only watch diligently
and record what we see.


Finally Torvald said, “I have some more questions.”

“Of course.”

“What did you mean when you said gods would be born?”

“Apotheosis. Two mortal humans will have gained enough power to transcend causality and become gods. There are a number of candidates for who it may be, but many of them are housed in the Legion.”

Torvald looked at the Knifeman earnestly. “Can you do anything to help? I saw a vision of the Hammer being freed… I think that may be the only way to stop him.”

“You remember when Alamir repelled the Extemos? How he faded away? That is what will happen if you try to force this change. You will have to walk down this path alone.”

“Then… I think this arrangement may work.” Torvald extended a hand. Reluctantly, the Knifeman gripped his hand in return, and Torvald was filled with coldness, as if he had momentarily glimpsed the emptiness of space.

“Since I am now pledged to destroy the Knifemen, you may call me ‘Apostate,’” the Apostate said. He placed his palm on the wall and a small opening appeared, through which Torvald saw the RR-team. “You may take your leave.”

The armored figures were arguing, “He was right here, unconscious! Where could he have gone?,” and were surprised to see Torvald step out of empty space in front of them.

The Apostate looked at the irony of the situation. The Legion was forced to defend itself against the Hellscape demons, and now, without knowing the location of the remaining Knifemen, he was forced to act defensively against them or risk losing one of humanity’s only chances of survival.

Two rafts lashed together in a surging ocean.

On his end, there was one thing that caused the Apostate any worry: the single Knifeman that disappeared, neither surviving nor dead. There were several possible causes for this effect, but few were positive for the Apostate.

He waved his hand and was plunged into darkness.
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Sat Jan 07, 2012 4:51 am

Spoiler:
 

Dr. Zhivago had kept Mikhael busy for unstated reasons. As constantly as possible, Mikhael was supposed to heat water to a boil. He was exhausted as a result, but Dr. Zhivago assured him his efforts would be explained “once the results became conclusive.”

When the water had boiled, Mikhael was to recycle it and draw new water to boil. He continued his task as Dr. Zhivago went about his own business.

He entered the room Mikhael was in and said, “You have performed admirably. I will enlighten you as to the purpose of these past few days.”

He opened the refrigerator that Mikhael used to confirm his suspicions. “As I thought… Your consumption of food has not increased since before, when you were largely idle, despite heating so many litres of water. Allow me to establish a background.”

As he spoke, he first confirmed Mikhael’s progress with a water gauge before giving him his full attention. “At the CERN headquarters, we developed, with the help of a mage, an extremely efficient engine constructed under the utmost secrecy. The team I headed developed the overall structure of the engine components, while knowing only a limited number of facts about their properties.

“In the chaos after the Russians invaded and destroyed much of our progress, I managed to obtain enough information to reverse engineer a complete schematic. Some structures, however, defied reason: the intake for the fuel did not lead into the engine itself, but rather surrounded the engine. Imagine my … my horror to learn that the ‘fuel’ we were using was in reality de-ionized water! But that paradox has finally been laid to rest. Your experiment confirms it definitely.

“In a contemporary model, your magic defies the second law of thermodynamics. Essentially, this affirms my previous preconceptions of how it would function.

“Basically, it uses a perpetual energy reaction involving magic to heat the water, which spins a turbine.”

Dr. Zhivago stood and walked across the room before turning and pacing back. Since he did not resume speaking, Mikhael asked, “Who was the mage involved in the research? If I’m allowed to know.”

“I never found out,” Dr. Zhivago responded. He stood still a moment to gather his thoughts, his hands pressing tightly against his temples.

He turned and continued brightly. “Ah, of course. We cannot siphon too much power from the Legion without drawing attention to ourselves, so I have been recreating this engine to –” he gripped his head again and groaned “– to further our plans for domination,” he lied. “And I need your help to complete the engine. Please, come with me.”

Dr. Zhivago made a stately walk into the research section and once again entered the room with the magnetic helmet on a table in the center. He walked to the far side of the room, and opened a cabinet to reveal a stack of papers that spilled out into the room. He calmly picked two papers out of the mess and placed them on the table.

“These two papers detail the structure of the engine that we will be using.” Mikhael looked and saw they were covered with incomprehensible marks, not arranged as writing but overlapping each other and placed seemingly at random. “This part here is where I need your help,” he said, pointing just below the center of the jumbled ink on the page. “I require your intervention to start the reaction, yet the space you will need to occupy will be filled with dangerous radiation. The HEV suits we have at our disposal cannot shield you completely… do you think you can protect yourself with magic?”

Mikhael considered for a moment. If he made a shield or barrier that stopped the radiation, then the HEV suit would be redundant and he would only wear out his own energy. He knew of no runes that could protect him, either.

“What threat does the radiation pose?” Mikhael asked.

“The main threat is the penetrating radiation, which causes cellular damage. If it accumulates, it can cause a number of acute effects such as death. In the longer term…” Dr. Zhivago continued, but Mikhael already had an idea of what he could do.

Dr. Zhivago later left to collect supplies and left Mikhael to his own devices. Mikhael returned to his barracks and clasped his hands together. A blue light slipped out of his palms as he sat patiently, weaving magic into a new rune.
__________

Commander Iliad sat behind his oversized desk in his strengthened chair, unrolling a lollipop. Raspberry.

Torvald and Boisen sat in front of him. “So, after the incident yesterday, it would seem your solution is needed. How is your section D project coming along? Alpha?”

“We’ve managed to work out most of the infrastructure,” Boisen stammered. “Section A is behind schedule with the production due to the supply lines, but we may be able to make a smaller model.”

“That would be best,” Iliad said. “Would you be able to transfer it to the proposed model afterwards?”

“Yes,” Boisen said. “Unless there are some problems with the crystal. I don’t know if it will be able to adapt to a new output or not.”

“Torvald?” Iliad asked, tenting his fingers.

“I’ve never done this before,” Torvald said. “I don’t know what will happen.”

“We need this, Boisen. Our guns can’t do anything to it on their own.” Iliad glanced at Torvald. Their meeting was lucky – on Mars, he’d heard stories of the magicians, but didn’t think they would be so talented, let alone that he would be relying on them.

Iliad sighed. “So, Torvald, I’d like to talk about the instance with the demon yesterday. It seemed that you helped defeat it by disabling its shields, which let us start damaging it. That is unacceptable. If you had died – ”

“What are you talking about?!” Torvald shouted, jumping to his feet. “I did what I had to to stop it! If I hadn’t gone out there, it may have reached the Hammer. None of us know what they can do. We just need to stop them.”

“Please,” Iliad responded calmly. “You did well. There’s nothing you could have done better, without knowing about Synton. But when you and Boisen get Alpha up and running, you need to stay in the research labs where you belong.”

Iliad stood, prompting Torvald and Boisen to stand as well. “And about what you said – ‘nobody knows what they can do’ – there’s one of us who does. Torvald, do you have clearance to the Hammer? Go there now. Boisen and I will meet you there. We’re going to have a chat.”

Torvald nodded and left.

“I think you know what I’m about to ask, Boisen. What were you doing yesterday?”
__________

In the elevator shaft immediately following the attack from the Leviathan, Boisen landed next to Nami, who was clutching a severely injured Tachi in his arms.

“How is she?” Boisen asked, worried. He couldn’t make out her injuries but there was a lot of blood, covering her armor and dripping onto the ground.

“The demon’s injuries appear to prevent her natural healing,” Nami said. “I can retain her soul, but only temporarily. She requires medical attention.”

The elevator reached Section D and halted. Boisen rushed out, stumbling down the halls until he reached a room he could use for medical operations. “Taras!” He called out.

The anthropomorphic wolf was deemed trustworthy by Boisen due to his weak loyalty to Russian command, Boisen’s own need for a Section D assistant, and Taras’s unconditional love for all things science.

“Boisen – my God, she’s damaged!”

“Taras, go to the operating room, set up whatever’s in the trauma kit.

He understood the basics of medicine – he had downloaded onto his onboard memories an emergency surgery guide specifically for androids – but he had no experience. He did his best to assess the situation as Nami laid Tachi gently on the operating table.

Taras began arranging the medicine on a tray. Nami stayed to continue sustaining Tachi.

Boisen’s attention flashed over Tachi’s mutilated form. “Nami, what was her weight?”

“Eighty-three kilograms, with a variance of – ”

“How much is her armor?” Boisen asked, beginning to become stressed as he carefully removed Tachi’s helmet. He sucked in sterile air when he saw the damage. “Nevermind,” he said. He retrieved the data himself, determined Tachi’s weight, and thereby asked Taras to prepare the appropriate amounts of adrenaline and anesthesia.

Boisen carefully removed Tachi’s fatigues. “Blood. Taras, get blood for infusion – type B- or O- – and plasma!”

Taras meekly but quickly went to fetch the blood. He didn’t agree with Boisen’s course of action, but it was due to his lenience that Taras wasn’t punished like his colleagues.

It just didn’t seem right to expend so much effort to fix a faulty part when replacements were so readily available.

Boisen took stock of the situation. He had removed Tachi’s armor completely and folded her shirt up to still cover her chest, which appeared to escape unscathed. The rest of her was not so fortunate.

Her legs and left arm showed deep gashes and broken bones where they were apparently cut and crushed by the teeth; her right arm had no apparent injuries save a missing finger.

A deep wound pierced her right lung, and it showed severe signs of internal tissue disruption, more damage that Boisen did not feel prepared to address.

Most threatening was a large open wound covering the left half of Tachi’s face and extending towards the back of her head – a portion of her skull appeared to have been torn off.

Taras had returned and begun transfusion by now.

Boisen’s hands were trembling, so he began treating her with his mechanical limbs. He toned down his tactile feedback as required for him to remain calm,, but at the same time didn’t want to limit the efficiency with which he took care of Tachi.

Boisen did not have experience with surgery – but he had more than enough experience with machine. He would rebuild her – her had the technology. For the missing sections of her brain he could insert a neurological computer like his own. He could give her an iron lung. All he needed was for her to survive – and Nami could help with that.

As he worked to keep Tachi stable, his mind strayed as much as it could. He thought of Mars, and the Legion’s Engineer corps. Much of the public was ignorant of the usefulness and humanity of cyborgs, and they were often branded as freaks and outcast.

Even among the military, many soldiers viewed cyborgs as clinical in their attitude and implantation. While it’s true mechanical parts followed strict rules, Boisen regarded it more as a controlled form of expression.

He was practicing art, weaving beauty with flesh and metal, fusing them to form a being even stronger and more efficient than its base.

It took hours, but Boisen prevented Tachi from an imminent death. Nami rested, though remained attentive in case her situation worsened. In the time it took him to save Tachi’s life, however, her less dangerous wounds began to show signs of deterioration. He didn’t know the specifics of the chances he had of saving her limbs – but he did know how easily he could replace them.

He would amputate.
__________

Iliad sighed. “How is she doing?”

“She’s… stable. I don’t know. She’s still unconscious.”

Iliad considered this for a moment. Boisen had, on his own, rescued and performed surgery on a severely wounded soldier, with the aid of an assistant Iliad was not aware existed.

“When she recovers, we’ll see what becomes of her, and she will definitely find accommodation in the Legion if she desires it. Good job, Boisen. For now, let’s get to Torvald and the Hammer.”

Boisen smiled. “Yes, sir.”
__________

Torvald stepped in the elevator and, entering his security card, selected the floor for the Hammer.

The elevator stopped halfway, at the level for Section C. The doors opened and Torvald saw Ananke, standing without her usual charming hint of a smile.

Ananke stepped forward, just in the doorway, and rested her arm against the wall. “Torvald, there’s something important I need to tell you. You cannot trust the Hammer.”

Torvald stood in confusion. Ananke continued, “I know you knew who he was, but all of him that was human is gone. There’s only hatred now.”

“Why are you telling me this now?” Torvald asked carefully.

“I can’t help you anymore,” she said forlornly. “These ‘demons’ are too powerful for me to influence, and even then… somebody else has appeared, somebody with the power to shift the threads I used to be able to read.”

Torvald took a slow step forward, as though she might run away. “I don’t understand. Where will you go? Back to Terrus?” He added, more sincerely, “I don’t see why you would leave.”

The elevator door shook as it began to close but sensed an obstruction. Ananke smiled again, but this time it was bittersweet and far from reassuring. “I’ll go to Iberian Peninsula, to Spain. There are others who need my help there.”

“Remember,” she continued deliberately. “Do not trust the Hammer, under any circumstances.” She stepped back out of the elevator, and the doors began to close again. Torvald managed to stop them before they blocked him off completely, but when they slid back open Ananke was gone.
__________

Commander Iliad and Boisen reached the Hammer’s level to find Torvald waiting in front of a sealed entrance. Boisen unsealed it and the three of them were greeted by the Hammer’s baleful gaze.

How nice to have visitors in my interment.

“Hammer,” Commander Iliad said forcefully, “We’ve come to ask you questions about our enemies.”

They are demons, Commander. You would do well to refer to them as such.

“Regardless of what they are, we need information on the threat they pose. How to defend against them. How often they will appear. How they will attack.”

I have told you in the past that I am their goal. They will try to reach me and, if you try to stop them, they will try to bypass or destroy you as well. If you do not, they will free me to destroy me – and then you will most assuredly die.

“What about the first two demons, then? You talk about them like they would kill us. All they did was cause one casualty and scratch one of our cyborgs.”

The Hammer’s eyes flared brightly. Beelzebub was a fool and I will not speak of him.

For yesterday’s demon, he was only a scout of sorts. That is why he took the form of an eye.


“A scout for what? The other demons?”

Yes, the Hammer growled. His title was the Leviathan. He is a weak demon, enslaved by Asmodeus like so many others. He and his own masters will know how the Leviathan was destroyed and react in kind. What was it that killed him?

Torvald realized the Hammer meant Synton. They would be out in full force…

“Why is there such timing in their appearance?”

The bonds between this world and the Hellscape are tenuous. The times are rare indeed when a demon can exit the Hellscape to come here. When such an event occurs, the cost for each demon to enter becomes increasingly high. It is reasonable to assume a certain period of time between each demon’s opportunity to pass.

“And what about their attacks? Can we destroy them with our guns?”

You can, just as you can destroy a tank with wood and stones. I doubt you have the finesse required. What you can attempt to defend… I cannot say. I have not seen others fight in this realm before. They may use weapons like myself or the fool, or they may use energy attacks.

Torvald burst out, “Why are you helping us if you only want to destroy us, Vaniah? When we first met, you spoke of honor! You fought the Dark Culmination, Anamaluch, but now you’re doing this! I don’t understand a bit of it! It’s like you’ve completely turned… evil.”

How deprived you must be to be able to view only the thinnest slice of reality, the Hammer said contemptuously, in a jarring shift from his earlier tone. You do not understand because you cannot. You think things like humanity concern me. All that concerns me is personal prowess.

After this world, I will conquer the next, and then the one after that! I will ascend into the Heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars themselves, and I will make myself like the Most High after crushing all of his vaunted power and claiming it for my own. I will extend my dominion into the future and the past, and become Supreme Ruler of all eternity.

If I fail, I shall be cast down again to the realm of the dead, covered in maggots and riddled with worms.
He leaned forwards, projecting his menacing helm inches closer to Torvald. But I shall never, as long as my spirit still holds strength, halt my efforts before they achieve fruition.

The Hammer pulled back and rested once more in his confinement. Until then, your plight causes me no small amount of amusement. Does that answer your question?

“I am done for now,” Iliad said, and turned to leave. Boisen followed and then Torvald, while Boisen sealed the heavy doors shut again, and the Hammer was left in isolation again.
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Sun Jan 08, 2012 8:56 pm

Spoiler:
 


In a dark corner of the world, long untouched by the light of the sun or the warmth of life, a Knifeman knelt before the Dark Culmination.

The Culmination’s red eyes reflected ominously off of the angular features of his form.

WHY HAVE YOU COME BEFORE ME, HUMAN?

“I wish to offer myself to your service.” The Knifeman kept his head bowed, but he felt the Culmination stand and draw near him. Cold washed over his skin.

TRULY SURPRISING. NEVER BEFORE HAS ONE OF THE SUBJUGATED EARNESTLY COME TO HELP ME. WHY?

The Knifeman raised his head to show the Culmination his mask: rather than the traditional Knifeman guise, it was pure black, such that it blended in with his robes and made him appear wraithlike. “There is a cause I support more than myself. All I ask is to operate autonomously until you begin your attack.”

I WILL ALLOW YOU TO HUNT YOUR PREY – BUT AFTERWARDS YOU WILL ANSWER TO ME.

“Very well.”

The Dark Culmination extended a thick arm, and the Knifeman jerked up into the air like a caught fish, where he stayed with his back arched.

A swarm of Extemos nano-entities flooded over the Knifeman and coated him in V, the crystalline substance building up on his chest before spreading to his arms and legs.

They did not cover his mask, which cracked open and revealed the formless Void behind it. The Dark Culmation stared into it and reached inside, probing, brushing to the side libraries of information and memories. He found the heart: atrophied and blackened, it was the core of the Knifeman that dictated his identity.

Anamaluch gripped it, the firm muscle only slightly molding to his monstrous finger, and then crushed it until nothing remained.

He drew his arm back as the Knifeman was completely encased in V.

The Knifeman felt his bones break and shift, his flesh tear and reform, as his body was broken down and consumed by the Extemos. His bones were dissolved and V was ossified in their place.

The only thought in his head was that this was for him, that defiler who soiled the Guild's name with his cowardly actions.

It would cost this Knifeman his life, but his life would herald the Order’s rebirth – there were only three Knifemen remaining, but they were Knifemen. Like an assassin’s blade, the right men in the wrong place can make all the difference in the world, even if it is the Extemos.

Perhaps, he thought. Or perhaps I am only fabricating support for my revenge.

The train of thought was driven out of his head by the resplendent bliss of assimilation.
__________

Iliad stewed in his office. This was not at all going according to plan. Marx was doing well in taking control of Europe, but his main goal was the defense of Earth against the Extemos. How could he explain to Hydro the appearance of this new development?

No, Hydro wasn’t his main concern. How can he focus his attention between the two enemies? Especially now, concerning how over half of incoming supplies for Boisen from CERN and other laboratories are hijacked by bandits from Moscow. No matter the defense they employed, they were invariably stripped of their cargo.

It’s as though he was driven into a corner and starved of food, forced to hold off an impossible siege.
__________

Torvald and Boisen retreated to Section C to complete the circuits they would use with Alpha, though Boisen would need to redesign the chassis.

“Boisen,” Torvald asked suddenly, “What’s going on in the rest of the world? I haven’t been able to know these things.”

“I suppose not,” Boisen said, loading the appropriate data. “It’s kind of ironic, since we’re from Mars but have access to more information than you. The main superpowers are the democratic states in South America, the Iberian Republic, and Russia. Of course, Russia’s been almost completely defeated by us.”

“What about the rest of Europe? Asia? Africa?”

“From what we’ve been able to gather, the majority of central Europe, Asia, and Africa are subsistence communities. Though there are obviously exceptions, they don’t hold significant amounts of power. North America was rendered inhabitable in a nuclear incident after the alien bomb.”

Then there was the real purpose of Torvald’s question. “What’s happening in Spain?”

“After the Earth was thrown into chaos, Spain took control of the CERN laboratories, while Russia apparently constructed this facility. One of the greatest minds of modern times, Dr. Sin, started working for Spain, and he single-handedly pushed their technology forward by decades.

“In response, CERN headquarters was invaded by Russia, and they took Dr. Sin for themselves. After that, he just disappeared. He wasn’t captured by our forces, and we don’t know what he looks like, so we can’t be sure he isn’t using an alias. If we could only use a fraction of his insight – ”

“I’m sorry, Boisen. That’s not what I meant. Is anything happening in Spain right now?”

“Well, they won’t talk to us ever since they learned we were on Earth. I’d imagine they’d be insecure, since without Sin all of their technology production’s halted. But, like I said, we don’t know anything about what’s been occurring in their borders.”
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Wed Jan 18, 2012 12:33 am

Spoiler:
 

Ostensibly, Dr. Zhivago left to gather supplies for himself and for Mikhael. While this was the case, he spent his time wistfully regarding his plans and what he would accomplish in the near future.

Without this generator, their modus operandi to destroy the Legion would never gain traction.

Lies.

What lies? The Legion had to be destroyed. That was why he was acting out. But thinking about this gave him a headache.

He pressed his hands against his temples and started breathing heavily. At times his headaches felt like there was something trying to burst out of his skull. He didn’t even notice dropping his rifle. He slung it back over his shoulder.

Also... he heard, with another strong pang somewhere in his brain. What else was he doing?

The generator is to end the headaches once and for all – and once it was activated, he would use it to activate a newly created FLEYA warhead to liberate all matter in a two-kilometer radius of ground zero. Perhaps "point zero" would be more appropriate. R-nought.

He would destroy the Legion and end his infernal migraines in one fell swoop. At the thought, the voices began a wordless uproar that increased in volume and overtook him like a flood.

He groaned as the voices in his head wormed even deeper, testing the nooks and crannies in his brain, sending new jolts of pain and fear throughout his skull. He fell to his knees and curled into a fetal position. It was enough to make him resent his fragile human skull, his thoughts trapped in a calcium prison.

The voices stoked the hatred in his heart, but he controlled it. Just barely. Just… enough…

The storm subsided, and he lay on the floor for a few more moments until he felt well enough to stand. He walked unsteadily down the corridor, slowly gaining more energy in his steps until he was indistinguishable from before – yet something still gave him pause.

After Mikhael appeared, he had laid traps in the perimeter to his complex to ward off or kill potential invaders. Now, inexplicably, there was a trap that had been deployed yet found no prey. As he continued, his fears were confirmed.

Fifteen mousetraps, all deftly disarmed.

However, this was a matter that would be attended to later. For now he had to gather supplies. The meager rations the Russian command had granted him were already depleted.

At the CERN laboratories, some research had been performed concerning tightly bound energies in non-spatial dimensions. The very generator that was nearing completion operated on such a principle. Related in principle was research into exotic matter that had negative mass.

It was discovered that Xen crystals could create portals to an entirely separate special dimension, and that some regions of this new space harbored fittingly exotic life. In controlled reactions, some samples were retrieved for study (they used a similar yet distinct genetic code that utilized arsenic rather than phosphorus).

An event occurred recently at the Towers called a resonance cascade. Most likely, what somebody did was shove an entire crystal into the anti-mass spectrometer, which caused a self-sufficient reaction that maintained the planal proximity to Xen while exhausting both planes of small amounts of matter (which fueled the reaction and caused the event horizon to expand). This allowed a large number of samples to appear in an uncontrolled fashion.

They are what Dr. Zhivago has been eating.

When he opened the freezer door, he scoffed. It was obvious that somebody else had been here: his meat was moved and some flesh stripped. He would have to see to it later that the intruder was dealt with summarily.

As he loaded an untouched bullsquid to his cart, he thought back to CERN again. He had developed the first generator there - the one his present research was continuing.

He had also developed FLEYA warheads there and, as far as he knew, they had remained there safely. In a matter similar to the Xen relay, FLEYA warheads completely and absolutely liberated all matter – it was more than broken down; in a quantum sense, the quarks and leptons were evaporated in the target area. However, the reaction occurred much faster and the dimension associated with it did not seem to harbor life.

What made the reaction all the more electrifying was the fact that the released energy was used for no other purpose than to expand the field affected! In essence, what it destroyed caused it to destroy more. There are limits as the field loses cohesion, but detonating a warhead underground would affect a much larger area than detonating one in mid-air. As someone who has not set foot in sunlight for months, this was an ideal location.

It was a space-destroying weapon with an oddly well defined event horizon. A building may be shaved in half, leaving half of a room undisturbed while the other half was destroyed - in every possible sense there was to be destroyed.

Its potential event horizon range increased if detonated underground, and even conservative estimated would completely neutralize the Towers' support. At the very least, he could cause the towers above to fall into a pit kilometers deep. Such sublimely precise destruction! It would cause the three Towers to fall, in tandem, into a spherical vacuum.

He went over the process in his head. Yes, it required exotic matter, but there were supplies in the Russian warehouse underground. He double-checked the process to ensure its validity, as though there had not been successful tests.

He had committed every elementary step of the reaction to memory. Every quark, every tau particle had its place. Dr. Zhivago closed his eyes and contemplated the symmetry for a moment. Two sides of an equation where, ultimately, they are both neutralized to zero.

He eventually finished and came to his senses. That was enough reflection. He had finished loading the Bullsquid hours ago. He draped a cloth over the cart to cover it and began wheeling it back to the base.
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Wed Jan 18, 2012 6:11 pm

Spoiler:
 

Dr. Zhivago stopped abruptly on the way back. There was a whispering in the back of his head that foretold the imminent onset of another set of migraines. He leaned against the wall and shouted in pain as they began, worse than before. He crouched, pressing against his temples hard enough that he briefly had the image of his body, lifeless, his head crushed by his own hands.

No. He needed to stop the Legion – to end the headaches, this torment. It cleared suddenly, and Dr. Zhivago noted briefly how heavily he was breathing before he passed out.

In his dream, he stood in a dark room – nay, it was far too large to be a mere room. He felt like he was in an open field…

But why was there this oppressive, murky darkness? The only source of light was a reddish glow off a few yards in the distance, yet it seemed so obscured that ‘red’ could hardly be said to describe it. The color it most closely resembled was black, yet –

Do you know why I you are here? He just made out a bare wooden chair in front of the darker light. Sit, he was commanded.

As he warily sat and tried to become comfortable, the voice said offhandedly, Again, it appears you don’t remember me. The voice did sound familiar, but the closer he listened, the harder it became to place it. It was almost like a multitude of voices, ranging from a baritone to a low growl.

And now that he thought about it, his tone felt too dark to imply his wariness unwarranted – was he supposed to have run?

That is moot, the voice said again, in apparent response to his thoughts.

A series of lights, just as the first, lit up in a ring around him, which gave Dr. Zhivago the rare feeling of being in a spotlight and in complete darkness. He struggled to see the outline of his captor, but the inky illumination was enough to blind him to whatever was behind it.

I have instructions for you. We grow impatient with your progress. You have three days to free us – or we will take your life and speak instead to your disciple.

“What’s this about?” Dr. Zhivago asked, growing uncomfortable.

Your engine to ‘destroy the Legion.’ You must accelerate –

“How do you know about that?!” Dr. Zhivago asked impudently, jumping to his feet. From behind him, two things picked him up, one under each arm, and elevated him a few feet to the height of the points of light.

We know everything that occurs in your head, Sin. Obey us. Forget about the Legion.

Unfazed, Dr. Zhivago continued to shout forcefully, “There is an intruder stealing supplies from my base, which is under my greatest Enemy, and you want me to deal with your concerns?! What will I get in exchange for this? What do you have to offer me?”

Listen to us! the voices shouted, and his supports shook and he lost his grip of one, leaving him to hang. Fire blazed up in a ring around him, bathing everything in a crimson light and exposing what he was speaking with: it was a grotesque mass of writhing tentacles, covered in spikes and blades. It formed a throne directly in front of him where a desiccated corpse, now standing, worked its skeletal jaw as it shouted his orders.

Pay the intruder no heed. Complete your engine or you will die. Three days is all the time you have allotted. Until we meet again, Sin, they spat.

The flames had crept closer around him and begun to lap at his ankles, and he tried to pull himself up. He swung his arm over the tentacle that held him only to slice a deep cut in his forearm. He groaned as he blood spilled out and down into the inferno feet below. He felt his grip loosen as he started rising into the air, and only just realized his shoes had caught fire when his handhold twisted and dropped him down.

He hit the ground with bone-breaking force and was engulfed in pain. The flames surrounded him and charred his skin, deadening his flesh to the bones as he cried out helplessly, his voice not even escaping over the laughter of his captors.
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Mon Jan 23, 2012 1:47 am

Spoiler:
 

Dr. Zhivago woke up in a cold sweat.

At times his pains were great enough to cause him to lose consciousness. He was skilled enough to hide it from Mikhael’s attention for now… and, of course, he would be done in three days’ time.

He absentmindedly looked at his arm and ran his hand up and down it. Perfectly normal. He stood up carefully and began wheeling his cart, with more determination than ever before.

He opened his lair and swept in, the door hissing shut behind him. “Mikhael. We have news.” We? he thought to himself.

Mikhael, as loyal as ever, merely asked, “Yes, Dr. Zhivago?”

He put the cart to the side for now. “There are three items of utmost importance.

“There is an intruder in our sector. He has evaded my traps and left little sign of himself other than some stolen rations.

“Also, we have only three days…” No, I’ve said that bit wrong. “In three days’ time, our generator will be finished. To accomplish this, I need your assistance. As I calibrate the intake, I need you to retrieve for me some exotic material from the vault. Type Z-7. It’s the same vault in front of which slumbered the armored beast you defeated – remember?

“And I’ve forgot the third thing.”

“I see,” Mikhael said. “Where’s your rifle?”

“Ah, yes,” Dr. Zhivago said, patting his shoulder where the rifle strap would be. “I lost our rifle, but you’re capable.”

“Incidentally, Dr. Zhivago: I’ve completed my rune to protect me against the radiation.”

“How so?” he asked off-handedly, preparing to leave. Ordinarily, he would seek to determine the threshold Sieverts it could withstand, but everything other than the generator was thrust into the back of his mind. All he needed was for Mikhael to survive the half-hour to prime it, and that it would take nearly a week for him to die of radiation poisoning.

“It heals damage I receive. Of any sort, as far as I know.”

“And I’ve lost my rifle to test it,” Dr. Zhivago said dryly. He noted this and tried to determine why: he only spoke dryly or tersely when he was under stress, yet here he was close to his goal. “Please retrieve the sample, Mikhael. The vault database should be functional.”

“And if I see the intruder?”

“Pay him no heed,” Dr. Zhivago said, and walked the cart to the freezer tersely.

Unquestioningly, Mikhael left for the vault. It lied outside of Dr. Zhivago’s impermeable territory, yet he felt safe. Rather than trepidation, news of the intruder gave him a sense of longing. Perhaps Synton had returned for him?

He had been working with Zhivago for so long he had forgotten how to be Epimor. Their reunion would be refreshing, and perhaps even cathartic.

It was when he had nearly reached the bottom of the long staircase to the vault that he felt another presence in the room beyond. It wasn’t as strong as Synton, but she was likely shielding her presence to avoid detection.

A grin split his face. He thrust open the door and shouted “Synton! I finally found you!”

His eyes darted around the cavernous room before he saw a figure, but it was too small to be Synton. His voice darkened and he yelled across the room, “Who are you? Where did you learn to use magic?”
“Another mage?” a hoarse, weary voice called back. “What’s your name?” The figure began approaching him slowly.

“I am Mikhael,” Mikhael stated. “What about you? Are you the intruder we’ve received reports about?”

“Maybe,” Lee said. Mikhael was not a name she recognized from talking to… her friends. “My name is Lee. Nice to meet you.”
__________

Lee watched the look of surprise on Mikhael’s face as he realized how young she was. “So, I’m your intruder. What’s my punishment?” She asked confidently, folding her arms.

Mikhael collected himself and his voice became authoritative again. “I was told to pay you no heed, but if you’re getting in my way, I’ll have no choice but to incapacitate you.”

“What do you want? I’m not stopping you from anything.” Though she said that, she still noticed the stiffness in his arms and the tensing of his jaw. “Are you all right?”

“Yes,” Mikhael said, curious about where that question came from.

Lee spun back time a little bit, until just before she asked the question. No need to appear unknowing – and if it’s not a problem with him, then he’s expecting something to make him act like this.

She put on a well-practiced smirk. “Do you want to fight?” She actually hoped he did a bit. She wanted to beat something up.

Mikhael laughed a bit. “You’re serious? I’ve sparred with some of the best.” He began anticipating some action as well after being so sedentary under Zhivago.

Lee’s smile broadened. “Absolutely. But if I beat you, you’ve got to take me to where you stay. It’s that quadrant that’s locked down, isn’t it?”

“That’s right,” Mikhael said, and he took a step back and settled into a more battle-ready stance. “When do you want to stop?”

Lee started to focus. “When you’re too beaten to stand up.” She ran towards Mikhael. It wasn’t practice, but her affinity was never with fighting. When she put her concentration to it, her power didn’t let her just move backwards in time but let her sense the immediate future and past as one.

When Mikhael sent some sort of psychic attack towards her, she was already out of its way by the time it left his hand. When he swept his arm to the side and sent a number of ice spikes in her direction, she rolled underneath them and tackled him.

Because of her low weight he didn’t fall over, but she pushed him off balance and drew a knife.

Mikhael steadied himself magically and caused a small explosion to finally catch Lee, but she shot out of the affected area faster than he thought she could move.

He saw movement in the corner of his eye and thought he was being tackled again, so he moved his arm to brace himself and instead found himself stabbed in the arm.

Mikhael yelled out and staggered back, trying to get a closer look at his wound. Lee couldn’t get any closer as he’d made some sort of barrier all around him. He held his bloody forearm up and, wiping away the blood, smiled and showed Lee his smooth, unbroken skin.

“So, seeing as we can’t hurt each other, do you want to stop?”

In their uneasy truce, Mikhael and Lee searched the vault for the sample Dr. Zhivago needed and found it after using its database. It was sealed inside a heavy steel container the size of a melon – Mikhael had to lean back to compensate for its weight, and held it tightly to his chest.

“I don’t know how I’m going to carry this up all those stairs,” he said with difficulty.

“There’s an elevator,” Lee said. “What, do I know my way around here better than you?”

She led him to an elevator where he rested the sample on the floor as they began their ascent.

Lee’s reckless abandon was, for Mikhael, reminiscent of Synton, stabbing notwithstanding.

“Listen,” he advised. “Dr. Zhivago’s a bit crazy. Not too much, but it’s noticeable. If you want him to approve of you – ”

“He’s the main guy here?” Lee asked, almost nonchalantly. “Who else is there?”

“It’s…” it was still embarrassing to think of the size of his operation. “He’s the worst one.”

“I’ve dealt with plenty of mad scientists before,” Lee said, watching the floor counter. “This shouldn’t be anything new.”
__________

Dr. Zhivago eagerly awaited the elevator’s arrival; it could only be Mikhael. He waited impatiently in his heavy HEV suit for the sample.

He had not calibrated the engine as he said he would. All that remained to calibrate the FLEYA charging station, yet he had determined that a lesser objective.

Time seemed to slow as the elevator drew ever-nearer to Dr. Zhivago’s floor. The Geiger counter built into his HEV suit crackled to life as the sample approached him.

At long last, the elevator doors slid open to reveal Mikhael, holding the sample and

Dr. Zhivago froze. “Mikhael… how… why is she here?” His hand pointed limply at the girl in the elevator with him. “What is your name?” He asked her.

“Lee Selby,” she said neutrally. “I’m your intruder.”

“I believe she may be a valuable ally,” Mikhael said, stepping forward.

Dr. Zhivago’s muffled voice was almost inaudible from the HEV suit. “Lee… Selby,” he said, almost testing the name. As important a revelation this was, he had a nagging desire to ignore her and continue with development of the engine.

He clenched a fist. This was important, but…

But there were matters of even higher important. “The sample, Mikhael. Follow me. I have to test it – it should take no more than a few hours.”

Lee was indignant at being ignored but otherwise unreactive. She glared as Dr. Zhivago led Mikhael away before she began wandering around the metal corridors, eventually coming to rest in what seemed to be the most lived-in room she could access.

It was a small break room, metal and unwelcoming. There was a small table, counter, sink, and refrigerator.

Coffee grounds covered the pale counter like sawdust in a workshop. The garbage can was filled with broken coffee brewers. Lee open the cabinets and found they were filled with coffee and coffee filters.

The small blue table had three chairs. The space in front of two of the chairs on the table was worn down, the white core showing out from the blue paint. It had evidently seen a lot of use.

Lee sat down in the less-used chair. The fridge hummed softly and, bored, she opened it from where she sat. Inside was stack upon stack of an unidentifiable meat. She closed the door.

Eventually, Mikhael appeared and came in, sitting down in his usual spot. “Hey, Lee. Zhivago says he’ll be done in a few more hours.”

Talking to Lee felt refreshing. Maybe he had cabin fever, or maybe Lee reminded him too much of Synton. They’d hardly even talked.

“So what will you be doing?”

Mikhael shrugged. “Waiting?”

Lee gave him an apprehensive look. “For a few hours?”

“Well. What would you do?”

Lee examined the sterile room again, as though some source of entertainment might appear. “I don’t know. Play something? Read?”

“Let’s talk, then,” Mikhael said. He almost felt like Epimor. “How did you manage to fight me without using your magic? Or, at least, without letting me know about it?”

The conversation reminded Lee of one she had with Tachi. “My magic isn’t one that is observable by others. It let me dodge your attacks, but apparently you can’t sense that I use it.”

“So you’re… lucky?”

“No. It’s a time thing, but if I focus hard enough, I can sort of… jump around time so that it suits me.”

“I don’t understand.”

This was something that Lee had done many times before. “So, I’m going to ask you something I couldn’t know, then go back in time and tell you. For you, I’ll just wind up saying something personal about you.”

Mikhael nodded and waited.

Lee prompted, “You’ve got to tell me something.”

“You said you’d just say something.”

“This is the first time for me,” Lee said, exasperated. “Tell me something I wouldn’t know.”

“My real name is Epimor,” Mikhael said, unreserved.

“You’re Epimor?!” Lee shouted incredulously, leaning forward in her chair.

“No, I just told you that. It didn’t work.”

“No, I – ” Lee spun back time against and said again, “You’re Epimor.”

Mikhael’s eyes widened. “Wow. That’s… dangerous. How does that relate to the fight?”

“That’s not important,” Lee said. She wanted to tell him about Tachi, but she felt it wasn’t her place to say it, and she didn’t want to say it out loud. Something like that seemed like it couldn’t be true. She decided to pay it no heed.

She told him of her early life: of how she and her mother were abandoned by her father in Europe, and then how her mother disappeared and she had to live on the streets, alone, with her developing powers, in the middle of war-torn Europe.

Then the Legion came and restored order, and Lee began following a Legion detachment that was, unknown to her, retreating to the Towers where she was taken in. She omitted any involvement with Tachi and Section C.

She then began describing her powers in detail – the time travel, the increased temporal awareness, and how it helps her not get hurt in fights.

Reconciliatorily, Epimor began telling her of his life: how he was raised from a young age by a pair of wizards, their studies and adoption of Synton, up until the Legion affected them as well. He was describing their travels through the zombie-infested town when Dr. Zhivago’s muffled voice rang out from the :

“The engine is ready, Mikhael! Make haste. You are needed for the most critical reaction.”
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Wed Feb 01, 2012 11:23 pm

Spoiler:
 

Dr. Zhivago gathered his assistant and left the intruder outside. Though he regretted this decision somewhat, it was the best method he could determine that would prevent himself from paying her heed.

He took his place in an observation room that overlooked room where he set up his generator. There was a thick, reinforced window to protect him from radiation and a control panel to the side, covered with arrays of buttons and levers. He had already calibrated everything up to the sample of exotic matter; all there was left was to push a button.

He could see his creation: large metal boxes that laid out the path of the reaction, filled with millions if not billions of dollars of equipment and rare materials. They formed a rough circle with another section jutting out, where the process would be initiated. Mikhael would need to do something to bridge the gap until the reaction took hold.

So close, so close.

As he waited for Mikhael to arrive, he rubbed his only memento from CERN: a pair of gravity-altering trinkets that he helped design.

He used to be like a musician, gently and skillfully plucking at the strings of reality. Now he was reduced to merely copying the designs of others’ – and even then with great effort.

He pressed his hands to his head as his headaches started again. Just… a little… longer…

They ceased as Mikhael stepped into the room. Dr. Zhivago said, through a speaker, “Mikhael. I’m ready to start the reaction. Are you prepared?”

Mikhael looked around before shouting, “Do I need a suit or something? There’s that one you had earlier.”

“Mikhael, we are mere moments away from heralding a new era of the world’s science. Trivial matters do not deserve our attention. I am starting the process.”

He pressed the button. The machinery hummed to life but, as the reaction could not complete itself, it remained subdued.

Below, Mikhael floundered to see what he was supposed to do. Magically, he could see some amount of energy radiating out from a part of the machine, and he tried probing it, exerting pressure onto it to stem the flow or draw more out, but his efforts had no effect.

“Dr. Zhivago! What am I supposed to be doing, again? And where’s the radiation you were talking about?”

Dr. Zhivago’s impatient voice rang through the room. “You need to prime the second transfer station. Inside the orange crate – and the radiation won’t start until the reaction does.”

Mikhael felt blindly around the mass of orange crates, trying to find anything that responded to magic. He felt something yield, like stepping on sand. He tried to prime it by pouring energy into it, but he quickly found himself exhausted and had to stop.

He drew energy from the source to replenish his lost energy, and as he contacted the other point it seemed to rush through him, the power using his body as a conduit. As the roar in the room increased, Mikhael’s mind seem to dim as more and more power swept through him, until he finally cut it off.

“What are you doing, Mikhael?!” Dr. Zhivago said tersely. “It was starting!”

Mikhael apologized. His body couldn’t take that much energy.

Though it was difficult, he tried moving the energy along by itself. When he closed the circuit, the current rapidly intensified and burst through his restraints. The temperature in the air rose slightly as the ether became overconcentrated, but quickly cooled back down.

Bracing himself, Mikhael tried again, bracing himself until, ultimately, enough of the ether flowed through the leak that he did not have to direct it – it was something he did not have the power to stop or control.

The room was filled with a load roar as the reaction finally caught. Within the machine’s core, an alternate dimension appeared, only feet wide, and the boundary generated waves of heat that, in a fully completed model, would in turn generate electricity. Now, though, it only heated it case to red-hot temperatures.

But Dr. Zhivago did not care about that.

He felt in the back of his mind a familiar nagging sensation – but this time it showed no signs of hostility. He could hear something, some brilliant, timeless melody, and all he desired was to hear it. It was muffled – this barrier?

He picked up his chair and, with all the strength he could muster, he struck it against the window, but it was deflected fruitlessly.

He raised it over his head and threw it at the window, but again it didn’t budge. His efforts ceased – the music intensified until it was a roaring refrain, and he plastered his face against the glass.

His mind was flooded with joy, and he felt an overwhelming jubilation, but an even more overwhelming urge to stay as close to the event horizon as possible. The music exploded, ending in a final crescendo that made Dr. Zhivago’s knees give out and caused him to fall unconscious yet again.
__________

After days of waiting motionless, the Hammer lunged forward against his restraints, and they flashed as they exerted the energy to hold him.

His voice thundered, Another demon has set foot on Earth to destroy me!

Mammon has come!
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Fri Feb 10, 2012 9:45 pm

As the reaction intensified, Mikhael felt the faint stirrings of the Hellscape come from within. He was curious about why – Torvald had done some study into Hellscape energies before Synton appeared, but he had stopped, other than matters regarding the Templars and demons.

Can the Hellscape be reached by scientific means? It filled the room with a soft energy.

In any case, the rune on his hand that protected him shone gently as it warded the destructive radiation away.

“Dr. Zhivago!” he called, for more instructions, but he saw the Doctor throwing his chair at the window. Did it fail? He plastered his face to the glass.

The Hellscape energy in the room intensified in magnitude, blinding Mikhael, and he looked at the machine in horror as the hot metal warped and bent outwards, revealing an unstable portal to Hell.

A cloud of amorphous demons floated from the observation room into the Hellscape vortex, and Dr. Zhivago disappeared from Mikhael’s view as he collapsed.

Mikhael felt this was not a part of the test.
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Sat Feb 11, 2012 12:24 am

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Something emerged from the wrecked machine, crushing the delicate metal sheeting around it. A heavy-set hoof stepped out, burning red veins spreading upwards like a spider web. Like an insect emerging from an egg, another leg appeared and the demon tried to pull itself out with apparent difficulty.

Mikhael stared, captivated. A demon, with its own well-defined body. This was unlike anything he’d seen before! It must be immensely powerful… but why is it here? Demons normally ignored this realm entirely.

Its head emerged. It looked like a lump of coal, slowly burning as the crimson lines gave off light. Two jet-black pits took the place of its eyes.

With a final struggle, it slipped completely of the vortex, which disappeared. It locked it bottomless eyes with Mikhael and roared, sending him running.

Adrenaline filled his veins. More than anything, he had a primal urge to run far, far away. He left the test chamber, leaving the demon trapped inside.

He paused in the airlock as it counted down. He still had to run, but to where? He was lost in the facility; it was only by Dr. Zhivago’s mercy that he had survived before. Claustrophobia suddenly overwhelmed him as he felt trapped.

The wall behind him shook, the brickwork shedding dust. The airlock clicked.

Mikhael shot out into the hallway, away from the demon, when he saw out of the corner of his eye Lee dragging Dr. Zhivago towards the elevators.

Lee looked at him apprehensively. “Epimor!” she called out.

The wall next to Epimor shook as the demon tried to break through it. “Don’t worry about me,” he said. “Get Dr. Zhivago to safety. I’ll distract it!”

He retreated as the wall came down, spreading dust and debris into the air, leaving the demon trapped between the three of them.

“This way!” Epimor shouted, and he flung a bolt of electricity into the cloud. Another guttural roar came from the demon, and Epimor began running as he saw it running towards him.

Its bulk barely fit in the hallway, and its thick hide scraped against the walls as it slithered towards him with alarming speed.

Epimor whipped through a side door into his dormitory – full of unused cots. The demon couldn’t turn in the corridor to get through the door and couldn’t turn around, so it kept going forwards.

Let’s see, Epimor thought. If it continues down that hallway, it’ll go to the main room, and from there –

It can get to this room!


It was already at the doorway. Epimor eyed it as it lowered its body and then tried to squeeze through the doorway. Its head seemed like a bull’s; two serrated horns curled over its head like a ram. It had a low, heavyset body like a lizard’s – but more muscular. Its entire body glowed red-hot; it was far stronger than any other demon Epimor had seen before.

With a feline dexterity, it began walking through the door. The frame yielded and bent before being ripped from the wall. Epimor prepared to react as it lowered its body again in the room. The demon ignored the many thin cots about the room, and they slid around noisily as it paced out a small circle, its thin tail whipping about.

Epimor grinned. He was always complaining to himself about the lack of action, and then this happens.

He grasped his right wrist, casting his glove to the side, and raised his runic hand into the air.

What words could he use to channel its power this time? he pondered. Nothing seemed appropriate. In his split second of hesitation, the demon bounded towards him, and it captured Epimor’s hand in its furnace-like maw.

It only flung him to the side, but before Epimor noticed, he was lying on the cold laminate floor, his arm broken, bleeding and burned. He groaned and tried to sit up, but a sharp pain in his arm stopped him and made him hiss with an intake of breath. The glyph on his left hand burned brightly, telling him it was working to heal him, but it was not going to finish before…

The demon swept past Epimor once or twice before ignoring him and moving against the opposite wall. Epimor saw it walk along the length of the wall, then it left the room and re-entered shortly, as thought searching for something.

It lowered its head and used its horns like a battering ram, striking the wall twice before it came down.

Epimor gasped again, more deeply this time. The room on the other side was massive, and in the center there was a crucifix erected. On it stood what was unmistakably the Hammer, but – how did this happen?

From behind the Hammer, Epimor saw another figure appear. He thought it was Commander Iliad at first, but the Commander’s armor was bulkier, or so he thought. More importantly, Epimor felt the stirrings of magic coming from him.

The demon roared and leapt towards the Hammer as the new warrior-mage stood between them.
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Sat Feb 11, 2012 2:20 am

Spoiler:
 
The Knifeman Apostate was in his room – a converted lab, protected by seals such that any who passed by it would not notice it.

It was several days before Mammon was summoned by Dr. Zhivago, but now even the Apostate was not aware of this eventuality.

His white robes were stored safely to the side as he toiled at his table, his bare upper body’s dark, leathery skin covered in prominent scars. He found it a delicious irony that he always returned to: by sacrificing their souls, willingly or not, the Knifemen attained a near god-like knowledge, but lacked the ability to use it in a coherent manner. They were given an omniscience that they could only survive because their souls were forfeit yet could not utilize it for the same reason. Quite the paradoxical existence.

At the same time, their bodies were altered almost beyond recognition to account for this. It was a harrowingly specific process: take a man or woman, grind its body and soul until it is nearly destroyed, then teach them the nature of the universe – and they become a life stuck between godliness and death.

A knife’s edge.

But to his work:

Around the edges of his workspace there were a number of scrying pools, showing various articles of importance.

One was solid black. It was to show the Library to the Knifeman embassy, yet he was being blocked by his former compatriots.

Another showed Commander Iliad and Boisen in a deep discussion. Iliad was being surprisingly forward, quite clearly expressing his concerns about the future. Concerns that their focus on the demons was leaving them unprepared for the Extemos, which still approached. Concerns that he may be overwhelmed: supplies from CERN were constantly being raided by the Russian remnants in Moscow with alarming efficiency. Boisen responded that he had to develop Alpha without important components.

Commander Iliad faced an important dilemma. He could attempt to outwit the Russians and lose some supplies or divert his forces to displace them, further delaying his true goal. Though interesting, the Knifeman only listened halfheartedly.

Two more pools showed Torvald teaching Ha’el to use Alpha, which was not yet in its exoskeleton. Ichi took over as Torvald gave up, and one pool stayed while the other followed Torvald as he traveled throughout the facility.

The fifth pool was set to follow Synton, but it was blackened as well.

Aside from the scrying pools, there was an additional object that the Apostate had possession of: the second Cromwell blade, entrusted to him by the Order to destroy the Leviathan. It looked unlike any other blade, and belongs to a time long since forgotten. It was cylindrical, near a foot long, and its metallic casing reflected any light incident to it. It had several rubber ribs for grip and a short functional guard at one end, but was otherwise unadorned.

As he’d lost access to the library, he was keeping the Blade for a time when it might be needed.

Most of his focus was given to his mask, which lay on the table before him. He watched its surface morph as the Knifeman insignia was being reformed.

The vent leading into this room creaked and fell open. The Apostate kept the grating from falling to the floor, and then it floated up and attached back to the ceiling.

“Heeey,” Synton said, looking over the table. All of the scrying pools were black now to prevent her from seeing them. “What are you doing?”

“Private matters,” the Apostate said. “I suppose some of my hypotheses about you were correct, if you can gaze upon my visage without my mask – though I wonder if I could say the same were I not restraining it.”

Synton was silent. She looked over the table, then up at the Knifeman. His face was certainly unique: it was quite literally indescribable. His facial features seemed to take on multiple irreconcilable qualities at once depending on the angle it was viewed from, but Synton didn’t seem to mind.

“Couldn’t you just make a new one?” she asked, leaning forwards, her deep blue eyes scrutinizing him.

“I do not have the required materials for a new mask, though that would be faster.”

“No,” she said, shaking her head. “A new Knifeman.”

The mask solidified as it was completed. He placed it on his face and raised it to meet Synton’s gaze. “At this point in time, another Knifeman – or another one of me – would be more trouble than aid.”

He placed his white robes on his shoulders and nestled the Cromwell blade safely within them. “When you leave,” the Apostate said, “Please use the door.” The scrying pools all sprung to life as he collected them and placed them in his pocket. As he picked each one up, they took on their form of short blade, each of which he placed in its sheath and stored again in his robes. Before he picked the last one, following Torvald, the wizard stopped and said, “Knifeman!”

The Apostate waved his hand over the blade and tucked it away like all the others, but he was now in Torvald’s office rather than his own. “Yes, Torvald?”

“Sorry, ‘Apostate’” Torvald corrected after seeing him. His white robes were certainly unlike the traditional black Knifeman garb. “What’s that mask?”

The symbol emblazoned on the front was a gloved hand, pointed upwards, with an open eye in the center. It had a certain esoteric quality to it while clearly stating some positive intentions.

“The one thing there is no end to here is time,” he responded. “And I found it appropriate to distance myself from the identity of a Knifeman. What did you have to ask?”

“It’s about the Hammer. I know that it’s prophecy, or something, that he escapes by himself.” The Apostate nodded along. Torvald took a deep breath and said, “I need to stop him. I need to do whatever Athen was talking about – creating a god. We need to make a Culmination.”

“Human technology cannot reliably create a culmination to combat him,” the Apostate said. “The Grey Culmination, Nami, is the best result thus far, though Boisen is considerably more adept than the Warlord and her Enforcers.”

Torvald caught the hint of a suggestion in his statement. “So is there something else we can use?”

The Apostate was still, but Torvald hung onto his every word. “There are more ancient ways to create a god, with magic. You will be tested, but if you attain this knowledge, then you will be successful.”

Torvald began to speak, but the Apostate interrupted him. “This is not something I can help you with, or do for you. It would be meaningless. More than knowing, you must come to an understanding about the nature of the Universe: what your role in it is, as well as what it means for you.”

Only then can godhood be achieved. Only by discovering the ancient secret of the Knifemen.
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Wed Feb 15, 2012 7:03 pm

Boisen left Commander Iliad’s office. He took the stairs, pensive, as he reflected on their meeting.

He had, as Iliad requested, continued development of Alpha with his limited resources. Supplies from CERN were regularly stolen en route. The sophisticated machinery Boisen needed simply could not be mass-produced on such short notice, and this was all he had to rely on.

He reached the ground floor. He continued down, mulling over solutions to this problem in his head, but he knew next to nothing about how to combat it. The Legion’s best bet would be Dagon, but he was away on Iliad’s orders.

He was a few levels down when his onboard computer alerted him: the Hammer was active again.

The Hammer hadn’t spoken freely in the past, only when questioned or when a demon appeared. Boisen apprehensively keyed the video feed, confirming his fears. This was too soon!

He sped up, hopping out of the stair well and to the elevators. He pressed the button to call it but missed in his worry, so he pressed both the up and down keys and waited. As he did, he called Iliad and opened an interface with Chandra, the AI.

“Commander, the Hammer says there’s another demon here!”

Iliad’s incredulity came across clearly. “I’m headed down. Tell me what you know.”

Boisen’s query came back. “The reaction was detected underground, about…” he double-checked the figures and froze. “My God.” It was here!

The Commander’s voice broke him out of his shock. “Iliad, it’s inside the base!” Boisen screamed. “The reaction was in an uninhabited sector, right next to the Hammer!”

An elevator stopped. He was going to get in when he saw it was already occupied. Two people – a young girl and an old man. The man was holding something to her throat, and all Boisen could see were his piercing blue-green eyes. “Get back,” he warned, “and put your hands in the air.”

Boisen thrust all of his arms up and backed away quickly. The man aggressively eyed him a bit before he did anything else. “Lee,” he said quietly and fearfully, “Press the red emergency button on the wall there.”

He loosened his grip slightly and Lee did as she was told. With a muffled but loud pop, the bottom floor of the elevator was ejected out of the frame and the two of them fell, screaming.

The empty, floorless elevator waited patiently for passengers before the doors closed.
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Tue May 08, 2012 4:21 pm

Spoiler:
 

Alpha, the new consciousness created by Torvald to serve as a battery for the Alpha project, began experiencing prolonged contact with Ha’el, it’s pilot, only recently. Ha’el was supposed to maintain regular meditation sessions to familiarize both himself and Alpha until the mechanical portion was finished by Boisen and regular training could begin.

In a nondescript room in the depths of the Towers’ underground complex, Ha’el sat with his eyes closed, wearing a thin metal helmet wired to a thick metal cube on the table.

In Ha’el’s mind, he floated in a starry sphere, each point of light representing an idea or idle thought. The space between the lights was not a vacuum but was charged with a vibrant energy.

He ‘spoke’ to Alpha, his thoughts radiating out into empty space – communicating trivialities, bare facts about everyday life; nothing interesting.

Alpha was too naïve to care, however, and ingested his data with a curious vigor before responding tenfold. Thoughts washed over Ha’el as he chose what to respond to.

In the first week of their discussions, everything was completely alien to Alpha, and any time Ha’el spent with it was explosive and mentally taxing.

Now that it had a basic understanding of how the world worked (or at least how Ha’el perceived it), its inquiries were more well-paced.

For now, though, it was uncharacteristically silent. Ha’el felt the slightest brush of Alpha’s consciousness, as though it were asking tentatively – but he recognized it.

All their exchanges were only Ha’el talking to Alpha to help it see the world through his eyes. Alpha wanted to show its world to Ha’el, but Torvald didn’t want Ha’el to do anything magical without his supervision, and he’d been constantly busy on some matter or another.

Ha’el declined with some difficulty. He was interrupted from his trance-like state when he heard the door open.

Tachi entered, smiling warmly. “Hey, Ha’el. Are you busy?”

“No,” Ha’el said, and Tachi sat in another chair. “What’s up?”

“We’ve finished the first prototype of the Alpha suit, and Section A is setting it up. You’re supposed to meet them in the test chamber.”

Ha’el nodded and placed Alpha on the cart made to transport it. He wheeled it down to the test chamber where the suit was developed, and entered.

He looked inside in awe. In the center of the room there was an extravagant suit of armor, protected by angular plates of heavy green metal that gleamed in the bright test lighting.

“Come on,” Boisen said from next to the armor. He and technicians from sections A and B were standing by the armor; Yuchi nodded at him. “Come on,” Boisen repeated, “We’ve got to try it out, calibrate it, and see whether or not the final system’s too complicated.” There was a whole world of things to consider.

Ha’el noticed the front section of the armor seemed cracked open. As Muchi brought out the crystal core of Alpha, Boisen directed him to get into it. “Hurry, we only have a few weeks before we’ll need it.”

Ha’el slipped into it and the technicians closed the front. He felt claustrophobic; he could hardly move. The helmet’s visor was up, giving him fresh air, but beyond that he was sealed in place.

“I thought this thing was going to be bigger,” Ha’el commented, as he tried to make out what was happening around him.

“There have been production issues,” Boisen said wearily. “I’m connecting Alpha now.” Ha’el felt the familiar sensation of Alpha’s mind meshing with his own.

“All good?” Boisen asked.

Ha’el said, “It’s working, I guess. I still don’t know how to work this, though.”

Boisen smiled. “If you can communicate with Alpha, that’s good for now. We have a few weeks to train you.”

Over the course of the next few days, Torvald learned to move in Alpha: with his mind he could move as intuitively as without the suit, though his strength was amplified by many times.

More importantly, Ichi and then Torvald instructed him on how to use Alpha for magical purposes, though his grasp of the subject was vague and his power weak compared to Torvald or Epimor.

On only the fourth day, disaster struck.
__________

Torvald spoke to Boisen through his communicator, “The alarm’s going off! Where you are?”

“I’m on my way down,” Boisen said, peering down the empty elevator shaft. “I should be there in a few moments. Where’s Ha’el?”

“He’s in his suit,” Torvald said. “What should we do?”

As he communicated through a terminal with the facility’s AI, Chandra, Boisen said, “The demon is only a few hundred feet from the Hammer. Send Ha’el to the elevator. You should go with him.”

“Iliad gave me orders not to endanger myself.” With Epimor still missing, the only other mages were Hanson, Ichi, and Synton. Of those, only Synton was competent enough to defeat it, yet…

After a pause, Boisen asked, “What about Synton? She took care of that eye easily enough.”

Torvald sighed. “I don’t even know where she is right now, and I couldn’t get her to help unless she wanted to. How long until you get here?”

“Just a few moments. The Commander’s on his way as well.”
__________

Synton, scurrying her way around the Legion storehouses, stumbled onto the room that contained two crystals like Alpha, housing immature spirits. She tentatively cracked one open and began to converse.
__________

Ha’el watched the walls slide past him as he descended into the Earth. The Alpha suit, after only a few days like a second skin to him, didn’t weigh him down but instead made him feel lighter and movements more agile.

With a slow grinding, the elevator came to a halt and he saw the Hammer.

It was the first time he’d seen the Hammer since Anamaluch, the Extemos agent, was defeated. He hardly seemed the same as before – he seemed darker. His red eyes seemed more piercing, and his armor and even his posture were more imposing than before.

With his new sight, he noticed the Hammer was practically overflowing with power, but it was contained. It was like looking at a dam with water leaking out of the sides.

Your opponent is on the other side of this wall, the Hammer boomed. He should make his appearance soon.

Ha’el, to protect his charge, stepped closer to the Hammer. “And what about you? Are you just going to watch?”

Oh, how I would enjoy to fight in your place, he growled, But there are those of you who think I am too dangerous to free.

Ha’el could think of nothing he wanted to add, so he stretched his mind out around him (I see you’ve awakened, the Hammer said off-handedly) to find the demon. He felt it behind the wall behind the Hammer, and as he turned to it the wall shook.

“Boisen,” he asked, “Exactly what weapons do I have?”

Boisen’s voice crackled over his headset. “I didn’t have time to integrate any weapons into your suit. You have a heavy rifle on your right leg and, considering your enemy and personal skills, the sword on your back.”

Ha’el groped for it with his right hand as the wall shook again, visibly buckling outwards and sending dust down in sheets. He glanced quickly at his sword and said, “It’s not very sharp, and the weight is off.” It was balanced far down the blade, making it unwieldy.

“I don’t know anything about swords, and I never got the chance to ask you,” Boisen muttered. “It wasn’t supposed to be finalized until next week.”

There was another thud and the wall fell away. He saw the demon before him, but more than anything else he felt it through Alpha, who also expressed a brief tentative fear before strengthening in resolve.

Ha’el stood between the Hammer and the demon defiantly, and Mammon stormed angrily in front of him. It crouched low and its dull red eyes seemed to penetrate Ha’el.

Like lightning, it flashed towards him, and Ha’el instinctively made a barrier while taking a defensive stance. He had slowed Mammon and caught him on his blade, which he quickly twisted and sent Mammon flying onto its back.

Taking the opportunity, Ha’el made a sloppy blow towards the prone demon, but his blade-balanced sword threw him off. Its momentum carried it to the side and it struck Mammon in the ribs, and made a meaty thwack due to its dullness and its target’s thick skin. Still, Ha’el had the impression that he broke bones.

If it had bones, that was.

Mammon quickly stood to its feet and Ha’el retreated back between it and the Hammer.

Such poor showing, the Hammer said mockingly. Do you intend to become a beast, Mammon? Endure your jailor’s curse and use your strengths.

Ha’el tried to consider a preemptive attack while the Hammer was talking, but he continued, Your opponent has only used magic for days, at most. He is no match for you.

Ha’el blanched. In another instant the demon had jumped before him and he slashed at it, but it was some sort of illusion. As he was recovering, a new form appeared in front of him, mirroring his own: a humanoid, wielding a sword. Both the sword and skin of his enemy seemed made of the same stuff as the hide of the beast before.

Gathering himself, Ha’el focused on his actions, but he found Mammon’s idle twitching difficult to read. As before, it seemed to lunge at him, its sword lowered at him in a single instant. As he moved to parry, the image disappeared or shifted to another potision, and his sword was batted aside with ease. Ha’el reeled backwards, but Mammon relented.

It grabbed his now-bent sword and, straightening it over his knee, handed it back to Ha’el by the hilt.

The Hammer guffawed at the sight. He wishes to train, Ha’el, he said, terribly amused. I hope you don’t disappoint him.

Ha’el felt Alpha calling out to him and realized his error: he was paying no heed to the magical side of things. He tried to focus on Alpha but could not, so he closed his eyes.

He saw the world through Alpha: Mammon was no longer a swordsman but a point of power. It danced on its heels before acting yet again, but this time Ha’el saw his feint for what it was. When Mammon attacked, Ha’el blocked, the force of the strike bending his sword again.

Epimor stirred, now able to fight again, though he was sore. Again grasping his right hand, he drew strength into it as he ran towards the demon and the robot fighting. He came onto Mammon from behind, jumping and going to place his palm on his back, when suddenly its sword was thrust over its back to block him.

Epimor tried to drive through it, but with no success. The strain was beginning to burn, and he was about to retreat when Ha’el took advantage of the situation and cut Mammon’s head clean off. In the moment of shock, Epimor overcame its defenses and destroyed it.

The Hammer sighed. That was exciting, but over far too soon.

Torvald came rushing in, unaware that Mammon had been defeated, but he slowed when he saw Ha’el standing quietly. “Oh, you’ve – Epimor?”

Epimor smiled sheepishly. “I got lost.”
__________

Iliad and Boisen swept in after Torvald.

“Hammer,” Iliad said, “You said before that the demons would only come roughly monthly, yet it’s been only two weeks since the last one.”

You place too much faith in me, the Hammer said, But in this case the error was not intentional on my part. Head into the facility behind me, and you should find your answer.

Before Iliad could ask what the Hammer meant, Boisen ran to the hole in the wall, and supposed himself against the destroyed concrete structure, his mind racing. If – if it truly was what he was suspecting, then it could explain the whereabouts of Dr. Sin.

From CERN, Boisen had received reports that indicated spacially vast dimensions inhabited by formless enigmatic entities. If those were from the Hellscape, then a single machine could summon a demon…

No. It could open a connection to the Hellscape!

“Iliad! I’m going to explore this area. Epimor, you’re familiar with it, aren’t you? You and Torvald, come with me.”

The three of them left, leaving Iliad and Ha’el with the Hammer. Iliad continued, “So you’re saying something you hadn’t considered brought the demon here?”

Precisely, the Hammer said. Iliad decided to reserve his judgment until Boisen came back. Lately, it seemed like everything slipped out from under his control: his military forces were ineffective, and the day-to-day operations of the Legion were consumed in talk of magic and dimensions.

Seeing Iliad’s silence, Ha’el asked, “Hammer, what did you mean before when you said I had awakened?”

Exactly what I meant: you are awake, and closer to seeing the world around you as it truly is. By the end of his short sentence, the Hammer’s voice had dropped to a murmur.

Ha’el jumped as a smooth, unfamiliar voice behind him said, “Allow me to elaborate.” He turned his head and saw a white-robed figure.

“Are you a Knifeman?” Ha’el asked defensively. He’d only heard stories about them, but those tales were enough to make him wary.

Iliad seemed unaffected. He knew he could do nothing to meddle in a Knifeman’s affairs.

“I am an ex-Knifeman. For now, and if you should have the experience of speaking with me again, you may call me ‘Apostate.’” He spoke quickly yet deliberately, shortly delivering his explanation.

“Only a relatively small number of individuals naturally have a spark of magic within them.” Torvald, from a young age, had shown great magical prowess. Hanson, however, did not: Torvald spent years training him before Hanson could cast rudimentary spells. “In you, this was manifest as your accelerated healing. However, such magic can be expanded upon. You have awoken.”

The Apostate saw Ha’el’s dubious expression. “Mammon is a demon of legendary power, yet you have only been able to even use magic for only days! Your sudden strength is because of your latent power.”

You forget three points, the Hammer interrupted. First, neither Mammon nor any of his brethren are accustomed to combat in the physical realm. Second, Mammon was sent as an agent of Asmodeus – he was dispatched with the expectation that he die, as is evident from his straightforward entrance.

The Hammer’s voice dropped. And third, that as long as Mammon is in this realm –

“Now, Hammer,” the Apostate said suddenly, “Mammon’s handicaps aside, you must acknowledge that Ha’el has shown surprising growth.”

Are you trying to skirt around this topic? the Hammer asked incredulously.

“I only want to ensure you don’t misspeak,” the Apostate said firmly.

The Hammer laughed in two quick bursts and then lowered his voice to a low growl. Knifeman, are you attempting to threaten me? Ha’el nervously looked at Iliad, who was also disturbed.

The Hammer felt time stop – dust hung in the air and Iliad was stuck with his face confused. The Apostate stepped in front of the Hammer.

“Allow me to speak bluntly,” he said. “I do not want you to divulge sensitive information to the subjects of importance under my charge. That includes Ha’el and the wizards. Anything detailed pertaining to Gods, the interactions between the realms, and magic I strictly prohibit.”

The Hammer looked down and said, I thought I knew what you intended, yet it appears I was mistaken. More than that, though, I am surprised that you do not know your limitations.

The Apostate, as emphatically as always, only said, “If you step too far out of line, I will destroy Leucin’s barriers and kill you myself.” He kept his mask locked onto the Hammer.

After a long pause, the Hammer rumbled, Were it not for the promise of seeing Satan roused from his slumber, I might accept that offer.

Reality returned to normal. As Iliad almost began to signal Torvald and Epimor to come back, the Apostate waved at him to stop.

“Remember, Ha’el,” he said before disappearing, “You have the possibility to grow even stronger.”

There was one other person whose spark was not fully realized, and whose role was incomplete: Lee. It was only a matter of time before all the pieces in play were known.
__________

Boisen walked among the revealed lab, guided by Epimor and Torvald. When he reached the generator room, he looked in awe at the machinery strewn across the floor. “Where…” he began, but he could not finish his thought. He wandered to the center, where a small shard of the exotic matter sat in the midst of the chaos.

“This is where the demon came from,” Epimor said. “I escaped to the dormitory you saw, where it incapacitated me and broke through the wall to the Hammer.”

“You did this yourself?” Boisen asked.

“Yes,” Epimor lied, “You saw the notes I found.”

Indeed, Boisen had seen the notes. Countless sheets of paper, covered in text that was illegible, overlapping and that had no apparent alphabet. It was almost like an ordered film of ink on the page. Not even Boisen could decipher their meaning.

This proved to him that Epimor was lying. Such a distinctive way of writing, along with the specific field of dimensional transforms – there was no mistaking it.

Dr. Sin had been here.
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Sat Jul 07, 2012 9:30 am

Spoiler:
 

The alarms startled Lee out of her rest. She went to look for somebody and heard some sort of low rumbling from behind one of the doors. She tried to open a door, but it was locked. She continued down the hall and opened another door that appeared less secure.

It seemed locked at first but then it opened, and she saw somebody collapsing onto the floor. “Hey! What –” she began, but she stiffened in anger when she saw who it was: Dr. Sin. It was him, again. Before she could say anything she sighed as she noticed he was unconscious. As Lee walked to him, the test chamber caught her eye through the observation window.

Her mouth fell open in shock. Epimor was backing away from some thing that looked like it was covered in lava – or that it was made of molten rock that flowed by some will. It stepped heavily out and Epimor backed away, rushing out of sight out towards the hallway. The beast heaved against the wall and paused, glaring momentarily at Lee before turning its attention back to Epimor.

Its pitch black eyes seemed to contain within them a vast malevolent vacuum that stretched out forever, yet remained contained in Mammon’s miniscule irises. Just by looking into them, Lee felt herself growing lighter and weaker. When they broke eye contact, her senses returned with an extra surge of adrenaline just from feeling its power.

It knew where she was. She had to escape.

She grabbed Dr. Sin under his arms and, with great effort, began to drag him out of the room. She lost view of the monster but could hear it through the walls, banging and crashing noises that shook Lee to her bones. She twisted the doorknob but it wouldn’t turn; it was somehow locked again. She fumbled with it before pulling Dr. Sin out after her.

Her head shot up at a noise in the hallway and Epimor ran out of the door she tried to get in earlier. “Epimor!” Lee cried out to get his attention. He looked at Lee, and she saw in his eyes fear but also a light that wasn’t there before.

Concrete dust sloughed off of the wall as it shook. “Don’t worry about me. Get Dr. Zhivago to safety!”

Interrupting him, the wall spilled out into the hallway, obscuring Lee’s vision, but she saw a flash of light and heard Epimor yell something obscured by the demon’s roaring and debri.

Lee looked behind her and saw the elevator; she pulled Sin to it while the beast was distracted. She tossed him to the side and pushed the button for the ground floor.
__________

Dr. Sin woke up in an elevator, his head spinning. He opened his eyes partially, the light blinding him.

Lee glowered at him from the side of the elevator. “Are you still going to ignore me?” she asked, holding her voice steady.

That woke Sin up, and he sat up quickly, climbing to his feet, but he kept his distance from her. “Lee! I’m so sorry for how I was acting…” he trailed off, trying to remember what had happened. There was something important about his new engine, but he couldn’t bring himself to care anymore. Why on Earth was he treating her so coldly before? He shook it from his mind. “How did you find me? I thought I’d never see you again.”

Lee didn’t move. “Lee,” Sin said quietly, “With their ambitions those years ago, those scientists would have taken you as a sample. I was acting to protect. I know I wasn’t able to…” he stopped. “I haven’t been anything like a father to you, but now I can.” Yes, he thought, He had sacrificed too much with his ambitions as well, but now he had a second chance with his daughter!

Perhaps Physics wouldn’t be solved in his lifetime. He was close, but…

Lee turned to look at him, with tears in her eyes, and wordlessly reached out to him. He embraced her, her arms gripping him tightly as she quietly cried. His body felt light and, for a second, he thought he was being sentimental.

As he turned to look at the elevator doors, his mind exploded in thought. If the normal force from the car is lessened, it’s accelerating downwards, which means it’s either starting to move down or stopping after moving up. There’s no way it would be called to a lower level!

His gaze finally reached the elevator’s display. A basement floor near ground level! The only lit button on the level selection was the first ground floor. Therefore, somebody had called the elevator at this level and was waiting!

The elevator came to a halt and, as the doors opened, Dr. Sin spun Lee around so he was holding her from behind. He unclipped his ID and held it like a blade against her neck, trying his best to conceal it from sight. He could use it as a bluff against whoever may be there and maybe escape.

The doors slid open and Sin cursed his fate. Waiting was some kind of elite soldier, most likely a Martian, and therefore extremely loyal to the Legion. He may even be one of the radical Martian Knifemen that he’d heard about.

He had biotic implants, mechanical arms in his back. Sin had heard of them: assassins, mostly, and the arms could be used to contain guns or blades in addition to applying a heavy force on their own. Thankfully, Lee was taking the situation in stride, though she was probably just being quiet in confusion.

Dr. Sin stared at him and growled, “Get back and put your hands in the air.” Boisen raised his all of his arms and scurried back a few steps. Sin thought of what to do. He’s falling for my bluff, but in the end I can’t reason with him. It looks like I’ll have to use that.

“Lee,” he said, trying to control himself, “Press the red emergency button on the wall there.” If he did it, there would be a split second where the assassin could react. Lee did as she was told and, with a dull thump, the explosive bolts in the bottom of the elevator blew the floor out and down into space.

Lee screamed as gravity took hold of them, a cold dark gale building around them. They had hundreds of floors until the elevator shaft ended, so there was plenty of time. He gritted his teeth to not scream himself and held Lee tightly against himself.

His memento from CERN, a pair of gravity-altering tokens, was all he had to remind him of his time there. Though the Higgs boson was confirmed in 2012, the alien apocalypse delayed development until ninety years later. He activated them and, with their current orientation, the real and transmitted gravitational fields overlapped and cancelled each other, stopping all gravitational acceleration.

Lee’s scream petered out into a confused groan as she felt herself become weightless. “It’s ok,” Sin said, “We’re going to be fine.” With small controlled movements, he could use gravity to accelerate them in small directions laterally, which stopped the risk of them hitting the walls of the elevator shaft.

They hadn’t reached terminal velocity in freefall, and even then, frictional forces were proportional to velocity, so if they had a long enough distance to go, they would slow to a crawl without the effects of gravity. Before he could even see the bottom they had slowed down to a reasonable speed.

“What’s happening?” Lee said, confused, trying not to move and disturb whatever delicate balance had been set up.

“It’s ok, Lee,” Dr. Sin said, running his free hand over her hair, “But if the Legion saw me I wouldn’t be able to leave. At the bottom of the facility there’s an emergency escape tunnel that they shouldn’t have access to.” Lost, Lee didn’t question any further, but held her father as they slid down through empty air.

They finally reached the bottom of the elevator shaft and Sin turned off the field. For a few moments, both he and Lee struggled and stand and fell over. The dim service lighting illuminated the shaft, at the bottom a deep trench of concrete with ladders leading out. A few feet away was the floor of the elevator, lying in a region of disturbed dust.

“Wait here,” Sin said, “I have something to do. It should only take a moment.” He pried open the doors to the facility again and basked in the clean atmosphere one last time. He went to a control panel for the sector and located the warehouse he’d used for his engine, along with every other storage facility of note in the sector. He told them to purge and left, smiling.

Now they would be flooded with radiation and their contents would be systematically destroyed. It was a childish act, to be sure, but he did hold some disdain for the Legion; they stopped his research.

He returned to the elevator bay, where Lee was waiting. “Well, let’s head out.” The emergency exit was hidden behind a heavy door vault door, only able to be opened from the inside. It opened slowly, opening into a wide and spacious evacuation tunnel. Another vault door in the distance served as the second door of an airlock. Lights flicked on, shining brightly off of pasty-white cement.

They went to the second door and, as it rose, it revealed a dark figure standing on the other side.

Dr. Sin was startled at first but refrained from acting. There was nothing he could do, after all, and it was somebody who knew he was leaving – somebody far more prepared than he. When the figure was completely unveiled, Lee shrank behind Dr. Sin, but he only laughed.

“He’s a friend, Lee, a good ally of mine.” Sin said, laughing as he turned back to his host. “But still, it’s been too long since we’ve talked. I could have used your help today.”

“I deeply regret that it has been so long, Dr. Sin, but various matters have required my attention.” The Knifeman spoke flatly, his mask and body unmoving. “Even so, it looks like your time has come again.”
Spoiler:
 
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Sat Aug 11, 2012 11:43 pm

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“So,” Sin said, “What do you have this time?”

The Knifeman motioned for them to follow, and they walked behind him as they progressed down the tunnel. “Although the Russian research complex was taken and the bulk of the Russian army was defeated, the government retains power in Moscow. Notably, they are developing another Culmination using the work from CERN.”

This caught Sin’s attention. “‘From CERN’? Is Heisenberg there?”

“He is.” The Knifeman stopped and turned around, his mask boring into Sin. Lee glared at him balefully. “Would you like to see what he’s doing?” The Knifeman asked, though the question was rhetorical.

Dr. Sin bit his lip, his eyes distant. “Yes, I would.”

The Knifeman opened a portal, and the thin lifeless air in the tunnel was intruded upon by a damp, moist and human smell. Another Knifeman was waiting for them, and they stepped through the portal into a deserted alley in downtown Moscow. Muted city sounds, voices, came from the

“So how does this work?” Sin asked, with Lee tailing him apprehensively.

“The Russian powers in place here have a functioning research facility, with quite a stockpile of materials from CERN. You could make yourself very useful here. They are trying to expand upon the Culmination plans you developed for the Mendelgovians. Gaining access will not be an issue.”

“And where we’ll be staying?” The Knifemen knew this was important for Sin. He had faked Lee’s death to evade the ambitions of the CERN staff, and now there was another member from CERN. Lee’s existence had to be kept secret, at least for the moment.

“We have secured an apartment in an empty part of the town,” one of the Knifemen said. “Would you like to see it? There is enough time today to set you in place.”

The light was dim, which meant it must be morning. A Knifeman led Lee down a series of empty streets to an abandoned building, although one with power and water. It was in good condition, but Lee felt like she was in the Legion Towers again, as though she was stranded.

‘I’ll be back sometime tonight’, her dad had said, but the sentiment did little to easy her loneliness. She took stock of her new home, if that’s what it was to be: barren surfaces; faded paint, chipping at the baseboards; two bedrooms and one bathroom. The main living area had a table with three chairs, and the fridge was strangely stocked with food.

Lee had asked her Knifeman how they knew her father – he only called him an ‘investment.’

Rather than leaving immediately, the Knifeman said, “You have quite the gift, to walk through time. However, we do not believe that is your true power.” Lee was silent. She felt a twinge of foreboding that they knew about her, but she felt there was nothing she could do to stop whatever they decided.

He continued, “Even now, you must think that your life is being decided for you. If you can become even more powerful, feel what you are doing when you time travel, you can learn to protect the things you want to.”

He turned and left Lee was left all alone.
__________

The Knifeman led Dr. Sin to the Kremlin, and gained an immediate audience with the man who was Efim’s second-in-command, and now probably first in command. His name was – very important, Sin thought. He had offered him a deal: construct some instrument of war for the Russians and he would have continued access to their resources.

Of course, Sin accepted; to date the Knifemen had never led him astray. This time at least, he would have accepted even if the Knifeman hadn’t suggested it, because he would be working alongside Dr. Heisenberg, a colleague of his from CERN. He was the last surviving member from the team that worked on the quantum engines, and he was who knew how the “magic” components interacted with the electric ones.

He could make a permanent engine – perhaps with some tweaks, though, to sidestep the insanity the electro-magnetic engine caused in its operators, and that he had narrowly escaped.

The Knifeman stayed behind, alone with Petrov in his office.

“Well?” the Russian asked, “What would you like in exchange for Sin, and the spy?”

The Knifeman stared down at the Russian president and named his demands: “Nothing, Petrov, except that you offer him every opportunity to succeed. Specifically, he will most likely murder Heisenberg and then request a new assistant. Your Martian friend can help procure him.”

Petrov considered this for a moment. He had no choice but to agree, but the terms were more favorable than he was expecting. Even if Heisenberg was killed, he still had Sin, the trump card. “Where is this assistant?”

“The Towers,” the Knifeman said, and Petrov tried not to laugh at the absurdity of the notion. Sin’s arrival was a miracle in itself, and now he was burdened with abducting somebody else from the Towers – the Legion’s new headquarters, which was designed to be impenetrable.

“You think he can do it?” Petrov finally asked, and the Knifeman only nodded in response. “Then I’ll do it.” The Knifeman turned and left.

Petrov let out a heavy sigh. He called his second-in-command, who was in charge of intelligence, and asked that their Martian ‘friend’ be put held in reserve in Moscow.

Everything was too suspicious. A few months ago, after their army was obliterated, the Knifemen swept into his office and blackmailed him into taking on this slimy Martian, D – not that it was unwelcome, since he was a godsend.

D was a master entering the Legion network. He could always decrypt their transmission, enter their database remotely, retrieve any information – like he was Iliad himself. Somehow, he was able to single-handedly hijack their supply lines, but only the ones with the truly valuable materials. According to CERN’s databases, D stole over half of their electronic equipment and every single piece of exotic matter the Legion tried to ship back to the Towers.

But Petrov naturally had his doubts. D must have been fresh from Mars, with such a thick accent, and there have been no ships from Mars for seventy years. No Martian colonies that he’d ever heard of. No reason for D to also know the Legion’s technology like the back of his hand.

But what alarmed Petrov most of all was that everything was orchestrated by the Knifemen. If he doesn’t co-operate they can kill him, but if he does they always stab him in the back.

It’s only a matter of time before his luck turned sour.
__________

It was night, and Heisenberg had finished outlining the force-particle interactions key in the magical components. Already, Sin could see the solution, how everything fit together. Heisenberg seemed exhausted but still energetic at seeing another scientist, especially one of Sin’s caliber.

Already, Sin was beginning to rethink his prior choices. He would have ordinarily killed Heisenberg, so that he was the only one who could build the engines, but everything he seemed to yearn for in the past seemed irrelevant now. The goal of being the sole heir to Earth seemed… irrational, yet he had killed the other eleven scientists for it.

He placed a hand on Heisenberg’s shoulder. “Get some rest. I’ll think over this for a while, and then we can work on expanding tomorrow.”

This… what Heisenberg was describing was the electronuclear force, and it could be magnitudes more efficient than his electromagnetic engine. Sin grabbed a ream of paper and began to work.

After several hours, he realized such an engine would be completely different than what he had done in the past. He would need his engineer again, Taras.
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Fri Sep 07, 2012 12:38 pm

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Epimor walked through Section C again, part of him glad to be back. It was still underground, but it was closer to the surface – it felt warmer to him.

His eye of True Sight showed him a hidden room, with a Knifeman inside it – although this one felt different somehow, more dangerous.

His True Sight was somehow growing in power. It peered into more than the material, sometimes exposing the thoughts of those around him, or their histories. It was very distracting.

In a conversation with Hanson, he suddenly felt an emptiness, that something was missing, something being hidden from him. He felt an inkling he knew what it was.

He hadn’t seen any of the Synta frequently besides Ichi and Muchi, but he still thought Tachi’s absence was strange. He knew something had happened to her, but he couldn’t determine what it was. All he knew was that it was serious, so she couldn’t have just been assigned to a military force in Europe, but she wasn’t in medical or anywhere else.

Everybody else thought she had died. Everything failed to add up, but why?
__________

For various reasons, Taras was involved in gene experimentation during his stay in the Russian research corps, which resulted in his genes being a hybridization of human and black wolf DNA. It granted him increased senses and strength, but at heart he was still a scientist – and, after the Legion took over, he took the role of Boisen’s assistant.

As Boisen’s assistant, Taras tended to Section D’s projects and possessions. His love of Science had been recognized, and he had been delegated with this task. Of course, if Boisen needed assistance with anything else, he could ask, as had happened with the wounded soldier.

However, this employment was stale. There was no Science occurring here, but only upkeep. He kept most of the Section D technology contained, whether that may be viruses or experimental computers. There was some magic artifact in here – a stone with a glowing face, somehow able to levitate – but Boisen forbid any tests on it at all. Taras kept it in a metal box with a rock on top.

The most engaging work he took part in was feeding the Xen life that still existed from before the resonance cascade, but testing had come to a halt some time ago, as Boisen focused on another project on which Taras was not allowed to work.

As an engineer for the Russians, he had survived the Martian invasion, but now the Martians kept him locked in their basement.

Then again, perhaps how he was living now was the only option he had left – by disabling the nuclear bomb under the base, he had betrayed the Russians during the invasion and handed the Towers to the Legion, but the alternative was to let all the work that was done here be destroyed.

It was during his patrolling of Section D that Taras saw somebody he didn’t recognize wandering around, which was strange in itself – he had few visitors all the way down here (although that suited him fine, since people often reacted strangely to his appearance). Even stranger, the person seemed lost. Given the secrecy that Section D was supposed to be under, everybody should be guided by Boisen or already know where they’re going.

“Can I help you?” Taras called out, and the figure looked at him and recoiled visibly.

“You really are part dog!” he said in surprise.

“Part wolf,” Taras corrected, his ears folding back. “What’s your business here?”

“I need you to come with me.” Taras stared at him and raised his eyebrows. “To Moscow,” the stranger finished, and Taras tried to think of what was happening. Could somebody have come for him? It seemed unlikely that his assassin – or kidnapper – would ask for him to follow. In any case, the Legion were the only people who probably still trusted him. He couldn’t burn all of his bridges.

The man kept talking to persuade him, but Taras had his thoughts focused elsewhere. This wasn’t somebody come to punish him – he needed him. Realization struck him like lightning: Sin! Dr. Sin was the only man who could be said to have liked him, and together they had accomplished much at CERN. Had he somehow escaped from the Legion?

No, he had to. Even if it wasn’t Sin, it would be one of his fellows, and whoever it was needed him. They were doing Science!

Taras interrupted, “I’ll do it!” The stranger took a moment to process this and then told him how he was going to get out: a small cargo truck on the freight elevator. Taras was doubtful, but decided to go along with it. The idea of being able to work with Sin invigorated him to the point where he felt as though he had to succeed, or die trying.

Well, he may not die, but the consequences would be severe. Still, his desire to see a God among men urged him forwards.

“Go wait by the elevator,” the man said, “I’ve got to pay a visit to Boisen.”
__________

Boisen walked unsuspectingly into Section D. Iliad was planning to attack Moscow – they’d been a horrible nuisance. Production of the Alpha project had stalled; without the magic and energy-dense materials from CERN, which the Russians had been stealing, there was nothing Boisen could do that wouldn’t be impractical.

He saw a familiar face waiting for him. “Dagon! What are you doing here? I thought you were busy.”

“I am busy,” Dagon said. “I happened to be passing through.” He reached into his coat and pulled out a small metal case. “Nanobots, two thousand. You have the information on them, right?”

“Of course,” Boisen said, taking it. “I take it you’re not going to be staying?”

Dagon took a few steps away, then paused dramatically. “I’m sure you know what’s happening, right? I’m our inside man.”

“So when Iliad said you were in Moscow…” Boisen straightened up. “Dagon. I have a favor to ask you.” Dagon looked back and felt a twinge of fear when he saw the anger in Boisen’s eyes.

“If you find the bastard who’s been taking my supplies, keep him alive. I want to kill him myself.”
__________

Taras waited by the elevator. He saw his kidnapper hurrying towards him. “We should hurry,” Taras said. “Boisen could notice I’m missing at any moment.”

Wordlessly, Dagon pressed the button to call the elevator, and Taras noticed he was shaking slightly. With his canine senses he smelled fear coming off of Dagon.

Dagon spoke quickly, “Get in the back of the truck until we’re out of range. Then you can ride in the front.” Taras folded his ears back.

The elevator came, and Taras climbed in the back of the armored truck, which was nearly pitch black until Dagon turned on the engine. He sat on one of the benches and waited as he heard the grinding of the elevator.

The thought of working with Dr. Sin again made his tail wag.
__________

Despite almost being killed due to Dagon driving a Legion vehicle up to the Kremlin, the drive was mostly uneventful. As Dagon unlocked the door to the research wing, Taras scampered about impatiently and then rushed inside, where Dr. Sin was waiting for him.

Taras opened his mouth in an approximation of a smile, and he shook hands with Dr. Sin.

“It’s good to see you again, Taras,” Sin said. “We’ve been needing your help – Heisenberg and I.” The last Taras knew, Sin was planning to kill all the other scientists from CERN who knew enough about the project. He kept quiet and introduced himself to Heisenberg as well.

“Well,” Taras said, “I suppose I have some catching up to do.”
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Sat Sep 29, 2012 1:23 pm

The computer screen was static, waiting for input. Iliad, a purple lollipop hanging out of his mouth, sighed deeply and stood, servos in his armor operating smoothly, giving him space to think. Dagon was the only Legion element who had been able to infiltrate the Russian government, which meant he was Iliad’s only connection to intel.

He had reported that the Russians had not only begun their research but had accelerated greatly and that their project was nearing completion He didn’t know the details about it – but if Dagon couldn’t find it, then it probably wasn’t there to be found.

Meanwhile, Boisen was constantly voicing his need for more resources, the sort that had all been intercepted by Russian forces. They must be developing something similar to the Alpha project, and attacking them would eliminate the threat of a superweapon and give the Legion their own.

This was something he could not delay any longer. The Legion would advance to Moscow.
__________

Once Dr. Sin had convinced Taras that there were no plans to kill his fellow Dr. Heisenberg, they set quickly to work on applying Sin’s derivations to a working engine. Heisenberg played a small role in the actual fabrication of the engine, instead working with the engineers on the bulk of their weapon.

Dr. Sin and Taras worked together flawlessly, like an artist and his tools. Dr. Sin produced the theory and Taras purified it, to solidify it in reality as efficiently as possible. It was a strange relationship, as either one was useless without the other. Dr. Sin could not create an engine light or small enough to be practical, and Taras barely understood how Sin’s newly-formalized electronuclear force functioned – only how it could be used.

The days flew past, and many times Dr. Sin slept in an empty room (while Taras curled up on the ground). One day, during a particularly vexing issue that required a short break, Taras asked out of nowhere, “What did you think of the Legion scientists?”

Dr. Sin relaxed in his chair, placing his pen down on an unreadable sheet of paper. “They have no idea of what they’re doing. There’s no way they can catch up to us – if we finish this, we can crush any army they send at us. Can you believe they started a resonance cascade?” He laughed.

Taras said despondently, “I had to go through a lot of trouble to keep everything safe during that. The Race X creatures needed to be destroyed. Boisen managed to fix it, though.”

“Oh, no,” Sin said, “They probably didn’t know what to do. I met a scientist and showed him where to go. Then I sent an anonymous message up to the terminal in the old Fabrication building and told them they needed to build the transmitter for the rocket, which is what they did. But not even that could stop it on its own.

“You probably didn’t know this, but we had made brief contact with a sentient leader of the alien races, and it expressed a desire to use the Earth for its resources, or to terraform it – we’re not sure. Once the resonance cascade started, it held the portals opened and began teleporting its allies inside the base, probably to probe for weaknesses. While I had the Legion trying to close the portals, I went into the Xen space myself and killed the gene worm. I barely managed to escape.”

Dr. Sin sat in silence for a few moments reflecting on what had happened, and Taras didn’t have the courage to break it. Finally, he shouted, “And that’s why we don’t use Higgs bosons in quantum generators!”

His rant resumed, “They didn’t even know what processes they were blundering into, and they tried to excite an entire sample of exotic matter into a gas, not even knowing its properties! Complete tomfoolery. They’re probably just looking for anything they can use as a weapon – like I used to do.”

Dr. Sin turned his hand around, inspecting the deep wrinkles that covered its surface. He had cared about power once – but after his seclusion, the world seemed so far away as to be significant. Then he had been reunited with his daughter, and any desires to use his knowledge for power evaporated.

But he couldn’t shake his thirst for knowledge, and by good fortune he met Heisenberg again, and he developed the basis of electronuclear theory. There were finer points he had missed, of course, but maybe – and the chance was slim – but maybe he could find a grasp a root of unified field theory.

Aside from those, his worries were few and far between. Aside from the physics, though, there was one thing that weighed heavily on his mind: Lee’s power.

Other than the most preliminary observations, he couldn’t bring himself to run any tests on Lee, although that isn’t to say they didn’t yield results. She generated none of the fields caused by the other wizard they had tested, yet he was still afraid of her power.

She could go back in time – fair enough; there was more than enough evidence to support this. What scared him was that she almost always accomplished her goal, no matter how improbably, as long as she thought it was possible.

For decades, he had always locked every door while he was testing, to reduce distractions – for decades – yet she had opened the testing chamber in the Towers. This meant she did not only go back in time, but in some way held an influence over the world.

Even if he had forgot to lock the door at that time, there were still plenty of times in the past that suggested this. Even that fact that she found him could be considered a miracle.

This possible ability had strong metaphysical implications. If the universe contained branching timelines, then Lee somehow had the ability to choose the timeline that contained the events she wanted to occur. If it had only one timeline, then she could alter the events so that what she wanted to occur did.

But he did not know the extent of her powers; the amount of change she could effect on reality, and that is what scared him: how powerful could she possibly be? If she ever found this out for herself, what could she accomplish?
__________

The Apostate appeared behind Iliad. “There’s one request I have for you, Commander. If you go to Moscow, you need to take the wizards with you. And, of course, Ha’el as well.”

Iliad asked without turning, “What about the Hammer? What if he escapes, or is freed?”

“The Hammer will not be an issue,” the Apostate said. Iliad left.
__________

Time continued to flow, and within only a few days Sin and Taras had come up with something they thought would work. Heisenberg did not fit within their synergy, and he had focused on fine-tuning the circuitry in the final project.

But this was it; the fruit of their efforts. It was constructed two days later, and for the first time Sin entered the hangar that enclosed what he had been working for. Heisenberg led them to it, in a deserted portion of old Moscow.

It was a behemoth: when the lights came on, Sin smiled at its scale.

It appeared to be a hunk of metal, three men tall and rounded in shape. Protrusions on the side appeared jointed and folded over; perhaps they were legs? It was an unconventional mode of transportation, one of the most inefficient to engineer. When Sin asked about it, Heisenberg said they had cloned the skeleton from some samples and that the size couldn’t be avoided, although he didn’t know the details.

Sin was fascinated: he thought this was only machinery, but it had biological components? There had to be a good reason. Somebody not only thought of that, but thought it was such a good idea that they would put it into such an expensive investment – but the time to think about it would come later.

From a vantage point that showed a full view of the machine, they fitted the engine into the back. While Heisenberg was preoccupied with the crane and lowered it into its cavity, Dr. Sin looked around the controls. Most seemed deactivated, but there appeared to be some sort of circuit breaker as well as a single large manual switch, in the off position, with indicator lights on. It looked like this wasn’t a specialized area at all – so where were the pieces made?

The engine fell into place, and the few engineers on the floor began scrambling up on their scaffoldings to secure it in place.

A static-filled voice came over the radio, “Heisenberg! What’s the status of the machine?”

“It’s assembled,” Heisenberg said proudly. “The calibrations shouldn’t take more than a few –”

“We need to launch now!” the voice asserted. “Our pilot should be there. The Legion is hours away – ” static drowned out what he was saying, but it was he was upset. When it subsided, it was silent.

Heisenberg began protesting, saying that engaging the engine now would be reckless, and that it could destroy everything they’d done. The voice over the radio, probably the Russian president dictator-general , continued to command Heisenberg in harsher language to start it.

Dr. Sin paid the conversation little heed. He heard, like a whisper right outside his ear, You haven’t forgotten, have you?

Of course! His freedom – his independence. He reached for the large switch and threw it down, and Heisenberg yelled in terror, “Sin, what are you doing?! We don’t know what – ”

“Quiet, Heisenberg,” Sin growled. “Don’t you know what will happen if we don’t activate it? We’ll lose to the Legion, and we’ll keep getting passed around the world’s powers until we die or get killed. If we make a stand here – if the Russians are the ones who beat the Martians, who will challenge them? We can have stability.” He looked at the scientist, older than himself. Perhaps Heisenberg wasn’t thinking about the future, or had resigned himself to his role. Perhaps it was Sin who was being unreasonable.

All he knew was that now is what was most important to him.
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Tue Nov 13, 2012 6:57 am

Spoiler:
 
Below where Drs. Sin and Heisenberg stood, the mass shifted, its joints groaning as they finally moved, shouldering its massive weight.

“Listen, Heisenberg,” Sin said, “You may be content with letting yourself be captured and taken away, but I won’t give up so easily.”

Heisenberg was confused – was Sin that loyal to the Russian government? – but more than that he was alarmed that Sin had just thrust the entire project into jeopardy for the sake of bravado, though it looked like the pilot had already been in place.

He felt a twinge of anger towards Sin; he hadn’t spent years of his life developing this. Nonetheless, what’s done was done, and his curiosity was itching to see how his creation, however incomplete, would perform.

A crash drew his attention from below. The monstrosity lurched ahead and smashed into the metal hangar door, which buckled and popped out. The hangar shook, and dust filtered through the air as the sun struck the monster for the first time. With a grating roar, it took its heavy steps outside.

For a moment, Dr. Sin was almost taken aback. What did he just let out into Moscow?
__________

A Knifeman, standing unnoticed outside of the inhabited region of Moscow, waited patiently in front of an arranged altar. It was a pillar of obsidian, covered in excrement, to summon Belphegor. Five daggers stuck out of the ground, arranged in a circle around the offering, and each had runes inscribed on their hilts.

The second Knifeman, after urging Dr. Sin to launch his creation, appeared beside the first. Lee was not strong enough; this was the only course of action they could take.

They began the summoning. A purple light spread from the altar, and a shining quicksilver arm appeared out of it, which dug into the ground. It clawed at the dirt until it gained its grip, and then pulled itself out. Another muscled arm appeared, and it struggled out of the portal, which closed behind it.

The instant it did, Belphegor turned its arm to mist, and a dagger from one of the Knifeman landed harmlessly in the ground. A storm of daggers approached it: while straining to control its new form, Belphegor phased between states while approaching the Knifemen, but their attack was too relentless, and one dagger struck the demon in the chest.

The area around the strike solidified and bogged it down, and another knife that struck it shattered the portion into crystalline shards. The demon fled quickly, escaping danger for the time being. One Knifeman chased after him, while the other would stay in Moscow.
__________

Ha’el, helped by Boisen and Section A, donned the Alpha suit. The Commander had determined Dr. Sin’s location, and Ha’el was supposed to meet with a contact in the city before apprehending the scientist.

He stepped outside the mobile command structure, guarded by a detachment from Lieutenant Marx that had come in from inner Europe. Moscow was the largest power in the area, and as it was hostile, it was the final Earthly threat to the Legion.

Ha’el drove a small transport into the city; the populated areas were elsewhere, but the abandoned and crumbling buildings gazed at him emptily. The roadway was lined by cars, heavily rusted and long since drained of fuel.

He stopped at the rendezvous point: a parking garage. He hid his vehicle inside (although he didn’t pay for a permit) and he saw a person walking across the street.

It was another person in armor – judging from the size, it must have been a woman. The armor itself was similar in appearance to Iliad’s, although it was grey with red markings. The most notable difference was a compact helmet with a black visor that obscured her face. She tapped a button and jumped up in shock as the visor became transparent.

“It’s been a while,” Tachi said, with a savage grin. “Are we going to find that scientist or what?”
__________

After disrupting and finally severing the Russian command’s communications, Dagon slunk away to where the Russian mecha was released.

Meanwhile, as Heisenberg coordinated the robot from the control room in the hangar, Dr. Sin slipped out to return to the research labs; although he developed the engine, he was otherwise invested little in the project.

The robot roared, and the spirit inside it fought against its mechanical tethers, though the pilot kept it under control. From a remote location, Legion artillery peppered the landing strip where the machine was. Dagon was observing it, and he saw the few shots that were on target were blocked by some invisible barrier well above it. He reported this back to Iliad.

Iliad cursed inwardly. If it was using magic – or perhaps some new science – either way, he was reluctant to send normal infantry against it. He ordered Dagon to test how it reacted to ground units.

From the third floor of a building in front of the machine, a single RPG shot out, but its aim was off and it missed greatly. A burst of machinegun fire flashed, and the colossus roared at it.

A vortex of energy spun away like a cyclone, distorting the air and causing the hair on Dagon’s neck to stand on end. When it reached the building, its structure buckled and was blown back. The Colossus took more heavy steps out of the airfield and towards the city, and the Legion encampment.

Dagon, who had rigged the weapons to fire remotely, said, “It has some devastating medium-range weaponry. It’s probably magic; I don’t know how to stop it.” It was nearly ten meters tall at the highest, and it showed no sign of weakening despite the assault it was under.

“If I may venture a suggestion,” Dagon said, “It isn’t withstanding the artillery as much as blocking it. The shells are detonating away from it. If we can nullify its defenses, it doesn’t look too heavily armored; I believe conventional weaponry can damage it.” On the contrary, the armor plating was thin and flexible to allow an ease of movement.

Iliad considered how he could proceed. The only people who could use magic were the wizards and Ha’el. If he sent a wizard, the only way he could think to damage it would be with other soldiers in close range or his inaccurate artillery, which would endanger whoever he sent. On the contrary, Ha’el had a defensive armor with some weapons on hand, and he was trained. “I’m sending Ha’el to your sector. I will advise him to ask you for further instructions. Take that ordinance out.” Iliad’s subordinate nodded to him that he would handle Ha’el.

Iliad stepped out of his command and found the wizards: Torvald, Hanson, and Epimor. Torvald and Hanson were in a dispassionate discussion, and Epimor seemed to be staring into space.

“Torvald,” Iliad said, “It’s possible Sin may have developed some sort of magical devices and may need your help to deal with them.”

Torvald almost responded, but he remembered that Iliad would not allow him to place himself in danger.

Epimor stood. “I will go,” he said plainly. “I’m interested to meet Dr. Sin myself.”

After Torvald gave his approval, Iliad began explaining his plan: to send Epimor with a squad of soldiers, and to armor him, but Epimor waved that aside and stated, “None of that will be necessary, Commander. I’ll just go as I am.”

Iliad felt the same as when he was given an order by a Knifeman: that the one giving the order knew much more than he. Judging by Torvald’s and Hanson’s expressions, they were surprised as well; nevertheless, Iliad swallowed his misgivings and allowed Epimor to go.

Epimor left after receiving a transceiver and brief directions on where they believed Sin could be found. He quickly disappeared into the city.
__________
Tachi stared Ha’el down with a grin on her face. Ha’el said, after a pause, “You’re alive? I thought that you were killed by the –”

“You can’t kill me that easily,” Tachi said. “Thanks to the Martian technology, I made it out fine – but we can catch up later. We’ve got a mission to do.” The two of them went back to the vehicle in the parking garage (Synton scurrying out of sight) and began to leave. Before they got far, however, they received a new order: they were to instead assist Dagon in another portion of the city.

Now left to her own devices, Synton set to work.
__________

Epimor felt as though his eye was beginning to awaken. His gaze peered through reality to find the truth, and many of his whispered thoughts seemed to come from the past or future.

There would be no complications on the way to Dr. Sin; this he knew. He also knew that the Legion’s information was incorrect, or at least outdated, and that Dr. Sin was in a place different than he had been told. Even if it was closer to the Russian power, even the Legion knew that they had little

Epimor walked quickly through the empty streets. Even with the reduced population, most citizens appeared to be taking shelter. He reached the tall outer wall of the Kremlin without incident, and scaled it easily.

Reaching out with his mind, he located the nearby guards and avoided them; he rushed up to the building where he believed Sin was located. There was a guard in place outside, but Epimor did not want to disturb him. He placed his hands on the building and closed his eyes.

The space around him bent and swirled together, stretching further and further, until Epimor found himself inside.

Now he had to take care of Dr. Sin.
__________

The car bounced over the ill-maintained road as Tachi sped to their new battleground. In light of Ha’el’s ability to use magic and his superior armor, Dagon designated himself and Tachi primarily as support. This left the question of how Ha’el was supposed to fight against an enemy no conventional weapons could harm, but that was considered a triviality: the Russians had to be firmly and finally defeated to secure the Legion’s hold on the region.

As they neared the colossus, Ha’el began to sense it, and asked Dagon what his plan was for dealing with it. Dagon told him he had no idea of how to fight it and was relying on Ha’el to come up with something. Ha’el then asked what aid Dagon could offer, and Dagon said the only rifle he had had been destroyed, but he could call in for artillery.

Ha’el decided not to bother Dagon again unless he needed something urgently.
__________

Synton rubbed her hands together, eliciting a soft green glow. The dust in the air shimmered in the abandoned parking garage, and the faint sound of metal groaning echoed gently off of the bare concrete as the cars shifted and slowly began to move together.
__________

The Apostate stood just outside the fortified Towers, the furthest he would allow himself to leave. He watched the horizon, in the direction of Moscow.

He drew a throwing dagger from his cloak and held it lightly, shifting it around and feeling its weight. After two quick steps and a flick from his wrist, the dagger flew into the air and shrunk quietly in the sky.
__________

The colossus had, by now, begun to wade through the city, indiscriminately tearing down buildings in its way as it continued its march towards the Legion camp. Ha’el had devised a plan to deal with the colossus based on Dagon’s information: it had a pilot, so neutralizing it would stop it.

Tachi stopped short of the colossus’ path, and Ha’el continued on foot alone until he saw it: larger than he had anticipated, it was a truly massive machine, and it exuded potent amounts of magical energy. It stopped and roared at him, and he braced himself: waves of pressure beat down on him and threatened to buffet him away, but he was able to hold it off with his own abilities. It power seemed strong, but easily redirected. It seemed having Torvald, Epimor, and Ichi for mentors gave Ha’el an advantage.

He drew his rifle and began firing at it; even if his shots hit amid the maelstrom, it was unlikely that they would do any damage, or that they would even penetrate its shields. Ha’el was the distraction. He received a signal from Dagon, and then he pressured the enemy colossus the most he could – and, at the same time, there was a flash of red as an explosion rocked the cockpit.

It looked like Tachi’s round hadn’t been blocked, but Ha’el was surprised to sense that the colossus was actually growing in power. It had dropped its defenses, and he could see how much power was flowing through it, but more tellingly, he could begin to see how it was distributed.

The stories-high machine shook its head back and forth, and butted against a building next to it, which grudgingly bore its weight. With a flash of inspiration, Ha’el ran into the building next to the colossus.

Concerned, Dagon asked what Ha’el was doing, and when Ha’el told him, Dagon thought he had gone crazy. Tachi, on the other hand, laughed and urged him to go for it.
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Mon Nov 26, 2012 8:07 am

Spoiler:
 

Ha’el bounded up the staircase as the building shook, but it looks like the colossus wasn’t able to turn to destroy it in the small streets. He kicked down the door to the roof, on the sixth floor, and saw the colossus trying to move away, either to turn to fire at him or to escape. With his pounding footsteps, he ran across the rooftop and jumped onto the back of the colossus.

There were protrusions where it looked like the machine had been pieced together; Ha’el held on to these as the machine took its steps. Due to its size, with every footstep its back lurched around significantly, and he had to struggle to stay on.

Ha’el drew his sword, the reinforced and now-balanced blade that Boisen had created. The machine itself was only metal, but from within it, Ha’el sensed streams of energy emanating from a bulge on its neck. From there, energy moved down its back like a spine and spread throughout the rest of its body.

Rather than stabbing the generator directly and possible causing some sort of explosion, Ha’el sought to cut off its supply. Holding a grip on its back, he drew the sword up and thrust it down, stabbing into the soft metal with his reinforced blade and mechanical strength. The beast roared and shook its back; he had clearly done some damage.

Ha’el nearly slipped as the colossus rocked back and forth, trying to throw him off. He had cut into the spine, but only slightly – then he heard Dagon’s calling him through his communicator. “Ha’el! Ha’el, leave now. There’s a complication.”

With a tug, Ha’el wrenched his sword from the metal and steadied his grip, preparing to strike again. He was going to ask what had happened, but he saw something out of the corner of his eye.

Another behemoth, but this one had a completely different aura. Whereas the colossus was like Nami in construction, this one was … purer. There was no sign of machinery, or any pilot; it was a mass of twisted and intertwined metal that towered over everything. It was easily twice the height of the colossus and bipedal; its arms swung slowly as it lumbered forwards.

More striking, however, was the fact that magic did not flow through this newcomer like it did through the colossus: it surrounded it, like a golem, so that to Ha’el it seemed obscured by a blinding radiance, the raw power emanating from it drowning out the background noises. He could hardly tell he was on the colossus rather than the top floor of some building.

Ha’el looked around and saw that, while he was on the machine’s back, it had retreated so there were no buildings nearby. He was trapped!

The golem shouted into the sky, a shout of enjoyment instead of anger or rage, and its arm swept out with alarming speed. It grabbed Ha’el and lifted him into the air, like a makeshift iron coffin, and it pulled him up.

He was released onto its shoulder, where he gripped the irregular metal as it shifted back and forth. Before him, he saw a makeshift cockpit, and a brief survey showed he was actually inside the golem’s head, surrounded in a sphere of metal with an opening to see out of the face.

In the cockpit itself, Synton controlled the golem. She sat on a worn car seat, and a number of pedals stuck haphazardly out of the floor. She gripped a steering wheel that was connected to the front wall of the golem.

With a twinge of horror, Ha’el looked about and realized he was sitting inside a car golem. Synton jammed down two of the pedals, and the golem’s arm swung down, ripping off the colossus’ armor like foil.

The colossus struggled to maneuver, and Synton struck another blow that penetrated the spine, and she paralyzed it and shook it off. In doing so, she jostled the machine to the side and gave it an opportunity.

It roared again, and another vortex of energy swept out and engulfed the golem’s arm, weakening it and causing it to disintegrate.

With a snarl, Synton turned the wheel hard. The golem stepped up and forced the colossus to the ground with its foot; and, reaching down, it grasped the source of the power in its good arm. Even from his height, Ha’el heard the metals groan as the golem strained to pull it from the chassis.

Synton pulled the heart out, and pulled it from the lifeless colossus. She held it in front of her, the frame for the generator bulging and creaking as she tried to break it. Synton’s growling caused Ha’el to recoil, and then she shouted as it finally broke. There was a burst of energy and then, finally, the colossus fell silent.

Meanwhile, Ha’el was frozen in place by Synton’s impisih smile.
__________

From the Legion camp, Torvald fixed his eyes on the golem that rose on horizon. He’d seen this in a vision from Alamir’s book, alongside prophecies of the Hammer escaping.

After Leucin disappeared, Torvald had hoped for aid from other wizards who came by, but nobody had appeared. He would have to take action on his own, but he was bound by Iliad.

Alamir, Leucin, Claire… none of them had gained power under anybody else. He felt constricted under Iliad and his fixation with forming a superweapon, however effective it may be. If Torvald was supposed to grasp his own strength, he needed to search it out on his own.
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Fri Dec 21, 2012 6:30 am

Spoiler:
 

Taras, after deleting all the local data from Sin’s research, saw a pair of small disks on the table. He looked at them in more detail – weren’t these the gravity things that they had made at CERN? Taras took them for safekeeping.

In fact, Sin had left them there.

He now sat in solidarity, the distant sounds of explosions reaching all throughout Moscow. He had been in this office for only a matter of weeks, but that was enough for him to feel attached to it. It was nothing special: an average room with a plain wooden desk. Papers were scattered on the floor and piled on his desk, although Sin knew which notes were the ones that he needed. In the center of the desk was the only clear spot, which held the key formulas and ideas that caused the creation of the engine.

If the engine he had invented drove the Legion away, then he could stay in Moscow. If it did not, the Legion would take him away or execute him. He could only wait tortuously to find out, but the High Command, that Petrov, wasn’t responding.

How stupid he’d been. He pursued his science at the expense of his own life. Lee – how many times had he disappointed her, after reuniting with her again only so recently? What happiness would unified field theory bring him? Now, though, they were on the brink of being separated again. That would be unbearable.

Even if the Legion did lose, could he continue his research without losing sight of the things important to him? If he couldn’t, would he be able to stop for Lee’s sake – and would Petrov allow him to simply leave?

Was he doomed to drive away his loved ones?

The pounding in his head intensified. If only he had more self-control, maybe he wouldn’t be driven into a corner like this. He collapsed into his chair. He grasped the handle to the top drawer of the desk.

His gun was in there, a 9mm Beretta. Incredibly old, but it still worked, and the ammo was fresh. Perhaps it was his only way out.

Sensing somebody at the door, he shut the drawer and glanced up. His old assistant was there – Mikhael, although that wasn’t his real name.

“Hello again, Dr. Sin,” Epimor said. “What do you want to do from here? Of course, I’m here for the Legion, and they want you to work for them.” Just from this, Epimor could see Dr. Sin recoil.

Going to the Legion? Leaving Lee again? They may not let him decline. Merely responding to Epimor felt like it would be too taxing. Sin stared blankly at the desk.

“However, I have a feeling you’re not the same man as the one I last saw.

“Heisenberg was killed in the last battle, by artillery fire. Nobody who is alive knows that you left. If you wish, I can let you go and report you as dead.”

This was not what he was expecting to hear – it was amazing! Dr. Sin looked back up in disbelief, but he saw the shadowy figure of a Knifeman standing behind Epimor.

“Dr. Sin,” the Knifeman said, and the words sank into his mind. “Think of how close you were. Your machine was destroyed, but as long as you survive you can improve the theory. You can complete it.” Sin’s eyes widened, and he jumped to his feet.

He stared at the desk’s surface. What was he thinking? He was ready to give up?

He looked back up at Epimor, and saw the Knifeman was gone. “Mikhael – what was your real name? Epimor, then.” Dr. Sin grinned in anticipation. “Let’s go to the Legion.”

Epimor, taken aback, agreed. As expected, Taras decided to go with Sin (“If you’re there, maybe I’ll be more than their guard dog”).

And so, they set out to return to the Legion camp. Epimor lead them quickly out of whatever remained of the Russian forces, and they were soon walking through the city.
__________

Belphegor finally reached the Towers, and the Knifeman had failed to stop it. Between the demon and the Hammer, though, the Apostate stood firm. “I will not allow you to pass,” he said.
__________
For reasons unknown to himself, Epimor took a brief detour, past a particular apartment building. Time had not treated it kindly; the brick was bleached by the sun, and the paint had long ago flaked off. The wooden doors stood against the white brick like tombstones.

This was where Dr. Sin had lived. Like a moth drawn to a flame, he approached the building and the door. Dr. Sin opened it, and saw Lee standing there.

He fell to his knees. Why was he so divided?! He was just about to leave his daughter here! He felt sick – he felt insane, but more than anything he wanted to stay here.

He realized he was crying. “Dad? What’s wrong?” Lee looked at Epimor in confusion, but she ran up to her father and grabbed him by the shoulders.

Epimor wasn’t sure what was happening. He couldn’t sense this instability in Dr. Sin until now. He cast a glance at the Knifeman staring at them, and he stayed away.

Dr. Sin looked back at Epimor, and Epimor could see his eyes begging, “Let me stay.”

Before Epimor could react, he saw a dagger shoot down from the corner of his eye, and it froze inches in front of Dr. Sin’s face.

Dr. Sin saw an expanding ball of light that quickly enveloped him, and the knowledge! Unthinkable things – more than he had imagined possible. His eyes widened as a deep understanding forced its way into his mind.

He felt serene as he saw how fate was laid out. It was tragic, but fitting. A numbness spread throughout his body, and Dr. Sin ceased to exist.

Lee stared at the empty space in in front of her, in disbelief. She tried to go back in time, but the instant her father disappeared stopped her like an impassable wall. Panic struck her: her power couldn’t save him! Now, of all times to fail!

She strained to go back, to save him somehow, but only empty space stayed before her, and she felt her spirit breaking.

With his runed eye, Epimor saw what Lee was doing – and the futility of what she was trying. But there was nothing he could do to save either of them. He had no choice but to watch as Lee tied her fate to her father’s, and both of them vanished.

Epimor shot his eye to the side, but the Knifeman was missing. Somebody was responsible for this, but he could not fathom how to pursue who, or even if he could get vengeance somehow. This terrible waste of life… he clenched his jaw. He could have just left.

Nevertheless, the room he saw was different from the one he just saw. There were no signs that anybody had lived in it; indeed, neither Lee nor Dr. Sin existed. They had been erased. The only thing that remained unchanged was that Taras was looking at him with resentment.

He had no choice now but to return to the Legion. Maybe they wouldn’t even remember Dr. Sin, but on this mission, he had failed.
__________

In the heart of Moscow’s military district, a heavy reinforced door slid open with a loud grating sound. Boisen stepped inside the storage and his jaw dropped open as he saw the vast amounts of materials collected: everything from CERN that he needed to develop the next series of Alpha. He allowed himself a lustful grin before calling in the trucks.
__________

Belphegor was defeated, yet in the deepening dusk there was another disturbance that demanded the Apsotate’s attention. “Come out – we both have questions for each other,” he called, and a Knifeman appeared in the shadows.

“You surprise us,” the Knifeman said. “We didn’t anticipate that you would take this course.”

“This area is mine,” the Apostate said. The Knifeman was acting courteously, and more notable, he had come here on his own. He wanted something: information, most likely.

“I only came to ask you some questions – and to let you ask anything you want.” Of course, the Knifemen would be interested in knowledge.

The Apostate stared at the Knifeman. “What happened to the fifth? I killed all of you but four, yet when I severed our contacts there were only three of you. What did you do to the fifth?” There were a number of artifacts that could have done it.

“We do not know,” the Knifeman said. “He, too, was a traitor. Unlike you, he has not had contact with us.

“But now let me ask my question. Why did you destroy Sin and Belphegor? We thought you wanted to stop intervention in fates. What is your goal?”

The Apostate responded, “You ask the wrong question. You want to know my motives, but I have reached such enlightenment that you would not be able to understand them. What you should have asked is, ‘How did you know Sin would be in Moscow, exactly where he was?’, and this is the answer.”

He drew from his robes a shining orb, and the Knifeman stayed still, but his voice gained an icy edge. “I see you are more heretic than we had realized.” The orb was the knowledge gifted to Alamir by the Knifemen – the secrets that he had woven into the book that had been passed among the wizards. He had to have destroyed it to draw out its information, yet it was a gift from the Knifemen to Torvald.

What the Apostate strove for was for an ideal: he wanted to affirm the purity of mankind. This meant he would not interfere except to ensure that the Knifemen and other entities that existed outside of Fate do not meddle too deeply in the affairs of man. Sin’s motives were twisted against him by the Knifemen; Belphegor was summoned by the Knifemen; Alamir’s book existed because of the Knifemen.

The Apostate knew that this was not a logically sound platform – after all, the wizards and some Legion officers had been aided by the Guild in the past. He made his own judgements, and that was antithetical to how the Knifemen operated. He did not know how much of his intentions the Knifeman could determine, but he knew he must appear irrational.

The Apostate said, “If you wish to stop me, do it. You have the Library and three Knifemen at your disposal. Come here and fight me, but if you cannot then do not insult me by blatantly trying to force your agenda on the world while I still exist to stand in your way. If you do, I’ll free the Hammer and leave you and the Legion to stop him on your own.”

With no reaction from the Knifeman, the Apostate turned on his heels and disappeared into the Legion Towers.
__________

Deep in the bowels of the Knifeman Guild’s Library, one of the Knifeman lay dead on the ground. At the moment, the only sign of anything out of the ordinary was a metallic glint coming from the shadows.
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Sat Jan 05, 2013 12:46 am

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The Guild of Knifemen, before its near-destruction, fit only awkwardly into modern society. Its members, which had remained steady in number since 2012, were nearly omniscient and, to the layman, omnipotent.

This was not achieved by chance. Through meticulous action from the days of the Roman Empire, when its members were mortal, the Guild scoured the Earth for the rare scraps of knowledge left behind by the ancient elves. They used this knowledge to improve themselves and to guide them to future conquest. With minimal setbacks (such as their rivalry with the Templars), the Knifemen saw their influence grow exponentially. They became immortal, gained supernatural abilities, and cast off their ties with humanity.

By the 22nd century, the Guild had become self-serving. They had very accurate ways of determining who would be a person of importance before they may even be born, and they gained information about them that allowed them to easily bend each person to their will – and overwhelming power to back their requests. It was in constant action.

The Apostate had, in effect, sealed himself in the Legion-controlled Towers with the Hammer. There was much to learn from what the Russians had left behind and what the Legion had brought it, but much of it was trivial, and he had encountered a foe he had never had to fight before: boredom.
__________

The Legion came back from Moscow with a treasure trove of rare materials for the successors to the Alpha project, Beta and Gamma. Boisen set to work immediately to decide which blueprint of his would be most efficient for construction; in the meantime, he organized a search for potential pilots of Beta and Gamma, using Hanson to detect any responses from the crystals.

They reacted similarly now as Alpha did when Ha’el got close to it: Hanson heard nothing until Yuchi, who was serving in Section A, was in the same room as it. From then on, Yuchi was designated as the pilot for Beta.

Section C took Torvald’s absence in stride. Hanson could serve as his replacement easily enough, since the details of the magical complexes in the machines was already worked out. Epimor was less involved than Hanson would have thought: in spite of his increased magical prowess, Epimor couldn’t find any motivation to help Boisen. Of course, Hanson was his senior, yet Epimor’s absence was still strange to him.
__________

Commander Iliad walked down the hall of the underground research complex, on his way to find Boisen – to discuss the Extemos. On his way, however, he noticed a door that, for some reason, he opened. It looked exactly like an other unused room in the complex, but inside was the Knifeman he had seen once before – though they hadn’t spoken at that time.

“Hello, Commander,” he said, in a voice like quicksilver. “Please, come in.” He would have offered a seat, but Iliad’s armor prevented him from using any of the standard chairs available. “Would you like a lollipop?”

Iliad felt compelled to obey, and he closed the door behind him. “No thanks,” he said in response to the Apostate’s offer, “I’m trying to quit. What is this about?”

The Apostate stood behind the table like it was his desk, not sitting while Iliad was there. “Nothing important; I only wanted to hear your thoughts on some things. For now, what do you think about the predicament the Legion has stumbled into, with the demons?”

Iliad scoffed. “I can’t say I like it. This isn’t why we came here – but I’ve seen the power of the Hammer, and I can’t leave the research team behind. Still, it’s stretched our resources, and more than that it’s been a distraction.”

“From the Extemos,” the Apostate prompted, and Iliad nodded.

“This whole demon thing has been completely over my head; it always looks like there’s nothing I can do. It’s always Torvald or some other wizard – or the mech – who takes care of the situation, instead of more conventional means, which means I don’t do anything. It works, but I’m not sure I even need to be here. Meanwhile, we found that the Russians didn’t have what we came here for, so we need to go to CERN, or maybe even the Spanish. And then the Extemos are, by our latest estimates, less than a month away.” Iliad fell silent in thought.

After he didn’t continue, the Apostate asked, “With all this happening, what do you think of Torvald leaving?”

Iliad sighed. “I don’t know what’s going on with that. Boisen tells me Hanson can help with the science aspect, and it’s true I wasn’t letting him fight, but it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. What I’m more concerned about is Synton.” The air vent in the room shook, but the Apostate had sealed it and it held firm. “She’s single-handedly beat two of the demons now, according to what Hanson told me about Moscow, but I’ve never even spoken to her.”

The grating shook harder than before, and the Apostate tossed a dagger that held it against the ceiling. “I’m sorry to cut this short, but thank you for talking with me.” He pushed Iliad out the door just before the vent came crashing down and Synton fell into the room. As Synton put the vent back in place, the Apostate wordlessly began replacing his scrying knives.
__________

Epimor, walking aimlessly around the base, came in front of a door he hadn’t seen before. He pushed it open testingly, and saw the Apostate hastily putting on his mask – a strange Knifeman, with white robes and the mask had a different pattern. Synton was lying across two chairs in the corner for some reason.

The Apostate said, “I wasn’t expecting you, but please, come in and have a seat. Let’s talk.”

Epimor shut the door and sat down. A number of knives were suspended over the table, with black windows in front of each one, like a blank screen. The Apostate waved his hand at them and said not to mind them. “I wanted to ask particularly about your thoughts on recent events. What do you think now that Torvald’s gone?”

Epimor was silent for a while, and then he said, “I don’t think it matters too much. I have the feeling that right now isn’t Torvald’s time.”

The Apostate’s gaze seemed to pierce into Epimor. “And what makes you say that?”

Epimor smiled and said, “Wouldn’t you know? I have these fleeting thoughts, or impressions, and more often than not, they’re true. Actually, I can’t think of a single time they’ve been wrong.”

“You said it isn’t Torvald’s time. Whose time is it, then?” the Apostate asked, but what he wanted to ask was whether Epimor realized it.

“If I had to guess, I’d suppose… Synton’s, or Ha’el’s. That’s why I don’t want to get involved in Boisen’s thing; the whole thing seems pointless to me.” Before the Apostate could ask another question, Epimor asked, “I want to know – do you know what happened to Dr. Sin? Do you remember him? Nobody else does.”

The Apostate lied, “Who is Dr. Sin?”

Epimor sighed, and without another word he left the room, followed closely by Synton.
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Thu Feb 21, 2013 3:21 am

Spoiler:
 

It had been over a week since Commander Iliad and the forces under his control returned from Moscow. Because the Legion did not know that Belphegor had come, the last demon that they knew about was Mammon, the first time that Ha’el served as the pilot for Alpha. To them, the next demon was imminent, and they stayed on high alert, always keeping some Section B or C personnel monitoring alongside the Chandra AI to respond in case it appeared.

As a result, Ha’el was always kept within arm’s reach of Section C. Ordinarily, he would have felt claustrophobic at being constrained underground, at least after his extended prison stay he had before joining the Legion. The weather this time of year was to his liking as well: although mid-December, it had warmed some since they took the Towers (it hadn't occurred to him that the winters in Russia weren’t historically so mild).

But more importantly, he had free time to meditate with Alpha, which gave him significant peace of mind, and outside of Boisen’s experiments there was plenty of spare time to socialize with the Synta, strangely some of his closer friends in the Legion.

He saw Synton only rarely, but until Moscow he had hardly seen her at all, and he still failed to understand her thoughts. Tachi stayed under Lieutenant Marx’s forces since she had no magical ability, and Ha’el had only brief interaction with Michi. Because of his involvement with Sections B and C, Ha’el spoke frequently with Muchi and Ichi, and to a lesser extent, Yuchi.

His wandering mind was drawn back to reality when he heard the alerts ringing out, and he rushed to Command to find orders.
__________

When Ha’el reached the Command Room, Yuchi ushered him to Section A to put on Alpha. Muchi was looking at the monitor; Boisen had already arrived, and Iliad was on his way.

“Where is it?” Boisen asked. The last time, it had come right next tot he Hammer.

“It's outside the facility,” Muchi said. “It's energy signature looks like it's coming from all directions – here's a visual.”

An image filled the screen; it was a swirling gray mass that took the entirety of the window. After a moment Boisen realized he was looking at clouds, whipped into a storm by something unknown. Such a storm wasn't typical by far.

“What's the distance?” Boisen asked.

Muchi responded, “The cloudfront is about 1600 meters above ground level, slightly lower than normal.” Another window opened, and Muchi placed it on the main screen.

It was from a satellite above the Towers. While the land was unfamiliar, there was a small circle of white where the Towers themselves should be.

“Is an evacuation possible?”

Muchi tapped a key. “Like I said, the radiation is coming equally from all directions – here's the main road out.” On the screen there was another image over the wall.

The road was untouched, but a few dozen meters out there was a wall of solid white fog. It stretched up and darkened until it merged with the cloud base above it. Like the clouds, which swirled around the center of the towers, the fog at ground level seemed to whip across the landscape, forming a perimeter

So we probably can't evacuate, Boisen thought, and he transmitted to the AI, 'Chandra, send a remote vehicle to drive out into the fog.'

Something clicked into place as he remembered when Torvald asked him about something that could fire a projectile straight up.

With a flash of uneasiness, he suddenly realized that the Hammer had been silent. He called up the camera of him on the large screen, and the Hammer's visage took a remainder of the display. His eyes burnt with their usual intensity, but for previous demons he was yelling. Boisen asked why he was silent, and the Hammer replied, I'm growing tired of this. Asmodeus is ancient and wise, but against humanity I do not know that he can succeed. He stopped talking, and everyone's attentions shifted as Iliad entered the room.

Everyone's, that is, except for Epimor's. He was still unsure of how today would end. He realized that his clairvoyance was not absolute; he could only see what was granted to him, and if he wanted to know something in particular, he was as powerless as Iliad.

After Boisen finished explaining what little they knew, there was a small chime as Chandra showed the footage of the remote vehicle. As it neared the wall of fog, it tilted to the side and was blasted through the air before disintegrating into metal shrapnel, which rose upwards like the embers of a flame until they vanished into the storm.

Boisen began to give an order but was cut off by Muchi: “The stormfront is lower now, 1400 meters. It's almost reached the on Building 2. It's been steadily decreasing.”

Iliad said, “Section C, do you think you may be able to stop it on your own? Excluding your acting Section Head.” That would be Epimor, Ha'el, and maybe Synton and Nami.

“We can give it a shot,” Epimor said mildly.

Boisen said, “Before anybody goes out, evacuate the towers to the upper levels and bear with me. I'm going to try something Torvald had in mind.” That statement piqued Hanson's and Epimor's interests, and it took a few minutes for Boisen to load the RC cannon with a low-yield explosive. As that was underway, the lower boundary of the storm consumed the upper antenna, and satellite connection was lost.

Boisen fired. From the rail cannon, the warhead shot upwards at supersonic speed, and within a fraction of a second an explosion took place below the stormcloud. Epimor withheld from saying his first thoughts (“I could have told you that wouldn't work”) and said instead, “You're going to need our help if you want to damage it.”

And so they set themselves up under the center of the storm. Ha'el, Nami, Epimor, and Synton all stood outside, in the wind and slight rain.

Epimor stared up at the storm. With the clouds so close to the top of the Towers, it looked so unnaturally low that he felt claustrophobic looking at it. The storm wailed, and Epimor realized what had been bothering him.

The other demons had attempted to break through the Legion to the Hammer by brute force. They had all assumed some form, but beyond the veil of the clouds, Epimor could sense the depths of the Hellscape. Asmodeus was probably being much more cautious than his predecessors; he was advancing slowly, and carefully.

Ha'el heard through his earpiece that Boisen was ready to fire, and he nodded to the others. They spread their force upwards, and Asmodeus resisted – it shored it defenses, and when the bomb shot into the sky at supersonic speeds, it again exploded ineffectively below the storm.

Over a kilometer away, the explosion still spread a dry heat across the faces of the wizards. The wind intensified and the rain beat down heavier than before. With a roar of thunder, a bolt of lightning arced down and struck Nami, shutting him down temporarily.

It continued its descent and reached the tops of the Towers. They broke apart, chipped away, and the debris were swirled up into the nexus of the storm. Below ground, Iliad bit down on the head of his lollipop with his jaw, and Boisen straightened when he saw the severity of the threat Asmodeus posed.

Boisen asked Hanson what his thoughts were, and Hanson replied, “I can't rightly tell you. I can feel from here that it's incredibly powerful, but if we can defeat it, it may only be a matter of distance.”

Artis burst in the room, and asked Boisen if he believed that they could stop the storm soon. “The Forge takes the upper two stories of the north tower, and we can't move it out. We need to stop it.”

Boisen had called Epimor in for his consultation, and he arrived to a room full of people unsure of what to do, asking him for advice.

Epimor said, “The demon is moving forward like a tsunami. Unless we can stop it decisively, it will wash over us. I don't know if it plans to grind through the underground or just to pierce it later, but we can't hope to outlast it or wear it down. We can't affect its shield from down here, so I would suggest waiting until it reaches ground level.”

Commander Iliad was shaking his head before Epimor had finished speaking. “We can't wait for it to get any lower. The Forge is instrumental to our efforts, and other buildings in the complex have irreplaceable technology. When the eyeball – 'Leviathan',” he corrected, at Epimor's instinctive prompt, “when the Leviathan attacked Synton used the RC cannon to reach it. Could she do that again?”

Boisen said, “I wouldn't like to put a person in the RC cannon, but she's done it before, and nobody else can go inside it. I can't think of another option.” He called the wizards down, and used Chandra to discreetly have resources evacuated from the upper levels in case they failed.

When Ha'el and Synton arrived in the control room (Nami couldn't use the small hallways, and was still rebooting), the storm had torn through half the height of the Towers. Boisen told them the plan.

“Let me do it,” Ha'el said. “According to the Hammer, the demons after this will only be stronger than this, and if I can't defeat this than I'll only be useless.”

“On the contrary,” Iliad said, “You're the pilot for Alpha, which has been enormously useful in the past. If we start further conflict with Spain or a group from Africa, then you would be incredibly useful.”

“Commander, the purpose of creating a weapon is to fight with it,” Ha'el countered. “Synton is more useful to Hanson than I am, and you have the technology to produce more later. Now, this is my responsibility.” That's right, Ha'el thought, I'm a weapon of the Legion.

Boisen interrupted, “Well, we don't have the means to launch you anyway. The acceleration – ” he stopped as his on-board system corrected him. “Actually, it is feasible.”

“Let Ha'el do it,” Epimor said. He agreed with what Ha'el said, that Synton would be of more use in the future should Ha'el fail, but there was something he didn't realize. He told Hanson that he would be going back to the surface, and he left.

Iliad had little information to make a well-informed decision, and Epimor's advice was echoed by Hanson. Ha'el would be the one to go.

Further inside the complex, the Apostate deactivated his scrying pools once he heard what the plan was. All was good.

Epimor took the elevator up, into what was now sheeting rain. He saw Nami waiting for the freight elevator, but Epimor focused on the storm above.

Something about Asmodeus was different from the previous demons, but couldn't pinpoint what it was. Below him, Ha'el was loaded into the RC cannon sabot. He did not have his suit with him, but only the Alpha core that let him do magic. The cannon began to charge.

Synton appeared on the surface and stood, like Epimor, staring up at the sky. Asmodeus was terrifyingly close, a ceiling of black swirling clouds that have by now devoured the majority of the Towers' height. It was within 3500 feet – half a kilometer, but it seemed to encompass all the heavens.

The safety shutters on the RC cannon opened, and Synton raised her arms as the cannon fully charged, at least for its reduced height, and then it discharged.

Initially, Ha'el sat in an enclosed sabot to ensure that he maintained the required speed. His weight tripled under the acceleration as it fired; thanks to the long barrel, he felt that for seven seconds before he broke the surface and he experienced freefall. Two seconds later, the sabot broke away and he was exposed to the outside air, still at hundreds of kilometers per hour. The rain stung at him, but he had only seconds to ascertain the threat.

The clouds were beginning to swamp over him, and Synton pushed against the demon. Ha'el struck harder, and pierced the clouds without destruction.

Epimor realized then what was different about Asmodeus. The other demons had entered the world and tried to destroy the Hammer. On the other hand, Asmodeus was bringing the Hellscape into the world, at least in part, to draw on its strength. In doing so it could possibly withstand attacks and then draw the Hammer back into Hell.

Ha'el broke the clouds, and found himself buffeted by dark energies. Enthroned in front of him was a winged chimera, an amalgamation of mythical beasts, and he was still rising towards it. He drew his sword and readied his mind to kill it.
__________

Above the Towers, the storm weakened and dispersed, blown away by its own unsustainable forces. The clear blue sky was again revealed, and Epimor could see a faint rainbow chasing them away.

It had been several minutes since the storm ended, and there was still no sign of Ha'el in the control room. Epimor came in as Boisen was asking the Hammer, on screen, what could have happened to him.

The only thing I can say for certain, the Hammer said, is that Asmodeus is dead, if the storm has stopped. What happened to your friend I do not know.

Epimor said, “Ha'el is not dead. He's fallen into the Hellscape.”

Upon hearing that, the Hammer laughed darkly. Iliad asked, “Do you think we can rescue him, or is it a lost cause?”

Epimor continued, “We cannot rescue him, but he may survive.” He glanced at the image of the Hammer. “I know one person who's survived the Hellscape before.”
__________

Torvald had sought the help of Stilts and the elves, and they guided him to the depths of the Earth, where ancient forces lie that had been protected. Flawless stonework gilded the halls that Torvald passed through, and blue pools of light illuminated the paths that had been unseen for tens of thousands of years.

He reached an antechamber of some sort, a sprawling cavern that descended before him. At the bottom there was a nondescript mass, a mound of earth and stone.

It stirred from its timeless slumber, and the Earth's First Guardian took its first shaky steps in millenia.
__________

That night, Epimor was resting on the newly-christened top floor of one of the Towers. He was laid back, balanced, on top of the outer wall. He was staring, transfixed, at the field of stars that was spread out, uninterrupted by any stray clouds.

“So you were here,” Hanson said, after tracing Epimor's transmitter, which he now saw on a desk, abandoned. The rooms were largely gutted, all but the heaviest objects ripped out of them by Asmodeus. “We haven't seen you much lately. Has anything happened?”

Epimor said quietly, “No, I've only been thinking. I look at the stars and I'm overwhelmed by how many of them there are, and the distances involved... it makes me wonder why what we're going through is significant. In some ways, it's the most insignificant thing imaginable – a little drama played out on a small boat in the center of the ocean. Then, not far off, there's a torpedo aiming for us.” He pointed up to a particular point in the sky. “The Extemos.”

Hanson didn't know what to say. “We can beat them. With the Legion forces under Marx's control on the way, we'll be able to beat them.”

No, Epimor thought, that's not enough. He sighed, “Sometimes knowledge can be as burdening as ignorance. If fate reveals itself to you, then there's nothing you can do, just as if you knew nothing about it.” His eye was a curse.
__________

In the days following the attack of Asmodeus, Boisen's thoughts were of abandoning the Towers in favor of the CERN laboratories, which were both better located than the Towers and also much more intact.

More pressing, however, was the approach of the Extemos. The satellite and Martian telemetry networks had pinpointed their location and approximate velocity, but with the error margin, they only had a rough estimate of where the Extemos would land. He was trying to coordinate with Iliad to develop a distribution plan for the Legion forces when Iliad received word that Stilts had arrived.

Stilts looked at the map that showed the projected landing point of the Extemos, which covered almost a third of the globe. Without hesitation, he pointed at a point on the edge of the estimates. “The Extemos will land there.” When asked how he knew, he said, “I spoke with Athen before coming here. He and I agree that the reason the Extemos are coming again – and the reason they sent Anamaluch to scout – is not to attempt to destroy the Earth, but to strike out at the God of Man directly. They will go here, at the Monastery, because that is where the Veil of God, Stein's Gate, lies.” Stilts paused. “I have another request for you. The Yggdrasil is another path to God, and I ask that you give me some small force to help me protect it.”

Boisen asked, "What about the Hammer?"

"Bring him with you," Stilts said. "The Extemos don't realize his importance, else Anamaluch would be on your doorstep as well. You need to guard him, but also be ready to stop the Extemos. Should something crawl out of the Hellscape, you can stop it."
__________

Epimor held a kitchen knife in his hands and ran one of his hands over the blade to heat it until it glowed blue-white.

“Why are you doing this?” the Apostate asked, from across the room.

Epimor laughed. “Why? You know why. It's consuming me.” He looked up at the Apostate, and his all-seeing eye, previously pure white, was now covered in a web of veins. “The knowledge is destroying my strength. It's inhibiting me. I need to do this to free myself. You won't stop me.” Epimor laughed again. “I know that much.”

He turned the blade on himself began to stab himself in the eye.
__________

Nami, in the Section D storage that was deep underground, had found his long-sought after goal. There was some expensive supercomputer that the Legion had confiscated from the Enforcers; gripping it firmly, he lifted it off of the box it was sitting on and put it on the floor. The lid of the box it was holding shut lifted up, and a small shard of V floated out.

:DDD

“Hello, Annie,” Nami said as the construct swirled about him in excitement. “We are heading to war, and I thought I'd not leave without you.”
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Thu Feb 21, 2013 4:19 am

Torvald felt, for the very first time in his life as a wizard, as though everything was right in the world. The Extemos and demons were still threats, but now he was competent enough to rise to challenge them.

He was enlightened. He felt the stirrings of air around him, the strength of the ground beneath his feet, the eddies of the fates and the burning soul that filled him.

But he was late. He had spent longer in the depths of the Earth than he had meant to, and he could not see the future clearly enough to know whether the Extemos could even be defeated.
__________

During this time, Athen had been fighting for control of the Iberian peninsula alongside all the wizards that he could muster, for their aid was needed against the technologically advanced Spanish. He had enlisted their help now to defend against the Extemos. All but one of them were either somebody Torvald had known or one of their disciples. With them there were the Templars, called back to defend their home, and they stared into the black wall of the Extemos grimly.

Rather than a traditional fleet like the time one hundred years ago, the Extemos took a form of one giant mass, approaching the Earth like a moon, directly onto the Monastery. It was suspended in the air above them like a massive guillotine.

It was early morning. The wizards gathered now in the courtyard of the Templar Monastery, directly above Heaven’s Gate, and directly below the approaching Extemos fleet. Explosions spread out over its surface from the Legion’s artillery, but to no avail; its steady advance could not be halted. It hung over them like a black hole, drawing in all light and hope. Athen, the one who gathered them here was nowhere to be seen.

In their midst the shadows shifted and a Knifeman appeared. “Athen is occupied right now. I will begin in his place.” He placed a single dagger on the ground at the center, and they arranged themselves in a circle around it.

They regarded the Knifeman with disdain until one of the wizards said, “Well, we came all this way, haven’t we?” He tilted his head back, raised his hands, and sung a single note. It wavered briefly before becoming steady and empowered with magic. The others followed suit, and soon the sounds of their voices twisted and grew, expanding upwards to envelop the courtyard and above until it hit the Extemos mass.

The combined magic was strong, but the Extemos were able to counteract it. An invasive red glow filled the air.

Dozens of elves appeared as well from the overgrown Monastery and raised the arms, likewise singing their power to stop the Extemos. Mankind and their former caretakers, together straining to halt the Extemos.

Meanwhile, another Knifeman appeared by Iliad and said, “Commander, you need to stop the bombardment.”

He bit down on his lollipop, crushing it in anger at the Knifeman’s demand. Before he could utter a reply, the Knifeman interrupted him.

“You are not necessary,” the Knifeman said coldly. “If you don’t stop your army, I will stop it by force. Furthermore,” he said, pointing up at the Extemos, “They’re drawing in the energy from your explosions. If anything, it strengthens them.”

Iliad sighed and begrudgingly ordered the bombardment to stop. “Is there anything I can do?” He asked pleadingly. “This is – the aliens are the reason why I came to Earth. The only reason.”

“There is nothing,” the Knifeman said simply.

“The mages can destroy the Extemos?”

“No,” he responded. “They can only delay them. There are only a few who can stop them, and all the pieces are not yet in place.” The Knifeman paused and then said, “I must go now. Guard the Hammer well,” and he disappeared.
__________

Ananke strolled around Belig Aimar thoughtlessly. She spent time with the elves before, and she always enjoyed sitting about Belig Aimar. She returned to it after Athen’s business was settled in Spain, but for the first time she was alone with the spirit, since the elves and Stilts were elsewhere.

Today was an important day for the world, but all of the fates were too heavy for her to influence – all of the relevant ones, at least. Even from here, the red glow of the Extemos was visible at the bottom of the dark sky as a reminder of the weight of today's events.

Ragnarok, the death of the old world. She would have to die today as well.

She knew of this long in advance, but she curiously could not determine how she was to die. Amidst the warring around it, Belig Aimar’s reassuring aura of peacefulness seemed out of place...

She felt something in the back of her mind that disturbed her reverie. She looked up and saw a number of jets shoot across overhead – directly overhead. Immediately afterwards, she felt rather than saw a number of missiles arcing at her and Belig Aimar.

She had known about and could accept her own death, but the destruction of the Yggdrasil was not something she could condone. She stood, gathering her power before she drew her hand down. Simultaneously, against all odds, the targeting systems in all five missiles malfunctioned, and they spiraled off into the forests around the great tree. Fire lit the forest around Belig Aimar.

Ananke stood shakily and eyed the planes as they turned for another run.
__________

The squadron leader said into his comm, “Prepare your fire for the next pass. After that, keep firing until it’s destroyed or you’re out of ammo. That’s my final order. That tree must be destroyed. For all other matters, Red-2 will be your standing leader.”

With superhuman strength, he kicked at the glass to the cockpit and the wind tore at him as he leapt out of the plane.
__________

Ananke watched them fly overhead again, but there were no more missiles. There was something else, though. She tried to feel it, to stop it, but it was something alien, not from Earth – but it wasn’t Extemos –

Her heart stopped and her eyes widened when Athen impacted the ground directly in front of her, kicking dirt into the air and crushing the stone beneath it. His blades were drawn. He took one step and Ananke found herself lifted off her feet. She felt confusion but more than anything else an overwhelming finality as her life slipped away.

Athen took note of the position of his squad – they were preparing to come by again. From behind him, though, Stilts’ cold voice asked, “Athen – what are you doing?”
__________

Hanson, Epimor, Synton, and Nami patrolled the forests around the Yggdrasil with the Apostate.

“Anamaluch will come here,” the Apostate said. His hand flicked out from underneath his robe. “I have other business to attend to. Excuse me.”

He had deflected the knife of another Knifeman. He chased it through the forest until he found him, standing by himself.

He froze. “How… could you?”

The figure before him was Knifeman, yet… his body was formed from V. His angular limbs seemed wiry and thin, and the normal Knifeman masked was replaced with a symbol of Chaos. “Your rebellious act was a miscalculation of fate,” he said. “It was balanced by another.”

The Apostate hesitated. This heresy, this alliance with the Extemos, was not something he had even considered, but the Heretic Knifeman said it was a reaction to his own betrayal. “You are here to destroy me,” the Apostate concluded.

“Yes.” the Heretic stated. “We are bound together in that way.”

The Apostate sighed internally and drew his Cromwell blade, the metal shining in the meager red light from the Extemos so far away. “If I must.”

The Heretic reached up and pulled down his mask. Blackness flowed out and filled the air, whipping chaotically throughout the clearing.

Explosions rocked the woods they were standing in as the Spanish missiles were deflected.

The Heretic drew his own Cromwell blade, another silver, cylindrical weapon. He held it out in front of him as he activated it.

With a distinctive snap-hiss, a pair of luminous red blades extended from either end. The Apostate activated his own to create a blue sword. Their humming overlapped and formed a growl in the air between them as both ex-Knifeman waited for the other to act.

The other two Knifeman appeared in the clearing, behind each rogue Knifeman like servants behind their vassal lords. “Please continue this later,” one said, “There are events occurring of the –”

In unison, the Apostate and other Heretic both turned and cut down the Knifemen.

With a short shout, the Heretic leapt through the air, his body contorting violently as he struck his lightsaber out towards the Apostate, who braced himself in order to block. The Heretic took his footing and began attacking normally, with quick, powerful blows. His lightsaber formed a red blur all around him.

The Apostate, on the other hand, patiently parried all of his attacks, only deflecting or dodging them as he backed away. Without his mask, the Heretic was stronger, and the Apostate had other thoughts as well.

The Apostate vanished and the Heretic tried to follow, but lost his trail in a smoky crater, formed from an explosive. There were more explosions as another volley of missiles was blocked.

“I have a proposal,” the Apostate said. “One month. I will train my own apprentice to continue the Knifeman. Then I will offer myself to you.” If he and the Heretic were bound by fate as the Apostate suspected, then they could only ever achieve mutual annihilation.

“My rage is not such a patient thing,” the Heretic said. “Regardless, if I’m not hunting you, I will report back to Anamaluch. I have not submitted to him completely, but if you run, then I will tell him to destroy the Hammer, and the God of Man will die regardless.” His voice rose into a jeering taunt. “Besides, not even you would be able to raise an apprentice in a month.”

“If I retake the Library, I could make one in mere days. There’s only one Knifeman left waiting there. I could overpower him easily.”

“I am your counterbalance. I will not stop – I cannot be stopped – until every trace of your existence has been annihilated: you and any hundreds of disciples you create.” He said coldly, “I'm disappointed that you still haven't realized this. We are the last Knifeman. I destroyed the Library long ago.”

Alarm that the Apostate had never felt before filled him. Space shifted and found himself in the Knifeman Library.

It was ruined.

The bookcases were burnt to the ground, the crystals smashed – every last reservoir of knowledge was destroyed. The last sanctuary for the Knifemen was gone. In a single instant the Apostate’s world collapsed.

He heard a low hum from behind him and turned, leaning back to avoid the blade, but he did not dodge it completely. It cut at his mask and it fell to the ground, its hollow impact echoing in the empty chamber.

Now all he felt was outrage. His power whipped around him angrily as he activated his lightsaber and counterattacked.

He wanted to destroy the Knifeman before him, at all costs. The desire to kill inflamed him. His blows struck his enemy like a drum. He channeled his hatred into a flurried, relentless assault and, in a split second, he destroyed the lightsaber and Knifeman with a swift pair of blows.

And then there was only the feeling of emptiness to accompany him in his ruined paradise.
__________

The Templars and the wizards, both human and Elven, held the Extemos at bay, but it approached closer every moment. There was a flash and some of the wizards collapsed in pain from the Extemos attack. The rest rallied and intensified their efforts at holding the Extemos back.

They were told this would be enough on their part to win, but some were beginning to have doubts. Nevertheless, any action other than fending them off would mean the Earth’s destruction.
__________

“Athen – what are you doing?”

Athen stiffened and resolutely turned to face Stilts. Stilts seemed calm – almost emotionless, but Athen felt his surprise and outrage kept under control.

“I’ve come to destroy the Yggdrasil, Stilts.”

“For the Extemos? You’ve decided this on your own.” He cast a glance over towards the Extemos on the horizon, burning red just over the Monastery. “I suppose you waited until my elves were occupied before attacking.”

“I doubted you would agree with me,” Athen said tersely. “But it’s something that has to be done. While this stands, it’s a liability for us.”

Belig Aimar towered over them silently as they spoke. Stilts said, “This ‘liability’ is the single most important relic on Earth right now. The only bond between us and our God that we still do not understand!”

Athen interrupted, “That’s why we must destroy it! After this, you can investigate your God freely, for millennia! The Confederation sent me here because we have an interest in it, and we’ll help you! But don’t let your stubbornness destroy your entire planet, Stilts. This isn't a necessity.”

“Are you saying I can’t protect it?” He swept his hand out to the side, and in doing so destroyed the next incoming volley of missiles from the Spanish bombers. “Are you saying I am too weak? When I inherited Gaia’s role, my two responsibilities were Belig Aimar and the elves. For this battle, I’ve had to choose which one to protect, and I sent the elves on their own – that is a choice I am paying for now.” Even at this distance he could feel their strength draining as they held off the Extemos. “But I will never allow you to take this from me, from Earth!”

“You can’t stop me,” Athen said.

Stilts' gaze did not waver. “I know. But I cannot stand aside.”

Stilts began focusing his own strength into a ward as Athen leapt towards him, but Athen was too pwoerful – he easily broke the ward and killed Stilts.

Moments later, Belig Aimar and Athen alike were destroyed from the Spanish planes.
__________

There was nothing to do but wait after the Apostate left. Hanson looked at the Extemos on the horizon, beyond Belig Aimar. The almost-flat mass of V hovered like a thundercloud, an ominous red smudge over the Earth.

Athen said he had a plan for it, but he couldn’t help but feel apprehensive. Moreover, he had to fight off the Dark Culmination without the Apostate, their most capable. There had also been explosions in the forest around them.

It seemed like day for a moment – intense heat and light filled their clearing, and looking at the source, Hanson saw that Belig Aimar was consumed in a massive explosion. After he got his footing, he just looked in shock.

“No, no, no…”

Epimor called Hanson, who turned around to see Anamaluch, silhouetted by the blood-red setting sun. It was a single chunk of V levitating above the ground, with all of the ill intent in the world in its eyes.

A PITY, it said, THAT I AM TOO LATE TO TAKE THE YGGDRASIL MYSELF.

Epimor grinned morbidly, a tinge of humor in his one eye. “But now that it's gone, you're going to walk away peacefully?”

Nami bounded up to it, but the Dark Culmination glared at him, and he simply [url= http://lordsofepic.forumotion.com/t612p15-ttostsclt-story#4082]vanished[/url] into nothingness.

Synton, in a moment of clarity, turned around and ran away.

Hanson began gathering his energy when the ground below him erupted, sending him into the air with a cloud of soil. With his foresight, Epimor predicted the Dark Culmination’s next attack and barely managed to deflect its energy to the ground.

Epimor tore off his glove and turned to face the Culmination, but in front of such a formidable enemy his determination wavered. He could block one attack, but defeating him in combat?

But he had to try.

I am the bane of my sword, Epimor began, preparing to attack, when Anamaluch was destroyed. His body was shattered, shards of V breaking off of his fractured halves as his core was exposed: the I that was his strength. With the lightest of mental taps, Epimor destroyed it, revealing the N within.

Confused, the N in his palm, his muscles locked in place as vast amounts of knowledge flooded his mind.

Hanson shakily took to his feet and looked where Synton was headed. In the distance, the Extemos continued to bear down on the Earth.
__________

After defeating his doppelganger, the Apostate felt his consciousness wane. This was the price for his rage. The knowledge he held was too great for any mortal soul, and the soul of every Knifeman was very nearly destroyed just so they could learn it.

His essence, like an old seed displaced into fresh soil, had begun to grow once more – that much was clear from his sprouting emotions. It had granted him autonomy and power, but he had grown too much; now his soul was strong enough to be swayed by Fate.

He tilted his head back and, for the first time in his memory, laughed. How ironic, how unexpected, what an incredibly humorous twist, that he himself would be one of the Gods created for prophecy, only to die. But, still, there would be a moment where he was a God nonetheless.

What’s more, his heart told him this was something he had earned himself. It was not because of the Knifeman teachings; in fact, it was in spite of them. His soul had endured and managed to be reborn.

He cast his gaze up, through the Earth, and saw the Extemos. As they were, he could not harm them. He was too weak to affect a fate of their momentous magnitude, and his gaze shifted.

The Dark Culmination approached the defeated Yggdrasil. He’d destroyed Nami and would make short work of the human wizards. Surely, he thought, unburdened at last by the coldly calculating Knifeman consciousness, the destruction of Anamaluch was a feat worthy of a God

The Apostate raised his hand and, after a brief moment to focus his strength, he reached out and flicked Anamaluch with a single slender outstretched finger.
__________

Torvald staggered out of the tunnel and found himself staring out at a scene from Hell. A demonic red light hung in the air around him, and in the distance he could see Belig Aimar, but it was aflame. Painfully slowly, one of its great branches fell to the ground.

He tried to make sense of what was happening. Stilts was here, but why was the Yggdrasil on fire, and when were the Extemos going to arrive?

Movement caught his eye – he looked in time to see Synton, running at full speed towards the Monastery, and his jaw fell open as he saw the smudge of V that hung above it.
__________

All of the wizards that Athen had gathered, along with the Templars and Elves, had fallen to the Extemos – only their wills remained, hopelessly prolonging the Extemos descent, holding the God-killers yards above the Monastery before the inevitable plunge into the Earth and to Heaven’s Gate. From there, they would do what the Extemos were engineered to do: they would destroy the God of Man.

The spellcasters were ill-prepared, and they had failed – or so they thought.

Synton appeared in the courtyard. She took her place in the center and looked at the Extemos only yards above, stared into its oppressive red glow that permeated the air for miles. She raised her arms and yelled, releasing the divine Heart she had stored within her all these years.

She lifted into the air and spread out a divine grace. Her body was consumed in flames and shone brilliantly as she released the power, and the Extemos recoiled, lifting away.

The Extemos’ hellish aura intensified as they bore down on Synton with all of their might, and Synton was able to hold them off, but doing so required all of her attention. As it was, she could not damage them and protect herself.

So be it. In a single instant she froze the entire Extemos fleet in time, yet that instant was enough of a gap for the Extemos to wound her fatally, another victory for the god-killers before her ascension could even be completed.

She raised a single pointed finger at its center, and the radiance emanating from her built further and further. The red glow from the Extemos died down and was replaced by the blinding white of her own power.

The light bleached the Monastery below in its intensity, and Torvald had to look away. In an instant, the Extemos fleet was fractured and splintered, boulders of V sailing in orbit around Synton, her hand now open. The blinding light ended at last, and Torvald looked back up again.
___________

Muchi sat in Beta, waiting by the Hammer for any threat that might appear to take him. The Legion was being eerily quiet – their bombardment had stopped, and she could only watch the distant silhouettes.

Belig Aimar, the giant tree, exploded into flame a while ago; now it burned like a crimson beacon and smoldered on the horizon.

The Extemos hovered like a stormcloud above the battlefield, but there was suddenly a white flash below it. It extended upwards like a lance, and the Extemos crumbled and was destroyed. From here, she could not tell it was Synton – but she stared in awe, jaw agape, at humanity’s victory.
__________

Hanson, his feet now on firmer ground, the defeat of the Extemos. The fleet was dissolved off of the horizon like dirt washed away in a river, and they could feel the incredible power even at their distance, rolling across the landscape like waves.

Epimor, however, was still in mental shock from the N.
__________

Torvald fell to his knees as he finally realized what had happened. He had never thought that the accident that affected Synton would ever bear fruit, let alone so dramatically and victoriously.

Draped behind Synton were symmetric waves of ether, like robes, that heralded her dissolution. The network of I above her, now helpless, softly glimmered pink in the evening light. It gathered towards Synton’s palm and she closed her hand, destroying it. The V slowly lowered to the ground and Synton vanished, the damage from the Extemos taking its toll.

Torvald, to find his colleagues, located the Legion encampment not far from him then. As though the Earth itself was finished with the Extemos, the sun finally appeared wholly above the horizon.
__________

Ha'el was entrapped in a web of torment. Quite literally in the depths of Hell, he was under constant attempt of deception. He had traveled from one battlefield to the next, eternally, for he knew not how long. He still felt some human core of him, but it was callused and hardened.

In his travel through the Hellscape, he had survived thanks to Alpha and his ability for magic, which he retained, but more as a result of his indiscriminate destruction of things that approached him. Lesser demons, lost spirits; if something had the capability to harm him, he did not trust it, and he had survived well on that principle.

But one enemy he faced now gave him pause. It professed to be Athen, but he had no reason to believe it.

“Ha'el, you must trust me. You can still escape this place.”

Ha'el raised his sword again, but for a single instant the clouds of doubt around Athen cleared and he clearly saw who he was.

With a guide, Ha'el now had a means of escape from the Hellscape.
__________

All signs were that the Extemos were defeated, but there was no Knifeman to inform them, nor was Athen or Stilts staying in contact.

Iliad had transports sent to the Monastery, and to Belig Aimar, to look for survivors. In the meantime, he met with Boisen and Marx to discuss their further plans. They would bring the Hammer with them to CERN, which was secure; the only military concerns were the final two demons and any Spanish interaction that may turn sour.

In the midst of their discussions, Torvald found his way to the Hammer, who was propped up a small distance away from the makeshift command center. What caught his attention instead was the man standing in front of the demon, in contemplation.

“What are you doing here?” Torvald asked coldly. He had a demonic aura.

The man turned and smiled. He had a well-made suit and stood straightly. His appearance was formal but otherwise unremarkable. “There's no need for that tone, though you're right to suspect me. I thought I'd only pay a visit to an old friend – though it's been longer for me than for him.”

Torvald tried to make some reaction, but the man turned away. “I'm not here for the Hammer; save your energy, boy.” He looked back at Torvald again. “If I were you, I would leave here. This is no place for mortals.”
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Thu Feb 21, 2013 4:25 am

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“Boisen, there’s another…” Ichi's voice caught in her throat as she saw what had appeared.

Boisen felt his blood run cold. His breath seemed to leave his lungs; pure dread filled him. The Hammer’s loud roar could be heard, and his own eyes showed what was casting this presence over the entire crew.

Words could not encompass his horror. Suffice to say, this was the king of demons; their master from time long since immemorial.

There was a portal to Hell in the east, and coming out of it was a cataclysmic horror, reaching miles into the sky, an infernal absurdity of mouths and eyes. The Hellscape portal expanded until the horizon was devoured by flames and it began to crawl towards them on appendages unseen.

“All forces retreat!” Iliad ordered. There was no plan to retreat that he specified, only that his forces run away from the beast.

He had to abandon the Hammer. He could not imagine the consequences if he was freed, but Iliad was convinced that the consequence of staying to fight could only be certain death.

The Legion abandoned the Hammer, and minutes later a beam of Hellish energy penetrated the atmosphere, burning away at the Hammer’s restraints until nothing remained, and the Hammer stepped free at last.

A large warhammer formed in the Hammer’s hands and he paused, sizing up the long-awaited enemy before him. At length, the Hammer yelled, Come now, Satan! Try your hand!

Satan began another attack, and when he fired the charged beam, the Hammer leapt away, towards the archdemon.

Satan’s unholy energies shot past him, and where they hit the ground they exploded and formed a sunken, smoldering crater behind him. The Hammer stayed focused, shooting like lightning towards Satan, Hellscape glowing darkly behind it. With a mighty yell, he heaved his hammer and rained blows on the demon until he rent a hole through it.

The demon recoiled and fissures spread throughout its surface; space boiled as reality and the Hellscape intermingled. Dark tendrils reached out to ensnare the Hammer, but he tore at them and struck again and again, breaking through to Satan’s core, but there was a trap awaiting him.

Black, featureless shafts of Hellscape struck the Hammer and punctured through his armored shell; he fell from the sky and impacted the ground in a plume of dust. In the rifts in space, the Hammer glimpsed the depths of the Hellscape and, within them, Satan seated on his massive throne.

The Hammer propped himself up and glared up at the demon fiercely. For the first time in ages, he felt alive again! Blood seeped out of his wounds, betraying the damage that Satan had caused him, but that did nothing to quell the bloodlust that burned within him.

The Hammer wrenched a spear from his chest and hefted it straight up. It disappeared into the Hellscape, and moments later the beast shuddered and coiled into a ball as shone an eerie light over the smoking crater of the Towers, and it began to shriek, which froze the retreating Legion scientists in their tracks.

The sound was different, in strength and quality, from anything known to mankind. It was not a noise – it was a symphony. It hung over them like a stifling blanket of agonized passion, bursting first with groans and sighs, then into shill screaming and pitiful whimpering, torn and shrieking from unearthly whips, vibrating with the solemn pulses of enormous taut wings. It did not pass; it did not begin, intensify, and end. It was poised in the air, a stationary force of sound, like a condition of the atmosphere rather than any creation of Man.

The braver among them merely cowered and stared, transfixed and frozen by fear; others began to run away, as though they could escape it. Epimor only looked steadfastly at the dying demon, his thoughts unclear.

From below the writhing form of Satan, the Hammer stared triumphantly. He had done it, at long last! He had toppled the greatest mountain in the Hellscape, and fantastic energy was his to claim. He threw his hammer to the ground and, overcome with emotion, he yelled: in victory, in pain, or in revenge; he had fulfilled his pact to destroy the Hellscape. Now, with this much power, there was no limit to his ambition!

The world he could destroy: enslave it, flatten it, drive it into the Sun; it was his to do as he saw fit, and there was no Earthly force that could stop him.

The gods foretold in prophecy had been formed and wasted away.

The Knifemen were no more.

The two greatest wizards were gone.

Even Ha’el, as measly a threat he may be, was lost in the wastes of the Hellscape.

His victory was assured – the only obstacle he had left to scale was the desiccated God of Man.
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Sun Mar 17, 2013 10:42 pm

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When the God of Man spread the seed of life around the world, there were agents under him who wanted to exploit life: those who wanted to use it and force their worship to feed their own power. God, though, did not agree with them, and banished them to the Hellscape: a world of change and chaotic formlessness, where they would destroy themselves in their confusion. Then God sacrificed his own autonomy to give true free will to his creation.

His gambit, however, had failed. Although it had been billions of years, and unspeakably longer to those in the Hellscape, the dark spirits had overcome their bondage and passed through the Earth, the battleground that God used to protect himself.

The Hammer, wreathed in black flames, had appeared – the first demon ever, after their condemnation, to step on the Throne of God.

Heaven was, like before, a giant sphere, with a stone platform in its center: the Throne of God, on one end of which was the place God inhabited. The Throne was some twenty meters wide and stretched forward some hundred meters until its end.

The Hammer advanced. The pillars that lined the Throne, once broken, were now immaculate. Above and below there were vast lenses that sighted upon the world; they were now blank.

The Hammer reached the Seat of God, obscured by a veil, and it lowered itself to one knee.

Your attempts to destroy me have failed, and I have returned.

It observed silently: there was a strong presence behind the veil, but it was still. The Hammer extended a gauntlet to tear it down, but something behind rent the veil in two and an angel of God appeared.

?!

Hammer – I commend you for coming this far. The fates blessed me with knowledge, and at last I understand. Epimor had changed; both of his eyes were whole, and both were a pure white that radiated with knowledge. His body blocked sight of God from the Hammer; the veil closed behind him.

Then you know why I am here, the Hammer said: to destroy God.

Yes, and you would end humanity. Epimor smote the Hammer, and the Hellscape rose up out of his shell as a black ichor.

Epimor said to it, You used the Hammer?

The Hellscape stayed as a roiling black fluid, and occasionally a face would press itself against the surface to look out. He was an anomaly, and useful to us.

The God of Man had made the Earth His own domain, and prohibited it from the interference of demons, but the Hammer and his human soul provided a means to survive on Earth. The demons of the Hellscape crashed against the Legion and sacrificed themselves to him, and in the end all of the Hellscape was reunited within the Hammer.

Perhaps –

I must decline, Epimor said. If the God of Man was destroyed, then mankind must be either destroyed or assimilated. You can't ask life to stop living.

You cannot stop us.

I cannot kill you, Epimor corrected. The God of Man was right to exile you to another realm, but was ultimately half-hearted in His efforts. Instead of the Hellscape, I will send you to a place much darker, where neither form nor thought can exist, where you can waste away for all eternity.

The Hellscape before him seethed and boiled, and as the dark portal appeared behind it, it lashed itself to Epimor. Wind blasted past them, and dark spirits seeped into Epimor's bones and merged themselves with him.

Epimor stepped to the brim of the portal and stepped in. He, and the Hellscape, disappeared, and at long last, Heaven was silent.
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PostSubject: Re: Alternate Universe   Sun Mar 17, 2013 11:36 pm

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Torvald stood with his hand against Heaven's Gate, beneath the remains of the Monastery. The Hellscape had been neutralized, and Epimor with it. The age of mantles had ended

With long strides, he exited the underground Library and set sight on the Earth. Stilts was defeated, and the Yggdrasil was destroyed, but the Earth needed an inheritor. With the insight Torvald had from the Earth's Guardian, he would take the role, but not its title.

The Legion was recovering from the battle, although their involvement in it was minimal. Hanson and the surviving Synta would stay with the Legion and develop new technologies. Spain, which had been liberated by Athen, would ally themselves with the Legion.

Ha'el and Athen would emerge from the vacuous Hellscape in the immediate future, and Athen would go on to stabilize the region of South America. When the alien Confederation arrived on Earth, they would find a planet with a spontaneous outbreak of peace that would last for thousands of years.
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