Author Topic: CDDA: Adventures in Cataclysm  (Read 20256 times)

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Re: CDDA: Adventures in Cataclysm
« Reply #5130 on: March 08, 2019, 04:14:42 pm »
(( Written with Mrno ))

Solomon was noticeably shaken after what he'd witnessed, fumbling to put his mask on and examine first Cardin, then the room the act had taken place in. "Cardin..." he grumbled worriedly, regarding a fading aura that lingered around the limb the avian had thrust through the portal. What residual energy remained at least seemed harmless as far as he could discern, dwindling of its own accord, and the disturbance left was focused, small and narrow such that its aftereffects were barely visible in the slightest.

He sighed, shaking his head as he finally regained his composure, before quietly excusing himself from the lab area. It was obvious what he was going to do though, even though he was just as likely to get in trouble for having played along and even helped Cardin recharge the amulet.

The avian mutant, meanwhile, quickly made to follow after Solomon.  He paused at the door, though, rubbing at his right arm, the lingering numbness worrying him slightly.  He chirps, having decided that following Solomon with some kind of weird magic still...  Attached?  To him wasn't the best idea, and steps back into the lab again, sitting down cross-legged on the floor.

It wasn't long before Solomon returned however, his expression less mortified in favor of the look of a scolded puppy. And following right behind him was Helen, her mask off and therefore making the look of sheer disappointment perfectly clear.

"By Yeshua's palms, what were you thinking? Here, sit still for now." she said, kneeling beside the sitting avian and calmly grabbing him by the arm he'd stuck through the portal. As she did, she carefully unraveled the bandages his prior burns required, retrieving a vial of odd red liquid, and a mote of dull essence. She left it drift into the open vial, shimmering with odd silver light within the red liquid as it seemed to dissolve into the vial's contents.

Then, she poured it along the limb with caution, that odd numbness momentarily giving way to a stinging sensation before fading, the burns noticeably healed up faster than normal, though that seemed to be a side effect of the potion itself. "You're lucky something in-between didn't decide it wanted to keep your arm." she grumbled, looking him over. "What am I to do with you..."

Cardin squirmed a bit at the sensation of his arm healing up, wings half-flaring out behind him, holding them in close enough to not knock anything over still. The avian mutant looked down, a heat spreading across his face as he blushed underneath his already red feathers and chirped out an unintelligable apology. The embarrassed bird deliberately tried to avoid making eye contact with either of them while he did so.

Helen gave a sigh at that, before taking him by the hand, calmly grabbing the mana gem as she shook her head. "You need to learn caution, and that your actions have consequences, ideally before those consequences get you killed." she said, soon leading the two out to the workspace along the side of The Hall.

"Kitchen duty won't exactly be much punishment for Solomon, but perhaps in the late afternoon teaching you to help prepare dinner will suffice, for helping out with this dangerous experiment. For now..." She'd laid out a few tools atop the anvil, along with a bin of thin scrap steel, which she'd cleaned of rust beforehand. A broad hammer, metal shears, file, and engraving chisel.

The punishment was fairly mundane yet menial, and if Hector was present he'd likely laugh at the idea given it was not very different from the making of replacement rings he'd found quite relaxing. Simply working pieces of steel flat, cutting them into a long scale shape as she demonstrated, filing the rough edges smooth, then working the feather motif into one face with the chisel to add detail. The sort of mundane task that used to be a daily chore back in the sanctums of her youth, and frequently handed out to young trainees in need of discipline, or to train a steady hand.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2019, 04:30:46 pm by Mrnocamera »


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Re: CDDA: Adventures in Cataclysm
« Reply #5131 on: March 10, 2019, 03:15:54 pm »
Now that she was sitting next to her, the person Jennifer was already thinking of as "the hussar" seemed even more vulnerable and nervous than before. Cherise was trying though and in the presence of people she would have spent her time hunting, and the absence of the armor she used to wear, was admirable. Last time Jennifer had seen this woman, the only part of her she'd actually been able to see  was her head. A round unfriendly face topped by a mop of county cork red hair like a load of limp springs. The grim look from before hadn't suited her, but Jenny thought the new look of nervous fear suited her even less. Without the light power armor, Cherise was built like a small truck. Where Jennifer was smooth and feminine, Cherise was lightly muscled and somewhat imposing. The overall impression was a lady who could and would knock the teeth out of the skull of any man dumb enough to try getting fresh with her. It had been her idea to sit close.

"To get used to being near you..." She explained. Jennifer sighed and made a gesture. Nearby, Lolita had been watching and when the gesture was given the new chef ordered the old chef to get out a fresh plate of fries. It had only taken a moment to explain their part in the meeting. To Jenny's surprise though, Cherise hadn't missed it and appreciated the effort as a means of trying to get the woman to be more comfortable around her. So, they ate fries. Jennifer forcing herself to go slow and make sure Cherise got a fair share. When the plate was gone, only then would Jennifer talk business.

"So, I know you. Do you know me?" She asked. Cherise rubbed a cheek and thought. Jenny seemed familiar, but not quite. It took Jenny covering her ears with a hand to bring it back to her fully.

"From the bar! How did you get into New Bangor? Or... did it happen after?" Cherise asked. She was a gentle woman by nature it seemed and that was fine and good with Jenny. It would help her fit in better. What Jennifer knew about her though was what she wanted for her rangers.

"You'd be surprised how easy it is to hide them under a scarf and tuck my tail into a pair of way too big pants. I'm not mutated like the rest of these people anyway, but I doubt that matters much. Cherise- I can call you Cherise right? Good. Cherise, I need you."

Cherise chuckled at something that struck her funny, then said, "Sorry lady, I hardly know you. Besides that, I don't swing for that team anyway." Jenny cocked her head for a moment out of confusion, then burst out laughing. Both of them did in fact, and the tension between them seemed to melt away. Over by the kitchen, New Bangors former barman looked up at the commotion and grinned before getting back to his new work. Things would be alright.

"Holy shit lady," Jenny said when she got her breath back, "You sure know how to turn a girl down gently. Joking aside, that's not what I meant. Listen. I would like your talents for a job."

"My talents?"

"Yeah. Fighting. Tracking. All that stuff. Instead of going after people though, I had something else in mind. Are you in?" Jennifer asked casually, thinking that she'd loosened the woman up enough.

"No." Cherise said, "I just got here and someone is already trying to get me to do something without explaining what's going on. I didn't agree to come here of all places just to start doing more dirty work."

"I'm getting to it, but I need to do some scouting first. Can I at least get a maybe out of you?"

"No. If you want me to help, then your going to need to share some details."

Jennifer squirmed a little in her chair and looked around. She'd been somewhat subtle about this whole thing up to this point mostly because she wasn't sure it wouldn't get out that she was up to something. She didn't want it getting back to this Hoyt guy and ruining the whole plan before it was even formulated. At the same time, she really wanted Cherise. Jenny had never formally met the woman, but her reputation back in New Bangor had been enough to keep Atomos away. Rumors that the huntress could smell mutants. A stupid rumor, but tempting considering all the strange things in the world. Especially when the ranger had been spying. Cherise was watching her carefully, then broke the silence of Jenny's thoughts with a request.

"Take me with you when you do your scouting." She said. That was an idea. Not a bad one either. Perfect in fact, it would give Jenny a chance to get some more personal discussion with the woman and share her plans without fear of it getting around.

"Yeah, that sounds acceptable." She said and offered her hand, "Tomorrow first thing in the morning, I'll meet you in the foyer and we'll move out."

"Well, alright. You've got a deal I suppose, but don't be surprised if I don't show up." Cherise said a little despondently.

"Don't say it like that, c'mon. It'll be fine. I've already got a code name for you and everything."

"Codename? Listen lady, I haven't agreed to anything yet and you're already throwing code names and shit around. Good god, It's like when I- er..." Cherise looked around and lowered her voice, "When I was conscripted..."

"I swear to god," Jenny said slyly, "It's not going to be like that. How does 'Hussar' sound?"

"It sounds dumb. What about you?" Cherise asked, scowling. Jenny didn't know what a hussar was, but liked the sound of it. As for Cherise, her brother had been a hobby historian and absolutely mad about cavalry. The old unit didn't describe her in the least, but if this was how it was going to be then this girl with the ears and tail wasn't going to be dissuaded.

"It's Atomos outside the center, but don't worry about that for now. Just try to relax and meet some of the people you'll be helping out around here. In the morning, things will look so much better."

Catnip stared at her tail and tried to get it to move. She wasn't sure how she sometimes managed to get it to twitch, but she'd been told that it could articulate and she thought that would be just peachy. She stared at it and it continued to not move. 'Maybe I should be doing something else...' she thought, 'It's a nice enough day, maybe Kathrine will go on a walk with me?' Kathrine would go of course, she wouldn't dream of not going. She pushed that idea away as Kathrine was napping upstairs. The maid rarely did anything for herself and so the nap was, to Catnip, a small show of self indulgence on her girlfriends part. A bit of self indulgence Catnip would allow to go on unimpeded.

 It was the first time in quite awhile for Catnip where she didn't feel like working. Meeting with guests, building things, fixing things. It was all fun, but it was work. Satisfying work. Even Catnip couldn't work all the time though. She looked over at Kathrine's guitar sitting at the end of the couch and considered trying it out. No, that was out of the question. Last time she'd so much as plucked a string, Kathrine had come down stairs and assumed that Catnip had wanted to hear her play. No no no. No extra work for Kathrine. Catnip wracked her brain for something to do. Games with Dee? No, he was busy with Medeina and Mica. Cartoons? She wasn't allowed to watch cartoons anymore. See what Roxanne was up to? Roxanne was very likely busy with whatever it was she needed a meeting place for.

She picked up a chew stick from the jar on the table and gnawed it thoughtfully. Through the window, she caught a glimpse of Hector and Floyd coming up to the house with someone new in tow. A social call? An introduction maybe? She went to the door and threw it open just as Hectors fist came up to knock. Perhaps a social call would be fine, so long as it wasn't a business one. Maybe the new person would be fun.

"Hector! Floyd! Who's your friend?" Catnip asked cheerily but a little quietly. She was already going over in her head how to go about the tasks Kathrine usually took care of when there were guests. First, answer door. Check. Next, show them to the living room. That was easy enough. "Come in, sit down guys. Er, Mr. Lowe, Mr. Price, and Ms..." She realized she had asked but hadn't yet got the name of the new girl. "Wait, uh, I've done it out of order. Just a sec."

"Good afternoon Nip, this is Branches. She lives across the new lake. Branches, this is Catnip. If you need someone to fix something, you can come to her and she'll take care of it." Hector introduced, then asked, "Where's Kathrine Nip?"

"Sleeping, just leave her be, I can do the hosp-ee-tality thing." Catnip explained, "Come in, sit down. I'll get you guys some food and stuff." She wasn't quite as adept at house keeping and serving as Kathrine, but Catnip would be butched if she was going to make Kathrine get up and do this. Even if she would be happy to do so. She brought out a bag of stale pretzels and a large mason jar of sun tea. All the while, the wooden dowel bobbed up and down fitfully and Branches watched it curiously. "Want one?" Catnip asked when she noticed the one eyed girl watching her chew stick. There was something about the pale girl that Catnip liked. The wide curious eye and bright rice paper white skin reminded her of Mica. Or rather, Branches visually reminded her of Snowball. Snowball had looked out at the small world the children of lab X7 knew with a worldly curiousity under her golden blond hair. Snowball had tripped up during testing, tripped over a skitter and buried under a pile of stinging metal robots. Then she'd been taken away for christmas.

"Nip?" Floyd asked, waving a hand in front of Catnips face, "Y'all right?" She nodded sheepishly and gave Branches a stick stained a golden shade by the honey that had been soaked into it.

"Yeah just thinkin'." She said. Back in the cupboard under the stair, she found a jar of pink and white frosted cookies shaped like animals. Catnip hated white chocolate, but these animal cookies were somehow acceptable to her. Aside from the hard candies that were always present on the coffee table, these cookies were one of her favorites for casual visits. She took a moment to dust off and consider an eight pack of apple juice when a shadow blocked out the light from the door.

"Need any help Nip?" Floyd asked. Catnip handed him the apple juice and the jar, then added a spray can labeled 'squeezy cheese.'

"I think that'll be good." She said, "But I can handle all this. Gimme gimme so I can carry it back. I wanna do it!"

"Nip." Floyd said in a hushed tone, "I don't think I have to tell you to be extra nice, but that girl in there... The center got attacked recently and she lost her sister." Catnip cocked her head and stopped trying to prise the food from Floyd's arms. She was lost again for a moment, thinking about her own siblings.

"Catnip?" Came the small voice at the top of the stairs above her, bringing Catnip out of her memories before she could sink in. Branches (entirely ficticious, not that any of them knew it) tragedy was something Catnip and Mica were all too familiar with. It was a well she could fall into and have difficulty climbing up out of again, and so it was fortunate that Kathrine had stirred and heard the talking downstairs.

"It's alright Kathrine, we have guests." Catnip said. She took everything from Floyd but the can of cheese and rushed them to the table before Kathrine could snap into "maid mode" and start serving. "I've got it all taken care of, you don't have to do anything." When she looked to the maid, she saw the mix of adorable sleepiness and groggy petulance all over her girlfriend. "Don't be mad k?"

Branches meanwhile gave the stick an experimental chew. It was sweet and splintery, but not horrible. It could certainly keep the mouth busy. Catnip felt right to her. Open and friendly, willing to please but not soft. She'd been described like some kind of business lady or a strict mechanic. From what the homunculus could see, Catnip was doting and sweet. Kathrine eyed Branches from the top of the stairs. In a little bit, when Kathrine had fully woken up and forced Catnip to settle in, she would see that Kathrine was certainly the most spun sugar and warm cocoa of the two. Even if her face didn't show it. Over the course of the visit, Catnip and Kathrine would hold their attention with talk and food and entertainment, stretching what had been intended to be a short visit into a much longer one.

By the time Branches, Hector, and Floyd were allowed to leave, the sun had progressed through it's usual climb across the sky and had begun to sink below the tree line in the west. Catnip had told a harrowing tale from Arizona and Kathrine had got out a board game which they'd gone through several times. In all, the visit had so far been the most enjoyable time Branches had had in her short life. Floyd departed for his own home, rubbing his back and waving, while Hector saw the Branches.

"Sorry it took so long," He said, "those two are fond of guests. Also it seems Catnip really took a shine to you, so that's good. It's not hard to get on her good side, but it's also not easy to get so close so quickly." Hector rubbed the back of his head. He knew about what Floyd had told Catnip in the mechanics snack cupboard and suspected that maybe that had something to do with it. "Anyways, if you want I can take you home. It's still light out, but it's not easy in the dark."

It was an innocent suggestion but all the same, it made Branches feel uneasy and a little embarassed. A little light and flgihty even. Someone as important and strong as Hector would offer to take a simple homunculus back to her mud hut in the woods? She realized that he would probably think she was some kind of savage if he saw where she lived. Compared to the houses on the farm, Branches might as well have lived in a dirty hole in the river bank.

"N-no, I can take care of myself fine..." She said quietly.

"Are you sure? If you want, you can stay around here til tomorrow. I understand that... Well, I mean I can imagine what it must be like to come home and find your house... empty..." Branches grinned at the ground, unable to meet his gaze. She was touched by his genuine concern for her fake loss. Letting him walk her back would just make her feel terrible for making him feel pity for a sad event that never happened.

"No, it's okay. Thank you though. If I can't take it, I'll just go to Helens." She said. Hector bowed, and the spots of red that caused in her face went unnoticed in the failing light. By the time his head came back up, she'd already turned away and was on the move towards the gate and the bridge beyond.

Yellow Jacket and her crew lay in wait just beyond the tree line, looking out at the ruined shack by the lakes edge and watching for the return for the little cyclopian bitch who'd stolen her gangs property and humiliated her men. They'd trashed the little bitches camp upon their arrival, scattering the little dirt statues like bowling pins whenever the things tried to mount a defense. It was dangerous though, earlier in the day her other man had met them on the road with a hell of a story to tell. The iron marshal was in the area and had laid his protection over the girl. Not that Yellow Jacket gave a tin shit. He'd passed on a warning from the dipshit who fancied himself a knight, and that pissed her off.

"Fuck you..." She grumbled to herself thinking about that warning. The sound of an owl down by the river splashed a bucket of cold water in her face, dismissing her rage for attentiveness in an instant. That was the signal. The little bitch was home. Yellow Jacket peered across the lakeside clearing in the low light towards the rough new path the homunculus had cleared at Helen's behest earlier in the morning, and caught a glimpse of her. A young woman with pale white skin and one big eye at the center of her face beneath yellow hair the color of corn silk. Yellow Jacket tensed. Something off about the girl. It was surely the girl who'd done for her men, but she looked odd. After a bit of watching, Yellow Jacket placed the look. The girl was dreamy, just sort of ambling around like a young woman day dreaming. That eased the tension a little. It would make her easy to take when she got close enough.

When the thoughts of ambush started to formulate though, the girl suddenly snapped to attention. The house was wrecked and it wasn't subtle, she'd noticed before getting close enough for Yellow Jackets gang to close the trap perfectly. That was fine, if her men had followed directions, then several men would be coming up the path behind the girl at that moment. When they came into view, Yellow Jacket stepped into view.

"Sup cunt." She said, "I think you have something that belongs to me." Branches eye widened and she spun about to see the men coming in behind her. "Don't even think about it, we've got you-"

Branches bolted right at them, and to Yellow Jackets horror, her men were sent scattering like the little clay people her own men had kicked and smashed upon their arrival. The first to try and grab Branches was socked in the gut and thrown bodily aside. The next received a kick to the groin that lifted him then tossed him five or six feet straight up, a wound that would no doubt castrate him. A broken leg and pulped face later, the girl was vanishing back the way she'd come and Yellow Jacket was screaming after her. They never caught up, but what they found when they followed was a surprise. Not far away, just across the road south of Branches camp in fact, was a thick line of trees. It was the palisade within that line of trees in the swamp that was the surprise.

"So she's gone in?" Yellow Jacket asked. The man who'd scouted the place nodded enthusiastically, he'd managed to keep up just outside visible range and saw the young woman slip over the wall. It wasn't hard to pick her out in the dark. "Alright then." Yellow Jacket decided, "Keep scouting, we go after her before dawn."
« Last Edit: March 12, 2019, 09:04:21 am by saltmummy626 »
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Re: CDDA: Adventures in Cataclysm
« Reply #5132 on: March 12, 2019, 09:15:54 am »
The trio had purchases a few more supplies, flour and other goods for the journey ahead, sold at cost given the aid they offered to the village in its hour of need, traded away for some of the coin Horace still had on him.

They would find, after getting ready, Abraham just outside the village, snapping branches off dead trees and sweeping up dead leaves, piling them onto a body. That of the sickly old mare that had weathered the journey this far. Whether it was the harsh blizzard or simply old age, the gunslinger wasn’t certain, but he suspected the latter.

Horace looked at what Abraham was doing, “...What are you doing?” He asked. Abraham shrugged, “Ground’s t'hard fer an actual burial.” He drawled matter-of-factly. Celine balked a bit at the sight, looking away in disgust, before she finally spoke up. “So where we headed next, anyway? Guess he’ll be riding in the wagon...”

“West. Across the mountains. We may find what we seek there.” Horace answered plainly, looking back towards the road. “There’s a mountain pass along the way, as well.” he added, Abraham hmming a bit. “Think yer wagon’ll be good enough fer shelter?” Ceiline gave a nod, “Should be… Not a whole lot of space though.” She explained, scratching her head for a moment.

Abe hmmphed a bit at that, looking down the old road. “Right. Better than a crowded chuck down to Santa Fe at least.” he remarked, getting a stare of confusion from Celine, and an amused chuckle from Horace, as he mounted his own steed. “Let’s go...”

They rode onward, along a cracked and worn old country road, running along the way towards one of the major passes in the Appalachian mountains, knowing full well they were in the shadow of a haven for the otherworldly and ethereal, and that way lay beyond was likely to hold even stranger things. The signs of life, at least earthly life, seemed to fade the farther along they went. However, every so often there were signs that some people occasionally still traveled these old roads.

“So why are we heading this way, anyway?” Celine asked, looking down from her position on the wagon at Horace. “Finding a way to deal with a threat we’re after.” he answered plainly, the mage shaking her head. “That...doesn’t explain much.” she remarked, only for Abraham to leaning out the wagon a bit, having overheard the conversation.

“Fuckin’ space shoggoth his talkin’ axe done sent him t’ kill. So what y’find up there anyway?” Abe added, an explanation that just confounded Celine further. Horace gave a little hmmph at that, gaze focused on the road ahead. “Got a few answers. We’re after Astor. The demon controlling God’s Army. There is a way to harm it at least. The artifact can open rifts as well as manipulate them, and that can weaken it...”

“Open rif-are you crazy!? Last big one that opened up made everything almost as haywire as back when this started! What the hell could be worth causing that again?” Celine said, only for Horace to shake his head. “Anything big enough to kill it would likely be at least as disruptive to The Veil as the last one that opened, not to mention take more power to be practical. But a smaller one, a ripple. This thing can open them safely, and close them afterward.” he said, before looking back to the mountains looming in the distance.

“We’re being sent to find something that might help kill it. But for now, we at least have something that can wound it.” Horace gave a dry sounding exhale, as he got as comfortable as one could in that wagon.

Time passed, Horace was left to his thoughts and Abraham dozed off as the wagon found itself onto a paved road. The party neared a roofed small stage on the side of the road. Must have been a part of a bar due to the large pile of rubble nearby. Over a dozen people crowded in front, to watch a man in odd looking motley garb put on a show.

As they neared, the mix of travelers that obverse seemed to include a few of less savory appearance, kept from causing trouble only by the offer of momentary respite and a few words from a silver tongue. Even then however, as the strumming of a weathered old guitar wound down into an outro, one of the men spoke up, heckling the odd fellow with some indistinct drunken shout.

Horace hmmed a bit, hopping out of the wagon and walking ahead as Celine pulled the wagon to a stop, Abraham mumbling groggily as he stretched before practically rolling out of the back, the all-too-brief rest leaving him feeling practically hungover at first. “Never can sleep well in those gatdamn things...” he mumbled, the three of them making their way over to get a closer look.

Pretty much right as the three got to the back of the crowd, one of the more rowdy bandits stepped up, waving a half-empty bottle of probably-stolen alcohol. “Hey Krusty! Do Freebird!” The Jester turned his head towards the heckler, he seemed to start Freebird and strumming the strings before suddenly stopping. “No thanks!” The Jester said, giving a little chuckle as he set the guitar aside. “I don’t do just music, I do magic too!” He stated in a joyous tone, as he took out a deck of cards. “I’m going to need a volunteer, friends! Hm…” The Jester tapped his chin, looking at the crowd. He pointed a gloved hand towards Celine, “You! The redhead! Come on up!” He said, his grin widening as he gestured up towards the stage.

Celine was taken aback by this, looking back to Horace who simply shrugged, before stepping up on stage with him, one of the banduits giving a catcall right up until her nervousness gave way to a glare that promptly shut him up. The Jester nodded, the bells on his hat giving a little jingle as he passed the deck to her. “Alright! Look through the deck, then showcase the deck to our lovely crowd here, then pick a card” He explained, before giving a turn of his hands at her.

Celine regarded the act with curiosity, knowing more of the arcane than sleight-of-hand, playing along with it out of genuine interest. After all, this was something she never thought she’d end up seeing after the cataclysm. Horace meanwhile watched on, his gaze at this point fixed on the jester. Abe glanced over at The Knight, “What? Y’see somethin’?” He asked, as he simply gave a hmmph, “He has got essense on him. Cards are magical too. Can’t you see it?” Abraham gave a nod, “Since I saw ‘im, yeah. But he’s playin’ a show, what’s the worst that could happen?” He answered, which Horace gave a shrug to.

Celine, in contrast, had no innate sense of the odd magic that was afoot, showing the audience the deck as instructed, looking through to pick a particular card, settling on the jack of hearts. “Alright...” The Jester took the deck back, “Thank you! Now, with a quick shuffle…” He narrated as he put a little pinch of dull essence on the cards, before he stumbled a little. “Whuh-” He exclaimed as he fell forward, dropping the deck onto the stage, all the cards face up.

Celine was about to try and catch the jester as he stumbled, though the sight of him bumbling around earned momentary amusement from the crowd, only to stop and stare as she realized what he’d dropped. One moment the deck had been perfectly normal, the next every single card was the same one she’d picked. The Jester did a little sumersault, gesturing towards the cards with a flourish. “Tadaa!””

Celine found herself applauding the trick as well as most of those present as she stepped off the stage, not realizing the nature of the spell and merely assuming it was a stage trick, in which case it was genuinely impressive.

By now the group that had gathered was starting to disperse, a few conversing among themselves as they prepared to continue on their way, when a pickup truck pulled over nearby, clipping a battered old motorcycle as it went, a couple men in similar

garb to the few drunken troublemakers stepping out and glaring at the trio who’d stopped to watch the show. “Now what in the goddamn are you louts doin’, standing around watching a puppet show or somethin’? Ain’t y’ got work t’ do?”

    The Jester grew pale, “Uh oh…” He said quietly, as he slinked off suddenly, snatching his guitar. Horace hmmphed a bit, already keeping his gaze on the group of troublemakers, as was Abraham, a few of the other travelers quite wisely getting out of the way. One of the men who got out of the truck pushed one of his drunken comrades aside as he stepped forward, holding a crowbar in both hands. “And where you think you’re goin’, clown?”

“Those lot look like trouble...” Abraham muttered, watching as Horace started to step forward, Celine glancing back at the group warily. They were just close enough to overhear The Jester, with a shit-eating grin, give the bandit a response. “Ya’know. To see your mother?” he answered. “On second thought, do we hav’ta help the idjit?”

The Jester’s grin just widened, as he held out a palm full of essence dust. He blew the blue dust into the face and eyes of the crowbar wielding bandit, as he threw another handful of dull essense onto the hard pavement. The dust threw up a thick plume of glittery smoke as he backpedaled, giving himself space as the Jester drew a dirk with a black grip.

The man stumbled a bit, crowbar raised defensively as one of the others caught him. “Oi. Y’alight?” he asked, and the man looked around only to go into a panic, promptly braining the bandit that caught him. Everywhere around him, was that same jester, and he simply lashed out at the first one that seemed “real” to him, which just happened to be an image mimicking the fellow behind him.

“Oi! You fuckin’ dumbass, watch where you’re swingin’ that goddamn thing!” another shouted, a few others stepping up and drawing various weapons, mostly knives and clubs, though one had a wary hand on a sawed-down shotgun. “C’mon kid, don’t make us get too rough. Can’t pay us back if you’re dead...”

As this went on, Horace started to step up, hefting his axe as a couple others watched the flank, one of the glaring looking up at the knight. “Mind yer fuckin’ business ‘less you want a few holes in that armor. I swear, a knight, a cowboy, and a girl walk into a bar...” he muttered, pointing a short-barreled rifle at Horace. Quincy of course, quite gleefully spoke up at that. “Hey! I write the jokes here!” he called out mirthfully.

Already the other two quite wisely stepped behind Horace, or at least Abraham pulled Celine behind the armored figure as he drew his revolver, and the bandit fired at Horace’s chest point-blank, expecting the round to go right through him. He had just enough time to realize that the round had hit the strange iridescent steel only to be reduced to a spray of bullet fragments, before the axe cut deep into his collarbone, continuing on through ribs and everything else in its way until it had cleaved halfway through his torso, his rifle dropping to the ground utterly soaked in blood.

Horace struggled to yank the axe out of the bandit’s gushing wound, as he was distracted he was clonked in the back of his head by an aluminum bat. The suit rung like a bell for a moment, the knight struck the man across the jaw with the back of his gauntlet. He followed up with a haymaker that sent the bandit flying.

Quincy chuckled a bit as he twirled the dirk a bit, letting one of the others come at him with a knife before he deftly, swayed and whirled out of reach, letting the man push ahead of the others and isolate himself in his eagerness. The very next moment he was behind his would-be attacker, delivering a pair of quick cuts that opened up tendons along and arm and a leg, ensuring he dropped the knife and stumbled to a knee. At that he vaulted over the bandit, using that added momentum to send the man crashing hard into the pavement. “Heehee, play that tune again, friend!” he said, seemingly in response to the noise Horace’s helm made when struck.

Horace groaned a little, “I’m not a drum…” He grumbled as he stomped on the man’s throat. The shotgunner levelled the sawed off towards Quincy before a shot rang out, splattering the bandits fingers. Abraham drew first, having already cleared leather and fired off two shots. The man clutched his hand as the shotgun clattered the floor, another of the men rushing towards Abraham with a makeshift machete, before a burst of flame struck him square in the chest, charring the leather of his jacket and sending him smacking into the side of the pickup truck.

“What the fuck!?” Between the sight of the flames leaping from Celine’s hand, with at least two men crippled and another two slain, the few of them left were variously either backing away and dropping their weapons, or frantically scrambling to pile into the truck, intending to simply cut their losses and run. Horace grimaced at the sight, half-tempted to give them no quarter until Abraham set a hand on his shoulder, watching the old man still keeping his gun in their direction as they chose flight other what was quickly looking to be suicide. “About goddamn time sons o’ bitches think to quit while they’re ahead...”

Horace let out a little yelp at the hand on his shoulder, raising a hand and nearly backhanding Abraham. “Don’t- Don't touch me.” He rasped out quickly, shrugging the hand off his shoulder. Abraham shrugged at that, while Celine gave a little wave to Quincy as she approached. “Are you okay?”

The Jester skipped over into a bow as he offered a pink tulip from his sleeve. “Better than okay, my dear!” He declared as he held a hand over his chest. Celine blinked at that, a bit surprised as she looked back to Horace and Abraham. “That’s, er...that’s good then.” It was then Horace stepped forward, hmming a bit. “What were they after, arcanist?” he asked bluntly.

Quincy’s entire body seemed to wilt alongside the flower, he got back to his feet and dusted himself off. He stuffed the flower back into his sleeve as he explained, “I may have used a teensy weensy itty bit of magic to- ah.” He cleared his throat

“Cheat in a game of poker.” Quincy admitted as he scratched at the back of his head. Celine was just about to tease Horace for mistaking a magician’s tricks for actual arcane ability, until Quincy seemed to just brush the remarks off without acting like being found out was at all unusual, or if the accusation wasn’t rather weird. “So that wasn’t just sleight of hand, it seems...”

Quincy shook his head, “Kinda-sorta!” He exclaimed. “I still have to hide the essence use!”

Horace stifled a sigh, “...and why did you cheat at poker?” Quincy seemee to perk up a that, “I was strapped for valuables and they seemed pretty stupid!”

Horace uttered an “Of course…” Under his breath as he clonked an open palm against his helmet, which caused Quincy to give an amused giggle. “Hee hee! You make a great chime, friend!”

Celine found herself snickering a bit at that, looking back to Quincy. “You know, maybe between a humorless knight and a gruff cowboy, we could use some comedy. What do you say?” she asked, Abraham giving a blank stare. “So yer basically askin’ ‘can we keep ‘em’ like he’s a stray puppy.”

Quincy's grin grew toothy as he looked up at Horace, who would grimace if he could. “Fine. He better be useful…” He growled as he made his way back to the wagon, Quincy simply gave a mock salute. “Sir yes sir!” as he followed behind him, the various bells on his outfit jingling.
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Re: CDDA: Adventures in Cataclysm
« Reply #5133 on: March 21, 2019, 11:15:21 pm »
(( Written with Mrno, Wilson, Vulnus, and Wilson. ))

Solomon gave a little sigh as he set aside the tools finally, going to get a washbasin and a couple towels. He'd ended up spending most of the afternoon helping Cardin actually do the task that the avian was supposed to be doing on his own, mostly due to the difficulty those tools had posed, despite seemingly getting the hang of handling a blacksmith's hammer and chisel halfway through it. What was likely meant mostly to leave Cardin worn out and left with the mental image of a properly-made scale burnt into his mind mostly just left them both with sore hands and leftover rust to wash off.

Cardin's issues had largely come from how unwieldy his talons made holding a hammer and chisel properly, scraping his wrist whenever he tried to grip them.   Although, he didn't seem to mind whenever Solomon would help, sometimes helping the avian mutant adjust his grip, something that kept earning surprised little chirps from Cardin.   He rubs at his arms, trying to work out the aches from hammering.

Solomon set the newly-filled basket of feather-like metal scales aside, wincing a bit at the sharp ache left along both arms before helping get them both cleaned up, looking back to Cardin for a moment. "Still have to prepare dinner too...she said to help out with that, but er...can you cook?"

The mutant shakes his head, making a can opener gesture with his hands and then shrugging. Shuffling his wings a bit, he inches a bit closer to Solomon, before shyly chirping and shaking his head again.

Solomon sighed a bit at that. "How about, er...stew maybe. Simple and easy to make, it's mostly just pick good ingredients and the actually cooking isn't much more complex than heating a can would be." he said, trying to make it seem as simple as possible, to reassure the avian as he set a hand on his shoulder.

Cardin chirps quietly, nodding, eyes looking at the hand resting on him for a second before he returns his gaze to the cooking room, looking for something probably suitable to put in a stew and finding...  Canned beans, at first.  He holds the can out, tilting his head to the side and chirping inquisitively at Solomon.

Solomon gave a shrug at that, thinking they had dried ingredients that'd be a better fit, but soon enough the two got to work...

Helen had been just about done with getting things cleaned up after dinner, about to further talk to Solomon and Cardin regarding the tasks of the day, and to check up on them. Not to mention give them some reassurance that she suspected Cardin now needed, only for someone to practically throw the door to the main hall open. Branches. She was starting to get a bad feeling about this already.

Branches was very careful not to break the door, but that was about as careful as she got. She'd vaulted the wall and hid behind a small house that smelled of straw and dog for half an hour before she could work up the courage to move. As 'nice' as Helen had been that morning, Branches was still afraid of her. To her, it was like fleeing from wolves by ducking into the den of a sleeping bear.

She heard Helen say something, heard the sounds of surprise at her sudden noisy entrance, heard a clatter of arms being taken up. Before an arrow or spear could find her though or before a hammer could find her head, Branches flung open a large trunk and climbed in.

"There are mean people looking for me, I'm not here." Branches said through the thick wood. That wasn't much of an explanation, but at that moment detailed explanations were beyond her.

Helen blinked a bit at that, taken by surprise and likely annoyed not just by Branches' sudden intrusion, but now by the confusion of the others, most of which had no idea who this was nor any of the events that Helen already knew of. "Who?" she said, before quickly gathering cloak, mask, hammer, and that symbol of judgement.

She directed the others to get ready, handing over her wraithslayer to Solomon as well. As for others, her intended conversation with Victor was sidelined when, partway through trying to talk Green out of volunteering to join in, a sudden realization hit her. It stopped her dead in her tracks, as she realized the full gravity of the situation.

"'re staying in my quarters, keep Thomas safe." she said firmly, activating her mask and scanning the area outside, through the walls of The Hall itself. She then looked over to Cardin, shushing his excited chirps with a glare from under that mask. "No. We're already risking Solomon and Green, and they seem to be armed." she said, pointing in a couple directions, at what to an observer without a mask of insight on was merely a few different parts of the carved mural on the wall.

Branches sat curled up in the trunk and tried to focus. A tricky proposition from inside the cramped space, but doable. Why hadn't her scavengers warned her that someone was at her shack? Why hadn't they warned her that someone was wrecking her shack? She knew the answer already though. The truth was, they had. She'd been too wrapped up in Catnip and Kathrine's hospitality to notice, not to mention Hector. She wondered if he would come to rescue her and lost her concentration.

"C'mon, focus..." She growled at herself, and that seemed to work. The dark of the trunk seemed to take on a certain incorporeality and then was replaced by the somewhat brighter dark outside. She could see. From the eye of the one scout she had left, the fortunate construct that she'd sent along to follow the bandit earlier that day. It could see the bandits still, a group of them organizing vehicles and setting up tents around Branches clearing.  Scouts departing and returning the camp  to give updates on what was going on over here. Branches didn't know if she'd actually been followed or not, but Helen did. Helen knew and had seen. Scouts coming and going, checking the walls and trying to peek over. "Pssst. Helen. Anybody..."

Liam for his part had been outside with the wolf pup when he’d heard Branches storm into the Hall. Perhaps if he’d been paying attention he might have spotted one of the people observing the place, as is he started humming to himself a bit he walked over to the door and stepped inside. “What’s goin-” He was interrupted Helen mentioning someone being armed.

Sighing to himself he lowered a hand to his hatchet and looked back to the door. “Visitors..this’ll be fun.”

Helen was ready soon enough, catching glimpses of the scouts lurking outside, at the ready as Steinar and Liam followed close behind, Solomon and Green behind them in turn. "Alright. I'll want Solomon and Green to take places at the palisade, stay low and don't expose yourselves from unless things get heated." she said, picking up her handset and gave a sigh.

She hoped that breaking radio silence wouldn't prove to be a bad idea. "This is Helen. We have a situation here."

With most of the prep being carried out, there was one thing left to deal with. Helen gave the trunk a knock and from inside Branches gave a startled mewling noise that made Helen smirk. The trunk lid came up a few inches and the mage hunter expected to see the homunculus's eye peeking out, but it seemed that there wasn't enough room to allow Branches to look out without getting up on her knees.

"W-what?" she said in a hushed tone, "I'm cogitating."

"Hopefully about the consequences of your actions." Helen said, "Get out of there, you can't leave the rest of us to deal with this ourselves." The trunk lid settled back for a moment, then came back up again to disgorge a very unhappy looking homunculus.

"I don't want to hurt anybody..." She huffed, dusting herself off. Helen gave the perimeter another look. The scouts were thinning, but they'd be back. The real question was whether to bring the fight to these thugs, or let them besiege the Hall.

Helen grumbled a bit at that. "We may have to if they won't listen to reason. Moreover, you brought them here, where there are children." she said. Technically one child, one teenager, and two that were just barely adults, but she was still irritated at enemies being brought to her doorstep. At the same time, she realized there would be even more innocents potentially in harm's way had they been led to Walkerville.

Rather soon however, the handset perked up a bit belatedly. "Corporal Ford here. On it." There was the very beginning of Nathaniel's attempts to knock on the farmhouse door to wake Hector up overheard, a moment before he let go of the receiver.

Branches stuck close to Helen, silent. She really couldn't argue with her, since she was right. Branches had been surprised and panicked and fled to the closest "safe" place she could think of. The farm was further than the hall, and the hall had been hidden. Branches just didn't figure on the bandits following her, which was very dumb on her part.

Her scout caught sight of something on it's own short trip back to the hall. A single bandit settling in close to the river gate, tucked into the crook of a large swamp flanked willow. He said something into a small radio, before getting out a small pair of binoculars and peering around the tree to watch the gate.

"Settling in YJ, got the back gate on lock until morning." Crackled the radio in the hall, and that startled the operator. They'd heard his transmission, but it seemed they hadn't heard theirs.

"What do you want us to do Helen?" Someone asked. The mage hunter looked to the back gate and was disturbed by the lack of aura there.

"It could be a bluff, I wouldn't-" She began. Branches tugged at her arm and stopped her with a look. Not a bluff. Helen looked again. There was something there, but her mask couldn't see it. It was just a void. Then it hit her. A void. "What is she doing here? She's in no condition to-"

Branches flinched like she'd been jabbed in the eye and shivered violently, skipping and juttering like she'd got a serious case of the heebie jeebies. If she'd been able to see the man, Helen surmised, then she'd just witnessed what had almost certainly just happened to him and who had done it.

Floyd had been awake, as he often was these days. Slept on and off, short naps through the day. He could see Nathaniel practically hammering on the door to the house Hector and Roxanne now lived in, trying to wake the knight up. Roxanne was awake too it seems, she seemed to never even sleep anymore. He calmly sauntered over, giving a little wave. "Everythin' alright?"

Nathaniel looked back over to Floyd. "Helen radioed in. Said they have a situation or something, not much other than that. Hector's sleepin' like a log and Roxanne is staying here, so..." Almost immediately he grimaced a bit, suspecting the worst. They hadn't heard gunfire at least. "Radio silence, I reckon. Hold up a moment..."

He had an idea though, leaning into the doorway and speaking up. "Wake up, boy! There's a battle t'win!" he called out, and practically the instant he said "battle" the knight quite literally rolled out of bed and hit the floor. Actually does sleep in that damn chainmail, he thought with amusement.

Meanwhile, Helen grimaced a bit at the sight of another aura rather abruptly being cut short, then picked up her handset again. She tried to tune it to ensure that whoever was on the other end would hear them, this time.

"We're aware that you're here. For what reason have you come to this place?" she said into it, Solomon and Green taking their positions crouched at the walkway built into the palisade. She could see that they hadn't breached the gates, but she could see they were surrounded. The presence of a certain "void" complicated things further, as now they had until she either started stalking the other bandits or they discovered what was left of the bandit before they'd be forced into a fight.

There was no pause before the radio crackled back, "I want the one eyed bitch and the amethyst pyramids. Was gonna wait til dawn to start us off, but since you've decided to kick this lynching off already we can just get started now. Bring me that shit in half an hour or we can start shelling your little tree fort."

Helen smirked grimly at that. The woman on the other end sounded tired but ready to go. She also sounded completely unaware of what she was dealing with. She was cocky and pissed, whoever "she" was. Helen scooped up her own radio again and prepared to shoot back some bit of biting wit along with a refusal, when the feed was drowned out by a single pistol shit followed by a womanly screech the likes of which could only have come from the vocal cords of a man. They even heard it from inside the Hall, as it wasn't that far off. Helen knew from the way Branches covered her mouth, and from the sickened look of her, that Mica had taken another victim in rather spectacular fashion. Hopefully the shot hadn't hit the girl.

Remi's trance was broken by that loud screech as he looked back towards the hall. He turned off the electric lamp he was using, turning around and squinting towards the large group surrounding the Hall. "Oh." Remi said rather unceremoniously as he set aside the portrait of Walkerville and took out two smaller canvases, a vial of the magical ink, and his Gunto. He drew a campfire on one, with a smaller drawing with an altar under it, while drawing a larger version of the altar on the other canvas. Remi framed the small mob with his fingers for a moment, before stalking closer and chucking the canvas containing the campfire like a frisbee. He would settle a hand against the 'Altar' canvas, and the ink would glow on both of them.

Helen grumbled a bit and shook her head, giving a hand signal that Green just barely saw in the darkness, though it was Solomon she intended to signal, before again pointing out the closest scouts through the walls. With that she readied to open the gate, right as peculiar flickering firelight seemed to waver into existence, seemingly engulfing the scouts in their immediate vicinity.

Nearly the instant the gate started to open, from the top of the palisade a bolt of green light lanced through the air, leaving an expanding plume and a spray of thin streaks of light after ripping through a tree trunk, burning holes through the person on the other side. And as fire seemed to illuminate the treeline,  this gave Green targets to take potshots at as well, while the others remained behind cover. She'd only need to expose enough to stick that hammer out from behind cover, to cover their advance.

Elsewhere at the farm, there was the faint whine of an electric engine spinning to life, three men piled into the old light tank. Hector flicked a switch, the surrounding darkness perceived through camera displays fading to a slightly-brighter monochrome, the heat of a running generator and a few signatures standing out in the dim view offered.

"We won't be able to get positive ID from just thermals..." Hector pointed out over the crew radio, Nathaniel grumbling as he switched it to radioing out. "Ford here. Keep your men on overwatch, and away from the bridge." he said, before addressing Floyd, having manned the turret. "Gunner, load canister." One of those makeshift shells, Catnip's clever idea from those several years ago. Certainly more useful than AP shells were for 90% of things they ran into.

Though the tank's radio reply to The Hall would've barely been picked up even by the handset tuned to it, Helen's response was still, intentionally in fact, left so that all would overhear it. "Acknowledged. Try to leave two alive." she said, her tone rather cold compared to when she initially attempted to reason with their attackers.

The answer had come back, as far as Yellow Jacket was concerned. The people at that fort in the swamp weren't going to just hand the stuff over. Unfortunately, from her standpoint, that meant they'd called her bluff. Yellow Jacket no more had mortars or shells or anything else to hammer The Hall with than she had confidence in being able to coerce the woman over the radio now that they'd decided to fight back. They couldn't even hold off until morning like Yellow Jacket had wanted.

"Green light in the area around the fort ma'am." A scout reported, "Three men dead cuz a' some fuckin' monster outside the fort too. We should retreat boss."

"Retreat? You fuckin' pussy, just a bunch of survivors in a wooden fort." Yellow Jacket growled, "Get the men organized, we're fighting in the dark. Get-"

"EATER! EATER!" Someone screamed, then, "Holy shit, holy shit." A scream, excited gibbering, and fire leapt up from nothing. The camp didn't see the fires, but they saw the light and heard the screams. Yellow Jackets camp would have descended into confused turmoil then were it not for herself. She wasn't going to have another "Apis" situation on her hands, not again. This was threatening to turn into exactly that, and by the gods that were, Yellow Jacket would not put up with such a total failure again.

As soon as the gate was open, there was a brilliant flash of light cutting the darkness momentarily, alongside a thundering boom. Enough for the woman in her cloak of scales to rush out, Liam and Steinar close behind. The firelight that engulfed the few scouts surrounding the camp had left the two on the ramparts with little left to fire on, Helen checking for any more nearby foes before breaking away from the other two. She had to ensure the perimeter was secure, and find Mica before she either got hurt or attacked the wrong person.

"SKREEE!" came a familiar shriek from the newly erupting firelight as Helen emerged from the gate, and the silhouette of a wraithlike four armed creature scuttled, smoking, towards her. Clutched in one web covered hand was the bloody remains of an arm. "SssSSssS..." Mica hissed, "Stupid fires, stupid stupid..."

"Whatcha got there Mica?" Helen asked, stopping momentarily to make sure Mica was unharmed. The only wound she could find was a fresh crack in the chitin of her left leg. It was already filling in with hardening resin, and Mica didn't seem to be paying it much mind. The strange fire had bothered her more than the bullet being pushed out of her leg.

"Eh? Two-faces Hel-on! My-ka just gettin' snacks before going to see Hel-on's squishy! My-ka wants to see Squishy!" She waved the arm at Helen before tossing it aside. It left the spiders hand tailing a tail red stained silk, and Helen noticed the state of Mica. Still covered in silk, but now it had all been colored a grizzly red with what she'd been eating. Across the river, they could hear shouting.

Branches came up then, tugging on Helen's cloak. "They're organizing over there..." She informed the mage hunter.

Helen gave a nod as she turned towards Branches. "With me, Mica. Steinar and Liam are here too, so careful not to hurt them. Understand?" she said firmly.

"Ssss... but My-ka is hong-ree... sssss." Mica hissed petulantly. Branches shied away from the spider, turning a bit green again thinking about what she'd seen through the eye of her remaining watcher. "Ssss..."

"There's a whole day's catch of smoked salmon in it for you if you don't hurt any friendlies, okay?" she said, before making her way back towards where Branches indicated. They'd need to drive them back and take the road, and she hoped that the other two were doing well enough without her.

The sudden explosion of magical flame erupting among the treeline ahead answered that question soon enough, along the flicker of a magical aura darting across to embed itself in somebody, only to vanish and reappear back in Steinar's grasp.

Steinar led the way as he and Liam split away from Helen. Running full tilt the pair heard the gunfire from the tank a moment before Liam shouted to Steinar “On your left!”

Raising his shield Steinar blocked a handfull of pistol rounds as he charged another of the enemy. Bringing his hand back Liam focused for a moment as he said “Brand!” and brought his hand forward. The fireball that emerged from his hand flew through the air and caught the gunman in the chest.

As he started screaming due to his flesh and clothes burning Steinar swung the shield in his hand. The enemy he’d been charging found the makeshift club he’d been holding flying away from him as his hand shattered from the blow. He was about to scream when Steinar brought his axe into the side of the man’s head.

Rushing past Steinar Liam readied another fireball as Steinar followed close behind after removing his axe from the man’s skull. “Good eye lad, that one nearly got me.”

Elsewhere, the tank sped up, hurrying towards the bridge as they peered out at the woodlands and saw movement, people filtering into the woods and wetlands from a clearing, just across the river. "Gunner, canister, troops, north of road." Nathaniel directed through the radio, a calm drawl answering him. Almost like the old days, the both of them thought. "Identified." he answered, Nathaniel grinning a bit as the tank neared the bridge. "Index four hundred. Fire."

"On the way." The boom of a homemade canister shell announced their presence, fired into the very edge of the clearing as they pushed forward. They could take the bridge and hammer the clearing all they liked, but sooner or later Helen and the others were likely to drive their enemies across the road, and that'd require them to dismount.

The canister in the chamber fired with what Floyd would later call "a hell of a punch" and Hector would call "Way too much punch" as he carefully examined the cannon of his machine for damage later. The primer was struck, and the volatile cocktail of powders exploded violently, shredding the cannister at the tip of the shell and sending it's payload towards the point of the compass that had displeased the tanks operators that day. A cloud of pellets, BBs, gravel, ball bearings, nails, screws, bolts, nuts, and assorted small hard objects flew forth from the cannon and through the tanks viewfinder, the men inside the tank watched as what they estimated to be between fifteen and twenty men and women simply collapsed in on themselves amidst a red mist.

"Jesus fuck Nip..." Hector breathed, "I hope to Christ none of ours were in that." The explosion of the round resounded out across the area as such shots always did, startling up birds and knocking a few bats out of the night sky as well as scaring the living hell out of a certain homunculus who had never heard anything like it before.

"What was that!?" She cried, "Are they using their shells!?"

"No." Helen said, pushing on in the wake of Steinar and Liam. "If they had any, they would have started by now. No, that was probably Hector in his tank. I'm not sure what he'd use against people on foot though. Maybe it was a signaling shot or something to try and spook our foes?" The few scouts who were left hit the road ahead of the men and turned to fire, just in time to see some kind of ragged woman with four arms dart in front and take a comrades head off with a well aimed bite. There were a few left still trying to fight, a man with some kind of blade ran at Helen thinking her an easy enough target only to find himself being rolled over a pale white figure with one eye. This same figure gave a little twist as she flipped him and the move that was simply meant to make him cry uncle instead pulled the bone from it's socket in his shoulder.

"Fuck you!" Someone shouted, spraying bullets from some toy-like automatic pistol. The bullets embedded themselves in Steinars shield and only stopped coming when Mica vaulted over the viking and landed square on top of the shooter.

"My-ka's gotta feed her squishy, gonna be such a good squishy. My-ka's gonna be better than Lil-eth!" She hissed.

"What the f-" He began. No one dared to watch what happened next. They all heard the sound of the bite though. Tooth through bone, and the gurgle of a scream through something that wasn't quite a mouth anymore.

Meanwhile, Yellow Jacket was running. Running as fast as she could. First had been the cataclysm, taking all of her hard work and ambition away just as it took away the rest of the world as she'd known it. Then, that little chit with the black and yellow stripes and a horde of oversized bees. Now it was this. One little one eyed bitch who'd brought ruination upon Yellow Jacket once again. One. Single. Girl. The worst part was, this could have been prevented. She could have just backed down. Turned away. Said "fuck it, I'm not playing this song and dance again." No. It had taken seeing most of her gang turned to a screaming bloody mess in one fell swoop to get her to back down. Would she ever learn?

"Not fucking likely." She babbled madly to herself as she fled, "No, cuz you don't ever fucking learn your lesson do you old girl? No fucking way, not fucking likely."

As if all this wasn't enough, the road cleared for their advance, two more figures made their way down the road. A knight, and following close behind a gunslinger. They'd dismounted from the tank, though at this point there wasn't much left to mop up.

It didn't take long to sort through the dead and dying. For the most part, the bandits were dead. Catnip's canister had done the work Catnip knew it would and it was easy to see why she hadn't made more. Branches little clearing on the edge of the lake was now an abattoir and the homunculus looked at it with a sense of relief, but also a growing feeling of unhappiness. Her house was destroyed and her borrowed possessions scattered to hell and back. Helen put a hand on her shoulder in commiseration. She'd be invited to stay at The Hall until the 'mess' could be cleaned up and everything set to rights again.

The doings weren't such of a mess to Mica though. She watched, languidly relaxing at the edge of the clearing and waiting for the others to leave. The others picked through the wounded, taking any who were well enough to treat and putting down those with enough piss left in them to offer a fight or too far gone to recover. Mica would wait. She was a-hongry, needed to feed her squishy with more than nasty fruits and somewhat less nasty vegetables. Hector and Floyd gave their condolences to Branches as well, the little pale girl Mica thought of as "turnip," then mounted up and headed back to the farm. Likewise, Helen and Branches and the others from the hall squared away their business and made their way home. Leaving Mica in the dark by the waters edge. She waited for some time, then moved from the tree line to the waiting feast.

Helen, for her part, made certain that the others were unharmed, the whole lot rattled from the thunder of cannon fire earlier and the adrenaline of fighting, all too soon it seemed that what was supposed to be a grim affair was increasingly less morbid, between Hector and Steinar trying to one-up each other comparing the dents and other marks in their equipment, and Mica regarding the carnage in the clearing like a buffet just waiting to be sampled.

Helen however did have one very clear objective regarding the men they captured, retreiving the sword Steinar had given her, those years ago. They would have their weapons confiscated, and be sent back unharmed. All except one. She made it very clear to them. She had family here, and would not tolerate an attack on this place. Her thoughts turned to the fact that what she ended up doing was essentially human sacrifice, an offering to Odin. A thought she quickly banished from her mind, as this was a matter of making an example of one of the remaining survivors, not religion.

The blade bit deep into the man's back, separating ribs from the spine, several at a time with each strike, until it was sufficient to draw the lungs out through the twin cuts. What was left of the others would be for Mica to sort out, but the one chosen for the blood eagle was returned to the survivors to be carried back, to be buried or otherwise dealt with as they saw fit.

That just left cleaning up.


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Re: CDDA: Adventures in Cataclysm
« Reply #5134 on: March 28, 2019, 01:21:33 am »
Many eyes in a single head watched the few surviving bandits pick up the body as directed to carry back to whoever. The many eyes then watched and followed the group of three men until they simply dumped the body by the side of the road. Mica, the owner of the eyes, thought that was a fine thing. Sarcastically of course. Helen had put all that effort into doing up that body, and the men had simply dropped it as soon as they were sure no one was watching them. She followed them a bit longer and listened to their conversation, wanting but not quite willing to move in on them. What she'd done tonight had been irresponsible of her. She had a squishy to think about, she could have been hurt and that could have hurt the squishy. She wasn't going to risk moving in on the trio and gamble with her squishy. Instead, when she was sure they weren't going to come back, she retraced her steps the way she'd come back to the dumped body. Helen had taken great care to cut open the man's back and pull out his air bags. Mica knew instinctively that's what they were, the truth was that she'd eaten enough people to know what most of the parts inside were for. Except for the kidneys,(which tasted nasty) the liver, (which tasted divine) and the bits between the legs (which Mica had always avoided eating because of it's proximity to other foul tasting parts.

She gave the body a sniff, it didn't smell any different, and ripped off one of the lungs with her teeth. It didn't taste much different either. Something symbolic then? Dee said that Helen did lots of symbolic things, but Mica didn't exactly know what that meant. She bit the other lung off along with a good sized chunk of skin. A hairy man, Mica hated eating hairy people. Their skins always tickled the back of her throat and made her feel like vomiting. Speaking of which, she'd eaten a great deal that night and there was more left back at the little camp by the lake. Plenty of food a great deal less hairy than Helen's "offering." Mica regurgitated the Gore she'd thus far eaten, re-affixed her scarf, and strolled slowly back the way she'd come. Upon her arrival though, she found that she was no longer alone.

"Hey sweetie." Roxanne said. She was doing something to what was left of Mica's "feast" and that peeved the spider a little. Before her eyes, one of the bodies suddenly shuddered, rose, and then ambled into the woods where it would wait for further orders from it's new master. Then Roxanne moved to another body, and Mica knew what would happen next. It didn't matter to her that Roxanne was here making undead, what mattered was that she was doing it with meat that Mica had been determined to eat herself. Before Roxanne could kneel over the body she had targeted for raising, Mica cut her off at the pass and began ripping it apart and eating it all while staring Roxanne in the eyes. "That's fine, there are others." Roxanne said, nettled. She went to another and Mica again cut her off. "Don't be greedy sweety, it's unbecoming."

"What is un-bee-kum-in'?" Mica asked through a mouth full of viscera.

"Speaking with your mouth full for one." Admonished Roxanne, "C'mon Mica, can't I have just like, a few?"

"No!" Mica shouted happily. Roxanne reached into her robe and took out something that looked like a perfume bottle. Mica didn't like the smell of it, it smelled nasty like poison. The woman turned and went for another body, and Mica made a dive for it. This time though, Roxanne squeezed the bottle at her and Mica recoiled. "Nasty! Nasty poisons!" She screeched.

"It's just perfume sweetie, and I'm not afraid to use it! I got a spray bottle full of vinegar too, just in case." They stood across from each other, eyeing one another up, then Mica turned away and began taking bites out of every body she could find. After each bite, she would glance at Roxanne and for her part, Roxanne had the image of a child taking a bite out of the center of every sandwich on a plate. Fortunately for Roxanne, the bodies didn't have to be intact. So, Mica ate and Roxanne worked. Eventually though, both gave up. Roxanne. Only had so much time, and Mica only had so much patience and stomach space. By the time they quit on it, they'd both stopped trying to one up each other anyway.

"My-ka's gotta go back soon..." Mica yawned languidly.

"Yeah me too." Roxanne said, "The tin can is fast asleep, but that doesn't mean he won't wake up and ask questions. I'm on a short leash as it is. Remember to clean yourself up sweetie, you look absolutely grizzly."

Mica nodded, she would clean up of course. That process would involve rolling around in the grass for a bit to dislodge as much of the bloody silk as she could before taking a quick rinse in the river. She wasn't about to jump into bed covered head to toe in streaks of blood and guts. That wouldn't please Dee one bit, having his smelly bloody fiance climb into bed next to him as filthy as a mass grave.

When Mica was gone, Roxanne did a bit of snooping. There were some useful things left behind by the dead bandits, but she was more interested in how long they'd been there. A couple tents and a big yurt, but also a more permanent mud and bough structure that had probably been destroyed in the fighting. It was the stone bearing runes carved into it that was most interesting though. It raised questions about Helens involvement, and a few more about the bandits themselves. Then she remembered something Hector had told her earlier. "There's a nice girl living across the lake." Or something like that. She also recalled that the girl had lost a sister, and this stone certainly looked like a gravestone. The bandits had camped here then, but the girl had lived here. Where was she now? Most interestingly though, if this was the sisters grave, then why couldn't Roxanne sense a body beneath the stone?

It wasn't as much of a mess as Branches expected. There had been more bodies, at least branches thought so, but sometime in the night they had been moved. It was kind of surreal actually, looking out across the small clearing and seeing so little to clean up besides the blood soaked grass and litter. Here and there was a bone or some bit of corpse, but that was a lot easier to deal with from her perspective than a complete carcass or a mutilated body. Where'd they go though? It was a question she wasn't too concerned with. She prodded a leg with a stick for a bit before lobbing it into the lake and looked around.

The damage wasn't quite as extensive as she'd thought it was, but it was still bad enough to be disheartening. Almost everything from inside her house had been torn up, scattered, burned, or broken and the center pillar that held up the roof had been snapped with one solid kick or maybe a swing of some tool. Replacing that would be easy though. Branches had the bandit leaders yurt and examining that gave the homunculus ideas. The yurt had a collapsible lattice, and Branches thought that said frame would make for good walls if she expanded the rectangular mud pit into a larger circular one. Inspired, she even planned out a new wooden floor and thought the canvas roof could be replaced with overlapping shingles. From mud hut to wood hut. If she felt like it, and she did, she could even build up the dirt around the outside of the house so that it created a rise up to the edge of the roof. From sunken wood hut to earth sheltered house. It was perfect, the perfect home for her. Maybe she could even take visitors like Catnip or Kathrine. Or even...

She tossed her stick away and cringed a little, grinning like an idiot. Hector could come visit. Maybe he'd have tea with her. She shook her head at the thought but it wouldn't leave her. Thoughts of the man, day dreams, slowed her down tremendously. Branches would get to work, splashing buckets of water on the grass to wash away to blood and then a fancy would strike her and she'd stare off across the lake.

"What the heck..." She groaned. Why couldn't she stop thinking about him? At least filling and dumping buckets didn't require too much attention, and besides that it helped her not think about the things she was handling. It also kept her from noticing Illiana watching her go about the task before her until the lake suddenly rose up and soused her, then dragged her back with it along with most of the gore left over from the nights fighting.

"Pffft!" She spat, "What- What are you doing!? You might drown me!"

"We won't drown and we both know it. You seemed pretty lost in thought there sweetie, thought maybe you'd gone back to being a regular old homunculus. Why didn't you just start with the house and use the dirt to make some new workers?" Illiana asked. Branches hadn't thought of that. The house didn't need to be cleaned up, there was plenty of good clay bearing soil around the pit that made up part of her hut, that should have been the first thing she should have done. Branches could have smacked herself for not thinking of it. Instead, she spluttered the disgusting tainted water and slogged back onto somewhat dry land. "Go on then, what's on your mind?"

"I don't know..." Branches finally said after after a bit of nervous silence. Illiana watched her intently, reading Branches growing nervousness with the same ease as she would a sign. "I said I don't know, why don't you just-"

"You've got a crush on someone." Illiana stated with a widening smile, "Oh how fast they grow up, who is it?"

"W-what?" Branches stuttered, "I don't know what you're talking-"

"Of course you do! Silly girl, it's a part of being a person! That nice Elle gave you a name, you ran away from sharlene, you built yourself a house and even claimed some property. Then you decided to be a little lady and now you've found a boy you fancy! Tell me everything, is he nice? Is he handsome?" Illiana prodded, waggling her eyebrows at that last. The homunculus looked away, not quite understanding what Illiana meant but starting to grasp the concept. A crush, on Hector. Yes, that was the feeling. She wasn't going to tell the nosey Illiana that though, oh no. Rather than spill the beans to her creator, Branches maintained her silence. It didn't bother Illiana though, Branches was the one being she couldn't know everything about. That lack of knowledge was troubling of course, but it was cathartic in a way. One could get tired of knowing everything about everyone. Also, if Steinar was correct and Branches was like a daughter figure to the Deus Ex, then it was only right that the homunculus should perplex her. "Well, never mind then. You just keep it to yourself, see if I care." She said, pretending not to care but clearly very interested, "But if you need advice then don't come crawling to me. For purely practical reasons I mean, I couldn't give you much advice."

"But why not?" Branches blurted before remembering herself and staring down at her feet furiously. "Aren't you supposed to know everything?"

"Yes, but not where you are concerned. Refreshing really. If you really want advice about those silly little feelings you've got crawling around in your head, making your guts feel all twisted and knotted up, then you can go to a couple people. I recommend Helen, her advice would be sound and maybe even prevent a bit of heart ache if it doesn't work out for the best."

"It... Work out?" Branches said, looking questioningly. Illiana nodded sagely, but the appearance of knowledge was just for show.

"Sometimes it doesn't. A young girl or boys feelings can shift in an instant and sometimes it's just not meant to be. Helen can tell you how to gird yourself against such an occurance, along with all the other ins and outs of building a relationship."

Branches thought about it. She wasn't afraid of Helen anymore but all the same, she didn't want to go to Helen with such a personal issue. "And who else?" Branches asked. Illiana's grin turned to a frown.

"You could also go with the person everyone on the farm went to, Roxanne Luna. I suppose it's worked out for them so far and Roxanne certainly fancies herself 'doctor love,' but frankly sweetie she certainly isn't the best romantic role model." Illiana explained, then sighed, "It's up to you though. Roxanne is nice enough. You'll probably end up representing her in court if she can't find her own counsel anyway."

"As soon as she stops being busy and doesn't have to postpone you mean?" Branches asked, easing up a bit. She'd already decided on going to this Roxanne lady. Illiana grinned fondly, there was no denying it she really did have a bit of affection for her creation. Furthering that affection was the fact that the homunculus shared Illiana's passion for the legal system after a fashion. With a bit of maturing and a little personal growth, Branches could be quite a bureaucrat if she so desired.
I'm really just a sexy skeleton in a suit.
Fingering techniques are very important
Quote from: Six
Using guns while sober? Sounds like you're a coward.
Yes, little hats for every noodle.
Everyone is forks it seems.
"Everything is fucked forever, and ever, and ever." -Forrest 2016


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Re: CDDA: Adventures in Cataclysm
« Reply #5135 on: April 07, 2019, 06:28:49 pm »
(( Written with Noct. ))

Helen sighed as she sat down at last in her quarters, tending to Thomas and making certain that Victor was unharmed as well. "So you...had something to ask, before all this started?" she finally spoke up.

Victor was caught off-guard by that at first, quickly returning to what he'd planned to inform her of. “Something to ask? Well, yes. Actually, as Luna put it, need to ask for permission for the field trip tomorrow.”

Helen glanced at him, a concerned expression on her face before she sighed. "Field trip? First I've heard of this...Hector's not going to like that, I suspect." At that Victor simply shrugged. “Honestly, that is her problem at this point. Not her idea or mine but Melody’s. Something about the incident I had with her before I pretty much forgot everything.”

Helen hmmed a bit at that, concerned yet now mainly curious. "I...oh. I see. Anyone else going with you? If you'd like I could come with, just in case...if not, well. At least let me know where you're going, intended route, and when you expect to be back. That way, if something goes wrong..."

The expression of worry on her face was a bit more apparent, and Victor nodded as he tried to reassure her. “It’s going to be Melody, Roxanne, Rey and myself. Melody doesn’t want anyone else to go for whatever reason, says I would understand if I had my memories but, well, I don’t. We aren’t going far, should take maybe a few hours. I’ve made a map too in case I need it, I can make you a copy if you want.”

Helen hmmed a bit, before warily agreeing to it, the map laid out on the table and the expected route traced out, Helen nonetheless a bit wary when she saw just where the location was. "I worry it might have something to do with Randael if it was her least you told me this time."

“Wow, I was that bad? I am slightly hesitant too but I am apparently needed badly. Roxanne is just the one who happens to know the way and layout. Oh, and before I forget, we are to go unarmed. Apparently that’s very important too.” At that last bit Helen went wide-eyed with shock.

"Unarmed? Oh gods. Roxanne, of all the...I see. Just, be careful. Contact me if anything goes wrong, then..." she said, grimacing a bit. For a moment she vaguely suspected that what she was preemptively feeling was exactly how Hector felt when he was led on a wild goose chase after Roxanne technically died.

Seeing the way she seemed uneasy, Victor set a hand on her shoulder. “Will make sure to do so. Two way radio should be synced.” he said, Helen giving a little nod, finally satisfied that he'd be alright. "Thank you..."


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Re: CDDA: Adventures in Cataclysm
« Reply #5136 on: April 14, 2019, 02:56:47 pm »
The following morning marked the release of another issue of New Paris's newspaper. Leslie's own simple eight page broadsheet detailing what had been going on since the last issue. It was a surprisingly effective way of keeping up to date, Jennifer thought, on the ins and outs of life in the center. The front page article was a continuation of a piece on events of the strange attack on the center not long ago precipitating in the sudden reappearance of the centers hunter just in the knick of time. The newspaper was a boon to the center, at least Jenny and Catalina thought so. It added a sense of normalcy in a time which still seemed frighteningly chaotic. The stability was more than welcome in a settlement, and it was a settlement now, that previously had been friendly but not amazingly welcoming to people so heavily mutated. Journalism was powerful though, and talking to Leslie gave the impression that she knew it, and was afraid of it. The dedication of the young serpent was admirable though.

Jenny had taken her time with the paper she'd found lying in a basket that had appeared sometime in the night screwed to the wall beside her door. It hadn't taken much time, but reading it made her feel more "in the loop." More a part of a community she'd spent a large part of her time providing for but not really making herself a part of. The coffee that had come, delivered to her room by a young pug nosed Misling boy, had been even more of a surprise.

"Courtesy of Sylvia's coffee ma'am, some muscley lady paid for it already." Jennifer had looked at it wonderingly before taking it gingerly and setting it next to the paper on her table. "Ma'am?"

Jennifer looked back and saw the boy holding up one surprisingly well kept hand. "I thought you said it had been paid for?" She asked. He didn't say anything, only rolled his eyes at her and left. "What was that abo- oh. Hey wait up!" She snatched for anything she could think of and found the little cigar box on her shelf. The kid had turned around, hardly any further than just out of sight and Jenny mused that he must have been expecting it. A kid used to running errands for tips. She pushed a few heavy coins into his hand, fifty cents prices, with an apology that she didn't know if they'd have any real value or not. It didn't seem to matter much to him, and he took them with no word of thanks. The coffee had come black, and Cheena hated it. Atomos wasn't too partial to black coffee either, but she drank it down nevertheless. A little sugar added, which Cheena was all too eager with, and it became a bit more palatable. 'What it really needs,' Jenny thought, 'is cream.'

That thought got her moving. She was on vacation, but there was still a bit of business to do. Scouting this Hoyt guys place, and a bit of bonding with Cherise. Jennifer wanted to get into it as casually as possible, just a plain old walk between two people. Neither of them was a mutant and neither of them had committed atrocities in the name of the survivors nemesis. When she got to the foyer though, she almost lost it. If Cherise wanted to make as generic an impression as possible, she was doing it the complete wrong way.

"You're a bit overdressed aren't you?" Jenny asked, adjusting the strap on her rifle so it wouldn't slip. Cherise glared at her incredulously, letting a little contempt slip into that look before forcing it away.

"Aren't you a bit under dressed?" She shot back. Jennifer actually looked down at herself and had to strongly disagree. If anything, she was also overdressed. Snakeskin overcoat, messenger bag filled with equipment, and a harness with all her gear strapped to it or stashed away in the various pouches and pockets. By contrast though, Cherise had come to this "interview" clad in some kind of pre-cataclysm light power armor that Jennifer couldn't identify. All buffed metal plates, military grade weave, and actuated joints fitted over Cherise's muscular body in such a way that made it seem like most of her mass was in the armor alone.

"We're both overdressed!" Jennifer laughed, seeing the looks people were giving both of them. Again, Cherise sneered but Jenny waved at the sneer. "This is just supposed to be a look around. We aren't riding out to raid or something. C'mon, we've got plenty of time to dress down a bit. Go get some actual clothes on."

"I can't." Cherise said exasperated, "the clothes I wore yesterday are all I have and they're filthy."

"You didn't bring any other clothes?"

"It was either the mark seven or an acceptable wardrobe. Sorry." Cherise shot back. The "sorry" sounded more than a little sarcastic. "It's the only one of it's kind and I wasn't going to leave it where er... They could keep it." Jennifer had to think about that for a moment. It wasn't great, but having spent time in New Bangor, she could guess. She just wondered if the rest of the armor had been left behind, or if Cherise had never had it in the first place. Jenny shook her head.

"Okay... When we get back though, I'm getting you some clothes of your own. Let's just get going alright?"
I'm really just a sexy skeleton in a suit.
Fingering techniques are very important
Quote from: Six
Using guns while sober? Sounds like you're a coward.
Yes, little hats for every noodle.
Everyone is forks it seems.
"Everything is fucked forever, and ever, and ever." -Forrest 2016


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Re: CDDA: Adventures in Cataclysm
« Reply #5137 on: Today at 01:41:02 am »
Foster had woken up early in the morning and made himself coffee in the mess halls kitchen. Even this early in the morning he had company in the kitchen as Alice prepared some eggs and hashbrowns for the morning meal they’d serve. Looking over at her unexpected guest she gave him a smile and said “Howdy. Glad to see y’all are sticking around even if just for a day.”

Foster nodded to her as he waited for the coffee to brew. He’d set his percolator, one of the few things he’d kept with him that wasn’t an absolute necessity, on a burner and was letting it work while he tried to wake up without a dose of caffeine. As such his response was a somewhat slurred “Morning. Glad to be here.”

Alice pretended she didn’t notice the absolute monotone in Foster’s voice as she peeked through the window between the kitchen and the mess hall. A few mislings were starting to file in and wait for the meal to be served. “You really need that morning coffee don’t you?”

Foster nodded in response, adjusting his glasses to ensure they were properly covering his eyes, and said “Coffee is just about the only vice I have. Work got me hooked on the stuff with numerous late nights. Nowadays I just feel..sluggish before my morning cup or two.”

Pouring his coffee into a thermos Foster set the percolator to the side. Taking a drink from his thermos Foster started for the door. Soon he found himself walking through Walkerville with purpose.

Thanks to some direction Foster made his way to the man in charge of getting things built around here. “A pleasure to meet you sir. I’ve been told you’re the one to talk to about getting myself a place to properly live.”

The misling shrugged as the pair walked and inspected the remaining build sites. “I ‘spose I am. I can getcha a place built but it isn’t free. You’ll have to sign me an IOU though on account of there not being a system of currency in place.”

Foster described what he was looking for and the pair came to an agreement. There would be enough space for him to assemble a lab, both TJ and himself could have rooms, and with his specifications he would be able to dig himself a basement in time. With the specifications out of the way he signed the IOU.

TJ meanwhile woke up when the morning crowd started getting a bit rowdy. They were all discussing their plans for the day from what he could hear. Granted it was mostly the construction crews shouting to each other to about what jobs they had for the day.

Nothing that really interested TJ if he were honest so he decided to go outside for a while. Soon he found himself making his way to the forge having grown curious about the noise coming from the place. Not particularly wanting to draw attention to himself or wanting to interrupt whoever was at work TJ decided to watch from a distance instead of bothering them.

Charles had met with Sev3n during the night, slept at the radio station for a handful of hours, and was now nearly home again. The backpack he was carrying with him contained a computer and a small cylindrical drive that contained what he’d traveled all that way for. Setting it down near the forge at the Hall Charles retrieved everything else he would need.

He had already prepared the parts, now it was down to assembly. The armor itself all slotted into place perfectly. He had after all been trained to make it so. Connecting the electronics and hydraulics of the chest piece and arms was somewhat more difficult. Then attaching the batteries in the proper slot and integrating a port for the drive took some time.

Then came the time to attach the mechanical arm to the back. It resembled some older bits of machinery, a basic system that allowed it to rotate at three different joints and a ‘hand’ that consisted of three ‘fingers’. By the time that was installed the others were stirring in the barracks.

Sliding the drive into place and twisting it to lock it in Charles waited. A minute later and the armor lit up and the arm attached to the back jerked upright. Smiling Charles tapped the earpiece he was wearing and said “Hello Maddy, I’m Charles.”

The arm turned to face him, the optic built into it focusing on his face. Giving a friendly wave Charles waited for her to say something. That came after a couple minutes processing when she imitated the wave and said “Hello Charles. I am Maddy.”

Walking over Charles recalled Seven telling him it would take some time for Maddy to fully ‘form’. Kind of like an accelerated process of a child developing a personality. Picking up the helmet Charles slid it on and watched as Maddy played with the heads up display. “Having fun are we? Well so long as you learn how to actually run it I don’t care.”

Maddy gave him an exaggerated sigh as he walked over to his work table and retrieved an old knife. As he began practicing throwing the two talked about various minor things. As the others started to emerge Maddy turned her eye to observe them as Charles explained who they were.