Upon the Beach
Her feet are slowly engulfed by the damp sand at the shore-line. Ragged gasps come from soft lips as the warmth of the feline saliva enthuses the muscles with it's feral healing. And causing her to bite down upon her lip as she feels her body become liquid. Dropping to her knees, a wave breaks against her thighs and she regains her sensibility. She looks up to the lion-headed man, her cheeks flushed with embarrassment she quirks an eyebrow at the lack of pain or injury.
"I accept your challenge!" she forces her voice not to quiver, as she now feels exhilarated. "This is no toy, it's precious." she places the silver pistol in the folds of the borrowed dress.
"The terms, who do we fight?" she gracefully finds her feet. "The riflemen, or another construct?"
|Professor Alessandra Devries|
"She's not as big as she looks." says Cassie putting out her hand to stroke the dragons sparkling scales. "She likes shiny things."
Alessandra offers the curious blue creature a smile, "Ah, don't we all! I just... I don't... are you really a dragon?!"
"Alessandra, I think your lover is, and will be, alright... As will you. For this, I am glad. I must say, though... I put much trust in you tonight, perhaps trust undeserved. I am unsure how far you might have gone for the sake of such passion, how much your hands may have been bloodied. You did not come forward at my urging, I know this, but remained silent up until his life was threatened, as he threatened ours. I know others, they admire your love... but me... I put much trust in you, and it was spent. I have my eyes on both of you... I yet care for you both, and do not want you to come to harm, whether death or even pain. But if there is so much of a whisper of his taking the bounty on any of us, so much as a thought on the verge of becoming substance, anything that extinguishes the tiny flicker of trust that remains... well..." The feline looks off and starts to the exit of the ship, "I won't care so much anymore."
Alessandra is comforted at first as the diminutive duchess pads over and says her piece, but quickly put on the defensive as it turns into a threat, be it ever so kindly worded. "Your trust was spent on keeping a dozen fractious aristocrats from each other's throats until we could figure out who was truly to blame. I was walking on eggshells the whole time, afraid that one wrong word would doom me or leave someone dead! In her agitation at having to defend herself again she draws too deep a breath and doubles over in a shudder of pain. It's a moment before she continues, and she sounds hurt and tired. "Do you really think Jin came here for the bounty? We've no more interest in the bounty than we do in the oil fields. Please, just leave us be." Cats. She'd never gotten along well with them, and she was sure there was more to it than the hair that got on everything and the way they were always demanding attention when all you wanted to do was finish another dress... no, they always seemed to know.
For a little while after Meowselsworth leaves, the dock is quiet. The faint sounds of the ocean, of occasional gusting winds, and the creaking and groaning of the ruined ships are the only noise- it's almost restful. Then gunfire erupts from elsewhere on the estate. Jin's eyelids flutter open at the sound and he looks around and groans. "What... where... ah, you're safe..." With a faint smile on his lips he closes his eyes again but then they flicker open again "Damn, it's taking a long time for this stuff to wear off, I'm going to have to be more careful with the next batch."
"W-what? What do you mean?" Alessandra runs a hand across his forehead, clearly concerned that he's caught in some sort of fever delusion.
"An activated turpene extract from Chlorodesmis fastigiata... I was bleeding... couldn't breathe... needed something to put me under for a while. Had to guess, couldn't see my hands, couldn't feel my fingers... guess I used a bit too much. His mind is still foggy and he forgets what he was originally going to say until another exchange of gunfire is heard. Pulse rifles... this is shaping up to be a hell of a night. What happened to the others? Are they... are we the only ones left?" Alessandra's answer is interrupted by a familiar booming voice-
"RANDOM CHANCE DID NOT BRING YOU TO MY ISLAND, AND YOU DARE TO THINK THAT YOU CAN STOP MY PLANS? YOU PALTRY FEW? YOU THINK DESTROYING MY REPLICAS WILL SOMEHOW HALT THE STORM? YOU THINK YOU CAN ESCAPE YOUR PASTS BY ESCAPING ME?"
Jin looks around for the source of the Baron's voice, but isn't strong enough yet to rise. Alessandra goes pale as she sees the things rise from the sea. It takes a moment for the import of the Baron's message to reach her. Replicas. More than one. It must be worse than the masons had thought when they'd sent her...
"Yap, yap, yap, like squeaky squirrels. Squirrels are for meat."And the annoyed dragon grinned, showing all of her teeth and swelled. Blue mist crackling outward with energy as she shimmered and broke form. Swirling like a thousand blue will-o-wisps in the fog before the massive dragon coalesced at full size. Flames brewing behind grinning teeth as her tail lashed through the air now quite a distance above the ground.
This night was so full of wonders and terrors that it was making her head spin. And was that... was that an ornithopter zipping into the fray?
Wherever they went, they couldn't stay here. The dock was bare and exposed, with glaring lights illuminating every nook and cranny of the wide open space. Alessandra wraps the blanket around her like a toga and, grunting from the effort and wincing in pain, lifts Jin into a fireman's carry as she staggers toward the estate's interior. She passes Vorian running the other way, dashing past her in a desperate sprint for his ship. She's not sure if he's running to the ship or away from something else... but in the end it doesn't matter. The dock is doomed if any of those giants approach and there would be nowhere to hide. Slim as it was, there was hope inside the manor.
He grinned, and leapt down, a great, tawny cat, shaking his mane as he roared a challenge, then growled the question he must, by law, ask
She slows as an oddly familiar feeling pricks at the back of her neck, then staggers and stops as the great roar echoes down the hall from the ballroom. That feeling... impossible. Especially here. She suddenly found it very prudent not to enter the ballroom. She pulled Jin into an alcove and held him close, and tried to maker herself very small as the sounds of gunfire and explosions and angry dragons and other terrible noises of combat poured in from every direction.
Upon the Beach
Gahiji makes no effort to assist Cassie to rise, chuckling as she accepts the challenge. "Riflemen?" The great cat's ears swivel and he nods. "Ah, yes. Pulse rifles. I had not noticed in the excitement."
A deep breath swells his chest as his head shimmers and flows into that of a normal man, a man who puts a finger under Cassie's chin and tilts her face to his. He smiles down at her. "You are feeling better now? Good. I want no excuses when you fail. And to that end, I will allow you to choose our prey. I will also remain in this form, if it pleases you." His face is indistinct in the moonlight, but his eyes shine with a faint golden luminiescence as they stare into hers.
|General Eldon Gorski|
Eldon tears through the remains of the ship, the hold still in one piece as he expected. Reaching his private quarters, he began tearing apart the desk. Eldon has always been prepared, it was the way of things for him when he was younger, and had saved him several times.
The top of the desk removed, the side panels taken off, a small arsenal of weapons lays out before him. "People like those fancy pulse rifles, mass-produced pieces of garbage. Now these are weapons!" Each one a custom piece, he had transported this collection for years, cleaning and polishing in his spare time. There wasn't much ammunition sadly, only so much room available. He strapped two of the pistols onto his belt and loaded the one rifle in the collection. Finally he takes the centerpiece of the collection. The weapon was designed to launch an explosive shell at a high velocity, penetrate heavy armor before detonating. Only three had been made, considered obsolete at the time of their manufacture. Eldon understood why, other weapons were capable of greater damage output, or cheaper to make. Some even safer. But he had managed to get ahold of one. And six of the shells for it. He wanted to save it for a special occasion, and this was about as special as it would get.
Reaching in, he retrieved another useful item, and old set of two-way radios. The frequency it used wasn't used much anymore, so there was a chance Ryuko couldn't listen in on it. At least that was his hope. Stashing them on his person he begins to close the lid when he notices one of his collection was missing. At that moment he heard it, the sound of a gun being cocked. Eldon tries to look non-chalant, continuing putting things away, before turning, drawing his own weapon as he does, and taking his shot....
Life's a Beach
Cassie looks to the shining eyes, letting him tilt her chin. Her lips quirk into a soft adoring smile; 'I need all the advantages I can get. There's no way I can kill one of these giants, it took my 'trick' bullet to even put a dent in it. He will not get his hat-trick.' she thinks quickly. 'I keep him in this form and he has no weapons.'
"Yes, that would be suitable." her eyes flick down taking in his strong features, trying to place them. "I don't offer excuses, I excel. Now we will hunt those that hurt and hunt my friends, I am a protector." She spins away from him, with a pat on his rump to spur him on she starts running. Her white dress faintly translucent with the water. She runs up the beach towards the garden, trying to put away the ignominy of the contest so far whilst helping friends.
As the moments pass, massive billows of steam pour out from the Virago’s sides as its cooling systems discharge the heat produced when the Answerer had fired. Slowly but surely, red-hot barrel of the menacing turret cooled, returning to its steely gray color. The men on board the ship scrambled about, making desperate bids to repair any equipment vital to its operation. All the while, Vorian waited anxiously on the observation deck, wary of an imminent attack from another giant. If one got even remotely close to them, they would surely be done for. But the attack never came.
Rather, reports began to circulate indicating that several of the other giants had already been felled. Initially surprised by the news, Vorian settles into a triumphant smile. So Von Ryuko was not the only one who had underestimated them. For the second time tonight, I feel like we have something worth toasting to. Despite the Baron's machinations, it seemed as though they had triumphed once again. Believing the opportunity to be ripe, Vorian looks to the communications officer on board.
"Open a communications link to the League. It's time that we tell them of Von Ryuko's treachery on this night!" Nodding in affirmation, the officer tends to the console before him, turning a number of knobs. Despite what was no doubt a long proximity from the nearest League telecom station, Vorian was confident that the Virago's dish would be powerful enough to send the signal. Any moment now...
"That will not be necessary, Lord Vorian Ritter. The League is already well aware of what has conspired here," a deep, grumbling voice says, clearly audible to all in the bridge. Shocked by the sudden intrusion, before he can even look to the speaker, a sharp sound rips through the air, followed by a thud. His eyes widening, Vorian looks to the comm officer, who was now slumped over the console, three spikes protruding from the back of his head. Gritting his teeth, Vorian looks to the entrance of the bridge.
"You made it so easy for us, firing that cannon," the thickly accented voice says, as the sound of footsteps becomes clear, "All of that steam made for the perfect smokescreen."
As the man enters the room, Vorian takes note of his uniform, all too distinct. A perpetual smirk seemed to occupy his grizzled facade, as his hawk-like eyes stared right at him with a piercing gaze. In his hand was a strange-looking firearm, which Vorian quickly recognized as a flechette pistol. Several similarly uniformed men quickly filled the room, aiming their rifles at the other members of the bridge crew.
Vorian backs against the observation deck's window, as the man slowly approaches him, making no effort to outright threaten him. What are they doing here? he thinks frantically, glancing at his briefcase, The only way they could be sent is by League authority...! Realizing what this implicated, Vorian's gut clenched.
After awhile of loosening up the giants, Meowselsworth starts to land the ornithopter. "You know, Kittington, I've never actually flown one of these things before. Fortunately, I am not the one who will be sore the next day! Ha! Oh, don't give me that face you would be giving if you were in control of your own body, I'll be ca-a-a-a-a-a-ar-er-er-er-fu-u-u-l!" Indeed, it is a pretty bumpy little ride, the little cat being thrown up and down over and over until she lays on her side. "Well, that nice healthy looking lady who owns this thing should be mighty proud of my flying, why if she could hug me up close to her bo-"
Another hiss of steam from the helmet. "That is quite enough, uncle Stripes!" cries the Duchess, her voice returning to normal. She glances about to make sure that nobody saw her talking to the dead uncle she channelled through her helmet.
Meowselsworth stretches as long as she can, arching her back and wiggling her toes and tail before she becomes more alert, eyes wide. You know, my little kitten, I know how you could be of great help to your friends... why, you've showed how good you are with your helmet, piloting like that and even channeling Stripes. I'm not even sure how you could have done such a thing. Accessing skills, yes, but giving another access to your muscle and sinew? It's impressive, you make a mother proud. But fighting never was your strong suit, my little darling. My sweet Kittington, my eldest kitten. Always a gentle spirit, willing to stand up for your friends even if that just meant standing in front of them and taking your punishment. Even if that means taking a bullet for them. Why don't you let your mother take care of you? Like a mother should? Let me sing those icky monsters a sweet sweet lullaby. Nyan. Nyan. Nyan.
She shakes her head and starts bounding off, mumbling to herself, "I think I have made a miscalculation..."
In the Garden
Cassie puts out her hand gently taking the side-arm from Taraz, whilst making sure if he fires it there is no clear shot to her. She smiles to the scion of the Rorenson fortune, and turns away looking into the dark garden. Hedges and flowerbeds dimly illuminated by the reflected light from the manor house, as the shadows menace and shift.
Keeping off the gravel path Cassie moves forward, crouching low so that the hem of her scarlet skirt brushes the dew soaked grass. She takes point, advancing cautiously ahead of Taraz. 'I need to get out of here, the information is too important. Who freed me though?' she muses.
In the Garden
Cassie raises her hand; stopping suddenly in the soft grass. "I heard a scream, from back there." she points far away behind them her cybernetic ears magnifying the sounds dramatically. "Sounded like a woman from the Near East, Babylonia, Sumeria or Egypt, she shrieked out then it was cut off... abruptly." Cassie grips the pistol tighter and looks to the wastrel inquiringly.
|Taraz the Wastrel|
That was a very specific description, Taraz thinks as he hears Cassie describe the faint sound coming from back and behind them. Even though he could not identify the owner of the vocal distress, he had heard it...despite a normal human lacking such perception. While the mitochondria were active, much of his senses were enhanced greatly. Damn, you uncle. The thought came automatically. Taraz couldn't curse the man enough.
"Then Cassie, let's move along shall we? Andrezi should be closer to the source than we. I believe it may have come from the direction of the tunnel where he and I emerged." Taraz says quietly. He watches Cassie and hopes to determine whether he can trust her. He begins to move back through the garden to where he hopes Andrezi is still alive.
In the Garden
"Shall be to there with haste?" Cassie asks softly. "You have a ship? We need to be away from here before Von Ryuko launches his.... well lets just say, we need to be away quick." Keeping low to provide a small target she darts across the lawn, sometimes even using her hands to increase her pace. 'Keep low, out of sight! They will kill you!'
She dashes, red dress brushing the ground and looks back to Taraz for a second; "The Lady Massri? Do we think it's her?" she asks.
Leaving the Beach
"Praise indeed." her voice holds a cautious amusement. 'He is deadly, though we play this game - I know not how it'll end. In some ways this is a metaphor for this evening.' She bounds furiously through the garden, long muscular legs eating up the ground whilst remaining quiet and subtle. Stalking closer into the garden she spots movement out of the corner of her eye.
A pale helmeted man; the insignia unfamiliar to her. He spins in her direction raising his rifle, her instincts kick in and within an instant she is within striking distance. Setting her foot upon the lawn, her other leg spins out in a kick using the momentum of the run. Hips delivering the power, her besandled foot connects with his jaw sending his eyes rolling back into his head and pulse rifle too the soft grass.
The white eyed man starts to fall; 'The lion man'll take his throat. I'm not that vicious.' She drops to her knee, the cap connects with his neck and she presses her body weight upon the artery found within. Quickly deprived of oxygen, he loses conciousness for the foreseeable future. Cassie rises to her feet and looks to Gahiji, a smile tripping across her features. Breathing heavily she says hoarsely to Gahiji; "I thank you, that was acceptable."
Cassie scans her memory for anything about the mercenaries:
Name: Ferrus Lupus
Company Motto: "By any means necessary."
Commander: Brigadier Darkov
Weaponry: Pulse Rifles, Hooked Knives, Cerebral grenades (which disrupt the nervous system allowing for capture)
Modus Operandi: They infiltrate and remove problems. Intelligence and acquisitions are also a speciality - including torture. Their fee is considerable; only available to the well-connected and rich - to provide a certain protection for their war-crimes.
Actions taken: The were involved in the sacking of New Pietergrad, where after the heavy bombardment from the Tsar's forces they were the shock troops. The violent and head-handed company rained destruction upon the civilians of the city. The actions that they took caused riots for weeks afterwards.
[for more information, access War-crimes database]
"Nicely done," the big man rumbles, kneeling next to the fallen soldier. He sniffs around the man's face, then swiftly grasps the merc's jaw and the back of his head and twists sharply, violently. There is a bright cracking of bone and thews; the body spasms and is still. "But you left him alive. Sloppy."
He rises to his feet and stands facing Cassie, a bit too close, drops of seawater still clinging to his arms and shoulders and glinting in the moonlight. "That is three for me, though you've performed admirably for a woman. My sister said the Baron had attacked the airships. Are any still operable? We should round up survivors and leave this place, or at least prevent these..." he nudges the body with his toe "... from disabling any that have a hope of flying. Do not fear; I can pilot an airship." The warmth of his body so near hers drives the chill of the night air from Cassie's front, though her borrowed dress is still damp.
Cassie leans into the tall muscular man, the line of he body brushing his softly. With intense eyes she peers into his, a spark of electricity runs where there bodies meet. Softly in her heavily accent she replies; "No, I am never sloppy, or silly. And his life was mine,to give or take...."
Craning her neck to meet his gaze, her breath warm and with a touch of passion she adds. "If you think my attack not worthy, say so. It is not your kill! 2-0 if you wish.... but you don't take anything of mine without permission!"
Blinking her long lashes; "I have fixed Lady Rashida's ship, the engine only purrs under my practised fingers. I don't fear and certainly not from you!"
"We will not take off, until all the guest that wish to leave can. I protect, I protect my honour." she says with a slight quirk to her soft lips at the double-entendre.
Cassie shivers slightly as her hand is encircled by the thick hand of the man. A jolt of a apprehension runs through her body; 'He's very powerful, first the dragon now him. Why does everyone want to eat me?' She starts forward through the soft ground, her sudden movement takes pulls at his arm for a second before he naturally responds. Gahiji's movements fluid as the dancers follow seamlessly, as they move across the ground in sync.
"If my sister told you Ament was hers, she lied. It is ours and I have more right to it than she. And of course it will not run without an engine. It has one. Now cease this bickering and let us leave. Von Ryuko grows more distant by the minute, and other traps may be laid in this place. It is pointless to remain. But if you wish to do so, that is your choice - though a waste of your blood."
Gahiji tears his hand from Cassie's and diverts slightly, running for the airships.
Her hand stings - rubbed raw - she follows after him; barely keeping apace with him. "Sister...?!" she gasps shocked. 'HOLY MOLY! They are so different, I thought him to be Meowselsworth's brother, he has a feline arrogance.'
"You cannot leave me! Run off on the ship and leave your sister. I knew you were strong, but not a coward." Cassies words are torn from her throat speaking recklessly with the revelation. "The Ament will not leave without my command!"
The man stop suddenly and turns on Cassie. "You.. you repaired the engine and put some sort of security mechanism on it? Then I need you to come with me, don't I? Why would I care about leaving the others? They are no concern of mine. You even said other ships are airworthy. And do you not think the rest of the nobles you value so highly are making their way to the ships, escape foremost on their minds?" An arm shoots out, black against the darkness, pointing towards the desolate airfield. "The remaining giants will converge there soon, little fool, then none will be able to fly. Forget the hunters in the dark. We must protect the ships or leave this place now!"
He grabs her arm, sliding his strong hand down to grasp hers. "Come destroy the giants with me, huntress, then we can go." With a jerk that nearly dislocates her shoulder again, he jolts back into motion, dragging Cassie with him until she finds her stride and matches him. "Your taunt of cowardice means nothing to me, little one. My sister's life is her own. She can protect it if she chooses -- or not. I do not care. You I need, and could even like. You have more spirit than she." His tireless legs propel them through the night and the brush, branches whipping them and tangling vines trying to trip them in their flight.
Putting the familiar pain in her arm away she moves onwards, through the dark night. Whilst the branches whip at the large man, whom ignores their sting, Cassie spins and leaps. Her body gracefully bending and dodging, without even any thought it seems to be where the obstacles are not. 'He could even like me!?!' Cassies thoughts are confused even if her body is not.
"I wouldn't booby-trap your engine, however it is mine. Inside your ship." She gasps, keeping up with the powerful man. "We hunt the giants now." suddenly the yielding loam hardens into the concrete of the docks and before them are the forms of the sleeping giant...the airships.
Stood there proud is Ritters large ship, the pallid monstrosity approaching it arms outstretched to tear apart the battleship. Cassie realising the angry Massri has her pistol arm cross-draws her weapon. 'I cannot kill it from her with my sinister hand, I can however....' she flicks a switch and then fires. The bullet's ballistic arc is too high and poorly aimed, however this is Cassies plan. Her eyes mist over, so that there is only a pin-prick of black and she calls upon the spirits. Those that have been taken by the pistol; those that have pledged themselves to her family....
The bullet explodes with a hoary light. A massive explosion even by the gargantuan scales of the vista. The giant and those watching close by are momentarily blinded, with the undead creature taking most of the blast, sprockets and oil pouring down it - injured but not dead.
'There everyone should have heard that and know to come to the ships.'
"By Ritters ship, figures." Cassie gasps.
”You are Brigadier Rabek Darkov,” Vorian says slowly, attempting to buy time to think. The longer he kept the man talking, the longer he could stay alive. “If you are here, then you must be on the payroll of someone in the League. So who sent you? House Ajani? Blackmoor? Veritas?” He listed but a few of his most powerful enemies, aristocrats of high nobility whom he had swindled or outright stolen from. Even as he named them however, it was already less than likely that somebody had hired Ferrus Lupus just to kill him – an assassin would have been sufficient for that much. Whoever hired them wanted a massacre.
“Ah, I see that my reputation precedes me. But come now, Lord Ritter. You are well aware of the folly in what you ask. It would be terribly unprofessional of me to expose my employer’s identity,” Darkov says, grinning wolfishly, ”However, I can assure you that this is nothing personal. In fact, I find that I have come to respect you and the others – I was certain that all aristocrats were spineless cowards, but I was clearly mistaken.” Turning, he takes a few steps away from Vorian, before spreading his arms out. “But alas, all things must come to an end. None of you will live to see sunrise!”
Good, he’s a talker, Vorian thinks, not allowing his relief to show. It was a wonder that the man had not simply killed him on the spot. Instead, Darkov left things to chance. He had heard of the ruthless mercenary leader many times, but he had never imagined that he would be a romantic. “That’s all well and good Brigadier, but if that is the case, why am I still alive?”
Smiling, Darkov quickly strides up to Vorian and leans in, before speaking into his ear with a harsh whisper. “Careful, Lord Ritter. This wolf likes to play with its food.”
Vorian suppresses a shudder, when suddenly a bright flash pours through the window, accompanied by a rather large explosion that seems to shake the entire ship. Everybody in the room shields their eyes, blinded by bright light – however fortunately, Vorian’s attention had been in the opposite direction. He would not have another chance to act. Seeing his opening, Vorian reaches for the suitcase and moves forward, swinging it to his side with both hands. Running forward, the large case slams against the blinded Darkov, sending him staggering to the side by a few feet. More than enough time for him to make a run for it.
Suitcase in hand, Vorian dodges past a pair of blinded soldiers and out the exit, dashing down the hall as quickly as possible. It pained him to abandon his crew, but he could not afford to die. Not yet at least. Gritting his teeth, he moves on, already hearing angrily shouted orders echoing behind him.
In the Garden
'Yes, get out of the garden. I don't want to fight and if Taraz were to find out what I was...' Cassie thinks as she moves quickly avoiding the grave paths. As she moves closer to the tunnels, they notice pale bodies lying upon the grass. The forms are still, with no seeming laser marks or lost limbs. "Andrezi?" says Taraz questioning as they move quickly the shadows. 'I have to move fast keep moving, if he analyses it too much the paranoid Rorenson's Scion will identify me.'
Cassie finds the tunnels entrance; moving into it the spirit-lamps start to wink open. She kicks her leg high as if to bar his way, her dress riding up her thigh. "You'd better keep close to me, who knows what's down here." she says with a flirty wink. With a spin she starts off down the tunnels daring Taraz. 'There if we can concentrate his mind on other things.'
In the Garden
As Cassie and Taraz move into the tunnels, there comes a sudden bellow from ahead, as from a man in terror or pain. It crescendos to a scream, a scream that can scarcely be credited as originating within a human throat, as there is a flash of light barely within the range of vision, an odd, echoing, tearing sound, and a savage animal roar. The roar and the scream cut off abruptly, leaving dead silence ringing through the tunnel.
Upon the Airfield
"Come On, we have to take advantage of my opening." she rushes forward towards the construct. It's hands claw at his eyes, ripping great big rends across it's face. Dark viscous fluids roll down it's face and the ragged tears show cogs, metal and bone underneath.
Cassie darts forward, shooting at the giants knee. Once, twice and thrice. The cluster of shots grouped so tightly as to penetrate the heavy tissue of the knee just under the knee-cap, kicking off her shoes she dives onto the leg that she shot. Her manicured nails finding purchase upon the dead flesh she pulls herself up the long heavy limbs.
As she gets to the damaged knee she wraps her legs around the trunk of the constructs limb. Thus having her hands freed up she sticks her hands deep into the dead flesh and machinery...
A pulse rifle shot blindly fired whizzes by her, the guards by Vorians' Virago fire wildly - knowing that something is up. Cassie with an increased sense of urgency rips out wires and pulls at a pneumatic piston. Quickly she removes a bunch of wires; identifying them she strips and puts them together. A spark erupts and Cassie is thrown back-wards nearly knocking her upside down as the flailing Giants leg buckles.
He falls slowly to the floor.
After leaving the intact Ornithopter behind, Meowselsworth has run off in search of others. She sniffs lightly at the air, and then starts bounding off in search of Vorian, as he has the closest scent. I swear, trying to keep tabs on everyone is as futile as herding cats. Probably more futile, as I would quite like to be herded into uniting at this time...
She peers at the entrance to the Virago, idly wondering how okay it is to sneak upon someone else's private property. The thought is quickly dismissed, however, as most people don't mind cats sneaking wherever they please, and have even come to expect it. And so, she hops onto the ship and starts trying to hunt Vorian down.
Hunt him down? What an odd turn of phrase, my little Kittington... What are these people to you, anyways? When you turn your tail to them, they likely forget about you. To them, you are likely just a stupid cat, with a few tricks perhaps, but dumb and cute and not worth a second glance. Still, I will help you, my little daughter... if you would just let me.
"I only meant to find him, not a true hunt. I wish there was some way to separate your mind from your madness, mother. You used to be someone to look up to..." says the Duchess, running forth, even as Vorian escapes from Rabek Darkov.
"Vorian!" she shouts in surprised greeting.
The Massri man gives a bellow of surprise and pain, releasing Cassie's hand to cover his dazzled eyes. As he shakes his head to clear his vision, a flowing mane sprouts, his body becomes covered with tawny fur, and he drops to all fours, a lion once again, form bathed in a blood-red glow for a moment as he changes. He bounds off in the direction of the airships, ignoring the giant as Cassie tears into it and focusing instead on the pulse-rifle-bearing mercs scattering near Vorian's ship.
He roars in fury as a shot connects, cooking and tearing a hole through one flank. He leaps at the man who shot him, front paws clapping together with tremendous strength to shatter the man's head. He spins to face the rest of the squad, but they are withdrawing, some retreating and firing as they go, others flat running, all spattered with the remnants of their fellow. The fleeing men attract the big cat's attention and he dashes in pursuit, pulling them down screaming as they flee.
The wound in his flank seems to close up and heal swiftly, but more shots strike home and are beginning to take their toll as the great cats slows, struggling to take down his next victim. The mercs move to press their advantage, forming up to pursue, their shots more controlled and precise, until the squad leader shouts a warning. The toppling giant scatters them as it thuds to the field in their midst. They regroup quickly, but the only trace of their foe is hideous screams in the darkness of the garden as the cat finds its latest prey.
As the giant unbalances, Cassie's grip tightens but she arches her back as she loses her equilibrium. Thus ending upside down, silky hair streaming below her Cassie rides the construct to the ground. Just before it hits the hard concrete deck she kicks away from the creature tumbling onto the floor.
The Frenchwoman's landing is not as she would like and she stumbles as her unshod feet hit the deck. Quickly she moves into the group of pulse-riflemen, a quick kick to the first man's groins, a spinning back fist to the second turns into a round-house kick with the balancing leg from the first kick. In one fluid movement the trio are on the floor recovering, whilst the dancer has spun off the nearest patch of darkness.
Rushing up the gang-plank Cassie reorganises her clothing, flitting through the dark corridor whilst drawing her pistol.
Vorian bounds through the ship's passages, frantically hauling his suitcase over his shoulder. Strangely, they prove to be devoid of soldiers, much to his relief. His heart pounding, he allows his pace to slow considerably, giving himself a chance to rest. Where did the rest of them go? he thinks as he breathes heavily, looking over his shoulder. Did they even bother coming after me? As he ponders the situation, a thought suddenly occurs to him. When he looks forward again he halts abruptly, almost dropping the suitcase.
"Duchess!" he exclaims, surprised to see the feline on his ship, "What are you doing...? No, don't answer that." Panting heavily, he puts down the case and kneels down beside the cat. "The Ferrus Lupus has infiltrated the bridge... I believe they're going to use the main gun to disable, er, destroy the other airworthy ships." It was the only thing he could think of that made sense - he wasn't a particularly worthwhile hostage, but his ship did happen to have a rather large gun. Having caught his breath, Vorian looks to Meowselsworth and frowns. "Where is Madam DuSollier and the others?"
Cassie walks through the passageways, but doesn't get far before she sees a guard left behind. His pulse rifle swings towards her, but in the close confines it takes a split second to long as she kicks the barrel away a it fires - ripping a hole in a section of wall. Her other leg flies over the barrel into the soldiers face, in a perfect scissor kick, his head flies back and he pole-axes boneless to the floor.
Realising that anyone might have heard the shot, Cassie climbs to the ceiling where she braces herself to drop on anyone investigating.
"I am trying to figure that out myself," says Meowselsworth to Vorian, sighing softly, "I just want everyone to get together. Last I saw Lady DuSollier, she jumped out of the pilot's side of an ornithopter. I think she is yet okay. I know she is yet alive... we all are and..."
Her ears suddenly fold back (the mechanical ears on her helmet following suit), "You said Ferrus Lupus? Why are they going to do that, wouldn't they be... why are they here?! Tell me, is there a frequency that I can connect to your ship with? We cannot let them succeed!"
Vorian listens to the Duchess intently, refraining from asking where she and Cassie had managed to obtain an ornithopter. Or what they were doing with it, for that matter. Mulling over her questions, he decides to address the last one.
"Yes, there is a master control frequency, but..." That would give her control of the entire ship. Locks, weapons, flight systems, everything! I know the situation is dire, but can I really... "...could you really patch into it?" he settles on asking, looking to her helmet. Was the small device really all that powerful? With a sigh, he recites the long string of numbers from memory.
"...dash seventy-four. That should be all of it, it'll link you directly to the command system." Vorian then turns his head towards the hall he passed through earlier, frowning. "Damn, it looks like they're finally catching up. Can you tap into the frequency on the run?" Waiting for a reply, he would get a move on, hoping to get off the ship as quickly as possible.
In the Ship
Cassie braces herself against the ceiling, waiting for someone to come after being alerted by the unconcious man's rifle-shot. The seconds tick by...
She focusses her mind; reaching out to taunt the vanished shapeshifter. She imagines Rashida, adds in the arrogance, cruelty and strength with an unlying masculinity; "6-5 to me I think, ♥, ha-ha and Vorian's Virago is a target rich environment. I think I'll win this one!" she taunts trying to take her mind off the build up of tension and pain. ...
Her arms and thighs burn as the lactic acid builds up...
The muscles in her stomach and arms begin to cramp, still no-one comes...
Twitching her grip slips in her left arm and Cassie falls to the floor. She lands softly on the floor, cushioning the fall with her arms. Crouched on the floor just as Vorian and Duchess Meowselsworth come around the corner. "Hello." she breathes heavily as she stands.
When Vorian asks if she could really patch into it, the Duchess says, "I can try..." And once the stream of numbers finishes being spoken, the Duchess Kittington von Meowselsworth's helmet starts whirring and clicking, letting out a couple of bursts of steam. "And yes, I think I can try this on the run..." The feline follows on Vorian's heels, before finding Cassie, "Aha, Lady DuSollier, I am glad you are alright!"
An eyepiece display lowers from her helmet over one eye as she patches into the ship, the helmet still seeming to run hot now that its systems are being taxed. "I'm in."
For a second time Vorian practically leaps out of his skin as someone drops down before him. He poises himself to strike, raising the suitcase, confident that with the help of gravity, he could cave in his attacker's skull... that it is, until he sees who it is.
"Madam DuSollier!" he says, breathing heavily as he drops the case for real. It hits the ground with a reverberating clang, but is otherwise undamaged. Deciding to skip the pleasantries, Vorian addresses her question. "She's tapped into the ship's command console. The Ferrus Lupus are on the bridge; I believe they're attempting to use the ship's primary weapon to cut off all means of escape from the island. With any luck, the Duchess can lock them out of the system."
"Indeed," says Meowselsworth, "If someone could please pick me up, I would much appreciate that. I shall be extending my mind into the ship, and I don't think I will have the resources available to run my own limbs, or else I might boil my brain... Besides which, I enjoy the attention." The little feline's helmet continues to whirr and click as she runs it. "I will let them think they are in control, but I will be aiming your gun at our enemy monstrosities. I am rerouting the display through other cameras for them, to confuse them... It will buy us extra time. Voice protocols, offline. Limb protocols, offline." With the last two, Meowselsworth says, "Mrow." She wants to be picked up.
Wouldn't it be a shame, Kittington, if this overtaxed your systems so much you lost control of your own helmet? Too late to turn back now, isn't it?
Vorian hesitates briefly before carefully scooping the motionless Duchess up in his arms, holding her against his chest. As the machinery in her helmet starts to whirr, he casts a wary glance at it, having no knowledge of the particulars of helmet-cat technology. He contemplates the finer points of her plan, admiring its ingenuity. He had been very fortunate to run into her when he had. Several moments pass before he realizes that he has been petting Meowselsworth.
"I don't know how powerful her transmitter is," he says, turning to Cassie, "Should we stay on board?"
Smiling as the cute cat is hoisted into Vorians arms, Cassie answers; "Yes, I've called in back-up. Though if the arrogant... arrives who knows." Cassie gently caresses her healed side unconciously.
"If we go outside we maybe in the cross-fire of the pulse-rifles and the giants. Plus in here you know the way around." She says kindly to Vorian, giving the Duchess a stroke. "Now, I'll protect you both; it's what I do. We can depart if it gets too hairy in here." She holds up her pistol, sliding down the corridor.
|Taraz the Wastrel|
As Cassie kicks up her leg to block his way, Taraz instinctively reaches out and places a hand on it, ready to fling her if this was an attack. There is an almost imperceptible tremble at his touch on her warm soft skin. As if drawn by a string, Taraz eyes travel up to meet hers. She winks, a flirty smile on her face.
"You'd better keep close to me, who knows what's down...here."
The double entendre comes out softly with a huskiness that promised more than Taraz knew would be granted. As if there was no doubt to what she referred, both Taraz and Cassie looked down towards that place only barely shaded by the fall of her red dress. The angle of her leg on the wall only needed to be raised a little higher if she wanted to Taraz to see...
Cassie has always been such a tease. The thought came unbidden even as the comely young woman twirled away with a laugh and ran light on her feet like the perfect dancer she was.
Taraz paused as memories came to him, and the mitochondria responded. Always the danger of shifting, as senses were heightened, so were emotions and thoughts. He fought the rising tide of physical response to Cassie's playfulness.
At that moment, a man's scream echoed through the now spirit-gas lamp lit tunnel. It helped Taraz focus his thoughts. Nothing like a death cry to bring one back, he thought. Taraz smiled. Then worry replaced it. Cassie had somehow seemed able to discern the previous scream as originating from one who could only be Rashida Massri. Or it could be... Taraz pushed the thought from his mind. One mistake he had made when destroying the laboratory. Only one...
Taraz had a fleeting thought for Andrezi, and he hoped he would see the Russian again. He still owed him for the needle. Even if the man would never remember the reason, Taraz was determined to offer the man a drink.
He hurried down the hall after the French woman. Damn you, Eichorn. Damn you.
The dim light at the end of the dark tunnel proves to be a dark room with light streaming from a nearby hallway. The body of a bronze man clad in a white linen kilt and sandals is crumpled on the floor before a woman limned in flickering gold, a feather in her left hand and her outstretched right hand wrapped in a roiling blue luminescence that appears to drip to the floor. That light fades as Cassie and Taraz enter, and Rashida turns to look at them. "Cassie. Taraz!," she rasps, voice improving as she speaks while terrible red marks on her neck fade.
The light wrapping her body fades as Rashida brings her hands before her waist, staring at them. "I... I destroyed him... it..." she quavers, leaning against the cold wall behind her for support, "It knew..."
Hearing the scream Cassie's movement increases, she seems be starting to enjoy Taraz's attention or at least the indication that her deception was working. Bursting out into the room and the scene of Rashida over the dead body; Cassie stops trying to assess the situation.
'She heals so fast; could she be like me...' Cassie stands there gaping. "He's dead...right?!"
Cassie moves across the floor stood before the pole-axed 'corpse'; "Crap, she knows Cassie." Then she sees the body on the floor, really for the first time. "A robot?" Eyes widening the full-force of mortality strikes her, that rather than being an immortal machine she could be snuffed out in a second. Cassie bends over feeling a contraction in her mid-riff, she looks down to the remains of the droid. He must clearly be an inferior model, but her life could be ended nearly as quick...
"Miss Massri....Rashida; are you alright?" Cassies fingers play over the robotic shell, probing at the base of the neck. Morbid thoughts crossing her brain, as her digits subtly pierce the shell. Cutting into the flesh she locates the secondary connector at the base of the brain stem. With a quick yank she pulls out the memory store. Then finally she looks between Taraz and Rashida and something dawns on her.
|Taraz the Wastrel|
With his heightened senses, Taraz can feel the power emanating from Rashida. It slowly fades, but it was definitely that indescribable feeling that always accompanies magical energy. She looks somewhat distressed, and the urge to run to her, to comfort her, and press her to his chest hits him like a giant corpse-bot's fist. At the same time, seeing Cassie kneeling there, the proximity to her...the mitochondria remembered things about Cassie, and something about the French woman was upsetting them. His feelings and emotional response were magnified, those related to the Massri descendent were greater than the usual. And Cassie was causing memories to surface in addition to a disturbance within himself. He could hear his pulse pounding and dizziness was threatening to make him pass out. His senses were screaming that something was very wrong here. He feels himself staggering, the feeling much like being punched in the forehead.
Head whirling, Taraz intentionally ends the shift. The world comes crashing back to normal speed. The musty smell of the corridor no longer provided in fine detail of how long it's been since the most recent mouse ran through. Taraz could feel the mitochondria's discontent with the abrupt end to access. He knew that was going to be a problem, and he would have to open himself to them until he had a chance to drink. But he could handle the pain for a little while. At least until he had a chance to calm down, and regain control of his thoughts.
"Ah...R-Rashida," Taraz coughs out. "Are you...okay?"
Taraz glances down as Cassie examines the body of a man that is dressed in a familiar style of garb, but with his head still fuzzy, he can't think from where. Ignoring his lack of recognition, Taraz reaches out and tries to place his hand on the stricken Rashida's shoulder. He is not certain if it his vision or his hand that is trembling.
Rashida watches the roomful of light dim to darkness as the divine radiance departs and her eyes become merely human once again. Her brow furrows briefly at Cassie's question, then she becomes more aware of Taraz's condition. Adrenaline pushes away the fog of shock and the sense that something isn't quite right.
Pushing off the wall, she darts inside Taraz's outstretched hand to embrace him, holding him tight in relief and joy if he allows her to. "I looked for you but couldn't find you anywhere, then there was all the collapse down here. I was so afraid you'd been trapped or killed, Taraz. I couldn't go back to the ships, not without finding you." She caresses his name as she speaks, making an endearment of it. "Then I found that thing locked in the corridor and thought it was my brother, but... it wasn't. It tried to kill me. Or he. I'm not sure what to call it. It... it had a soul... before I..."
She feels Taraz trembling and her worry spikes. "Can you get us out of here, Cassie? We need to get you to the Anodyne, Taraz, and get you treated. We left Alessandra and Jin there. I hope the giants have done nothing to it. I fear you won't be on your feet much longer without aid, my beloved." She tries to move next to him, to prop him up if he flags, then looks around. "Cassie, where is the Duchess? Weren't the two of you going to take the ornithopter? Is she well?"
A realisation of the love Taraz and Rashida shares, slowly crosses her synapses. Cassie looks on curious as to how they interact; still shaken by the dawning of her own mortality.
'Get me treated! Oh no, the stupid flesh-Cassie must have been hurt! Well it cannot have been anything with her legs else Lord Rorenson would have picked it up.' The French-woman tenses up as doesn't know what injury to feign. "Oh, I left the Duchess in the Ornithopter. She could fly it...I'm sure. I saw Taraz here and knew how much you wanted to find him." she says smoothly.
"Some of the Brigadier Darkov's men are outside. They want something desperately. We have to leave.... now. Get away from Von Ryuko." her manner is slightly panicked as she rises and moves over to the couple. Subtly she slips the components into the shoulder strap of her dress; securing it with a twist.
Brigadier Darkov? Get away from Von Ryuko? He already departed.
"I hate guns. It was bad enough when Inglestat shot Baron Von Zombi at the ball. And now this? I don't know how you stand those things, Cassie," Rashida says, slight panic in her voice, "How far away from the island do you think we need to get before Von Ryuko will give up pursuit? Our ships are damaged."
Rashida's mind spins. Who is who? Gahiji was Gahiji and yet not. Who is this Cassie who calls me Miss Massri? Taraz seems hurt. I can determine his identity with certainty, but it would take time and I would be vulnerable. This Cassie offers no violence... yet. But I have not seen Meowselsworth. How can a cat fly a 'thopter without thumbs? It's ridiculous. How many replicants are there? But the Baron said they were destroyed... not all, apparently. Do they even know they are constructs? Gigus did not. Gahiji seemed to. Would replica Cassie realize she was not the real Cassie? And if this is not she, where is the real one? And Taraz... not Taraz... she thought with anguish. She could not bear to do to any semblance of Taraz what she had just done to her brother's doppleganger. Simply the thought of it brought tears to her eyes.