|Taraz the Wastrel|
Without warning Taraz throws the bottle straight up into the air. Then he shifts. Not just a little. Full shift. Suddenly the air is thick, as he is having to push the molecules out of the way. They move easily, but he feels it, like a fish would feel swimming in water. The bottle floats overhead lazily.
Taraz jumps up and reaches for Cassie. She reacts instinctively drawing away. So... Taraz's eyes narrow as he observes Cassie move at a speed only slightly slower than him. She's still surprised however as Taraz grabs her, spinning her and her red dress around. Taraz plucks the bottle out of the air and pushes Cassie onto the bed on her back. He falls into the space between her arm and her torso with his bottle hand behind her head as his arm presses in an arc there. His other hand slides...into Cassie's dress! His fingers run along her thigh, a caress of an extremely intimate kind. Cassie can feel an energy passing from his fingers to her body as if he is trying to pass sensation directly to her nervous system.
In the softest of whispers he sings-sings:
"And so the mountaineer finally conquered
the Maiden Peak
then descended to the valley..."
Before reaching there, both Taraz's hand and whisper stop. He seems to be waiting for something.
She's amazing... Vorian thinks, watching as Cassie fends off the approaching mercenaries as though it were effortless. He had seen her incapacitate a few on his ship, but to take on so many at once... I probably wouldn't stand a chance against her. It's fortunate that she's an ally. In spite of his amazement, as requested he shoots the soldiers that attempt to approach her from behind, aiming for the vulnerable spots on their armor. Each of them drops to the ground, dead or dying. The latter folk were the less fortunate - projectiles were needlessly painful.
When it becomes apparent that his cover was becoming more of a hindrance than anything, he looks to a small stack of crates several yards away, closer to where the action was taking place. Grabbing his suitcase, he turns to the Duchess. "I'm going to change position, I can't get a clear shot here. Take cover!" With that he darts out from behind the crates, instantly drawing the attention of the mercenaries. Fortunately, the majority of them were those busy dying by Cassie's hand. Quickly settling into his new sniping position, Vorian continues to pick off the stragglers. Minutes pass.
Just as the battle seems to be won, Vorian sees the lion move to attack Cassie. No! He moves to aim his carbine at the beast, only to see it become something else entirely. A man...? But... For years Vorian had been skeptical of the so-called supernatural, even after the incident in the tomb. But after everything that had happened this night, he found that he could no longer bring himself to be surprised. They had found a dragon, after all. With a sigh he lowers his weapon and considers approaching the pair. Before he can do so however, the man becomes a beast once more, bounding away from Cassie.
As his gaze follows the running lion, realization falls over Vorian's face.
"He's going to the Virago!" he practically shouts to himself breathlessly, realizing not what, but who the man was. As he prepares to follow after him however, a strange shape suddenly darts past his peripheral vision, almost brushing his ear. Distracted by the object, it suddenly pulses, and in an instant, Vorian falls to the ground, every nerve in his body failing to obey his commands. Numb and confused, he writhes on the ground, once again reduced to helplessness.
Cassie lets out a gasp, not just of shock. As she feels the warm body touch hers. A nervous breath slips from her mouth, she forgets everything for a second concentrating on the moment. She leans into his touch; her head moves towards the Lord of the Servo-Bots for a kiss.
Then as the moment passes she realises; 'Oh, did he mean for me to finish the song? ...now it's too late.' Cassie falls back on the bed; lost and devoid of hope. "Rashida, she's not feeling well..." her voice tiny as the emotions run through her system. The man so close to her; almost a robot himself? With a last desperate hope she breathes barely audible; "I know where he is....Von Ryuko."
|Taraz the Wastrel|
As Cassie first responds, the moment seems endless. Cassie's moist lips part as if aching for a reciprocation. But Taraz allows the moment to stretch. As the light of understanding appears in the replica of Cassie's eyes, Taraz knows for sure.
"Fascinating," he murmurs. "You...you're not complete are you? That's why..." Taraz gets a little smile.
When Cassie mentions Rashida, Taraz looks concerned. He can hear the trace of personal distress in her voice and she's emitting a strange odor. Replica pheromones? They were making Taraz think of sex and depression all at once. Very odd...Then his eyes track her sharply as she whispers von Ryuko
Taraz gently stands and finishes the rest of the bottle. Tossing the empty vessel onto the bed he offers his hand to Cassie. If she accepts, Taraz brings her to her feet close, touching close. He peers into her eyes and says, "I want to know why you were made. You help us, and I will protect you."
Then quite unexpectedly, perhaps from the moment or the booze or the pheromones, Taraz kisses Cassie on the mouth. Softly, gently and only for a second. "Come young one, we must see if we can help Rashida. For if you are like your counterpart, you already care for her." Taraz winks and leads Cassie from the room.
"Yes, I'll tell you everything...." Cassie says breathlessly to the departing form of the wastrel. As she moves she realises her energy levels are low, despite the chemicals zipping through her body. Then she follows him down the hall, he mind running through the last few moments. Memorizing them. "We have to get out of here, before they send them....not the mercenaries. Someone much worse."
His plans were in shambles. Radio silence crept into being, the squads he had strategically placed around the island having fell one by one. And to what? Aristocrats. The very idea was foolish, the very notion impossible. How could a band of snobby nobles have outwitted him, the man whose unit had more or less ended the Great War? That had infiltrated the Viceroy's 'impenetrable' sky fortress and put a bullet between his eyes? Everything that had happened made the reputation he had earned nothing more than joke. There was no smile on his face, no smirk; only a visage of undeniable rage.
He was running out of time - he had been given until dawn to get the job done. After that, everything would be done for. Knowledge of the operation would be disavowed. Everybody and everything on the island would be free game for what would come when the sun rose.
"By any means necessary!" he snarls at his troops, his elite guard. It was quite possible that they were the only living Ferrus Lupus left. It would take months to replenish the ranks, but it was of little concern to Darkov now - he had little time to waste. Emerging from the dying cloud of steam, he signals towards the airfield, sending subtle yet specific commands to his men. Kill the cat. Kill Ritter. The woman is mine.
Drawing his flechette pistol, he calls out to her as he strides across the airfield. "Come, Madam DuSollier. I have no more time for games!" The only proper way of doing things was to do them oneself.
"What are those sounds?"
As Whitey moves on forward through the black hallway he listens carefully at very feint sounds muffled by the walls above.
"It almost sounds like gunfire? Why would there be gunfire on the island?"
Whitey continues to ponder on the subject as he moves on. His fingertips start to feel raw from dragging them along the brick walls of the lower compound. It was the only way he could think of to navigate without getting lost. One wrong turn and he might loose his way. and then what would happen? The backup power had still not kicked in yet leaving the entire lower compound in complete darkness.
"No, thats impossible. It has to be something else."
There are corpses strewn about the Virago for Gahiji to come across upon entering the ship. The door closes behind him as he enters. "My my my, a guest so soon... what a foolish dear thing you are... what are you doing here? What are you looking for? This place is mine now... it is all mine until I leave, until I've run out of blood..." whispers the intercom system.
"Or are you foolish, my dear great cat? Tell me why this place should not be your grave?" Off in the distance, down the halls of the ship, there is a hollow cry echoing and then silence, the AI in place using whatever defenses, or even whatever otherwise harmless function that were present before, to make the few still living suffer. A cat likes to play with her prey after all.
"Will you give me an offering of blood and death? Or shall I lap at yours?! I would so like to see a great cat hunt. Show me your power, dear!" There is a laughter that is just on the edge of hearing, whispering through the coms before they go dead again.
Ears twitching, the great lion looks around with more than human intelligence in its eyes, listening to the voice on the speaker. As the insane speech concludes, it pants hard, almost laughing, then shakes like a retriever emerging from the water, splattering the ship's walls with the gore previously hanging from its mane and jaws. It advances warily, sniffing at the parboiled corpses, before rearing on its hind legs, form flowing to a human one, but retaining the lion's head.
"Vorian defends his ship in interesting ways, doesn't he," Rahiji chuckles, "So, good pilot, you have a taste for blood? I can certainly indulge that. Look on yon deck and in the gardens. Much of the blood and gore is my handiwork. Would you like to hear my very favorite thing to do? You would enjoy it, I think. Decapitation is only the first step..."
He crouches over one of the bodies, noting the insignia thereon and turning the man over. Cocking his head, he considers. "You are no friend to Darkov and his boys, I see. Do you wait for Ritter? I believe he has decided to take a different ship. I have use for you, though, and it sounds like you for me, for I can bring you blood... rivers of it. I believe we may be able to strike a deal. I can understand if you are reluctant to meet. I'm willing to negotiate on the coms."
There is a long, silent pause. "Ritter? Who is Ritter? The cripple? This ship belongs to me now! If he tries to take it back, I will grind his bones to dust! I WILL PAINT THE HALLS WITH HIS BLOOD, HIS ENTRAILS THE FIGUREHEAD OF MY GLORIOUS SHIP!" The soft laughing echoes again, before the whisper on the coms returns to its nearly silent level. "I think our interests may be aligned. You sound... delightfully brutal. I am listening... for now, I am listening to you. What would you have of me?"
The Duchess stands back and lets Cassie and Vorian fight. As she has been taunted with previously, she was never one for fighting, always something of a gentle soul. But perhaps that gentleness will be the end of my dear friends?
The feline rubs her feet lightly against the ground and then many of the bells and whistles in her helmet start to go off, two antennae extending out of her helmet, electricity sparking between them, which gets more and more intense until she fires off a bolt. It does little more than a very strong shock, but would at least prevents one of the mercenaries from making a rather opportune shot.
Even at her best, she's not much of a fighter. The feline hides.
Upon the Docks
'The Virago? How does Gahiji know Vorian's ship?' At the mans words as he shifts whilst bounding off; Cassie feels a flutter of nervousness in her stomach. Quickly it's shaken off as the booming voice of Darkov chills her veins.
She turns to him; ""So you want to dance? I love to dance." accenting it with a flick of the hip, hoping to distract him. 'Merde, I have to close the distance. I have no weapons and he has that gun...'
The French dancer makes a decision; she sprints towards him. The pistol retorts missing her by a hair; she shimmies to the right. Darkov sees that she'll mean to go to the left, thus corrects his aim. However her true objective was the wRench laid atop the oil pump. The maintenance oil pumps are large, like regular gasoline pumps but to fill the ships with the vital lubricant.
Lying atop them is a duo of heavy metal wrenches, grabbing the lightest in her primary hand she throws it at the Brigadier with a grunt. His pistol barks, the first misses due to a slight reluctance to aim at the pumps. The second, the barest heart-beat after the first nearly wings her. Whilst as the third, is about to fire aimed for her head the wrench arrives. Smashing the weapon from his grip with the snap of bone.
The wench arrives moments later with a snap kick to his head, adrenaline fuelling her movements. It's only then she realises her mistake as the soldier sneers at the kick. His larger stature and the combat drugs flowing in his blood enable him to match her skill...
The bones in his hand crack as the flechette pistol is knocked out of his grasp, sending the weapon skittering across the ground. Before he can react, the woman’s foot collides with the side of his head, easily carrying enough force to snap a man’s neck. And yet, the bone does not give away. With a sneer he reels back from the impact, taking but an instance to assess the damage to his hand. Salvageable.
The auto injectors in his armor had already done their work, having pumped a potent cocktail of painkillers and performance enhancers into his bloodstream. The chemical treatments that had been applied to his bone structure had done the rest. His heart progressively beating faster and faster as the adrenaline took hold, he takes his stance.
Keen on taking advantage of his dance partner’s proximity, Darkov quickly closes the little distance between them. His uninjured hand outstretched, he strikes out at her abdomen with a heavy palm thrust. Meanwhile, forcibly balling up his injured hand, ignoring the dull pain resonating throughout, he swings out his fist, driving it towards her head. All the while, he remains mindful of those damned legs of hers…
Cassie breath is taken from her as despite tensing her midsection, the impact knocks her back. 'Distance, he has the advantage in close. Those heavy hands.' She barely sees the second fist before it strikes; she just moves enough so that it doesn't cleanly connect. Strands of her head entwine in his fist; however Cassie has to use his own momentum against him and she pulls the wrist into a judo throw.
He tumbles to the floor and rapidly gets to his feet, just enough time for the dancer to compose herself seeing spots at the edge of her vision. As he advances, her long legs sweep out in a low kick aiming to put him on the floor. Only there would she feel she has an advantage.
'Was it a trick? Does he have feelings for her?....My template.' the thoughts are sour in her mind. She walks down the hall quickly catching up with Taraz. As they enter the portal the vista is horrifying, eliciting a scream from Cassies' lips. The Egyptian woman is sweating profusely and sheen covering her honey coloured skin. Then she starts to convulse, a horrific jerking and flailing. Limbs flinging as she starts to gag and her hands smack against the trunk. "She's going into Hypoglycaemic shock, hold her Lord Rorenson." she quickly analyses the scene as using the last of her emergency energy she flees down the hallway.
In Taraz's room she grabs a fluorescent green bottle, cracking the cap it smells sweet and full of promise. Within moments her long legs take her back to Rashida's room, finding the ill lady tightly held in her Loves arms. The liquid pours gratefully down Massri's gullet, calming the shakes. Cassie looks into Taraz's eyes scared, but assures him; "She will be fine, she needs some food!"
|Taraz the Wastrel|
Clutching Rashida to his chest, Taraz allows the mitos to notice her. The proximity to his body allows the mitochondria in his body to sense the disruption in Rashida's electrochemical patterns. Upset about this abnormality, the mitos begin to try and "correct" Rashida's. It wasn't a perfect fix since the mitos would try and stabilize her patterns based on Taraz's biochemistry, but it would slow down any degradation or escalation of the problem.
The replica of Cassie returned. She had brought a sweet wine from his room. Taraz noted without surprise that the Cassie had responded exactly as he anticipated. She was immediately concerned and attempting to help Rashida without thinking. It was obvious to Taraz that the Cassie didn't even realize that she was moving at superhuman speeds. Not too much faster, but fast enough to notice.
As she looked into Taraz's eyes, he was struck by just how similar the replica was to Cassie herself...but yet, so different. It was clear the robot did not have all of Cassie's memories. Perhaps she had been activated prior to full upload, or even her programming was the beta stage before final implementation. Either way, it was apparent there was a difference in her. An innocence that the human Cassie had shed. This being was similar, but was evolving and experiencing the world differently. Despite their physical identical looks, Taraz could see the replica was moving away from being exactly like the one she was meant to emulate. That caused Taraz to smile. Just like the Serv-Bots I have freed.
He translated the smile into acceptance of the replica's reassurance. "Thank you...Cas...hmmm," Taraz started to say. "Well now. I guess we can't keep calling you 'Cassie'. What name would prefer to claim as your own?"
"Name? You'd let me name myself? A different designation?" her voice is shocked and strained. Unused to the exotic experiences, she bites her lip uncertainly. Thinking back over the last evening, ever since she had been awoken - she had experienced so much. Now the man in-front of her was offering her freedom, such warm chocolate eyes. A strong dark mahogany that promises much, so much. She leans in to him, full crimson lips parting slightly for a kiss. Then she realises what she is doing...
Bounding to her feet in agitation, she paces back and forth virtually muttering to herself; "What am I to do. My programming was to survive and be Her" the last said with the vitriol.
Then the façade shatters; her eyes seem to shimmer and her bottom lip wobbles. "I am not able to process this!"
She turns to Taraz, looking at him lost; "How do you cope? These emotions! You're virtually a cyborg, how do you organise these inconsistencies?" Her face slick with tears she looks down to the beautiful woman in Taraz's lap and feels ashamed for what she nearly did.
"My name....my name is...Mimi."
|Taraz the Wastrel|
Taraz watches Mimi the Cassie-replica whirlwind through a number of different emotions. He has to restrain his instinct to kiss that beautiful mouth when its presented to him. Once upon a time turning down such an offer, even while one's lover lay prone and unconscious in his lap, would never have occurred to him. He would have kissed her deeply and enjoyed it. But things were different this time...weren't they? He glanced down at the pretty face and honey brown skin of the woman below.
"How do you cope? These emotions! You're virtually a cyborg, how do you organize these inconsistencies?"
Taraz starts at this comment. Virtually, a cyborg. He breaks eye contact with the distressed bot and his visage darkens. He realizes his training and breeding demand more than wearing his emotions so plain. He quickly smooths his features, and he favors Mimi the Cassiesque robot with a smile.
"Don't worry. Even know we fail to cope with such things. As you get older, you'll learn how we pretend to cope." He reaches out to catch Mimi's hand.
"Do me a favor. Allow me to introduce myself, young Mimi. I am Taraz Rorenson, Lord of Serv-Bots." He gestures to the prone form of Rashida. "This is Rashida of the Massri Clan. Promise me you will help me take care of her. And if you accept, please tell me if she is going to be okay." Taraz looks at Mimi gently hoping his diversion helps calm the excited bot and focuses her attention on something other than her new found predicament.
Her throat and belly burn, the warmth washing throughout her body to bring some steadiness to her limbs and awareness to her foggy mind, hearing the murmur of voices as the light grows brighter through her eyelids.
"More," she chokes, reaching out and helping guide the bottle as it is placed to her lips again, swallowing the restorative eagerly. The warmth on her back and around her seems to steady her shaking, though it felt... strange.
Coughing on the latest dose of wine, Rashida gasps for breath. "Sorry... so sorry... they warned me.... I didn't believe, didn't realize... how bad it would be. Thanks." Brown eyes blink open and try to focus without crossing, seeing a blur of white skin and red dress and auburn hair. "I need food, now. Cassie? Is that you?"
She struggles to sit, wobbling with lack of balance, then begins to laugh weakly, almost helplessly. "It.. it worked! Now they will be sorry..." Her hands fall upon the arms that hold her and she looks down, briefly befuddled until she realizes whose they must be. Her hands slide over Taraz's, caressing, as she turns to look into his eyes, still trying to focus. "He mustn't know. My brother. If we meet him. It's vital. He mustn't take me. We must not go with him, nor he with us. Please, Taraz." She blinks and swallows hard. "I... I need food, desperately, or I will only be a burden to you. We need to hurry. We must get out of here!" Her urgency is unmistakable, despite her weakness.
|Taraz the Wastrel|
Still holding Mimi's hand, Taraz hears Rashida cough. She begins to move around, and Taraz instinctively lets go of Mimi and clutches Rashida in case she is convulsing once more.
When she opens her eyes again, the mysteries of the universe are still in them. Taraz finds himself almost speechless for a second. He doesn't know what she's talking about, but what's more important is that she's alright. And now. Now it was time to leave.
Taraz helps Rashida sit up. When Rashida mentions her brother, Taraz frowns.
"You say that like it should be difficult. Will it be difficult to stop him from boarding the Ament?"
Realizing too late that the Cyborg quip angered him; Mimi chokes back her emotions. His warm hand encircling hers, she felt protected. Even his cynical words showed he had a caring bruised heart. The replicant looks to the prone Goddess (?) as she regains conciousness; quickly letting her finish off the bottle.
The words sting as Rashida calls her Cassie; 'Is that all I'm to be. In her shadow forever?' Then the hands that was holding hers transfers to his lover. Emotions tear through her; despite her not really understanding the family or Clans' complex personal relationships.
Mimi helps her to her feet cradling the woman in powerful arms; "I'll take care of you."
|Taraz the Wastrel|
Rashida struggles to her feet, leaning heavily on Taraz and Mimi, then stands wobbling, holding onto the arms that bolster her. "Is this ship moving? He will..." she frowns slightly, then shakes her head to clear it, blinking up at Taraz a bit more coherently. "That's.. that's strong wine. Whoo. Gahiji must not know that I have exhibited power. Not like what I did to his replica. He... only you know that. If he knows, he will take me back, back to the clan. It would be disastrous. I have so much to explain and no time... Maybe he has his own ship and will not need the Ament. If he tries to come with us.. oh!"
She caresses the little snakes around her wrist, whose gem-bright eyes are fading between bright blue and urgent red. "If he does, I may be able to take him down. We can leave him here. I... I must not kill him." Her eyes wander to Mimi, then narrow and harden. "You must not say anything, either. You... you could ruin everything. You know too much."
A grimace flickers across her face as she looks upon the bot who so resembles her dear friend. She looks down at her right hand, remembering how it had plunged into the Gahiji-bot, tearing its soul from its moorings and weighing... then the other came and the damned soul was no more and the body toppled to the ground, releasing the grasp on her throat as she whooped great restorative breaths.
"You..." Rashida whispers to the replicant, taking a shaky step towards her until they stand face-to-face. "You have a soul..." She holds onto Mimi for support as she gently strokes Mimi's silky hair back from her face, tucking it behind the delicate ear, feeling the warmth of the living flesh that wraps the mechanical core. Her fingertips trail back along Mimi's neck, until she holds the woman by the nape of the neck. She gently pulls Mimi's head forward to meet hers, tilting her own face to bring her mouth to Mimi's ear and whispering softly for a long moment.
Then Rashida's hand loses its grip and slips weakly from Mimi. Rashida sags back against Taraz. "We need to go. There is nothing here I need. It has all been taken. All but myself. That has been found." She looks up into Taraz's face, a joyous smile dawning there. "And I will share it all... all with you."
Nonplussed by the familial talk, Mimi does shiver at the talk of the replicant's death. Then Rashida looks into her eyes; the threat scaring her to the core. 'Such passion, I see what he likes in her. But surely he would be better with someone gentler.'
"I won't say anything. I promised" her voice falters as her hair is softly stroked away from her face. She sighs softly as, Ms Massri starts to whisper into her ear.
Blushing furiously she leads the couple from the room towards the Ball-room. "I'll get you a sandwich!"
Having got all the ingredients together for the Chicken and Lettuce sandwich, Mimi prepares. She draws the knife from it's protective sheathe. Grasping the tool in her firm grip; with a practised motion she draws it back and forth across the crown of the loaf. The teeth gently bite into it with a soft rasping sound. Slowly the bread yields to her expert touch as the rapidity of the motion increases... Until with almost a sigh the slice falls away from the body of the loaf. Mimi looks down satisfied with the results of her efforts.
Placing it upon the counter she tests the bread with the sensitive tips of her fingers. The firmness is perfect as it gives, just enough under her touch, quickly bouncing back and recovering.
Mimi smiles, taking the lid off the butter dish she carefully reveals the soft butter, warm and softly melting. Malleable to the touch the golden oil promises delight. Drawing the blade of a knife across the surface, with a delicate but insistent motion; the soft viscous fluid curls up around the tool. Gratefully accepting it's fate it clings to the implement; before it's deposited upon the moist bread. Pushed across the surface it leaves a residue in it's wake; a soft slightly salty moisture to make the mouth water.
A crisp round sphere of lettuce is removed from the cold fridge. Droplets of moisture cling to the perfect curves as it awaits the despoiling to come. With relish Mimi snaps the outer leaves from the lettuce, releasing it from the bondage it was held within. Biting her lip, Mimi decides which leaves to pick. The inner folds softer and tenderer, whilst the outer crisper and with a fuller flavour gained by experience. Picking up the larger leaves, then with a snap of her wrists she flicks away the moisture - releasing the crisp taste held within.
The torn chicken breast was next, giving the sandwich it's filling. Placing it upon the hardwood board, she runs her fingers across the golden outer covering. Mimi thinks to herself; 'Do I leave on the moist skin, or not.' A quick decision later and she slowly peels back the outer covering, exposing the pale succulent flesh underneath. Nails pushing into the tender breast, it pushes back against her a certain firmness refusing to yield to her touch. Her lips quirk into a smile, then suddenly she thrusts into the flesh. The succulent meat gives way as she tears chunks away from it, pale strands cling together as she draws them apart. Placing the warm meat upon the crisp green bed, with a sated gasp at the aesthetically pleasing sight.
Finally to top it off mayonnaise, however there was no fresh. Thus she retrieves a bottle from the cupboard. With a deft flick of her thumb the lid pops open, ready for the contents to be spilt forth. Taking a firm grip around the mid-section she turns it upside down. A quick firm squeeze, again and again, the creamy fluid burst out of the tip. The tangy sauce covers the pale poultry; much to her delight. Placing a second slice of bread to cap off the sandwich, Mimi presses it with a satisfied sigh.
|Taraz the Wastrel|
Before the three leave Rashida's room, Taraz feels a small tug on his pants. Looking down, Taraz sees a small Serv-Bot. This one appears to have the shape of a wheel with its head and two retractable arm limbs in the center. It emits a couple of robotic squeaks and squeals.
Taraz raises an eyebrow.
"It seems our friends have been busy. It appears Jin had an escape plan. He led Allesandra, Bors, Kimefe, Eldon and Andrezi to a hidden watercraft, and they have escaped the island. Also, no trace has been found of the Eldon replica that I suspect still exists.
"It seems that Vorian, Meowselsworth, and Ca-...our dancer friend are engaged in a firefight with the mercenaries I encountered before. And...a dragon," Taraz pauses briefly with a look between the two females. "The dragon is locked in some kind of mortal combat with one of those large abominations. This little fellow also tells me a sometimes lion, sometimes man creature has entered what's left of Vorian's ship. The Serv-Bots are afraid of it since the Duchess Kittington interfaced with the controls. They do not know what is happening inside."
Taraz gestures to the door. "The ballrrom is probably stacked with not-quite-so fresh food, but I imagine it should still be fairly edible and delicious. I am famished, so I look forward to the repast."
The wheel Serv-Bot spins off in front slowing to match their speed as the trio moves towards the ballroom.
|Taraz the Wastrel|
As the Brigadier dodges her low sliding kick, he drops a knee trying to land upon hers. However her reactions enhanced by her psychic powers are just too fast and she pirouettes away, flowing like the wind. For an instant on one knee he leaves an opening; rather than his 2 metre plus frame he is nearer her height.
'He'll ignore soft-tissue damage, the cocktail of drugs he's on. I'll have to do ligament and joint damage.' Cassie thinks swiftly.
Using her momentum she swings a knee into his jaw, then wraps a leg around his shoulder and the other around the Brigadiers neck. Grasping his arm in both of hers, though she can barely get her hands around his wrist, she pulls viciously back. With a snap and pop, his shoulder dislocates and elbow joint detaches simultaneously. Darkov gives a grunt of displeasure.
"Give up before I rip it off!" Cassie screams.
Rabek blood pulsing in his ears as his air supply is cut off, punches her in the flank. Cassie screams and rolls away. They both get to their feet, the Roided up man's arm hanging limp.
"Leave and you can survive." the dancer gasps, despite the lack of leverage and power the punch could have done serious damage.
Rashida looks at Taraz with wide, horrified eyes. "The lion.. it entered Vorian's ship? Are you certain? Can you ask again? That's... well, it could be bad. But I have got to eat. No more passing out!" She makes what haste she can, accompanying Taraz and Mimi down the corridor to the ballroom, and makes a beeline for the banquet table, unable to wait for Mimi's glorious sandwich. One plate is filled with cooled and slightly crusty banquet food, quickly devoured, then another, before Mimi finishes her masterpiece.
"Fanks," Rashida mumbles between bites, accepting the sandwich, downing food in a not-terribly-elegant manner. She finally slows, sipping at a glass of water in which the ice has all reverted to its room-temperature form. She dabs her lips with a white linen napkin, looking much more energetic. "Much better. Much better! Now, we need to see what is happening at the docks. If Gahiji obtains Vorian's treasures, it is bad news, but worse if he takes me. The best case, of course, is that he has neither. We must stop him if we can, but if not, we live to fight another day. I wish the others had stayed to help, but such is our fate. To the docks!"
Biting her lip lightly she is delighted that Lady Massri likes the snack. Out of the corner of her eye; there is a bag. Mimi moves and picks up the clutch; "Oh, this is Hers"
Showing Cassies' amazing bag of many things, that like many a lady's purse holds more than is thought feasible. "Let me give you a hand outside."
The French lady helps Rashida to her feet, placing her arm under her shoulders. "Are you better, I hope it sated you." she asks kindly.
"Really, C-... Mimi, I'm fine. Not... sated, perhaps, but better." A blush suffuses Rashida's face and chest at Mimi's choice of words, and she avoids looking at Taraz, though she would swear she can feel his presence, like a nearby vibration, without ever looking his way. "Thank you. You should keep your hands free in case you need to fight and.... what..? What is that? Do you hear? It sounds like airship engines. Oh no!"
Rashida dashes to the door leading out to the gardens and airship landing pads, then pulls up suddenly. "No, no. This is how I get into trouble. You two are much more capable than I. Lead the way. But hurry! A ship is leaving!" She points out into the night, where Virago's running lights are ascending and lengthening as the great ship turns to depart.
"Not a chance, woman," Darkov replies dryly, seemingly oblivious to his dislocated arm. It hung at his side, limp and useless; he did not have to look at it to know that much. Or at least that is how it appears to her... Suppressing a grunt, he forces a smug smile onto his face. "Besides, you are not looking so great yourself. How many dances have you had this night? When was the last time you ate? Slept?"
As he continues to talk, he focuses on his surroundings, seeking something, anything, that could give him the advantage. With but a momentary glance, he notices that his flechette pistol was not far, less than a hundred feet away. He had been careless with his aim before, but if he could get into close quarters combat with the gun… She is injured and fatigued. With one shot I could end it. All that he needed now was an appropriate distraction. Darkov allows the standoff to persist just a while longer, before in one fluid lightning-fast motion, he pulls a knife off his belt and sends it hurtling towards Cassie.
He wastes no time - even as the blade spins trough the air, he makes a break for the gun. Even if Cassie dodged the knife and ran after him, there was no way she could possibly beat him there. Even with the dead weight at his side, it is mere seconds before Darkov reaches the weapon, scooping it off the ground and pointing it at the aristocrat, the look of glee on his face almost maniacal.
"Now, this time I won't miss, you conniving little bi-"
The sound of a massive, quake-inducing impact drowns him out; a clockwork giant had come hurtling through the air, blood and fragments falling from its body, before landing just yards behind the Brigadier, sending fissures running along the smooth concrete, and collapsing the tunnels beneath the airfield. The giant attempts to move, but seconds pass before from out of the sky comes a massive, blue dragon, which crashes on top of the massive humanoid. Letting out a massive roar, it bites at the struggling giant repeatedly, which futilely attempts to bash it away with its arms.
All the while, Darkov simply watches in awe, motionless even as the giant's oily ichor splashes across his form. Grabbing the giant's head in its jaws, the dragon snaps it to the side, severing whatever connections might have remained between its body and brain. Abruptly the giant stops moving, its arms falling limp to its sides, shaking the ground once more. The dragon simply sits atop the felled giant for a moment before nudging it with its head. When the humanoid does not respond, Darkov could swear that the dragon pouts at him.
"It's broke," it says with palpable disappointment, nudging the giant again. As though it were a toy.
Only then does the Brigadier snap back to reality.
What is this insanity? All of the aristocrats were on the dossier! He gave us data on everything! But the shapeshifter, this dragon... they were not mentioned, not even once! What is going on here...? As his mind processes the situation frantically, he suddenly realizes that the sky was notably brighter. Looking to the east, sure enough, he could see the brim of the rising sun in the horizon. With that sight in mind, he bellows an order that the Ferrus Lupus had never once heard in their entire military or mercenary career.
"Retreat!" he shouts repeatedly, dashing past the dragon, which seems far too preoccupied with the dead giant to care. As he runs across the airfield, he looks to his men, expecting to at least the cat and Ritter dead. Instead he sees his men scrambling like buffoons as the Duchess zaps them with electric arcs repeatedly, doubtlessly interfering with their protect gear's electromotive components. "You bastards, retreat!"
Banding together, the remnants of Ferrus Lupis flee into the forest past the airfield, running towards the beach. Their submersibles were still on the beachhead, awaiting their return. But they had never expected to return like this - not in such small numbers. Not with such failure weighing on them. When they board the closest vessel, Darkov seats himself, barking over the comm for the crew in the other vehicles to expedite their departure. As the craft's engines start and the ship begins to move out into the ocean, he broods in the corner, oblivious to the medic tending to his arm. He had a far greater wound, one that no bandages or drugs could possibly heal. His reputation was in shambles.
I'm not finished with you all, not by far. When we next meet, I'll kill every single one of you... or at least, the ones who still remain. Brought a pittance of comfort by this thought, Darkov lets out one final laugh, as his small fleet of watercraft descend into the sea.
"My... my ship... But how...?" is all Vorian can murmur through his numb lips, watching helplessly from the ground as the Virago ascends, speeding away from the island and out of view. As the reality unfolds, its connotations hit him all at once. No... without the Ichor, I...
The commotion around him seems to go unnoticed as he gives up on his wracked nervous system, allowing it to run its course without interference. Attempting to move would just make it painful. Resigned to the fact that he was going to die once more, he waits impatiently, waiting for the soldiers to come over and just finish him off. Look at me, wallowing in self-pity again. You really have fallen from grace, eh Vorian? Some gentleman adventurer you turned out to be...
But his time never comes. In fact, as the minutes pass by, he could even feel his senses returning. Looking to his hand, he raises his brow while wriggling his fingers, met with naught but a strange tingling sensation. Well, I'm certainly alive. He repeats the process with his feet, assuring himself that his body had recovered from the neuroshock.
"Duchess? Cass- ergh, Madam DuSollier?" he calls out, not entirely sure if he could move yet - or whether he should, for that matter. The gunfire had stopped. He didn't hear any shouting, any footsteps. What is going on?
Down the Docks
"I can always dance..." Cassie says the fatigue creeping into her voice. The corners of her vision fading with the dizziness of concussion. The seconds stretch and the French woman wobbles slightly; to her it seems as if the Brigadier takes this as a cue...
His arm whips forward faster than she can see, time slows down. 'He's going for the gun... Even if I dodged the knife and ran after him, there was no way I could possibly beat him there.' she thinks knowing death was fast approaching.
A split second decision, Cassie runs forward at top speed. With a sickening thunk the hilt of the knife protrudes from her abdomen. She screams with pain and frustration as she tries to outpace him to the flechette pistol, despite the growing realisation she was going fail. The burning pain streams through her, as each step cuts deeper.
Still yards behind the sadistic mercenary he stops scooping up the weapon, it points at her head. Too fatigued to cry, she looks on with shock....so this was it. Even his words don't register...
A commotion with Jeracyla and the final giant produces no reaction from the French dancer. Suddenly Darkov breaks for the tree-line. The relief that should flood her system is not there.
She walks in a daze back towards the hanger entrance; where the fight started. Pulling out the long knife absent-mindedly she lets it drop to the floor with a clang.
"Thank you." Mimi says. She passes the bag to Rashida not wanting to touch the Noble lady's clutch purse any more than absolutely necessary. It's obvious there is a strong friendship, between the two ladies.
Standing to the side; she watches as the pair of Lovers takes each others arms. The blush suffusing Rashida, reminds the replicant of her kiss. ’Did he make love to Cassie, too?’ she thinks jealously of her originator.
They walk with lengthening strides walking down to the hanger, coming out into the pale emergency lights. Mimi marvels at the Golden ship... 'Beautiful! Am I to leave the island for the first time, in that?'
Walking onto the cold concrete deck, the faintest sheen of moisture as the warm air left and the dark night had closed in. ”I could enjoy this.” the words slip out of her mouth.
Her gaze slips to the figure amongst the debris, the mirror of her!
Cassie looks to the entryway to the manor, just as Taraz and Rashida emerge. Beside them, it appears to be her…
Blinking to try and clear her blurred vision, Cassie takes in the scene. Rashida hurt and tired. Taraz, poor Taraz, holding onto her had also the scars of a fight and herself arrogantly standing beside them. The woman who had left Meowselsworth to die!
Cassies blood boils all the rage, frustration and fury that she had kept inside, bursts forth as the dam of her self-control breaks. She sprints forward, not caring the consequences and incoherently screaming.
”What have you DONE!” she punctuates the last with a thrust kick to the sternum. The twin goes flying back-wards; back crashing into a steel fuel pump. The large dent from the impact shows in the flanks, as the furious woman advances upon the prone.
Seeing her death advancing upon her, the replicant picks up a wrench from atop the pump she swings it. Cassie dodges out of the way the weapon thus it connects with the metal pump casing; a jarring pain shoots up Mimi’s arm as there is a snapping sound....
The wrench falls to the floor with a tinkle of metal, as the women look into each others eyes. A solemn moment passes. ”A last dance! Cassie says, her voice scarily neutral.
A low hissing sound erupts; as the oil-pump disgorges its’ black viscous oil over the duo. The dark shower covers the pair, making any identification very difficult. They spin away from under the fountain. Facing each other in a slightly crouched fighting stance, they circle slowly.
A small flinch from one and they move together mirroring each other. Each with a low kick their shins cash heavily, then again and a trifecta ; when they go for a fourth Cassie hooks her heel around the on-coming attack and pulls back. Drawing them both down into the splits they face each other, a steely gaze crosses between the two. 'What did she do?' 'I am not inferior to her!' their thoughts grow dark and morbid.
The air between there bodies seem to spark with tension. Looking at each other thas the first strikes with an elbow landing just under the jaw. With a nod the twin smashes her elbow back. The respect slowly grows as they alternate strikes faster and more brutal. A crescendo of violence; as the rhythm builds to a climax. With a jaw breaking smash rocks Mimi backwards as she tucks and back-rolls onto her feet. Whilst the striker uses her momentum to spin into a handstand and flip back onto her feet.
Dark fluid glistens under the wane illumination creating a spectrum of colours, which plays sensually across their curves. The vista is in stark contrast to the brutality of the attack. Carefully they move, keeping just with reach of their long powerful legs.
Suddenly a brutal leg-strike to the ribs is countered with a flying knee strike. They split after the flurry breathing hard, pale eyes showing underneath the dark covering of motor-oil. Another kick is caught; the captor draws the hopping French-woman close and throws a head-butt with a wince inducing thud. Despite reeling from the strike, she wraps her other leg around the thorax driving the air from the lungs. Mounting the woman with her legs forming bear-hug she rains down blows.
Then the duo tumbles to the floor, whereupon they exchange punches. All thoughts of finesse and technique lost in the mind-less fury and frustration. "Loser." their voices scream with frustration and dark emotions. ”Everything he did, because of you; I hate you.” "You cannot protect anything."
They roll upon the hard concrete until a dark form ends upon top. "Leto, Gigus, Taraz, Father." she sobs. Each word punctuated by the sickening smack of flesh upon flesh, as Cassie punches her self-loathing upon her double.
It dawns upon Mimi, that Cassie isn’t perfect as Von Ryuko described. That the role-model she knew - was a fiction of his horrific imagination. Mimi rolls with the punches; letting the distraught young noble punch herself out. Subsequent strikes get weaker and weaker. Slick with oil and fatigue they roll apart. Slowly standing on groggy feet, the pair stand facing each other…
Rashida watches in horror as Cassie and her doppleganger battle, seemingly determined to destroy one another, Cassie already injured and Mimi doubtless every bit her match. The trained warriors were far beyond her capacity to stop, at least without a weapon. And she did not want to see either hurt.
A construct I would not care about, but this one has a soul. Like Gigus. And who knows how many others? What has Von Ryuko done?
Rashida winces involuntarily at the sickening sound of flesh violently impacting flesh, eyes squeezing shut to block out the awful sight of this useless battle. But the darkness behind her eyelids is no longer dark, being filled with dots of glowing silver light. She relaxes, letting the world recede and giving herself over to other senses, ones she used with great difficulty previously. The glow nearest is warmth and strength and pain and love and protectiveness. Another... self-sacrifice and cleverness and loyalty. A third... fear and regret and sorrow and an odd nobility. The two swirling in combat before her, moving to fast to distinguish... fear and self-loathing, innocence and yawning need, valor and spirit. Others in the distance, diminishing, out of her range. And a sixth... who? Near, very near. Nobody familiar.
The sounds of battle were suddenly diminished, then gone. This must stop, now. We must know the truth of things. I have never assessed Cassie, not really, and Mimi... we must know what it is we deal with before we can trust. Slowly opening her kohl-lined eyes, Rashida clings to the otherworldly vision, her form beginning to shimmer with gold. The two women are on their feet, panting, facing each other but not violent now, not yet. This is the time. It must be now.
Rashida glides delicately toward the women, slowly, and raises her hands in interdiction. "Cassie. Mimi. Stop. I need you both," she says gently. Closer, closer... her outraised hands stretch to clasp an oil-soaked shoulder of each of the women, who stand panting and eyeing one another.
"I need you. But I need to know. I'm sorry." Suddenly, Rashida's form flares with light and a spectral golden arm separates from each of her own physical limbs. The golden hands plunge into each of the women's sternums, and their muscles go rigid with shock as the hands withdraw, each holding a writhing, spectral form still attached to its home with a cord of silver.
Rashida's right hand clutches a bird with fiery feathers of red and gold which struggles in her grasp, shedding plumes which drip to the ground and vanish with a hiss. Her left holds a spray of luminous blossoms in shades of lavendar and azure, its loose petals drifting off and dissolving into nothingness. Her lips part, but the echoing voice which emerges is not Rashida's. "It is not yet your time. You are judged by my daughter's will, weighed by and against my principles. Your souls are sufficiently pure, your intent noble. I deem you worthy to continue in this world, both of you."
The golden hands open and the phantoms surge back to their homes within each of the women almost impossibly fast, with a near-audible snap, and the women gasp and breathe again, relaxing from their forced rigidity. The glow around Rashida fades as she withdraws her touch, clasping her arms around her belly and staggering backwards, retching, until she can catch her breath again.. "I.. I'm sorry. Sorry, Cassie. I'm sorry, Mimi. I had to know. Now you know, too. You are worthy, worthy. And I need your help. Let's leave here, all of us. There's so much to do."
She slowly straightens, panting, until she resumes her typical regal posture. Her eyes gaze down through the deck they stand upon, and she points to a hatch near where Vorian sits. "And there is somebody down there. I don't know him. One of Darkov's men? Beware, Lord Ritter."
Cassie can hardly move as her friend Rashida intecedes; all her actions had been burning upon adrenaline. Not thinking.
As Rashida pulls her soul from her body Cassies last thought is how foolish she had been. The selfish loathing she had felt, that cost her so much...may it not cost her Rashida.
As she breaths again, her legs cannot sustain her and she collapses next to the caramel skinned lady. On her knees she looks up at her; "She didn't hurt you did she? I have been a fool, haven't I?" she hoarsely speaks, the pain of her wounds evident in her voice. And it's apparent the wounds are not just physical.
|Taraz the Wastrel|
Seeing both Cassie and Mimi fighting brought up an instant need to protect and save within Taraz. But despite the physical pain they dealt one another, he knew that unless one of them was going to make a true killing blow, he should allow this to play out. He did not believe Cassie was a killer, and despite her original programming, Taraz did not think Mimi had any true desire to "replace" Cassie. Mimi had fast begun to become separate from her base roots as Cassie's replica.
So he did not stop them. He watched for that moment when even one of the fighters became "serious". After a while, it looked as if it was over. The two combatants eyed each other seeing whatever demons had been brought to the surface. Taraz hoped both women now saw they were not nearly as scary as they thought.
Rashida's display of power made his eyes go wide. He wondered what she saw when she looked at him. He could only hope she couldn't see the dark stain of his genes. For there was truly no greater shame one could bear than to be cursed at birth as a Rorenson...
|Mimi Von Sollier|
She looks at the gathered crowd, the remaining nobles. Feeling ashamed for her part in the fight, but now she understood the young woman on the floor. Despite the pain in her arm, she knew such things were transistory such had been her training.
Looking down at the dress slick against her body, she is glad that at least the oil spares her blushes. "Lord Rorenson, what are we to do now?"
Just a little more...
Slowly but surely, Vorian pulled himself to his feet, using the crate he had been using for cover as support. His legs wobbled beneath him as he applied his weight, but as the seconds passed, the sensation faded away. Leaning against the crate, he smiles, surprised by his speedy recovery. He expected the neuroshock to persist for at least an hour, considering his proximity to the grenade.
I suppose I can chalk it down to luck, he decides, before noticing the commotion across the airfield. He catches a glimpse of Cassie, as well as Rashida and Taraz. Ah, there's Madam DuSollier! he thinks, as he prepares to move to greet the aristocrats. It however, becomes clear that something is off. There is not one, but two Cassies. Baffled by the revelation, Vorian freezes, watching as the two collided in an encounter that was probably more erotic than it ought to have been. What in blazes is going on?! Is this what Von Ryuko was talking about...?
But it was not the fight between the doppelgangers that truly shocked him; no, it was what happened after. He watched intently as Rashida reached forward, grasping the ethereal forms of the two Cassies. To anyone else it was a wondrous sight to behold, but to Vorian, it was absolutely horrifying. His mind mulls over the past, drawing the comparison. It was the same, yet different. She had left them untainted. Consciously grasping at his chest, Vorian narrows his gaze, before sinking back to the floor.
I see… so that’s how it is.
He sits there quietly for several moments, before Rashida approaches him. His expression is strange as he listens to her speak, apprehensiveness in his eyes. He looks to the hatch in question, his mind becoming clear as he realizes that he had not noticed it before. Slowly, cautiously, he pulls it open, before peering into the darkness. His hand finds his rifle, preparing to club at any soldier that might try to assail him.
“Who is down there? Show yourself!”
|Taraz the Wastrel|
Taraz considers Mimi and Cassie's oil coated forms, their clothing not hiding their fantastically feminine shapes.
"Uh...once I may have had a rather excellent suggestion for myself regarding such a...suggestive moment as this. However, now I have other plans for my upcoming time," Taraz glances at Rashida with a smile. Returning his attention to Mimi and Cassie, he says, "I would suggest you two quickly gather our Gentleman Adventurer and the Duchess Kittington and get them to The Ament. The crew and Serv-Bots should see to your injuries. Rashida and I will attempt to locate this 'hidden' person. We have eaten and drunk, so between us, I imagine we should have no trouble with any further dangers."
Hearing Vorian's shout, Taraz's head whips around.
"Best laid plans of mice and men..." he mutters chuckling.
|Taraz the Wastrel|
As Taraz walks towards the opening into which Vorian now peers, he glances at the dragon rolling around causing tremors and vibrations. He had only seen four others in his lifetime. They had not seemed quite so...playful. The great bluish form tossed the remains of the giant around, much like he would have expected the Duchess to play with a ball of yarn (assuming she still enjoyed such things of course.) He was glad to see that this dragon had no interest in eating them. Killing dragons was never pleasant business.
Cassie on her knees. Vorian looking at her like that. Mimi turning instinctively to Taraz for guidance. And protection? It's a good instinct. I cannot blame her.
Rashida longs to clasp Cassie's hand and haul her to her feet, take her for care, to explain to Vorian, to run to Taraz for comfort. Instead, she stands her ground and folds her arms, nearly hugging herself, and watches the Virago disappear.
It seemed like a good idea, all our long plans. Fight fire with fire, or, with luck, find out there was no fire at all. Finally, it has worked, and there is fire beyond anything we anticipated. But what am I now? How could I do that to people I would call friend, these people I need? How can they ever trust me again? We failed to factor in the effects on me in our calculations.
She schools her face into a blank mask and looks down at Cassie. Her voice emerges flat and expressionless, harsher than she intended. "Get up and get yourself healed. You can't protect anyone in the shape you're in. Mimi - your double - knows where Von Ryuko is. We need to find him. We haven't got time for this --"
She cuts herself off before her voice breaks and looks elsewhere so Cassie cannot see the tears in her eyes, looking anywhere but at Taraz, not wanting to see a look in his eyes like the one in Vorian's. Her gaze falls upon the Ament, streamlined and gleaming in the sunrise. For crazy people, they make some beautiful things. Too bad they must be destroyed. A realization dawns suddenly. They must be destroyed. And I am one of them now. What have I become?
"I will go see that Ament is ready to depart and ensure your quarters are prepared," Rashida announces grimly, unable to meet anyone's eyes, "Gather your things and board. We will leave when you all are ready." Jaw clenching, she stalks off to the Ament looking for all the world as if she intends to rend it strut from strut.
|Professor Alessandra Devries|
Two earth-shattering booms come from the docks. Terrible sounds of gunfire and screams can be heard from every direction, breaking the night's silence. There's so much she should be doing! Trying to find some sort of communications equipment to notify the Masons or the League of the Baron's treachery... searching for an armory and hiding out in a defensible spot like the wine cellars... looking for a way off the island... but all she can do is hide and pray.
She makes a dozen excuses for herself- she has to look after Jin, better to stay hidden and sneak out after they assume her dead, any encounter with an enemy would risk her losing control and putting Jin at risk... she passed the time with a litany of fears running through her head. As she hid in the alcove in the corridor between the ballroom and the docks she occasionally heard a voice draw near from one side or another and tucked herself deeper into the shadows, but every time the figures took another path- until she heard movement coming directly down the hall from the ballroom.
She armed herself with a jade vase that was in all likelihood quite priceless and with the quietest of whispers into his ear warned Jin to be quiet. The sound grew closer. It was a mechanical sound, a faint buzzing and the rustling drone of a wheel rolling over deep-pile Persian carpets. She readied the vase for a desperate strike, only to stop herself when she saw the servbot. Its distinctive patched and dented frame still clearly showed the scars of the abuse she had put it through when it had scurried under her dress, and it was hard to say which of them was more surprised to see the other.
They both froze for a moment, until the servbot began to wheel a wide berth around her alcove and continue toward the docks. "No! Wait!" She whispered urgently, "They're still fighting out there! I just heard gunfire from that direction a few minutes ago. Please, wait here with us and we'll find the others when its safe!"
The little bot seemed unsure, a light on its side blinking furiously, but after a few seconds it wheels itself into the alcove in front of Jin and does its best to blend in with the hall, slightly improving the pair's dubious cover.
|Professor Alessandra Devries|
Taraz gestures to the door. "The ballrrom is probably stacked with not-quite-so fresh food, but I imagine it should still be fairly edible and delicious. I am famished, so I look forward to the repast."Taraz gestures to the door. "The ballrrom is probably stacked with not-quite-so fresh food, but I imagine it should still be fairly edible and delicious. I am famished, so I look forward to the repast."
They walk with lengthening strides walking down to the hanger, coming out into the pale emergency lights.
Voices were coming from the ballroom, then it was rapid footsteps. Soldiers? Nobles? She pressed herself deeper into the shadows and did her best not to even breathe. She could still hear the sounds of fighting coming from the docks and hangers, and now three of the aristocrats from the ball were charging toward it. Madness! Cassie, Rashida, and Taraz were past her before she could think to say anything. With their passage the servbot stirred back to life and started to zip toward the sounds of conflict. It stopped for a moment and made a beckoning gesture with one of its arms, clearly expecting her and Jin to follow.
Were they going to take on those blasphemous giant things with Cassie's little pistol? What were they thinking? "Merde! We have to catch them before one of those giants crush them to paste!" She helped Jin to his feet and noticed with relief that whatever concoction he'd taken to slow his metabolism after the collapse of the deck seemed to be wearing off. She still had to help him to his feet but he was only leaning on her a little as they ran down the hall.
|Professor Alessandra Devries|
Emerging too late, several minutes behind the group they'd tried to pursue, the floodlights of the docks reveal a chaotic scene. A ship taking to air enveloped in steam, Cassie laying on the ground drenched in oil with a knife wound in her abdomen... and Cassie next to Taraz‽ An immense dragon twin to one she'd met earlier but a hundred times the size, playing with the rotting mechanical carcass of the giant.
"Taraz, what... how... what's going on?"
"Ah, it seems everyone is gathering at last... good, good," says the Duchess, her hair standing on end, making her seem even fluffier. Whether this is from the fear of combat or the electricity she used to defend herself, it's unclear. "It seems that my mother's ghost has stolen both the Virago and has taken Gahiji with her. She assures me in her letter that she fully intends to spread death and agony upon the world, but I suppose, first things first... is everyone alright?"
The feline's helmet makes a few more sparks and crackles before she adds, "I also received a Meowmail from Mittens, my eldest daughter. Frankly, I don't know what to make of it. It is mad and rambling and bizarre. I would keep a watchful eye both for my mother and my daughter. If you see a helmet cat with different markings than I, I would like to be notified immediately. I would very much like to leave this place..."