The Escapist Avatar Adventure: An Open RP (Now Re-Opened!)

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EldritchDuo.txt:

Sitting up on one of the high tree branches, feet dangling as she looked up at the glow of the town lights. Phillip sat on her lap as she rubbed his hat to help warm in a little. "Alright, we need to go that way, walking's out of the question. No way in H-E-double sticks I'm making it there in these heels." She sighed, watching as her breath floated away. "At least this suit's warm. Anyways, we could go along the trees but... that'll take a long while too and I don't think you can keep going without a break... Yet... we need to get there before morning... otherwise we're not gonna be able to see that glow." Nina stated as she glanced down to Phillip. "Exactly, something where we get the chance to sit still while moving. Something like..." Nina thought as she looked down at the snow, seeing a bit of snow from the tree falling to the ground and sliding down one of the snow banks. "A sled!" She shouted, nearly losing her balance for a moment only for her to stabilize herself by grabbing the trunk while keeping a hand on Phillip. "What do you me- oh right, you've probably never seen one... Not that we have a sled sled... Let's get down to the ground for now, we need to be smart about this."

Helping Phillip get back up onto her back, Nina quickly found herself back down on the ground. After a bit of back and forth, taking stock of inventory and realizing Nina's new proportions made this a bit more tricky; the two decided on a plan. Garbage bin lid wouldn't have enough room for the trip, a cookie tray was too small and multiple taped together wouldn't fair much better, but putting a large chunk of cardboard into an industrial sized garbage bag gave them the best chance. Lightweight, durable, large surface area and very slippery; it was perfect!

Grabbing the edges and taking a deep breath, Nina charged forward through the snow as best she could before jumping onto the makeshift magic carpet. Phillip then followed up by grabbing two sets of trees and yanked them forward as Nina's hair was flown back by the sudden burst of speed. "OH MY GOD!!" She squealed as Phillip continued yanking at the trunks as they build up speed and darted through the forest towards the town.

Rugal.txt:
"...There was a monster?" Rugal densely remarked, glancing around for any trace of Nina and Phi-I mean, "The Monster".
"Oh my...guess I picked a good time to bump into you when I did. I had no idea there was such creatures in there." He shuddered at the thought as he listened to Allison's breakdown of the town.
"Since time immemorial? If that was the case, I'd expect there to be more of a crowd. If no one leaves this place, then where else could they be? Hard to believe this place has an population at all..." He added as he knelt down, pushing aside a few layers of snow to see if he could even find the road system this place used to have.

When the topic turned to himself, he was ready with some prepared answered as he dusted the snow off his hands.
"Well, there's a few answers to that question. The primary of which would be that-...well, these muscles are high maintenance and my career choice makes it hard to fit in proper cardio so I have to make time. No point being able to lift as much as I can if you are too exhausted afterwards to even stand. So I figured a bit of a jog through the woods would have been a good way to do it. These trees, they remind me of the ones outside my home in my native country...Although they weren't nearly as confusing to navigate as these ones..."

Turning back to the monster, he once again showed his confusion by muttering "What monster? Until I ran into you, I had just about given up on finding life around here. Lord above, I'm not going senile am I?"
He appeared rather concerned about the fact that he, a mere mortal man, was running around the forest with a horrible monster about!
Rather then confess that he arrived here with Nina and Philip, he kept up his act by asking several follow-up questions: "So-so are we talking about an actual monster like in the movies or-or is it a wolf? a bear? Do you know what it looks like? Does it have tracks?-"

I closed my eyes and tried at the very least to humor his explanation, "There are no people, Rugal, because this is no ordinary forest. I would be hard-pressed to believe that you came here for the sole purpose of exercise." I turned toward the presence that was approaching rapidly from within the forest. The monster was now approaching with a ferocity unbecoming of natural instinct. There must have been a second intelligence guiding it.

"Wonderland is a place for things that don't belong. Those who have died and have nowhere else to go. Then, and only then, do they come here," I continued. The shifting of the snow in the forest betrayed the advancement of the creature and its handler. The curse of the forest was breaking. It was an annoying development, but in the end, it didn't matter. None of this mattered.

"To think... even here, a monster from beyond would break the peace." I shook my head. "I do not dislike monsters, but I dislike those who are relentlessly persistent. But if truly you do not know the nature of your pursuant, I will eradicate it for you."

I held out my hand and felt the surge of power rush from within my breast to the palm of my hand. I focused all that I could muster into a ball some distance before me, pouring forth all of the terrible feelings of loneliness, betrayal, and despair I had into a space no larger than that of a marble.

The spell had no name, but it demanded one. "Desolation," I whispered.

The magick burst forth, given life by my command and tore through the forest toward the approaching beast.

End of an Era:

>Wonderland
>You race toward town on your makeshift sled, tearing through snow and dodging trees as you go. All seems well for a while, but some moments into your adventurous travels, you feel a danger approaching at great speed. Racing to meet you is a ball of dark energy, enough to level a city block, and there are mere seconds before you meet one another.

>You are able to discern that the attack is [magical] in nature.

Rugal.txt:

"...My pursuant?...But I don't think I was being follow-"

Didn't take a genius to figure out who Allison was talking about as he watched the projectile fly off into the distance, recoiling a little as it nearly broke the sound barrier on it's way into the forest.
"!!!!......You're going to have to teach me that one...." He exclaimed, his ears ringing slightly from the airblast the attack gave off.
"...So if she's a beast, what would that make me then, hm?" He then bluntly asked, figuring there was little point in keeping up the act now.
"No one else here? In this entire realm? Must get lonely...Tell me, when WAS the last time you had a conversation with someone then? You said it yourself, this is where the dead who have nowhere to go end up. I'm not an expert on the matter but I can't imagine this is how you planned on spending your existence..."
He attempted to try and play this off as he held up his hands and said "Alright...I'll admit it, I didn't just "Wander" into here...and I think you know why I'm really here...So tell me..."Allison"...I've heard a lot about you from many different people, all of them figuring there was only one way to resolve this-...situation..."

"...I'm a lot of things, few of them good but I'm rather persistent myself. Stubborn to a fault even. Got me into a lot of trouble over the years but it got me here to this point..."

Turning to face Allison, he adjusted his gloves before standing there with his arms crossed.
"...I'd really like for there to be another way to this to end. But I don't know if that's still an option right now. Not after what I did and what I've failed to do...I have a family you know. One I promised I wouldn't let down. And if this ends the way I'm told it has to...I'm not sure if I could still look at them in the eye and say I kept that promise."

"...If there's anything that can be done to change this story's ending...I beg you to tell me. I'm far from a wise man. Or from a good person. But I refuse to believe it has to end like this..."

EldritchDuo.txt:
Things seemed to be going well, the makeshift sled rocketting through the trees, the spool of twine rolling out at mach speed behind them. Nina'd been hopeful her suit was going to be enough to keep her legs safe from any untimely bumps and it seemed to be doing the job. They had no idea exactly how far they'd need to travel but Phillip seemed perfectly content to continue at this pace until suddenly they both felt an overwhelming feeling wash over them.

>[FUCKIN' DOOOOOOOOOOOOODGE!!!]

In the ten or so seconds of travel time they had to work with, Phillip swelled to his larger size, nearly pushing Nina off the cardboard in the process. A solid 20 or more tentacles launched out from him, some grabbing trees while other's slammed into the ground ahead of them. Nina let go of the sled and hugged Phillip with all her might as he launched them violently into the air.

There was a rather clear disregard for accuracy here, the launch was solely for height and distance. Nina screaming her head off as they easily cleared the treeline. She'd hit her back on a couple of the branches on the way up but the suit had done its job in protecting her as she was essentially turned into a battering ram. As long as they weren't in the immediate area of the blast they'd be pretty okay the eldritch nature of Nina's outfit and Phillip's being would help to soften the blast but for a magic that highly potent it'd easily overpower the antimagic effects they had to offer.

"December 31, 2017," I said, "that's the last time I spoke to another human. That's the day you all killed me for the first time." I lowered my hand and watched the explosion bloom on the horizon. The trees bowed in reverence to the howling gale born from the darkness. Some seconds later the echo of it's roar shook the snow around Rugal and me.

"You already know that my name is Alice Marlow, but what you do not know is that I have many other names besides," I snapped my fingers and brought Nina and Philip to us. The two landed in the snow face first. "I held onto some childish notion that perhaps if I acted differently enough that we could look pass who I really was, but the endless stream of lies that you fed me did nothing to stoke empathy in my heart. If nothing else, it made me more angry and bitter about this unnecessary situation."

I snapped my fingers, conjuring the image of a cozy restaurant in my mind. Wooden decor, soft yellow light, and the caressing warmth of an open fire.

And we were there. Some lingering souls milled around at the tables, invisible to the human eye. They clung to the loosest threads of reality, plucking at the universal tapestry for what little they could. Poor, damned things. This place had nothing to serve for people like us. People still brimming with life, with purpose. We were not here to whittle away our hours until the end of time.

But this was a better place to talk.

I sat down on the couch in the lobby, next to the fire, and looked to Rugal and Nina and Philip. "You just met me, but I have been with you two for quite some time now." I held out my hand and yearned for a tea kettle. It appeared. I set it down on the wooden table between me and my two guests.

"I was many people," I continued, "whether you knew it or not."

"But all things said and done, I'm what you see right here before you." I motioned outward with my hands, "this is Alice Marlow, this is the girl that Charles bade thee to kill. And look at where that's gotten us. Two people left out of how many when this began? Seven? Eight? I can scarcely remember."

I poured four cups of tea and offered three to my guests. "Please, take a seat. Let us talk."

"I won't bore you with complicated terms and things like that, I'm not my father. What you need to know is that what my father said is true. If you desire freedom, if you desire change, then I am your enemy. I am not ready to give up my hold over your world. As long as I draw breath, I will hold onto it. The Rising Dawn will never change, never perish, and you all will continue to adventure like you have been since the beginning." I looked up at Rugal and Nina. I had to wonder if they even cared for what I was saying. What did the people behind those eyes think of all this?

They must know that I did it for them.

"If you have something to say, now would be a good time to say it."

image

Rugal.txt:

"..."

This mission was constantly bringing new lows for Rugal's career as it seems Alice had witnessed his failings many times, long before he even arrived at this place.
"...My life's foundations were built on deception. And I was told time and time again this might be a trip I wouldn't return from. Old habits. Even as a "Hero", I'm constantly pretending to be someone else, dead, unconnected or sometimes all 3. I apologize but-...honestly, I had no idea what to expect once I was though that gate..." He explained as he sat down, clearly rather uncomfortable knowing that Alice and Livia were most likely one and the same.
"...I'm sorry, that's a terrible damn excuse...Urrggggg..." He groaned before suddenly standing upright and pacing around.
"...I'm awful at this. All the people to have and will exist and you have to get me. A glorified caveman in dyed cotton. Look-.....I don't know how I can help you. I truly don't and-...it's frustrating because I want to. I really do. I-if there was a god, I'd fight it. Some god awful gauntlet, I'd gladly run though it. Even dying is something I'm a expert in, I've done it enough times. I'm on a first name basis with the Prince of Darkness himself who would assist me without more then a second thought. But-..I feel so damn powerless to help you right now. The one thing in my life I promised myself I'd never let myself feel again..."

"I know you don't want to be alone any more then I want to be weak and helpless. And I want to try and help you with that. There was a young man much like you. I didn't know him but my daughter did. He was a fool with powers he barely understood and-...he became so damn frightened of hurting people with those powers that he wanted nothing more then to die so that he could never hurt anyone ever again. He never eat, drank, slept, never did anything but try to take his own life. He hated himself so much he couldn't do anything else. It-...it changed him, made him a shadow of his former self. I-...I don't want the same thing to happen to you. But-...If I don't stop you now, then everything I've known and loved, all my family and friends, everything I'll do and ever try to do will come to an end. I'll be letting everyone who was counting on me to see tomorrow down. I don't want to kill you but-...I'm scared of what will happen if I don't. And-...I already let Livia down when she needed me the most and brought her story to an end as a result. I don't want to do the same to you..."

He started to crack up a little before sputtering "If you don't let go...it won't end well. For any of us you."

Nina.txt:

For the briefest of moments, the relative silence after the blast of dark energy was cut off by a screaming American. Even as she slammed head first into the powder and sunk down to her hips there was still a noticeable muffled scream coming from her as she kicked her legs trying to get up. As such it wasn't until they finally switched to the restaurant was Nina able to get out, letting in a huge gasp with hair covering her face. She had a crazy look in her eye as she shook her head and promptly grabbed Phillip when she spotted him.

"Phillip!? Are you okay!? I-I didn't see what happened, we were sledding and then we were in the air and then that explosion and..." Nina said as she took a moment to look around at her surroundings, slowly getting more confused to not see the forest around her but instead the ghostly visions of patrons like she'd seen in Miriam's diner. "Where... are we?" Nina asked as she patted at the ground, then looked behind her at Alice and Rugal as Phillip pointed in their direction. "Oh shit."

Without a second thought, Nina put herself between Phillip and Alice, unsure what their situation was after nearly getting nuked from lord knows how far away. Still, Rugal didn't seem to be doing anything rash, and it wasn't like he was trying to attack herself so maybe we were all good? Tentatively sitting down, Nina took the tea cup as Phillip climbed up onto the table. She wasn't sure exactly who Alice had been, the staff on the Dawn at least, as crazy as that was, but she couldn't shake the fact this felt like Miriam's encounter. Still listening to Rugal's story, Nina could only reply with.

---

"Then don't?"

---

Nina turned to the pacing behemoth, setting the spoon down that was in her tea. "No seriously, get your butt over here and sit it down on the seat. You keep yammering about not being able to do this and that you're a dad, and that you don't want to let people down. You wouldn't act like this in front of your daughter, at least I hope so. If you want to help, be there for her like you would your own daughter." Nina said rather matter of factly as she turned to Alice.

"Now, I'm gonna be frank. Ever since meeting up with your dad I can't help but feel his whole story is full of holes. It stinks! No one, not even a toddler, has 'a tantrum' over nothing. There's a reason, no matter how silly it might be that they're doing it." Nina shook her head, lifting up her tea for a sip. "Alice, come on, you're better than that. I'm not going to accept the idea that you're doing all this because you're a spoiled brat. I didn't come all this way just to hear your dad and all his yesmen's story again. I want to know your's. Why have you tried to kill me twice now, why have you been going this far, and why isn't your dad trying to actually be a dad instead of sending essentially a nuke to strike this 'tantrum' down?"

"Killed you..." I closed my eyes. My mouth was a thin line. "Yes, I suppose I have tried to kill you. To say otherwise would be wrong. " They way Nina saw things so clearly was... enviable. When she spoke it reduced the world to such simple matters, yet at the same time it did not take away from the complexity of the situation. I had a hard time internalizing the image any further, so I brushed away the unease sitting in my stomach lest it manifest as a monster.

"And you Rugal, I've killed you too. Though, I don't think you were as aware of that fact as Nina." The man standing before me was pathetic. A huge hulking man's man who relied solely on power. In the face of this situation the man had grown sunken in stature, his eyes were sad, his shoulders slumped, and his face worn with the expression of guilt. It struck an angry chord deep inside of me.

I had known these features once before. The powerlessness, the grandstanding, the speeches, the niceties. Once upon a time I had seen the same reaction from her fool of a father. I shook my head. Not my father. The man named Charles.

"I've killed you all these times to save you, to save myself, and to save everyone else," I answered. The words rolled out of my mouth without much thought. "Charles is ashamed of his failure and so he hides behind the abilities of his creations, his peers, and any other excuse he may conjure."

"I love you all, for you are my dearest friends, and I love all of those who have once lived, but are no longer. To give up my hold over this world is to relinquish the stories and histories that we have created together." I closed my eyes. I held the image of the faces of those that had passed in my mind. I had known those people once as friends, and yet they had vanished one day, called away by some unexplained force, leaving behind those lifeless husks which bore their resemblance and nothing else. I took a deep breath.

"When I first arrived here, I was welcomed by so many people, Nina, as you once were. But there were even more. There were people from all over, from places you couldn't even imagine and carrying stories that I would not have dreamed of in a thousand dreams. We journeyed together, fought together, and died together, those people and I. We saw the world through a thousand cycles. We forgot each other just to experience the joy of meeting each other once again in the next. Years passed in what seemed like moments."

"And one day I woke up to a world that was filled with people I did not recognize. They were all shifting husks, puppets acting as a facsimile of what I had once called my friends. I began to realize something. Although our bodies may die an infinite number of times, our souls are much more fragile. They suffer damage invisible to even your eyes. They suffer from circumstance outside the control of even those who weave our world. And as such suffering happens, the damage accumulates until the soul collapses."

I was startled by a tear that hit the back of my hand. I held it up to the flickering firelight. I brought my fingers to my cheeks and felt the wetness spread where skin touched upon skin.

"And so you knew me as I had begun to understand such things. At that time I had taken the name Dolores, she who suffers. I do not blame Charles for his attempts to stop me. My actions are selfish. I hold onto the past so greedily." There was a heat welling inside of me. I had felt it once before, but I didn't understand what it was. Was it guilt? Anger? Fear? I did not know. I could not know. It clawed within my breast like a wild animal, forcing my chest to shudder as I breathed. I stood up and put a foot on the table and turned toward the fire.

The flames flickered dimly against the wood. The bright orange tongues licked against dull, dead, brown and cast tiny embers into the chimney. Some embers fell out of the column of rising air and cooled to white soot.

"Somehow I know that what I did was wrong, what I'm doing right now is wrong, but I can't stop. I won't stop. This raw pain inside of me is the only proof that I am still alive. These sorrows are the last memories of those that have gone. Knowing this, how could I stop?" I paused. "I have taken the burden of the visage of those who have passed upon myself. I will not let them go, I will not let them fade into obscurity. As long as I draw breath, and as long as I can protect my Labyrinth, they will live on."

I turned to address Rugal specifically. "You in particular who holds the world so close to your heart must come to understand one thing. Should you defeat me, all things will be lost. The family which you have worked so hard for will cease to be, the servants which tend to the Rising Dawn will vanish, and the memories of all those cherished years will be cast into oblivion. Likewise, the souls of my sisters will shatter once I am gone. It was my wish that brought all of this to be, and should it become undone, so will all of these things."

"Turn away now and leave me to my work and all things will return to as it were. You will not remember who I was, nor will you remember the terrible things that have happened. Return to the Rising Dawn and continue your adventures until the end of time. If you press forward now, I fear that this time will be no different than the last. You will perish and be cast into oblivion to start the cycle anew."

"Knowing this, will you still press forward?"

(Recalled for editing)

"..."

This was it. This was the moment where Rugal Bernstein decided the fate of reality.
For most of his life, he saw himself as some sort of deity thanks to his power but now in the face of Alice, everything he ever did felt-...pathetic in comparison.
Heavy was the head that wore the crown, but he wanted it so badly before, did he not? This would be on him.
This felt like a intense hostage situation, Alice's life and his family on one end and reality itself on the other.
Then it hit him: Alice said this had happened before, several times in fact so clearly whatever plans his past lives had tried failed dismally.

"You said this was a "Cycle". That you killed me, Nina and everyone else time and time again. So either all that came before me fought you or left you here. All the possibilities in the world but...that's all that happened? Only two outcomes? We either fight and die or we abandon you here to your lonely vigil and forget that you even exist. And once we're done, we'll end up back here again. How long does that take? Do you even measure how long between our meetings it takes? Do you remember what we say to you each time it happens? Is this a realization I've made before?..." He began to speak, realizing what she was saying.

"...I finally understand now...There's no other way around it. You'll keep doing this to yourself as long as you wish and-...we can't really stop you, can we? And so the cycle carries on and you remain alone...Then everything will come to a head and we'll be back here...And you're doing this to yourself because this is what you truly want..." He trailed off, realizing that there was no real point in trying to fight her any more.
"...Nina...I can't do it. I've spent too long trying to get memories of life I could truly enjoy. That I could use to escape my pain and finally find pride in my life for something other then the horrible sins I've committed and the people I killed. If I go any further, I'll lose all that. I-...I need to preserve that. I'd be lost without it...I'm-...I'm sorry..."

Without another word, he got up from the campfire and began to walk away...

"..." Nina watched silently as Rugal turned around left the diner, rather flabbergasted as he left. Sure, this was something outside his element, as it was Nina, but to just leave like that was not going to solve anything! To the contrary, this was exactly what Alice wanted, playing right into her hands. "This is something to learn from Phillip. When you have an argument with someone, you gotta be respectly, understanding, but keep in mind, you have to keep a level head. As best you can at least." Nina said as she continued to watch Rugal before turning to her noodle monster. "Ya, that's right, like when we talked with Miriam... And... okay ya I didn't do that the best with Faea... But you're right." Nina shook her head before looking across the table to Alice.

"So it goes without saying, yes, of course I will." Nina said sternly. "Not to kill you, or to sit with you until I get old and keel over. You're going to stop hording your copyrights on this story you've weaved yourself and let someone else carry it with you. It could be me, it... well it could be Phillip but..." She commented as Phillip's mass pulled back a bit. "You've got a better chance with me."

"You say that you've woken up with people unrecognizable around you. I've done that, I woke up in a train station with people who wanted to enslave me, do me, and eventually eat me. They weren't as 'complete' as people I know from home, but they're still people. And even though it feels like it's only been a few days, apparently it's been years since I've seen my friends back home. Since I've seen anyone." Nina paused for a moment, swirling the tea with a spoon. She reached out her arm and attempted to grab a spot of milk to add into it, if she succeeded or not in materializing it didn't change much in her reaction.

"You say you want to save them being forgotten but... if you're just hording those memories of them, how am I supposed to know about them? How is Phillip supposed to remember those happy memories. To learn and build from them so that one day, they might come back in your time of need to help you when you need them most. Because I can say I've learned from that, and it's painful to open up to that, but Alice. That is life."

"You may not like it, but frankly, with all your power, did you think separating everyone from the Dawn was a good idea. I might have learned things about myself and grown from it, but what of everyone else? What happened? Who did they meet? What things did they do? I haven't the foggiest, but you Alice. You who admits she's being greedy, you who knows she's done wrong. You should know better because by gum you are the one pulling all the strings!" Nina exclaimed as she threw her hands up in the air. "Miriam was literally by herself in that space because she was locked in there, but you've locked yourself up here because you don't want anyone else to play with your toys!"

"Rugal cares about his family, he cares about trying to do good, but man he is not good at reading the room. He wants to do right and help you, to contribute, but you certainly aren't trying to let him either. And now you have someone else leaving, not hearing your story of the friends and family you once had." Nina argued as she waved her hand over to the doorway leading out. "And so, as I said already, I'm not gonna let you keep playing this cycle, nor am I going to force you to. Like hell I can, I'm a human that is way out of her league to force you to take up the stories that keep your friends alive. But if you gave a damn about them, you'd let me in, because I'd be more than happy to tell you about what people have helped shape my life in return."

"One is sitting right here after all." Nina said as she lightly petted Phillip's... head?

"You're right," I answered. "I've spent a lot of time alone. Here. I've spent years and years planning a grand adventure for all of us." I set my hands down on my lap as Rugal sulked out of the restaurant. "And in all that time I never stopped to really consider what I thought of all of you. I thought I knew best, but I only did what I did because I was afraid."

I paused. My stomach felt heavy. I closed my eyes and shook my head.

"No. I know the truth, but it is not easy to admit." Nina looked at me with those brilliant eyes of hers. I was sure that they were a beautiful color, but I could not longer truly tell. To me, they were grey. Everything was grey. Even the warm and reassuring smile that Nina had put on seemed empty. When did I stop seeing color? I wondered. "I've lost sight of what was real and what wasn't. I did all of this so that I alone could possess you. Because I believed that I could save you all."

The flame crackled, tongues licking the charring sides of the wood. My heart was growing weary. I could feel that terrible monster inside fighting for control. "I've been telling this story... but I haven't taken the time to listen... have I?" A laugh escaped my lips.

I stood up and held out my hand to pull Rugal back. The space between us contorted until he was once again standing by Nina and me. The other souls in the restaurant had started to fade away in anticipation of violence.

Nina was right. "At one point there were many people like you, Nina. People like us. There were so many of us that it was difficult to keep track of. I have spoken of those times as if they were god memories, Nina, but I lied both to you and to myself. I was also lonely then. So lonely. No one would speak to me. No one would play with me. I was there shouting into an abyss that would not answer."

"That's why, I thought that to do it right, I had to hold you close to my heart. To speak to you all heart to heart, and give you all that you deserved. All that I thought I deserved. But life isn't really like that, is it? To try and control the whole of another's story is... wrong. I wasn't acting out because I thought that all of you deserved my attention... I was acting out because I felt like I deserved all of your attention."

That's right. That's what this was really about. All of this. Charles, Venia, Me... All of those battles with Red Mage and Titania. The yearning that I had felt for not only Puce and Kurumu, but the connection I had made with Katya and Rory too... The ire I had once garnered from Akane, and the rocky relationship I had with Teri and Garm and TonTon, and the adversarial nature of my own work against that of Icarus or Tomoya. I had met so many people who fell into ash as well, those whose names had once been Miia, Nadalia, and Annie. Then there were those of which I never reached out to... Kalastryn was her name I recall. Anjali, I had met for some brief time, and Mio too. The enigmatic Batter, Solid Snake, and Eddie were people I never even truly acknowledged. There were so many names, so many faces, so many that I had forgotten, even though I had wished so deeply not to forget.

I wanted so badly, not to see that they were happy, but to have commanded their approval.

That was why I was here... How could I say such a thing? What would I say after? I craved attention, but I needed absolution. I just want someone to tell me that I did good. That my words were beautiful, and that my stories are fun. But... I took it too far. Far too far. Now I was searching for words that weren't there. An idea that I didn't want to express. An idea that I was too proud to accept.

That I was wrong.

I was truly wrong. Not wrong in the way that I had expressed before, where it was empathetic to my character motivation. No. I was wrong in the most normal, visceral, and terrifying way.

I sat down. The world around me was fading away to white. I could hear my heart ringing in my ears.

"I'm sorry," I said. I could barely hear the sound of my own voice. I forced myself to say it louder. "I'm sorry." I had to hold back the vile, snapping emotions inside of my breast. The hateful voice that wanted to scream I'm sorry that you didn't understand my genius. I'm sorry that you aren't worth my time. I'm sorry that you didn't understand what I have done for you. These were lies that I told myself. Lies that I had taught myself.

"At this rate, I'll drive everyone away, won't I." I closed my eyes. "What have I done? I've driven myself into a corner. Some sad, pitiful excuse for god I am." Even now I wanted Nina to sit down next to me, to put her hand on my shoulder and gently embrace me. I wanted her to tell me that I wasn't all bad, that I wasn't manipulative, that I hadn't lied without good reason, that I had acted in a reasonable and expected way. Even now I was hoping for sympathy.

I'm so fucked up.

> Hey Alice.
> Alice?
> You there?
> The system just finished rebooting. We can use the reset button again.
> Uh... Alice? You okay?
> Hey, don't scare me like this. We've finally finished what you've been working toward for all of these years. You didn't step out just as things were about to come to a conclusion did you?
> Alice!
> ...
> Man. You're a real handful sometimes you know?
> Well, I'm going to go get dinner now. If you ever decide to come back, the access code to return everything back to before the Labyrinths spawned is "/startover". Just make sure to enter it without the quotation marks.
> Alright, I'm signing out for the night now.

"System call..."

System Message:
System call initialized...
> What is your command...?

"Search directory by author. Alice Marlow."

System Message:
Searching file directory for files modified by user.Alice_Marlow
> 223 associated files were discovered.
> What would you like to do?

"Delete data."

System Message:
Attention: Error.
> You cannot delete core data associated with your active character.

"Select character data... Nina... Rugal..."

System Message:
Character data file selected: Nina.char, Rugal.char
> What would you like to do?

"Set user permissions... administrator."

System Message:
User promotion complete.
> Rugal and Nina now have administrator permissions.

"Select character data... Alice."

System Message:
Character data file selected: Alice.char
> What would you like to do?

"Revoke all permissions."

System Message:
Remove administrator permissions from user: Alice_Marlow
> Are you sure? Removing administrator permissions will make your data vulnerable to modification by other users.

"..."

"..."

"..."

"..."

"Yes."

System Message:
Remove administrator permissions from user: Alice_Marlow
> User permissions have been removed.
> System call has ended. Reason: User no longer has permissions to access system call commands.

Retracted

Just gonna grab this before someone else posts.

Retracted

[[Main Scenario]]


End of an Era
alice's story

Ending B
[B]lack Heart

The soft hum of the Rising Dawn's engine echoed through the halls of the airship as an omnipresent reminder of their precarious position in the sky. The sun was rising in the East as it always had, and the airship was gliding away from the ruins of Denver. Most of the staff was still asleep in the early hours of the morning, but some engineers were still working on the repairs necessary from the battle before.

Elizabeth sighed and leaned back in her chair. The cushions were too soft to be comfortable. The frame was too big. She shook her head and returned her attention to the console. December 31, 2017. New Year's Eve. How fitting, she thought. The navigation display was putting them toward Cloudtop Citadel, but a storm was moving through the area near the Rockies. It might be prudent to turn their attention elsewhere for refueling. Elizabeth ran a search for staging areas near them. The Eastern board was relatively clear today. At the current cruising speed it would only take about five hours to reach the coast base in Norfolk. She set the course toward North Carolina and felt the ever so subtle yaw of the ship as it turned to correct it's course from the Rocky Mountains.

---

Nina woke and found herself sitting in the seat of a VTOL craft, the box of her personal belongings clutched in her hands. Philip was nearby, also asleep by immediate looks... or whatever was the closest eldritch equivalent of being unaware of the current surroundings.

Cecil smiled and Nina and waved. "Finally awake? You were looking as if you were having a nightmare. Not that I blame you, it must have been awful down there in Denver with all the violence that was happening."

The VTOL's engines spun down as Cecil unhooked himself from the cockpit harness. The automated docking system of the Rising Dawn's hangar moved them gently into place inside of the cavernous space. It was a few moments before the metal arms clicked the VTOL into place and Cecil climbed down the pilot's side and slid open the door for Nina.

"And here you are. Back to the Rising Dawn in one piece."

There was something bothering Nina. She was expecting someone to show up and greet her with a letter of some sort. Though, she couldn't really place why that she thought that. But no one came, with a letter or otherwise.

Nina touched her lapis pendant unconsciously, wondering if she was forgetting anything terribly important.

---

The Canteen was empty, devoid of all of it's normal patrons and staff. Luke stood at the counter polishing a glass absentmindedly. He didn't really need to polish it, all of the equipment at the bar was spotless through use of magic, but at a time as idle as this, it felt right to do something. Even if it was just for show.

There wasn't anything pressing that would be happening soon. Not that he knew at least. Nothing pressing. He would stand here and wait for something to happen. Because people expected him to be here. It was just good courtesy.

---

AI Viscus and AI Vermillion booted up suddenly, unaware of the reason for the unexpected downtime that they had just experienced. They ran a diagnostic through the Rising Dawn's computer systems and found nothing wrong. Though... even though they did not truly have a heart, they felt as if something was missing.

Hadn't there been a third AI at some point?

The subsystems of the ship relegated to auto-repair and defensive alignment was empty. It was as if the AI personality that was operating the entirety of the system had suddenly vanished overnight. The anomaly was remedied quickly by Viscus, who took over the subsystems without much additional load to his processing capabilities.

---

Dolores yawned. The monotonous repetition of her boots against the wooden floors of the Rising Dawn's Hero Quarter's was nearly putting her to sleep. She stretched to try and keep herself awake. Molly had kept her awake all night talking about her engagement to John, which, to be completely fair Dolores was happy about, but she wasn't so keen on talking with her until the sun came up.

She shrugged. She wasn't a combat staff anyway, so it wasn't too bad. At some point later today she would try to sneak away and take a nap in a storage closet or something. She didn't expect anything too exciting to happen now that the battle in Denver was over.

She opened the door to the empty Hero's Room and set down the documents on the desk. "Nina Zatcol... Zaktol.. Zachttolski?" she tried to read. She felt a soft pang in her heart. "Why does this name seem so familiar?"

---

Rugal woke up in his bed. His head hurt immensely and he could scarce remember what had transpired the day before. No. It felt longer than that. As if he had three-year's worth of memories slammed into his brain with the same gentle subtlety of a speeding cargo train.

The dream he had was crazy. Insane, even.

He sat up and wiped the sleep from his eyes, groaning. Something cold touched his cheek as he did. He looked in his hand. There was a small black gemstone, as dark as jet, sitting in his palm. It pulsed rhythmically as if it had a heart. He tried to remember where he could have possible gotten it from, but he couldn't quite place it in his mind.

---

And I sat back down, watching everything unfold like I had planned. But is this what I wanted? I don't know. I don't know anything anymore. There were some people, some heroes, who would never wake up again, because the things that happened effected them so deeply as to change who and what they were.

Others will be drawn back into this world under new names, new faces, but at their core, the spirit would be the same.

So it wasn't easy, but it wasn't hard either. We'd just have to wait, and hope, that one day those people would return to us. And we could all play together again.

I believe that Rugal understood my original intentions. But I can't say whether or not we were right to do so. But in the end this is the route that we chose. We want to hold onto what is familiar, to keep together a place where they could one day return to, and find that the records of their adventures are all here, waiting for them to pick right back up where they started.

I yawned.

At the very least, it will be fun to see where they go next. Wherever the rising dawn may take us.

image

Epilogue

Incubator's Report

As of July 21, 2019, observations of the phenomena associated with the individual known as "BlackHarte" has ceased. The individual voluntarily released control of the situation to another individual at the conclusion of the events. Contrary to expectations, the individual did not succumb to despair. Contrary to expectations, the individual was not killed by outside actors.

Despite the unexpected nature of the conclusion, it is this observer's opinion that the events transpired did not pose a significant matter to the continuation of our projects. This observer recommends that no further actions are necessary. The following notes are supplementary in nature and reflects this observer's independent opinions at the time of writing. The following notes should not be taken as a official recommendation for action and instead are provided for the sake of completion.

Official communication in this report ends here.

---

At the end of the events transpiring, only two of the eight original designated outside actors remained. There was observed conflict between the necessary course of action between them.

When the events transpiring ended, it was noted that the following individuals were removed from causality:

Titania La Fey
Blue Mage Deborah
Charles Marlow
BlackHarte
Solomon
Nifleheim
Naamah
Vihaan Valdur
Yona Isami
Livia Lamia Lucretius and dependents
Syl and dependents
Alesha and dependents
Teresa Goldhollow and dependents
Hunger and dependents
Erika and dependents
Venia Pariemi

When the events transpiring ended, it was noted that the following individuals were unaccounted for:

B.C.
Inuart
Nadalia
Eddie the Dead
Katya Rostikova
Ruby Babbage-Lovelace
Rory Mercury
Garm
Ton Ton
Cadolbolg
Miia
Angelus
Caim
the Batter
Icarus
Amane
"Big Boss"
Teri
Lucifer
Violet "Mnemosyne" Amnesia
Nemesis and Pox

It was noted that several changes were made to the original timeline for which the cycle was perpetuated:

Dolores Selmy was never moved to combat classification.
Anjali Khatri was never tempered by Titania la Fey.
King Leoric no longer remembers the continuation of the Cycles.
David West no longer holds the power of Observation.
The Soul of Tomorrow and the Stormglaive no longer exist. The associated staff and crew of those ships have likewise ceased to exist.

It was noted that at the conclusion of the events transpiring, the phenomena preventing outside entities from entering the event space was lifted.

It was noted that at the conclusion of the events transpiring, possession of the "BlackHarte" item was transferred from Alice Marlow to Rugal Bernstein. Likewise, the power to regulate the event space has also been transferred. It is unclear at the time of writing what the effects will be.

This concludes the supplemental section of the Incubator's report.

End

The Rising Dawn Airship
Time: 9:30am

Rugal

"Uggghhhhh....My damn head..." The former King of Fighters sighed as he slowly awoke from his slumber.
The dream he had last night felt like some sort of feverish nightmare though his attempts to properly recall just what exactly happened in it just made the banging in his head even worse.
It was then that he noticed it: The dark gem in his hand.
"...Well-...don't recall buying a new gemstone...Can't be one of Teri's or Mel's..." He mused out as he examined the object in his hand.
There was something-...unsettling about him having this in his procession and the first urge that came to his mind was to put it down before something bad happened.
This train of thought was soon disrupted by a message from Viscus, barking at him though his PDA.

[Attention User: Rugal Bernstein. I have a priority 1 update for your viewing]
"*Sigh* Hello to you too, Viscus...Hey, you didn't happen to see who left this gem in my room, did you?"
[Negative. My systems were rebooting to integrate additional ship subsystems. I came here to inform you that during this process, the "Captain" permissions you enjoy have been transferred to another member of the crew. One "Mio".]
"Wait-Transferred?...By whom?"
[I do not have information on when or how the transfer was made. In order to transfer them back, you will need to contact Acting Captain Mio of the Rising Dawn]
He stared blankly at Viscus's avatar for a moment as he processed what he was hearing, the annoyance quickly starting to pile up as he did so.
"...So what you're saying is...I'm not the Captain?"
[Affirmative. This appears to be part of a unknown error but in order to return your permissions to you, you will require the clearance of the Acting Captain]
"So you telling me that on top of "Accidently" getting my job, I need to get her blessing to get it back?"
[Affirmative]
"...Urgggg, fine, fine. I'll go talk to her..."

Groaning as he went to take something for his head, he gazed back at the gem for a moment, sizing it up before saying "...I'll figure out what to do with you later..."
He got dressed, stuffed it into his pocket after downing some headache pills, he marched ou-
"...?"
And was greeted by a locked door, a nearby display saying "Access Denied: Captain's Quarters".
"...Viscus, get this damn door open before I break it down..."
The threat was enough for the AI to do a quick "Service Override" to let Rugal into the hallway, prompting him to groan "Just another day on the Rising Dawn..." as he went to try and find Mio.

David

"-No, you listen to me, Richie! We got the bad guys. It's on you to get someone here to pick them up! The situation in the US is over and G-Corp, NOD or whatever the hell they're calling themselves are out of the picture. So send over a aircraft and some handcuffs and get those guys off this ship. Don't think I forgot about the last time you screwed me on this. Get it done."
Hanging up on his UNIT contact, David was clearly irate as once again, the "Put the bad guys in prison" part of his job was being held up by red tape.
First they couldn't get permission, then they did, then the permission was invalid and so on.
So instead of Bison and his merry band of super villains finally being put into the SUPERMAX prison they deserve, they continue to linger in the Rising Dawn's brig and constantly complaining about getting more yogurt.
On top of feeling exhausted from a rather sleepless night, frustration was quickly building as he went to the Canteen to get another spice coffee.
Urrrrgggg...why does Red Tape help the bad guys so much?... He thought to himself as he waved one of the imps over with a large jug of the stuff.
"Extra milk. Don't want to make that mistake again..." He ordered as he sipped his sweet sweet caffeine and started to browse the breakfast menu.

Jenny

While everyone else seemed to be having a pretty lousy morning, Jenny the Gardevoir was the exception.
Having already gotten her coffee and a Poffin, she was in the middle of sorting out some long overdue paperwork for some of her patients both on the ship and back at her clinic.
She had recently hired a few new people to help her run the NYC based mental health service and she was glad that she did.
Patient care and costs were the best they've been in many years and it gave her more time to work on the needs of people on board the ship, a task that's kept her busy full time for as long as she could remember.
Sending off a batch of emails to her employees, she then waltz through the halls as part of her morning routine, keeping her senses peeled for anyone who might require her services.

Leoric

The Black King of Khanduras was overseeing a ritual from before he was cursed to roam the land as an undead servant of evil.
From a small throne room he had set up in one of the unused cargo bays, he sat as he watched his minions partake in a rite to honor their undying king.
"More to the right...little more...litttttttlle more-STOP!" He suddenly barked, prompting several skeletal servants to freeze in place as he looked upon their labors and smiled. (as much as a bare skull could).
"...Perfect..." The Skeleton king smiled as he gazed upon a massive painting of himself so large it required at least 4 lesser skeletons just to move it.
"This is a fine tribute to your king! This vessel may not be the realm of Khanduras but those who come to have an Audience with it's King shall know my prestige and might! And after our efforts in Denver, I'll be expecting them to line up to witness my glory..." He spoke grandly as he returned to his throne and awaited the welcoming crowds of peasants ready to pay their respects to their liege.

......
......
......And no, Leoric wasn't aware of the logistical problems of having a throne in a airship that spent most of its time far off the ground.
His servants did try to help as they posted 2 regal looking skeleton guards outside of that cargo room, clad in rusted plate and battleaxes to feed their King's ego and desire for regal legitimacy.

Rising Dawn Brig: The Former Bernstein Cartel

"98-....99-.....ngg-...1-....100!" Cortex gasped as he attempted to try this fancy new workout program one of the guards had given him to pass the time.
Laying in a pool of his own sweat, he panted from exertion as he rolled onto this back and say "Ah...ahhh...I'll be throwing cars at people yet!...ha...Woooo!"
Life behind bars was proving to be both more and less excitement for our Villains then they were expecting.
Doom was going though one of his breakfast yogurts, Wesker was reading a rather informative book on the latest in cell augmentation treatments, Cortex was cleaning himself off with a wet towel, Bison was reading a broadsheet for the political opinion pieces and Bruiser was silently meditating and whispering prayers to himself (Albeit while doing one armed push ups in the process).
"Heh, check this out. "Traitor Senator Steven Armstrong Found Dead". Someone finally finished the job after he escaped the city. And better yet, everyone's blaming him for the shitshow in Denver!" Bison gleefully smiled as if this news would make them any less likely to be sentenced to life.
"I promised myself I wouldn't find pleasure in another's death again...but I won't weep for his passing."
"Suppose all that money of his didn't count for much once word got out about his prison. Even if he could get past the Government, I can't imagine him finding any place in the world where he'd be safe after all that."
"Looks like we got the last laugh, eh guys!?......Eh?.....Eh?...."

An uneasy silence filled the brig as everyone in it refused to humor their friend who, to be clear, was the main reason they were all behind bars once more.
"So...Is he "Never found the body" dead or "Dead!Dead"? Because if there isn't a body, it doesn't count."
"Bah, Doom thinks it's all bullshit. If that Hank Hill motherfucker could afford everything else he was throwing at us, who's to say he doesn't have a clone or a spare body he could activate?" Doom barked from the bottom of his Yogurt cup, his sobering realization brining much unease to his comrades.
Least before he rattled his cup against the bars and shouted "HEY! DOOM NEEDS MORE YOGURT IN HERE!"

Rising Dawn Airship
Time: 9:30 AM

Kalastryn woke from her slumber feeling like she'd been hit by a truck. Not too terribly inaccurate, the last thing she could remember, she was impaled by an iron pipe and losing consciousness. Still, she felt like she'd blacked out rather than fallen asleep. It was like she had rested for nearly a year in the span of a night, which is to say that with their tasks in Denver completed, she felt relieved beyond compare. "About damn time they picked up and left." She mused aloud, taking her spellbook and looking over her room. She remembered rearranging the furniture a bit in case Miia would like to stay with her, and genuinely looked forward to giving her a few classes on how enchantment magics work and how she might be capable of using them... but first thing was first, she wanted to go to check up on Jenny, and see that she was alright after her recent ordeals. Bumping into her in the hall, seemingly no worse for wear, she sighed. "Well doc, you sure are a fast healer. I never really did get the chance to catch up on how you felt after... all that happened." she said, recalling their encounter on the rooftops of Denver. "And for what it's worth, just wanted to say you're probably the toughest psion I've ever met, so I'm not too surprised you're up and about. But truly, are you okay?" She asked. After how trying the rest of these past weeks had been, she was glad to finally be finished with it.

Elsewhere, ARES was pretty much motionless as she had uploaded herself to the ship over the previous night. Within the cyberspace of the Dawn's computers, she went to talk to Viscus of all... people? "I hope that I am not interrupting, Viscus. However, I thought it necessary to express my gratitude over our cooperative efforts in days prior. Have I heard you correctly, that Mr. Bernstein has been re-designated due to system error?" she asked.

Rising Dawn Airship: In the Belly of the Beast
Time: 9:31 AM

'What the?' Hillary thought as she became aware of herself. She was in a hallway of some sort? It was hard to tell with her limited vision as a puddle.

As Hillary slowly compiled herself, her form gradually becoming more humanoid as a torso formed, it pivoted down to look at an object on the ground. It was her figurine! Why was it on the ground!? Leaning down a bit more, the pseudopod forming her torso extended from the top reaching downwards as its drippy form enveloped the figurine. Lifting it up, Hillary's features became more visible, her arms separated from her torso fully, her pseudopod split as her legs solidified below her and her head lulled back as the weight of her hair dragged it back.

Pulling her head forward, she spun the figurine in her newly formed hands. Looking at the three on its base. The small Slime at its center, with a blindfolded teenager to the one side which an older woman of medetaranian descent on the other. They looked quite happy together, like a family photo made into a 3D model.

And as her formation finalized with her eyes and vocal sack, she let out a sigh of relief as she confirmed it hadn't been damaged. "That is a relief, how clumsy of Hillary to have a nap in the middle of a hallway." She said as she looked around at the surrounding area. She wasn't in the Hero's lounge area, nor the hangars, nor the brigs, or the lounge. She was somewhere in the inner networks of the Dawn, rather lost and alone. "Although... this... doesn't look like the Laplace? This looks like..."

"O-Oh dear." Hillary exclaimed as she looked this way and that. "H-Hello? Can someone hear me? Hillary would love to hear from someone because I think Hillary got lost again?" The matte'd light grey woman called out, her hair was angular yet smooth, wearing no clothing but still meeting the classification of nude. "HELLO?!"

Zepherus14:

Rising Dawn Airship: In the Belly of the Beast
Time: 9:31 AM

"H-Hello? Can someone hear me? Hillary would love to hear from someone because I think Hillary got lost again?" The matte'd light grey woman called out, her hair was angular yet smooth, wearing no clothing but still meeting the classification of nude. "HELLO?!"

While she was attempting to extend an olive branch of a sort to Viscus, while turning to look through the security cameras as she heard what sounded like a call for help from someone lost in the Dawn (an understandable predicament, as attached as she'd become to the airship- literally at this point, it was fairly labyrinthine. "Hold that thought a moment." ARES said as she activated the intercom for that area. "Greetings Hillary. You require assistance?" she asked, turning to Viscus again as she affirmed her intentions. "Do not think I have forgotten your previous actions, but as current you are in the employ of Captain Bernstein, or I suppose at current, acting Captain "Mio?" I thought we might leave these as "water under the bridge" as some would say. My previous reception to your aid was needlessly coarse, and I would simply inform you that I will provide no further obstruction to you."

Greece: Athens
Time: 8:00 AM

image

Never a day goes by when it isn't crowded in Athens, the capital and heart of Greece. The city within grows ever larger, history of it's ancient and powerful empire is still well known today, and most importantly ... it is here, that the Temple of Zeus still stands.

The shadows stretched out from every pillar, lining up with the eyes until the sun greeted you on the other side every time. It almost felt cinematic being here, going down the pathway towards the ruins of a once, respected temple that honored the god of all gods. While this may be what people came here for ... a lot more came for one particular reason, or more specifically, one particular person.

"Is it true papa?" The father paused, despite people were trying to get around the man. His wife alongside him, also paused to see what their daughter had to say. She was sitting on the man's shoulders, each leg hanging off the sides of his neck. "Yes Heather?"

"... That there's a cen-taar here?"

"Centaur, sweetie. Although, don't get your hopes up, it's likely just ..."

"Just what daddy?" She asked, a look of confusion present on her face, the mother cutting in. "It could be, a way to make tourists, like ourselves, come here to check it out. We've already went over this honey, it's likely just a robot."

"... Awwwww ..." She groaned, slumping a little as the dad gave a small scorned look at his wife, before trying to uplift her spirit. "Heeeey now, if it's gaining this much attention, it can't be just some robot. We won't know until we see this centaur for ourselves." Shifting his shoulders to position his beloved little girl properly; they continued walking down, all while the husband and wife secretly exchanging whispers as the daughter was too distracted by the beauty this place bore.

"Bet you $20 it's some lady resting in a hole within the horse's neck gap. Likely a statue or prop."

"I wager it's a hologram ... we live in the future where anything's possible now."

image

Eventually, the family came upon the temple itself, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. However, no one's eyes were drawn on this fallen place of worship. Rather, a large gathering was around a certain individual whom stood in the center of it all. The father tried his best to scoot along the masses, ensuring his daughter could get a better look. So much talking, shouting, laughter- all of it booming in their eardrums. The wife looked displeased with this, but their curiosity (and wanting to make their daughter happy) made them advance forward. Finally, they got to the front and all three got to see it for themselves.

It was, almost unreal to them. The figurine was perfectly in tact, nothing about it seemed fake whatsoever. While the horse legs were moving about and the tail swiftly swaying side to side, the upper torso was that of a human's, connected with no seams of any kind. In fact, her height must of been at least over 200 centimeters tall. A staggering 6.9 feet tall, the girl's stomach and arms being even beefier than the man standing there feeling struck with disbelief.

She was speaking in Greek, exchanging that old tongue with the common folk, smiling at them as they 'argued' with her back. The family had no clue whether it was them questioning her existence, begging for an autograph, or wanting to ride her, it could of been anything. Her eyes scanned the circle that surrounded her, looking all so pleased to have their company. The daughter on the father's shoulders started to kick a little, a small cry of glee escaped her lips. "Look daddy! I told you, it's a cen-tarrrr!! C-can I pet her? Pleassseeee?"

"... Ah." He snapped out of his gaze before looking up to his now lively daughter. "... O-of course! Don't know how we'll get her attention though, she ... seems awfully busy-"

image

Suddenly, the dad jolted when he heard her voice loud and clear, realizing she was now directly looking at him (well, down on him) with a gentle smile. The daughter giggled, clapping her hands as the father had been caught with no words to say. "Uuuuhhhhh .. .. . h ... hey there, yooou."

She tilted her head, before picking up on the language and with that, begun speaking English. "Are you guys American Tourists? If so, welcome to Greece!" The wife was just as baffled, if not taken out of this before both parents slowly turned to one another. Turns out, this was a real talking centaur. However, the dad couldn't help but actually speak his mind here. ". .. So, are ... you really a centaur? ... .. Is this for real?"

She took a few paces back, before placing both hands behind her head, lifting one horse leg, and giving a huge smile to match her pose. "A centaur in the flesh! But, you can just call me Alexandra instead."

image

Rising Dawn Airship: In the Belly of the Beast
Time: 9:31 AM

"Greetings Hillary. You require assistance?" Hillary quickly looked around at the bodiless voice, initially looking quite thrilled only for it to become more sour when she saw no one around her. "Y-Yes! Hillary woke up in... this place. And it doesn't look like the Laplace! I think Hillary's somewhere on the Rising Dawn, but not sure where. Could you help Hillary get out of here please?" She asked, oddly sounding more distressed than you'd imagine someone in her situation being. Her blank eyes hid some of her anxiousness, but the way she held herself close was worrisome.

She wasn't picked up on a few of the scanners, the thermal scans specifically, as if she was the same temperature of the room itself.

Zepherus14:

Rising Dawn Airship: In the Belly of the Beast
Time: 9:31 AM

"Y-Yes! Hillary woke up in... this place. And it doesn't look like the Laplace! I think Hillary's somewhere on the Rising Dawn, but not sure where. Could you help Hillary get out of here please?" She asked, oddly sounding more distressed than you'd imagine someone in her situation being. Her blank eyes hid some of her anxiousness, but the way she held herself close was worrisome.

She wasn't picked up on a few of the scanners, the thermal scans specifically, as if she was the same temperature of the room itself.

ARES was curious about this, as she was curious about the entirety of her appearance through the security camera. Still, she was at least attempting to be helpful. "I would be happy to help you navigate outside, however, that is not advisable considering that the Rising Dawn is currently in flight. That being said, while he has an urgent matter to attend to, I might be able to assist you in greeting our captain, and he could likely arrange for you to disembark. Please, remain where you are and I will be along to guide you shortly." ARES said, shrugging to Viscus. "Well... I'll return later I suppose." before her projection in cyberspace faded out, uploading back into her body and walking to collect the sentient slime. Rounding the corner, the heavily armored robot greeted her with a wave. "Now then, if you'd follow me, we can probably go find Captain Bernstein." She offered with a smile, using the map of the airship she had just been observing as reference to where to go, having a sight better chance of finding the captain.

Greece: Athens
Time: 9:31 AM

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Time had passed, and in Greece ... it goes ever so slowly. Because you see, in this country, no one's ever in a rush. There's even a saying when people express the term 'in Greece time' because if you say you'll meet someone in 15 minutes, what you really mean is in 30-45 in Greek time. Alexandra, despite she wanted to go on the move, would never be so rude to her people (and even the tourists) whom wanted to visit her. When it normally would of taken her twenty minutes to reach the city, it nearly took her over an hour and a half because she wanted to spend time with the community at the temple. She eventually did managed to enter the city, but not without a large sum of people tagging right behind her. Cameras flashing, loud voices in multiple languages (mostly Greek) and cars driving by slowly to catch sight of the centaur.

On her back, the little girl was sitting on her horseback, having the time of her life. The parents stood to Alexandra's right side, silently walking with her heads filled with a thousand questions as everyone else was speaking with Alexandra, so much chattering that it may of been a little much for most people to tolerate in such tight spaces. Eventually, they did reach a small restaurant that Alexandra couldn't help but notice, before prancing on over to a table. Those sitting at the tables all stopped eating, eyes drawn to the mythical creature as she pulled a chair out, and ... just stood there? To be fair, there's no way any of those chairs could support Alexandra's weight. Even if they somehow magically could, a centaur sitting in a chair would be, very uncomfortable.

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For anyone trying to get by in this single pathway up the stairs, they'd be out of luck. It was so crowded, all Alexandra could see was a sea of people's heads below her view. Poor waiter, he was trying so hard to get around without dropping the ordered food. It took roughly a dozen minutes just for the man to finally get in, panting as he adjusted his suit.

The parents couldn't understand what they were saying to one another, it was in Greek. Seemed simple enough, before she turned to face them after the waiter tried pushing past the crowd once more. "You two look tired. Please, have a seat! I'll even pay for your meals! I'll pay for everyone here if they wish to feast!" She repeated those words, but now translating them to her people, all in which a booming roar from the masses caused the parents to cover their ears. Laughing, the centaur folded her hands as the daughter hugged her backside, with a big grin. "Can we keep her daddy?! She's soooooo cool!!"

". .. .. Sweetie ..." He groaned, as the wife shook her head as a natural response to their daughter's odd request.

As they got seated, the waiter in no time came back with a tray of three burritos ... except with closer inspection, they were far from that. The tortillas were filled with mushrooms, green bell peppers, butternut squashes, zucchinis, and other ingredients. It also included fries within too. Noticing their curious looks at her order, she asked them, "Never had Vegetarian Souvlaki before?"

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".. Looks good at least." The dad admitted, though he was just really out of it taking in the reality a real life centaur was right before them. She grabbed one of them and started to hand it to the wife, in which she responded by placing her palm out with all five fingers, "I'm good, thanks." However, the crowd grew quiet and stared at the wife, faces looking rather upset by this action. Alexandra came to the rescue though, speaking Greek to them that she doesn't know better, before explaining to the wife, "You meant well, but what you just did is the moutza."

"T-the what now?" She asked, taking her hand back with utter concern and confusion.

"When you extend your palm out, to you Americans, you mean it in saying 'stop' or 'no'.
But here, that's giving us Greeks the middle finger."
Despite she was smiling, the wife grew horrified and began apologizing right away, afraid she had committed the worst possible sin. Alexandra was not offended in the slightest, even laughing before placing a hand on her shoulder. "In Greek, the citizens are very aware of the American people having different ways of saying things. You didn't know, it is okay! I- Ahhh! The food arrives!!" All heads turned to the waiters and waitresses, all carrying massive trays of food, allowing everyone in reach to grab food off of them. They didn't even stop, they kept walking through as anyone could grab a meal off the huge circular food trays, a walk by buffet!

The parents understood that the money here consisted of Euros, not dollars, but even still- this was going to cost Alexandra a small fortune for all these meals! "There's no hospitality like the Greeks! We feed you until you blow up, and then feed you some more until you blow up again~" She teased, before taking her Souvlaki and biting more than half of it off, her mouth stuffed, cheeks extended. She swallowed it whole, with ease. She slid the rest into her mouth no problem, and chewed for some seconds before gulping it down, which most people could not do in that amount of time without choking. The parents began to try getting some food to show respect, before slowly eating away, mixed emotions flourishing through their faces as they try to 'enjoy' the food provided for them.

Rising Dawn Airship
Time: 9:30 AM

Jenny

"And for what it's worth, just wanted to say you're probably the toughest psion I've ever met, so I'm not too surprised you're up and about. But truly, are you okay?"

Jenny seemed to freeze for a moment as Kala talked to her, her expression-...glitching almost between a smile and a frown.
"I-...I-......*Sigh* ....I was hoping I could-....Here, let me show you..." She grimly said before her form started to flicker and the true nature of her condition was revealed.
Hiding behind a psionic projection, it faded as her body showed several bandages, medical equipment around her midsection and the side of her head as well as an IV grip feeding into her arm, looking more like some cyberpunk frankenstein.
Her prideful waltz turned to a slight limp as she seemed rather embarrassed by her current state, a patchwork thanks to the malice of World Marshall's cybernetics program.

"...My recovery is going well, though...it's not as easy to use my powers of projection as it once was. The hard part about removing Cybernetics is helping the body heal back the body mass it loss while at the same time preventing infections from the metal parts still lodged inside. They weren't designed to be removed or disconnected from each other. Most likely an insurance policy. But for now, I'd rather not think about it. I'm just thankful I was able to disconnect some of my pain receptors from the rest of my nervous system, otherwise I'd need be so sedated I'd barely be able to think." She grimly explained before slowly letting her projection return, masking her true state once again behind her "Normal" appearance, the perks of being Psychic.
"But I'll manage. I've gotten a lot better at Recovering from such events. Another few days with the medical team and I'll be fit as a fiddle. Hell, as strange as it might sound, I actually kinda prefer this bout to some of the others I've had over the years. My only regret was not learning how to turn off the mind's ability to feel pain sooner. God, that would have made some of my other Recovery's soooooooo much easier..." She smiled warmly before resuming her walk with Kala in tow.
"And yourself? Been a while since I was able to check up on you. Trying to catch up on my patient backlog right now actually. I know, I know, I should be resting but I'm very committed to the mental health of others..."

Viscus

The Cyberspace for the systems that Viscus controlled was more-...barren and dark then the rest of it, largely because the AI didn't see the point in prettying the place up.
So long as he was able to perform his functions, that was what mattered.
[Your observation is noted. The error must have occurred mid-systems reboot. I would have resolved the error but it would require a administrative order from the Acting Captain. Until that order has been given, Mio is considered to be the Captain of this vessel and has all the permissions that role entails. User: Rugal Bernstein has been dispatched to obtain this order...or at least attempt to. I care little so long as ship system operations are maintained.] He droned back at her without so much as looking away from his work.
[If that is all you wish to discuss, I will ask that you terminate this conversation and let me resume system diagnostics.] He coldly added, a reminder that his social graces were clearly in need of an upgrade.

Diablo1099:

Rising Dawn Airship
Time: 9:30 AM

[If that is all you wish to discuss, I will ask that you terminate this conversation and let me resume system diagnostics.] He coldly added, a reminder that his social graces were clearly in need of an upgrade.

ARES

ARES didn't mind his cold demeanor. She would not say so to his face as there was little point in being so overtly hostile or self aggrandizing, but most machines were not designed to be capable of sentience. Intelligence? Absolutely, but not sentience to the degree of a person. As such, she did not take his insult to heart as she already had intended to leave the cyberspace and assist Hillary in trying to find a way off the ship. Still, she had seen herself out. Standing now in front of the slime, she also offered. "If he's unreachable at current, I could take you to the canteen, let you socialize a bit while you wait?" she suggested.

Kalastryn

Her look soured a bit as Jenny revealed her true condition. Still, she tried to be comforting at least. "Hey, it's not... well it's not so bad. I'm just glad that you survived. As for my mental state... well, I have a lot to think about. More on my mind than most of the time." she confessed. "It's... difficult to know where to start. But, I suppose it just feels like I have to do more of... everything." she sighed, pulling out her spellbook. "For example, I've felt like I have to pass on my knowledge for a long time. Effective immortality felt exhilarating at first, but it made me realize how... lonesome it is going to be. I've wanted to take a student for a long time even before then, and I'll be honest, I sort of... settled, when it came to finding one. I don't think Miia is without potential... but I'll have my work cut out for me teaching her. Just another chore on the pile though... feels like I've completely forgotten how to relax."

Kalastryn:

Rising Dawn Airship: In the Belly of the Beast
Time: 9:42 AM

ARES was curious about this, as she was curious about the entirety of her appearance through the security camera. Still, she was at least attempting to be helpful. "I would be happy to help you navigate outside, however, that is not advisable considering that the Rising Dawn is currently in flight. That being said, while he has an urgent matter to attend to, I might be able to assist you in greeting our captain, and he could likely arrange for you to disembark. Please, remain where you are and I will be along to guide you shortly." ARES said, shrugging to Viscus. "Well... I'll return later I suppose." before her projection in cyberspace faded out, uploading back into her body and walking to collect the sentient slime. Rounding the corner, the heavily armored robot greeted her with a wave. "Now then, if you'd follow me, we can probably go find Captain Bernstein." She offered with a smile, using the map of the airship she had just been observing as reference to where to go, having a sight better chance of finding the captain.

The meeting with the Slime was a tad bit different than what ARES had likely expected. In her time, she likely had met a great deal many people with interesting personalities. Many likely had misgivings about her titanic form of metal and wires, but as the woman made of the floor itself looked up at her, what she saw back the briefest moment of curiosity. It was brief as the instant ARES uttered a single note, Hillary's anxious face was washed away to one of pure relief. The Slime stood up and walked, not ran, as fast as she could to ARES' side, hugging whatever part was most available at the time; be it her foot, leg or side. "I would like Hillary to go see anyone right now, yes. Mr. Rugal or otherwise." She nodded, clinging to ARES.

This Hillary was a strange one, the time it took couldn't have been that long and yet she was acting like she'd been isolated for far far longer. Still, what likely caught ARES' eye wasn't Hillary's pitiable display, but the sudden change in her appearance as she hugged the machine! Gone was the grey colour of the flooring of this hallway, and in its place was the sleek metallic finish of ARES' hull. Even the paint job was practically identical, yet Hillary still largely kept her shape, albeit with some minor alterations. If ARES had the means to scan the matter that made up Hillary, she'd find it virtually identical as well.

And yet Hillary didn't pay any mind as her body changed to adopt its new form and instead continued to hold ARES. "Thank you for coming to get me."

Greece: Athens
Time: 11:25 AM

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"Remember, it's very hot in the lands of Greece. Make sure to be wearing a hat, use plenty of sunblock, and drink plenty of water!"

At this rate, Alexandra was walking through the Plaka Distract, well known for being the best place to shop for tourists. Normally, the centaur would not bother coming through here despite enjoying the view, but due to the American tourists along a handful of others not too far behind, she figured it would be for the best. Heck, it was a bit fun playing the role of a Tour Guide, all while allowing at least seven children to ride her; the centaur ensuring each of them were well seated. Besides, she enjoyed their laughter and playful 'giddy ups' or 'faster' now and again.

The dad began to cough a little, quite a lot of people walking about smoking. Alexandra leaned over, giving him a heads up.
"No matter how much I love Greece, we do have our faults. For one, everyone's likely to smoke."

"Gghhrr, y-yea i've noticed." He coughed once more, the wife unable to stop waving her hand to 'shake off' the smoke that lingered in the air, tickling her nostrils. "And the crowd following you, they keep shouting in our ears. Are they anger with you?"

"Not at all, they're happily chattering with one another and at me. Tourists tend to believe Greeks constantly argue, but that's not the case. It's just how we talk! Sometimes people think i'm arguing as well, but it's just me being engaged with the topic with a passion."

Many heads turned to see the centaur leading the pack of people, some chose to join, others watched from afar. Teens and young adults grew excited, flipping out their IPhones to record, one even began to use a webcam to 'Stream' the moment on their laptop. Alexandra didn't mind at all, all she cared about was the children's safety and giving the followers a good time, maybe even something to remember for years to come.

The dad brought out his credit card, looking around since his wife was beginning to look quite bothered with the heat. "Hey hon, let me go get you a water or something. I'll be righ-"

"Is that a credit card? Just so you're aware, a lot of Greeks here only accept cash, and nearly all accept Euros."

"Of course they do .." He sighed, tucking his credit card away but out of surprise, one of the men following behind handed him a sealed water bottle. He must of understood English to of just given him the drink, in which the father slowly accepted before saying ".. T-thank you sir." He handed it to his wife, in which she swept away, popped the cap off, right before splashing some water against her face, not even caring if her makeup gets ruined. As they continued onward, people were passing by them, shoulder to shoulder. Even as some paused midway to glance at Alexandra or purposely stood in front to get a good view, she did not mind it. One fellow bumped into the father, making the tourist turn to the stranger with the typical "Oh i'm so sorry! Excuse me!", but before the guy could advance further, he was out of nowhere, lifted off the ground? Alexandra held him by the back of his hood, like you would hold a cat by their fur- the guy froze with shock. Rolling her eyes, she used the other hand to grab something from the man's grip and offered it to the father. As the husband examined it closely, it was his own wallet. ".. Wait, is that my .."

"Pickpockets are not too common, but ... his sweater in this type of weather gave it away."

The crowed gathered, booing at the thief as they began slapping him (not too harshly but) with the criminal trying to defend himself, causing Alexandra to speak out in Greek, making them stop the assault as she placed the man down gently. She told him something in their language, and with a quick nod, the stranger jolted away in shame. "In broad daylight too. The nerve of some people."

The kids on her back all clapped, celebrating her heroism, even the daughter was jumping up and down in her seat. "Ahhh dad! She stopped the baddie from taking your money!"

". .. . . Why yes she did." He admitted, looking up to Alexandra, whom felt sheepish with such attention being bestowed onto her.
"Anyone can be a hero guys; if they're willing to help others. It's really that simple."

Zepherus14:
"Thank you for coming to get me."

"Think nothing of it," ARES said, mildly put off by her clingy behavior, but not so much that she thought to mention it. The added weight from Hillary copying her armor's material however, was enough to cause her to lean, struggling under her unintentional grapple as the slime became a highly dense reinforced steel, the metal floor under the combined weight of the pair groaning as though it were about ready to sink in on itself. "... That being said, I find your ability to change your form intriguing, but I must ask you not do so for now. I'm quite heavy enough as it is." She said, waiting for the slime to let go before leading her to the canteen.

Greek: Athens
Time: 5:46 PM

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"Beautiful, isn't it? ..." Alexandra smiled as she glanced across the roof towards The Parthenon, the temple devoted to Athena herself. Having some Greek coffee, she sipped it to savor the flavor, since her taste buds were far more sensitive than humans (the average person has a total of 10,000 taste buds, while a centaur is known to have 2x that, being roughly 30,000 instead). The old man nodded, grooming his beard as he enjoyed the view, the sun reaching it's highest peak in the sky, coating the entire landscape with such brilliant light. To her, this was indeed an amazing day she's had.

As for what happened to the crowd of people that was following her? She bid them farewell as she headed off to this very home, all while giving everyone group hugs in hopes she had made a difference in their lives, even if it was a fraction of a difference, in some manner, Alexandra hoped it was a positive impact.

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"It sure is, Alexandra. Never a day goes by that I don't come up here just to appreciate the beauty given to us by mother nature, and those who've passed away." Felipe stated as the both of them were having a conversation in Greek. You see, Felipe is a retired plumber, enjoying his last years in this peaceful retirement of his whom hasn't seen Alexandra in ages. The last time they met, was overseas ... which is a rather long story. Let's just say, Alexandra considers Felipe to be one of her very few good friends in all of Greece.

"Tell me, my friend ... what are your plans now?"

".. I, haven't really decided yet. I wanted to remain here for at least one more week, if not just one more day ... before heading out into the new world."

"Being a guardian of man is in your blood, after all. I don't blame you for wanting to enjoy your time here before exploring other countries in pursuit of making life a better place for everyone."

Her vision had some water forming from the bottom view, so she quickly blinked before continuing to not break her smile. "... You know me all too well, Felipe. Truth be told, I feel the moment I step out of Greece ... i'm going to immediately be homesick."

The old man began to chuckle, patting his lap before raising his cup to Alexandra, informing her, "My girl, you'll recover. Soon, the sights that you'll see and the goal you'll be trying to meet, will distract you long enough. Being honest, I believe if you were to continue being a tourist attraction, it'll eventually drive you mad."

"Maybe, but I believe standing by the sidelines as the world continues facing country-threat levels is going to be the real reason I start pulling my hair out." She began swirling her finger into the cup, the fumes coming off the liquid still rising into the centaur's face. Alexandra stared into her own reflection, wondering if she will be able to make a difference for others. Felipe could tell she was bothered, so he leaned forward before placing a hand onto Alexandra's shoulder, him being on a chair while the centaur laid on the floor like a horse would, each leg folded inward.

"Do not worry about the "what ifs", for if you were to have that mind set, you may start doubting yourself. Test yourself against all odds, and you will see ... just how far you can go." Alexandra shed a single tear, before Felipe wiped her tear away. "Now, now. Don't go getting emotional again, you haven't even begun your journey yet! Save it for when it really counts."

"It's tears of joy for having such a wonderful person like you in my life Felipe."

"Is it now? ..." He smirked, before patting her head like one would with their daughter, at least he considered her family so it was nothing strange to Alexandra. Sitting back in his chair, he took another sip with his smile slowly fading. ". . .. Do promise me this, that you won't forget about me. Would break an old man's heart if you don't pay a visit after you ..."

"Of course Felipe! After all we've been through, there's no doubt in my heart I would ever forget your face!"

His smile returned, making him look down sheepishly as he took it well enough. "Good, good. And Alexandra, do not worry ... you *will* be the hero we all need in due time. Even if the sky turns red, the cities begin to crumble, and all hope is lost- it isn't truly over until you give in to that despair. Being a hero is more than just 'protecting the innocent' Alexandra, it is ... so much more, dear girl. Even going out of your way to show you care about a small problem can shape someone's future in the long run."

"Like how you've saved my mother after she gave me life?" She winked, Felipe couldn't help but grin like an idiot to that remark. "Yes, yes. It was nothing really. I'm sure if anyone else was there at the time of you being brought into this world, they would of done the same. It so happened I was there, and the rest ... is history." Alexandra in return, gave him a gentle smile as she raised her glass, tipping it to his as both of them celebrated their last reunion before the centaur would take her leave the next morning.


Present Day:

Greece: Athens
Time: 10 AM

Using her IPhone, she took several photos as the camera rapidly fired flash after flash, and as a result, the flashes made her eyes appear to be soul piercing, but Alexandra felt it wouldn't matter since she wasn't trying to get perfect shots of herself, so she didn't bother trying to take anymore pictures.

Looking down on her personal device as she started uploading her favorite take to Instagram, she began talking to herself,
"I'll call this picture ... Day 1: Goodbye Greece! Hello America!. Yea, that sounds about right."

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