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  1. WhiteRain

    New Aberrant fanbook project?

    Who's Matt? And how do I contact him?
  2. WhiteRain

    New Aberrant fanbook project?

    I'd be willing to get involved. What sort of thing would you need?
  3. Chang rose. The chair that had been shaped to her form contracted and flowed back into her buttocks. The speakers clicked on the terminal, and the green light that indicated recording winked out. She pressed a button to upload the data onto the OpNet. It would enter a secluded corner of the OpNet, while a secondary hardcopy would be buried in a time capsule, in a place of Sakura’s choosing. In twenty years, assuming the OpNet lived that long, the speech would be released into the general OpNet and go viral inside twenty four hours. ,, She felt an irrepressible sadness. The Teragen’s dissolution fell to her, in the end, an executive decision that had to be made no matter the opposition. The snake had been decapitated. She saw no point in endless thrashing about. ,, Her speech here meant nothing to the other Terats. She had told those who needed to know in person, and stood ironclad against their objections, insults, threats, and in one case, congratulations. Count Orzais always had been a reasonable nova. ,, Another organisation would rise from the ashes, she suspected. Her call for them all to face their foes alone would be ignored. The advice was impractical. But those practical thinkers, calling themselves Terats, would fall from the path one by one. Orzais was one of the few that could walk the practical path. It seemed that was his personal expression of quantum. ,, Chang saw this as her final, desperate attempt to guide the Teragen stalwarts on the proper path. They will call me coward and traitor, she thought, nodding. It did not even arouse emotion in her. She felt so tired of it all. Nineteen years in the saddle brought very little but pain and headaches. ,, She stood in the basement of what had once been the headquarters of the Anavasi, the hidden place where Lucrezia had been in chrysalis all these years, so long that it seemed she might never emerge. But after all of this time she would finally come out. ,, Lucrezia, her body reshaped into a large, shining oval of semi-solid latex supported on a plinth of the same material, stood silent in an alcove on the far wall. ,, But the future rang in Chang’s ears. Her wife’s questions echoed back from time soon to come, and Chang drank them in. She’d missed that voice for so long. Just hearing it in whispers brought her to arousal and soothed her at the same time. ,, A sound touched her ears, in the here and now. ,, The perfect oval bulged outward, as if a face were pressing into it from within. Lucrezia’s perfect lips formed and parted. She uttered her first gasp in twenty years. ,, A bust formed, rising up out of the oval. Legs emerged from the underside, over-long, and when they touched the cool concrete, she stepped free. Lucrezia contracted to human proportions, all shining black. Then with a soft tic, she formed an impression of skin on her face and hands and feet, and her hair became glossy. ,, Chang’s shaft swelled near torso-thick at the sight of her. She shivered. ,, Lucrezia, always beautiful, now embodied a sort of divine arousal and desire that could be matched by only one or two novas in the world. Every line was perfection itself, every movement slinky and flawless. ,, She smiled at Chang. ,, “Hey, wife.” ,, They came together and kissed. Chang all but melted into Lucrezia’s arms, close to literally. She watched as more of her wife began to emerge from the oval. ,, Soon she lay in her wife’s lap, watching as dozens of her emerged from the chrysalis. They filled the room, lined up around Chang with eager faces and hungry bodies. ,, “There is over three hundred of you,” Chang said. ,, Lucrezia ran a hand through her hair. “Yes, that there is. And if you don’t mind, every single one of me needs a good fucking.” ,, ,, *** ,, They emerged from the basement a week later. ,, Chang walked with her head on one Lucrezia’s shoulder, while the rest of the army came behind. ,, “So I missed it?” Incredulity hung heavy in her tone. “It’s over?” ,, “Yes,” Chang said. Her four-toned voice resonated. “I’ve ended it.” ,, They emerged into the light of day. ,, Lucrezia’s face fell for real, then. Chang could see the expressions changing on those behind her, running back through them all like an electric current through water. ,, “What the fuck…” ,, Their once-glorious headquarters was a blast zone now, a burned-out wreck of a building with collapsed wings and fallen roofs. Devastation characterised the landscape now. A tower stood black against the sun, a desolate scarecrow speaking mutely to the island’s fall. ,, Chang stood up straight. For a moment her clothes dissolved into hair and then re-knitted as her customary hoodie. This one bore the legend that became very popular after the release of her post-imprisonment album Chains of Paradise. It read, in bold white letters ‘CHANG WAS RIGHT’, on the background of her customary white raindrop symbol. She put her hands into the front pockets. A pair of hands gripped her hips from behind. A Lucrezia rested her head against the back of Chang’s neck. ,, “Shortly after my arrest, somebody snuck an extremely large explosive device onto the mainland of the Kiribati Islands. We should have detected it but didn’t. Accordingly, we suspect Proteus involvement. They have the expertise to do something like this. Who knows, maybe it was fellow Terats. The Anavasi certainly ruffled some feathers. It doesn’t matter. We’ll never know for sure, now, though Shiv and Meh’Lindi certainly intend to discover it.” ,, “All of this, though,” Lucrezia said. Several of her filed past Chang and spread out, looking about them. All wore disbelief on their faces. “Everything you built.” ,, Chang bowed her head. The bitterness had subsided, and her tears were long since cried. In prison, when they told her, she’d thought Utopia to blame, and thought they’d told her that to break her. She took revenge in song, even when she knew that they were innocent. If she could not shoot the guilty party, the messengers sufficed. ,, “Most of it, yes. An emphatic statement on our viability, according to Shrapnel.” ,, “How many did we lose?” ,, “A lot. None of our closest friends, at least. For a time we thought Darion had died, but he happened to be away with Sakura when it happened. Still, she lives close enough, and the blast was big enough that it almost took out her home. It was that which made her militant. She’d been angry enough that I was imprisoned, but according to Darion she… well, ‘flipped her lid’, was his metaphor of choice, when this happened. Twenty five of us died. Most of the rest left. There was nobody to take over in my stead, really. The Alchemist would have been the logical choice, but she died in the blast as well. She got better.” ,, Lucrezia vibrated with anger, but some of her curled up to cry. A few ran their hands through once-fine sand blasted to glass. The islands were dead, now. Utopia would reclaim them eventually, but Chang had, through torturous court proceedings, been proven to ‘own’ them, and had refused to let Team Tomorrow erase the evidence of the Anavasi’s few glorious months. ,, It was time to let that go, too. ,, Chang’s heart felt tight at that. All dreams end. ,, Arms enfolded her. Four sets from four directions. Chang collapsed against her wife, glad to let her knees buckle, glad to be weak again. ,, Lucrezia pressed Chang’s face into the softness of her breasts, swelled and shaped them against her face. Chang shuddered and nuzzled. ,, She stopped thinking for a time. ,, Eventually she sat, with Lucrezias around her, surveying it all for the final time. ,, One of her wife, sitting nearest, took her hand. “There’s a lot I’ll need to see before I can do much of anything. I need to explore my new powers. I’ve changed quite a lot, I think.” ,, “Time we have,” Chang said. ,, They said nothing more for some time. Then she rose and led them to the blackened beach. They waited there until nightfall. ,, And then, Chang stretched. She raced across the ocean for hundreds of miles until she bridged from the islands to the nearest mainland. Then she stretched herself wide and shaped herself into a true bridge. ,, Back at the beach, she formed a torso out of the cobbles, and beckoned to her wife. ,, “Come, my love. The world awaits us.” ,, Three hundred Lucrezias smiled. And she came.
  4. DISCLAIMER: This is a repost of the prior deleted RP. I thought to edit it to be less annoying, but the changes required to do that would basically gut the entire thing. so consider this an elseworlds story. Any resemblance to characters live or dead is entirely coincidental. Either way, it is my final RP. ,, --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ,, “Everybody dreams. Every dream ends. ,, “Our dream ended as it always had to; with a cold awakening to the harsh light of morn, and bitter disappointment. ,, “I am Chang Zha-Yang, White Rain to some, and a spiritual leader to others. I am the second and final Divis of the Teragen, digger of its grave, and writer of its eulogy. “This is my final testament to the hopes we had, the battles we fought, and the future that we lost. With luck, this record will survive and be of use to somebody, somewhere, and if of no use, then I hope it will at least be of historical note. Let us at least not be forgotten. Surely we’ve earned that much. ,, “Hindsight is the all-powerful, final arbiter of wisdom. So with hindsight, allow me to recount the story of our final years. ,, “Our end came from the place it began, with the philosophy that gave us something approaching unity, and something approaching identity: Teras. We all got it wrong in the end. Even Mal, I think. ,, “My place in all of this has ever been the cynic and philosophical critic. I challenged all I knew and alienated most of them out of my sheer unwillingness to leave questions unasked. It will not be easy to live with. I can never know, even with my perceptions, whether I asked the right questions or – far worse – if I misunderstood the answers. ,, “Some will ask ‘where did it all go wrong?’ ,, “The children. It went wrong with the children. ,, “In our war with Utopia, begun by their sterilisation of our people, we soon realised we were outgunned. The idea that our nova brethren would flock to us when they realised what was being done to them proved to be the fancy of idealists and cretins. The one set were blinded by the dream of a nova society free of human interaction, and the attendant belief that all novas fundamentally wanted that; the other set… just blind. Both sets underestimated the intelligence and the loyalty of our nova brethren, and the entirely human capacity to accept circumstances that are not ideal in the hope of improving them through strife and effort. ,, “It is a sign, I think, that so many of us derided them for this simple nobility of spirit. I believe we lost that somewhere along the way. ,, “Let it also stand as damning truth that in the entirety of our unwinnable battle with Utopia, the only group which hurt them was the Aberrants. It was they, not us, who revealed the existence of Project Proteus. And when they did, all of our naïve hopes crumbled to ash. Exposing flaws in Utopia did not destroy it and send its adherents flocking to our banner. It just caused the nova adherents to redouble their efforts to make Utopia into what it claimed to be. ,, “Utopiate novas were outraged, of course, and some did come to the Teragen. But most accepted their apologies, as I had cautioned they might. And worse was what came next. ,, “Let us call them the mother-hunter wars. ,, “This was an absurdity, a five-way battle between five different factions, three of whom should technically have been on the same side and all of them so utterly blinded by arrogance and ideology that working together was unthinkable. These three blighted idiot pantheons were the Aberrants, those we can loosely call Shen’s Children… and us, the Teragen. ,, “And our opposition were Proteus, the adder in darkness, and Utopia, returning to its role as world heroes, ironically and sadly trying to protect the parents from its own twisted spawn. ,, “It is insane, even to me, that we were never able to find some compromise, some way to cooperate in all of that time. But we Terats never did compromise. Nor did I when I had the power to do so. Let those words be carved on my tombstone. ‘Here lies Chang Zha-Yang’ it will say, and in post-script, ‘She never compromised.’ ,, “Perhaps it would have been a better world if I had. ,, “There were casualties in these wars, really a series of ridiculous skirmishes wherein terrified fertile – and usually married – novas, desperately and futilely attempted to protect their baseline friends and families from the collateral damage of battles fought in their name. Neighbourhoods were flattened. Thousands died. And some of the children were lost. The motherhunter wars ended with the death of the first infant, with Proteus the victor. Everything after was just salt pouring into each other’s wounds, claws scrabbling at the edge of a precipice into which we were all falling, while Utopia buried all of us in negative propaganda. ,, “Let it stand that I stood against these actions from the beginning. It was wrong to seek to hoard the children as we did. It laid the groundwork for our ultimate failure. The Aberrants were right in the petty dispute between we ‘independents’. They sought from the beginning to get those parents away into seclusion, to let them start life anew. We sought to enrol them in our war. ,, “Our war. ,, “That was what it became, after all. We had nominal allies at first. There were occasional points of contact betwixt us and the Aberrants, a few desperate alliances, one or two collusions. But once Andre Corbin had revealed Proteus – with us running some protection to ensure that he succeeded – the Aberrants had no further issue with Utopia. As for Shen’s Children, I believe they viewed us as nothing more than an annoyance… to their disadvantage. Certainly they failed to accomplish their goals, from what little I have surmised about those goals. Like us they wished to destroy Proteus, but they had no interest in working with us to accomplish that, and no interest in trades of information. I believe they killed the leader of Proteus; an act so significant that the project head was replaced within one solar day, and the group went on as efficiently as it ever had. ,, “And so there we stood, truly alone against Utopia. For our warriors it was a glorious day. Finally they could disgorge years of bile and frustration before a public whose eyes were wide open to Utopia’s corruption. ,, “They lost. ,, “One by one our warriors fell. The child prodigy, Glory, destroyed us all but singlehandedly. Where she was not, Caestus Pax was. We bloodied Team Tomorrow, but never hurt those two lynchpins of public approval and Utopian propaganda. And the public, as time has shown, will never back a loser. ,, “Mal let it all happen. ,, “Mal, the most powerful nova to have ever lived, ostensible leader of the Teragen, allowed us to be struck down and pared away to ineffectuality. Everyone that has ever met Mal likes him. I like him. But I will never trust him again, should our paths meet. ,, “He began this. He started it all. And he let it all go to hell. ,, “If that sounds as if I am shunting the blame, banish the thought. But I do not want those key fools to escape history’s scathing. We should all be remembered, we fools, and learned from, so that nobody makes the mistakes we did. My own shameful role in the tale will come soon enough. ,, “Our situation was desperate. The children were the only answer we had. ,, “Glory was too powerful, too overwhelming. She rendered us ineffectual, invalidated us by her sheer power. Shen’s Children could individually have wiped out half of the Teragen if the mood took them. More than one could have destroyed the entire world. ,, “In short; things were out of control. ,, “I can never know if my suspicions were right, if Mal and Scripture placing themselves as sole fathers, with Bounty as sole mother, of all the Teragen’s children was as stupid, narcissistic, self-aggrandising and ultimately destructive to the cause as I believe it to have been. ,, “But perhaps I am absolutely right, and that was Mal’s intention all along. ,, “He taught the children Teras from birth. They lived it from the beginning. We all came to it flawed, we foolish novas. We were weighed down by our pasts, unable to ever quite step away and see what Teras really meant. ,, “Teras… it means to go your own way. Strip away the meditation, the power, and the changes; individuality is what lies at the heart of it. Go your own way; follow the dictates of your own quantum expression. Ignore all else. ,, “And there we were, playing war with the future of children, forgetting that we were not their parents, and our wars were not theirs to fight. ,, “That was our end. Not their action, but our reliance upon it, and our lack of insight into what their action would be. ,, “We gave birth to children more intelligent than us by far, more perceptive, more insightful, more brilliant than we could dream. And they saw through us, I think. They saw the future the Teragen offered. ,, “They declined our invitation. ,, “Puck broke it all. My protégé. ,, “I cannot say that he did not learn from me, and I am proud of him. He learned from me, ever the contrarian, that going his own way mattered more than pleasing his elders. And when he gained the power to walk between worlds… that is exactly what he did. ,, “Given the option, Puck’s option, the children chose to go their own way with him. They left, one and all, and in so doing adjudged us their parents inferior, inadequate to the purpose of guiding them. They went in search of their own battles to fight. ,, “This, then, is the summation of our fatal error. ,, “We terats fought not for ourselves, as Teras suggests, but for the children. We fought for some imagined future where we would all, ultimately, become normal, respectable members of society. All our struggles, all our battles, were born from anger at our infertility and the desire to be a true species, to be able to pass on our genetic code to those who would come after. We wanted to build a place to do that. We wanted to build a society of our own, where we would be normal. ,, “It is pathetic to re-read these words. To know that we betrayed ourselves so utterly. ,, “What is ‘after’ to beings that chase the burning torch of immortality? ,, “What worth have children to those whose own legacy is not yet writ? ,, “For all our introspection, all our posturing, we never asked ourselves that most fundamental of questions. Why are we even breeding at all? What is the point of it? ,, “Our rhetoric, in retrospect, was familiar. That should have been a sign of things to come. Maybe it was. Maybe that’s why the Mathematician retreated so early, why Mal – he has no claim to ‘Divis’ anymore – became so schizophrenic in his leadership. ,, “We fought so that our children would have a future, as if they could not forge a future for themselves. ,, “Some of us arrogantly assumed the children would take up our struggle. Win our battles. Many of us banked on it, as the years wore away our numbers and our sanity. ,, “Instead they decided it had nothing to do with them, and departed for the next world along. They were Terats. ,, “As the final Divis of the Teragen, the sadness and our ultimate failure, is mine to bear into eternity. The other terats; my anavasi, the casablancas, the shattered remnants of the pandaimonion, vigilance, the harvesters… all they have to question is their own failures. Many never had the grand perspective, the chance to affect things. They can be comforted by their own struggles, knowing they tried their best. ,, “But I, through process of elimination, through purity of ideal, was elevated beyond my station. With Mal retreated and the Teragen twice broken, first by Glory, and then by Puck’s departure along with the children and many adult terats that he called friends… I was the last man standing, as it were, the only one of the pantheon who had not suffered enormous setbacks or physical injury. ,, “I believe my wife is to blame for all of that. ,, “She is in chrysalis, but she will waken soon. I can hear it coming. ,, “Lucrezia could manipulate world events in a way I never could. If only she had been with me. If only I had not missed her so much. Maybe that was all of it, in the end. Maybe I could have been the leader we needed, if only I had not missed my wife so terribly, and if I’d had her delicate, manipulative touch to reshape the world at her whim. ,, “If, when you listen to this, you live in Changtopia… well… you already know what we did later. But I don’t know what we’ll be doing when she wakens, and my story is not over yet. ,, “Shen’s Children left not too long after Puck did. I believe they loved our world, but not enough to stay. Two at least remain in the solar system. One is currently terraforming other planets. Another has made a base on the moon, I believe, or Mars. We are on reasonable terms, and she is friendly with some of my closest friends. I don’t know if she’ll be back. ,, “I will not lie; I was disappointed by most of them. I met only two, but heard little of the others that impressed me. Their surrogate father seems to have done a terrible job of preparing them for the world, and a worse one of preparing the world for them. But then, perhaps he had Mal’s view, and always hoped they would depart for greener pastures. We do not know and never will. Shen is dead, and his secrets, taunting as they are, died with him. ,, “Circumstance gave Utopia the chance it needed to become heroes again. ,, “The details are vague. Some Terats were involved in what happened, but only on the sidelines. As wanted criminals, they could not get too close to the action. Some alien force attacked us, or attempted to. Glory, along with other space-capable Utopians, met them out in the deep black of space and crushed them. The footage of those battles, shot by one of the anavasi and a dear friend, has won all of the awards you could possibly imagine. How on earth she kept calm out there, while explosions rocked the emptiness and nuclear forces shattered ships on the backdrop of the boiling sun, I shall never know. ,, “In the meantime, in my role of Divis, I took on an old enemy. ,, “Caestus Pax. ,, “Mal defeated him, and so did I. ,, “Mal turned off his node. While I, unable to face the bully when he came for me, allowed myself to be arrested. I let the world see him for what he was. Public opinion will ever lie with the – in this case literally – tortured artist. ,, “Another dear friend, Sakura – shorthand for a much longer and more complicated name – did not take kindly to my imprisonment. If I can claim a genuine piece of glory for myself, it is that she considered me a true friend, and that she temporarily forsook her innocence and her pacifism to see me freed. If any measure can be taken of a leader it is in the people who gather round and believe in them. ,, “Pax did not take well to my breaking of his public image. Mal took his image as the world’s most powerful nova. As the hero. But it was I that cast Pax as the villain, as the jack-booted representative of the establishment that cannot bear artistic freedom, that seeks conformity and crushes independence. He became a character in my songs. I made him into the symbol of all that the world had witnessed, of all Andre Corbin said of ubiquitous Utopia, of all the dirty secrets everyone wanted to forget. ,, “The children loved that. ,, “For all of this gloating – for this was a victory for me – I would be dead if Glory had not come back in time to save me. But then… I knew she would. ,, “It is not my place to write the end of Pax’s story. He lives on, after a fashion. But the world’s shining knight lies broken, his shell cracked and bleeding. Part of me weeps for him. I have felt the same despair and know how heavily it weighs on the soul. But I am aware that he walked this inevitable path side by side with us. The Teragen and Caestus Pax were like great serpents coiled about one another, trapped in eternal conflict. We had to fall together. Without us he has no purpose. ,, “So here is to Pax, the enemy we deserved. ,, “In these final years I have become Divis and Mathematician both. I hear the future in whispers, and find myself writing sheet music instead of composing. When I write, I hear my songs, sung by me in the near-future, and simply note down what I perceive. ,, “It’s all quite eerie, really. ,, “I wish I could have proven my detractors wrong. But it’s too late for that now. ,, “So how have we left the world, we gods among men? ,, “Not much different than when we arrived upon it, in honesty. Sakura has retired to seclusion with Darion Mográine, another good friend of mine. They appear to have begun a hesitant romance during my imprisonment. I hope it has flourished over these last years. Both have seen too much suffering, and it’s time that the karmic wheel pays out for it. They contact me from time to time, but I rarely answer back these days. She is too good of heart and too easily drawn into these battles, and Darion is a charming sucker for duty, all too moral a man to leave a call to arms unanswered, no matter the cost to his own soul. ,, “Let her raise her children with a man that was once a father. Let them grow up in peace. Let them find their own causes. Let them live as we wanted the children to live all along. ,, “They will be nearing twenty, now. Perhaps we will see them soon, those three darling girls. ,, “For me, the world will always be my muse, friend and enemy. Though today I plant the Teragen’s gravestone, the battle goes on. Teras will not die with the organisation. I may not be Divis in name after today, but I will keep that belief system alive and I will spread it as far and wide as I can. But from now on we all fight it our own way. We will fight and fail and fall or thrive as terats should; alone. Let there be no more grand alliances, no more schemes for power over all Novas. Let us stand with our close friends and lovers and none other, and shape our own corners of the world to our own devising. ,, “And if that makes us weak, if that makes us too easy to pick off… so be it. This was the sword we picked up. ,, “The prospects are not terrible. ,, “Project Utopia are on good behaviour thanks to Glory, another child of the future, but one who has chosen to reshape our world instead of finding her own. There are none in this world to oppose her, now. ,, “I hope Glory lives up to her name, and that one day we will not all be bowed underneath her wing, praying for gods that walk among us, forgetting that we long since drove them away to walk elsewhere, among more fitting company. ,, “But Project Proteus still remains. For all her power, Glory has not crushed that organisation. ,, “No longer attached to Utopia like a suckling parasite, it writhes and grows in the dark corners of the earth, forever perfecting the techniques they’ll need to bring us under heel for good and all. ,, “They were the wisest, those quiet leaders. ,, “Proteus survives. ,, “The Aberrants survive. ,, “We lambasted them for years, those Aberrants, called them fools and cowards, refused their occasional extended hand and took umbrage when they refused ours. Yet in the shadows they still remain, untouched by the events that have gutted the Teragen and handed absolute victory to Utopia. ,, “Those of us who remain militant have nowhere to go. Shrapnel and her idiots are little better than petty terrorists now, easy photo-ops for Glory and her new, revitalised Team Tomorrow. Geryon, still admirably leading Vigilance, has a little less to do than before. He likes to pop up on television and let Glory know he’s watching her, like an overbearing uncle. James was always one of our brightest minds. He knows the future is hers for now. But she’s looked the other way for him once or twice. ,, “Glory has come to me twice in recent months. I believe there are the bones of an olive branch being extended towards me. Perhaps I will accept, and see what she envisions for me. I believe that Pax’s fall has left her without guidance, without a parental figure. It may be she seeks that in me. I have a reputation for wisdom that I have not earned. Still… I do miss Puck. It will be nice to have someone to teach, to watch them grow until they surpass me. ,, “But that is the future. And if you are reading this you already know what has happened to me, where I stand. You do, I say, because whatever happens I refuse to be forgotten. ,, “And so, in hindsight, that final arbiter of wisdom, you stand as the judge of my decisions. I hope I made some good ones.” ,, -Chang Zha-Yang, Divis, November 20th, 2046
  5. I wasn't aware there WERE any other players. There haven't been any posts here made by anyone but me, Mala and Darrik this year. Regardless, I'll delete it. this has already been more trouble than its worth.
  6. It's my ending. Which is really the only one I came back to write. I incorporated the other scattered bits and pieces to give a more complete roundup. If its dissatisfying to you, write your own. And no I don't mind if it contradicts anything or indeed everything in my RP. ,, I presume the point of the thread was just to voice your displeasure? Or were you after something else? ,, Edit: If that wasn't clear, there's no more to come. Just those two posts.
  7. She heard every word, of course. Chang could hear every word spoken for miles around, determine and differentiate every sound. And as Darrik guessed, she'd heard the accusation already. More important, though, she'd heard accusation from others, and from those she'd known and cared for long before she met Darrik. Darion had come to her with accusations, Meh'Lindi had. There was an odd timbre to Shiv's silence. Only Cyndi - always in love with her - trusted that she did the right thing. And Lucrezia... she wished she could be accused or criticised by her. ,, In truth, Chang herself did not know yet. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, she thought. ,, Darrik did not understand the rules, she supposed. And he had returned to the island after a long lay off, far longer for him than them. It warranted at least a little response. ,, Chang focused her consciousness away from the part of her in the centre of the maze, shaped into her humanoid form. She left that extrusion and focused instead on the winding, complex corridors and chambers of mirrors that made up the mass of her body. ,, A mirror near Darrik and Arisi bulged outward with the sound of crackling glass, and the mirror surface slowly took on the shape of her own naked female torso. She never dropped the mirrored appearance, though, so that the light entering through the doorway caught on her slight curves and refracted in rainbows and in bright, star-like glints. ,, "Twenty years away, and that is the best you have, Darrik Reynolds?" She shook her mirror-self's head. "I see you have wasted your time. That is disappointing. Were I so easily provoked, the Teragen would have ceased to exist by now. I assume this form to think, so as not to be disturbed by fools. If you wish to speak with me, navigate it to the heart, and we will talk. If you cannot find your way there then I have no time to soothe you and no interest in your ignorant, egotistical babbling." ,, She looked away from him, to Arisi. Her tone, coolly dismissive to Darrik, warmed significantly. His words did not upset her. That he thought so little of her to believe they would, disappointed her. Arisi, though, was an enigma, a new Nova come before her from a land she would never see. That made her happy. "I do not know you, Arisi, and I apologise if you find my behaviour towards you discourteous. I assure you it is unintentional. There are many matters for me to consider, and I am in a tenuous position, balanced on the point of a dagger. If you have not the patience to seek out the heart, then I hope my Anavasi can entertain you in a more fitting manner." ,, Chang reabsorbed the mirrored torso, letting it melt back and flatten into the mirror. She spread her focus out through herself, concentrating on the inrush of sensations experienced by her gigantic, transformed body. And from there she transitioned back to thinking through the problems before her and - most painful of all - her own role in them.
  8. She came at him with the tough question, this beautiful, kind, and somehow moderately innocent nova... and mother. Darion could not face her. He wiped imaginary dust from his silver eyes, studied the ground below and the sky above. He sighed. "No." ,, He saw the tiniest flinch. She hoped for the other answer, for trust. ,, Darion put a hand on hers. She did not pull back, but studied him intently, searching. "Sakura... I... have secrets. We all do. If I tell it, I'd have to leave things out. Important things. Life-changing things. I have to lie a lot. More than you can know though not more than you can imagine, I'm sure of that." Starling, and her gallery of victims, his mind flashed through war zones in the middle east, of flying bullets and men falling dead at his - or her - hand. Part of why he always looked male today was that he always looked female then. Even Darion's combat suit had been fitted for the female figure. ,, She smiled, a sad smile, but a beautiful one nonetheless. "You can tell me something, though, surely? After everything we've been through. You can trust me a little." ,, "I do. It's the unseen eyes I'm unsure about. And when you live around Chang Zha-Yang for long enough, you start to appreciate how damn hard it is to truly have your shit kept to yourself. Alright, here's the innocent bits, at least." He leaned back, resting his elbows on the ground behind him. ,, "I was born in the US of A, grew up to a fairly normal family. Had me one of them sports scholarships, not football like my father wanted, but basketball. White men - you see - can actually jump. I was a gymnast, too, but never got too far with that. Not until much later when I'd erupted. Like most people I was a Nova fan, wasn't much into the Teragen. But by and large I left them alone and they left me alone and that was good. I ogled the stars, and tried to avoid running into them in the workplace. Novas get a lot of trouble there, you know." ,, "Taking people's jobs?" ,, "No, but a lot of layoffs happen when the right nova signs up. One of the Anavasi - a painter - she can paint an entire canvas in about one point three seconds. Has to be one colour, can't do detail work, but she can do it. If you were running a house decoration company, would you hire five to ten guys to do a mansion, and pay them for... fuck... a month, maybe? Or would you hire one nova who could do the entire job inside a day? Price is higher, yes, but the work turnaround is so much astronomically higher as well. And that's the problem. From the top to the bottom, novas make things so efficient that the little guy gets squeezed out." ,, "So what did you do with yourself?" She warmed up now. Maybe this had been all she wanted in the first place, and he misunderstood. ,, You, sir, need to lighten up a little, he thought. "Oh bits and bobs. I started teaching martial arts. Novas don't touch those kinds of roles, normally. Too low key, too low paid, and honestly if they've erupted, ninety per cent chance that they'll find teaching baselines either banal or too difficult because of the differences in their body. The nova physique is just plain more efficient than a baseline's, much more resistant to wear and tear. After a while all novas suffer a little mental slide away from the baseline. It's impossible to avoid. So I did that, got into personal coaching at a local gym." ,, "You mentioned an enemy." ,, She said it softly, but it was still a prod. Yeah. You're making this sound altogether too innocent, killer. "School friend turned not-so friend. We ran into each other at a few different points in our lives. Mostly in the martial arts, but it started out on the basketball court. I got the scholarship he wanted. Beat him at the gym. Beat him at the gradings. Maybe it was fate. We just kept running into each other. Craziest shit imaginable. Two guys living in cities in the same state, yet somehow our paths kept crossing. For him it was business travel. He went into steel manufacture, not that much of that happens in the States anymore. And at some point, he got that special ego, the one that says 'I'm rich, and nobody gets one up on me.' Only I kept getting one up on him. And he did not like that. ,, "I'd already met my future wife. She was living in the States and we hooked up fast. I always had a thing. Charisma, I guess, that special type that gets women interested. When my old friend turned up the knob too much, I fled. Went back to her home, made it mine. Figured enough water between us would cool off the feud. Took ten years to find out I was wrong." ,, He felt dirty for the lies. But he told the first big one and he had to follow through. The enemy was real enough. But the two of them buried the hatchet before Darion left the States and they'd had no contact since. Still, the cover story needed to be told in its fullest, the better to bury the dead down deep. ,, "So there you have it, thereabouts. I told you earlier how I lost my family." ,, "How did you come to the Teragen?" ,, Vengeance. "Good old idealism. You see the cause differently once you're looking at it from the other side. And, uh, you know. I could sympathise with novas that wanted to have them some kids. It's a nice feeling, been a father. It's not right that so many never got to know what it's like."
  9. Darion smiled. The sun caught and danced in his silver eyes and hair. "I'm a terat, Sakura. Half of my friends have either violently murdered someone in cold blood or worse, for one reason or another." And let's not get into what I've done personally. "No, you haven't run me off. Funny that we both have a history in Japan though." ,, He put his hands behind his back as they walked, and enjoyed the feeling of the wind on his skin. He could feel it in ways most couldn't, because of his almost unique control over the forces of momentum. The wind did a lot in that regard. Over there it tugged upon loose grass, further on upon stones, far off to their right, sand on the beach. Back when he was a young nova, still bleeding from the wounds of his loss and trying to learn about his power without going into a facility, he'd gone all wushu and trained on beaches. Between wind, sea and sand, he'd quickly begun to learn a lot about momentum and the fun one could have with it. ,, "So, a different world?" He looked back at her, smiling. "That's interesting. Do you know how you got here? How your mother did it?" He shook his head. "Actually, forget it. If Puck can do it, why not your mom? Novas, novas, novas. Fucking the rules and each other in equal quantities. And yes I do mean that multiple ways." He grinned. "Shen... I've heard the name before. Never met him. He was connected with Coraline Boehm. Something to do with him dying, I think? Chang asked me about it once. Do you know what happened there? Did you keep in touch?"
  10. "Chang sees those perceptive enough to see her," Shiv whispers. ,, The Alchemist gives her a wan smile and turns to you. "Cryptic, but not far off the truth. Come along, if you're so eager to get shot of us." ,, You are led to the entrance of the building she showed you both. The doorway is constructed of a queer, luminous stone that, though once natural, has clearly been altered by an unknown method so that it possesses its own eerie illumination. The light is soft blue, like will o the wisps from fantasy depictions, or faerie lights at a distance. Beyond the doorway you see nothing but a corridor of mirror-shine glass, reflecting itself into infinity from above, from the sides, and from below. ,, "There you go," she says, and gestures with one delicate, pale-skinned hand. "I can't show you the way, it changes. When Chang goes into meditation, she only sees those who are sharp enough to find their way through the maze without assistance. She'll hear if you call out, but she won't respond. It's all her, but 'she' waits in the heart of the maze. as for her," she gestures to Arisi, "why would I care whether or not she goes with you? You might need her help, after all. I'll catch up with you later, Darrik. I had been doing something when Chang gave me a buzz. Come on, Shiv. Let's go cut you up." ,, The pair walk away, shoes crunching on the gravel around the entrance as they proceed to the main mansion.
  11. Darion walked at Sakura's side. One of the most beautiful women in the world, all to myself. Oh, temptations temptations. Of course, lust was hardly far away as one of the Anavasi. Between knifing the Pandaimonion in an alleyway and stealing its lunch money, and raiding some of the Casablancas, the group had plenty of pretty to go round. But Sakura was in that rarified upper tier, the ones who broke the ceiling and stood above the pack. You never got used to being around men and women that perfect, that beautiful, though you could get used to the taint. But you did learn to hide your reactions. It was hard around Sakura. His nostrils twitched, drinking in her scent. ,, "I don't really know your story," Darion said. A partial lie. He'd looked extensively into Sakura's past via Starling. There were gaps, though, things nobody knew. She'd more or less popped up out of nowhere, and without many friends, there wasn't anyone they knew of and talked to that knew Sakura's whole story. "Want to share?" ,, Sakura did not reply immediately. He figured that she trusted him, liked him. They'd been wrapped up in events for half a year now, and that was hardly slowing down with Chang being so hands off of late. You need to get out of your hall of mirrors, Chang. We don't need a new Mal. The old one was annoyingly distant enough for a hundred Terats. We need a friend, a leader, and by god we need inspiration. That especially. ,, They walked some distance away from her chosen home and began to circle the island, taking in its untamed, natural scenery. Or was it tamed? Who knew how much Sakura might have sculpted when nobody was looking.
  12. The Alchemist smiles at both of you, and nods. "Yeah, I can handle that. Come on." ,, Shiv falls in behind, walking with that strange, back-bent gait that is all her own, halfway between torture and seduction. The Alchemist walks at Darrik's side. ,, "You haven't been gone that long. Six months thereabouts. But a lot's changed. Puck ripped the heart out of the Teragen when he left. Between the loss of everyone that departed with him and Team Tomorrow beating the shit out of Geryon, Nova Vigilance and the Harvesters we're on life support. Even we're in a right mess now, and we were the faction least affected by his departure. The Nursery's non-existant, of course, the Pandaimonion is far weaker than it was, the Casablancas are messed up, and when Infinity left she gutted the reformed Cult of Mal, too... it's grim. We're getting new whispers out of Project Proteus, but we don't have the information networks to get even as much as we used to. The movement's not back to square one, we've just had to kick the king over and start a fresh game. ,, "Mal's gone back into seclusion and took Scripture with him. They're probably chilling out on Jupiter or something, trying to figure out what to do next. Meanwhile," she turns a smile on you both, "Chang Zha-Yang has become the de facto leader of the Teragen remnants." ,, You walk in silence a while, as The Alchemist leads you in front of the huge central building, and into the approximate middle of the central part of the Anavasi island. ,, "The main building is pretty much what you remember. Lots of wackiness everywhere you go, plenty of new work and alterations to old works as people have experimented with everything from dimensional bending to fire sculpture. That annex is new, it's for Chang, and Chang alone." ,, The building she gestures to is huge, almost as large as the main building, at least five stories. ,, "She just goes in there to be alone. It's hollow inside, but she fills it up with herself. We've come to refer to it as the hall of mirrors, because that's what she turns herself into. A massive, winding mirror maze that goes on forever. All made of her. And she..." her eyes narrow a moment, and her left hand clenches. "She spends a lot of time in there these days. Guess she's taking her role as new Mal seriously." ,, Cyndi turns and points at the various sunken compounds and towers. "These are all the homes of various Terat artists. The sunken compounds are for communal projects and art groups. After you bugged out all of the basic Mad Lab ideas went kaputski, but there's been an influx of capital nonetheless. I've begun funding projects, but nothing like what we dreamed back then. It's a smaller, meaner world for us now. And that's a pretty grim prospect. Project Utopia's riding higher than ever. The Aberrants are still around but they seem kinda toothless these days. They exposed Proteus, Utopia cut ties. What else can they do? Utopia's recovered from that little hiccup thanks to Glory, and now it's recruiting better than ever before. Pretty much the only chance we've got is that we don't have too many Terats with violent pasts, but we've got enough in the Anavasi that it's only a matter of time before they find an excuse to drop the hammer. When that happens, we're kinda screwed. Without Vigilance, the Primacy and the Harvesters, the Teragen's got no scary muscle anymore. So, too long didn't read version? Sorry, kid. We're a bit fucked. Trying to live the dream as long it lasts, and stringing out its dying days as long as we can."
  13. Darrik and Arisi emerge onto those parts of the Kiribati island chain which were formally reserved for the Anavasi. The landscape already looks different from where Darrik remembers. Now towers of peculiar construction and impossible material jut into the air, all of them the result of some artistic endeavour, collaborative or not. ,, There is little sign of major development, however. Rather it has the look of portions of land being cut away, almost, and converted as much as the reigning artists decide and turned to whatever end they please. The central building, however, remains the same, if anything it is larger than before, a palatial building and true collaboration where all the Anavasi are free to show off their work and sculpt exterior and interior both to demonstrate their vision. ,, Perhaps to their surprise, they are met on arrival. ,, Nearby, Cyndi Carter, better known as The Alchemist, lies upon the ground, arms outspread, looking up into the sky. She is dressed as ever in blacks, purples and reds, with long, straight black hair and black makeup, quite the picture of the traditional goth. She is accompanied by the unmistakable figure of Shiv, blinded by a bondage mask of dark red leather that leaves her lower face bare, bound with her arms tied tight behind her back, a fetish queen of corsetry and latex with blowjob lips and a queer, unnatural stance that should leave her unbalanced. ,, The Alchemist raises her head. "Oh hi there! We've been waiting for ages." Her legs suddenly stretch, with a distinctive fleshy groaning sound, bending impossibly to plant both feet on the grass. The body-warping trick continues all the way up her length, until she essentially flexes from prone to standing and contracts to human proportions once again. She approaches. "Nice to see you again, Darrik. And this is... Arisi?" Cyndi smiles. "Chang told us you were coming and sent us out to greet you. She... um... heard your name," she says, to Arisi in particular. "You're both welcome to the Anavasi islands, the essential home of the Teragen and last bastion of evil Nova bastardry on planet earth, or so Utopia would have you believe. I'm Cyndi Carter, better known as The Alchemist, this is Shiv, friend, bodyguard and surprisingly efficient secretary."