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Charlotte

IC: Savage Rifts: Here Comes Tomorrow #1: "When The Other Shoe Drops"

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Kensie took a practiced step to the side and a step back giving Adam room. She looked at those gathered measuring them as he hands clenched and she placed her feet in a defensive stance which would go unnoticed by any but the most train in the arts of fighting.

Even so she was almost certain that those present were well trained and so she marked the most dangerous, prepared to assume her true form and kill them all.

"What he said, doubled." she said with a glance at her foster father.

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"She just said she didn't do it, which means she can't answer all that anymore than you can," said Squidge in an attempt to placate the big armored guy. "Seems like she got dragged along just like the rest of us."

She sighed and covered her eyes for a second, trying to think things through.

"So. Some kinda alien magic-nano-tech in the air...and if THAT isn't just the worst words I ever thought I'd hear, I dunno what is...and we may or may not be a hundred years in the future."

Squidge glances at the black knight and his redheaded friend. "I think it's safe to say you guys missed your appointment."

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"Do forgive me if I am not accepting all this creature says as the truth out of hand.  Believe everything she spews at you like some bored, hungry reader being thrown morsels of some obscure plot twist.  Frankly, if she has no answers, then she is of no use to us, leave her to her curse."  He waved off Tamika like she was nothing more than a house pet.

"I'll not deny there is strength in numbers, those who wish to search for a means of being rid of this place, let's be off and do so."  Adam glared at Tamika and then Squidge.  "As for the missed appointment, that's more your problem, than ours."

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19 hours ago, Charlotte said:

"Sorry about that, I had to load a translation spell from the Weave into my exocortex." She winced. "You probably don't understand a word of that, if what the sensors say is correct. So - you look lost. Are you lost?"

"I can make a guess," Fi countered with a wry twist of her lips. They weren't known for it, but she had read reports of Northern Gun techno-wizardry experimentation. She had the healthy scorn for techno-wizardry most real engineers had.

She rolled her eyes at BB's antics, then glanced around the town again before returning her gaze to the woman's. Fi had only picked up every third word or so from inside the bar. "As for being lost, lady, then depends. This still Prince's Landing, or did someone clean up the place when I we stopped to drink a beer or two? And where the hell is the Red Rambler?" At the woman's blank stare, Fi expounded on her comment. "My damn truck! It's red. It rambles (more often than not). Has a big laser cannon on top."

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Outside the bar, the woman in the uniform stepped closer, and now BB and Firanis could see that she was a psi-stalker - though a far less feral-looking one than most. She was holding up her hands disarmingly. She cocked an eyebrow at BB's antics, then both of her brows shot up upon hearing Firanis mention a Red Rambler.

"The Red - oh, wow. Okay, hold on, I'm going to touch the side of my head again, okay? I'm not going to hurt you at all." She then slowly tapped her head again, listening to a voice only she could hear, her eyes unfocused. Then she nodded, tugged at her collar nervously, and started to speak, her voice raised.

Inside the bar, Tamika arched one fuzzy eyebrow at Adam. "So, let me get this straight. You think that the curse that was put on me was designed to undo itself? Bloody hell, I wish it were that simple. And if the Federation's mastered time travel then we're all buggered six ways to - we're all in bad shape." Tamika's accent slipped out of the common medley of accents that was common in this part of North America, but she caught herself in time. "No, I just got pulled along with the rest of you cheery folks - "

She was interrupted by a voice from outside. "Ah, excuse me? Hi! I know there's at least five of you in there. Listen, I can guarantee if you come out here you won't be harmed. You're probably wondering what's going on, and I can tell you this much: you're completely safe. I have bad news, good news, bad news and then more good news, in that order. If you come out here I'll share it with you all."

The message delivered, she turned to BB and Firanis, looking a little flushed. "Whew! Now, I'm going to reach into my pocket and I'm not pulling out a weapon of any kind, all right? I, uh, I have a fruit bar." Off their askance looks, she shrugged. "I'm hungry."

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Firanis stared at the woman, mouth dropping open slightly despite herself. Then she glanced up at the sky, in case it was green or yellow or something and she had just missed it. Then she cocked her head to the side as looked back towards the uniformed woman. "This can't be our world. You are the most passive, unaggressive psi-stalker I have ever heard of. You're eating a fruit bar for fuck's sake!"

Shaking her head at the strangeness of it all, Firanis took a few steps from the door of the bar to give the others inside some space and to look around a bit more. "Relax lady, we aren't maddened Rhino-buffalos that are going to suddenly trample you." Firanis pursed her lips, finely pointed chin jutting forward, considering the dour, black armored figure still inside. "Well, we aren't, BB and I."

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Squidge lifts her eyebrows at the address from outside the building and glances at Phere.

"Well. I guess one way or another we'll be getting some answers. I hope no one takes offense if I suggest our two heavily armored individuals take the lead? It's going to take me a few minutes to get into my kit, and you never know how much time you have when folks start shouting at you through megaphones."

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"Your ill preparedness is none of our concern," said the Black Knight.  She knew that 'our' meant him and the red head, no one else.  "I'm loathe to turn my back on strangers, considering your innocence in all of this, while certainly proclaimed, has yet to be proven."

"However," he gripped the hilt of his sword readying himself while he placed a loving arm across the shoulders of young woman.  "If the answers are outside, then none in here are of any use to us.  Come, Kenzie.  Let us investigate this person who claims to have answers."

"And if they don't?" she asked, reluctantly turning her back to the patrons of the bar.

"Then I weep for their future."  He replied coldly.

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Kensie nods and leans into the arm of her foster father allowing him to lead her outside. As they go out the door she looks back at those still in the tavern giving them a toothy smile full of enticement and menace

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"Well, I've no idea what the rest of you want but I'm as curious as a - I'm curious." Tamika made her way outside.

The uniformed woman bristled at being called a psi-stalker, but kept it to herself until everyone was assembled. She ate a bit of the fruit bar, which was a deep pink in color - and Phere could sense a small amount of magic radiating from it. The label on the wrapper read "PPE Bar." It was "noonberry flavor," whatever that meant.

"Wow," she said, upon seeing the group assembled before her. Then she nodded. "Okay. Wow. All right. Okay, here is the bad news, good news, bad news and good news, in that order.

"So the bad news is you have been displaced in time to a future era that you're 100% not going to understand, and you're in a museum dedicated to Prince's Landing and various other historical events I can't tell you the nature of. I help maintain the place because I care a lot about history. This is the closest you're going to get to a place that you'll recognize. If you go outside these walls you'll get future shock and probably an anxiety disorder and that's bad. Sorry." She shrugged, her mouth an askew 'what're you gonna do' frown.

"Now, the good news is that unlike temporal and spatial displacements from before the stabilization of the mana fields of Earth, this is a temporary displacement - anything displaced to this era that isn't through stabilized rifts gets detected and sent back to where and when they came from. You might have sensed the stabilization matrix in the air itself. Usually it acts like - hold on, I'm consulting an appropriate period-specific metaphor..." She rubbed her temple, then nodded. "Like a condom that stops sperm - that's you - from getting into a birth canal - that's this era. The rift event that sent you here must have been something else if it broke the metaphorical condom, even for a minute." She nodded, proud of having explained things capably.

"Now, the bad news again is, well: you're getting sent back to your era. I've studied that era, and, well, you have my sympathies. I can't keep you here because it would really mess up the timestream, and that's not good. And I can't tell you much about what's going to happen next in your era for the same reason. But if I'm right about where you're from, I imagine it feels like nothing's ever gonna be good ever again.

"But the good news is, this era's just as real as your era, and things are gonna be good again. Better than ever before, really, in a lot of ways. People are more inclusive and tolerant; we've mastered magic and technology in ways that let us live in harmony with the world; we still have our problems but I think we're gonna be okay. Like, I pass out at the sight of blood, so in your era I'd have starved to death with no PPE or ISP to feed on, but someone invented a new type of fruit that stores a small mount of PPE - " She pointed to the fruit bar she was eating. "And now I get to be alive and help curate a museum and research history! If I wasn't here you'd be talking to someone else who might not know about history, so hooray for progress." She gave the group a double thumbs up.

"So listen, the stabilization matrix is gonna send you back any second now. You might wanna stick out here so there's less chance of you displacing someone when you get back. So if you have any questions, well: you can ask! If it's gonna mess up the timestream  I probably won't be able to answer, but you can give it a shot."

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The evil knight turned his attention to the stranger.  "Praytell, Stranger, what's the purpose of all this?  Were we summoned?  Is our arrival just some accident of the time stream?  If there is no purpose to our being here, then by all means, send us on our way.  However, if there is purpose, then out with it, tell us what is required of us."

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Adam looked at his adopted daughter.  For the briefest moment his modulator made his voice sound almost remorseful.  "Kenzie, we must.  We do not belong here.  Were we to stay to long, we could cause more harm than good to the time stream.  The era in which we find ourselves will not bring your life happiness.  Happiness in life is in how you live it, and when we get home, we will find a place where you can live in peace.  Fear not, child."

He gently ran his gauntleted hand through her hair, comforting her.

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"D'aww. Papa Black Armor. How sweet." BB mused out loud, drawing what despite the helmet was sure to be a cold glare from Adam. "What? You don't like it, you shouldn't be so adorable when doing it." He turned to give Future Psi-Stalker his attention. "So in other words, we got temporarily dropped into the future long enough to know things get to be great, but no, we belong in the shitty time, about to get even more fucked sundae with a Splurgoth cherry on top. Could you at least be able tell us how long before the Coalition and the Fed starts swapping Dead Boys and demons?"

Namely, so he and Fi could plan their itinerary to get out of the war zone in advance, of course.

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"Except, why do I think it's not that simple?" Squidge asks rhetorically. "I mean...that bar was full of people, but only we were affected. Which means that this magic was not only very powerful, but extremely precise. But none of us know who did it, or what was done."

She looks at the Future Lady.

"What happens if we don't go back on our own?"

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Fi scrunched up her nose at being compared to sperm. The unfathomable - to her mind - Psi-stalker seemed pleased with the analogy, but Fi didn't personally care for it. The explanation for what had happened - if not how or why - was fantastic, though Fi wasn't sure what she thought about the apparent complete intermingling of technology and magic.

She looked at Adam askance as he comforted the girl. An orphan growing up on the streets and alleys of Ishpeming, Fi didn't remember her parents. And while there had been people - not all humans - who had looked after her welfare here and there, none had really shown as much concern at the armored knight, even through the encompassing concealment of his helmet.

The slim woman edged to the side, trying to look around some more, definitely curious. She certainly wanted to know how an era like the one the curator (?) was alluded to could arise from the era they came from. There was a Megaverse out there, infinite possibilities. Even going back to their own era, there was no guarantee the future of their own time would be or even resemble this one. Fi smirked at BB, thinking same as he was, then nodded at Squidge.

"I have the same questions she does - why us and not any others around us in the bar, not about staying here - plus, just how far forward in time did we stumble? This isn't just a few decades, or even a century. It can't be."

As much as she might have wanted to explore this time, even if it wasn't possible according to the Super-Sweet-Psi-Stalker, Fi had to go back. Watt was left all alone in Red Rambler. She'd be damned if someone else was going take her pet firefox or her truck.

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Phere walked up to the 'groundskeeper', looking the smaller psi-stalker over closely as she stepped uncomfortably close.

"Those will sustain you?" she asked the other psi-stalker flatly, and without waiting for an answer added, "I'm hungry as well." as she held out her opened hand, clearly expecting one of the fruit bars.

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The guide turned to Adam. "Well, purposewise, you got me. If I had to guess it'd be that a rift event happened in your timeline and it caused the equivalent of a Fade Effect - hold on, translation says you know them as fade towns, places that flicker between different strata of reality. Why you specifically and no one else is right up there with 'why this town and no other.' Basically, keep an eye out for anything weird when you get back."

She shrugged at Kinsie. "Whether you want to go back or not - and I 100% get wanting to stay - the stabilization matrix is gonna send you anyways. It keeps out a lot of random rift events including any that might, say, open to the surface of the sun and scour all life on Earth - that hasn't happened," she added quickly. "Strictly theoretical, like noetic stringlets."

With BB, she made an equivocating face. "Well, it's no secret that in your time they're not on the best of terms. But I can't say more than that. I will say, though... they're not the only threats out there. Keep your optics open. There's a number of ancient prophecies out there that the Coalition and the Federation don't play into. They don't all play out the way you might think."

With Squidge, she had a reassuring smile. "Oh, I'm reasonably sure you're either destined to go back on your own, or - if you don't - then you're destined to stay here, since time isn't collapsing all around us. Is it? Hang on." She tapped the side of her head, then nodded. "No, time's not collapsing all around us. We're good."

With Firanis, she had a disappointed face. "I can't really give you a number. More than a little and less than a lot? It's been a while, since I need a translation spell and all. But I can't be more detailed than that."

To Phere, she beamed. "Oh hey! A fellow Sensitive - ah, that's what we call ourselves now. Sure, hold on." She broke off a piece of fruit bar and gave it to Phere. When Phere tasted it, it was sweet and ripe, and reminded her of the sensation of her knife burying itself into a sorcerer.

Spoiler

(In game terms - not that we're strictly tracking it - but Phere's need for sustenance in terms of both food and PPE/ISP has been sated for a day.)

In the back, Tamika spoke up. "I have a question. The gene splicers, the ones doing their experiments all over Europe. What happened to them?"

At that, the guide's eyebrows lifted. "Wow, that's... actually a little outside my area of expertise. Well, I couldn't tell you that much about their history, but they're - oh, wait - "

The sensation everyone had felt a few minutes ago repeated itself, and suddenly they were back in Prince's Landing, in the middle of the main road, once again unpaved. Everything was back to more or less the way it was before - with the exception of Simon, who was holding an ion pistol of Northern Gun manufacture to Sy's face. Simon was leaning to one side, his prosthetic leg not quite matching his other leg and pulling him to the side, but he still looked ready to shoot. The young man was getting steamed, as was Simon; Trep was clearly trying to defused the situation.

"I'll repeat myself," said Simon, all gruff friendliness gone from his face. "I turn my back for a second and those two are gone. What did you have to do with it, skullfucker?"

"Call me that one more time, old man. One more time - "

Not far away, inside Firanis' red-painted vehicle, a small animal could be heard, making a noise like "fnurf."

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"Put that gun away Mr Simon," Kensie didn't even blink at the sudden transition she just went with it, and seeing her two friends being threatened riled her a great deal. Actually this whole trying to be human thing riled her all to hell plush she could tell that she was pushing it, she wanted to stretch, to fly , to burn something. Time was not on her side. "Those boys didn't do nothing and there is no  good going to come from name calling."

She moved faster than Adam expected but still he reached out just missing her arm as she dashed forward and slid in front of Sy, between him and Simon

"Kensie..." Adam warned with a growl which sounded very very scary with the modulation

Kensie glared at Simon a little flash of fire showing in her eyes.

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Squidge looked around as the pastoral, but some how sanitized, town vanished and was replaced by the very NOT sanitized vista of Prince's Landing rematerialized around her. There was a lurch of vertigo, as much mental as physical, as she tried to process the sudden exchange.

The future version of Prince's Landing had looked...nice though. Prosperous, albeit empty and clearly some kind of historic display. Did that mean it was destined to work out well here?

Of course. Just like Karl Prosek was really destined to be a just, kind and benevolent leader to all humanity. History is what people say it is...whatever it might really have been.

"Phere...any idea where this is coming from? Is it like she said, just random?"

It felt weird to Squidge, but magic still sometimes gave her the heebie-jeebies. Only the really strong stuff, like rifts or...whatever this was. Normal magic was just like psionics, really. Different, but kind of the same.

But there was this potential for magic, because it tapped sources far greater than one's own internal energy, to do things that just weren't okay. Really mess with things.

Focus, girl. Focus. What were you doing?

Ah yeah. The mystic! Trying to help this little town out before it fell too far.

I wish I'd asked her how Prince's Landing was saved...

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"Hey, kid!" Fi interjected as Kensie put herself in the middle of the argument. "We've been gone for who knows how long - It might've only been a few minutes for us, but a lot longer here. Simon might have a really good reason for aiming a gun at the Coalition fanboy."

She gave Simon an apologetic shrug, suggesting he put down his pistol now that the girl was in the way. Fi had been in Prince's Landing long enough that she'd give Simon the benefit of the doubt over Sy, especially after the scene in the bar. "I hope you do, Simon. What's going on?"

Fi asked the last over her shoulder as she hustled towards the Red Rambler, tapping a few things into her Pipboy. She linked up with her vehicle's onboard computer, to see how long they had objectively been missing from their own era. Watt might've been stuck in the Red Rambler for too long.

"Don't worry, Watt. Mama's back," the slender mechanic cooed as she slapped her hand on the biometric pad, unlocking the side door and climbing into back of the Red Rambler.

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"Yeah. If they're the 'nice boys' you mentioned," BB told the red-head with all ladled air quotes and sarcasm, "they were only nice to you because you're attractive and look human." Well, she probably was human, but then again she might not, and the point had to be made to the poor naive cutie. "Such is the way of those who root for the Skull and Prosek." And then the cyborg stepped off to join Firanis, catching up the distance very quickly.

BB followed Fi, and while she cooed over Watt, BB found his railgun. "Ah, precious precious BFG. How good it is to see you again."

"Really BB?"

"You adore your thing Fi, I adore mine."

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"Well since you obviously are as dim witted as you are goofy looking, I will repeat what Mr. Simon said Quote "I'll repeat myself,I turn my back for a second and those two are gone. What did you have to do with it, skullfucker?" Out Quote. The two he is referring to is Adam and myself, from which anyone with even a smidgen of intelligence could fathom that we, the disappeared, have only been gone from this time frame for a few seconds." Kensie tosses over her shoulder in the direction of the pink haired chick never taking her eye off Simon and his gun.

"Now Simon please put down the gun." She repeats to the shopkeeper.

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The Black Knight's first instinct was, of course, to jump in the way of Kensie and defend his charge, or yank her away with a properly prepared scolding or life lesson about getting shot.  With visible sigh, his shoulders heaved as his armor expanded and contracted in resignation that Kensie was gonna do what Kensie wanted to do.  She may have looked like an attractive adolescent female, but she was still a six month old dragon with little in the way of worldly experience.

"Yes, Simon," he said softly.  He made no motion to pull Kensie from the predicament she found herself in.  If he shot her, she'd certainly live, albeit in pain.  She would them proceed to transform into her true draconic form and everyone would die while he enjoyed a free drink in the bar.  His voice was calm and relaxed.  Simon held no cards, despite the pistol in his hand.  "Put down the gun.  Should you pull that trigger and harm Kensie, she will kill you.  After all, she did say 'please'."

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Phere glanced over at the exchange taking place and rolled her eyes, holding her palm out to Squidge's question for the moment.

"Instead of threatening a man in his own shop, who was worried about you, maybe it's best you and your 'friends' leave his shop instead." she explained in a passionless, simple tone, over her shoulder, glancing at Kensie and then the boys.

"Though be wary of 'friends' like those two." she added with a nod at the boys. "If they and their 'friends' knew what you really were, then you would not find them so welcoming." she warned, clearly having no problem with possibly blowing up the newfound relationship between the fire-haired girl and the two boys, for the girl's own good.

Phere then dismissed them and the whole exchange for the moment and looked around, her eyes narrowing, taking on a predatory hint as she listened and faintly, almost imperceptibly sniffed at the air around her, noting the change once again.

"I am not sure right now, but it's strong. I might be able to narrow it down though." she answered her friend.

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Firanis and BB's quick synchronization of the PIP-Boy and BB's internal clock with the computer system aboard the Rambler confirmed that the displacement had been more or less real-time - that they'd been gone for several minutes and that was the amount of time they'd spent wherever they'd gone.

Upon seeing that the others were okay, Simon lowered the pistol, visibly relieved. He nodded to Kensie and Adam. "Sorry about that. I see a couple of travelers around here disappear, and after what happened to Ianoko - "

"That wasn't us," said Sy, defensively.

"Sure it wasn't. And I wasn't talking to you. But glad to see all is well." He shouted at the bar. "They're out here! We found them."

Patrons of the bar came out into the street - including Ianoko, who was relieved to see Squidge and Phere okay, and Glitter Girl, who ran straight at Tamika nearly bowling her over with an embrace. Phere's sniff of the air did pick up a trace of something supernatural that wasn't there before, though it was hard to pin down. It smelt a bit like sour milk.

As Tamika gently disengaged from Glitter Girl's hug, GeeGee spoke up. "Hey, I checked in your room, and there was this thing going beep-beep in your backpack. I thought it all didn't work any more?"

"I thought it - wait, the thing that goes beep-beep? Not the thing that goes ping or the one that makes the clicking sound?"

"Yeah. Why?"

Tamika swallowed. "It measures - "

Tamika was cut off by the sound of a dull thump in the distance, that caused the ground to shake with the impact. From atop the town's walls, a sentry shouted - a d-bee woman with pink skin. "Contact! We've got contact! Mark seven by two!"

"She means ten o'clock," said Simon, hobbling towards the sentry tower. "Her people tell time differently. What is it?"

"Getting the seefar - sorry, the binoculars now - "

The gate was open, and not far from main street; those with the inclination could make it to the gate to see what it was easily. From a distance, it looked like something had fallen out of the sky and landed in the middle of the field of barley. It looked like a giant chunk of purple colored amber.

Those with binoculars or optical magnification systems could zoom in and see a disturbing extra detail - the amber, in fact, looked like a broken-off chunk of giant honeycomb, and already scuttling across its surface were insectoid forms - some of which were taking to the air. They didn't seem to be moving towards the town, but once they were in focus, it was apparent what they were.

"It came out of the sky," said the sentry, nervously. "Judging by the angle, it - I think it came from the - "

"The ley line," finished Tamika, also nervously. "The device that goes beep-beep measures ley line anomalies."

The sentry, to her credit, continued to report. "I think it's a chunk of a hive, ripped here from somewhere else. They look like the worldsweepers. Ah, sorry, the - "

"The Xiticix," finished Simon, grimly.

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"Xiticix." BB repeated. All of a sudden now down well, well south of the Minnesota-Canada line. "Fuck." Then a sign from the cyborg. "Well, good thing we just got back to the Rambler. We're gonna need the firepower." Xiticix was just plain bad news, and while they could just run away, BB was not that heartless, nor was Firanis. And given how the bugs multiplied, the whole area would be in trouble soon if the hive-piece wasn't obliterated.

And he didn't seen the townsfolk mustering a sufficient force on their own.

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Squidge's eyes widened at the news and she looked at Phere.

"Lets...put a pin in that and get back to it. Later. You know...assuming we can. I am definitely going to need a wardrobe change. I'll be right back!"

She went around to the side of the bar to get her armor out and started shrugging into it as quickly as she could. In her days in the military Squidge hadn't come up against the Xiticix, but she'd heard plenty of stories about them. Not even a single one implied that this would end without shots fired.

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"And except for the intermittent power output issues, I had her all fixed up," Fi groused as she climbed into the Rambler. Watt squeaked at the sight of his mistress and clambered up onto her shoulder. She tickled the fire-ferret under chin, making him chirp in contentment, then rapped on his reinforced, padded carrier in passing towards the cockpit. "Climb inside, buddy. There's bugs outside and things might get bumpy."

Watt clambered into the carrier then poked his head out of the hole on the top, peering around with soft chirrups and squeaks. Fi giggled as pulled on and secured her body armor, then started flipping switches, powering up the Red Rambler, the HUD on the front screen blooming to life. She checked to make sure all systems were operational and linked her personal targeting system to the onboard Heavy Laser Cannon and Forward Ion Blaster.

Fi hit a button to activate the external speakers as she grabbed the 8-ball surmounting the stick shift and put the Red Rambler in gear. "Rift or not, better to hit the bugs now, and hard, before they get organized, guys. Anyone need a ride, climb in."

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"This matter does not concern us," Adam said plainly.  He turned to Simon, the visor on her helmet narrowed, signifying a stern glare.  "You have our order, yes?  Get it and we will be on our way."  He collected the satchel Simon had prepared and dropped the credits on the counter, hesitant to pay full price in an establishment that pulled guns on their patrons.  He turned towards the door and walked straight into Kensie, who, despite Adam's bulk, didn't budge an inch as he collided with her.  She was mountain.

"You can't be serious."  She glared at him, her fists planted sternly on her hips.

"I am," he said coldly.  "Now let us be off.  You're almost out of time and we have a sage to find."  He attempted to walk around her but she stiff armed him back to his starting spot right in front of her.

"Do those things look like they're going to wait for us to talk to him?  'Oh, sorry, to interrupt, but can we get some ancient secrets from him before you eat him?  Kaythanks!'"  She continued to glare at him.  "You're a Knight.  You help people.  That's what the stories say.  Knights. Help. People."

"These are not people, they are vermin.  Carrion with souls and a swift death is the very best could hope for in their ignorant, meager lives-"

A loud thump echoed through the air as Adam, for all his size and bulk fell to one knee as Kensie's fist crashed into his helmet.  Withone blow she dropped the knight to attention. Her strength was unimaginable.  Her fists at her sides, clenched in rage her breath came slow and shallow.  "Adam, that's that sword talking, and you know it.  People need you, these people need you.  They need a knight.  I need a knight.  If the sword needs souls... feed it those souls," she pointed out to the horizon.  "But please, don't give in to the curse yet.  We'll find the old man, just holdout a little longer..."

The Black Knight stood to the sounds on his armor hissing as servos whirred and howled a dark incantation that would drive a man to war.  The thin red lines of his armor swelled with greater intensity as Aggabeddon was drawn from its scabbard with a hellish cry that pierced the ears of those near him.  Its dark aura was palpable, hanging thick in the air like a deep invisible, confining fog had set in.  Its mere presence made it obvious that the sword itself was more evil than any of the darkest sins mortal minds could conjure.  Adam wielded a cursed blade of ultimate evil.

<Freedom!  Yesss... yesss... blood... souls... feed me your enemies Adam, feed me their souls, and make yours ever closer to being mine...> The voice was something akin to the screaming agony of nails down a chalkboard... if one was leaving their nails embedded in it as the raked it's surface.  The eyes of the skull lit up into a fiery crimson as a blackish-green flame ignighted down the blade.  <Drown this realm in blood and death!>

"Silence demon," Adam said calmly as his grip tightened on the handle of the blade.  "My soul is not yet your, creature.  Until such a time has come to pass, you will obey me."

The Black Knight stomped toward Pidge... or Squish... or whatever her name was, he didn't care.  Dark thoughts were clouding his mind as Aggabeddon demanded death and sacrifice for the power he offered Adam.  "These creatures are unknown to me," he said simply.  Phere was ready to kill him without a thought as he approached looking like her was ready to battle them instead.  "Tell me what you need of me, for now, my blade is service to these people."

He looked to Kensie.  "If this my last, remember, do as I have asked."  She knew what he spoke of, the bitter black moment where the blade would finally attempt to claim his soul, he's asked Kensie to end his life swiftly in some final attempt to save him from damnation.  Neither knew if it would work, but if it came to that, what was left to lose?  "I am your knight, child, and I shall serve you in all things."  He hugged her tightly and stepped away.  "Now, go.  Everything I have taught you, use it now.  No lessons, no griping.  You have my full blessing to rain down all that you are upon these creatures if it is to help them survive the day."

"For real?"

"For real."  She could almost see his smile through the helmet.  "Be glorious."

They could all see the sword putting a strain on him.  For those that knew of such things and magic as dark as when he was dealing in, such power would consume him if he tried to control it for too long... and it seemed he'd been trying to control it for quite some time.

Spoiler

Aggabeddon looks a lot like Frostmourne.  Use that for reference.

 

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Squidge looked up in alarm, which only abated a tiny bit when she saw who had followed her. She was just closing her armor's clamshell cuirass over her shirt and getting it sealed correctly to what the Dead Boys liked to call the 'codpiece.' Or more...colorful things, sometimes. As she listened to him she started getting the arms fitted and sealed.

Ugh, this was so much easier when it was on the loading stand! Maybe Phere was right about just wearing the stuff all the time.

"What I need of you," Squidge repeated, basically just buying time for her brain to catch up with things. "Okay. Xiticix. Xiticix. They're hostile dimensional aliens, non-supernatural though they've got, uh...class three psionics? But some are stronger." She looked up, trying to remember the briefings she'd looked at, a thousand years ago or so it felt. "They take over their habitats completely, building city-scale hives from some kind of resin they excrete and natural materials in the environment. Okay, right. That's not useful right now."

The psion finished getting her armor on and hefted her helmet.

"They can fly. They're physically more powerful than an unaugmented human, and they have pretty burly psychic powers, basically. Their weapons hit hard, and there's usually more of them than they let on. Oh, and they like to mark targets with a kind of...pheremone spray that attracts more. We should circle around the hive fragment to draw them away from town, engage at range, force them to come to us. Once we've thinned out the soldiers that were in that fragment, we can close in and use explosives to breach it...then mop up."

She nods at the Rambler. "So pile in and make some room for Phere and me."

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"Not necessary." He looked at the Rambler.  "Kensie and I will meet you there."

He turned and marched back towards where Kensie was waiting.  He paused for only a moment to flex and tense, biting back the control the sword was trying to gain on him.  "Are you ready?"  He asked his charge.

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Once Phere felt that Adam was not a threat, she relaxed slightly and began going over her gear in preparation for combat, while speaking to him.

"Their weapons hit hard, but they are not so tough. Engage at range..." she said as she glanced at Adam's sword and shrugged, "..if you can. If not, prepare to be swarmed." she finished as she slipped on her deaths head helmet, matching the rest of her camouflage patterned "Deadboy" armor. To any familiar with the CS, it was clear that the armor both Phere and Squidge wore was slightly different than even the standard 'new' suits of armor worn by the CS military.

The upgraded, external optics over her right eye whirred as she looked they adjusted and focused and then the dual vibroblades extended from her vambraces, humming to life for a moment to allow Phere to inspect them before they retracted once more. She then checked her laser rifle and e-clips before glancing back at the hive, the expression on her helm a cold, uncaring grimace of death.

"Give no quarter. We are just vermin to be exterminated to them, so let's return the favor." she remarked as she boosted Squidge up to the Red Rambler.

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"If you're putting together a posse, hang on - I'll go get my kit." Tamika then ran into the flophouse.

As the group prepared to depart, a few of the elders in the town - the foreman William Marks, the old soldier Simon, and the bartender Grep - conferred. After a moment, Simon hobbled over to the group.

"We're going to activate a general distress beacon, and then we're going to prepare the residents of the town for evacuation. We hopefully won't have to, but..." He frowned. "If they spread over that field - or if the field needs to be burnt down to stop them - that's our crop for the year destroyed, and the town might as well not exist anymore between that and the problems in the mine. Preparing sooner is better, in case you... well, hopefully it won't come to that. Be as careful with the crops as you can, but no matter what, those things cannot let a queen start breeding. Good hunting."

Tamika emerged from the flophouse in scuffed up armor, a leather jacket and a scarf, with a holstered pistol with a flared barrel and resting a shotgun on her shoulder - she also had some kind of device attached to her forearm. Despite herself, she smiled as she fixed her goggles into place. "Ha, suck it, wizard. Once we've blown these things to hell, you're next." Tamika hopped in the back of the Rambler.

"Ready when you all are."

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Kensie grinned a wide grin as the others piled into the red vehicle the weird girl seemed to have some sort of affection for, she giggled and pointed when she saw the little animal. "Awww how cute!"

Then she looked at the two boys and the shopkeeper as well as the rest of those who had stopped to watch. "Sorry boys y'all might want to step back."

Nodding to her foster dad "Ready."  Kensie stretched raising her arms upward toward the sky. there was a strange cracking sound and both arms stretched. The boys and Simon went wide eyed as the little girl seemed to elongate and twist, arms grew longer and folded back on themselves. Her hair thickened and flowed down her back sticking up like an extra long Mohawk while clothes took on a scaly texture. Horror began to show on the onlookers faces as the girls size doubled then triple and a tail grew behind,  the arms unfold and became vast wings, the Mohawk stood as ridges and spikes and the girls neck stretched her head becoming reptilian  the red from her hair spreading to color the whole now decidedly non human form.

In seconds the girl Kensie had transform and now stood in the center of the dusty street, a dragon.

Red_Dragon_by_BenWootten.jpg

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"Bloody hells and broken skies!" Fi exclaimed at the sight of the dragon. Watt seemed to share the sentiment, cheeping then ducking inside his padded carrier. A moment later, his round ears and amber eyes poked back up through the hole on top in curiosity.

Fi had seen dragons before - if from a distance - and met people she believed might have been dragons, but she'd never witnessed the transformation at such close hand. Where did all the mass come from? The girl dragon called Kensie hadn't been hiding all that weight as a girl, she'd have noticed. Barely a teenager in human form or not, Fi warned herself not to make the girl angry - not unless she had the Red Rambler's laser cannon pointed directly at her. Fi took another glance at the dragon on one of the monitors. Hmm, maybe not even then...

Which wasn't to say she wasn't mightily curious about what it would be like to ride a dragon. Another time. With a parachute and/or a jet pack. Not now.

Fi gave Tamika a thumbs up over her shoulder and hit the button to close the rear door. The six big, thick wheels of the Rambler ground over gravel and hard-packed dirt as Fi turned it around, then shifted into a higher gear.

"Hang on. I'm kicking on the juice."

The Red Rambler drove smoothly, then gave a small lurch as Fi turned up the acceleration, heading towards the piece of hive at an oblique angle to give the vehicle mounted heavy laser cannon and the ion blasters a larger arc of fire and an easier time for the others to debark on the move.

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Phere looked to the two boys with her passionless, death's head visage and with her voice slightly amplified from her suit's system she said, "Told you." to the pair as they stood in shock at Kensie's transformation. She then disappeared as the rear door of the Rambler closed automatically.

Phere elected to stand as the vehicle set out toward the piece of the hive, holding onto some support beam or or loose cargo strap. She took stock of the borg and D-Bee. BB would certainly be of use. She had seen what a pair of CS full conversion combat cyborgs could do, and it was impressive. Tamika though... she was not sure about. This was not a joke or a game. It was a battle with an unreasonable, alien enemy that would not hesitate to kill and likely eat them. She would try to keep an eye on her, like every time an officer decided to accompany Squidge, herself, and her dog boys into the field for 'evaluation' or some non-sense. Hopefully Tamika would turn out to not be a liability to be managed.

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"Well, you've tolerated my ranting and raving long enough, young Kensie,"  She lowered her head and he gently patted the tough bristles along her cheek.  "Let's have some fun.  All work and no play, as they say..."

She lowered herself and the Dark Knight mounted the back of her neck, near her shoulders.  She stood and roared loudly, back away all those who found bravery enough to gather around her.  She beat her wings and the dist kicked up furiously.  Within moments they were aloft.  The Red Rambler tore from Prince's Landing, hugging the turns and revving through the terrain with little to know effort towards the rising threat.  With a small army loaded up inside and hanging off the sides and back.  They broke the crest of a hill as Kensie and Adam soared overhead just above them.

Whatever these creatures were... they in for a real bad day...

The citizens of Prince's Landing looked on with equal parts fear and confusion as complete strangers set off to save their lively hood... and a dragon.  One of the gate guards looked to his partner and shrugged.  "This is, without a doubt, the single most weirdest day of my life, and that's sayin' something."

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Squidge was taken aback by Kensie's transformation, and only her helmet spared her the indignity of openly gaping at the sight. She'd really reconsidered the whole Coalition stance on aliens. Most of them were just like other people in their minds at least, and the ones that weren't could be dealt with on a case by case basis.

But...things like that. Dragons that could wander around, looking like anyone else and then suddenly just burst into giant monsters. That made cold sweat bead on the palms of her hands. Maybe Kenzie was all right. Maybe this was all right. But what about the ones who weren't?

Then again, is that so different than a mage? Or a psychic? Hell, you don't even have to turn into a giant monster to kill people in the middle of town.

She licked her lips and tried to shrug the urge to fight or flee off. They'd be needing that kind of firepower to deal with the hive anyway. Trust had to start somewhere.

The psychic made her way to the Rambler as its engine whined to life and she clambered in after Phere.

"Remember, drive a ways past it. Let them see us, and follow us away from the town before we start riling them up."

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The gathered townspeople reacted in shock as Kensie took her true form. Simon stammered out a few words. "Re-remember what I - "

Grep grabbed Simon's shoulder, their burly arm's weight stopping Simon cold. "If she wants to burn down the entire field, what exactly do you plan on doing to stop her? I move we activate the emergency broadcast."

Simon fell silent, and the group departed. Those without means of locomotion piles into the Red Rover, with Kinsie flying overhead, her shadow cast over the field. In the distance, the xiticix buzzed over the hive. Transmitted via text, the group could see on the Rambler's communications apparatus, the town's call for help.

MAYDAY
XITICIX SIGHTING AT PRINCE'S LANDING
STATUS OF QUEEN: UNKNOWN
REQUEST IMMEDIATE ASSISTANCE FROM ANYONE IN RANGE
A SEVEN-STRONG LOCAL ATTACK TEAM HAS BEEN ASSEMBLED - DO NOT FIRE UPON THEM

Nothing else came from the several tense minutes that followed. At just over a hundred meters out, the defense team of the makeshift hive took to the air, making clicking noises with their alien language. There were a pair of warriors and three hunters, distinguished by the hues of their chitin. Not overwhelming numbers, but if there were reinforcements inside the hive, that could change in a hurry.

Just before contact, however, something unexpected happened: a response to the distress signal came through.

AN EMERGENCY RELIEF TEAM HAS BEEN RETASKED.
THEY WILL ARRIVE VIA LEY LINE TRANSPORT ONCE IN POSITION.
HOLD THEM OFF AS LONG AS POSSIBLE.
HAVE HOPE.
WE'RE COMING TO HELP YOU.

The signal was signed "The Tomorrow Legion." No one had heard of it. And no one had time to ponder it, before the Xiticix hunters sighted and opened fire with purple bolts of force from some kind of techno-wizard rifles.

image.png

image.png

Spoiler

 

The Xiticix defenders are, at present, five strong - two warriors and three hunters.

The fear checks for the hunters:

Hunter Fear checks: 3#1d6o6 5 2 11
Warrior Fear checks.: 2#1d8o8 5 5

One of them freaks out, and flies away as fast as it can (it is Shaken.) The others hold their ground.

 

 

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