Trial By Fire Round Two: Shop ‘Til You Drop (Dead)
With the first round behind him Scar goes from the ‘Fuzzy Swamp of Death’ to a shopping mall that has been long abandoned, save by the most rabid shoppers in the universe and a bounty hunter just as deadly as him.
The metal leg of one of the stages crumpled, torn apart by Riot’s single shot and passing clean through Scar without even leaving visible damage. The larger Irken remained where he was, crouched on one knee with one hand reaching under his jacket as his image flickered and died, revealing that the projectiles had clipped the hologram projector that Scar had left on the floor.
Arabella stared for a half moment too long before realizing that she had been tricked.
“Aw fuck me,” She muttered just as something stuck itself into the side of Riot’s barrel, flung from the side and several meters off the ground where Scar hung off one of the pillars just as Arabella had done a couple minutes ago. Arabella ducked back behind the pillar she had been using for cover and stared at her damaged weapon, indignant and shocked. “Shit! Who uses fuckin’ shuriken?!”
Then she heard a beep...and then a series of beeps. She glanced to her sides and saw two more shuriken that had been thrown into the floor on either side of her hiding spot. They each had a visible meter on them made of green bars that were turning red as the beeping noises began to repeat more quickly.
“Oh you mother-” Arabella tossed Riot up into the air and threw herself forward, sprinting as fast as she could in the couple of seconds she had before all three shuriken exploded.
“Fuuuuuuuuuck!” Arabella shouted, propelled forward by the force of the explosions. She let out several more curses as she landed and rolled, managing to end her tumble in a crouched position on one knee and whipped out Fireside. She aimed the handgun back the way she had been thrown from and scanned through the cloud of dust for Scar’s form, which should have been easily visible against the brighter colours around them, but she couldn’t see the guy anywhere!
Bella took the next few moments to try and memorize anything she recalled about Scar.
- Emphasis on close quarters combat? Check.
- Arsenal of blades up the ass? Check.
- Masterful deception plus deadly trap ? Fuckin’ check.
Alright, she remembered all his strengths and methods, but some weaknesses might be more expedient for this little mess she’d landed in. That damn cybernetic arm of his may not be his only weapon but she could rest assured that it would likely what he lead with in his next attack like he had with the mob-
Arabella smirked as she formed a plan in her head, quickly glancing about and settling her eyes on a maintenance panel close by. She side stepped towards it and unfolded her PAK legs, using them to tear the panel open while she kept an eye out for Scar.
“Come on out big boy,” Arabella called out, “Let’s not pussyfoot it, time to finish this!”
She heard a sound from above and quickly leaped back just in time to avoid having Scar’s metal fist smash its way down into her skull. The marble floor cracked and shattered, leaving his fist momentarily buried wrist deep into the surface and giving Arabella the opportunity she needed to tear a single cable from the maintenance panel. Sparks crackled and buzzed from the end as she tugged as hard she could, tearing several feet of length out from the wiring within the wall.
Scar quickly tugged his fist out after a moment of struggling, but was too slow to stop Arabella from jamming the end of the torn cable against his hand. His entire body convulse while Arabella jumped back, frantically blowing on her hands as a little smoke arose from her gloves. “Shit!”
The plan had the desire effect, despite the minor pain involved. Scar’s entire right arm went limp, sagging at his side and unbalancing him as the molecular density settings continued to mess with the weight. Scar’s legs quivered before he fell to one knee and his hand clanged against the floor, cracking it as the limb’s weight finally settled on something a little too heavy for the assassin to bear.
“Well,” Arabella chuckled, blowing on her fingers once more, “That worked out rather well if I-aw shit.” The bounty hunter realized one little mistake that she’d made in the course of her plan.
Okay...more like two, actually.
Firstly, she had dropped her gun when she’d gone for the cable.
And secondly, her shorting out Scar’s arm had also caused all of the lights overhead to snap off. The electrical surge must have triggered a safety in the circuits, maybe in the event of somebody being shocked by mistake. Now she and her helpless opponent were plunged into darkness.
Cursing softly under her breath, Arabella immediately began to step away from where she hoped Scar would still be struggling with his malfunctioning cybernetic arm. She reached around behind her back and held a hand open with the palm up while a compartment opened in her PAK and spat out a small flashlight, a part of the standard survival kit that any basic PAK carried. By the time she snapped it on and aimed it towards where Scar had been, she saw only an abandoned metal arm that had been disconnected from its port.
Scar was gone, and she hadn’t even heard him make his escape in the few seconds since the lights had gone out. Arabella had heard how effective this guy was supposed to be, but that right there was just freaky.
Realizing how her advantage had been lost, Arabella sought out her gun and saw it on the floor right by the still open panel. She quickly snatched it up while keeping her eyes and flashlight facing outward. The entire mall looked a lot more imposing in the darkness, where once she could have seen in every direction for hundreds of meters now she could only take in the oppressive void that closed in around her and her little flashlight.
The guy only had one arm, but from what his record spoke of he might not need it. He could still throw one of those shuriken, shoot off a gun or even just sneak up on her while her back was turned. What made this game of hide & seek one sided was some fancy CyberIrken implant in Scar’s right eye socket that would make any effort on her part to hide futile.
In a matter of moments her near victory had turned on her and left her wandering half blind in the dark with a hunter who could see as clear as day.
Arabella heard faint footfalls hurrying past her, but by the time she spun around and snapped her gun up into a firing position there was nobody in sight. This repeated several more times before she grew irritated and fired off several rounds, briefly creating a flash of gunfire and causing an echoing ‘bang’ to travel through the darkened corridors.
Finally her gun clicked, and she ejected the magazine to replace it. Before she could finish reloading Arabella heard the footsteps again, now rushing towards her.
“Aw fuck no!” She threw herself forward and rolled, hearing a blade slice through the air inches over her head as she slammed the magazine in and rose to her feet.
She missed, her bullet tearing through the empty sleeve of Scar’s jacket before he rammed one leg up into her stomach hard enough to launch Arabella back. She heard the whir of servos and knew she’d been hit by his prosthetic leg, which actually may have been a better target in hindsight. She slammed into the edge of one of the stages holding the mannequins and quickly pulled herself onto it, throwing her legs up and propelling herself into a backwards roll over one shoulder so she could get out of range of Scar and his knife.
When she looked down the bastard had vanished again, and she had dropped her flashlight when he’d hit her. It lay a few feet away, pointed in her general direction and illuminating one whole side of the ‘fashion pyramid’ that Scar had hidden himself in minutes ago. The figures lining the levels made Arabella feel like she was wandering a maze now, knowing that Scar might be able to hide himself among them like he had done to fool the shoppers.
Already she could feel her heart pounding, and trying to breathe slowly was easier said than done. This was a combination of anticipation, the adrenaline fuelling her excitement during a good fight, and fear...not for herself, but for the woman she would be leaving behind to rot in the Circle if she died-which could happen at any moment now.
“Come on,” Arabella whispered, glancing about and watching for even the slightest movement from any of the mannequins. “Come on...come on!”
She felt a sudden breeze of warm air that made her antennae twitch. She twisted around again, immediately her reflection in Scar’s visor.
Two bullets glanced off of the helmet, but the third shattered the visor and then rebounded off of the inside, flying into the floor by Arabella’s feet. The helmet remained in place even as the head of the mannequin wearing it crumbled. The warm ‘breath’ that she had felt had really been the air filters mounted on the front of the helmet, left on by command and expelling toxic gasses that weren’t there. The mannequin was even wearing the right jacket and was lacking a right arm, which she spotted at its feet.
Arabella’s spine straightened out as it dawned on her: a trap, almost the same one he had used on the shoppers.
Unlike her weapon, Scar used an energy pistol, a simple and compact design that didn’t generate too much noise and a much smaller flash. She felt the energy projectile burn through her torso after melting a hole in her PAK, and smelt burnt flesh in the air.
Arabella’s pistol clattered to the ground, and she joined it a moment later, falling to her knees and then down onto her side, and then again as she fell off of the platform and landed hard on the floor. Her hat remained fixed to her head as she slowly turned and glanced up at Scar with one eye, seeing his face for the first time. He was scarred, burned; an ugly metal plate covered his right eye socket and looked nothing like the supposed advanced implant that gave him perfect vision in the dark. But what caught her attention most was his real eye, how he looked down at her.
There was no pity, no satisfaction, no hostility...
“If it means anything,” He spoke with his true voice, knowing that Arabella wouldn’t be able to move enough to harm him, much less survive her injury for long. “My friends didn’t leave anybody else behind when they first raided the Circle for me...they won’t leave her behind when they do it again.”
It made Arabella feel just a little better....just a little, or at least enough that when Scar fired next she had a ghost of a smile on her face.
Scar slid his pistol back into its holster under his shoulder and released a breath before dropping his hand towards his side where Arabella’s bullet had managed to tear through his flesh just below his ribcage after tearing through his sleeve. It hadn’t hit deep, and had gone right through; he hadn’t even realized he’d been hit until he took off his jacket to stage his little trick.
Who would have thought that he’d be saved by a fashion show not once, but twice? Sure he’d lost the use of his helmet, but that was a minor price for winning this round, and he could have taken a lot more damage if he’d tried to keep up a prolonged fight with Arabella.
After retrieving his jacket and then waiting for his arm to repair itself so he could reattach it, Scar peeled away his blood stained red shirt and grimaced, realizing that his stab wound had been reopened by Arabella’s shot.
This wouldn’t be as simple as cauterizing both the entry and exit wounds this time, he’d have to raid a few stores for some supplies.
Luckily he found an abandoned office with a full medical kit which included bandages, gauze, but no nano-serum to help knit the skin back together like he would usually do on his ship. After more blood lost and a lot of pain, Scar managed to stop the bleeding and had wrapped pretty much his entire lower torso in several layers of bandages that were still a little stained over the right side where he’d taken the most damage.
Even when he got his jacket back on he couldn’t hide the stain of Irken blood that had seeped through the material and without his helmet the assassin felt a little more exposed than he would have liked, but he had dealt with worse circumstances with less resources to work with.
“Well, congratz, the judges are convinced that you aren’t about to drop dead.” His camera drone said, waiting for Scar when he stepped out of the back office and into the now relit fitness store, which as it turned out kept at least some medical supplies on hand in the event some moron somehow injured themselves testing out one of the exercise machines on sale. “Just go pick up your sticker and then head for the exit, then you’re golden. Or at least you are until round three, my friend, and your odds aren’t looking to be as hot as they were when you began.”
If Scar wasn’t busy trying to clear his head and maintain his balance he would have told the damn thing to shut up, but instead he just shoved it out of the way with one hand and stepped back out into the corridors, which lights and power had been restored to after a short amount of time. He could see Arabella’s form crumpled at the feet of the pyramid, already being picked at by several of the shoppers.
With a disgusted expression on his scarred visage, Scar stormed over and shot several of the shoppers as one tried to tug one of the corpse’s boots off. “Away with you!” He waved one arm harshly, sending them fleeing. “This one isn’t a meal for you to pick from, florping vultures.”
He carried Arabella to one of the stores that still had a functioning security system and set her down in the back office, covering her with her own coat and setting her hat on her chest. He left her there and covered the door with as much furniture as he could before departing, triggering the store’s security on the way out by firing off his blaster into an alarm and causing metal shutters to fly down and seal the store’s front. After that it was a simple matter of cutting a few wires and making sure the shutters stayed down, securing Arabella’s body until he could arrange for it to be retrieved by the Syndicate.
That task had been easy; the crate, on the other hand, was harder to get than it should have been. It had been set in the middle of a crowded room near the exit, filled with shoppers munching on what looked like the cooked limbs and organs of other ‘tribes’ from different sectors of the mall. It took nearly fifteen minutes to sneak through them, open the crate and grab a stupid sticker shaped like a dollar sign before making his way to the exit, which had been brightly illuminated and had numerous signs pointing to it that went ignored by the shoppers, who had lost the ability to read and the urge to leave long ago.
As he stood beneath the bright pink letters marking the front entrance, Scar finally allowed himself to relax for just the moment. He had until his next challenge to rest and recover, with what little time that gave him. But now he felt concerned for his long term survival, mainly surviving long enough to win this tournament.
Would he be able to fight his next opponent without collapsing? What if there were still opponents after that one?
Scar groaned and set his metal hand against his forehead, becoming dizzy by the thought of it all.
“I’m retiring after I get home,” He decided, and trudged out to face his next challenge.
End of Round Two
The Age of the Comic: Giving into your inner geek
Tallest Quire is never one to deny her people the chance to learn and expand their knowledge, however she finds a more personal benefit when she is persuaded to approve of lifting a ban on non-Irken comic books throughout the Empire...
Palace of the Tallests, Irk
“No, no, no, NO!” The Imperial Social Advisor shook his head firmly. “My Tallest, this proposal is completely unacceptable!” The robed Irken held up the data pad, waving it as though Quire had not already read the contents. “To expose our people to such garbage is tantamount to allowing the lesser races to pollute our perfect Empire! Do not let these defective beggars sway you!”
Quire slowly breathed in and out while pinching the skin between her eyes to fight off a growing headache. “Very well,” She sighed, opening her eyes and sitting up on her throne, “As the proposing party cannot provide satisfactory reasoning for this, I shall hereby reject the proposal to lift the ban on entertainment literature of non-Irken and non-Imperial origins unless any here see fit to object.”
The group of Irkens who had brought this proposal to her sagged in defeat, many of them appeared saddened by this rejection after how hopeful they had been upon entering the throne room not one minute ago-that was how long it had taken for the Social Advisor to reject this and argue down any feeble objections the group may have had.
“And with no objections-” Quire raised one hand to signal her guards to remove the group.
“I might have something to say...my Tallest.”
The hall went silent as the speaker stepped out from behind Quire’s throne, garbed in a blue gown that hugged her figure while concealing everything below her neck...meaning this woman had worn it precisely because she knew it would bug Quire until later tonight. This blue eyed specimen of an Irken woman smiled warmly as she stepped down from the throne and stopped next to the group, facing Quiire.
“Personally, my Tallest,” Science Advisor Paneece began, a far cry from her usual silent and timid self that the court had become used to. “I feel that there is no real risk posed by simply allowing our people the option to explore the texts and media of other species. Afterall, our empire does take in what we desire from conquered cultures, be it slaves or inventions.”
The Social Advisor snorted. “Bah! We improve what we take in, and these cretins would suggest that we allow unfiltered trash to be available for purchase in the form of...of...” He read the data pad again. “Comic books and graphic novels, mainly ones created by the primitive monkeys known as humanity, the same ones who burned their own world to a crisp. What example will it set if we allow the ideas of such backwards inferior beings to pollute the minds of our society?”
Quire leaned forward, quite interested...mainly in the curves that Paneece’s gown showed off and how snugly it fit around her rear end-but also in the debate, rest assured. “Mhm...do you have a rebuttal, Paneece?”
“My Tallest, we allow our citizens to view the most violent and entertaining forms of media, and I have personally examined many of these comics that these people wish to make legal,” Paneece informed the court. “I see no danger in allowing their sale, in fact it might even bolster our society’s....creativity. The humans, while erring in destroying their cradle world, truly do have quite the imagination.”
Quire rose to her feet and stepped down towards Paneece, hands folded behind her back. “I would like to...examine some of these comics for myself before I come to a decision,” The Tallest smirked, “Would you be willing to assist me with this personally, Science Advisor Paneece? After all, it seems I shall have quite a bit of reading to do if I wish to make a fully informed decision about this.”
Paneece knew where this would end up already, and prayed that this particular gown came home in one piece tonight. “Of course, my Tallest,” She gracefully bowed at the hips and began to exit the throne room with Quire, who commanded that all in attendance remain until she came to a decision...
A decision that would not be reached for several hours, unfortunately for one poor sod who came to regret filling up on soda before delivering his group’s proposal.
“Hm...” Quire was sitting on the edge of her bed, legs crossed as she flipped through yet another comic. “So many unique and remarkable circumstances...and these comics are how old?”
Paneece stretched as she tried to loosen some sore muscles in her limbs, sitting naked next to the equally nude Tallest now that their activities were done. “These ones are copies, but the stories themselves were created many centuries ago back when humans only dreamt of wandering the galaxy.”
Quire nodded. “Interesting...I must admit, I do find these to be quite the entertaining read.” She set the comic aside and settled her gaze on one particular comic... “The Guardians...of the Galaxy?”
“Ah yes...it appears to be focused on a team of super heroes who execute their duties across the cosmos rather than on the confines of Earth,” Panny explained as Quire opened the comic and began to look through the pages, eyes widening a bit as a blush crossed the Tallest’s cheeks.
“Ooh...” Quire’s mouth curled into a grin. “...Panny, I would like more of these comics focusing on these Guardians.”
Nearly another half hour later Paneece had just gotten out of a shower she’d decided to take to relax her body. She stepped out of the bathroom, a towel wrapped around her body as she used another to dry her head. Suddenly she found herself being pulled back onto the bed, her towel flying off as she yelped and found herself looking into the beaming face of Quire while numerous comic books lay scattered across the bed.
“Q-Quire?” Panny asked, caught off guard by Quire’s rather spontaneous and euphoric mood.
“Oh Panny,” Quire purred, “Consider the ban lifted...and tell my Royal Weavers that they’re set for life now.”
Well...this was a surprise. Paneece had realized that her mate had taken to the comic books, but what was it about them that had...
Paneece’s eyes fell on one open comic book that Quire had been reading before her return. Her face flushed dark green as she understood just what had gotten Quire to make up her mind.
“Oh no,” Panny groaned.
“Oh yes,” Quire kissed Paneece on the lips and stroked her antennae. “Panny, consider me hooked on these comics...and consider yourself ready for a wardrobe change.”
And thus had the Age of the Comic come to the Irken Empire, heralded by Tallest Quire who had made sure that numerous series were made available across Irken controlled territories. Everywhere from Irk to Vort to even Foodcourtia there were stores stocked with comic books, copies of the stories crafted on the ancient human home world so very long ago. With this came a new generation of comic book fans across numerous species, heated philosophical debates on chat rooms (or just petty arguments about which hero is better looking or just better entirely) and worst of all...a new fashion trend that Paneece had become the most prominent victim of.
“You know,” Panny muttered even as she felt Quire’s hand stroking her antennae, “When I first thought to sway your decision regarding these comic books, I had thought that I would be doing something good, giving the Empire some entertaining material to help relieve them of stress and help spark some imaginations.” She sighed and opened her eyes. “Now I just wish I’d kept my florping mouth shut.”
“Oh don’t be like that Panny,” Quire purred, nuzzling the top of her mate’s head. “You look absolutely adorable like this.”
That was what she heard every day since the ban had been lifted, that and the laughter of the Royal Weaver as he enjoyed his ridiculously high pay raise. Quire had not been the only one to find joy in comic books, but Panny had been perhaps the first to find dismay in ever convincing the Tallest to read one of those florping rags.
Today’s outfit was based off of a character named ‘Gamora’...and it was not quite as uncomfortable as she would have thought, admittedly. The main piece was essentially a V shaped garment that, like her favored swimsuit, hid the appropriate parts and showed off a lot of everything else. It also came with thigh high boots, gloves, a belt and a hooded cloak...which Paneece had covered herself with every time she had stepped outside.
One would think that she could pull a repeat of a few months ago when Quire had cheated on her with Daelias, but truth be...Panny found it hard to be dominant unless she had some moral high ground, hence why a single look from Quire was enough to get her into this ridiculous getup and sitting on her lap in the middle of the throne room, which Quire had debugged and ordered to be left empty for the next while.
“I’d feel less awkward about this if I was wearing this thing to swim,” Paneece admitted, “What sort of ‘most dangerous woman in the universe’ fights in something like this?”
“One who I think is a snazzy dresser,” Quire grinned, kissing Panny’s neck and causing the smaller woman to blush and smile before turning her head. The Tallest let the scantily clad Advisor turn in her lap to straddle her against her own throne as they deepened the kiss and-
Panny had turned in Quire’s lap, plunged one hand beneath Quire’s robes and withdrew the energy pistol usually holstered on the Tallest’s thigh before blasting the door controls, triggering a security setting the caused a metal shutter to close over them...which also served to silence the knocking.
“I am so not in the mood for being interrupted again,” Paneece growled even as Quire stroked her antennae gently and drew Panny into an embrace to help calm her down, “Every time, every florping time we’re about to get into it or when we’re right in the middle of it!”
“I know, Panny,” Quire murmured against Paneece’s neck, a warm kiss causing Paneece’s body to loosen up immediately as a blush returned to the smaller woman’s face, “Now, if you’re eager to get out of that outfit, I would happily oblige you...right here...on the very comfy throne.”
“That is just too much to turn down,” Paneece grinned as she turned back towards Quire and smirked while pulling her hood up over her head, “But Gamora doesn’t strike me as a very submissive person.”
“Oh? Is that a challenge to see who gets to top tonight?” Quire grinned, resting her hands on Paneece’s bare hips where she lightly squeezed. “I don’t think Gamora was ever into women in the comics.”
“I may not be the most dangerous woman in the universe, but I’m sure the most dangerous one in the room,” Panny reminded Quire, “What’s to stop me from just taking the top whether you want me to or not tonight?”
Quire’s answer was to set one hand on Panny’s ass, practically left exposed beneath her cloak by her attire, and give it a gently squeeze.
Paneece’s blush had returned, and she seemed to have lost a lot of the bravado she had been radiating moments ago. “...nevermind.”
Quire giggled softly and unclasped Panny’s cloak, lifting it away to show the revealing outfit beneath. Paneece’s blush deepened as Quire reached beneath the V shaped garment that covered (and we use this term lightly) Paneece’s chest and waist, trailing her hand up to one concealed breast.
As Paneece felt her outfit coming loose, she knew for certain that Quire would have another one ready by the time they were done...
What she didn’t know was that, from a hole secretly drilled in the wall, a pair of eyes watched them, the owner grinning in victory as he recorded what was quickly becoming a steamy makeout session.
Elsewhere, the two lovers were not the only ones taking advantage of the sudden availability of wearing tight outfits with masks...
A wolf whistle rang out as an Irken woman strolled through the streets of Irk’s capital, clad in a red and yellow suit that hugged every curve and a mask that hid all but her lower face and lips that had been given a special yellow lipstick to complete the disguise. The character who wore it had been named ‘Spiderwoman’, and Kei had simply fallen in love with the design once she had a chance to see how well the suit fit her.
Kei couldn’t remember the last time she’d been able to move around so freely, and right in the capital city amongst crowds of citizens who were all wearing masks like hers. She had come to Irk after hearing about the recent change in policy and just couldn’t help but try her hand at what they called ‘unleashing her inner comic geek’. So far she could say...that she would willingly kiss the person who designed this suit full on the mouth, with tongue and while copping a feel if they were still alive today.
Kei stopped as another wave of whistles and cat calls came her way. Unable to help herself, she struck a pose and winked at the passing group before continuing on, laughing herself half to death.
Here she was, walking past armoured Imperial patrols and even catching glances from Irkens she would usually have to cut apart while they were still breathing. It was simply too funny for words, and the kicker was that she was here to smuggle something right under the Empire’s nose and was doing it in broad daylight! Enforcers usually didn’t bother to check under the masks of the costume clad Irkens now choking the streets unless they did anything suspicious, and Kei wasn’t the only woman flaunting how well she filled out spandex.
Kei stopped at a shop, the destination on her agenda for today. She stepped inside and blew a kiss at a passing Irken who promptly walked into the side of the door due to staring over his shoulder at Kei’s ass, giving her a brief laugh before she made her way to the counter where an Irken cashier greeted her.
“Tell your boss I have what he wants,” Kei said, unzipping the front of her suit a bit and causing the young man to blush heavily, “If he has what we agreed on.”
Swallowing, the man reached under the counter. “It-it’s right here.”
Kei smirked flirtatiously as she began to lean across the counter, planning to give the guy a nice view when he stood up-
“Ah!” Kei straightened up and put both hands on her posterior, looking around the shop to see who could have slapped her while the cashier stood up and set a box on the counter.
“Ma’am? Are you okay?”
Kei looked towards the cashier and quickly composed herself. “Uh-yeah.” She pulled a small data card from between her breasts and set it on the counter. Usually she’d make a crack at the poor soul’s expense, seeing as she was just on a run today, but the previous surprise had rather killed her mood for screwing with people at the moment. She took the box and departed, almost forgetting to zip her suit back up.
In the rafters of the shop, a form giggled softly.
“Almost got caught,” He whispered, “But it had to happen...I had to slap dat ass.”
This costume trend was not only on Irk. Across the galaxy other planets had similar sights of crowds dressing up in all sorts of outlandish outfits.
On a hidden world known as Ekeri however, they had the largest percentage of population in costume out of many worlds.
...By which I mean three out of the very small crew that operated out of the jungle world were currently dressed up.
“Oh man...I’m so redesigning my Wrath suit after this,” June Gamble declared, perched atop a tree and clad in a dark green outfit made of leather with a hood and a mask over his eyes. A quiver lay on his back and a bow in his hand as usual, and he was traversing the branches around the base of the Raiders easily while the Shadow Fury known as Fluffy Chomper, who tended to jump between different members of the Rikson family these days, watched with a bored expression as the boy-nearly a young man performed acrobatic feats and used his arrows to swing across wide spaces.
Meanwhile the doors to the base opened, and a second costume clad young adult stepped into view.
“Okay! It’s done!” Ciara Rikson called out, causing June to glance at her and gawk, his jaw dropping even as he mistimed a jump and fell from a tree with a yelp. Luckily he didn’t fall far or hurt himself, managing to climb to his feet as Ciara rushed towards him to see if he was alright.
She was wearing a version of a costume worn by a superheroine named ‘Wonder Woman’. Ciara had gone through many versions of the outfit that her parents disapproved of, and finally she had settled on one that, while not basically a swimsuit, still made the young woman look drop dead gorgeous to the now blushing hybrid.
She wore black boots and tights that hugged her legs all the way up to her waist where a fake golden belt that formed a V shape was clasped, and above it lay a red shirt that hugged Ciara’s figure and covered everything up to her chest and leaving her shoulders and arms bare, save for some fake gauntlets that she had managed to make in the Fabric Generator. Completing the attire was a golden tiara with a red star resting on her brow...
Even with her prosthetic arm fully exposed up to the port June couldn’t help but admire Ciara like this...well he admired her quite often these days but you get the point.
June was so caught up staring that he didn’t hear her at first.
“June! Are you alright?” She helped her friend up.
“Alright?” June blinked, and then nodded quickly. “Alright! Yes, I am alright. I’m perfectly fine I-I...yes...” He trailed off. “...you look good in that...really good.”
Ciara grinned and rubbed June’s fluffy hair. “You aren’t looking bad yourself, Green Arrow.”
As the two friends joked about their new outfits, Fluffy-Chomper huffed and turned onto his side to go to sleep, wondering just what people saw in dressing up like this...well as a Shadow Fury he didn’t wear clothing, so he could be excused for his opinion.
Croi Ulari chuckled and patted Fluffy on the head as he walked out of the base to watch the two play around. He himself was the third person to dress up, having found himself quite attracted to some of the designs he had seen in the comics that Ciara and June had taken to purchasing off the Galactic Net.
The outfit he wore was based off of a character named Loki, who wore an attire of dark colours mixed with gold and regal patterns that he just couldn’t resist. He even wore the large horned helmet and carried a staff in one hand.
“Believe me Fluffy,” Croi said with a smile, “I know all too well how fun it is to dress up once in a while.”
Meanwhile others took advantage of this new change to...affect some changes of their own.
“Real pretty outfit you’ve got there,” A large PlanetJacker snickered as he and several of his crew surrounded a Vortian woman dressed as Wonder Woman, only unlike that worn by Ciara many light years away this was designed to resemble the ‘swimsuit’ version of the heroine’s colorful attire. The Vortian found herself almost instantly regretting her choice as she found herself boxed in...
One Planetjacker suddenly toppled over, a shot from several stories up punching a hole through him. The rest of the crew spun towards the source while the woman screamed and ducked down. A figure leaped down from a fire escape on a rappel line, a plasma gun with smoke oozing from the barrel in hand as he landed...
And a large skull painted onto his black shirt.
The man was a grey skinned Vortian with pink eyes that were glaring venomously at the group. He had been tailing them for a while after he’d heard a rumour about how a new gang of PlanetJackers had thought to move into his neighbourhood and begin picking people off the streets to do gods know what...and all that this particular Vortian had needed, after receiving a tremendous amount of inspiration from the comics now being sold for a few credits each, was proof of their actions...
Not proof for the authorities, who would look the other way since it was a Vortian...
Proof for his own two eyes.
“Who the hell are you?!” One of the PlanetJackers demanded, reaching for his blaster only to have his arm blown off at the shoulder, leading to him falling over and wailing in pain while his arm flopped to the ground next to him with the blaster in its grasp.
The Vortian known as Jorin smirked, sending a chill through the rest of the gang while the woman peeked up and saw her saviour exchange his gun...for a large rifle.
Before the slaughter began, he gave them an answer: just one word.
As all of this went on around Irk or on other worlds entirely, the throne room in the Palace of the Tallests had grown quiet as the lights were dimmed. Quire was lying naked on the floor before the two empty thrones, propped up on her side and stroking Paneece’s head as the smaller woman cuddled against the Tallest’s front.
“If Eboary saw us, he’d be so pissed if he knew what we did on his throne,” Quire whispered.
Paneece offered a mischievous giggle as she raised her head up a bit and removed the wig of black hair that she had worn with her Gamora costume, which lay in a pile close by with Quire’s clothes. “It’s tempting to tell him, but it’d cause more trouble than it would hilarity.”
“Oh well,” Quire kissed Paneece on the head. “Want to head back to my chambers for the night?”
Paneece shook her head and sat up, stretching a bit. “Naaaah, there’s going to be another costume party soon.” She grinned. “And suddenly I don’t at all mind dressing like Gamora for it.”
Quire rose to her feet and mimicked her mate, “In that case we’d still better shower a bit before we think of attending.” She decided, watching Paneece as the advisor got dressed. The Tallest knelt down to help the smaller woman pull the costume back on before getting her own robes back on.
“As long as we don’t end up in the shower for a whole hour like last time,” Panny said, setting her wig back into place and pulling her hood up over it, “If you can promise me that this one little shower won’t waste all the hot water then I’m game.”
Quire nodded, taking Panny’s hand. “Of course, love.” She leaned down and kissed Paneece on the lips this time, enjoying how that could still make the advisor’s face flush dark green after being together for so long. “Let’s be off, I want to get changed into MY costume before the party begins.”
Panny tilted her head as the two left. “You’re dressing up too?”
For all of her love of dressing Panny up, Quire herself hadn’t dressed up as a super hero or villain as of yet.
“Indeed, love,” Quire nodded, “And you’ll see it after we’re done in the shower.”
As the two left, the camera that had been left at the hole in the wall was picked up by the masked figure who had left it in place hours ago. He snickered evilly as he reviewed the footage. “Today has just been one score after the other.”
Suddenly the figure became illuminated by light, revealing the glare of a blue eyed Irken in an Admiral’s coat. Behind this Irken were several security drones lined up in the corridor outside of the supply closet that for some reason had been placed adjacent to the throne room. Each floating robot levelled a pair of energy cannons at the masked Irken huddled in the closet, who turned noticeably pale where his mask didn’t hide his face.
“Think carefully on your next words,” Admiral Envon growled, “Were you spying on my sister and Tallest Quire whilst they were being intimate?”
The masked Irken shot to his feet, rubbing the back of his head as he nervously looked between Envon and the armed drones. “Uh....maybe?”
Envon’s eyes narrowed further. “Before I deatomize you and dump your ashes into the garbage chute...tell me who you are.”
That demand caused the masked Irken to pause and consider his answer for a moment, a big grin appearing on his exposed lower face. “Who am I...?”
The Irken drew his cape up dramatically. “I am the Vengeance. I am the Night! I. Am!” He swept his cape out and threw some smoke bombs down, blinding Envon for a few critical moments. “CORE BATMAN!”
“Wait, what the-” Envon swung around, trying to spot Core as he made his escape, cackling evilly. “CORE!”
By the time the smoke cleared, the Irken and his bat-themed costume were long gone, leaving Envon fuming.
“He is so dead.”
Almost a half hour later, Paneece was cleaned up and back in her costume again, sitting on Quire’s bed as she waited for the Tallest to step out of her closet. Panny twirled one strand of fake hair as she whistled softly, giving an irritated sigh. “Quire, come on! That party is going to be starting in ten minutes!”
“Oh relax Panny, I’m ready,” Quire said as she opened the doors of her walk-in closet and stepped into the open, the sight of her causing Panny’s eyes to widen and her jaw to drop.
Quire had decided to dress herself up as a character known as ‘Moondragon’. The most notable part of her attire was the flowing green cape with the high collar section, the second was the revealing one piece swimsuit shaped garment that just barely concealed her body. It was held up by one strap that went around Quire’s midback, and another that went around her neck while leaving a good amount of cleavage showing from the front and sides. The Tallest also wore a pair of knee high, high heeled green boots and long green gloves.
Quire was just putting the final touches on her costume: a green gem that was placed on her forehead and a pair of golden crescent moon earrings that hung from a pair of false ears grafted to the side of her head for the duration of the evening.
“What do you think?” Quire set a hand on her hip and posed for her mate.
“...Quire, I retract any complaints I’ve made in the last week about comic books,” Paneece decided as she stood up and strode over to her taller mate, who leaned down to give her a kiss-and a brief but very nice view of her chest.
“I knew you’d like it,” Quire giggled softly as she stood upright again. “Now...shall we?”
“Let’s,” Paneece grasped Quire’s hand, and the two rushed out of the Tallest’s Quarters, unaware that Core (Or Core-Batman) had installed a second camera right on Quire’s balcony overlooking the capital city below.
Core-Batman snickered as he silently climbed up into view and peeled away the tape holding the small camera onto the balcony’s railing. “This one’s gonna get me a huge wad on the net.”
Core-Batman slowly tilted his head up to see somebody standing on the wall not too far above the clear glass doors to Quire’s chambers. They wore a flowing red cloak that seemed to be animated by some unknown force, and had a pair of glowing green eyes that narrowed as they glared down at the perverted ‘super hero’.
“It’s rude to spy on women in their homes,” The figure growled as chains began to extend out from under the cloak, reaching down towards Core, “More so to videotape them in their private moments.”
Core swallowed and cleared his throat. “You can’t frighten me, tough guy.” He declared, not noticing that a pair of the chains had grabbed the railing he was leaning off of. “For I am Core-”
Snap! The chains snapped the railing off, sending the masked Irken plummeting.
“Batmaaaaaaannnn......!” Core’s voice faded as he fell towards the city where he landed on a net positioned high above the streets, connected to four different roof tops. After the net settled from his landing the corners suddenly snapped off and were drawn up and inwards by cables that connected to a crane of sorts.
The end result was Core-Batman caught in a net and dangling at street level, much to the confusion of onlookers.
“Um...” Core-Batman looked around, and then said in a gravelly voice. “Fear me!”
Back up above, the individual who was dressed as the hero known as ‘Spawn’ chuckled and hopped down to the balcony, gazing down to admire his handiwork. He stood up to his full height and put both hands on his hips, proud of his good deed for the night.
“That showed him.” Zerek, the Vycan son of Kei and also the vigilante known as the ‘Dark Angel’ declared. “Now then...plenty of ladies walking around in skimpy outfits and I don’t see any more crimes being committed so...”
The actual self proclaimed superhero grinned and leaped from the balcony, spreading his wings to shoot off into the night sky. “Here I come ladies!”
Yes...as it turns out, most of the known galaxy was made up of comic book geeks. All that it needed was for somebody to bring them out into the open and one Tallest who really likes dressing up her girlfriend.
Was there a moral to this story?
Not really, but hey: skimpy outfits!
Darkworld 2, Round One: Darkness Falls
Mary and Maestro have been inducted into a tournament against their will. Now they have been dumped into the first battlefield and encounter an opponent that is not quite what they’d expected, and some hidden dangers amidst this strange new world.
~Text~ = Maestro’s Speech
Mary first registered the stench of the place that their first round would be taking place in, and then she registered falling out of the portal that had heralded her to this mystery destination. The young girl yelped and flailed a bit as she plummeted through the air. “Oh shit oh shit oh shit!”
Her momentum was halted mere inches from a surface that emanated a fume of noxious black puff of gas right into her face. Mary coughed as she was pulled up into the arms of her ally and friend: Maestro. The Vycan had fallen with her, but had quickly reshaped his body so that he could free his wings from their hidden confinement, all the while not so much as tearing a thread in his smooth black suit.
~I have you, Mary.~ Maestro state as he hovered several meters over a sea of a tar like liquid which was dotted with numerous purple shapes that stuck out of the oily liquid. ~And it seems that we have reached the site of our first battle.~
Mary, after rubbing her watering eyes, blinked away any tears and took in her first full view of the region that they had been dumped into.
The terrain possessed characteristics from both a swamp and an ocean mixed together in some disturbed parody of the two. The sea of black liquid stretched on into the horizon in all directions, generating bubbles and puffs of gas that added a foul odor to the air. The sky was green and seemed to lack any celestial bodies like a sun or moon, but a source of light emanated from off in the distance in the form of what looked like the sun at first, only to turn out to be some large yellow bubble many meters across in diameter.
The structures poking out of the sea of oil were purple rock formations, some of them towering spires and others flat enough for one to stand on. Some were large enough to be an island while others were the size of stepping stones and just barely stuck out of the ocean. Every inch of this place made Mary feel nauseous, having been raised on a planet where an environment like this would be considered a nightmarish pollution to her people.
This place even seemed to be affecting Maestro, whose body began to writhe all of a sudden. It took Mary several moments of clinging to him for her life to realize that the Vycan was coughing heavily, strangled noises escaping his hidden mouth. It was perhaps the closest she had come to hearing his real voice, and it only served to distress the young woman.
“Maestro!” Mary cried out. “Hey, are you alright?!”
Maestro plunged downwards immediately, causing his charge to yelp again and cling to the Vycan as he flipped over in mid fall just in time to ensure that his more durable form cushioned the impact for the Saurian. They crashed through a weaker rock formation on a small island and slid across the ground, leaving behind a short ravine and ending with Maestro laying on his back, arms wrapped protectively around Mary.
The Vycan opened his eyes as his body relaxed. ~My apologies, Dearest Mary.~ He rose up and set Mary on her feet, making sure his fall hadn’t harmed her. ~Something about this world just feels so wrong, and considering that my species thrives in the most desolate of regions in our world that is saying something.~
Mary had heard the stories from him before, and knew better than to doubt Maestro’s word when he emphasized just how bad this place must be if the toxic fumes could affect even him. She noticed Maestro’s tattered and damaged wings receding into the Vycan’s body until no sign of their little accident remained.
Mary let out a breath and looked to the edge of the small island they had landed on. “Will you be alright here? Are the fumes affecting you that much?”
~Only higher up from the surface,~ Maestro answered. ~It is almost like they have built up in a higher concentration there, which is most unusual. I suspect that this may have been implemented as a way of keeping me from attempting to exit this world via interstellar flight, not that my doing so would yield any results if I could.~
“So this is just that crazy lady’s way of evening the playing field,” Mary affirmed. “Alright then, fine. We’re stuck in this stupid tournament anyways so we might as well just go along with the rules.”
Maestro thought back to their initial meeting with their host, and how she had resorted to intimidating the competitors with her unmeasured control over this world. Maestro had been more fascinated than frightened...actually he had been too busy being fascinated to be frightened. The idea of a single individual having such unchallenged command over the fabric of reality was something he had heard of the Ancient Vycans being capable of, in addition to crafting their own pocket dimensions to rule over as they saw fit.
The threat that Eileen represented was not lost on the music loving Vycan though, nor were her promises guaranteeing their safety and a prize to the victor of her tournament. While he was willing to believe that she would heal the injuries of competitors, he was not so confident in her promise of a single wish for ‘anything you want’. This alone implied that Eileen was either capable of manipulating reality beyond her own world to an extent that a single wish could upset the cosmic balance of a universe, or that she was throwing in an incentive for the competitors to take part in her tournament at all.
Whether or not this promise was sincere, Maestro knew that there was no other alternative. If he and Mary wanted any chance of returning home then they would have to simply follow along with Eileen’s tournament and try their best to win, just as Mary had stated moments ago. The other contestants had been quite an odd combination, some of them seeming quite capable and others not what Maestro would have expected.
~If that is the case then we should begin by locating our intended opponent.~ Maestro proposed, hands folded behind his back as he looked around. ~I cannot pick up a scent of anything due to the powerful odor generated by this environment. We shall have to rely on searching for them ‘the old fashioned way’ as you would say.~
Mary nodded. “Maybe we should split up. Not all of the contestants were in groups, so we might be facing just one person this round. It’d be easier to find them if we cover more ground.”
Maestro pondered this for a moment before nodding. ~Yes, I suppose that this would be the...logical path to follow.~
The Vycan reached down and rubbed Mary’s head. ~Just be safe, Dearest Mary. I know you are quite a capable fighter, but should our enemy prove too much for you then just simply call and I shall fly to your aid.~
Mary smiled a bit, some sparks flying between her horns after Maestro pulled his hand back. “Well, I guess we can only hope that whoever they are they don’t want to fight. I would rather get out of this mess without anyone being hurt,” She glanced towards the edge of the island and frowned as a particularly large bubble burst and splattered some black oily sludge onto the purple ground. “After all, this isn’t like any normal place I’ve fought in and there aren’t any rules. I don’t like the odds of us getting into a fight here with something.”
~Indeed,~ Maestro nodded. ~I am not confident that our host would select many who are unwilling or unable to fight in such an environment though.~
Mary shuddered, recalling the last tournament she had taken part in. “Let’s just hope that they aren’t some blood thirsty psycho or smart-aleck killer like I dealt with in that gallery place...” She shook her head. “That’s the last thing I need right now.”
~Do not despair, Dearest Mary.~ Maestro walked to the edge of the island and extended one foot out, stepping onto a small purple rock which he used as a stepping stone, following a trail towards the glowing orb in the distance. ~As the Romans used to say: Optimum est pati quod emendare non possis.~
Mary stared after the Vycan. “What does that even mean?!” She called after him.
~It means that it is best to endure what cannot be changed by focusing on what you can change, to make the best of a bad situation.~ Maestro turned his head back towards her, his eyes forming into upward pointing arrows to show that he was giving her his ‘happy’ expression. ~And you are as powerful and capable as you are beautiful, Dearest Mary. I have no doubt that you can do just that even if our foe is not to your liking.~
The Vycan vanished into the distance, carefully stepping and jumping between stones and islands in search of his quarry, leaving behind a slightly blushing Saurian girl who had more sparks flying between her horns now.
About half a mile away another portal opened up, dropping to one of the islands of purple stone the conjoined dogs only known as Vladikhov.
The landing wasn't very graceful, but the larger dog was able to handle it well enough without any harm coming to the younger pup grafted onto his body. Looking around, the little pup sneezed a few times and ran its paws over its wet nose as the smell from the odd bubbles disturbed her sensitive nostrils, the same thing happening for the larger dog, though he tried to ignore it.
“Where we at? This place is funny.” The pup asked, wiggling her floppy ears a little as she spoke rough but understandable English.
“I don't know...but it not good at all.” The larger dog replied gruffly.
They both recalled the 'meeting' with the one who seemed to have brought them to this odd place and the explanation of what they had to do.
“We find who else here and we beat them I guess.” The large dog huffed before cautiously padding forward, eyeing the edge of the oily sea with great care.
The larger dog was more concerned for his younger companion than himself. He was able to move and escape danger or fight back when needed, but she was stuck to him no matter what happened and was helpless to escape if he was defeated. He had to be careful, focus on her safety over his own. If he failed then it would be two lives that pay the consequence.
After a while the pup whined. “Can get food now?”
The larger dog shared her hunger, quite literally in fact. “No food yet, must fight then food.” He shook his head.
The pup huffed. “But...don't want fight.”
“I know, but only way.” The larger dog replied patiently.
Even he didn't want to fight with anyone, not when he had to share a body with a pup, and because he had seen some of the odd creatures that had also been brought to the odd place. There had been strange and intimidating creatures, and some of them were even disgusting humans they both hated so much.
After what seemed like hours of walking in the general direction of the glowing orb they heard something besides the sound of the burbling sludge and popping bubbles. It was the sound of wings flapping, very large wings from the sound of it.
Quickly reacting, the large dog ran around the other side of a tree looking rock to hide with the pup also remaining quiet, knowing that it had to be their opponent. Descending from a low fight across a brief span of oil that had been too wide to walk across, the towering form of Maestro landed and folded his wings. Being as graceful as ever, he took a moment to adjust his suit and tie after the little flight to make sure he look presentable as always.
Looking around, the Vycan could still smell nothing but the stench coming from the bubbles in the air, but thankfully it wasn't nearly as strong as it was high in the air. He remained quiet as his large violet eyes scanned what was supposed to be landscape. Outwardly he seemed alert, but inwardly he was dealing with a good amount of stress. The main cause of this was his wish that Mary had not been dragged into such a place, not after what he had been told of her last ordeal when she was kidnapped for some tournament.
To make a long story brief: Mary and her friend, Princess Meagan Castrave had been abducted and worked as a team in fighting through various monsters and opponents, risking life and limb just to get back home.
Maestro had sworn that he would not allow any hard to fall upon her, and that meant quickly passing through each round while minimizing any contact between Mary and their opponents. Some of the ones he had seen appeared very capable of dealing harm to even a Saurian, but then again they had to be if they were chosen for this madness.
As the Vycan continued to ponder, the two dogs kept low and still as statues after getting a peek at Maestro. They were waiting for the right time to surprise him and hopefully end things quickly, but the element of surprise unfortunately was not on their side this time. With his towering height the demon could took notice of one of the pup's dirty golden floppy ears sticking out from over the rock they were hidden behind.
Shaking himself out of his thought and keeping his distance with his hands tucked behind his back, Maestro chose to politely initiate contact with his newly discovered company. ~Pardon my intrusion, I don't mean to bother or deter you from your plans but unfortunately it would seem that I am able to see part of you. I felt it the polite thing to inform you.~
The larger dog slowly came out from hiding, emitting a low growl while the little pup on his back stayed low, pressing herself into her larger companion’s fur and keeping her eyes locked on the tall creature. While neither of them trusted him to be any better than the humans, they were confused as to why they could hear him so clearly despite not seeing him open his mouth.
~I understand what that young lady from before said we must fight, but I am certain that if we sit and talk we could reach a mutually beneficial compromise. It would be more ideal if we had some tea and cake but unfortunately I was not expecting to be away from my kitchen and pantry.~> He tried to be as friendly as ever even when faced with the angry looking dog. ~If you would prefer I still have a nutrition bar leftover from my companion’s lunch.~
“You lie!” The larger dog snarled. “Not trust anyone here. You try to trick!” He bared his fangs while digging his claws into the purple stone.
This incredibly tall creature wasn't a human, but there was no reason to trust anyone after being told that anyone who had been pulled into the odd world would end up fighting each other. The dog would take no chances, not with what was at stake. He crouched, preparing to pounce if he saw Maestro make any sudden moves. “If you no want fight then you leave!”
“And leave all food.” The pup said while using an expression referred to as the old Puppy Eyes trick, which even Maestro knew about; Mary used that on him every now and then if he disagreed with something she wanted to do-mainly something ridiculously dangerous.
~I wish it was that easy sir, and madam, but sadly I cannot.~ Maestro shook his head. ~I do not wish for there to be any violence as I do not quite trust the one forcing us into this “game” she has made. More importantly I have someone to watch over and I don't wish for her to go through this form of torment yet again.> Maestro kept his good manners as he gave the dogs a graceful bow at the waist, only for the larger dog to instantly to snap at him, looking ready to attack at any moment.
~Then again, it may seem that my desires will not be enough to end this peacefully.~ Maestro commented before the dog took that as a challenge and lunged at the Vycan, only for Maestro to move to the side while moving one hand from behind his back.
Maestro smacked the large dog atop the head with the bow he used to play his violin having formed it behind his back just in case. He would have gone with something more dangerous, but he genuinely did not want to harm the dogs.
“I knew you lie! You just like humans!” The angry dog growled out, turning to glare at Maestro who stood there with the bow in his right hand with his left arm behind his back as if he was fencing.
~Need I remind you: you chose to attack me.~ The Vycan calmly reminded the dog. ~I do not wish to fight, but if you attack me again then I will administer some discipline, and if we are both unlucky your pup may be hurt, and I honestly don’t want to see any harm come to her.~
The larger dog only became more enraged by this, taking it as a threat. “YOU NO TOUCH HER!”
He lunged, and Maestro almost danced back. This time the dog made sure to dodge the bow as he pursued Maestro, who was not so much worried about himself than he was about the young pup. He avoided striking the dogs again, hoping to calm the larger one down before resorting to hitting it to make it stop.
~Come now, this is childish.~ Maestro scolded. ~You will find me to be far more durable than your average prey, too much for you to hope to kill or even severely injure me. Now stop this before-~
Maestro’s entire body went stiff as the large dog’s jaws closed around his right arm, digging through the fabric of his suit and biting into the flesh beneath. Maestro’s eyes widened severely before he suddenly spun, flinging the dogs away when the larger one’s fangs failed to remain anchored in the Vycan’s skin. They hit a rock side, luckily not crushing the pup beneath the larger dog’s weight.
Maestro looked at his bleeding arm, his entire body visibly shuddering as he resisted the urge to simply rip the dogs apart and be done with it. THAT,~ His raised volume made the dogs visibly cringe. ~Is a very bad idea. You do not want to fight me, so stop this now before you end up dead.~
The larger dog huffed. “You talk, talk too much!”
When the dog charged for another attack, Maestro spun to face them both and reshaped his bow into a cane which he held like a sword. ~Bad dog.~
Before he could strike he heard a distant call through the smog. “Maestro!”
~Mary!~ Maestro looked in her general direction, giving the dog a chance to bite him on the leg this time. ~AH!~
Mary heard Maestro’s telepathic cry of pain, felt that her friend was in danger, and quickly began to bound across rocks towards the scene of the fight. “Hang on Maestro!”
The Vycan kicked the dogs off with little effort and growled. ~That is it. I have tried to be reasonable, but you clearly don’t want to see any reason to begin with!~
The pup whimpered as Maestro slowly reformed and unfurled his wings, a growl escaping the Vycan’s throat as he began to reshape his cane into an actual sword...
Right before Mary leaped over the nearest ridge, firing off arcs of lightning with a furious battle cry. Energy crackled around the girl as she landed, creating a circle of cracks that stretched outward around her like the spokes of a wheel. She rose up in one of her basic boxing stances and growled. “Alright where is this guy? I’ll-” She stopped upon seeing Maestro, nursing a bite on his leg, and the conjoined dogs slowly climbing to their feet.
Vladikhov froze as the larger dog realized that he was now outnumbered. The reptilian girl stared at the dogs for several moments with wide eyes before a big grin formed on her face and a loud squeal escaped her mouth. The dogs flinched, giving Mary the chance to rush over and immediately...start stroking and hugging them both.
“Oh my goodness you are just so adorable!” Mary cooed, gently rubbing behind the pup’s ears with one hand and wrapping her other arm around the larger dog. “Aw just lookatchoo, you’re so cute, yes you are!”
Vladikhov’s first instinct was to lash out, but the feeling of Mary’s fingers lightly scratching in just the right places made the pup begin to pant lightly and stick her ears up while the larger dog’s tail began to wag. Maestro watched as, without any effort at all Mary brought down the aggressive dogs with a shower of affection. Moments later Vladikhov was lying on their side, both dogs panting and nuzzling the Saurian woman while Maestro shrank his sword back into a little sphere and absorbed it into his body.
~Suddenly I wish we had stayed together and saved us all some trouble~ The Vycan sighed before repairing the fabric of his suit to cover the bites.
Vladikhov either managed to regain their composure or recall that they were supposed to be fighting, because in an instant the larger dog had torn itself away from Mary and scrambled to its feet. “Stop that!” He barked.
Mary flinched, climbing to her feet while Maestro repositioned himself partially between her and the aggressive canine. The smaller dog let out a small whine, having enjoyed the moment while it lasted. The larger dog bared its teeth and backed away, keeping the two alien beings in his sights before quickly darting away to the edge of the island and leaping to a purple stepping stone just barely sticking out of the oily surface of the sea/bog.
Mary glanced up at Maestro while rushing to the water’s edge. “Those are our opponents?” Upon receiving a nod from the Vycan she spun and only saw the fading outline of Vladikhov scrambling across purple rocks and stumbling once, dipping their leg into the water only to pull it back with a pained yelp from the pup which made Mary flinch. The poor things would hurt themselves more than they would hurt her or Maestro if they were left out here alone!
“Wait!” The Saurian called out to them. “Wait, we don’t want to fight! You don’t need to be afraid!”
~Believe me, I tried to convey that very message to them while they were biting me.~ Maestro said, and offered Mary a hand while his wings slowly reformed. ~While I still detest the air here, it will be faster to catch up to them before they fall into the ocean this way.~
Mary accepted Maestro’s hand and was lifted up enough so that she could hug him around the neck and hang on while he held her bridle style. “Hurry, Maestro. They’re just scared, and I know that we’re supposed to fight them but I don’t want to hurt a couple of dogs!”
~We do not need to harm them,~ Maestro reminded Mary while reshaping his suit so that a stretch of fabric now reached up to cover his lower face, serving to partially block out the noxious fumes that he seemed so sensitive to. ~All we have to do is convince them to surrender.~
The Vycan shot into the air, keeping his flights short to set down on nearby stretches of solid ground. His improvised mask helped a bit, but Maestro still risked losing control and crashing from the fumes overwhelming his senses and unbalancing him in mid flight if he remained airborne for too long. At several points he darted across small gaps or even leaped nimbly through the air, not losing hold of Mary as they followed the dogs’ trail, which lead towards the glowing orb.
~This strange sphere inspires a sense of dread in me,~ Maestro informed Mary. ~I can already tell that it is more than a mere light source for this wretched ocean. I cannot tell what it contains, but no doubt it is as dangerous as the environment itself.~
“And those doggies are heading right towards it,” Mary swallowed. “Maestro, find a high spot and set me down. We can split up again, and this time when we find them we keep them pinned and call for each other.”
Maestro’s eyes visibly narrowed, and Mary instantly felt his apprehension and discomfort through their link, but he nodded and set her down on a rock formation barely fifty feet from the bright yellow orb. ~They won’t hesitate to attack you on sight, or at least the larger of the two won’t. Don’t give them a chance; I have no doubt that the waters here are harmful and they may have enough strength to push one of us in if they take us by surprise.~
Mary nodded. “Don’t worry, I’ll keep my eyes open. I’m not about to be beaten by a cheap shot from a couple puppies.” She smirked and lightly elbowed Maestro’s side. “You be careful too, mister. Those dogs really didn’t like you before.”
Maestro’s shoulders slumped as he gave a muted sigh. ~I remember that all too clearly, thank you.~
Mary giggled and then began to climb down to begin exploring the area, keeping at a safe distance from the giant orb. Maestro remained on his perch and surveyed what he could through the mist of fumes, which seemed to grow thicker even as they had gotten closer to the glare of the light source.
In the smog, the conjoined dogs’ eyes were watering as their sensitive noses suffered from the inescapable odour. The pup was whining and trying to bury her face into the larger dog’s fur while the latter was trying to navigate his way back out of the haze.
“Hello....?” The damned lizard girl was calling out to them. “Please, come back!”
“Maybe we go back,” The pup advised. “Nose hurt! Can’t see! Want go back! Go back now!”
The larger dog hushed the pup softly. “We leave, but must be quiet,” That got the pup to quiet down for now, but the lizard was blocking their way back out. He would have to take care of her first...
Mary waved one arm in front of her, her eyes beginning to water a bit from the fumes and the close proximity of the bright hot orb. “Please!” She called out. “It isn’t safe out here! You need to-”
She spotted a shape just before it leaped out of the smog and slammed into her. Mary screamed as she was bowled over, Vladikhov’s weight pressing her down to the ground. She felt the larger dog’s teeth close around her throat and begin to dig in hard enough that if he pulled away he might tear her throat out...
“NO!” Mary and the pup shrieked at the same time.
For Mary this was like reliving the worst time of her life all over again, flashing back to the nightmares of the gallery and remembering every horrible monster...
Suddenly lightning sparking off of the Saurian, generating an electromagnetic field that sent Vladikhov flying back with droplets of blood on the larger dog’s teeth. The action had also caused the cloud to dissipate, leaving the orb now in plain view. Mary gripped her head and screamed as electricity shot out in all directions from her body, her powers now out of control in her panicked state. She curled up on the purple rock and shivered, taking deep breaths to try and calm herself down.
What neither she nor Vladikhov noticed was that the episode had unwittingly punctured the orb. A single stray bolt of lightning tore open the membrane like shell just ever so slightly before Mary reigned in her powers.
At first all was silent, save for the sound violently churning liquid and a tearing noise. Both the Saurian and the dogs slowly turned their heads towards the orb as one...and howled as an explosion of light and heat tore free of it. They were blinded, unable to react or make an escape, helpless as a wave of white hot liquid flowed towards them. In seconds it would melt them down to their very skeletons...
Or it would have if Maestro had not landed at that moment and gathered them up with his overly long arms. He set Mary and Vladikhov down before rising to his feet and throwing his arms up.
Mary managed to crack one eye open in time to see the Vycan’s form expand, and then she was consumed by darkness. The dogs next to her huddled on the ground, both of them whimpering in fear as they tried to make sense of what had just happened. She glanced over and saw how the larger dog was attempting to comfort the pup even now, whispering reassuring words to her and doing everything he could to keep from running around like a headless chicken.
Whatever had happened, they seemed to still be on the same purple rock surface as before, and the heat was still present; everything seemed to be the same except for how there was absolutely no light whatsoever, forcing Mary’s eyes to adjust the old fashioned way.
“Maestro,” Mary whispered, “Maestro, are you here?”
She flinched upon trying to access their telepathic link, receiving a surge of pure agony from the Vycan for a brief second before Maestro cut the link from his side. The girl lowered herself back down to the ground and groaned, resting her head against her knees while Vladikhov tried to scratch at the wall around them.
“What this? Where way out?” The larger dog demanded.
“I don’t know,” Mary mumbled, crossing her arms over her knees and resting her chin on them.
“Lie!” The larger dog growled, rushing around to Mary’s front. “You lie!”
Mary glared at the dog and got up on one knee before grabbing the larger dog by the head. “Listen you stupid mutt!” She snapped, causing both of the conjoined canines to flinch. “Because of you and your paranoia my friend is probably dead or dying right now and I don’t even know if we’re going to survive this! So do me a favour and for once sit down and SHUT UP!”
She released the dog and sat down cross legged, glaring at Vladikhov before turning away and trying to hide how her eyes were beginning to become moist with tears of rage. She didn’t know if Maestro was okay, he could be dead and this was only the first round! That lady had said that none of them would be harmed, but would she have to continue alone without Maestro if he had died?
The worst part was that if he had died it would be all her fault, as she had been the one who burst the orb.
Mary wiped her eyes and fought down the temptation to simply punch her way out and find out what had happened. The heat seemed to be dying down now, but she couldn’t be sure if it was possible or wise to burst open yet another surface after what had just happened.
After several minutes light began to peek in through the top of their prison, which was slowly shrinking down to the ground where it began to reform around a quivering, burnt shape on the ground.
“Maestro!” Mary ran over to what she realized was her friend...lacking a good deal of his skin and actually missing all of his limbs, save one arm. She had to fight back the urge to spill her guts at the sight of her usually elegant and well dressed friend burnt into the mess he was now.
~M...Mary...~ She heard him after several tense moments of silence as one watering purple orb turned towards her. ~I’m s...I’m sorry...I look so improper right now...for you to see.~
This somehow made Mary smile a bit as tears brimmed in her eyes again. After swallowing she laughed a bit. “Only you’d be worried about that after getting burned alive.”
“You okay?!” The pup yelped.
~In time, after I am given a chance to heal.~ Maestro replied. ~I know that it doesn’t seem to be too bad at the moment, but...this hurts...a lot...more than anything I’ve felt in several thousand years now. Why I don’t think I’ve been damaged so much since Vesuvius...I doubt I would have survived this particular eruption if it had lasted for several more seconds.~
The burnt Vycan laid back and remained still. ~Despite my luck, I believe that I am out of this fight, Dearest Mary. You shall have to take it from here.~
Mary stood up and nodded slowly. “I’ll handle it from here.” She turned toward Vladikhov, who whimpered as sparks flew between the young woman’s horns. “Now let me make this clear...my friend almost died saving your life, and if you don’t give up right now I will not hold back. Got it?”
The older dog let out a low growl, but the pup swatted at his ear and broke his concentration. “What?!”
“Give up.” The pup said softly. “Please. Give up.” She looked towards Maestro. “Got hurt, saved us. Give up.” While her speech was simplistic to Mary, the conjoined dogs were able to communicate mentally more smoothly, quickly debating the topic before the larger dog finally gave in with an irritated sigh.
“Fine,” The dog turned away with a bitter expression. “We give up.”
Instantly Mary’s ferocious demeanour performed a one-eighty, and a big grin formed across her face as she wrapped her arms around Valdikhov and nuzzled the side of the pup’s face. “There, was that so hard?”
“Yes,” The larger dog muttered, but went ignored as the pup shut her eyes and rested her head on his shoulder.
Maestro, lacking any limbs, required somebody else to play some music through which he could heal himself. As Mary was the only being besides him with opposable thumbs, the task fell to her.
“I think I kind of have the hang of this,” She said while drawing a bow across a violin that Maestro had managed to create for her, producing several glowing musical notes with each sound the instrument generated. “It doesn’t sound anything like what you do.”
~It suffices,~ Maestro said, giving Mary his happy expression now that he’d managed to grow back his eye lids with her help. ~I could always give you lessons after we get back home, if you desire.~
“Please do that,” The larger dog said as he lied on the ground nearby, paws pressing his ears to his head as he tried to block out the noise from the violin. “Please!”
Mary stuck her tongue out at Vladikhov and resumed playing the violin as best she could, slowly helping her friend to regrow everything he had lost note by note. By this point the Vycan was able to sit up and had begun reforming his legs, and once his other arm was restored he could take over for her and make the process go much faster. He was without his suit for the first time since Mary had met him, but he didn’t look too different due to how his skin almost perfectly matched the color of the suit; he was still the same tall and slender Vycan she knew him as by the time she finished regenerating his limbs.
~Thank you for taking the time to do that, Dearest Mary,~ Maestro said before taking back the violin and sitting next to her. ~Now, while we wait for our host to call upon us for the next round, I believe I can pass the time by serenading you all.~
“More music,” The large dog huffed, and then stiffened and sat up as Maestro began to play.
Unlike Mary, who had never played a violin before and had produced rough tunes, Maestro sounded like something out of an orchestra-not that the dogs had ever attended one, but they had heard a similar tune over a radio that had been left on. The Vycan leaned back against a purple rock slab with Mary sitting on one side of him and Vladikhov on the other. The young Saurian was used to the enchanting melodies that Maestro could produce, but to the dogs this was an entirely new thing. They could almost swear that they heard other instruments being played, like an entire orchestra of dozens of musicians were playing from somewhere out of sight to add to the Vycan’s own work.
Another thing they hadn’t expected was that the song, in addition to healing him, was being used to lull them and Mary to sleep, letting them rest after a stressful time. Even the depressing and now much darker setting that they had been dumped into could not stop them from dozing off into a peaceful slumber, having dreams of better places and better times.
After a while, and long after he had finished healing himself and reforming his suit, Maestro set his violin down and let it melt away into a black liquid that seeped back into his body. He rested one hand on Vladikhov’s side and gently rubbed the canines, and set his other arm around Mary as she leaned into his side.
While this round had not been very pleasant for Maestro, and his powers would take time to recover after expending so much just to survive that eruption from earlier, the important thing in his mind was that Mary was unharmed and would have some time to sleep off what had happened. In the horrors of the gallery she had rarely been given a moment of peace, but Maestro was intent on making sure that Mary would find at least some reprieve from the fighting, if only for a short while.
So for now she would rest, and Maestro would watch over her as he always did until the next challenge and a new opponent presented itself.
|I'm looking to get a subscription, but at the rate I spend my points I will have some trouble. For now...I'm just hoping anybody who likes some of the stories I put up might donate a few. I am in no way pressuring anybody to, I'm only saying it would be appreciated-plus I can still collect points the old fashioned way...though for some reason I can't access my badges page to give away badges for points. I managed to get to it using my computer's history, but I'm honestly not sure if that was supposed to happen or if it's another error. Either way, I chose to open this.|
The only thing I could offer right now would be a written entry with one of your own characters in it. If you would like one in return for points, just say so.