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QUIETUS [S!5] [Round 3: Deluge]
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 RE: QUIETUS [S!5] [Round 3: Deluge]
one one one

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Its hour passed, a rough beast slouched its way aimlessly through the city. In the muddy streets it left tracks as wide around as car tires. Rain dripped and rolled off its scarred metal hide. Old dirt and dead blood sluiced slowly away.

Arokht walked on autopilot. To say he was lost in thought would be an understatement. At the moment, he had at least five or six trains all trying to run on the same track in eight different directions, simultaneously. He was thinking too much to think of anything else.

He thought Anila. He thought Outsider. He thought Failure. He thought Sonora. He thought Rain. He thought Disgrace. He thought Anila. He thought Wounds. He thought Sonora. He thought Weapons. He thought Outsider. He thought Rain. He thought Disgrace. He thought Anila. He thought City. He thought Voices. He thought Music.

And then, very suddenly, he thought SONORA.

Voices. Music! A toxic flood of emotion set every nerve in his body singing, sweeping away the confusion in his head -- a sudden, wrathful clarity. There was rage, of course. There was hate. Old friends both, but now they turned inward as well as outward, like barbed wire snaking through his intestines. There was bile in there too, now. Bitterness. Grief. Betrayal, the worst of a soldier’s sins.

SONORA, he thought. SONORA. Arokht stood stock-still, the wedge of his head high and as tense as a live wire. He strained his ears, struggling to hear (his hearing had yet to fully recover from the Godsworn Valley) the sound of patchwork voices. Where? WHERE?

This was a ramshackle part of town. Wood and brick and plaster sprawl, tenements for poor porters and dockworkers. The rain had seeped deep into its cheap construction. A song’s faint refrains bounced around it as if from everywhere at once.

...and it was hard swimming once and now you’re daily diving in…

Damn his useless motion tracker! It wasn’t designed to detect something like Sonora. Arokht tilted his head, trying to triangulate through hearing alone. If he had pinnae they would be quivering. The echoes were the key. Track them to their source. From there, it was bounced to there, and from there...

From a break in the tenement row, where another street intersected with this one

Arokht burst into explosive motion. Puddles splashed under feet and fists. He slid on rain-slick cobbles, braking hard on metal-shod hooves, one arm lashing out and seizing the pole of a flickering streetlight, swinging himself around the corner. The street, intersecting, became a bridge over a canal. And in the canal was --

-- not Sonora, was the first thought that flashed into Arokht’s burning brain, even as he raised the huge cannon of his arm. Sonora had never been so leviathan. Sonora had never dwarfed him like this. But that dark shape slithering through the canal could be nothing else.

In that instant of hesitation and shock, Sonora turned its head towards him incuriously.


It ate the traffic cone! Banana new shoes.

Arokht fired.

Sonora made a sound like trumpets and dove, part of its flank suddenly replaced with dull black ice. Not enough. Not nearly enough. Arokht shot and shot again, but Sonora was down too deep, invisible in the murk, giving nothing away. He fired blind, randomly. Cylindrical new icebergs bobbed up in the water and began to drift.

Arokht snarled, lurching up towards the water’s edge. The raw blue rage pounding in his head screamed for release, so hard it made him dizzy, so hard he felt like his skull might crack open from the inside. His cannon fired twice more into the water, hitting nothing. Past a certain depth, the tiny still-rational part of his mind knew, its radiative emissions would only make the water uncomfortably cold...

Water splashed behind him. Arokht spun and leveled his cannon as Sonora, its amorphous form whirling, crested the other side of the bridge. He moved as fast as ever but this time not quite fast enough.

In the fraction of a second between muscle impulse and weapon fire, Arokht watched a not-insignificant chunk of dull black ice whip out of Sonora’s mass like a stone from a sling. He had enough time to think his way through half of an Iceworlder curse before the head-sized lump met his head head on.

Arokht’s head snapped to the side. Digital artifacts crackled across his eyepieces. His arm cannon jerked off-target and spat fruitlessly into the sky, turning rain into sleet. He was lucky: the angled plates of his helmet deflected most of the force, and impact padding and Iceworlder carapace absorbed about half of what remained. It still rang his head like a gong. And as Arokht staggered, Sonora, churning, wings spread wide, washed over him like an oily wave.

The power of water is often underestimated. Flash floods can carry away cars, boulders, houses. It’s just a matter of mass and force. Few things can be as heavy or as forceful as water.

Arokht’s feet left the ground, swept up by the flood that was Sonora. The world tumbled -- became a blur of browns and greys and blacks and blues -- became a jarring impact of splintering wood, shattering glass, shattering brick. Arokht rolled to a clumsy halt, smeared with new mud, trailing water and debris. Naked mannequins and empty clothing racks broke beneath his bulk. More were hurled across the long-dead shop by Sonora’s thrashing, its vast length shoved crudely into a storefront too small to hold it.


It’s a wash!” it bugled, climbing the walls, climbing the ceiling. Wooden planks and tiles rained down. “I hope you know what you’re doing, because I sure don’t.

Arokht was struggling to rise. Stumbling, head spinning, he found his feet just in time to see a wriggling black tail vanish into a hole in the ceiling. From above came the sounds of splintering and breaking.

No escape!

Blue light flared as his cannon discharged into the ceiling. Three shots, three circles of glittering ice. More glass shattered. A second-story window exploded outward, and Sonora splashed back onto the canal embankments outside, slithering towards water. Arokht shifted targets from ceiling to ground. He was just about to fire again when he realized the splintering sounds from above hadn’t stopped.

Some animal or warrior instinct of danger prompted him to move, and he did. He was still moving when four stories of rain-weakened and Sonora-sabotaged tenement building fell on top of him.

The city was too damp for dust, but the roar and rumble of collapse still echoed across it, turning heads in more inhabited quarters. Some of them even saw the building fall.

None of them saw Sonora, slipping back into the canal, singing.


I can’t compete with no one else, he’s thinking of me when he’s by himself...
07-11-2017, 11:38 PM
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Hellfish
 RE: QUIETUS [S!5] [Round 3: Deluge]
nothing but class

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I’m a jealous, jealous, jealous girl- if I can’t have you baby, no one else in this world can.

Sonora whined, rattled, sniffed, licking her wounds with a long black tongue as she slid under the water, crawling along the canal bottom. She trudged through broken bottles and discarded knives, the occasional skeleton or two, picking clean what was edible as she went. Ice crystals rasped inside her, grinding into her liquid muscles like freezing needles. She ached. She was cold.

But my love, he doesn’t love me- he makes me feel like nobody else-

She had excised what she could- spat back at him what he had given her- but she was diminished. She hurt, and to grow again she would need to feast, and feast long. Her head breached the surface and she let her jaws loll open- and how do they taste?- and breathed the city in- rain, rain, rain, and smoke, and brick, and blood. She smelled glass and fire, gasoline and rotten wood. She heard the echoes of a thousand waterlogged hearts, beating even as they drowned.

You’ll ask me to pray for rain.

Through the canal a dark shape drifted under the water. A few of the tenement dwellers, hiding from the rain in their shacks, heard a distant birdsong mixed with static and weeping cellos. A few of them, those still awake in the endless night, looked out from behind their curtains.

Cade Silverheart was one of the watchers. He sat behind smoke-stained drapes, once a pale pink but now a muddied and stained grey, holding them aside with two scarred fingers. The butt of a cigarette dangled from his lips, smoldering feebly. Watching was his hobby, these days. He’d watched the city for forty-seven years, seen its long decline from a glittering treaty port to this sad ramshackle as the water rose and rose, overtaking the docks and the jetties. Now he only watched out of habit, even though all he ever saw was rain.

The distant crash of a collapsing building echoed through the slums. His ears pricked.

Cade had always had a talent for noticing what others didn’t, even when they seemed commonplace. Even as a child he’d noticed subtle things-- a window left just slightly too open, a footprint smudged in an unusual way. His talent had led him to the police, briefly, and then to private detective work, even more briefly. Both had ended badly.

He got up from his battered chair- a relic of his old office, the nameplate smeared beyond recognition- and shrugged on an equally ragged greatcoat. He folded up the collar, feeling that it was still damp from yesterday. Nothing ever really dried in the city. Even the walls seemed to sag with moisture, as though the years of rain were too much for them to bear.

Outside, it wasn’t much drier than the inside of his little apartment. He’d stopped paying rent months ago; no one had noticed. His landlady never seemed to leave her rooms. Cade only knew that she was still alive by the piles of bottles that appeared outside her door. He stepped over a rain-swollen gutter and headed to the canal, taking a match from its soggy book and lighting up a new cigarette. He let the butt of the old one fall to the ground. There was little risk of fire, these days.

As he walked he strained his ears for the typical sounds of the city: howling sirens and distant cries, indistinguishable between laughter and tears. A dog barked at something scurrying through the street. Someone smashed a bottle; someone else screamed. Distantly the sounds of the neverending celebrations reached him: cheery music and thundering dreams, women laughing. He rarely went to the high rises, the part of the city least touched by the water. Somehow he preferred the darkness of the slums, with all their filth and melancholy.

At his hip, Cade’s radio flipped on. He’d kept it when he left his beat. It had been useful to him as a PI, and a curiosity as a drunk. It was old, older than should still be working by rights, but work it did, and it let him keep tabs on the city’s police- what was left of them. Most nights it was silent. Right now it was crackling like a fire with frantic chatter. It seemed to echo off the canal, hissing and whispering.


“Roger that, Green-19. Do you see anything that could’ve caused the collapse?”

Cade stopped under a broken streetlight, pulling his hat down low over his eyes. Rain dripped off its brim.

….”Understood, Green-19. Keep searching for survivors, just in case.”

The collapse. It wasn’t unusual for buildings to just fall apart like wet paper, ruined by the storms. Most of these slums had been built only to house sailors for a night or two, along with the whores they bought.

The radio fell silent and Cade chewed his cigarette. He had no business being out. The boys who were still on the force from his days as a beat cop wouldn’t welcome him, if they recognized him at all. Green-19 wasn’t a patrol he was familiar with.


”HQ to Green-19. Can you describe it?”

“...A metal crab?”


What?

”Roger that, Green-19. Confirm your position…. Understood, Green-19. We’ll send a cart over as soon as possible.”

Cade turned down the volume. He knew exactly where the carts were headed. He’d passed the now-ruined building a hundred times- usually stumbling home drunk, but he still knew where to find it sober. Mostly sober, anyway.

It wasn’t his business, but it had to be somebody’s. Somebody needed to care about this sinking city, and it might as well be him.
07-17-2017, 01:21 AM
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seedy
 RE: QUIETUS [S!5] [Round 3: Deluge]
Sol Heir

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Rain sung its old song on the rooftop. Old, old song. Ancient. Antediluvian. Antediluvian.

Amaranth stirred on pillows that piled across a comfortable room. Shaded oil-lamps guttered low. Drapes moved gently in the flow from a window. The air was soft humidity cut by rains.

I'm so tired. A horrible nightmare floated just on the edge of memory, out of focus in the blurry liminality of exhaustion and rest. The brocaded cushions glittered gently in the light from the oil-lamps. Amaranth closed her eyes.

The smell on her clothes... …

The smell on her clothes pulled her back awake.

She sat up. The spell was broken. She was Amaranth Benedicta, far away from home, plaything of a mad god, powerless in the face of destruction, under strange rains in a strange land.

Strange rains. But they felt so painfully familiar. She could lay back down...

Soft sounds of a city came in through the window. A sigh, behind her. Her heart hammered. They're here, they're here-

Robin was strewn across the pillows too. Amaranth felt deep comfort, almost reached out to touch her. She regarded Robin's sleeping face, calm and open in a way that it never quite was while awake.

Robin...those last few moments of fear and violence. The knowledge that they were all going to die there. And then Sonora, Anila, and the terrible relief that had flooded through her. Her heart had begged for Sonora to keep going, save her, even as she yelled for her to stop. Just as Chaete had saved her.

Anila had hung there for cold stretched-out seconds, and Amaranth had followed her gaze to Robin, and Robin...

Robin hadn't been afraid to save all of them.

It's okay. You can keep sleeping, and I'll make sure nothing happens. We can rest. When we wake up, we can...

Things will go better this time.


Robin shifted slightly. Her left hand flew up and began choking her neck.

Amaranth shouted, then grabbed her arm and pinned it to the ground.


“HHHWUHGAHh.”

The fingers twitched dementedly, clawing at her leg-armor for purchase.

“HWUHhhh. Hwooo. Hahh.” Robin caught her breath for a bit. “Not the best wake up I've ever experienced, but...well, I want to say 'but not the worst,' but no, pretty- pretty sure that one was the worst. Hhhhaaahh.”

They both sat there, breathing.

“Hhhokay. I think I- got it under control. Perils of the job. Everything that's happened—very nonstandard.” A weak smile traced her lips. She massaged her hand and gaze absentmindedly at the room. “Never had alien ghosts in any of the journals...”

The rain echoed off the roofs.

“I always liked the rain.”

“So do I.”

Robin, we could, we could—

We could just stay inside.


“Would you like some tea? There's a brazier and a kettle over there...”


“That'd be nice.”

Robin got up and walked over to the window.

“Looks...low-tech. That's some things off my mind. Less to go wrong...” She stared at her palm. “I need to get out there, but...”

She leaned on the sill.

“It's nice to feel a breeze again.”

Amaranth fed small, damp slivers of wood into the fire. It choked and popped.

“Robin..”


“Hm?”

“What you did back there, at the end...” Robin tensed, slightly. “...It was the right thing.”

“...Thanks.”

They were there, in the stranger's room, as the stranger's fire heated the stranger's kettle and the rain poured down over all of them.
07-19-2017, 10:57 PM
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One
 RE: QUIETUS [S!5] [Round 3: Deluge]
one one one

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Arokht drifted.

Failure again. Failure after failure. Disgrace after disgrace. This isn’t working. Begin again.

Arokht swam in a mental realm somewhere between consciousness and coma. What wasn’t pain was bone-deep exhaustion. A body given out.

He stood in a field of tall grass, and an army of humans in sleek blue armor marched behind him. A dead red worm hung in the air before him, mangled and bleeding. Each drop was a soldier of Raxis. The sun shone in his eyes until a dark, three-eyed shadow blocked it out.

The world beyond his thoughts came in as if through muddy water. Murky, meaningless stimulus. The world within his thoughts flowed thick and directionless, hard discipline and cold logic made viscid by hypnogogia.

Ak’kubal^ut swung the lamp to one side and brought out a power drill from its tool rack, preparing to bolt a metal plate to Arokht’s battered armor. Its three yellow eyes each moved independently.

HQ, this is Green-19, we’re at the uh, scene of the collapse. Looks pretty bad, but no sign of civilians. Like I said, the whole district looks deserted. Over.

Arokht saw a tenement collapse with a roar and rumble. The black form of Sonora wound its way through the debris, singing gibberish. He saw himself trapped beneath the rubble, smaller than an ant, and it seemed as though the whole row of buildings was collapsing too, like dominos, trapping a tiny Iceworlder beneath each one.

Negative, HQ, this looks like an accident. Debris all over the street. It was probably water damage, this whole row of buildings is real badly maintained.

Anila wounded, wounded, dead. Sonora escaping. Amaranth fled down a dark passageway and Arokht pursued, but a forest of frozen hands held him back. “Take the cave!” he shouted, but nobody answered. He stood alone, but for the Outsider behind him. He spun, raised his cannon, and killed Anila with a single shot.


Roger that, HQ. Green-19 out.


God. What’s the point? The rain’s coming. We’ll all be dead anyways in a few.

Shut up, Tom. Help me look.


This isn’t working. Begin again.

He did. Mary and Ak led him through the innards of the Krei’kii’kelriz, but it was also the Kuraght uhr Khteghra, his old troopship. They lined the walls, Robin and Anila and Amaranth and everyone, watching him. You must follow me. You must obey me. The Outsider must die.


I mean, what do you think’s gonna fucking happen? We find someone, we pull ‘em out, they drown a couple of days later. What does that accomplish?

Shut up, Tom.


His troops said nothing, did nothing, though they were blue-armored Iceworlders and he was their ranking officer. Suddenly he felt very small.

They’ll just die a little early is all.

Obey me! he shouted. Fight for me! Only I can lead you to victory! But he was met by silence. He fumed.

Tom, shut the fuck up and help me with this. I think there’s something in there.

What, for real?

Yeah. See that light? Something’s glowing in there. Come on.


They did not obey because they hated what he was, Arokht realized. He was a crude thing, a pathetic thing, and they refused to follow something like him.

Then I must become something else, he thought. But then he thought: How? What else can I be? I am what I am and I was made to fight.

Begin again.

The rumble and roar of a tenement collapsing, but the sound was smaller, this time. Wood splintering and brick shattering. Arokht watched a ball of black ice cracking into his helmet and a flood of black water washing him away.


Jesus God.

Shit, man. What the hell is this thing?

Mary knelt beside his head, shining her headlamp in his face. He was buried under a hundred tons of debris but she was digging him out. Anila stood beside her. Sonora rained from the sky. Mary leaned in closer and her features shifted, her clothing shifted, and what stood there was a man, a tall man, a thin man in a mildewed blue coat with buttons that used to be gold. Anila was never there. But next to him was another man, shorter, in the same uniform but holding an umbrella.

The shorter man began to back away. “What the hell is this thing? I don’t, I don’t -- that looks like nothing I’ve ever seen before.”

“Uh, HQ?” said the taller man, speaking into a small black box clipped to his breast. A radio. “This is Green-19, there’s something buried in the debris. It’s, uh, it’s big.”

Arokht tried to focus and couldn’t. Arokht meant mountain of strength, he remembered. The first thing he remembered, truly remembered with his own memories and not the ones implanted into his brain, on the grille beneath his tank with fluid running off of his shell.

-- named him Arokht, because he is the largest one we’d ever grown --


A voice came out of the taller man’s radio, an indistinct buzzing. ”It’s, uh… it’s some kind of big metal beetle,” he replied.

“Looks like a crab to me,” interjected the shorter man.

“Or a crab. It’s big, covered in looks like blue metal, glows in places --” He paused as his radio buzzed again. ”HQ, I don’t know how the fuck to describe this thing. I think we’ll need more men.”

A second response.

”It’s the site of the fucking collapse,” the taller man replied. ”Intersection of 21st and Greywater. We’ll need something to lift and carry this fucker around, because we are definitely not leaving this thing out here.”


A third response. Every time, there were two, Arokht thought, slipping under again. Except for the first time, when there were five. Every time, they come to me, and they find me. Every time I fail them. Why do I still fight? What’s the point?

Two carts. We’ll need two carts.


The point was defeat is worse than death. He remembered Gelu, gone to an uncertain fate. He remembered Mary and Ak, gone too. Soon these two would be gone as well, gone like the worm, gone like Anila, gone like him. Every time he fought, and every time he failed. But he would keep fighting because if he stopped it would mean defeat, and defeat was worse than death. So he fought again, and failed again, and fought again...

Green-19 out.

Arokht went out, dreaming of failure. This isn’t working. Begin again.
(This post was last modified: 07-21-2017, 03:54 AM by One.)
07-21-2017, 03:36 AM
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AgentBlue
 RE: QUIETUS [S!5] [Round 3: Deluge]
that escalated quickly

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Sunshine, Lollipops and Diabetes
Many of the huddled masses were refugees, from towns and townships further abroad whose homes had been drowned in the approaching storm. They’d come searching for safety, for warmth, and for a way out. They found none of these things, not at first. There were others, of course, who had not fled in whatever way they could. The aristocracy in their ivory towers, the people who served them their wine, and the magistrates, who still pretended to uphold the illusion of law and order. Never mind that most of who could get it into their minds to leave had found a way, up until now, and the police force had been particularly disloyal on that front. A skeleton crew braved the rain, now, rousting the huddles, moving them on - though the huddled would inevitably move on to the next marginally dry place they could find, and the bobbies would have to follow.

Batons and nightsticks were the choice of the day, Thomas A. Swift or his counterpart not having been born yet in this particular history, so sometimes the bobbies left behind them bruises, blood, and the occasional body limp and lifeless in the rain. Such was the way of things.

The way of things took a distinct turn for the different on this day, which to be fair was known to most to be one of the last days.

And so it came to pass, in a strange and twisted way, that sunlight struck the streets again.

***

Burn, burn, baby bird, burn. There were no birds anymore: all that which could fly had flown from the doomed, drowning city, long before the rain could unslick feathers or force flying fowl down with the sheer force of falling water and gravity together, a force that now struck the streets with spatters and splatters. Soon, not long now, soon it would begin striking the ground with jackhammer force, cracking the cobbles. But not yet. Right now the cobbles were melting.

A metal helmet, shield-badge partially burned off, came rolling comically off a scorched, blackened skull, down the street, down towards the swollen river-edge. Tinkle, tinkle, splash.

She waited a few seconds, and exhaled a deep breath she hadn’t been aware of holding. A plume of purple-ultraviolet plasma jetted from one hand, involuntarily, and carved a sigil into the empty face of the nearest store. A blue smudge spun crazily across her vision, again, again, again. She wanted to take it, hold it, stop that irritating immortality from not being in her, with her, of her, being Her -

It was then she realized there was a faint cheering around her, muffled by the ever-present rain, but there nonetheless, worship, worshipful, almost. They watched her unfold from the ground, from where the bobby’s baton had laid her, visibly evaporating the rain that fell upon her into clouds of steam. An awesome sight, a word once reserved only for the acts perpetrated by the gods themselves.

The vagrants rose up, chased down the other bobby, who was by then halfway down the street, slipping on the cobblestones as the ragged masses bore him down, venting upon his body the injustice that had now been given the impetus for an outlet, any outlet. His helmet went flying. Someone tore his badge from his chest. Someone tore his heart from his chest.

Blood sacrifice to a god.

***

“Okay, folks,” Rachel subsequently said, at the head of a long and definitely stolen table in a big and more questionably purloined conference hall, “what we want to achieve here is a radical overthrow of the existing hierarchy. Yes, a question?”


“Why don’t you just burn down the banquet hall where all the fucken knobheads are doing their party?” said a heckler in the back of the crowded room.

“Too wet. Besides, this cult isn’t going to be about fire-worship, or anything, all right? We’re here to instantiate an organized response to the current weather and to create a better social situation for all of us, provided we don’t all die. Yes, you again?”

“Why don’t you use your sun powers to stop the rain?”

“You think the sun has that much power here? Besides I’m kind of just filling in for another sun god on a temp basis and even then I’m mostly coasting off of your goodwill and willingness to worship as opposed to any actual divinity at this point, did I say that out loud?”

“So what you’re saying is, we don’t really need you?”

Rachel incinerated him. “Any more questions?”

None.

“Good. Now chalk won’t work, so we’ll need about six hundred thousand flyers…”
07-25-2017, 04:06 AM
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Hellfish
 RE: QUIETUS [S!5] [Round 3: Deluge]
nothing but class

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Arokht dreamt. The night sky overhead, with its alien stars in unfamiliar patterns, whirled above him like a field of bright dancers drunk on some celestial liquor. The motion made his head spin, made him feel like he was moving- but he was moving, slowly and without much care. He was being pulled, over stones and sticks and bottles. Every jolt made his body seize up with agony.

He dreamt that the canal beside him was filled with ghosts. Voices whispered to one another, pausing every few moments as though they knew he was listening.


So that's what we're working with. I expected more from a god of war.

The alien was here, flowing alongside him. The sleek slope of its head rose and fell as it kept easy pace, nosing through the water. Black tides lapped at the canal’s lip, shivering as though some unseen force was pounding far away.

“Sonora,” he said. He wasn’t sure (and he had once been so sure) what else to say.


“Smile for me, daddy,” the water bubbled, pulling itself free of the canal. It heaved onto the cobblestones like a bloated swimmer. “Hi, Arokht. You're so strong.”

It took all of his energy to form one word. “Anila.”

“Guilty, guilty, guilty.” The humans couldn’t see it. It drifted under the cart and hid there among the wheels, curled like an animal. A predator, circling wounded prey. Arokht had never been prey before.

He tried to take a breath, every gulp of air an explosion of pain. His lungs felt like wet paper. “You- were my ally. You… betrayed me. You…”

“Your cooperation is paramount. Your armor is deficient. It wants us to kill each other. You’re hurt. I do not take orders from aliens.”

His own voice, coming from the water, sounded hollow, false.

“Help me.
He needs help, help, help, help.”

“I… do not… need… your help.

Arokht’s servos whined and for a second he was prepared to rise, to fire again and again into Sonora’s black depths until the damn thing was dead, as dead as a monster could be, but his body wouldn’t let him. He could only twitch in the back of the cart, gently rocking it on its wheels.


“You want to break? You break alone. Get on your feet. There’s no surrender. I told you Sonora was dangerous. She’s the one who bade me, take me, take me. Carelessness will kill, kill, kill. Why did you run?”

He hated Sonora, hated himself for taking the alien’s mocking, hated his body for disobeying, hated the cart he lay in. He hated the city and the sky above him, and he hated Anila for dying.

“I will not fight. You will not fight. You should have just killed me.”

“Enough.”


“Arokht- he- they- were knocked out. Started killing them. I will make a display of overwhelming force. Did you kill her? Cooperate or I will break every bone in your- In the open I will kill it. Did you kill her? I would do so with pleasure. If you have killed- a force of destruction- overwhelming force. If you- if you- if you must- you will defer. Why did you run? Why did you take Mary? He’s simple. Why? Why?! Why?! I will not be its plaything. What are you? What are you? Did you kill her? What are you?

“I am a soldier,” he answered himself.


"You're a monster," said Sonora, and it slipped away.

_

Cade had watched them take the- whatever it was from the basement of the ruined department store. They had needed four winches just to pull it out from the rubble and into the back of a rickety cart. He supposed that that was all that was left to carry it. It glowed, and sparked…. The radio had been right. “Crab” was the closest he could come to describing it. It wasn’t like anything the city had ever seen. Part of him wanted to believe that it was an elaborate prank, pulled by some desperate clown.

He lit up another cigarette and urged the hungover gears of his brain into motion as the cart departed, headed for HQ. The collapse. The mysterious thing found in the wreckage. Had it caused it? Cade somehow doubted that. Why would it bury itself? The rain was going to bury them all, soon enough. What did it mean?

He exhaled a puff of stale smoke that was instantly tamped down by the ever-present rain. Even huddled beneath the corner of a roof there was no escaping the storm. He’d heard only the high rises were free of water, these days. Lucky bastards.

Cade hunched down, crouching as best he could to avoid the fat drops of water falling from the roof. The rain followed him like a living thing, soaking into his clothes, his skin, his bones. Thunder rumbled impatiently beyond the city’s skyline. There was no way the crab-thing could have from the city, Cade figured. No one had that technology here. On the mainland, maybe. They’d left this city to drown with the bare minimum. Someone would have noticed something like that. Which meant that the thing had come from outside. Outside the city, where the raging tides had crushed all the ships that tried to leave.

Was it help? He doubted it. But it was a sign. And if something could enter the city, that meant that something could leave.

__

Birdsong whistled through the streets of the rain-choked city, accompanied by horses’ screams and frantic, maddened gibbering. They seemed to mimic the distant call of police sirens, howling endlessly into the night. Sonora was dreaming too, as she always was, of swollen rivers flooding their banks and the dryness of space, of wolves, of flowers, of summer sweat, of fresh meat and ammonia-tinted blood. It was preparing to hunt, to flood the city and regrow its wounded flesh. The scent of beating hearts and desperation drew it in, deeper and deeper into the city’s labyrinth. It saw without eyes the glint of windows, the glow of gaslamps, its friend the rain swelling it still with gentle care. It sang to the city, a chorus of thundering drums and dams breaking. It sang of tides and floods and rivers, coming to drag the dry land down.

Among all its voices, there was one that would not sing.

You killed her.

Sonora was hungry.

Did you know anything about her? She was nineteen.

It pulled its lips back from its teeth.

And you, you took her away.

A black tide came to a pause mid-wave, hovering over the canal’s shimmering surface, rolling cautiously. It rippled and bent backwards like an unwinding spring, combing through its length with its own teeth, searching for something undigested. It did not find it.

It craned its neck from side to side.

She’d have turned twenty in July.

It ground its teeth.

You killed her.

It reared up and smashed its head on the concrete, spraying the nearby tenements with thick black water. It rose up again and again, crashing its own body into the ground until the cobblestones shattered and broken pipes regurgitated grey water into the streets.

You murdered her.

Sonora whined, long and loud, rattling the few windows still secure in their frames. The sound was on the edge of human hearing. It clawed at its head with meter-long claws, ravaged itself with glittering teeth, threw itself against the architecture, but still that voice was speaking, even as its body crashed into building after building, starting a chorus of screams and alarms that echoed into the endless night.

Her name was Anila. And I remember, even if you don’t.
(This post was last modified: 08-02-2017, 01:54 AM by Hellfish.)
07-28-2017, 01:40 AM
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Schazer
 RE: QUIETUS [S!5] [Round 3: Deluge]
Patron Saint of Normcore

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The rain struck the roofs and roads, timpani-prelude to some grand cacophonous spectacle that drew Robin to the window like siren-song. Something in her wanted to follow the rain down, down and through the insolent ground to where everything had been washed away.

Robin shuddered, skulled her tea. "Hey, Amaranth. Thanks for the drink. And the nap." Something approximating a rueful grin. "I forget about this kind of stuff, when things get hectic."

Amaranth nodded, hand straying to her mask at the foot of her pile of pillows.
"We can't stay here for the whole round though, can we?"

"Well, no, but, well, if you could help me with something - two somethings, actually - then we could stay here longer? Theoretically, anyway, taking one the uh, accelerants out of commission would definitely give me some room to-"

"-what are you planning?" said Amaranth, a little too quickly for Robin's comfort.

Shit. "Sorry." Poor choice of words. "That came out wrong. My intentions are good, I promise. I'm going to find Florica. Have you met her? No?" Good. "She's one of us, just, harder to spot in a crowd compared to Arokht or Rachel. She's like a - well. You remember all those bodies, on the Kelriz? How they became puppets for ghosts?"

Amaranth stared, the pollen alone keeping the calm in her voice.
"How could I forget?"

Robin laughed, a noise both disarming and vaguely off-putting. She crossed the room to where her coat and rucksack lay, revealing to Amaranth as she turned around the possessed hand. The knuckles were bruised, along the back of it ran red welts and scratches, and the fingers still scrabbled for the cuff of Robin's sleeve. The necrologist paid it no mind, instead fossicking through her pack with her free arm.

"Ok. So, under normal circumstances, ghosts or souls or whatever you want to call them can't just 'jump into' things." She seemed to Amaranth far more animated suddenly, open. "Not even people-shaped things, and that's because souls are elaborate-as-all-heck arcanic signatures with this whole impetus to maintain their structure, that's at odds with the core properties of the energy they're made of. Blows my goddamn mind that that ship had the technology, just, lying around, to make all those ghosts bio-compatible like that, en masse-"


"Sorry, souls are what?"

Robin's smile faltered a bit. Ugh. Right. Religion. "Listen, I'm sure whatever you've been taught isn't wholly incompatible with established scientific findings. I can't claim (in a gathering of my peers) to know where it's headed (yet); I've just got a pretty good idea what it's made of."

"That's... not an answer."

Robin sighed, but good-naturedly. "Well, if you're still antsy for answers after I go and find Florica, I'm happy to give the both of you a crash course in arcanics and necrology."

"That... sounds lovely, but you still haven't explained how or why I should help." Robin didn't immediately respond to that, because of a mouthful of sterilised syringe packaging she was trying to tear open.

"Nnngrf. Right. Yeah. My point is, ghosts can't interact with physical objects. So if you want a ghost, and that ghost specifically, you'll need a physical configuration that fits them. Florica is a configuration."


"Oh."

"Right, so. Those corpses on the Kelriz? Imagine that happening to you while you're still alive." Amaranth said nothing. "She needs my help before-" she re-powers a wrecked space station and everyone on board's slaughtered by cultists or zombies. "She needs our help. If I can find her, before anything with a grudge does and uses her to start agitating the locals, we can breathe easier but. More than that, I should help her. I'm probably the only person who can."

Amaranth took a deep breath, then strode over and gestured for the rucksack.
"Tell me what you need." Robin beamed.

"Ok, for starters, pass my laptop, that's the big flat square thing - gently! - then there's a black box about yea big with my animeter in it. If you can plug it in for me, I can set those up before you help me trance out-"


"Again? You don't even know what kind of ghosts are here."

Robin tried to wave dismissively, but Cathedral turned it into a clawing motion. "I can't get a sure read without the animeter, but I'd hazard there's less mass violent murdering happening in this world. I promise you, it'll go smoother this time."

Something nagged at Amaranth about 'this time', but Robin was already motioning at various vials and drawing tools. Rather, she was already booting up the laptop with one hand, and the other was scrabbling angrily in the direction of the soon-to-be banishing apparatus. Robin looked up from her screen and nodded at her hand.

"Cool. So what I'm gonna talk you through next with Mr. Won't-Let-Me-Keep-My-Hands-to-Myself there is a modified construct dissolution. If you can start with - uh, fuck. Do you have arcanic engineering where you come from? Magic or spellwork? Hell, electronic devices?"


"What do you think?" said Amaranth, with an admirable lack of testiness.

"Eh. We'll figure this out."


---

The rain struck the roofs and roads, a million tiny sounds each marking an insignificant journey's end. We've travelled so far. We've. We've we've.

A million messages mashed together into a ceaseless force. Rain bore down on the sky like it had come from beyond, crushing heaven into the earth, pummelling it into rooftops where it slithered off and away under any surviving shelter. Here hid that sky's worth of air, thick and crammed into these spaces, with anything else that didn't want to be washed away.

Here lay Florica, the ghosts possessing her unaccustomed to gravity. They'd dragged her out of the downpour after one had slithered out to investigate and been pulverised by rain, screaming in terror.

Florica couldn't help feeling sorry for the worms, though to be fair she'd not been witness to the massacre the cult of the Kelriz had performed for them. These souls hadn't revelled in the death of all those people picking apart their ship. They'd just wanted to go home. One of the less selfish goals among spectres she'd played host to, if she were being honest-

An apparition swooped into the shelter, not quite a ghost, not quite a stranger. Florica couldn't turn to look, the worms having not gotten as far as sitting her up out of the mud, but billowed above and around them like it didn't quite have its bearings. One of her ghosts braved sticking its head out, hissing a warning-

-and the smoky thing seized the worm, tore it out
and apart
and reached for another. The little souls scattered, panicked, and Florica was back just long enough to twist around and face her foe-


Hey! Woah! It's ok!

"It's..." Her vocal chords, strained this way and that by unaccustomed passengers, rasped. Florica winced. "It's you."

I'm sorry I kept you waiting, said Robin. Can you walk?

---

She ambled the streets, humming, unhurried, trailing Inderigan finery and a moongrass scarf between outstretched hands where her not-quite-ghost companion hid, keeping as best it could its not-quite limbs in Florica's slipstream.

We're looking for a three-and-a-half-spired church, next to a footbridge. Upriver where it's still in its banks, said Robin. Her voice sounded underwater. In a house down the street from there, Amaranth's waiting.

Florica looked around. A waterlogged park took up one side of the street, townhouses more-or-less stood on the other. Dim lamps glowed in a scant few windows and doorways. In others, ghosts. Don't stop, said Robin, but Florica was already heading for the park. Please. Thank you. I get caught in this too long, and I'll... have to go back to my body, I guess? I don't know. I'd rather not find out.

Florica kicked at puddles, quite content under these rains in a way she wanted to explain to Robin, but couldn't. "Clears my head, it does."

I'm glad that like, not being possessed feels good, but until I can help you it's tem-

"Oi! Miss! There's some somber bird out in the domain who looks could use some divinity in her face!"

Robin groaned. These seemed exactly the kind of agitated locals she'd been hoping to avoid. There were a whole crowd of them, hauling chunks of machinery and marking their passage through the street with a plume of steam. A jet of flame lashed overhead like a swipe and there were shrieks of delight.


Rachel. The tone of Robin's voice gave Florica pause. Florica, let me in. I'll handle this.

"Is she dangerous?"

Very. If you upset her, you'll be lucky if you get a chance to run from that mob.

"She doesn't seem all that upset."

Florica, trust me. She's the kind of person who's directionless without something to be upset about. I'm going to make sure you're not that something.

Florica could've said no, could've told Robin she'd handle this herself and Robin would actually respect that, probably, maybe. But when the dead turned to her in desperation and the most she'd came to expect from the living was their keeping fearful distance, the idea they might spend their fleeting time wishing ill of Florica was just... exhausting. Violence simply begat more vengeful souls, trapped on earth until someone like Florica might cross their path.

If there was anyone else like her. The crowds parted, letting through the sun, whose first words were:


"Oh. You."

"It's Florica."

"Right." Her constituents were milling around until she shooed them off. "Take all that machinery and set it up in the Downtown Station already. Those flyers aren't printing themselves!"

Seeing this Rachel up close brought Robin's warning into a new light. There was the terrible, wasteful anger achievable in a mortal's fleeting lifetime, then there was this... divinity. "Listen-"

"I should, go help these guys dismantle the ruling class. They've commandeered one of the bigger intact buildings, so I guess you could stay? If you wanted?


"That's... real good an noble of you, miss, but I've another place to be first-"

"-I'll escort you there, if it's going to be quick."

"Thank you, again," said Florica, gesturing to her sodden robes in what Rachel mistook for a curtsy, "but I've got-"

"Look, I don't know who else you've run into so far, but you definitely do not want to meet Sonora-"

"Robin?"

"Robin?"

---

Robin jerked awake with a cough, hack, and a couple more splutters for good measure. Amaranth hastily put down Robin's printed-out manuscripts, and slapped her between the shoulder blades until the coughing stopped.

"Fuck. Thanks," she said, then immediately stood up and headed for the door.


"What happened!?"

"Call it a wash, if an informative one," muttered Robin. "Hold down the fort, draw up a fresh circle. I'm gonna go and meet Florica at the church."

---

"Robin? What do you need her for?"

"In that first place, she promised to help me. Stop me been a host to spirits."

"That's your thing? Getting possessed?" Florica nodded. "Great! And I suppose while she was off domesticating Sonora last round, you were worm food somewhere else on the ship?"

Florica wished she could explain, but more and more of the rain falling around Rachel was evaporating. She could only shake her head, and wish Robin were here. Rachel swung as if to slap Florica, who ducked aside and reached for a dagger however useless it would be, but the searing flame shot past her and melted a bronze statue to slag.

"Go," hissed Rachel, over the rank smell of molten metal. "But don't expect the 'good doctor' to fix you. The only fixing she'll do is of problems she's caused. Everything else is meddling."

Florica ran, and didn't stop until she found the river's new edges and followed it back up to the church, where Robin waited with a blanket.
10-03-2017, 09:03 AM
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seedy
 RE: QUIETUS [S!5] [Round 3: Deluge]
Sol Heir

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The Fort St. Alban Diplomatic Building was old, rain-soaked, dignified, built back when they built things to last. Built back when they thought things would last. Fort St. Alban, the city without history.

Its interiors were tobacco-scented, cloistered and humid, rich wood and rich leather desks and yellow gaslamps. Even the mildest personality had turned day-drinker and chainsmoker nowadays. At night the smart occupants in their smart clothes still kept busy, their worker-bee telegrams and letters, aides keeping everyone abreast of recent developments, shop talk, political musings, long silences.

What else could you do, go home and kill yourself?

“So Etienne, any development in the international chatter?”

Etienne sighed and pulled off the heavy earphones.

“Only the saber-rattling over the S. Reine you have heard all week.”

“You know, the Old Man gave a rousing speech today. If I did not know the things I do about troop movements, I would say the war was ready to start.”

“We should be sending another ship out to get torpedoed, maybe then they finally make up their minds who is to blame.”

O O O

Olimphe turned her notes this way and that.

“The police, they are saying strange things. A tank shaped like a man, a building destroyed...”

Sidonie shrugged.

“Pass it along upstairs. True or not, maybe it becomes a pretext for war.”

Etienne laughed.

O O O

“Do you think Aurevilly down the hall spies for Mathurin?”

“What?”

“Milk-mannered Aurevilly, one of the Bully's Boys?”

“Well, you know, recently he is sending secretive messages every night and skulking around. And his eyes are always red.”

“Sidonie is right, Olimphe, a true patriot faces the Storm with grandeur and bravery. From this we can induce that M. Aurevilly is nothing but a turncoat and a coward—”

O O O

“A man is yelling down in the street—Etienne, go and see what it is he wants.”

O O O

“An M. Ginisty claims he saw the river 'shudder like a sick dog' and fly through the air.”

“Which river?”

“It was also singing.”

“Why did he not go to the police?”

“We are closer, I suppose.”

“Well, get him some brandy, and if brandy has been the trouble, then get him some water.”

O O O

“Will you be going to Mme. Vicaire's masquerade ball? All the best costume shops have already become sold out.”

“It depends, will she spike the punch with cyanide or arsenic?”

O O O

“The police reports grow stranger. This one speaks of unrest in Our Mercy's District and—burned bodies? Fires?”

“What could possibly burn in our city?”

Sidonie sat silently, blowing the smoke from her cigarette out the window and looking at the rain. She got up suddenly.

“The sun...”

“What? It's still hours before dawn...”

She shook her head vigorously and put the cigarette out.

“No. No, my mistake.”
10-03-2017, 11:31 PM
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