The Savage Brawl [Round 5: Battletopia]

The Savage Brawl [Round 5: Battletopia]
Re: The Savage Brawl [Round 4: Small 50s Town]
Originally posted on MSPA by slipsicle.

Some time later...

Hoss reached down and deactivated the device's connection to the Network - its internal power source was limited, after all - and gathered it back up in his makeshift sling. He moved back to the door, and poked his head out, scanning his immediate horizon. He appeared to be on a main throughway of the town, and was surrounded by low buildings. One in particular caught his attention, as it had the main attribute upon which he'd based his search: height.

Another quick glance up and down the street, and Hoss darted from the doorway, deftly navigated the battle-torn street - discovering whatever else he currently lacked, he at least still had some muscle memory - and stopped at the corner. The building he was heading towards was some distance yet, but the smoke trailing from an impact on its roof helped Hoss to easily locate it. As he cautiously ran between buildings and across streets, he wondered why he had yet to encounter another of his fellow contestants. Gormand didn't count; his army was quite obviously winning the battle against the alien invaders, and Hoss could see evidence of the meat-virus's presence encroaching on the center of the town. Ekelhaft, he preferred not to think about. Especially not in this state; the creature fed off magic, and - so far as he knew - Hoss's body had been created entirely with magic. And given how little he was steadily realizing he knew about magic, a thought could very well attract the slime. He moved on quickly to the others... who exactly was left? He should have kept better track - he did not appreciate his options being 'Diego, Konka Rar, Ziirphael: Pick two'. He'd had very little contact with the small, dangerous-looking man, aside from a few magical traces. The other two would likely kill him instantly if they recognized him, and maybe even if they didn't. Hoss stopped behind a bush - he'd left most of the buildings behind, trading them for what appeared to be a primitive educational facility - and caught his breath, considering his options. On the one hand, his new appearance would make a rather convincing disguise, and his best option would be to lay low. On the other hand... Hoss looked up at the crashed ship. Its saucer section had impacted the building at an angle that was very nearly 90 degrees, adding at least another twenty meters to the building's height. He currently had no way to scale the side of the saucer, unless he used magic. And if he could, then he had more at his defense than a disguise.

The only way to know was to try. Hoss exhaled, readied himself, and began sprinting towards the building. His feet pounded the pavement, and with each thrust against the Earth Hoss tried to push harder. As he threw himself forward, he could feel a fire begin to burn within him. He focused on it, tried to feed the flame with his sweat and blood and flesh, running faster until he felt near bursting, until he finally planted one foot on the ground, gathered the power he had gathered, and shot it downwards.

The results were significantly more exaggerated than he'd expected.

Hoss's intention had been to generate enough thrust to get him maybe to the roof, and from there he'd try for the top of the saucer. Instead, the ground beneath him was pulverized, and the shockwave demolished the front face of the school. Hoss was sent shooting almost a kilometer into the air, wildly out of control. His body, whose muscle memory contained no records of being shot cannon-like into the air, flailed reflexively, and Hoss, unable to properly manage the amount of power he'd gathered, blasted himself in a number of random directions before forcing down a burbling panic and forcing himself into stillness. The moment did not last long, as it dawned on him that the last direction in which he'd blasted himself had been down. Taking care to control his movements and his focus, Hoss turned midair to face the oncoming ground, stretched out his arms, and pushed against the ground. His descent slowed, and Hoss spread out completely, pushing slightly with his entire body, using an increase surface area to ease his control. He continued to slow until he was a half a meter from the ground, at which point he brought his arms and legs down, and looked around him. While he was in the air, he'd had just enough time to locate the part of the town he'd attempted to spot from atop the saucer. It was an especially war-torn section of suburb, on the adjacent side of the town's center. In its center was his target: ground-zero of the Giant's explosion, and the area where he'd torn a hole in this universe. He'd landed in a field behind the school, and provided he skirted the edges of the town, had nothing but forest and pastures between himself and his target. He rather doubted the massive expulsion of magical force, and the subsequent catapulted humanoid, had escaped anyone's attention. The chaos of the battle had long since moved away from this part of the town, which was slowly being taken over by Gormand's virus, aiding in his army's destruction of the alien warships, and as such, his rather explosive anomaly would stand out to even the casual observer. Hoss grimaced. Remaining hidden was rapidly becoming a less viable option. He'd have to hurry to the tear.

Some minutes earlier...

Hoss looked carefully at his device's screen. It currently displayed a disorganized-looking cluster of beige globules. His own voice was speaking.

"Now, this is a rough approximation of the local mutliversal structure, and when I say rough, I mean rough. Since neither of you has the capacity to either view or conceptualize dimensions greater than three, what you see here is more of a metaphor than an example. This sphere," an arm came into view, and a black-gloved hand pointed out a globule on the lower-right, which conveniently bounced and lit up, "is the battle the Amalgam was entered into. This sphere," the hand moved, and pointed at a globule roughly in the center of the cluster, "is where you are, younger self. And this," a pulsating splotch of beige erupted around the first globule, with a single tendril that was currently growing inwards, towards the second, "is
us." The view changed, and zoomed in. In the lower right, the splotch of the Amalgam vibrated and danced around its battle's current universe. In the upper left, the universe containing Hoss's surroundings sat, serene. All the other globules had vanished, and racing across the center of the view was the lone tendril of beige."We have discovered that grandmasters have a wonderful mastery of the creation and destruction of universes, and especially in the management of said creations. In particular, when creating a reality in which to host a Grand Battle, many seem to prefer to 'anchor' it in the multiverse, if you will. We presume this is one of many protections against tampering, as the grandmasters are, as you will discover, paranoid meddling backstabbers."

Hoss cocked an eyebrow at that last phrase, and the voice from the screen continued.

"We plan to take advantage of these multiversal anchors. But first, we need a place to latch on. That's where you come in," and Hoss's face appeared on the screen - no, it wasn't quite his, there was something... tan... in his eyes. Those eyes affixed him through the screen, and the view behind them changed again, zooming in on Hoss's universe, in particular, on a small imperfection on its surface. The face on the screen smiled. "If we remember correctly, you've just ripped a hole in your universe - which was then further destabilized by dimension-breaching magical cascade. We need you to destabilize it just a bit more, so that we may enter your universe, and use its anchoring properties to tear out a piece of our own."

Hoss nodded. "Yes... the orbs I made have a function that would meet our needs. Their scanning utility can be easily modified to destabilize instead of detect. This device, unfortunately, is only capable of communication."

"We are aware," said the face on the screen, "We have been planning this for a long time - when we'd explored all avenues of possibility for how to escape the prison generated by that anomalous mineral fragment, we occupied our attention with fantasies of what we might accomplish with our freedom. Now that we have Hans with us, we can control the moment of our ascension, and enjoy ourselves a little. One of the benefits of being one with the Amalgam is that we spent no time deciding which of our imaginings we wanted to manifest; agreement is always instant and unanimous. We have been actively laying the groundwork since the beginning of this battle, and now we come to the crucial moment. When you have destabilized the tear, we will attach ourself to your universe, and rip out a section of this war-torn city. Its parent universe will likely collapse immediately, but we will keep our acquisition safe. When we leave, it will float freely through the multiverse, and serve as a hub for the Network, where its members can meet, plan, trade, and organize. It will be watched over by you," The view zoomed out as the Amalgam Hoss gestured to his left, and Hans came into view. Amalgam Hoss looked back at the screen. "When we expel my remnant and push it into him, our ascension will occur almost immediately - even now, we are being... pulled away."

Hoss frowned. "This remnant... I'm still not quite sure I understand what it is."

Amalgam Hoss shrugged.
"Neither are we. That is the troubling thing. The amount of ignorance we still have about it is... staggering. And a little bit terrifying. We didn't even know what it did until we met other copies like Hans, and we noticed an imperceptible difference," he walked over to Hans, who looked on impassively, "he possesses your memories, skills, knowledge, and technology. He looks like you, he talks like you, and in a way, he thinks like you. We have observed the appearance of various copies of ourselves - pardon, that is, of you and me - and each has lacked a certain... drive. A particular strength of will. An ability to understand, predict, and shape the world around him. He would not be capable of the feats you and I have accomplished, and yet, we can not identify what is lacking, what benefit is provided by this remnant besides an apparent loss in work ethic. We do know that it comes from something old, and that you, me, and the Amalgam, owe all our accomplishments to it. And we cannot complete our ascension so long as it remains within us; whatever it belongs to will not let the remnant go."

Hoss shifted uncomfortably. "I don't know how comfortable I am with the idea of owing everything I am to some... ancient progenitor."

The Hoss on the screen nodded.
"We know the feeling. Now, you should get going. You have work to do." He smiled out from the screen and the display went blank.


A sweating, panting, exhausted Hoss ran up to a massive crater, surrounded by the wreckage of a suburban neighborhood. Ground zero of another of his experiments with magic. He sighed, and made his way down the walls of the crater, using the time to attempt to catch his breath.

As he reached the bottom, he held up an orb he'd picked up on the way. He'd gone past the original launch point of all of the orbs, only to find that some were returning - some charred, half-melted, in pieces, or perfectly fine. Puzzling, but something that he could figure out later. He approached the center of the crater, where space... flickered. Pressing a few key sections of the orb, he disabled the safety settings on the scanning feature - which used a particular type of multiversal radiation to make visible seams and weaknesses in one's current universe - and caused it to begin emit an overloaded burst of radiation. Immediately, the space before him roiled and glowed, and an oily tan began to seep through. Hoss raised the intensity of his radiation barrage, and the flickering, folding chaos in front of him grew. A horrible ripping sound tore across the expanse, and Hoss took a few steps back as he felt gravity begin to lose consistency near the border of the growing tear. The sound grew, and Hoss retreated back up the walls of the crater, to the relative safety of the blasted landscape above. The hole grew, and oily tan flowed from it like spherical geyser, and then...

... and then the ripping sound was replaced by confused static, and the oily tan spasmed, convulsed, and then imploded, taking the portion of the universe it had breached with it. Space fell inwards to fill the sudden absence and in an instant, the crater had folded up upon itself. Hoss was knocked backwards by the gravitational shifts, and sat on the ground, stunned. The orb rolled away from his hand, sparking.

In the back of his mind, a gibbering panic began to rise, and from across the crater, a familiar green sludge was oozing itself through the wreckage of a house. Just as Hoss tried to suppress his fear, a shadow fell over him. He scrambled to his feet, and found himself face-to-face with Ziirphael.

Re: The Savage Brawl [Round 4: Small 50s Town]
Originally posted on MSPA by Ixcalibur.

The Containment Hangar was like a warehouse, only filled with transparent cells where there would normally be boxes. Before the power was cut roughly ninety percent of those cells were occupied. About half of the creatures contained within were humans or Earth natives. The Ska'vans had surprisingly seen fit to abduct as many cows as they had humans though the reasoning was not exactly apparent. The other things that had been contained in this place had been, well decidedly more alien. Some of them were humanoid in shape but with for example green skin and eyes that blinked horizontally. In others the differences were less subtle; too many teeth, jet black skin and more limbs than could have been strictly necessary and there was one thing that looked for all the world to be a pile of moss.

The first indication that the power had cut was when the lights had flickered and died, there was a moment of darkness before the red emergency lighting had flicked on. The cell doors hadn't exactly popped open; there was just nothing to keep them closed with the power down. One opportunistic alien gave his a push and suddenly before you knew it the entire Hangar had erupted into chaos. There were not many guards guarding the Hangar, and though they might have gotten off a couple of lucky shots they were easily overwhelmed by the throng of angry aliens. Though you'd think that the situation might have instilled a sense of group togetherness in the recently freed aliens, it did not.

Humans that were lucky enough to get their hands on a weapon, or to have to hand something that could conceivably be used as a weapon, or even something that could not, began attacking the other things out of fear. Some of the aliens were just wild; there had never been any question that if the thing that looked like a centipede made of knives got free it would murder and kill anything that stood in its path. Those cells that hadn't been affected, the prisoners trapped inside them could only watch, or close their eyes and wish they could drown out the screams of the dying and the whoops of bloody delight that echoed through the Hangar.

When the back up power kicked in no more than two or three minutes later, a surprising sense of order had returned as well. The prisoners that had minutes before been at one another’s throats were stood side by side; a crowd had formed around a semi-insectoid alien.

While from below the waist it, or rather she, as she was visibly female, resembled nothing more than a giant ant upon several spindly legs, from above the waist she was roughly humanoid, though not so much that she would ever be mistaken for a human. The large compound eyes, the maw with protruding mandibles and her long slender arms with what were more like pincers than hands would all give her away. Not to mention that her skin was not skin but instead a hard rosewood coloured carapace.

Those in her proximity were completely silent; it was not the kind of silence that one commanded through fear or even through awe. It was a silence borne of reverence. The gaze of the former prisoners did not waver from the ant woman, not for one second. Those who were not in her immediate proximity had their attention drawn by the eerily silent crowd, but they were not transfixed in quite the same way. They were the ones to regard the scene with suspicion or perhaps fear. After a moment’s contemplation here and there throughout the hangar more former prisoners would willingly walk up and join her entourage. Those who could kept their distance and focused upon problems they deemed more pressing.

Her name was Ajota; back on her homeworld she had called herself Soulmother to a family of hundreds. Where others might have been grateful for their freedom or determined to put an end to the beings that had ripped her from her family, Ajota was for the moment concerned with only one thing.

She followed a blood trail that wound through the cells, her silent entourage following her like a group of lost puppies looking for a home, until she found one of the Ska’van guards, heavily wounded and desperately attempting to crawl away from those who had inflicted these wounds upon him. A human, one of the citizens of Jedesberg who would at this point in time have had a hard time telling you anything about who he was or his life before he had laid eyes upon Ajota, and something that was sort of human shaped walked from the group and hauled the guard to his feet.

Ajota did not stop walking, though her direction had changed. She was headed to the cell adjacent to the one that she had emerged from. Visible inside was a being like her but more masculine. It cowered in the corner as Ajota and her new family approached the cell. The Ska’van guard did not need to be dragged, he was as willing as the rest of them; he just needed assistance.

The guard was helped to the front of the cell, and without any kind of ceremony, he authorised the opening of the cell. His voice and DNA were scanned for authentication and the door opened with a click.

What Ajota did next was not typical of her. Normally when confronted with a poor suffering soul alone in the world she would endeavour to break down its defences and to welcome it into the bosom of her family no matter what kind of being it might have been. But this was one of her own kind. There was no way to bring him into her family and she would have no inclination to do so even if she could.

Nakaja share a telepathic bond, one that rather unfortunately is beyond their control. What this means is that every single thought she had had for the weeks that she had been confined in this ungodly Hangar had been unwillingly broadcasted to her neighbour, and vice versa. Nakaja did not tend to spend too much time in one another’s company and this was the reason why. Bloodshed was pretty much inevitable.

She did not kill him personally, she just held the door open as one of the former prisoners, one that was better described as a beast than a person, slithered through and tore the Nakaja to shreds. With the litany of his thoughts stricken from her mind she was finally able to think straight.

my children her perfect voice was loud and clear in the heads of those who surrounded her. the people who brought me here have done some very bad things to me and to my family, but it is okay; I forgive them. I will liberate them from their bitter lonely existences and bring them into my family regardless of their trespasses against me and mine.

A pair of Ajota’s ‘children’ who had broken off from the group a couple of minutes previously returned carrying a heavy box between them. They dropped it at her feet, thank you my children and disappeared back into the crowd.

The soulmother opened the box and pulled from it handfuls of necklaces. They ranged in quality and the materials they were produced from, some were forged from gold or fitted with glittering jewels while others were little more than beads threaded onto a piece of string. each one of these was a gift, from a member of my family that these aliens took away from me Ajota draped the collection of necklaces around her neck. I will never forget them, I will hold them in my heart and hope that soon I will return to them, and when I do I shall bring them many new brothers and sisters… I shall have the greatest family that has ever been seen


fyck phytybyckyt
Re: The Savage Brawl [Round 4: Small 50s Town]
Originally posted on MSPA by Dragon Fogel.

As Zeke and "Quoun" approached the main power room, it became clear that the area was well-guarded. There were at least a dozen well-armed Ska'van soldiers patrolling the halls nearby. They had ducked just outside of the area and were discussing plans - or rather, Konka was considering plans and Zeke wasn't interested in hearing them.

"I oughta just blast 'em," Zeke grumbled.
"Given that they created your weapon, they may have protection from it," Konka Rar said. "And even if it works, you run the risk of alerting them to our presence, and possibly sealing off access to the core."
"Yeah, well, you got a better plan? Nah, I ain't even gonna ask, it's probably some kinda trick. You may be able to fool Jack, but you ain't gonna fool me."

Zeke stood up and rushed forward, firing his laser the whole time.
"EAT LASER, YA GODDAMNED ALIENS!" he shouted. Before long, they were returning fire, but Zeke had already run back to the safety of the hall.
"I got three of 'em!" he said, grinning widely. "I just gotta keep this up and we'll have 'em all gone before you know it." He fired another blast around the corner quickly before running off.

Were Rar capable of sighing, he would have. Instead, he was forced to retreat with the farmer, firing lasers at his pursuers whenever he had the opportunity.


The communications room was well-guarded, but that was of little consequence when six out of eight guards suddenly side with the intruder and promptly execute the other two for disobeying their mother.
One of Ajota's new children used his ID card to disable the ship's entire network, while another activated a holo-map in the corner of the room.
Ajota walked over to the map and looked over it.
this ship is unsuitable Ajota thought to her family. we must leave this planet in a ship more worthy of the greatest family in the universe.
She paused for a moment, lost in thought.
we will have to build our own ship, my children
She held her forelimb to the holo-map.
but it will need a power source
She left, and a number of her children followed obediently. No doubt the power core would be even better guarded than the communications room, but that merely meant the Soulmother's family would grow larger.


Sub-Vice Lieutenant Rus'th was nervous.
Specifically, he was nervous that the chain of command had gotten all the way down to him. Every other officer had either died or fled the ship, and none of the security teams were responding to his calls.
Worst of all, there were no more emergency transport pods.
He was actually relieved when the two humans and a dog charged into the bridge; at least they weren't something terrifying, like a cow.

"Hands where I can see 'em!" Jack shouted.
Rus'th complied wordlessly.
"Where are the rest of your men?" the sergeant asked.
"Idon'tknowI'velostcontactwitheveryonepleasedon'ts hootmeIjustwanttogetoutofhere" Rus'th babbled.
"Does he need a translator-thingy?" Daisy asked.
"Nah, he's just scared outta his wits," Jack said calmly. "Take that blaster out of his pocket, Daisy. And don't you try anythin' funny when she does!"
Rus'th just stood very still as Daisy removed his only weapon. He didn't think there was anything he could find funny under these circumstances.

As Daisy stepped away and trained her weapon on the prisoner, Jack's attention was drawn to the viewscreen and the battle going on outside. It seemed the alien ships were fighting - and losing to - another army made out of... food?
"What the hell's going on out there?" he asked, turning to Sub-Vice Lieutenant Rus'th.
"Can you please slow down?" Daisy asked, exasperated. Rus'th took a deep breath.
"We're under attack by those meat-ships. I haven't got any idea who's commanding them. All my superiors are missing, communications aren't working, ohgodohgodI'mgoingtodieaugh"
And then he fainted.
"Better grab him, Daisy," Jack said. "I don't know who these food guys are, but I doubt they're any friendlier than these aliens. And I'm not gonna let either of 'em smash up this town."
He sat down in the control chair.
"I'm gonna get this thing moving and take out that big burger. Looks to me like that's their command center. And then we grab Zeke and Quoun and get out of here."
"I like the part where we get out of here. But weren't those two going to take out the ship's power? That's probably not going to help us get closer."
Jack cursed, too quietly for a lady to hear.
"And that guy said communications are down. Guess you'd better give them a warning."
"What about you, Jack?"
Jack put on his most patriotic face.
"I have to make sure this ship stays on course for as long as I can."
"But you could die!"
"Daisy, from the day I put on this uniform, I knew that one day I might have to give my life for my country." He smiled slightly. "But don't worry too much; I'm not gonna let today be that day if I can help it. Just get yourselves to safety, I'll take care of myself."
Daisy nodded, a hint of tears in her eyes, and ran off. Jack set the ship moving forward, and pressed every button he could find that looked like it might control a weapon.


Gormand was worried. The alien mothership was charging right through his forces, and headed straight for the burgerbase. He didn't think he could move the vessel fast enough to get out of the way, and even if he could, the mothership was firing every weapon in its arsenal. It was time for a strategic withdrawal; perhaps he could find another base. Or at least some way of killing Ekelhaft. He gave the burger some basic defense commands just in case, and then left his seat.

As he scurried out of the control room, he found a badly broken coffee mug slowly hopping towards him. Its handle had been broken, and there were two fist-sized holes in its front.
"Ugh," Jimmy grumbled. "Running low on coffee. Not feeling too great. You can fix me, right?"

Gormand groaned.
"I'm afraid I don't have time," he said, pushing Jimmy aside with a pair of noodles. "On the bright side, though, I'm sure you'll be able to get an excellent story about the collision between the alien mothership and this schoolhouse."
And Gormand slipped away from the motherburger, not even glancing back.

If the meatball had been able to spare the time to think, he might have considered three facts.

The first was that, strictly speaking, his command center was operable by anyone else made of food, provided they had the intelligence to issue actual commands.
The second was that the motherburger was currently sloped so that the command center was downhill from here.
The third was that there was a coffee shop that Gormand had overlooked in his food-hoarding spree.


Albert Smith's body was distinct enough from Ziirphael's last host that Hoss was unable to make the connection. All he saw was an undead abomination.
Likewise, Hoss' new form was unrecognizable to Ziirphael. All he saw was another worthless, insignificant human.
And then they both saw Ekelhaft crawling towards them. It had taken the ill-advised choice of going straight through a spatial distortion; this made its movements across the crater much slower than they would be normally, until finally it slowed so much that it might as well have stopped.
Both Ziirphael and Hoss had the same immediate thought: Ekelhaft was vulnerable. If they could just find a suitable weapon to strike it with before it escaped or the anomaly dissipated, they could destroy the blob for good.
However, they were not so united on their follow-up thoughts; Ziir's main concern was ensuring the human was not an unnecessary distraction, and Hoss' was ensuring that the zombie didn't kill him before he could finish Ekelhaft.

Hoss' memories were a fraction of what they had once been, but they did contain critical information on zombies; first, that zombies were generally slow and lumbering, and second, that the best way to deal with them was firing a shotgun at their head. Magic was an option, but his last experiment had convinced him that it was one to be avoided for the moment; surely he could find weaponry nearby if he simply ran fast enough.

And so he fled to the nearest building, which just happened to be a coffee shop.


Zeke had no idea where he was running, and frankly, Konka was hardly concerned with the farmer at this point. His primary concern was acquiring the power core.
It then occurred to him that Zeke's clumsy efforts had drawn a number of the guards away from their posts. Perhaps he could work with this.
Zeke turned back and fired another shot, and Konka fired off one of his own shortly after. As they ran down the next hallway, Konka decided it would be more effective if he sold his temporary ally on the plan - there simply wasn't time to kill him, ensure he was dead, and reanimate his corpse, after all. Besides, live humans tended to run faster.
"I believe I may be able to disable the power core, if you can keep these guards occupied."
"No way!" Zeke snapped. "I ain't lettin' you out of my sight!"
Konka almost wished he could sigh.
"Well, if you would prefer, I could divert their attention while you disable the uranonitrodimite power core."
Zeke paused.
"How do I do that?" he asked.
Konka didn't need to get further with his nonsensical explanation than "disencalibrate the thermodynamoid octoprocessor" before Zeke sighed and gave in.
"All right, fine! You do it if you understand the damn thing so well! But if you try anythin' funny, I'm warnin' you..."
"Your assistance is greatly appreciated, Ezekiel Jones. If all goes well and I am able to return to my homeworld, I will tell my people of you."
Despite his wariness, Zeke felt flattered.
"Well, uh... that's mighty kind of you Quoun, but, uh..." He paused. "Look, just get that urnodiniter or whatever already!"
Konka Rar left, making an exaggerated gesture as he did.
"May the Great Knargalath watch over you, Ezekiel Jones."
"Yeah, yeah, you too," Zeke grumbled, before running down another hallway.


Jack was puzzled. The strange army had, at first, tried to slow down his advance towards the burgership... but then, suddenly, they'd broken off and changed direction, and the burger seemed to be following them, although slowly.
Was it not their main base after all? Why wouldn't they prioritize fending off an attack if it was?
Jack didn't like it. But on the other hand, they'd stopped firing entirely. And he wasn't the type to keep shooting when the enemy had stopped first.
He stopped his charge and decided to simply follow the strange armada, at least for now. If he was going out in a blaze of glory today, it could wait another half-hour or so.


Ajota did not smile as the guards allowed her past. But she would have if she were capable of it.
As she entered the ship's power station, she very politely asked a technician to open up the energy chamber and retrieve the core for her.
He was only too happy to oblige. After all, she was the Soulmother, and he had to please her.


At first, Ziirphael considered simply letting the human run; after all, his primary concern was dealing with Ekelhaft.
On the other hand, there was the matter of the explosion which had drawn him here in the first place, and of course the strange aftereffects it was having on the madgod now trapped in the zone it was in. What had caused it?
Whatever it was, two things were clear. First, that it had the potential to destroy Ekelhaft; and second, that the strange human was the only potential witness he knew of.
Ziir ran towards the coffee shop. It seemed that a quick interrogation was in order.


Daisy sighed as she crawled out of the access tunnel, and pulled Rover out after her. Why couldn't things ever be simple?
Then she saw a farmer running straight towards her, looking over his shoulder.
"Zeke!" Daisy shouted as he drew nearer. "What are you doing? Where's Quoun?"
"He went ahead to discombobulate the whatever-thingy," Zeke said. "I'm keepin' the guards busy while he does that."
"But Jack's got control of the ship! And there's some other aliens out there he needs to fight! If he powers this thing down, we'll be sunk!"
"Dammit!" Zeke grumbled, firing down the hallway again. "Guess we gotta find him." He paused.
", uh, wouldn't happen to remember where he said the power doohicky was, do you?"
Daisy sighed. She tucked a note into Rover's collar, then climbed back into the tunnel.
"Rover, find Quoun. You should have his scent, right?"
Rover barked, and ran off.
"Come on, Zeke!" Daisy said, climbing further in. "We'll be safer back in the command center. I know the way there."
Zeke fired two shots down the hall, and then followed her in.


Gormand was slightly worried about the fact that his final orders to his forces weren't being carried out, but this concern was greatly reduced by the fact that the alien mothership wasn't attacking either. He briefly considered retaking control, but that seemed pointless; he'd already taken down most of the alien fleet, and their remaining craft seemed in disarray. Besides, the original plan had been to use their technology against Ekelhaft; perhaps he could still do so. They would either be more open to negotiation, or easier to overpower.

Gormand hopped on a milkshake as it rocketed past and assumed manual control of it, flying for the largest and least-damaged alien ship he could see. Negotations first, perhaps claiming to be a mere envoy as opposed to the commander of his forces; then if that failed, he could resort to force.

Meanwhile, on the Shrik'aan, Commander Las'healt was irritated. The mothership's communications grid had just gone down, and the Shrik'aan's technicians expected another ten to thirty minutes before their own ship's communication system was properly linked to the rest of the fleet. In the meantime, the remaining men under his command seemed confused, unable to process either what their probably-doomed flagship was doing or why, exactly, their enemies had suddenly withdrawn despite holding the advantage.

Granted, Las'healt had no explanation either, but he was in command, dammit, and they needed to respect that, rather than running around like Thularian Groanfowls with their heads cut off. He was fairly sure this was the time for an inspiring speech, but with comms down, he couldn't even do that. And the engineers, in their brilliance, had to shut down the Shrik'aan's internal comms to set up the new system, so he couldn't even call everyone on his own ship together.

And where the hell was the radar operator? If this whole mess was just a diversion for a surprise attack, they'd be vulnerable now. But no one was at the radar, and not one officer he could find had the proper training to use it.

He slightly regretted choosing the Shrik'aan as the new base of operations; granted, it was the most undamaged ship, but it was also the largest aside from the mothership itself. Which made it a noticeable target. Perhaps in all this mess, he could take a transport shuttle and quietly commander one of the smaller fighters, and then nobody would notice if he left the battlefield entirely...

That seemed reasonable. More reasonable than staying here waiting for things to get worse. He told the Shrik'aan's captain to assume command of the ship while he searched for the radar operator, and slipped away to the hangar. He selected the most durable and fastest shuttlecraft, and opened the bay doors as he prepared to take off.

Unfortunately, he had also provided Gormand with an opportunity to enter the Shrik'aan, and his shuttle was now on a collision course with a milkshake. Instinctively, he ejected out.

He had just enough time to recall the safety lecture about not ejecting inside a ship before he learned firsthand that his body was nowhere near as durable as either the seat he was in or the ceiling he was headed towards.

Gormand, for his part, was better prepared by virtue of the fact that he was on the outside of his vehicle; he simply hopped off, and had just enough time to watch the ensuing explosion cover the hangar with milkshake residue.


The power chamber finally opened, exposing the core. Ajota gazed on it with delight.
it is beautiful she thought to the technician. i am so proud of you, my child
She held the core in her forelimbs and removed it from the power chamber.
now we must leave this ship
find more children to bring with us
and build our grand vessel for our journey home
it will be glorious

Her thoughts were suddenly interrupted by violent sounds outside the room.

Konka Rar had initially been surprised by the sheer number of guards around the power core, but a closer inspection with his cybernetic eye revealed the even more surprising fact that most of them were actually humans. Or at least, most of the ones that weren't cows.
More importantly, only a small portion of the masses gathered around the central reactor were actually armed. As such, it was unlikely that his preparations would be interrupted from this distance.
A small whirlwind surrounded him, then it picked up speed and began moving forward. With intense concentration, Konka Rar guided it towards the central power room, ignoring everyone in his path.
He halted the spell once he reached the reactor itself; there was no need to risk damage to the power core, after all, and he knew so little about it.
And then he saw the crowd inside, gathered around an ant woman. She was holding a glowing sphere; a glance at the empty round recess in the nearby machinery suggested it was the power core he was after.
Why she had it was irrelevant to him; she was merely another obstacle in his way. He raised his cybernetic arm to fire...
The voice surprised Rar, and distracted him long enough for a Ska'van guard to grab his arm and direct his laser through the ceiling. The lich recovered quickly, however, and knocked the alien away with a well-placed staff strike.
He turned back to the ant creature, only to see an angry human standing in front of her.
"Your crimes against the Soulmother and her family are unforgiveable," said the human. "Surrender now, and Soulmother Ajota will grant you the small mercy of a quick death. It is far more than a murderer such as you deserves."
Rar rushed forward and grabbed him by the throat with his cybernetic arm.
"Konka Rar surrenders to no one, fool. I neither know nor care who this 'Soulmother Ajota' of yours is. I have simply come for the power core."
He flung the human aside and took another few steps forward, advancing on the ant.
"And if your 'Soulmother' hands it over quietly, then there need not be any more blood shed here today."
The gathered crowd of humans, Ska'vans, assorted other aliens, and cows drew closer, the swifter among them rushing to Ajota's defense as she scurried to safety.
yes my children, protect me
this monster has cruelly slaughtered your brothers and sisters
and he shows not the slightest hint of remorse
he will pay with his life

Konka Rar was unconcerned.
"So you oppose me, then. An unwise decision."
A dark aura surrounded the lich's staff as he spoke.
"Perhaps if you're fortunate, you'll have an entire minute to regret that choice."


Sergeant Jack Nelson was mildly surprised by the laser beam that fired up through the floor and struck Sub-Vice Lieutenant Rus'th in his primary heart. He would have been more surprised if it weren't for what he was seeing on the ship's viewscreen at that very moment.
The enemy forces had stopped around a small, unassuming coffee shop, and the airborne units were landing.
Jack couldn't help but wonder - had these aliens brought an entire military unit to Earth just for a cup of coffee?
And then he saw them lift the entire shop out of the ground, and fly back towards the motherburger.
"Wonder if I'm drunk," Jack muttered to himself.

Gormand was less unsettled by the sight, and not just because those were technically his forces. Frankly, he reasoned that it wasn't his concern now. The captain of the Shrik'aan had been skeptical of his talk about a powerful enemy that threatened them both, but strangling him to death with a noodle had been enough to gain the rest of the crew's cooperation. That was fortunate; Gormand hadn't been looking forward to operating an entire warship by himself.
It was also fortunate that the Ska'vans had a wide variety of detection systems. They might not have had an Insane Avatar Of Entropy scan setting per se, but running an Entropic Anomaly scan and an Antimagic Singularity scan simultaneously amounted to about the same thing.
It was an odd coincidence that Gormand's armada had been in the area, but he also regarded it as irrelevant.
"Sir! The creature appears to be trapped in a spatiotemporal distortion," said the First Officer, who had been the Second Officer about three minutes ago. "I don't think it can move right now, but on the other hand, our weapons will be affected by the same field. They probably won't strike until the field collapses."
"Can you collapse the field?" Gormand asked.
"Um... I don't really know much about spatiotemporal distortions, sir."
Gormand's one eye narrowed.
"Then find me someone who does."
A nervous voice spoke up.
"Um, I think if we generate a protonic reversal field, that might do the trick? But it'll take a few minutes."
Gormand rubbed two noodly appendages together eagerly.
"Get on it. And fire on that distortion. I want that blob destroyed, or at least close to it, the instant that's possible."
"Sir, um, if we do that our weaponry might trigger a protonic distortion field failure, which could potentially lead to an accelerating disentropic cascade..."
"Will that destroy the blob?"
"Well, yes..."
"Works for me. Do it."
The technician sighed.
"Yes, sir. Preparing weaponry."
Missiles, lasers, and bomb-drones were all unleashed on Ekelhaft, and froze in place as they entered the distortion. Gormand was pleased; soon, that accursed blob would be no more. All he needed was the protonic reversal whatever to go off.
Then the ship shook violently.
"What was that?" Gormand shouted.
"We're under attack, sir!" the First Officer shouted. He pressed a button. "Displaying attacker on main viewscreen."
The image of Ekelhaft bombarded with a ridiculous array of weaponry suddenly shifted to a view of a very large ship, familiar to everyone on board.
"It's the mothership!" the First Officer screamed. "Have they gone rogue? Who's even in charge over there now?"
"Urgh. Well, shoot them down, then!"
"Sir, if we do that, I'll have to delay deploying the proton reversal field..."
"Urgh. Why does everything around here have to be so complicated?" Gormand grumbled. "Just do whatever you have to do so we don't blow up before that blob does!"
Suddenly, the viewscreen went dark, and the ship shook again.
"We're surrounded!" shouted the Third Officer (who was slightly bitter about not technically being promoted yet but had decided it was better to keep his mouth shut). "Unidentified forces appear to be, um, dragging the Shrik'aan along with them?"
"Probably mine," Gormand sighed. "So, do you guys happen to like coffee?"

Jack didn't have any idea what was going on, and that worried him. First the other alien ship had fired at an empty patch of ground that already had an enormous crater on it, and despite that, there hadn't been an explosion. And then the food-aliens had flown right past it with their new trophy, and were now dragging both ship and shop towards the burger-base.
A warning light told him the ship was low on power. Quoun and Zeke must have taken out the reactor before Daisy could warn them; but it seemed there were still reserves.
And then he saw the ships fly into the burger, and it started growing bigger. Jack looked at the rapidly-draining power, and the caffeine-enhanced monstrosity before him, and made his decision.
The ship charged forward at full speed.

Back when the Ska'van mothership had been decided, her engineers decided it would be most efficient to fuel the intertial dampeners in the power chamber directly from the power core. If the ship needed to run on reserves, they reasoned, there would be no need to attend to the power station, so why waste valuable energy on safety features in there?
The ultimate result of this decision was that Ajota and her children were flung around the room, just as Konka Rar completed his spell.
"ERADICATION!" he shouted.
Waves of darkness flew out from his staff and struck the scattered children of Ajota, killing many outright. It also had the convenient side effect of holding the staff airborne for the spell's duration; by clinging to his weapon, Rar was able to hold his ground, and spotted Ajota.
He carefully prepared a quick levitation spell to avoid an unpleasant fall, and floated towards the ant-woman. The power core would be his.
"Arf! Arf!"
Just as rar neared his prone target, Rover ran into the room, and excitedly grabbed the lich's leg. Rather than floating gracefully towards the Soulmother, Konka Rar was instead sent flying into her.
He was shaken for a moment, and still had the irritating dog biting his leg, but he soon regained his senses and grabbed the power core. He could feel the magic within it, and he began channeling its power into his own body.
But unfortunately, Ajota recovered from the collision a moment after he did. She started pulling on the core, disrupting Rar's concentration.
He tried to right himself. The dog was primarily a diversion; it was unlikely to actually dislodge his leg. The power core was more important. He needed it.
He struck Ajote with his staff as his cybernetic arm held firmly onto the core. She responded by grabbing at his bone arm with her mandibles.
And then the crash came.

Hoss had not entirely gathered his wits yet. All he knew was that a zombie was chasing him, he had no conventional weapons, and the coffee shop had been lifted into the air with both of them in it.
Then the crash came, and he noticed the meaty texture of the burger outside the front door.
He wasn't entirely certain why, but it was clear that Gormand had come to his aid, although most likely unintentionally. Deciding that the meatball would, at the very least, be interested in news of Ekelhaft's vulnerability, he dashed for the door and into the burgership.
Ziir, meanwhile, ran through a hole in the wall that a saltshaker had created near the coffee machines. He was similarly eager to inform Gormand of the opportunity to strike their greatest foe - even if the death god now had other plans after the creature's destruction. The human was insignificant now.
Both of them were surprised when they reached the cockpit, only to find a coffee cup in the pilot's seat instead of a meatball.
"Hey... guys..." Jimmy said with a weak laugh. "Gimme... a sec... need... coffee..."
Ziir sighed. Wonderful, either Gormand had developed a severe coffee addiction, or he had lost control of his army. In either case, it seemed he was out of options, and he advanced towards the human.
Hoss found himself desperate. He still didn't have a weapon, his magic was still unpredictable, and the zombie was almost upon him.
He either needed to take his chances with a spell, or pray for a miracle.
Said miracle came in the form of a gun turret popping out of the meat beneath Ziirphael's feet and knocking him to the ground.

"Preparations ready! Proton reversal field primed, and target locked on!" the technician shouted. "There's a lot of meat in the way, but, uh, we've got the turret outside. We'll have it activated on your command."
"Make it so," Gormand replied. He was getting bored with this.

The Shrik'aan's turret was glowing oddly, but Hoss didn't particularly care. All he knew was that there was a zombie he needed to get rid of, and a large cup of coffee that he thought he had killed.
With a sudden burst of adrenaline, he lifted the confused Ziirphael and flung him into Jimmy Chase, just moments before the fry-drones activated every coffee machine in the shop and poured it into their weakened commander.

The proton reversal field struck the dimensional anomaly. Ekelhaft had only a moment to process the weapons headed its way. It couldn't possibly react in time.
But during that very instant, it was teleported away as Albert Smith's body was disintegrated by gallons of scalding hot coffee, taking Ziirphael with it.
At the same time, Gormand vanished from the bridge of the Shrik'aan, Hoss vanished from the cockpit of the motherburger without realizing what he had just done, and Konka Rar vanished from the power room on the Ska'van mothership.
As did Ajota the Soulmother, locked in combat with him over the power core, and Rover, still clinging eagerly to the lich's bony leg.

Re: The Savage Brawl [Round 4: Small 50s Town]
Originally posted on MSPA by MalkyTop.

Deep within a cluttered dimension, the Cultivator examined a Chinese finger trap. This particular finger trap was stuck firmly to her fingers. She pulled at it slightly and the trap tightened. After examining the way the weave moved as she pulled, the Cultivator scrawled down a few notes on a notepad that would soon be buried and forgotten forever.

Suddenly, she looked up, a lack of sound having caught her attention. The Cultivator casually swiveled around in her chair to see the imposing figure of the Composer. While the Composer mostly stared at others with stern haughtiness, she seemed to stare down at the Cultivator with…deference. A slight deference, in any case.

“Hi, Posey!” The Cultivator chirruped. The Composer did not even twitch. She continued to stare silently down as the long-haired grandmaster continued pulling at the finger trap. “How’s life, the universe, and stuff treating ya?”

“I am fine,” the Composer replied, brushing past the swivel chair to bring up several alert messages that had been flashing on the multi-screen computer the whole time. “I came to see how you were doing.”

The Cultivator didn’t even have the decency to look ashamed. Instead, she held up the finger trap that clutched her fingers so tight with pride. “Lookit this! I’m trying to figure out stuff about the weave, ‘cause I’m pretty sure that’s what makes it tighter when you pull, but—“

The finger trap disappeared and the Cultivator stared at the empty space, slightly disappointed. “Pooosseey, that’s not niiiiice.”

“I want to talk seriously, Cultivator.”

“You can talk seriously! But wait, you haven’t been here for a while, I wanna show you this thing I learned—“

“I’m sorry, Cultivator, but it will have to wait until later. There are more important things to talk about.”

And finally, the Cultivator dropped her silly grin. “Yeah. Uh. I guess.”

The Composer raised a flourished arm to gesture at the many screens.
“You do realize that you are not attending to your battle as much as you should, correct?”

The Cultivator shifted guiltily in her chair. “Yeah. I guess.”

“In fact, I do believe you even attempted to pass your battle on to a lowly machine. Finally, the disdain and loathing the Composer was well-known for showed itself. She almost spat out the last word.

“Posey,” The Cultivator interjected, managing to make the nickname sound rather stern. “Manny’s not a bad guy.”

And with that, the Composer backed down.
“Excuse me. It still does not change the fact that you shouldn’t have given your battle to that—the Monitor.”

“Yeah, I know,” the Cultivator sighed, spinning forlornly in her chair. “I guess I just panicked? I mean, the thing was done so fast and I didn’t really have anything prepared.” As the Composer watched, she couldn’t help but note that this was the most adult the Cultivator had ever seemed. Regret. An acknowledgement of her mistake.

And then she ruined that image by leaning back in her chair like a dead fish and moaning, “I just don’t wanna do this anymoooooorrre.”

“But you must,” the Composer urged. “You have a responsibility.”

“I knoooooooow,” she replied, accenting her whine with a spin of her chair. “But it’s haaaaaard.”

The Composer was about to say something else but she stopped herself, realizing that responding would just make the conversation continue on in a circle that she did not want to tread. So instead, she stepped aside and thought. She thought about how to handle a child.

She hated children.

The Cultivator was already fiddling with the finger trap again.

She thought about all the alarms and bells and whistles and she thought about what was almost certain to happen quite soon.
“Is that another pile of trinkets added to your overall collection?” The Composer suddenly said, pointing at random.

“Yeah, it is.” The Cultivator beamed. Apparently, she had thought nobody would notice. Which was true. “Hey, I can show you all this stuff and stuff!”

“No need, I can find my way there myself. I will be sure to ask if I need a tour.” And the Composer was gone, sort of. She was unshakably there, or at least there was an aura of there-ness that smelled of her, but she was away too. The Composer’s there-ness left a clear trail.

The Cultivator rose halfway out of her seat to show her guest around anyways, then decided against it, figuring that Posey was already a grumpyface already, she didn’t need her host suddenly getting in the way or anything. And she toyed with the finger trap.

And alarms and bells and whistles started ringing.

Certain events played out that had been described before and, having taken care of that, the Cultivator came back home in a Mood, crumpling a yellow note in her hand. The Composer was there.

“Is there something wrong?” the guest said politely, though she knew what was wrong.

“Butting into things! I had a guest!” she fumed. Even angry, the Cultivator didn’t seem entirely serious. “That was really rude! Totally embarrassing!”

“But of course, you know that to prevent these sort of things, you have to take better care of your battles.”

“I’ll take better care of someone, alright…”

“Focus on the first problem,” the Composer said in the most consoling and calming tone she could muster. At the same time, she was somewhat amazed to find the Cultivator actually muttering and puzzled over whether the muttering was actually threatening in any way. “The Savage Brawl must be properly managed by its proper mistress.”

The Cultivator seemed to deflate and at first, the Composer thought she would collapse and whine again. But, happy surprise, she said, “Yeah, I know.”

“I would be happy to lend my help--“ the Composer stumbled a bit in surprise, but only once, “—anything you need.” As she had hoped, the Cultivator didn’t notice.

“Yeah,” she replied glumly. “Can’t say I know how to keep out pesky Ghosts.”

“I was actually talking more of your contestants.”

The Cultivator took the time to raise an eyebrow at her friend. “You don’t think I can handle my contestants?”

Had she been a less domineering individual, the Composer might have taken a deep breath before continuing. Yes, there had been many reasons for this visit, but this was the heart of it…

“I’m worried.”

The Cultivator waved a hand around. “Don’t be. If anything, I can at least handle them.

The Composer nodded.
“Still. I am. It’s hard to hear them darkly mutter and plot your downfall while you do nothing in response.”

“Plot?” the Cultivator repeated, brightening a little. She didn’t even know. Of course. The Composer had expected this, but really, it didn’t make it less frustrating. The Cultivator waved her hand again. “Oh come on, plotting’s part of what these things’re all about, right? They’re angry, they want to get back at me, they plot, they fail…”

It really was amazing that, despite her natural curiosity, she couldn’t even keep up with recent news. The Composer bit back a contradiction. Instead, she said:
“One of them was trying to possess you.”

The long-haired woman’s response was, “Cool.” The Composer didn’t see it her way. “So which one was that?”

The Composer glanced at the screen.
“I believe he has just died by coffee.”

“What? Oh darn. Oh well. I guess that means I have to get back to work then!” she laughed. “So thanks a lot, Posey, really. I mean, you’re really busy, aren’t you? I’m really flattered you came. It’s always good to see you, y’know?”

“I’m not leaving yet. I want to make sure you have your next rounds prepared.”

The Cultivator’s face dropped. “Oh.”


The scene shifted. The ruined suburb rebuilt itself, then grew taller and sprawled wider across the surrounding land. There was a sudden increase in concrete and a sudden decrease in plant life. The city shone dully with metal and glass, crowding and piercing the sky, while the streets seemed to grow almost claustrophobic, despite the lack of people around.

The city was definitely rather hi-tech, or at least it had the air of hi-techiness all about it. There were visible cameras lining the streets and drab revolving posters listing the ways to spot criminals and the places to report them. Others listed various reminders of rules and mandatory inspections.

“Okay, right, hi again, it’s me. So, let’s see…this is, Battl – oh no, um, I mean…Grandtopia. Yeah, let’s go with that. It’s not quite a free country here in Grandtopia because, um, it’s not a country. It’s obviously smaller than that. The point is, it’s a total police state. Police city? Dystopia. Right now, worth noting, curfew hasn’t quite ended yet. I mean, it will, in like a short while, just beware of the curfew enforcers. In that short while.

“Interesting thing about this place, though, is that all the inhabitants are from other battles! Hm, wait, did I tell you about other battles already? Or did you all figure that out? Hm. I forgot. I guess if you didn’t know, then surprise? But yeah, they aren’t the actual people from other battles, just copies and stuff. You can go hang out with them. Or kill them.

“Hm…Grandtopia actually kinda sounds stupid…maybe…Battletopia? That sounds better, yeah.

“Okay is there anything else I need to say? I guess if there is, I’ll tell you later.”


“Isn’t this just Battleopolis? Again?”

The Cultivator failed to wilt under the Composer’s gaze. “Hey, it was really short notice, I can be lazy if I didn’t have much time, can’t I? Besides, I totally changed things. It’s different. It’s called Battletopia.”

“Also, you have accidentally also transported two beings unrelated to the battle.”

The Cultivator blinked before leaning forward and pressing an intercom button. “Also there’s a new contestant who isssssss…”

“Soulmother Ajota,” she sighed.

“Soulmother Ajota! Yes. And also…”

The Composer rubbed her forehead.
“A dog.”

“A dog? Really? Okay dogs don’t count, never mind that. So play nice, haha. That was a joke. Right, I’m gonna stop talking for real now.”

As the Cultivator leaned back in her chair triumphantly, her grandmasterly comrade continued to stare pointedly.

“Well? You do realize that now you must start planning out your next rounds, correct? I’m not going to allow you to procrastinate again.”

“Hey, I’m totally planning! This is my thinking pose. Leaning back. And swiveling around for a bit. Like this. It means I’m thinking.”

“Actually, before you…think too long, I believe you have another obligation to fulfill. Just so that you do not have to owe anything…”


The Monitor was somewhat surprised to be greeted at his desk by a large stack of plastic cases. Or rather, that he was there to greet a large stack of plastic cases that suddenly appeared at his desk. A short examination revealed all of them to be video games. Specifically, video games that he had believed to be lost forever, in a state of eternal borrowment. The robotic figure took down the first one of the stack and read the short note taped on the cover.

It said: ’From Culty with love.’



“Hm?” She looked up from her notebook. The Composer stared uncertainly to the side.

“If…if you were the victim of a wrong committed against you a long, long time ago and, say, just recently you’ve found out the perpetrator…what would you do?”

The Cultivator swiveled. “I mean, if it was a long, loooooong time ago, then why worry about it? Like, if you’re totally fine now, then no use thinking about things all the way back, right? It’s probably all worked out or something anyways.”

The Composer grimaced but said nothing else.

Re: The Savage Brawl [Round 5: Battletopia]
Originally posted on MSPA by Dragon Fogel.

"Alert! Alert! The battlers have arrived! I repeat, the battlers have arrived! The round has begun! All participants in the Savage Brawl are considered Class 1 offenders, and to be apprehended immediately. This is a state of full emergency. All squads, proceed to your designated arrival zones at once!"

Konka Rar barely had time to process the message before he found himself surrounded by at least a dozen armored troops, all aiming rifles at him. Nearby, a muscular old man dressed in a black uniform and a floating metal sphere about the size of a beachball appeared to be supervising the proceedings.

"I suggest you come along quietly," the old man said, holding up a shining sword. "We wouldn't want this to get ugly."

"Unfortunately for you, that isn't one of my concerns," the lich replied. He prepared to lift his cybernetic arm and fire on the bearded officer...

Only to discover that his arm would barely move, let alone fire. The aged man grinned and turned his head towards the floating sphere.

"Your cybernetics are currently being blocked by Sergeant Lucky VII here. And all our weapons have been blessed with holy energy. Any attempt to resist will be met with force..."

There was a pause, as a device on the man's wrist beeped. He glanced at it quickly, and then shouted.

"He's readying a spell! Everyone attack!"

Konka Rar screamed as the soldiers fired beams of blessed light from their rifles, and the old man sliced his arms off for good measure. The army lifted him up, and the sphere floated along behind them.

"Target neutralized," he said. He pressed a button on his wrist device. "Thanks for the warning, Sarika. We've got him now."

Konka was shocked at the swiftness of his capture. How had they been so prepared for him? It was as if they had known he was coming.


If Konka Rar had been surprised at the degree to which the locals were ready for his arrival, Hoss was positively shocked.

He had fled as soon as he heard the announcement, not to mention the gunshots, but soon found himself at the end of an alleyway, with a good three dozen soldiers standing between him and the only exit.

And standing in front of them was a man wearing a black uniform who appeared to be made of a strange green crystal.

"Hold fire for now," he said to his troops, before turning to their target. "You look different somehow in this iteration, Hand of Silver. Did you get a new haircut, perhaps?"

Re: The Savage Brawl [Round 5: Battletopia]
Originally posted on MSPA by SleepingOrange.

It had been... Glorious. How could mere words describe the elation? From the beginning of the Savage Brawl, Ekelhaft had enjoyed itself immensely, viscerally, even carnally. The destruction and chaos it had sown was satisfying on a level it hadn't been able to achieve in countless ages. But even all that had paled into forgetability the instant Jedesburg had materialized. So many lives to cut short, so much blood and bone to drink in, so much flesh and eventually mana to bolster a body that had been ravaged by old time and new war. So many buildings to crush, so much scenery to tear through.

Truly, truly glorious.

Ekelhaft had amused itself unto near mindlessness for... How long had it been? It didn't matter. It had long since – ha! – moved past the need for measuring time. Now, all that mattered was the moment. Even its hatred of and homicidal plans towards the cyborg were deferred. Its death would come, and Ekelhaft would be the one to deal it, certainly, but not now. Now, it was time to kill, which it did enthusiastically, methodically, and without remorse. Every soul it tore from a body strengthened the long-emaciated ooze, and every pound of corpse it consumed doubled that.

As it had torn through the town, unknowingly coming closer to Hoss's location, it had gotten harder and harder to find targets. Partially because it had killed to many so quickly that it was running out, and doubtless partially because the other gnats it was battling were taking their own toll. But mostly, it seemed that the appearance of great saucers in the sky and the subsequent meaty counterattack were taking their toll on the population and sending survivors fleeing. They didn't concern Ekelhaft unduly; they were up there and it was down here. What could it do? It let them skirmish above, quietly relishing the devastation they were causing like a craftsman impressed by a talented pupil, and concentrated on extirpating the taint of life from the surface.

But, as time went on, kills became even scarcer than they already had. It was to be expected, of course, but it was still disappointing. Eventually, it was spending more time devouring the corpses left by other marauders than creating fresh ones for itself. Still, it wasn't going to complain about a ready source of raw material; by now, the bathtubful of noisome green had transformed into something that could reasonably displace a suburban swimming pool's contents. Even as it rankled at the act of creation, it relished its increased destructive potential, and continued its search for targets and meals.

And then, it found them. They had changed, both, but a thousand eyes still saw them for what they were. They didn't even seem to recognize each other, but it certainly did. Ziirphael was forgettable, an easy target for a later date, but the fact that Hoss had presented himself and was so seemingly vulnerable thrilled the ancient psychopath. Not stopping to examine now that his quarry was so obligingly asking for death, Ekelhaft surged forward, salivating acid, and watched as




An endless moment surrounded the blob of malevolent intent; it couldn't move, which was absurd because of course it could it was moving right now. The awareness of its state, trapped in a distortion field, clashed with its perception of the moment as just a moment. It tried to blink with eyelids it didn't have, only to see the world buzz past at speeds that rendered events meaningless. Its vision crowded with the appearance of dark shapes and bright blasts, then the field vanished and Ekelhaft was left facing down artillery that would reduce it to atomic ash. And then it disappeared.


It had been... Unbearable. How could mere words describe the frustration? From the beginning of Self's conscious existence, it had experienced one setback and annoyance after another. The lich had proved an adequate source of entertainment and a better one of spare mana – at least before Hoss's unintentionally created burst – right up until it had become impossible to follow him. Or Ziirphael. And Self was left alone and small, too unthreatening to menace a hound and too slow to find another target.

At least, it had thought so. Eventually, its wanderings had lead it to a much more satisfying situation, but predictably those had been wrenched away from it again before it had a chance to really savor it. Self seemed to be in control of absolutely nothing, and was threatening to collapse back into the ennui-riddled stupor that had consumed it back when it had been Ekelhaft on an empty, dead planet. It idly hoped, in the brief moments between disappearance and transfer, that the next round would show it if not kindness then at least opportunity.


The broadcast hadn't blared across Battletopia yet, but frankly it was more a reminder to civilians than a call to arms. Kracht's information had already predicted that it would be today that the contestants in the Savage Brawl would arrive, and every member of the city's ubiquitous police force slash militia was on duty and high alert. For most of the incoming targets, it was enough that their approximate location was known in advance with reasonable accuracy; even Hoss himself, the entire focus of the regime's efforts, was considered safe enough to work with some uncertainty. But one was so destructive and powerful – and, most saliently, so likely to potentially result in the death of a contestant other than Hoss – that there was simply no room for error, especially given the complex arrangements that would have to be made for its capture.

Of course, that contestant was Ekelhaft. Even in a universe the madgod had never before been – in its own timeline, at least – it had already made organized enemies.

To that end, Kracht had personally sent his chief diviner, Major Jungfrau, to coordinate the arrival of the most sensitive target. She'd spent the weeks prior to the big day carefully fine-tuning her predictions to determine with near-impossible precision exactly where and when Ekelhaft would appear. She knew her abilities would be utterly useless when the time actually did come, but she was still supervising the preparations, in part because she was a senior officer, and in part out of professional pride in her skill and contributions. And, of course, in part because she wanted to be on the front lines if she was wrong, so that it would be her life lost for her mistakes rather than an innocent who wasn't at fault.

Everything that was happening in front of her was... Mystifying. To her, at least. It was worlds apart from her knowledge and experience, and the exchanges going on between her underlings might as well have been in a foreign language for all that she understood.

"Exotic particle web in place, performing at capacity."

"Good. It's overlaying with the harmonic nullifier this time; I think you were right about the Hazaki interactions."

"I'm reading a potential instability at the northwest generator though. It's cycling between peak performance and near inactivity."

"Oh, apologies, that'll be me I suspect." An older man whose apparently-standard black uniform had been augmented with the addition of a matching top hat and facial hair that almost certainly violated military or police regulations in any universe he might visit strode over to the generator in question and tapped it a few times with his cane. "Superconductors are the bloody devil to work with. How's it looking now?"

There was a short pause. "Looks stable now. I'll let you know if it wavers again."

It kept going like that, troubleshooting and improvising solutions and erecting large, confusing machines. Major Jungfrau glanced at a timepiece and sighed; she dearly hoped they'd be finished in time – and from what she could tell this all looked like final touches – but bit back her tongue from encouraging them to speed up or reminding them of the schedule. They knew as well as she did how much time they had, and an interruption by someone with no technical expertise would probably just delay things further.

Instead, she nervously strode over to the large armored truck that would be transporting the whole setup to a more secure location after Ekelhaft was captured. The telltale sounds of ratcheting, banging, and swearing coming from under the hood made it fairly clear her driver wasn't ready to go either. At least, not to her own satisfaction. Jungfrau knocked on a tire and the mechanic rolled herself out from under the engine, looking irate.

"Look, grandma, I don't need to be reminded of the time every twenty seconds, and you don't need a status report that often either."

Jungfrau coughed. "I really don't think you should talk to me that way."

"Sorry, Major Grandma. Now can you get out of my hair or is this piece of crap gonna keel over on the way to the drop point and spill ancient evil all over the city?"

"Look, I understand that you're–"

"Then fire me or suspend me or whatever if you're gonna stand on protocol! If not, then I've got a solenoid that could really use some attention."

Without waiting for the disciplinary action that would never come, she kicked the concrete and rolled back under the vehicle.

It was hard to watch seconds tick away, taking minutes with them, knowing that you weren't quite ready for what was to come but not having any way to help prepare. Major Jungfrau dealt with it by running a few more minor auguries to confirm what she already knew and trying to stay out from under her subordinates' feet.

Finally, with only a handful of minutes remaining before the predicted arrival, one of the scientists broke off from the rest and got the major's attention.

"Yes, sergeant?"

"Everything's in place and working. If the information we got was accurate, this'll catch him or nothing will."

For the first time in days, Jungfrau smiled.

"Excellent, thank you. Thank you all."

Apparently feeling she had to say something before the big event went down, she stepped closer to the others and cleared her throat.

"I know you're all aware of everything that's at stake here, and the enormity of the task you were presented with. But I couldn't have asked for a more competent and inspiring group to work with, to work for, and I have nothing but confidence in your abilities. In moments, we'll finally see the fruition of our months of work, and I only wish I could ever reward you all with the recognition you'll deserve. On behalf of every person, human or otherwise, in this city, I thank you."

The man doing his best to look like Snidely Whipslash smiled. "Best not to count our chickens, eh major?"

The squid behind him rolled its eyes and waved a tentacle. "No real chance of failure. Instruments confirm functionality, portents ensure success."

An enormous sea-snake in a bubble of water made a restrained but dismissive gesture at the mention of portents, but nevertheless nodded. "I may not share Naamxe's level confidence, but I don't see too much going wrong."

The woman who had first approached Jungfrau wandered over to the truck; its mechanic was leaning against the door, chewing on something and doing her best to look bored.

"Everything okay, Pat?"

She shrugged. "Good enough. Be better if we'd gotten something that wasn't a pile of scrap on wheels. Or if I'd been able to take a look at it before the day of."


Another shrug. "But it'll do."

An alarm went off on everyone's person simultaneously. After a bit of group fumbling to shut it off, Jungfrau nodded.

"Alright, everyone, stations."

The serpent, the mechanic, and the major all withdrew to the truck, while the other three approached various consoles spread around what looked to Jungfrau like an inverted summoning circle made of machinery and cables.

"I thought you'd need to be at the helm yourself, Sergeant Nyoka."

She shook her head, watching the others closely. "No, I mostly just facilitated automation. I'm a cyberneticist, not a phycisist, you know that."

"Mmm. Sorry, it's all a bit muddled to me. I wish for your sakes there'd been a supervisor that was more familiar with the sciences that could have taken my place."

Pat smirked, but said nothing. After several tense seconds, a second alarm went off, and a moment after that the air in the center of all the machinery rippled. And exploded.

Naamxe yelled something that the three by the truck couldn't hear as a gash in space opened and a torrent of corpse-green slime gushed across the boundary between worlds. The scientists met it with a flurry of activity and shouted orders; several spindly metal towers began glowing briefly before belching out a translucent hemisphere of energy, followed by another dome materializing from a group of squatter devices. Electricity arced across machines and barriers, with the roaring of engines and generators and tortured matter nearly drowning out the operators' yelling. Ekelhaft railed briefly against the constantly-redoubling containment before the human woman mashed a button and, with a flash, time stopped within the domes.

Noise died gradually, leaving the multileveled barriers opacifying and the scientists sharing nervously-hopeful looks. They turned to Nyoka and nodded, and she rejoined them and tapped at a hitherto-unused display with her manipulators; several plates of steel sprang up from the ground, folding themselves into a tetrahedron and welding their edges together. The last whirs of machinery faded, save for the self-contained generators that would keep Ekelhaft's containment in place and functional while it was transported.

It had taken all of twenty seconds, and as the climax of long projects so often does, it felt anticlimactic and unsatisfying. It had, in all honesty, gone better than most of those present expected, but their work wasn't quite done yet.

Still, all that was left was a leisurely drive across the city.

"Alright," Jungfrau said, allowing herself a cautious beam. "Load it up."


From Ekelhaft's perspective, it must have been like being released from one cell to another, the cruel warden of Time giving it just a shred of hope before locking it away beyond eternity again. Self couldn't bring itself to care.

From its vantage point on the balcony of a nearby building, it watched its uncaring progenitor appear and be instantly locked away. Perhaps, then, the people below – who seemed to have been forewarned of Ekelhaft's arrival given their efficiency – would assume that the slime god was dealt with and harmless.

This suited Self just fine. It slithered off to find lives to end, targets to test the bulk it had gained in Jedesburg against.

Re: The Savage Brawl [Round 5: Battletopia]
Originally posted on MSPA by Ixcalibur.

There was something different about this place. The room that the Soulmother found herself in was small, slightly dingy, and decorated with white porcelain furniture and cream porcelain wall tiles. It was not this in particular that was unusual, aesthetically it resembled the excretory chambers of the Houmin of her old home world, but something about this world in its totality. It was not immediately obvious what it was that was different, nothing about this environment seemed so foreign as to elicit this sense of… distance. It took her a little while to realise what it was and while she was in this contemplation Rover stood guard at the doorway, poised to snarl threateningly at any potential threats that approached. Eventually Ajota realised it was the ‘silence’. Not silence in so much as the absence of sound but the absence of a sensation she’d never really noticed before, but which, it stood to reason had been there her entire life. It was sort of like the feeling you get when you know there is someone standing behind you, watching you. Sort of like distant whispers carried to you on the breeze. It was the presence of the Nakaja, not necessarily their presence somewhere close at hand, but their presence at all. And now it was gone.

Amongst her people Ajota was something of an exception. It was not as you might presume the fact that she cared for the lesser species she dominated, though that was definitely unusual, but her ambition. It was a rare trait amongst Nakaja almost by necessity; to want more than you had meant to infringe upon other Nakaja whether in the direct and immediate sense or by claiming an unpopulated planet for your own and thus rendering it uninhabitable for future generations. Ajota had never reached the point where she would find her ambition constricted by the barriers of her own kind and now she never would, and she knew it. Though she did not have enough information to really understand the situation she was in, it would be doubtful that she would be interested even if she did. Though it made her sad to think of her former family left behind, cut off from her heavenly influence, she had to think of the poor people of this universe, wracked with the torments of choice and the bitter pang of loneliness. If it were not for her fortuitous arrival they would never know happiness. And of course, it was an unprecedented opportunity, a chance to have the largest family ever known to her kind; a family that spanned an entire universe.


The overblown title sequence of the Battletopia News Program is displayed on every channel. Though technically it is breaking news it has been scheduled in the television listings for a couple of weeks now. When the titles end the image cuts to a glossy green set upon which stands a distinctly average looking man in a chartreuse pinstripe suit. His skin is pale, his hair is dark and immaculately styled, but it is his eyes that are the most striking thing about him. They are large and steel-grey and they seem to hold a certain intensity that it is difficult to take your eyes from once you look into them.

“Today heralded the arrival of the four remaining contestants of the Savage Brawl.” The newscaster said. “Though reports are sketchy at the moment it is expected that all four shall be soon collected with a minimum of fuss. We can confirm that amongst the four that have survived to this point in this iteration there is, as expected, the cyborg known as Hand of Silver.”

At this point the image of the studio and the oddly compelling newscaster was replaced with pencil drawings of seven of the battlers and one photograph of a holograph of Hand of Silver. These images were by now very familiar to the citizens of Battletopia. They were something that they had been expecting for a long time, a strange cross between a Most Wanted List and a sort of government endorsed fairy tale. More than one child in Battletopia had been coerced into doing their homework by the threat that Ekelhaft would eat them if they did not.

“It’s currently unknown which of the other contestants have survived this far in the current iteration. Be on the lookout for these individuals now more than ever and should you spot any of them do not forget the encounter protocol; keep your distance and call for a containment squad at your first opportunity.”

The image cuts back to the news studio where the newscaster has been joined by a spectral blue figure hunched over a heavy obsidian disc.

“We’re now joined by expert tactician Xadrez. Xadrez, obviously we all hope that the contestants will be contained by General Kracht’s forces as soon as possible, but if this proves to be impossible what might we expect from the contestants?”

Suddenly there was a crash from somewhere upstairs and Jordan near enough jumped out of his seat. Jordan Smith was not exactly the bravest person, in fact if you were to call him a coward he pretty much would have no recourse but to agree with you. His time spent in a battle had been nightmarish and when he had originally found himself in Battletopia he had been petrified that he was going to have to go through all that again. However rather fortunately for him, he thought, his particular skill (the ability to set fire to things with his mind) was already covered by more than a few members of Kracht’s army; his services were not required. He’d breathed a huge sigh of relief, and then got on with his life as if he’d never been brought into a battle in the first place.

He’d got himself a quiet job in an office, a nice apartment with a view of the park and after a while he’d met a girl and they’d just clicked. Her name was Aph and she was a nymph, a creature created from pure magic. They’d gone on a few dates and she’d been really easy to talk to, they’d gotten along so well. At some point they’d decided to move in together and well, here they were, as happy as can be. A couple of minutes after the crash from upstairs Aph hovered in from the kitchen, a delicious batch of cookies fresh from the oven in her hands. Jordan was stood anxiously by the doorway, staring up at the stairway with the phone in his hands.

“Jordan, baby, what’s wrong?” she asked, concern evident in her voice.

“Did you hear that?” he asked in response, his head snapping quickly around. Aph shook her head dumbly. “There’s something up there. I think we should call a for a containment squad.”

“It’s probably just your imagination.” Aph replied putting down the plate of cookies and hovering next to Jordan. She nestled close to him, gripped his shoulders and began to massage them. “These old houses creak and moan sometimes, that’s just a fact.” It was pretty clear that Jordan was not to be dissuaded. He squirmed nervously under her grasp and said he was going to call up a containment squad, just to be safe. “No, look, let’s just go up there. I promise you its fine.” Jordan protested and continued to try to argue for calling in a containment squad as he found himself being led upstairs.

There was a bark from up ahead and that was it. Jordan turned and ran, attempting to drag his girlfriend behind him.

“Jordan, wait.”

“No I’m out of here, I’m going.”

When she refused to budge he abandoned her, ran down the stairs, down the hall out the front door and half way down the street before he was even willing to pause for breath, and there with some degree of trepidation he called for a containment squad.

Aph was legitimately surprised that there was in fact something going on. The number of things that had sent Jordan into a panic since they had moved in together, well it was adorable, and ever so slightly embarrassing. But even so it was just a dog that had gotten into their house somehow. There was no need to overreact and go calling in the military to contain a lost dog. As she reached the top of the stairs her thoughts were interrupted by a weird alien ant lady emerging from the bathroom with an unusual metal sphere in her hands, and moments later those thoughts were evaporating, dissolving into nothingness, replaced with a feeling of love, of happiness, and of obedience to her new family, her new mother Ajota.
fyck phytybyckyt
Re: The Savage Brawl [Round 5: Battletopia]
Originally posted on MSPA by Dragon Fogel.

The alert blaring through the city never made it to Gormand's ear-analogues. This was because said ear-analogues, and the body they were attached to, were preoccupied with trying not to freeze to death underneath a heavy mound of snow.

With great difficulty, Gormand began to lift himself out of the pile. He quickly realized that the snow was magical in nature; if it were natural snow, it would trap heat underneath it. Instead, it was chilling him dangerously fast.

Upon digging himself out, Gormand found his hypothesis confirmed. A young man in a black uniform was deep in concentration, pointing his fingerless hands in Gormand's direction. It didn't take much thought to identify him as the ice mage responsible for this localized blizzard; the more curious question was why he was casting here, in what seemed to be an unassuming alleyway.

Judging by the youth's uniform, and the similar uniforms worn by the half-dozen figures behind him, this was some sort of military exercise. But to what end? What could possibly be in the middle of an alleyway that would justify military-grade magic?

Gormand had little time to mull over this before a woman with short black hair covering one eye pointed at him; her uniform suggested she was a higher rank, most likely commanding the group.

"He's breaking out!" she shouted, pulling out a staff. "John, give that spell more power! Everyone else, keep that meatball back until it's frozen!"

Oh, that explained it. They were here for him. He really shouldn't have been so surprised.

With great effort, Gormand pulled himself forward, hoping to grab the ice mage and interrupt his spell. At the same time, three of the soldiers stepped forward and began firing at him. Gormand closed his eye as he continued pressing forward; he simply needed to feel the mage in his noodly grasp to end this storm, and then he could deal with the rest.

Of course, this meant he never saw the arrival of a straw doll with dragons for arms. One of them held a water bottle in its jaws.

"Where have you been?" Sergeant Karen grumbled at the new arrival. "You were supposed to be backup!"

"I needed a water source," the red dragon-arm replied apologetically. "And when I found one, it was less than cooperative."

The blue arm glared at Karen expectantly.

"What are you looking at?" she said.

"I think she wants you to open the bottle. It's rather difficult for her, after all."

Karen sighed. She grabbed the bottle and opened it up; a massive torrent of water flew out of it, slamming her against the wall.

"You see? Uncooperative," Right said. "I'll take care of this."

He directed the wave of water in an arc, past the trio of space marines, over John Swift's head, and directly at Gormand's closed eye. It wasn't long before John's magic froze the water over, leaving Gormand encased in a shell of ice.

Karen breathed a sigh of relief. Then she quickly slammed the lid back on the bottle, and the flow of water subsided.

"All right, we're just about ready to go. Where's Miq?"

At the mention of her name, an oversized icebox gleefully hopped into the alley and smiled.

"He's right over there," Karen said, pointing at the now-frozen meatball. "Remember, keep him cold, and don't eat him. We need him alive."

The icebox hopped past, and swallowed Gormand whole. She smiled back at the sergeant.

"Good job, Miq," Karen said, patting her on the head. "Now let's get this thing secured."


Hoss was desperate. He was outnumbered, cornered, and stripped of the abilities he knew how to use.

There seemed little recourse but to risk a spell. He raised his hand, and concentrated. He flung an enormous fireball forward at the soldiers, and was thrown back against the wall. He picked himself up and smiled.

And then an elderly woman rushed forward, holding a glowing shield in front of her. The fireball struck it, and stopped moving.

"Barrier's up," the woman said. "Now somebody get rid of that, I don't want to keep this up forever."

"Already working on it." A purple-haired woman was staring at a device on her arm and pressing buttons. "Mana drain initiated. Murdoch, you should be able to repulse it now."

A glowing white man stood next to her, wearing a blue cloak. He smiled, and waved a wand towards the fireball.

A small blue blast struck it, and then it started moving back towards Hoss.


Hoss screamed as his own fireball flew at him. He held up his arms, hoping he could discover an appropriate spell to defend against it in the few seconds he had remaining.

And then, just as it was about to reach him, it shrank away to nothing.

"So he's got magic again this time around," the crystalline man mused. "But he hardly seems as effective with it as when he was The Great Hoss. And not nearly as stylish, it worked so much better when you had the beard and the pointy hat."

A bulky man with equally bulky gauntlets stepped out of the crowd of soldiers, smiling.

"So, can I take a shot at him now, Your Eminence?"

His Eminence turned to the purple-haired woman.

"Amethyst? Do you have sufficient analysis?"

"Yes, sir. Data indicates the subject has a high level of mana available to him, but is otherwise a standard human. In addition, he does not appear to have much experience as a spellcaster. He is of limited threat, so long as he does not have an opportunity to refine his abilities." She paused. "Oh, and incidentally, Rock Bind."

As Amethyst spoke the words, Hoss suddenly found his feet encased in gravel.

"That shouldn't be too much of an issue," the green man mused. "He's all yours, Aegis."

Hoss panicked, as the large man's gauntlets changed into a metal club. He tried to break out of his gravel bonds, but before he had the chance, everything went black.

His wrist communicator beeped. He answered it.

"This is Sarika, Your Eminence. All Savage Brawl competitors have been subdued and are in transit."

"Wonderful!" The leader smiled. "Well, everyone, it seems this will be a smooth iteration. Get the mana-dampening cuffs on Hoss. Once he wakes up and answers a few questions, we can start preparing the execution."

Aegis picked up the unconscious former cyborg, and Amethyst placed a pair of metal bands around his wrists. The entire group began walking off, triumphantly shouting their leader's name in praise.


Re: The Savage Brawl [Round 5: Battletopia]
Originally posted on MSPA by Ixcalibur.

Michelle Davis, formerly a contestant in the Epic Clash and before that a full time zombie hunter, currently apathetic at the wheel of an armour plated containment van, was sort of pissed off. She’d never exactly had what could be described as a normal life, having been born into a world that was already in the grip of a zombie apocalypse, and oddly (or maybe not so oddly) that suited her down to the ground. She liked a little danger in her life, the adrenaline that came with a confrontation against a potentially deadly foe or of being in an unpredictable situation. In her own world, amongst a small handful of survivors the ability to think fast, use improvised weaponry and free-run meant that she had an important role amongst the group, in Battletopia those skills paled in comparison against magic and gods and futuristic technologies.

But she’d joined Kracht’s army regardless, hoping that she would get to see some action when the Big Day eventually rolled around, but nope. It was over and done with in under ten minutes. All targets were locked down and in transit back to the holding facility and she was still sat in this stupid van with Girnham. He hadn’t seemed to mind so much; shrugged it off like it hadn’t mattered to him one way or the other. That hadn’t helped, but the real icing on the cake had been the assignment that had come in some minutes later. They’d been instructed to go and investigate some suspicious noises out in the outskirts of the city. It was pretty standard really, the only thing being that the contestants were all under lock and key already. Even the dispatcher had seemed vaguely apologetic about it, mumbling that it was protocol and more than his job was worth not to pass it on. Part of her wanted to ignore the assignment and go home for the night, she knew Girnham would if it was up to him. She wasn’t exactly sure why she didn’t, but she suspected that at least part of it was to take the opportunity to be better than him.

Though the streets were empty, curfew having already come into effect, Michelle took her time, something that was evident when she did eventually turn up. The van was equipped with satellite navigation; it guided her into a narrow residential alleyway and then helpfully informed her that she had reached her destination, it needn’t have bothered. Unlike most of the rest of the city this avenue was a hive of activity. Front doors were open; lights were shining out into the streets as residents carried out their bulkiest items of furniture and piled it onto the growing barricade. It looked sturdy, comprised of beds and bureaus, wardrobes and bookshelves and desks. As yet it was only waist height, the architects of the barricade still visible behind it; ordinary people every one of them but with an odd expression of determination on their faces. Michelle couldn’t have said why it seemed so odd, and quite frankly was more concerned with the wider situation, but if she’d had time to work it out she would have said it was because it was the same expression of determination upon each person’s face. They were unified, or perhaps a better word might have been synchronised?

Girnham was out of the van before Michelle had even recovered her composure. Within moments he was waving his weapon around, bluntly bellowing commands at the crowd. Michelle really would have liked a moment to try and figure out what was going on and some way to respond to it, but that clearly wasn’t going to be an option. Irritably she scrambled out of the vehicle after him.

“You do understand the concept of curfew right? It means you get back inside and stay there or be in big trouble.” Phil continued to shout instructions to the crowd and wave his weapon in a vaguely threatening manner, but there was no discernible reaction. Maybe there was a curious glance, but overall people continued to heft furniture to pile it onto the barricades. “And get rid of this pile of crap while you’re at it.”

“Do you ever think?” Michelle asked. “They set up a barricade. I don’t think they’re going to take it down just because you ask nicely – and you didn’t even ask nicely.” Phil glanced towards her and though she could not see his face behind his mirrored visor she fancied he was probably scowling. She imagined that was his default setting. Phil had been allowed to keep his own armour, provided he had the crescent moon logo that had adorned it replaced with Kracht’s. Michelle had been issued light body armour in black with Kracht’s logo in green upon the breast. It would have been the uniform but for the fact that there were enough exceptions like Girnham that no one uniform could really be uniform.

Girnham glanced back at the barricade, aimed his weapon and fired; a quick burst of shots taking down a single target. Everything seemed to go silent for a moment; it’s broken by the deafening crash of a computer desk, no longer supported on one end crashing to the ground. The crowd takes notice this time, they come to a stop but they don’t turn to flee. If Phil can tell he’s under the piercing gaze of somewhere between ten and twenty people he doesn’t show it. His response was almost casual in its brutality. As soon as he’d taken his shot he seemed to relax once again as though everything was fine, as though it was the most normal thing in the world.

“What the hell Girnham?” Michelle demanded.

“Think they’ll listen now?” Phil asked with a sneer. He was probably smirking. Michelle was looking past him, at the kid he had shot; a teenager with scruffy blonde hair and striking green eyes. Dark blood slowly spreading across his crisp white shirt. She could hear him dying; gasping for air, great big desperate breaths. “Woah hold on there’s no need for that.” Michelle’s weapon was in her hands. She hadn’t even noticed. She might have pulled the trigger right then, given action to the overwhelming torrent of emotions that this night had brought. She might have done it, if not for Ajota. The Soulmother’s influence rolled over her and suddenly everything was clear.

Soulmother Ajota had emerged from one of the houses behind the barricades; flanked by the nymph Aph and the man she had come here to see, Jordan Smith. Michelle could name every one of the crowd beyond the barricade now; the members of her new family. They were more or less normal people who Kracht had no use for. She and Phil were the most combat capable ones there, and immediately she knew it was going to be down to them to protect their new mother. Her family stood in silence while their Soulmother made her way down the street to Maxwell’s body.

a life lost is a tragedy Ajota’s words rung through her head as though they were her own thoughts, as if they were more important than her own thoughts. even when it is inevitable, even when it is a necessary step to bring our family to those who suffer lost and alone

Michelle shot a glance at Phil. He’d removed his helmet and dropped it on the floor. The twisted mess of scars that was his face was still difficult to look at, but for the first time she saw sadness in his eyes.

but that does not excuse what has been done Ajota’s tone was solemn, almost mournful. She knew what must be done, they all did, but they did not revel in it. he took the life of one of your brothers, of my son, though it is regretful that another of our family should pass so soon, justice must be done.

Michelle stepped back; Phil already had his gun held to his head, his finger hovering over the trigger. He looked up at the Soulmother with tears streaming in his eyes. “I’m sorry.” She nodded, he screwed his eyes shut and then, trembling, he pulled the trigger.

no one kills one of mine without paying the price

And that appeared to be very much the end of that. Ajota’s family got back to work without further discussion.

The bodies were tossed aside; dumped in one of the houses out of the way, which isn’t to say that the Soulmother and her family quickly forgot them or were not sincere in their sorrow, but to Ajota their bodies were empty; just bodies, nothing more. The barricades continued to grow; the southern one was expanded outwards to include the armour plated van Michelle and Phil had arrived in, and slowly the numbers of Ajota’s family continued to grow, including the addition of a pair of curfew enforcement officers who had been on patrol in the area.

While all this was going on Ajota was rummaging through the cupboards of Jordan’s kitchens, with Aph serving as her hands and eyes in this intricate endeavour. At first Ajota was reluctant to try any of the pre-packaged food; her own planet had never been as technologically advanced as this one, even before the Nakaja had arrived, and as such she was used to eating freshly grown fruits and vegetables. However for the last month or so held captive on the Ska’van mothership she had been fed nothing but some kind of unpleasant nutrient goo and as such she was quick to overcome her initial reservations. As Ajota crunched rainbow coloured fruit candies between her mandibles with an unexpected enthusiasm Aph was troubled by the situation.

They were preparing for war, of this there could be no doubt; outside they were building barricades and arming themselves, someone was already dead. This was difficult for Aph, she was a creature of love and by extension of peace and for her it was tough to reconcile their intentions, their desire to improve the lives of everyone in the city, with their actions thus far.

you are troubled my firstborn Aph turned to look at the Soulmother, a look of surprise on her face as though she’d just been caught doing something she shouldn’t. you are an open book to me my daughter; unfortunately it is a necessity that we proceed as we have. people are fearful, reluctant to change; even for the better. they will fight us at every turn, desperately, to their last breaths, rather than accept the happiness we have to offer them

“But what if I was to talk to them; tell them what they are missing out on…?” Aph asked.

they will not listen

“I will make them listen.” Aph insisted, but Ajota looked less than convinced. “I can be quite persuasive when I want to be, you know.”

you are being naïve Ajota replied sharply.

“No, you are being naïve.” The nymph retorted. “Of course people will fear us if we proceed like this. How can they trust us when we look for all the world like we want to do them harm?” The Soulmother looked uncertain. “Let me go and speak on your behalf. If we carry on like this think how many potential brothers and sisters might be killed in the process.”

There was a long and contemplative pause which was eventually broken by the psychic equivalent of a sigh. my precious firstborn, you will not be dissuaded will you? go then; be my mouth and tell this world about my love

Aph grinned widely. “Thank you Soulmother. I will not let you down.”

and take Michelle with you, so that if you do she might be my wrath

fyck phytybyckyt
RE: The Savage Brawl [Round 5: Battletopia]
The Cultivator looked forlornly at the Chinese finger trap abandoned at the other end of her desk, then returned her gaze for the umpteenth time to the notebook in front of her. It wasn't long before her eyes wandered back to the toy again while she tapped a pen unproductively against paper and sighed. It wasn't her fault she couldn't focus, really: the finger trap was an intriguing puzzle, promising enlightenment and maybe some of the secrets to the universe she hadn't already found and forgotten; the notebook just had "some kind of spaceship?" written on it below several things that were too scribbled out to be readable. With extreme resignation, she began doodling calligraphic ornaments on the word spaceship. At least it looked like she was being productive that way, and it was good practice. Not that she really had anyone to put on a show for, though. The Composer had long since left, once she'd been given sufficient promises that everything would be taken care of.


By the time spaceship was barely readable under all the leaves and flowers and flourishes and strokes, she had worked herself into the foulest temper she was really capable of. So what if she wanted to spread the responsibility a bit? Or not plan all the way ahead? It'd all worked out just fine so far. Heck, Battletopia had been spur of the moment, and look how well it was proceeding. Well, she hadn't actually looked at how well it was proceeding, but... She was sure it was proceeding well. Actually, she should probably check up a little, just to see what was going on. And not because it was a good excuse to stop staring fruitlessly at the brainstorming page. That would be irresponsible.

She kicked her way over to a monitor and watched idly as most of her contestants were captured and neutralized in short order. Well, that was pretty boring, on the whole. Maybe she should have given it a bit more thought beforehand, or even just removed the crystal guy from the equation first. Idly tabbing through her viewpoints revealed that at least the new ant lady was organizing a rebellion of some kind, which should be good. She probably wouldn't have to do anything herself, just let the battle run. Yeah, it'd all be fine.

She watched for a while longer, letting the notebook and its spaceship and everything they represented gradually slip from her mind. A smirk gradually crossed her face as she plotted the paths of several of what looked like they'd be the major players. It was actually going to get pretty good sooner than later. In fact, if she–

That train of thought was interrupted rather savagely by an arrival; the Cultivator jumped in a manner entirely unsuited to someone of her power and position and hastily scooted back to where she'd been working, scribbling madly at half-thoughts and ideas. Her brow furrowed sullenly as she tried to maintain a charade she knew would be immediately seen through.

"I thought you said you were just going to leave me to it. I don't need you hovering around all the time, alright? Just... just go away, I'm busy."

"I didn't come back to check on you, Cultivator."

"Oh, no, of course you didn't. This is just a social call for your big dumb idiot friend who can't be trusted to handle everything because you're just soooo much smarter than she is."

"It is."

"Please! You've barely been gone for..." She glanced at a watch that had long since stopped running under the stresses of extralinear time. It groaned and coughed up a small cog. "Oh. Well, it's been longer than I thought." She stiffened back up a bit. "But I still don't think you're here just to say hello. You never are. I mean, when was the last time you just came over for tea? Sometimes I really think you're using me, just like the rest of them."

The Composer sighed.
"Give me your notebook."

"Ah-HA! I knew it! And no, it's not done yet. And it's private anyway. You can't just boss me around like that." She huddled over the brainstorming session and winced. She couldn't even read most of her handwriting.

Actively restraining herself from rolling her eyes, the Composer snatched the book with lightning speed, eliciting a fishy little flop from the other grandmaster; without even glancing at its contents, she snapped it shut and set it aside.

"I am not here to browbeat you, nor am I here in any capacity as a taskmaster. I'm here as your friend, and I just want to talk."

"Oh." She spun a lock of hair around a finger for a few moments before speaking again. "Sorry."

The Composer drew a chair from the air, the mirror to the Cultivator's preferred swiveling control center and sat in it as stiffly and straight as her anthropoid morphology allowed.
"I appreciate that I may not always comport myself in a way that makes that obvious. Or believable."

The Cultivator contrasted the image sharply, apparently trying to do her best to become a liquid in her seat, limbs draped over arms and back. "Heh. I guess."

They sat in brief silence before she spoke again. "How about some of that tea, then?"

"If you're offering."

A cat-themed teapot and a pair of mismatched mugs materialized, and the Cultivator cheerfully poured a cup of strong black pekoe for The Composer and a concoction that was more cream and sugar and lemon and spice than tea for herself.

"Good. It's always nice to have these little chats."

They proceeded to stare at each other for some time, one demurely sipping at her drink while the other seemed content to simply bask in the aroma.

"Always nice. These little chats."


Quiet descended again, broken only by regular sipping sounds from the Composer. The Cultivator rolled her eyes and sighed heavily.

"Oh come onnn, just say something! You've got to have something on your mind."

"On the contrary, I just wanted to enjoy your company."

"Yeah, uh-huh. Okay."

“It’s just that... I’m having second thoughts.”

The Cultivator nodded sagely. “Yeah, I know exactly what you mean. Me too.”

“I think,” the Composer said icily, “that that is only unusual for one of us.” Her face softened after a few moments before she continued. “And in any case, I don’t think we’re talking about the same thing.”

The Cultivator continued as though she hadn’t heard, which wasn’t strictly speaking true; it could just take her a bit to switch gears and she tended to treat conversations like a monologue with gaps in any case.

“I mean, it seemed like fun at first, but it’s so boring, and they’re all trying to do the same stuff, and I’ve seen it all before anyway. I thought only picking evil ones would be interesting, but...” She blinked and played the last few seconds over again in her mind. “Oh. What are you talking about, then?”

“The same thing as when we last spoke.”

The Cultivator cocked her head and narrowed her eyes. “Sooo... We were talking about my battle?”

“No! The other thing. Look, you remember. Just before I left, I asked you for some advice.”

“Oh, yeah, I guess. Vaguely. You weren’t really being very clear.”

The Composer sighed, but she supposed there wasn’t much point in coming here if she wasn’t going to put all her cards on the table.

“Well, you're the one who set up the Conservatory for me. Do you recall why I came to need it?”

The Cultivator's eyes widened. "Are you alright? Does it need maintenance? What happened?"

"I'm fine, and it's undamaged. Do you remember?"

“Uhhh, yeah. I think so. You were a death goddess under a big, important progenitor type guy, but you got kicked out and needed another source of vim. Right? Something like that?”

“Close enough. Did it ever occur to you to wonder why I was banished?”

The Cultivator sent her chair spinning in rapid circles with a kick. “Didn’t really cross my mind. That’s your business, you know? Stuff happens.”

The Composer drained her mug and set it on the arm of her chair, pursing her lips as though she intended to launch into a full lecture.
“Well, I was not the only servant of the creator’s. There were others. From Origin, there originally came Saber..."

The Cultivator had the good grace not to let her eyes visibly glaze over, but not enough of it to actually pay attention to the complicated genealogy being laid out in front of her. Names and stations and stories and powers laid themselves out in front of her, a complicated coruscating boring web of words that she just couldn't muster the attention to focus on. It wasn't long before the Composer realized that not only was she losing her audience, most of what she was saying was immaterial to the point and just a stalling tactic so she could defer saying what she had come here to. She cleared her throat.

"In any case, once I had safeguarded the dead and the realm of the living from the ravages outside, Saber was able to populate the world without fear of it collapsing under the void. With that task finished, he turned his hand to acts of creation almost on par with Origin's. Though he was... perhaps too proud, many of them were successes. One in particular was not."

“Oh yeah?”

“Yes. Rebellious, self-important, clumsy. He developed ideas above his station. He began to plot and scheme, and eventually he enacted his hateful plan. He was foolish, and he should have failed, but luck was on his side. Saber was killed, and the energy of his death was enough for the construct to harness to his ends. He escaped with it into the multiverse proper. He used me as part of his plan, and as such he – perhaps inadvertently, perhaps knowingly – made a scapegoat of me. Much of the blame was laid at my feet. I was made to pay for his heresy.”

There was a short silence as it gradually dawned on the Cultivator that something was expected of her here. She did her best. “Gosh.”

“I was banished. Stripped of my name, stripped of my station. Stripped from my home. Made to wander a million planes of existence knowing that none of them were mine, and none of them could be. I was made to suffer the agony of every conceivable hell without the mercy of death. Punished for the trickery and treachery of another. An eternity of meaninglessness and regret.”


“I spent eons trying to find the construct, trying to take my revenge. Trying to make my exile if not less unbearable at least less pointless. My final act as an arbiter. But I couldn’t, and I could never go home. No power I could find could break my curse. Maybe none existed. No source I could find could give me the information I needed. I thought maybe it was forever lost. I resigned myself to my fate, in time, and eventually sought other ways to face eternity. You gave me back a taste of what I once had, and my battles have been an interesting diversion. I have been... mollified, if not content.”

“Well, that’s... good?”

“No. But it was better. I thought it would last me. It was healing wounds I thought would never fade. I was prepared to forget the emptiness I’ve carried past the deaths of stars. To try, anyway. I was going to break from my past, or at least from the parts I’d lost.”


“But the source I could never find finally found me. Just as I had finally, finally readied myself to forget, I was reminded. I was given what I’d sought fruitlessly for the majority of my existence, given it without prelude or even so much as the hint of a cost. I had to watch as my own lips smiled and spelled out the secret as though it couldn’t have been more obvious. Mentioned practically in passing, just an interesting fact.”

“Haha, what, the Organizer? Really? Man, where does that guy even get his information?”

The Composer sucked in a lungful of air between her teeth before sighing heavily.
"I have long since stopped trying to speculate. There’s just too much about him I don’t understand. But he told me where the construct was, who it was. Told me it was one of us. Told me I’d been begrudgingly rubbing shoulders with my mortal enemy and didn’t even know it!”

“Another grandmaster, huh?” The Cultivator whistled through her teeth, a skill she’d been practicing with little success. “What are the odds?”

“I doubt odds come into it.”

“Huh.” The Cultivator drummed her fingers on her console for a bit, then proved she was at least a bit more perceptive than she often seemed. “So, what, you found out where this guy you’ve spent allll this time hating is, but you didn’t do anything? That doesn’t really seem like you.”

“I know.”


“So what?”

“Well, I mean, how come? Don’t get me wrong, I stand by what I said before. I don’t think you should go around flying off the handle about stuff from forever ago and whatever, but... You had to have a reason to hold back. It’s pretty out of character, if you don’t mind me saying.”

Rather than answer, the Composer bolted up out of her seat and began pacing.

“Come onnn, if you can’t tell me, who can you tell? It’s not good to keep stuff bottled up, Posey.”

The Composer must have been upset, because she was distracted enough to let the nickname slide.

“And you said you were having second thoughts. So, really, that must mean you agree with me! You’d have done something already if you thought it was a good idea.”

“Who are you to tell me to let bygones be bygones, anyway?” The Composer produced a typewritten note from nowhere and waved it in the other woman’s face. “I haven’t seen much restraint from you on that front. Where’s the forgive and forget attitude for Mr. Ghost, then?”

The Cultivator’s arms crossed defensively and she scowled. “That’s different. That’s now. And anyway he’s interfering with my battle, and I’ve got to treat battles like they’re important. You said that yourself.” Her arms uncrossed and flailed briefly above her head. “And anyway you’re just trying to change the subject!”

The Composer stopped pacing and lowered herself gently into the chair again, back ramrod straight and face carefully impassive. She picked the empty mug back up, bone-white knuckles the only outward indication of how upset she was.
“I think I have overstretched myself.”

The Cultivator made a vaguely-interrogative noise and beckoned for her friend to continue.

“You know I haven’t been the most... insular of grandmasters.”

Nod. Beckon.

“I have frequently interceded with other battles and advised other grandmasters.”

Nod, nod, beckon.

“Made it my business to ensure things are run properly. By the proper people.”

“Yesss, come onnn.”

She sighed.
“Since I took over–” here the syllables clanged with distaste even through her air of hesitance “–the Delicious Engagement, I’ve been harried. By the Eccentric, of all things! I’ve been made to fear and hide myself by that ludicrous parody of sentience. I’ve been worrying, and it’s made me wonder if it was what I should have done. If any of it was.”

“So, what did you do about it?”

“Nothing. What’s done is done, and I have to continue to manage the consequences of my actions. I am nothing if not responsible. But... I resolved not to meddle more outside my own domain. To stop imposing my will where it had no place. Stop fighting battles just because they were there to be fought.”

Light dawned. “Ohhh! And that’s when you heard about your old enemy guy.”


“And it made you wonder if you’d made the right decision and ought to go rough him up and maybe take over his battle.”


“But eventually you decided to just let it all go and get on with your life.”

“Did I?”


“And why did I decide that?”

“It seems to meee...” The Cultivator pursed her lips and shifted them back and forth several times before continuing. “It seems. To. Me. It seems to me like if you did that, you’d just end up right back where you started. You’ve got the starts of a good thing already, but if you go off and fight this guy, you’ll throw it all away and end up in the same headspace from right after you got banished. Only this time you won’t even have a goal! He’ll be dead and you’ll be just as exiled as before. You won’t be able to go back to battles or the dead, and you won’t be able not to, and basically... Basically everything’ll suck!”

“As much had occurred to me, yes.”


“But that’s not even the only reason.”


“Because I’ve made enemies among the grandmasters.”


“And I need to accept my limitations.”

“Right! That’s the thing of it, from what I can see. You’ve just got to let go and accept things. Accept what happened, accept you can’t change it, accept how other guys want to run their things, accept what you can and can’t do. Accept the past and embrace what’s to come!”


“I think a lot of you guys cause yourselves trouble with that. You think omnipotent really means omnipotent, and then you get all bent out of shape when things go wrong.”

“A lot of us? And what about you?”

By now, her chair was spinning again. “Hey, I accept lots of stuff. All the time.”

There was another brief silence, which was soon broken by both of them speaking at once.

“I just wanted to say that–”

“And besides, it’s not like–”

They both stopped speaking at the same time, too; they felt the arrival of another presence, and neither really wanted to be seen having this conversation.

“Ah, Ms. Composer. I must say, I didn’t expect to have to come here to find you.”

The Composer considered tidying herself up and trying to regain some of her bearing, but... She just couldn’t be bothered. Especially not for the likes of the Executrix.

“Well, you found me. What do you want?”

The newcomer glanced at the gently-revolving Cultivator. “I have recently come into some information that I thought you would find illuminating, and wish to share it with you.”

"Yes? What is it?”

She paused again. “It concerns your personal history. Perhaps you would prefer to–”

“Anything you could possibly have found out, the Cultivator probably already knows, and I’d take her knowing it over you any day.”

“That is to say, it concerns your shared history. With the Observer.”

“Oh, is that who it is? Weeeird, I was guessing, like, Zaire. Or maybe the Stranger, he seems pretty shady.”

“Yes, it is the Observer. I would never have guessed, but it seems painfully obvious now that I know."

The Executrix's eyes scuttled back and forth between the other grandmasters. This was not even going remotely like she had expected or planned for. She swallowed her surprise and pressed on.

"Nevertheless, I think I really would prefer to speak to you alone, if–"

The Composer's eyes narrowed dangerously before she completely lost her patience and composure. Cracks zigzagged across her mug as her lips tightened; it exploded into powdery shards, followed by its mate and the teapot. The Cultivator was left drenched and looking hurt.

"Posey! Those were part of my collection!"

"Say what you have to say and get out, Executrix. I have neither time nor patience for your games and airs and attempts at maneuvering. Your master is an associate of mine. The same relationship does not extend to you."

The wooden woman coughed and stepped back. "Very well then, my apologies for intruding on your time. I simply learned something that I thought would be best if it didn't remain hidden from you forever, and that I thought might require discretion."

Of all the grandmasters, it was the Executrix who was most likely to have literal gears turning as she thought, and if she did they were working furiously now. Her entire plan revolved around the assumption that the Organizer had continued hiding the Observer's nature from the Composer, but if she was interpreting the conversation she'd intruded upon correctly, that had already become old news. Right at the most critical moment for its revelation. And that revelation was not having its desired result. The Executrix was not a woman who ever proceeded without a backup plan or ten, but she loathed the prospect of playing her trump so soon.

She did her best to smile and changed gears.

"I'll be brief. It has come to my attention that Scope–"

"How dare you speak that name? What gives you the right to pry into my history? I should–" She bit her lip and forced herself to calm down. This was exactly the sort of behavior she'd just finished resolving to avoid. "Just... Continue. Preferably while maintaining the pretense that you haven't been prying open secrets that your little wooden fingers have no right to touch."

"Apologies. It has come to my attention that the Observer is harboring a desire to make amends for whatever slights he has perpetrated against you, but is too worried that you'll react badly to make the first overture."

The Composer snorted uncharacteristically. "And well he should be. I may not be tearing his eye out at the moment, but I have no intention of becoming friends with that... that..." Her nostrils flared and she forced herself to breathe deeply. "With that."

"That's a pity. I had hoped that in the interest of Grandmaster fraternity–"

"Hmph. You are new at this. If all you came over for was to play matchmaker or happy families, I think you should just see yourself out."

Ever since the ceramic-shattering outburst, the Cultivator had busied herself trying to glue bits of pottery back together, but she looked up at that.

"Actually... I think she's right, really."


"No, think about it!"


"Well, I mean, if you want to kind of come to peace with yourself and your history, and leave it all behind and stuff, it's not helpful to hold grudges anyway. You nearly blew poor Franky's head up right then and there when she said his name like that. I saw you, and she's just trying to help. Obviously you're not as over it as you want to be."

"I fail to see–"

"And sooo, I think that the best way to get right with yourself is to let go of that anger, and the best way to do that is to forgive him!"

"I don't want–"

"And the best way to forgive him is to go see what he has to say!"

"I don't think–"

The Cultivator stood up and grabbed her friend's hand, tugging gently at it.

"Come onnn, you came here for my advice and that's what it is. I'd be sooo hurt if you didn't take it! And anyway you owe me, so if you won't do it for yourself, do it for me."

The Composer stood, scowling.
"This is a mistake. If I go now, I will lose whatever goodwill and composure I have maintained, and thus all the progress I have made in relinquishing my anger."

"Naaah, the longer you weight and worry about it, the more you're gonna get resentful. And once you hear him apologize for yourself, you'll have a way easier time moving forward, right?"

The Executrix drew a glowing mote of information out of one of her stylish pockets and proffered it.
"This is where he's been basing his operations since the near-destruction of the Speakeasy. If you'd like to know."

The Composer snatched it peevishly at the Cultivator's prodding. "This will be, and is, a mistake."

"Don't you trust me, Posey?"

"Stop calling me that." She sighed. "Please stop calling me that."

She grinned. "Don't you trust me, Her Ladyship Ms. Composer, Esquire?"

The Cultivator received a withering glare for her trouble before the Composer spoke again.
"I will... consider it."

"Good! You really should go through with this. It'll be good for you!"

"Perhaps. I have... A lot to think about first." She absorbed the multiversal address and turned away. "I will speak to you again soon."

"Don't be a stranger! And bring more cups next time, I really liked these ones."

Without another word, she was gone. The Executrix folded her hands behind her back and watched the remaining grandmaster happily gluing things to things.

"I should probably thank you for that."

"I was thinking much the same thing."

"She can be such a sourpuss, but I really think she means well. And I hate to see everyone fighting all the time, you know? I mean, it practically makes the battles redundant!"

The Executrix matched the Cultivator's chuckle with a small smile, saying nothing. After a time, the Cultivator set her repairwork aside, shaking her head.

"Where are my manners, anyway? Would you like a cup of tea? I'm sure I can get another pot somewhere."

She turned away as the offer was extended, idly watching the patch of air the Composer had disappeared from.
"I'm afraid I have to decline. Hot drinks tend to make my face warp."

"Oh. Sorry. Anything else then?"

"No, I think I have to leave. Thank you for your hospitality, though."

"Oh." The Cultivator deflated slightly and shrugged. "Alright then, have fun with whatever. Hope things work out well with Posey. I'm glad you could tell her where old One-Eye's hanging out."

"I have high hopes as well."

Of course, the Composer wouldn't find the Observer there, but what she would find would, with any luck, prove even more interesting. Interesting enough to completely nullify a few meddling influences for a while, and probably pit them against each other.

The Executrix hated relying on luck.
RE: The Savage Brawl [Round 5: Battletopia]
Kriok Searae was hard at work. She had spent the whole day disassembling a broken toaster, and had just begun installing the usable parts in her current project. She'd been working on it for months, but if all went well, she could finish it tonight.

So of course, just as she'd settled in, the communications node started beeping. Why did her job always have to get in the way when she was working.

Kriok walked over to her desk and answered the call.

"Kriok Searae, Supervisor, N-District," she grumbled. "Make it quick, I'm in the middle of something."

"Supervisor, this is Michelle Davis, Containment Squad Epsilon. We were responding to a disturbance reported by district resident Jordan Smith..."

"This doesn't sound much like getting to the point, Davis."

"My apologies, Supervisor. The disturbance turned out to be only a lost dog. There is nothing wrong here."

"Of course it's nothing," Kriok grumbled. "This is N-District. Nothing ever happens here. Nobody even gets sent here in the first place unless Kracht decides they're too boring to go anywhere else."

"I'm sorry for bothering you, but protocol..."

"I know, I know. Your report is acknowledged, now get on with whatever you were doing. Searae out."

Kriok ended the call promptly. She still had work to do.


"It is done, Soulmother," Michelle said. "The watcher in the tower suspects nothing."

well done, child

guard Aph well, though I doubt you will be gone long

"Of course, Soulmother. I will not allow her to come to harm."

Michelle and Aph drove off, leaving Ajota to focus on the more immediate matters. Most of her children were hard at work building up the barricade or finding more weapons.

She called the two curfew officers to her, as they were the most experienced fighters available. They were an odd pair; one was heavily built and wore a suit of armor, the other was quite thin and wore a standard uniform. The larger man's hair and beard were immaculately groomed, the smaller man's was a wiry mess.

Of course, none of that mattered to Ajota; she loved all her children, however they appeared.

Cedric and Tor, my newest children, we have one more task to take care of

the watcher toils in her tower, ignorant of all we have done

but she will not remain so

she may call the city against us before we are ready

"She will not once she knows of your love, Soulmother," Tor replied.

that is my hope, child

however, there is still much to coordinate here and so I cannot go myself

bring her to me

"That shouldn't be much of a problem," Cedric said with a laugh.

thank you, my children

I await your return in earnest

The tower was right in the middle of the district, and easy enough to walk to. Cedric looked at the large steel door leading inside, and sneered.

"As if that door can keep me out."

"There's no need for excessive force," Tor said. "Our keycards give us access to all the monitoring towers in the city." He pulled his out.

"You always have to take the fun out of everything," Cedric grumbled.

"We don't want to alert her," Tor replied. "She might contact central command, and that's exactly what we're trying to avoid." He swiped his card

An unpleasant beep told him it hadn't been accepted.

"A fine plan, my friend," Cedric sneered. "Just look at how much access we have now!"

"She must have modified the lock. I can try to disable it..."

"And keep our Soulmother waiting?" Cedric sneered. "I think not. Let a real man handle it."

He backed up a few feet and charged at the door. It broke off its hinges and fell to the floor, badly dented.

Then the alarm sounded.

"A flawless plan," Tor sighed. "Truly, Soulmother would be greatly impressed with your tactical prowess."

Cedric picked himself up.

"It got us inside, didn't it? Anyhow, it's no real problem. We'll just get to her before she calls for help."

Tor simply pointed at the keycard slot next to the elevator. Cedric scowled at him, and began running up the long, twisting stairway to the top.


Frustrated, Kriok put away her tools again. Clearly, one interruption tonight wasn't enough.

She grabbed her javelin launcher and headed down the elevator, still annoyed. Even if the alarm were just an equipment malfunction, she'd have to spend the whole day tomorrow filling out paperwork and answering questions.

The elevator doors opened, and a thin, wiry-haired man with rusted skin stood before her. Judging by his uniform, he was a curfew officer.

"Last time I checked, violating curfew meant being outside, not inside," Kriok grumbled. "What are you doing here?"

"My partner and I were in the area. We heard the alarm, and when we came to investigate, we found that." Tor pointed to the crumpled door lying on the ground. "My partner is currently heading up the stairs, hoping to catch the perpetrator. Personally, I have my doubts about its effectiveness."

"Ugh. Great. That means even more paperwork in the morning." She paused. "Wait, why didn't you call me first? Why did I have to come all the way down here to find out what was going on?"

"Ah, yes. That would have been a good idea. My apologies, Supervisor; my partner is a bit of a show-off, and I let his antics distract me. It completely slipped my mind to call you first."

"Wonderful. Your partner had better move fast; I don't want to report in to the central office until this mess is sorted through."

"So you haven't called in yet?" Tor asked.

"Not yet. I don't want to talk to those idiots any more than I have to."

"I can understand that. I have to fill in a report every night, even when nothing happens. Usually I end up filling in Cedric's report, too."

"Well, I'm heading back to my office," Kriok grumbled, turning back towards the elevator. "Call me when you catch the intruder."

Tor tackled her to the ground the moment her back was turned.


"I ran up fifteen flights of stairs for nothing," Cedric grumbled. "And why do I have to carry her?"

"Oh come on, she can't be that heavy for the mighty Sir Cedric."

"I didn't even get a good fight out of it," Cedric continued, ignoring Tor. "All I got to do was break down a door."

They soon returned to the main street, where Ajota was still directing operations. She turned to them, a joyful look in her eyes.

you have returned, children

rouse the watcher, so that I may speak to her

Cedric dropped Kriok on the ground and kicked her as gently as he could manage. It was still enough to make her howl in pain.

"What's going on here? Who are you... wait, you're that curfew officer! But who's the bearded idiot? And who's the ant..." Her voice trailed off. She picked herself up. "Was this really needed, Soulmother? I was working on something."

Ajota was taken aback; no child had ever spoken to her with that tone. She had seen some reject her love, but the watcher had not; and yet, she seemed largely unchanged by the experience. How was this possible?

you must be confused, my child, Ajota replied, trying to hide her own worries. you are with family now...

"That doesn't change the fact I have to send a report in to the central office," Kriok grumbled. "In fact, why did you bring me all the way out here? You could have at least shut the alarm off first!"

do not be angry, my child

you are safe, you are with us now

"I'll be as angry as I like, Soulmother!" She stormed back towards the tower, leaving her new family befuddled.

her mind is a maze, even to me

I can see that she knows of our love, and she will not betray it, but all else is clouded to me

"It might be because of her cybernetic parts," Tor suggested. "If she's got any neural augmentations, they might interfere with your message. That could keep the full power of it away from her."

then, if we were to remove those parts, perhaps she would welcome us fully

"Could be, but that's tricky work. You'd need a really good neurosurgeon to do it, and I don't think we have any in the family."

then find one, my child

it pains me to see her suffering


"Just a malfunction then, Searae?" Lieutenant Zimmer glanced at the viewscreen. "What was the problem, exactly?"

"I haven't worked that out yet," Kriok grumbled. "I got tired of the noise and just shot the damn thing." She held up her javelin launcher. "I'll take a look at it in the morning and give a full report then."

"You really should report these disturbances right away, Searae," Zimmer said, fully aware that she wouldn't. "And what if there's a real intrusion tonight?"

"Two curfew officers heard the alarm and came by to investigate," Kriok replied nonchalantly. "I've got them watching the entrance, since their shift is over now."

"I don't suppose you caught their names or ID numbers," Zimmer sighed.

"Ask me in the morning. I'm getting some sleep."

She promptly hung up before Zimmer could make any comments about how surprised he was that she ever slept.

She didn't actually need sleep, of course. Which was just as well; she had to finish her project soon, even if it meant cutting a few corners. There had been too many interruptions already, and there would soon be another when Soulmother sent someone to check on her.

Ten minutes later, she heard a knock on her office door. She quickly attached one last bolt and hoped it would be enough.

Thirty seconds after that, Cedric burst in. He was screaming something, but Kriok couldn't hear his words over the sound of her new jetpack starting up.

She fired a spike from her javelin launcher at the closest window, and flew off.
RE: The Savage Brawl [Round 5: Battletopia]
Gormand spun through the air, trying to right himself in a world without direction. Limbs flailed out of his control; merging with one another and breaking apart, falling from him and turning to ash and sprouting anew. His eye rolled back and wept gravy.

Flying or falling? Elated or terrified? He could never tell.

God rose up, and swallowed him whole.

He woke, and wished he hadn’t.

Cold lanced through his eye, seeped into every pocket of moisture and air. Flesh cracked when he tried to stand. Thought lagged behind the dull throbbing pain of existence. It reminded him of his early days, and of the hospital before that.

He found himself in a bare, rectangular chamber. Smooth greyish walls that curved together at the corners, topped with a blueish ceiling, lit from apparently nowhere at all. There was no obvious way in or, by extension, out. A prison.

He was alive, at least. What had happened? An ambush, and then… And then here. That he’d been ambushed raised some very interesting questions about the nature of their new locale. How had they known he was coming? Had anything happened to the other contestants? Whose idea was it to condemn him to this freezing hellpit? Gormand opted to ignore these in favor of escape.

In other circumstances, he would have been content to wait it out, safe in the knowledge that his surroundings would turn to so much processed goo in a matter of minutes. Extreme cold, however, sent his infection into a dormant state, rendering he and his environs entirely immutable. He was helpless as a twenty-armed, five-meter sphere of pure animal muscle.

Gormand charged.

And bounced right off the wall.

On his second attempt, he wondered what sort of material could withstand roughly the force of a stampeding cattle train. It seemed to give under his blows, but not as much as it ought. On his third, he considered the efficacy of their magic at holding him back. Or perhaps (four) they had advanced technology; the soldiers’ rifles had been oddly incongruous next to the magi's staves. Perhaps they’d chosen (five) some combination of the two to trap--

The wall was transparent.

The meatball’s assault had knocked a layer of frost from the outside of his cell; the chamber without was coated in ice. Artificial light glared from every surface, reflected from the crystals. They seemed to be holding him in some sort of warehouse, filled with crates and cans and bottles. A trio of guards clad in thick winterwear played cards nearby.

One guard pulled an apple from a crate and tossed it to another. Gormand knew then where he was, and knew he would not-- could not escape. He stomped over to a corner and slumped, defeated, to the floor.



Kracht was glad that Gormand had ended up a probable outcome. He was by far the easiest contestant the rock ever had to contain.

Konka Rar needed several sigils both holy and unholy to keep in check, anti-magic and anti-tech fields for contingencies, and impromptu cybersurgery during which he would be fully awake and probably trying to flee or mass-murder.

Hoss was notoriously clever, and typically needed a full suite of randomly cycling security measures magical, technological, eldritch and otherwise; a personal retinue of elite guards on call at all hours; isolation from the easily-influenced or malleably-minded; and one or more persons capable of brainwashing or time manipulation for emergencies.

Ekelhaft, in addition to just getting the damned thing into its box, required months of pre-planning and the preparation of multi-layered redundant failsafes, some of which had been necessarily designed by unstable minds locked away deep underground. The more extreme measures included debts to the gods, rendering parts of the city nonexistent, or worse, involving the entropoid.

Gormand? Stick him in a sealed plastic tub in a refrigerated room and he’d keep for months.
RE: The Savage Brawl [Round 5: Battletopia]
Michelle was once more at the wheel of her armoured truck driving, against her better judgement, to General Kracht's Headquarters. She knew this was a mistake; that Kracht would dismiss out of hand any notion of unity. All this trip would serve to do would be to provoke him and begin an all out war. But she had already voiced her opinion to the Soulmother before they left and it was clear that she would not be dissuaded from this course of action. So Michelle did the only thing she could feasibly do in her situation; bury her misgivings and simply try to perform her task to the best of her ability. Aph had no such qualms. She was seated in the passenger seat looking out at the darkened streets and at the dim lights of the houses, thinking of the people inside relaxing after a hard day with no idea that the worst might yet still be to come.

"When we get there," Michelle began, "I think you should probably let me do the talking. I work there, I know how these things work. I think I can get us in to see Kracht."

"Do you ever wonder what you were like in previous iterations?" Aph asked distractedly.

"What?" Michelle asked. Aph remained thoughtfully silent. "Well, yeah I guess I have done sometimes... I used to wonder whether any of the other mes were more combat proficient; whether any of them ever got to capture one of the contestants. I mean obviously not like Ekelhaft but maybe Diego... or Calm. I figure maybe one of my iterations might have been up to capturing them." Aph remained silent. "What about you?"

"I don't need to wonder; Kracht did my assessment personally." Aph said, still staring out of the window. "I vary apparently. Sometimes I'm like this powerhouse of energy and mana but completely psychotic, totally out of control, and then other times I'm like this." She paused. "Empty. Weak. Useless... He was disappointed. When I lose it I apparently make a very good mana battery." They both fell silent.

"It's okay sister," Michelle tried for comforting but didn't quite make it. "Kracht's a dick. He doesn't get to tell you what you are."

"I know." Aph said. "And this time is different anyway. The Soulmother trusts and values me and thanks to her I have the opportunity to make a real difference, and not just any difference, an opportunity to make people's lives better. To prevent an all out war."

"Yeah, and all you have to do is do the impossible." Michelle replied a little sullenly.

"Yesterday wouldn't you have called the Soulmother impossible?" Aph asked. "Sister, I have no doubt that you could bluff us into a meeting with Kracht, but we're on a mission of peace and of love; we can't use lies and trickery to achieve our ends. Let me do the talking. If you really do believe that there is no hope then feel free to leave. Return to the Soulmother and tell her I forced you to go. I don't want you to suffer for my mistakes."

They rode on in silence for a while, until finally Kracht's headquarters loomed imposingly before them.

"I can walk from here." Aph said.

"I'm not going to leave you." Michelle said. "The Soulmother trusts you, so I trust you."

"Thank you." Aph said with a smile. Michelle smiled back hopefully. In that moment anything seemed possible.

Finally they were there. Michelle pulled up to the security checkpoint and wound her window down. She didn't know the guard on duty; a handsome man with slicked back black hair, wearing a navy blue frilled coat over his uniform. He was slumped back in his chair with his feet up on his desk, watching some kind of reality tv programme on a wall mounted monitor. Just when Michelle thought he was going to ignore them entirely he switched the monitor off and swivelled around to face them.
"Good evenin' ladies. Yer do know it's pas' curfew, righ'? Yer really shouldn' be out on the streets a' this hour."

"We'd like to speak to General Kracht." Aph said.

"Yeh, well, tha's prob'y no' gonna be possible." The guard said. "If'n I was you pair I'd ge' back home afore any curfew officers noticed yer. Not all of us are as nice as I am, okay?"

"I'm afraid that we have business with the General that simply will not wait." Aph said.

"Well we ain't in habit o' lettin' people jus' walk in off the street an' talk tae the boss hisself." The guard said. "What's yer problem maybe I could take care of it fer yer?"

"I don't think that will be possible." Aph said. "We're here as ambassadors of the Soulmother Ajota to spread her love and to negotiate a peaceful unity between our people."

The guard looked perplexed for a moment, he looked across at Michelle as if looking for confirmation that none of this was really happening. "Maybe yer might wanna head home and sleep it off do yer think?"

"We're not drunk; we're dead serious." Michelle said.

"Yeh, tha's def'nitely out o' my area o' expertise." The guard admitted. After a moment's thoughtfulness he started tapping at his security console. "I'll file a request for assistance an' in the meantime why don' you ladies go on inside. I'll have someone meet yer and escort yer tae our visitor's lounge." The guard hit a button and raised the physical barrier before them, but Michelle and Aph stayed where they were. After a minute he looked up. "Tha's the best I can do fer yer." He said flatly. "Like I said yer don' jus' walk in an' talk to Kracht, an' come on, it is Arrival Day, what did yer expect?"

"Tell Kracht this is unprecedented; a fifth contestant. He'll want to talk to us." Michelle said. "And tell him not to keep us waiting." She added before finally winding up her window and driving into the compound.


It wasn't entirely unprecedented. In his many cycles through this round Kracht had noted that occasionally the numbers would be off a little bit one way or the other; he chalked it up to the Cultivator's tenuous grip on her own battle. Although there was the more likely possibility that this claim was false; this too was not unprecedented. In a handful of iterations a portion of the populace, dissatisfied with his rule and/or the treatment of contestants, had attempted to forcibly remove him from power. And in those iterations the claim of a fifth contestant was a fairly common lead in to a trap. Kracht hadn't heard anything about any rebel groups this iteration, but if they were halfway competent he wouldn't have.

Whichever this proved to be Kracht wasn't otherwise engaged until Hand of Silver awoke, and there was a certain appeal to this one. The guard who had reported it had said that they claimed to be 'ambassadors of Joter' which was actually unprecedented. Kracht made his way down the largely empty corridors to the Visitor's Lounge; at his approach the pair of guards on duty unlocked and opened the doors. It was a lounge in name only, in truth a dingy little room that was closer to a holding cell in both form and function. Michelle Davis was slumped against the far wall, while Aph was pacing back and forth anxiously (except not actually pacing but in fact hovering back and forth anxiously). He walked in and the door slid shut behind him.

"Tell me about this fifth contestant."

"She's not a contestant." Aph shot Michelle a stern look. "Soulmother Ajota is a... a... blessing. She's nothing short of a miracle."

Kracht thought for a minute. "This 'Soulmother' is she human, female, white skin, blue eyes, perhaps blonde hair, generally evasive with comprehensive mechanical augmentations?"

"No, nothing like that." Aph shook her head. "She's like a revelation, from out of nowhere she changed my life entirely. I have never felt so loved. And all she wants is the opportunity to make everyone so wondrously happy."

"Give me physical descriptors." Kracht replied curtly.

"Well... um..." Aph faltered. "She's beautiful..."

Kracht sighed. "Is she human?"

"No." Aph snapped dismissively. "What does it matter what she looks like? The important thing is that she's come to deliver us from pain, from misery and loneliness and embrace us no matter what our flaws or faults. You need to meet her; once you've met her everything all makes sense." Kracht glanced hopefully over to Michelle.

"Physically speaking the Soulmother is like a really big ant-person."

"Perhaps you mean she's like a half human half spider?" Kracht asked thoughtfully.

"No," Michelle replied. "we're not talking about Cepra here. Ajota isn't like anyone I've met before. She's everything Aph is telling you; all she wants to do is spread happiness."

Kracht was thoughtful for a moment. "And your goal in coming here? Did you think you could convert me?"

"No," Aph said. "all we want is that you don't treat her as a threat. She isn't. She means no harm to anyone."

"I see." Kracht said. "And if I would like to meet this Soulmother for myself where might I find her?"

Aph and Michelle glanced at one another. "I don't think that's the best idea." Aph said. "Let us go back to her and tell her you'd be open to a discussion. I think that would work better."

The problem with looping through a round as heavily populated as this was the sheer number of variables at play. It was near-impossible to keep track of each and every one of them, the myriad ways in which they might interact and the results that might be born of these interactions. Even so Kracht could confidently claim that no inhabitant of Battletopia matched the description given. As such he suspected that this was the work of some subversive faction, but if that were the case and this were a trap to be sprung why refuse him the opportunity to spring it? Either way Kracht felt like this called for further investigation.

Kracht rapped on the door, which after a moment slid open. "You can come in now." He addressed the guards, who promptly did so. They were the kind of guys who wouldn't stand out in a crowd; two sort of generic looking guys in standard issue armour.

Michelle's hand reflexively went to her weapon, but even if this did come down to a firefight and she managed to get off any shots before being shot down herself. the most she could hope for was to stun them; as a containment agent her weapon was specifically engineered not to kill.

"Relax Michelle." Kracht said calmly. "Resistance will not help either of us in this situation."

"So what is the situation?" asked the shorter of the two guards.

"Locate and infiltrate their group, but report back to me when you have made clear the nature of the group." Kracht paused and glanced to the more heavily built of the two guards. "The nymph lacks a traditional nervous system, will this be a problem?" He gave a curt nod. "Then take Michelle instead. Turn the mana dampeners on when you're done."

"Hold on." Aph pleaded. "There's no need for this. Ajota is not your enemy."

"Goodbye ladies. It has been interesting but I have other matters to attend to." Aph continued to try to argue her case as Kracht turned and left and only trailed off when the doors slid firmly shut behind him.

"There's no need for this." Aph babbled hopelessly. "Ajota loves us all. Just come with us, you'll see. You don't need to do this."

Michelle's heart was racing. It wasn't over yet. Maybe between the two of them they could take these two guards. She figured one of them must have the keycard for the door and then all they'd need to do would be to sneak back to the van. From there they could floor it, run the security checkpoint and head back to the Soulmother. Presumably they'd have to ditch the van somewhere to ensure they weren't followed but... it was possible. Her heart pounding she pulled her weapon and took aim on the taller guard, the one who had been told to 'take her'. Thick black energy poured from his mouth, and in a panic she opened fire, pulling the trigger of her shock pistol until all that was elicited was a damp fizz. After the second shot his body collapsed backwards, and the smoke or whatever it was had formed into a familiar looking orb. It shot towards her and she found herself engulfed. She tried to fight it off, jammed her mouth shut and batted at the air in the hope of dispersing it, but it forced its way in anyway.

"Yeah, yeah we got it." The shorter guard interrupted Aph's desperate pleas.

It wasn't until that point that Aph noticed his gradual alteration. His skin was becoming pinker, his body taller, thinner and more feminine, his hair growing longer. Aph stared dumbly as he became a perfect duplicate of herself, the only difference the armour she was wearing and the weapon she carried. Finally, as the transformation was complete, she gathered her senses and desperately she leapt. She struggled with her duplicate, attempting to wrench the weapon away from her while her duplicate shouted for backup. Within moments Michelle pulled Aph off her duplicate and flung her into the corner of the room.

"Michelle?" Aph's voice quavered.

"Not any more." She replied. "Bae, you all set?"

Aph's duplicate scrutinized her one last time and said "I'm good." Then, dragging the corpse of Ziirphael's former host behind them, they left. As the door shut behind them there was a click and a faint humming. Aph shakily clambered to her feet and stumbled towards the door the world seeming to evaporate around her. Sparks fizzed off her skin as she forced herself towards the heavy doors. It was with her last ounces of strength that she slumped uselessly against them and finally succumbed to the blackness.


Michelle's containment van pulled up once more to Ajota's barricade, which in the time since she and Aph had left had doubled in size. It was easy enough to locate thanks to the van's inbuilt GPS, but would have been even easier if Michelle's subconscious wasn't putting up quite such a fight against Ziirphael's presence. Her tenacity was not so great that she was likely to seize control back from the death spirit, but it was enough that she was able to fend off his attempts to examine her memories, more or less.

"So what's the story?" Bae asked.

"They went to secure a truce." Ziirphael replied. "Claiming that we have done so stretches credibility. I suggest we claim to have been turned down and escaped."

"Maybe I should have stayed on base." Bae replied mockingly, "I mean both of us getting away? Kind of stretches credibility don't you think?" Ziirphael ignored her and got out of the van. Bae grumbling about her partner's sense of humour followed immediately after.

"Hey it's Aph and Michelle!" a voice shouted from above them. They both looked up to see the head of a teenager in a blue shirt peering over the barricade. "Welcome back sisters!" he called down. "The Soulmother's going to be pleased as punch you're back. Hang on a minute." Bae and Ziirphael exchanged glances as the kid disappeared from view for a moment. When he reappeared he was holding a rope which he threw down for them. "Quick, come on up." The kid called, and they were happy to oblige him. Bae/Aph climbed up first, all the while thinking about how unsuited to physical activity this form was. When she neared the top the kid reached over and helped her onto a smaller mound of furniture on the other side.

"Good to be home eh sister?" The kid asked with a happy grin. Bae nodded and attempted to catch her breath. The street beyond the barricade was empty, but for the pieces of broken furniture that lay scattered here and there. Ziirphael/Michelle scaled the barricade much quicker than Bae had managed.

"Where is everyone?" Ziirphael asked.

"A little bit further down." The kid replied. "We've been working on expanding our borders a little bit while you've been gone. I'm sure the Soulmother will tell you all about it."

Bae shot a questioning glance towards Ziirphael; he had no answers for her. "Yeah we shouldn't keep the Soulmother waiting." Bae said. "We've got big news for her..." He paused. "If you could point us in her direction?"

"Oh, right, yeah." The kid pointed to the house that had once been Aph's and Jordan's.

"Thank you, brother." Ziirphael said. He and Bae picked their way carefully down the slightly shaky mound of furniture.

"Who would have thought so many people would be in on it." Bae whispered. "I thought it would be a much more low key operation. How does nobody even know about this yet?"

Ziirphael, resolutely attempting to remain in character, ignored her entirely and stepped into the house that was now Ajota's headquarters. Ziirphael peered into the lounge, there was nobody in there and it was as expected empty of furniture, however it did contain quite a large pile of plastic explosives. Before he could react, or even determine how he ought to be reacting there was a click and an explosion. It wasn't limited just to the living room, the entire house was packed with plastic explosives, as was the next house over and quite a large portion of the street and the barricade itself.


The sound of the explosion carried through the still night to where Soulmother Ajota and her rapidly growing army were on the move. For a minute they stopped and watched as the smoke rose from the destroyed street.

my children. today we are witness to a great tragedy but sadly we have no time to mourn for kracht will not stop with the death of your sisters aph and michelle and your brother nathan Ajota tore her attention from the burning ruins in the distance and looked around at each of her children, each one earnest, consumed with a terrible sadness. today kracht declares war on each and every one of us and on every person who we might help. all we can do now is to press forwards and hope we can make their sacrifice worth it, and remember them always

As they continued to march Soulmother Ajota had at her side the eldest of her remaining children; Jordan Smith, and trailing a little way behind her was her new favourite; Algernon. His ability to create physical items from nothingness at the cost of his memories had been something he had been reticent to use in the past. But after meeting the Soulmother and finally finding happiness and his place in the world he was only too happy to let her make full use of his ability. It had proved invaluable in setting up the trap back there, though it had left him with a not insignificant amount of memory loss. It had become necessary, in the Soulmother's eyes at least, to tie a piece of string around his wrist to ensure that he didn't get lost, or lag too far behind.

Soulmother Ajota had known that Aph would not succeed. The minds of all her children told her that Kracht was not a man to be reasoned with, but Aph's mind had been made up and sometimes it is necessary in life to let your children make their own mistakes. It did not make her death any less tragic, or Kracht any less culpable. The trap was perhaps overkill, so to speak. At the time she'd claimed it was to account for the fact that she had no idea what kind of response Kracht might send. Though she wouldn't care to admit it, perhaps it was in truth a message; an explosion to be seen across the city to demonstrate the depth of her fury; a declaration of war.

Finally they reached their destination. In the security booth a handsome man with slicked back black hair, wearing a navy blue frilled coat over his uniform was sat tapping away at his computer.

We'd like to speak to General Kracht please
fyck phytybyckyt
RE: The Savage Brawl [Round 5: Battletopia]
Captivity was a new experience for Konka Rar. Before now, he had only seen a cell from the other side of the bars.

But the physical confinement was the least of his concerns. His cybernetics had been ripped out, and he had been literally disarmed. Worse, his captors seemed well aware of his magical capabilities, and had an assortment of devices stifling the flow of mana through the cell. Indeed, the only reason Rar had any mana at all was that, at least for the moment, they wanted him alive.

With nothing else to do, the lich had spent the past several hours wondering exactly why that was.

The most obvious motive was information. But he had seen no interrogator. Similarly, it was unlikely they were holding him captive as leverage to claim a favor from him. Not that he would have been inclined to accept, given the circumstances.

A strong moral code against killing? Unlikely. Konka Rar's experience had been that even the staunchest followers of such a creed didn't consider it to apply to the already-dead.

Siphoning mana from him as an energy source? They were ludicrously inefficient if so. There was no way he could produce enough mana to compensate for what they were expending to keep him here.

Finally, it dawned on him. The announcement on his arrival had spoken of the Savage Brawl, the contest he had been forcibly entered into. If he were killed, the rest of the combatants would disappear - and if his captors wanted another target for whatever purpose, Rar had to remain alive.

In short, he was being kept out of trouble, and allowed to survive while they pursued their real target, whoever that was. It was absurd, but it made more sense than any other explanation he could devise.

Once he realized it, he was insulted. Could they not at least have questioned him about their quarry? Made some offer of cooperation? He doubted he would have accepted, but it was the principle of the matter.

Unfortunately, it left him right where he was - weak, immobilized, and with barely enough mana in his body to sustain him. He might be able to use that residual mana to cast a spell despite all the countermeasures, but what good would that do? The mana was, for all intents and purposes, his sense of self. If it left his body...

And then it struck him. What if it left his body, but remained intact? What if he could transfer his consciousness into the mana itself?

In theory, it was possible. Ziirphael had done something similar, after all, and had even possessed his body...

And indeed, there was the slightest mental hint of the trail the death-god had left through. Perhaps it was possible.

There was little to lose at this point. Rar focused carefully on the mana flowing through him, and slowly felt his mind connect to it, felt the mana more than he felt the cold stone floor his body lay upon, and guided it through the spiritual route Ziirphael had escaped through.

Then he stopped feeling the body at all. The mana flowed away, and Konka Rar's spirit was free.

An alarm sounded as some device detected no readings from the skeleton in the cell. Rar ignored it as his spiritual form fled through the walls.

He needed to find a new body.


The alarm indicating the sudden death of a prisoner might have caught Kracht's attention, were it not for the fact that he was preoccupied with the surprise contestant.

This was, ultimately, the worst-case scenario. He couldn't kill this Ajota, after all, not without losing everything he had worked for.. He had someone on standby to kill Hoss in an emergency, but that was less than ideal.

Without Hoss, Kracht would lose his chance to learn what schemes were already underway in this timeline. More than that, killing only one of the unwanted guests would mean abandoning his master plan.

As he well knew, the original Kracht had given up on challenging the Grandmasters - thwarting the threat of human domination was more important. But General Kracht of Battletopia had an opportunity to do both - to rid the multiverse of the Hand of Silver, and to strike a blow against the battles.

All he had to do was destroy every contestant at once, leaving the Savage Brawl with no champion. A minor problem, so it would seem; but Kracht knew well, from countless timelines of experience, the fragile web of alliances between Grandmasters. A disruption on this scale would leave them in disarray as they bickered about whose fault it was, how they were to be punished, and what exactly they were going to do about All-Stars. It might provide the opening to a real cross-battle resistance, one that was not simply a tool for a madman.

Of course, a simultaneous four-way kill was non-trivial considering Ekelhaft's resilience. But under normal circumstances, there was plenty of time to work out the details.

Now Ajota had changed that. As Kracht stepped out of the elevator, he resigned himself to the fact that he might have to settle only for ridding the multiverse of one of its greatest tyrants.

"I understand you wish to see me," Kracht said, as the doors opened. "I don't know to what end..."

He felt a pistol round bounce off of his crystalline shell and sighed. It had come from his receptionist; the latest member of Ajota's family, evidently. A pity, the man was good at his job.

"Ah. I see you aren't here to talk."

Two more elevators opened behind Kracht. A large robot with numerous legs stepped out of one, and a floating mass of metal drifted out from the other.

"Well, that's what contingency plans are for," Kracht said. "CH4-12-L13, AMP, and myself have something significant in common. We're all inorganic. That means your mind control is ineffective on us, and..."

Kracht clapped his hands together, mostly for effect. Thick shutters fell over all the doors, and a strange green gas started to fill the room.

" also renders us immune to this Otsaceae gas, a powerful hallucinogen. It should be taking effect in a few seconds."
RE: The Savage Brawl [Round 5: Battletopia]
"An escapee? On top of the rebellion?"

"Sort of," Arkal said. "His body's still there, but Triumphian tells me his spirit's fled it. He's working on calling it back, but that's going to take at least an hour. Emily says she can detect it if it possesses anyone or anything in the building, and the wards should keep it from leaving. But more eyes on the problem wouldn't hurt."

High Admiral Itzel turned to her other monitor.

"This is High Admiral Itzel. Full surveillance on the outerworld prison. Report any unusual activity, particularly if it involves something moving that shouldn't be able to."

"Admiral, we've already got our hands full searching for rebels," Captain Quirrinal's voice called back. "I'd have to drag people in from other posts."

"Drag whoever you need to, Quirrinal. I don't care where you grab them from at this point."

"Even security?"

Itzel paused.

"Keep security levels as high as you can on all critical functions, but aside from that, take who you need. There's too much going on tonight to take any risk."

"Understood, Admiral."

Itzel turned back to Arkal.

"You'd better not get any other problems out there. We're doing a lot for you in here, you know. And we're stretched to the breaking point."

"I appreciate it, Admiral," Arkal said, saluting. "You've all done good work."

"I mean it. We've had to deal with three rebellions here, and that's just this timeline. Frankly, I'm surprised it's taken Kracht this long to have trouble, but I guess you have a smaller population to keep an eye on."

"He says there's usually some kind of trouble when the round begins. This is just bigger trouble than usual."

"Well, you'd better keep your trouble out of here..."

Before Itzel could finish, the screen went dark. Then the lights did as well.

"Equipment malfunction," she groaned. "Of course this happens now. Where the hell is Heng?"

She turned around to see the Chief Engineer standing behind her, holding a blaster.

"Right here, Admiral."

"I knew we were overdue," she grumbled. "So let's see. Either Quirrinal's in on it, or Szindle's been eavesdropping. Probably Szindle, he could fake some orders to let you convince security to let you in..."

"Does it really matter at this point, Admiral? Do you know how many of your top officers are sick and tired of taking marching orders from Kracht, of turning Lucky into one big labor camp?"

"Let me guess. Half. Enough to send one to kill or persuade the other half."

"Two-thirds. More or less; I had to come up here alone."

"You're not willing to shoot me, Heng. If you were, you would have already."

"Can't deny that; I'm not really a killer. But I don't need to. Power's out in this room, which means no calling for help and the door's shut tight. And you don't have the expertise to fix that. You're not leaving this room until I say so, so if you were thinking of killing me, well, hope you enjoy rotting away here."

"Why the hell are you doing this, Heng? Hoss wants to eradicate everything that isn't human, which is to say, well over ninety percent of our population. And Kracht's the only one who knows how to stop him."

"Well, Admiral, Hoss is locked up tight, and yet from what I can see nothing's changed here."

"You've seen those archives from the other Lucky VIIs. You confirmed their authenticity yourself. You know what Hoss can do."

"Yes, Admiral, I do. And I also know what you can do. What you did."

Itzel was taken aback.

"You went poking into the files marked 'for my eyes only', didn't you."

"Mass executions, Admiral. Explain that to me!"

"I was shocked by what that Itzel did, too. But she's not me."

"See, there's a problem with that argument, Admiral," Heng said. "The whole reason why Kracht does what he does - why we're supposed to follow him - is that Hoss is one of the most dangerous beings in the multiverse. But if you're not the same Itzel, who's to say this is the same Hoss? If we're punishing him for the crimes of his other selves, then the same logic applies to you."

"Well, then. I guess that means you're locked in a room with a mass murderer, you've got a gun, and you're afraid to pull the trigger. Care to explain why?"

"I... You... You're stalling!"

"Maybe, but what does it matter? You're not shooting me, so stalling would just be a gamble on which side wins out there."

Heng didn't say anything.

"So let me make a quick guess. You're conflicted. You really are afraid I might go as far as ordering the death of every human on Lucky. At the same time, you don't want to believe I'd actually do it. You can't decide which of those feelings to act on, so you're putting off the decision as long as you can."

Itzel hovered a little closer.

"Maybe an order will help. Chief Engineer Heng, I order you to either surrender and let me out of here, or shoot me and end the menace I represent to our people. In the next five seconds."

Heng took a deep breath before lowering the gun.

"I guess I don't really believe it, Admiral."

"Good. Then let's get out of here and see if we can convince anyone else, before we've got a disaster on our hands."

Heng nodded awkwardly, and opened up a circuit panel on the wall. After some fiddling the lights went back on and the door opened up, revealing Security Chief Malfallow.

Without a word, he pointed a pistol at Heng and shot him.

"That was unnecessary. He'd already surrendered," Itzel said. "I grant it would be a risk to keep him around, but he could have helped us negotiate a settlement with the other rebels...

She fell to the ground as Malfallow's second shot struck her.

"Perhaps he could have," he said. "But that would not have served my needs."