Journal of Sociology [S!6] - [Round Two: Ryburg Ritz]

Journal of Sociology [S!6] - [Round Two: Ryburg Ritz]
Re: Journal of Sociology [S!6] - [Round One: The Pacific Spire]
Originally posted on MSPA by ~ATH.

Jean had a job to do, oh yes. Well, it was more like her fifth job, because she hadn't done so well on her past few jobs, due either to her clumsiness or her lack of a higher level intelligence. But this one was an easy job, so she would be able to handle it. All she had to do was to deliver mail back and forth between some floors. Nobody had even bothered to tell her that she actually wasn't needed, as there was already an automatic mail delivery system. The elevators were tough for her to figure out, but she got it with enough time. The hardest part was dealing with the screams of people who didn't know her. She had tried to reassure them that she was just an ordinary laundry golem, sent to deliver some mail, but it never convinced them. Fortunately, that wasn't her job, so she simply let the package down and left every time.

She was on her way back to the main floor when the elevator suddenly shuddered to a stop, the lights flickered on and off, and the elevator lurched a bit.

The doors opened, perhaps out of reflex, and sent all the occupants tumbling out, on the wrong floor. Jean's clothes sprawled all over the floor, the doors closed, and the elevator zoomed, straight up into nowhere.

This floor was dark, with no lights but the lights streaking in from the heavily-blinded windows. There were some people already there, huddled in the corner, but they made no reaction when the elevator crowd burst in. Everybody stood up, now thoroughly disorientated, and attempted to make sense of the situation.

"Where is this? What the fuck is going on?!"

"Why are we here? What happened to the elevator?"

"The elevator said floor 244. What was that floor again?"

"I don't know! I don't even know!"

"I'm scared! Someone help me! Help!"

"The elevator won't open!"

The populace was thrown in general dissent, as they struggled to deal with a new situation. Perhaps it was the fact that they worked all day in a monotonous routine, but the rise of something new caused them to collapse in a panic. Shrieks, squalls, and sobs echoed across the room, and Jean didn't do anything, as she didn't really have a reason to be scared. She just went over to one of the people in the corners and asked what was going on and why everybody was raising such a din. After she got a good long, disbelieving stare aimed at her, the bedraggled worker finally took a long ragged sigh.

"...This is floor 244. The temporary prison of The Heisenberg Science Company. They've made their move."

Some other people heard, and moved closer to the man, who proceeded to explain the whole thing.

"Okay, so you've noticed the elevators have been weird lately, right?"

Some nodded, others murmured, and some just stared blankly and looked confused.

"So there's this company, right? They tried to make the elevators faster, but they broke physics in the process. Well, the Heisenberg Science Company is taking advantage of that, to lock us here and take over the tower."

The mob, sense now brought to them, calmed down and and started coming up with plans. The rate at which they calmed down would be startling to any outsider, but Jean was starting to lose interest in the whole thing. First, they would have to get out of here. But, the elevator was closed to them. They needed a way to communicate with other floors then. Everybody checked their cell phones, and while they did indeed have service, they found they couldn't connect with anyone in the building.

Eventually, the subject of food was brought up. Some suggested cannibalism. Some suggested eating their waste.

One suggested breaking the windows and jumping out.

The crowd of people continued to waffle further on the situation, coming up with many outrageous plans, each much less plausible than before. Jean, meanwhile, had completely lost interest. Elevators, science, fighting, who cares? She just wondered what was going on back down there, with those gorgeous office ladies and the woman in the pretty dress and that robot who still had her sweater.

Elsewhere, two office workers were placidly discussing away the day's event while working away the last few hours.

"Psst. Hey. Did you see those two weirdos walking around the corridors?"

"Yeah! A zombie-looking guy and a woman in the strangest dress I've ever seen."

"Uhuh. I also heard a rumor that there was a living pile of clothing and a floating metal robot ... thing, but personally I think everybody's just off their rocker."

"I dunno, with all the weird shit happening lately, it's possible."

"... A living pile of clothing?!"

"Hey man, have you even seen the shit that science company gets to?"

"Yeah, but I still think you're nuts."

"Whatever, man."

They frittered away idly for a couple more minutes, but one question could simply not be unasked. Something gnawed at them, and it could not be ignored. Like, why were the weirdos even here? Their minds worked themselves into a sort of panic, in realizing that their simple office life could be uprooted soon. This sort of thing, two odd strangers showing up out of nowhere, was too strange to be ignored. One of them finally built enough confidence to pipe up.

"Has anyone even done anything about those two weirdos?"

"Uh, no. From the looks of it, everybody's just letting them wander about."

"What? Why?"

"Hey man, I'm not gonna get near them. Are you?"

"Haha, hell no. Besides, it isn't our responsibility, so we don't need to worry about them, right?"

"I hope you're right..."

The two office workers then turned back to their cubicles and started working, desperately attempting to ignore everything else. Their words may have been casual, but their feelings most certainly weren't. Their overworked minds were clinging on to the last vestiges of sanity by carrying out boring routines. Those vestiges were strained quite thin indeed when a deafening blast echoed across the complex. A harsh light and smoke emitted from somewhere in the rest, followed by several screams. Everybody heard machine-gun fire.

"Agh! Fuck!"

"What the hell was that?"

The stressed office workers rolled back their chairs, reached under their desks, and pulled out emergency assault rifles. Everybody else did the same. Their hands quivered, but they gripped their guns tightly. In their hands, were their lives themselves. They would fight. Fight or die. Someone started crying, only to be ignored by everyone else. But he knew this. In war, there's no time for sentimentality. They marched onwards, to their eventual death.

Dr. Alberich von Wissenschaft liked to think that he was good at adapting to new and unexpected situations. He had plenty of experience with them, after all. But even this was too unexpected for him. A stray bullet pierced his arm, and Mr. John Doe's body instinctively panicked and attempted to flee, right out in open space. "No, no, no! That area is dangerous! We have to hide, you moron!"

Desperately, his mind began thinking of a way out of this bind. He was going to die, within the span of a few seconds. He could only think of one thing. "Help! Someone stop this body of mine!"

Right away, he was surrounded by a strange aura.

pain pain run away

John's body calmed down nigh instantaneously, and Alberich was able to steer it back into a hiding spot, next to Miss Blacklight, who was holding a sickly greenish gem.

"... Was that you? Erm... Is that... John's desire?"

"You bet it is! Seems my quick thinking saved your life!"

"Ah. Well."

"Yes? You were gonna say something?"

"...Thank you."

"Anytime. We're all in this together. I mean, I know we're in a battle to the death, but that doesn't mean we should fight each other like uncivilized buffoons!"

"Ah. Exactly my thoughts. But this isn't the time! We should find a safer place, away from all this ... madness!"

Madness was too light a word for the chaos in the room. People dropped dead, no, exploded into a mist of blood and gore. Blood sprayed across papers and keyboards. Once office workers, now killers, or dead. Alberich kept his eyes shut, but sight wasnt his only sense. John's oft-neglected sense of smell was aroused by the scent of blood, and Alberich felt queasy at what he was experiencing - hunger. Blacklight stood up, and dragged him away with an unusual strength. They stepped over bodies, dead bodies that stared listlessly back up at them. Eventually, they finally found a janitor's closet. They closed and barricaded the door. Nobody else was here. They took a deep breath, and slumped down to the ground. Eventually, they felt like they had to talk, if only to have something to concentrate on other than the gunfire.

"Say, I was thinking about that one god who brought us here. I thought she was a hallucination at first, but all this seems pretty real so far."

"Yes. She had called herself The Sociologist, didn't she? From what I can read of her, she desires to study us, by making us kill each other, but if you ask me, this isn't the most conductive place for us to fight each other. I mean, we're already in a battle!"

"So, what do you suggest we do?"

"All I really want is to stay alive, to be honest. Some of the other contestants looked like they were ready to kill, and we already have people trying to kill us. We should team up for the rest of this so-called battle."

"Yes, we should. What of the golem? Jean, was it?"

"Oh, yes, her. She really doesn't seem at all prepared for a battle like this, but you never know, right? I mean, why enter someone like what she is in one of these battles? I think we better get her on our side, before they get her."

"And the robot?"

"We really can't predict what someone like her would do, but she seems innocuous enough."

"Right, right. Is it possible that the Sociologist wanted all of us to team up from the start?"

"Hahaha! You really think it will be that easy? I really don't know anything about the other constestants, but they didn't seem as well-adjusted as we are, so to speak. I mean, it's possible that they're the ones driving this whole battle..."

Miss Blacklight let those words hang, and Dr. Alberich found that he had a lot to think about, indeed. They fell silent, and listened to the unrelenting gunfire.
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Re: Journal of Sociology [S!6] - [Round One: The Pacific Spire]
Originally posted on MSPA by Ixcalibur.

Blake was more than a little irritated. His entire life he had jumped through a series of hoops as set by his parents, his teachers, his friends, his girlfriend, his employers… why should he have expected that this battle would have made anything any different. Just when he thought he was taking control of his life for the first time he finds himself the hostage of some madman who wants to use him to perform a simple task that could easily be accomplished on his own. It almost made him nostalgic for his previous life, at least the expectations and obligations he had to fulfil there made some kind of sense, followed a sort of logic he could understand if not agree with.

Beyond the heavy wooden doors was the Parachutes Technology Laboratory complex. There were a number of labs along the far wall and along the wall to the left in which serious looking men and women in labcoats tinkered with the designs of prototype parachutes. It was intricate work, tiny adjustments that would have a massive impact upon how the parachutes worked, to a layman’s eyes perhaps it would seem like there was nothing unusual about the parachutes being assembled at all. Though most people new to the Parachutes Technology Laboratory barely even noticed these labs, their attention drawn instead to the right wall, or rather the absence of it.

There was waist high fencing and a metal structure almost reminiscent of a plank from a pirates’ ship that stretched out into the sky beyond. The view was magnificent; a sea of skyscrapers none of which reached up as high as the Pacific Spire, though there were some that came close, and the evening sun hunkering low over them, preparing to go down for the night. A number of sandbags were positioned facing the door with hardened soldiers hunkered down behind them. Their rifles were ever at the ready for surprise attacks from their rivals at Parasailing Research & Development.

Blake hesitated at the doorway, still irritated by this pointless distraction from his purpose here. Things would have been very different if he’d actually opened that door up and provoked the itchy trigger fingers of the ParaTech guards, however at that moment the lights in the hallway unexpectedly flickered and died.

Everything seemed to have been dragging on as they had made their way down the corridor, now everything seemed to be happening so fast. In an instant Nemo’s gun was gone from his hand, skidding down the corridor and his hostage couldn’t be seen in the darkness. But more than that it was almost as though he had completely disappeared, to have exerted himself to kick Nemo’s gun away as he had gone Nemo should have heard him gasping for breath nearby, should have heard his footfalls against the hard floor and yet there was nothing. The corridor was narrow, perhaps just wide enough for two people to pass one another without colliding but not much wider than that. Deprived from his vision and somehow disorientated Nemo suddenly felt as though it stretched out forever.

He wasn’t worried though. His hands quickly found the boxcutter that that guy had had, and slid the blade out a little ways, and in fact he didn’t even need that. He could kill with just a touch; he could spit on this guy and kill him. Nemo was never worried, he was afraid of no man or creature. There was no situation he couldn’t get out of or more accurately emerge victorious from. There was the sudden sound of a gunshot from behind him, though it was difficult to be sure it sounded as though it had hit the ceiling above him. This guy couldn’t even shoot in a straight line what an idiot. He spun around to where the gunshot had come from.

“You’re not very good at this.” He said.

The box-cutter was suddenly gone from his hands. Gunshots rang out but from every direction. The sounds of hearts beating and feet running and deep breaths inhaled were at once coming from everywhere, from all around him in the darkness. A moment of panic, of pure terror borne not from any conscious thought but from the atmosphere, the noise, the feeling of emptiness and the darkness that seemed to be darker that it should have been. It was something right down at the core of the brain, something primordial overwriting what Nemo knew to be true. Lights flickered and flashed and for a moment in front of him he saw a face inches from his own, its mouth contorted into a wicked grin.

Seconds later the harsh corridor lighting was back on and Nemo found himself completely alone, his pistol abandoned at his feet. There was no sign of Blake or of their conflict in the darkness; no bulletholes in the walls or ceiling around him, no discarded shells and the box-cutter was gone as well. Nemo should have felt relief, or well no he was never in any danger anyway he shouldn’t have even felt that. But that grinning face, there was madness in its eyes and he had stared right into them. The thing that was the most disturbing was that it had been his own face, as though he’d been looking into a mirror.


In the stairway Blake caught his breath and clutched his box-cutter to his chest. He had no idea what had just happened, but he felt… exhilarated.
fyck phytybyckyt
Re: Journal of Sociology [S!6] - [Round One: The Pacific Spire]
Originally posted on MSPA by Snowyowl.

The Head of Security for floors 271 to 285 pinched the bridge of his nose. The two guards in his office shuffled nervously, and simultaneously realised they were not earning many brownie points for this.

"So tell me about this spy of yours. I mean, since you're clearly both counterespionage specialists all of a sudden, you could tell me exactly what he did that blew his carefully constructed cover."

The tall guard looked at his feet and mumbled something that ended in "...ooked funny". The Head of Security, whose desk identified him as one Pike Josiah, made a show of putting one hand to his ear and leaning in. "Sorry, I think I'm going deaf in my old age. Would you care to repeat that?"

The guard coughed slightly. He was taller than average by just enough margin that he could convincingly loom over people, and had devised a way of wearing his uniform that made his shoulders look far more muscular than they really were. "He, uh, he was dressed funny. Sir. Shiny cape and huge white hat. And he tried to run when we asked him questions."

Pike looked at the other guard. This guy was a little older than his partner, and had a distinguished-looking face that put Pike in mind of a Greek philosopher. Bright lad, but with the subtlety and perceptiveness of a sledgehammer. "Is your partner right, Mister" he squinted "Shepstone? You brought this guy in because he was wearing a hat?"

"No sir, he had a bag too. Uh, I mean, that is. Sir."

"You decided, based on the fact that he was apparently doing everything possible to draw attention to himself, that he was actually a master of stealth and deception?"

No response.

"And despite there being two of you, you then left him alone and unguarded while you came barging in here all pleased to have something interesting to report? Not thinking to leave one of you behind, or to call me up to you? Not even considering that, in your imagined scenario where the floors under us are sending spies into our midst, having a brightly dressed bumbling idiot wandering around would be the perfect distraction for a real spy?"

No response. Pike let them mull over the last question, then brightly asked "So, what'd you do with him?"

Oli rattled the inside door of the supply cupboard. Still locked. He banged on it once or twice, to try and get the attention of someone who could let him out. Then he wondered who would be letting him out and whether he hadn't had enough of their attention for one day.

The "cupboard" was really more of a small office. There was enough room for him to kick down the door, and heavy boxes that could be used as battering rams in case the lock was much sturdier than it looked. But that left the problem of drawing unwanted attention, which had in fact been the only problem left to solve. So, in fact, he hadn't solved anything at all. He slumped down against the wall; this at least solved the problem of his legs getting sore from standing up all the time.

He was still on some level aware that he had recently been transported through time and space and possibly a couple of other things, but there didn't seem to be much he could do about it. It wasn't quite possible to lock those feelings away entirely, but he could ignore them well enough. Just put on a brave face, pretend he was playing the part of a slightly braver Oli, and tell the little Oli inside him that he could worry about those problems when the show was over.

The outer Oli's conviction was reinforced by the almost complete normality of this place. As far as the ultimate nature of reality went, he'd expected something rather more incomprehensible to the mortal mind, and rather less corporate. The inner Oli was aware this was a big part of the reason he was coping so well. The thought struck him that maybe this was some sort of comforting illusion that his subconscious had imagined to help him cope with experiences beyond his grasp, but Oli's subconscious was usually a lot more creative than this. Funnier, too.

Anyway, the guards would come back eventually, and he still hadn't figured out how to escape in a not attention-drawing manner. He approached the problem anew: What sort of people would pass through here unnoticed? Then he rephrased it as: What sort of person would pass through here without answering awkward questions or being followed?

The word "Status" passed through his mind.

" - are only the third and fourth biggest idiots I've had to deal with today. I'd fire you both but the paperwork's a nightmare. So you're getting a verbal reprimand for now, and you're going to apologise to the innocent member of the public who you locked in a fucking supply cupboard."

"Yessir", said Shepstone. "And then I'll go over the company policies and expand the section on detention of suspected intruders. Sir. To reflect what you just told us."

Pike's eyebrows raised imperceptibly. Bright lad indeed, he could go far. Unless he had the sense not to, of course. People with sense found a job that they could do with the bare minimum of effort, and then spent the rest of their effort on more useful things. People with no sense ended up running the company. Which was part of the reason why none of the decisions here ever made sense.

The decades spent at the Pacific Spire had endowed Pike with two important traits: weapons-grade cynicism, and the ability to look authoritative and knowledgeable when he was actually wrapped up in irrelevant thoughts. The rookies on either side of him were too nervous to talk, look around, or indeed do anything except walk in a straight line and total silence. It was only a slight ego-boost when a grumbling janitor saw the armed uniforms marching towards him, and pressed himself against the wall so they could pass without having to acknowledge him.

Status, in the comedian's lingo, is the key to interaction between two characters. It's not entirely the same thing as confidence, authority, and attitude, though these certainly play a part. Simply put: in any scene, the high-status character is the dominant one, and the low-status character the submissive one. Obviously, this is not a perfectly clear-cut distinction, and many of the most interesting improvised scenes are created by playing in the grey areas of status. For example, a butler who is calm, professional, and knowledgeable will be higher status than his frazzled, nervous employer despite the latter's supposed authority.

Many interactions between people can be examined in terms of status. An eminent biologist playing low-status to a high-status gypsy who claims his science doesn't explain everything. Two otherwise identical people meeting, and immediately determining which one will be the high-status hunter and which the low-status target. A high-status convict rebelling against the low-status role that a powerful authority has imposed on him. Or even a high-status manager talking to two low-status guards who have just realised that there are people even lower than them. That pathetic-looking janitor, for example, whining about doors getting stuck, and carrying a bag of supplies.

Nobody paid him much attention.

Re: Journal of Sociology [S!6] - [Round One: The Pacific Spire]
Originally posted on MSPA by Palamedes.

Alberich had lot to think about indeed.

There was something to this woman, this... magician, as it were. Just a day ago, Alberich would have laughed at anyone who said sorcery could be real, but now...

He looked down at the prone form of John - his prone form. Calm, unmoving. Just as the gunshot had awoken Doe's more primal side too. The man, dead or not, seemed to hate being wounded more then anything, even if such injuries were superficial and easily dealt with. It usually took remarkably good circumstances for Alberich himself, accustomed to the monster he shared a body with, to avoid such panics without Doe running them into the nearest scent of human blodo, or nearest human should no injuries be nearby, yet Blacklight seemingly controlled John into docility.

Alberich wondered... Blacklight was truely something, something even the wonders of science couldn't explain, couldn't match. Could she possibly restore him to his older state? Could she permanently silence John?

He opened his mouth to ask amongst the gunfire, when suddenly he felt a severe pain in his head, far from the typical headache or migraine from thinking to hard or taking a fall. It was one all too familiar for his liking, especially in his current situation. Doe was hungry.

Blacklight looked over at her unusually silent 'partner'. Usually by now the man had come up with some sort of retort to her, but ever since her little show with Simiel and Jean he hadn't quite been himself.

"Something the matter doctor?"

Blacklight immediately noticed that something was wrong, and that was without her specific talents coming into play. Using them however gave her a much clearer picture of what the exact issue was. The worried look on the mans face gave way to a startling lack of colour, the blue of Alberich von Wissenschaft had faded to almost nothing. In stark contrast, John Doe's red aura had begun to shine even stronger, and the crimson tendrils of his soul seeped into where the doctor's receded from.

Though this change was most certainly dramatic, it shouldn't have been instantaneous. No, the blue had been receding ever since they were forced to run after Victoria to the armory. She had figured it to be nothing more then Alberich finally admitting defeat, but now she chastised herself momentarily for not paying it any mind past that.

"I suppose we can't have that now can we Alberich?"

And like that, she began to work her magic.

Pain pain run away

The intensity of Doe's red aura continued to grow.

Lullabye baby on the rooftop

And grow.

Row row row your boat

And grow.

Stop now please you're hurting yourself

By this point Alberich himself realized there was nothing to be done. He hadn't been through this much movement in a long time, it seemed he had overestimated how long he could go without a meal in a scenario as busy as this one. He tried to get Doe to reach into one of his pockets.

Stop please you're hurting inside

So close. Just a little longer and Doe would be satisfied. A little longer and there would be no need for the doctor to bloody himself just yet.

Stop you're dead inside

Suddenly a shout. A woman slumped over the top of Alberich and Blacklight's makeshift barricade, with a hole in her head large enough to stick a finger in.

You're dead?

The realization hit Blacklight as soon as the scent of blood hit the doctor. John Doe was something entirely different from a normal human. He was a creature so focused on a singular desire, a single purpose, that nothing could distract him when he was close to fully surfacing. Nothing could truly tame a being that has no real drive, no wants, no spark of life other then hunger.

Alberich took the chance he got as soon as he noticed the body fall. Unfortunately, in an office where bloodbaths are as common as rainy days, an effective drainage system is a must. Most of what Alberich needed to appease Doe had already been splattered to the walls anyways, and what was left was almost entirely lost to a grate in the floor in the seconds he took to get to it.

He looked up to see his companion just staring at him. He supposed she hadn't expected someone with as much pride as he had to be licking the ground, but there was of course little he could do about it.


"Can't you do something about this? Make him stop before we're both killed!"

Blacklight just edged away slightly.

Alberich stared at the woman. Doe was hungry and she was right there. If they couldn't do something about it things were about to get messy...

It turned out neither of them needed to, as within seconds a new body came over their makeshift barricade - this one still very much alive, early thirties if you're interested. He wore a sash across his rather boring office suit reading 'Heisenberg Science', and had a small pistol pointed at the pair.

"Surrender now scum, drop your... weapons?"

The man joined the impromptu staring contest going on between Blacklight and Alberich.

"What the hell are Regaltech Costume employees doing here?"

Blacklight quickly looked up at the 'soldier', but almost immediately turned back to the still motionless zombie.

"Look, if you two could just..."

Still not getting anywhere, the employee fired at the ground near them. Doe finally stirred, turning Alberich's head towards the disturbance.

"Sir you might want to run now," came the wry voice of the doctor. "Actually, no. I suppose you'll have to do. Desperate times and all that."

As he spoke, the doctor's body finally rose up, coming face to face with the extremely confused employee.

"Eh? Who do you think you are, I have..."

"A gun? Yes yes, very impressive. Ms. Blacklight, you might want to back away a little."

The aforementioned woman pulled herself as far away as she could get without exposing herself to the now significantly less important battle raging around the three. Doe shambled closer and closer to the guard, who finally clued in that the doctor meant to fight him.

"Wait what do you think you're doing? Stay back! Oh fuck it."

One shot. Two shots. Both struck Doe in the stomach, but still he shambled on, faster this time.

"Hey you should be dying here man!"

Two more bullets, one into Doe's left arm and the other somewhere around his right shoulder. Now the zombie was practically leaping at the hapless employee. The struggle was brief, considering the great lengths it took for it to finally begin. Within moments, Doe had lifted the employee up to the point where their eyes me. The man, in some sort of desperate last move, brought his rather pitiful pistol right against the side of his oppressor's head.

The sharp clang of metal on metal rang out louder then the actual sound of the gun firing, and was followed by a short series of clicks. Oh the hazards of not reloading before you jump into enemy territory. As Doe pushed the man down, Alberich mused as to the abundant lack of military training given to the employees of this place, considering the warlike conflict they constantly seem to be in.

As John forced him to split open the man's skull with his teeth Alberich thanked his genius for thinking far enough ahead when it came to his skull plating, and considered the practical implications to coating most of the human skeleton in a similar way.

As John forced him to lap up the materials within the man's head Alberich realized that such an endeavour would be almost completely pointless, as it would only protect against light impacts, with the more vulnerable organs still suffering any sort of other damage in the same lethal way.

As the employee dropped to the ground and John stood upright gain, Alberich wondered whether or not anyone besides Blacklight was watching the fiasco.

"Holy shit! Regaltech's got a shambler here!"

"And they've sided against us! Shit, fire, fire!"

Ah. So they had.

Suddenly, Alberich and John were pulled back behind the barricade as the Heisenberg Science employees opened fire at him. Blacklight just sighed.

"So... I assume you're back to normal doctor?"

"Normal? Yes, I suppose I'm as normal as I come."

"Ah, wonderful!"

She paused, looking over the doctor.

"Oh, look at you've done! We won't be able to go around like that, what will people say?"

Alberich gaped at the woman.

"I apologize for not being able to eat a man alive in a more decent fashion," he finally answered, making a strong effort now to stay cool and collected despite the fact that he was just observed tearing into a human being like they were a buffet table.

Blacklight laughed at the scientist's feeble efforts to pretend he wasn't embarrassed. Honestly, he should know that you can't hide your soul from her by now. "Well we'll definitely have to find you something new to wear, won't we?"

"Yes..." Alberich glanced around before seeing a labcoat on the wall. "That will do. Fetch it for me will you? This body is awfully cumbersome."

"You're serious." This time Blacklight was the one who had to pause. A brief look over of Alberich again told her that he was, but even so she was almost surprised that he could joke despite what had just happened.

The gunfire directed towards the pair finally stopped, and shouts could be heard from Heisenberg Science.

"Damnit we weren't prepared for them to have reinforcements! Everyone fall back!"

Cheers of victory erupted from the flipped tables and makeshift bunkers around Blacklight and Alberich as Heisenberg Science retreated.

Alberich himself just narrowed his eyes at Blacklight, and lamented that it was so difficult to look smug one only had their face to work with.

"Now I am, Ms. Blacklight. Could you?"

Blacklight sighed and walked over, ignoring the thanks, praise, and promises that Manderson Inc. would support Regaltech in their war against Steampunk and Associates, simply grabbing the labcoat and bringing it back to her companion.

"Aaand there you go, that good?"

"Blacklight... why weren't you able to stop Mr. Doe, like you did before?"

Another sigh. Alberich had to give her credit, she does make rather impressive shows of irritation.

"I suppose it's because Jonathan is dead, silly."

Alberich blinked. He had thought that much had been established already. "This is not news to me."

Blacklight gave an audible sigh. "No, you don't understand! There's only red in him, the primal colour, keeping him going and giving him his single purpose. Desirey can do many things, but I can't change what someone fundamentally is, right? It plays off of people's wants, so if all Jonathen wants is to eat..."

"He eats. Is that what you're saying?"

"Yes. I suppose it is." Blacklight shrugged. "I have no more power to control him then you do doctor. Perhaps I can calm him a bit faster, but that's about it. I feel a little silly for not quite realizing his nature sooner, after all there is an obvious fundamental difference between someone who is driven by desire and someone who simply is."

Alberich didn't respond. All of this supposed magic, and she can't tell him what he doesn't already know? She can't help him, she can't change anything? What was the point of it then? Just when he had finally gotten his hopes up, there they were, just as dashed as the skull of -

Marcus Thompson, if the nametag was to be believed (though Alberich supposed this was coming from a 'Mr. Hannaby'), the man now lying dead on the ground. He felt like a child, discovering that Santa Claus wasn't real, that the movies were just a bunch of special effects, a lovestruck cuckold. Generally, he felt like an idiot, a fool. What he did not feel was that he might be getting carried away with his refound sense of disillusionment.

Blacklight did feel it though, and could easily tell the doctor was even more troubled then before. She figured it was once again up to her to get them moving.

"Shall we then Alberich? Come on, change so we can find sweet Simiel and darling Jean."

After a short time without any sort of response, Alberich snapped out of his moping.

"It's... um... it's not so easy. Usually it takes over an hour for me to get in or out of anything, and we just don't have that time. So I'll need you to help me. As it were. Just the overcoat, everything else should be easy enough to cover up with the labcoat."

He stared expectedly at the now disgusted Ms. Blacklight.

"Oh yes, and be careful not to get any blood on you, just in case. Or that grey gunk right there, that's brain matter Mr. Doe missed and may prove especially dangerous should it get anywhere near your head. We don't want an accident after all, right?"

Blacklight just continued to glare at Alberich. Unlike before, this time he seemed, sorry, was, completely serious. That he would expect someone of her refinement to come anywhere near his blood soaked person, put herself on the line, ruin her dress... something told her he wouldn't hold a door open for her either.

"I think maybe we should wait and find Jean."


It would turn out that the aforementioned golem was in a rather severe predicament of her own.

If you count her not being able to find a way back to the elegantly dressed duo (particularly the woman) as being severe, that is. Jean most certainly did, especially after having to deal with literal minutes of the drab office workers around her lamenting their (obviously) less dire set of circumstances.

As the golem pondered to herself a handful of makeshift prisoners began consulting with each other, as purposefully ignorant of her as she was of them.

"So the stairs were a bust Jenkins, Heisenberg blocked 'em off."

"Damnit," swore the leader of the small group (presumably Jenkins). "There goes our best shot at getting out."

A female intern scoffed. "The stairs? That's hardly the most inventive idea."

"Well I didn't see any of you bring them up for our first thirteen ideas!"

"Well... they're easy to forget! I mean there are hundreds of floors, it makes way more sense to just take the-"

"The elevator? Well how do you think we got in this mess in the first place!?"

Jenkins was fuming. How dare an intern question his authority? Criticize his plans? God damnit he was a clerk, the only person with less authority then her would be a mail carrier!

A... mail carrier.

Jenkins looked at Jean.

"Alright guys, I have another idea."

The employees whispered amongst each other, each one of them looking at the golem occasionally to make sure she wasn't listening in. After they were done plotting, Jenkins and the intern broke off and approached her. While Jenkins looked rather smug about the entire plan, the intern seemed confused.

"So sir," she asked, "Why aren't we just inviting Jean to join in on our plan?"

"Because she's a mailman damnit! They're always playing the field, who knows who's paying her off?" Jenkins suddenly leaned in close to the intern and began whispering. "She could even be a mole for... The Heisenbergs."

The intern had nothing to say to this, and just backed off slightly and decided to let Jenkins handle the rest. Which he did, walking up and tapping Jean on the shoulder.

"Hey there Jean! We were just wondering if you could maybe go take a good, long look in that storage closet over there, see if there's anything that could be even remotely useful in us getting out of there before Heisenberg comes back. Make sure you get it all in one trip!"

Jean looked at Jenkins, and while she most certainly felt he had an irritating voice and a boring outfit she very much didn't want to disappoint Victoria or Ms. Blacklight. She spun around and began heading for the room, not even noticing that Jenkins had grabbed a particularly long item from her back.

It wasn't until some time after she had entered the room and heard something that sounded like a chair being dragged towards the door that she even began to think anything was suspicious at all. What actually tipped her off was someone yelling something to the effect of 'only getting a single goddamn scarf off of that creepy mail thing' that she really began to question things at all.

But when she did notice, she most certainly reacted. Jenkins had stolen her FAVOURITE scarf. What was she going to do? She'd obviously have to leave the closet, she'd have to open the curiously stuck door, she'd have to take the scarf back from that man before he ripped her scarf or dirtied it or god forbid wore it or-

she collapsed into a pile on the ground.

"What do you mean only one scarf?" Jenkins asked, irritation clear in his voice. "Maybe if you guys were willing to help steal some of her other crap we'd have more! She moved way too fast for me to get anything else. Besides, do you see how long this is? Hell, if we can't use just this to get down to the next floor I'll eat my hat."

"You don't own a hat sir."

Jenkins let out a particularly annoyed sigh. Interns.

"Well I'll go take Phillip's hat and eat it."


"Shut it Phil."

The group left the area in lieu of a location closer to the windows. When they arrived, Jenkins tied the scarf around a nearby column and yanked it into a hard knot, ignoring the scream coming from the supply closet.

Jean suddenly reformed into her more humanoid self. She could feel her beloved scarf being stretched in ways it shouldn't be, and realized that if she didn't act now it would be too late to save it. She tried the door one more time, but it was obvious it wasn't going to bulge.

She tried controlling the scarf, but the distance was either too great or it was stuck to something. She realized the latter option was far more likely given the sensation she had just felt from her scarf, and tried to give it one final, desperate request.

Stop moving.

Now, while the scarf could not stop moving (due to it being a scarf tied to a post and therefore being the dangerous combination of flimsy, subject to gravity, and firmly held in the hands of one Horace Jenkins as he prepared to rappel down the side of a building in a madness that can only be caused after being trapped in one location for almost a whole hour), the immense amount of focus Jean put into those two words somehow managed to get themselves into the head of her scarf's aggressor. Jenkins shrieked and jumped back.

"What's wrong sir?"

"T-the scarf! It just yelled at me!"


"I'm telling you, I had it in my hands and it shouted at me to stop!"

An employee earlier identified as Phillip laughed. "That's stupid Jenkins, let me give it a try."

Phillip gave the scarf a god yank.

Jean once again felt the scarf about to snap. She tried again to stop the foul thieves from committing their most heinous crime.

Stop moving no pulling.

Phillip dropped the scarf as quickly as he picked it up.

"Well I'll be damned Jenkins, you're right."

Several other members of the group now took their chance to crack off or express their disbelief, and Jenkins quickly challenged them to grab hold of the 'damnable finery' and see for themselves.

Jean meanwhile decided to try one more time (with feeling) to spare her scarf any more damages.


"Okay," the intern began, "so what are we dealing with?"

"Obviously some sort of curse, like one of those mummies."

"That's stupid Phil, why would there be a curse, there aren't any companies that specialize in making them in the spire." Jenkins paused. "Right?"

"Actually, there are six."


Suddenly, Jean felt the knot in her scarf being untied, and before she could let out a sigh of relief a knock was heard on the door.

What came next was a series of apologies for stealing her 'cursed mummy scarf', with several voices pleading to be spared her 'gypsy revenge magic' and stating it 'was totally Jenkins' idea'.

It was one of the crowd's final comments that managed to catch Jean's attention though. A female voice apologized among some of the less sensible laments for 'not knowing that her scarf could talk', before it was silenced by a collective shout of 'quiet intern'. This of course caught Jean's attention because her scarf most certainly could not talk, though she often wished it did so she could know of its stories.

When the door trapping her in the storage room finally opened, Jean picked up her scarf and approached the newly terrified group.

"What did you mean when you said my scarf talked?"

"Well..." the intern began, almost waiting to get yelled at for speaking out of turn again, but noticed that was Jenkins was not only unusually silent but also halfway down the hallway in a dead sprint. She decided it was okay to continue.

"When we touched your scarf and began to pull on it, it kept asking us to stop moving it, to not pull, and to bring it back to you."

Jean thanked the girl and left her to her own designs. She had known before that she could exert some control over her clothing, but to actually be able to reach out with her mind and speak! It was a completely new concept to her, a completely new power. One that she would be sure to work on once she figured out a way to get out of this trap.

Suddenly something clicked in her mind. Simiel! She had leant the one of her sweaters to her! Simiel was made out of machines too, like the elevator, so maybe she could help, or at the very least get someone who could. Maybe Ms. Blacklight. Jean knew that she'd be able to handle anything.

Jean moved to a more quiet and isolated place (which actually turned out to be right back in the supply closet) and began to focus. This was her shot, Simiel or bust.

Re: Journal of Sociology [S!6] - [Round One: The Pacific Spire]
Originally posted on MSPA by Ixcalibur.

Blake pressed on up the stairway as soon as he felt up to moving again. He didn’t want to hang around in case Nemo decided to come after him, although after what had just happened in the hallway he didn’t think he would seek a direct confrontation he obviously couldn’t be sure. Maybe he shouldn’t have left him his gun, though truth be told he couldn’t say that leaving the weapon behind had been a conscious decision. Very little of what had happened in that hallway had been a conscious decision. The lights had flickered and then in the dark some instinct had took over and for a moment he had felt like he was outside himself, like he’d just been taken along for the ride.

Maybe someone else might have been concerned about this, or at the very least about the near death experience that he had just had, Blake felt elated. He felt exhilarated, and in a way he hadn’t when he’d slashed a couple of guards' necks. That had been a matter of business and not pleasure, there had been no joy derived from that act. But what was different? What had happened? Blake found it impossible to place his finger upon the difference between these two incidents. He could deal with that later, he thought. Slowly as he ascended the stairs he remembered that he had more important matters; a fraudulent spineless copy of him out there purporting to be the real him. Before he had been waylaid in a coerced hunt for parachutes he’d come to the highest floor in the hope that he could turn the building against himself, or well, his other self.

Blake froze and frowned. He distinctly remembered taking the elevator to the highest floor, and yet he was still ascending. For a moment he felt a little perturbed, a little unsure and uncertain. It was a stupid concern, he reasoned, some buildings have floors that cannot be accessed by the main elevators and this was just that. If he went to the doorway and opened it up he would find a corridor almost identical to the ones he had been in previously (except perhaps a little swankier given that these would be the executive floors), this he was almost certain of, and to prove himself correct he ascended the remaining steps to take him to the next floor up and slowly opened the door.

Beyond the door… was a corridor much like the corridors he had previously experienced, except perhaps a little more sterile and unwelcoming. Blake almost breathed a sigh of relief; though he was reluctant to admit it for a moment there he had let his imagination run away with him. There was probably an executive elevator somewhere that catered to these highest floors. A number of scientific types in labcoats and goggles hurried past and Blake slipped into the corridor behind them.

fyck phytybyckyt
Re: Journal of Sociology [S!6] - [Round One: The Pacific Spire]
Originally posted on MSPA by dynamicEquilibrium.

Jean strained out and down for some sense of her sweater. It was awfully far away, almost as far as she could reach it from. Simiel was definitely still there but it would be awfully hard to get a message through from so many floors away. She struggled and emitted a suppressed "mmmmf, trying to move her sweater enough to get some attention.

Simiel was busily if ineffectually scrubbing at the blood on the mailroom walls when the enigmatic device that Jean had given her moved under its own power. A much more interesting task... Simiel owed it to the strange, frivolous creature to at least investigate this gift. She examined the knitted pink folds for evidence of their internal mechanism and found nothing but faint impulses originating (apparently) within the fiber strands themselves.
She stood up straight and declaimed, "Your movements are very incoherent, but sufficiently pseudorandom to indicate some intelligence behind them. Do you wish to communicate?"
The wiggling grew more frantic but still contained no discernible message.
"I was told that you will... improve me. Sweater, is this your form of interfacing with my systems? I am afraid that I am not compatible. I am attempting to communicate with you in the local language but I do not know if you understand. If you have an important communication I am afraid you must find some other way to convey it."
Simiel's inability to understand made her feel... or at least, made her recall the experience of being alone. Two devices cast together, each a lone alien in this world, compatible not even with each other... it had a meaning but this escaped her. The Cores would have understood. She lapsed into silence.

Jean was starting to get a better idea of where her sweater was... she strained harder to focus and managed to make out a vague picture of the area, along with Simiel's funny voice saying "...not know if you understand. If you have an important communication I am afraid you must find some other way to convey it."
Oh dear... the nice machine lady couldn't tell what Jean was trying to say. She supposed there had been a lot of wiggling and not much else. This was the time to use whatever talent let her shout through the scarf, but Jean still had no idea how that happened. It might have been because she was so angry that something happened to her scarf, Jean supposed. Being stressed all the time was a lousy way to talk to people but this was a bit of an emergency, so she gave it a try. Jean thought long and hard about how terrible it would be to be trapped forever in this dismal little floor, how she feared being left behind here and unappreciated forever...

"Cores, I wish you were here to explain to me my purpose. I am trapped forever in this dismal little world... I will surely be left behind here and unappreciated forever. This makes me experience brokenness, or maybe even more. I expect at any moment for liquid to run out of my eyes like a human. I think perhaps I am in grave error and what I perceive no longer corresponds with reality, or I would not feel this way. Sweater, do you feel the same?"
But as her thoughts turned to this last idea, Simiel suddenly and incontrovertibly knew that the sweater did in fact feel the same. It was somehow transmitting directly into her thoughts; in fact, the ideas she had just voiced were not the products of her own mind.
"You have learned to interface. What a clever sweater."
Simiel carefully reviewed her thoughts and found a number of external ones had been introduced, namely the experience of needing help, the experience of sadness, and the experience of being exactly 195.21 meters away from her current position at an angle of 31.9% right of her midline and 82.3% above lateral.
"Ah, now we are getting somewhere. I think perhaps you are not sad at all. I think Jean is sad and she is communicating with me. Is that correct, sweater?"
It was. And another thing... The elevator was badly malfunctioning and the stairs had fallen in. Jean thought that they might need help from Blacklight. The circumstances were less than convenient, but Simiel could fix things from the floor below. She began to move through the building with her unnaturally measured pace.

Re: Journal of Sociology [S!6] - [Round One: The Pacific Spire]
Originally posted on MSPA by Sanzh.

Elise blinked.

She was no stranger to the supernatural. Treating a host of magic-derived illnesses and maladies had inoculated her to many bizarre sights. But, for all of her trained expertise in such matters, she had never experienced anything like this. She was hanging onto a rope suspended off of a distant fragment of a broken, impossible reality-- the twisted cordage continually coiled and bent itself, acting in utter defiance of reason. She could not estimate just how precipitously she hung-- the anchoring arrow was no longer visible, and the rope was obscured by the fading light of the shaft's upper levels. For a brief moment, her less-rational faculties wanted to assume control and panic, but the survivalist and scientist that comprised her quickly reasserted themselves.

"Uh, Elise? You okay there?" Blake yelled upward.

She didn't respond-- she needed to think, not assuage someone else's concerns. Her own task was finding somewhere other than off of a rope to position herself, and doing so required her to ignore Blake's incessant distractions.

One hand released its vise-like grip around the rope, reaching around in search of a ledge to support her. A nearby rim along the shaft provided adequate room to stand up on, and she reached forward, her gloved hand pushing against the ridge to test it. In an unnaturally light motion Elise pulled herself up, artificially lightened by the alien physics of the elevator shaft. Relieving from the rope's tenuous support, she stood up. Her eyes cautiously flitted upward and downward as she gauged her situation.

Blake saw Elise launch herself upward, and quickly followed suit. The two now stood together. They were precariously balanced on a thin lip-- there was an endless abyss downward, and an uncertain anomaly upward. Blake shivered, uncertain as to whether it was from the cold, sterile air of the shaft or out of the terror of his precipitous position.

The heavy burden of her gear and makeshift plague-suit were almost non-existent in the brief swing upward, Elise now realized. Nothing seemed entirely right-- and now that she was free from her grip onto the rope, she was free to notice the elevator shaft's myriad of other peculiarities. Outside of the turbulent cable, she could see exposed wires seemingly shortening and lengthening, shifting from taut to slack at the pace of an unknown rhythm. The walls seemed to twist and contort, spiraling upward-- and for a brief moment, she nearly thought she saw the concrete of one of the walls crease against itself, its supposedly-rigid material becoming flexible and pliant. Nothing seemed permanent or stable.

She stood silently, quietly aware of the rebellion against the natural order surrounding her.

Blake, for his part, was still acclimating to the extreme height he was now at. What little attentiveness he had left to muster was directed towards the anomaly, but he had little capacity to fully think through his predicament. His own study of magical theory had overwhelmed him, and the anomaly avoided the neat classifications and systematics of the magic he was used to. He tapped Elise's shoulder, hoping she had more of an understanding than he did.

"Doesn't make sense." She replied, only the dullest edge of conviction present in her tone.

"It could be, I dunno, magic maybe?" Blake said. He hated the idea of pointing out the obvious, but it seemed like the most likely explanation-- and he had firsthand experience with the effects of magic. Rationalizing this as falling under its wide purview of impossibilities was not a stretch of his imagination.

Her beak-like breathing apparatus obscured her expressions, but Elise's mouth twitched into a grimace. "Doubtful. The magic I'm used to tends to behave predictably. This is just--"

Elise stopped. She could faintly hear the whirring of unseen machinery down below, steadily drawing near. She looked down and saw a cadre of suited figures, clad in clinical, matte-white armored suits. A pair were beginning to erect some makeshift scaffolding, another one had established lighting pylons and mountings for scientific instruments-- but three were now staring upward at them. Elise and Blake both felt the harsh, scrutinizing gaze of a collection of hand-held spotlights, alongside other instruments.

"Um. Hi." Blake sheepishly said.

"You aren't supposed to be here." One of them loudly broadcast in return. His voice was condescendingly authoritative, and crackled with a harsh radio static. Neither of the two futher up could discern his expression-- his environmental suit encompassed his face, obscuring it with a mixture of a bulky breathing apparatus and a reflective visor.

"Oh, uh, sorr-- ow!"

Elise's elbow jabbed into Blake's side. Her beaked mask turned to meet him, and Blake could see her face twisted into a disdainful countenance. She said nothing, but he could infer more than enough from her thinly-aggressive stance. He quietly acquiesced, letting her respond.

"What is it you want?" She barked downward. Her arm nearly reached for one of the handles on her crossbow, but abruptly stopped. She scanned the weapon critically, checking that its intricate workings remained intact-- the lever-action reloading mechanism, the taut cable serving as its string, the cogs and sprockets of its clockwork components. As soon as she determined they were in working order, she returned her focus to the group below.

Two of the scientists turned towards each other-- their voices were an unintelligible garble of static to the pair situated above them. Their brief deliberation eventually led to a verdict, and one of the pair looked up to respond to Elise.

"We need you to come down from there--"

"That's not too bad, right?" Blake whispered to Elise.

"--where you'll be taken into custody, and we'll determine whether to extradite you back to your floor or, well. You likely know the rest." He finished, ending his speech on a cruel twitch.

"And if we refuse?" Elise yelled back.

The scientist retrieved what appeared to be some form of weapon-- obscured by layers of scientific tools and extraneous features, but it still possessed the menacing glint that any armament had. He held it up-- both to intimidate the impudent, lost employee, and for the spectacle of displaying such a tool amongst his fellow employees. "I wouldn't recommend that, I think." He said.

Elise took a half-step back-- the ridge did not afford enough space to fully conceal herself, and she could only hope her space was sufficient. One arm reached back for the crossbow, while her other grasped a small flask from her overcoat.

"Um. Shouldn't we listen to them and surrender?" Blake quietly asked.

His face was painted in an expression of nervous worry. The precipice below, the mounting tension between the scientists, the anomaly twisting overhead-- he was caught in a situation he saw no way out of, and Elise was quickly accelerating the situation towards violence. There had only been a few times when he had been forced to fight, and never at stakes like this. Panic clouded his mind.


She paused, almost wanting to tell Blake why she couldn't surrender-- that it would take away an unaffordable fraction of her borrowed time, that she would die if they were to confiscate her medicine.

"--I can't do that." She finished. She tossed the flask down, and in a swift motion brought her crossbow forward, aiming it.

The scientists below saw the glint of glass tumbling through the air, along with the figure up above raising her weapon. A few prepared themselves, but in an instant the flask shattered. The liquid evaporated and expanded, almost-instantaneously creating a blinding film of smoke. The collection of spot-lights dimmed, their beams obscured under the haze.

Four bolts rained down in quick succession, interrupted only by the loud groan of clockwork as the crossbow's lever-action was worked. The mechanical workings inelegantly slotted in a new bolt each time, straining under the tension of Elise's rapid barrage.

She stopped-- she could still hear the agonized, pained grunts of the injured below. They were incapacitated. Elise had an opening now-- a chance to escape, to get inside the elevator car and slip away before they could recover fully. She jumped for the rope, sliding downward.

Sir Bradley, still conscious and relatively uninjured, saw his chance as the smoke began to clear-- and in a moment, raised a taser and fired. He watched as the attacker spasmed uncontrollably, before landing in an oddly soft motion.

As the teleportation potion he had desperately quaffed began to work, Blake could only watch this happen-- he was helpless as the group of scientists stood up, began to treat their injuries, and steadily turned their attention to the now-unconscious Elise.

Re: Journal of Sociology [S!6] - [Round One: The Pacific Spire]
Originally posted on MSPA by Solaris.

No, no, nooooo!!!

As Blake witnessed Elise get shocked, his mind lost the focus needed to properly perform the teleportation, which added a bit more randomness to his movement than "somewhere safe". Rather than end up somewhere without any people, like a women's restroom or the human resources department, when Blake rematerialized he bumped backwards into a janitor.

<font color="#6300A5">"Oof! Hey buddy, watch where you're going!"

Blake panicked, ignoring the janitor and pacing back and forth over what he had just done. I abandoned her! We were in danger and I ran like a coward. He held his head in his shaking hands, worried, not so much at the scientist, as his experience with them wasn't that they were very malicious, but more at how she hadn't wanted to get captured and had only done so because of his hesitation. He had to do something.

He grabbed at the janitor by the shoulders, "You work here right, you know where things are? I need to find someone."

Oli was a bit flustered at Blake's frantic actions. He didn't know what he'd expect from one of the twins, but it certainly wasn't... this. Still, he had a cover to keep, and messing with him would be a fun change of pace.

"Alright bud, sure, but first you've got to apologize for bumping into me."

With a whine, Blake gave a "I'm sorry, and it won't happen again, I am a bit frantic right now."

He was, as Oli could plainly see. The fake janitor wondered what had made him sweat and shake. Was it one of the others? "Are you okay buddy, you look like you've seen a ghost, what can I do for you?"

Blake took a few deep breaths before calming down a bit. "A friend of mine was taken, by these people all dressed alike, with weapons!" Blake raised his hands for emphasis.

"Uhm... you'll have to be more specific than that...

After having Sir Bradley's crew described with some more detail, and having the situation explained a bit more, Oli nodded and lied to Blake, telling the factory worker that he knew exactly where to go. The disguised man wondered which of the ladies this Blake was after and what was up with the other one of him. Under his guise, he asked Blake about these and a few other questions, to pass the time and to give him some time to think about exactly where to go.

Their journey to the elevators was otherwise uneventful, but when Oli motioned for the Up Button, Blake stuttered a bit.

"Uhm... can we... not use the elevator?"

Oli eyed Blake for a bit, with a sigh, agreed. "Alright, let's get to those stairs." He led Blake to the nearest door, assuming that it led to the staircase.

As he witnessed the monster that was the Pacific Spire's staircase, Blake wondered if the elevator really would be so bad. It was not only the sheer size of the spiraling structure, but also the various conflicts caused by the combination of small space, big egos, and tension thicker than a whale.

"I'm having second thoughts about this."

But it was too late, Oli had already started to climb the dangerous steps, giving Blake no option but to follow...
Re: Journal of Sociology [S!6] - [Round One: The Pacific Spire]
Originally posted on MSPA by Sanzh.

"Talk to me, Krieger. Tell me just what is I've just seen."

If Sir Bradley was shaken at all by the experience of the moments earlier, it was impossible to discern. His posture was attentive, excited, only barely leaning over the conference table they now stood around; his face was a mask of enthusiasm. He was still wearing his full-body hazard suit, having only undone the helmet seals to reveal his bushy, impeccably-rugged mustache. Krieger had taken the time to remove the suit-- it was ill-fitting, pinched at the joints, and the rubber undersuit chafed and stung. If Sir Bradley were experiencing any of the same discomfort, it was imperceptible.

"Well, sir." The assistant began. A projector hummed to life, displaying the opening slide of the presentation created minutes ago-- if Krieger knew anything, it was that adherence to protocol was important, and corporate protocol made it clear that any meaningful exchange of information was to be done with the accompaniment of little slides and pointless charts.

"Our preliminary findings--" the presentation switched to a set of bullet-pointed lines, "--indicate that we have, in fact, broken reality. A rough measurement revealed the elevator shaft has, erm, extended forty to seventy feet above the height of the Pacific Spire. Outside measurements indicate that the outside has not changed to account for this, er, discrepancy. Sir." He paused as he finished the sentence, waiting for Bradley's response.

"That's a, uh, pretty uncertain figure there." He replied.

"We believe the exact height changes, sir. Once the, erm, intruders were subdued, our scan and subsequent visit higher up the shaft seemed to reveal as much." Krieger's answer had a nervous inflection. No one had mentioned the woman now locked in their holding cell, or the other who had, by all accounts, disappeared into thin air. Of all of the anomaly's mysteries, they were the only ones with no explanation, no rational cause. For the empirical minds of the managers and engineers, such irregularities were swept under the carpet and ignored.

"So, where's the science in all this?" Bradley asked.

"The science, sir?"

The executive shook his head and sighed. "The science, Bradley. I've had my share of engineers telling me they can't achieve the impossible, and now that the impossible is right here, I want to see it achieved."

"Sir, with all due respect--"

"Krieger, let me tell you something. I founded this company with my bare hands and the miniscule scraps I had left of my college fund. I had only one dream, one vision. To monopolize science. And now, after fifty years, I might finally see that dream achieved, Krieger."

Bradley stood up, pacing around the conference table. "I'm old, Krieger. I've lived through the days when we'd settle our disputes in a civil manner, by buying out all of a company's shares and gutting them into a pitiful subsidiary. When hostile takeovers didn't require firearms. Krieger, all I ask is that with whatever science is in that elevator shaft, you let me live to see my dream. Is that too much to ask for?"

"...No, sir." Krieger eventually responded.


After however much time spent in unconsciousness, Elise woke up. Her hand immediately went for a crossbow that wasn't there.

She stood up immediately, checking herself the split-second she was upright. Her plague-suit was intact, beaked respirator and makeshift armor and all-- she had that much. But the weaponry, the backpack, the journals and survival gear and alchemical mixtures, all those had been confiscated. She reached for a pocket, wishing the vial of medicine she needed was still there.

Damn it, damn it! She wanted to scream as her pocket found nothing, but her body refused, its nerves and muscles still frayed from the electric convulsions and unconsciousness of earlier. Silently cursing herself for her stupidity, for her own rash actions that now seemed all too likely to kill her, she tried to think. Her mind tried to push back the notion that her recklessness was now going to invalidate her life's work, instead working to examine her surroundings. She took a deep breath, the respirator's workings sighing as she did. Her body stopped quivering with anger, letting her focus on her surroundings.

The room she was now in was barren and coated in a thin film of dust, with a miniscule assortment of furnishings and only scrawled graffiti as decoration. One wall had a large mirror, its surface scratched and marred; another had a bulky metal door. A light brightly flickered up above, as though to clearly illustrate Elise's dismal surroundings. Underneath her mask, she scowled-- there wasn't enough here for her to engineer an escape. She would be forced to wait.

A minute passed, then two, then ten. Each second that ticked away was a painful eternity, a excruciating reminder of her failure. Elise angrily paced across the room, her boots scuffing against the concrete floor-- she stopped only to adjust her armor, tighten the seals on her mask and straighten her cloak. Part of her felt the gradual symptoms of her affliction almost taking root. She thought she felt weaker-- she wasn't sure, but loudly swore at her captors all the same. Banging on the door and mirror produced no response, not even a guard coming in to stop her.

Elise stopped. She could hear a voice from outside.


Initially, Krieger wasn't sure whether he was impressed or intimidated by the new progress the scientists had made. Not much time had passed since the preliminary analysis of the anomaly-- and even less time had passed since Sir Bradley's demand for results-- but they were achieving phenomenal effects. As he examined the laboratory space, curiosity had quickly turned to fear.

But even though he did not understand the physical principles-- of violation thereof-- he could see the scientific creations were bordering on malevolent. Much of their experimentation was above his level of understanding-- Krieger had always been more focused on navigating the corporate strata, on directing the actuarial parts of a company, and ultimately had neglected his scientific understanding down to just the thin veneer necessary. But when one team had taken a radioactive sample up to the elevator shaft and had returned with it powering what they called-- between congratulatory high-fives-- a "hand-held quantum destabilizer"? And another was attempting to replicate the "localized space-time folding", and a third had filed an unexplained request for a half-dozen interns as test subjects?

Krieger was pragmatic-- he lived for his work, and his work was the fine-tuning of corporate machinery. But even for a self-described bureaucratic fixer, what he now saw was nothing short of chilling. Sir Bradley had requested science, and Krieger was beginning to see the inventions that fell underneath that umbrella definition. The entire company had been possessed by their discovery, working and devising mechanisms that should never have existed. Even now, they were gearing up for a new attempt to conquer the Pacific Spire, armed with the infernal devices the physics-bending anomaly had allowed them to construct.

He flipped through the intruder's journal. The scientific team, once the intruders had either disappeared or been disposed of they were quickly erased from the narrow focus of the corporate echelons. He had taken a moment to look through some of her confiscated goods, and the journal had been the first thing he wanted to investigate-- and as he read further, he realized just how fortuitous his decision was. Page after page detailed arcane formulae and barely-comprehensible instructions, right up until the page describing the dead reanimating and attacking the living. Some instructions were there, long-since crossed out and replaced with frenetic, scrawled warnings.

Any other day, he would have dismissed her writings as those of a schizophrenic, costumed mad-women. But as he read them now, a cold truth to her words enveloped him.

His company-- no, their company, Krieger could not allow himself to associate with them-- couldn't see this. If their minds had idly wandered to weapons of total annihilation, he shuddered to think of what they would do with an opportunity to create an undead army. He needed to see her. He saw no way of stopping this awakening leviathan, and no one within the company could be trusted-- she was the only possibility open to him. A desperate prayer almost escaped his lips as he made his way to the company's holding cell.


As Blake traversed the corridors, he found himself adopting the comfortable mantle of anonymity. No one on these floors recognized him-- they just assumed he was another employee from some other department, and not to be disturbed as he went about his business. He was fine with that; them deciding to inquire about him would have been another petty annoyance that he lacked the patience for. Having a moment to collect his thoughts and plan was a welcome relief-- there was still much for him to do. After checking a corridor to make sure it was unoccupied, he leaned against a wall, affording himself a brief reprieve.

"Hey, you. Come with me, I need someone to watch over this. Er, in case something goes wrong." Krieger interrupted. He didn't recognize the intern slouching against the wall, but in this situation that was exactly what he needed-- somewhat not ingrained in what he recognized as an increasingly deranged chain of command.

"And why should I--"

Blake stopped. He still had a thin veneer of cover, and he wanted to maintain it for as long as he could. Deciding to play along with this employee's demands, he cleared his throat-- whatever pointless .

"Sorry for that. Lead the way, sir." He said, trying to mask the disdain lacing his feigned boot-licking.

On the other side of her holding cell, Elise watched the door open. Two figures entered-- one of them well-dressed, the other more recognizable as Blake Richards. Hesitation clouded her mind as she tried to piece together how he was here, how he could have not only extricated himself from the elevator shaft but somehow wormed himself into a position of trust. She stared at him, gauging his posture and reaction as the two filed in.

Blake noticed her glimmer of recognition-- he certainly hadn't forgotten her from the Sociologist's introduction; given how ridiculous her attire was it was difficult to forget, even amidst the confusion of being thrust into a battle to the death. His face responded by shifting to a mask of callous disregard and moving to the fringe of the holding cell. He'd need a chance to assess her before making any sort of decision, especially if she had met his counterpart.

Krieger motioned to a seat at a table. The woman complied, her goggle-covered eyes fixated on him as she sat down. "Is there a name you'd like me to use, miss...?" He began.

"Stop with the pleasantries and tell me what is you want." Elise brusquely responded-- she had little patience, not when her life was steadily ticking away. Part of her wanted to assault him and try to escape, and that instinct was only barely restrained by her last encounter and the sore aching of her body.

"Very well then."

Krieger assessed the prisoner cautiously. It was hard to read her-- her face was obscured by the bleached-white beak of her mask. Even then, however, there was a lot he could tell. Her posture was belligerent and betrayed an obvious aggressive streak-- no doubt a result of being interned, but it was still curious. Most intruders they had captured resorted to passivity and resignation when they learned who their captor was; this one was either surprisingly confident or she really was the delusional woman her journal indicated. He retrieved the notebook and placed it on the table, carefully flipping to the page describing the first of the ghoul encounters as he set it down.

"What can you tell me about this?"

Elise grabbed the journal, quickly flipping through its pages. "How much did you read?" She angrily asked.

"Answer my question first, please."

Elise stood up, provoked by his questioning. She almost collapsed once more under the sudden exertion, but remained standing. "I don't know what you're asking for, but you're not going to get it."

Krieger immediately drew a handgun in response. He had hoped he would not have to resort to this, but it was clear that he would need to be more forceful in his questioning if he had any hope of discovering what she knew-- he was certain she knew something, anything that would give him the means of stopping his company.

"What, you really think that is going to stop me? There's no will behind your threat, you know."

Krieger aimed the gun, shakily raising it to threaten her. "I need to know why you were in that elevator shaft. I don't know how you knew about it, or what your intentions were, but it's obvious you know something about how to stop this hurk--"

In a single swift motion, Blake's box-cutter interrupted Krieger, its blade piercing his neck. For a moment, there was a soft gurgling as blood pooled and rippled down his neck, a few choking breaths as he struggled to breathe, and then he was dead.

And with his death, the last vestiges of any dissent to the company's grandiose scheme to conquer the Spire also died.
Re: Journal of Sociology [S!6] - [Round One: The Pacific Spire]
Originally posted on MSPA by ~ATH.

The raid was over just as quickly as it started. Tables lay upturned, computers randomly shot sparks, and bloody corpses lay sprawled across the entire floor. Amongst the ruins, only a few people were left alive, salvaging whatever paperwork might be left over. The company was worth their lives, and they would never let go of it. Their heads didn't even turn when an unusual robot chick floated beyond them, wearing a hideous pink sweater.

Simiel was already searching for Blacklight at the sweater, no, at Jean's request. Last she saw her, she was still on the floor where they had first met. That might be a good place to start, and it wasn't far off, so she took the stairs.

It was almost ridiculous, but somehow, she could feel her. Like, she knew where she was, but only because part of Simiel was also there. This did not make any sort of sense, but she had seen many wondrous things today, so she just went with the flow.


Jean laid still. She was understandably just a bit overwhelmed by this whole thing. She learned thar she could still keep in touch with her sweater, even though she thought she had already given it up. At that point, she had truly realized that maybe just giving away parts of herself wouldn't be the right thing for her to do? But she wanted to make everybody beautiful. Or did she? She certainly didn't want to cease to exist anymore, as there were all these nice people who appreciated her. Like Ms. Backlight or whatever her name was.

Gosh, this was just too confusing!

And this closet was too dark and scary. There was nobody else here, and it was starting to seriously bother her. Memories of her long years of loneliness sent her in a slight panic attack, and she burst out of the closet. She looked around at the despondent crowd. Everybody just seemed to accept the inevitable and sat gloomily with their heads bowed down. She saw that some people were staring mutinously at her. To this, she levitated a glove up near where her hand would be, oscillated it furiously, and shrilled girlishly.

"Hi there! So, nobody knows how to get out yet?"

One of them, a burlesque man whose shirt was simply too small for him, trudged over and grabbed her by the scruff of one of her many blouses. This, of course, turned out to be ineffective, but for the sake of courtesy, Jean materialized a head for the guy to talk to.

"You! I don't know who you are, but I've had enough of you, ya hear? Ya think this is some kinda joke?!"

"Um. Well, nobody's laughing, so it's not a very good joke, is it? Hehe."

"Shut up!"

He drew back and punched her right in the faux kisser. Her head simply flew off and landed with a clumph on a perfectly generic looking guy, who got up and tossed aside the smaller pile of clothes into the larger pile. He stormed over to the burlesque guy, and reprimanded him.

"Oi, Willard. What the hell is wrong with you? You can't just beat up someone like that!"

"It isn't even a person, Mitch! It's some kinda ... freak!"

"She did nothing to harm us. Calm down."

"Well, how do you know that for sure? How do you know it wasn't the one who locked us up?"

Jean had already reformed herself, and chose this moment to make herself known.

"Wha? But, but I'm just a mail carrier! Honest!"

"Right, and we're supposed to believe you? Just what were you doing in that closet, anyways?" Willard inquired.

"Well, I was kinda talking to someone else. It's a funny story, actually. So, you see, there's this one pretty lady, except she didn't have any clothes, so I gave her this pretty pink sweater! Gosh, you should have seen how adorable she looked in it, and it even complemented her eyes perfectly! It was simply to die for!"

"Eugh, enough. So this girl has one of your sweaters, so what?"

"Well, uh, she still has it, and somehow I can still feel it, or something. Like, it's still connected. I think I somehow told her that we needed help. She's gonna come right up and try to bust us out."

"And you never told us this, why?"

"You never really asked."


The flow led Simiel right to the center of a ruined office complex, with only Miss Blacklight walking around in the middle. Miss Blacklight reached down and picked up a detached hand, with ebbing desires to save the company still attached. She extracted what little of the desires she could, and turned them into a tiny blue gem, just barely enough to be visible. She turned, taking notice of Simiel.

"Ah, Simiel. Wonderful."

"Miss Blacklight, I have been searching for you. Your presence has been requested."

"Allow me, for a moment?"

She was holding out a pile of small blue gems. She threw them in the air, and they scattered throughout her dress, giving it a mysterious sparkle.

"So, you wanted me?"

Simiel still felt a bit confused over that word, desire, but she put that out of mind for now, because Jean needed them.

"Jean has sent me a message. She along with some other workers have been incarcerated on floor 259. She called for you specifically."

"Ooh, that darling laundry golem? I'm not too sure why she needs me in particular, but I can't say no. Let us be on our way, Simiel."

They walked - or floated, in Simiel's case - over to the elevator, and Miss Blacklight pressed the button.

"Hold on. Jean gave me the feeling that something was up with the elevators. It would be more safe to take the stairs."

And take the stairs they did. As Simiel floated upstairs, nearly running into quite a few people, some she recognized, the sweater shuddered a bit. It gave the sensation of urgency, angry people, and would you please get over here they were making her uncomfortable.

"I am on my way, with Miss Blacklight."

"Hm? Did you say something?"

"Jean is communicating with me through this sweater. I find it all clever and fascinating and I'd like to know what mechanism she uses."

"Ah, do tell."

"I -"

"Actually, could I see that for a bit?"

Miss Blacklight took the sweater, not bothering to wait for Simiel's answer.

"Jean? Are you alright? It's me, Miss Blacklight."

The sweater shuddered and gave a feeling of joy, recognition, and began caressing her silky smooth dress. Miss Blacklight laughed, and wrapped it around her neck. Its dirtiness did not bother her, as her dress never got dirty anyways.

"Interesting. So you can sense what is happening over long distances? You just keep getting more and more remarkable."

"There's something else I wished to ask you about. I could detect your presence, and I could detect... myself within you. This does not make sense to me, do you have an explanation?"

"Hmm. It must be this gem I still have, with your desire in it."

She plucked a deep blue gem, desire to overenunciate still swirling around in it. She made to explain, but suddenly, they stopped. Or were stopped, to be more exact, by a large pile of concrete and metal. People had crowded around the rubble, complaining about the lack of efficiency. Some were trying to dig their way through.

"My sensors indicate that this is the floor where Jean is being held. People, please allow me through. I am on a rescue mission."

More than a few of them jolted with surprise at this unnatural sight. They moved aside, allowing them through. Simiel's hand turned into a drill, and began slowly drilling through the debris with robotic strength. Miss Blacklight took this opportunity to talk with Jean a bit more, and warned her that they were coming in, and could she please try to get people down to help out? She responded with a vague sense of people already digging out, and having been doing so for a good while now. She also commented on how impressed she was that they kept working for so long, yet making no progress at all. They were very diligent workers. Miss Blacklight would remember to try and store some of those desires.


A while later, light finally broke through. Cheers rose through the air, and Simiel was hailed as a hero. Or a pretty cool gal, at least. As soon as people dispersed enough for her to be allowed through, Jean ran up and smothered Simiel and Blacklight in mounds of stinky garments.

"Oh thank you thank you thank you sooo much! You two are just wonderful!"

"It's my pleasure, dear."

"I was only fulfilling your orders."

"Orders? Nah, it wasn't like that. I think?"

"You asked for help, and I was able to fulfill your call. This makes me ... satisfied?"

"Teehee. That's great! Say, you could use a new hat... Oh my gosh, that reminds me! There's still one lady I haven't even seen! Oh, I bet she would like a makeover! Let's go look for her right away!"

"We have duties assigned to us. Perhaps we should remain."

"Psh. They're not really that important."

"Let's go, then!"
[Image: 6xGo4ab.png][Image: sig.gif]
Re: Journal of Sociology [S!6] - [Round One: The Pacific Spire]
Originally posted on MSPA by dynamicEquilibrium.

In a stairwell choked with debris and covered in dust, the last of the freed survivors hobbled away. Only three figures remained: one serene and sparkling, one stiff and gleaming, and one frankly rather grubby. Simiel was dutifully picking up various scattered bits of Jean from around the room when she paused to say, "There is one other thing that I wish to determine before we leave. How did all of those people become trapped? Their situation had no resemblance to a natural collapse or malfunction of the building."

Jean cocked what amounted to her head to the side and strained to remember. "Well, I'm not sure, really. I think something's wrong with the elevator so that it could only put people on one floor, and they mentioned something about other people blocking the stairs off on purpose? Maybe it was a weird joke."

"That is a very odd thing to do. I have been told that the behavior of lifeforms can be logically and universally predicted, but from my perspective it is simply chaos. I wonder why the mysterious creature who put us here is so devoted to the study of people's actions when they are so unpredictable. If one has the intelligence of a Core, then study is unnecessary, but if one does not, the pursuit seems futile."

Blacklight smiled to herself as she watched. These two were positively adorable sometimes. "People can be easier to understand than you think. The key to human action is an even mixture of method and madness. I fancy that may be why you find us so hard to understand, but those of us with an inside view can draw some very accurate conclusions."

"If your assessment is accurate then that is a likely reason. What I understand as 'method' and 'madness' do not mix, ever. Perhaps it is the data provided by so many new interactions, or perhaps this derives from certain statements made by that mysterious creature earlier, but I have been thinking excessively on the problems of human behavior. It would be better for me to defer to your expertise in this area and devote myself to easier commands." The machine nodded politely at Ms. Blacklight. "Now, how exactly is the elevator broken?"

As Jean chattered excitedly about all the complaints that the trapped office workers had voiced over the preceding hours, Blacklight took another look at a certain deep blue gem of hers and stroked it with one long finger. "I'm afraid you've already opened Pandora's Box, dear, or at least had it opened for you," she whispered. "Your 'excessive thinking' doesn't show any signs of letting up soon."

Just then, Jean gave a shout. "I remember it now! The angry man earlier said that somebody 'broke physics'. That's why the elevator went wrong, physics isn't working anymore."

Simiel stiffened and declaimed, "There is no meaningful sense in which the quality of being broken can be applied to the discipline of physics. Please explain again."

"My dear, you should have said 'does not compute'." Blacklight grinned and winked.


"Because I would have found the stereotype incredibly funny. I agree, though, that perhaps we should not trust in hearsay. Let's go take a look, shall we? Whatever's going on seems to be centered somewhere above us, and thanks to the collapsed stairs, we'll need a way to climb."

This was a satisfactory instruction. Simiel searched through the wreckage until she found a sufficiently long piece of stairway railing. "I will lift you to the next floor with the end of this pole, then climb after you. Please hold onto the end tightly." Blacklight got a secure hold on a protruding shard of metal while Jean wrapped herself clumsily around the end of the pole, and then they swung unnervingly upwards. The pole bent and groaned with strain as it completed the peak of its arc, but the combined weight of a human and a laundry golem was thankfully insufficient to break it. Leaving the pole propped against the shattered end of the stairs above, Simiel cut into the concrete wall with the pointed ends of her fingers and hoisted her not-inconsiderable weight off the ground. A few seconds later, she rolled over the lip of the broken-off stairs and resumed her normal stiff standing posture.

"What a very direct solution. You're quite a bit stronger than you look." It was easy to forget just how strong Simiel was. When this eventually turned into a battle to the death, it would be important to have both the robot and Doctor Von Wissenschaft on her side. Ms. Blacklight made a mental note to find Alberich and try to come up with a way to keep him tractable.

"I am, however, not as strong as I thought." Simiel was staring blankly at her left wrist as she talked. "Supporting my own weight pulled some actuators in my lower arm segment out of position. I should be able to climb without footholds under normal circumstances, but my metal was below specifications." Turmagandra was extremely sterile, but Simiel must have corroded slightly over the period if time when she was inactive. It was difficult to manage one's systems without the presence of maintenance robots. The movements of her left hand would be somewhat impaired now, and the problem was difficult to fix without access to advanced metalcrafting tools.

"Oh no! Does it hurt? I hope you didn't hurt yourself too badly." Jean fluffily grasped the member in question, but she couldn't see anything wrong with it.

"Machines do not experience pain. I simply must prioritize finding a way to repair myself." Jean's concern was clearly misplaced. Simiel herself had been wondering whether or not she was a person ever since the Sociologist had claimed that she was, but this made it obvious. Certain criteria for personhood included Simiel while others excluded her, but a person definitely needed the ability to experience sensations directly, rather than being informed of them via data. People could feel pain and machines could not. This should have been definitive, but Simiel still had the sense that some relevant information on the question was missing. Resolving her own identity would have to take high priority, along with self-repair, investigating the Sociologist, investigating the anomalies in the elevator... so many high-level tasks were rapidly growing difficult to juggle. For now she supposed it was best to continue following Jean and Ms. Blacklight. They had similar priorities, at least.

"Alright, good! It would be really sad if you got hurt by being so helpful."

"Luckily for you, this building is packed with scientists. I recommend we find one who can lend you the tools you need and tell us about what's happening in the elevator shaft. Perhaps we will find Alberich and our other compatriots farther ahead as well. I have a hunch that big changes are starting to take shape around the strangeness with the elevator, and people are likely to be pulled along with them"
Re: Journal of Sociology [S!6] - [Round One: The Pacific Spire]
Originally posted on MSPA by Solaris.

Logically, you would think that the stairs, being outside of any of the offices, being integral to structure of the building, and well, being necessary for movement up and down the spire on the off chance that the elevators were out of commission, would be one of the safer places in the spire. Unfortunately, being logical in the spire usually doesn't work out well.

There was a time where the stairs were a relativity okay place to be, as everyone used them and as damaging them would probably cause horrible structural damage to the entire spire, meaning everyone would lose their job. People just used them and it wasn't really that big of a deal. Then one or two people were petty pricks at each other and as things always do in the Pacific Spire, things escalated.

They escalated a lot.

The stairs started off with constant passive-aggressive "accidents" like when floor 34 spilled all of the coffee in the building, before growing to regular aggression like when two people's fist fight led to them and at least twenty other people falling down the stairs while still fighting. Eventually, the stairs reached the state they were in now, essentially a testing ground for anything that they couldn't get any actual test subjects for.

Suffice to say, even compared to the usual aggression of the spire, the stairs were dangerous. But sometimes you needed to take the stairs and there wasn't a lot you could do about it. And Blake Richards was in such a situation.

As he and Oli climbed up the stairs, avoiding anyone else and dodging the various odds and ends that people on the floors were tossing around, Blake continuously doubted that he would be able to make it up the building in once piece.


Blake slammed against the wall as some doohickey that he didn't notice exploded. Oli had miraculously stepped aside, and noticed someone with large headphones cursing as he retreated into his floor, lamenting at how the frequency mechanism had failed. The master of disguise helped Blake up and the two continued on their way.

Their ascent went on much like this, with some other similar incidents involving non-working devices blowing up, but nothing else happened until the pair came across another pair.

"Hey Bran, isn't that there the elevator guy?"

"Why Arky, I do think that it is..."

Blake couldn't hear either of the voices in his worried state, but Oli did. As he and Blake slowly ascended, he took quick glances at the duo, noting their full body suits and odd weapons. Their faces were covered, and they looked Important. He was very interested in their suits and what he could do with one of those suits, much more so than whatever the hell they seemed to want with Blake.

Oli looked at Blake's oblivious, then at the pair's slight increase in speed, and then he opted to slip away, into a nearby floor, waiting for the pair to do whatever they wanted to do.

"Grab him!"

Blake turned around in surprise as the pair of wrapped their arms around his, and then knocked him in the head with the butt of their weapon. Unknowingly following Oli's example, Bran and Arky moved into the nearest floor, which for better or worse was dark and empty...

The two looked at each other, both very skeptical to if this was a good idea.
"Oh gee Bran, what happened here?"
"I don't have the slightest clue, Arky, seems to me that we've stumbled upon one of those abandoned floors, come on we gotta move forward."

Against their better judgement, they moved forward.
"Abandoned? That these seems odd."
"Well you know how it is, sometimes a floor goes and loses out on all funding, and well... usually the floor gets hired out to someone else but I don't know what's up here."
"What do you think happened with the workers then?"
"Well usually they get hired up by the next guy, but sometimes they have to leave the spire."

Arky paused for a bit, "Wait a mit, Bran, you can leave the spire?"

Before either could really contemplate how that would work or if it was actually possible they noted that they just dragged Blake over something.

"What was that?"

The pair looked down on the floor, to see what seemed to be a mostly naked body, just lying there. Arky poked the body. It didn't move.

"So uh, Bran, you don't think that this guy..."
"Uh... Let's keep going to try to find something to restrain and question the elevator guy..."
"That... that's probably a good idea."

Stalking behind the duo, decked in a newly acquired powersuit. Well that was lucky, he thought. Upon entering the abandoned floor, Oli was spooked, but didn't see much option once the two followed other than to move forward. Upon walking in front of the elevator shaft, the disguise master was surprised to see another of the powersuited people fall out head first, and then immediately bump their head against the wall. Taking advantage of this accident, he suited himself up and hid himself away when he noted that the duo had decided to move forward once more.

He moved into the shadows and waited for them to pass. As the two moved deeper through the floor, found some restraints, removed Blake's bag from his person, and started up on their questioning, Oli wondered what he was going to do. While it was true that he could just leave, Blake was in the contest and that had to mean he could do something that could potentially be of use to him, right? On the other hand, those two guys seemed to have a much better idea of what they wanted, he noted as they started to rig up an electrocution mechanism.

As Oli was contemplating this quandary, he noticed something roll forward, just a little, out of Blake's bag. It was a blue liquid, glowing, just barely, but beautifully. Maybe there was something more to this Blake after all. As the goons began their tortuous questioning, Oli started to make a move for the bag...


Blake was shocked awake as powerful electrical pulses were sent through his body. The energy flowed through, causing him intense pain on every pore of his body.

"Alright, looks like that worked right there."

Blake panted, hardly able to breathe against the pain. He looked up at the two helmeted heads holding a weird apparatus that was sparking.

"Mmm, yes, alright then. Elevator guy, I am Bran, this is Arky. Who are you?"

Blake still twitched from the pain and failed to make out a response.

Arky silently gave Blake another shock.


"Arky what did you do?"
"Oh nothing special Bran, just some battery and wire and a plasma cell and a few other things that are probably not legal. It is pretty neat, I think, only shocks if you press this here button."
"Alright, let's try to not kill him, we need to figure out what he did to the elevator," Bran turned to the panting Blake, "Do you hear that Elevator guy?"

Blake started to breath a bit easier, but could only shake, his eye twitching and his teeth chattering. He was in so much pain, but... but at the same time he felt something else. His head started to shake side to side and he let out a great exhale before feeling very, very odd.

Arky silently gave Blake a third shock.

This time Blake didn't scream out, though it was not out of some bravado or other voluntary act. Instead, he gave a loud, long grunt, before looking down at the two once again, his eyes starting to close, but his breathing starting to return to normal.

Under his helmet, Bran had a face of complete confusion at whatever it was that was happening. "...Elevator Guy, how do you feel?"

This time, Blake was able to answer. Unfortunate, he was completely honest. "You... you know, I feel... in pain... but, energized?"

Blake immediately regretted saying that as Arky gave him another shock.

By this time, Oli had sneaked his way to behind the duo, who were engrossed in their "questioning," to his prize. He picked up the blue vial, observing it, and wondering what it was when Bran turned around.

"Ey, who are you?"

Oli was startled, and tossed the potion into the air. Bran and Arky, and Oli looked at the vial, then to each other, then to the vial, frozen, each trying to figure out what it is that they should do. When he noted that the duo was looking at the vial's trajectory, which seemed to be headed towards Blake, he slipped backwards, but not before grabbing Blake's bag.

The fourth shock was a dozy. It was the most painful for Blake so far, but also the most energizing. It was an odd feeling, he was in so much pain but at the same time he felt that he had so much energy. It was a feeling unlike any other he ever had. And it was painful, but it was amazing, almost enlightening.

Then the blue vial shattered over his head, bringing him back down to Earth. From right above Blake's head, suddenly the magic exploded. Water rushed down all over Blake, and all around the room, flowing all over the floor. Both Bran and Arky were covered in the magical water as well. Blake twitched a little, once again struggling to breath under the magical waterfall that appeared over his head.

Darkness overtook him, but not before he heard a pair of screams...

Oli had no clue what the fuck that was, but he sure as hell didn't want to be on the bad side of it. As he tip toed around and over the flowing water, still coming out from where Blake was hit by it, although in a much smaller amount. He wasn't sure what he saw or if he really saw it, but the end result was two goons on the floor and one Blake as the only plausible reason for it.

Oli removed his borrowed helmet and poked Blake's cheek cautiously.

Blake twitched upward, his eyes fully open and his mind not knowing what just happened. He looked at Oli, then at the floor, then at the water all around the floor. He also noted that his restraints broke... somehow.

"What-just-happened? Who-are-you? What-do-you-want? Why-did-you-leave-me? What-is-going-on?"

Oli paused for a moment, as he tried to fabricate up a believable story. The people that had captured him seemed important, he helped him even though they recognized him to some extent. He could not say that he was with the company. But he was no dressed as one of them, which would be suspicious to him after the encounter. Who or what could he be...

That should work.

Oli grabbed Blake's hand and stood him up, "Take one of these suits, I think that you are trustworthy enough to help me." Oli grabbed the unconscious Arky and started to strip him, "You see, I'm not actually a worker for this place," Blake silently stared as he was tossed parts of the powersuit to put on, "I'm an agent, here to better the world."

Blake started to put on the powersuit, engrossed in Oli's insane fabrication, "But how are you going to do that, why are you here?"

"I'm here," Oli gave a dramatic pause and started to turn away, towards the exit, "To destroy the Pacific Spire before it destroys the world."

Re: Journal of Sociology [S!6] - [Fulfilling Reserves...]
Originally posted on MSPA by Wojjan.

Miss Blacklight climbed the stairs like a convicted woman. Her hands were either clasped or folded together, resting her palms on her dress, and she walked with her head staring just above eye level, and gladly turning to notice every little detail she'd pick up about the building. The three had decided to continue single file, due to their current poor footing, and the sorceress had insisted – in her typical, gentle way – to follow last. The paces Simiel took echoed through the floors, attracting a bit of commotion from employees bold and stupid enough to set foot in the office's stairwell, and each one of the men, who all wore white or pinstripe, and who all smelled of cologne and new watches, were subject to Jean's questioning of where she could find her friend a blacksmith. And for a moment, the young lady behind the pair appreciated the humour of these workaholics deciphering Jean's ramble.

And, five steps behind on her company, along came Miss Blacklight. With a taut, dolled-up cordial smile, she examined the workers who had come out and just now made first impressions of the other two. And she read things, prying. Mostly body language, and nervous tics, but the flicker of a “get out”-plan helped. And she lavished in the gazes as she trod by, some close to marvelling if they hadn't been so terribly confused. She didn't speak, it would be out of place.

Scientists, the thelomancer noticed, were not at all fond of Jean. Not in a threatening way, but more out of pride: there was no place for an aloof golem in this building. It would prove a lot harder to persuade any person in this building invested in science of her right with Jean near her, and she momentarily considered the option of dumping her over the advantage. Managers and businessmen didn't mind her as much, but this seemed to be more due to the golem's personality: these people were dressed and groomed, and fit her magazines, and she took time to compliment each outstanding outfit she passed. Somehow, every single outfit stood out. This made Miss Blacklight retract her previous train of thought: every man of science in this building must respond to a man of power, and a chatterbox like Jean that played to their egos would prove more than valuable, no doubt.

The scientists reacted predictably to Simiel. The officemen, however, were in doubt. They were having trouble considering her as something worth having a conversation with (one even started to want a Simiel of his own, and was already formulating the order to his lab boys) but regardless acknowledged her to be sentient enough to pass for something, if only a polite automaton.

“Perhaps,” Blacklight laughed in her own mind, “it was the sweater.”

The stairs had an air of going in circles: every corner felt broken and rusty and the same, and with no light from the outside it was impossible to tell how low or high they had gotten in the meantime. It was... an inconvenience, yes, but the magician couldn't bring herself to get frustrated over it; as if windows could make the Spire coherent. She decided, then, that ascending endless stairs would very literally lead them nowhere. She opened the first door she passed after this decision, but found the hallway on the other side to be completely dark.

This, of course, stirred questions to the magician. Office buildings were no dungeons, and she remembered seeing the broad daylight just moments ago. Was she underground? Was this floor left in the black with a purpose? The map she had made of the building had ran out, and as little Miss Blacklight knew about the science at play, she was aware of it being absolutely useless now, regardless of its expiry.

“There is a door here,” she muttered. “Yes,” came the robotic reply.

“Simiel, what floor are we on?”

“We have ascended eleven flights of stairs from floor 244. We are on floor 255.”

Miss Blacklight tugged her scarf tight to her neck, the open door let out a draft. “Above ground. Then why is it dark and cold in there?”

“The balcony you're facing is not dark. It is purple. It is cold, because it is windy outside, and the room you are facing has no windows.”

Miss Blacklight opened her eyes and straightened her very purple scarf with purple gems on it, watching pure, unrefined magical prowess seep through the doorway in which she was standing. The ley line crawled into the stairwell and, like smoke, dispersed against the wall.


Every wizard worth their salt knows that much like density and colour, every material has its own magical radiance, mana. To train magic is to pick up on these, make them one's own sense. It takes a lifetime of practising to simply identify wood as wood in this fashion, and the actual interpretation of this radiance differs individually in humans as they have no inherent way of receiving these signals and have to focus rigorously to accomplish this. Most often – this is because it is the easiest way – the abstract radiance is translated into other senses, an autodidact's synaesthesia.

Miss Blacklight, in saying her vows to become the Saint Desirée, had skipped this arduous process entirely. With the transformation came eyes of youkai, beings and beasts that are magicians by species rather than by trade: she didn't have to search her way into understanding mana, the knowledge was thrust upon her. But youkai are beings who became of magic's source, and can only perceive what exists of magic, not magic itself. When confronted with akasha the mind blocks it out, much in the way a torch cannot illuminate itself. In sight it is black, in hearing it is noise. In beings that do not particularly respond to any sense, it is unease. (Smell, if such a magician would defile the art, would likely be something sulphuric.)


Miss Blacklight recognised a disadvantage when it was introduced. The smoky purple mist billowed its way around the sorceress, shrouding her in impermeable cancellation. To make matters worse, Simiel showed such significant interest in the spectacle that she picked up on it without having to see it inside her, going as far as to once calling it a 'conundrum'.

Inside, her senses were dimmed out and she struggled to rely on sight without its ensorcelled complement. She ordered Simiel to go first, to pave the way for her in these barren circumstances. The first few steps she took with her hands childishly outstretched in front of her, as if blindfolded, though slowly but surely her vision returned. Or, her vision never went anywhere, she moreso made sense of it again after having used a different kind for so long. First, she found the walls again. They were easy to recognise because they still held the light back, only now not expressed in black swirls, but in bright taupe with a glossy sheen to it. She turned a corner, only barely bumping into it.

She noticed, when Jean tugged on her scarf and the magician had to comfort her gut feeling that something terrible was about to happen in here, that the cloth golem wore her heart on her sleeve. Very literally so. While there were less than usual, gems were still brilliantly visible on her clothing, without special eyes to see them, amidst barren purple mist that clouded their shine. Out of habit, she tried to read them.

green black blue red blue green black black red

To little avail. She made a mental note of giving Jean's thought a once-over, because while she had written of her companion as a harmless, chatty burden, she was interested in finding out why there were so many of them. And why some of them stood out so obviously that she could read them now.

Simiel took advantage of leading the troupe: methodically, she combed through every room of the floor, intent on ignoring all men who wouldn't directly address her, but ending up not needing to ignore anyone. Blacklight again followed, but meekly and without spine. Jean followed suit. Minutes passed without a soul. The plate on the door Simiel opened read “Exophysical Contamination.” It was left to the reader to affix a word of warning.

Nemo stood in the centre of the conference room, in a bed of shards of glass. One foot suspended over the edge of the building, looking down into the street beneath. He tapped his foot around in the open air like one would to check footing. He felt the dizziness rushing amok inside his head. His parachute was splayed out on the floor somewhere, but he was sure it was still attached to him, and it would likely still function. He heard the thumping of footsteps, a creak from a handle, and the click-then-shove of a door opening. He spun around, and leaned back, half-hoping he would lose his footing and scare the crap out of who was entering, but the mechanical whirr in the voice that entered, as she told people behind her that someone was inside, reminded him of a contestant's. Or, rather, it reminded him of what he assumed what would be an entirely typical voice for that contestant. A down of white blanket around him, hair fluttering slightly as he was set to fly, Nemo might have looked like an angel, but he lacked the serene grace (to be in lieu of shit-faced grin) to pull the look off entirely.

He smiled, warmly, and started: “Oh, hello. I was just about to leave, actually.”

quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur.
Re: Journal of Sociology [S!6] - [Round One] - [Live and Let Die Hard]
Originally posted on MSPA by Palamedes.


It had been almost completely forgotten to the workers of the Pacific Spire thanks to the events of the day, and totally unknown to the various competitors of the Sociologist’s game, but the setting sun revealed that Christmas Day was beginning to come to a close. Of course, being a place of professionalism and daily blood feuds, the holiday was mostly unimportant to the state of affairs in the state of the art tower, unless a state had a comical, ironic, or eerily convenient sense of timing. Unfortunately, all three of said senses would conspire within the next hour, much to the chagrin of a certain vaguely-alive scientist.

Alberich inwardly cursed himself for what felt like the hundredth time since he arrived at the Pacific Spire. Though Blacklight had managed to force a hapless office worker into helping him out of his bloodied jacket and into a labcoat, things immediately took a turn for the worse. Not only had his shambling excuse of a body managed to get him separated from the enchantress – though he could barely tolerate her mystical drivel it was comforting to be around someone stuck in the same situation as oneself – but he discovered that mere minutes after his untimely departure she had been whisked away to some wonderful place that wasn’t this goddamn floor.

It was somewhere around Doe’s twelfth lap of the office that something finally came around to break the waiting. The elevator, which had last opened when the Heisenberg Science Company had retreated in pursuit of easier conquests. This time it only held a single man.

Sitting on a chair.

Not moving.

While most of the actual workers on the floor might have first noticed the hallmark moustache, glasses, and shaved head of their manager, one Anthony Stevenson, Alberich instead noticed the red paint (or what was, let’s face it, probably blood) used to write a single, festive sentence on the man’s white workshirt:

Now I have your legal documents
Ho – Ho – Ho

In the seconds it took the rest of the nearby workers to notice what the doctor had been gaping at, the entire office was abuzz again, with the haphazard militia readying their weapons for another battle. A minute passed, nothing came. Another passed, and still nothing. A third –

"Now I know what a TV dinner feels like."

The ragtag group of defenders began looking around, trying to figure out who exactly had broken the silence with such an absurd comment. Alberich himself was confused by the remark’s origins, until he, and everyone else began to hear clinking sounds coming from above and collectively shared a single thought: the air vent, of course. Silently, a handful of them moved under the sound of what was likely the team of Heisenberg soldiers who had blown their cover talking to each other.

"Come out to the coast they said, we’ll get together, we’ll have a few laughs –"

With a creak the ventilation shaft gave way, crashing to the ground in a cloud of dust. Bursts of machine gun fire rang out from the unfortunate workers who were directly under the vent while Alberich readied himself (as much as Doe would let him anyways) and the rest of the office surrounded the scene, finger triggers at the ready. As the dust began to settle a single man was standing in an impossibly immaculate suit, with a half-dozen machine gunners unconscious around him. Every single available weapon pointed at him, it took several seconds before Alberich broke the silence.

"Who exactly are you?"

The suited man looked shocked, then embarrassed, finally settling on professionally apologetic. "So sorry good sirs, madams, where are my manners? Cecil W. Crumb, Johan and Nellis, attorney at law, at your service. I am the personal acquisitions and resources lawyer of the Heisenberg Science Company."

The announcement, obviously, didn’t go to well with anyone, but before the wary horde could open fire Crumb produced a rather impressive looking document.

"Ah ah ah, wouldn’t do that if I were you. As of twenty three minutes ago, your company has been bought out by Heisenberg. You’re now all our employees, welcome to the family!"

A quiet pause, perhaps the most silent moment since the whole fiasco began, settled over the office. Nobody moved, nobody breathed, the lights didn’t even flicker. Finally several voices rang out at once.

"Bought us out? What does that mean?"

"Does that mean we’re already dead?"

"Can… can they do that?"

"Family?… D-dad?"

"I’m almost positive this isn’t legal."

Crumb once again silenced the crowd with an almost unnatural ease. Turning towards the last voice, he smiled. "Of course it’s legal, it’s how things used to be done, and still is done everywhere else in the world. Of course military campaigning is usually less expensive here. Would you like to examine the document? It has Mr. Stevenson’s signature and everything, bless his soul."

The employee who had called the legality of the transaction looked over the document, his confident frown quickly turning more and more into a terrified grimace. With every new article, each airtight clause, every fine-print amendment backing him more and more into a corner until he found his back pressed against one of the office’s larger windows. Crumb kept himself right in front of the man the entire time before suddenly, in a single motion, he took the papers out of his hand and pressed him against the glass with an expensive looking oxford.

Crumb’s grin was gone, replaced by a deadpan stare. "Yippie-ki-yay, motherfucker."

And with that Crumb pushed, breaking the glass and sending the employee all the way down to the bottom of the tower. He spun around, his grin returning to his face almost instantly.

"So I trust we’re all settled? Heisenberg Science looks forward to officially welcoming you all into our family, there’s going to be a mixer on Friday for our new employees, hope to see you all there." Leaving behind the shocked group of employees, most of whom had dropped or otherwise forgotten about their weapons, Crumb moved to Alberich, placing a hand on his shoulder to stop Doe as he tried to wander off, and continued. "Of course, my employer would love a chance to speak with you right away Mister…"

Alberich paused. He really did not want to be here anymore, but also wasn’t particularly fond of falling to his death. He decided to answer before Doe did something to once again ruin everything.

"Doctor Alberich von Wissenschaft… at your service."

"A doctor! Pardon me, of course. You have though coat and everything. I’d shake your hand but, well," he paused, looking over Doe, "you know. This does mean my employer will want to see you even sooner, hmm… no time to wait around here then! Just get on the elevator, go all the way to the top and stop a floor short. I’ll let them know you’re coming."

"And why exactly would I do that?"

Crumb looked genuinely confused. "Why not? Surely every man of science wants to be part of my employer’s dream." Brushing aside a hostile grope from a bored Doe he added, "Besides, with us you’ll be able to work on your… condition, with all the proper resources and funding. Security footage would imply you’re not like this willingly."

For the first time Alberich froze for some reason besides complete bewilderment or blind hatred of his situation. Some of the (not fake-magical) things he had seen since being dropped into the Spire, they were far beyond anything he could have ever dreamed of. If anything existed that could save him from his life as an animated cadaver and get him back in a body he’d actually have control over, it was here.

…And if the events playing out thus far were a hint of what was going on throughout the entire building, then Heisenberg was likely his best option.

"Very well then, Mr. Crumb, I accept your proposal."

"I knew you would, Doctor von Wissenschaft. Man, what a name," Crumb chuckled, practically to himself, "what a name."

Alberich, on the other hand, simply looked at the elevator without moving. Despite his reasoning, Doe seemed ambivalent about walking through those doors. He was about to question the decision himself when suddenly Crumb interjected again.

"Well doctor, seems like you’re a little stuck? What, a case of 'your head says yes but your body says no'?" He turned Alberich around and gave him a push. "Here, I’ll help you out."

With that, Alberich von Wissenschaft was now a moderately unwilling employee of the very company whose workers he was… enjoying only recently. Alberich supposed that he probably wasn’t technically employed yet, that there would be an interview of some sort, but things like that had always been a formality for him.

While Alberich was concerning himself with his hypothetical interview, Elise and Blake were finding themselves in a far more tangible situation a couple of floors below his destination. If the rest of the company were aware of Krieger’s hesitation or plans of betrayal towards their goal there was certainly no indication of it, instead focusing their efforts on the escaped prisoner and the random guy helping her out.

The two impromptu (and equally suspicious) allies were not completely without hope however. You see, when a company is as obsessed with scientific and technological advancement as the company, no matter how many floors it takes up each and every one has a research and development section. In this case, part of said work was based around rocket propulsion. While perhaps not the greatest topic of investigation to locate near a recently improvised prison, during the hustle and bustle of a mass takeover nobody had thought that one should perhaps immediately separate the location one keeps prisoners in with their most convenient and effective means of escaping.

Nobody but Krieger, whose new occupation as a corpse had swiftly put an end to such sensibility.

If either Blake or Elise had thought about it, they would have realized they would have to thank the late administrator for keeping his interrogation so secret – it had given the pair precious minutes to find Elise’s equipment and try and figure out their next move. However, one can only think of so many things at once, and both were preoccupied with ones far more important than some dead guy.

Elise, for example, was busy thinking of how to best attach the remaining shoddily designed rockets they had stolen from some upset scientists to a delivery-laden trolley they had taken off the hands of a confused intern. She was also thinking about whether or not trying to force their way into an elevator through a hallway filled with armed men shooting at them was really the greatest plan they could think of, and whether or not they should try going back up or straight down.

Blake on the other hand, had similarly important, if different thoughts. Namely, whether or not he should just stab Elise while her back was turned. After all, the Sociologist had said that only one of them needed to die and they could escape this hellhole, Blake really wanted to make sure it wasn’t him, and he was quickly beginning to realize that, despite hopes that the other competitors might take care of each other and his doppelganger, he might have to take action into his own hands. Who knows what gave him the incentive – perhaps it was the continuous rat-a-tat-tat of machine guns, or the occasional boom of a hand grenade, or some other lethal onomatopoeia being directed towards him by a small army. Who can say for certain?

As he pulled out his box cutter Elise suddenly broke the silence.

"Look Blake, I know you’re not the other guy-" she started, not taking her eyes away from her project.

The other guy.

Elise kept going on, something about how 'she had figured out how to tell which Blake was which', or how 'she didn’t think he was bad either despite killing Krieger so ruthlessly', or some other garbage. Blake wasn’t paying attention. The other guy. Those three words were what stayed Blake’s hand. As much as he hated to admit it, what that asshole whose name was anything but Joseph had said obviously bothered him. Though Elise didn’t intend it, her gesture towards validating him as the true Blake had bought her just enough time for him to lose his chance to literally stab her in the back.

As Blake shook his head and prepared to go ahead with his plan, a sound could be heard, lightly, from several floors below them.


Elise swore. "One’s here Blake!" She haphazardly taped the remaining rockets to the trolley and wired them to a detonator. "I know it’s not the best time, but this could be our only chance."

Black quickly retracted the knife blade and hid the weapon in his sleeve. Perhaps it was a good thing. The only other competitor he had met so far had taken him hostage, and Elise owed him. He began to help her finish preparing their precarious creation.

"You know this is insane right?" He asked, trying to look more nervous than he actually felt. He had to admit that this kind of action was exactly the kind of thing he had missed from his real life, and now that he was more in control of his situation he secretly loved every bloody second of it.

Elise rolled her eyes "You have any better ideas?"

"Nah," Blake smiled, shaking his head for emphasis, "I wouldn’t have it any other way."


Alberich hated smooth jazz. Something about it just screamed stagnation, boredom. Perhaps it was the fact that it was only playing in places where one is forced to wait, trapped in a single small room. You know, clinics, waiting rooms, and worst of all, elevators like the one he was on just now.

Anyone who ever got to know the good doctor would eventually realize that the real reason he hated it was probably because Doe seemed to like it, swaying back and forth with the rhythm. Alberich sighed, waiting until the moment he could be free of the accursed box and completely unaware of just how much worse his day was about to become.


"What the hell?"

The company employees positioned near the elevator couldn’t be expected to have any other reaction to what appeared to be a monstrosity of metal, office supplies, and fuselage. They were thus caught off guard when it turned the corner with Elise and Blake hanging onto the side, the former firing bolts at their heads, hands, feet, and wherever else she saw a significant lack of armour. The latter just grinned like a madman, holding a detonator.


At this point Alberich had finally turned towards that inconveniently placed mirror that all decent elevators seem to have and noticed just what an appalling state of cleanliness he and Doe were in. While he was now sporting a mostly bloodless outfit, his hair was a mess, their posture was horrid, and Doe’s fingernails were still dirty from skin and flesh.

"I’ll tell you what John, you help me fix up my hair, and I will pick those nails of yours clean. This is an important opportunity for m– for us. You, eh, we can’t mess this up, right?"

Doe was characteristically uncooperative, instead just smacking a hand across his partner’s head, making his hair even more untidy. Not that it would actually be important in a couple of seconds.


A slightly less than gentle punch on the arm from Elise broke Blake out of his adrenaline fueled daze. She motioned to the elevator, which revealed that one of them was just short of their floor. "Blake, it’s now or never!"

He snapped to attention, grin still plastered to his face. "Right, right, yes. Showtime."

He pressed the button on the detonator, and immediately a spark weaved its way through every single fuse. In a single instant the trolley became a rocket, an engine of destruction that paved their way through man and barrier alike. The company was helpless against the onslaught of the machine working in tandem with Elise’s crossbow and Blake’s sheer enthusiasm (box cutters tend to only work when one is at a close range and not moving at the speed of a bullet after all). Within seconds it was past their barricades, through their defensive lines, and upon the elevator just as it finally reached their floor.


Alberich had only seconds between hearing a sound evocative of a small jet engine and seeing the horrible contraption bursting through the elevator doors and flying right at him. Of course, this sudden surprise did nothing to help his less-then-attentive body’s dodging ability. The cart came crashing into him, smashing him against the back of the elevator, and crushing him further as the jets sputtered out and died.

Blake and Elise on the other hand, were far more nimble and prepared, but had the sheer momentum of being taken along with a rocket propelled trolley working against them. Elise had put enough thought into the escape to simply hang off of the back of the device, letting it pull her most of the way before falling off at the last moment so as to roll the rest of the way in and come to a relatively painless stop.

[background=#818181]Blake had not been so clever, riding the makeshift battering ram all the way in and finding himself filled with regret the instant the cart came to a halt but he did not. Picking himself off of the wall he took a quick glance at the scientist trapped and (very likely killed) by their entrance. He’d almost feel bad if he wasn’t just being shot at by the man’s allies, and if he wasn’t, well, himself.

A small part of him could swear he recognized the man from somewhere, but he shrugged it off without too much of a thought. Whoever he was, he was dead now.

Instead of worrying, Blake started to laugh. Elise, upon getting up off of the ground, just raised her eyebrow and motioned towards Alberich. "What’s so funny, and who is he?"

"Don’t know. Don’t really care." Blake ignored the first part of Elise’s question and instead moved over to the doctor’s body. "Looks like another scientist, a dead one. What’s the big deal?"

Elise shook her head. She could have sworn the man pinned behind their escape craft looked like that competitor she had seen when this whole thing started – the awkward, suited man. She had to admit though, there was an awful amount of blood and obvious damage done to the man, and he was certainly not moving. He was dead, and judging by the fact that they were still on the Spire she had to have been mistaken.

"We’re still going up Elise."

Blake had pointed out a simple but unwanted fact, one that Elise had been trying her best to avoid thinking about. The chances that their passenger had been stopping at their floor was unlikely – and from her limited knowledge of the tower the top was the last place she wanted to be.

"Is there any way to stop it?"

Blake shook his head. “What do I look like, some kind of techie? Want me to hit a different button? I guess we could jump out too

"No," Elise interrupted, "it’s alright. Whatever’s there is probably no worse than anything else on these floors. Let’s just get up and head back down."

"Sounds good, as long as it’s not the top floor."

"I agree."

Both of them paused, and for the first time since they began their escape there was a brief silence in the air.


The unspoken word hung over them for a moment (a much less flattering name for the man was being thought of by Blake, but that is a mere technicality). Neither was particularly interested in dealing with the man again after their previous experiences, nor were they willing to believe that what was on the second to last floor was any more dangerous than what was on the last plus the psychopath.

Strangely enough it was the supposedly dead man who interrupted their collective thoughts. Elise and Blake both spun around to see the scientist groaning and weakly moving his arms along the embedded cart.

You see, Alberich was far from dead – it was just that no matter how protected a skull is, a liberal enough application of force will still be able to render a concussion to knock one out. As for Doe, though he was immortal a rocket-propelled trolley into the torso is not a thing to be taken likely, and his bruised and busted internal organs had also taken some time to heal.

"Wh-what’s going on?" The professor vaguely motioned towards the two of them. "Who… the devil are you?"

Before Elise could respond or even react to this guy who should by all accounts not be breathing anymore, Blake was already on the move. Though the elevator itself was a bit larger than average, it was by no means big enough that he couldn’t reach the doctor within a few paces. He pulled out his box cutter.

"Sorry," Blake began, in the most unapologetic tone possible, "but you just can’t live. We’re on the run from you guys after all."

With that, he slid the knife right across Alberich’s neck. The doctor gasped, and a hand warily reached up to touch the wound. The other reached for Blake at the same time as Alberich’s eyes moved from his neck to the man who had just caused the damage.

Blake was taken aback. Usually when one takes a good slash to the throat they don’t get back up, and he assumed that went doubly so for guys who were also hit by what must have amounted to a speeding car. Frowning, he extended the blade on his box cutter a few more inches, driving it into his victim’s heart.

"What are you doing?" Elise shouted, taking out her crossbow. Maybe this Blake was worse than the other. Maybe she’d have to worry about him just as much as Nemo.

"I’ve got to make sure he’s dead." Blake twisted the knife to cause the greater amount of damage that the media had always implied such actions would. No small amount of blood began to leak out of the hole. "He’d tell the others. Besides, what kind of guy survives that kind of –"

Alberich and Doe were proving to be experts at interruptions, as the latter grabbed hold of Blake’s hand, the one pushing the box cutter into his body. Blake tried to pull away but the corpse’s grip was painfully strong.

Blake gasped. "What the hell? Let go of me!" Using his free hand, he began trying to pry off Doe’s grasp.

At this point Elise wasn’t fully sure of what was going on, or even if she should be helping Blake murder what might be an already dying employee. Her hesitation was assuaged however, when Doe’s other hand moved from his own throat to grab hold of Blake’s shoulder. To both of their surprises, the lethal gash across the man’s throat had become a bloody, but otherwise minor, cut. Alberich, with his head now completely cleared, looked up at Blake.

"What the hell." It was no longer a question on Blake’s part, rather, him stating his disbelief and confusion at how very quickly things turned around. He repeated said statement over and over as Doe slowly pulled him closer.

"Blake, get away from him." Elise raised her crossbow.

He didn’t respond, instead opting to continue his confused repetition. Elise pulled the trigger, swearing when she realized she needed to reload.

"I’m terribly sorry about this…" Alberich paused, as if a realization had suddenly hit him, "Mister Richards, was it?"

Blake’s chant paused for a brief moment. "How the hell do you know… son of a bitch. You’re in too, aren’t you?" He began struggling harder.

"You brought this on yourself; I can’t control him when he’s lost so much blood and energy, when he’s so… hungry."

With that, Alberich opened his mouth, and Doe pulled him into biting range. At the last second however, a crossbow bolt hit Doe’s left arm, causing enough of a distraction for Blake to finally yank it out of his grasp.

"Don’t let him bite you Blake!" Elise leveled her weapon, firing off another shot.

"No shit." Blake pulled himself out of Doe’s grasp completely and then quickly ducked as the zombie swung its wounded arm towards his head. Doe’s fist instead left a sizable dent in the elevator, causing a groan that the three competitors shouldn’t have ignored, but did in the heat of the moment.

Elise didn’t respond, instead continuing to fire at the pair. To her great surprise, Doe seemed to absorb most of them with his flailing arms. The few that did hit Alberich’s head just caused glancing wounds and bounced off.

Blake was now beside her, out of reach of Doe’s grasp. "Just keep shooting!"

Doe would have none of it though. He left the rest of himself vulnerable for a few seconds, grasping the trolley that was pinning him to the wall until he could get a hold of it. A couple bolts hit him in the chest, but with a couple pushes the cart finally budged. With one more, it was flying towards Elise and Blake.

It was at this exact moment, as the two jumped out of the way and the trolley fell out the busted door, that Elise Pestarztyn swore she would never set foot in an elevator again.

"Look," Alberich began, as Doe steadied himself out of the wall. "I do not want to fight either of you, let alone kill you. There is something I have to do in this tower. My… associate does however, so I would recommend leaving the same way you came in."

The two didn’t move, and in the moments of nothing happening Doe had finished seemingly deciding which of the still ruptured organs in his body would be fine for now.

Alberich sighed. "Too late then."

Elise raising her crossbow to fire, but Doe didn’t give her a chance. He closed the short distance between him and her within a second, he was next to her. She pulled the trigger too late, Doe knocking her aim off with his outstretched grasp and moving in for the kill. He knocked her crossbow to the ground when she tried to line up another shot, forced Alberich to lean in close and then –

Nothing. Alberich was confused. As much as he enjoyed not feasting on brain matter he had never known Doe to turn down a meal, especially when he was hungry. The only type of brain his lesser half ever had turned down before were the first he tried to go for. The cold brains of corpses…

Alberich understood. "You’re like me, aren’t you?"

Elise didn’t answer, but scowled behind her mask. Instead, she quickly dropped her crossbow and ducked under Doe. With one fluid motion she was under him, behind him, then, upright again, with her crossbow somehow retrieved at some point during the motion. She kicked Doe into the wall, and the new force in combination with his current momentum sent him crashing into a wall again. She wasn’t dead yet, and Alberich was not the same type of monster she was becoming.

It was all proving too much for the elevator. With squeal, the lift’s floor tilted, and the lift came to a stop. This time, everyone did notice the kind of trouble they were in. Everyone but Doe of course, who was trying to continue his rampage when the shift made him lose his footing. Elise turned to Blake and pointed at the top of the elevator.

"Quick, give me a boost."

"Are you insane?" Blake shouted. "You think I’m going to let you leave me alone with this guy –"

"This place isn’t going to make it, we need to get out now! Before he gets up!"

Blake groaned in frustration, but helped Elise reach up and take out the panel at the top of the elevator. She quickly climbed through, and went to help Blake up when he was suddenly knocked aside by Doe. She looked around and noticed the eight cables holding the elevator up, each one attached by a clamp. She had an idea.

Blake of course was busy trying to avoid being mauled by Doe and Alberich to do anything but inwardly curse Elise for leaving him probably to die. Unlike Elise though, he was not experienced in killing enemies who stubbornly refuse to die, and a box cutter ranked among the worst weapons to fight a zombie with. As such, he quickly found himself pinned by the Doe and swearing to himself that he would find a way to haunt Elise for the rest of her days.

"Again, just know that I didn’t want this eith–" Alberich was cut off by a thick black cable hitting Doe. Blake took the seconds the zombie was distracted to slip out from under him.

Stepping back, Blake looked up to see Elise already holding another cable. As Doe struggled to get back up, she dropped it on him as well.

"Said I’d help you get back up, didn’t I?"

Blake sighed in relief. "You took your sweet time!"

"One second." Elise disappeared again, returning with a third cable to drop on the once again standing zombie pair. "I’ve only got five more of these, then the elevator’s done. Come on."

Blake nodded, and waited for her to drop two more cables before trying to clamber up one. Elise dropped the third cable as Doe started to reach for him. As he reached the top of the elevator and climbed onto the roof, Elise detached the seventh cable, dropping it as well. The elevator began to sway.

"Open that door Blake." Elise pointed to the door to another floor above them. Blake began to pry it open as Elise stared down at the struggling zombie.

Alberich desperately looked back up at her. "You wouldn’t."

"I’m terribly sorry about this… but I kill zombies."

Alberich chuckled nervously. "But you are one."

"I am not!" Elise shouted. "Not yet, I can stop it!"

"Uh," Blake interjected, the doors pried open. "We’re good to go."

Elise calmed down. "Alright then, get ready to jump."

With that she detached the last cable. As the elevator plummeted down hundreds of stories her and Blake jumped, barely managing to grab a hold of the floors edge. Carefully, they pulled each other up and looked down the shaft, panting.

"You know," Blake gasped, “you could have just let me climb up first."

Elise snickered, catching Blake completely off guard.

"What's so funny?"

Elise stretched "Sorry about that, I didn’t expect that to be your only reaction after all of that. Come on, let’s go." She turned and began to walk away from the elevator shaft.

"I fail to see what’s so god damn hilarious, I could have fucking died there!" Blake spun around to face her, only to see her practically frozen in place. He stopped as well.

Dozens of clicks and a single, very suspicious whirring sound greeted them. Wordlessly, a crossbow and box cutter fell to the floor.

Alberich meanwhile, had closed his eyes in expectation of an (eventual) impact. What he was not prepared for, however, was a complete lack of movement. Through their struggling, Doe had somehow managed to get himself so tangled in the cables that the two of them were held in place. He made a mental note to not chastise Doe for his clumsiness every time from now on.

Further to his surprise, he began to notice that they were beginning to somehow move up the cables. Due to the awkward positioning of a neck in what should have been free fall, Alberich couldn’t see exactly how. Had Doe, who was completely incompetent when it came to walking in a straight line, managed to figure out how to climb a rope effectively? It seemed impossible.

The doctor’s suspicions proved to be correct when he eventually found himself being dragged through the same door Elise and Blake had been pulled through. Looking around, he saw several interns putting down the cords they had clearly been pulling, he saw Elise and Blake, hands raised into the air and surrounded by a small army of guards, and a single, excited looking man in a suit.

Said man practically jumped in delight at Alberich’s ascension to the floor, his perfect moustache quaking with delight.

"Thank you very, very much for your assistance, Doctor von Wissenschaft! I can already see you’ll be a valued member of our team."

Doe picked the two of them up, and Alberich simply gaped at the overly happy and grizzled man. "Thank you but… who exactly are you?"

"Oh right, of course," the man chortled, his equally perfect chin the moving up and down with each ‘ha’. "Sorry about that doctor. I am Sir Bradley, CEO of the Heisenberg Science Company."
RE: Journal of Sociology [S!6] - [Round One: The Pacific Spire]
Five irritatingly long seconds of nothing passed after the executive's introduction. Elise ground her teeth, waiting either for an opening to escape or for Alberich's new employer to continue his overblown spiel. She half-heartedly contemplated acting in an almost-suicidal frenzy, lashing out in an attempt at freedom-- she wouldn't get away as easily as she had earlier, not when they knew she was already capable of getting out. Her hobnailed boot scraped and clacked against the floor in frustration-- a cue Sir Bradley noticed, as he glanced at her briefly and continued to address the necrotic scientist.

"Well. I guess we should see about taking care of your, erm, damage." Bradley awkwardly said, appraising the ambulatory corpse. "Thompson--"

He waved a hand at a nearby employee, who rushed over.

"--see to it that the good doctor's escorted to the medical lab, will you? I'd hate to see the newest member of our team die, er, die again." Sir Bradley finally finished.

Alberich's body gnashed and chomped in response, his lesser half betraying his hunger. Alberich immediately made an attempt at exerting control over the zombie's jaw, clamping it shut in an attempt to obscure the nature of his disloyal counterpart. The rest of his body retorted with the beginnings of a feral, almost-predatory stance, nearly ready to abandon self-preservation in face of the burning hunger. Alberich coughed-- a wet, raw hacking-- as his head shifted towards looking at the executive. "I, urm--" He began, attempting to exert himself enough to gesture at the wounds.

"Oh, yes, of course! Thompson, while you're at it, fetch those interns on the floor beneath us. Can't let the doctor's hunger get in the way of scientific progress, can we?"

Elise scowled underneath her mask, disgusted with the monstrous nature of the scientist. She briefly glanced at Blake, attempting to gauge him-- he appeared bored and nonchalant, as though two dozen armed guards and getting captured again was a severe annoyance in an already-frustrating day. A tetchy cough escaped her mouth, muffled by her beaked respirator, as she looked at Alberich again. This time, she noticed the metal plating visible on his skull where skin gave way, along with the steel surrogate-ligaments and other modifications now made manifest by his damaged state. Although her mask dulled her sense of smell, she could sniff out the vaguest hint of chemical preservatives.

She scowled slightly harder as she put her observations together.

Alberich's head swiveled around, looking at the alchemist. Moments before, she had attempted to kill him-- but he recognized her as a curiosity, and encountering someone who shared his affliction could provide a valuable insight.

The professor began to speak. "Might I suggest that miss, ah, Pestarztyn, was it--"

"Doctor Pestarztyn, if it pleases the corpse-footed bastard." Elise shot back, not bothering to return his gaze-- she had no particular attachment to the title, but interacting with the professor brought out an insistence on minor, spiteful decorum.

"--be responsible for repairing my damage? I believe she may have some expertise in the manner." He finished. The absurd costume, the altogether-fraudulent labeling as an 'alchemist'-- he had every reason to suspect the efficacy of her medical ability, but he needed a chance to examine her. His gaze returned to Sir Bradley.

"I think we can arrange that, sure. What do you want us to do with the other one?" Bradley asked.


His mind vividly recalled his neck getting slashed by Blake's boxcutter-- and on the basic, primal level his undead instincts influenced, he wanted to see the man dead. At the same time, he recalled the warning they had been given-- that as soon as one of them died, their location would be replaced. He could not afford to squander this opportunity.

"--it is of vital importance he not be harmed. I'm afraid I cannot fully explain why, but please trust me when I say it is essential to my, erm, employment." He finished.

"Well, alright then. Let's get going-- we've got science to accomplish!" Bradley enthusiastically responded, and the assortment of guards and other employees scattered, returning to their various postings and other assignments.

As a pair of armed guards and a cadre of other technicians escorted her away, alongside the undead professor, Elise could do nothing but clench her fist and watch as seconds of her dwindling lifespan were uselessly whittled away.


"Miss Pestarzt--"

"Doctor Pestarztyn." Elise immediately corrected, not bothering to look up from her work. Her fingers twitched slightly-- the scalpel she held moved in response, widening an incision around the bolt lodged in Alberich's arm. Another set of fingers reached back, re-sorting the collection of surgical implements and alchemical potions.

"--very well, doctor Pestarztyn, your aggression is entirely unwarranted. Contrary to what you may--"

Alberich involuntarily winced as the alchemist stopped cutting, and instead settled for pushing the crossbow bolt out through his forearm.

"--think, I am not your enemy." The undead scientist said. Even as he felt no pain, no response of autonomic nerves, the sight still unnerved him-- even with the experience he had in observing gruesome injuries. His lesser counterpart attempted to squirm, working against the restraints holding him to the surgical table-- that was a point Elise had been extremely specific on, after he had explained how anaesthetics would have little to no effect. His head remained free, however, and was offered the remarkably disconcerting view of surgery being performed on him.

"I don't know what you're talking about." Elise replied, grabbing a handful of reagents and mixing them in a small mortar and pestle.

"I can clearly see you've spent the past five minutes stabbing scalpels into my leg." Alberich plainly stated.


It wasn't his noticing that unnerved her-- she'd been stabbing scalpels reflexively, looking for some outlet for her pent-up aggression. It was that that five minutes had been spent-- five minutes had been meaninglessly frittered away, five minutes that she could have spent doing something had been squandered with the task of treating this monstrosity. She cursed under her breath-- her accent and the respirator muffled the noise to an unintelligible slur. Her mind neatly pushed aside the knowledge that their was nothing else she could do, instead fermenting thoughts of desperate rebellion. Behind her mask, her eyes darted back to the pair of armed guards overseeing her-- they were too far away to dispatch, and she doubted it would be easy to eliminate Alberich.

"Shouldn't you, hrm, rectify that?" Alberich questioned.

Elise wrenched the implements out of his leg, neglecting to respond to his remark. She stopped grinding, satisfied-- the reagents were done, and she poured the soft mass of alchemical ingredients onto a bandage, applying the newly-prepared poultice to some of the more damaged limbs. He attention quickly shifted to the slit across his neck-- the one that Blake had inflicted. Her hands retrieved a needle and thread.

Alberich began again, hoping this time the alchemist would deign to respond. "Listen, I am aware we didn't get off on the right foot, but--"

"But you're a monster." Elise finally snapped back.

Alberich nearly began to respond, until the needle and thread descended on his neck-- forcing him to remain silent.

"You think I didn't notice the metal plate, or the steel in your tendons, or the preservatives or the surgical marks or the countless other telltale signs? You did this to yourself, didn't you. You became that-- thing." Her fingers adroitly worked, sewing flesh as she spoke. She glanced at the adjacent table, where two corpses lay-- the tops of their skulls had been neatly bisected, and a mess of partially-uneaten cerebrum dribbled out. The alchemist vividly recalled how Alberich had torn into their brains and had to stop herself from tearing through the flesh of his neck as she worked angrily.

The professor finally had a minute, as she finished sewing and turned her attention the jumble of organs and viscera leaking from his abdomen. "I have been trying to correct my condit--"

"Correct what, exactly? You're already dead, there's nothing left to fix." Elise retorted. She paused as she examined Alberich's open chest cavity, trying to assess what would be necessary. She grabbed two vials, pouring their magic-infused contents into the wound and watching as they worked to repair and heal the damaged organs.

Alberich ignored the glow of Elise's extracts as they regenerated torn tissue-- the charlatan parlor-tricks she called alchemy would have to wait until later to be disproven. "But you're like me." He wryly answered.

"I am not like yo--"

"My lesser counterpart didn't attempt to devour you. He's only done that with corpses. I think that's proof enough that you're not what you say you are. You're like me-- a ghoul, a zombie, whatever word you want to use."

The alchemist stopped, losing her focus on treating Alberich's injuries-- she had finished, the gaping wound in his chest had healed itself as a result of the extract she had applied and there was little else left to treat. She pulled off one of her gloves, exposing the hand underneath-- it was sore and calloused, and had the faintest hint of sickly grey hue, but it still showed the vaguest sign of life. She twirled a scalpel, weakly pressing the blade against the ball of her thumb. A few drops of red blood-- a vibrant red, not the dull red of dead fluid Alberich had-- dripped out as she displayed the cut to the professor.

"I still have a pulse, more than I can say about you. I'm still alive-- and I can still fix this."

Alberich saw the two armed guards approaching, aware that the alchemist had completed her work.

"I will kill you, Alberich. Maybe not right now, but I'll make sure you pay for what you've done." She said, a grim finality lacing her words as she was led away.


"How do you like your new laboratory, Doctor von Wissenschaft?" Sir Bradley asked.

"It's-- adequate for my purposes, yes." Alberich frankly replied. His old laboratory had been far larger, and much more suited to someone of his caliber; this meager space would have to suffice as a substitute. With any luck, he would be able to make some actual progress on reversing his condition, something no doubt helped by his new employer's amorality.

It was odd to be in a laboratory space again, Alberich realized-- it had been far too long since he had conducted any sort of experimentation, considering how busy he had been with his uncooperative counterpart. John Doe, at least for now, seemed docile and almost complacent-- his attempts at directing him weren't met with the same resistance as before, and Alberich nearly found himself in possession of an inkling of manual dexterity. The professor briefly wondered just what Elise had done, before dismissing offhand the notion that her treatment had any effect past repairing his body's damage.

For a brief moment, the professor reflected on just how far he had descended that employment at a common business was now considered fortunate-- and just as quickly, his thoughts were disrupted as Bradley spoke once more.

"You uh, mentioned earlier that it was important that no harm come to the other two. Would you be willing to explain that?"

The professor paused-- or his head did, as the rest of his body continued to inquisitively grapple with the spread of glassware on one of the laboratory benches.

Part of him felt uncertain about continuing, that explaining how he got here would be a decision he'd regret. He had no confidence in what his situation even was-- it was clearly a ploy of devious minds, alongside all of the others there with him, alchemists and sorceresses and all the other charlatans. But it was undeniable that he had been transported somewhere else, somewhere entirely unfamiliar-- and he did not wish to press his luck and make assumptions, not when an opportunity such as this presented itself.

He would have to accept that this was real, then-- at least, for now.

"I've been pressed into an, ah, experiment, along with eight others. We were told that the death of one would lead to a change in location, and then were--" Alberich interrupted himself with an attempt at a shrug, as best he could with no control over his shoulders; his gesture came out instead as an odd cock of his head. "--teleported here. I'm afraid my, erm, employment is dependent on none of the other participants expiring." Alberich finally answered, hoping his hesitation did not betray him.

Sir Bradley nodded an acknowledgment, as though Alberich's answer made total sense-- and in his mind, thoughts churned with the new information. "Who are the others?"

Alberich strained to remember. "There were eight others-- you have two in captivity already, and there was also myself, of course. There was a pile of clothing, a robot of some fashion, a--" Alberich winced, uttering his next word with a generous slathering of utter disdain "--sorceress, and a few others that I can't quite remember." He finished, unsatisfied with his response but unable to offer more.

"Where might they have come from?"

Alberich attempted his facsimile of a shrug once again. "I wouldn't know. If they are real-- and I should note, this is hardly my specialty-- I'd hazard something along the lines proposed by the Multi-Worlds Hypothesis, but that's a colossal leap in logic, of cours--"

Bradley had heard enough. It wouldn't be enough to monopolize science, not went there was even the faintest possibility of countless other universes that went untapped and unenlightened. His ambition demanded more-- it demanded that he monopolize science across not just this one, insignificant speck of dust, no; not even having all the science in this universe would be enough.

Sir Bradley was going to monopolize science across every universe.


Alchemy was often referred to as the magic of precision.

It was not like other schools of thaumaturgy, which relied on the variable skill that the practitioner had. It was closer to the new schools of magical engineering, built around precision and repetition, rather than the old and powerful magic that could scour cities and lay host to dominance over reality. It was still a magic-- it drew from the unknown wellspring of power that resided within every magic-user, that font of arcane energy-- but it used ingredients and reagents and extracts as catalysts for its desired effect, not crystals and gems and the tools of medieval wizards. But alchemy was controlled, almost mundane in his applications; it was a magic that prided itself in repeatable infusions and known extracts. It was a magic taught in textbooks, not in tomes.

Elise silently lamented that she was incompetent in those traditional magics.

She was crouched down, squatting over a small, improvised set-up. Her shaky hands adjusted the small handful of reagents she had smuggled with her in a miniscule vial. Being able to summon a fireball and crash through the door trapping her would be useful-- more so than trying to extract a spark of her preferred effect out of the ingredients she now had. She fidgeted, adding a microscopic portion to the concoction, praying it would work. Her thoughts drifted to anger again-- anger at Alberich, at Nemo, at the pompous suited man whose thugs had ushered her into a locked cell. She thought about how she'd make sure they paid for what they had done.

Elise cursed at the thought-- out loud, not the silent cursing her mind was now so fond of. She remembered the promise she had made, the promise that she wouldn't play along with the Sociologist's experiment. In spite of that promise to spite her captor, to refuse to be a participant in her game, here she was now-- single-mindedly fixated on killing two of the other captives. The dissonance between vigilantism and her own desire to assail her true captor infuriated her, gnawed at her tauntingly.

She looked down at the vial-- it had changed to an acrid-fumed green liquid, exactly what the alchemist had hoped for. There was something else she had to take care, first, before she made her escape. Her free hand reached back, undoing some of the straps attaching her respirator. She nearly saw herself in the room's mirror, but caught herself-- she didn't need to see what was under her mask, that was unimportant. It was a distraction. She could still fix this.

In a single motion she swallowed a gulp of smuggled medicine. The mask was back on-- bleached-white beak over her face, tubing connected to filters, goggles in place. Elise stood up, and poured the green liquid onto the door-- watching as the acid she made burned and melted through the lock, rendering it no longer an obstacle.

Bradley, Alberich, Nemo, Sociologist-- they would all pay, and that's all she needed to know as she escaped once again.


"Attention, employees of the Pacific Spire."

Sir Bradley's voice was carried across every loudspeaker in the Pacific Spire, from the lowest basement floors to the roof, countless feet above the ground and tickling the clouds, steel and plates of glass slicing through water vapor. Hundreds of floors heard his broadcast, and thousands of employees who lived and worked and died in the Spire now listened attentively.

"Or uh, just the Heisenberg Science Company now, seeing as we own this entire place. You've heard me correctly, you're all part of the Heisenberg family now." Bradley continued, his jovial voice echoing through crowded cubicle mazes and abandoned maintenance hallways alike. "Some of you might ask if this is illegal, and let me assure you-- I've talked to the boys in legal, and they say this is totally permissible. We've got dominant market share in all your companies, that means we set the rules."

Not every level of the skyscraper listened-- some had been necessary conquests to establish Bradley's new hegemony.

One floor was silent, their occupants nothing more than burnt, flash-fried silhouettes against the walls, their stances frozen with arms raised in a final, hopeless gesture of surrender. Wind blew freely through broken windows on another-- a maddening broadcast had been focused there, and its occupants had chosen to throw themselves out of the building in a futile attempt to end the mind-destroying noise. A third floor had its employees as nothing but frozen statues-- their flesh ossified from exposure to an alien chemical. Innumerable atrocities had been committed, enabled by the distortion of physics in an elevator shaft and the unreal revelations it had brought with it.

"Now then, before you start to fret, you can rest easy. You're part of the company now, and we take care of our own. We're all in this together-- for science." The executive continued.

In the middle of the building, the intersection of ley-lines went completely unnoticed, save for the four present within it-- their presence was overshadowed by the other magical anomaly that went exploited.

"However, there is something I need to address, and that's our uninvited guests. The nine of you-- you know you are-- aren't welcome here, and I'm afraid we're going to have to ask you to surrender yourselves. For science, of course. If you don't, well, I can't promise you that the involuntary testing you'll be subject to will be as pleasant as it could be. That's all for now, we're done here." Bradley finished.

And with the end of his message, the search for the remainder of the Sociologist's subjects began.

RE: Journal of Sociology [S!6] - [Round One: The Pacific Spire]
As the sun rose from the horizon, Sir Bradley, his suit tattered, looked out of the newly made hole that was unfortunately placed in his office. Yes, his employees and interns were scattered around, trying to fix things up, but he could hardly feel their presence as he basked in the rising light.

It was a beautiful sight, he had to admit, even if he had lost more than he intended. Still, the spire was his. All his. And there was no one who could, would, or even wanted to stop him.

Still, the loss of the good doctor wasn't an easily replaceable one, one that soured what should have been the sweetest moment in his life.

Sir Bradley sighed and walked away from the sunset, instead choosing to look at the rest of the rubble, where moments before stood not only his newest employee, but also some of the others caught in his arrangement. Sir Bradley took a deep breath, looked down, and almost choked on the air.

Then, he laughed. "Now... I wonder, how did that get here?"


Alberich knew it would only be a matter of time. Given the generally low level of competency that he'd witnessed from the non-Bradley employees and the general trend of chaos from the others in his predicament, his time in the Spire could not last as long as he wanted.

However, Alberich had no intention of allowing his employment with Sir Bradley to end with the death of one of the incompetent others. While it certainly wasn't his field of expertise, he was a genius! (And it helped that he had all of the Spire's research on the topic at his disposal.)

Mustering all of his concentration and with the help (of both kinds) of some more interns, Alberich had successfully completed an eternally linked, two-way communication device with which he could keep in contact with his new employer just in time to catch the explosion give the spire a new window, along with a few spacial renovations.

Instinctively, Alberich turned to face the explosion, exclaiming, "What was that?" before the spire disappeared before his eyes...


Oli didn't care about Blake. There wasn't any reason too. While he was a bit freaked out at what Blake had did, could he even do it again? What did it matter if Blake spouted some nonsense about him trying to take Bradley down? He wasn't anyone! Which meant he could be anyone.

"Now, Son, you can remove your helmet here!"

That is, if he had the time... "Uh, Sir, I would prefer to keep it on."

"Uhm, me too sir."

"Hmmm. Apprehend them."


Oli tried to get away, to grab something, but he was too quickly grabbed. Blake was hardly any better, but he also grabbed out one of his bottles. Oli knew those vials of colored goop had some sort of power, but he wasn't sure that it would be of any help.

While he didn't like his chances of getting out, he at least had some solace in knowing that because of the orders, he'd get out of it alive.

"So we've got some intruders? I like the moxie, but not anything else. Bring us ah, one of Alberich's associates."

A few moments passed, and then another Blake showed up.

"Remove their helmets."

Sir Bradley's orders were followed, leading the room to exclaim, at the sight of Blake's face, while Sir Bradley simply said, "Well, there's no need to ask about him. So, what of the other man, does he look familiar to either of you?"

Both Blake's shook their heads. Although they were both more focused on each other.

"Alright then, dispose of hi-"


The captive Blake Richards took that moment to simultaneously elbow his guard and stomp his foot. While it honestly hurt him more than it did the guard, it was enough, for him to be let go. In the chaos, Blake ran after his counterpart, tackling him, and once more causing a vial of magic to fly into the air.

In the confusion, Oli also attacked the man holding him, and started to run.

He didn't get very far.

Though Sir Bradley didn't particularly want to act rashly, he was well aware of the assassins and other types waiting for a chance to take his life, and Sir Bradley had one policy with assassins.

Oli didn't know where he was running, but no amount of smooth talking was going to get him out of this. The Spire was huge! So what if they saw his face, in a few moments, it wouldn't even be his. All he had to do was get out.

Then there was a bang and a boom.

Oli got out, but not in the way that he wanted.
RE: Journal of Sociology [S!6] - [Round One: The Pacific Spire]
Blink. Fields of blue potential swirling in the gedanken space found their ground state at the Journal. It lay open on a podium, from its pages jutting a miniature model: a spindly tower, frozen in time. A glowing, fiery limpet hugged the tower about halfway up, posing a puzzle to the eye, until one noticed the broken glass, twisted metal, shrapnel shards all hanging in space about it. So merely a catastrophic explosion, then. Nothing that would cause structural failure, but it certainly would do damage to, say, anyone caught in the blast.

Blink, blink. In fact, one of the smaller pieces of debris seemed to be trailing scraps of ash that might once have been an assortment clothes.

Blink, blink, blink-

“Hel-lo,” came a cheery, twangy voice, at the edge of her realm. “Can I come in? I’ll just let myself in.”

A jingling of metal accompanied the invasion. The Sociologist closed her eyes, sighed, and opened them again: a rather extended blink. The cyan lock on her head gave an impatient twitch. “Where have you been?”

“Out and about.” The back of a pair of overalls crept into her peripheral vision. “Went to some casino, mucked around.” Pause; the overalls straightened up, jangling the bandolier of tools slung from it.

“Ooh, Allison,” came the name in a sing-song ball of irritation, “That reminds me! Do you know what the Broadcaster’s gotten himself up to?”

In response, the Sociologist finally turned from her observation, and the newcomer swung into sight. Bandolier and overalls were in fact filled by a young, brown-haired college-age female, dressed in rough trousers, oilstained shirt with rolled-up sleeves - mechanic’s wear. She stood in a little reproduction of a 1980s-era kitchen, but was boiling water in some barbaric metal contraption of her own devising. Had she been a real stranger, the Sociologist would have ejected - or evaporated - her on the spot. As it was, however:

“Artificer,” she muttered finally, “I would appreciate it if you do not use that name. It is no longer appropriate.” Sigh. “And yes, I do know of the Broadcaster’s activities.” She waved a hand at the tower-model behind her.

The Artificer’s normally content face showed momentary displeasure at her companion’s request, but it vanished - or was perhaps buried - as her eyes fell on the Journal. “Ooh, brilliant! I haven’t had the chance to look at one of these up close, yet!” She scuttled over to the model, peering close at the frozen explosion.

“Feel free, Artificer. There are notes inside you may wish to peruse.”

“Shush, you. Don’t you have other experiments to look at?” Behind them, the barbarous machine spat out a steaming china teacup. “Have some tea.”


The giant hall again, the Journal at its center. The contestants, sans one, all arranged. All facing the book and the desk. All frozen in their various attitudes at the moment Oli had turned into a flying cinder.

Behind the desk was a chair that certainly hadn’t been there before; and it must be said - there has never been anything, nor will there ever be anything, like the construction of this chair. Whoever had built it believed in implementing ideas before forgetting them: its burnished metal carapace was bristling with half-finished gadgets and flashing lights, its mesh seating was, as a result, less than comfortable, and the less said about the armrests the better.

It was, in short, completely at odds with everything else in the room.

“‘Early observations in the experiment suggested a confusion and noncompliance among competitors due to the highly-variegated locale and lack of adequate navigation...’ How can she write this crap?” The Artificer turned the stack of pages over, peering at the bottom sheet. “Double-sided!”

She dropped into the chair, put her work boots on the desk, and appraised the contestants in front of her. There was a short pause - then she said to the air, “Allison’ll be mad at me...but ehhhhhhhhh.” The last syllable turned into an extended drawl as she rested her eyes on the motley crew before her.

“All right, gang; ‘The Sociologist’ is, right now, as we say, out to lunch.” The contestants’ unmoving eyes rested right back at her, and she giggled. “So she won’t not notice us. Why don’t we move this on a little?” A quick rummage of the desk drawer yielded the Journal’s fountain pen. “Any objections? No? Good!”

Experiment Two: Adaptation

The world was grey, and moving slowly up past the still-frozen semicircle. A moment’s cognitive dissonance, then the surroundings resolved themselves: they were descending through a dark, smoggy cloud, almost too thick to see the Artificer flicking through pages in front of them.

“Okay, what’s this... ‘It’s the Age of Industry. An age of discovery, of bright sciences, and conversely, dark magic. The nobles,’ ha, ‘the nobles of this city have something of a haute couture in the practice and research of science...’ mm-hm. Mmm-hm.”

The shuffling of paper marked their descent as they broke through the bottom of a dense smog, built from the twin carcinogens of coal exhaust and wood ash. Below them lay an urban sprawl splayed on rolling plains, sporting factory chimneys spewing smoke and strange stone towers spitting sparks.

“‘Under us, you’ll see the bustling city of Ryburg Ritz,’” the Artificer paused, and amended, “‘Except thanks to the Vague Plague, it is no longer so.’”

They floated intangibly down a wide street, lined with empty workshops, cold forges, and corpses with both qualities. Here and there strange clockwork cars lay abandoned and dilapidated, scorch marks delineating burst or leaking boilers; corpses lying half-out of open doors or skewered to their seats by brass and steel shrapnel.

“‘Most people left the city after the Emperor succumbed.’” The strange company paused briefly over a burst-open satchel, clothes trampled and strewn over the cobblestones. “‘Left, in the sense of fled, or escaping.’ Fuck, she’s so obtuse. Look, who wants to make this a little more interesting?”

No objections. Under them, the burned-out skeleton of a Victorian house coughed out a disappointed looter.

“Good.” In one motion, the Artificer clutched the sheaf of notes to her chest and jumped, shooting back up into the smoky clouds. A few seconds later, it began to rain pages.

“I’ll fill you in on the bare details,” her voice came to them, “Most people abandoned their shit. And that’s not just carriages and suitcases. Houses, workshops, artisans’ studios.”

The contestants began to drift apart now, the semicircle growing wider, each one losing sight of the others in the fog. “The Plague has pretty much run its course, but people still haven’t gotten back to trusting the city yet.” Then they were descending further, onto the streets, rooftops, into houses, up trees... “If there’s anything else you wanna know - well, Allison was very comprehensive, as she’d say.” Finally, with a flourish, the bonds immobilizing them were freed.

“So...have fun! Go and get results or something.”


“Oh, hell.”

RE: Journal of Sociology [S!6] - [Round Two: Ryburg Ritz]

Blake found himself in some kind of abandoned laboratory or something. There were numerous test tubes filled with mysterious brightly coloured liquids, Bunsen burners left burning and discarded safety goggles tossed haphazardly and left where they fell. He gave a moment's contemplation to the events of the previous round, and to their introduction to this new arena of battle, before shrugging it off and seeking out to find some new victim to inflict psychological torture upon. He didn't get far before he, the room and indeed the entire building were suddenly atomised.


In another dimension entirely a being known as The Incompetent was supervising the deconstruction of The Deadly Maze Mk. 1. This essentially amounted to shouting non-specific advice and encouragement to the platoon of blank-faced homunculi that The Broadcaster had provided him with. With a tirelessness only available to those who literally did not tire, the homunculi were taking The Deadly Maze (Mk. 1) apart, piece by piece. Traps were carefully disarmed and packed into a storage dimension for assessment, repair and possible reuse in The Deadly Maze Mk. 2. Everything else; which is to say, the very structure of the maze and any monsters who hadn't been lucky enough to be dumped near one of the maze's many gaps, was being methodically reduced to its component atoms and sent to one of a number of storage tanks for use in the construction of the Mk 2 Maze.

It would still be some time before The Deadly Maze Mk. 1 was fully deconstructed but good progress was being made and The Incompetent was feeling pretty pleased with himself (regardless of the fact that he had very little to do with the success of the project thus far). As if on cue there was suddenly a rather distressing beeping coming from a communicator in his pocket. It was his one remaining gentleman, who The Incompetent had reprogrammed to head out into the multiverse and seek out a whole range of rare and dangerous materials from which he would fabricate traps deadlier and even more intricate than their predecessors.

"Okay you guys carry on as you are while I get this." The Incompetent addressed the busy homunculi who were clearly not listening, and then clicked the communicator on. "What's up?"

"Anatomy." The mechanical voice of the gentleman replied. "Animal. Alive." The Incompetent had spent some time rebuilding the gentleman's corrupted vocabulary circuits but had only gotten as far as the letter B before getting bored and moving on to another project.

"No we don't need any animals at the moment." The Incompetent replied dismissively.

"Atomised." The gentleman's voice had taken on an almost imperceptible note of alarm. "Aberration."

"Hey wait, didn't I give you specific instructions to stay away from any site occupied by living things?" The Incompetent asked after a thoughtful moment.

"Affirmative." The gentleman replied. "Accident."

"Okay I guess you better come back then." The Incompetent replied wearily. He ended communications and within moments the mess of rust and exposed wiring that served as his gentleman was in front of him, carrying in his arms a human being. Or rather, a human being as assembled by someone who didn't really understand how human beings work. It made The Incompetent, who had once been human and who was still human shaped feel a little queasy. "Okay no this is incorrect." He said eventually. "Where did you get this guy from anyway?"

" " The gentleman replied.

"Oh yeah right." The Incompetent mumbled. He chewed thoughtfully on his lip for a second and then said, "Hang on a second would you?" He momentarily flickered away and returned with a laptop under one arm and a screwdriver in the other. The gentleman stood passively while The Incompetent unscrewed one of his chest panels and ran a cable from there to his laptop. From there it was just a matter of accessing the gentleman's MPS (Multiversal Positioning System) and through that determining that he had been in the city of Ryburg Ritz, where presumably he had been attempting to obtain a sample of the Vague Plague.

"It's probably fine." The Incompetent said thoughtfully. "If they were that close to a pure sample of the Vague Plague they were probably dead anyway." He paused. "Still that place ought to be abandoned..." He did a couple of searches and all of a sudden red flags were popping up. The Incompetent's heart sunk as he read them; Journal of Sociology, The Sociologist, another one of The Broadcaster's co-opted projects. There was a cast list, and after a good look at the corpse in front of him, he was forced to admit that it did bear something of a resemblance to one identified as Blake Richards.

"No it's okay." He reassured himself. "Look here on the list it says that they have a spare. I doubt that they'll even notice that this one has gone missing." His words rang hollow, even to himself, and he contemplated what would happen if The Broadcaster got wind of this mistake; he could kiss The Deadly Maze Mk. 2 goodbye for starters and who knows what else. "Okay, well, this is an easy problem to fix at least." he said, "We'll just get them another one and it'll be finer. Nobody will be any the wiser." He made a quick adjustment to the gentleman's programming, directing him to search for individuals with DNA strings matching that of Blake Richards rather than the rare materials and toxins he had been searching for (and excluding the other Blake Richards in Ryburg Ritz), and then sent him off, feeling satisfied with a job well done.

It wasn't long after that that one of the homunculi approached The Incompetent looking for his attention, who was only too eager to lend his expertise to whatever problem had arisen. They moved through the busy remains of the Deadly Maze Mk. 1 until they came to a section with an ornately carved wooden door, a couple of panes of cobwebbed glass and a sign which said 'Hixley's Antiques' were embedded into the steel walls of the maze. That in of itself was noteworthy, especially given that through the windows could be seen a room which The Incompetent knew for a fact could not fit within the dimensions of the wall, but such oddities had to be put on the backburner. In front of the shopfront there was a woman with long black hair, a gaudy orange and white suit and a gun clutched inexpertly in her hands. The homunculi had formed a rough circle around her but were keeping her distance as she nervously aimed the gun from one to another.

The Incompetent recognized her instantly. Her name was Elsbeth or something. She'd been in the second set of contestants he'd selected after he'd thought his other contestants had been killed somehow. Now that he had his first set of contestants back she was nothing more than a nuisance, a leftover loose end.

"It's okay guys I've got this." The Incompetent said dismissively as he strode past the homunculi, straight towards Elsbeth(?). "It's okay Elsbeth. There's no need for all this fuss."

"Stay back!" she yelled hysterically and quickly aimed the gun in his direction, but The Incompetent didn't even pause. He knew that she wasn't a threat to him, not even if she hadn't been holding the gun by the barrel. He smirked as he grabbed it by the handle and levered it out of her hand, but the smirk quickly faded when suddenly his hand was consumed with pain, as though a thousand needles were digging into his palm. He released his grip instinctively and the gun fell to the ground, where if he had taken the time to examine it closer he would have noticed the black thorns protruding from the handle. As it was his attention was instead drawn to his hand and the black energy flowing through his body. He looked up at the woman who had moments before appeared petrified, now she was perfectly composed and wearing a cocky smirk.

"You bitch!" The Incompetent exclaimed angrily. Despite relinquishing the gun the pain did not abate, it only intensified and advanced up his arm. He clutched it tightly in his other arm. "What did you do to me?"

"Cursed gun." she said. "And for reference the name is Liz, but you can call me Ms. Hixley."

"Fun's over." The Incompetent snapped through gritted teeth. The pain reached his chest and it was all he could do to remain standing. "Reverse this or I'll kill you. I am perfectly capable."

"Are you?" Liz asked, that cocky grin never faltering. "That curse is incredibly potent, you know. I probably couldn't reverse it even if I wanted to."

The Incompetent had had enough. He didn't need this. "Oh, just shut up." he muttered and froze her in place.

"Make me." she replied.

The Incompetent's gaze shot up in shock. It was probably just the pain making him a little unfocused, he reasoned. So he tried again, he even raised his arm towards her to direct his power just to be sure. Nothing happened. After a second Liz looked down at herself as if to make sure he hadn't done something and she just hadn't noticed.

"No? I thought not." she smiled. "Okay well, this was fun but I've got places to be. Seeya later, Mr. 'Amazing'." As she tried to walk past The Incompetent he grabbed at her blazer and held on tightly. She tried to swat him away and then pry his fingers off, but his grip was too strong. "Oh come on, this is silly. We both have more dignity than this."

"Get her." He cried. The homunculi responded immediately, with a sense of urgency hitherto unseen. Liz slammed her elbow into the first homunculus leaving a crack all down her chest, but before she could land another blow they had hold of her and she just couldn't shake them off.

"If you wanted me to stay that badly why didn't you just say so?" she asked.


It was some time later; the Incompetent was recuperating. The pain had subsided and left behind nothing but a particularly nasty headache, however the suppression of his powers persisted. Liz had continued making snide remarks until he'd ordered the homunculi to drag her away somewhere out of earshot and actually she was probably still making snide remarks. Eventually his gentleman returned and his spirit was momentarily lifted. There had been no emergency communications from the gentleman, he really ought to have a name The Incompetent mused, so perhaps something had gone right for once. However he couldn't help but notice a distinct lack of any Blake Richards, living or dead.

"Accomplished." The gentleman said.

"Where is he then?" The Incompetent asked. "Did you deliver him straight to the battle?"

"Adverse." The gentleman said. "Attention:" Behind him materialized a number of large metal canisters, which had been designed for the containment of the atomised materials the gentleman had originally been sent to retrieve. Suddenly it occurred to The Incompetent that he hadn't changed the collection or containment protocols, only the thing which the gentleman was searching for.

"I suppose it's too much to hope that you might have missed a couple of Blake Richards?" The Incompetent muttered to himself.

"Affirmative; absolute." The gentleman replied.

The Incompetent sighed heavily. "Okay," he said, "Plan B: absolutely anybody will do." He paused for a moment and allowed himself the smallest vestige of a smile. "In fact I think I have just the person in mind."


Due to the effects of time dilation, it was a mere minute or so after the complete atomisation of the laboratory when Elizabeth Hixley was dumped into the perfectly square crater left by its removal. The first thing she did was to press on her amulet and summon her shop to this dimension before The Incompetent took it upon himself to deconstruct it piece by piece, or worse, before he decided to take a look what she had in there. Silently it materialised in the centre of the crater just behind her. It wasn't exactly inconspicuous, but that wasn't her first concern at the moment. She turned and headed in to gather a couple of things, pausing only to tear off the note that The Incompetent had taped to her chest. It fluttered away in the breeze, to be quickly lost amongst the rain of papers falling upon the city. It had said 'sorry I lost your contestant but this other one I found is way cooler ok'


fyck phytybyckyt
RE: Journal of Sociology [S!6] - [Round Two: Ryburg Ritz]
While the recently deceased Blake was being anatomized and posthumously picked at by a being of questionable power, the other Blake was having a similar experience, only instead of being completely wiped from a molecular level and then being replaced by some flighty shopekeep, he was being kidnapped by some gangly looking teens. While the experience certainly didn't seem similar, it served more or less the same purpose of taking a Blake, and making sure he had as little agency as possible, although luckily, this time, it didn't mean he had to die.

"Where are you taking me?"

"Aww, shut yer trap!"

Blake himself wasn't really sure how he got into this situation, as the last thing he remembered was being beaten up by his imposter. Things got pretty fuzzy after that, and when he finally got his head back into the game, he was tied up and being carried around by some awfully large children.

"You can't do this!"

"I don't see anyone stoppin us."

"There are laws!"

"Pfff, not no more."

What did that mean? And... come to think of it, how are they doing this? Come to think of it... where is anyone?

Blake struggled, and managed to turn his head around enough to look around and... it was empty. Everything was more or less intact, but there was no one here.

"What happened here? Why's everything abandoned? Where'd everyone go?"

"Ha ha ha, you don't know? Where've you been mate? Livin under a rock?"

"No? I was in a skyscraper and there was thi-MM! MMPH MMPH MMPH!"

"Oh come on Nan, why'd you have to go and do that to im? E was funny!"

"Nah, I'm with Nan on dis one, he was getting a bit boring and you heard that lead up, he was about to go into something long and awful."

"And we've already got enough of that from the boss."

"I swear if I hear one more thing about those bloody nobles and their plans I'll march right into the palace and walk into a cell."

"And then she'd run in after ya and bust ya out!"

"That's the boss for ya, we'd bitch and moan about how she treats us, while she does the same for us and our complaints, but at the end of the day she'd do anything to keep our hides safe."


"Oh calm down mate, we're almost there. If ya don't stop struggling Nan's gunna strap more of ya down."

Stuck being dragged around, magically bound by some teens for some bizarre reason that no one cared enough to tell him, Blake noticed that his personal entourage had stopped.

The gang's hideout was probably as lavish as one made by a bunch of kids could be, well, as good as one made by magical kids. It was a pretty big place hidden under a few abandoned buildings, with a nice carpet, some plant life and vines hanging around, it was even very well-lit thanks to some floating balls of light.

The furniture in the hideout was, for the most part, pretty mundane, there were some couches, there were nice chairs, cots and comforters, a few more unorthodox things like Nan's hammock, but besides the boss's throne, the place was pretty reasonable. The throne wasn't something that she was too keen on having, but this moment made it worth it.

"So. Who are you?"

Blake had been unbound enough to look up at his captor and while he'd never say it, he was a little impressed. It wasn't just the throne, there was also just the way she was presenting herself. Here she was, a tanned girl with curly red and white hair, wearing sunglasses and smiling in his face, wearing a tattered black jacket, different colored fingerless gloves, some white shirt underneath, a black denim skirt, differently colored socks, and big black boots, standing in some unamused pose, as if she didn't really care about his answer, which to be fair, was probably true.

That however, did not mean that Blake wasn't going to answer.

"My name is Blake Richards, I wor-"

"Alright Blake Richards, I am Flo. As you may have guessed, I am the boss of this little group. Now, the first thing you may notice, that you are fundamentally different from the rest of us in terms of age, hmm?"

Blake looked around and noticed that yes, it did seem like after him, this (what he pegged as) sixteen or seventeen year old girl, more or less seemed to be the oldest person around.

"You're all... kids... What? What happened?"

"Ah, well good to see that you are observant, maybe you'll be useful in more ways than the one we need."

"What are you talking about? Look, I don't know what's going on but..."

"The time for words can come later Blake Richards, right now I need to test a few things."

Flo stepped up off her throne and out of her very fun pose. She turned to one of the younger kids, who was holding a very familiar satchel.

"Hey that's m-"

"This, is one of the reasons why you are here."

Flo took out one of the potions, staring at the goopy and glowy vial before putting it back and starting to walk towards Blake.

"Now, as for the other," Flo raised one of her gloved hands, it was colored yellow and Blake couldn't help but notice something about it just before she brought it down to slap him with some many volts.

Blake screeched with pain as the electricity coursed through his body, but after that he felt a bit energetic, at least enough to angrily yell, "What the hell did you do that for!"

"To test and make sure that the reports were correct of course."

"What reports? What is going on!" Blake was pretty tired of dealing with these kids, this place, this everything, and while he knew that raising his voice wouldn't really do anything, or would lead to his mouth being forced shut, it made him feel a tiny bit better, even if he didn't really like that it did.

"Now... these clothes." Flo ignored Blake's words as she readjusted her sunglasses and started to inspect the armor he had taken from the Pacific Spire. "This is made of something that none of us have ever seen. It's amazing... but what you've got under it isn't much to look at."

"Wait what?" Blake wore a face of terror as he blushed.

"But it does back up your story about not being from around here, which explains all of the questions."

"I... You... Can..." Blake sighed.

"Alright then, I guess that we can let up a little." Flo raised Blake's head and patted him on the face, "Chin up Blake Richards, the time for words will be soon. First though..."

There was a lot of things going through Blake's head, most of it being the sorts of thoughts that he usually ignored. He was certainly mad at this girl and her gang, but it wasn't like he could do (or would do) anything to them. He was also thinking about the battle, and where the others were, who died, and what exactly happened to him. Just where was he? The last thing however, that was in Blake's head was him wondering what Flo was doing as she got up, looked towards another one of the gang members and then started to just walk away. He got his answer when he suddenly, but instantly, fell asleep.
RE: Journal of Sociology [S!6] - [Round Two: Ryburg Ritz]
Blake shot upright and noticed that he was in a bed. He looked to the side and saw that someone had made some nice hot cocoa and placed it on a nice tray. As he started to get his bearings, he noticed that he was in a pretty nice bed and that the blankets were pretty nice and soft as well.

Wasn't I just knocked out? And questioned??? What was going on?

Suddenly, the door slammed open, and a big black boot appeared, followed by Flo, now in a striped, blue and black jacket, who proceeded to chug a mug of cocoa and said, "What's sup, chuckefuck?"

Blake wasn't sure what was up, he hardly knew what was down right now, but at least he had, via context clues, realized that in this case, he was the chucklefuck.

"Uhm.. Uh..."

As Blake started to mumble some sort of response, Flo, continued her stroll across the room, picked up Blake's Cocoa, and shoved it in his hands.

"Drink! It's nice and warm! Special recipe, made by yours truly." Flo puffed her chest and smirked.

Without many other options, Blake decided to comply, taking a sup of the cocoa. For a moment, he felt his mind go blank, followed by a small beam of light. The light had a warmth, a warmth that started to grow and flow through him. He closed his eyes as he took another sip, and his mind went to a happy memory, probably the first time he's thought one since getting into this.

He was sleeping in his house, the sun was shining through the blinds, and it was late into the morning, but it was ok because it was his day off, the first full day off in a while. He was stirring awake, and he could smell something nice and warm.

The door slowly opened and out came his wife, and her sweet voice, "Hooon..."


"Hey snap out of it, we've got stuff to do!"

Blake looked down at his cup and only saw the bottom of it, he had drank the whole thing.

"Aww, don't make a sour face, I'll get you more cocoa later, come on and get up already!"

Flo grabbed the covers and pulled them off of Blake. She spun around for a bit, with the covers flowing and Blake left completely confused.

Blake had no idea what was going on. There was this girl here, Flo, who was the leader of all of the kids who had kidnapped him. Previously, she had him electrocuted and put to sleep and she was acting as if he was her enemy, as if he was a serious threat to her and her group! But now she was giving him hot cocoa! And she was just smiling and spinning around with blankets? Was she even the same person?

"Wooo! Alright, enough fun, lets get down to business, we've got a lot of work to do!"

Blake finally manged to get a word in, "We? As in you and me?" Blake pointed to himself, still very confused.

Flo looked back at Blake as if he had just asked her if the sky was blue, "Yeah? We, us, nosotros, the group, the whole shebang, the entire pot, everyone here."

"But... but just a while ago..."

"Wha? Pffft, that was before, now you are one of usssss." Flo smiled and bopped Blake's confused nose, "Now you are one of us!"

"But what if I don't want to be one of you?" Blake asked with less of a tone of defiance and more of confusion.

"Nah, nah, don't worry about not doing your part, or not knowing anyone. At some point everyone was The New Guy, it's just that today that's you! Soon enough you'll be just another member of the flock, and there will be nothing to worry about. You'll even get your own nickname, and we'll show you some of our secret handshakes, it'll be really cool!"

For a moment, Flo's genuine concern and smiles got to Blake. He felt good, like yeah! He was going to be accepted by the other members of the gang! Yeah, eventually he wouldn't be The New Guy! He was going to be fine and things were going to be cool. Then Blake remembered that they had kidnapped him and also electrocuted him.

Unfortunately, before he could voice anymore dissent, he found himself moving through the halls of the gang's hideout. Blake had given up.
RE: Journal of Sociology [S!6] - [Round Two: Ryburg Ritz]
Nemo chewed meditatively on a sandwich, sitting on a chair the wrong way round and staring out the second-story window from his new apartment. It had been raining pages for the last twenty minutes, papering the roofs and lending some thin dignity to the corpses in the streets.

Season's greetings, Nemo would've told himself were he listening. The snow was yellowed moleskine, amputated from the spine at surgical right angles, scrambled and decontextualised and with a dry not-warmth that couldn't make Nemo feel anything in particular, much less numb. This place reminded him more than anything of winter in Kansas, the kind of idyllic that made you almost stop breathing, it was that fucking intolerable. It never bothered to snow there, either, winter just sharpening the world's ugliness than making any real effort at shame, at hiding it and laying a shroud over it.

The Spire had done him the courtesy, at least, of feeling alive again. The glass and the steel and death at every turn, foes worth pulling out a stop or two for. This apartment, 2DK, great central location, one floor up and overlooking a dreary fucking market road and dreary fucking paper-dusted roofs with an endless grey deader-than usual urbanity sprawling drearily out, this apartment made Nemo want to track down one of his co-battlers, restrain them, and piss in their throat.

First things first.

Nemo eased the bathroom door open, muttered "excuse me" to the dessicated corpse in the bathtub, and started looking through the cabinets. He found hair dye, gloves, chatted quietly to the dead woman as he discovered the taps weren't working and went and fetched a bottle of water out of the fridge. It looked like a fridge and it worked like a fridge, even if it was thanks to a rune on the top and not a plug in a wall. The rune contorted itself into something illegible at Nemo's touch, the box expelling a final whoomph of lukewarm air.

The wordrain was letting up, missives and minutiae trickling from the clouds, landing too lightly on the cold, damp ground to disintegrate right away. Nemo had bleached his hair (and brows, if you don't tell yourself "it pays to be consistent" that'll be the thing you pay for) and was shivering as blonde dye dripped upon a towel around his shoulders. He flicked through the woman - Ada's - mail, self-conscious for a moment at this domesticity, this vulnerability in the middle of what was a fight, even though he would've heard anything alive and approaching in the deserted city. Nemo relaxed back into his seat again.

Was it Sunday here? It felt like Sunday. All rest and reflection that your magnum opus was done, the only road from here down into mortals and mire and all humanity's gross little inadequacies. Generations upon generations of men as each others' keepers, short-sighted and incompetent and ugly little tangles of need.


Robots and wish-witches. They were new things, curiosities. Not urgently fascinating, but for the way she looked at him.

Nemo glittered at Blacklight, all his hostile edges turned keen toward her and arrayed with reds and golds and greens. His desires were stars in a void, arranged on those edges of his like an omen eclipse; they were bright and tiny like beads of sap in just-gouged bark, or, perhaps, like enormous burning spheres of light scattered isolated in an even greater darkness.

His soul was a void, or bore the scars of having been one. Nemo would've laughed, unsmiling, if he could see it. Prison does that to you, and where are your manners? What the hell are you looking at?

His desires were crystalline, cultivated to exacting standards with frivolities weeded out. Blacklight could tell just from the measure of him that if she took one, he'd know.

"You're strange company," he smiled, nodding to the trio. There was no illusion that he wasn't of this tower, but tipping his hand right now would be similarly pointless.

"Are- are you going to jump? Please don't jump." Jean didn't really like this guy, nor his gloves (which seemed the only part of his outfit which really fit him), nor this place, but it wasn't in her to be actively malicious. The whole situation was, frankly, giving her the pills.

"Not to worry," Nemo chuckled, tugging at the strings. "I'm properly equipped."

"Are you sure? It'll be cold outside, I can give you a scarf, or maybe a warm hat, I think I had one that would match your gloves-"

Nemo flinched a bit at that, stared dead at Blacklight as the clear leader of the troupe, then gathered up the swarthes of parachute a bit faster.

"No, thank you. It's fine."

"Please wait," said Miss Blacklight, running her eyes over the rows of sparks, searching silent vain and frantic for the man's deeper desires.

Nemo tossed out the parachute, then stepped out into the void.


Nemo felt untouchable. He was still making his mind up on which way he meant it as the last few sheets fluttered down, and his hair had been scoured at enough with Ada's towels that it was just unpleasantly damp and not in real danger of freezing. Nemo closed the door behind him, adjusted the cloth over his face and Ada's clothes on his back, shouldered his pack, and picked up a sheaf of papers littering the doorstep.

Homo sapiens sapiens as Multiversal standard - an analysis of socio-cognitive adaptation and radiation across Multiversal Subcluster 2068

A review of Interstial acoustics - the memetic/receiver-centric approach

Entropics as cultural-conceptual reservoirs - a response to Amaryll et al

Looking at the dates gave Nemo a headache; gently curling the paper into a tube within his hand and tapping it on his forehead alleviated matters. This world felt like one big distraction, the limp threat of being stuck in this idyll for a decade or more, searching the streets for some clue to destroy his captor or the competition. He set off at a suitably-looterish prowl, stopping despite himself and often to peruse the streets of sheets. All of it was fascinating, but nothing strayed from the dry-leaf academic.

He continued in this fashion until one shop stood out in the street like a gold tooth; the lights on, the windows unbroken, and with a conspicuous space around it buffetted free of the Sociologist's notes. He peered through grimy windows and past merchandise into an antique store, which come to think of wasn't really all that unusual in a town like the one Nemo had been stranded in. The sign in the window told him "OPEN", and the compliant little squeak of the door handle didn't tell him any different. The place was weird, failed to fit the street's other buildings in Nemo's well-trained eye. With a quick glance about the deserted street, he opened the door and slipped in.
RE: Journal of Sociology [S!6] - [Round Two: Ryburg Ritz]
A bustle of clothing floated down to the ground. It seemed that Jean had exploded, again, following the round transition. Dimensional physics were no laughing matter! Fortunately, this had little effect on her, as she rounded up her clothing items, and once again formed a cohesive blob. This time, it was actually pretty reminiscent of a human, even having legs. She was in a pretty good mood, as she had finally found proof that she wasn't the only one in the world. Although, she was also dimly aware that neither this world nor the last one was familiar to her, so technically she was always alone in her own world? Oh, whatever! Metaphysics were not what interested her at the moment. No, what interested her was in the window she had landed in front of. She had caught a glimpse of a rather haggard old figure, and she became excited at the prospect of meeting someone else.


"Hmm... Perhaps a pinch of nutmeg? Or... no, no. It would definitely have to be tarragon."

The hunched-over figure was busily laboring over a rather large cauldron. It was bubbling over with a sickly orange-looking fluid, and she didn't like the look of the color. She was pretty sure it had to be more yellowish. She continued muttering to herself and grabbing ingredients, pattering around the enormous cauldron. It was so huge, it could fit a person inside of it. In fact, that seemed to be the entire point, judging from the corpse on the next table over. The corpse was that of an old man, who was this woman's husband, before he succumbed to the Plague.

She threw in some star anise and tipped a small vial of some shimmering blue stuff into the bubbling potion, which began to smoothen and become a more attractive yellowish.

"Ah! Yes, that must have worked. Mmm. My dear Adrian, are you ready? We won't have to be apart much longer... This potion should bring you right back-"

She froze. She was certain she heard a thud, coming from the direction of her front door. Who could it be? She had thought she was the only one left behind on this street. She picked up a knife, and cautiously made her way forth.


She nearly had a heart attack right there and then, when a pile of clothing, oddly shaped like a person, greeted her in a very high, very loud voice. It went on.

"Ooh, who are you? Your clothes look absolutely dreadful. You absolutely must get out of those rag-"

"Shh! Be quiet."

The woman cut the golem off, and beckoned for her to come closer. She went over to the door, and closed it.

"What? I was just trying to-"

"Shh! You're speaking too loudly."

"...oh. I'm so sorry. As I was saying, I think you would look much more lovely in this dress."

The petite frame that Jean had made suddenly spat out a rather ugly red dress, along with a few pages that must have been caught in there. It fell to the ground with an audible clumph. Of course, the woman was rather flabbergasted by this whole thing.

"What are you?"

"Oh! Um. I don't know, actually. I think I read somewhere about ghosts, and I think I may be one of them? And who are you?"

The woman was somewhat put off by the fact that she was a ghost, but she seemed nice enough. She wasn't screaming or trying to kill her or anything. If anything, the woman was curious. This obviously had to be a piece of some very dark magic she was unaware of yet.

"I'm Agnes. I apologize for my rudeness earlier. I think I may have people watching me, so whatever I do here must be kept secret at all costs. Do you understand?"

"Like... a secret project? Sure, I can keep it under wraps."

"Good. Please be quiet, and don't interrupt me."

Agnes then proceeded to ignore the ghost for the most part, as there was something much more important that needed attending to. She went over to the table with her formerly alive husband, and slowly pushed it over to the cauldron, which was still glowing, from the yellow-orange liquid. With a surprising amount of strength, she lifted her husband up and hoisted him over one shoulder. She was just about to drop her husband into the cauldron, when she saw a jacket sleeve surripitiously peeking over the edge of the cauldron.

"No! Don't touch tha-!"

The potion suddenly became a shade of very dark blue, and expanded rapidly, pouring over the edge. Agnes got caught in it, and her feet started burning up in the corrosive acid.

"Wah! I'm so sorry!"

But Jean's apologies were lost in Agnes' screams of agony. The screams didn't long, as her body was instantly dissolved in the now-purple liquid. Jean, unfortunately, didn't think to move away from the cauldron. The liquid consumed her body and turned black.


"We're going to have to mark this 40% off. It's been lingering for a few months now, and nobody will take it."

"Sure thing, Mrs. Jean."

A gorgeous young assistant was busily changing out price tags for everything in the store. A middle-aged woman with a kindly face was behind the counter, checking the inventory. She looked up at the picture on her counter. It was her when she was younger. She used to be beautiful, and she would win countless beauty pageants, one after the other. Guys wanted her, and women wanted to be her. Written on the top was this: To the love of my life, the sun of my clouds - Jean. She had meant to give this to her lover, but her lover had already left her without her knowing. Now she was stuck in this dead-end job, peddling clothes that nobody wanted.


"Agnes, I still think you're beautiful."

"Don't lie to me, please. I may have been beautiful once, but now I'm a sagging bag of bones."

"But I'm still interested in you."

"You've been with me for, what, 30 years? Of course you'd say that. But how can I live with myself being like this? Old age is a curse."

"...Not to me, honey."


Jean fluttered about, shaking dust off her clothes. Dust, dust everywhere! Her clothes were already filthy and unacceptable in modern society. She tried hard to keep them clean, she really did. A picture frame flew out as she shook a jacket violently. It fell to the ground and cracked. To Jean's horror, she saw it was that one picture that started her journey. It was now hopelessly cracked, and she couldn't see her face anymore. Frustrated, she threw it even harder against the ground, battering it with all her might. It was no use. She felt the picture of herself, as well as her identity, slip away.


"Oh, Adrian... Why did you have to leave me? I needed you! You were my root. You made me feel alive."

Agnes stood, hunched over a corpse, now ridden with blotches that were barely visible. The Vague Plague had ravaged this man's body, and left her all alone. Suddenly, she rose up. The world didn't have to be like this...



A bundle of clothing rose in the air and started twitching and convulsing. The liquid now lay inert at the ground, its smooth black surface reflecting the chaotic movements of poor Jean. As suddenly as the convulsions started, they stopped, and the bundle of clothes gathered together, and made a humanoid form, partially submerged in the puddle. Her frayed consciousness tried to make sense of what happened. She clearly saw that portrait that she had held so dear, and she also felt her own bitter regret at her younger self. She also saw her husband succumbing to the Plague, and she felt her own love. Who was she? Who was she?!

Swiftly, she left the room, wishing to get away from the puddle that had caused her such intense pain. Her memories were still unclear, and she struggled to form an accurate picture of who she was. She felt so alone. She needed help. She needed someone to hold tight. She needed someone like Miss Blacklight, who knew everything. Yes. Miss Blacklight, with her mysterious wisdom, could help her.

Then, as if by fate, she saw Miss Blacklight's name printed on a neat white page. She remembered that the pages had spilled out of her body a while back. She read the page.

Miss Blacklight, formerly Maria-Johanna Lord Cassadin Black. A practicioner of a form of dark magic she calls desiry. Somewhat sociopathic, sees people as nothing but clockworks of desires.

The page continued on for some more, but she stopped right there. She thought that reading too deep in Blacklight's personal life felt... impolite for some reason. But that didn't stop her from sneaking that page, and all others, back into her body, deep in where her fashion magazines were. She would question Miss Blacklight about her apparent views on people when she found her, but for now, she just couldn't be alone. She left this house, looking for someone, anyone. Being alone was like a plague, eating at her very soul. It felt like... dark magic.

[Image: 6xGo4ab.png][Image: sig.gif]
RE: Journal of Sociology [S!6] - [Round Two: Ryburg Ritz]
"Alright guys," Flo stood triumphantly smiling in front of all of the various members of the gang. During the walk, the red in her hair went green and she decided to change jackets again, this time settling on silver with green. Her shirt also changed, now with a happy face with angry eyebrows on it. "This here, is Blake Richards. He is of absolutely no threat to us, and in fact, is going to be a great asset for the following mission."

Blake, who had gone though zero changes in appearance since having woken up sans armor other than the addition of a scarf and more hot cocoa simply waved as the various members of Flo's gang murmured to themselves.

Blake opted to take the first question, "So uhm, what is the mission?"

"Well Blakeyboy, you and I are going along with a special group of my friends and we are going to go to the fuckin palace!"

"The palace?" Blake thought about what he knew about the round and what he heard so far, "Where the nobles are?"

"Yeappers! And we're gunna plant those nobles in the face before they get a chance to do whatever new garbage they're plannin."

As Flo smiled happily at her suggestion to seriously injure the nobles (at best), Blake couldn't help but look at everyone in the room. They were so young...

On the one hand, helping children assault people (Blake didn't want to think about it getting worse than that) was not quite something he wanted to have on his list of things he done did, but at the same time it was a bunch of kids, and all of their parents were probably dead. At this point, all they had were each other and whatever ideas they could cling to, such as revenge. All in all it wasn't a very pleasant place to be in morally and he sort of wished he could go back to the wacky, if unapologetic evil from the last round.

Before Blake could attempt to say something along the lines of, 'maybe we shouldn't attempt to attack the rich and powerful adults,' Flo had started on the more important details of the plan.

"Now, the main reason for us finally bein able to pull this off isn't just because of Blakeyboy, but because of somethin else he had, TY!"

A large buff black guy, a bit taller than Blake but very obviously younger entered the room. He was bald, wearing a skin tight long-sleeve and jeans and he was wearing silver gloves and boots. With a big smile on his face, he carried in the armor that Blake stole from the last round.

"With this tech," Flo almost spat out the word, "we can finangle our way past their sciencey bullshit~" Flo's enthusiasm was spreading to some of the crowd, it seemed like this wasn't the first attempt to get into the palace.

"Do does that mean you don't need me?" Blake said, for reasons he wasn't actually sure of.

Ty shook his head, "None of us fit in the armor."

Blake frowned and looked to the side, very unsure about this whole situation. From what they were saying, they needed him to pull this off, but he didn't know if they wanted them too... "I..."

Flo interrupted Blake once more, "With this armor, Blakeyboy will be able to get past that stupid techno barrier and shut it off enough to allow our five best through! Once there we'll go to those stinkin nobles and figure out whats their follow up to the..." Flo was almost shaking, "vague plague..." No one in the room enjoyed the term.

Flo took a few deep breaths and then moved along to the next subject.

"So, while the five o us are off, Nan will look after ya'll... Now geddout, we've almost got our prep worked out and we don't want none of ya'll to get nabbed if this goes sour."

After the crowd dispersed, murmuring various murmurs of concern and worry, only Flo, Ty, and Blakeyboy were left in the room.

"So uhm."

"We're taking the underground tunnels, the rest of the team's already there. Ty, give him his armor then get your things."

Ty almost dropped the armor in shock, " things? So does that mean you want me to use... that..."

"Only if there's an emergency."

Ty excitedly nodded, and then, after giving Blake his armor, ran back to the room he came from, once again leaving him and Flo alone.

"So..." Blake was still very flustered and very unsure of what to do here.

Flo smiled and pat him on the back, "Look, I know that this can't be the best situation for you, but we've got to do this... We don't have anything else."

Blake tried not to look into Flo's eyes, "I'll help... but... just don't do anything you'll regret..."

Flo didn't say anything as she left him to change into the armor, for the first time in a while, all alone.

Blake didn't know what he would do. These were kids. Kids!!! And all of their parents were dead or missing! Even if the nobles had created the vague plague, he didn't like the idea of children having to fight like this, having to fight adults like adults. He had the feeling that Flo didn't like it either, but that didn't help how he felt. She was so committed to this... How old was she even?

Blake supposed that he would just have to move forward and hope for the best...

After reluctantly suiting up the factory worker walked to where Flo and Ty had gone and saw the pair waiting for him with a third person, with short, pointed, black hair, shorter than Blake but taller than Flo, with a sword hilt hanging on their belt by a strap. They had a puffy white vest over a red longsleeve and white pants and sleek, black and red shoes. They were wearing sunglasses.

"Hey Blake, this is Cera, she's our swords person, very good at cutting things and piercing things! She doesn't say much though! Wave hello!"

Flo wiggled her hand at Cera who reluctantly waved her hand.

Blake did the same. He still didn't understand Flo at all, she understood more than she let on, was this sillyness really necessary? This was a serious situation, not one to just play around in. Still, when the three of them went down the ladder into the deeper tunnels of the Ritz, Blake once again followed. What else could he really do?

"Alright Blake, so you know Ty, the muscle man and Cera, blade lady, and me, the super jack of all trades leader type," The climb was a long way down, so Flo had decided to talk over it, "Down below are the last two members of our group, Kaz and Parley. Their roles are much more non-traditional, as you will see when you meet them. By the by, Kaz is the one with the ghost, and Parley is the one with the feathers."

When the group finally reached the bottom, Blake had successfully processed Flo's words, and as such was prepared when a young teen with brown hair covering one of their eyes, with a big grey hoodie, a pink skirt, and black leggings, waved hello along with a much larger, pink spirit wearing a mask in the shape of one of the most beautiful women Blake had ever seen.

"Hello..." Kaz raised their arm and waved meekly, while the spirit was much more enthusiastic, smiling and waving with both arms.

As Blake waved back, he noticed the final member was already moving forward. All he could make out was a blonde ponytail and an orange cloak. "Eh, don't fret it, Parley's just kind of a jerk. He makes birds happen."

Blake was easily the most worried out of the six people walking along the slightly lit tunnels. Everyone was silent and just walking forward, leaving Blake in the most awkward position possible. As he made an attempt to try to get some more answers or anything about what the other people thought he noticed that Parley had gotten quite a lead and that he was in the very back.

"Catch up old man."

Flo shrugged, looked back, and said, "Ya better catch up!"

Blake wasn't going to like this at all.
RE: Journal of Sociology [S!6] - [Round Two: Ryburg Ritz]
"Damn it Shop," Liz complained, "stop holding out on me." She was in the stockroom; though perhaps 'room' was being a little generous. It was barely larger than a cupboard and stacked full of boxes; the contents of which were now forming a rough pile just outside the stockroom door. Liz casually tossed an earthenware pot in the general direction of the pile and didn't even turn around as it smashed and approximately one hundred spiders that had been contained inside made a bid for freedom. There was a rustle from one of the shelves and a flicker of the stockroom light.

"Don't you go trying to play innocent." Liz snapped back. "I know for a fact that that cursed gun was one of a pair, so just let me have it and do us both a favour." She paused expectantly but there was no response, and so with a roll of her eyes she tore open a new box and started shovelling its contents onto the pile behind her.

"Who are you talking to?"

Liz quickly spun around; clutching the kitschy china dog she had been holding as though she might make use of it as a weapon. She noticed two things, the first was obvious; that there was a man in her shop. The second was that the pile of enchanted antiques and assorted crap had tidied itself away in the brief second it had taken her to turn around. She thought little of it. The man was fairly generic looking (plain features, short blonde hair, thick winter clothing); Liz figured him to be one of the natives of this world. If this battle was anything like the last she had been in she was pretty sure she would know the combatants on sight.

She lowered the china dog and, with a smile, she said: "Sorry about that, only I never heard you come in. The bell on the door must be broken... again."

Nemo detected a note of pointed irritation in that last statement and, feeling that she most probably wasn't blaming him for the continued failure of her bell, he glanced around him in the hope that her conversational partner would become apparent. There was no sign of any third person in the musty old shop, yet Nemo couldn't help but notice that a number of the gaudy items on display had been rearranged, somehow without disturbing the thin layer of dust that coated them. And it had not escaped his notice that a pile of junk had disappeared between glances. He was surprised; a drab and dreary place like this ought to be sending him to sleep but he found himself oddly intrigued.

"How can I help you?" Liz asked. "Would you for instance like a horrifying china dog?" She glanced down at the item in question. It could have been a rottweiler or possibly a poodle. The only thing she could really say for certain was it was black with red eyes and flecks of blood around the mouth. "I think it's like a protective totem?" She ventured. "You know, like a guard dog."

"Not interested." Nemo replied dismissively. "I was just browsing and could have sworn I heard you talking to someone?" He asked as politely as he could manage. Though this clerk was of little consequence, it was often easier (and less trouble) to convince someone to cooperate rather than attempt to coerce answers from them.

"Oh just talking to myself I suppose." Liz replied practicedly. "You know how it is when you live on your own."

Of course, Nemo thought. He didn't know what he'd been expecting. She probably wasn't even aware of the peculiarities of her store.

Liz took another look at the dead eyed china dog, tossed it into the stockroom and closed the door just in time for something to slam heavily into it. She ignored it. "So, what kind of thing are you looking for?" Liz tried to change the subject in the hope of distracting her customer from any inexplicable noises that might be issuing from the stockroom. On someone more inclined to conform to social pressure it might have worked.

"Hey, can you hear that noise?" He replied. Surely, he thought, even the most unobservant could not remain oblivious to that persistent scratching.

"I don't know what you mean." Liz said innocently. Something slammed heavily, and loudly, into the door behind her. "Oh that noise. I don't know." She paused. "It sounds kind of worrying doesn't it?"

"I think you'd best let me handle this." Nemo said authoritatively; she'd only make a mess of it.

Liz eagerly stepped aside, her mask of concern quickly replaced with a half-grin. Almost as an afterthought she grabbed her cane from where it lay across the counter and gripped it tightly with both hands.

Nemo reached for the doorknob, eager to sate his curiosity about this place, and then paused and pulled off one of his gloves. It wasn't that he was worried about what might be on the other side, but it was unknown and it had the potential to be dangerous. He was not one to leave anything to chance. He reached out, grasped the doorknob and pulled it open in one fluid movement, and then a dog came flying at him. Not just any dog either, it was enormous with thick black fur and blood red eyes.

Nemo managed to raise his hands in protection, but the effects of his touch were not immediate and the momentum of the monstrous hound was too much. He went down with a thud. The dog remained atop him; gnashing, barking and frothing angrily at the mouth. It was not long before the effects of Nemo's touch were felt; patches of fur began to fall out, its skin became sore and blotched, its eyes crusted over with some unpleasant eye infection. Yet the beast showed no inclination of weakening. It snapped at him and writhed within his hands with just as much vigour as it had done when it first leapt. Within a minute the dog looked like something out of a nightmare (more than it had done to begin with); its skin was peeling off in places, revealing rotting knots of muscle and bone beneath and what was left was covered with enormous pustules leaking an unpleasant toxic-looking ooze. With every bark blood spattered out of the creature's mouth, and yet it still felt no close to faltering, while Nemo himself was starting to flag.

Suddenly wham and the pressure was gone. Nemo looked up to see Liz standing over him with her crystal cane now mottled with blood, and the head of the beast now missing. He glanced down the shop and saw it halfway down the shop still thrashing uselessly. He struggled for a moment to catch his breath. "What in the HELL was that?" He demanded between gulps of air.

"Dunno." Liz said with a smirk. "Looked sort of like a dog to me."

Nemo shot her an unpleasant look and then glanced towards the dog's decapitated head. "How is it not dead?"

"Probably wasn't alive to begin with." Liz said. "Good job you were here to do your... thing on it. Nice trick by the way. I'd love to know how to do it myself."

"I'd be happy to give you a demonstration." Nemo replied. He climbed somewhat clumsily to his feet and Liz nimbly took a step or two back.

"I like you." she said, a thin smile playing upon her lips. "You're part of this battle thing, right?"

That caught him off guard. "Who told you about that?" Nemo asked.

"There was this guy in before you." Liz deftly lied.

"Did you try to feed him to the dogs too?" He replied sarcastically.

"Not so much." Liz said. She turned, strode into the stockroom and started searching for something. "Look, I'm sympathetic to your situation, so why not take one of my antiques? On the house. Pretty much all of them have some kind of crazy magic mojo on them." She paused and glanced around at Nemo who was still gathering himself. "I mean you clearly don't need them but maybe they could be useful in a pinch?" She shrugged and emerged from the stockroom with an empty cardboard box, around about the right size to contain the head of a monstrously oversized decapitated dog. "I kind of have a mess to clean up." she said. "You wouldn't believe how much dead bodies put off potential customers."
fyck phytybyckyt
RE: Journal of Sociology [S!6] - [Round Two: Ryburg Ritz]
"We have another one doctor!"

A body is wheeled through a set of double doors, into what is clearly the most makeshift of surgery rooms imaginable. Smoke fills the entire floor, loose curtains hang from hooks and wires to make up for the lack of any wall, and generators feed countless cords into various machines, the vast majority of which are half-broken, or even built from scratch, all held together with naught but duct tape and dreams. The table itself was no more than that - an actual table, wide enough for two bodies but not long enough to stop the legs from dangling down. The plan was to have the middle cut out and use the extra wood to lengthen it, but free time had been short and it had taken too long to find a table that didn't wobble constantly. Finally, at the head of the table and shrouded in fog was the form of Alberich von Wissenschaft, who at the sound of the shout and slammed doors slowly turns around.

"Ah, what is it this time Laura?" He slowly shambles towards the body.

The young woman looks over the notepad attached to the stretcher, or as reality liked to call it, a board on wheels. "Burning, from a fire sir. Most of her body's covered in, uh... first degree-"

"Second," Alberich corrects, now close enough to the body to take a proper look. "Remember, first degree is minor, dry, and red without blistering. Where are the Jackson boys?"

"Right, right, yes sir, and they're currently-" Laura was a reasonably intelligent girl, though lacking in any sort of proper training. Alberich supposed he couldn't have expected much better, given the situation of this world over that of the Pacific Spire's, but it was good to see that there was still enough people with brains around to help him accomplish his tasks. Speaking of brains...

Alberich growls, ever so slightly, and Laura quickly backs away. Alberich quickly composes himself and takes a step back as well.

"Sorry my dear, perhaps it'd be best to not waste time fetching them, get this done as quickly as possible. Fetch the salve?"

As Laura ducks behind one of the curtains, Alberich quickly paces back and forth. Elise's salve had continued to work wonders on his control, and the mixture for the smog that Heisenberg had come up with helped addle John even more into passivity, but the hunger was still a terrible thing, and unavoidable. Regardless, it was still more than he could have ever hoped for before he was dragged into this madness.

It had also taught him a powerful lesson, one he hadn't considered even before his tremendous failure that had turned him into the monster he was, back when he was a man of immeasurable fame and funding. He had learned, quite simply, the value of gaining allies, especially in a hostile worlds such as the ones he had found himself in so far. In the Pacific Spire, it was only thanks to the impromptu friends he found that he survived his encounter with Blake and Elise, and while the peons here were certainly less capable and well-armed than Lord Bradley's, there was something to be said for their own brand of ingenuity and loyalty. A doctor of capable skill and knowledge, never mind one as talented as him, was a hard thing to find apparently, and his talents were much appreciated by the locals - while the few hostile goons that had come to try and forcibly acquire him for their personal use failed to be much more than angry nourishment. In addition, his workspace, while very much rundown and lacking in the best staff and equipment, did its level best to make up for it by lacking the one problem his lab at the Spire did: size. Though he supposed that it had more to do with it being a two-story warehouse than his Spire office being an overglorified walk in closet.

He also still had Sir Bradley and the Spire as allies, thankfully. While the device he had with him meant that he could only communicate with Heisenberg, even that was a huge boon as their access to top of the line technology and research allowed him to work modern miracles with the garbage he had. They also had access to his blood, and thanks to his relationship with the company's leader and placement in an alternate universe curing his condition was made almost as large a priority as finding a way to get to him - though progress on both was equally slow.

"Um, doctor? What next?"

Alberich opened his eyes to see Laura washing her hands, and their patient steaming from the application of the burn cream on the man's wounds. Clearly he had once again gotten himself lost in thought, and for longer than he had thought. The time between feedings was growing shorter, slowly but still noticeably. HE supposed there was only one thing to do for it.

"Right," Alberich looks over the patient again. Still dying, though the burns were rapidly healing. "You sure there were no other injuries?"

"Not that we could tell doctor."

"Hm. No breath." Alberich weakly grabs what looks like a souped up version of a barcode scanner, courtesy again of the Pacific Spire. He holds it over the man's heart and nods, dropping the device. "Ready the defibrillator, and make sure you get that fixed after."

Laura nods and grabs another slipshod device, pulling two wires out of it and looking at Alberich.


The patient jumps as electricity surges through him. Seconds pass, when suddenly the man starts coughing and shouting gibberish.

"Calm down sir, you were merely dying. It's no longer an issue." Alberich waves to Laura, who begins wheeling the patient back out. He stumbles behind them, half-against his will. As the doors to the warehouse open, a crowd of people can be seen, all quiet until they see the living man being wheeled out. Immediately, a soot-stained family in the front cries out in joy, running forward to see the patient. The remainder of the crowd all either join in the celebrating or nod in approval and awe.

"You've saved him, doctor," the mother of the family cries out, stepping past the man. "His wounds are gone, you've brought him back to life, to us!"

Laura steps between the woman and Alberich. "I'm sorry, you know the doctor doesn't contact anyone directly." The woman nods, takes one last look at him, and then helps the patient get up and walk away. Before the crowd can begin dispersing, Laura closes the doors.

"Another job well done doctor? You've worked another miracle."

"There are no such things, Miss Roberts, I've told you that already."

"Well I don't know about anyone else, but I haven't even heard of anyone but the noble's doctors being able to do anything close to what you can manage."

Alberich sighs. "It's simply the application of advanced knowledge and practice, I am no magician." Though all things considered, people semi-worshiping his 'miracles' certainly was great, if ironic, boon to his efforts. "Has any progress been made on finding the others?"

"As of yet? Not really anything."

Alberich was perturbed. It had already been days since they had arrived in this hellhole, enough time for him to set up this embarrassment of a practice and establish a bit of a following - though it was of course easier for Alberich than it would be most, given that the combination of his own intellect, that of the Spire, and the lack of competition made him seem like some sort of magical healer to the locals. While it was true that many of them were relatively generic looking (or were still unknown to Alberich), it was still surprising that Blacklight, Elise, Jean, or the robot wouldn't have shown up yet. Especially given how quickly things had escalated at the Pacific Spire.

"No mentions of a Miss Blacklight or Miss Pestarztyn either-"

"Doctor Pestarztyn, if you would. Keep our eyes and ears open, they're perhaps the most vital... alive, that is." He would know what science the two women used to calm his lesser half, as in it very likely was the cure to his affliction. "So, no mentions of anything whatsoever?"

"Well... there is a Mister Blake, supposedly. Came out of nowhere a little while ago, and running with some child gang obsessed with taking down the nobility? Kind of a long shot, it's a pretty common name, and from your description he doesn't sound like the sort to stand out."

"He fits the profile though correct? Showed up out of nowhere, during or after the time I did? I doubt a child gang adopts an adult for no reason. Have some of our people look into it, especially if-"

Suddenly Alberich begins coughing, and lunges towards Laura. With a practiced grace she sidesteps him again.

"Ah, sorry Miss Roberts, it's becoming time again."

The woman shakes her head. "Don't worry about it doctor. We have another patient, waiting upstairs on your attentions. Lost her left arm and leg below the knee, still alive but won't survive much longer... we put her up in the dining room, as always."

"Ah, you are most kind. I'll taking care of it immediately."

With that, Alberich slowly ascends the stairs to the second floor. The second patient was exactly as wounded as promised. She didn't even scream.