The Great Belligerency [Round 4: Static]

The Great Belligerency [Round 4: Static]
Re: The Great Belligerency [Round 1: The Rainy Place]
Originally posted on MSPA by slipsicle.

The girl gave Reinhardt a Look.

"You'll have to be more specific. Or do you want me to give you over eighty thousand years' worth of history?"

Reinhardt scowled slightly at the girl's rudeness. "There is no call for disrespect, young miss. I merely seek to satisfy my curiosity."

The girl sighed. "Yes, sorry, you have a point. It is simply a difficult question to answer. I can give you a basic rundown of one of the things, early in our history, which we harnessed to jump-start our civilization. We went from stone houses to spaceships in less than two hundred years with this power; and that was only because we weren't ambitious enough to push things further.

"It is called 'electricity'. It is the same power which runs through the lightening you see during thunderstorms. We discovered a way to capture that power. The first inkling we had that such power could be harnessed was when we discovered that metallic objects, thrust high in the sky, would attract lightening. At first we had no idea why, but after a bare century, our sciences had advanced to the point where we knew all objects were made up of infinitesimal particles, and some of these particles carried an "electric charge". The... specifics would require hours more explanation, but suffice to say, we found a way to harness this charge, and transport it through copper wire, or any other conducting material. We could then use it to power lights, without gas or oil, and eventually, even power our vehicles, communications networks, and everything else. Even after fifty thousand years, everything in our galaxy-spanning civilization was powered by electricity; its source may have been different and much more complex, but the basic unit always was electricity."

She turned to the king, and gave him a level stare. "But this is not the most valuable thing I can teach you. No, the most valuable thing is the methodology by which we reached these conclusions. It is a process, which we call the "Scientific Method". It is a process of experimentation, failure, and discovery. Where one observes something in the world and asks, "why?" One then formulates a hypothesis about this phenomena, and designs an experiment around it. Here is the tricky part: This experiment must, as much as possible, eliminate all other variables except the ones you want to test. And you must be prepared for failure, or at least finding something you did not expect. The most important thing is to always be critical, to always doubt, and to realize that your own eyes can deceive you, and your own pride in what you believe to be true can lead you astray. The universe exists, and it does not care what you believe. Fact is always fact."

Reinhardt rocked back a bit, to consider the girl's words. As he considered, she continued.

"Now, on to the next order of business..." her eyes darted, as if she were examining an invisible checklist. "My brother has put me in charge of your safety, and I assure you, it is a job at which I excel. I will be your bodyguard, and a source of knowledge about other contestants, should you choose to use me as such. I have acquired many skills in my time, and I know people, and how to watch them. I will give you every advantage in this battle; but our goal is not to win or kill the others. It is simply to survive long enough for the Network to succeed. And on that subject, your earlier question about whom we could speak with..." The girl looked around, though no one was nearby; she seemed to... see into the distance...

"Phil Girnham. He is already slightly more trusting of me than the others. Frankly, I don't think he knows what to think of me. He is also feeling out of place; I believe his mission in life was completed shortly before this battle began, and now he is feeling... lost. Though he won't admit that to himself. You," she turned, fixing Reinhardt with a look once more, "can provide that purpose."

Reinhardt nodded. "Yes, I remember the man. A strangely armored warrior. I assume he is like you? Reliant upon only the strength of his own will and the might of his own, human-crafted tools?"

"Yes. He appears to use regular human technology."

"Very well." Reinhardt broke into a purposeful stride. "We shall waste no more time."

The girl frowned just a bit at his brusqueness, but followed quickly. She moved along side and, despite his much longer stride, still managed to look unhurried in keeping pace. "You will not see me until we reach Phil. I work better if people do not know my true capabilities; as such, as your bodyguard, I will be mostly unnoticed. I will reach Phil first, and prepare him for your arrival. To find us, use this." She removed a small device from... somewhere, and placed it on the broach holding his cloak around his shoulders. "This device is high technology; it emits a directioned electromagnetic field, which surrounds your skull, giving you invisible and completely undetectable hints about where to go. Just follow your instincts, and you will find us. Also..." Reinhardt looked down at her as her tone turned pensive, "... in not too much longer, I believe I shall be ready for us to venture into the multiverse, looking for potential contacts."

"Who will we be looking for?"

The girl gave a wry smile. "Anyone who will pick up."

Reinhardt glanced back down at the girl, but she was already gone.

Re: The Great Belligerency [Round 1: The Rainy Place]
Originally posted on MSPA by Dragon Fogel.

As one of the hands touched Cole, it reeled back in pain from his bioelectric shock. Cole realized that these "trees" had an actual nervous system, unlike an ordinary plant; they could not effectively harm him, unless they removed the insects from his body with precision. But Dove's control over them did not seem that fine.

He looked for a moment at the Spirit of Fairy Tales, helplessly pinned by the trees. He could just leave her there, the hands posing him almost no danger. She was little more than a nuisance, and reminded him uncomfortably of Anansi. Furthermore, she would probably kill him at the slightest provocation. He could simply walk away, and let Dove finish her off, and never have to worry about any of that.

Except, somehow, he couldn't bring himself to. Perhaps it was her childlike appearance; perhaps he thought she might be a useful ally in the future; perhaps he was curious as to where this "journey" she was trying to guide him on would lead. Whatever the reason, Cole reached towards the hands pinning her neck, and touched them on the wrists. They recoiled, and Soft breathed a sigh of relief.

Cole continued to shock the hands, slowly freeing the Spirit. Dove tried to send the other hands to intervene, but to little avail; they simply shrunk back in pain as they tried to hold Cole down.

Finally, Soft could stand once more. Cole, still unsure of what he was doing, looked at her.

"You need to get away from here," he said, moving to intercept the hands as they tried to grabs Soft again. "Dove is no match for me in these woods. These trees can do me no harm, and our previous encounter suggests he cannot handle me himself. But you are at risk."

She looked back at Cole, at first a little surprised, then laughed lightly. "Ah! I see! This is the first test! You saved someone in danger when you could have easily walked away! Congratulations, you've passed!"

Cole let out a small groan. "Apparently, I have. Now, can we focus on getting you away from Dove?"

Re: The Great Belligerency [Round 1: The Rainy Place]
Originally posted on MSPA by Pick Yer Poison.

Just as Phil was about to squeeze his finger down on the trigger, Balance moved to the side abruptly. Phil narrowed his eyes in irritation and shifted the crosshairs around in order to find the god again. They alighted upon Reinhardt, who was whispering conspiratorially with…Julia!? How did she get down there so quickly? Before he could do more than register the strange scene, however, Julia took Reinhardt’s hand, and the two vanished. No, not vanished, sped off into the woods. Curioser and curioser… Mulling this over, he dialed down the zoom and finally saw the reason for the god's abrupt shift. He had stumbled forward upon being assaulted from behind by a living pillar of...fungus? ...somehow I feel uncomfortable describing it that way, but it seems accurate enough. The creatures went down quickly, but they had the advantage of numbers, and Balance was losing ground quickly.

Wait, just Balance? Where did Soft and Cole go? Berating himself for losing track of them, Phil busied himself attempting to once again get the god’s head in his crosshairs. The god darted back and forth between the mushmen with catlike agility, barely being hit…but barely hitting in return. He had only destroyed one of the pillars of fungus and apparently crippled another, for it was only moving at half speed. Phil suddenly realized that this might be a chance to potentially gain an ally or dissuade a future attack. Well, he IS a god…and if Cole attempts to turn on me, having one of them come to my aid just might be the winning move. Switching targets, he selected one of the mobile mushrooms that was about to take a swipe at Balance, and let loose a shot. Despite being intended to collapse into the target to increase the damage done, the bullet easily pierced the soft fungus, flying through it and ending its journey in the mushman behind it. Both fell instantly. Balance glanced up Phil, and although the sniper should have been a mere speck in the distance from that range, he appeared to recognize him, nodding to indicate his thanks. Phil grinned inside his helmet and took aim at another cluster, firing several shots into it and destroying most of them. He paused to let his rifle cool off and shifted his scope back to cover Balance. He saw the god execute a wide slash at an approaching group, severing all of them in a single blow, their loose top halves tumbling to the ground to lay beside their twitching bottoms. His back was open for attack through that entire movement. How…balanced. Perhaps there is more to his name than I thought… By now there were only a few of the fungus pillars left, and they were throwing themselves uselessly at Balance, who was easily destroying them as they came. Looks like he’s got things covered now.

“Phil? Phil!”

The unexpected voice startled him, and without thinking he rolled over onto his back from his prone position, thumbing the switch to turn his weapon into an assault rifle, and snapped the barrel to aim at the spot that he had judged that the voice had come from. He found himself looking at very surprised Julia. Due to the tinted visor of his helmet, she was unable to see the quizzical look he gave her, having seen her at the clearing talking with Reinhardt not more than a few minutes ago, a distance that he estimated would have taken at least five to travel if you took the road at a swift jog. I smell a rat. He took great care to ensure his tone didn’t have a suspicious edge to it. “Julia! How did you escape Dove? Is he coming after you?” He raised himself onto both legs, just in time for Julia to bounce over and hug him tightly.

“I was so scared when those hands grabbed me, Phil! I thought I was going to die! La, but who would have thought that Reinhardt would have come to my rescue? He charged at Dove from behind and swung his sword into the jerk’s arm.” Julia folded her arms across her chest and pouted. “Too bad it was only a glancing blow, no? Dove just ran away like before.” She lightly ran a finger across Phil’s chest. “You should meet him. I think you two have a lot in common.”

Phil was well aware that the proposal could be a trap, but he was by now quite interested in what made Reinhardt so important. From what he had seen Julia do, she could have simply escaped herself; however, she had chosen to bring Reinhardt into things, and Phil wanted to know why. “I think you’re right. We should meet up with him and see if we can’t work out an alliance of some sort.” He looked around at the trees. “And quickly. The more allies we have, the harder it will be for Dove to pick us off.”

[Image: zjQ0y.gif][Image: vcGGy.gif]
Re: The Great Belligerency [Round 1: The Rainy Place]
Originally posted on MSPA by MalkyTop.

"Good deeds beget good deeds," Soft said, grinning. It looked slightly menacing with her mop of black hair covering half her face. "Later on, when facing some sort of threat, this good deed will return to save you."

"Right, right," Cole snapped crossly, still parrying plant-hands. "Can't out of here or something? If these hands grab onto you again, I might just let them strangle you."

The girl frowned, though it wasn't in response to the threat. "I can't just leave you here. You are my ward and I'll have to make sure you do things right. Also, I owe you now..."

"Yeah, okay, I got it, you can pay me back later. Get out of here already and I'll catch up."

"No!" Soft shouted, sounding rather similar to a whiny kid now. A whiny kid with an axe. "Stop it! I'm trying to help you! Stop trying to get rid of me! You're trying to get up to no good again!"

Cole glanced back at her in disbelief. Even the tips of her pigtails seemed to be quivering in anger. Misguided and stupid anger. "Excuse me? Are you even paying att--"

Unfortunately, the time Cole spent squabbling with Soft was also time spent not exactly paying the closest attention to his surroundings. A couple of hands pushed him over, recoiling quickly afterwards, but more started back towards the still fuming Soft. Cole instinctively reached up and grabbed the stems of a few. Soft took out her anger on the rest and then helped herself to the bushel that the bug man was holding out for her.

"Are you ready to leave now?" Cole asked exasperately, getting back onto his feet. Soft didn't answer. She instead managed to summon a large bird while being incredibly huffy. The black, sleek bird flapped in the air and waited patiently as she went to grab Cole, got shocked, and simply wrapped her hand in her cloak before grabbing it again. With her other hand, she grabbed onto the bird's leg and it immediately took off. The forest still tried to grasp at them, but the bird was a speedy flier, even with the weight, and very soon, they were high in the sky.

The hands apparently couldn't only go so far up. They lingered at this unseen limit before withdrawing back to the ground. The bird hovered above.

"The first part of my debt has now been paid," Soft suddenly recited, sounding as though she were reading off a script. "Asking me twice more is...uh, the limit of my aide."

Cole was momentarily distracted from the fact that he was very, very high up without the comfort of being inside a hunk of metal. "...What?"

"I'm only going to help you out directly like this two more times," she said firmly, as if he was the one who forced her hand. "It's the rules. I was only supposed to be a guide, but oh well."

"I didn't ask for your help."

"I'll have to drop you off somewhere..." Soft mused, expertly ignoring Cole. Which just annoyed him more. "...Oh!"

"What?" Cole asked, wondering if this was a good 'oh' or a bad one.

"...I that the witch down there?"

Cole looked down. He could only see gaunt, waving hands. But apparently Soft saw something, because she said, "Ah, it is. Good."

"What's good?" Cole demanded a little fearfully.

"You're obviously going to go down there and stop the witch," Soft replied simply.

"I what?"

"A witch that is perverting the natural order...sounds like a job for the almost-heroic protagonist," the girl continued, almost dreamily. She was silent for a moment. The giant bird beat the air.

"It's decided then," she suddenly said.


"Off you go."

Soft let go of Cole's hand with a cheery wave. The bug man fell for a short while before he grew thin, papery wings and fluttered above the hands for a bit. The bird circled around, its cargo looking very distant.

The thing Soft was waving at him now was an axe. "You better get down there and win, bug boy!" he heard faintly. "Don't be afraid to ask for some helllllp~"

Re: The Great Belligerency [Round 1: The Rainy Place]
Originally posted on MSPA by Dragon Fogel.

Cole was relieved to be away from the Spirit. He was beginning to regret not leaving her to the mercy of the hands.

Nonetheless, he had made his choice, and he might at least be able to get some use out of her offered "help", even if he didn't need it now. He flew above the forest towards Dove, slapping aside the few hand-trees that could draw near to his height; the bioelectric shock alone would be sufficient to win this battle.

As Dove saw Cole draw nearer, his face filled with anger. This monster, who so callously tormented thousands with every moment of his existence, was heading for him. And there was little he could do to prevent it. The hand-trees were proving ineffective.

Seeing no other choice, he commanded the surrounding trees to bend towards him, surrounding him like a dome. It would take Cole some time to break through; he could cause pain to the hands, but little else. But in the end, it was no more than a delaying tactic; Dove was left with no choice but to hope for some other force to come to his aid.


As Balance knocked aside the last of his mother's creations, he sensed something.

A battle was taking place some distance away. And one side had an overwhelming advantage.

Balance was compelled by his nature to alter those odds. He ran towards the source.


Ur's emergence in the forest had gone unnoticed. The whims of the puddle had dropped the goddess off some distance away from her fungal minions, and from all of her would-be opponents.

She drifted near some dead hand-trees, bringing them to life as she passed by. She paid them no attention. Something was drawing her here.

She stopped in front of an enormous door, her gaze fixated on a crack in it.

If the goddess had been able to form a coherent thought, she would have cackled at the sight.

Re: The Great Belligerency [Round 1: The Rainy Place]
Originally posted on MSPA by SleepingOrange.

Reserve ups
Re: The Great Belligerency [Round 1: The Rainy Place]
Originally posted on MSPA by slipsicle.

Sooo I'm going to assume that Slorange's reserve is forfeit and

make a


of my own.
Re: The Great Belligerency [Round 1: The Rainy Place]
Originally posted on MSPA by SleepingOrange.

Well I guess you can do what you want but I was working on the round-ending post, so

Re: The Great Belligerency [Round 1: The Rainy Place]
Originally posted on MSPA by slipsicle.

Oh shit.


You can still make it. My post won't affect yours much. Almost done.
Re: The Great Belligerency [Round 1: The Rainy Place]
Originally posted on MSPA by slipsicle.

Reinhardt stomped through the waving forest of hands. Sounds of a distant battle were muted in the dense limb-trees. All around him, the hands brushed against each other, producing a softly whispering silence.


He started. It was the girl's voice, but it hadn't come from any particular direction...

I neglected to mention that the field allows me to communicate with you directly. It will benefit us to have an untraceable line of communication. Also, I apologize for the lie of omission, and my apparent intrusion into your mind. Trust me, I cannot read your thoughts. I only hear what you want me to hear, and you can shut me out whenever you choose.

"Untraceable this may be for you, young one. But an eavesdropper may still glean my side of the conversation."

You can sub-vocalize. Speak without using your voice. Like a whisper, but without opening your mouth.

Like so?

Precisely. Now, I have some important information regarding the recruitment of Phil Girnham. As I mentioned before, he is feeling directionless, though closer examination has revealed how we might provide him with that direction. He is, in all things, self-serving.

I advise you to enter in a partnership with him. He will be your public bodyguard, the obvious one, further diverting attention from me. However, he will view this as a debt owed to him, by you, and therefore expect you to return that protection when required. Given your tactical and strategic acumen, I do not believe you will be overly challenged. Additionally, we can cut him loose if he becomes problematic.

I will leave the actual wording up to you.

The voice in his head fell silent, and Reinhardt allowed his unconscious mind to guide his feet, while he churned through ways to convince Phil to work with him. However, another portion of his mind occupied itself with this girl and her brother. He couldn't shake the feeling that they were merely using him. It made him... uncomfortable. It was a matter he would have to deal with at some point.

For the moment, though, he was content to play along. And so he continued walking...


"We should meet up with him and see see if we can't work out an alliance of some sort."

The girl removed her finger from Phil's chest, interpreting the data she'd gathered from that touch; heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, nervous system activity... a deluge of information on Phil's inner workings raced through her mind. She filtered the data into interpretable chunks, allowing her to get a closer read on Phil's true feelings. She let Phil continue to think aloud, and lead her towards what he deemed "safety", while she sent her advisements to Reinhardt.

Phil was leading them towards a knoll, in the middle of a slight clearing. The girl thought quickly; it would be suspicious if Reinhardt came upon them suddenly, with no obvious method for knowing their location. She had to act quickly.

"Here! When that angry man with the hammer cleared these hands for a while, Reinhardt saw this hill thing! He said we should meet here, la, but I don't really know what's so special about it..."

Phil looked around. "I do. It gives the first party to arrive a tactical advantage. The edge of the forest is a good distance away from the top of this knoll, and the elevation gives someone with a ranged weapon the advantage. A smart move, on Reinhardt's part. He's giving me the power to cut him down if I so choose. I can see why this... Executor guy complimented his tactical knowledge."

He turned back towards the girl. "Julia, do you remember which direction he'll be coming from?"

"Uhmmmm..." The girl looked around uncertainly, and pointed, "that way! I think..."

"Good enough. Get in front of me, and sit. While we wait I have some questions to ask you."


The girl moved in front of Phil, who remained standing at the highest point.

"First, I saw you a good distance away, talking with Reinhardt. How did you get to me so quickly?"

"Ohh... I'm sorry Phil, but it's something that I've learned is best to hide! I should have trusted you, though!"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, in the world I come from, abnormalities, like my speed, were viewed as 'impure'. Whenever people found out I was punished! They would try to do terrible things to me, simply because I was different! Maybe that is why I was picked for this battle. I had to do some terrible things... such terrible things... just to survive. La, maybe I deserve this fate... a battle to the death."

She looked off, wistfully, at the waving hand-trees.

Phil stood there awkwardly, not exactly sure what to say. Before he could think of anything, the hand-trees parted, and Vandrel Reinhardt stepped out. The huge armored man spread his arms, showing his empty hands, and spoke.

"I come before you in peace, fellow warrior, in hopes that I might broach the subject of a partnership."

Phil, having instinctively assumed a combat position, lowered his weapon. "Continue."

Reinhardt, with a flourish of his cape, bowed. "I thank you for hearing me out."

He approached the base of the knoll, and stopped.

"Put simply, Phil Girnham, we need each other. I have no doubt of your combat capabilities, and I find myself at a disadvantage in this contest; a disadvantage which you have the ability to rectify. With your technological superiority, you can fill the role that I lack. I therefore ask for your protection against these aliens and magic-users. In return, I offer my protection, in the form of leadership, and my sword."

Phil relaxed his stance a bit. "Sounds like a fair deal. I'll be your bodyguard, but you'll owe me for the protection."


Phil shifted his gun to his left hand, and stuck out his right. Reinhardt approached, and the two men shook, sealing the deal.

Phil put his gun back in both hands, and stepped back. "So, what's the plan now?"


The girl shuddered at the name, and Phil glanced her way. "Relax, Julia. We'll take care of that hippie bastard." He looked back towards his new ally. "I'll take point. My sensor suite is better suited to this place than... well, regular eyes and ears."

Reinhardt nodded, and the three of them set off; Phil in front, Reinhardt behind him and the girl taking up the rear.


He resisted the urge to jump at the sudden voice again.

This is as good an opportunity as any to make our first foray into the multiverse.

But we're walking.

Time flows differently in the Network. Phil won't notice.

Very well.

And just like that, he found himself in that familiar room, empty this time of the girl's brother.

"So how does this work, exactly?"

"Well... that's a bit complicated, and to be frank, I don't quite know. My brother left behind a recording to explain the basics. I suggest you listen to it while I make some last minute preparations."

Reinhardt turned to see a screen appear on one side of the room, where the Hand of Silver's face appeared.

"Greetings, Lord Reinhardt, dear sister. I have had some opportunity to study this multiversal link we've established, and I believe I can vaguely understand precisely what we will be doing, in contacting others."

The Hand of Silver's face was replaced by a dull bubble, floating in blackness.

"Let's say this bubble is a universe, and the blackness is... well I'm not sure at the moment, but we'll just call it 'The Void', for now."

A small, glowing bump protruded from the bubble.

"If the bubble is a universe, this bump would be... well, us. Specifically, either my sister or myself; an open line, if you will, ready to be contacted.

"If you remember my sister's explanation on how my civilization harnessed the power of lightning, you will remember that she mentioned something called a 'lightning rod'; a long piece of metal, meant to attract lightning. This 'node' acts in a similar fashion. It attracts signals sent through the Void; through the multiverse."

A bolt of red lightning suddenly struck the node.

"Like that. That red flash represents our message, going out through the multiverse. We are, at this point, unable to guide it; we must rely on these nodes randomly attracting our message. Therefore, we cannot be certain who will receive our messages when we send them."

The Hand of Silver's face returned to the screen.

"I therefore advise that you do not mention our true intentions of human dominance. Establish a more obvious and common enemy; the organizers of these battles. Ostensibly, this Network which we intend to found will have the goal of overthrowing these multiversal masters. And be wary; there is no telling who, or what, might return your call.

"Good luck."

The screen vanished, and Reinhardt looked to the girl, who looked back. "I'm ready", she said.

"So am I."

"Look at me; I'll begin recording once you start speaking. My eyes and ears will capture your face and your words."

Reinhardt took a deep breath, and began.

"If you are hearing this, then you, too, are a victim of the whims of an enigmatic master, whom has forced you into a battle to the death with many other strange beings. You are likely far from your home, far from your friends, far from your family.

"My name is Vandrel Reinhardt, and I am in a battle similar to yours. I seek allies, to overthrow these unworthy grandmasters. I assume that, if you can receive this message, then you have some way of reaching into the multiverse. Seek me out. Together, we can fight for our freedom."

The girl nodded. "Very good. Sending it now."

After a moment, she nodded again. "Done. Now, we should get back. I'll let you know if I get anything."

And with that, Reinhardt found himself back in the forest, still following Phil, with seemingly no time lost. He smiled to himself. Things were looking up.
Re: The Great Belligerency [Round 1: The Rainy Place]
Originally posted on MSPA by slipsicle.

Re: The Great Belligerency [Round 1: The Rainy Place]
Originally posted on MSPA by Aryogaton.

Re: The Great Belligerency [Round 1: The Rainy Place]
Originally posted on MSPA by Captain Lhurgoyf.

"Very well," began Reinhardt, resting his gauntleted hand on Phil's shoulder. "Lead the way. You know this area, do you not? The matter is, we shall find this Dove. He must be taught a lesson about disobeying the natural superiority of his people."

Reinhardt then looked down and spat onto the ground.

"The damned fool."

Re: The Great Belligerency [Round 1: The Rainy Place]
Originally posted on MSPA by Aryogaton.

Re: The Great Belligerency [Round 1: The Rainy Place]
Originally posted on MSPA by SleepingOrange.

Ur moved closer to the door, blank eyes locked unseeingly on the crack, divine gaze staring into the void. It was... Everything. Everywhere. A meaningless chaotic expanse that was simultaneously the perfect order of entropy and a living history off all time and places. Where a mortal mind would have shrunk away, as Juliamy's had before and as the uncountable ghosts locked in the empty shell of the goddess did now, some part of the lady in green moved forward, tasting the power of infinity and savoring the sensation of the void. Something within Ur stirred. Something that had been presumed long destroyed. It tentatively moved through the crack, uncertain and unthinking, but driven by purpose.

The Fifth appeared again, apparently hanging from thin air. Her sanguine lips pursed as she watched the still goddess staring blankly; the only sound audible over the oppressive silence of the door was her gentle sigh.

"I have told another and I will tell you. This place is not for your group, brought here against your will or not, and the threshold will neither bend to your will nor provide you with what you want. You are not who this place needs."

There was further silence for a time, with Ur simply staring at the crack; the Hanged Woman saw no reason to do anything, as this one was at least not violating the threshold, but... She was unsettling. Finally, the silence was broken by a quiet voice; it was high and soft, with a gentle tone and pleasant timbre.

"No. But this place is what I need."


Balance rushed through the forest of hands, impelled by his nature to stop the coming fight from ending so one-sidedly. Even in the midst of a grand interdimensional battle, a personal crisis involving his mother, and actively fighting off a series of fungal monstrosities and the scenery itself, he was who he was made to be. He scythed through hand tree after hand tree, but for every one that fell another burst out of the ground, most near Dove and Cole. The newly-grown hands wrapped around the dome at the environmentalist's will even as Cole formed a large pair of termite mandibles and began gnawing his way through the twitching wood with impressive speed.

There was still a considerable barrier of living, writhing wood between Dove and Cole when Balance arrived; the fact that the dome reshaped itself as it was damaged certainly slowed down the bug-man's progress, but it couldn't keep him out for much longer, especially since it was incapable of retaliating. Balance took in the scene and came to a simple conclusion: one ability was tipping the balance strongly in Cole's favor, and taking that one thing out of the equation would change the entire dynamic of power. Removing that aspect entirely was out of the purview of the god's powers, however, but shifting it to the other side of the equation would have essentially the same effect.

"Cole Aran," boomed out the imperious voice of the haughty deity, "Your actions have thoroughly upset the balance of power in this battle and this dimension. This must be rectified."

The scientist's now-mandibled face turned momentarily towards Balance, just in time to see him make a complicated gesture that sent his robes swirling. At first, there was no noticeable effect, but after a moment, Cole realized that he was no longer generating bioelectricity; this realization came for him at the same time it apparently did for the trees, judging by the fact that the dome sprang open and several hands swatted at him as he took to the air. Even on the nimble wings of a dragonfly, he was unable to avoid all of the sudden onslaught; he was knocked hard into the trunk of another, stiller tree and slid to the ground in a heap as his wings snapped and fluttered uselessly. The dome finished unfolding, and Cole looked up to see Dove advancing on him, skin crackling with electricity and an expression of twisted glee spreading across his face.


Soft hadn't gone far; she made sure that her vantage point was from somewhere that she could watch the battle, but Cole wouldn't be able to see her or her crow. Not that he'd be looking at the sky much, she expected, but it wouldn't make much of a good story if he happened to see her, hovering uselessly and waiting for his inevitable call. She made a few bored passes over the forest, axe cruelly severing fingers with each dive, but made sure to always stay within hearing distance of her charge. He was going to come out of this improved if it killed her. Or killed him, more likely.

It wasn't long before she heard Balance make his judgement, but what was she supposed to do about that? Nothing, that's what. Messing with gods was a bad idea, and nobody had asked for her. She contented herself with climbing higher on her increasingly-annoyed crow to be able to see what was going on better. Her height gave her the best vantage in the battle, so she was the first to see what was happening in the distance.

It... worried her. Still, it wasn't really her problem. Per se. And besides, she had to stay here. The good witch didn't give the repentant protagonist three wishes and just not grant them when he asked. That wasn't how things worked! She had to stay here, and hopefully all that blood and static would just... Stay where it was.

Besides, what good was an axe against a writhing mass of nothingness? None at all, that's how much. Er, what. It didn't even have beheadable parts!


Ur advanced towards the door, raising her hands, and Fifth felt forced to make a move. She breathed in and out slowly, then opened her eyes. Even through the bandages, it was visible as a faint outline of light where they would have been on her face, but those were not the important eyes: thick black sludge began materializing at the borders of the clearing, gathering into shapeless blobs that moved surprisingly-quickly towards the goddess. As they got close, eyes began opening all over their surface, oily blackness reflecting the soft light of the rainy place as well as the striking red of the eyes opening all across the sky. Several lunged of the eyebeasts lunged at Ur, whipping tendrils of their body at her; she drew her sickle at air-hissing speed and hacked into the attackers, never turning her face from the door.

As more and more emerged from the forest, she finally turned to the Hanged Woman. She smiled gently and beatifically, shaking her head as though at a dearly-loved child who had just made some minor transgression. Without speaking, she raised her hands and dropped them again; the soil around her followed suit, forming a high ring around her, then collapsing again. The entire clearing rippled, sending eye creatures flying and splattering against trees.

"I wish I could say I'm sorry for what I'm about to do."


Phil nodded slightly in his helmet. He wasn't sure exactly where Dove was, but suspected it would be fairly easy to track someone as loud and violent as that, especially with obvious clues like "nature itself is acting oddly in this area". He picked a direction and altered the trio's path slightly, remembering a small grove of particularly-dense trees he'd have picked to make a stand if he was in Dove's position. Julia began humming absently to herself; between that and the clank of Reinhardt's armor, it was near-impossible for the soldier to make anything out beyond their immediate area. He raised a hand and made a shushing motion; Julia at least quieted herself, but it was hard for Reinhardt to be more stealthy than he already was.

As they moved towards the copse Phil had in mind, though, it became apparent that the noise wasn't going to be much of an imposition: the sounds of yelling and fighting were clearly obviousthrough the trees. He nodded and pointed ahead, picking up speed and shooting over his shoulder,
"Julia, stay here and hide."

She obliged, rolling her eyes inwardly, and the two men crashed off farther into the forest.


Dove had pinned Cole against the tree he'd crashed against, but the mandibles had come to his aid; several twitching hands lay on the ground, useless and dying, and Cole was using the time Dove was taking to regroup to grow a large, barbed stinger and try to repair his wings. The eco-terrorist, for his part, was trying to formulate a plan of attack wherein the abomination before him wouldn't be so effectively able to retaliate. The two were effectively stalemated when the others arrived.

Phil burst through the barrier of hands first, weapon morphing to a wicked-looking shotgun; he was followed moments later by Reinhardt, his sword hacking mercilessly through tree after tree. Wordlessly, they spread out, flanking Dove. Between Cole and the new arrivals, a triangle of hostile figures formed around the crackling environmentalist. Several trees fell as Dove protected himself from a hail of shot, and a few more collapsed under the onslaughts from scientist and tyrant.

Balance narrowed his eyes; this was perhaps more unacceptable than it had been before his original intercession. Leaving his right flank completely open, he dove towards Reinhardt, forming another of the stone pillars he was so fond of using in combat.


Julia lounged against a tree, idly scanning the area for anything interesting and waiting for Network hits. One of her sensors reported something anomalous, and she wasn't the sort to write that off as immaterial. She began moving towards the source when another blipped oddly. And another. And another. This was extremely worrisome; she stopped simply running and began speeding forward. It wasn't long, however, before more and more of her sensors began failing or reporting endless streams of nonsense data.

Julia, overwhelmed, collapsed on the ground, losing base consciousness much as she had done when staring into the chaotic abyss behind the door.


The lips on the Fifth's impassive face parted slightly, but she found herself trapped, unable to move through the rainy place as she usually could, losing control of and the ability to create more eyes, unable to feel the presence of the survivors of the seven. Ur's smile broadened slightly and she returned the sickle to her belt while raising her left hand; it snapped into a fist, and the Hanged Woman shuddered. A number of long, black spears appeared in midair around the immobile figure in midair; they hovered momentarily before sending themselves slamming into her flesh, blood gushing from cruel wounds.

"Your last king had the right idea you know. He just lacked the proper ambition. If there's one thing I have..." Ur moved her fist as though pulling on a rope, and the Fifth found herself yanked from her position in midair and pressed against a tree; more spears appeared and nailed her to the selected trunk, more blood dripping onto the ground. "It's ambition."

Most of the creatures the Fifth had summoned were dissolving into nothing, but the eyes in the sky stayed there; similar black spears formed in them, and their red tones were intensified as real blood began cascading from them, pattering into the clearing. The goddess's sot smile didn't waver as the blood slid down her face, somehow failing to stick to her skin, hair, or clothes the way it was to everything else around her.

She turned back to the door, raising her hands again; responding to her, the cracked portal opened itself, the void beyond buzzing with eagerness. She moved closer and reached inside with both hands. When she pulled them out, the right one was holding an old-fashioned hat with an attached plague doctor's mask and the left was clutched around a glove with pen nibs at the tips of the fingers; her smile widened.

"This seems appropriate."


The melee in the clearing was going at a fevered pitch, chaotic and brutal: hands slammed into bodies and were bitten, sliced, or blasted off; shot after shot rang out, lead peppering the bodies of most present at least once; blows were traded and given freely. Even though outnumbered, with Balance's considerable (if exploitable) powers and Dove's advantage given the setting, things were moving in favor of the pair over the trio. Balance mired the soil beneath Cole, who still hadn't managed to get airborne; Dove took advantage of the opportunity as the scientists stumbled, and send several trees swooping in to grab him.

Pinned, and in such a position as to be unable to bite or scratch at the restraints, Cole could do nothing as Dove approached. He saw that balance was holding off the other two rather effectively, so there was no rescue coming from there; staring into the face of death, he was again forced to swallow his pride. He coughed, then bellowed
"Help me!"

With a smirk that clearly indicated he expected no help to come, Dove raised a hand and began the process of having the trees squeeze the life out of the perverter of nature in front of him. He watched Cole's lack of a face with slight disappointment at the fact that he was unable to see the agony he inflicted; it was still gratifying to know that this man would suffer as he had caused so many to suffer before he died, but he wished there would be some screams and pained expressions. Dove was so intent on his victim that he failed to see the diving bird until it had knocked him over and pinned him to the ground with its talons.


As Ur strapped on the glove and donned the mask, a large canvas appeared before her; blood from the sky streaked it and she made no move to stop it. As the pristine white was stained with browning red, the void began escaping from behind the portal, solid static rising into the air and mixing with the falling sanguine rain. After a time, the goddess decided that enough had fallen on her canvas and formed a hovering roof over it; though her face was entirely hidden, she radiated a sensation of smiling as she watched the blood dry and crust over, forming a background of red-brown pillars and stripes. As the bloody painting dried, Ur moved towards the pinned woman; she stooped, running the nibs on her glove gently across the bleeding face and nodded. The inkwells were filling rather quickly, given the grievousness of the wounds she'd inflicted, and it wasn't long before she was hovering back towards the canvas.

The mask gave Ur's pleasantly lilting voice an odd hollow quality as she nearly sang: "Be happy. Not only will the pain be over soon, but you will die with the knowledge that you were an integral part of the end of everything. Something to be proud of."

The static that was flowing freely out of the door by now was mounting high into the sky and flowing across the forest; tree after tree was swallowed, but a hollow formed around the clearing Ur was doing her painting in. A pleasant, echoing melody was just barely audible over the buzzing, grinding sound of the spreading static as the goddess hummed. Bloody flames formed across the canvas at her delicate touch, bloody buildings and bloody people burning in a graphic and terrifying but pleasantly-arranged way. As the image progressed, not only did the static move faster and more aggressively, but the ground began to shake; as cracks formed in the soil all across the forest of hands and the whole of the Rainy Place, more static, more angular and malevolent than the flowing sort emanating from the door, began emerging from the new holes.


As Julia lay on the ground, several of the hand trees had seen fit to pick her up and toss her around; ultimately, it was all that saved her, since she was closer than any of the others to the epicenter of the great undoing Ur was orchestrating. When the static burst from the ground below her and flowed across the soil, she was too high up and being passed along too quickly to be erased.


Cole pulled himself out of the grip of the trees as Dove's influence over them faded. It rankled with him that the only thing that had stood between him and death had been some quasi-deific little girl, but in the end he was too practical to die on principle like that. He quickly rejoined the fray; Soft's bird had taken off or disappeared or something, and the spirit was enthusiastically pushing Dove back with her axe. Reinhardt and Phil were doing much the same with Balance, and soon the two were entirely boxed in by the other four. The mercenary raised his shotgun again, but before he could finish off Dove once and for all, the earth beneath his feet rippled, shaking and cracking as though in the midst of an impressive earthquake.

Most of the combatants were knocked off their feet, and all of them scrambled backwards as the static began bursting out of the ground as well as rolling in from elsewhere. All animosity was forgotten in an instant as they all struggled simply to avoid the onslaught of buzzing nothingness, and the fight dissolved into a combined retreat.


The painting was nearly complete; a crumbling urban scene morphed as the viewer moved right into a planet, which itself became a solar system and a galaxy and finally dissolved into a complicated and abstract pattern. All of it was done in the browns and reds of the Fifth's blood, and all of it was being consumed by painted fire. If one stepped back from the canvas, the shape of a skull being consumed by fire became apparent, a sort of gestalt image created by the lines of the others; the symbolism was heavy-handed but apparent, and it would do the job. Ur moved back for the seventh or eighth time to gather more blood from the pinned woman, estimating that this would be the last load she would need before finishing. She dropped to the ground for the first time since being entered into this contest, letting the her feet splash in the bloody puddles forming on the ground of the clearing in time to her song.

The end was coming, and it would be glorious.


Figures spread out as they moved away from the encroaching void; most sought to put as much distance from each other as from the static, reasoning that tripping over or attacking each other would likely get them both killed. Dove, however, was tailing Cole closely, intent on using this opportunity to finally kill the monster; Soft, for her part, was following Dove, accurately predicting him plan and still considering herself bound to complete the second favor.

Cole, unaware of the other two, had finally finished repairing his wings and took off; he found he still couldn't produce the shock he'd been keeping the hands off with, though, and as he strove to gain height, Dove blindsided him with a hand; it batted him back to the ground and pinned him again as the static approached. Dove moved out from behind the trunk, an expression of manic glee twisting his features as the void moved towards Cole.

You will finally meet your end, perverter of nature. I only wish it was going to hurt more, but we'll see what I can do about that in the meantime."

No-one would ever know what Dove had intended to do; before he could do so, an axeblade flashed in the reddish light and collided with his ankle. The tendons snapped up like a spring-loaded window blind, and he screamed and collapsed. Soft's axe made quick work of the hand holding Cole down, and she pulled him to his feet and away from the advancing wall of nothing. As it absorbed and unmade Dove, his screams echoed momentarily before being drowned out by the hellish buzz of static.


It only needed a few more strokes; her glove trailed across the painting as Ur put on the last few touches.

Then the world winked out around her.

In entirely the wrong way.

Re: The Great Belligerency [Round 2: New Shambhala]
Originally posted on MSPA by Aryogaton.

[Image: gbpost3.png]

Re: The Great Belligerency [Round 2: New Shambhala]
Originally posted on MSPA by SleepingOrange.

Pan-Horizon Solutions, like so every other modestly-successful research firm in Laboratory District 7b, hummed as the sun glinted off its solar panels and skylights. Pan-Horizon solutions specialized in chemical synthesis, especially high-tensile and -performance polymers that had applications in commercial and research enterprises. It was fairly unremarkable, insofar as that was possible given that every person employed was the best of the best in their field, or at least close. Scientists of various species milled about, doing their business dressed in variations on the theme of labcoat. Given the inherent danger in many of the chemicals, processes, and machinery they used, careful warnings were posted visibly on nearly every wall and door, colorfully announcing just how explosive and toxic the contents of any given room were; it was usually "very". Goggles and respirators were very much in evidence.

Gerald Velxen was a human lab tech employed by Pan-Horizon. The job itself was fairly tedious and exacting, but it payed well and it was just something to do while he worked towards his doctorate. The fact that he had been accepted onto New Shambhala to study in their famous schools and work with the top minds of the known universe was so amazing in and of itself that the dull job was a barely-noticeable inconvenience. Today's task was working on the manufacture of a polymer that got used as insulation on spacecraft: it had several unique properties as a result of its complicated molecular structure; it was of course incredibly expensive, since the creation of that structure involved a number of processes, catalysts, and intermediate states that were volatile or toxic. And often both. The complicated process to create this odd polymer was, in addition to being extremely specific and hazardous, required the technician to eliminate any possible environmental contaminant; to that end, Gerald was isolated in a cleanroom and dressed head to toe in a heavy cleansuit. He was about halfway through with the process for his current batch, and as such hadn't seen another living person in hours.

He nearly dropped the tongs holding his current progress when he turned around to see a hovering woman in an ancient plague mask and a glove that appeared to be dripping blood from metal-tipped claws. His heavily-muffled voice yelled (as best it could), "Hey, you shouldn't be in here!" The woman in front of him turned the red-eyed mask towards him and didn't say anything for a moment. Then, with no warning, her ungloved hand pulled a sickle from her belt and began hacking with superhuman speed and ferocity at the unlucky scientist; he barely had a moment to scream in pain.

Ur hovered above his corpse. The murder hadn't even really been spurred by conscious thought, but was simply an expression of the bottomless rage she was feeling. There had been... There had been the perfect tool in front of her. The only way she'd ever found to truly destroy herself and the twisted perversion of what it should be that reality was. She had been so close, and it had been snatched away.

Even now, mere moments after leaving the Rainy Place and the stabilizing presence of the void, she could feel the ghosts stirring. Every second made it harder to think, to truly access her powers, as the whining, angry, weeping, selfish selfish utterly selfish voices raised in volume and quantity. Crystallizing in an instant was the realization that they only thing that could have stopped her had been the Executor and his powers over the void, and the associated desire to utterly subjugate or annihilate the smug bastard. If she wanted to get at him, there were six other's she'd have to slaughter first, and if some other sniveling sapients happened to be caught in the crossfire, well... That was just a bonus. She'd have to be quick, though, before she completely lost herself again to the voices.


Laboratory District 7b was near the top level of the starboard side of New Shambala; still, there were three levels between it and the outermost hull of the mountainous city-ship, which meant the explosion that sundered Pan-Horizon Solutions and everything between it and the exterior must have been near-inconceivably powerful. It was impossible to tell from the outside how deep the damage went beyond its source, but as the acrid chemical smoke dispersed into the atmosphere, a glowing man-sized golden orb rose from the crater; it vanished a moment later, and a green blur streaked across the hull of New Shambala.

Re: The Great Belligerency [Round 2: New Shambhala]
Originally posted on MSPA by Captain Lhurgoyf.

Reinhardt found himself standing atop an observation platform tucked into the corner of some sprawling complex, looking around him at the vastness of the city that lay beneath his vantage point. He held his sword at rest in front of him, placing both hands atop the pommel, his cape blowing in the wind behind him.

Had this city been located on his home world, Reinhardt would have seen it as an abomination. With his technology level, such a creation could only be the work of magic. But the Executor's words rang in his head: "A wise man once said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." These words were felt with great resonance to him. Just so earlier, Reinhardt had been introduced to all the marvels his species were capable of with higher technology within their grasp. If this was the pinnacle of technological achievement, Reinhardt desired it like no other.

An advanced city from a realm so enlightened that it was built atop a mountain that floated in the air? If such wonders were within a human's superior capabilities, it would be truly wonderous for Vandrel Reinhardt's own kind to replicate such a thing.

The tyrant bowed his head, and the grizzled, bearded face that had overseen the ruthless, cold-blooded dismemberment and torture of those he had deemed inferior with sadistic glee broke into a twisted smile.

If all went well, this city would become the jewl in the crown of Reinhardt's empire.

Reinhardt would conquer this city.

Re: The Great Belligerency [Round 2: New Shambhala]
Originally posted on MSPA by slipsicle.

The extra-dimensional jolt of the round transition woke the girl from unconsciousness; the anomalies caused by the Door to Everything had easily overwhelmed her mortal mind, despite all its technological enhancements. She caught the tailing end of the Executor's introduction before a patio materialized around her, looking out across a beautiful sea of architectural wonders. Towers rose and curved fluidly, some changing shape visibly as their flexible interiors rearranged to accommodate their user's needs. Rivers of glowing pearls wove their way between the buildings, each a vehicle, each unique, each a proud exclamation of their driver's individuality, never confining themselves to the rigid gridlike network of most transportation highways, instead belaying the naturalistic influences of the city itself. The setting sun kissed the tops of the lowest towers, before abandoning them to the slowly creeping darkness, heralding the coming of night.

The girl smiled. This was her kind of round.

She turned and began walking. Within moments her adaptive hacking software had infiltrated the city's network, and maintenance schematics of her immediate location superimposed themselves on her view. She moved through the membranous surface of the window/wall combination separating the patio from its parent habitat.


He answered readily.

I was expecting you.

Good. Now that the message is out, we probably won't get any replies for a while. So until then, I am yours to command.

Reinhardt smiled. He turned, and began to walk out of the observation room, finding himself on a catwalk of sorts.

I see in this city great potential. Its value as a tool to further our cause will undoubtedly be unmatched.

It is for this reason that I intend to conquer this city.

The girl placed her palm on a keypad. Tiny filaments were extruded from her skin, like silvery hair, penetrating the keypad. It beeped, and as the girl walk through the door, out of the habitat, and into a long, white, curving hallway, a corner of her mouth rose in a slight grin.

Your ambition is admirable. I shall assist you. This city, like all sufficiently advanced human cities, has a "cloud" of information pulsing through it. From the moment we arrived I have gained access to this cloud, and the information contained within. I have since been trawling the more mundane, day-to-day communications between its regular citizens. I've only just touched the surface, but from what I can tell, there is little to no discontent throughout the city. Minor squabbles about funding for various research projects, citizenship passes and the like. Nothing we can use to put you to the top.

Fortunately, I have had extensive experience in manufacturing problems.

The girl squatted suddenly in the hallway, and her probing fingers revealed a well-concealed access hatch, leading into the underworks of that sector. She jumped down the ladder, landing and rolling gracefully. She allowed her momentum to carry her forwards, and broke into a run through the well-kept maintenance corridors, approaching her usual blur-like speed with ease.

The citizens of this city are fiercely loyal to the Administration; a group of fifteen high-ranking academics. If we are to engineer your takeover, we have to find a way to paint you as a force of good, on the side of the Administration. The best scenario would be one where we put your tactical expertise to use.

She stopped at a seemingly arbitrary location, and pried open another access hatch, emerging into a small locker room, with one occupant. Given that it was evening, most of the lights were off. The dossier she'd assembled on this room indicated she'd caught the tail end of a shift change. She crept out from the darkness, surveying her target. His physique was a bit more solid than her slight figure, and he was a good six centimeters shorter than her as well. It would have to do.

The man was rummaging around his locker for something, still in plainclothes, when she snapped his neck. Moving quickly, she laid him out on the floor, pressing a finger to his neck briefly to get a better read on his bone structure, before straightening and looking down at him.

At first nothing happened. Then, gradually, her body began to... shift. Bones lengthened, grew in volume, and moved slightly all along her body. Her shoulders broadened by a small amount, and her stature became slightly more squat. Her hips narrowed, and her face took on slightly more masculine features. She was still, quite obviously, a woman; she could not change *that* much. But she would fit into the man's custom-made uniform and, on passing, resemble him.

She also looked nothing like she did previously.

She turned, and gathered the man's tools and uniform from the locker, and continued explaining her plan to Reinhardt.

I shall create a rebellion, from nothing, which you will then stamp out. We're pressed for time, given we don't know how long it will be until another contestant dies, so I'm not going to be able to do this they way I'd usually prefer.

I shall instead assassinate a member of the Administration, staging it such that the blame is pinned on a heretofore unknown rebellion. The security forces of this city are inexperienced in the ways of actual combat; they deal mostly with corporate espionage charges and soothing hurt feelings between hot-headed academics. Which is why you will rise to fill the gap this city never knew it had.

She straightened her visor, looking at herself in the mirror. She'd have to do something about her hair... but other than that, the outfit was complete. The sleek blue-and-orange coveralls of a maintenance worker fit her new figure perfectly, and the red visor covering here eyes and ears further obfuscated her actual appearance. She made her way over to a hygiene station to fix her hair, and continued.

I will be the leader of this rebellion, and will communicate to you, using this link, anything you require to fulfill your role. Likewise, should you need an act of sabotage to conveniently prove that you are needed or somesuch, let me know.

Oh, and, Reinhardt,

A new image, which had been idling in the corner of her vision, brought itself up into her view. It showed a rather out-of-place looking armored man stomping through a well-manicured alleyway, approaching a rather empty street, down on the surface of the city, far below the sweeping towers.

You may want to find something a little more... period-appropriate.

Reinhardt made a face.

I concur.

There's a clothing store not far from your current location. I'll create an account for you, tied to your DNA... uh, basically you'll be able to just walk in, find what you want, and walk out without any trouble. I'm programming the broach with its location.

Reinhardt felt the unmistakable tug of the broach on his mind, leading him towards the store.

There is one more thing. I've just intercepted a priority call to the security branch of Laboratory District 7b. There has apparently been an explosion and subsequent hull breach in the area. No doubt caused by one of us. On that vein, we'll both have to take advantage of opportunities presented in the inevitable chaos sowed by the the other contestants. I've already begun inserting rumors of terrorism into the local data flow.

Very good. Continue with your reports and your plan, for now. I believe I can take it from here. Allow me to get a feel for this city's people, for a while. I must lay my own groundwork before I begin my rise to power.

He could almost sense the girl beginning to protest.

Do not worry. Like you, I have done this before.

The girl begrudgingly acknowledged, and fell silent. The two collaborators continued on their respective paths.

Re: The Great Belligerency [Round 2: New Shambhala]
Originally posted on MSPA by Dragon Fogel.

Cole found himself in an empty transport tube, already progressing towards its destination. How fortunate, he thought. My sudden appearance should not startle anyone... and based on the nature of this city, I believe there is no need to hide myself. Not yet.

As a test, Cole removed a small scorpion from one of his arms, and placed it on the floor. It soon started moving once more. Drawn by his scent, it crawled back onto him and promptly fell still again.

Cole was relieved; he was generating bioelectricity again. Balance's influence over him had likely worn off when the round changed. He needed a way to capture new insects, and it was tactically advantageous at times.

For that matter, he was convinced that Balance would be his next target. Of the two gods, Balance was weaker and had greatly inconvenienced him. It also seemed unlikely that he could be persuaded into assisting with the destruction of Ur, beyond helping out the losing side.

But that was not Cole's greatest concern. The Executor had said this city was on Earth, if a future one. If true, that presented an opportunity that the former human had thought lost once the battle began.


The spider-god had manifested on Earth before. There was likely some way to goad him out of hiding, and perhaps the technology here could aid Cole in destroying the god he despised the most.

The thought comforted him somewhat.

The tube came to a stop. Cole stepped out, catching the awkward gazes of a family of four who had been waiting for a tube. They were humanoid, but hunchback, covered in fur, and had long, hairy trunks and thick tusks. The overall appearance reminded the biologist of woolly mammoths.

Cole kept walking, but one of them - Cole assumed it was the father due to his larger size - suddenly turned. He asked nervously, in a voice that made Cole more confident that he was male, "Pardon me. I realize this is a bit of a rude question, but, well, I'm simply curious. What species are you?"

Cole had anticipated the question. After all, based on the description, this city had many species. Few inhabitants would have the memory to keep track of them all.

"Ah, no, don't worry. It's no wonder - my homeworld has tended to be very isolationist, and tried to avoid contact with other cultures. We call our planet Sk'va. It is only recently that we have taken an interest in the rest of galactic civilization, and I have been sent here to learn more about you, as it is such a well-known center of cultural activity."

"An ambassador, then?" asked the mammoth-man, a bit surprised.

"I suppose, in a sense, but not in any official capacity. I am more of a scholar. I wish to learn more about the cultures of other species."

"Ah! You'll want to have a look at the Museum of Culture, then. They have wonderful exhibits. The children learned so much there yesterday! But today we're headed for the zoo."

"Thank you. Where might I find this museum? I am not yet familiar with this wonderful city of yours."

The man's presumed wife shouted at him impatiently.

"Oh! Dear me, I've left them waiting. Sorry, no time to give directions, but the information terminal over there should help. It's been very interesting meeting you, at any rate. By the way, I'm Jaknel Pachyse." He extend a hairy hand to Cole.

"I have been given the name of... Ko'laran. I apologize, but I cannot return your gesture; my body produces a mild electric shock on contact."

"Ah! Terribly sorry, Ko'laran. I will keep that in mind if I see you again." The man left with his family, and Cole examined the terminal.

It was rather user-friendly. Cole soon located the museum, and began walking there. He had to occasionally repeat his cover story to curious passerby, but it was straightforward enough. He kept the details the same, to avoid drawing undue suspicion.

Only when Cole arrived at the museum did it occur to him that he might be expected to pay for admission. Fortunately, he soon noticed a sign indicating that this would not be a problem.


There was smaller writing under it. Cole quickly skimmed it; it seemed this was the first day of a week of cultural celebration in the city, and so the museum was opening its doors to everyone at no charge. How convenient.

Cole then considered the fact that the Executor might have planned it this way. It was somewhat disconcerting.

Regardless, he knew his first objective. He entered the doors, and scanned the museum directory, looking for an exhibit on ancient religious artifacts of Earth.

Re: The Great Belligerency [Round 2: New Shambhala]
Originally posted on MSPA by MalkyTop.

It was disorienting. The whole thing was. She had been pulling her ward along. She had been running from the fruits of the goddess' strange labor (and yes, she was sure it was her, the crazy dirt earth goddess weirdo). But all of a sudden, all was well. That wasn't really how a story went, she couldn't help but think. There was a climax and then there was descending action. It didn't just all...stop. And where was the lesson? She was sure there was supposed to be a lesson back there but she just couldn't see it. Or, to be honest, stories didn't always need to have lessons, but the ending at least involved someone taking over a kingdom or something like that.

This time, Soft actually listened to what the dark shadow man had to say. At least it might alleviate some of her confusion. But no, instead it just made her even more worried as soon as she heard the word 'Earth.' The last time she was on Earth, she hadn't left on good terms with any of the gods. In fact, she was pretty sure they said they would have to do something drastically horrible to her if she ever came back. Shoot, they weren't still around, were they?

But as she stood on the ship, as she gazed about, taking in the pinnacle of artificial creation, the product of the collaborative efforts of the greatest minds in the universe, she saw no gods, no self-righteous, almighty beings to smite her or at least dismiss her from Fairy Tale Duty.

People passed her by, creatures she somewhat recognized and some too bizarre even for fairy tales. No angry gods, though. She relaxed a little. Either the gods had changed their view on her policies or...they simply died out. Sometimes that happens. In any case, she took this as an invitation to go ahead and do whatever she saw fit.

No longer burdened with the fear of gods disapproving of what she did outright, she looked around with a different, more analytical view. Everybody walking around so content. So happy. No conflict. She scowled. One of the most important elements of a story was conflict.

She looked up at the sky and stomped on the floor a bit, as if experimenting how solid it was. She vaguely remembered dark shadow guy saying something about it being up in the sky...

Ah, now this she knew what to do about. She looked around again, a sharp grin on her face. The people here were no longer content and happy. They were haughty and big-headed. Really. A city in the sky. Now why would they go and build that? To feel superior, perhaps? This was exactly like a few stories from the past. What was the oldest one? That kid with the wings? This would definitely be the perfect allegory for reaching beyond one's capabilities.

"Hah, you think you could just sit up here like gods, looking down on everybody else?" Soft scoffed out loud, which might not have been the smartest thing to do, considering she was still on a crowded street.

"What?" said one strange creature, a large, furry thing with arms that could engulf a grown man. Its eyes were just barely visible as it blinked slowly at the girl. "What did you just say?"

"Little teddy bear," Soft sang, pointing the axe towards the large beast. This was probably also not a smart move. Passerby were no longer passing by, but staring at her and crowding around her, wondering what the hell she was doing, ready to hold her back if she was going to cause trouble. "How does this oh-so perfect city stay afloat in the air, hmmmm?"

"I'm not sure if I should be telling you that, little girl," the large furry thing rumbled slowly, frowning contemplatively at the sharp axe that was swinging dangerously in his direction. "Where're your parents? Where did you get that thing?"

"You don't disrespect others," Soft warned, her voice getting darker. "I don't need your condescension. I just want to know wherever the thing is that is keeping this stupid thing up."

The furry thing frowned again. "Little girl, if you are planning something...we will have to stop you, do you realize that? Do you think you can deal with the whole city stopping you?"

Soft grinned. "It's okay, because whether you help me or not, I'll make this city fall, all the way back to the ground, where you belong~"

Re: The Great Belligerency [Round 2: New Shambhala]
Originally posted on MSPA by Captain Lhurgoyf.

Reinhardt, obediently following the instruction of his brooch, headed in the direction of the clothing store. As he passed by the populace of the sprawling city, he could see their perplexed stares and could hear them perplexedly talking amongst themselves. Reinhardt scowled. In his own land, to look down as such upon Lord Reinhardt would result in the offender being tortured and eventually beheaded. But this was a different place, a different time. No longer was Reinhardt in the empire he controlled so fiercely, and no longer would he be able to strike at those who he disliked in public without having to worry about repurcussions. Reinhardt was on a mission. If he was to complete it, he had to blend in with this city's people. His suit of armour was useless for this.

Reinhardt came to a street corner, an overhanging light glaring down at him in red. Hovering cars crossed the street in front of him. The tyrant's marvel at these strange but fascinating machines was compromised only by the importance of the situation, and the odd look from a man reclining on the lamppost to his side. "Where do you think you're going, dressed like that?", he asked. Reinhardt sighed, trying to control his frustration. He wondered if this man, through his veneer of calmness, was even aware about the explosion.

"I am..." he stopped to think and use his strategy-oriented mind, one that had in the past so keenly devised plots, schemes, and plans for invasions, before finally coming to a conclusion. "I am an actor."

"An actor?"

"I am to be starring in a play to be put on soon, and I need to get a feel for this costume."

"Oh!" exclaimed the man. "You must be playing Macbeth!"

"What?", began the tyrant, before deciding that it would serve him best if he maintained his illusion of being native to this place. "Oh, yes. Yes I am."

"Very realistic! Excellent job! Well, I wish you luck!"

"Yes, yes..."

The light changed from red to green, and the procession of vehicles parted. Reinhardt, observing that other pedestrians who had gathered at this area were beginning to move out, followed their lead and continued down the street to the clothing store. Entering, he remembered how his collaborator mentioned something about creating an "account" using his "DNA". This statement meant nothing to Reinhardt, but no doubt such sophisiticated science was another sort of a thing that these advanced people had grasped. When he had time, he would be sure to investigate the meaning of this with his more knowledgeable compatriots. Making his way through the shelves and racks of clothing, Reinhardt selected a wardrobe that would best suit his sensibilities and preferences while allowing him to blend in with the crowd. Withdrawing into a fitting room, Reinhardt began to remove his armour and store it in a trunk he had found just outside the door into this alcove. It was not easy, the tyrant thought. Normally, he had slaves that would serve him in the complicated tasks of getting him in and out of his armour. Reinhardt could not even remember the last time he had removed the suit himself - he rarely even did, choosing to impose his power through his appearance.

Finally, as he put away his armour, cape, sword, and shield, Reinhardt examined himself in the mirror. He had dressed himself in the attire of a commoner in this place, so that one might pass by him without a second thought. He wore a plain black jumpsuit with leather boots and a belt, a simple brown jacket worn over his torso with the brooch pinned on the lapel. Reinhardt chose to keep his bracers on, in case he would need their strength, but in any case rolled the sleeves of his jacket over them and covered his hands with gloves. He concealed his eyes with red-tinted mirrored sunglasses. The tyrant, his disguise complete, strolled out into the street, the cool sensation on his skin suprising him with the heat of his armour and fur collar lifted from him. As he did, a thought sprung to his mind: he would need to assume a new identity. Thinking strategically, Reinhardt devised a plan.

Stepping onto the sidewalk, he turned and looked at the passersby. If, thought Reinhardt, he would assume the identity, just for this one occasion, of an undercover policeman and ask the name of one townsperson, he would not only be able to assume a common name, but he would spread the word as well. Silently, he grabbed the shoulder of a man walking by.

"Sir!" he gruffly exclaimed.

"What do you want?" came the surprised reply.

"Police. There's been an explosion in the Laboratory District, and we must question all identities. What is your name?"

"Ma--Matthew Carolee. Now let me go!"

"Yes, you're free to go." As he retreated to a silent area, Reinhardt smirked as he formulated his ideas. Ducking into a secluded alley, he fingered his brooch and tuned in to his fellow conspirator once more.

"I've assumed a disguise, milady. What other matters may I concern myself with?"

"Excellent work. Now, may I just--"

"Hold your tongue a moment. If it concerns anyone, let it be known that my name is Matthew Vanhart."

Re: The Great Belligerency [Round 2: New Shambhala]
Originally posted on MSPA by slipsicle.

Reserve, if I may be so bold.
Re: The Great Belligerency [Round 2: New Shambhala]
Originally posted on MSPA by Wojjan.

quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur.
Re: The Great Belligerency [Round 2: New Shambhala]
Originally posted on MSPA by slipsicle.