The Most Present
Joined: Jul 2011
Location: North America
Originally posted on MSPA
"You wound me," Scofflaw replied, clasping a hand to his chest in mock anguish. "My only plans were to wander around this facility with my feathered compatriot here and regale him with tales of my past escapades!" As he spewed his exaggerated excuses at the unimpressed Leviath, he took a slow, experimental step to one side. He decided against taking a second when a shower of plasma-cutter sparks hit the floor at his feet.
"He's telling the truth!" barked Kerak, taking a sharp step toward the Leviath. "He was going to tell me all about the things he's done, and-" He cut himself off when Murdoch jabbed his wand in his general direction.
"Let's keep this civil for now," the magician said, "no one needs to move anywhere." At another gesture, the Deinonychus took a reluctant step back, deciding cooperation might be best for the moment.
Scofflaw crossed his arms, shifting his posture to something more acerbic than threatened. "So we're just going to stand here until another contestant comes around and picks someone off from behind, then?" The bastard, of course, had no intention of just standing around. He'd shifted his weight to one foot, leaving the other ready to kick off his shoe squarely at the magician. The detonator pullcord in the opposite armpit was just a few inches away from his thumb, leaving him in a prime position to act and the magician in a prime position to get his luminous face blasted off.
"I want to hear all sides of this story," Murdoch said, impatience beginning to tint his words, "and intil we reach an agreement, no one-" He shot each of them a glare, including Tengeri. "-makes any moves. Clear?", waving his wand back and forth between the others.
"Clear," echoed both Kerak and the Saint. After a moment's wait and a pointed look from the Varalica, Tengeri added a "clear" as well.
"Good. Now, Kerak, let's start from you. Just take it from the top."
Kerak shifted a bit and put on his best storytelling voice. This was his domain, and he wasn't about to let a chance go to waste. "When first I found myself no longer bound to the earth, I delighted in the vast array of sensations laid before me..."
TinTen, from his vantage point atop his compatriot, saw the scene in the generator room first. Enough sand had spilled out when Velobo had opened the desert room's door that it wouldn't close on its own, and through the substantial gap, the Meipi could see the group clearly enough. The noise of the repaired Unity generator was loud enough that the dinosaur's words were drowned out easily, but TinTen didn't need to hear anything to recognize the obvious signs of a standoff.
"Stop here," he said, gripping one of Huebert's shoulders as best he could. "Move out of sight."
Huebert had noticed the confrontation taking place just a few moments after TinTen, and he willingly complied, moving to one side. Of course, he didn't just stand there- he brought the business end of the plasma projector to bear on the door, ready to give anyone who came through a first-hand experience in the dangers of ionized gases.
Velobo, walking to one side of the pair, hadn't gotten the same view out the door and had no idea what was happening. Addressing the more tactically-minded of his companions, the Plazmuth asked, "What's wrong, what's out there?"
"Standoff situation," TinTen replied, already busily flipping though pages. "Four other contestants."
"Four? So much for 'couldn't be more than two of them.'"
As much as was possible, Velobo bristled. "So an unusual circumstance brought more of them together than I expected, it's not a big problem. It's more the whole 'standoff situation' that could be the issue- we don't know much about these people, so we can't accurately judge how they will react to any move we make. At this point, the best plan is to either wait until they've worked it out for themselves or just move on to somewhere else. Going in there now would be a mistake."
"No." TinTen snapped his book shut and turned his gaze to the Plazmuth. "Should mediate."
"W-what? You want us to barge in on a standoff with no idea what'll set it off?! What makes you think that is at all a good idea?!"
"Journeying from Reyomna, KanDen observed two groups at odds."
Velobo looked about to respond, but Huebert warned him off with a frown and a gesture. The Plazmuth was smart enough to stifle his questions.
"Could have left alone," TinTen continued. "Instead, chose to approach. Through discussion, accord was reached and all went on to Jeyoibi as one, steps blessed."
It was a moment before Velobo spoke, his tone incredulous. "So you're saying that it's a good idea because it happened once in that story-"
Huebert cut him off. "Look, I may not know much about Ten's religious beliefs," he said, pointedly emphasizing the last two words, "but he's got a good idea. If we can defuse the situation and walk off together, there'd be seven of us up against the Fool. We might stand a decent chance of getting out of this if that many of us stood up to him."
"If we had any way of getting to him, maybe. Do you see him anywhere around here? Did you see a door marked 'Weird Empty Non-Place' and just haven't gotten around to telling me yet?"
"No, but will likely see him again. Dramatic persona suggests he cares about appearance, will likely show himself often."
Velobo drew in a breath to continue arguing, thought better of it, and just let it out in a long sigh. His razor-sharp analytical intellect was telling him he wasn't going to win this argument, so he decided to just go along with them and make the best of it.
"Alright, lead the way. Just don't be surprised if it all falls apart."
"Noted. Huebert, ready to proceed?"
"Away we go," the big man agreed, moving forward and pushing his way though the door. Not terribly enthusiastically, Velobo followed, doing his best to keep the barbarian's considerable bulk between him and whatever weapons there might be. May as well hold on to whatever tactical advantage he could.
"...Wholly trapped by the not-inconsiderable weight I was bringing to bear on his torso." Kerak's story hadn't gone very far. His storytelling skills were phenomenal, to be sure- he'd decided that this story should be laced with descriptives and qualifiers galore, garnishing every phrase with a bounty of comparisons and crafting a story resplendent in its loquacious glory.
Tengeri's long-range sensors weren't picking much up, given how close she was to the generator, so it was her motion detectors that actually picked up Huebert's appearance for her. She was notified almost immediately when he came through the door, and she whipped around to face him, bringing the plasma cutter and one hand to bear. (The other hand and the spike remained trained pointedly at Scofflaw.)
"Are peaceful," TinTen said, waiting until they were close enough to be heard. "No need for defensive action."
"then why is mr. henderson brandishing his weapon?"
"Oh, it's just in case," Huebert replied. "D'you want me to walk into a situation like this empty-handed?" His tone was joking and casual, and he managed to do a far better job of convincing the others that they weren't there for a fight than TinTen had.
Murdoch spared the newcomers a glance, then returned to watching Scofflaw and Kerak. "Makes sense. So what do you want, then? I can't imagine you came out here for a nice chat."
TinTen explained. "Willingness to converse indicates your intent is not immediate murder of all others. Decided to pursue diplomacy."
Scofflaw, who had shifted just far enough to slide his thumb through the loop of the detonator, spoke up. "Well, now might not be the best time. These two were busy threatening Kerak and I with bodily harm if we so much as moved, and you wouldn't want to interrupt that, would you?"
"You look me in the eye and tell me we're not justified in being careful around you," Murdoch snapped.
"What have I done to make you so suspicious of me?" He shifted a bit, putting just a bit of weight on the ball of his off foot and sliding his heel out of his shoe, an act which primed the sole and prepared him to kick. "Name one thing I've done that makes you think I'm a threat to you."
"The Fool outright told us that you can't be trusted," Murdoch shot back, "and based on what I've seen, I'm inclined to believe him!"
"What, you're going to trust the man who dragged you here to fight to your death without even giving me a chance? Sounds like I'm not the only bastard around here."
Amid all the negotiations and diplomacy, no one noticed the door open up on the catwalks above. Similarly, they didn't notice the two who walked through it, one before the other.
Tor, coming through first, had expected to come in to a room filled with the sounds of a dying machine and see the generator in its final throes of life, coughing up bits of steel and plastic as it tore itself to bits. Seeing it running smoothly threw him for a loop, and it took him a moment to gather himself.
"Well, seems you need a bit more faith in your friends, Mr. Kajan." Jorgensaard came up beside Tor and clapped him on the shoulder. "They've done quite the job here- nothing I couldn't've done myself, certainly, but definitely impressive."
"Um. Yes, definitely that." Tor panned his eyes around the room, saw the rather large group down at floor-level, and frowned. He couldn't hear what any of them were saying, but their body language told him everything he needed to know- Scofflaw was antagonizing Murdoch, and the Telpori-Hal just knew that there was no reason he'd do that without having a plan for it.
Biting back a curse, he turned to the plant's manager. "We need to get down to them," he said, urgent tone urgent without being panicked. "What's the fastest way from here?"
Jorgensaard chuckled, casually swinging his wrench to bear. "Ohh no, you're not getting away from me that easily. We still have business to attend to, and I'm not about to let you leave."
Tor was again caught off-guard. "Could we perhaps delay or expedite that, then?", he asked, his business instincts taking over. "It's rather urgent that I go defuse a situation, so any way we can both get what we want would be welcome."
"Alright," the other man replied, "I'm willing to make this quick. Just pay me for those rations you destroyed and you can be on your way."
Tor blinked, his brain caught up, and he swore under his breath. "The crates, right. Well, that's going to be difficult, seeing as I'm quite a long way from any of my funds."
"And even if you could access them, I doubt there's an established exchange rate, of course. I suspected as much, so I'm willing to make an alternate deal."
Tor didn't quite like the sound of the other man's tone. Warily, he replied, "What would that be, then?"
"It's quite simple. In order to purchase those rations, I spent the equivalent of three days of my own pay. I'm willing to let you work at the same pay rate in order to pay them off."
Tor blinked. "I don't have three days," he replied slowly. "I'm liable to be dragged off to another world at any time based on the whims of the being who brought us here. This means I have no means of paying you back either way, and attempting to extract any form of labour out of me for the short time I'm here would likely take more time than it would be worth."
"Tell me, do you know just how long you'll be here?"
"No, but I can't imagine it'll be-."
Jorgensaard stepped forward as he cut him off. "Do you know just when he'll be plucking you out of this world and sweeping you all to the next?"
"Do you even know the slightest thing about his motivations or thought processes?"
"A few general things, but nothing-"
"Then can you definitively rule out the possibility that he intends to leave you in each place for years at a time?"
"No, I suppose not, but it seems-"
"Then I'm willing to take the risk. If it turns out you are snatched away in five minutes' time, so be it. I still intend to get what work I can from you."
Elsewhere in the facility, Benjamin, who had been running through the halls in an effort to put distance between himself and the plant's head, found himself facing a bit of a problem.
Quite simply, he'd run out of hall. All of the corridors on this level (whichever it was) were turning back in the other direction at this point, and he had no desire to go that way. All the stairwells he'd encountered were too small for him to really use. There was one elevator in the building, but it was out of order (apparently "due to personal issues," whatever that meant).
His next option, he decided, was to try some of the rooms on the floor. He'd poked his overly-long nose into some of them as he'd passed, and none had seemed terribly helpful. A lab here, a closet there, nothing that was a means of escape. Hopefully, he thought, a more thorough examination would yield something of use.
The first door he tried was a closet, and he didn't bother investigating it very much. The second door was some sort of storage, and he poked around a bit before deciding nothing in there would help. The third door, a research lab of some sort, was exactly what he'd been looking for. The ceiling of the room was partially open, letting in crisp, cool air and warm, inviting sunlight. Hurriedly, Jetsam made for the hole.
He neglected to pay much attention to the research in question in doing so, however, and simply walked across the black-and-yellow stripes on the floor. A few steps in, a metallic scale shorted a few exposed wires, and the pangolin simply vanished.
At the sudden jerking motion, Jetsam's body's reflexes kicked in, curling him up into a tight, metal-lined ball. He could feel air whooshing by him, and something told him he'd be better off staying curled up for the moment.
About when the wind began to stop, a pair of feelings suddenly made themselves known. First, a sense of weightlessness, and second, a sense of rightness- there was no more Unity field telling him that he really shouldn't be there and could he please move along. It was nice to be out of it, and he stretched out luxuriously and enjoyed it.
As part of stretching out, he uncovered his eyes and looked around at just where he was. As he did so, the feeling of weightlessness slipped away and the wind began to return.
The sight of the Unity plant directly below him was not a comforting one, and it was made even less so by the rate at which he was accelerating back down towards it.
Benjamin decided to curl back up again for a bit. Not long after, he crashed through one thing and into another.
A great number of things happened at once.
The first, a giant, balled-up pangolin crashing through the ceiling and into the Unity generator, was the doing of Chaos. A light push had been all it had taken to redirect the ballistic anteater square into the center of the Unity field instead of back down into the kinetic energy research lab it would have otherwise fallen back into (and through). Quite spectacularly, it had sent its impromptu demolitionist tearing through machinery, burying itself deep in the machine are crashing through innumerable essential systems on its way.
The generator quite simply couldn't take that, and in a turn for the undramatic, it simply stopped going. It didn't have the mechanism left to manage even giving a few extra rattles or grinding to a grim, clanking halt. Once it'd taken a pangolin to the innards, it just gave up and died, taking its protective shell with it.
Delighted, Chaos surged back into the space it had been barred from for ages, moving in with enough speed and force to cause a sonic boom. (The population of blue hedgehogs quickly stabilized, fortunately, and they managed to spread their food supplies thin enough to feed every one of the new children.) Through the hole in the ceiling flew all sorts of beings of Chaos- a flock obstinate blackbirds, several tiny squads of fashion accessories, paratrooping sandwiches, and dozens of other impossible and ridiculous creatures poured into the room, intent on simply wreaking some long-denied havoc.
The cloud of sudden absurdities was just what Scofflaw had been waiting for, and, free from the watchful eyes of practically everyone in the room, he kicked off his shoe. It flew directly at where Murdoch's face had been, and were it not for the sudden influx of chaos that sent the floor dipping wildly to one side and the magician tumbling down with it, it would've smacked into its target and exploded spectacularly.
As it was, it flew a fair ways across the room and detonated just before it hit a large, metal cabinet. It was still a sizable explosion, to be sure, and the contents of the cabinet (which apparently included a number of flammable or explosive chemicals) certainly helped make the distraction all the more distracting, but when the entire room was suddenly a teeming mass of angry and vengeful beings of Chaos, distractions weren't exactly rare. It wasn't likely that anyone even noticed it, given that they were all dealing with their own particular issues.
Huebert, for instance, was too busy spraying plasma at a group of trim, svelte, and menacing-looking walruses that were advancing toward him. Jorgensaard, having frozen for a moment at the shock of having his pride and joy demolished almost instantly, had started shouting formlessly and loosing blasts of Unity and Chaos around the room at whatever caught his eye. Tor, deciding that the plant's operator wasn't the best person to be near, had taken the chance to get moving while Jorgensaard was stunned, hurrying to the closest ladder and starting down as quickly as he could.
And while the room exploded in a hectic flurry of confusion and Chaos, in a tiny island of peace in the middle of everything, Benjamin Jetsam pondered how sore he was after smashing through whatever it was he'd hit.