The Phenomenal Fracas (GBS2G6) [Round Five: The Ambitus Phenomenon]

The Phenomenal Fracas (GBS2G6) [Round Five: The Ambitus Phenomenon]
Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Two: Witch's Haunt]
Originally posted on MSPA by Not The Author.

Under other circumstances, the phrase “when Miq regained consciousness” might be found here, as falling three-or-so stories generally tends to send people into unconsciousness. The key word there is people, a category to which mimics do not conform. An artificial construct designed to guard valuables that can fall unconscious is not a very good guard, after all.

Instead, she’d been lead around the garden by The Voice. The Voice originated about four feet over the mimic and slightly to the left. Miq might’ve considered the absence of something that might cause The Voice odd, but she figured it was a ghost or something, and was more interested in the things The Voice was describing anyway.

If Miq had ever taken a guided tour, she’d likely liken The Voice to an easily distracted tour guide. These are the flowerbeds, aren’t they growing nicely? Ooh, these ones look a bit sickly, might have to prune them. Ah, my tulips! Took ages to grow, but look at them now! I think I’ll send them in to that floral contest, ooh, what was it called again? … And this is the orchard. Costs much less growing your own fruit than buying it, turns out. We’ve even got pomegranates, can you believe that? Gwrfn actually went all the way to India, plucked the originals from the trees himself! Cost us a fair bit, but we’ll never have to buy another now. … Over here… is our pet cemetery. All our little loved ones are buried here. Even the fish, ha! I’d… rather not linger. You understand. … Now then, if you’ll step to your left a bit, there’s a giant snake falling from the sky.

A meaty thump heralded the serpent’s arrival. While he miraculously managed to avoid crushing any rare flora, the indigo blood dribbling from his lack-of-torso wasn’t helping the garden’s aesthetics. One of the serpent’s arms was bent around the wrong way, pinned beneath his own bulk. A spark of recognition flickered through the mimic’s mind, and her natural curiosity got the better of her despite The Voice’s vehement protests.


Subject 384 entered the dark, empty room at Dr. Hikaru's bequest, the door sealing shut behind him. After a minute or so, the opposing steel door hissed open, revealing a man, dressed entirely in red, his face masked by a helmet, being led in by two armed security guards. The doctor's voice echoed through 384's head: "As you know, Subject 384, you will be sent to war tomorrow. No more of our training sessions, no more of the medical study... don't you miss it already?" The serpent cringed at the mention of the latter; vivisections were not exactly his idea of a good time. "But I have one final task for you. This man – no, this pitiful excuse for a man is a soldier of our enemies, the very same forces you will be decimating soon. Your final task is to kill him. I don't care how you do it, I'm sure you know a lot of ways to kill a man by now. Remember, he is the enemy. I trust you will be able to do this, 384. Hikaru out."

Subject 384 was confused by his new orders. Kill? Three months of training, and he had never been asked to do such a thing. And now, against a seemingly defenseless target. Well... he knows what he's talking about. Guess I should get it over with. The serpent projected a portal directly above the man, placing another just to the side. Without hesitation, he shifted the portal down over the man, stopping at his midsection and instantly dispelling it, slicing him cleanly in half and killing him instantly. "Very good, 384... Very good indeed... Syvex..."



Syvex was jostled back into consciousness, finding himself right next to another shadow serpent, in a dark forest. "You okay, Syvex?"

Then he awoke to the blinding light of the manor.

"Hey, snakething! You okay?"

“Nnng… What the… Miq…?”

“Oh oh oh! Hiiiiiiii snakething!”

Lifting his head from the ground, Syvex was vaguely aware that something was wrong. He was lying at an awkward angle underneath a tree. Tree… he remembered something about trees, but that wasn’t it. Miq stared at him – despite her new chassis, her jagged grin and excited tone were unmistakable. She was stained with some purple fluid Syvex didn’t immediately recognize. One of his arms was broken, but his regeneration could fix that up quickly enough. Or, it could have, had the omnipresent glare not defied the existence of shade beneath a tree. There was a woman made of glowing, flickering lines glaring at him, but while she was odd, he felt that she wasn't quite the problem he was trying to recall. His midsection felt full of pins and needles- wait. Glowing lady?

“Oh… Another ghost…? Don’t tell me… you’re possessed too, Miq…?”

The lady blinked in surprise.
“Oh! You’re not?”

“No, I… I don’t think I am… Vision’s a bit weird, but… I’m not as crazy as… some of the others.” His breath came out in a ragged wheeze, blood lathering his tongue. Why was he coughing up blood? A broken arm wasn’t that bad, especially when he had five more. Maybe it had something to with that feeling in his chest. “Who’re you, then?”

“I’m Fwrn. Pleased to meet you.”

“…Odd name.”

“Perhaps for… serpents, it’s odd, but among the race of men, Nrngl is fairly common.”

“Wait, so… is it Nrngl… or Fwrn?”

“…What are you- Oh! Of course, silly me… Mother will do, I suppose.”

Her gaze flicked down the length of his body, lingering around the cut- oh, duh! He’d been cut in half. That was it. “Syvex. …You don’t seem as… crazy as the… other ghosts I’ve met.”

“Yes, I fear they’re not quite in their right minds. I was the first to die- well, after L… ah, Daughter- so I didn’t go quite as mad. ...I hope.” Wait, he was bisected? When had that happened? Oh, right, he’d fallen through a closing portal. “Of course, the magical training probably helped some.”

“You know magic?

“Well, not as such. Nothing that would help; Daughter had all the arcane talent. Even in death, she…” ‘Mother’ lowered her eyes. “I… I’m sorry, it’s… still painful to recall, even after all this time.”

Syvex pushed himself upright. Blood still trickled from the stump where his tail had been, but some minor remnant of his regenerative ability had stagnated the flow. “Alright, alright.” He gestured at the house. “So what’s with the… doors going everywhere?”

The apparition grimaced.
“You tried to go in the basement, then.”

“How did you…?“ But she wasn’t looking at him anymore.

“The Malevolence. That’s only an approximate translation of its name, mind, but a terribly accurate one. It is a vile, powerful demon, sealed away for two centuries beneath the grounds of this manor. Once, a venerable order of magi maintained its prison, but as magic passed into myth, their numbers dwindled. You’ve already seen what it can do when merely reaching through the bars of its cage. I’m… not actually sure the extent of this demon’s power, but nothing good will come of its freedom.”

A thought seemed to strike her. “It’s not free already, is it? It didn’t do this to you, did it?”

“Do…?” At which point the reality of Syvex’s injury registered consciously. “…Oh.”

deep violet globule of bloody spittle splattered on the green grass. The brown tree and leafy canopy suddenly seemed to loom threateningly over him. The brilliant flickering construct of vectors that was Mother gazed at him sadly, as though she knew he wouldn’t survive the injury. Miq… just stood there grinning. It was sort of unnerving.

“No, that was… my own fault, I think. I… need to go see someone to get... that... fixed. Hopefully. Thanks for the info, Mother.”

“You’re sure? Well, ah, take care.”

Syvex flopped over onto what was left of his his belly, leaving a trail of thick purple blood in his wake. He fervently hoped Riko hadn’t yet succumbed to the voices in his head.


“Odd fellow, but pleasant enough. I don’t know how he’s still alive… Ah well. Come along, Miq; if the house has come under the demon’s influence, we don’t have much time.”

They’d been traveling towards a large green structure near the edge of the gardens for some time. The chest didn’t recognize it immediately; she had encountered such structures only rarely when her travels took her to more opulent locales. The answer struck her as they approached the obvious stone arch of the structure’s entrance. “Hedge maze!”

“Mm-hm. Guests used to love it, when we still had any over. Of course, few of them managed to find their way out without assistance, ha.” Under the guidance of The Voice, Miq ambled her way through the maze without much trouble. Coming from a predominantly magitechnical world, the greenery was a pleasant change of scenery for her. She wasn’t unduly worried that she didn’t know where she was going; Mother seemed confident enough, and despite the apparition’s urgent tone, Miq wasn’t really in any rush to get anywhere.

Then she ran into a dead end.

“…Then take a left at the next junct- oh. Odd, I could have sworn this was the right way. I had this place memorized as a child; helped ever so much in hide and seek… Hmm. Turn back, I may have taken a wrong turn somewhere…”

There was a door behind them.

The mimic’s curiosity instantly took over. She was aware that doors didn’t usually spring up in the middle of the wilderness but it was that very fact that made her want to go through it. Mother grew increasingly agitated as she approached, warning not to go in, even resorting to impossible threats of violence. But telling someone who wants to do something not to do that thing only serves to make them want to do the thing more. Undaunted, Miq nudged open the door.

It opened to a lit fireplace.

Touching fire is a Bad Thing for any organism, but this particular organism was currently made of old, dry wood, and was fairly simple-minded. Upon being confronted with a mysterious door that seemed to her to be trying to kill her, she took the only logical course of action and panicked. Had she bothered to watch her surroundings as she crashed through the hedges, she would have noticed the paths of the maze blending into other parts of the grounds which should not have existed there under the rules of Euclidean space-time. She only gave enough thought to the warped paths to curve out of their way, pushing through leafy barriers in an attempt to escape the scary doors.

Then she burst into a clearing and ran into a wall.

At the center of the maze – at least, Miq assumed it was the center – lay a homely wooden shack, weathered with age but not yet falling apart. The door hung slightly ajar, and Mother assured her that this place was supposed to be part of the maze, so the mimic let herself in. “We should be safe in here, assuming the shield spells still work. Mn- ah, right… Grandmother put them in place, so they may have faded since…”

The interior of the shack resembled an amateur chemist’s laboratory set up in a kitchen. There was a sink, an oven, a cupboard, a flowerbed, an icebox, and a few contraptions Miq couldn’t quite place. Glass tubes snaked around each other like some sleeping hydra, prepped to vomit chemicals into a waiting beaker. The air was thick with the scent of various herbs and flowers, a few freshly crushed flora of indeterminate origin preserved eternally in the mortar on the counter.

“I’m not- rather, I wasn’t any good at spellcasting, but I was a fair hand at alchemy. Open that cabinet over there; it’s been a while and I don’t quite recall...”

Mother paused, visibly paling. The apparition flickered, arcane lines composing its form distorting and fading. Of course, Miq was unable to perceive this; her only cue that something was wrong was the last phrase mother managed before winking out of existence entirely: “Oh, hell.”


There was, of course, no response.

Unsure of what to do, the mimic shrugged and popped open the previously indicated cupboard. Within lay about a dozen vials and flasks; less than half held any contents. Miq took them all; glass was nearly as enticing as legitimately precious minerals to mimics, a species-wide design flaw that had never quite been corrected. Rooting around the rest of the room, she acquired a pair of fish (from the icebox, kinda funny-tasting but still good), five more vials (three from the icebox, two from the floor), a clove of garlic (hanging from a string, went well with the fish), and a wicked-looking knife (embedded in the countertop, rather ornate). Having little space left for anything else, and satisfied with her meal despite having to leave behind a whole chicken, she left the shack and wound up

in the foyer. She wasn’t unduly worried by this apparent impossibility; she’d not been in the manor proper yet and wished to divine its secrets. This room was inherently uninteresting; despite a lone mirror there wasn’t much shininess to hold Miq’s attention. She wandered down the hallway, barging through the first double-doors she came across

and launching herself out of the chimney.

“Hi, Scarfy!”


But the mimic was already gone, pulled by gravity

through a pair of hallway doors

and out a kitchen cupboard.

Now she was starting to freak out a little. Miq was pretty certain that things, in general, were not supposed to be quite so disorienting. She was starting to wonder where everyone was, for that matter; houses as big as this – at least, she assumed she was in the big house she’d seen before – usually had several occupants. She figured she’d wander around until she found someone to ask what was going on.

She went to open the kitchen door and ran straight into one very bewildered scientist.

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Two: Witch's Haunt]
Originally posted on MSPA by Anomaly.

D...Dammit. Finch... do me a favor and don't get yourself killed. Please... Then again... Maybe I should be worrying about myself. Syvex dragged himself along with his multitude of arms (except the one that had been smashed to pieces), trailing black ichor from his very-slowly-regenerating bisection wound. He was going lightheaded from blood loss; the intense sunlight was inhibiting even simple blood generation. He was possibly closer to death than he had ever been. He only needed darkness. But he dared not go back in the house - after all, whatever malevolent force inhabited the house had been the cause of this. There was only one option left for Syvex.

The lake.

Syvex pushed onward, looking akin to some sort of awkward snake-insect as he made his way to the lake. The voices, the ghosts... none of it mattered with the overbearing threat of death. Should've never tried to go to the basement... What was I thinking? 'Hmm, the door led outside of the house! Let's try going in anyway!' Such an... id...iot... Syvex was quickly losing focus, but at this point, it didn't matter. He stood at the edge of the lakebed, and without a second thought, took a deep breath and clambered into the water. Soon, sweet darkness once again enveloped him, rejuvenated him. He felt his wounds seal themselves shut as the lower half of his body slowly wove itself together, a near-perfect replication. Maybe it wasn't the same as before - he might have gained a foot or two from such major regeneration - but it didn't matter. The dark depths of the lake invited him, protected him, <font color="red">never leave stay forever the depths forever eternally ours eternally
what was that.

Maybe it's not the best idea to stay down here. I'm not bleeding to death anymore, surely it's not that big of a problem. Maybe I can find Sandman, kill him before anything worse happens. Syvex propelled himself at a much faster rate back to the surface of the water, back into the bright, scorching, blinding, horrid sunlight. Actually, it didn't seem nearly as bright as he remembered it. And therein lay the problem.

Clouds were gathering in the sky above. A non-colorblind observer (Syvex noted that the colors which so tormented him had all but disappeared) might have noticed the subtle red shading of the clouds, as well as the very obvious color of decay spreading through the grounds. The latter even Syvex could see; not because of the colors, but because of the rather obvious red foam of desolation pouring in all directions, killing all plantlife it came in contact with. That... probably isn't good. Someone must've done something that went horribly wrong.</font>

- - - - - - - - - -

The Malevolence was at its most powerful since it was summoned to this realm, centuries ago... First the Order, then this family had held it back for generations, rendering it unable to devour this world, this tiny, weak world, all its! All for the taking... No one could stop it now that Lily was gone. Lily was no more than a puppet of the Malevolence now. The long line had come to an end. And now... Now the Malevolence could deal with these intruders. Not just the one, what good would one small man do for it? These contestants... They flowed with a power unseen in centuries, perhaps unseen on this world. They would be absorbed, devoured, their spirits made puppets of the Malevolence. The grounds were its plaything, it could control the spirits more powerfully than ever before.

And so it would lead them to the basement.

- - - - - - - - - -

Syvex made his way back toward the manor, growing increasingly unnerved by the foamy liquid which relentless crept across the ground, seeping into everything it could find. He had already made up his mind - he would have to find Eureka, and that meant delving into the house once more. Despite all the chaos pouring out of it, trickling steadily through the grounds and beyond, he couldn't leave her to die from whatever horrors no doubt lay within. Steeling himself, he charged the front door and swiftly threw it open, finding it to only lead into the bottom of the lake. Instantly, the water began gushing out, preventing Syvex from pushing it closed again. A rapidly-flowing stream rushed down the path and across the grounds, finding its way back to the lake again and forming some sort of odd infinite loop.

On a whim, Syvex broke a window and climbed through, finding himself in the same pantry he had first tried to enter the basement from, just before the laws of physics stopped working correctly. The key difference was, it was much larger and much more labyrinthine than he had remembered. Shelves trailed off and twisted in intricate, chaotic patterns, while their contents spiralled in directions which didn't even exist. The door had managed to wedge itself upside-down in the ceiling, which was much higher than should have ever been possible. Syvex sighed, then rapidly climbed up the distorted shelves and lifted himself through the misplaced door.

Syvex next found himself in an old bedroom, relatively intact given the circumstances. Nevertheless, he still had to
keep the demon sealed yes that was always her purpose he needed to stop it before it could destroy the world destroy everything she was the only one that could stop it stop the malevolence no, no, shut up, find Finch! Syvex fell to the ground, clutching his head in pain. N-nno, arrgh, wha-- stop the malevolence you must we must the Order has fallen-- What are you talking about I'm going crazy again arghgh--! As Syvex lay helpless on the ground, his mind tormented by the spirit, the carpet curved up and closed around him, as the Malevolence dragged him down to meet his fate...

- - - - - - - - - -

Tamerlane stumbled through the halls of the manor in a daze. His encounter with the scientist and the pirate had only served to further his ire, and now the doors of the manor seemingly led into the wrong rooms. The sand mage headed for the front door and wound up in a fancy dining hall; checking the cabinets revealed some sort of storage shed. I don't have time for this! I need to find the snake and kill it! It could take me on when I was weak, but now... Now it dies! Tamerlane continued to tear through the manor, angrily smashing wine glasses and priceless vases alike, desperately searching for the one who had so plagued him.

And the manor's distortion seemed to be growing worse. The rooms themselves rapidly began to lose structure, blending with other rooms, twisting and turning through the ether, ignoring every known convention of physics and logic. A large, inside-out bed, lodged halfway through a floor which further along became a ceiling. A chandelier which hung from the floor and whose lights spiralled off into nothingness. And soon, Tamerlane opened a door and found it led into a simple hallway - one which stretched as far as the eye could see and then some. Tamerlane broke into a frenzied dash down the hall, for reasons he didn't even know for sure. All he knew was that union comes reunion is coming everything comes to an end it's all the end for all of us.
Tamerlane disregarded the voice in his head as it grew louder and louder, more and more overbearing.

Eventually, Tamerlane could no longer resist. He was no longer in control of his own body; simply a passenger locked deep in the mind. He could only watch in horror as the floor began to split apart behind him, an infinite void beneath the unending floor. The voice of insanity continued to gibber inexorably, controlling his every action. Eventually, this spirit simply decided to stop altogether, causing the sand mage to slip through the cracks and fall into the darkness.

- - - - - - - - - -

Oh so now you've got even more problems of your own is that it?

It's more important than you can imagine.

Can you just tell me something that makes sense for once?

Do you think this house is rearranging itself on its own?

I - what?

You've gotten entangled in our affair. It was none of your concern.

Dammit, it's my concern now that you've possessed me and honestly we probably won't be staying much longer anyway.

No, I beli-iei-ievvvee thaaat you will stay forever stay with us forever join us yes join us Eureka Finch join us join us JOIN US

Eureka slowly rose to her feet against her will, seemingly trying to supress her every action but failing miserably. With large, unnatural steps, she began plodding across the roof, unable to control her own body but still perfectly aware of everything that was happening including some red mist pouring out of the house wait what is that. Eureka took a sharp turn and began walking straight for the edge of the roof, looking out over the quickly-decaying grounds as the sky grew darker and darker. That red mist looked like it could kill her easily and oh god you aren't seriously jumping into that are you oh god.

Eureka flung herself from the roof of the manor, managing to let out a half-silenced scream as she descended to the ground.... Through the ground... Eureka found herself falling through a distorted series of rooms from the manor, all connected together in an impossible mess of a vertical tunnel.
Soon the walls of the tunnel turned into nothing but an endless stretch of doors, opening in series with deafening, resounding slams as she passed them. They began peeling from the walls, falling through the air at her as she could only watch in horror. She turned mid-fall to face downward, only to see a door open below her before she fell into the darkness...

- - - - - - - - - -

"Hi, scientist guy!"

"I... what?"

"Hey, this place is pretty confusing and do you know what's going on because I think I'm lost."

"...I, um... no?"

"Okay then, bye, science guy!"

Before the scientist could even register what had just happened, the sentient treasure chest traipsed off into the manor, perhaps to search for someone who knew what was going on, perhaps just because she was easily distracted. Regardless of her motivation or lack thereof, she barged through a random door only to end up falling over an edge before gravity suddenly pulled her to the wall of a strangely-oriented room. Strangely-oriented in that the room was upside down, yet gravity seemed to ignore logic and just stuck things to the nearest surface instead.

"Hey! Mother! Where'd you go?"

As if on cue, the familiar voice returned once more. "H...hello, Miq. P-please, get away from here while you still can... If you join us join ussss can. It--it haa--as... all of us join us all shall--has us under control. G...get away."

"O...kay then, Mother."

Miq started toward the door, only for it to slide to the side just before she could enter. Annoyed, she turned and tried to enter the door again, noting with dismay that it slid down the wall (which was the floor) and up the floor (which was the wall). Miq trundled down the wall and came to the edge of the floor, immediately flipping planes of gravity and landing on her front side. After a moment of disorientation she righted herself and continued chasing the door, which defiantly disintegrated into nothingness. Mother, her voice distorting and fluctuating rapidly, spoke up again.

"I--iiii'm S...sooOOrry..."

The apparition held out its hands in an extremely unnatural motion, as if manipulated by a shoddy puppeteer. Miq's shell - the wooden chest - began to vibrate slowly, gradually growing into a violent shake before exploding into tiny fragments of wood. The Organ, completely unscathed in spite of this, was instantaneously lifted into the air and subsequently plunged into a black void...

- - - - - - - - - -

Riko watched in perplexion as the mobile treasure chest waddled down the hall before disappearing into a door. Not wanting to stay outside with the growing storms and the red mist, he followed Miq's path, going so far as to open the door that had just slammed shut behind her. Instead of finding a room, though, what the scientist found was nothing. Reality itself simply ended at that door; an infinite emptiness was all that awaited beyond.

Unfortunately for him, the door opened inward. In an instant, he lost his footing and stumbled over the edge of the abyss, kept from falling into the abyss only by a doorknob. For a moment, the scientist stared into infinity, shocked and terrified for his own life. Worse, his fingers were slipping, slowly but steadily. If he didn't find a way to climb back up to the inexplicably floating doorframe, that would be the end of him. At least the father had momentarily silenced himself, leaving Riko able to think clearly for once. And it was at that point that he remembered exactly what powers his own vials had temporarily granted him.

Just before he lost his grip, Riko swung his feet up and drove them into the knob on each side of the door, stabilizing himself (albeit upside-down) via magnetism. He then strained to reach back to the doorframe before taking hold and pulling the door back slightly. The scientist then took hold of the top of the frame, pulled his feet from the knobs and swung himself into the safety of the hallway. He collapsed to the ground, breathing heavily, horrified by his near-death experience.
It was as he was picking himself back up that Father decided to become much more vocal.

"come with us riko join us become one riko join us forget what i saw join join joooiinnnnn"

The sudden psychic assault knocked Riko back to the ground, causing him to topple back out of the door, and into the abyss he had so earnestly tried to avoid...

- - - - - - - - - -

Ripper watched aghast as the Malevolence twisted the girl's form into a pale shadow of what it was just minutes before. That... abominable thing, that mockery of humanity, lurched slowly forward, limbs bending at impossible angles as she... it strutted toward the pirate. Bloody hell, need to get away from this thrice-damned demon! Reducing little girls to this - probably responsible for the house too... Ripper started to run, only to find that the ground beneath him was very interested in going the exact opposite direction at the exact same speed. As he increased his speed, the decaying ground did as well; if he changed direction it followed suit. The remains of Lily drew closer and closer, gibbering on and on in his mind about "joining" and "saving". As the pirate was about to give up hope, he heard a distinct voice.

"Adrien. A man of God, even if a pirate, does not deserve this fate. Your journey cannot end here. Come, Adrien."

Before Adrien's eyes, an apparition of Pastor Blackwood materialized, beckoning him to come. The ground lost its treadmill-like qualities, allowing the pirate to sprint as fast as he could manage toward the manor. He flung himself through the front door, emerging in a bedroom whose contents (excepting the pirate) ignored gravity entirely, freely floating in midair.

"Th...Thank you... pastor?"

"It is no trouble, Adrien. I am Pastor Blackwood, a (former) priest of a nearby church. What is happening right now... It means that demon -- some call it the "Malevolence" -- has been released. Soon I will lose control as well. You have to stop the demon, Adrien. At least try to bring it under control. We've done all we can. Don't let it --
join us yes you must join us all shall join become join -- destroy our world. The souls of humanity are at stake. Go!"

Blackmask looked on in awe. The souls of humanity? This couldn't... no... He solemnly looked down at his vial of holy water. Could this possibly do anything? He would have to at least try, or essentially be responsible for the destruction of everything. Deep in contemplation, Blackmask didn't even notice the armoire floating above him until it dropped on him, throwing him into a black void...

- - - - - - - - - -

Muriegro watched in silence as the misshapen body of Lily slowly stalked toward the pirate before the latter managed to break free and make a run for it. The puppetesque corpse waited noiselessly, watching, unmoving, as Ripper disappeared into the manor house, before it turned around to face him. The girl's eyelids were stretched impossibly wide, her eyes rolled back into her head. A huge, uncanny smile was spread across her face, whish remained unchanged as she spoke - rather, as the Malevolence spoke through her.


Muriegro looked on, expression unchanging, as the shoddy excuse for a little girl advanced toward him. Laguja could still not detect the spirits of the house, nor could it divine precisely what force was at work on the grounds, and was rapidly spreading. It was unsure exactly how to proceed, other than "stay alive long enough for someone else to get killed", not the most favorable modus operandi due to the uncertainty involved. Laguja refocused Muriegro's attention on the girl, who had come quite close by this point.

"Stand back. You will regret going any further."

"Lily" surprisingly obliged. She grinned at Muriegro, staring with empty eyes. Her head flopped over to the side and let off a loud crack before she beganto speak again.


Instantly, the broken girl launched herself with frightening agility directly at the cultist, being redirected to the side at the last minute. Muriegro broke into a run, using vague premonitions to barely dodge the witch's constant attacks. Unfortunately, Laguja did not have enough time to adjust for the sudden appearance of a large, red hand from the lake as Muriegro leaped over the now-broken bridge. The hand dragged him down into the depths, into a black void, as Lily's voice echoed in his ears.



- - - - - - - - - -

The seven found themselves in a dark, dank room, its stone walls and wooden floors twisted and distorted in ways which challenged the rational mind. All were suspended in midair, including Miq's organ, kept alive by a mysterious force. All of their attentions were not focused on the room itself, nor were they focused on each other. The spirits had left, and the puppetmaster had entered the stage. It was now that the contestants got their first glimpse at the Malevolence. And most were horrified beyond belief.

The Malevolence lacked a physical form of its own - rather, it was entirely composed of other organisms, twisted into one nightmarish abomination. Bones - mostly human ones - jutted out at random angles. Eyes of all kinds of creatures dotted the completely random arrangement of body parts; numerous limbs stuck out uselessly from the mass. Its assortment of mouths gibbered in incomprehensible languages of utter insanity. Tentacles composed of parts of countless organisms were attached to it at every angle, and the occasional unchanged part of a recently-absorbed creature could still be seen occasionally emerging from the constantly-oscillating mass.

The contestants quickly came to the realization that they were each suspended in the air by the eldritch creature's tentacles, which were very slowly, but still noticably, bringing them closer and closer. It had become clear what had happened to the family, and was soon to happen to all of them. "Join us." Their spirits would be enslaved, bent forever to the will of the Malevolence.

But most of them were much more powerful than anything the Malevolence had ever encountered. And they weren't exactly enthusiastic about having their souls devoured. As if to prove this point, the appendage holding Muriegro suddenly tore in half, dropping him several feet to the ground. Instantly, another shot out to ensnare him, which he managed to divert away from himself as he sidestepped. It was at this point, however, that everything began to strip away, just as it had when they had left Afterparty hours before. The Malevolence dematerialized, and the spacially-confounding chamber was equally lost into the ether...

- - - - - - - - - -

From the now-familiar dark void emerged once more the features of none other than the Prestidigitator, illuminated by his pillar of light as he had been after the first round. What was strange about this, though, was that there were still seven left. The grandmaster took it upon himself to explain rather handily.

"Very nicely done, combatants. Not only did you make the laws of physics stop working, you also managed to release a soul-devourer horror on the world! But don't worry, that world was just a fabrication. It's gone now. As you have no doubt noticed by now, there are still seven of you left, despite the second round being over. For the first time in Grand Battle history, I've ended a round without a death. Because, to be frank, there's not much point if I let you all die in there."

The Prestidigitator scraped his cane across the ground, dissolving the void and replacing it with a beautiful sunlit countryside. Tree-covered hills and mountains dotted the landscape, giving an overall feeling of tranquility. The contestants looked around to find themselves on top of a large train of some sort, traveling at very high speeds. The Prestidigitator's voice echoed through the landscape.

"Welcome to the Iron Rose. This was a train constructed to traverse the world at unheard-of speeds, as well as being the largest train ever built on this world. Quaint, almost. Commuters and vacationers alike (all rather high-class, naturally) comprise the bulk of the train's occupants, and... well... I don't think they'll take all that kindly to your intrusion. Best of luck, and watch out for any... 'hidden surprises'."

The Prestidigitator's voice ceased, and the contestants prepared to continue on their way, be it killing each other or simply trying to survive (or even escape). After a scant few seconds, though, the voice came back.

"Oh, I almost forgot. After what happened last round, this round will be double elimination. No one leaves until two of you are dead this time. Good luck."

In an instant, the new stowaways were dispersed throughout the surprisingly-roomy train, to once more fight each other to the death for the amusement of a higher being.

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Two: Witch's Haunt]
Originally posted on MSPA by MalkyTop.

Okay. Okay. So basically what happened was a bunch of stuff and now she had no idea what was going on. Okay. Okay. Okay? Yeah, okay.

I hope you’re happy now, you stupid little oh wait. There was nobody there to talk to anymore. Huh. It was…weird now, after feeling a smidge too crowded inside herself for practically that whole time she had been in that mansion place thing. And without that really weird but strangely polite kid with her, she suddenly felt, well, not quite full. If that made sense. But it was still rude of him to possess her. It would have been slightly better if he had at least introduced himself first. Slightly.

Okay. Okay. Everything’s all there. Time to actually get up. Ready? Maybe. No. Not really. Okay. And up…

It wasn’t actually too hard getting up to her feet. It was hard, though, staying up on her feet rather than suddenly toppling over onto her head in a very painful manner.

Oh goddammit, she can’t do this. So now her hair and eyes were a different color and she had been electrocuted twice and forcibly possessed once and then possibly driven to insanity and back and experienced creepy icky lust for a girl that was probably like ten years old oh god don’t even think about that uuuuuugh and then something happened afterwards that she forgot or she was ignoring whichever one and the point is that it’s all over and done. All in the past. Not happening right now. So she can just forget about it and move on and not lie on the floor like a useless heap so GET UP EUREKA GET UP OKAY? OKAY.

This time she practically jumped back onto her feet and wobbled a little. At least she didn’t fall over on her butt. Now where was she.

That’s right, train. And then double kills and precedents or maybe lack thereof or something and stuff and who the hell cares. Oh man at least for some reason there was nobody else here in this car or room or some other place on the train.

Well no wonder, it’s because she was in the caboose. Nobody likes going to the caboose. Unless it’s to smoke maybe. So it was still a mystery why there was nobody here perhaps but well, nobody was here. Oh well. Not like that was a bad thing.

Eureka suddenly jumped again because it occurred to her that something felt weird when she had jumped up before though she didn’t know quite what. It was just something…off. Maybe it was the landing. Or the point when she leaped off or something.

She was really jumping around now and pretty much looking like an idiot right here in the small caboose, or rather it was a pretty large caboose for a train but in any case there was still something wrong and it was freaking annoying her how she just couldn’t figure it out no matter how often she jumped.

She finally stopped because her last jump had her slipping when she landed and hitting her head on the doorknob which really really hurt and she had to lie on the floor for a long time, blinking tears out of her eyes, the back of her head feeling incredible pain and tingly numbness at the same time.

Oh forget it. Whatever she thought she felt while jumping randomly in the air, it was probably something not worth noticing.

…Unless it was. What if her feeling something while jumping around in the air was a sign of something, something really weird?

…What sort of horrible weird thing becomes apparent when jumping in the air?

This is just stupid this whole battle is stupid why couldn’t she be back home where she would…

…hide out in an alley all day.

With a sigh, Eureka entered the train. The bump on the back of her head still throbbed.

The train was indeed quite large, as it appeared that there weren’t even any passenger seats. This was just a long hallway with a bunch of rooms on either side and, as she soon found out, a lounge at the end. A lounge that had couches that people were now sitting in. These people stared at her suspiciously and it was then she realized how out-of-place she looked. Though for her, that was easily fixed with a little smartening up of her wardrobe.

She probably looked slightly odd in a sort of suit thing but like hell she was going to wear a dress in a fight. That was just impractical. The rich folks and beasties looked back to their newspapers or whatever and Eureka moved on, still slouching.

She continued through all the boring cars all the same so boring until the observation car. This car seemed bigger than all the others and also seemed to be made of windows. Couches lined the sides so people could sit and relax and watch the scenery pass by in a blur. Eureka stood in the middle, staring out the window and watching some other people nap or whatever. Observe. There weren’t many people to watch though. The general air was quite drowsy.

“Hey. Pssst.”

It probably said a lot about her that the first thing she thought was that she had somehow taken up another occupant in her mind. Not that she knew what that actually said. Oh well.

Syvex was at the other side of the car, hiding near the door. Probably because actually going inside would really hurt him or something. With all the light and all. Too bad for him with the sun up and stuff.

Eureka strolled on over to him, still feeling worn out. Syvex looked at her outfit critically. “…You aren’t still possessed, are you?”

“’S called blending in, if you didn’t know,” Eureka snapped.

“Okay, okay, I got it,” Syvex said defensively. “You look very snappy. Nice look for you. I really need to find a dark place. All these cars are lit!”

Eureka shrugged. “Yeah, whatd’ya expect? We could probably turn them all off or something. Maybe. I dunno.”

“And I think we should also meet up with Ripper—“

“What? Why?” Eureka said quickly.

“Well, ah, I’ve managed to make an alliance with him while you were off being crazy, so we’re allies now.”

“You mean the guy that tried to kill you back in that crazy tower thing where I almost died and still have the scars to prove it?”

After a while, Syvex grinned a little. “That is some very scathing sarcasm. Okay, so I’m guessing you don’t trust him.”

“No, not really. For one thing, he’s a pirate. For another, all he needs is that thingy machine thing. Then he’ll just turn around and kill us.” Her voice was getting a little louder and she felt slightly self-conscious as she watched people’s heads turn towards them. Syvex’s voice got a little more hushed as he replied.

“For one thing, pirates don’t always mean evil bad oh no avoid. For another, the alliance is sort of based off of killing that sandman.”

“And what happens after that?” Eureka asked, managing to stay somewhat quiet. “Alliance dissolved? He finds his backpack and kills us again?”

Syvex started rubbing his forehead. “You know, maybe you would find going about this thing a little easier if you invested a little trust.”

“Trust! And how do you do that in a situation like this, hm?”

Syvex sighed and crossed at least one pair of arms. “You just do. You’ve been trusting me, haven’t you?”

Eureka growled and grumbled and paced a little, looking frustrated. “You don’t understand. I…” The cloth mage brushed her hair back and sighed heavily. “Look, back where I come from, I was always hiding and running because there might have been several people after me, trying to kill me. Here, I know there are people trying to kill me. Including you. So what am I supposed to do, huh? Trust you so that when things are done, you can go ahead and safely kill me to bag this whole game in the end? Because I know you can.” And Eureka leaned back against the wall and crossed her arms, looking away to glare back at the other passengers who were finding their spat entertaining. At least saying all that felt…great. Getting a load off.

But besides that, she wasn't exactly sure what she was feeling. Because maybe she was trusting him a little...? What did it say about her that out of all the contestants, she decided on a non-human one to partner up with? Hell, what did it say about her that she was trusting in a situation like this? And what did it say about her that she was feeling so confused now? Dammit she hated being confused.

She supposed the one good thing about this reluctant trust relationship was that she knew how it was going to end. It was probably best to not mention that the anticipation of it didn’t alleviate her fear.

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Two: Witch's Haunt]
Originally posted on MSPA by Anomaly.

"You seem awfully sure of yourself."

Eureka turned her attention away from the passengers, whose interest hadn't been marred at all by the period of silence. "And why shouldn't I be? Your only way home is for everyone else to die at some point."

"If I was planning on killing you, then I would have by now. Hell, I almost died saving your life! You see, the thing is, I'm not into killing innocent people at the whim of Presty or whatever it is he calls himse..." Syvex trailed off midsentence, reflecting on Eureka's statement. "Home". The one thing Syvex hadn't considered at all during this battle was its conclusion should he manage to survive. Where would he be sent when all was said and done? Back to the decaying wasteland that was once known to some as "Earth"?

"You said you were on the run from people who wanted you dead? Sounds a lot like my situation back... 'home', if you can even call it that."

"What?" Syvex had never actually spoken up about where he had come from before the battle or anything like that. She had mostly assumed "big shadow serpent snake eyeless teeth thing oh no", end of story.

"I guess I should start from the beginning. Although..." Syvex lifted an arm to indicate the commuters intently watching them from a scant few feet away. "Maybe we should find somewhere less public to have this conversation. Could cause a panic."

"A panic? What did you do before the battle?"

"I'll tell you everything as soon as we're away from all these people. Let's go."

Syvex crept slowly out of the modicum of shade he had managed to stake out, wincing in pain as the blinding light enveloped him, blinded him enough to even prevent seeing to the other side of the observation car. He could feel nearly every drop of shadow being squeezed out of him by the onslaught of sunlight. Nevertheless, he continued on his way unperturbed, ignoring the whispers of the passengers as he passed them. One "glance" in their direction was enough to quiet them fairly handily. The two passed into the next car, which, though lit, was much more bearable than full-on natural light. They soon passed through a lounge, getting several more strange looks from the various high-class commuters, who had not exactly expected to run into an eyeless, twelve-foot shadow snake during their vacation.

Soon enough, Syvex led her back to the caboose in which she had been jumping around like an idiot just minutes before. Eureka rubbed her head briefly, remembering the rather painful injury she had sustained from her own stupidity. "What exactly did you want to tell m-" Eureka stopped midsentence as she noticed Syvex rear up, then subsequently smash a light fixture with his fist. He proceeded to do the same for the rest of the lights in the room, leaving the room lit only by the small, high-up windows. Tolerable enough.

"Anyway... if I were to win the battle, there's no happy-shadow-snake-planet for me to go back to. I was... created in a laboratory, engineered as a bioweapon to fight in a war that I didn't really even understand. Just blindly followed orders, orders given by that damned doctor... Hikaru." Syvex took on an expression of disgust briefly. "And yes, I killed people. Innocent people, all because of my 'orders'. At first I didn't even know any better than this. Soon I began to regret it, so I started disobeying my 'superiors', as they would have liked to be called. And that was enough for them. Chopped off my arms, broke out the floodlights, and dragged me back into stasis for... I don't know how long. I managed to escape when I awoke, but I was almost immediately followed by armed soldiers. They would've thrown me back into stasis, or even killed me, had I not been brought here."

"I... had no idea. What exactly do you plan to do if we do make it to the final round? We can't kill that Prestidigiwhatever; you know what he can do."

"I don't know. I would say we have to at least try, but you're right. We don't stand a chance. The point I'm trying to make is, I'm not going to kill you. I'm not going to kill anyone who doesn't have it coming. Like Sandman. If Ripper decides to turn on me when Sandman is dead, he'll regret it. I don't want to kill, but I'll do it if I have to."

"...You know, I shouldn't believe you, but I do. Look, just... watch yourself."

"Don't worry about me. Just try not to get yourself killed, Eureka."

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Two: Witch's Haunt]
Originally posted on MSPA by granolaman.

The roar of the steam engine forced Tamerlane to buckle over and cover his ears in pain. This place isn’t much better than the mansion he thought as he plugged his ears with sand. The noise dimmed enough for him to stand back up and get his bearings.

He was standing in the middle of a claustrophobic boiler room. Metal piping ran across the walls and ceiling with the occasional gasket gushing steam seemingly at random. On the side of the room across from him, a collection of gauges and meters steadily bobbed their needles across unlabeled hash marks. In front of the meters stood two surly men looking perplexed, no doubt wondering where this dusty stranger had come from. One of the men seemed to have stopped in the middle of feeding the furnace and was holding a shovelful of coal. Tamerlane’s eyes followed the trail of coal powder leading from the shovel to an open compartment filled with the stuff. He smirked as he hurriedly pulled out coal dust to replenish his pockets. Then, tipping his hat to the still confused laborers, he turned around and strolled out the car’s rear door.

As he stepped outside the rhythmic chug from earlier was joined by the constant rushing of the wind. Tamerlane pressed his hat to his head and peered around the edge of the car. In front of him was the car he’d just left and preceded only by the train’s massive engine. Huge wheels and pistons spun at breakneck speed as they pulled the train along. The dust shaper made a mental note to inform the king about this machine whenever he got back; it may prove a useful development for trade and travel. He turned around and looked back down the track. Over a dozen elegant and prestigious train cars followed behind like a nobleman’s caravan. Tamerlane examined the nearest car. It was brightly lit and he could see silhouetted figures moving about inside. He clenched his teeth and growled, he’d prefer to keep a low profile at least until he’d found another contestant.

He glanced towards the roof of the car. This side seemed scalable enough, and if he could get up there, he could travel across the train undetected. He looked back towards the front. There weren’t any low hanging bridges or trees coming up as far as he could see. Without that to worry about, Tamerlane pulled a cloth over his mouth and nose and hoisted himself up.

The fierce winds above the cars buffeted him and threatened to throw him off the train entirely. Only by creating dust claws for his feet and hands and digging into the roof was he able to make any progress at all. The car had three skylights at regular intervals across the rooftop, and by the time Tamerlane reached the first one his eyes were already stinging from the engine’s smoke. He peered down into the cabin below and saw the figures from before, now clearly lit. Rich folk, it appeared, all gussied up with fanciful hats and strange clockwork gizmos, gossiped and conversed cheerfully in their smoking lounge. Tamerlane’s eyes swept across the faces, but the other battlers were nowhere to be seen. He picked himself up and crawled along to the next skylight and peeked in. There were fewer people in this part of the car but still no sign of the cloth witch or the snake. Tamerlane began towards the next window when another figure caught his eye. A contemplating man in a cloak seeming a little out of place was walking through the car.

The god and his meat puppet Tamerlane focused his mind on forming his dust blade. I can get the drop on him now and be one body closer to escaping this damned tourna-

“I know you’re there.”

Tamerlane started as Muriegro’s eyes suddenly shot up to the ceiling and connected with his. His body froze where it was even though his mind was telling it to attack while he still had the chance. The priest continued to stare up at him as a voice floated through his head. Shit! He’s psychic!

“The Sandman, we meet at last. The others have thought such wonderful things about you.”

Tamerlane’s mind raced as he hastily threw up mental barriers to protect his vital brain functions.

“I see someone’s dealt with psychics before. There goes my plan to simply make you walk off the train.”

He finished setting up the last of the blocks and instantly began thinking of ways out of this mess. Step one, keep it talking. He could feel the god’s presence in his mindscape pacing the mental wall, looking for any weak points.

“So, you planning on killing me or turning me into a zombie like mister mumbo jumbo there.” Muriegro seemed to scowl at that last remark. Or he might have already been scowling, it was hard to tell. Ok, what do I have to work with. Can I move any of my limbs? He tried moving his leg. Nothing happened.

“Killing you seems a little out of the question,” came the voice from the other side of the wall. “These barriers are solid work; there’s no way through them. You know what you’re doing, I’ll grant you that much. No, I’m afraid we’ve reached a standstill.”

Tamerlane’s eyes were now stinging red from the smoke. The god wasn’t letting him blink lest he lose the visual connection. Limbs won’t work, what about my shaping? He gave an experimental tug at the coal powder and saw it jump. Perfect.

“Anyways, you’ve already done a good job ensuring your death without my help. As we ‘speak’ the others are rallying against you. I didn’t have to manipulate a single one of them to bring this about.”

“Is that so?” A trail of powder seeped out of his coat and slithered its way down to a side window. “I don’t suppose you’re telling me this because you want an alliance?”

“Nah, just passing the time.” The foreign presence wandered back out into Tamerlane’s unprotected mindscape. “Say, you left something behind out here. It’s a big silvery sphere thingy.”

Tamerlane recognized the object in question. Sitting in his mindscape was a large opaque sphere. He’d tried opening it once he had learned how to explore and defend his head, but whatever it was it had resisted his every attempt at cracking it. He figured it was probably something long forgotten, like what his appendix was for. Whatever keeps it distracted. He had sent enough dust into the cabin and so far as he could tell neither the priest nor the god had noticed. “Didn’t figure it was important enough to save, it’s just been sitting there as long as I can remember.”

“Well now that’s just ironic.”

“How’s that?” The dust behind Muriegro began to take on the shape of a giant scorpion’s tail.

“Because it’s filled with memories”

The dust stopped shaping.

“And how would you know?”

“It’s a simple memory blocker. It’s been designed so you can’t see through to them, but I can see everything clearly. Someone else has gone into your mind tucked away all these pesky memories it seems. It doesn’t seem very strong though, a big blow to the head could probably make a few of these escape even. Now that’s just backwards.”

“I won’t fall for your little mind games, deity. You can’t see anything out there.”

“I’m sure this Miriam character would disagree.”


“Oh yeah, there’s a lot in here about her.”

Was there truth to the god’s words? What if someone really had blocked his memories? Tamerlane weakened his barriers for a moment. Maybe just a glimpse…

A dark presence threw itself against the weak spot. Tamerlane’s mind sprawled from the frightening shock. Below in the cabin, the half-formed stinger abruptly slammed into Muriegro and knocked him over. The line of sight broken, Tamerlane quickly commanded his head to turn away from the priest and it finally obeyed. His gaze turned towards the front of the train. Up ahead, the engine had just entered a low tunnel and was swiftly bringing the rest of the train with it.

Where’d that tunnel come from?!

In one less-than-fluid motion, Tamerlane smashed through the skylight and tumbled into the car, landing on a pile of glass with a crunch. Sharp pain raced through his back, but as he watched the tunnel overtake the place he’d just been, he concluded that the glass was definitely better than the alternative.

Regrouping his dust into a blade, he quickly scrambled to his feet. Tamerlane swiveled to find where Muriegro had landed, his mind’s defenses fully alerted. A hasty survey of the cabin, however, revealed that the priest had vanished taking his god with him. Next time, no mistakes, he thought, relaxing a little. I’ll be ready for whatever lies he throws in my direction. And yet, Aguja had mentioned Miriam. The name sounded so familiar, the god couldn’t have just pulled that out of thin air. The idea that someone had tampered with his mind distressed Tamerlane, but now was not an opportune time to reflect on it. He turned to enter the next section of train and continue his search when a hiss of steam spewed from a nearby compartment.

A sliding door on the side of the cabin slid open and a humanoid figure of brass and iron stepped into the cabin.

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round One: Afterparty]
Originally posted on MSPA by Wojjan.

There was something to this round.

As the scientist seated himself on the bench of the first-class wagon he had been delivered in, he couldn't help but notice that this train as a setting, no one dying last round, the rather succinct élan of the transition, it all didn't fit. His actual not-an-astral-projection self who was actually him and not him had been pretty adamant that the Prestidirigent was all about spectacle. It made no sense when he cut the round short so close to a climax, no one dead and nothing resolved.

Riko had always had a nervous tinge inside him, and most of the time his job required of him to ignore it, but under such odd circumstances it blossomed at full potential. It didn't take long for him to get restless, get up and start pacing back and forth through the empty wagon. His vision slid across the ornate car. Bags and coffers had been placed on the racks in such an abundant way no casket could fit beside them. The seats, separated by the lusciously decorated partitions, were all empty, and the young man tugged at his scarf wondering where all the luggage came from then.

Dim muzak leaked into the compartment from the ceiling down and evaporated long before it fully reached the ground. It was still, and stuck, and it was too far away. It always sounds too far away in here. The rattling sound of the wheels clanking against the tracks drowned it out even further, and in the befogged state the song reached Riko, it sounded oddly familiar. During his pacing he pretended to know the melody and guessed which notes to hum. Why did these cars always need music to accompany the ride, anyway?

Soon, the scientist met the door which led into the engine room, and mostly to have something keep him busy, he opened it. In this part of the train ruled a distinct policy against luxury: All the golden doodles so carefully placed in the previous wagon had seemingly been barred entry from any other part of the train. It was as if the interior design was planned by a man to whom the word “budget” meant as much as “goërgehal”.

The second thing that felt odd was the lack of an engineer. No one sat in front, no one to guide the metal behemoth, no one to act if anything would go wrong. And with the track record of his fellow combatants, something probably would.

It was apparent the engine room was a dead end, since the incredibly wide window (wider then the trains width, since it stretched along the curved front and ended on the side of the train) had startled Riko with its view on the train. The tunnels it tore through like a mad blazing machine casted their ceiling lights on the room so quickly it could easily induce an epileptic fit. In those blinding flickering lights, white and black alternating with the orange sparks from the side the only constant color.

The young man felt as if he himself was standing on the rails, sparks flying left and right, the world whizzing by him at such an impressive speed and it was frightening. The large window gave a panoramic view of the rails the wheels tapped against and the metal sound it made added to the realism of the situation. He was there. He was standing on the tracks propelled by who knows what
and he was going to fast and he was going to crash into something.

It was then, and in that flickering lighting he noticed the plaque on the wall. It was, as far as plaques could be, an unsettling plaque.

Man with a nervous tinge, that memorial for the previous model immediately incited in Riko many a tragic story about what happened to Iron Roses One Two and Three. His gut told him they probably all crashed while on fire because the rails exploded. And even though they don't carry any passengers and just luggage which on its own was weirding him out already there were at least one hundred dead people and he was going to be one of them if this train didn't slow down right about now he was going to drown and choke and burn and crash into all three other iron roses and land on the giant heap of scrap metal along with all the other trains next to the exploding rails.

And on the plaque before him, the reliëf of the characters and the light upon them made them dance in the fluctuating light, and though the shadows in the letters undid part of the effect the hollow words left a unnerving impression. An impression more or less like this:

God he hated trains.

Every note of a C-major tried to fight its way through the music drowning in a sea of chinking noises of a train against the tracks and succeeded to make it sound its last saxophone toot. An automatic and uncaring voice had shut it off to warn the passengers that they will soon be approaching the stop at Caracas City.

The scientist who was now quite settled on linking anything related to this train with certain death, of course misunderstood “Caracas City” to be “Carcass City, Enjoy your imminent death,” and promptly panicked.

Riko was a fidgety type, but he could suppress the feeling of unease he felt most of the time. Even at the start of the battle he had seemed pretty relaxed, but at this point in time he was quite sure his heart would just explode without warning and he didn't care if that was possible or not.

He was certain he was going to die here.

The scientist had, in trying to find mental rest, left the engine room, and sat himself down at one of the tables. His arms were crossed, his head slightly tilted and bobbing up and down like a bamboo fountain, jerking back up every time he nearly fell asleep. He soon after collapsed for a very, very short rest on the table.

Over every door of the train, a small little light blinked on, urging you to seat yourself in one of the compartments. Riko had had some luck, because the train's whiplash in coming to a stop only had him jolt awake as his back crashed into the ornate gold-painted bar which was to serve as the seat's back. Riko was cringing in pain, his hands folded around his ribs and his fingers pressed... no, cramped onto his back, hoping the pressure would even slightly relieve the pain. It didn't occur to him to rummage through his sack to search for anything to mend it.

Most of the other contestants were however occupied, and didn't notice the little light above every door warning the lot to take a seat in one of the compartments. Because of that, and along with every door in the train automatically opening the moment the train reached its destination, the contestants were sent flying by the harsh arrest and, if they weren't fleet in their actions, slid some distance across the Iron Rose.

quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur.
Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Two: Witch's Haunt]
Originally posted on MSPA by MrGuy.

Blackmask, by all rights, should have been glad to be aboard the train. Nearly every passenger looked extremely rich and extremely undefended, the security mekman not having revealed itself yet; while it wasn’t technically the pirate’s area of expertise, navigating and looting a train seemed as if it should be far easier than doing so for the often labyrinthine layout of an airship. Rather than joy, however, the raider was experiencing a profound state of regret.

Two worlds. I’m responsible for the destruction of two worlds. And now it seems we’re in mine...

Ripper pounded fist into palm. It’s not going to happen again. Whatever it takes, I’m going to make sure this core doesn’t fall into the wrong hands... or, uh, out of the right... ones... The pirate winced and stood up, examining the location; evidently, it was the dining car, and several well-to-do couples, as well as a few entire families, were currently enjoying a hearty course of Beef Wellington. The raider interrupted a single traveler—fat and clad in the nicest suit visible, no doubt a captain of industry by putting a gun to the head of the father. “Yer money or yer life, lubber.” The man paled almost instantly.

“Oh god. H-here. Take it all.” He handed over a wallet practically full to bursting, which the pirate began rifling through. Every last note was an obvious counterfeit; the gentleman, who had planned to use the false wallet to distract Ripper long enough to launch Brisbane’s Hong Kong-Derived Nervous Debilitator toward the pirate’s neck was instead greeted by an elbow to the face and three bullets to the heart, the raider’s empathy never having extended to well-off businessmen. By this time, Blackmask — now scavenging the man’s corpse for his actual wallet — had gained the attention of the entire dining cabin. “Now then. That’s a lesson to anyone here what expects to hornswaggle Ripper Blackmask. The rest of you can hand over your money this instant, ‘cause I be givin’ no quarter exceptin’ the children.”

Needless to say, the passengers made a more or less unanimous decision to hand over the money; a couple of waiters who attempted to get heroic were quickly waylaid to the floor, though none of them received a fatal shot. The pirate adjusted the namesake mask and grabbed a more reasonable one by the collar. “You. What year is it?”

“Uh... it’s 1882...”

Beneath the mask, Ripper wasn’t sure whether to smile or scowl. “Right, then. Tell anyone and everyone that thought he was dead that Blackmask still has one last dance with Jack Ketch coming... he’ll be back for good soon enough.” The raider shoved the waiter against the wall, where he promptly placed the call repeating the pirate’s declaration, just in time for the filling of the core and the scene’s interruption by a sword-thrusting Tamerlane and a wildly-firing security mekman. Ripper stared at the device for a few seconds, thinking something along the lines of oh hell, they’ve gotten them into mass-production before a misfired bullet caught the pirate in the shoulder. Quickly ducking around a corner to avoid being seen by either of the combatants, Blackmask began cramming the loot into the Core’s slot.
There are several possible reasons why the Core didn’t respond as normally expected. The pirate’s enjoyment of the moment could still have been subconsciously tempered by the unintended destruction of multiple worlds; The Malevolence might merely have been incapable of properly replicating the scale of the boost on the first try, or just wanted to make sure the pirate remained as weak as possible until absorbed; the pirate might very well have been cramming thin air into the slot of the real Core, due to the nonexistence of the valuables, and thus not gaining anything. Whatever the reason, the pirate could notice no increase in strength, be it temporary or permanent, and was more or less immobilized in thought until a second, identical mekman came in, and shouted directly at Blackmask, raising an iron fist. “HIGHWAYMEN AND BANDITS ARE NOT WELCOME ON THE IRON ROSE. DO NOT RESIST.”

Needless to say, the pirate’s attention was diverted from the lapse in reality from the need to dodge the several retorts fired off by the security device. Ripper grabbed for the cutlass, only to remember that it was no longer present; the gun was right out, as even the mekmen of the late 1830s could continue functioning for long enough after being shot that it wouldn’t help anyone survive on their own. As the hand shot out and grabbed the pirate by the throat, it became increasingly clear that Ripper Blackmask would not, in fact, be back for good soon enough, despite the flailing fists buffeting the mekman’s chest; rather, the legend’s death was going to be permanent, barring some incredibly lucky coincidence just around the corner.

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Two: Witch's Haunt]
Originally posted on MSPA by Wojjan.

There was no air in the train. Or at least, that's what it seemed like if you would see the scientist's hands grasping at the door's jambs and the young man staggering through and almost folding in on himself the moment he touched the station floor. A mess of oddly coloured laundry sinking either in or straight through the floor. In either case it seemed like its constant spreading meant it would just dissipate soon and apart from an odd glance no one either bothered or wanted to check if by any chance those clothes were hiding something living.

The scientist recollected himself shortly after and in the same long-winded stagger in which he exited the train he found himself, after some time, staring at the strangest of sights. Cluttered around some setup of benches near a taffy shop, some people were grouped together to peer over an edge. Come to think of it, edges aren't that common in the middle of stations.

The world is round, Riko knew, and most of them are at that. Seeing an edge at any spot that just didn't continue either further up or deeper down, was also impossible. He was starting to get annoyed by how much fallacies physics was making today.

It took Riko some time to fully recognise the darkness at the bottom of the chasm. He knew that darkness very well by now, having seen it three times linked with the most suave of voices and a casual announcement of imminent death, and it was the Prestidirigent's. He also knew it wasn't like him, to cut off a round so abruptly, this time in a spacial sense. This, the scientist figured, was the end of the battlefield. It stopped here. It just... stopped.

You could imagine the result. Riko, a young man with an intense fear of trains and everything that sped through the ground, (he had a lot of those phobias, all of which he explained as just not being right. Lenses, for instance.) was stuck in a battle to the death where two out of seven people were about to die and he knew odds weren't exactly in his favor compared to last round and he didn't think logically enough to realise those odds would be less every dang time. And to make everything worse, the setting for this grim game of wheel of fortune was, would you believe it, a train. One that sped through tunnels too. And one with a station attached to it that sounded far too much like “carcass” and seemed to offer a way out which was even labeled a way out but instead just stopped as if to say, “I got you there, didn't I!”

Oh, now he got it. This is a nightmare.


Nope. He knew it wasn't a nightmare. Every single feeling, real or ethereal, every tattered piece of cloth winding around what little bare skin he showed, it all felt too real. If this was a dream he should congratulate himself when he got up and give himself the award for having the most descriptive dream and making his dream self metaphysically aware. Ish.

Then again, it would make sense. He wasn't dumb, after all, and he could easily recall the feeling of wind and the feeling of cloth and... No, wait up, until now he didn't know the feeling of suffocating. And, to be fair, that was probably for the best, too.

It was all very confusing and he decided to be totally unscientific for once and pinch himself to test. No given facts, no experimental requirements or officialities to fill in or out or whatever, just a simple pinch to test something. For some reason, he was nervous about such a plebeian thing.

He woke up.

He was still on the train, he just fell asleep for a moment. Sometimes hitting your back against a heavy metal pipe does that. He checked around him to see if he wasn't just at a very bad cop-out ending of a drug-induced nightmare. He didn't see his family, so probably not. He also wondered what potion could vivid dreams be a side effect of and whether he had discovered a new condition to pair with his inventions. But most importantly, why he was thinking of such a trivial detail at this point.

Then a pirate walked in. Could this day get any more screwed up?


Moments prior, Ripper Blackmask stood to face another encounter with the robot guards, while most of the dining cabinet had now since fled to the back of the train as the conductors quickly beckoned. For a grand return, so far he had little money in his hands. He made sure to note that down as a memo to future him. Steal more stuff. He'd add something ominous like “if you're still around!” or “for good!” but Blackmask never was too keen on phony horror, like the childrens' horror books of his day and age. Then again he might have been biased since a story once involved ninjas and none of them centered around pirates because those were “unethical” and “murderers”. He wondered when that thing was going to make a move so he could counter, and he was pretty sure they were both thinking that.

The train stopped. Blackmask was flung to the floor, barely avoiding the rolling dining cart headed his way. He was abruptly stopped by a door. Soon after, the door opened. That was just poor timing.

The robot, of course, could force Ripper down, but he didn't even have to try and break free. Splinters of glass darted through the room, water spewed from the hole in the glass wall. The bed of the lobsters' aquarium crashed into the guard, knocking him at least three rooms beyond. It seemed to the customers that the fish tank simply broke on its own, but Ripper was by now used to sand moving on its own.

“No. That will be my kill.”

Tamerlane had used the sudden momentum of the train's stop, and with a swift jump and an opening door he found himself in a dining cart, where the pirate was being outfought by a mere drone. Pathetic.

Ripper noticed how in an incredible flair the hunter perched in the doorstep, tethered clothing draping behind and beside him. He was quite annoyed by the show.

“Dumb move, grains-for-brains! You forgot ye'r messing with a pirate! I don't do gratitude!”

“I couldn't care less. But if you want to try your luck against someone who took out that robot who was winning from you in a single blow, amuse me!”

Tamerlane was a warrior in the desert, and had lived there most of his life, and so his only encounters with pirates were in stories, and Ripper was far from the cliché. For instance regular pirates don't carry around prisms with GRIM written on it that power up the user if they put gold in it. No, ordinary pirates just buckled swash all day. Whatever the hell that meant.

Ordinary pirates also didn't jump at him with full force.

Tamerlane was a fervent admirer of stylish kills, and had made of that a living for the past few years. Especially dodges with minimal effort, those just screamed “Look at me, I'm mean.”

So he just stepped aside.

And the pirate knew. Instinctively he grabbed for his cutlass. Or rather, his sheath. He remembered Tamerlane had shoved his weapon in the core earlier and of course, the law of irony demanded it, that would play a crucial part at a later stage. Just great.

He tumbled through the air a bit more sad from then on.

In a last desperate attempt at redeeming himself and dealing at least a single blow to the sandmaster, Blackmask flung himself around and hoped to connect with his fist. He didn't.

In almost the same instant he had changed his strategy and used that same fist to tug Tamerlane down. He didn't make that either.

He did, however, manage to straighten Tamerlane's torn clothes. Some sand fell out of them.


Moments prior to the moments prior, Tamerlane reflected on how exactly he got himself in this position so quickly. He would say it was only a minute ago a single robot incited the defense system with it's shrieking about bandits and robbers, but that expression would fall apart since it was actually a second ago. In a flash, a single tick on the clock, not even long enough to be worthy of a tock, he was surrounded. There was security everywhere, and for such a small cart and such an amount of foes there was distressingly little sand around.

This would turn out to be quite the tussle.

The four armed guards, each in a cardinal direction surrounding him stood silently awaiting Tamerlane's first move. He delivered. A false swipe in their direction was enough to alarm each of them at once and made bullets fly by as if they were made of astatine: Each one of them, every shot in each round of ammo was so carefully aimed not to make the bullet go to waste. It was clear to the warrior that the ancient trick of having them hit each other wouldn't pass in this fight.

The sandman swiftly ducked and skidded past one of the robots. The bits of sand hiding in his clothing whipped at the robot's gun with such speed they tore apart the fighter's own clothing. The net result, though, was as expected: The robot was unarmed.

It was near depressing, seeing each well-trained robot fall at the hands of a single fighter. Depressing, but not at all surprising. Tamerlane had spent years in training, no wonder he was proficient as he was.

The battler had next to no time to laud himself for an encounter won. The train screeched to a stop before he could as much as feel a hint of pride. Tamerlane's quick footwork kept him from falling over, but he did end up in the doorway of an entirely different room.


Moments later, Tamerlane stood more or less victorious. He didn't even have to act, the pirate or whatever had just tossed himself to the ground. He felt smugly superior over his apparent victory, and walked off.

“That's it? Ye'r not gonna finish me? Be a man, for Jones' sake!”

“Death,” the man muttered, “would be a disgrace to my hands were it yours.”

Tamerlane did however find the courtesy to kick some sand in Ripper's eyes.

“Yeah, fair. Real fair.”


And even more moments later Ripper would swerve into the first class department where a thoroughly stressed and confused scientist awaited him.
quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur.
Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round One: Afterparty]
Originally posted on MSPA by Anomaly.

Syvex pulled himself away from the back wall of the caboose, which he and Eureka had been unceremoniously thrown into by the sudden stop of the train. With some dismay, Syvex noted that he had been thrown into Eureka as well, ramming her into the back wall and no doubt causing an injury of some kind.

"You alright, Finch?"

Rather than answering, Eureka gave her standard reply of mumbling various choice curses under her breath.

"I'll take that as a no. ...Sorry about that."

Without warning, the door leading into the caboose was flung open, revealing two large, primitive-looking, steam-powered robots. Their construction appeared somewhat sturdy - a vaguely humanoid shape with long, thin legs supporting a large, stout torso, gears sticking out in various places. Two bulky arms with large hands extended from the main body, one of which clutched some sort of odd firearm. Steam poured from a vent on top of the torso, just behind the crude approximation of a head. The robots spoke in a grainy, synthetic monotone, one which would not be at all out of place in an old sci-fi film.


Naturally, there was little chance of a peaceful way out of the situation. The two of them obviously couldn't comply with the robots' demands, and Syvex doubted that he could talk robots down. It was worth a shot, he supposed.

"Ah, well, we're going to have a problem here. Neither of us have tickets, sadly." Eureka shot Syvex an "are you crazy?" look, which of course was ignored.


"Nonono, you've got it wrong. We're not passengers, no. We're onboard to perform a... safety inspection. You weren't told about this?"


"You weren't told? Unannounced safety inspections have been commissioned. Fortunately, you've pas-"


"Well, it was worth a shot." Syvex lunged at the robot in front, swiftly biting its arm off with his huge, powerful teeth. The other aimed its weapon and began to pepper Syvex with carefully aimed bullets; not a very effective strategy against one who can heal their own wounds. Syvex attempted to pick up the first guard to use as an impromptu weapon, but found it to be inordinently heavy. He settled for giving the robot a quick shove, knocking it off its feet and into the other, who, just before going down, managed to land a bullet directly in the serpent's throat. He hissed in pain, then launched bursts of shadow at the both of them until they stopped moving.

"That could've gone better..." Syvex rasped as the bullet wound began to heal.

Eureka rolled her eyes. "At least you were around, I guess."

Syvex paused for a moment. "...You know, maybe we should just get off of the train. Leave the others here to fight out the round without us."

"Sure, we can avoid a bunch of killer robots and hide out in town. That'll definitely be easy."

"Well, if you have any better ideas-"

"Dammit, I don't know! Everything wants us dead, and we're stuck in this little car because you can't even go in the light!"

"Well, would you prefer killing Sandman and the cultist to get out of here faster?"

"You can't even kill... 'Sandman'... when you have the advantage! What makes you think you'll be able to take him on here? And the cultist can.... I don't even know what he does but it's probably some kind of horrible voodoo murder! Are you that reckless?"

"Yes. If we confront them in a windowless car-"

"You're not even listening! You're just going to get us both killed!"

Syvex stopped and sighed. "Eureka, we can't just stay back here, we'll get cornered. There has to be something we can do. Anything. So we might as well get moving."

"I... guess you're right." Eureka hated to think that Syvex's foolhardy plans were the only options, but with killbots and whatever else running around it wouldn't do them much good to stay in one place. However, they did have the sense to wait for the train to start moving again first. Neither really stopped to consider why the train would start moving again when there were several obviously dangerous stowaways onboard.

Unbeknownst to them, moments before, a seemingly innocuous passenger had held the engineer at gunpoint, forcing him to set the train in motion. In spite of his compliance, the man shot the engineer in the head, killing him instantly and sending the train barreling off with no one to control it.

Now that the train was moving again, Eureka followed Syvex through the door and back into the brighter hallway lined with cabins. Syvex dealt with the occasional security robot, which roamed the cars in search of the intruders but were never really much of a threat against a crazy regenerating shadow snake. As they came to a door to the observation room, however, it became clear that there was a commotion being raised over something on the other side. Loud discussions among passengers referred to something about "sand" and "guy with a hat". However, in spite of the fact that Tamerlane was obviously nearby, Syvex was more or less absorbed in the view outside the nearby window. He ignored Eureka's urging to head in the other direction or hide in one of the cabins or something, instead watching, unmoving, as the train entered a dark forest. Eureka impatiently glanced out the window to see what was so interesting, and for a brief moment, caught a glimpse of what appeared to be Syvex himself out in the forest. She stared in confusion for a moment, concluding that it was likely just her imagination and that that was clearly impossible and

After hearing from the passengers that Tamerlane was likely approaching, Syvex stopped in consideration. "I can't take him on in this light. Ugh... Let's just hide." He immediately threw open the door to a random passenger's cabin, finding it to fortunately be vacant. After the two of them entered, he discreetly shut the door and latched it, hopefully preventing Tamerlane from entering (not that he'd even know they were in there). Syvex drew the window's shades closed, blocking out the bright light that filtered in from outside. Nothing more they could do but wait.

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Two: Witch's Haunt]
Originally posted on MSPA by MalkyTop.

The two stood in tense silence for a moment. Eureka thought about how that was the fastest she had ever said the words ‘I believe you.’ Unironically, even.

But that wasn’t the problem right now. Right now, the problem was that she just might get killed. Man, she always just might get killed.

She hesitated before whispering, “Did you hear—“

Syvex quickly shushed her as he moved slowly to the door. Eureka found herself moving with him and so they ended up with their ears (…though Syvex doesn’t have any) to the door, listening for any movement.

The door felt cool on her cheek and suddenly, she thought that it was probably likely, being the fancy-pants train that it was, that the doors were too thick to hear anything. Before she could say anything, though, she was proven quite wrong by what was unmistakably the sound of a door slamming open nearby. Both lurched backwards from the door, Eureka already muffling some curse, Syvex almost starting. “Shhhhhhhhhyyyweeee need to go somewhere,” he hissed.

“Oh gee. Would you like the closet, or rather hide under the bed?”

Syvex appeared to be having a small panic dance, jerking to the door, then to a small dark corner, then back to the door. In the meantime, it sounded as though another door had been forcibly opened. “Gah!” he almost shouted out with frustration before he wrenched the drapes open again and winced at the light.

Eureka got his idea immediately. “Hang on,” she said, and pulled down the bed in a way that was probably a bit too swift and not exactly quiet enough. Luckily, it seemed that all the door-slamming out there had attracted some security robot things and there were sounds of a scuffle outside. “You think you could climb outside by yourself?” she suddenly shot out to Syvex, who was busy nursing a huge headache right now.

“I...might," he stuttered.

“Okay then.” Eureka pulled a large sheet from the bed and, with a flick, it tied itself tightly around Syvex’s waist. If he even had one. The quilt was knotted with the sheet until Eureka was sure that it wouldn’t untie itself, and then was tied around her own waist. “…This seems like an incredibly stupid idea, actually.”

“A little,” Syvex agreed, though he had to say, he didn’t place a lot of confidence in his arms if he had to climb about in direct sunlight.

Someone was trying the door. “Okay, okay, quickly,” Eureka hissed and opened the window. Syvex almost backed away instinctively, but as the woman deftly pulled herself through it and up, he pulled himself closer as well. Right in front of the window, the shadow snake glanced back and saw that there was a sandy blade trying to cut around the knob. He was already feeling nauseous. But this was probably better than some other options he could think of. And he scrabbled on the top of the window ledge and pulled himself up and dear god that's bright but that's okay he didn't have to see to move up, now did he. His tail was finally clear of the window and he started scrabbling upwards. The bedsheets tugged at his waist and he though, yeah, yeah, be patient, I'm coming.

Eureka grunted on top of the train as she pulled the makeshift rope taut. And it took her a second to realize she could probably make it do the pulling for her. And it took another second for Syvex to get on top of the car. The shadow snake felt that he had probably shaved quite a bit of paint off the train as he was suddenly carried up to the top and he breathed out, "Warn me when you do that." Eureka didn't seem to hear, but if she had, she might have felt a little smug.

Eureka then crouched low onto the car, trying not to face forward lest the wind blow her eyes away. She glanced at Syvex instead, who seemed to be rather miserable, but he seemed able to move on his own. “Right,” she said, and realizing that her words were probably being drowned out by the wind, repeated, a bit louder, “Right! The next car isn’t too far ahead! We can make it!”

Either Syvex could hear or he just got the general gist of the message and he nodded grimly, clutching onto the bedsheet rope with one pair of arms while digging the rest of his claws into the top of the train.

Eureka squinted her eyes as she glanced forward. Maybe it was just her, but was the train going faster…?

And in the car below them, Tamerlane stared into the room. Several metal drones littered the hallway, sputtering or sparking or anything-ing as they shut down.

He continued staring. He was pretty damn sure he heard something in here before the sudden ambush by these weak drones, but apparently, there was nobody inside. But there was still something…ah, yes.

The window. The open window.

He strode in and was halfway climbing out when he realized that, goddamn, the train was certainly speedy. All this wind outside wasn’t going to be good for his sand. So...what could he do?

He stared at the ceiling thoughtfully before suddenly thrusting up a sharp sand spear through it. Maybe he imagined it, but he thought he heard a rather startled squawk above him. That was a rather encouraging sound.

And in an entirely different car, a small mimic panicked.

Oh dear oh dear no shell she had no shell she was going to die die die die

Hm. It didn’t quite look like she had much to worry about. She already had a shell.

Not sure how that happened though. But at least she had one.

Miq allowed herself a little grin as her new suitcase form. Righto. It didn’t look like there were other weird Mother ghost things around here, but couldn’t be too careful. She didn’t quite want to encounter another Mother again. Perhaps it was best to stay put.

A man went to grab something from his suitcase, saw the sharp teeth, and quickly thought better of it. He slowly moved out of the room backwards.

See? Good and safe. That’s what she was. In here, that is.

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Two: Witch's Haunt]
Originally posted on MSPA by Wojjan.

The pirate had wandered into the cabins, into the one wagon which, while being the top of the class, was strangely enough the only one without actual chambers. It was peculiar, but he didn't stop to wonder much more about it. Covering his head with his arms, and apparently forgetting his head can't simply hide inside a table, Riko sat or almost laid at one of the tables. He was only slightly dozing, it seemed, since he quickly jolted up the moment the pirate closed the door behind him.

"What?" he exclaimed.

"I'm hiding."

It soon became apparent neither of them were particularly interested in what had happened to carry the other to where the ended up, and the terrified young man could really do without the pirate's constant staring.

"Could you, I dunno, just go away or something? I'm really not in the mood for your pirate talk and I just wanna get some rest because this train just suddenly stopped and started and I have no idea where we're going anymore and there's a dude with a sword made of sand and he's probably going to kill me when he finds me and you know what the worst part is? I don't even care enough anymore to save myself."

“Him again? I just dealt with him before I got here!”

“It was just an example. There's plenty of other murderous freaks to fill in the blanks.”

As if it heard the conversation a mech that seemed to be waiting at the door arose from standby and tried to capture the intruders in first class.
God knows what awakened it. But at the same time, apparently being informed about the eavesdropping guard or existing only through some incredibly precise balance of making it a fair fight, the fire alarm closed down the upper-class part of the train. The jagged robot had never dealt with such situations yet, and decided to take down the door the only way it knew.

Riding headfirst into it until it opened, and failing that, shooting at it.

It would ride against the door long enough for Ripper to spot the air vent and drag the nervous lad with him. The neverending source of protest echoed in the ducts, but Ripper ignored the constant questions of "Where are we going?" and "Is this the roof for the love of god don't be the roof."

Oh boy. It was the roof.

Syvex and Eureka immediately spotted the man who shot at him and the guy who shocked her. Eureka motioned towards Syvex in a way that could be interpreted as "Come here," or "Keep driving," or if you strained yourself "Be quiet and follow me." Whatever she did, it couldn't have meant "There are two guys up ahead both of which tried to kill us once or twice and I suggest you look for yourself because one of them is running at us."

Syvex noticed Eureka waving, and took that as the first of the possible interpretations. He caught up with her. He noticed there Riko and Ripper up ahead, men who both had tried to kill him already, he was pretty sure. The pirate, to top it off was lunging right at him like a madman. Just great.


There was definitely a battle going on. But while there were two on each party, it was a duel. And while it could have been a duel neither side was actually inflicting harm. If there was a fight to the death based entirely around evasive movement they would have both been gladiators.

Eureka was doing close to nothing, deciding to lay low and go in for a sneak attack later, or whatever she'd think up (but she was gonna do something, no she wouldn't drop to Syvex' level of phony alliances) and Riko was occupied with not spazzing out and falling of the train's roof and hitting the floor or whatever there was below he didn't even dare to peek yet and dying a horrible death oh god he knew it yup he's dead for sure I'm spazzing out ain't I.

Ripper was caught off guard by a thin tendril of cotton wrapping itself around his foot. It was soon joined by another one, and another one, until his entire leg was caught up in cloth. Eureka shouted something inaudible at Syvex. He in turn started tugging at the bandages, holding back a content grin over what he assumed would be a very, very quick round. Syvex slammed Ripper into Riko, sending the man flying off.

Oh. There was water below. So that was there. Man those were some terrible last thoughts okay quickly I regret nothing jeez Riko that was lame.



"Are you awake?"

Riko's body was stiff and cold, and practically lifeless. Somewhere in his head was a mind still buzzing around, but it wasn't feeling anything. His deathly frozen body ached all over, as if covered entirely in bruises.

A woman approached him, dressed as if returning from the theater. Thin, white gloves adorned her pale hands and a luscious, yet refined feather boa was draped around her neck, her dazzling evening gown lost its glimmer in the lack of light. But by far her most denoting feature was her face, mostly because a magpie mask had covered it. She didn't hide the fact she was here against her own will, or at least against her own better judgement. Her gaze bore into the young man, as much as in disbelief. Riko could only guess to what.

The woman walking towards him with, to be quite frank, a flair of apathy was a frightening sight. Even moreso was her crouching, seating herself right before the young man, her eyes giving off the message she wasn't actually all that interested in here and now. Riko tried to get up, or at least crawl away if rising were to prove too much, but couldn't quite fruitously pull off either. His first attempt to push himself off the ground had him strain his arms and collapse on the blackness. He felt as if something heavy was pressing on his chest.

The woman's touch, not unlike his own, was cold. He couldn't quite figure out whose fault that was. It drifted across his neck, searching for something. She dug deeper, her touch boring into his chest. It was as if her hand had simply passed through his – and he would admit it so – far too many layers of clothing. And Riko was more surprised than the woman himself as her hand retreated, covered in a shining, almost unnatural red. Most of it wasn't blood, they both were quite certain. They knew it was impossible for someone to bleed that much, and from every place at the same time. No, Seventh had already realised what was going on. She extended her hand towards the young man.

The pain must have been excruciating. From every part of his body poured whatever the red substance was, tearing open his skin and leaking down to the ground. As it touched what was an invisible floor, it dissipated. Riko's thoughts, for the first time since the third round, were clear.

It wasn't the third round. It was the second.

Those clear thoughts were not Riko no longer panicking: If he had been placed on the train again he would still feel not at all at ease – and where he would be placed next would only unsettle him more. No, Riko's mind and body had been purified. Cleansed from the mind-bending and controlling powers other beings, contestant or no, had been inflicting on him. The Malevolence no longer held the man in its wretched grasp, Muriegro's spells had for now been disabled. Whatever this woman had done, it had healed him.

"Listen well. I am not in the least acting on my own goodwill let alone for your safety. What I would want is for you to die by the hand of that savage mine, but personal connections forbid me as much as incite me to help you. I am Seventh, refer to me as such. I took part in setting up this battle. Don't think of me as your patron. You shall regret it so sooner or later. If you seek help or challenge your position being," and she chose her next words carefully, “poetically level, address to Sixth.”

She decided to add in her typical tinge of sarcasm, “If you seek a friend, get a dog.”

Riko had had his mind cleared from any tainting influence, but memories weren't fixed on such a short term. He had up to now had no idea of the priest's true identity as an amazon menace. The scientist had no idea that Seventh was not speaking of Tamerlane, but of Muriegro when she mentioned a savage.

"I will say this only once because with every second ticking away in this timeless plane the chance of the others finding out grows larger. The Malevolence is not acting on its own behalf. It's being steered by someone, a man – no, a god – in a different battle than yours. His name is Balance.

Balance has been taking measures against an inter-battle plot called The Network. He has been singling you out, along with Syvex. You both have replied to the message of Vandrel Reinhardt, the face of this web. That same Balance has also ensured the battles skipping around like you have already witnessed. He is the reason you can't administer help to Syvex. He is the reason you cannot get your fleet to enter.

He is the reason Lenore is still not with you since.

Listen to my words carefully, scientist, and tell them to the viper as well: What Reinhardt promises is a lie. Do not engage in any more activity with him, for your own good as much as that of every contestant in the grand battles, as much as the entirety of life as we know it.”

No doubt the man had a lot of questions still, but before Riko could wonder what she had meant with that last part, he was already warped back to his original position.

Or not quite.


It of course shook up the other contestants when the scientist who he had rammed a pirate into (it was amazing how little sense this sentence made) reappeared on the train's roof.

“What the...”

“Can... Can you teleport?”


Walls in the mansion's basement were unnecessary. The vast expanse of nothing and sorrow and every little bit of hope crushed beneath that horrible horrible stench, everything was dead beneath here.

Or at least everyone was going to be.

The contestants in the battle were the only ones still alive, but alive would prove to be a terrible term. Their bodies were present, but they weren't beating. Their bodies hung unmoving from the ceiling, the semblance of touching the ground and standing on it poorly conveyed by something which never payed attention to how people normally stand. Held up by invisible strings as if a puppetteer's diabolical play they couldn't even move their heads. Their minds, broken and cut apart with deceit and illusion and the feigned idea of the world continuing on, as if they weren't in their own hell and own suffering and absolute agony only a force of pure malevolence could procreate.

But their voices, they rung in the scientist's head, as if they were simply speaking to him from on the train.


“What the hell is going on here? What happened here?”

“Uh, what do you mean? You fell off, and-”

“Fell off what? Where is this place? What's wrong with you, why can't you see this? Why aren't you moving?”

Syvex hadn't considered Riko, scientist and always either confused or confusing, a perfectly sane person but he was quite sure he wasn't completely mad either.

“...Okay, what?”

And the confusion only rose in the others on the roof as he simply walked off the train, hovering in mid-air.

“What in the name of Davy! Why aren't you falling?”

“What do you mean, falling? There's nothing there!”

Riko's words were to the contestants deictic to a world he only could comprehend or even visibly notice. From his lunatic speech the others could discover Riko existing in an entirely different plane as them. It was not exactly easy to follow: Riko was hard enough to coherently understand, a Plato describing the world only he could truly live in, but with every mention of a train he started retching, more red which he recognised as the same which the woman had cured him from dripping off his face.

“You... Where are you? Balance, where the hell are you? Seventh, can you cure them? Please help them they have to escape, the Malevolence still has them you have to save us!”

Okay, now he's just lost it.


Every possible source of sound immediately died out around the scientist, and while their throats weren't generating anything, so did the voices of the battlers. Every light dimmed out leaving Riko in a similar spotlight as when Seventh had appeared.

All noise was replaced with the voice of one person. Someone who had been assailing Riko simply for daring to overthrow the unspoken rules of the phenomenal fracas.

“Listen to me, Riko Diveley. You shall be my means to sabotage the Network. I will give you the message Reinhardt sent after receiving the transmissions, and you shall form a reply which will entail your battle halting from jumping. You shall tell him you now have a means of transport available, your troop of ships assigned to your command by GRIMACE. With these ships you will cure the other partaker in the conversations, Syvex, rendering him more useful to the group as a whole. You shall remain active in the network until I tell you to do otherwise than what Vandrel Reinhardt orders you.”

“And then what?”

“Then nothing more.”

“What if I don't?”

“Then I will kill everyone.”


It's difficult to describe a world simply stopping. If there is no visible effect present to denote the change, no shred of world ripping apart and fluttering down to reveal the actuality beneath the surface, no cracking skies falling down like a shattered dome of glass, not even a single flash of bright white light as a soft voice sets again the real world in motion. No objects morphed back to their real counterparts – and in this situation such a transformation would have been quite impossible, seeing as there was no train in the mansion's basement. Not did the seven present wake up all together knowing it was all just a bad dream – and if they did, it would be waking up from a dream to arrive in a nightmare. Static did not eat away parts of the scene, nor did these parts melt like iron in flames.

No, from one moment to the other, they just stood again, awake. In the basement, no trace of Balance but several bloodied stenches of the Malevolence.

And it was up to them now, not overarching forces from the outside.


"Beings of the multiverse, denizens of all that heed to the whim of the gods, the day has came for us to unite, to forge a new era. Together we shall form a mighty union, we shall come together and crush all opposition beneath our combined feet. I, Lord Vandrel Reinhardt, am an experienced master in tactical planning. My armies have conquered lands far and wide and brought all that oppose us to their knees, hacking their heads from their pitiful necks to punish them for their misdeeds. Future allies! I have heard your replies, and you are not alone! With access to all of you, we could form an army more great, more powerful than ever I had layed mortal eyes upon. As a gift, I include within this message information which shall allow you to better communicate across the multiverse! We shall come together and strike back at all that oppose us! Together, the empire we form shall extend across never-before-matched boundaries, encompassing dominions never before dreamed of! My friends, my allies from all imaginable walks of life, this is it! THIS SHALL BE OUR HOUR!"

Riko had no need for any improvements to the open-space principle, his means of communication were plenty and adequate. It did help that right after the message Balance lived up to his promise, and disabled the random movement of the battle. Signals were again straightforward. He would finally be able to contact Lenore.

He couldn't give up now.


Imagine in a room seven people, or at least being, brought together in a battle to the death unadmonished and unknowing of their fate, only one thing certain and every round verified: they are mortal, and they will die.

Imagine residing in that room a terror so unspeakably evil it reads the souls of those it desires to torture, and uses those fears it finds against its prey. Now imagine a deity, a god who is omnipresent, omniscient and most importantly omnipotent in this dire situation, imagine him steering such a behemoth of fear, tweaked perfectly with precise knowledge over every being, fine-tuned to produce fear. Condensed fear.

Imagine that room bearing the marks of every being that came to pass in this room after wilting endlessly and almost begging for the sweet embrace of death to close their eyes and let it all fade away.

Imagine that group of seven plagued by the demon's presence, and terrified by the game shadows played on the floor, mimicking pain and agony projected on the bloodstained boards.

Now can you imagine their reaction?


Shadows were rare in a room where there was neither light or a wall to project them on. But there they were, imprints in the empty space. They were apparently still deciding on a single form, jittering left and right, occasionally splitting and conjoining and edging only ever so slightly closer to the terrified cluster of people in the middle.

Black silhouettes darted across the room depicting figures holding sharp tools, looming overhead. Covering the group entirely the draping shadows were adorned by a few incandescent dots. Those dots grew larger both in size and numbers before noticing the crowd and unleashing a devastating flurry of fire, burning almost through the group, but soon giving way for a tall figure with sharp teeth and a mean glare. It streched out his hand in an unnatural fashion as if constantly in pain or thrusting a weapon. The teeth soon detached and the figure grew several more arms and eyes and a menacing titter before crumbling into fragments of shadow which formed hands, greedily clawing at the players. Some of them holding searchlights, they still weren't quite sure how they could be portrayed by shadows alone. Then from the shadows glowed the symbol some instantly recognised as the one of the horned woman clothed in bandages as she almost reached the fighters but vanished again.

A torrent of bad memories both recent and long since suppressed roared in the mansion's basement, and with so many people at once it just couldn't decide what form to take on. Only one person was left unscathed by the event.

Because Riko had other things to do.

“T-This is, again, Riko Diveley, trapped in a battle. If you receive info of the Phenomenal Fracas, that's where I am. I... I forgot the name of who put me here. I was wondering if you could help me in seeking the coordinates for the grand battles. I have several ships in my command that can travel across dimensions, and reach the different battles. If you require their service, you have my frequency, and I can send and receive whatever equipment you need. I am-”

Any recipient of the message would hear an incredible screech.

“I am a member of the organisation of GRIMACE, you may have heard of them already. While their goals are evil, they possess several kinds of technological equipment. If you need anything, you can contact me.”

Doing what the god had asked of him recalled in Riko his words. The battles stood still now. He could be saved. He could alert GRIMACE and they'd save him! He quickly pressed the alarm on his communicator, and notified GRIMACE headquarters about his situation.

And unbeknownst to Ripper Blackmask, a similar orange light on the endorphic core flickered on.


“Lieutenant, we have received two distress beacons from our scientists, coordinates twenty-three, nineteen, approximately five hundred east, three hundred north. Permission to send to grand screen?”


On the screen they both stood. Two blinking dots, next to no distance between them.

“Give me the ID for those.”

Upon receiving a very lengthy list of numbers, the lieutenant's face went entirely pale. Could it really be? The ID matched perfectly, so he knew that there was no way it couldn't be, but to find their prized technology at the same time one of their better scientists got abducted, in the same place even, the idea was just preposterous.

“Send every squad over to that place. That dot... is our life's work.”

quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur.
Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Two: Witch's Haunt]
Originally posted on MSPA by whoosh!.




Rumour has it we're waiting for NTA to write his death post, so in the meantime I'll give you guys something to keep you occupied (for all of a minute). Round Three is bearing down on us like a poorly transported piano, and with it the terrible curse of inactivity.

In a effort to stave this off next round is Gentlemen's round, what with Prez off killing mad gods and all. The Gentlemen who still have a hope of winning the wager on their respective combatants will be putting gifts for them in the next round, which is all well and good until I realise that I have no idea what these should be.

Fortunately, Dragon Fogel came to the rescue and suggested the idea of Pick Their Poison style gifts. (Huzzah!)

Simply put, I'd like the writers of the characters who will still be alive for Round Three to send me three ideas for or names of potential gifts. Out of the three suggested by each person one will taken and given to the character of another player, which will be announced publicly in a fetching spoiler at the start of the round.

Any questions, just ask, but I'd very much appreciate it if you could do this for me.

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Three: HMS Thunderhead]
Originally posted on MSPA by MalkyTop.

You know, after having life forced upon her, after having to put up with the stupidity and cupidity and paranoia-ity and other –ities throughout time, after being interrupted from dealing with life in general, Eureka felt entitled to know just what the hell was going on.

I mean, it’s not asking for much.

Was this even supposed to be scary? Sheesh. The whole thing was changing too quickly for her to even get a good look at what she was supposed to be scared of, not to mention the idea of being scared of such a mess.

Okay, maybe she was feeling slightly frightened. But it was mostly out of confusion.

Someone was actually saying something. Was someone trying to…reason with the damn thing? Who knows. She couldn’t hear. But it broke her out of her shocked trance and she started struggling, though it honestly didn’t do much. Whatever strength she had, it wasn’t particularly good against telekinetic grips.

Muriegro was the first to escape yet again. Probably had something to do with his magic voodoo thingies. In any case, the…she already forgot what it was supposed to be, but it screeched rather loudly. As soon as the priest landed, the rest were let go. Eureka found herself landing pretty ungracefully. Glancing around quickly, she was slightly happy to see that Riko had fared worse than she. As the more battle-ready leapt into frantic action, she struggled to get back up onto her feet.

As an afterthought, she hopped on the spot. Huh. Normal.

The big bad evil demonic thing, it was pretty horrifying to look at. She was almost glad that this place was ridiculously dark and that it was sometimes hard to see. Almost. Maybe Syvex could see in the dark and in fact was more powerful in the dark. Maybe priest guy had priesty powers so that he could sense where to attack. Whatever. She only had cloth. That was pretty damn useless.

She squinted in the dark and tried backing away a little before realizing that if she backed up any further, she would fall into some sort of mysterious abyss. Okay. So big red boil-tumor and tentacles and eyes everywhere and magic dark evil blast shadow things. If she stared hard and ignored the other contestants running about and trying to kill the damn thing, she could sort of make out possible outlines of people. Previous victims, probably. This sort of looked like a final boss of a video game. Unfortunately, it didn’t look like it had a big glaring weak point. Not even anything vulnerable to a well-aimed scarf attack.

And then there were suddenly a lot of ships and white-coated men. Eureka really wished the universe would explain some of this stuff to her.


Perhaps the squads of GRIMACE weren’t quite expecting a hulking monstrosity in the middle of an incredibly dark, underground area, so dark that it would shame it to be called merely dark. If so, they recovered quite quickly and went to work. They had to pick up one of their scientists. Then they had to pick up one of their extremely important project that mysteriously disappeared. Killing the thing that hung from the ceiling(?) would be a bonus, though not ultimately necessary. Which was lucky, because nobody really wanted to fight the thing.

Riko felt incredibly relieved as he saw the familiar ships touch down. He waved and shouted, two things that a stranded survivor generally does when confronted with his salvation. Armed men marched out and he rushed towards them. A few hacked away at stray tentacles and one guy who was supposedly in charge shouted at Riko something he couldn’t quite understand and so he had to repeat it.

“Where’s the core!” he shouted again. Maybe he meant to say Core. Whatever.

“Wha—you mean the pirate’s backpack thing?”

“Which one’s the pirate!” It wouldn’t kill him to be more polite. One of the soldiers got stabbed through the heart by one of the writhing tentacle things and fell over. His body was dragged slowly over to the central body of the beast. His position was quickly taken over by another.

<font color="#804060">“Um,”
Riko replied, turning around and pointing vaguely at the lump of apparent flesh. “The, the one with the jetpack, um.”

By this time, Eureka had started over to the various ships that were possibly her ticket out of here. She almost tripped over another lump of squishy something. Considering what the enemy looked like, she was tempted to squeal like a little girl and kick it away, but the tiny, weak “Ow” gave her pause. That rather annoying voice sounded familiar.

Ah, so that’s what the trashcan looked like without the, er, trashcan. She didn’t particularly know why, but she picked it up. In some places, it was disgustingly sticky. In other places, it was worryingly hard and dry. She ran over to the waiting ships just as a few soldiers attempted to try to get closer to the big nasty tumor thing.

She backed away a little when several guns were raised to her chest, but Riko quickly shouted, “No, wait, she’s okay.”

Yeah, this from a guy who tried electrocuting her to death.

The guns lowered. That was nice. She wasn’t quite let into the small circle of soldiers, though.

“Hey! Rick! Or, uh, Rika!” A brief expression of annoyance passed over the scientist’s face, but he moved closer to Eureka. “We need to leave. Like, now. This place is insane and I think the trashcan thing is dying and I really don’t think those insane guys can beat up that thing and I can’t help but think if I stay here any longer something bad’s gonna happen to me.”

Riko glanced around shiftily. “Yeah, I know. Just hang on. We’re waiting for some other guys to come and escort us in. They, uh, they want to get that Core for, um, some reason, so, uh—“

Riko’s eyes bugged out. It was almost cartoonish and Eureka would have laughed if she could. Instead, she dropped Miq, who landed with a dull ‘clunk,’ and fell over backwards, a sharp tentacle going right through her abdomen. Riko bit his lip as he watched her body get slowly dragged away and then suddenly realized that he wasn’t in an entirely different location.

She was still alive.

“We…we have to get her!” he shouted loudly as her body was dragged out of sight, behind even more waving tentacles. “She’s still alive—“

“Look,” the superior officer said gruffly, grabbing Riko’s shoulder. “You’re important. The Core’s important. And while my men’re over there, they could prob’ly pick up those other guys if you really want to. But I’m not sending troops in a field of killer tentacles after some broad—when the hell are those others coming!”

They both turned back to the ships. All of them were being slowly mummified by horrendous tentacles. “Oh hell no,” the lieutenant (general? Commander?) growled before barking out more frantic orders.


At the actual fight, where all the real action was taking place, Syvex was feeling completely fine.

Total darkness. Real, complete darkness. Delicious.

Somehow, everybody seemed to move under a silent agreement of a temporary team-up against this throbbing monstrosity. Which was alright by him. His dark, shadowy blasts didn’t seem to be making much of a dent on their own.

The whole fight was just a big confusing whirl of tentacles and dodging and blasting. Once in a while, he’d bound near one of the others. He saw sandman at one point, twisting and weaving and bringing up tiny sand shields. Blackmask flew by him several times. The large priest was…around, somewhere, he assumed. He might have seen him, briefly, maybe? Whatever.

Syvex leaped over one swinging tentacle and ducked under another before firing another blast.

You know, it was actually so terrifying being near this thing that it was almost physically painful. Seeing meaty faces pass over the surface before sinking in somewhere deep and dark, looking at veiny flesh pulsing, watching impossible shadows of scientists and syringes pass over his vision while tentacles attempted to blind-side him everywhere…it was probably a good thing he had good reflexes. And a good thing he knew when to just let said reflexes take over.

Wait who was that.

Syvex turned and he couldn’t help but wonder where the hell all these armed men came from. Some of them had jetpacks too, sorta like Blackmask. Those guys were chasing the pirate right now, in fact.

Though the men were apparently trying to help them bring down the nightmarish monster, he didn’t think that he should really let them chase his (at least temporary) ally around. He tried aiming at their jetpacks, but apparently one of the grounded armed men noticed and smacked his arm away. Syvex almost turned on him when a tentacle grabbed the soldier and quickly whisked him away, out of sight.

Hey. Look at that. There’s another body being dragged away. Poor thing. Looks almost like…

“Oh goddammit, Finch,” Syvex sighed loudly before going after the unconscious woman. It almost seemed like her only purpose in life was to get into trouble.

More tentacles were trying to stop him, but he easily dodged them. They surrounded him as he reached Eureka and he tried to sling her over his shoulder. The tentacle wouldn’t let go. Was it barbed? Man, that would be painful. He tugged on her gingerly before trying to blast the tentacle in two. Noooope. “Dammit Finch wake up wake up wake up.”


Eureka found herself on the roof of a train.

The train, in fact. The one she had been on only moments before. Although, of course, that train was fake. She was pretty sure this train was too. For one thing, it was moving, clearly moving ridiculously fast, but she definitely didn’t feel much movement. No wind. Nothing pressuring her to sit the hell down so that she wouldn’t be blown completely off. Another thing that tipped her off was the fact that it actually felt like she was being dragged on a floor of some sort. Though that feeling passed. Now she vaguely felt like she was being shaken roughly.

Eureka jumped on the spot. There was no need to repeat the endeavor. If she had closed her eyes, she would have been convinced that both feet stayed firmly on the roof.

Okay, so now she was back in hallucination land again. Looked pretty deserted. Also, the roof seemd to be bleeding. That was a little strange.

Suddenly, sand blades seemed to sprout from the roof. Like how events had left off back when it ended. Sorry, icky tentacle boil thing, can’t fool me.

It was only a matter for Eureka to walk to the edge of the car as sand blades sprouted like daisies around her. They seemed to be struggling to keep up with her movements. At the edge, she sat down and slipped off, unpocketing a roll of bandages and using them to cling on to the edge and lower her down slowly.

Whoops, that didn’t happen. Instead the useless bandages did nothing and she fell ungracefully onto the tiny metal platform between the cars. She didn’t really feel the pain. More like felt the expectation of pain. Or something like that.

She certainly was falling down a lot lately, wasn’t she.

Okay, so no cloth powers. That’s fine. The place seemed empty besides her. There shouldn’t be any trouble and if there was, she knew how to take care of herself.

What was she supposed to do here? It didn’t seem like she was dead. Yet. (If the afterlife was a bleeding train, that would be a stupid afterlife.) Was there even anything she could do? Okay, so what happened…she got attacked by the, the, the thing. So…now she was connected to the thing, probably. And if she was connected, then maybe she could take out the thing from the inside.

Wow, what a stupidly clichéd line.

In any case, Eureka opened the door to the next car.

Oh my god why are the walls bleeding what are those writhing things are those bodies oh my god oh my god aaaaah they’re moving aaaaaaah oh my god gonna throw up aaaaaaah it’s driiiippping on meeeeeeee aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah

The train car was not abnormal at all. It was a little inconvenient that she had to tread through thick blood-like stuff to get through, though. There didn’t seem to be anything in here that could take out the thing from the inside, though.

The sensation of being shaken was slowly fading. In fact, everything felt a little dull right now. Her brain was feeling sorta dull and woozy. But somehow she was still able to walk straight. That was nice.


It was hard to think up insults on the fly, especially when dodging death tentacles of doom constantly and trying to ignore the ‘FLEEFLEEFLEEFLEE’ signals his brain was trying to send him. But Blackmask at least managed to spit back, “Damn curs!” That was better than nothing, right? Right.

One guy was trying to overtake and flank him. He drew out his pistol and fired. Dammit, he had more important things to do…holy water…get the holy water on it. Not that he was sure he could get close enough without getting hit by one of those tentacles. Or going insane. But somehow, he had to get the holy water there.

More flanking, more firing, but the guy on the other side of him grabbed his arm and drew in close, hands scrabbling for an off switch on the pirate’s jetpack. He swung his gun around, but there was another behind him who grabbed his arm and twisted it behind his back. His jetpack was shut off and, struggling, he was led downwards and away from the fight.

Goddamn no-good…hey, where did they even come from, anyways?

As they continued to drag him away, they grabbed at the Core, attempting to wrench it off, but unfortunately for them, one of the attributes Blackmask prided himself in was being as loud and as uncooperative as was possible when confronted with authority figures. One guy got kicked in the jaw. Although Blackmask would be the first to say that he was quite limber, he was a bit certain he wasn’t that limber. He briefly wondered how he managed that.

All thoughts of mysteriously obtained flexibility left him when he finally noticed that he was being led to that scientist fella. Being the only man he recognized, Blackmask gave Riko the dubious honor of being the one he would shout at. “Hey! Wha’s goin’ on ‘ere! Wha’ d’ya think you’re doin’, you scum-suckin’ lubber!”

As the pirate shouted more pirate-y things, Riko tried to explain that no he wasn’t quite sure what was going on and no he couldn’t do much of anything because yes it was out of his control mostly. Then they actually managed to slip the Core off, but more wild struggling caused it to get knocked away and onto the floor. A few seconds later, and as soldiers tried to disarm the pirate, he fumbled with the flask of holy water and accidentally dropped it. It shattered somewhere on the ground.

“Be careful!” one smarmy landlubber shouted. Nobody really noticed a dark, blobby thing lunge desperately into the slot of the Core.


The further she went through the train, the more un-train-like it was getting. To be specific, it was less ‘train’ and more ‘squishy flesh thing covered in jam and yes we’re calling it jam for now because calling it the other thing will just make the experience slightly worse.’ A lot more bodies too, though some of them appeared to be sinking away and out of sight. She wasn’t quite sure what to think about that, though it did tell her that it was not wise to stand still for too long.

When she reached the next door, she found that she couldn’t open it. It wasn’t locked, really, it was just the handle…it was sort of…gross. Squishy. Sorta came away in…clumps. Ugh. Well, the gunk didn’t seem all that strong. Was she supposed to…walk through it? The thought made her shudder slightly, but she figured if she closed her eyes, maybe it wouldn’t be too bad.

“Ugh…dammit.” Eureka turned at the sound of another voice. And there, looking slightly distressed, was Syvex. He glanced distastefully around at the surroundings and seemed to brighten up when he saw Eureka. “Hey, great, you’re okay!” His sharky smile dropped momentarily. “Or I’m dead.”

“I’m not dead,” Eureka snapped, though to be honest, she wasn’t quite sure herself. Especially now that she suddenly noticed that she seemed to have gotten yet another wound. Blood was dripping out her stomach. Didn’t hurt, though. “Quick, do you happen to still have your shadow blasty powers?”

“Hm? Why wouldn’t I…?”

“Look, just try blasting that door open, would you?”

Both brushed aside questions about why Syvex was here in order to press on. Gotta stop this fleshy-train somehow, after all. With a loud boom, the door exploded. Jam spewed out into the next car. Eureka hopped through the now-open door and Syvex followed soon after. A squelchy sound indicated that the door grew back.

“Right. Let’s get this over with,” Eureka sighed.

“Wait, what are we even doing?”

Eureka shrugged. “I, uh, hm. Not…entirely sure.”

Syvex blinked at her. The silence urged Eureka to continue. “Look, I’m just sorta looking for something in here I can mess up. I dunno, an off switch, maybe. Something obvious to destroy.”

She paused. Wasn’t there something odd that just happened? Something that shouldn’t be able to happen? Didn’t something feel a little…off?



Miq wasn’t surprised that everybody seemed to forget about her. Right now, she was rather hard to see. But it would have been nice if some people at least noticed that she was dying. At least then maybe someone could save her.

So when a container dropped near her, she was incredibly grateful and quickly dragged herself into the thin opening. As she did so, she felt something drop on top of her. It made her a little damp, but it didn’t seem to do anything harmful.

But the new container definitely hurt, yes it did.

Pain pain pain pain pain pain pain power

She was dissolving, but at the same time, she felt stronger than ever. The now-toothy slot grinned widely. When someone tried to pick her up, she extended a glowing pseudopod and knocked the hands away before running off quickly on more glowy pseudopods. Wow, why was she so glowy? Oh man so much power there must be something she could do with it. Hey, look, there was an icky thing trying to attack her with icky tentacles. Maybe she could do something about that.

Behind her, several people gaped as they saw the Core, the life’s work of many scientists, get up and walk away. It was rather adept at mowing down tentacles with whip-like pseudopods.


The last door was blown away and Eureka quickly jumped through. The room was definitely larger than it should be. And it was the meatiest and jammiest yet. Her every step sank rather distressingly into the ground with a sad squelch. But it looked like this was the room she was looking for. On a train, it would be the control room. Here, it was…sort of a control room. Just a bit meatier. And instead of levers, there was a big, throbbing spherical thing. Sorta like a heart. Maybe a heart and brain combined. Wow, that’s a disgusting image.

“Right,” Eureka said, trying to sound more sure of herself than she really was. “Help me get this thing—“

Once again, she found herself getting stabbed through her abdomen. This time, it hurt a lot. Behind her, Syvex chuckled, voice dripping red.

“Ah, so trusting. You were so foolish. You even knew this would happen…”

Eureka couldn’t respond very well because she was too busy bleeding. But she did manage to say a few words.


Dammit Finch dammit dammit dammit wake up.

Things were pretty much going crazy. Syvex had finally lost grasp on what was exactly going on here. It was suddenly growing brighter, for one thing. Also the Core thing was suddenly walking around on stilts. Or some other weird leg things. And it was killing tentacles like nobody’s business and actually managed to stab right through the actual big lump of fleshy thing. Though the wounds were healing up quickly enough so such stabbings weren’t really effective yet.

Eureka was still being dragged along. He just wasn’t quite strong enough to pull her away and he was rather uncomfortable with playing tug-of-war with her as the rope, especially with that thing going through her chest. Not to mention tentacles were still trying to sneak-attack him and everything was very distracting. Eureka’s feet were getting worryingly close to the fleshy monstrosity.

Wake up wake up wake up.


“What? Finch!” The shadow snake blasted away a few more lingering tentacles. “Finch, I’m here! Hang on, I’ll, I’ll get you out of here…”

“Sssssyvex you…you…basssstaarrrrd.”

This threw Syvex off a little. But another tentacle ambush reminded him he had no time to be thrown off.

The sudden appearance of a walking, glowing Core caused both Tamerlane and Muriegro to decide to cheese it and watch from afar. It was probably a good idea for him to follow. But he still had a grumpy, paranoid woman to save.


So much pain. So much pooowwwerrr but despite it, it didn’t seem like she could do anything! How disappointing! And she was really starting to feel very, very, um, not there. She had to be able to do something. If she was going to get this much power, she wanted to do something. She should do something.

Maybe if she continued stabbing at this icky thing, something will happen.


She was so close. It was right there. She had to do something. Just within reach. But no, her legs were giving out and she couldn’t will them to stand and Syvex was still busy stabbing her through the chest and laughing and laughing. It hurt. It shouldn’t hurt. Why shouldn’t it? Because this wasn’t happening.

Was this denial?

No. It really wasn’t happening. Literally, you fool.

There’s no reason not to have cloth powers.

Her arm suddenly snapped upwards. A bandage wrapped itself around the throbbing heart-brain thing, dying red as it did so. It pulled and snapped away. The bandages constricted and it popped like a water balloon. Syvex was screeching. No, the train was screeching. No, it wasn’t a train. No, there was no train here at all. Was everything melting away? Was it ever there in the first place?

No, there was just nothing.


The throbbing of the fleshy orb suddenly ceased and the whole thing seemed to…sag. The color was fading away and if such a thing could exude an emotion, then it was a cold resignation.

She was burning up. She was almost burnt up. But she had to do this, before she was gone, she had never felt so sure of it. She couldn’t let this be a total waste.

Miq thrust a crumbling pseudopod</font> Malevolence-ward. Yes, she could do it, she could make it…

There was nothing more fueling the Core, and thus, nothing more to support it in the air. It started to fall.

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Three: HMS Thunderhead]
Originally posted on MSPA by whoosh!.

Second padded through the dark hallway, pausing to crack open a door. The yellow light that spilled forth lit up the porcelain ram mask that sat on the upper part of his face and the couple of days worth of stubble that adorned the lower part.
“You can come in y’know, Second,” a male voice drawled from the inside of the room.

Second swung the door open, scowling. A man with red hair wearing a fox mask grinned at him from behind a small bar setup.
“Thanks for the permission, Fox. Think I might just have expired from indecision standing there if you hadn’t said a word.”

Fox, or First as was more commonly referred to, simply shrugged and gestured to the hoard of alcohol shelved behind him.

“Can I do you for anything, Ram?”
Ram shook his head and briefly raised the half empty bottle of whisky in his right hand. He did however slide into the barstool next to a lady sitting at the bar, but kept his gaze on the bottle.
“If you say so. It’s a damn shame you lost the bet so early on. I’d have looked forward to being up against you later on.”
“Why’s that? Are we actually interfering now?” Ram didn’t raise his head except to take another sip of the whiskey.

The woman clad in black pushed away her cocktail.
“Well, the Prestidigitator’s still off on ‘business’. And while the cat’s away…”

Second lifted his head and stared at her like he’d only just noticed her sitting there. She ignored him for all of a moment before their eyes met (awkwardly, suddenly) and then she was forced to quickly avert her attention back to the contents of her glass.

“Victoria,” Second began, and got no further.

“Don’t you dare call me by that name, Ram,” she spat back, her voice dripping with venom. Even so, she still didn’t look at him. Second judged that her heart just wasn’t in it.

“Fine. Seventh, milady. Whatever you want. What the hell happened between you and the Prestidigitator? A couple of days ago you two were positively fawning over each other, which ain’t exactly rare, but now-“

The sound of Seventh’s glass shattering against the wall did better to silence Ram this time. First was motionless, his face blank and his eyes to the floor.

Victoria stood up, and glared at Ram. “That’s none of your goddamn business, slime,” she snarled, completely sincere this time, then turned to leave. Unfortunately, Second reached out and grabbed her arm.
“Stop. Please.”
Whether Second was begging for her to stop walking or for something else more elusive wasn’t entirely clear. All the same, Seventh yanked her arm free and turned on Second, her face the picture of fury. He continued undaunted.
“Not to be crass, but most of us only respect you because of the favour you have with the Prestidigitator. If that’s gone, then where does that place you in our happy little hierarchy? What are you now, Victoria?”
The use of her real name was the last thing she wanted to hear.

In a flash of black a feather boa snaked out and rapidly coiled itself around Ram’s throat. One stiletto heel buried itself in one foot, and the other kicked him squarely in the chest. Within a matter of seconds Ram was falling backwards only to be stopped by the boa around his neck, which efficiently began strangling him.

Victoria watched him, suddenly emotionless and blank. Only as he began to go blue did she begin to speak, hissing each word like it was a deadly insult.

“It’s a shame you lost the wager so early on. I would have delighted in crushing you like the pathetic, disgusting roach that you are.” And with that, she released him. The feather boa was returned to her shoulders with a flick of the wrist. Ram collapsed to the floor accordingly, gasping for breath like a fish out of water.

Victoria spared him a single, last look of utter contempt before stepping over her victim and gliding towards the door.

“Come along, First. We’ve got a round to start.”

Wordlessly, Fox followed her out of the room.

For about a half a minute the ensuing silence was disturbed only by Ram’s gasps and attempts to breath. Sooner or later he found the fortitude to pull himself into a sitting position – that is, sprawling against the side of the bar.

It should be noted that at the other end of this room was a fireplace and two armchairs sitting in front of its crackling logs. In one of these chairs was a single occupant, very much asleep, who had gone largely unnoticed by the previous inhabitants of the room. The current one, however, drunkenly or otherwise staggered upwards and onwards until he stood before the empty armchair. He promptly collapsed into it.

And then? He surveyed the sleeper. Silently, without saying a word, although that was hardly required when his expression said so much about pity.

The man was shrunken by age, his wrinkles only adding to this picture of frailty. He still retained a little grandeur, a dash of smartness, from the slightly oversized black suit that draped over his withered limbs. A wispy halo of white hair crowned his head. If not for the gentle rise and fall of his chest, the incredible age of the man before Second would have forced him to concede that he could not possibly still be living.

Ram reached across and gently picked up a porcelain mask set beside the elderly man on a small table. It was shaped into the visage a snake, a familiar sight, but Second examined it quietly once more all the same. With a sigh, he returned it and looked at the old man once more.

“I don’t know how you put up with that sister of yours, Sixth.”

Being asleep Sixth had little to say on the matter. In the absence of a response, Ram simply let loose another sigh and took one more gulp from his faithful bottle.

A sky pirate, a cloth mage, a sandman, a shadow snake, an eccentric scientist and a priest all wake up in a billiards room.

To the outward observer there was nothing terribly strange about this, perhaps barring the unusual affinity among the group for sleeping upright in sumptuous armchairs arranged in a line, but to the wakers who had a moment ago been standing in a manor house it was an experience not unlike pulling the curtains open one morning to find a long forgotten memory where the outside should be. If you’d found these curtains at the back of your wardrobe, anyway.

In front of the blinking and confused wakers a cloud of darkness was festering with a passion. There was a noise of someone clearing their throat, and then a woman clad entirely in black stepped forward from it. She smiled at the six warmly.

“Welcome back, combatants. Pardon the discourtesy, but you’ll find that you can’t move from those chairs. Contestants can be a little… overenthusiastic. It can be a nuisance sometimes.”

To the right of the combatants two men played billiards, the soft knocking of the balls and cues providing a relaxed rhythm that punctuated her following words.

“I’m sure you can appreciate my need to avoid any unpleasantness. But to business! I’m sure you must be curious as to why you were brought here, and in such an unceremonious fashion, instead of simply being whisked to the next round.
“There are multiple reasons, many of which you don’t need to concern yourself with. The only thing you need to know is that this round there are going to be a few new rules, just between us five-”

Upon this word the cloud of darkness diminished then vanished, revealing two men standing behind the woman (one of them, curiously, was examining a pocket watch with an interest that far surpassed the average query as to the time) and her smile widened into something carnivorous.

“-And you six. All of us have a somewhat vested interest in your progress, so we each agreed that we would gift our respective combatant with something useful. You’ll find each one in a box with your name on it inside the round.”

She broke off briefly, as if to gather her thoughts. When she spoke, it was a little more strained.

“The more mathematically gifted among you would notice that there are only five of us to your six. The sixth person has a similar interest to us, but he is… busy, let’s say. Whoever he wagered on will find the pirate’s toy in their box.”

She shrugged as if to underline how little she cared about any of it.

“That’s all you need to know from us. You shouldn’t find the gifts too hard to find. Anything I’m forgetting?”

She directed this last question at the red-headed man by her elbow.

“No, milady,” he said quietly. She smiled again.


And in the blink of an eye, the contestants had vanished.

The HMS Thunderhead was the pride of the Third Drenwellian Empire’s fleet. It had taken five years to construct and was capable of housing the population of a small town quite comfortably. Its design was a love letter to the magnificent blimps of ages past, but seeing as the very idea of sending any kind of balloon supporting people into the depths of space was enough to make most engineers spit out their coffee, it had instead changed the inflated area into the main section of the ship.

The living quarters of the HMS Thunderhead were arranged in order of wealth, generally speaking. While the middle sliver of the ship was occupied by the control deck and general maintenance, those with less money and influence found themselves shunted towards the less well kept and less impressive upper levels. The opposite was true, naturally, for those who did have affluence among their fellow humans. Down at the bottom decadence was rife and shocking in its intensity, just how its inhabitants liked it.

However, it was not only the ship that was of special interest. In approximately two hours’ time it was due to complete its maiden voyage, landing in the capital of the illustrious Third Drenwellian Empire on its base planet Varral to crowds, applause and congratulations from the Empress herself. Right now it was still drifting through the expanse of space, but Varral was close. Very close indeed.

Somewhere in the heart of the ship a blissfully oblivious captain swelled with pride and dreamed of the golden streets of the capital.

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Three: HMS Thunderhead]
Originally posted on MSPA by Wojjan.

Here's a fun game to play whenever you're feeling bored. It's called “Count the Rikos.” Great for a rainy day with a lot of exact copies of you running amok in every parallel universe.

First of, there was the original, actual Riko. Scientist, husband, sort of a loose cannon when no one else was around, a terrible daydreamer and counting the experience of all copies to follow recently possessed at least three times by things he didn't believe in.

Then our dear little scientist-daydreamer-husband transformer was entered in a battle to the death with at least four beings science didn't have an explanation for. Soon after naïvely strolling through Afterparty for a while and mainly running away from things with about the purpose of a turnstile smack-dab in the center of Mars. During the round though, he learnt that this scientist wasn't the same as the initial one. In round one Thatix was destroyed by an astral projection of Riko, scientist, husband and sort of inexistant now that Mr. Prestisomething decided against showing up on his own battle. When this Riko found out, this led to an inexistential crisis, an impromptu collapse into tears on a coworker's shoulder and many a question no one was going to pop into his life and answer.

Round two's Riko was a piece of work. After having all his crewmates burnt to death except this one girl who kept reminding him of a wife he never had, astral Riko's mind was more or less fused together with the real Riko, who was having an otherworldy and far too gaudy wine and cheese evening with nine beings he didn't believe in. This new Riko-conglomeration had clear memories of wine and cheese and being real but just as well of a desert and a menacing beast with many ticking legs, though he had never been to a desert before and never fought a menace on thirty feet. (Technically he didn't get served appetizers by a bunch of gods and gentlepeople either, but that was beside the point.) That two-for-one Diveley special decided or deduced on (or from if you picked deduced just now) those memories he was, again, the real deal., and could only assume his astral whatever he had told him about merged with him at the end of each round into a desert fireplace mosh pit.

Various ghosts and desperate pleas to join and forget things later, along came fake round three Riko. Captured by a thing he didn't believe in – yes, another – the demon decided, though not on its own, now was the perfect time to scan the man's mind for anything he and his serpent... acquaintance feared, (Trains, sun and Grand Battles turned out to be a perfect choice) and decided to use that knowledge to concoct a phony round for the Fracas.

In that fake round he was attacked several times and panicked more than a snowboarder realising the upcoming tree is as avoidable as it is a notebook written entirely with bright orange ink. But “luckily” a lady he didn't believe in whom he once met at a wine and cheese party the other expanse before or beyond time came around and “cured” him, breaking the illusion of a fake round and a fake Riko and a fake anything so real fake real Riko could awaken in the basement with a thing he – guess what – didn't believe in. All this supernatural nonsense, he though, was getting quite annoying. His illusion-piercing skills made Malevolence realise an illusion made no sense if just one person wasn't seeing it, and decided the oddity of the situation somewhat outclassed the amusement it brought. All the other fake real fake contestants awakened, and decided to all work together to fail spectacularly at defeating the horror.

As a side note, this was the same round in which he was contacted by a being he absolutely refused to believe in and was expeted to send a reply to a pen pal he had gotten in touch with during round two so he could tear down from the inside an alliance against things he didn't believe in on behanf of a thing he didn't this was getting ridiculous rather fast.

Then of course we have 31-year-old single Riko who stole the Endorphic Core along with a plethora of other gadgets to fence for big companies throughout time and space in a rebellious blaze of vigilantism against the ideological side of the GRIMACE corporation. But he's an allusion to an important later plot point, so let's not just yet delve into his story.

He was daydreaming this entire time wasn't he?

Memories blurring together into one giant lake armchair sand train snowball, Riko was having a terribly hard time recalling what exactly had happened to any of his selves in the last few Vandrel plaque Afterparty Malevolence Joni moments. Someone had died, right? Someone had to have died. A lot of Thatix wagon-lit Sadie Lily Lenore things were happening all at once in the last few moments in round two and he really wasn't sure where everyone was and what everyone was running towards or away from. It was all so confusing and it really wasn't helping ahis headache.

He was feeling pretty hungry by now. That, and a little hungover from the bottle he remembered never even touching. It was his fake real fake astral – This wasn't helping.

Right. So. Zeppelin.

His surroundings were cold, metal, sleek and made of physics more than anything. Finally something he could truly believe in!

His stomach growled. He hoped he could also believe in a kitchen soon.

A second look around the area revealed his caretaker, and he presumed he was the mystery Sixth that woman mentioned once, to be not much more original in the placement of the gift as the gift on its own: Several feet away laid a box. It just laid there. Nothing theatrical, nothing fitting, he didn't even have to make any effort to get his gift.

When he opened the box, all his knowledge so far over these Sixths and Sevenths fell into place. He had the absent one, his gift was the core. From the start of this round out, he had been given the most powerful weapon in the battle.

It was time for an experiment first. The kitchen wouldn't spontaneously combust, now would it? Okay, bad example, but still.

There wasn't even time for any mere seconds to pass before the first surge of power from the pyramid-backpack monstrosity tore through him with at the same time a feeling of immense strength and of being punched right in the chest, but then punched by a man with tiny needles attacked to each of his knuckles.

He was in absolute agony, squirming over the floor as if he was trying desperately to drown himself in it, and succeeding. But yet, he wanted more.

Almost reflexively his hand twitched over his belt and instantly pressed a second vial of poison into his Core.

The needles were gone this time. Now was only ecstacy.

For the first few minutes of his new wave of power, he had simply stared up at the ceiling, hoping the lino would reply to him and explain why he had earned such an amazing feeling and tell him why he had had to wait his entire life to feel it.

He believed right into Syvex. The snake might have been startled, or may have tried to start conversation, but Riko wouldn't care, standing straight in the perfect unnatural way he did, panting and uncontrollably nodding his head in true delusion.

Then the needles returned.

quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur.
Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Three: HMS Thunderhead]
Originally posted on MSPA by Anomaly.

Okay, what.

So suddenly there's this big house and there's light all over the place and I wander around and then i jump in the lake because it's dark down there but noooo, there's ghosts down there, and then one suddenly starts blathering some insane nonsense in my head and i see things that don't even make sense and i still can't even comprehend what was that stuff all over the place and then the basement throws me out the door but i go back again later and everything stops making any sense and doors lead to random other places and there are still ghosts everywhere and i get cut in half by my own portal somehow and finally everyone gets thrown into the basement where there's this big disgusting sack of flesh and bones that's trying to devour us.

then the Prestidigi guy shows up and tells us that he saved us and there would be a new round and two of us would die and there's a train and Eureka still doesn't trust me but maybe she does I still don't know but I think she does so then some more random stuff happens and oh yeah I keep seeing this forest but it's not actually there and then i'm on top of the train and the pirate tries to kill me and I'm pissed off and it's bright and I throw him back away but he hits the scientist and he falls off the train but then he's back and the train goes away and we're back in the basement again and Eureka almost died but I guess I saved her wait who even died i guess it was Miq dammit why did she die already why not Sandman.

then these other guys tell us that they're running things and they left gifts for us and, well, I guess that's good, but now I'm somewhere else and it's cramped and wait why am I in a barrel.

Syvex, realizing that he was up to his neck in some unidentified fluid, decided at once that it would be in his best interests to escape. The lack of darkness nearby prevented easy exit via portals, so he instead opted to simply tip the barrel over. As could only be expected under the circumstances, the barrel was placed high up in the room, and proceeded to roll down several layers of boxes and other assorted junk in a potentially comedic fashion before crashing into a wall. The serpent forced the lid off and stumbled out in a daze, greeted by a searing influx of light and a none-too-discreet bout of snickering. Syvex shot his attention toward the source of the sound, only able to see a faint silhouette disappear into the white shroud.

"...Hello? Someone there?" No reply. Whoever - or whatever - that was had probably left. Syvex then took notice of the mess he had inadvertently made of the storage bay. Passengers' belongings, food supplies, and several questionable substances were scattered all over the place, complemented by a number of overturned storage containers. Not the best way to start off this third round.

Syvex curiously slunk in the general direction the silhouette had exited in, and almost immediately stumbled upon a peculiar wooden box in the middle of the floor. As far as Syvex could tell, the box oozed darkness from every crack in the surface, in the same vein as the serpent's own skin. Letters were scrawled on the side in an odd, unrecognized script which Syvex could only assume was his name. He immediately threw open the box and pulled out the source of the radiating darkness - a wine bottle. A peculiar, yet vaguely familiar symbol was inscribed on the label, along with several words. A gift from the gentleman, apparently.

Syvex gently swished the bottle around in the air, gazing at the tantalizing dark fluid inside. Not a moment later, the cork had been ripped out by a claw and the serpent had taken a very small swig of the bottle's contents. Even the tiniest portion of the fluid had an alarming effect on the serpent. The uncomfortably bright room grew darker, more clear. The surfaces nearest to him flickered oddly, before slowly growing translucent. Syvex stood aback in shock. The mysterious fluid in the bottle was even more powerful than the contents of the scientist's vial, though its permanence had yet to be seen. Also noticable was the reemergence of the subtle venous lines on his skin, cracks between scales that had lay dormant since the bout with Hebris when they first appeared. It suddenly became clear. A bottle of the essence of that realm of darkness. Syvex grinned.

Clutching the bottle tightly in his middle left hand, Syvex eagerly launched several bursts of darkness and destroyed the storage bay's lighting. Darkness at last. He immediately opened a portal into the air vents above; a tight squeeze, but just big enough to accommodate the serpent and his precious cargo. After several minutes of slithering through tight air vents, his arms forcibly pressed at his sides, Syvex's weight inadvertently smashed open a large air vent and fell into some all-too-brightly-lit crew quarters. Thankfully, the room's owner was absent. And, peculiarly enough, the scientist was there. He stared forward in a daze while panting and doing his best impression of a bobblehead, and didn't even seem to take notice of Syvex at all. Also of note was the Endorphic Core strapped to the scientist's back, quietly humming as it steadily empowered him. After a few awkward moments, Riko suddenly collapsed to the ground, convulsing but still quite inert.

"...Riko? Are you... where did you get the Core? I... guess it's better than the pirate having it. ...Are you okay? Hello?"

Riko was completely unresponsive to the serpent's questioning, seemingly content to lie on the ground. After a few more moments, Syvex shrugged, picked him up, and placed him on the small bed at the side of the room. He only hoped that the scientist would come to his senses before the room's owner returned. Especially since the effects of the bottle seemed to be almost imperceptibly waning, and the possibility remained that the scientist could help him restore his powers permanently. Sighing, Syvex took another sip from the bottle, blew up the lights, and teleported back into the air vents. Only one thought remained on his mind now. Finding Eureka before anything especially bad happened for once.

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Three: HMS Thunderhead]
Originally posted on MSPA by MrGuy.

”Hey, you. Fox.” Ripper Blackmask, having almost instantly opened the box to find nothing more than a key within, was becoming ever more agitated. The wry grin of First, sitting on a cabinet in the room and staring, was not exactly helping matters. “The hell’s this for? Where’s my Core?”

The man in the mask of a fox began speaking in his calm, gradual fashion, making a conscious effort to draw out his vowels even longer than usual to irritate his contestant. “Well, Adrian, as it so happens”—he paused here to take a very deep breath, causing the pirate to slam a gloved fist against the wall in annoyance—“It was not my choice, although I must admit, it makes things rather more sporting if you have to fight to get it back, does it not?” The buccaneer sighed and took in the sights of the suite. The fact that the bottom was not coated in, for example, some sort of space cocaine, would make it clear to someone familiar with the H.M.S. Thunderhead that this was merely a second-class room; Ripper was dazzled nonetheless. The walls literally sparkled, and a television the size of a large department store’s combined front doors was affixed to the wall opposite a tremendous bed.

Ripper fondled the key awkwardly, searching for some hidden use. He wants me to win, he claims, which means he gave me something at least sort of useful... but regardless, these are strange waters. I’d better figure out where I am and what to do about it. Almost as if sensing the raider’s inner monologue, First coughed meaningfully. “I left something you might be interested in lining the box, for the record.”

Ripper checked, and inside found a brochure. The word “zeppelin” brought an almost immediate sense of glee; the fact that it contained a full map of the ship only increased this. However, one thing did strike the pirate as incredibly odd, inciting a gasp. “You’re tellin’ me that ladies are wearin’ pants now?”

First failed to respond, merely giving a shrug and a smile before disappearing. His contestant sighed. Well, at least he was some help. Hm... let’s see here. Blackmask scanned the map, eyeballs alighting on the area labelled “DECK A: FIRST-CLASS”. Hm. I’ll need the Core if I want to make good on what I steal, might as well get a disguise while I’m at it so as to catch everyone off guard... After a bit more planning, the pirate smiled, and began rooting through a suitcase laid in a corner of the room. A few items of scar-concealing clothing pilfered, and the pirate was satisfied enough to head to the bathroom. After undressing and spending about ten minutes getting used to the high-tech interface, the pirate settled in for a nice long shower. Ooh, this is nice. I oughta wash myself more often. Eventually, Blackmask finished removing the accumulated grime of several years, and hopped out of the shower just in time to meet a man who was understandably shocked by the naked pirate in his bathroom.

“Y-you... what? Why are you here?”

Ripper looked down at him scornfully. “What, I ain’t allowed to have a shower, landlubber?” Raising a fist, the raider grinned maliciously. “You got a problem with me using the facilities for a brief bit, eh?”

The man briefly stammered, shook his head rapidly, and fled the scene. Blackmask sighed and dried off with the towel before putting on the pilfered clothes.

Ah, nice fit. And quite a comfortable substance. These’ll do me well. Now, just to find a weapon... Once again consulting the diagram of the ship, Ripper ascertained the location of a supply station, and headed to it. Inside was a single guard, easily dispatched by a severe pistol whipping. Ripper snatched up a nice blunt instrument, and set off...


A large man leaned against a wall, staring out the window at the vastness of space, brown hair glistening. A small scar laid on his cheek, practically an adornment rather than an injury. Truly amazing, once you think about it... almost makes me regret what I’m going to have to do to this place. He flexed his fingers. Still, I couldn’t call myself much of a pirate if I didn’t kill people and hijack zeppelins. I suppose I’ll just need to... His train of thought was interrupted by a woman he saw out of the corner of his eye. Oho. She’ll be a nice complement to my disguise. He headed up to her, smiling disarmingly. “Excuse me, ma’am. My name is... Richard Bratton. Would you walk with me?”

The woman, tall, with a decent face and athletic build, wearing a slightly oil-stained jacket, laughed. “I’m not one to question a stranger walking up to me and offering the opportunity, but I really ought to make sure all the systems are in order.” She gestured to a wrench held at her side by a belt. “This is my first voyage, and I want to make sure nothing goes wrong.” She thought for a moment. “That said, I believe I could come with you if I made my rounds in the process... and perhaps afterwards, we could eat some dinner before I make sure everything’s alright on the lower deck.”

The man adopted a pleasant smile, perfect to hide the much more sinister thoughts broiling in the back of his head. “Suits me great, miss. Suits me great.”

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Three: HMS Thunderhead]
Originally posted on MSPA by MalkyTop.

Everything. Suuuuuuuuucked.

Eureka shakily pushed herself up on her feet and then looked down at her stomach. There was a tentacle going through it.

No, no there wasn’t. That’s stupid. How would she even survive that, no, not possible. Eureka jumped on the spot.

Her leg gave out as she landed and her head quickly collided with the floor. Okay, so there was a tentacle going straight through her stomach. Suuuuuuuucked.

Her first instinct was to pull it out, but the fact that a big freaking hole in her chest would remain gave her pause. While having part of a hopefully dead eldritch horror lodged inside of her was not ideal, having a huge, bleeding hole where her spleen should be was even worse. At least the stupid thing was plugging it up.

She was on a train—no, no, no, zeppelin. Though she couldn’t tell just by looking around, but that was one of the words she had heard just a moment ago so she assumed that’s where she was. The room she was in was, well, there were some things in it, she was sure, like, edible things. She was probably feeling cold? There was a box entirely out of place here and, without thinking, she picked it up. There was also a man, or something like that. He might’ve worn a mask? With horns. Was he the devil? Probably not.

Maybe he was saying something, in which case, Eureka interrupted him, unless he wasn’t saying anything so she didn’t. “Goddamn little bitch you think this is funny gaarrahhhh son of a dammit little whore gah.” She immediately tossed the large, light box at the man, but since her eyes were being bleary, she probably missed by a long shot and in any case the guy disappeared or strolled away or was never there or something. This didn’t satisfy her frustration. She tried punching a nearby thing, hanging tantalizingly by a chain, and ended up hurting her fist, and then a wildly swinging leg probably accidentally got tangled up in some sausages and she fell over again.

She tried not to cry but it was getting harder. Luckily, it was too cold for her to cry. Crying wasn’t practical.

Rubbing at her eyes guiltily, Eureka got up again and went looking for the box, feeling slightly ashamed about her little tantrum. The box had her name on it and whatever, and she opened it up to find some sort of suit.

She threw the box away again because fuck suits.

She retrieved it again and at least read the note that went with it this time. Grabbing the suit, she searched around for the door because now she was really getting cold.

Stumbling outside, Eureka quickly found out that usually meat freezers are connected to kitchens and usually kitchens have cooks in them and usually cooks do not like seeing people with tentacles sticking out of them. There were quite a few shrieks and then the kitchen was void of cooks. Eureka blinked, then went around looking for a nice butcher knife. And a few seconds later, a random cutting board was adorned with something that looked as though it came from a Japanese monster and Eureka was tottering down a hallway, fixing up her sweatshirt and pulling apart her new suit in order to tie the strips around various strategic places. One went around her head, probably making her look like an old lady. Great.

She probably looked completely out of place and maybe a little zombie-like, but after pondering this for a while, Eureka found that she was too exhausted to try to fit in. What was the use, anyways? No police or hitmen or whatever were chasing her here. And any contestant would probably recognize her immediately, rendering such a disguise moot.

Eureka jumped again before continuing down the hallway. She was feeling tired, but she couldn’t sleep. Maybe she should. She would definitely like to. But remember what happened the last time you slept? She tied a particularly wide strip of suit around her chest and made sure to cover up her back. Stabbers. Backstabbers. Backstabbersbackstabberseverywheresurrounding

Eureka punched herself and careened dangerously close to a wall. Paranoia had its place. Goddamn where was she. Where was everybody. Wasn’t this supposed to be some sort of passenger tra—zeppelin?

She was…probably on a high bridge thing? Support beams crisscrossed so closely above her that she could probably jump up and clamber up, but with her recent luck with jumping about, she didn’t particularly want to try. She leaned over the railing instead, peering down all the way past other bridges, all the way to the very lowest level, where things seemed to shine brighter and there were fancy clothes and something golden and dear god if that was a fountain she was going to have to punch herself again.

“Miss, you lost?”

Eureka looked up again. Hey, there actually were people on the support beams. Maintenance, probably. Most were busy tightening bolts or whatever, but one young man was staring at her, his mouth twitching slightly, probably because of how ridiculous she looked.

When she didn’t answer, the man swung down, jumping onto the railing and hopping on the walkway easily. “No passengers here, miss,” he said kindly. “Know what floor you’re on?”

Eureka only stared coldly at him. She still wanted to fall asleep.

The man’s face started looking uneasy and his eyes wandered over back to the support beams.

“Jim!” another man called from above. “Better get back up here!”

“Just a sec,” he shouted back. “Need t’ get this lobo outta here—“

She definitely wasn’t sure what that meant but it couldn’t be anything good, judging from what it sounded like. Eureka threw a punch, but the man dodged quickly, amazing on such a narrow walkway, and she went back to sullenly glaring at him. He gave off a surprised laugh, one that halted every once in a while, as he wondered whether he should apologize or not. “Not a lobo, then,” he said, deciding to react with mirth. “Not a trank either. What, you just asocial, or a mute?”

“No,” Eureka muttered.

“Asocial, I guess. C’mon, I’ll just at least lead you outta here. You’ll find your caretaker on your own, right?” He took her hand but she wrenched it out and he laughed more easily at her flashing eyes. “Right, right, okay, no touching either,” he said, raising his hands to where she could see them. “Jus’ follow me then. I’ll take you to the public floors.” And so she slowly walked back through the hallways again, the limber Jim striding along in front of her. He often shot too far ahead and so was constantly speeding and slowing every once in a while, obviously wishing she’d hurry up. At least he said nothing when Eureka jumped on the spot randomly. Though there was that look in his eyes that told her he wanted to laugh.

There was an especially loud metallic noise and then a black something exploded out from the vents. The man jumped away quickly as it landed where he had been standing and he opened his mouth to shout something, but apparently wasn’t expecting anything like Syvex because his mouth simply remained open. Syvex took this chance to punch him in the face and he crumpled to the floor.

Finally. Glad to see you’re not being attacked by monsters or bleeding to death or anything like that.” He looked her up and down again. “So…you’re okay? I guess?”

Backstabberbackstabberbackstabber. “Define okay,” she replied morosely, after a worryingly long pause. “You just punched that guy, right?”

Syvex looked at her oddly, or at least as oddly as he could with no eyes, and replied, “Define punching.”

Okay, maybe he spoke too soon. After all, he didn’t know at all what happened when she got impaled on a horrifying monster tentacle. He watched as she cautiously poked at the walls. “There’s nothing weird about this, is there?”

“Uh…the walls? I don’t…think so…?”

Eureka sighed. “Okay. Let’s go, I guess. But I’m not going around in any vents.”

On the floor, Jim groaned quietly.

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Three: HMS Thunderhead]
Originally posted on MSPA by Wojjan.

Let's see.
quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur.
Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Three: HMS Thunderhead]
Originally posted on MSPA by SleepingOrange.

The gestalt consciousness that could be said to arise from the combination of Laguja's spirit and Muriegro's body and mind (such of it as was left, anyway) became aware that it was somewhere white and noisy. The priest's body was slumped against a wall in a narrow corridor and some liquid was steadily dripping from above, landing in an already-sizable puddle nearby. Still, it was a nice change of pace: nothing was actively trying to kill anything else nearby; the scenery, thought odd, was stable and not made of meat or tentacles; and best of all, there was no demon shackling large portions of the angry god's awareness. Laguja took a few moments to fume to itself; being trapped in a false world should have posed no challenge to a being whose stock-in-trade was mental manipulation and illusion. It should have been able to see through the ruse immediately! The fact that the thrice-damned Malevolence had had the forethought, and worryingly the power, to fragment the god's mind and seal parts of it away from itself without Laguja's knowledge was infuriating. Still, it looked like that was all in the past and thus largely irrelevant. Laguja had watched as the simple little mind of the mimic had died in a kaleidoscopic explosion of power that had ended in a dwindling puff; a new round had started, and this time, the pincushion was sure of it.

What was less reassuring than the new location and absence of the demon was the introduction of the "gentlemen" that were apparently betting on the contestants' success. While they were apparently eager to see that their favored battler was victorious, to the point of intervention no less, Laguja harbored no illusions that whichever masked figure was banking on his power would be some kind of trustworthy benefactor showering gifts and assistance. The fact that he or she was complicit in the Prestidigitator's twisted spectacle inherently made them the Enemy, and therefore more akin to a leering man outfitting his rooster with clawblades for the upcoming cockfight rather than some kind of powerful ally. It also meant that there were more targets for Laguja's divine ire than it had anticipated, and therefore more planning would be required. It might be possible to turn the gentlemen against each other or their master with care, but it didn't seem worth banking on. For the moment, it was probably best simply to focus on the here and now; the eventual goal of taking down those who had taken the pair from their world was still the most important one, but immediate concerns took the forefront for reasons of safety, intelligence-gathering, and to allow some time for back-of-the-mind planning.

Plus... There were minds here. Hundreds of minds nearby, thousands close enough to be vaguely sensed. This space-whatever was crammed full of living, thinking people. It was exactly the sort of place that Laguja wanted and needed. Muriegro stood up, slightly shakily, and looked around, more for the look of the thing than to actually take in visual information. Neither the priest nor his master was more than vaguely familiar with concepts like space travel or plastics; though Laguja's general knowledge about the universe and the way it worked certainly provided for the possibility and nature of the complex polymers, their use by lifeforms outside its native jungles was a foreign concept. Still, even with the veneer of the futuristic, there was no mistaking the nature of this place: it was a tenement. The general state of just-barely-in-repair, the smells in the air, and most of all the taste of the thoughts that floated within the pinchushion's grasp... All spoke of a place where people lived because there was nowhere better they could afford and nowhere worse they could be. It was a place full of exactly the sort of people Laguja wanted and needed. It was delicious.

The priest righted himself and strode out of the narrow corridor he had appeared in, arms once more folded placidly in their sleeves. His master all the while plucked thoughts and information out of the psychic landscape, gathering names, prevailing moods, maps, trends, and any other information it thought would be valuable. If this rabble was to serve its cause, the godling would need to familiarize itself with their mental and physical worlds posthaste.

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Three: HMS Thunderhead]
Originally posted on MSPA by Anomaly.

Even for Eureka, the cloth mage seemed to be acting rather strangely. Her usual acrid demeanor had given way to bewilderment, and she seemed unusually wary about the environment in general. Asking strange questions about perfectly ordinary things, carefully examining just about everything around her... It just wasn't normal. Perhaps it was the large piece of the Malevolence's tentacle stuck in her abdomen. Could it have retained any odd effects that the main body caused? It seemed unlikely, but then again, no more unlikely than anything else that had happened so far. The internal damage from the appendage didn't look too bad, all things considered, but then again, it didn't really take much to kill a human. Surely there was an infirmary somewhere in this... where were they, anyway? It occurred to Syvex that those "gentlemen" had never actually explained exactly where the round was set. It also occurred to Syvex that he had completely ignored his surroundings for a couple of minutes while Eureka's questioning grew increasingly agitated.


"I said, are you even listening?"

"I guess I wasn't. ...Are you sure you're feeling alright?"

"I'm fine. Really. Just great." She cautiously brushed her hand against a door, and immediately pulled it back.

"Something wrong?"

"No. I just said, I'm fine. Stop worrying about me."

"Fine, except for that tentacle in your stomach."

Eureka gave Syvex a very suspicious glance. "How do you know about that?"

Syvex held up the bottle, shifted now to the middle hand on his right side. "I don't know what it is, but I think it's the same stuff that gave me all that power back in that tower. Except a liquid, somehow. So basically, I know it's there because I can see it. Let's just get you some medical attention."

"I... but... fine." It was fairly (and disappointingly) apparent that she didn't fully trust Syvex, not that she ever really had. But she did have a fairly large chunk of eldritch abomination lodged in her, with the probable internal bleeding that entailed. Reluctantly, she trudged behind the serpent as he hastily slithered through the labyrinthine hallways of the upper decks.

- - - - - - - - - -
Captain Tiberius Reed of the H.M.S. Thunderhead sat back in his luxurious captain's chair, situated in the center of the space-zeppelin's bridge. Various personnel bustled about around him, completing their tasks with due diligence. The captain's attention, however, was focused fully on the large viewscreen at the forefront of the circular room, intently watching the ship's slow progress through the depths of space. A scant two hours remained before they would finally complete their voyage; just two hours until Captain Reed would receive personal accolades from the Empress herself. The voyage so far had been quite uneventful - no major malfunctions in critical power systems, no inexplicable deep-space anomalies that required the application of meaningless technical-sounding jargon to bypass - a perfectly routine trip. Tiberius Reed, contented, relaxed and silently awaited the triumphant return of the H.M.S. Thunderhead. Silently, until his bliss was interrupted by the ship's head of security.

"Sir. Security breaches on decks 26, 2, -3, and -34, as well as maintenance catwalk 45-C. Several injuries reported, one fatality. Possible security breach on deck -49 as well."

"Elaborate, Mr. Gallagher. How severe are these breaches?"

"Deck 26, passenger quarters 2638. Robert Cunningham, First Class passenger, reports that upon entering his room, he discovered that someone had gone through his luggage. On further investigation, he discovered an unidentified intruder taking a shower in his quarters. Unidentified intruder, strangely, spoke in a pirate-like accent. Mr. Cunningham fled the scene.

"Deck 2, security station Alpha. Security guard Alexander Dupont was assaulted by an unknown assailant, and his weapon was stolen. Dupont was taken to the infirmary and is now in critical condition. Odds of survival 50% at best.

"Deck -3, crew quarters. Lieutenant Fournier returned to his quarters after his duty shift ended, and discovered an unidentified man unconscious in his bed. Upon addressing the man, he immediately jumped up, glanced around the room quickly, and fled through the door. Fournier reports the man was of average height and average build, wearing a blue shirt and an orange jacket. He was additionally wearing a purple scarf and black boots. He had medium-length brown hair, but Lieutenant Fournier didn't get a good look at his face. Had a strange device strapped to his back. Also of note is the fact that the air vent cover had been forcefully ripped from the ceiling and the lights in the room had all exploded. Cause unknown.

"Deck -34, passenger quarters -3490. Adam Hoffman, Third Class passenger, was discovered dead outside of his quarters. Quite clearly a murder, but the murder weapon is unknown. Clean entry and exit, wounds cauterized shut immediately. Died of internal burns. Couldn't be connected with deck two assault - happened around the same time.

"Deck -49, suspicious person sighted. Extremely pale, wearing tattered robes of some sort. Mouth appeared to be stitched shut. General feeling of uneasiness in all who he passed near, though he paid them no heed.

"Maintenance catwalk 45-C. Maintenance crew member James Anderson discovered an 'asocial woman', around mid-20s in age. Woman appeared inordinately dirty, likely a third-class passenger. He began to lead her through deck 45 hallway C-5, but was shortly attacked by an unknown assailant. Mr. Anderson reported that the assailant "wasn't human". On further prompting, he described it as a large, snake-like being. 'Too many' arms, covered in spikes, no eyes, big mouth full of sharp teeth, constantly smiling. Capable of speech, associated with unidentified woman."

"Hold on. You're saying that Mr. Anderson was attacked by a giant talking snake? Is this a joke?"

Mr. Gallagher paused as his communicator earpiece sounded. His face grew more serious as the voice on the other end, inaudible to the captain, gave its report. A few moments later, Gallagher turned back to the captain.

"Another report has come in of an eyeless, snake-like creature traveling with a dirty-looking woman. Showed no hostile intent to passenger, however."

"...Find it. Subdue it. You said it's capable of speech?"

"Yes, sir. James Anderson reported it talked to unknown woman for some time before leaving the catwalk. It also tried to talk down the other passenger it encountered, but she was more concerned with running."

"Bring it to security. Question it. If it's intelligent we should try to learn what the hell this thing is before we just kill it."

"Yes, sir. Security teams have been dispatched to all affected decks. I'll keep you updated."

Captain TIberius Reed of the H.M.S. Thunderhead sighed. They'd come this far, and now this happens? Something wasn't adding up at all.

- - - - - - - - - -
Syvex and Eureka, in spite of their almost random wandering, failed to run into anyone for several minutes after the incident on the catwalk. Corridors branched off from other corridors in several directions, occasionally leading back out onto larger bridges in the massive open area. Eureka continued to act strangely, prodding at harmless inanimate objects and glancing at Syvex suspiciously every so often. Idle chatter proved useless as long as Eureka was in this state, so the serpent instead elected to remain quiet. After turning yet another corner in the many hallways of cabins, however, Syvex almost ran directly into a middle-aged woman who was facing the other direction. She immediately turned around and opened her mouth as if to scold some common miscreant, but froze at the sight of a twelve-foot, spike-covered shadow snake. Her eyes grew wide with fear, and her heart started beating noticeably faster, but she failed to actually move.

"...Um, hi. ....Do you happen to know where the infirmary is?"

The woman continued to gaze in silent, paralyzed fear, afraid for her life but unable to react.

"...I'm not going to kill you. Just relax, and tell me wh-"

The woman suddenly let out a deafening scream and sprinted down the hallway in a frenzied panic. Syvex hadn't previously considered the ramifications of having a very hard-to-disguise monstrous appearance in a place packed with civilians who weren't used to such things. He probably wasn't going to get much help finding his way around, in any case. Almost immediately, however, Syvex heard a familiar giggling sound from up ahead, accompanied by the same quickly-disappearing silhouette.

"Did you see that?"

"See what?"

"Well, did you at least hear something?"

"...No. Are you feeling okay?"

"...Nevermind. Let's just keep going."

Syvex pointedly headed toward the silhouette once more, and, unsurprisingly, found no traces of it. No traces, that is, except for the map stuck to the wall with a large dagger. Unable to read more than a few choice words, he carefully removed the poster-sized map from the wall and handed it to Eureka. As the large wording across the top indicated, it was a map of the interior of the "H.M.S. Thunderhead", no doubt this round's locale.

The ship was arranged in a plain and orderly fashion - there were 101 decks, numbered from -50 to 50. Deck zero contained important command rooms, such as the bridge. Decks -5 through 5 were crew quarters and other important ship functions, such as security and the infirmary. Decks -25 though -6 and decks 6 through 25 were second class, lined with cabins and various entertainment centers. Decks 26-50 were first class, while decks -26 through -50 were third class. In the center of the ship from the top to the bottom was a massive open area, lined with various bridges as well as a magnificent plaza on deck 6. Five lifts surrounded the perimeter of the open area, and ten more were situated around the outside of the zeppelin. Finally, below deck -50, there was a massive observation deck, located where one would normally find the cabin of a standard zeppelin.

Eureka folded up the map and shoved it in a pocket. The two headed off again, this time toward the lifts instead of at complete random. For a few minutes they thankfully encountered no more passengers of the ship, even as they came to "LIFT 5C", as the large sign proclaimed. Syvex moved forward to activate the lift, stopping in his tracks when he heard a loud CLICK from some distance behind, its source shrouded in light.

"Security. Don't move if you want to live."

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round One: Afterparty]
Originally posted on MSPA by granolaman.

Tamerlane felt the warm presence of the crossbow in his coat. He had climbed ten levels since testing it on a hapless crewman and the weapon still radiated hints of its power. Behind him, a well-dressed man in an ant mask followed without word. An expectant ahem escaped his lips.

“What.” He stopped and turned to the tag along.

“Well?” Fourth answered with apparent indignation. “Aren’t you going to thank me?”

“Thank you?” disbelief flickered across Tamerlane’s face, “Am I supposed to be the gracious performer forever endeared to my doting patron? Should I thank you for the chance to battle for my life against gods and monsters? Or perhaps I should simply be grateful for the rare opportunity to bask in your presence.” He pulled out the crossbow and pointed it at the smaller man. “After all, it’s not every day I meet a supposedly immortal entity.”
Fourth’s gaze followed the weapon’s aim and up to Tamerlane’s eyes. The intensity of his venomous glare matched the sand man’s.“It wouldn’t hurt to show a little awe and gratitude to someone a hundred times your superior. I’m just helping.”

“Helping? If you really want to help, you’ll bring me the serpent so I can exact my revenge. Then maybe I’ll show some gratitude.”

Fourth broke eye contact and stared at his feet, fidgeting ever so slightly. “Well, Second said we aren’t supposed to interfere directly…”

“Hm, just as I thought.” Tamerlane shoved the crossbow back into his coat, “You’re useless to me.” He spun on his heels and continued up to the next floor. The atmosphere of the decks was beginning to change. The hallways were becoming more posh and the guests were appearing more fancifully dressed. He was also beginning to attract more stares from the passengers. Behind him, the ant masked man huffed at the insult and disappeared in a melodramatic puff of smoke. Tamerlane grunted and climbed up to the next deck.

This deck was different. Rather than being just another slew of cabins, this deck housed the first floor of a two-story theatre stage. Advertisements for a variety of shows lined the entryway, but the theatre appeared deserted at the moment. Tamerlane approached the stage and breathed a mental sigh of relief. Up in the rafters was a pair of weight bags used to move the heavy scenery and rigging. He focused and drew a sizable amount of sand from the first bag. A groan sounded from the pulleys and an enormous backdrop crashed to the stage.

“That’s the set to ‘The Vagabonds’ Trials.’”

Tamerlane turned and saw Fourth standing in the rows with a playbill in his hands.

“It’s about two lost souls,” he continued, “one of light and one of dark, and how their different journeys still mirror each other across time and space. Slow bit in the second act, but otherwise a tolerable play.”

“What are you still doing here?”

Fourth walked up to him and handed him the playbill. With the flick of a wrist, the bill transformed into an elegant map of the zeppelin. “Miss Finch has gotten herself into trouble up on Deck 45. If you were to ‘find’ her, your Syvex would no doubt come running right to you.”

“I thought you said you weren’t supposed to interfere.” Tamerlane smirked, taking the map.

“Second said I’m not allowed to help…” A devilishly wicked smile grew across his face. “But then again, Second isn’t here anymore.”

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Three: HMS Thunderhead]
Originally posted on MSPA by MalkyTop.

”You see him too?”

Syvex almost sighed. These odd questions flipped between being a tiny bit annoying and very worrying. “Yeah, he’s right in front of us.”

“Talking amongst yourselves counts as moving,” the guard warned. “Miss, I want to see your papers. And…whatever your friend is, tell it to stay.”

“I’m not a pet and I happen to associate with the male gender,” Syvex said testily. Eureka shushed him and resumed staring sullenly at the guard.

Feeling pressured to say something more and feeling awkward actually having the weird snake thing talking to him, he added, “Now, we don’t want any trouble, but there are other officers on standby, you see, just in case…”

“Yeah, of course, of course, hang on.” As Eureka patted her pockets, Syvex couldn’t help but think that was the most pleasant that she had ever sounded. “Don’t, don’t push me, okay?” she added, moving slowly towards the man as she pulled out strips of bandages and cloth and ribbons and other things that may have once been clothing before getting lost in the abyss of pockets. It was almost like a magic trick that never ended. “I’ll, uh, find it, it’s here, don’t push me,” she repeated meaningfully.

That was pretty forced. Syvex had a feeling that she had never tried using inconspicuous code words before. It was a miracle the security guard didn’t catch on immediately. Maybe he was distracted by the piles of crap growing at his feet. Trying not to move too much, Syvex twisted an arm around and jabbed at what he hoped was the right button.

“…Miss, I really don’t think—“

“I had it here, really, it’s just, you know, maybe it was stolen, I think. Yeah, there were, like, strange people…they could’ve…”

Syvex swore he could see the words “You’re the strange one” almost force themselves out of the guard’s mouth.

“Miss, look, just come with me, and take your, uh, friend. We’re not going to do anything to you, we just want to talk.”

God, when was the damn lift coming, come oooooon.

“Then what’s the gun for? That’s, that’s intimidating, you know. I don’t think, yeah, it’s really threatening. If it’s really just a talk, shouldn’t you put it down?”

“We don’t want you to escape. This is very serious.”

“Well, maybe seeing the gun makes me want to escape. You understand the problem here? Do you?”

The guard’s face might have softened a bit before lowering the barrel of the gun slightly. “This is still a security precaution, you realize. I mean…uh…he…”

“He’s not dangerous at all. He’s, uh, built by my dad. He’s more like a bodyguard. Actually, he’s more likely to attack if he feels I’m threatened,” she quickly added. The gun seemed to lower a little bit quicker.

“Okay, I won’t aim it at you two anymore as long as you cooperate and come with me, okay? It won’t take long. It’s just a short talk. I’ll be escorting you, so you’ll be safe. Just a short talk.” The guard gave what was supposed to be a friendly pat on the shoulder and was not entirely prepared for the resulting screech and shove.

“NO. You can’t touch me, okay?! That’s another condition! Nobody can—“

Deciding that the ‘shut up and let Eureka talk’ maneuver was not working anymore, Syvex slithered up and cautiously said, “Uh, Eureka, uh.” Her eyes were flitting around wildly and she was now twitching and backing away from the stunned guard. When she bumped into Syvex, she yelped and whirled around.

“Syvex!” she shouted, much louder than necessary.

“Eureka, calm down.” Oh man. Was that really the best he could thing of?

“Where, what, what’s going on right now! What do you see?!”

“No, there’s nothing going on, okay? It’s fine, Eureka, calm down, okay? There’s nothing dangerous here.”

Eureka continued to spin around, examining every direction frantically, before screaming, “This, this isn’t. Really. Happeniiiiing!” and collapsing in her recently discarded cloth pile. She curled up there and continued screaming something incoherent, as it was muffled by what may have been an old scarf.

“What, uh,” the guard finally managed to say before a ‘ding’ signaled the arrival of the lift. Sounds of female chatter escaped through the doors as it opened which quickly turned into screams as the poorly-dressed women saw the scene. Before they could do anything like close the doors, Syvex wedged his tail between them.

“Get out, get out!” The women got the idea and ran out of the lift, some running away, some staring wide-eyed at the shivering form of Eureka. “Get her to the infirmary! Now!

The guard had already dropped his gun. Now he stood there uncertainly, keeping his hands far away from Eureka as possible. Apparently, her earlier warning had him scared to even go near her now. With an agitated growl, Syvex dug into the cloth pile for a moment and finally found something that was rather like a ratty blanket. After laying it flat on the floor, he scooped up Eureka briefly to dump her on it. He still wasn’t sure why she didn’t want anybody touching her now. He felt fine when he carried her.

Grabbing onto two corners, he dragged the sheet inside the lift. “Wait,” the guard finally said, stepping forward. “You can’t leave here! You, we need to, you know, uh,”

“Then you take her to the infirmary.” The guard hesitated. Almost as though he never had to deal with this sort of situation. Syvex threw his various arms up. “Goddammit! You don’t even have to touch her anymore! Get her to the infirmary!”

“But, uh, I can’t just leave you, well, alone, you see,” he stammered.

I’ll stay here. Does that make you feel better? Call your friends to haul me away. Just go to the goddamned infirmary.” More hesitation. “THERE’S NO TIME GET IN THERE CALL MORE SECURITY ON THE WAY DOWN TO GET ME.” There was no more hesitation then. The lift was safely on its way and Syvex sighed, sighed out of relief and stress and worry. He glanced to the rest of the third-class women who had lingered. “What’re you still doing here?” The women looked at each other, unable to provide answers of their own. “Well, go! Go away already! Show’s over!” They stared at him a while longer before rushing away. He sighed again.

Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Three: HMS Thunderhead]
Originally posted on MSPA by Wojjan.

Okay take two.
quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur.
Re: The Phenomenal Fracas! (GBS2G6): [Round Three: HMS Thunderhead]
Originally posted on MSPA by MrGuy.

The woman, in her two-sizes-too-large jacket, squinted at the blueprints. "Richard Bratton" tapped his foot impatiently. "What's taking so long, anyway? Isn't this supposed to be just routine maintenance?"

The woman took a deep breath before pulling out her wrench and carefully adjusting some of the engine's inner workings. "Yes, but as the handbook says, just a single mechanism out of place could send this whole engine to smithereens." The engineer's handbook in her pocket did, in fact, say that, and looking at the engine it was easy to imagine why; an outside observer saw nothing more than a jumbled mess of pipes, gears, fans, vents, belts, and wires, and the diagrams she repeatedly glanced at did little to clarify. After a while, she re-attached the steel panel that covered the labyrinth of technology, wiped some grease off her cheek, and sighed. "Right, that's all eight reactors checked. Let's go get that food."

The pair strolled down the hallway, Richard occasionally scratching at his forehead. "You never told me your name, miss."

"Didn't I? Sorry about that. Diana."

He grinned. "Good to meet you, Diana. Now then." He mashed a button on the elevator, which quickly whirred down to their position. "So, then. You wouldn't happen to have a boyfriend, would you?"

Diana raised an eyebrow. "Someone's a bit forward, but as it happens, no. I've remained staunchly single, and I doubt anyone's going to change that in the near future." She smiled softly, brushing aside a strand of reddish hair. "Of course, I could be wrong. Do tell me, Mister Bratton, what do you do for a living?"

He made a big show of "accidentally" brushing against his scar as the two entered the lift. "I'm actually a space captain, miss. I go throughout the galaxy, killing space pirates, fighting wars, all that sort of thing." He leaned down and whispered. "Actually, I have it on good authority that some pirates are planning to attack on this very voyage. That's why I've come aboard."

Diana gasped. "Oh, my! That would-- wait, the 45th deck? Why, Mister Bratton..."

"Call me Richard, please. And yes, I have a fairly high status, I suppose." He took her in his arm and strutted down the hallway, just in time to run into the sandman, and a fraction of a second later for both of them to notice that they were, in fact, only on the 24th floor. As cliche as it might seem, time definitely seemed to stand still as the three stared at each other, Tamerlane vaguely recognizing one of them but not being quite sure how, before another lift opened and he sidled his way into that one.

Diana sighed slightly. "What was that fellow's problem?"

Richard shrugged. "I dunno, but there's no need to worry about him, is there? I mean, we are having dinner together, yes?"

"Ah, indeed."
The GRIMACE ship, masked by its cloaking device, slowly approached. On the bridge, Randolph Markovnikov stared out at the depths of space, at the image the sun cast over Varral's massive landscape, and of course the looming Thunderhead. He shook his head, sighing.

"Sir, boarding in eight point four minutes!"

He nodded. "Thank you, Derrick. Polly, status report on the core?"

"On one of the lower decks-- somewhere between deck 39 and 47, I believe. Slime-based anomaly remains. Based on what's been going into it, I'd say Riko's still in possession of it."

Randolph frowned slightly, shifting his goggles. "Do we know what that anomaly's going to do?"

"Not yet, sir, but several theories."

The zeppelin's vast form grew ever closer. Markovnikov nodded. "Do tell. We have about eight minutes to kill, after all."