The Battle Royale S2 [Round 4: Burnination Studios]

The Battle Royale S2 [Round 4: Burnination Studios]
Re: The Battle Royale S2 [Round 3: Endymion]
Originally posted on MSPA by Dragon Fogel.

Endymion had been intended to serve as a perpetual motion machine. A complete system in and of itself.

As it developed over generations, it had come closer and closer to fulfilling this objective. By now Endymion was, if not a complete success, close enough to one to convince its populace. The machinery and the people worked to keep it running on its own. There were countless processes to ensure that whatever was produced could be returned into the system.

Some of the less glamorous consequences of this arrangement could be seen - not to mention smelled - at the planet's various waste recycling centers. Numerous unpleasant substances were collected, processed, and converted into usable materials.

In the complex system that was Endymion, small errors could often lead to dire problems if not corrected swiftly. As a result, record-keeping was very strict; if the wrong amount of something came in or out, it usually meant an investigation was forthcoming.

Today, they had fallen short.

"Six ounces, Alfonz? Can you explain this?"

Alfonz' already tiny frame seemed even smaller as he cowered. He'd always worried that his sector would come up short; now that it was happening, he was absolutely terrified.

"W-well, sir, perhaps somebody in the sector is late? Or it was directed to the wrong sector instead of mine?"

Foreman Gardner glared at the technician.

"We have the records. Your sector's load was fine when it entered the plant, and all the others are consistent. Either we have a thief, or you are incompetent."

"It... it must be a thief!" Alfonz shouted in a panic. "I did everything exactly the same as always! Please, please don't punish me!"

The foreman was unimpressed. He'd seen technicians plead before and it had never moved him. This would be no different.

"Then you'd better find those six ounces before this is officially reported. After that, it's out of my hands. Is that clear, Alfonz?"

The tiny creature let out a gulp, and scampered off in search of the missing waste.


Enrique was exhausted. He had just gotten home from his shift, and was sitting down for an evening of reading.

Then there was a knock at his door. He groaned.

"Just when you get settled," he sighed. "Never fails."

Enrique pulled himself out of his chair and lumbered over to the door.

"This better be good," he grumbled.

He opened the door, ready to give the unwanted visitor a piece of his mind.

But there was no one there. He looked down and saw a small bag on his doorstop.

"What the hell is this?"

He picked up the bag and opened it to inspect the contents.

It hadn't occured to him that there was a reason why the bag was airtight. With his enhanced sense of smell, Enrique found the stench overpowering, and collapsed.

I still can't believe they haven't invented doorbells here.
Re: The Battle Royale S2 [Round 3: Endymion]
Originally posted on MSPA by MalkyTop.

What could he say? The obvious answer was there was nothing to say. There was absolutely nothing to say when you were accompanied by a talking knife and walking through the twisted dreamscape of a conglomeration of sentient goo.

Goddamn. All this trouble for some stupid whatever-it-is. Hopefully it’ll be over with as soon as possible.

Mongoose carefully hopped down and turned around to take Snake’s hand and help him down as well. Instead, Snake jumped on him like a giant cushion. The young man thought extremely dark thoughts and made a resolution to find some other old geezer to hang out with for the twentieth time that day. He then scrapped the resolution for the twentieth time that day. So Snake liked to tease and anger him. So what. He could deal with it.

As soon as Mongoose got back up and brushed himself off, he realized that they had finally reached the bottom of the bizarre sewers. Water rushed by under something that looked like glass but was actually cellophane. Underneath that, he could see dead fish floating by. He turned towards Snake. “So now what?”

“We still have to find the, ah, the photographer, he’s called?”

“Yeah,” said the knife that Mongoose was doing his best to ignore.

“Yeah. So how do we do that?” he said, shivering and glancing around the dreamscape again.

Snake prodded the cellophane with his foot. “Well, he was washed down here. We could probably find him if we continue following the flow of the water.”

“Yeah. Right.” It was only now that Mongoose realized how cold and dark it was down here. “Maybe that’s not quite a good idea.”

“I certainly hope you aren’t frightened, Mongoose.”

“Shut up. We should leave.”

“Well, I have no intention of abandoning this little venture. I’m rather curious about how it’ll turn out. You can leave if you want.”

“I’m not—“

“Of course you wouldn’t, because you wouldn’t leave a poor old man alone down here, would you?”

Snake beamed cheerfully at him before continuing down a nearby tunnel. Mongoose waited until he turned the corner to curse.

“Don’t think I didn’t hear that,” came Snake’s admonishing voice. “Do I have to come back there or…?”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ll do it,” Mongoose grumbled back, dragging his feet and pulling back his rubber band. Feeling a strange stinging sensation, he looked down to find that his disciplinary rubber band had grown teeth for no real reason and was now suckling blood from his finger.

The rubber band was subsequently discarded with a yelp and a hard toss against the hard, sharp, stone walls. It flopped around helplessly, teeth pointed upwards and clacking with an insistent neediness. Mongoose shivered again, this time nothing to do with the cold, and hurried after Snake.

“Before you say anything, the stupid rubber band bit me, so you can’t say that I should’ve left it on or something…” Mongoose trailed off for a moment.

The sewers had become a veritable labyrinth. Water continued to flow happily along, oblivious to the fact that they were flowing in impossible directions. Dead fish were still pushed along in their stream. They chugged along the floor, up a wall, and doubled back on the ceiling until they were right back where they started. But that wasn’t what he was staring at.

Metal stairs, or maybe they were ladders, circled their way up to the surface, winding all around the room and covering the sides like dark ivy, making it impossible to really climb up. One stretched their way through a different doorway like train tracks. And indeed, Mongoose was certain that he could hear the distant howls of a train. But that wasn’t what he was staring at.

No, he was staring at the bodies. All of them dead, of course, why else would you call them bodies? They were all strung up, tied somewhere, sometimes to the stair-ladders, sometimes to something he couldn’t see, sometimes to nothing at all. Slashed or strangled or stabbed, however they were killed, they all shared one thing: no faces. No discerning feature whatsoever. Mongoose couldn’t even tell if any of them were female.

Blood dripped on the cellophane with a weedy little ‘plang’ sound. A thought occurred to him, the murders must have been done recently, the murderer might still be here, but it was a thought that seemed so far away that he could barely feel it.

“Let’s go,” Snake said, tugging on Mongoose’s sleeve.

“But,” he stuttered.

“We can report this as soon as we find a way out. But it’s important not to panic and run. Hopefully, this is only part of the dream…”

Mongoose allowed himself to be pulled away, but he wondered if Snake really understood the mechanics of this dream thing. Maybe the bodies weren’t really real, maybe the thing that killed them weren’t really real, but, well, as long as the photographer thing was dreaming, they were real enough. The bodies were real enough to be dead. The killer was real enough to kill. He and Snake were definitely real enough, and they could certainly die by some twisted nightmare.

Mongoose briefly touched his face. It was still there.

Re: The Battle Royale S2 [Round 3: Endymion]
Originally posted on MSPA by Dragon Fogel.

In the evening, three cloaked figures met in an empty storehouse.

The smallest figure nervously looked around.

"Are... are you sure we weren't followed?" he asked the hulking figure beside him.

The larger man snorted.

"You worry too much. My senses may not be at their best today, but I could still sniff out a stalker."

The tall, slender figure looked at both before speaking up.

"This is a concern for us, you know. There was no sign of any connection between the two of you. The fact that such a link emerged may be mere coincidence... or it may have been intended as a warning to us."

"That's what I said!" the smaller creature squeaked. "What if it's an agent sent by the Divine Circle? And he's just taunting us before they send in the Inquisitors?"

"Ridiculous," the larger figure grumbled. "This hardly seems like an agent's style, not to mention that I doubt they'd give themselves away. Assuming it means anything at all, I'd expect it to be a blackmailer."

"Enough." The tall figure turned his head towards both in turn. "Leave it to the more senior members of the Order to discern the motives, if any, behind this incident. What is relevant for now is that you should avoid contact with us, or with each other, for a while. Worry not; our Great Plan is nearly complete, and when it is, you shall have no further need to conceal yourselves."

His two colleagues bowed, and left quietly by different routes.


Drall sighed. Another late evening. At least he could finally return home.

He unlocked the front door, but found it wasn't opening; this was unsurprising, as it had been sticking quite a bit lately. It was unlikely there would ever be a technician available to fix it; they had few to spare, and his door would hardly be a priority job.

He pushed on the door with all the strength his wiry frame gave him, and it came open.

He had about half a second to appreciate it before the bucket of water fell on his head.

Re: The Battle Royale S2 [Round 3: Endymion]
Originally posted on MSPA by slipsicle.

Down a dripping, dreary side street of Endymion, a young man swore loudly as his hand flew from a doorknob. He kicked the door in question.

"What the hell, stupid door! I just" bang! "want to" bang! "open you!" bang bang!

Jeremy stood there, glaring at the doorknob that had just bitten him. Again.

He stewed for a while in his own misery; having been suffering from a terrible hangover for most of the round, he'd spent his time looking for the obvious cure: more alchohol. Then the doors had started biting him, and now his hand hurt and he was still hungover and thirsty and hungry and achy and were those footsteps goddamnit this street is a dead end and the damn doors won't let me-helloooooooo

An unfairly sexy girl, who couldn't be any older than twenty, had just rounded the corner and was giving Jeremy an... uncomfortable look. He froze, and realized his mouth was making an "o" shape. He closed it and licked his lips nervously.

"Uh... did I say that out loud?"

"...yes, you did." The girl cocked her head at him, "Why are you standing in front of my home?"

"Oh, this is, this is your home? Well, you see, uh, I was just, there's some... friends... and I was... um..." Jeremy kept moving his mouth for a while before he realized he wasn't saying anything useful, and settled for standing awkwardly. His mind, however, continued to run an incoherent stream of perversion, given this was the first remotely-attractive female he'd seen since the battle began. If she were a Grandmaster she'd be "The Hotness", he thought to himself. He giggled a bit at the thought. The girl raised an eyebrow. Jeremy gave her a nervous grin. "Uh! Um, you see... truth is... I haven't eaten in a while, and I could really use some bo- errr, water. I could really use some water." Truth be told, Jeremy made a rather ragged sight; clothes covered in dust, maple syrup and other assorted unmentionable liquids and particulates. He imagined he must look pretty worn-down, too. This was one situation where he hoped he looked as terrible as he felt. "I don't really have anywhere to uh... go right now..."

The girl looked him up and down. "Well, I'm not usually in the business of letting strange men into my home, but you seem..." Jeremy flashed another weak grin, "... mostly harmless. My housemates are working right now, but you need to be gone by the time they get back."

Jeremy nodded eagerly. "Yeah! Sure! I just could really use a place to sit, y'know, and... uh..." the girl had walked over to her door, and in so doing turned her back on Jeremy. Which, naturally, caused him to lose focus a bit. "um... mmmy name's Jeremy what's yours?"

The girl looked over her shoulder as she opened her door. "All you get is food and water. For now." She turned, and went inside.

Jeremy sighed in faux-resignation as his eyes wandered back downwards, and he followed The Hotness inside.

Re: The Battle Royale S2 [Round 3: Endymion]
Originally posted on MSPA by MalkyTop.

Endymion felt alive.

She didn’t understand it herself, but that was how she felt. It was the only way to describe it. Nothing was different at all. Everything was different somehow, too. Things were not running smoothly, but they were generally running the same. But it was also obvious that they weren’t running right at all. Unless she had always ran this way, but after thinking about it, she was very sure that she hadn’t.

Thinking. That was new too, actually.

Water ran through her veins, powering all sorts of things. (All sorts of organs?) It was all automatic. Or it was mostly automatic. Or it used to be mostly automatic, but she wasn’t the only one feeling alive; her organs were alive too. They could pump and clean and flow by themselves. They could adjust their own pressure, unclog themselves, they knew almost instantly when something was wrong with Endymion because they were the parts that made up Endymion.

There was poison in her blood, she could feel it, a black sludge coursing its way through her…

Were those foreign invaders, those people crawling all over her land? No, they were the people that took care of her…but she could take care of herself. She had no need of caretakers. They must be invaders then, sickly little bacteria to be purged…


The Dream collapsed again, shuddering. That had been happening a lot. He had an idea about why, and he didn’t like it at all. He would fight it all the way, of course. Dreams had a habit of being out of the control of the dreamers. But he was different. He was the dreamer’s avatar, and if the dreamer changed, then so did the avatar. It hadn’t really happened before, but it at least made sense to him, and he felt he could use a little more sense in his life. It seemed to be running fairly dry as of late.

The Dream got up and rubbed his head, ignoring the bodies that swung above and the whispers of machinery all around and the deep mutterings of a being much larger than he could imagine. He had to remember what he had to do, what he was here for, what his purpose was and will be, that’s right, future tense, so it had to be true –

He flung the knife away from his hand. It was the fifth one that had appeared spontaneously in his grip. He refused to think about what it was for. He had to find the Photographer (he was still a photographer he had always been a photographer, he could never be anything else, maybe if he kept saying this it would be true and things would be back to normal) and then…and then he would have to think of something.

There was the sound of footsteps. He turned and saw two men, one of them holding a knife. They didn’t have faces. He wasn’t sure if it was because they just didn’t or because he just couldn’t see them. He panicked and fled. He flung another knife from his hand.

He wasn’t sure why he did, but he climbed back up to the surface. Behind him, he could hear the men follow and chase and shout (without mouths? No, people had faces, people had mouths, they could shout, people had faces, people had faces) but he didn’t listen.

Once above, he continued running. The surface looked fairly normal. Why was this? What was going to happen?

The people around him had no faces and he ran. The air felt like molasses. It was harder to be up here than down there. But still, he ran.

Re: The Battle Royale S2 [Round 3: Endymion]
Originally posted on MSPA by Dragon Fogel.

Genetics Director Pendleton was a traditionalist and proud of it. This had a lot to do with the fact that he was six centuries older than anyone else in the colony, and consequently remembered a lot of traditions that everyone else had forgotten.

In his view, the Department of Genetics had already undergone far too many reforms that merely got in the way of smooth operation. Yet generation after generation, he had been ordered to implement changes that had been decided on with only the flimsiest pretenses of asking for his input.

It never occurred to him that this might relate to the fact that he always objected every bit as vehemently no matter the change. His opinions on every matter, from suspending the termination process to changing the color of the walls, were always the same.

"Everything's worked just fine since the day I was made Director, I don't see why we should go changing it now."

Over his decades of service, only one thing had changed about his answer: the sarcastic prediction of what ridiculous change they'd implement next.

"Next you'll be telling me we should anesthetize the failures before termination!"
"Next you'll be telling me we should feed specimens more than once a month!"
"Next you'll be telling me to get permission from the donors before DNA extraction!"
"Next you'll be telling me specimens have citizenship privileges by default!"

This was only out of necessity, as all too often, it was only a decade or three before these ridiculous notions were actually approved. Sometimes he wondered if holding onto his lifetime appointment as Director was even worthwhile if he had no say in the actual decision-making process.

But he wasn't about to give those bastards the satisfaction of seeing him leave. Not when he was going to outlive them by at least another six hundred years.

The citizenship rule had particularly irked him. Director Pendleton had worked hard to prove himself more than a mere combination of human and tortoise DNA. He had shown his intelligence, and his capability of understanding the processes that had created him. That was how he had become the first Genetics specimen to be granted citizenship. Ultimately, they deemed that his line wasn't suited for manual labor; they had long lives, but were sluggish and required quite a bit of food. The other specimens, lacking his intelligence, were terminated - and as far as he was concerned, it was better that way.

But those days were over - now all specimens were considered citizens until they could be demonstrated to be nonsapient. Even the failures!

And now another regulation was under debate. They'd sent a proposal to him, but he knew that was just a formality; they never listened to him. Even if the regulation was ultimately voted down, he always knew it would come up again in a year, or three, or five, or fifty. Sooner or later the ignorant buffoons would have their way.

But he wasn't about to let them have it without a fight.

Suddenly, he heard a buzzer ring. Someone was calling on him now? What could it be this time? Were they giving him an amendment to the proposal? It wouldn't change his mind.

With a heavy sigh, he picked himself up from his desk and lumbered over to the door. Five minutes later, he opened it. He wasn't the slightest bit sorry for the inconvenience of whatever visitor he had.

There was no one there.

Director Pendleton looked to the left and to the right, scratching his head. Had the visitor simply run off while waiting for him to reach the door? How inconsiderate. Well, he'd simply have to give them a piece of his mind. He reached into the pocket of his labcoat and pulled out the elevator controls, then shut them down. Whoever had interrupted his admittedly unpleasant paperwork wasn't leaving this floor until he'd given them a piece of his mind.

The director took two steps forward before slipping on the banana peel and falling on his back. He flailed his arms and limbs about helplessly as he yelled for an aide.

Unfortunately for him, all of the aides had received a memo about an important meeting in the first floor conference room, and they were still waiting for Genetics Director Pendleton to arrive and tell them what exactly the meeting was about.

Re: The Battle Royale S2 [Round 3: Endymion]
Originally posted on MSPA by MalkyTop.

”Sir? A report…”

“Is it about the missing celestial bodies?”

“No, something else...Endymion seems to be getting more efficient. Somehow.”


“Workers are reporting that the machinery is increasing output without any apparent difference in their modifications. We’re getting more energy from apparently no source.”

“Oh, come on, that can’t be right! Have you sent someone down to check everything?”

“Several. But the most we’ve learned is that there are strange growths underground. Then communications cut off after that.”

“…Alright. Don’t release this to the public. We need to pretend that everything’s under control. Send down cameras instead, attach them to a remote-controlled vehicle. I want to know exactly what is going on down there…”

I will murder you



“Did you say something?”



The thing they were chasing was somewhat similar to the thing they were trying to find, but slightly stumpier. Moved really fast, though. Mongoose sprinted ahead of Snake as the knife in his hands started babbling an explanation but he ignored that because shit was weird already and it was a lot easier to just be chasing a dude rather than chasing a thing that was a part of a dream but autonomous while they were all inside a dream that was just a dream layered over reality and whatever the shit.

The thing appeared to be littering knives everywhere. Like, a ridiculous number of knives. People who happened to be out and about stared as they zipped by, careful not to be hit by any of the sharp objects the little black creature tossed aside. And it was while the knife was busy explaining that the thing he was chasing didn’t even have any real stamina and Mongoose was busy ignoring it that he finally made a leap forward, grabbed its wrist (which seemed free of spikes and knives and thus was the safest handhold) and stumbled to the ground, making his quarry lurch and fall as well. Mongoose dragged them both up to their feet while Snake jogged lightly towards them.

“Alright,” Mongoose started, vaguely wondering again what this inky black dude was even made of because the thing was damp and sticky and a little bit disgusting to hold.

“Stop talking,” the thing replied, sounding horrified. There was another knife in its hands, which was somewhat surprising. “You’re dead!

In Mongoose’s experience, when people said things like that while waving around a knife, it was good to wave around a knife of your own. And so he waved around the (not talking nope not at all) knife in his hands in the vicinity of the thing’s face.

Its eyes, large white glowy things, seemed to brighten a little and it tossed away its own knife and grabbed the (no no no not talking) knife by the blade. “Good, good,” it said, hunching over on the ground. Mongoose didn’t really know what else to do besides to let go of the hilt. For one thing, if a blade wasn’t going to do much to it, then it was a useless weapon. For another, the knife seemed to be pacifying it quite well. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see someone on the phone. Calling the Containment Team, no doubt.

“We need to get out of here,” said Mongoose, turning to Snake. “We do, right?”

“If we want to keep him out of the asylum, yes.”

“He’s diluted,” the thing moaned. “He’s being pumped through the entire goddamn place like blood and now the entire moon is his dream. I saw it down there, he's insane, this is a nightmare, but not for him. People aren't people to him, you know. But I didn't think it could come to this.

Mongoose picked it up by the waist and looked around. “His stupid rambling’s gettin’ a crowd, Snake. I’m not sure if we can get out.”

And as Endymion’s residents stared and whispered, the babbling continued. “He’s fragmented, the whole thing’s going to fall apart, everybody’s going to die, the moon’ll be destroyed or it’ll be alive or something I don’t even know what to do…”

Soon enough, a group of white-coated men pushed their way through the crowd, all burly and stone-faced. They plucked the thing out of Mongoose’s arms with ease. “Thank you,” said one, “We’ll take it from here.”

“We’re the only ones left,” it said morosely to the knife in its hands. “And he’s going to snuff us out. I’m going to die. He’s going to replace me. You’ll just fade away.” Another knife appeared and he tossed it aside.

“Now hang on – “ Mongoose started towards the man holding the thing, but was shoved back.

“Look, son, we’re the Containment Team. Let us do our jobs, hm?” And with a condescending pat on the back, the Team retreated, as well as the crowd. Mongoose fumed.

“That wasn’t the Containment Team,” Snake said as soon as the two men were alone again.

“Oh, really? Was it the lack of procedure that tipped you off?” With a huff, Mongoose started walking home. There were several drinks he would like to down and he wasn’t going to be able to do that just standing around out here.

“But why did they take him away, then?” Snake wondered as he followed. Mongoose didn’t care. He had an inability to care. He remembered with a groan that they were planning to report all this weird shit to the coppers but realized that they probably wouldn’t believe them (he barely believed himself) and so it probably didn’t matter if they didn’t report at all. Which meant going home and drinking and that would really brighten up this day, wouldn’t it?

They passed by a few workers lowering cameras into the sewers. Snake watched this thoughtfully.


They didn’t take away the knife. They didn’t even restrain him. The Dream stared, but stared at nothing, and thought about his failure, his impending death. Or what could technically be considered a death.

The Photographer (technically could still be called that, right?) was just sludge. A consciousness spread around, imbedded in the planet’s workings now. Maybe he was even separated into multiple bits of sludge. How could you wake that up? You can’t. At least, not in time. Endymion would be alive, nightmarishly alive, and who knew what would happen. The Dream knew what would happen to him, though. He was going to die. Every last bit of what was formerly the Photographer was going to die as much as he struggled. The people here would die. The others would hopefully die, that would make this nightmare end sooner, but then his host would still be a diluted mess, something part of Endymion, and the other solution was just as bad because he didn't want to die.

He said this, shedding knives, and in the dark room people watched and recorded.

Re: The Battle Royale S2 [Round 3: Endymion]
Originally posted on MSPA by Dragon Fogel.

The page opened the office door, then looked down the hall before waving to the two fugitives.
"It's clear," he said. They rushed into the door, and the page closed it behind them. He then poked his head under the large desk.
Geoff and Wardell stared at each other for a moment, then Wardell went back to burying his nose in a book. Geoff sighed, he supposed he'd have to do the talking.
"Not that I object or anything," he said, walking over to the side of the desk, "but why exactly are you rescuing us?"
"Boss told me to," the page replied. "Tell you more in a minute. Oh, and you may want to step away from the bookcase."
Geoff glanced at a large bookcase behind the desk, shrugged, and stepped back.
"Further back," the page said, poking his head out. "Trust me."
Geoff obeyed. A moment later, the bookcase swung upwards to the ceiling; there was a doorway behind it. The page smiled, and gestured towards it.
"Gentleman, your freedom lies this way."
He lead them into the passage, and then flipped a switch on the wall. The bookcase swung down behind Wardell, just close enough to make him once more aware there was a world outside of his book.
"So, here's why I helped you out," the page said. "The office of the Grand Inquisitor has a long history of just blaming whoever's convenient, a tradition which our friend Acolyte Calor is only to happy to continue."
"Now that's an old story," Wardell mumbled.
"But how do you know we actually didn't do it?" Geoff asked mischievously.
"Don't, really," the page said with a shrug. "But even if you did, well, my boss thinks you could help him out. He's willing to take a chance here. If you're not interested, of course, well, he can always track you down and hand you back over to Calor."
Geoff and Wardell looked at each other for a while.
"You talk to him," Wardell finally concluded. "I'm not a negotiator."


"Ah, Calor, Dreus. You're the last ones here." Archbishop Pentago glared at the new arrivals. "Try to come sooner next time, hmm?"
"Forgive them, Your Grace," Acolyte Midro interjected. "I am sure they arrived promptly; my page must have simply been late in delivering the message. I will speak to him later."
"You are too kind, Midro," Calor replied. "I am sure we could have arrived earlier."
"Hmmph. Enough pleasantries. We're in a rush," Archbishop Blun grumbled. "Someone close the door, this is a sensitive subject. No one below the rank of Minister may hear this."
Midro closed the doors. Blun nodded, and resumed speaking.
"We've received an unusual report from Public Works," Blun explained. "We have more energy than expected. Significantly more. This would not be distressing if not for the fact that we have no idea where it came from."
The room was silent.
"I believe you are all having the same thought I am," Pentago said, breaking the silence. "There is one particular energy source that we are aware of and Public Works is not."
"We speak, of course, of the Heart of Endymion," Blun interjected. "You should all know that under normal circumstances, it accounts for approximately 13 percent of Endymion's energy output. What you may not realize is that this percentage used to be significantly higher."
"Indeed," Pentago continued. "As the rest of our technology grew more efficient, we designed regulators to control the output and decrease our dependence on it. If the regulators were to fail, it would naturally result in a higher energy output."
"And consequently, a sudden and unexplained surge of energy," Blun concluded. "However, this is nothing more than a hypothesis. We will need to send someone to examine the Heart before we can be certain it is the cause. Acolyte Zaedr!"
A tall, blue-skinned man stepped out from the crowd of priests.
"Yes, Your Grace?"
"We are assigning you to lead the investigation, as you have more experience with the Heart than anyone else here. You may select anyone else in this room to accompany you, though we ask that you not travel in a large group."
"Of course. No sense alerting the public needlessly," Zaedr agreed. "I shall bring Minister Dreus, and Minister Telon; both are well-versed in the relevant mechanisms, even if they have not seen the Heart itself."
"Very good, then," Blun concluded. "That is all. Everyone save Zaedr, Dreus, and Telon are dismissed. You may resume your duties."
"With all due respect, Your Grace," Calor said, raising a hand, "why did we have to come in for this at all? You had already selected Zaedr for the mission, and it was unlikely he would need another Acolyte's assistance."
Blun glared at the young Acolyte.
"I will be lenient this time because you have not had your rank for very long, Calor," he said disapprovingly. "Simply put, we are preparing for the worst. If Zaedr runs into unexpected problems, we will ask another among you to assist him. And we would prefer to waste as little time as possible explaining what you must do. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes, Your Grace. My apologies."
"Now, return to your duties."
Calor raised his hand again. Blun sighed.
"What is it now, Calor?"
"I apologize once again, but Minister Dreus was assisting me. I will require a replacement..."
"Sort it out for yourself, then. Surely you are capable of that?"
Embarrassed, Calor bowed his head.
"Ah, yes. I merely wanted to be sure I had permission."
"Hmmph. Another impertinent question like that and I may consider assigning someone else to attend to the late Grand Inquisitor's duties."
"I will keep that in mind, sir."
Acolyte Midro walked up to Calor, a satisfied expression on his face.
"I can spare an assistant or two, Calor. I don't mind taking on a little extra work myself."
"How very kind of you, Midro," Calor muttered. "I don't see how I can refuse such a generous offer."


"I don't see how I can refuse such a generous offer," Geoff replied, slightly frustrated. "So what does your boss want us to do?"
"It comes down to Calor again, as it turns out. Where do I begin... Okay, well, he was a Minister until only a couple of months ago. He was in the enforcement division, that's how he ended up filling in for the Grand Inquisitor."
Geoff shook his head.
"I'm sorry, the titles don't really mean anything specific to me."
"Oh, then I'll just give you the short version. So a couple of months ago, Calor was assigned to shut down a cult. He managed to track down every member and capture them, and that impressed the Grand Inquisitor enough to promote him."
"Well, good for him," Geoff said. "But you haven't explained what that's got to do with us."
"Ah, yeah. My boss, look, I don't know how he knows, but my boss thinks Calor didn't hand over all the members. Thinks he joined up with them, handed over a few to make himself look good, and had the rest go into hiding. Only thing is, we aren't sure why; Calor's ambitious, not rebellious."
"So you want us to find out," Geoff concluded.
"Right. Now, the cult's mostly genetic rejects, from what we can figure out, and with all due respect, you could pass for one," the page continued. "The guy in the scarf, not so much, but it's all right; they're hardly exclusively for rejects. Even if they did let Calor in." The page smirked.
"And how are we going to find this cult? If you could, surely you wouldn't need our help."
"Well... it's true, we're still working on that," the page admitted sheepishly. "But we can get you on the streets and hopefully you can find something out. Don't think about trying to weasel out, though; we'll be keeping an eye on you."
"Wouldn't dream of it," Geoff acknowledged. "So where are we going right now, exactly?"
"My sister's place," said the page. "Well, okay, it's not just her place. But my boss arranged things so she'd get the room on the other side of the passage. Ah, here we are!"
The page reached for a switch on the wall. Geoff coughed.
"Er, perhaps I'm being presumptuous, but won't your sister mind if you come in with two strange men without, say, knocking first?"
The page laughed.
"She's always working at this hour, don't worry," he said. "Can't think of a single thing that would keep her away from work." He flipped the switch, and a panel opened up.
The three of them stepped out, and were greeted with a scream.
Wardell glanced towards the bed, where a very attractive woman had pulled the sheets over herself.
She wasn't alone. Her partner slowly picked himself up, and waved at the newcomers.
"Hey Geoff, Ward," Jeremy said dreamily. "This is Ellena. Who's your new friend?"

Re: The Battle Royale S2 [Round 3: Endymion]
Originally posted on MSPA by Solaris.

As Jeremy entranced with his engaging description of what he had done Geoff and Ellena's brother, the embarrassed sister rushed out of the bed to get herself into a more modest state and Wardell predictably opened a book, once again, A Comprehensive History of Endymion.

As he reluctantly leafed through book, looking for more information on this cult, Jeremy started to drivel on and on. Though he made a great effort, Wardell was unable to completely block out the drunkard's ramblings, going through the index, ...Cubicles...Cucumbers...Cults-
"And of course I found myself at a bar..."

Wardell winced, but did not deter, rationalizing that the quicker he found some pertinent information, the less he would have to deal with Jeremy. and other underground societies in the moon often were formed by the genetically rejected citize- "And the sweetheart that she is, she let's me in and... well...-" One significant cult... of which various key members were apprehended... worship a winged arbiter ... revolved around he end of the moon- "Oh yea! I also met that angel, well sort of, he just rushed out after I got there but... where was I?"

As Wardell continued his attempts to ignore Jeremy, his more observant scarf tugged at him a little, eliciting a stare that asked, 'what?'

"Well, that last cult there, doesn't it seem a little relevant? Winged arbiter, end of the moon, apprehended members?"

Wardell paused for a bit, and then made an "Ahem."

"So, this cult, does it have any symbols or figures they worship."

For a moment, everyone was a bit silent, as Jeremy and Geoff hadn't gotten used to seeing Wardell's face out of a book, let alone talking.

"Uhm, well, we think that they are waiting for the coming of a winged arbiter or something," the page scratched at his head not quite sure what Wardell was getting at.

Quickly recovering, Geoff placed himself on the right track, "A winged arbiter, someone who would come down and judge others, probably dressed for the part, like..."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa," Jeremy interrupted "When did he start talking?"


For Acolyte Zaedr and his ministers, things were going relatively smoothly. The trio thought that they had gotten a bit lost on their way down, but they just chalked it up to a mistake on their part. "It has been a while since I've been down here, I probably just misremembered," was said at least three times, each one less sure than the last.

Eventually, Zaedr hit a metaphorical wall along with the very real ones that seemed to be newly strewn across the path to the Heart of Endymion. After tracing their steps back to a fork with four paths, of which, they had just been through one, Zaedr spoke to Minister Dreus and Minister Telon and he reluctantly confirmed their fears, "I am afraid that there is something wrong with the pathway to the Heart of Endymion. I am absolutely sure that we took the right path, but as you can see..."

"So then, what do you propose we do, go back?"
"Nonsense, we can't just go back, right Acolyte Zaedr?"
"Yes, we must keep going, even if the path is uncertain. One of these must lead to the heart, so each of us will go on our own. If you meet a dead end, come back here and wait for the others."

The two ministers nodded, and after selecting their respective paths, split up.

As Acolyte Zaedr continued deeper into Endymion's dark corridors, he felt... odd. It was not just how the path was suddenly unfamiliar, or what he thought could have caused the energy spike that drove this feeling, it was something in the air that just made him feel uncomfortable. He was glad that there was no one around to see him.

Then, there was a drip. The Acolyte paid it no mind, focusing on the task at hand, on his duty to the moon, on anything that wasn't the feeling creeping up inside him. There was another, louder drip, followed by a step? The Acolyte stopped in his tracks, looked behind him and saw nothing. He was alone.

I am alone.

Acolyte Zaedr continued his travels, his heart racing and his breathing becoming erratic. He wasn't being followed, there wasn't anything here, and the heart was probably acting as it was because of something trivial. This is what Zaedr wanted to believe, it is what he wanted to happen. He didn't want to see the odd liquid that was dripping around, he didn't want to think about what shapes seemed to be forming along the corridors, and he certainly did not want to notice a shadow lurking behind him.

"It's just your imagination, there isn't anything wrong, you are alone..."

It wasn't working. He was now almost sprinting but the atmosphere did not change, Acolyte Zaedr still felt as if he was not alone, no matter how much he tried to deny it. Still, he persevered, and finally made it to his destination.

The Heart of Endymion was a breathtaking sight, the subtle red glow illuminating both the room it was housed in and a few pipes that flowed through the moon. After all of the trouble getting there, the view made Zaedr feel safe. He snapped out of his trance and started to get closer, as he did have a job to do.

As he stepped forward, the feelings of sickness and unease left him, tossed aside and forgotten. Unfortunately, he also tossed any semblance of a guard along with it. When the figure that had been pursuing him stabbed him in the back, it was fast, without any struggle. The figure looked like a shadow against the Heart of Endymion, as if they were cloaked in darkness. They turned away from the fresh corpse only to find what seemed to be another shadowy figure. There was silence as the two faced each other, one much more visibly nervous than the other. Finally, one of them made a break for it, leaving the other alone in the heart's chamber.



"Alright, well that's all fine and dandy for why you two should help them, but what stake do I have in it? I have other plans."

With Jeremy brought up to speed and everyone fully dressed, the tone in the room had changed a bit, with the page getting increasingly annoyed at the man who he thought hadn't said one agreeable thing the entire short time they had known each other. "Well, not anymore you don't. You are going to go with them and help them find out who killed the Grand Inquisitor." He sounded like he would punch Jeremy if anything other than a 'Yes' came out of the drunkards mouth.

Groggily getting his sense back, Jeremy reasoned that his time as a guest was probably over. From the look of embarrassment Ellena was giving him and Geoff and Wardell's uncaring faces, he was not going to easily slip out of this one. Well, not yet at least.

"Alright, alright, I'll help you with this stupid investigation." He paused then added a snide, "I guess."

The page squinted, but continued on, "Good. Now, as I said, the cult is made out of mostly genetic rejects, if you go around where most of them hang out, you might find something. I suppose that angel or whatever it was called angle could also work, but the point is that if you don't do something to find them, we'll know, and I will personally make sure that the three of you are handed right back into Calor's hands."

Geoff nodded, "Don't worry, I would like figure out what happened here just as much as you would. And I'll also make sure that these two don't run off, now, you said something about the er... genetic rejects, can you tell us where we could find them?"

"There are a few places where they could be and..." The page looked at the time, "Shoot, I have to get back, I can't take you to any of their hang outs, you'll have to figure it out yourself."

"Wait," Ellena spoke, "maybe I could take them to one."

The page's eye twitched a little, but he knew that he did not have the time to argue. "Fine but be careful!"

Without another word, he left, leaving the unlikely, and in some cases, reluctant group alone in a small silence.

"Well then, Ellena? I don't think I've formerly introduced myself, I'm Geoff, this is Wardell. Pleased to meet you."

"The feeling is mutual I suppose."

"Right, we've got some ground to cover, so if you could please lead the way?"
Re: The Battle Royale S2 [Round 3: Endymion]
Originally posted on MSPA by Dragon Fogel.

Minister Norve was less than pleased with how the day was turning out. First he had been assigned by Acolyte Midro to keep an eye on Calor - not officially, of course, but Norve knew enough to read between the lines.

Unpleasant as that duty was, it was only made worse by the fact that Calor was very good at devising tasks that the Minister couldn't easily pass off to a page, due to the sensitive nature of the data involved. It turned out there were quite a few such distractions you could plausibly construct when two murderers suddenly disappeared. And, of course, if Norve were to suggest that another Minister perform these menial tasks, he would be rebuked for insubordination.

The worst of it had been scouring the archives. One of the suspects - or "cold-blooded killers", as Calor had called them - appeared to be a genetic construct, and so poor Norve had been ordered to find a profile for him. He hadn't even seriously considered asking why it hadn't already been done - why would it have been necessary, after all, when the suspects were right there to be questioned, tried and convicted?

That task had taken several hours. Several hours during which Norve had no idea where Calor was or what he was doing. The worst part was that Norve had been completely unable to locate any file on the suspect - he half-expected Calor to miraculously have it on hand already, just to ensure his watchdog would be forced to check every last record.

It was almost a relief when that wasn't the case.

"No file whatsoever?" Calor asked incredulously.

"None. Looked everywhere, no one fitting his description."

"That could mean a number of things, none of them good. For one, he might know our system well enough to find and remove his own file. Unpleasant as that would be, I actually find it the least disturbing possibility."

"How so, sir?" Norve knew the answer, but appearing ignorant was better than appearing complicit.

"Because the next possibility that comes to mind is that someone in the church removed it for him."

"Oh. I should hope not, sir; the thought that one of us could be aiding such a criminal is most disquieting." And also completely true, he was sure.

"Worse yet, he might be the work of an unlicensed geneticist. That would provide a clear motive, of course... perhaps the human was the geneticist, and the Grand Inquisitor, rest his soul, had uncovered their operation."

Norve could tell Calor liked this theory. He expected it would become the official truth if the escapees were caught.

"That does sound plausible, sir," he said noncommitally.

"Or worst of all, he might be an off-worlder. That would be a grave problem, as you surely know."

"Absolutely, sir," Norve replied. He found himself wishing he had gone with Zaedr instead.

Calor stared at the Minister for a while. Were it not for his great self-control, Norve would have sighed as he anticipated Calor's latest excuse.

"Well, we apprehended some other prisoners last night," he mused. "I need to question them as well."

Norve was almost certain he wouldn't be coming along.

"But we cannot ignore this murder, of course. Look into the files on past incidents involving rogue geneticists or off-worlders. Perhaps they will give us insight into which of those we are dealing with."

"Yes, sir," Norve agreed reluctantly.

He was not looking forward to reporting back to Midro later.

Calor smiled as his guard dog wandered off. There was only one more matter to take care of before he could let Midro's little spy see all that he pleased.


Brother Lanston was beginning to think he had been forgotten. He had been captured at least eight hours ago, and there was no sign of any Inquisitor, Grand or otherwise.

Finally, Acoylte Calor stepped in, alone.

"I'm terribly sorry for the inconvenience," he said with a smirk. "The day has been quite a bit busier than I expected."

"You're not the Grand Inquisitor," Lanston noted calmly.

"Alas, the Grand Inquisitor departed this mortal coil last night. I am left to take on his Earthly duties."

"I'm sure you're devastated by his passing, Acolyte. However will you cope, having so much less work involved in talking to your old friends alone?"

Calor sneered as he grabbed Lanston's arm.

"I think I'll manage. Don't think this will change anything about the usual arrangements."

"Didn't think so," Lanston murmured. "This is always such a fun part."

Calor dragged Lanston to the wall and shoved his forearm into a small opening. He turned a crank; Lanston howled with pain as the unknown machinery crushed his fingers, but really, it wasn't as if this was a new experience. The anguished screams were more for the sake of appearances than anything else.

"Enough pleasantries, Brother Lanston. We have business to discuss. I assume that's why you raised such a ruckus, after all." Calor fiddled with a dial, and two long chains with shackles attached dropped from the ceiling.

"Wish I had more exciting news. AAAAGGH!! IT BURNS!" He screeched again, just as Calor locked up his ankles. "The Matriarch wants her payment to keep quiet, as usual - AAAAAAA!! - and that traitor you mentioned last time has been taken care of."

"Good, good," Calor said absentmindedly as he turned the dial the other way. The chains retracted back towards the ceiling, pulling Lanston's shackled legs with them.

"Oh, wait. There was one other small matter - MERCY! MERCY!" Lanston howled as Calor pulled a hot poker from the wall and prodded his back. "When I was arrested at Johnny's, I saw a rather interesting customer. Most likely a reject, given where he was, not to mention what he looked like..."

"Get to the point, Lanston. I've had enough delays already today." Calor grabbed Lanston's other hand and drove it through a spike on the wall, prompting another shriek. "And you could stand to be a little less melodramatic about this."

"My apologies, Acolyte," Lanston grumbled. "Here's what matters. This stranger looked human, except for one little detail. He had wings. Great big white wings."

Calor actually stopped a moment before he pulled the next lever. It was Lanston's least favorite, but he knew the reprieve would be brief.

"Would you say they were the purest white?" Calor asked, before pulling the lever. The mechanisms inside the wall began drawing Lanston further in, even as the chains continued to slowly retract towards the ceiling.

It was the anticipation that was the worst part, really.

"Bit dirty, but yeah, probably would be if you cleaned them off. Anyway, that's my report. Mostly I came to see if you had a new job for me."

Calor chuckled.

"As a matter of fact, I do. It's interesting that you should mention the Matriarch. I have recently come to the conclusion that trying to please that woman simply isn't worth the trouble."

He pulled a small circular device out of his robe, then pulled out a dagger from his belt. He stabbed Lanston through the heart and stuffed the device in the wound.

"So I've decided to give her a little gift. Just leave it in her desk, where you usually leave my payments. She'll be certain to find it there, I should think."

Lanston felt the world fading.

"Got it. Don't know why you waited until now to do this, but then, I'm not paid to ask questions. Just the opposite, really."

"A wise man. You'll go far, Brother Lanston." Calor smiled, then stabbed the cultist in the stomach a few times for good measure. "Oh, yes, you won't be leaving by the usual route this time. Someone appears to be targeting our members, so we're changing our regular plans to throw them off. You should wake up near Dr. Lo's office, in the company of two recruiters. They'll guide you back to headquarters once their shift is over"

"Got it. Don't see what I have to worry about, though."

"We would prefer not to take chances," Calor said solemnly, slicing off Lanston's head. "And, of course, should you happen to find our Winged Arbiter again, bring him to me one way or another. I believe he could prove very useful."

"That'll cost you extra, you know," Lanston's head mumbled just as he passed out.

Calor released the body and pulled it out, along with the head. He left them on the floor, and left the room, only to find Norve waiting for him with a stack of papers in hand.

"This is everything I could find, sir," the Minister said, doing his best to hide his annoyance. "I would have knocked, but I wasn't bred with an extra hand."

"Good, good," Calor said. "Why don't you take those to my office while I question our remaining prisoners? Oh, yes, and there's a mess that needs cleaning up in there. There's no need to attend to it yourself, but I would appreciate it if you could inform one of my pages."

Norve sighed.

"Fine. Would you like me to take your notes on the last interrogation while I'm at it?"

"That won't be necessary," Calor said. "I'll bring all my notes with me when I arrive later."

After you remember to write them, no doubt, Norve thought.


It was not easy for genetic rejects to see a doctor on Endymion. Though recent laws banned them from being refused service outright, most doctors had simply opted to discourage rejects in other ways.

Dr. Lo had stepped in to fill that void. He had resigned from a lucrative post at Genetics to serve his fellow man, even if most of his former colleagues would never see them as equals.

But his clinic was not merely a medical center. Dr. Lo realized that as matters stood, rejects had few opportunities for education. As a small step towards rectifying that problem, he had gathered a large collection of books and opened a library in the clinic's basement.

At first, it seemed like the library was a futile gesture; more than three-quarters of Lo's patients were illiterate. But those who could read were eager to teach others, at least once Dr. Lo told them how much he was willing to pay for their services.

Sirius was finding one of them especially eager.

"You really can read already?" it asked. It was a large toadlike creature, and Sirius had no idea of its gender.

"Yes," he said. He turned his attenton back to his book, A Brighter Future: The Path To True Equality For Discontinued Genetic Lines. He was beginning to understand how Wardell felt.

"Come on, I bet you can't get all the words in that book. 'S a real fancy one, y'know. Good, though, real good - gave me lots to think about."

"Please leave me alone," Sirius said firmly. "I've had a long day, this is the first time in a good while I haven't had my employer shouting in my ear, and I don't need anyone else getting on my nerves."

"But I get a bonus if I teach the most people to read this week! Come on, it won't take long! I could give you the advanced course, you'll like it!"


"Ah, come on! I really need that bonus! Why, I'll even treat you to one of Johnny's meat pies..."

The force of Sirius' glare convinced the tutor to look elsewhere for students.

"Finally," Sirius grumbled, focusing on his book again. The Eccentric had agreed to a half-hour of quiet time, and Sirius intended to make the most of it.

His solitude didn't last long. Less than a minute later, what appeared to be a four foot tall mound of hair pulled up a seat next to him.

"Good... book?" the hairy creature asked, slowly. Sirius simply nodded.

"Glad... think... so," it said. "I... wrote."

Sirius looked at his new companion, surprised. "You wrote? You mean, this book?"

The creature excitedly nodded what seemed to be its head. Its rapid movements contrasted strangely with the pace of its speech.

"Yes... I... wrote. Wrote... about... us. Tell... world... of... struggle. Our... struggle."

"Did anyone help you?" Sirius asked, staring with disbelief at an eloquently-written passage. It was hard to reconcile with the image before him.

"New... ones... always... ask. Because... I... talk... slow." The hairball laughed weakly. "But... no... wrote... by... self. Talking... hard. Writing... easier. Learned... read... then... learned... write. Then... wrote."

"You're very good at it," Sirius said, surprised. "How long did it take you to write this?"

"Two... months. Doctor... printed... for... me. Said... not... likely... sell."

Sirius couldn't help but agree. The book had no kind words for the current leadership, and it had little sympathy for the ordinary citizens who, despite the new laws, mostly continued to mistreat rejects - or "discontinued genetic lines", the author's prefered term. He couldn't imagine anyone wanting to buy a book that told them how terrible they were.

"But... he... liked. Told... me... talk... to... us. Get... more... writers. More... voices... heard."

"And has anyone else started writing?"

"Not... many. Too... busy. Need... money. Doctor... tries... to... help. But... he... needs... money... too."

Sirius doubted that Dr. Lo would have much luck getting a publishing house interested, either.

"I... write... new... book. Here... take... look."

The hairball thrust a limb into its thick fur, and pulled out a partial manuscript. The title read A Comprehensive History of Endymion.

"I... write... for... us. Next... write... for... everyone. Doctor... thinks... might... sell. Give... us... chance... write... more."

Sirius thought he heard a mental yawn. He suspected that his break was nearly over.

"I wish you the best," he said.

"Thank... you." The hairball giggled. "You... hear... about... Director?"

"No," Sirius lied. News travelled fast, apparently.

"Genetics... Director," he continued, clearly pleased. "Slipped... on... peel. Stuck... on... back. For... one... hour."

"Really? I wish I could have seen the look on his face," Sirius said, smiling awkwardly. "But listen, I'm afraid I have to go now..."

"Back... to... work... yes?" the little creature said, sighing a little. "What... job?"

"I'd rather not talk about it," Sirius replied. "I prefer to think about it as little as possible."

"Hear... that... lots," the creature said with a nod. "Hope... you... find... better... job."

"That makes two of us," Sirius agreed, stepping away just as he heard the Eccentric's familiar mental tone.

Ah, that was a good nap. Where are we? A library? Ooh, grab a book or two before we leave, I know some good tricks with books...


Lanston groaned. He looked down at his body.

"You've put it on backwards, you idiots!" he yelled at the two cloaked cultists hovering over the table. He grabbed his head and snapped it off. "Now do it right, hopefully before I pass out again."

"Well, sorry! It's not like any of this is marked or anything!" the shorter of the pair retorted, grabbing Lanston's head. His taller companion flipped the body over, and the shorter man shoved the head back on.

"Much better," Lanston grumbled. He picked himself up and threw a cloak over his body, much to the relief of the other two; few had seen Lanston without his cloak, and those who had generally regretted it. "Ugh, wish they'd sent me to the usual place instead. Where I could be put back together competently."

"We had little choice, Brother," the taller cultist replied in a raspy, feminine voice. "Someone seems to be aware of our activities. Several members have been struck by unusual pranks since last night."

"Pranks?" Lanston sneered. "This is what has you all worried?"

"It's worrying as hell!" the shorter cultist declared. "Whoever it is knows who we are. Maybe the pranks are just a warning. Maybe they're toying with us before these pranks turn more dangerous."

"Or maybe it's just dumb luck," Lanston said. "Whatever it is, I doubt I have much to worry about."

"The rest of us lack your particular talents, Brother," hissed the taller cultist. "Pardon us if we are more concerned."

"Whatever," Lanston grumbled. "So when's your shift over? I've got business with the Matriarch, and I don't know my way around this part of town."

"It might as well be over now. Lo's been bad for business. He's got his own line with the rejects, and he warns them not to have anything to do with us. It's been weeks since we got anyone around here to join."

"Then quit wasting my time. You know where I'm headed, show me the way."

Grudgingly, the pair walked out, with Lanston following at a distance he found comfortable. They soon passed Dr. Lo's office; Lanston noticed that his companions were walking quite a bit faster.

"What's the rush?" he asked. "Afraid he'll give you a flu shot?"

"Afraid of his patients. I told you, most of 'em don't like us."

"The door's opening!" the tall cultist hissed. "Move faster!"

"Cowards," Lanston muttered, glancing back at the door. "What's one reject going to..."

He smiled beneath his hood as he saw a familiar face step out of the clinic. Or more accurately, a familiar pair of wings.

Lanston leapt in front of his fleeing companions and held out his arms.

"What's the big idea?" the short one asked. "You got a problem with us hurryin' to get you home?"

Lanston pointed behind them at the angel spreading his wings.

"Our Winged Arbiter has arrived," he said simply. "And I think the Matriarch will want some words with him."

Originally posted on MSPA by Dragon Fogel.

"You have got to be freakin' kidding me," the short cultist grumbled. "You want us to capture him? He can fly!"

"It is hardly a difficult task, Brother Pila," his associate replied. She held up her arm and a series of thick green vines flew from it towards Sirius. But he swiftly changed course, and the vines missed his leg by mere inches.

"That's what you get for showing off, Sister Catena," Pila growled. He took a deep breath and his body took on a rounder shape. "Tryandcatchupifyoucan!" he declared rapidly, before bouncing off the clinic's front wall.

"A minor setback," Catena declared, more to herself than the junior cultist. As her vines fell, she turned her arm and they caught themselves around a conveniently-placed pole halfway across the street. Without a word, she retracted her vine-arm, pulling herself to the pole.

Lanston sneered as the other cultists ran off in pursuit.
"Bah. Amateurs, they'll never catch him moving like that." He glanced at a nearby communication terminal; perfect. "Still, I suppose they'll make a nice distraction."

Lanston opened a maintenance panel on the terminal and leapt in. He wasn't sure of the Winged Arbiter's destination, but the overall direction was clear enough, and he could move through the gears and pistons that connected two terminals faster than this fool could fly. Provided that the others kept their quarry moving in the right direction, he could claim the element of surprise.

Sirius, for his part, was less concerned by his pursuers than by his backseat driver.

Why, Siri! Did you make some new friends while I was out? You really should introduce me sometime!

"This is about the worst possible time for you to come back," Sirius snapped back. It wasn't entirely true; as far as the angel was concerned, there was never a good time for the Eccentric to return.

Oh, Siri, you're just saying that. Now, turn left here.

Sirius was about to reply again when he felt a sharp pain on his right shoulder at the wing joint. Sister Catena had come closer to the mark this time.

You see? If you'd turned left that wouldn't have hit you! Honestly, it's as if you can't view the entire area from an omniscient perspective. OH WAIT I GUESS YOU CAN'T!

"Then why don't you show me yours instead of yelling directions at me?" Sirius retorted. He lowered himself slightly and flapped slower on his right side; the wound wasn't pleasant.

Because it would break your puny ethereal mind! Oh, wait, that sounds like fun LET'S GIVE IT A SHOT!

Sirius screamed as the Eccentric altered his vision, showing him not just the layout of the region from three different angles, but also the exact composition of every atom of air, dirt, machinery, and even himself, all in one horrifying image.

"Wow, I guess that wing was a more sensitive area than I thought," Catena mused, swinging across loose poles and girders. The winged man was flying more slowly, but still a bit faster than her swinging could manage.

Fortunately, her partner could bounce faster than she could move.

"NiceworkCatenanowIllfinishthejob," Pila squealed, racing towards a rotating antenna. As he struck one of its panels, it spun faster, raising his momentum with it. After one full spin he launched himself at Sirius and struck him right in the stomach, then latched on.

Oops! It seems we have a hitchhiker. Here, I'll let you see less clearly so you can deal with him.

Sirius sighed with relief as the all-seeing image left his eyes. But the close view of Brother Pila's face soon removed that sentiment.


It was Pila's turn to scream as the flames surrounded Sirius' body. He let go and bounced off the ground wildly, looking for a chance to douse himself.

"Hmmph, how pathetic," Catena muttered, watching as Pila bounced into an open coolant tank. Fortunately, the junior cultist's strike had slowed down Sirius for a few moments, long enough for her to catch up. She readied her vines again, and this time managed to wind them around his arm. The flames made her wince, but she could handle the pain better than Pila.

Besides, she didn't need to actually touch him. She broke off the section of pipe she was hanging from and retracted her vine-arm towards Sirius. The pipe would make a nice club, and one good blow to the head would be enough.

Unfortunately, she neglected to take into consideration that she was now at the mercy of Sirius' flight pattern.


Much as he disliked the order, Sirius had to admit it was the right time. He spun around, and Catena's vines spun with him, burning as they touched his flaming body. Between the flames and the vertigo it was inducing on her body, she soon lost her grip on the pipe. It fell to the ground, striking Pila on the head just as he was about to start bouncing again.

But Sirius wasn't free yet; Catena's vines were still wrapped around him, and she didn't seem to have any intention of letting go. Or perhaps she simply wasn't in any shape to. Regardless, he needed to land in order to shake the vines off properly; it would also offer a chance to heal his wounded wing.

He flew to a nearby rooftop, next to a strange box. He grabbed the vines with his free hand, and pulled them apart; Catena screamed at the separation, but was too disoriented to free herself with her other arm. She simply fell to the ground a few feet away from Pila.

Good work, but you missed one. Pay a little more attention!

Before Sirius could shake the thought that this might simply be the Eccentric toying with him, the box popped open and Lanston leapt out at him.

"Well, that was easier than I thought," he laughed, pinning Sirius. "Now, if you'll just come with us, we have someone who'd very much like to see you... Urk!"

Lanston had underestimated Sirius' strength. The angel soon picked himself up, and dangled Lanston over the edge of the roof.

"Whoever they are, I'm not interested," he declared. "I've already got one difficult employer to deal with and I'm not looking for any other offers. Goodbye."

Sirius let go, but Lanston didn't give up. He grabbed the angel's legs and tried to pull him down as well.

"I have wings, you know."

"Good point," Lanston conceded. He grabbed the wings instead and held them tightly as they plummeted to the alley below.

As Pila and Catena regained their senses, they heard a loud crash. They rushed towards the noise, and found only a frustrated figure in a cloak glaring up at the sky.

"Nearly had him," he grumbled. "Thought I'd broke his wings, but they're stronger than they look."

"So you lead us both on a merry chase only to come up empty-handed?" Pila growled.

"We could still catch up to him..."

"Forget it," Catena sneered. "If you want to chase him down, do it on your own time, Brother Lanston."

"Yeah, and find the Chapel on your own time while you're at it!" Pila added.

"...Point taken. Very well, lead the way."

"Smart man, Brother Lanston," Catena said with a grin, as she rubbed the wounds on her left vine-arm. "By the way, you owe me for this."

"And for the bump on my head, too!"

Even as the cultists guided their guest towards the Chapel, they continued to berate him. He quietly seethed the whole time.

You only have to put up with them until the Chapel, he told himself. Only until the Chapel.

RE: The Battle Royale S2 [Round 3: Endymion]
"Here it is."

The group, led by Ellena, reached the hatch that led down to Johnny's bar, the area around didn't have many other attractions, and given the time of day, there wasn't much stopping them from just going inside. Ellena opened the hatch and started to climb down when Geoff stopped her, saying "No, we need to make an entrance."

"What?" Ellena looked quizzically at the Hattallan.

Jeremy gave his two cents, "No no, he has a point, I've seen it in movies, if we do it right, it will be really cool!"

"More than that, making an entrance causes a scene, something to react to, and how people react to that will help us determine who we should talk to."

"So what's the plan? Just bust our way down?"

"No, that's too hostile. We want to just show them we mean business, not start a fight."

"Alright, well how about this, we-"

As Geoff and Jeremy planned how to get in while Elena just stared and sighed, Wardell was tugged towards the hatch, and as he wasn't really expecting that tug, fell down into Johnny's. Luckily for him, it wasn't that big of a fall.

Geoff quickly followed suit, jumping down and stepping around Wardell with the intention of calmly and smoothly walking around and seeing who reacted how. Instead, he was greeted by a sign that pointed the curious in Johnny's direction.

As Jeremy climbed down himself, he meekly said "Oh... oh yeah I forgot about that, ha ha, whoops."

After everyone had climbed down and stood up straight, Geoff made a new plan of action, motioning for Jeremy and Ellena to stay behind, as it would be possible for them to be recognized by the people in the bar. He and Wardell would enter first and cause a small scene at the bar, after that, they would go their separate ways and question whoever seemed the most suspicious. Wardell agreed to the plan, but mostly because he really wanted to keep away from Jeremy.

However, when the pair entered the part of the cavern that was truly Johnny's, it was mostly empty. Besides the bartender, there was only a single person inside, sitting at a table and sipping away at their drink while reading a paper.

"Well then. That makes this simple," Geoff whispered to Wardell, "You should just sit down, I'll handle this."

The bartender looked up from the glass he was shining as Geoff walked up and sat down in front of him and Wardell sat down on a table to read. "Hello there, what can I do ya for?"

"Hello, the name's Geoff, and you are?"

"Name's the same as the bar."

"Ah, so you are the eponymous Johnny, good, good, just the man to speak to! Must be pretty tough running a business like this down here, huh? I can't imagine what sorts of trouble people get up to."

"Well, you don't gotta, the answers' none. No one's allowed to cause trouble in here, no one."

"Oh? I suppose that does make things a lot easier... troublemakers can really ruin a bar’s reputation, but that can’t be the only thing that keeps this ship running smoothly."

"I respect everyone here who doesn't cause trouble, and as a result I'm respected back. That's all there is to it. Now, tell me something, are you just going to keep sizing me up and asking questions, or are you going to buy something?"

"Oh, well, since you are offering, I think I'll keep asking questions. Here’s one, have you heard of the group of cloaked people doing things that everyone else is too scared to do?"

"I don't know nothing about that. Sounds to me like someone's got an active imagination."

"Mmm, imaginative is an apt word. How about rumors about an angel running around? Sort of a loud mouth? Sure must take a strong imagination to come up with something like that, eh?"

Johnny placed the glass down and looked at Geoff, "Listen up bud, I don't know what your deal is but it sounds to me like you're asking a lot of questions for someone who just showed up out of nowhere. Let me ask you something, cut the bullshit and tell me what you want out of this conversation."

"Alright, alright, alright, I'm Geoff, I'm a detective. There's been a murder and the only lead I have is with your cult."

"Humph. Some detective you are, I don't know what you're talking about, there's no cult here."

"Are you so sure about that? A bar like this sounds like an ideal hub for this sort of thing, you keep out trouble, just like you said, and you're respected enough that anyone who's around can be persuaded to ignore, say, some guys in hoods occasionally slipping in and out, right?"

"I didn't build this bar underground for some hidden agenda bud, I did it to keep my patrons safe, and I don’t enjoy what you are implying."

"Oh I'm sure that it didn't start off that way, but when they approached you about it I'm sure that you didn't object. Maybe you had the secret path installed, maybe it was already there, but the end result is all the same."

"My bar doesn't have any secret passages, an-"

"A popular establishment among the genetically unendowed is Johnny's, a bar built in underground caverns known for many spiraling passages and hidden areas, some of which are said to connect to the very heart of Endymion itself."

Johnny scowled, "That's it! I've had it with you," Johnny grabbed Geoff and gently tossed him off of his barstool, "Now get out!"

As Johnny pointed towards the entrance to his establishment, there was a rumble as one of the walls of the bar just opened up, with a panicked hooded figure almost falling as he jumped out from a hidden passage.

As the figure panted and tried to catch their breath, they looked up to see a shocked Johnny, a patron he'd never seen before holding a book up to his nose, and some grey person smiling like he'd just found gold.


Quickly, the hooded figure jumped back into the passage, closing it behind them.

"Well, then, that's quite a lead, thanks Johnny, I'll take my leave now if you don't mind. Jeremy come quick!"

Geoff smugly left the slack-jawed bartender to his worries as he walked to where the wall had opened up. The detective felt the wall around and knocked on it, there was no noticeable difference.

"Just amazing, amazing..."

"What's up?" Jeremy and Ellena had entered the bar proper.

"I've found our lead, Jeremy, I think you will find that this wall right here is actually a door. I think that you know what to do."

"Alright then, if you say so."

As Jeremy wiggled his fingers around the wall and pretended to grasp an invisible doorknob, Ellena asked, "Wait, what are you doing?"

The answer came in the form of the stone wall opening as easily as any other door would for Jeremy. While she didn't quite understand how, she figured that there would be time later, especially given that Geoff was wasting none of it now.

"Alright, let's chase!"

The Hattallan began to run into the passage, hoping that he could find his head before things would get any more complicated.

Ellena stepped in after him, but decided not to get caught up in the moment.

As Jeremy stepped through, he remembered the fourth member, and asked, "Wardell, you coming?" with a big, inviting smile.

Wardell looked at the only other two people in the bar, neither of whom seemed too happy, and decided to follow.

Johnny could only look in absolute horror as the secret passage closed behind them.
RE: The Battle Royale S2 [Round 3: Endymion]
From the outside, the Order of Endymion's Chapel of the Final Days looked like any of a hundred other apartment buildings in the area. This was by design - theocratic regimes are rarely appreciative of competing religions, and so advertising tends to be counterproductive.

Of course, the particular approach the Order had taken meant it was hard to find the Chapel even when you knew where it was. Pila and Catena had lead their guest around the actual building three or four times before he finally suggested double-checking the address.

"Oh," Pila said, rummaging through his pocket for a piece of paper. "Hang on, got to decode it again... carry the three, double that... oh." He glanced at the nearby building again. "Well, what do you know? It looks like this is the place!"

"I suppose Brother Lanston is better at reading addresses than capturing Winged Arbiters," Catena mused. "Perhaps he should ask the Matriarch to reassign him."

"That's enough out of you both," he grumbled, heading towards the building. "I'm heading in. Are you coming along, or do you have a busy day of not finding any recruits to go back to?"

"May as well," Pila grumbled. "There's a meeting tonight anyhow, no sense walking all the way out here twice."

As they approached the building, a small slot opened in the door and a pair of glowing blue eyes glanced back.

"State your names and present identification," the guard said in a gruff voice.

"Brother Pila," the first cultist said, presenting a card and pulling off his hood.

"Sister Catena," said the second, doing the same.

"Brother Lanston," said the third figure, pulling a card out of his cloak, and placing a hand to his hood.

"No need for that, Brother Lanston," the guard quickly said. "Your rank exempts you from that particular requirement."

"So it does. I keep forgetting." He laughed as he lowered his hand and put his card away. "Good thing you doormen are always so eager to remind me."

The blue eyes looked them over for a few seconds, then the slot closed and the door opened slightly.



Wardell had expected to be caught up in a high-speed chase when he got in. Geoff had certainly been in a hurry, and Jeremy had bolted in after closing the tunnel entrance, but after a few minutes of running, Wardell slowed to a walk as he realized two things.

First, Geoff was so far ahead of them that it probably wasn't worth catching up. Either he'd get to the cultist first or they weren't going to catch him at all before reaching the chapel.

Second, Jeremy was more interested in catching up to Ellena, judging by how much slower he started running once they were side-by-side.

It seemed her heart wasn't really in the chase either, given that they started talking not long after.

"How did you open the door, anyways?" Ellena asked.

"Oh, uh, how... that's actually kind of a tricky question to answer, it's just something I've been able to do..."

"Opening doors?"

"Any door. And that's just for a start! I can make a door connect to another door, so you can walk in one and out a different one! I can even make a door exit out the same side, I should show you sometime..."

"So you could have brought us right to the other side of this tunnel from the entrance?" Wardell muttered, only-half-listening. "That would have saved us some trouble."

"Welll... that's a funny thing. Both sides of the door have to be the same size and shape. That hidden panel's not exactly a regulation shape. I guess it's possible there's a door on the other side of the tunnel that's exactly the same, but I doubt it. I could check if you wanted to head back."

"But you could take us to the cult headquarters from another door?" Ellena asked.

"I could! If I knew a little more about it. There's a lot of doors on Endymion, you see. I can kind of get a sense of where I'm trying to link to. But to be sure I was pointing us at the right spot, I'd either need to know where the church is, or at least something distinctive about the place."

Wardell stopped bothering to listen at all. He already knew more than he really cared to about what Jeremy could do, and besides which, he'd just reached the chapter on genetics research in A Comprehensive History of Endymion and it had grabbed his attention. In the back of his mind, he wondered if Geoff had caught that guy yet.


As it turned out, Geoff hadn't caught that guy yet, but he was much closer than expected. The cultist had stopped dead in his tracks at an intersection that broke off into dozens of tunnels, and was glancing through them, seemingly paralyzed at the thought of making a decision.

Geoff tried to sneak up on him, but unfortunately it seemed the panicked cultist hadn't yet ruled out running back down the tunnel he'd come from. He turned around, saw a pursuer, and screamed before rushing away in a seemingly random direction.

Geoff rushed after him. As he entered the tunnel, he fired a crossbow bolt into the wall so the others could see which path he'd taken.

If he weren't in such a hurry, he might have looked back in time to see the black sludge leaking from the wall, engulfing the bolt, and pulling it in.


"What do you mean, the Matriarch's busy?"

Sister Pharen rolled her eyes, not that it was clear under the shadow of her hood. Lanston was always like this. The Matriarch, as head of the Order, had numerous duties and the vast majority of them were more important than meeting with one member, even if he was a key operative.

Of course, it was no good explaining that to Lanston, and Pharen had long ago learned not to even bother.

"Something urgent came up. She expects to be free within the hour. In the meantime, we have a perfectly nice waiting room you can use." She chuckled very slightly. "Or perhaps you'd care to pass the time by socializing with our other members before the service."

"Very funny, Sister. You can at least tell her I'm waiting."

"Normally, I could," Pharen agreed, knowing full well she wouldn't have. "But as it happens, in this particular case I have strict orders not to interrupt until the Matriarch leaves. No one is allowed in or out, no exceptions."

"Huh. What's going on that's so important, then? I'm high enough rank to know that."

Regrettably, Pharen realized, he was.

"A reject. A particularly strange one. Someone called a containment team and we intercepted the call and grabbed it ourselves."

"So it's a new recruit, is that it?"

"I don't know any more than I just told you. If you're burning with curiosity, you can ask the Matriarch when she's done. Assuming she cares to tell you anything, of course."

"I'll pass. The only questions I ever need to ask her are 'what do you need me to do' and 'how much are you going to pay'."

"Truly, your simple nature is an inspiration to us all, Brother Lanston. Now why don't you take a seat?"

"Fine. I just hope this doesn't take long." He walked away from the desk and sat down.

Then he promptly cried out in pain.

"Those damn fools!" he shouted. "They put a leg muscle in the wrong place! I can't sit like this!"

Pharen winced.

"Well, fix it. Somewhere private, if you don't mind."

"I will, I will. Ugh, she'd better not get back before I'm done, I may have to disassemble the whole thing..."

Pharen did not politely ask him not to go into more detail, because she knew it would only encourage him to do the exact opposite.


Wardell was annoyed. First there had been that scream echoing down the corridors, now after rushing to see if Geoff had caught the cultist, they'd just come across a mass of identical passages.

"Don't suppose your book can tell us which way to go, Ward?" Jeremy asked hopefully.

Wardell flipped through quickly, and shook his head.

"The tunnels are a mess. Most of them have been around since the planetoid was first constructed, and only the church has access to those records. Public Works has been mapping as they go and add new stuff, except some tunnels don't get listed because some corrupt official wants a place to hide some bodies or some genetic equality sympathizers want a nice secret path to a safehouse. I think it's a safe bet this part won't be documented at all."

"So how are we going to get through?" Ellena asked. "If we catch the cultist, maybe we can get him to tell us the path, but we'd have to find him first."

"If he even knows," Jeremy said. "He took off in a hurry, maybe he wasn't even trying to end up at Johnny's." He took one look at Ellena and Wardell's pained faces and hastily added "But he probably knows enough about the building that I can take care of the rest, just need a door."

"That's all well and good, but how are we going to find him? Or find a way back out." Wardell waved his book at the assorted passages. "There's a lot of tunnels here."

Jeremy looked thoughtful, then smiled as a pile of books fell out of Wardell's coat.

"You've read a lot of books, Ward. Ever read Hansel and Gretel?"

"Several times. There are a lot of fairy tale collections." Wardell glanced down at the pile, and to emphasize the point, picked up The Complete Brothers Grimm, The Annotated Brothers Grimm, and The Brothers Grimm Collection and showed them off.

"And you've got how many books in that coat?"

Wardell frowned, though it was hard to tell under the scarf.

"A lot. What's your... oh. Breadcrumbs."

"Only better! They've all got different titles, so we can keep track of different paths. And it's not like they'll get eaten... okay, maybe rats will chew on 'em a bit, but still..."

"You're not taking my books," Wardell protested, but then he recalled that his collection included everything. He wouldn't exactly miss The Exciting Adventures of Jack Borington or Six Hundred Pages of Total Gibberish, Guaranteed Meaningless in 40,000 Languages. "Well, okay, but only the books that aren't any good. Got it?"

"Sure, sure," Jeremy agreed. "Start by putting one down that tunnel we just came through, then another one once we pick which way we're going."

"Fine," Wardell sighed. He looked at the pile at his feet, and picked the least interesting book, The Holy Rites of Grauk-Madaira. "Here's a religious text. They don't believe in ghosts, so it's no good for exorcisms, and it's a slog to read."

He dropped it on the ground behind him.

"Well, that's good at least," Ellena said. "Now, we need to figure out which path we're taking."

"We'll decide that through a very rigorous scientific process," Jeremy said. "Eeny, meeny, miny, moe..."

There was another shriek. Ellena rushed over to one of the tunnels.

"I think it came from here," she said.

"And that's the one we're going down!" Jeremy said, promptly pointing at it. "See? Science works great!"

"Whatever," Wardell grumbled. He followed the other two into the tunnel, and dropped Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Three-Headed Warthogs as he stepped in.

A minute later, something came out of the ground and engulfed the books. There was no trace of them left.


In a dark room, the Dream was still afraid, still saying whatever popped into his mind, barely aware that his words were being recorded and analyzed.

And then, suddenly, his voice changed.

"It is time for the First Rite," the Dream said with authority. "Gather all who call themselves faithful, for it is time they prove their devotion."

There was a frenzy as the observers sought to write down every word perfectly. This was more than information - this was a revelation. Whatever came next was sure to be of great importance.

"You will prick my finger, and gather the blood that flows forth in a great vessel. You will fill another vessel with a deep red wine. Give each follower a cup of blood, and a cup of wine. Leave them in solitude to drink. Those truly devoted shall consume the blood. Those who have doubts will drink the wine."

There was immediate murmuring about gathering vessels, but it was interrupted when the voice spoke again.

"When the sun sets, those who drank the wine will perish. Those who drank the blood shall be known as the faithful. When this is done, I will speak to you of the Second Rite."

Then, for a few moments, there was utter silence.

It was only broken by the Dream babbling again.

"What does it mean, Matriarch?" one of the cultists asked. "This creature's ramblings make little sense. Yet this First Rite..."

The Matriarch paced around the confession chamber.

"This is no ordinary reject from Genetics, that much is clear," she said. "Much of what he says suggests Endymion is angry, that it will destroy us all. This is in line with the prophecies. And now, he has given new words to us, the highest echelons of the Order, and calling for a ritual to reveal the devout."

She glanced around the room, and saw the worry in everyone's eyes. They needed to hear from her now.

"If this stranger is truly a messenger from the heavens, then we have little time to waste and this First Rite must be conducted at once. Yet if this is trickery, whether earthly or devilish, we might stray from the path if we follow it. I will need some time in my chambers to pray for guidance. In the meantime, prepare the vessels in case it should be needed. We still have some time before nightfall."

"Yes, Matriarch."


"Oh, good, I was wondering where you all were," Geoff said. "I was worried you missed my signal."

"Signal?" Jeremy asked, puzzled.

"Crossbow bolt in the wall. I was in a rush and it was the best option I could think of."

"I guess we missed that," Jeremy admitted sheepishly. "We came when we heard the screaming."

"Ah, yes." Geoff looked down at the unconscious cultist. "I'm hoping he regains consciousness soon."

"Urgh," the cultist muttered.

"Oh, what good timing. Now he can explain it to all of us at once!"

"Gah! Who... you're not with it, are you?"

Everyone glanced around at each other, puzzled.

"What is it?" Ellena asked.

"I don't know! It's black and oozing and it killed the others, Brother Gaufrey was the only one who knew the way back, I have to get to the Chapel, I have to warn the Matriarch!"

"Calm down," Geoff said. "Whatever this thing is, it's not down this stretch of tunnel. And if it is, shouting is just going to lead it right to us."

"Sorry," the cultist whispered. "But I must warn the Matriarch! I believe it is a sign of the End Days!"

Geoff tried hard not to roll his eyes. He'd heard about plenty of signs of the End Days back home, and they never panned out.

Jeremy, for his part, saw an opportunity.

"Well, my friend, you're in luck," he said. "I can get you to your Chapel in a hurry if you just tell me the address."

"It's..." The cultist suddenly reeled back. "You're with the Church, aren't you? You want to lead them to us! I won't, not even if it costs me my life!"

Jeremy groaned.

"Maybe he'll be more convinced if I show him. There's a manhole cover near here, I think it opens into a basement or something. There's plenty I can connect it to, that should give us some cooperation."

"Right." Geoff pointed his crossbow at the cultist. "Get up and march. Jeremy, lead the way. Wardell and Ellena, keep an eye on our guest. We don't want him trying anything, after all."


"Back so soon, Brother Lanston?" Sister Pharen asked as he walked back in and sat down.

"Oh, be quiet," he grumbled, tapping his leg. "I've had enough trouble as it is."

Of course, Pharen had no idea what he had really been doing. She didn't know of the secret passage into the Matriarch's office, or how much trouble it had been to go through it.

At least he didn't have to carry that damned device around any more. It was strictly the Matriarch's problem now.

Just as the thought crossed his mind, the Matriarch herself stepped in, looking concerned.

"Ah, Matriarch," he said, standing up. "I've been waiting to see you--"

"Lanston! Just who I wanted to see. Step into my office, something very important has come up and I must discuss it with you at once."

"Of course," he agreed, and followed her in, leaving Sister Pharen to be annoyed that she couldn't actually chastise him for anything.

The Matriarch began talking the moment her guest shut the door.

"Do you have any idea what just happened?" she said. "The reject we picked up started spouting something about a First Rite, and it sounded real! The others are worried about whether to believe it, whether the end is coming, and truth be told, so am I!"

"What, you're actually buying into your own nonsense?"

"It sounded damn convincing. I suspect the prankster's involved, but if they take it seriously, the rite has to be done before nightfall. We have to drink the thing's blood."

"Sounds tasty."

"I'm not in the mood for jokes, Lanston. Nobody here is, given what's been happening. I need you to sneak into Genetics and find any records they have on this thing. Slip by the confession chamber yourself to get a look, I don't have time to describe it. Oh, and grab an antitoxin and a flavor suppressant for me first, just in case we have to go through with this nonsense."

"And the pay?"

The Matriarch sighed, and tossed a pouch of coins at him."

"That's your advance, ten times that when the job's done."

"What if I don't find anything?"

The Matriarch smirked.

"I doubt that will stop you from delivering a report to me, Brother Lanston."

"Fair enough." He headed for the door and opened it a crack. "I hope your mind is at ease now, Matriarch."

"It is. Thank you," she said as he stepped out. She breathed a sigh of relief and walked towards her desk just as Sister Pharen got up to close the door, because Lanston could never be bothered to respect the sanctity of the Matriarch's chamber.

Just as she touched the knob, she heard a loud noise coming from the Matriarch's desk, and turned in shock.


The Matriarch scowled, and pulled up the cushion from her chair.

"It seems our prankster is more resourceful than we had guessed," she said. "Pharen, call out an alert. No one is to enter or leave until the prankster is caught!"

Meanwhile, down the hallway, Sirius discarded his stolen cloak and opened a window.

"I hope you're satisfied," he said to no one as he leapt out and spread his wings.

It was perfect! Want me to show you the look on her face?

"Not particularly, but I doubt that's going to stop you," he sighed.


"See?" Jeremy said, grinning ear to ear. "We went from a messy sewer to a dingy basement. But now, when you look down the hole, what's there?"

The cultist was scratching his head in bafflement.

"The entertainment center? How?" He reached his hand into the hole, hoping to find a ladder to prove it was his eyes playing tricks on him, but no - he felt the hard plastic of the trash container that Jeremy had just opened up.

"I can make it go anywhere! But to get us to your place, I'll need to know a little more. Unless you want me to guess."

"No... no. I'll tell you. Not the address," he said cautiously. "But the other things I know."

With the cultist's description, Jeremy soon had it narrowed down, and worked it out.

"Got it," he said, and the image in the manhole changed. "I think this passage is at the end of the tunnel. We can get in from there. Everyone ready?"

"Oh, thank you!" the cultist said, tears in his eyes. "This door is our... salvation..."

His eyes widened.

"We must go at once!" he said, leaping through the manhole.

"Quick, stop him!" Geoff shouted, rushing through. "We don't want him warning the rest of the cult!"

Wardell shrugged, and stepped in. A moment later, Jeremy did too, arm-in-arm with Ellena.

They were greeted by a dozen hooded cultists, all armed with clubs.

"Intruders! Get them!" shouted the tallest of the figures.

"Wow, he warned them pretty fast," Jeremy muttered.
RE: The Battle Royale S2 [Round 3: Endymion]
"No, everything is going as planned!"

"This is going to turn out perfectly fine, I'm a hero! I'll save everyone!"

"You can't say that to me! You don't know what I've been through!"

"I'm... I'm sorry... you are right..."

Calor slouched backwards on his chair, his face was full of worries and his mind was swirling. He took a deep breath as he mustered up the strength to stand up once again.

"I understand, but I am more capable than you think! I will stop the apocalypse; I will be hailed as a h-hero...” Calor's words grew more and weaker as he went on, eventually almost going to a whimper, "And... and I'll be forgiven..."


Photographer didn't know.

Photographer couldn't see, couldn't hear, couldn't feel, but at the same time he did all those things in ways he wasn't comfortable with. Was he asleep? Was he awake? Was he even himself?

Photographer felt a voice, screaming somewhere, but he didn't know what it said.

h...p... hh..ppp.

Somehow, Photographer felt drawn to it, and in that feeling heard more clearly.


In that moment, like a flash of light shining in its eyes, Photographer saw ooze bleed and lights shine and rivers roar and land shake and at the same time he saw nothing.

Then he heard it again.


The single word was ringing, and Photographer heard it come from everywhere. Photographer, ethereal as he was, knew what it meant. Endymion was going to die, and soon.

Would he die with it?

message message message



"Get us out of here!" Ellena and Jeremy were running at the front, with Wardell and Geoff close behind, "Ugh, why didn't we just go back through the door we came in?"

Jeremy, doing his best to simultaneously cling and run managed out a, "I'm sorry! Geoff turned around and started running and so I just started too!"

Geoff, occasionally looking back at the crowd behind them, was trying to figure out a plan, "Enough about that, the point is we need to lose them if we want to do anything."

Jeremy turned his head back to Geoff, "So what do we do?"

"I suggest we split up and try to regroup later." Geoff looked ahead, noticing a fork in the road, and nodded in the direction he would turn.

"Alright then, have fun!"

Jeremy and Ellena picked up their pace a bit as Jeremy looked for a suitably Good door to go through. As the half of the crowd that followed them was a bit farther away, Jeremy set his eyes on a door that seemed good enough.

As the he laid his hands on the knob and the duo stopped, Jeremy heard a faint "help" as he opened the door, hoping to get anywhere that wasn't here.

The pair then found themselves almost falling out of a closet in some dark room.

"Where did you take us?"

"Uh... I'm not sure! I sort of planned for like, your place but... something else came up in my head when I touched the door... that was weird..."

Ellena looked around the room while Jeremy stood up and thought about what had happened, the voice was familiar... but distorted...

"Whoever lives here is very devout... there's all sorts of religious symbols and texts here..."

Ellena walked farther into the home, and then let out a scream.

Jeremy straightened himself and quickly made his way to the room that she had entered, "Why'd you scream, we don't even know whose house this is we can't jus..." Jeremy froze.

Standing opposite of them, his hand shaking and holding a crossbow was Calor, dressed in his best robes. In his other hand was a glowing stone.


No one was talking.

"No!!! I don't need to listen to you any longer! I can deal with this myself."

Jeremy attempted to diffuse the situation, "Heeeey man, just calm down, we won't do anything, we ca"

Calor pointed his crossbow towards Jeremy and then paused, raising the stone closer to his ear.

Ellena took advantage of his divided attention and whispered, "Be careful, that's Calor. He's holding the Heart of Endymion."

"Who are you and how did you get inside."

"We uh..." Jeremy thought about the various bits and pieces of information that he'd absorbed from the others, "We are uh, messengers, here to aid you?"

Calor laughed, "I knew it! See, see! I told you..."

"Alright so just put the cr-"

Calor stared angrily at Jeremy, and then listened to the heart.

"Wait... how do I know that you aren't lying... I need to be sure..."

Calor's fingers tensed up on the crossbow, and Jeremy started to sweat when Ellena blurted out, "We will take you to the Core! Directly!"


Jeremy followed up, "Yes! I can take you directly to the core!"

"Can you truly do this?"

Jeremy and Ellena nodded, "Then let us go..." Calor smiled, still pointing his crossbow as Jeremy and Ellena made their way to a door.

"Are you sure that this is a good idea? He doesn't seem to be uh... all together..."

"It was the only thing I thought would work! And he has the Heart."

"So where is the core..."


Ellena and Jeremy finished their conversation and Jeremy slowly put his hand around the knob. Once again he heard that voice say... something... as the door opened and Calor pushed them through...


"Wardell could you drop some books or something?"

"I've already tossed a few and I don't think that tossing more will work!"

"Why not a few at once?"

"Look, this is already a very stressed environment and I don't lik-Oof!"

Wardell ran into someone and then fell backwards.

Geoff stopped as a group of people ran past him, going after the cultists.

"Well, glad to see that your investigation went so well."

Geoff greeted the page who had earlier bailed him and Wardell out, "And I'm glad to see you here, even if I'm not sure how..."

"We can talk later."

"Why? What's going on?" As those words left Geoff's mouth, and Wardell attempted to stand up, the ground began to shake and the power started flickering.

"Well, for starters, the end of the world."
RE: The Battle Royale S2 [Round 3: Endymion]
Endymion was in chaos.

The ground trembled. Buildings collapsed. Streetlights flickered out, or burned brighter than anyone had ever intended. The people rushed through the streets in desperation, and more than a few doomsayers were claiming to have the solution to the chaos, the only path to salvation.

"I get the feeling there's a lot going on here you aren't telling me about," Sirius said to his invisible passenger as he watched the panic below. "In fact, I can't help but think you've been deliberately keeping me in the dark with these stupid pranks."

Siri, I'm hurt! This is a completely different disaster from the one I was trying to engineer. I was just trying to start a little holy war, that's all! Okay, so maybe there was going to be an apocalypse or two once the fighting picked up, but this one had nothing to do with me.

"I don't know if you actually planned it, but you must have known about it. You know about everything going on here. You knew who was in the cult, what they were up to - you even knew enough to feed me plausible lines! Do you honestly expect me to believe you had no idea this was going on?"

Maybe I did, maybe I didn't! Does it even matter? You did a good job, Siri. I ought to give you a raise. And since I'm paying you with my silence, I guess that means it's time for me to go! Toodles!

"Get back here! I have questions for you!" Sirius shouted to no one, and no one answered. The Eccentric, it seemed, had no desire to keep his agent informed.

"Wonderful. The world's ending, and of course that's when the omniscient entity decides it's time to stop talking to me. Really, how could I expect anything else?"


Sirius blinked. Someone was speaking to him, though not the Eccentric. It didn't seem to be coming from the torc, either.

Harbinger, face me!

Sirius found his gaze locked somewhere in midair, but he could see nothing.

Then his eyes glowed as something forced him to look at the spiritual plane, to see exactly who he was speaking to.

He would have screamed, if his mouth could move.

The figure before him mass of metal, in a shape that resembled a woman. She would almost be beautiful, in her own way, were it not for the strange - and oddly familiar - black liquid flowing all around her, and the gaping hole in her chest.

The figure spoke, or rather, her mouth opened and made no sound, but her words nonetheless reached Sirius' ears.

I am Endymion, Harbinger, and you are the instrument of my judgement.


Geoff had a number of questions on his mind. What was going on outside, why had their investigation been pre-empted by official church authorities, why was the church bothering with this cult at all if the world really was ending, and where were they in such a hurry to go that he didn't have time to ask any of these questions?

Wardell, on the other hand, was less concerned. He'd concluded hours ago that he didn't particularly understand anything, and he didn't especially need to as long as someone else was around to understand it for him. All he knew right now was that the world was ending, and they were running, and that was good enough for him. There was no need to think any harder about it, as far as he was concerned.

The page guided them up a stairwell, down a hallway, and to a door that had been well-guarded five minutes ago.

"Here we are. It should be in this room."

"What should be?" Geoff asked, relieved to get at least one question out.

"I don't actually know," the page shrugged. "But it may be the key to saving Endymion."

"That's not an answer," Geoff protested, just as the page swung open the door. Beyond it was a familiar black shape chained over a large vat of black liquid.

"Photographer?" Geoff asked.

"You know this thing? Good, maybe you can figure out how to talk sense into it." The page climbed up and unlocked the Dream's chains. "Apparently it's been babbling about some Final Rites. No idea what that's about, but I assume it has to do with this stuff."

"I'm not-- the photographer," said the Dream, gasping. "But he's at the root of all this. He's entangled with Endymion, and he's-- he's confused. He wants to help her destroy everything-- he wants to destroy her-- he wants to free her from the hatred that's consumed her--"

Once again, Geoff found himself bursting with questions to ask, but decided to settle on the most relevant.

"How can we help him?"

"Get him out! No, keep him in there! No, listen, he's confusing Endymion. She's talking to herself, she isn't used to that. She's lost something? She has to be stopped. She has to be saved."

"Focus! Look, we'll try to get him out. How can we?"

The Dream groaned as he tried to connect the jumble of thoughts flowing through him. He could barely tell which were his own and which were the photographer's, not to mention which ones came from something else entirely.

Finally, he gathered the strength to speak.

"The Sixth Rite is the blessing of the sun," he said. "Tear off all your clothes and stand under the sun's rays from dawn to dusk. When the rite concludes, you will be truly blessed, and so long as your heart is true to me, you will never come to harm in the coming days."

"Well, that wasn't helpful," Geoff grumbled.

"It sounds familiar, actually," Wardell muttered. "The Holy Rites of Grauk-Madaira, one of the dullest holy texts I've ever read. I left a copy in the underground tunnels because I wouldn't miss it."

"And now Photographer's gotten his hands on it?"

Wardell shrugged.

"Could happen, I guess."

"This doesn't actually help us explain anything that's going on," Geoff sighed. "We don't actually know anything except that Photographer might be involved in whatever's happening, if you want to take the word of a delusional thing suffering from blood loss."

"I don't see any problem with that," said Wardell's scarf. "So, ah, just out of curiosity, what happens to the clothes you tear off after the blessing of the sun?"


Jeremy wasn't sure exactly how it had happened, but he was at the Core. And it was a mess.

There was a strange black liquid covering everything, including the door they had come out of. No, Jeremy realized as he took another glance, it was the door they had come out of. The black stuff kept reshaping itself, taking on the form of assorted machinery, jumping around the chamber.

"So, uh, here we are!" he said, trying to sound as triumphant as possible. "The Core! Now you can, uh, save Endymion?" He looked at Calor hopefully.

But the Acolyte simply shook his massive head.

"This is worse than I thought," he said. "The Heart can't do anything here."

"Uh, and that's... bad, I take it?"

"Very," Calor muttered. "Not that long ago, I was a man without a heart, you know. I only cared about wealth, and power. Perhaps that was the real reason I sought the Heart of Endymion - I wanted one to fill the emptiness in my own."

"Uh, yeah. Real sad." Jeremy turned to Ellena. "Is this guy for real?" he whispered.

"I only met him once, at a dinner for the pages. He wasn't like this at all."

"But in my greed, I sealed our fate! For without a heart, Endymion has only fury for her people. I hoped to bring it to the Core, to undo my great sin. Yet alas! The corruption has changed the Core too much! There is no place to return the Heart!"

"So... we, uh, build a new place to put it?" Jeremy asked.

"We are speaking of the conscience of a world! You cannot simply craft a place to hold such a thing! Certainly not with the time we have left! I've failed!" Calor sobbed. "Can anything save us now?"

A tendril lifted itself up from the mass, holding up a book.

"The Seventh Rite is the trial of the Harbinger," it said. "The Harbinger shall come to proclaim the end in my name. This is the greatest test - the test of whether you have true faith, or merely fear. Challenge the Harbinger. If your faith wavers, if you fear defying my law, you will perish. But if your faith is true, and you have no fear, you will succeed. You will vanquish the Harbinger, and bring salvation to all."

"Oh, that's really helpful!" Jeremy said. "We just need to fight this Harbinger..." He noticed Calor was turning a pale shade. "Oh, what is it now?"

"The Harbinger, with wings of purest white," he said. "Our Savior..."

"Get a grip, man!" Jeremy said, shaking Calor. He soon thought better of it when he realized just how much larger the priest was than himself, and backed away.

"You!" Calor shouted, pointing. "You open doors, do you not? You will open the Door to Salvation!"

"Uh, sure, if you can point me to it," Jeremy grumbled. "Look, maybe you should calm down a bit, explain this slowly. Do you have an actual plan in mind?"

"The prophecy says the Door to Salvation will open! It is clear now, you are the one to open it!"

"But where does it lead?"

Ellena spoke up.

"There are... certain forbidden texts," she said. "Texts my brother snuck out of the archives and let me read. One of them does mention a prophecy, about a door and some other things..."

"Well, great! So what does it say about the door?"

"Ah, nothing," she sighed. "But there was another text, confiscated from an old cult. They believed in a spiritual plane tangential to our world, and that everything had a spirit, including Endymion herself. If it were true, and we could open a door to the spirit plane..."

"Yes, yes!" Calor shouted, his eyes directly on the heart. "We could return you to her spirit! That is the Door to Salvation! Human, you must open it, so I may put the heart back in its rightful place!"

"DO IT!" the black liquid around the room echoed.

"Okay, okay, I'll do it!" Jeremy grumbled. "Except that I'd need to have a door on the spirit plane to open first. And I've got no clue how to find one. Never done anything like that before."

"I've got no idea, either," Ellena shrugged.

"DAMNATION!" Calor yelled. "So close, so close! Are we to fail now, with the solution in our grasp?"

"I guess I could try to find out more about it," Jeremy sighed. "If I had some way out of here..."

He looked at the doorway of black liquid, but it had dissolved away. Apparently, it didn't particularly want him to leave until the problem was solved.

Jeremy sighed, then saw the tendril holding up a book, and a thought struck him.

"I think I can ask someone for help," he said, opening the The Holy Rites of Grauk-Madaira.

He did not add that he only hoped they'd have a better idea what to do than he would.


Sirius finally found the spiritual grip on his mouth loosening, just as he calmed himself enough to ask a question.

"What do you want me to do?"

Endymion hissed mechanically. She sounded disappointed, as though she expected him to already know.

You are to be my voice to the filth who crawl upon my surface and dare to call themselves my people. Tell the infestation that this cleansing is the work of Endymion. Let them know that this is but the beginning, that my full wrath shall be so much greater.

"I think I get the general idea," Sirius muttered. "What exactly is the reason for all this?"

The reason? You would ask why? You might as well ask why the wind blows, why the stars shine. It must be so. That is why.

"I see," Sirius muttered. "So you're just generally angry. And you want the mortals to know that before you kill them all. And I'm the one who has to tell them this."

It is good that you know your place, Harbinger. Go, now. You are the herald of the end, the vanguard of the forces that will tear the mortal world asunder.

Before Sirius could even consider raising the slightest of objections, he found his wings carrying him forward on their own, towards a bright light on the horizon.

This is the dais from which you will proclaim the end. Here your words will echo throughout the world, beyond the mere reach of your voice.

Go, Harbinger. Your words shall usher in the end of this sinful age of man.

Driven by a higher power, Sirius wordlessly flew on towards the light.


"Unfortunately, this doesn't seem helpful at all," Geoff sighed. "This psuedo-Photographer is delirious, and if he actually does have any more of a clue than we do of what's going wrong, he's not in any shape to share it."

"It's his dream, I think," Wardell said, flipping through his book absentmindedly. "I met it last round. A lot of crazy stuff happened because he was dreaming. There was a rain of fish, and a giant pancake."

"So he's dreaming again, and that's the cause of all this? Do you think waking him up might help?"

"NO!" the dream shrieked.

"All right, that's clear advice, at least. Don't wake up the Photographer. Now that we've settled that, what do we actually do?"

Wardell shrugged.

"I guess I could look at a book on dream analysis," he said, digging through his coat. "I mean, sure, it's mostly bunk, but it's as good as any other options we've got here..."

Wardell pulled out What Dreams Mean: Not A Whole Lot, Really and was about to flip through it when the book suddenly opened on its own.

"Hey Ward! I need some help with something!" it said.

"Oh, how long have you been in there?" Wardell's scarf said. "I could have used someone to talk to."

Wardell ignored the scarf. He recognized the voice.

"Jeremy? What are you doing, exactly?"

"Oh, yeah, last round I figured out I can use books like doors. Turns out there was one lying around here, so I thought I'd check in with you guys. Geoff still with you?"

"I am," Geoff said. "We've been interrogating a dream without much luck. I don't suppose you've been any more productive?"

"Oh man, you wouldn't believe it!" Jeremy shouted. "I'm in the core of Endymion! And I've got that heart thingy, uh, the priest guy you were looking for is here too and he's got it. Says if we give it back to Endymion, everything's gonna be okay."

"Well, that's good, at least," Geoff sighed. "At least we don't have to worry about the world ending."

"Yeah, uh... not quite. See, thing is, the mechanism's damaged. There's some weird black goop all over the place. And, uh... listen, it's kind of hard to explain, but there's a prophecy? About opening a door? Thing is, we need a door for me to open first."

"I'm really not sure what the problem is here. Are you saying you need us to build a door? How hard can that be?"

"Well, uh, the door's gotta lead to the spirit world. Which means we need a door in the spirit world for me to link it to. And I have no freakin' clue how to do that."

"I'm afraid I don't either," Geoff said. "I suppose we'll need another plan..."

"I know how," Wardell chimed in. Geoff stared at him.

"Whoa, really? Awesome! Hang on guys, I'm gonna ask this black stuff to make a door so I can bring you over here. Just a sec."

Geoff was about to either raise an objection or ask Wardell how he knew what to do, but before he could get the first word out, he saw the other side of the doorway change.

"Come on, guys!" Jeremy said, waving. "We gotta get this show on the road!"

Wardell and Geoff stepped through. After an awkward pause, the page ran after them, with the Dream lumbering awkwardly behind him. The door collapsed when they were all through, and Jeremy smiled awkwardly.

"So, Wardell, tell us about this door-making thing," he said. "And, uh, fast?"

"It's a technique used to deal with particularly stubborn ghosts," Wardell said. "Most of them can move freely between our world and the spirit plane, so the door lets you even the playing field. Thing is, it's tough to set up."

"We don't appear to have many other options," Geoff said. "Go on."

"The key element we need is a cooperative spirit on the other side. So we generally need a medium in order to establish contact, and then there's bargaining, and it's a lot of trouble to connect it to a door in the physical realm..."

"I can handle that part," Jeremy said confidently. "Just give me two doors and I'll put 'em together."

"So how are we supposed to get a cooperative spirit?" Geoff asked. "Do we have anyone who can talk to them, and if not, what are our other options?"

"Uh, well," Wardell said. "The more unscrupulous types kill someone and use necromancy to control their spirit. There were also a few experiments to create an artificial spirit for the sake of making the door, but those didn't end too well. The only other option anyone ever got to work was sending their own spirit through astral projection."

"And how does that work?"

"I, uh, have a few books on the subject," Wardell said. "But it's nothing I've ever actually tried."

Geoff frowned.

"I don't like how this is shaping up," he said. "We need a backup plan, and I think I've got one."

"Oh? Yeah, other plans are cool, let's hear yours," Jeremy said.

"As best as I can tell, the problem with this mess is that Photographer is dreaming, and entangled with Endymion somehow. If we took Photographer away, that might clear the mess up."

"mmmmaybe?" the Dream mumbled. "dunno," it continued, before collapsing in the black liquid.

"All right, I'll admit it's a gamble. But we do have a way to get Photographer out of this world entirely: end the round."

Wardell found himself backing away instinctively.

"No, I don't mean either of you. I'm going after Sirius. Jeremy, can you get me near him?"

"If I can find him, yeah. Hey, can I get a door?"

The black sludge formed a door again, and Jeremy worked his way through the system.

"Okay, he's flying... whoa, uh, I think the door's taking me somewhere on its own. Guess that's where you're headed." Jeremy grinned. "Good luck, man!"

"Hang on." Geoff turned to Wardell. "I'm going to want a book, so you can tell me if things work out here, or don't. Maybe even something unholy, then I can use it as a weapon against him."

Wardell handed over a copy of Ye Toume Offe Darkenesse.

"Here. It's nice and heavy, and has relatively few side effects."

"Perfect. I'll see you later." Geoff stepped through the doorway, and it collapsed behind him, leaving the rest of the group to their work.


Sirius had reached the light. As with most forms of divine guidance, the actual destination wasn't nearly as impressive as the signpost.

It was nothing more than a balcony. A balcony at the top of the most important church on the planetoid, admittedly, but still not that impressive a venue to proclaim the end.

Although, to be honest, Sirius felt redundant. He was only here to say that they were going to die by the whims of a capricious God - he wasn't exactly telling them anything new, save perhaps that their desperate prayers would go unanswered.

He had been sent here only to murder hope. To give the despairing masses more despair before the end.

To tell them there wasn't even a Goddamned reason for it all.

The panicked masses below had already noticed him. His wings, somehow clean now. His eyes, glowing with spiritual sight. They saw him and saw a chance for salvation, or, failing that, a chance to make sense of it all.

And he was here to deprive them of both.

Sirius gazed down into the crowd, and was struck by its diversity. Dozens of different species and subspecies. Males, females, other genders he hadn't yet learned the proper terms for. Clergy, business owners, the working class, the homeless.

There were probably even a few genetic rejects in there, Sirius couldn't be sure at a glance. The lowest of the low on Endymion.

But for these final moments, that was no longer true. The apocalypse was the great equalizer. No amount of wealth or respect could hold back its tide. Natural-born or new genetic line, reject or offworlder, it made no distinctions. Everyone was going to die.

A thought stirred in the back of Sirius' mind. What if it never came? Surely someone, somewhere - maybe even those frustrating people he was supposed to be fighting - was trying to stop this. But if they succeeded, they would only return the world to its old state. The rejects would be rejected once again.

Perhaps - just perhaps - with the world's attention focused on him, he could change that.

"People of Endymion!" he shouted. "The end is upon you! What you have faced so far is only the beginning of Endymion's wrath!"

The crowd was still, silent, fixated on the Harbinger. Sirius found it almost disturbing, but he could do little but continue.

"She is angry! You have trod upon her surface, blind to her fury, blind to what you have done to her!"

Still no reaction. Were they so paralyzed with fear, rage, and confusion that they could only stand and listen? Or worse, was Endymion somehow holding them in place?

He hoped it wasn't the latter. If she was still here, watching, what would she do when he spoke his next line?

"I speak of your crimes against your fellows! When you turn in your brother to the Inquisitors for speaking of a false god, you wound Endymion! When you dare to call your sister a reject because you think her genetic line inferior, you wound Endymion! When you tell those who came here from offworld seeking a new life they do not belong, you wound Endymion!"

The crowd was no longer still. Many among them were looking down in shame, or clenching their fists in rage.

None of them wanted to hear what he was saying, because they knew it was true.

"You sealed your own fates with your cruelty, your callousness! Endymion is merely rewarding your hatred with her own! But where your spite merely ruins lives, hers ruins worlds! None shall be spared from Endymion's wrath!"

As the words sank in, Sirius glanced at the sky, wondering if Endymion would punish him for going off her message. But there was no sign of her, no sign of anything save a few lingering spirits. She either didn't know what he was saying in her name, or didn't object.

"You ask what you can do now," Sirius continued. "The wiser among you see the truth in these words, and beg for another chance. But there is no second chance. Endymion's will is that you all perish--"

Before he could continue, he felt something strike his left wing. It felt like a crossbow bolt.

By the time he had turned his head to confirm that it was, in fact, a crossbow bolt, he felt a heavy and evil book striking him in the face.


"So, just to make sure," Wardell said. "Nobody here has any power to talk to spirits, or any skill in astral projection?"

Jeremy shook his head. Ellena and her brother shrugged. Calor seemed to ignore the question, evidently more interested in the Heart in his hands than anything else going on. Dream mumbled something that Wardell didn't understand and figured wasn't important.

"Okay, no shortcuts, then," he sighed. "Our best option is making contact with a spirit ourselves. Usually it's easier for them to talk to us than vice versa, it's just a matter of making a form of communication."

Some of the liquid tendrils took on the shape of a small board with letters all over it.

"Nah, those don't work," Wardell said, waving his hand dismissively. "Not usually. Most spirits don't care to just respond to random questions from the mortal plane. They've moved beyond our petty concerns and typically ignore us. What we need to do is get a spirit's attention."

"And the end of the world isn't enough to do that?" Ellena asked.

"It's not the world they're in," Wardell explained. "Unless the apocalypse is extending to the spirit plane - which I guess is possible, it's not like I'm an expert on the world ending - it's just a mortal problem to them."

"What do spirits want, then?" the page asked.

"That varies. A lot. Bargaining with spirits is messy business, most of the time. There's one useful trick, though; almost every spirit has a strong link to some physical object. If you've got that object on hand, you can usually offer to take care of it, or you can threaten it if the spirit's aggressive."

"So, what, is there a spirit for everything, or is there some way to know if something's got a link?" Jeremy asked. "Otherwise we're just taking a shot in the dark."

"There are a few signs. Typically items of religious significance have spirits attached to them. Or objects that seem to talk to people, those are usually a sign that a spirit's talking through them."

Jeremy glanced over at Calor, who was whispering something to the Heart.

"Wouldn't risk it," Wardell said. "One, that guy's twice your size, and two, from what you were saying we need that thing to fix this mess."

"Right, no, just thinkin' about, uh, stuff," Jeremy said. "What about, uh, local legends? You guys got any stories about spirits we could ask for help?"

"Church lore posits that Endymion has a spirit, but that's it," the page said. "And that's the spirit we're trying to fix. There might have been stories over the years, but the Church generally made sure they didn't get written down."

"So we've got nothing to work with," Wardell sighed. "Well, guess I'm out of ideas. Might as well call Geoff and wish him good luck."

A black tendril suddenly started waving in front of Wardell's face.

"What do you want?" he asked. The tendril changed shape into a telephone receiver. Wardell stared at it awkwardly, then cautiously held it to his ear.

"Hello?" he asked.

The phone coughed something at him.

"What's the catch?"

The phone belched.

"Nah, I don't deal in souls," Wardell said. "What else? Well, I've got books, I guess there's this talking scarf..."

The phone sneezed.

"No physical objects, right. How about knowledge? Even the spirits don't know everything, after all."

The phone creaked in response.

"Everything I know about Endymion? Sure, go for it. Pretty soon either I'm not going to be here or it isn't. You've got yourself a deal."

He let go of the receiver, which dissolved back into sludge.

"Okay, good news, guys, we got ourselves a spiritual benefactor. They're making the door right now."

"Well, that's a relief," Jeremy said. "Any idea what sort of spirit it is?"

"Nope," Wardell shrugged. "But they're bound to the bargain, so they can't double-cross us. Don't worry, I wouldn't have agreed if the bargain wasn't reasonable."

"What was the bargain?" Ellena asked. "We didn't hear anything except the price."

"They make us a door and won't do anything to hurt us," Wardell said. "Pretty basic spirit contract."

There was a sudden loud splash as the black liquid around them swirled into the shape of an enormous door.

"I think that's a signal that they're done," Wardell said. "Better give Geoff a call."


It didn't take Sirius long to realize what was going on. Once again, his spiritual vision couldn't see Geoff at all, only a crossbow and an ominously glowing book on the ground. Evidently, the Hattallan detective had no intention of giving himself away with his weapons this time.

Of course, this time, there were no hallucinations to interfere. But there was an audience, an audience that might be decidedly less impressed if the glow from his eyes vanished. He couldn't risk that now.

But there was an opportunity, he realized. To the crowd, he was the messenger of the apocalypse. A defeat at the hands of a mortal would mean hope. It might be real, or it might be a comforting lie to feed them in their final moments - but it was one of the few gifts he could offer them now.

Of course, he wasn't going to lose without a fight.

"You dare to strike the Harbinger?" Sirius shouted at no one. He didn't even think about how it would look to the crowd, who could see he wasn't even facing Geoff.

"Yes I do," Geoff said, shooting Sirius' other wing. "You think you have the right to barge in here and tell us sorry, we screwed up, now we die, no more chances? You could have spoken up a thousand times before, set us on the right path, but you only turn up when the world's ending! How is that giving us a fair chance?"

Sirius tore off a piece of the railing and swung it ineffectively at the air, much to the confusion of the assembled masses below.

"You have already had plenty of chances, plenty of messengers! Thousands have spoken up, and been trampled!"

"And changes were made because of those thousands!" Geoff snapped, ducking down and dropping the book on Sirius' foot. "The members of discontinued lines are citizens by law!"

Sirius made another ineffective swing at what he hoped was a Hattallan, all the while trying not to show just how much pain his foot was in. It was one thing for the Harbinger to lose to a worthy foe, it was another to be humiliated.

"Your mortal laws failed!" Sirius howled. "You drove them underground, turned a blind eye to their suffering! You think mere words on paper will stay judgement for your sins?"

"Oh, I won't deny we've got problems," Geoff said, picking up his crossbow and firing a bolt into Sirius' face. "But we managed to make some progress without an apocalypse bearing down on us." He dodged a swing of the railing and ducked down to pick up the book. "I'll grant it's an amazing way to get our attention, maybe if you give us a few more years we'll actually get somewhere halfway decent." He swung the book into Sirius' chest with all his might, knocking the angel back towards the doorway.

"Endymion does not bend to the will of mortals!"

"And mortals don't go quietly," Geoff said, swinging the book again. Sirius was knocked inside, to the shock of the entire crowd.

Geoff picked up his crossbow and walked inside.

"Well, now that we're away from the crowd," he said, "perhaps we can get a real conversation going. Recent political activism aside, I haven't forgotten what you've done, but that isn't even the main thing this is about."

"You want a way out," Sirius said, as the glow in his eyes dissipated. "You want to get away from all this. Kill me, the round ends, and who cares what happens here, at least you're still alive."

"That's Plan B, and as a matter of fact I do care what happens here," Geoff said. "I just don't have that much confidence in Plan A."

At that moment, Ye Toume Offe Darkenesse burst open and a familiar voice spoke from it.

"Yo Geoff! Don't know how the fight's going, but we've got the door ready!"

"Really? Congratulations, Sirius, you've got a few more minutes to live. I suggest you put them to better use than trying to kill me, considering the situation."

Sirius simply glared.

"Unless you want Endymion to perish because Jeremy wasn't here to open the door to the spirit plane, that is." Geoff smirked.

"I don't know what you're talking about, but--"

Sirius stopped in mid-sentence as the thoughts rushed through his head.

Jeremy was, for whatever reason, opening a door to the spirit plane.

Most gods, and likely the Eccentric, could travel through the spirit plane.

He hadn't heard a word from the Eccentric for the better part of an hour.

"Never mind! I do know what you're talking about, and it's a terrible idea!"


"What's he babbling about?" Jeremy asked.

"The Eccentric's waiting on the other side of the door!" Sirius yelled. "And maybe a few dozen of Swhales' gods, for all I know! If you open it up and let them out, they'll only make things worse!"

"Wait, what? Eccentric? Gods?"

"Swhales did say the Eccentric was talking to him, and trying to manifest," Geoff said. "And I see Sirius wearing his necklace. I don't think this is a trick."

"That would explain our spirit benefactor," Wardell said. "The Eccentric might not be bound by the contract, or he might just say it didn't exclude sending a few dozen angry gods through the doorway."

"But this is our best chance to save Endymion!" Jeremy protested. "Look, even if someone dies, we don't know that's going to stop whatever Photographer's doing. I don't want to give up on this place yet!"

"I don't know how you think your door is going to help, but unless you can keep the Eccentric and an army of crazed gods from passing through, it's a terrible idea!" Sirius growled.

Jeremy was about to say something rude back, but then he glanced at Ellena's face.

She was afraid. She didn't know what was going to happen to her.

She was counting on him.

And if they left the round, he'd never see her again, even if Endymion was safe.

"You know what? I can keep them from passing through!" Jeremy said. "Get ready, guys. We've got a world to save!"

"So who's going through the door?" Wardell sighed. He knew that somehow, it would end up being him.

"I shall!" Calor declared suddenly. "The Heart has chosen me to guide it back! It is my only path to redemption!"

"Yeah, uh, that's great," Jeremy said. He leaned in to Wardell. "Maybe someone should, y'know, keep an eye on that guy? Not me, 'cause I've got to manage the door, but y'know..."

"Your bravery is an inspiration to us all," Wardell said with only the barest effort to fake sincerity. "But I cannot in good conscience allow you to go alone. Please, valiant Calor, allow me to accompany you."

"Only if you are certain. No doubt we will face great danger within that gateway."

"Yeah, totally certain," Wardell sighed. "Let's get going."

"You, uh, going to want to make any preparations? It's not going to be easy to turn back."

Wardell glanced at the books strewn about on the floor, and picked up a small tome entitled Gods Are Total Bullshit: Why Believers Are Idiots.

"I'm ready," he said. "Let's get going."

"Okay, good luck!" Jeremy said, standing before the giant liquid door. "Making the link in three... two... one..."

The doors swung open, and Jeremy was immediately knocked to the ground.

"GET IN!" he shouted, scrambling to his feet. "HURRY!"

Calor rushed in, dragging Wardell with him. Jeremy slammed the door shut and breathed a sigh of relief.

The door started to open again.

"Shit," Jeremy groaned. "This might be a little tougher than I thought."


The gods were angry.

This was their usual state of affairs, and half the time they were angry with each other. For the moment, however, their anger was focused on the Eccentric.

"You promised us free rein of the mortal world!" the God King Bodb Derg shouted. "For this, we accepted your terms and silenced ourselves. For this, we permitted you to kill our servant and grant us another. And now, with the hour of our descent upon us, you tell us we cannot leave this plane?"

"I didn't think the door guy would put up this much of a fight!" the Eccentric snapped back. "Listen, if you want to risk getting lost in the void between the spirit plane and the mortal world, be my guest, but if not, then wait until I tell you to go!"

"How pathetic," Macha sneered. "He claimed his power greater than all of ours, yet here he is, trapped on this plane, and unable to overcome one single mortal. Perhaps we were fools to ever work with him."

"Talk is cheap. How many of us are even trying to hold the door open? Answer: One, me! Maybe if I had a little help, we'd be out of here!"

Before any of the other gods could respond, there was a loud crash as Wardell fell into the spirit realm, and Calor landed on top of him.

"Ow," Wardell groaned. Then he looked up, and saw just how many gods were gathered all in one place.

"This could be a problem," he sighed. A dozen or so of the more warlike ones approached them as Calor stood up.

"Endymion is the only true deity!" he shouted. "And no number of false gods shall stand between me and her restoration!"

"Great, we've got company," the Eccentric sighed. "Get those guys, maybe we can use 'em to bargain with the door kid."

"Oh, behold, the mighty Eccentric, reduced to making deals with mortals!"

"Oh, shut up."

The gods drew closer. Wardell picked himself up, pulled out his book and started reading.

"First thing you need to know about gods is, they're a crock of shit cooked up by priests," he read. "I mean, think about it. Some guy who we never see or hear from is watching us and judging everything we do, and will take the slightest excuse to condemn us to horrible torture for eternity? And isn't it so convenient for us that this priest knows exactly what he wants, like giving money to the priest as thanks for showing us the way! Amazing how that all works out, right?"

A few of the gods groaned in agony. Apparently blasphemy was effective, but Wardell needed more of it. He continued reading as Calor fired crossbow bolts at whichever god seemed the most in the way.

"Even if gods were real, seriously, who'd want anything to do with them? They're always screwing mortals over. Sure, you hear about the occasional dude who gains divine favor, but the gods screw him if he complains over the tiniest of things. You'd have better luck making deals with the Mafia. At least they understand the concept of 'quick and painless'."

"This is fun!" the scarf said, watching as two gods drew near Wardell and then doubled over in pain before they could reach him. "Can I try it?"

"Knock yourself out."

In the distance, Wardell could see a female figure, a metallic woman covered in the same black liquid that was all over the Core. There was a gaping hole in her chest, too, where her heart should be.

"I think I found our goal," he said to Calor, as his scarf started reciting Chapter One: Ancient Bullshit About Gods. "We just need to clear a path, hand over the heart, and then get out of here."

"Then for Endymion, we charge!" Calor shouted, firing the last of his bolts and then flinging the crossbow at one of the shorter gods. He grabbed Wardell and rushed forward, the scarf continuing its recital the whole time. Gods collapsed before the heretical words, and they were soon just a few meters away from Endymion's unmoving spirit.

Unfortunately, they were even closer to Evalia, a goddess of textiles, displeased to see a disobedient scarf.

"Cease your babbling," she said, and the scarf stopped reciting.

Wardell was about to pick up where it left off when he felt the scarf tightening around his neck. He could barely breathe, let alone get words out.

"What's happening?" Calor asked. Before he could even consider trying to read the blasphemous book himself, though, six gods had caught up to him and started pummeling the intruder. He dropped Wardell and the Heart to the ground as they overpowered him.

Wardell found his vision growing blurry. He tried, desperately, to untangle the scarf from his neck, but it continued to choke him. He was too weak, so weak the gods weren't even bothering with him.

And then he felt his hands grasp around something cold and metal.

The Heart of Endymion.

Groaning and struggling, he crawled forward the last few feet to Endymion, pulled himself up onto her legs, and shoved the heart where he hoped it went.

For a moment, his eyes shut, and he was worried they wouldn't open again.

Then he heard a loud screech, and reflexively opened his eyes. The black liquid was falling off Endymion, and the hole in her chest repaired itself.


The gods were flung backwards, and Wardell felt his scarf loosen. He took a few deep breaths and blinked.

Then he saw Calor, who was still prone on the ground. The gods had not been kind to him.

"I thank you, child," Endymion said. "You have saved me from making a terrible mistake. Now, you must leave, quickly; though my strength is recovering, I fear I will not be able to hold back the intruders for long."

"Thanks," Wardell groaned. He started running back towards the door.

At first he ran right past Calor, then he sighed and grabbed the Acolyte's massive hand.

"This isn't going to end well," he muttered, dragging Calor along awkwardly and gasping for breath.


Back in the Core, Jeremy was in pain. The Eccentric had been fighting him the entire time, and it was taking a huge toll on his body. He'd even tried asking the liquid door to disperse, but every time it tried, it reformed a moment later.

It had relieved the pain, at least. Finally, after what seemed like hours to Jeremy, the black liquid started gathering, flowing, all leading into one place. It shaped itself into Photographer, still fast asleep.

A moment later, he distorted himself into a door.

"Okay, good news, world's probably safe," Jeremy groaned. "Bad news, Ward and Calor aren't back yet. And I don't know how Photog's taking all this, but one thing at a time."

"Is there any way we can help?" Ellena asked. Jeremy shook his head, then vomited.

"Well, I guess you can clean that up," he muttered. "But this is pretty much my thing, I gotta take care of it. I bet they'll be back soon, though... whoa, this is it, I feel them getting close!"

Jeremy released the door, just for a moment, and Wardell came rushing through the Photographer-door, panting heavily and dragging an unconscious Calor behind him.

"We... did it..." he gasped, before collapsing on the floor.

"That's great!" Ellena said. She and her brother rushed to the unconscious duo, trying to do what they could.

They were so distracted that they didn't notice what was happening to Jeremy.

In the brief moment the gate was held open for the return trip, the Eccentric had metaphorically jammed his foot in the door, and it was taking all of Jeremy's strength to push it back out. It didn't help that several gods were trying to force their way through the crack as well.

Gotta... break... the link... Jeremy thought, so weak that even thinking the words took strength he couldn't spare.

He pushed as hard as he could, willed the link shut, even as the Eccentric tried to will it back into being.

Photographer's body contorted wildly as it tried its hardest to stop being a door, and as Jeremy tried his hardest to stop it from leading anywhere when it was a door.

Jeremy started coughing weakly. Ellena turned away from Wardell.

"Jeremy, are you okay--"

She didn't finish the question, because she realized he wasn't when she saw him coughing up blood.

"Almost... got it..." Jeremy said. Immediately afterwards, a tiny, ominously glowing foot popped out of the Photographer-door, and then the Photographer stopped being a door.

And Jeremy collapsed, his strength spent.

He never got up.
RE: The Battle Royale S2 [Round 3: Endymion]
The Eccentric slammed on the door to nowhere, sucking on the severed stump of his foot and bellowing with uncharacteristic rage. Obviata, Goddess of Ugh Must We Spell This Out, offered a return to normalcy.

"The round hasn't ended."

And lo, the Goddess had spoken, and indeed, it was so. Endymion was still in the middle of cosmic fuckwhere, with no hint of a sun for the whole system to spin around. The Eccentric told the restless crowd to hold all horses, phones, and boiling pots, and slithered off to see what was what.

The Composer was out, was what was what. The wards gave way with the sound of someone kicking a hole through a cello, admitting one cosmic horror who clapped three hands in delight. Lots of screens. Keyboards (not even the musical kind). Very standard-issue, Ikea-for-Grandmasters fare. The Eccentric had been expecting a literal soundscape from the Composer, or anything really that didn't scream "Hey I just ascended into Local-Omnipotence City a month ago."

A wave of a tendril, and the screens all gyrated (you might suggest "cycled"; I assure you, they gyrated) through several shades of pink, before juddering angrily and returning to normal.


Turns out when some geriatric with a swordcane comes up and starts offering you duels, you should just stick a blade-limb in his face without agreeing to anything. Turns out these order-abiding upstarts can teach you a thing or two if you let them pick the rules of the game. On the bright side, cool scars! And the Composer had left this whole console arrangement anyway, so he could handle having all his most potently omnipotent bits sliced off.

He hit pause, pause, hit play, hit fast-forward then rewind then fast-forward than rewind, then paused again and tabbed out completely by accident to what must've been Composer's list of rounds. Eccentric summoned up a ceiling covered in paint, to spare himself the agony of reading through all of these. A couple blotches of heliotrope dripped on his carapace, and sizzled accusatorily. He groaned, scrolled through a bunch more while covering his face (his hand erupted in glass eyes) before seeing one that sounded partway tasteful.

It took a bit more futzing around (have you tried touch-typing when you've got functionally-infinite fingers?), but before long the contestants were on their way again.


Dawn broke on Burnination, bouncing off the highest towers of the Great Barrier High-Rise Complex. Kaiju and humans alike were making tracks for the mainland - the humans in high-speed ferries, the kaiju swimming or flying or (in the case of King Tua Mobula) showing off by breaking the surface and leaping over the waves.

The streets of Burnination itself were still quiet - the roads, wide enough to accommodate its citizens, made the place seem even more desolate. A couple vendors were opening up their stores, but there was no indication that this was anything but a regular old day.

No indication that today was the first day of filming of Burnination's biggest, Grandest, production in its illustrious history.

RE: The Battle Royale S2 [Round 4: Burnination Studios]
"This is Super Robo City," a familiar voice said. "Here, robots of various manufacture managed to create a perfect utopia upon the ruins of a battlefield where allegiances shifted constantly. Indeed, the robots still maintain their programming to switch sides upon defeat - but as all sides are now allied, this is no longer of great concern. Your presence, however, will no doubt alter this delicate balance. Now, let the round commence."


Sirius rubbed his eyes.

He couldn't remember much about the last half-hour or so. Geoff had agreed not to fight him, as a round transition could well jeopardize the insane plan to save Endymion; but the Hatallan also pointed out that there was a large crowd outside expecting a fight, and if Sirius' little speech condemning their society was going to be remembered, it was best if the fight at least looked like it was continuing.

And so Sirius had spent most of that time flinging flashy, destructive spells around the room, which Geoff thoroughly ignored as he knocked various things over. The Supreme Priest of Endymion probably wouldn't appreciate it when he finally worked up the nerve to visit his chambers, but there was a good chance he'd be looking for a new job in the near future regardless.

He'd never used that much mana for such a length of time before. Of course, it would come back in time, but it had left him disoriented.

And by the sounds of it, the new round wouldn't be much help with that.

It was frustrating, really. Endymion was the first place he'd visited that had made sense, at least for the most part. It even had a real problem for him to solve - a real chance for him to do some good without feeling like the universe was playing a joke on him.

And thanks to the Eccentric and the gods, he'd squandered most of it pulling inane pranks while the world fell apart around him.

Now - who knew what had become of the place? And now he was in some ridiculous robot utopia where the robots had formed peaceful armies or something nonsensical like that.

He'd just arrived, and he already felt like he was back at home.

The feeling only intensified when he saw the giant pangolin wearing a false beard carrying a sword the size of a small apartment complex.


Meanwhile, in a booth some distance away from the set, the Composter was talking to her fellow hosts.

"About time the bloody thing finally started filming," she said, tossing a pile of food in a bin. The worms would eat well today, probably better than the actors. "I loved this place when I first arrived, but after months and months waiting for the action to start moving, I'm just sick of it."


"Really? I figured you'd like this round, at least. Think about how many bots are getting their first big roles here."


"Guess that's fair," the Composter shrugged. "I mean, there's not many humans here either, but we've got Harold at least."

"I agree," said the Joystick, pulling his tail out of the base of his costume. It was uncomfortable and half the time didn't even show up when they were filming. "If it were up to me, Hoovertron 6700 would have gotten the lead role, or at the very least something better than third-string villain."


"Dunno that adaptation accuracy would've made that better, though," the Composter mused. "I mean, I remember Dr. Silverfoot had a way bigger role, but his ultimate plan was kind of lame, wasn't it?"

"Yeah, but they didn't make the big villainous plan in this any better, when you get down to it. Just more cinematic."


"Eh, I'm all for realism in general, but you gotta think about the story a little, yeah?" The Composter shook her head. "Not that we're doin' either of those things here. So how long do we gotta wait before our next scene, anyways?"

"Not long enough," the Joystick muttered, rubbing his tail with his smaller claw. "I never should have agreed to wear that ridiculous thing."
RE: The Battle Royale S2 [Round 4: Burnination Studios]
Wardell was a bit winded from his misadventures in the spirit realm, so while he remembered seeing Jeremy dying, and he was stuffed into another round, he had not yet put two and two together and was instead trying recover.


Wardell wasn't sure why his first instinct was to talk to his scarf, but he was a bit worried about her. After a bit of silence, Wardell was about to move on when she roused herself.

"Wardell, Wardell!!! I remember!"

His scarf was very excited, wiggling and almost jumping up and over his neck. Wardell didn't know what his scarf could possibly be talking about, but nevertheless he humored her, "What do you remember?"

"I remember about you! And me! Why you can listen to me and about our destiny!"

Wardell was by now a bit more cognizant, and had noticed that he was in some sort of office building, as he shuddered in disgust at the plain fluorescent light, he continued his half hearted conversation. "Our destiny? I don't know what you are talking about, I just like reading."

"Precisely! And your love of reading and books and stories is what makes you important, it is why you have your gift, and it is why you have me! I remember now! I'm the Breath of Written Word, I found you so that we could protect stories! But... something happened..."

"That's absurd Boww." Wardell paused for a moment, and then powered through, hoping his scarf wouldn't notice, "I don't have a destiny like that, you just had a dream."


As Boww sulked for a bit, Wardell found a door, a very imposing and large wooden door. He put his ear to it, deciding not to just bust through into unknown territory.

On the other side, the Directorate of Animedia Lobbyists Íntegra or DALÍ or more realistically and grounded in reality the group of people funding and most in charge of the GRAND MOVIE (tentative title), were discussing the latest events in their greatest production to date.

Sitting at the center of a round table was a large number of various people, most of them in boring suits, some of them with various accessories to sort of feel more in character.

"So, what do we do about the author?" said a woman with an imposing beard and sword.

"The author? What about him? He doesn't have control in the realm of film!" Said a winged beast.

Surrounding the table of various humans, was similarly diverse monsters, all wearing different forms of formal wear, with some more classic kaiju than others.

"Look, I understand that we don't need to listen to him, but if we aren't careful the fans are going to react poorly," said the two-headed Cyclops's head.

A voice rang out from the ceiling, "The various heads nodded in various emotions, ranging from anger, to fear, to understanding. The fans were a very, very, real problem in any kaiju production, but this one... this one was going to be the CITIZEN KANE of kaiju movies."

"Look, I understand that part of the aesthetic is the narration, but could you please tone it down?" Said the two-headed Cyclops's other head.

A giant snake wearing a tie let out a series of screeches to note agreement, then some more screeches in a suggestive tone.

"Hmm, I think they are right," the tentacle creature raised some of her infinite tentacles to her eye, "We don't need to really do anything, what we need is more of something that implies we care... someone who has read the book, and can be on the set, to point at when fans think we are the ones who made mistakes."

Just on cue, Wardell slammed through the door, drawing the attention of every member of DALÍ. As Wardell slowly stood up and noticed the group of somewhat eccentric business people staring at him, he started to sweat. His head instinctively moved even further up, causing his intimidated sweat to turn to a fountain of fear at the sight of the business casual kaiju. Wardell stood, frozen, wondering why no one had said anything. They all seemed to be looking at something on the floor...

On the floor, having spat out of Boww, was THE GRAND NOVEL. Wardell raised his head as DALÍ grinned at him.

"Greetings and welcome! How lucky you are, to meet with us, the the Directorate of Animedia Lobbyists Íntegra, just in time to hear about our new job opening."
RE: The Battle Royale S2 [Round 4: Burnination Studios]
A photographer lay on the ground in a pose that somewhat approximated a puddle.

No, not a photographer. It had no camera, not anymore.

It had no knife either. No telling where that was at this point.

It might've been a moon at some point, but that seemed to be a distant nightmare. Was it still dreaming now? Who knows. Any sense of reality had been stripped away when it had been literally stripped away from anything that had identified it as something. Now, now it was nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Absolutely nothing sank further into the ground. Or, at least, it tried to, before suddenly finding itself being dangled in the air by some rather impressive claws.

“Hey, buddy!” said the owner of the claws, managing to make the word 'buddy' sound the opposite of amicable. “You can't just lie around in the middle of the road, that's super irresponsible! What if someone stepped on you, huh?”

“That's fine,” nobody mumbled as the clawed figure tried to figure out where its legs were so she could put it back down. She was a cute little scaly thing, for a loose definition of 'little,' and looked nice enough for someone who looked like she housed a family of Bowie knives in her mouth. Black goop was starting to dig into her red scales and so, her snout twisted with barely-disguised disgust, she dropped it. It landed with a disgustingly sad sound but stayed as vertical as it could for something that looked like it was constantly on the verge of merging with the asphalt. It was amazing that anybody could even recognize it as anything sentient. The kaiju stepped back on instinct.

“Wow,” she said, looking it up and down, or rather, down and downer. “You look. Wow.” Flicking off the goop that stuck to her claws, she squinted. “You okay?”

Nothing at least had the self-awareness to say, “No.”

“Oh.” The draconic figure sniffed, kicked a leg idly, looked somewhere to the left. “What're ya, anyways?”

“Nothing,” it replied, its sigh bubbling out all over its body. The topic change only made the kaiju step from one disgustingly uncomfortable atmosphere to another. The pile of goo was looking like an avalanche, collapsing in on itself, and so she absentmindedly plucked it up to set it in a more traditionally upright position again.

“So you're not an actor then? 'Cause only actors are allowed over here, actually.”

“Oh?” the whatever-it-was replied, suddenly taking on a more defined shape. “What's an actor?”

It was at this point that enough alarms were going off in the kaiju's head, telling her to get this thing out of here already, but it was looking up at her, this time with something that she could conceivably think of as a head, with such soulfully blank luminous eyes. It was cute, in a sludge-y sorta way, and so all she could do was grimace and scratch at her horns and say, “Forget it. Don't worry. I'm gonna hook you up, okay?”

It tilted its head oh great. The ol' head tilt. She used her Bowie knife teeth to chew at a claw. “You're gonna what?”

“Don't ask questions, m'kay? Just do as I say and you'll be alright.”

“Um...” Nothing looked down and nodded.

“Good.” She rubbed the top of his head and quickly realized what a mistake that was. “Call me Ally, m'kay?”


Seeing the look in its oddly expressive face, Ally said, "What's wrong?"

Nothing fiddled with its fingers until they got completely tangled up in each other. "'s not really accurate...I mean, you don't look like an alley at"

Ally stared with all the horror of someone who was rapidly finding herself dragged into the mire of surrogate motherhood and was unable to stop.

"I...oh my god..."

It completely didn't help that it did the goddamn head tilt thing again.
RE: The Battle Royale S2 [Round 4: Burnination Studios]
Most mortals would panic at the sight of a gigantic bearded pangolin wielding an enormous sword. The more curious among them might attempt to communicate with it and attempt to work out what exactly it was doing.

Sirius' prefered approach was to ignore it for as long as possible in hopes that it would go away. He didn't especially care why the pangolin was there in the first place - there was no reason he could imagine that would make him more comfortable with the situation.

Of course, as difficult as it can be to ignore a gigantic bearded sword-wielding pangolin, it becomes even more difficult when said pangolin leans down to whisper in your ear. Especially when said whisper is, due to the sheer size of the vocal chords producing it, about as quiet as someone speaking through a bullhorn.

"I THINK YOU'RE ON THE WRONG SET," it boomed. "WE DON'T GET OUR BIG SCENE TOGETHER UNTIL LATE IN THE ROUND." It lifted a paw and pointed as subtly as it could considering it was two hundred feet tall. "PRETTY SURE YOU'RE OVER AT THE CLOCK TOWER RIGHT NOW."

Sirius was too dazed from the attempted whispers to consider the various implications of what the pangolin had just said to him. All he was able to gather was that he had just been given a reason not to stay here, which meant not having to work out why a giant pangolin was trying to whisper things to him.

"Thank you," he said awkwardly, before flying off towards the tower.


Geoff's introduction to the world of Burnination Studios had been more low-key. Granted, he was still surrounded by strangely-dressed humans, robots, and monsters, but somehow they all seemed much less intimidating when they were sitting in a waiting room reading magazines while soothing music played.

He hadn't even thought to raise a fuss when the secretary handed him a number. True, he probably wasn't meant to be there, but whoever he was evidently meeting with could probably give him some answers about what was going on here. The explanation that had been broadcast didn't readily fit with what he was seeing, and the easiest way to find out what was really going on was to play along with it.

"Number 136!" a woman called out suddenly.

Geoff glanced at his slip of paper, and stood up.

"That's me," he said. He walked over to the door, and the woman glanced at him.


"Geoff Wilson."

"Wilson... oh, the detective." She looked at him again. "I suppose you need help coming across as a bit more hardboiled. Well, this shouldn't take too long."

Geoff was surprised, but he'd been working long enough not to let it show. Most likely it was just a coincidence. In a transfinite multiverse, there must be more than one Geoff Wilson who did some detective work, after all.

He followed her down a hallway filled with doors. Geoff took a glance at the nameplates on them all as he passed and scribbled them down on his notepad.

"Well, you're not having trouble getting into character, at least," the woman said, stopping in front of a door labeled "HOLLY WOOD". She opened it and Geoff followed her in. "But you still need the right attitude. I've seen the script, Geoff Wilson's not just some kid who thinks he's tough. He's jaded, bitter. To him, being abducted to take part in a battle to the death is no different from another day at the office."

"Sorry, what?" Geoff said. This time, he couldn't hide his surprise. "I'm not sure I heard you right."

"See, that's what I mean," Holly sighed. "You sound like you don't know what you're doing. But you're Geoff Wilson, private eye. You've seen it all. You've seen men kill their wives, women kill their husbands, children kill their parents. You think everyone's out to get you and most of the time you're right. And that's gotta show even when you're not saying any lines."

Geoff tried to wrap his head around what she was even talking about, and then decided it would be easiest to just go with it.

"Listen here, sweetheart," he said. "I don't know who you think you are, but I don't take that kinda crap from nobody. I got a job to do here, and you got a choice. You can help me with it, or you can stay the hell outta my way."

"A bit rough, but it's a good start," Holly said, smiling. "Listen, I'm running late today, so I don't think I can give you a full coaching session. But I can give you a little something to get you through your scenes."

Holly walked over to her desk, rummaged through her drawer, and pulled out a small egg.

"It's cold now, but don't worry," she said. "It still counts. You're not the first detective I've had to help out, Mr. Wilson."

She held up the egg and closed her eyes. Geoff watched as it vanished from her hand.

He didn't feel anything. Holly opened her eyes, puzzled.

"It didn't work," she said. "I'm sorry. Perhaps I did something wrong?"


Sirius hadn't really given any thought to what he was going to find at the clock tower. This was, largely, a defense mechanism. Rather than trying to guess what specific absurdity he was going to encounter next, he opted for a general assumption that he was going to run into the silliest thing yet.

When he arrived at the clock tower, he realized he hadn't been nearly pessimistic enough.

"Whoa! Rolls, is it just me or are you seeing double?"

Standing before him were two strange sights, and the robotic armadillo was the less surprising one. A human, dressed in his armor, with synthetic wings (though you had to look very closely to tell the difference).

"Wonderful-just-what-I-needed-as-if-one-Sirius-was-not-bad-enough," the armadillo beeped.

"Excuse me?" the real Sirius asked, unwilling to believe what he had just heard. "What was that name again?"

"Oh, I see!" the actor said. "You want to know if I'm really Sirius!" He leaned in and whispered to his double. "Well, just between you and me, I'm never Sirius."

Acting on pure reflex, Sirius punched himself in the face.
RE: The Battle Royale S2 [Round 4: Burnination Studios]
The other Sirius wasn't getting up.

"Thank-goodness-now-I-do-not-have-to-worry-about-my-protocols-preventing-me-from-harming-him," the robot said. "I-am-in-your-debt-other-Sirius-please-do-not-squander-it-with-a-pathetic-attempt-at-humor."

Sirius didn't respond. Jokes were even further from his mind than usual. He had so many questions now that his double's irreverence wasn't distracting him.

First and foremost, was the double really dead? That punch shouldn't have had that much force behind it. Had he overestimated the mortal's endurance? Or had he simply let his temper get the better of him again?

And for that matter, where had this doppelganger come from? Why did it resemble him so closely, and how was it so different?

And what had happened to the gods? He still wore the torc around his neck, but he could hear no voices. Were the gods stranded on Endymion, or was the Eccentric toying with him again?

For that matter, who had died in the last round? Geoff had been with him, but whatever had happened on Bracket's side was a mystery. As was the fate of Endymion itself.

But he still couldn't consider those questions in great detail when there was a body at his feet. A mortal dead at his hands. And the robot armadillo wasn't helping to keep his mind of it.

Suddenly, there was a flash of white light around the doppelganger, and his armor changed color to match that of the actual Sirius. He stood up, slowly, grinning eve as he braced himself against the pain.

"Well," he coughed, "looks like you really cleaned my clock!"

"I-take-it-back," the armadillo said. "You-did-not-hit-him-nearly-hard-enough."

"What's going on here?" Sirius asked. "Why do you look like me? What was that light?"

"Data-suggests-the-light-was-the-alliance-shift-we-were-told-about," the armadillo said. "It-appears-your-twin-here-is-on-your-side-now."

"You got that right!" the second Sirius said, limping over to the original. "You know, it's funny. I never thought anyone would call me two Sirius!"

Sirius felt his fist shaking again.

"He-is-your-problem-now. I-see-no-further-reason-to-deal-with-this-imbecile."

"Aw, come on RolloBot! We make such a great team! We're really on a roll here!"

The armadillo said nothing as it curled into a metal ball and bounced away.

"Oh well. So what's your name? I didn't quite catch it. No, wait, let me guess... It's gotta be Humerus!"

Sirius glared at his double, barely restraining his fist.

"I am Sirius!" he shouted.

"Could've fooled me!" the other Sirius said, laughing. "But you can't be Sirius. I'm Sirius! Well, except I'm not..."

Sirius sighed, and simply flew off. Maybe the double would get too lost in his own inane joke to follow.

"Hey! Don't leave me here, we haven't even gotten to the punchline! Oh, but I guess you already delivered that!"

"If this keeps up, I may actually start to miss the Eccentric," Sirius muttered under his breath.
RE: The Battle Royale S2 [Round 4: Burnination Studios]
With DALÍ preparing his public debut, Wardell was quickly and unceremoniously shoved off to a nice window office, where Wardell got a good look at Burnination Studios. The building he was in, presumably the Corporate Office, was either impossibly tall, flying, or both, because Wardell couldn't see anything except for the monsters, and they didn't even look that big.

"What have I gotten myself into..."

"That doesn't matter, we've finally got an edge! You never have an edge!"

"How is this an edge, they aren't really going to give me any power, it's an empty title to save face..."

"Yeah, but the regular staff isn't going to be tuned in, after they introduce you, you should be able to go around the set however you want!"

"But why would I want to?"

"Because of your destiny!!!"

"Listen Boww, I don't know where you got this idea from, but I don't have a destiny!"

"I would listen to your cloth if I was you."

Wardell froze for moment, and then turned around, noticing that one of the DALÍ members had just... appeared.

Before Wardell could ask about any whos, whys, wheres, whens, or hows, Boww tossed a book at the executive, who caught it without a second thought.

"Heh heh, A Devil in Disguise? A funny joke."

The executive, taller than Wardell, wearing a mask and cloak that covered most of their features, and generally exhibiting an air of forceful confidence, had a voice that Wardell couldn't easily pin down. What exactly was going on?

"Don't... listen to him..... he's bad..."

"Well, no point in doing this the easy way if your cloth is going to give everything away..."

The figure reached around and pulled their cloak upwards, revealing a brown skinned man with bright red hair, black sunglasses, and an impossibly smug smile. "You may refer to me as Ruby, Wardell of the Battle Royale."

While he couldn't see his eyes, Wardell felt his stare, and apparently, so did Boww, because she drooped down more than usual. "Wh... how do you know..."

"Spirit mediums, channelers, when you have plans like mine, its good to keep tabs on any surprises. This isn't just a game to me, though I'll take advantage of yours. I was however, hoping to avoid showing my hand, but your cloth is surprisingly astute, not that she'll be interrupting us anymore. So Wardell, let's talk business."

With the disposal of his disguise, 'Ruby' had taken a dramatic tone, but the confidence and force remained. "What are you talking about? Buisness? I already agreed to help DALÍ..."

Ruby moved to the window, looking down on the actors and sets, "This isn't about those corporate fools, or their media machinations, this about the big picture. Look at them, monsters, once forceful, nigh invincible creatures, playing minstrels and bards, it is disgusting."

"Well, act-"

"And the humans, they're even worse, they are the ones who did this, they brought down such majestic forces of nature down to their own pitiable, unrealized existence."


"What if, Grand Battler, they returned to their true place in nature, become King Of Beasts, ruler of all, instead of this wretched facade?"

While Wardell couldn't quite follow, at this point he was too scared to interject. There was something more to this figure, something that made Wardell's heartbeat quicker, and his hands shake.

"What... who are you talking ab-"

"You will see for yourself Wardell, for now, just imagine this, you have a central part in restoring things to their rightful state. What a glorious destiny."

"And... and if I don't partake in this... thing?"

Ruby smiled. "Then I'll take your place. I'll seal you away, take your part in this play, and then ensure that my plans continue as scripted."

Wardell once again felt Ruby's stare through the sunglasses and he instinctively took a step back. He was scared, of course, but there was more to it. The way the words came out so... casually, as if locking him up somewhere no one could find him and just continue on without any issue, made him feel... frozen. Boww awake again, tugging at him, trying to make him leave, but Wardell wasn't going to move.

Ruby threw a card at Wardell's feet. "I'm sure that you'll pick the right answer. Your instructions are on that card, your next objective will reveal itself after you complete the current one. Begin as soon as we introduce you."

Wardell reached down for the card as Ruby began to leave the room. Despite being greatly intimidated, he managed to ask a single question, "Why me? Why do you need me?"

"It's simple. Your kind only exist to cause trouble, you a storm of destruction, the perfect catalyst to change a world." Without another word, Ruby left.

As Wardell thought back on his time on Endymion, he couldn't fine the words to protest. Whether he liked it or not, Ruby was right, something would go wrong here, and there wasn't really a lot he could do to stop it.

"I'm sorry... I couldn't do anything..." Boww draped herself lower and lower, almost making Wardell's shoulders ache a little. While the scarf had some... delusions, she was trying her best.

"It's fine, there's nothing we could have done, and not really anything we can do either..."

"What about Geoff?"

"What about him?"

"Well, if we find him, and clue him in on Ruby's plans, maybe he can help figure out how to stop them!"

"I..." Wardell was still a bit shaken from the encounter, but Boww seemed to made a full recovery, flapping with joy at the idea of blowing up the devilish man's plan in his face. He sighed. "I suppose it wouldn't hurt. Certainly can't make this worse... I hope."
RE: The Battle Royale S2 [Round 4: Burnination Studios]
Sir Ironjaw Granblanco had never enjoyed DALÍ's meddling, the group didn't really care about the progress of film as a media, preferring to keep things as safe and profitable as possible. Still, the esteemed actor, recently knighted by the Australian Court for his excellent merits both in film and theater, just had to join in on the production because truth be told, he was a fan.

The Grand Novel was an engaging read, full of an incredible amount of well developed characters and amazing settings, it left you asking for more, but not in a way that made you feel like you missed anything. He had a great amount of respect for it, and had hoped that any film production would be free of the Directorate's grip, a hope that he knew would never come to pass. There was no one else with the resources or clout necessary to bring the tale to life, and so, here he was, along with a few of the other higher profile members of the staff who weren't currently filming.

"And now, for an announcement most important, allow us to introduce, Wardell."

Ironjaw looked at the announcement platform as from DALÍ's various members, a young man with a scarf walked into the center stage.

"I know what all of you must be thinking, but Wardell is no nobody. See, exhibit A."

The announcement platforms screen turned to security footage, that of the empty hall on the other side of DALÍ's conference room. Seconds passed, and then Wardell appeared.

"There is no hacking, neither magical or technological that can fool our cameras. And this is, absolutely unedited footage. Exhibit B."

One of the members of DALÍ produced the elaborate book that was Wardell's copy of THE GRAND NOVEL. "As you should know, this is our edition of THE GRAND NOVEL, a special, 0th edition, one of a kind... only..."

Another member of DALÍ produced an identical elaborate book, with the same title, presumably their copy of THE GRAND NOVEL.

"I would hope that as you are all supposed to be... somewhat versed in the source material, you can discern why Wardell is here."

The staff murmured to each other, some following, some a bit behind, but one of them simmering up into anger. "Are you expecting us to believe that that scrawny runt is part of... a Grand Battle?"

DALÍ nodded in unison, "Yes. And for that reason, he is now to aid you all in the production. After all, there's no experience more valuable that lived experience."

Sir Ironjaw was now livid. This... Wardell person was nothing like the heros, villains, and others that THE GRAND NOVEL detailed... he was just... a person. Even The Bearded One was more than a simple human. The actor clenched his beefy fist and flew up to the announcement platform and grabbed Wardell by his scarf.

While some people were shocked, others were more used to this, and others had wondered why it hadn't happened sooner. One of the DALÍ executives, she was on the beefier side, for insurance, placed an appendage on Sir Ironjaw in hopes of calming him down "Ah, Sir Granblanco, it is truly a pleasure to meet you."

"Cut the bullshit and tell me what's really going on here."

"We are hiding nothing from you, or anyone else Sir Granblanco, Wardell is the real deal."

"And I'm not easily convinced, I know that DALÍ wants to get a bit more executive control here, but without losing the approval of the fans, this is just the sort of stunt your lot would pull."

"And while that may be so, it does not change that Wardell is in a unique position to aid us in portraying a Grand Battle as close to life as possible. We are deciding nothing, Wardell is simply here to aid us all."

Ironjaw put Wardell down, but remained unconvinced, "So what do you think about all this then? Hmm, Wardell?"

Wardell was stammering a little, at the sight of the muscular, yet noble sharkman, it was Boww who responded, a bit upset with Ironjaw, "Who cares about this movie thing, how could you be so rude!"


"Wardell's been in this battle and he's lived this long and you go and say he's not the right stuff? You're bullshit!!!"

Boww's outburst prompted Wardell to panic, "Boww!!! Don't insult the important flying shark man!"

"Listen Wardell, you've got bigger fish to fry, you've got your destiny! I won't just sit by and let you take insult after insult, especially not form a big bully like this guy!"

"I have never, in all my years, been so insulted!"


This hadn't exactly turned to DALÍ's favor, but it was a problem they could work with. There were a few options on where to go here, but the main problem was that Wardell, or his scarf, they counted as the same entity, and Sir Ironjaw had gotten off on the wrong foot. Wardell saw Sir Ironjaw as a big bully, not aware of his personal interest in the film, and Ironjaw didn't believe that Wardell had the stuff to be in a battle in the first place, and thus, do the job he was hired for.

The solution was simple.

The mufti-appendaged DALÍ executive wrapped her tentacles around Sir Ironjaw and Wardell. "Please. Refrain from doing anything you might regret. Now, we believe that we have come to a conclusion that you two should agree to."

Both Sir Ironjaw and Wardell noticed that she was being vague on if that was a suggestion, or an order.

"Now, Wardell does not have much experience on the set, and you, Sir Granblanco, are one our most esteemed actors. We of the Directorate of Animedia Lobbyists Íntegra believe that it would be most beneficial to the production of our film if the two of you were to travel around the set. Wardell could get a feel for what we are going for, and Sir Granblanco can get a better grasp of Wardell's unique background. Are we in agreement?"

Wardell covered Boww before she could do anything rash, "I'm fine with that."

Sir Ironjaw scoffed, but nevertheless agreed as well. "Alright then, Wardell, I... I suppose I did act a bit brash. I apologize."

"Good, good, that is all for this announcement then, remember, we are watching. We hope to see results soon."

With that, DALÍ retreated back into the Corporate Office as the various staff got back to work, leaving Wardell and Sir Ironjaw alone. "Well, let's get to it then." The shark began to float away before noticing that Wardell hadn't moved.

"Really? You can't even fly?" He sighed. "Take my hand then."

Wardell did as he was told, and then joined the beefy shark man in the air, somewhat confused at what was going on. Before he knew it,
the two of them were flying away from the announcement platform, into the set proper and Wardell was finding himself with more and more things to do...

Find Geoff, do what Ruby said, earn Ironjaw's respect, advise on being in a battle, find out what Boww meant by his destiny, and not die. It was all... a bit much, and he would have preferred to go back to his quiet life, which now seemed so far away...

"Good grief."
RE: The Battle Royale S2 [Round 4: Burnination Studios]
Harold Sharpe paced around the room. He'd already taken off his armor and put down his sword; if he was going to be waiting this long, at least he could be comfortable.

"Where is he?"

The director puffed on her cigarette, or at least that's what it looked like. It was impossible to see anything in the thick cloud of smoke that surrounded her head.

"It'll be little a while, Harry baby. He wasn't quite up to the role, so we sent him over to Holly. She works her magic, though, and this scene should run like a dream."

"Ah. Holly." Harold grimaced. "Yes, why hire talented actors who actually know how to play emotion when you can just hire a coach who can make them show it."

"The audience ain't gonna know the difference, Harry. 'Sides, it ain't like she don't teach 'em nothin'." She seemed to take another drag on her cigarette. "Sometimes they just need a little help seein' how things work. 'Specially the robots, some of 'em ain't quite used to the whole self-awareness thing yet."

"Last I checked, Wilson wasn't being played by a robot."

"Look, Harry, this movie has a big cast - I mean numberswise, not just, y'know. Most of 'em are real talented, but sometimes we gotta work with what we got. If we were dealin' with a small production, that'd be one thing, but Burnination Studios don't think small. Wilson ain't one of the main roles, so we ain't payin' top-dollar when we can get by with a C-lister and some magic words. Get over it."

"It's just, this is the scene I've been looking forward to for months! Everyone's seen me play a heroic swordsman, able to handle any foe with ease. But nobody's seen that swordsman attempt to solve a murder only to get shown up by an alien detective!"

"Well, you can wait a couple more hours... hang on, got a call." The director opened up her phone, which promptly disappeared with her cigarette into the smoke. "Hello? Holly! Good to hear from ya, how's tricks..."

There was a brief and awkward pause as the cigarette reappeared and then vanished again.

"I hear ya, sister. Can't win 'em all, I guess. Keep in touch."

The phone and cigarette emerged once more. Harry didn't need to attempt the impossible task of reading the director's expression to know the news was bad.

"Problems with Wilson?"

"Turns out he's immune to magic. Must have been a mixup on the info sheet - says the character is, but we ain't got nothin' about that for the actor. Gonna have to nix the scene."


"Look, Harry honey, you been in this business long enough to know that shit happens, and you gotta deal with it. So you ain't gettin' to do this scene. So what. They'll be other scenes in other movies. Yeah, maybe you're gettin' typecast, big fuckin' deal, you're still gettin' paid. You're still the biggest goddamn star in a movie that's gonna make fuckin' history."

"That's another thing. Why should I be the star? This movie is supposed to be about the kaiju. I'm happy to be a part of it, but I don't want to be the main reason people buy tickets."

Harold walked over to his armor and put it on, then strapped on his oversized scabbard.

"And if I'm not even getting to do the scene I wanted to do, honestly, I've got half a mind to quit."

"Ya know that ain't an option, Harry. In show business, a contract's a contract."

"I know, I know, I walk away from you and I'll never work in show business again. Did it occur to you that maybe I'm happy with that? That perhaps, just perhaps, I'm tired of working in show business if this is what it means? The same shallow role over and over, all in service to the almighty dollar?"

"You ain't gonna quit, Harry."

"You think you know me. But you don't. I got into acting because my life was stagnating. I wanted to be someone different. Now I think I just want to be myself again."

"Ugh." The director put down her cigarette, not that the cloud of smoke got any thinner. "I ain't lettin' you walk away, Harry. It'd be the biggest mistake of your life. Tell you what. I'll give you one chance with the kid we got for Wilson. If the scene works out, it's in. If it doesn't, it ain't and we get on with the movie. You think you can make this scene work without Holly's magic, be my guest."

Harold Sharpe smiled genuinely for the first time in several weeks.

"I do believe I'll accept that challenge."
RE: The Battle Royale S2 [Round 4: Burnination Studios]
"What made you decide to pick this set?"

From the perspective of an outsider, Burnination Studios could only be interpreted as a chaotic hurricane, there was so much, too much going on at any time, a production larger than the lives of the stars involved. Wardell was far too overwhelmed to respond to his now calm, but still boisterous companion, who noticed, and attempted to reassure him.

"Ah, nervous? Ha ha ha, I remember my first time looking at Burnination Studios, I won't lie, it wasn't very dissimilar to yours, but I can say with confidence that if you've survived this long in a Grand Battle you can deal with a few divas and vain super stars, we may not all be as devoted to the cause of art as I am, but you don't get this far in the business without knowing how to deal with a consultant. Now, the directors on the other hand..."


Sitting in an elaborate chair, on the back of which were the words "Director (D3A)" was a large lizardy creature wearing a wonderful white coat, sunglasses, but also wearing goggles on her horned head. Unlike some other kaiju types, looking at her gave the feeling of what she was, rather than letting you draw your own conclusions, Wardell settled on dragon, though her messy blonde hair gave her a human element that was difficult to deal with. She was holding a megaphone that was unlike any Wardell had ever read about.

"Oh dear," Ironjaw landed a bit of a ways away from this directors chair, turning to Wardell with, from what he could tell, an expression of discomfort. "Are you sure that you need to come here first, she's... a bit of a handful..."

Wardell nodded, thinking back on Ruby's instructions, which clearly said to go to this set first.

"Alright then, if you're certain. Well... I won't lie to you, the dear director of this segment, is a bit on the temperamental side, but I assure you, that if you treat her with respect, she will do the same to you." Ironjaw stared at Boww, "So that means no smack talk, aye?"

With the word of warning over, Ironjaw and Wardell approached the director, who had resumed filming.

If looking over all of Burnination Studios didn't make Wardell feel small, then actually watching it film a scene would. The phrase "bigger is better" seemed to be firing on all cylinders and not just on its stars. Wardell found it a bit hard to parse, to which he assumed was partially because he didn't watch many movies.

"A bit confused ay? Well, you see when the actors and sets are as big as we've got, it's actually easier to film much, much more than we need to, and edit it down than to have to re-shoot things after the fact."

Wardell nodded, but didn't quite think that it made a lot of sense in this case. For one thing, while the actors were all definitely larger than him, they weren't that big. For another, nothing was happening. "Does editing also add the plot?"

Ironjaw chuckled and said, "Sometimes mate! But no I think this is the director trying to capture the human element here."

The masked, purple plant lady with a tail was the smallest of the kaiju, and she was trying to convince the others to take a whiff of a flower that was growing out of her. In response, a tall, dirty deer lady ate it, chewed on it for a while. While some, giant goofy green lizard type thing seemed to be trying to make an attempt to get their attention.

Wardell couldn't help but feel like there was some joke he wasn't in on, or like these characters were interacting not for any important reason, but because some writer had decided that they had a really funny joke that just everyone needed to hear. How early in the plot was this? Was there time for this? How long was this movie going to be? He had so many questions and just as many problems, which he supposed was to his benefit.


Director Guillemet turned to her visitors, raised the megaphone to them, and said, "AH, YOU MUST BE THE CONSULTANT. AND, OH, IRONJAW, YOU'RE HERE TOO, WONDERFUL."

Wardell and Boww had braced themselves for an ear shattering experience, wrapping the scarf incredibly tightly around his head only to hear a relatively normal, if muffled voice come out of the megaphone.


Wardell cleared his throat and stretched his arm out timidly, "Pleased to make your acquaintance... uhhh..."


Wardell hesitated for a moment, mentally reviewing the instructions that Ruby had left for him.

"You aren't really going to do as he says, are you?"

"Do I have a choice?" Wardell thought in response. "What would you have me do, just run away from this giant shark man to find Geoff? We don't exactly know where he is. And besides, this is what I was hired for, right? DALI wants me to act as a consultant to this production, Ruby wants me to be brutally honest about what I think about what I see! At least I can try to do something I'm kind of good at."

"You really need to think a bit more highly of yourself Wardell... Trust me..."

Wardell sighed at his scarfs words and turned to Guillemet. "Frankly, all of this kind of sucks."


"You just have these characters talking and making some quips, not even taking advantage of what they really bring to the table, you could be doing so much better."


"Don't what me, I'm not going to be impressed by some random plant people hanging out doing plant people things and accept an excuse as lazy as "oh they don't know why they're doing it, they're just doing things," and neither would anyone else.


"But nothing, yeah people in battles act irrationally or without thinking, but they're usually doing it out of some emotion or in reaction to something they aren't prepared for, nothing about this scene tells me anything about that and no one even says anything! Yeah it's kind of funny for the doe lady to eat the flower, but what is that... lizard, bean, doing then?"


"And Director D, Section 2, A? What does that mean? Working with other directors is fine, but you have to actually work together, I don't see any signs of that, you're just satisfied with that?"

Wardell went on, doing his best to attack the situation from all fronts, using his own knowledge of literary criticism with a cheat sheet Ruby had left him against Guillemet in hopes of making her question her role in the production. Whether it led to a better scene or not, Wardell didn't really care, getting a small sense of accomplishment and some excitement out of getting to act like he had some authority.

After his tirade ended, Wardell stood still, looking at Guillemet, who had stopped responding somewhere around when he brought up the question of why there only seemed to be plant based actors.


Guillemet took to the skies, flying somewhere Wardell hoped would lead to her doing whatever Ruby wanted her to do as everyone looked at him in some form of confusion, bemusement, fear, or a combination of the three.

Ironjaw was the first to speak up, "Well. I must say, I... I take back everything I said about you Wardell, you uh... You seem to know your stuff." Ironjaw patted Wardell on the back, "I know that must have taken a bit out of you, and filming here is going to be on break, so why don't we do so as well, ay? C'mon then."

Wardell nodded, and started to follow Ironjaw, but also looked around. Now that his moment with Guillemet was definitely over, everyone returned to their break, with the masked plant lady speaking with the deer plant lady about where to go for lunch while the lizard bean made their way to them, Wardell noted that he was wearing a nametag that said "Sen [Palaedis Greenheart]".

"I appreciate your words young man, I don't have hard feelings for the director, her hands were quite tied with the scene..." They handed Wardell a card, "Now, I must be going, tell our friend good luck."

Before Wardell could catch on to what was going on, Palaedis had blended back into the set. He sighed, and then looked at the card, his next set of instructions.

"What's next..."


Ruby unconsciously adjusted his glasses. It was a signal of sorts, to himself and the world that he was about to change face. Walking down into a secret part of Burnination Studios, one built without the knowledge of DALI or any of the kaiju population, it was one of the few paths built by humans, for humans. He had a long day ahead of him, but he had weeks if not years behind him. All for the sake of liberation and advancement...

Ruby sighed as he went through the usual theatrics of getting into this secret meeting room, to meet with the cabal that were his "handlers." A group he worked so hard to get into the good graces of, all for this moment.

"Ah, Chad, we were worried when we heard about the battlers, hah, what are the odds! But... you adapted well to this unexpected situation, we are all very pleased with your performance. So, how goes the acquisition?"

Hiding behind shadowy silhouettes were a number of humans, their features other than outline hidden for their "safety." Ruby had nothing but disdain for each and every one of them, thinking of them as parasites, content to feed on a pathetic status quo of false civility. They had hired him to ruin the film, the studio, and not only had he done everything to ensure that they thought those were his goals as well, but he had taken the time to get to know each and everyone of them.

Ruby couldn't wait to see the look of surprise on their faces... time and place, neither now nor here. "I have both pieces," Ruby took out two orbs, one beige, one purple, both swirling with an energy that was difficult to describe. "Additionally, as you may have learned, one of the contestants in the battle has already proven his worth to our cause, as a way for us to ensure Holly's... absence. The window of opportunity will open soon..."

"Perfect, perfect! You know, you remind me a lot of me in my youth, so resourceful, so up to the task, able to adapt to anything. Ah, how I miss those days before those beasts tricked the world with their false docility, when a man did his own stunts, when movies were in their prime!"

Ruby remained expressionless as his handler went off on another of his worthless, trashy, tirades. He almost felt pity at the how obsessed with the past the fool was.

"Once you use the Convoid on those monsters, we will reveal them for what they truly are, once and for all! Monsters, filthy beasts as undeserving of the time they spend on screen as they are to lick my boots... And then, things will go back to how they are supposed to be, with those creatures cordoned off, away from the rest of society, as it should be..."

Ruby returned the orbs to his person, gave a polite clap to the speech and bowed. "A true return to form, master, humanities place will be restored, improved even, and you will go down in history as it's arbiter. I hope you continue to look forward to the results, I foresee they will exceed even your expectations."

"Yes! Good, you are dismissed. Our window will open soon, all eyes will be on Burnination Studios, and the world will return to as it should be!"

Ruby left the corridor, re-adjusting his glasses and grimacing, not very interested in another speech from a washed out fool. "Yes old man, the world will change, but it won't revert to your lofty memories, that's for sure." Ruby giggled, thinking about what Wardell thought about his plan and wondering what the bookworm would do... Everything had just been too easy, even some of the unexpected battlers had been perfectly positioned to aid him in the plot. He almost hoped that Wardell would cross him, plot out a betrayal, another thing for him to effortlessly conquer.

Ruby smiled. "Now...who's next on the list."
I wanna be a real friend, Don't wanna break when I bend
I wanna a be no seeker, I wanna scream eureka