The Gradual Massacre (GBS2G4) [Round 6: Tidal Cove]

The Gradual Massacre (GBS2G4) [Round 6: Tidal Cove]
Re: The Gradual Massacre (GBS2G4) [Round 2: The Museum]
Originally posted on MSPA by Schazer.

The Countess didn't move, but Holly knew the amalgam could hold itself unnaturally still. Even so, she expected that implacable monstrosity to grin, or snarl, or acknowledge her in some way-

Actually, screw whatever expectations she had of the Countess, Holly berated herself savagely. She kind of wished the ticking nutcase was simply getting its kicks from terrifying the others... oh, who was she kidding. The Countess scared her as well, and to refuse to acknowledge such a glaring fact was just asking for trouble. The elf considered, for a brief moment, reaching out and borrowing some of the Countess' icy confidence to bolster her own, but recalled she'd already done that and left the creature none-too-happy.

The Countess still hadn't moved. Holly, frowning a little, cautiously unshouldered her pack and armed herself with a rock she'd thought to toss in there. A lack of response prompted her to let it crumble to dust in her grip, its coveted solidarity rushing up her arm and settling the uneasy feeling in the elf’s chest.

Confidence bolstered, Holly refocused and re-coalesced those toxic little droplets. Holly had circumnavigated the Countess as best she could, paused there behind a display and... ok, at some point the motionless Countess had stopped freaking the elf out, and just gotten weird.

Fear giving way to curiosity, Holly approached, before realising - it was too quiet. The ticking, whirring, clicking and purring that followed the clockwork beast around should’ve alerted Holly long before either madwoman had spotted the other. Almost laughing with relief was it not for the implication of this discovery slapping her about, the elf skipped up to what was now quite evidently a statue.

A low rope encircled the Countess, which Holly stayed behind out of consideration to the various other exhibits she’d ‘interacted’ with in the museum. A plaque, one of several set on the floor, was scuffed underfoot as she took the opportunity to get a decent look at her foe. It wasn’t an exact replica of her - the legs had bulky pistons clamped to their sides, and the whole form was overall sturdier. The body’s shape was dictated by the cogs that made it, and not the other way around. The jaws were even more savage than those Holly was used to, the way they were too big for the face reminding the elf of some kind of steel trap.

Lifting her foot to examine the plaque underfoot yielded more interesting information. Although some of the explanation on nanite infection and the implications of concurrent organ failure went over Holly’s head (while what did sink in merely sounded excruciating) the history behind this exhibit, the elf had to concede, could be potentially useful.

So she persevered, scribbling notes in the margins of a book as needed, until she heard the strains of an approaching horde of clocks. Holly cursed, and jammed the book into her bag and prepared to continue pursuing Acacia. The ambient ticking was getting louder, punctuated by the increasing skitter-click of the Countess’ footsteps.

The elf, getting her bearings, followed the trail down a narrow gap between the rears of two rows of exhibits - she could see where Acacia had leapt onto the tops of the displays, but the elf couldn’t be bothered with that kind of thing. Inching her way around a bed of nails, Holly turned and started at the sight of the Countess, whose steely hand had plucked a violet droplet from the air.

With a chiming voice that belied the irritation of first Thane then Acacia’s headache-inducing attacks, the amalgam trilled, “In a hurry, dear?”

Holly swallowed, throat dry. There was no visual cue for it, but she could just tell the amalgam's mood was murderous.

Re: The Gradual Massacre (GBS2G4) [Round 2: The Museum]
Originally posted on MSPA by MrGuy.

"So, dear, how is that little relationship of yours playing out? I can't imagine well. She's already breaking your heart, isn't she? Nobody else with you either." She sidled up to Holly, who merely stared back. "Quite a shame you don't seem to have anyone backing you up. Come now, stick with me. Our strengths are perfect complements. Together, we're all but guaranteed to survive until the end." Holly simply stared her down. "Don't give me that. I know what's behind that... uh, naynit-infested skull of yours." She pointed accusingly, backing away and preparing to attack if necessary. "I don't know what any of this stuff is, but there's two things I do know. One, two people around here almost certainly do, and I'm going to find them and figure out a way to get rid of you once and for all. And two, this little... exhibit only proves me right."

The Countess turned her head briefly, turned it back, and nodded placidly, but Holly could detect the... well, frightened wasn't precisely the right word, obviously, but some kind of emotional undercurrent along those lines. "Yes, like you weren't practically gunning all your life to have an exhibit here. Metaphorically. Besides, those two are just going to run away from you, aren't they? So much simpler to simply kill them. You know that's what they plan to do to you." Holly narrowed her eyes. "Shut up. Algernon couldn't bring himself to kill an unarmed goblin who'd stolen his life savings. And Aic... has..." She paused for a moment. This is so stupid. I'm not letting her do this to me. "Hmph. Anyway, nice little chat, but I have people I actually want to find, so I'll just bid you goodbye." With this, she grabbed hold of a nearby robot currently on what appeared to be a highly "improved" version of The Rack, and did her best to draw out the feelings of helplessness. Her hand stung for a moment. She wasn't used to taking emotions out of things, at least not in the literal sense, but it'd have to do.

With that, Holly turned her hands toward the walking pile of clockwork and shot out three brilliant blue orbs, which quickly transformed into chains, binding Countess to the ground and acting as a gag. Holly started to leave when she heard a sound she had never expected to: the sound of breaking steel. The Countess emitted an almost imperceptible noise before she tore the chains right out of the ground, causing several links to simply remove themselves and clatter to the ground, and quickly absorbed the remainder into her being. Holly simply blinked, unable to think of anything more productive to do from the sheer shock.

The Countess continued her slow approach, a horrifying grin unfurling upon her face. “So it's going to be that way, is it? I can live with that. You know, I never got a chance to reciprocate your little gift in the classroom.” She slid her sharpened finger against the very automaton Holly had drawn the chains from, simultaneously leaving a deep scratch and creating a rather painful noise. “So why don’t you just stand still, and it will all end... well, not as slowly, anyway.”

Holly backed away, wincing slightly but doing her best to maintain a cool head. “This isn’t necessary, Countess. There are... there are weaker contestants around. Why not kill, say, Algernon? He’d surely be fun to deal with. I could even help!” At this, her assailant simply let out a chilling laugh. “Now, now, dear, you know that’s not going to work. For one, people like him are best saved for last. Simple. Easier to get rid of. No, it’s the large threats you need to get rid of first. Consider that a small compliment if you’d like.” She lashed out with a claw, stopping just above an inch short of Holly’s nose. “And besides, you had your chance, Tallbirch. A bit late to attempt to unsay your accusations and such. Not that it matters, because even if we could trust each other, nothing would change.” She slashed forward again and again, each time just barely avoiding doing any actual damage, simply reveling in Holly’s expression slowly and jerkily becoming more and more fearful, while effortlessly dodging, or even simply shrugging off, any of the elf’s attempts to strike back. “One of us... would have to kill... the other!” Each piece of the sentence was punctuated with another attack, each of which came closer and closer. “The only question... is how quickly... the alliance would... fall apart!” And with this she drove her claw into Holly’s arm, tearing the sleeve of her dress, allowing a small stream of blood to flow outwards.

The elf winced as Countess slowly drew the claw out of her arm. “You have it easy, you know. Lucas was eaten alive. Those strange little bugs gnawing away at his flesh like a horrible cyclone of blades... a bit of stabbing is nothing, really.” Her grin, seemingly impossibly, managed to get even larger. Holly, despite her best attempts to accelerate, had simply gotten backed up against a wall, and as useful as that rock had been, she now felt as if she was dissolving into a puddle of sweat as she awaited her death. She attempted to get something out of her bag, but her arm was simply swatted away. The Countess proceeded to slash at her repeatedly, producing several more gashes, before knocking her to the ground with an elbow. As she bore down upon her prey, her eyes perfectly said what was otherwise unspoken: I would ask if you have any last words, dearie, but that would imply I actually cared what they were.

The elf’s eye twitched as her vivisection approached. This was it, then. She’d had a good run, she supposed, if a bit of a short one. Briefly glancing up, she noticed that the animatronic above her-- yet another dictator, it would happen-- seemed to be taking in her displeasure almost as much as The Countess herself. Holly, despite the myriad of emotions that would more logically stem from this, simply felt angry. Who the hell did this guy think he was, smirking at her like that when he wasn’t even the one who was going to-- fail to kill her. Holly was suddenly struck with realization as Countess’s claw stabbed downwards toward her abdomen, preferring to remove the less vital organs first rather than going straight for the heart. Time seemed to slow to a crawl as the claw barreled towards the stomach before stopping just an inch short as four of the thorns closest to the handle of Holly’s whip disintegrated, the resulting energy firing directly into the amalgamation’s legs.

The clockwork creature emitted a shriek of pain. Holly rocketed to her feet and started fleeing again, running her hand over the smoothed section of her whip, more than a little annoyed at the loss of the thorns attached, but figuring she could find a way to replace them in fairly short order. The Countess shook her head and began chasing her, limping slightly due to the pain being localized to a couple of her legs. Holly dashed off as fast as she could, vaulting over a pit of spikes (not that she particularly needed to, given the bridge of robot corpses that had formed on it). She cursed repeatedly, trying to pick up Acacia's trail again, which only led to dye spattering in her face. Her breathing got heavier as she did her best to convert her fear into a smokescreen behind her, which succeeded but also got quite a bit of soot on her. After she was finally sure she couldn't hear the Countess's incessant ticking anymore, she slowed to walking speed.

God dammit, why did I pick her in the first place? Of all the people in this battle, wasn't anyone better? The elf paused. Was there? I better think about it. The knight wouldn't have been too useful, all things considered; the Countess had only proven her guess as to her backstabbing nature correct; tentacle-face, whose name she had never bothered to learn in the first place, might have been alright, but her sanity was tenuous already and he might have been a bigger risk; Algernon seemed useful at first, but he also seemed fairly weak (emotionally-speaking) and there'd only be so much he could do before she ended up partnered with somebody who couldn't speak or read, fight, hell, maybe he wouldn't even be able to feed himself, she wasn't sure how deep the whole thing went; She'd already tried Pluck and if that Reaper was any question he didn't have anything similar to control; even if the demon guy didn't have more personalities to deal with than Aic herself, she could already take care of the emotional front, so he wouldn't be much help, and besides, he was dead now anyway. That left Ouro, who was probably unlikely to ally with anyone edible, and Acacia. Holly emitted a sigh of relief. Guess I picked right after all.

She briefly passed through a corridor containing several exhibits on psychological torture, displaying (among other things) a replica of a room designed to convince people they were insane, a government's catalogue of all its citizens' greatest fears (next to a door simply marked "101"), a device designed to create rather unpleasant self-fulfilling prophecies... the list went on, and most slightly buoyed the elf's mood, allowing her a brief chuckle. At least until she reached the end of the exhibit, which showcased a small metal disc and a set of footprints marked "STAND HERE." Holly paused. The trail led in a different direction, but something about the exhibit intrigued her. She tentatively considered testing the device, but quickly put it out of her mind. Unfortunately, her attempt to leave was met by a man in a rather disheveled jacket who violently pushed her into the exhibit. Quickly, mirrored walls sprouted from the ground, trapping Holly within. She looked around, noticing several robots who seemed to have torn out their own inner workings to spare themselves.

After dithering over moving to the footsteps for a few minutes, the walls slowly began closing in and Holly emitted a small yelp. "Alright, alright!" She quickly headed for the footsteps, knowing something terrible was about to occur but unable to stimy the inexplicable desire to proceed. Sure enough, as soon as she was in place, an image began coalescing above the disc, simultaneously with her receiving a rather painful headache. Holly began to feel nauseous upon realizing it was, in fact, Aic, who proceeded to laugh at her. "Why, hello, Holly! You haven't gotten yourself trapped on my account, have you?" Holly scowled. "You're not the real Aic and we both know it. Leave me alone."

The hologram produced a grin almost identical to the real thing. "Just because I'm not really her doesn't change the fact that you know she was right. You can't seriously believe I felt anything for you, can you? Here I thought that you were smarter than that, but clearly I was wrong." The hologram emitted a rather disturbing attempt at a laugh. "You should have stuck to shallow, meaningless relationships, elf. They couldn't hurt you like this, could they?"

Holly stared down the vision. "Listen, you. You're designed to screw with me, and I'm not going to give you a chance to succeed." She immediately launched a kick towards the wall, which rather annoyingly failed to shatter. Once again, the torturer chuckled. "For someone who's unfazed by this, you sure are doing your best to escape. Are you afraid to confront the truth? Are you afraid to admit that after years of using people as tools, the same is finally happening to you?" The elf winced and shook her head. "She's not like that, damn you! You wouldn't know!" She immediately began drawing from her resolve, creating a spear of rock to drive through the mirror. Her tormenter simply kept up. "I wouldn't be here if you didn't know it was true, Holly. I come from your mind, after all. Not that it matters to me; you're dead one way or the other."

Holly smashed the spear through the wall, shattering it, and turned back to the hologram. "Well, your position is very illuminating. Allow me a rebuttal." At this, she poured her anger into the spear, the tip of which promptly began glowing brightly—first with an orange tinge, then red, until finally it began to glow a bright white with all the heat contained with in. She proceeded to drive it deep into the offending device, which slowly melted to nothing. The nonexistent Aic simply continued to laugh as she began to crackle and dissipate. Holly walked back onto the trail, shivering slightly. Stupid illusion. She-- it's lying, right? Of course it is. It's designed to be a torture device. I'm not going soft, it just wants me to think I am.

Holly stopped short. There, out of the corner of her eye, she saw her quarry, looking into an exhibit and smirking. At this point, her mind was filled with revenge fantasies. She wanted to rip the boomer off of Acacia's neck and punch her until she couldn't feel anything, bury her under a pile of rubble, drown her with condensed sorrow, put her in the machine herself to see what happened to her. All these and more whirled through her head at a breakneck pace, and she wanted to enact each one of them in sequence.

Instead, she simply let out a weak "Now let her out", and for the first time since she was three years old, Holly Tallbirch fell to the ground and sobbed.

Re: The Gradual Massacre (GBS2G4) [Round 2: The Museum]
Originally posted on MSPA by MalkyTop.

Algernon's first instinct was to yelp in a not-entirely masculine way. His second instinct was to punch his captor in the face.

Considering the face belonged to Death and was, in fact, not entirely a face, this turned out to hurt Algernon more than it hurt Death. Still, the shambling skeleton reeled back in surprise, which allowed the dark-haired man to pull away and continue fleeing in terror. Behind him, he could hear the menacing cloaked figure bark out 'WAIT' but he had no real intention to do so.

Shifting his backpack over in front, Algernon started rummaging through it quickly, really hoping that there was magically something in here that could solve all his problems right now. He was too inexperienced with the whip for it to help, he doubted a turtle or an elephant could be of use, and, unfortunately, Death lacked any eyes for him to shine the flashlight in. As if that would be a permanent solution anyways.

Feeling quite exausted by now from all the running, Algernon glanced back. Death was still quite close behind. He turned around to snap the whip at him, but besides doing a whole bunch of nothing, it allowed him to stumble backwards and slow down. So yeah, bad plan.

His lungs were burning now. He needed to do something or else he would just collapse and then, considering the nature of his pursuer, most likely die. But, you know what, his legs felt like buckling out from underneath him now. Maybe they hated him for some reason. Maybe he wronged them somehow. Either way, he was now breathing heavily and coughing on the floor as Death leisurely approached. He turned to lie on his back when Death arrived, looking as though he was trying to hide behind his backpack, wishing for at least a little more stamina.

Death leaned down uncomfortably close to him. "BOY. I WANT--"

Algernon shoved an empty juice box in his eye socket.

Death paused, evidently unsure whether to feel angry or amused at a man's last desperate attempt to escape him. On one hand, he shoved a juice box in his eye socket. On the other, he shoved a juice box in his eye socket. He settled for a low, raspy chuckle that did nothing to ease Algernon's fears or stop his heart from pounding so damn fast.

"BOY." Death started again, setting the juice box back in his pack again. "I WANT MY ARM BACK."

It was only then that Algernon noticed the skeletal arm that had held tenaciously on to his shoulder ever since it had first grabbed hold. It seemed that Death would have rather let someone pull his arm off than let go of a victim.

"Um, uh," Algernon spluttered, unhooking himself from the arm's grasp. "Blug." Death took this as an invitation to take his arm back and so grabbed onto it. But Algernon didn't let go.

Suddenly finding his voice, he asked timidly, " I give this to you...will you not kill me...?"


"I, uh, um," Algernon said, still focusing on the 'reap your soul' part and panicking thusly.

"DO YOU MIND LETTING GO OF MY ARM NOW," Death asked patiently before, all of a sudden, he was hit by a bullet. Actually, more like several. Death released his disembodied arm and recoiled, letting Algernon's arm flop back across his chest.

Algernon wasn't entirely sure what was going on besides the fact that someone was shooting at Death. And it was apparently affecting him. He wondered how exactly that could be possible but man, he was suddenly feeling too dizzy and sleepy to try to understand this and his head was feeling much too light to deal with the waking world right now. As he nodded off to sleep, he was somewhat aware of someone standing over him, picking him up.


And then he woke up.

The first thing he was aware of was the feeling in his head. It was the sort of feeling that comes with severe blood loss, worryingly enough. But he hadn't been wounded recently, had he? Maybe? Well...there was that bandage still around his head...but he had stopped bleeding there, hadn't he? He rubbed his face, feeling too confused to think about all of this.

The second thing he was aware of was the man crouching in front of him. As he blinked at him, the man seemed to realize he was awake and said, "Are you okay?"

Algernon managed to focus on him. "A-Arnold...?" he asked unsteadily. The face of what was definitely Sir Arnold Scarlet stared back.

Algernon shifted a little blinking his eyes blearily. " I dead?"

Arnold barked out a laugh at that. "I hope not, after all the trouble I went saving you."

"But, but, uh, you...I"

"Something happened to me?" Arnold helpfully finished.


"And what would this 'something' be?" the former knight asked, a little amused.

"Uh," Algernon said, because now that he thought of it, he couldn't really remember. "Er. You...died...?"

"And yet here I am, having just saved you from Death himself. Ironic, isn't it?"

"More like impossible," Algernon mumbled.

"Look," Arnold said, "You must've just remembered something wrong."

Had he been anybody else, Algernon would have questioned how he could have possibly forgotten whether someone had died, but really, he wouldn't put it past him to forget such a thing. So he changed the subject. "...Where's that Death guy...? Why isn't he following us?"

"Beats me," Arnold shrugged. "I really thought he would, considering you've still got his arm."

And that was the third thing Algernon was aware of.

After staring at the arm for a moment, he decided to keep it in his pack. He was feeling too worn out to freak out about it right now.

"Can you walk?"

Algernon tried. It was like watching a newly born fawn trying to stand except with fewer legs.

"...Never mind. We'll stay here. I'll watch out for the others." And Algernon leaned back on whatever it was he was leaning on. He was happy to relax right about now, at least until this strange bout of dizziness passed.

Re: The Gradual Massacre (GBS2G4) [Round 2: The Museum]
Originally posted on MSPA by Pinary.

Re: The Gradual Massacre (GBS2G4) [Round 2: The Museum]
Originally posted on MSPA by Schazer.

The Countess clashed her jaws together furiously at Holly’s retreating form, which she promptly lost at the first, smoke-filled intersection. She flicked the remnant steel tethers off by working a claw under them, considering and discarding the thought of devouring them.

You’re not doing a very good job at this.

The Controller sounded amused, but his cold voice was enough to bring the Countess down from her righteous fury. He sighed, and gave his distracted agent a few directives. The amalgam was studying a display of barbed hooks and considering whether to reshape her teeth to resemble them, but struck off as soon as she received her orders.

Pluck felt a little guilty about abandoning Algernon, but not enough to warrant going back and helping him face several reapers and a horde of flesh-eating insects. Catching his breath beneath some gallows and trying not to look at its swinging occupant, the werewolf took a look around to confirm there was nobody around, then double-checked by reaching out to any neighbouring minds.

Shit, it’s that creepy spider-woman!

Pluck was ready to run again, when an explosion rocked the museum. He swore and leapt out of the way of the collapsing display behind him; his heroic dive was met with the ominous ticking of an approaching clockwork nightmare.

“Please don’t run; I need your help.”

Experimentally, the werewolf reached into the Countess’ mind, and came back with a dagger. He swore and dropped it, then wished he hadn’t. The amalgam said nothing as she stared at the blade, before continuing in her eerily pleasant tones as if nothing had happened.

“You could make a key for a specific door if someone were thinking about it, yes?”

“I-I guess?” Pluck was inching away as fast as he could while looking like he was sticking around. The Countess continued patiently, knowing a false move on her part would make her quarry make a run for it.

“I found a door a while ago – it was marked ‘Staff Only’. I can only expect this Controller’s employees would be formidable monsters indeed, but I believe were they still here, we would’ve seen them. It may provide a means of escape – yes, that door,” said the Countess, as an identical copy materialised in front of Pluck like a shield. “I do wish you’d stop dipping into my mind like that.”


“As we can both see, the door exists – will you allow me to lead you to it so we may find a way out of here?” Sensing the werewolf was still reluctant to be anywhere near her, the Countess shrugged and raised her claws in an imploring fashion. Pluck, despite the amalgam’s earlier request, searched around for what he hoped would be the last time, before tossing a key at her and taking a few steps back.

“Look, Countess. Best of luck trying to get out, but I don’t think your plan’s gonna work - no offense. I, uh, guess you’ll be fine, but...”

“Wait.” The Countess called after Pluck, who reluctantly stopped hightailing it away from the clockwork woman to hear her out. “I said I needed your help, and I meant it. The door was beside the maintenance bay for these robots... and I’m rather certain that’s what exploded.”

“What? How do- hell no. Please- please don’t take offense at this, but you’re crazy. Or I don’t trust you. Or- look, I don’t even know, alright? How am I supposed to trust you!? As soon as we get any ideas, that Controller bastard’ll do to us what he did to that cop!”

The Countess said nothing, and the werewolf took that as his final overdue cue to flee. That awful skittering of metal striking the ground in pursuit was expected, but the hum of the dagger he’d only recently materialised, going right by his ear, was a bit more startling. There was a crash of breaking glass behind Pluck, who turned to see the Countess had grabbed several more nasty metal tools from a display. She’d loaded one into the clamp of fingers on one hand, her ambient ticking masking the ratcheting of a spring in her palm tightening.

Neither party moved. The Countess chirped levelly, with such tireless insistence it would’ve annoyed Pluck in any other situation, “I need your help.”

Re: The Gradual Massacre (GBS2G4) [Round 2: The Museum]
Originally posted on MSPA by whoosh!.

A few minutes of zig-zagging through the odd artificial twilight of the warehouse only apparently resulted in having completely lost the elf. Acacia’s eyes skimmed around, obstinately skipping over the gleaming glass cabinets and displays. She didn’t want to know.
I do.
“And so it begins,” Acacia muttered, picking a path through the glass and sticking to it.
That’s the second time you’ve so cheaply used our boomer upon my beloved. It must be terrible to be so limited in thought. I wonder, what will you do when you meet again? When you use the boomer, remember that I called it.
“And you? What do you do when faced with an enemy, Aic? What wild thoughts do you have?”
Something sniggered darkly at the back of her mind.
A moment later, Acacia was on all fours, clawing at her stomach and staring blankly at the splatter of vomit before her, but only seeing what Aic’s imagination had thrown up. Her entire body shuddered, wracked by fear and disgust and perhaps the smallest sliver of awe.
So pathetically, deliciously weak. It’s a wonder you could even look at the plags. The only thing separating you is a wretched appearance.
“But… the plague victims. Those things you did to them…”
Laughter screamed through her head.
Oh gods yes, Acacia. You deserve their fate exactly. You wouldn’t believe how much I would give to do it all to you, every cut, every snap, every pathetic little noise they choked up. And the eventual stillness, the disease cut out from the world.
Little giggles trailed away into the dark, gaping space in her mind, sounding curiously organic even in spite of the poison and spite laced in it. Nothing like her current hellish chuckle. She would have called it a memory, but Acacia could barely remember having reason to laugh. Aic probably had all the reason to in the world in those dark little thoughts of hers.
Acacia just shakily flipped off the vague area behind her back, and limply attempted to pull herself back up only to ineffectually scuff the floor. She suddenly paused, her gaze strangely captivated by her pale bare feet against the dark concrete floor. And lingering on the heel, the brand of the Seventh Sanctum. Acacia traced a languid finger across it in a daze. She didn’t feel good. The crap with Aic was bad, but she’d never felt so drained. This entire knotted and painful mess was just insane, and holding onto her like some demon limpet.
She absently traced the dark rings of the Seventh Sanctum and cried alone in the gloom.
Eventually it ended, but she felt no better. There was a gaping maw on the inside and a rabid sense of claustrophobia on the out. It felt nuts. It felt electric. And she just wanted…
“…To hurt something,” she whispered through her daze. She barely noticed the tickle of blood running down her arm from where her nails dug into the soft flesh.
It was the prime moment for Aic to return, and return she did. She didn’t say anything (did she need to?) but her presence pressed on her. Something cold and wet, festering and moldering in the back of her head…
Acacia staggered to her feet and ran. Her feet immediately shrieked with the onset of cramp, but she just hopped until it slacked off. Glass and reflections slid by, the faceless onlookers of her last ditch attempt to get the poison out.
She ran wildly, aimlessly, until her breath scratched against her throat and she couldn’t see for the tears. She slid down to the ground again. Acacia felt certain she would never stand again.
“Why won’t you leave? Why? Why. Why?!” If she still had her breath she was sure she would have created a strangled scream that would have brought the whole building down, but she affected nothing. She barely even made a sound beyond the shrieking mess in her head.
“Weak,” she choked, her voice barely audible and her lips only just moving. “So weak. I’m going to die. Die amongst strangers. Except for my closest enemy, who follows, always following.”
Aic still waited in her loud silence.
“Just take it. Take it and do what you want.”
She closed her eyes, quietly savouring the coolness of the floor against her boiling cheek in some detached part of herself.
“Go back to that elf who tricked you. Watch her die. Die. But for the love of anything good, don’t drag me into it.”
Her whole body relaxed. At least it wouldn’t hurt. This was a death she preferred, even if it left a bitter taste to the last part of her that still wouldn’t let go.
But no blissful oblivion came. Just the feeling of Aic and the cold warehouse floor and darkness.
What… what do you mean? The uncertainty was undeniable, and almost enough to shock her out of her total relaxation. Almost.
“It’s over. Congratulations. You won.”
No… Holly? She… what do you mean? What trickery?
A little of Acacia burst into life. A little cunning, a little belief, a little hope. The relentless monster wasn’t all-knowing and she certainly wasn’t invulnerable. An errant finger twitched. A ghost of a smile flitted past her lips. But her grip on the inevitable was still too strong, and the words came freely.
“In the belltower. She forced love on you, in defence. Surely you remember better than I do? How do you think it took off so fast?”But the words were not without a burning, sneaking incredulousness. She wondered, hoped, watched with her heart beating a little quicker. Here it was. The flawless goddess of pain and terror, poised to fall from her pedestal and shatter.
Would it regain its balance? Or would she fall?
…No. No, I- I love Holly. It’s real. She wouldn’t…
“Don’t you remember, Aic? You were about to smash her face in seconds before you first kissed –“
No! No! No!
Acacia stirred. Her eyes still closed, she scrabbled for a hold on the floor and shakily pulled herself up into a sitting position. Her faith was burning again. Perhaps not blazing, but glowing. She could feel the uncertainty, the paranoia unfolding for someone other than her for once.
The goddess teetered.
And then came acceptance. The howl of dread, of irrefutable truth glaring back.
And the goddess fell. And her soul burst into flame.
Suddenly, it was very quiet and dark for Acacia. Aic had faded away, and she was alone with her eyes screwed shut in a world without sound. Acacia couldn’t bring herself to see. Perhaps it would prove to all be fake, a dream world without bearing on the inescapable final shell of coldness and pain. So she stood.
It felt real. Each thumb moved over the four fingers on their respective hands, and found none wanting. It was right. She was free.
Nonetheless, her heart was beating as if trying to explode just before she lifted her lids to see out on what was real.
It was then, of course, that she spoke.
She expected fear and got only cold indifference.
“Yeah?” Acacia replied, tilting her head a little.
A silence fell, as if Aic was searching for the right words.
Let’s go fuck that elf’s shit up.
She smirked.
“Sure. I could use a truce.”
Aic and Acacia opened their eyes to a world that was as real as it had always been.

As it happened, the elf came to them. Sobbing and crawling in the dirt, gasping for Acacia to let ‘her’ out.
Aic and Acacia simply stared at the quivering mess at their feet for a moment.
’I’ll admit, this wasn’t exactly how I envisioned our revenge. ‘
You… actually gave that thought? Whatever for? Seriously, why haven’t you gone comatose from boredom already?
’Why haven’t you got yourself killed already?’
Maybe it’s just because I love you so much, dearest Acacia. Now shut up and let me deal with this, darling.
Acacia continued her clueless stare, even as she pushed over control.
The first port of call was, quite naturally, to remove the braindead expression.
“Holly,” she whispered, dropping down to her knees and encircling her shaking body with her arms. “Dearest Holly, I’m here. It’s ok. I’m here. What the hell happened?”
The reply was a little muffled by Aic’s shoulder, but the venom in it was clear as crystal.
“Acacia, of course. She relies too much on that stupid boomer thingy. And always getting in the way of our fun.” She nuzzled Aic gently.
Acacia snorted. “Yeah, she’s an irritating little bitch,” she replied automatically, staring down Holly’s back at the traitorous hand clutched around her pistol. It glinted in the light, promising the repulsion of blood and sweet sting of victory in the same shudder of her hands. But… not yet.
“Do you remember…”
“Remember what, Aic?”
“At the school,” she whispered, running a hand over Holly’s back in lazy arcs. “Because you know what? I thought back a bit. And suddenly, I realized something.” She paused, completely still. “I realized that you lied to me,” she hissed, immediately tightening the hug. A gasp escaped Holly, but no more. Aic smiled into the gloom beyond the elf’s back, and pressed the gun against her spine.
“Your little trick in the bell tower? Payback, my darling. No one uses me like that, least of all a prissy little elf who comes on to the first thing that so much as breathes near her. Got that?”
Holly tensed up under her arms, even futilely attempting to wriggle free of her grip. Aic just pressed the gun a little deeper, her dreamy smile stretching a little wider as she fell still again.
“Good. Now listen in. You’re going to die, elf whore, and there’s nothing you can do about it. That’s it. As much as I’d love to snap your legs, I’m not going to risk losing out on putting a bullet through something important.”
She paused, then turned her head and tenderly planted a kiss on the side of Holly’s neck.
“Nice knowing you,” she whispered, and let go.
Aic leapt backwards, blindly kicking out at Holly and grimacing with bland satisfaction as the bare foot connected. She stumbled a little, but held her gun steady and trained on its target. And paused. A grey eye stared back through the pathomancer’s streaks of dirty blonde hair. Despite everything, despite all the hate in her brain screaming for that twitch of her finger that would end it all, she let her eyes lock with that single grey one.
Just staring.
“No!” Aic screamed, her throat burning. “I’m not doing this! You’re dead, elf! Dead!”
One last moment in which to regret what she was about to do – and then the trigger was pulled.

Re: The Gradual Massacre (GBS2G4) [Round 2: The Museum]
Originally posted on MSPA by Godbot.

It's not difficult to kill an Ouroborite - they're large, they're clumsy, and they're fragile. If you see one before it sees you, killing it is as simple as finding something heavy to throw.

The second Pluck's mutilated carcass lay in silence. The cold, pale floor was streaked with purple blood-fluid, marking where the swarm had passed.

Killing a lot of Ouroborites is harder. Assuming they're not occupied with devouring each other alive, a swarm has eyes everywhere. If even one of them picks up the smell of blood, its pheromone gas will alert the others. Not to mention, in groups they have that nasty paralyzing screech. If you kill only one Ouroborite, the others will eat it for nutrients to hatch a dozen more.

Parts of Pluck had been ripped straight through, leaving nothing but cracked, stained bones behind. A few limbs had been torn off entirely. But other parts – the core, for instance, the warmest part of the body – had been left mostly intact, if perhaps bloated a little strangely. There were a few large gashes through his back.

That last detail is particularly troublesome. After consuming enough nutrients, an Ouroborite will either lay eggs in the last thing they killed or fertilize them, depending on gender. The carcass is used for warmth and nutrients, up until the offspring reaches its pupal state –

A scythelike claw stabbed through Pluck's upper back and raked through matted, bloodied fur. Another followed, creating a sizeable cross-shaped hole for a small Ouroborite to wriggle free of its improvised cocoon.

- and emerges from its host. Where an Ouroborite leaves victims, more Ouroborites will soon follow.

Killing one Ouroborite is easy.

Pluck erupted in a flurry of claws and mandibles. One insect parted his broken ribs on its way out. Another turned to rip and claw at what was left of his remaining arm. Fabric and skin fell away in swathes.

Killing several Ouroborites is difficult.

In the distance, a battered animatronic torturer collapsed under the weight of several Ouroborites emerging from it all at once. The remains of his victim followed. In the distance, more burst open, splattering oil and synthesized blood. Claws sheared through circuitry in search of meat.

Killing Ouroborous – utter extermination of the entire moving ecosystem of insects, killing and eating and seeding and spreading, turning its prey into hives and spawning more within an hour – is nearly impossible.

Ouroborites gathered from all directions, homing in on the remains that their parent group had left them. After a few moments' gnashing and tearing, they moved on as one, in search of fresher prey. A few outliers remained, scouring Pluck's corpse for any remaining morsels. Gradually, they moved on, prompted by the scent of pheromone gas.

The following silence was broken by a sharp crack as a dawdling Ouroborite pulled a loose vertebra from Pluck's back. It picked at the chunk of bone with its inner mandibles for a moment before tossing it aside.

Something on the tail of a lingering Ouroborite caught on Pluck's ribcage as it climbed down his back. It toppled from its vertical perch and flopped to the floor, face-up, writhing and squirming and chittering. A fellow straggler fluttered over, zeroing in on its comrade – easy prey. It lunged forward, baring two sets of mandibles and a pair of claws to hack and slash at a soft underbelly.

Something on the tail of a lingering Ouroborite flicked back and hammered into its attacker's back - something sharp and heavy and merciless, like the blade of a guillotine. A reflex. A broken shriek of pain. Fluids splatter from sundered carapace. With a twist and a shove, it fell away, broken, and the lingering Ouroborite wriggled onto its belly, fluttering its wings to right itself.

The second Ouroborite's mutilated carcass lay in silence. The cold, pale floor was streaked with purple blood-fluid, marking where the swarm had passed.


A man steeples his fingers and leans forward, watching the flickering glow of his screens as the stray rips and tears and eats.

Now isn't that interesting.
Re: The Gradual Massacre (GBS2G4) [Round 2: The Museum]
Originally posted on MSPA by Schazer.


The Countess considered chiding Pluck with a little threat to kill him if he didn't help, but then conceded the werewolf was convinced she was a psychotic murderer anyway. The thought made her smirk audibly, with a noise like knuckles cracking.

"Go on," she said softly, projectile still aimed square at his head, "I'm thinking of something - it's certain to stop the robots from being a problem."

Pluck pulled a face, but the way the spring-loaded hand waved at him left him no choice. He fumbled with some kind of gun even the Countess seemed to be having trouble envisioning properly, but moments later the werewolf was hefting the sizeable barrel on his shoulder, peering through the scope.

"What's this do?"

"It'll fire circuit-scrambling pulses, which should stop the displays in their tracks. I assume-"

The Countess' words were cut off with a staticky sigh, and a chestful of electricity. Her retaliatory shot missed its mark between Pluck's eyes, but caught him in the side instead. The werewolf hissed in pain, shouldered his new weapon a bit more securely, then fled the twitching, locked-up form of the Countess.

He got a fair distance before the unpleasasnt grinding noises ceased, and more on instinct than reflexes ducked sharply out of the way of another shrapnel dart. Pluck winced in pain as the fresh wound in his flank tore open some more, then ducked between two exihibts and got away from the Countess as fast as he could.

"Huh? Arnold?"

There was a dull boom from another part of the museum, jolting the young man awake. Algernon was very suddenly aware that the knight wasn't by his side any more. He stood shakily, glancing up and down the row of exhibits, then leapt about a foot in the air when he heard a voice behind him.


Arnold grinned a little at Algernon's skittishness, before settling back where he'd been before the disappearing act. "At ease, soldier. There was something I wanted to go and check out, that's all."

Algernon relaxed a little, but that sense of unease he got when something, really important and very relevant to the situation at hand, had waltzed out of his brain refused to stop nagging him. With a sigh, he gave up, and slumped back down again.

"What... what was that explosion about?"

Arnold shrugged.
"I was wandering that way before I found you, so something from the robot repair bays?"

"Huh." It didn't quite cross Algernon's mind exactly how Arnold knew that, but nobody was too bothered.

Pluck didn't stop running until the ticking had faded into the distance, and even then felt the need to ignore the pain in his flank and keep moving. As he walked, he examined his newly acquired weapon - it didn't have any gauges or switches - just a scope, a humming barrel which was making his fur stand on end, and a trigger.

Putting the bazooka down for a moment, Pluck winced as he peeled back his trenchcoat - the Countess' aim was exemplary, though examining the mess of matted fur and blood made him wish it wasn't. He didn't feel honestly bad for betraying the amalgam - as if the Controller's threats weren't deterrent enough, the Countess herself was legitimately terrifying. Not to mention violent, and judging by the cannon at his side, not particularly bright, either.

Pluck gritted his teeth, used his knife to cut a strip of ruined trenchcoat to banadage himself up, and looked up at the thin curl of smoke rising from the direction the clockwork beast had wanted to go. Figuring that was the last place he reckoned the Countess would expect him to go, and the bazooka on his back making the animatronics seem like less of a threat, the werewolf headed off in the direction of further destructive noises.

The displays changed as he walked, from more familiar examples of torture to futuristic machines. Pluck did his best to not pay much attention, pace slowing as he approached the site of the continued sound of metal being ripped apart. He paused, hiding behind a giant severed robot arm which showered him with sparks. On his way down this stretch of exhibits, Pluck had spotted the Countess' door at the end through the haze - it was just a matter of avoiding whatever had been destroying everything-

Something clawing at the interior of his skull, which Pluck had originally assumed were aural afterimages of Ouroborus' shriek, spontaneously reached a mind-rending pitch. Something homed in on the werewolf with unnatural speed through the wreckage, its hulking arms effortlessly tearing a stray beam out of its way.

Pluck figured out who was causing the mental assault as they grabbed him by the shoulder in a crush-grip, robotic fingers displacing bone. The attack on the werewolf's mind stopped long enough for him to stare into those abominable black eyes, before they narrowed with a callous hatred and Thane tossed him bodily into the smoking remnants of a repair terminal.

Pluck struggled to stand as the rampaging monstrosity stomped towards him - all of Thane's limbs had been replaced or augmented, Pluck could be forgivven for not being able to tell which in the present circumstances. His arm, down from the shoulder where Thane had seized it, was dead. The werewolf could only whimper as the abomination lifted him again by the shoulder pinned him to the wall, and finished him off - one dizzying blow to the jaw, to take the edge off a ribcage-crushing punch to the chest.

Re: The Gradual Massacre (GBS2G4) [Round 2: The Museum]
Originally posted on MSPA by Pinary.

As Pluck's life faded away, one of the Controller's displays flicked off. For the moment, though, his attention was elsewhere- he was focused on the Monitor's image on another screen.

"I see," he said, raising a hand thoughtfully to his mouth. "Very interesting. I'd ask you more, but something has just come up in the Gradual Massacre. Perhaps we can continue this conversation some other time."

"Of course," the Monitor replied. "You are perfectly welcome to contact me at your convenience." The transmission cut out, and the Controller just sat there for a moment, smiling to himself.

After a few moments, he idly flipped a set of switches, bringing the six remaining combatants fading back to his plane. "So," he said, stepping down from his seat and idly pacing around, still smiling, "as much as I'm sure you would all love spending a bit more time exploring my little project, one person died, and that means you're moving on."

"This time, you're going somewhere to get a bit of perspective. Life, as you've seen, is fleeting, and even the mightiest civilizations must fall. Las-" Something in his chair beeped, and his attention was drawn to it in a snap. "Oh, you wonderful thing," he breathed, smile widening as he returned to his chair and checked a screen.

Distracted, he waved a hand at the remaining beings. "You'll learn more about your destination once you've arrived. I've got... business to attend to. Off you go!" He started flicking switches and pressing keys, among them the controls to send the contestants on their way and enable the automatic briefing he'd prepared.


In a distant universe, a woman ran through a forest of hands, moving so fast as to be just a blur. She was a subject of a battle not unlike the Controller's, and she had recently made contact with a person in another- her brother, in fact.

From nowhere, a voice entered her mind.
"-ntum thingy to maybe get out of here, if I can just... No, what- Gah. Cursed technology."

The woman came to a halt, frowning. The voice had come through the channel that was supposed to be between her and her brother, but it was most certainly not his.

With a thought, she superimposed the video being transmitted alongside the voice on her vision.
The image was that of a man. His eyes were concealed behind aviator shades, and his beard was unkempt.

"You're connected," she said, sending along an image of herself with the words. "I can see you."

He started. "Oh, good. Listen, I'm Officer Arnold Scarlet, Seattle PD, and I am currently a captive of a being calling itself the Controller. He-"

"Let me guess," she interrupted, "he's forcing you and a group of others to fight to the death."

He shook his head. "I only wish. He started off like that, but early on, he took me out of the battle and tortured me as an example to the others. Since then, I've been stuck in this place."

"Sounds horrible," she said, faking sympathy. "How did you contact me?"

"He went off to take care of some 'opportunity' that came up and left me here alone. One of his computers lit up and said something about an 'interaction between tagged dimensions' and 'threaded entanglement,' and I thought it might be a chance to get out of here."

"Unfortunately, no."

"Shame. I-" He stopped, staring off in another direction, then abruptly cut the signal. The image vanished from the woman's vision, and after a moment's thought, she started running through the forest of hands once more.

Having cut the connection, "Arnold" leaned back in the chair, relishing the possibilities these communications channels could offer. He'd have to monitor them closely- there was a good chance he could use them for any number of things. The potential uses flashed through his mind, connections forming, collapsing, and reconfiguring themselves, dancing together in his mind's eye. Plots and gambits were devised, evaluated, and filed away for future use, and he just sat, revelling in this new system's possible effects.

After a few minutes of stillness, he abruptly stood up. Contemplation could continue later, for now there was work to do. Flicking a switch, he dumped the contents of the transport buffer into one of the rings.

The corpse that landed there was that of a young, mostly humanoid girl. She had three pairs of wings, a substantial exoskeleton, and several gunshot wounds. She'd evidently been a tough being to kill, and as the Controller looked down at her body, he smiled.

"Now, Scarlet, it is time for us to begin."

Something in the chair beeped, and the grandmaster turned to look.

"The trace is complete," he said, his voice dripping with anticipation.

"It's time you learned to embrace your inner artist."


The contestants found themselves alone, each on a different observation deck overlooking the Earth. The sun was just over the horizon, illuminating half of the planet below.

"In its day, Las Orbitas was a shining beacon, a symbol of the achievements of humanity. In her peak days, she was home to at least 6000 people at any one time. Her technology was unsurpassed- distributed photon emitters could adjust her orbit with incredible precision, and her revolutionary new dimension-flux core gathered more power than they could possibly use." The Controller's voice didn't seem to be coming from any particular location, and it sounded flat and uninterested- a recording. "Over time, however, humanity moved on. The construction of spacefaring cities made orbital stations such as this an antiquity, and a combination of disinterest and a brutal war made maintenance funding scarce at best."

"Las Orbitas as you see it now has faded over the years. As you stand there, a team of engineers are working to ensure that her descent into the atmosphere of planet Earth goes smoothly. Unfortunately, in a moment's time, they will find their escape vehicle mysteriously missing. It's a shame- in just under an hour, the station will hit the atmosphere, and it'll only take a few minutes after that for her ancient heat-shielding to break up, roasting everyone inside to a crisp."

"You six are lucky enough to have a method of escape. One of you dies, and the rest move on."

"Go to it."

The recording ended with a small click, leaving the only sounds the rattling of the ventilation and the distant creak of the old station.

Re: The Gradual Massacre (GBS2G4) [Round 3: Las Orbitas]
Originally posted on MSPA by MrGuy.

Holly winced, her thoughts racing faster than ever before, as the shot rang out. So this is it. My last moments were wasted on looking for the very person who made them so. Figures. She detected the faint scent of gunpowder, which she supposed made enough sense. Worse to be killed quickly by someone you love, or slowly by someone you hate? I should have stuck with Countess, taken her up on her offer. At least with her I was on my guard. I knew she couldn't be trusted. Hell, maybe I could've even fooled her into thinking she'd...

Dimensions shifted, and Holly—only half-aware of what was going on, still lost in her thoughts—barely noticed the Controller’s voice reverberating in the air around her, not becoming fully conscious of the fact that she was still alive until she had already been whisked off to a far-off corner of Las Orbitas (subsequently collapsing on the ground again), and upon realizing this was considerably surprised. The elf blinked, then patted her head and chest, looking for wounds that weren't there. I'm... not dead? She shakily stood up, looking down through the window at the planet beneath her, amazed at the device that could take people into space. Somebody else must have died. Probably Countess' doing. Never thought I'd be grateful to her, of all people. She paused as something clicked in her brain, returning her thoughts to Aic. She really was using me? I can't... if she thought what she felt was still fake, then she had to be... Holly clutched her forehead and her vision flickered; what few dim stars distinguished themselves in the infinite void disappeared for a brief moment, meaningless as anything or anyone else. Was it really all a lie? I was feeling real love for the first time, and she was treating me like a puppet? I mean... I did do the book thing, but... Holly's legs buckled, and she let out a small grunt of pain. I can't believe it... I was... I thought something genuine had come out of it... maybe I wasn't made for real love. She fell to the ground, returning tears flanked by a torrent of liquid emanating directly from her palms as she desperately attempted to flush out the emotions. And then, the ultimate insult... she decided I wasn't worthy even as a tool...

Holly's eyes suddenly glimmered and the pain withdrew. She climbed up once again, wiping the tears from her face. She was ready to throw me away, like... like trash! After I spent all that time trying to find her! She stared down at the puddle, which had started to bubble and steam, boiling away, and she scowled. Buried deep in the back of her mind, a realization bloomed: she'd done the same, done worse, and done so countless times, maybe this was her comeuppance-- but her conscious mind was fixated on thoughts of revenge, unable to process the guilt desperately trying to fling itself to the forefront.

The elf raised a hand to her chin and chuckled. "Maybe you were right after all, Acacia," she absentmindedly vocalized. The puddle had long since vaporized, and her irrepressible rage flowed out to the surroundings, scorching the ground, but despite feeling so angry all she could do was laugh. "Perhaps, hahaha, perhaps I can't, heh, can't... can't take the rain away." Her gray eyes briefly flickered red, and she began stumbling out of the observation deck, her laugh getting louder as she set off in its direction. "B-but... hee hee... I can sure as hell make it, hahahahaha, WORSE!" Holly trailed her hand against a titanium wall as her mad giggling died down, melting the surface, though the shielding protected anything more than a few centimeters deep. She would see to it that a storm gathered, and quickly.
“No, no, I’m telling you, the shielding should hold up fine in 12-A. It’s sector 12-F that’s the source of the discrepancy.”

“You’re talkin’ out your ass again, Steve. 12-F was too important. We put an extra layer of shielding on her, remember?”

“Yeah, Janet, but in case you forgot, 12-F is also where the raiders tended to attack.” The engineer sighed, rubbing his alleged beard which could probably be outdone by a 12-year-old, though others were too kind to mention it. “You know, when this place was actually useful to someone.”

“God, you’re so nihilistic lately. You should be happy you got this job, with how much it pays. After this, none of us’ll ever need to work again.” The woman tilted her head back, shuffling her myriad braids into yet another configuration. “Course, I don’t plan to retire. But maybe I’ll do somethin’ else. I really wanted to be an architect, you know. Or a sculptor. Lot more fun.”

Steve rolled his eyes. “Yeah, yeah, we all—wait, what the hell is that?” A hissing noise emanated from down the hall as a female figure clad in a blue-and-red dress that lovingly exposed her intimate bits trodded down the hall, the air around her rippling as if she was but a mirage. “Hey, lady! This place doesn’t take tourists anymore! We’re supposed t—“

The man quickly found his neck grasped by Holly, unable to scream in pain from the scalding it was enduring. “Give me that map.” Janet quickly tossed it to Holly, who caught it in her right hand, rerouting the “heat vent” through her left. She dropped Steve to the ground, where he collapsed, clutching desperately at his throat. His companion responded. “Who the hell are you, and what are you doing this for?” Holly responded with a smirk that hid the true turbulence beneath her.

“Just a heartbroken girl, ma’am. Thanks for the map.” She trodded off, consulting the map for the various areas Aic, or Acacia, or whoever she was now, might be. “Let’s see... purple is cargo holds, blue is observation decks, green is living quarters, red is... com-pyoo-ter archival/security centers? The hell are those?” She crumpled up the map and shoved it irritatedly in her pack. Well, security might be what I need. Maybe it’ll help me find someone. She set off for Sector 10-D, one of the many red squares that had been highlighted on the map. As she trudged through the halls in search of the botanist, she came across still more engineers—most of whom either ignored her, pulled the “no tourists anymore” crap on her with the same response (or, in a couple cases, a comparatively merciful kick between the legs), or were struck speechless by the highly unexpected sight of an elf melting walls simply by her presence.

After a while, she came across Algernon (in sector 8-A). She shrugged and decided that she might as well get her other plan in motion, just so that she had a slightly larger chance of one of the two people making her life hell dying. She headed into the room and gave a short wave; Algernon responded with a small "eep" upon noticing her presence. Holly simply rolled her eyes. "I'm not going to hurt you, you pathetic, blubbering ball of pork. Here." She whipped out the book she'd taken notes in, On the Origin of Species. Scientific tome-- useless, as far as she was concerned, for Pathomancy-- and laid them on the ground.

"There. Between that, and this--" she launched a chunk of her resolve (plenty to spare, she felt) at the object of her scorn-- "you can kill that damn self-made golem. I took notes on what she's made of, should help you think of something to take her down. Now go make yourself useful as more than worm food for once." She snapped off an only mostly sarcastic salute before continuing on the warpath. If he somehow screws this up but doesn't die as a result, I'm killing him next. Only five minutes later did she realize that Arnold had somehow been with him. She paused, thought it over a bit, decided that explanation was stupid, thought it over some more, decided that perhaps the first explanation wasn’t so bad, then shrugged and moved on. Doesn’t really matter in the long run what that knight’s deal is, so long as he isn’t planning to kill me. She briefly mulled over the whole “Aic situation.” Bitch betraying me like that... she knows just as well as anyone that book wore off long ago. But it doesn’t matter anymore. If she’s going to try to kill me, then I can reciprocate easily. She smiled madly again. Without her incentive, there’s nothing stopping me from killing them both. That Acacia’s finally getting what she deserves.

Re: The Gradual Massacre (GBS2G4) [Round 3: Las Orbitas]
Originally posted on MSPA by MalkyTop.

Algernon fumbled with the book until it fell on the floor again and picked it up. Then he dropped it again once he was hit with a blast of resolve.

"I, er, I," he said as the elf left. Unfortunately, resolve wasn't too useful when it was mixed with bewilderment and a heavy, tired feeling. "Uh, you're not...the...boss"

It was too late. The woman was now too far away to hear that amazing comeback Algernon had spouted out haltingly. He was a little glad she didn't hear it. She probably would have come back to mock him. Although he wasn't sure why he thought she'd do that. Maybe...she just...seemed like the type to do that?

He looked at the doorway she had been standing in moments before. The metal was cooling down now and had stopped dripping to the floor.

"Who was that?" Arnold finally asked.

" think...didn't you know?" Algernon replied, still dazed.

"No, not really."

"She's...that battle...she'"

"Is she?"

Algernon looked down at the book again and picked it up. He turned it over in his hands, as if seeing a book for the first time in his life. Then he dropped it again as he fumbled to open it.

"...Do you need help...?" Arnold asked as the dark-haired man put his face in his hands.

"I can't concentrate. Why can't I concentrate? What's wrong with me?" he shouted, wishing that damn worm wasn't in the way so he could pull his hair out.

"Look," the knight said softly, resting a hand on his shoulder. "Whatever's going on, it's not your fault. Don't blame yourself--"

"No, you look!" Algernon pushed the consoling hand away and, surprisingly, managed to stand up. He wobbled a little before steadying and pointing an accusing finger at the knight. "I may not know what's going on here," he continued shakily. "But I do know that you aren't supposed to be here. I, I don't know, you died or something, but you're not supposed to be here."

Arnold raised his arms defensively. "You don't know what you're saying. I--"

"Shut up! You're a, a figment of my imagination or something!"

Arnold stared at him with shock and pity and sadness. Algernon shut his eyes and turned away so that he wouldn't have to see it. The cop started to say something, but he interrupted. "I don't want to be insane! I'm not going to pretend I'm talking to a dead person! Go away!"


"I said go away!" Algernon repeated, lashing out and punching at Arnold.

His punch connected with air.

Algernon stumbled and manged to catch himself on the wall. He stayed there, leaning on his outstretched arms, gasping and staring at the ground. It felt like a hefty cloud had finally lifted from his head. While he finally felt that he could think clearly and walk without falling over once in a while, he also was able to draw some conclusions that he didn't like.

A person. A whole person. He didn't know he could do that. He wished he didn't. That must have wiped away...what? Six months? A year, even?

He stood up straight again. He paced. He kicked the wall in anger. He grasped the stupid worm on his head and pulled. He stopped once the worm dug its teeth further into his skull. He wiped his eyes, kicked the wall again with less luster, glanced at his arm and finally looked back at the book again.

He picked it up. He flipped through it. And flipped through it again.

Algernon tossed the book down and rubbed his forehead. 'Kill that damn self-made golem.' Like he could do that. Like he'd even be willing to do that. If that woman wanted to kill the Countess so much, she could do it herself. He had more important things to think about. Such as surviving.

And...he was sure the Controller mentioned engineers and this whole space thingy to go down in a spectacular burst of flame. There had to be something he could do to stop that. He couldn't ignore the fact that everybody here would burn to a crisp in about an hour and instead participate in this battle the way the Controller wanted him to (or maybe he wanted him to lie down and cry, that sick bastard).

As Algernon turned to walk out of the building, however, his eye caught the book on the floor again. He bit his lip nervously and his fingers twitched before he gave in and stuffed the book into his backpack.

I mean, he still wasn't going to kill anybody, but...a book could be useful. Somehow. Maybe.

Re: The Gradual Massacre (GBS2G4) [Round 3: Las Orbitas]
Originally posted on MSPA by Schazer.

On the uppermost deck of Las Orbitas, two beings shared a moment of contemplation. Basking in the first rays of the sun as it inched languidly out from behind the eclipsing Earth, Aaron Gilmour and the Countess stared outward from the observation deck, both quietly dreading the fact the white- and brown-smudged planet would not be their final destination tonight.

Aaron, born and raised in a space-faring city, and trained on one of those vessels colloquially known as 'offshore', was the admittedly light military accompaniment to what was predominantly a mission in civil engineering. Being the casual history buff he was, Aaron had been looking forward to a bit of sightseeing on Earth after this job. Until the Countess had proven unfazed by laser fire, he'd been doing pretty well at it, too.

The observation deck was accorded its magnificent vista of humanity's cradle by a wide smirk of glass which spanned the considerable length of the deck and curved up to the ceiling. The details of Earth's dappling, of clouds and megalopolises and plantations, were obscured by the thick layer of shielding, protecting the station's inhabitants from the solar radiation. Dotted along the length of the deck, perhaps in a nod to observation decks past, were devices offering a better view. The Countess ignored her companion's whimpering, save to raise a threatening claw, while she jimmied the credit-operated contraption. Shortly after, a section of the shielding flickered and dissipated, leaving Aaron and the Countess' view unobstructed for five counted minutes.

The Countess was beginning to realise, in her usual none-too-concerned-with-specifics kind of way, that this job wasn't quite the fun she'd been anticipating. She was supposed to be turning these idiots against each other, but the Controller had already done that. What was left for her to do? Slash their Achilles' tendons like she'd done to Aaron here? The amalgam made a ratchety noise of irritation, urging her cloudy mind to concentrate on something other than the image of eviscerating Holly.

The Controller was disappointed with her; the Countess was certain. Dissatisfied with his servant's ability to shatter the trust of these rabble, he'd stepped in and done the job himself. With typical aplomb. So... what was the Countess doing here any more? Had she been relegated to run amongst the rats, following the rules imposed on them?

Aaron's crawling escape was curtailed with an absent-minded sharp-pointed leg through the thigh, as the Countess trilled to herself. No, no. Although that last possibility had the appealing simplicity of sticking a sharp claw through most of the other contestants, it was a test. She was certain - again, she had to fight down that intoxicating rush of violent thoughts, this time cracking the shield-lowering device with a well-aimed foot - that the Controller wanted more out of her. At least, she was pretty certain.

The amalgam trekked along the length of the observation deck, activating and jamming the credit-operated machines as she went. She supposed that if the Controller wanted her to do something other than make ersatz ventilation in her fellow contestants, she could at least afford to break a few of their rules. Namely, helping them out wouldn't do her any harm, and would let her keep a better eye on whatever schemes they were assembling.

By the time the Countess reached the end of the line, Aaron had dragged himself a little further from the first region of floor lit by the raised shields, but it was a long crawl out of the deadly radiation now the the whole deck was alight. Supposing he'd be a decent indicator of Ouroboros passing through, the amalgam abandoned her fellow Earthgazer, descending to the lower decks without a word.

Re: The Gradual Massacre (GBS2G4) [Round 3: Las Orbitas]
Originally posted on MSPA by MalkyTop.

As Thane quickly found out, old flying space-cities weren't well-equipped for dealing with a human-eldrich abomination cyborg thing on an angry rampage. Which was fine by him. He didn't need to be greviously wounded on top of everything that had happened to him.

He flexed his bloody, metallic hand as he stood over the remains of several unfortunate humans. His anger had been vented quite quickly, but his frustration was still there. He was frustrated about how irrational the Countess could be. He was frustrated that his plan had gone awry. He was frustrated about how he had completely left himself at her mercy. And he was still confused about having seen...the boy...

First thing first. Revenge.

Ourobourous was still dangerous, obviously, but somehow Thane didn't fear it as much now that most of his body had been replaced by metal. The Countess had to go. He would enjoy tearing her to pieces himself.

Except...he was certain that was unlikely to actually kill her. Actually, he wasn't sure what could kill the Countess.

Add that to the pile of frustration.

Thane stormed down the road and god help whoever he ran into.


"Ah. Right. Holly," Algernon said before pulling down his sleeve again. Sometimes having foresight was great. Wait, not sometimes. All the time. Foresight just plain rocked.

He still wasn't sure what to do here though. Avoid the other contestants was probably a good idea, though once again he found he wasn't quite sure who had died and so had no clue who was still even living...

Wait wait wait. The people and engineers living here. They had no idea what was happening right now. Knowing a few of the other contestants, it was possible that a few had already died by now. He had to find someone...someone who had like, a radio, so everybody would know...


Algernon turned around and grinned with relief. Or, he would have if there wasn't a dangerous-looking gun pointed at him. He slowly raised his arms. "Uh. Hi."

"What're you doing here?" the man asked, squinting suspiciously as he moved closer. "How'd you get in here? You aren't one of those kids sneaking in here and spraying grafitti everywhere, are you? We keep telling ya that it's dangerous to be in here--"

"No, no no no, of course not," Algernon said quickly, trying to look quite harmless (though he had no need to try). "I'm...I'm not even that young. And...uh...I...guess I sort of know the answers to your two questions, but I sort of think if I say them then you'll think I'm crazy."

"Try me."

"Okay." Algernon took a deep breath. His arms were getting tired already. "So. This...really powerful and sadistic entity thing...he sorta...teleported us here. By 'us,' I mean me and eight wait, that's minus five. Me and five others here. He's forcing us to fight to the death. Well, I'm not sure of the others really, but I sure don't want to fight to the death. I know a few don't really mind it...but the point is, there are five other things that don't belong here and they're really dangerous and they probably wouldn't mind killing everybody in this place. Oh man, especially Ouroborous. Stay away from that thing. So you really need to get everybody to hide somewhere before they get killed...and...oh yeah, the Controller, that's the god-like entity I told you about earlier, I believe he said something about, uh, there being no escape vehicle or something, so that when this place starts falling to the, uh, Earth, um, you'll all sort of die."

The guard stared at him.

"You're right. I do think you're crazy," he finally said. "Sir, I think I'm going to have to search you..."

" you happen to, uh, have some sort of radio? To, uh, talk to the others...?"

"I'll answer that after I searched you," the guard said rather patiently. "Give me your bag and empty your pockets."

The guard's eyes lit up like an arsonist's fire when he saw the gun. "Oh, no, it's unloaded," Algernon said very quickly.

"...'Unloaded...'?" Algernon squirmed under the guard's inquisitive look.

" know, no bullets..."

The guard chuckled. "Bullets, huh? Where'd you get this relic?" Algernon was a bit relieved that he at least returned the gun. "So what's in this pack...?"

"Um," Algernon said, not entirely sure himself. His face slowly grew to one of horror as he suddenly remembered one of the things he had halfhazardly stuffed in there. "Wait, I--"

Too late. A bony hand poked out rather humorously once the guard opened the bag. Except it was less humorous and more incriminating. The guard gave out a startled yelp and dropped Algernon's bag before glaring at him with even more suspicion.

"I think," he said slowly, with a deliberation that made Algernon's heart sink, "that you oughta come with me..."

"I really, uh, it's not, I mean, it's actually--" Algernon stopped himself in time, realizing quickly that explaining what the arm was would probably just make it worse. As the guard motioned with his gun sternly, Algernon turned around glumly, yet obediently. The guard first stooped to pick up the bag again before pushing his captive along.

"I, um, suppose you won't..." Algernon started desperately.

"Keep moving."

"Won't you at least check the escape vehicle?" he pleaded.

"Look," the guard said slowly. "There may not be that many people here anymore, but there's still quite a bit. Meaning we need a big escape vessel. Meaning that the would be no way that it would just blast off without us noticing."

"But, wait, no, that's not what I'm saying, I'm saying it disappeared..."

"Are you saying you did something to our escape vessel as well?"

"No! I, uh, please, you really have to believe me! I mean, what's the harm in at least checking?"

"Keep walking," the guard said crossly.

"Look," Algernon said, turning around. The guard's gun hummed threateningly, making him step back, but he continued to stare seriously at him. "This means life or death. This thing will crash into the Earth soon, right? And there's only one way to escape, right? So don't you think you should check on it if someone says it's gone missing?"

The guard stared at him for a long time before taking out some sort of small communication device. "Hey. Who's there? Mike? Have you checked the escape vessel lately?" Algernon waited. He wasn't sure if he really wanted to be right. Being right meant no escape. Being wrong, though, meant he was likely to be questioned. Hard. Though being right might mean being questioned as well.

"...What?" the guard suddenly said, sounding a little worried. "Seriously?" he added, glancing back at Algernon. "Are you sure--alright, I'm sorry, that was a stupid question..." Suddenly, an explosion of panicky noise errupted from the device, so loud that even Algernon could make out several words. The most interesting ones were 'intruders,' 'melting woman thing,' and 'dead bodies.'

"Alright, now calm down...wait, what about radiation? Are you joking?" Another glance towards Algernon.

"Whatever is going on, I seriously don't know, I swear," Algernon said. "But, uh, I think I did say something about..."

"Yeah, I remember," the guard said, turning off the device. "So maybe you're right, but I'll still have to--" he suddenly fell silent. Having a metallic arm run itself through your lungs tends to do that to you. Algernon found himself rather splattered with blood. He stared numbly down at the former guard, barely registering the cyborg-demon in front of him.

'You. I need you to help me with something.'

Though Thane's appearance had certainly changed much, the dark-haired boy could recognize that commanding voice (?) anywhere. He backpeddled quickly but didn't get far before a pain shot through his leg and he fell over clutching the bloody stump--no, it hadn't been cut off. It was just more mind tricks.

'Make something to kill the Countess.'

The Countess again. She apparently had been busy making many enemies. Algernon was a little glad that he hadn't crosed her path last round. "I, I don't know how," he gasped.

'You better think of one.'

"No, no, wait, I might be able to think of something, really, just,'s in my bag, okay? I'm just going to get it..." He slowly stumbled to his feet and knelt beside the recently dead, getting blood on his pants. He almost retched but just grabbed his bag and, hoping that Thane wouldn't see, the communication device as well. He mentally apologized to the dead guard before he stood up again.

"Alright, so, um, there's this thing...inside this book--" Suddenly, something that seemed to be a strange, metal helmet appeared right on Algernon's head and before Thane could figure out what was going on, the boy was running away very quickly. Quickly, he tried to send the Ouroborous screech through his head, but found that for some reason, it didn't work. He started running after him, but also found for some reason that he just couldn't sense Algernon's mind anymore and lost the boy rather quickly.

Thane was feeling very, very frustrated.


Oh man, he was so glad that worked.

The metal helmet bounced on his head and he held it down. It wasn't taking up as much memories as he thought it would, which was nice. He really wished he could take it off but was rather frightened of Thane finding him again. Maybe it was just safer to leave it on, despite all the lost memories.

As he hid behind a building, Algernon looked at the device again, not entirely sure how to work it. He pushed a button and started talking into the speaker.

"Um, hello? Uh? Anybody there? I sorta--I know you don't know me, but, uh, this is something sort of important..."

Re: The Gradual Massacre (GBS2G4) [Round 3: Las Orbitas]
Originally posted on MSPA by slipsicle.

Re: The Gradual Massacre (GBS2G4) [Round 3: Las Orbitas]
Originally posted on MSPA by Godbot.

Re: The Gradual Massacre (GBS2G4) [Round 3: Las Orbitas]
Originally posted on MSPA by whoosh!.

Slapping down a RESERVE, if Godbot doesn't mind.
Re: The Gradual Massacre (GBS2G4) [Round 3: Las Orbitas]
Originally posted on MSPA by MrGuy.

Holly stared incredulously at the glass panel in front of her as an engineer, bound by thorns a few feet away, wallowed in sweat and desperately prayed to any god that might happen to be listening. He wasn't particularly hurt by the thorns anymore; rather, his pain was more psychological, primarily stemming from dwelling excessively on what would happen to him if the elf resumed her tantrum. Bile rose in his throat as he glanced at his former co-worker and poker buddy, who was now impaled on some variety of metamorphic rock, a desperate gurgle still barely escaping his mouth.

A chilling silence persisted, interrupted only by an occasional beep or prompt from the computer, for about three minutes. Finally, Holly stopped attempting to work the device, and murmured something utterly inaudible. The engineer, overcome by curiosity, asked what was wrong.

There was another pause, but only a very brief one.

It ended with a shriek. "The god damned thing will not work!" Holly began launching a fist towards the panel, but caught herself. Won't solve anything. Shouldn't smash it. Instead, she grabbed her captive, freed his hands, and shoved him ahead. "Find them now or so help me--"

There was no need to complete the sentence: the man flung himself into a frenzy, typing and tapping as quickly as he could. Two anomalies, she said. Both easily distinguishable by both sound and temperature readings. Very obvious. Piece of cake. A massive map was swiftly drawn on the screen, with two flashing dots appearing and beginning to move through the corridors, both of which immediately shot out a multitude of curved rays upon their behavioral patterns being entered. Holly forced a smile, swiftly copied the data onto her own map, and turned the engineer to face her again. He managed to ask one thing:

"Can you free me now?"

Holly's eyes flared green and she let out a laugh. "Oh, I'll free you. What waste... all these people dead." She began staring, not so much at the man as through him and off into the distance. "By my hand, they died. I killed them... they'd die anyway, but..." She clutched her stomach. "Dead! All dead, from me! And now one more!"

A look of horror flashed on the engineer's face, and he turned pale-- then, in merely an instant, he was stabbed through the heart. The elf gingerly untied him and stored her whip, stumbling into the hallway in a daze. "One more. He wasn't... didn't hurt him as much, did it?" She began giggling loudly. "Short! Simple! That makes it okay! He deserved worse anyway, I bet... pathetic scum don't deserve my pity." Her vision flashed mauve and she clutched her head.
[For ease of reading, the following bout of magibabble shall have appropriate, if slightly incorrect, parallels drawn to similar concepts in non-magical physics, and otherwise explained in more detail.]

The effect of magic on the user (where Holly was from, anyway) is quite frequently profound. Many schools of sorcery—elementalism, necromancy, and healing, for example—also tend to have an effect geared towards the bodies of the targets, and thus end up “resonating” onto the body of the user; hence, a fire mage’s standard body temperature will gradually increase, a necromancer will lapse into a state of decay after a few decades (this being the root of the abnormally high conversion-to-lich rate of about 95%, as the older practitioners rarely feel as if they have anything to lose from the process), and so forth. In contrast, the more psychologically- or creation-inclined magical arts, such as alchemy, golem-making, illusionism, and obviously pathomancy, instead resonate on a mental scale. Of these, pathomancy’s resonance is among the most dangerous.

Pathomancers, as a matter of course, attempt to avoid stirring any particularly powerful emotions within themselves, and Holly was no exception. The reason for this, besides simply avoiding manipulation, is that the ultimate effect of playing with emotional states so much is that the user’s personal thaumic field-- i.e., the physical manifestation of an individual's magical capability, at least based on the laws that this particular mage's home universe followed-- becomes permanently entwined with their own emotional state. The process only increases the more powerful the user gets and the more often they utilize their art in a short period, the ultimate point being that Holly had recently set personal records for “strongest emotional sensation”, “maximum thaumic concentration”, and “uses of pathomancy in a two-hour period.” The natural combination of these factors was twofold: one, highly unstable magic (known to magical scholars as “pluviathaums” due to their tendency to incorporate every variety of magic into every particle, regardless of origin, and most easily likened to beta particles if we are to liken standard thaums to atoms, as we very well might) crackled out in long bolts from her, occasionally resulting in anything from a single molecule of carbon dioxide breaking apart to, in one case, a rather unfortunate engineer’s hand being replaced by an entire lobster. Two, her already debatable state of sanity was currently slipping away to nothingness.

That said, there were two things Holly hadn’t counted on when preparing her map. First, she hadn’t considered the possibility that there were areas of the ship not on the map—vents, for example, that the swarm of prawns might manage to fly through. Second, despite diligently following it, avoiding nearly every path either Countess or Ouroborous might be taking, she had forgotten entirely about Thane, primarily because she had not had any prolonged interactions with him up until this point in time. It thus came as a surprise, if a small one, to her incredibly broken mind when she ended up running directly into the path of the cyborg. The bolts of pluviathaums wormed around the eldritch creature’s body, not so much as touching him due to his eldritch origin, and Holly stared vaguely at him in disbelief. Finally, she managed once again to speak, grinning widely.

“You’re blocking me.” She reached down to grab her gauntlet and slipped it on. “Let’s see what it takes to make you get out of my way!”

Re: The Gradual Massacre (GBS2G4) [Round 3: Las Orbitas]
Originally posted on MSPA by whoosh!.

The recoil kicked the gun back towards Aic just as the world began to wildly spin and the light began to fade. Words echoed listlessly round her skull, but she was barely aware of it. She was numb. That was all. And only slightly confused, if you ignored the utter bewilderment her general apathy managed to dull. And if you paid little heed to the roaring supernova of regret shuddering through her deadened mind.

Because Holly was dead.

She had been the one to pull the trigger on the gun.

A choked gasp escaped her lips, and the pistol dropped with a dancing clatter she could feel through the floor. Aic stared ahead, dazed, at the rectangle of light presented before her. A door. A chance. And with the current state her head was in, she’d just be about willing to take anything that was presented to her.

The explosion still pounding through her blood, Aic grasped the door handle and stepped out into the sterile light of the metallic corridor.

Welcome to fabulous Las Orbitas.

The hum of the ship was comforting, companionable. Acacia swung to her right, running a hand over the bright surface. Each step was measured, slow. Somehow, she could hardly believe that she was the one who stood breathing and thinking in this quiet place, and Holly was the one sprawled in a pool of her own blood.

She shuddered, and pulled off the executioner’s hood. It shouldn’t matter. She shouldn’t care. She’d killed the elf for a reason. Aic paused, and swallowed. But still she was plagued, burning with the question that would never be dismissed: “What if…?”

The ship creaked somberly in reply, setting off a ghostly groan throughout the soulless corridors that eventually faded into the distance. In its wake came the comforting rhythm of human footfall, all of which fell unheard by the botanist. Her personal silence was occupied only by the questions that she feared would never leave her.

All of which only served to make the appearance of another all the more surprising.

He appeared in the spot where Aic’s gaze rested at the end of hall, allowing the illusion to fall into place that she had been waiting for him. Their eyes met, and a brief bolt of surprise was shared. And, predictably, the moment was broken by averted eyes and general awkwardness. Which was fortunately avoided by the mysterious man (dressed rather casually, in something rather resembling a white jumpsuit) actually looking at Aic.

“Oh,” he said. The noise came out quite apologetic, but it was ultimately simply surprised.

“Ah!” He added after what was undoubtedly a very sage moment of thought.

The display would have appeared unusual to even those capable of hearing. Aic decided that this wasn’t going to clear itself up by introducing complex things like complete sentences to the mix, so she kept her silence a little longer.

“You’re a medic, right? The white coat and metal collar outfit? Thank God you’re here, we’ve got an issue. We were sure it was just a basic job, but we didn’t realise…” He hesitated, and Aic seized the chance to bring some clarification to the garbled matter at hand.

“An issue? What happened?”

“Well,” he fidgeted on the spot, sparing a furtive glance for the blank corridors behind him. “It’s not exactly an issue, per se, what with the recent laws being passed, but…” His face darkened. “It’s definitely not good stuff. Not with Quad involved.”

The sentence left an uneasy quiet behind. Aic, however, simply frowned. This answer wasn’t proved as concise as she’d hoped. Unfortunately, this expression only set the man off for another chunk of rambling.

“Yeah, you know how bad that stuff can be for people. It might be fine if you’re some hotshot living it large among the stars, but it’s no good in someone who’s meant to dismantling a goddamn ship. This is no small fry. Sure, it’s no HMS Celestial, but it’s not just some dinghy either. Elena said-“

Aic held up a hand, silencing the deluge. “I understand,” she said despite not having the slightest clue what was being said to her. “Where is this problem?”

“Ah!” He said. (Aic’s heart immediately sank, fortunately under unfounded fears.) “It’s in the cargo hold. You’ve probably just arrived, so I’ll give you some directions. Even people who lived here their whole lives got hopelessly lost in this labyrinth without a good map.”

She nodded, smiled, and got away from the verbal grip of the babbling man as soon as she was able. Fortunately, she managed to leave with the directions to the cargo hold. And many wondrous things could be found in such a place of crated possibilities. Hopes. Dreams. Big guns.

As soon as the chatty man was far behind, she broke into a run. Her boots had been lost somewhere along the way, so her feet slapped against the metal, each stride a sting and a joy entwined. It felt good just to embrace speed for the sake of itself. It was pure. It was free of the messy intrigue and fear and regret of a death match.

The corridors wound on, and the directions ran out. Aic slowed to jog which in turn ground to a halt, leaving her standing before two bland doors. They bore a multitude of scratches and scars, a solemn and unseen testament to the years of badly handled cargo that had passed through them. They looked so dejected that she was almost loathe to slide them open, but she quickly lost interest once the interior of the room was revealed.

It was, quite simply, vast. Once it had probably heaved with the demands of an entire city. Now, instead, only a few isolated crates huddled in the centre. They must have been large, industrial things, but in such a gargantuan place they looked positively miniscule. Aic hesitated and stayed at the doors.

It looked empty. But from what the earlier man had said, this was not the case.

Someone was hiding. Somewhere.

Now her previously wild strides were replaced with slow, calculated movements. Her breathing slowed until it was barely perceptible, even to her. And despite this, her eyes darted with rapid intensity around the room. Nothing moved. Nothing changed. She loathed it.

The stillness only served to feed the irrational terror that quietly strangled her sense, the paranoia that set her mind ablaze, all trapped within the suffocating silence of her skull. Aic would have freely murdered for a sound, any sound at all, to confirm that something was there.

Instead, the crates drew closer, and nothing happened.

Stifling a scream, Aic padded around the pile to the left. She leant around, desperate for a sight of whoever was hiding in this otherwise empty room. Just… emptiness. She dared to take a few more steps, until almost the entirety of the back of the huge crates was in view.


And then something grabbed her shoulder.

Panic flared up, and Aic scrabbled for her pistol. Her fingertips brushed against thin air, reminding her that the gun was long gone, lost somewhere in the dark. In lieu of that option she tore herself free and staggered backwards to face the person in hiding.

Another white jumpsuit stood before her, surprised. He hesitantly met her glare.

“Sorry. I was calling you for ages back there. You didn’t say a thing, so I wanted to see if you were ok.” His face twitched involuntarily, and he shot a nervous glance over to the huge doors. He didn’t wait for her to reply.

“You’re a medic, right? Why’re you up here? Did they send you? I swear, I haven’t been taking no Quad and even if I was-”

He froze, panicked, staring with real intensity at the scientist. “You can’t tell them. I’m fine, just a bad patch, and- no, no, you can’t!”

Aic was slammed against one the crates before she could react, and in the dazed and breathless seconds that followed she was dragged before something white and blurred and she was scared, so scared-

The insane man whispered in her ear, tickling the skin, but she couldn’t hear a thing. She scrabbled at the floor, at him, at anything that was even vaguely solid, but the situation still trapped her like Aic was cast in iron. Her head and heard thudded, fit to explode.

“Please,” she croaked. “I don’t understand. What…”

He shook Aic and pushed her towards the white blur. She forced her eyes to focus, and to blink away the tears of confusion. The sight of the lines of white powder did little to allay her panic. In fact, they worked very much for the opposite effect as the little facts about what was going trickled into place. Quad was some kind of drug. Something mysterious, something awful, and this man was just a crazy addict in its thrall. And now he wanted her to try it too, for some unfathomable reason. Left with no option and no other way out, she swallowed her pride.

And screamed.

Outside the hazy fear of her mind, she was dimly aware of it being far more machine than man in its sound. A metallic screech was far more terrible than any cry of harpy or hell, and more than sufficient to force the addict to drop her. Aic scrambled away, drunkenly climbing to her feet and turning to face her recent captor. The light on the white surfaces of the room hastened a skull splitting headache, but she ignored it. All she knew was that she wanted this person dead, and all the more for the fear his he so blandly exhibited. She spat on the ground and stared, waiting.

“I-I’m sorry. Please don’t tell. Just – just take the Quad. Do you know how much that stuff is worth? They might have legalized it, but the legal companies… they haven’t set it all up yet. Illegal stuff’s the only stuff you can get your hands on that the moment,” he gabbled, rigid with terror born of his uncertainty as to what exactly Aic was. “I know you’re a Medic… ‘least, you look like one, but this stuff is good. Real good. I can swear on that. Look.”

He started to turn, but froze again at the violent twitch in Aic’s face. He whimpered slightly. Biting her tongue in her attempts to withhold her volatile rage (at least for now), Aic smoothly side-stepped over to those pale lines on the mirror’s surface. She crouched, her eyes never leaving the pathetic excuse for a man. She snarled as he attempted to leave for a second time, then lowered her eyes to inspect the drug.

Three carefully laid lines of blazing white were visible, exacerbated by the harsh lighting of the warehouse. The mirror’s reflection looked almost dull in comparison. She touched the closestline. It moved, just like any other fine powder would. But the more she stared, the more the insane urge rose inside her. Aic had never touched drugs, not with the apocalypse bringing an almost definite end to the industry. Perhaps…? Surely, just the one try couldn’t make you an addict?

She didn’t even notice the white jumpsuited man had fled as she reached for the conveniently placed rolled up slip of paper he’d left behind. Her hands were shaking, but she wasn’t entirely sure which of her emotions were responsible anymore: the fear, the disgust, the excitement.

A small breath to brace herself, and Aic snorted her first line of Quad.

Re: The Gradual Massacre (GBS2G4) [Round 3: Las Orbitas]
Originally posted on MSPA by slipsicle.

Re: The Gradual Massacre (GBS2G4) [Round 3: Las Orbitas]
Originally posted on MSPA by Godbot.

Countess, the Controller began.

“Mhm?” she asked the empty room. She stood attentively, even though she had no idea where to look. Controller was just a voice in her head watching her on a computer screen.

I have a task for you.

His agent clicked and whirred but remained silent, so he continued. He traced his finger along a fractal superimposed over a screen, mapping out an intricate pattern. The computer responded in time with his movements, searching universes, then timelines, then worlds. It took a fraction of a second to hack into files not yet written a computer yet to be built in a research facility that hasn’t been destroyed quite yet.

Day 26 of Ouroborous Project

Ouroborous has recently split into two strains that are operating separately. Ouroborites don’t have a concept of imprinting, but they don’t harm their young, to ensure progression of the species. But since the new strain developed separately, they will fight each other.

I am beginning to suspect some part of the experiment has gone awry. The sudden influx of mutations observed in previous generations has all but stopped altogether - but only in two specific test groups. Specifically, groups A and C have halted their progress. Curiously, these groups have been kept entirely separate since the fifth generation, and there are few to no notable similarities between the two groups, barring their recent and sudden development of specimens with oversized pincers that almost resemble those of a stag beetle. Besides the different overall appearances of the two types of pincers, testing would seem to indicate that they are composed of two different derivatives of chitin, and dissection results show that they are attached to the carapace in entirely different ways. However, despite the differences between the A and C breeds, both types of large-pincered Ouroborites (name cleverly coined by Dr. Jameson, as in individual units of ‘Ouroborous’) continue to thrive, and their numbers grow steadily.

The theory shared by most of my colleagues is that the corruptions in the specimens’ biopolymer DNA equivalent are taking on a similar role to a dominant trait, as observed in all natural forms of life on Earth. In other words, the "giant pincers" mutation is shutting out the comparatively recessive trait for normal-sized pincers - a sort of "hyperdominance" that presides over all the other observed phenotypes. At first, I had assumed this was the case, but the common trend between groups A and C makes me skeptical. I hesitate to apply the rules of "traditional" genetics to the Ouroborites’ large breeding groups and multistage fertilization - especially since they share no common ancestor with anything else on Earth. Why would our rules apply?

My hypothesis, which I can back with very little besides Occam's razor, is that the large-pincered Ouroborites are simply more effective at killing than the small-pincered specimens. This also accounts for why the evolution has stopped even as breeding continues: Even the specimens with superior traits are being overwhelmed.

No matter what the cause is, we need to get the enhanced evolution of the specimens back into motion. Tomorrow we will attempt cross-breeding between test groups A and C.

Countess, Controller continued, I want you to kill the first strain of Ouroborites, and lead the others to believe that that Ouroborous is dead.
Re: The Gradual Massacre (GBS2G4) [Round 3: Las Orbitas]
Originally posted on MSPA by slipsicle.

Thane's interest in co-opting the other contestents for his own ends had been steadily waning throughout the battle. With the elf's disrespectful greeting, the trapped Old One finally decided he'd had enough with them all entirely.

So when the upstart little elf dared to have the gall to stand up to him, he treated her as he would any other pathetic, useless obstacle.

A burst of burning pain scorched its way through Holly's body. Her blood felt like it was boiling, and she could feel her bones stressed by strange implements. Lines of firey pain traced themselves across her skin, screaming their rage at her.

And then it was gone, and so was Thane.

The eldritch monstrosity stomped down the hallway, reflecting on the Countess's betrayal, and considered that his forced modifications might actually have some use. The constant pain he was in from pieces of metal, raw power sources and other foreign objects which had been jammed into his body with no regard for his own comfort, provided a constant source for his mental projections.

He continued onwards, and lifted a hand. In it, a small, circular device he'd picked up during his earlier massacre. His understanding of technology did not come with the experienced past which most would possess; instead, his nature as an Old One allowed him to quickly assimilate the inner workings of all tools and devices of power. Things which sentient civilizations produced to elevate themselves above others, and which could both bring enlightenment or doom. For the Old Ones were at the root of all such power, and inspiration for such tools originated with them.

As such, Thane had an instinctual understanding of his newly-upgraded self, and of the device in his hand. He knew it was a communication device, and that he could get the attention of the remaining workers in the area with it.

First, though, he'd need someone's voice.


The group of Ouroborous dubbed "Strain A" by The Controller, had been generally tearing through the failing station, blindly searching for food. As it drove yet another screaming engineer before it, several Ouroborites paused, distracted by an exposed section of wiring, where the engineer had been working.

They paused because they sensed food.

In its heyday, Las Orbitas had represented the pinnacle of human technology. It had been operational for centuries, and in order to maintain its status as a beacon of humanity's achievements, it underwent near-constant upgrades. Towards the end of its lifetime, the standard superconductor-based circuitry which had powered the station's electronic systems had been replaced with a cheaper, more efficient, and exponentially more powerful organic circuitry. As such, the bulkheads of Las Orbitas were filled with organic materials; warm fluids pulsed through vein-like tubing, carrying data and raw materials to organ-like fluid sacs, which were able to restructure themselves on-the-fly to accomodate any situation.

So when a single Ouroborite scittered across some of the sticky green fluid which had spilled onto the floor, and its sensory receptors reported it was standing in hot, delicious food, it immediately began feeding.

And soon after, the rest of Ouroborous, Strain A, followed.

The Ouroborites spread through the bulkheads, lavishing in the constant, unending feeding frenzy. As they encountered the larger fluid-sacs of the stations "organs", they laid hundreds of thousands of eggs in the warm, thick fluid.

Ouroborous spread, and slowly, the station began to lose power. Lights flickered, terminals shut down, hull integrity fields dissipated, and the station began to groan as its lifeblood was sucked dry.

As much as the station was suffering, its inhabitants were about to suffer more. For as deadly a threat as the failing station represented, the cause of that failure was infinitely more dangerous.

Ouroborous was in the walls.


Thane's new mechanical legs whirred as they carried him through the increasingly-poorly-lit corridors of the space station. He was following the scent of a mind; each stomp brought him closer to his target, through the twisting, maze-like paths of the innards of Las Orbitas.


Christopher Schmaltz glared at the screen of his diagnostic tool, willing the results to change. He'd known this salvage/repair mission would be a disaster from the moment he boarded the shuttle which had brought them all to the station, and he'd seen a few familiar, if unwelcome, faces. Had he known that his former gang had some interest in this station, he probably wouldn't have come along. They weren't the kind of folk to take nicely to ex-members.

Then, people had started dying. At first he thought it to be the handiwork of his ex-fellows, but the terror in the voices on the radio... the sounds... no, this was something else. And so all thoughts illegal activities and conspiracies and gangs were abandoned, and Christopher Schmaltz dove headfirst into working on an escape.

Once he'd heard that their shuttle had simply... vanished, he'd gone to the old munitions laboratory, where he'd heard that, back in the day, so-called "black" research had taken place. Most of the lab had been cleared out, but he had found an ancient missile which could easily be modified to carry a human payload. Like, say, him.

As Christopher sighed at his diagnostic tool, accepting its results and the realization that this would require much more effort than he'd originally planned, a sound froze him in place. Something, some whirring, buzzing, crackling thing was stomping across the metal floor of the corridor outside the lab, moving closer and closer. Closer to the lab, and closer to him.

The ex-gang member whirled, and what he saw rounding the corner sent a lightning bolt of fear down to his core.

A man stood there. Or at least, at some point it had been a man. Crackling energy traced its way down a spiked metal torso, and bands of some glowing alloy hovered around sparking arms, spinning freely. A strange purple aura surrounded this horrible mockery of a human, and Christopher nearly puked as his eyes were drawn inevitably towards the face. What little skin which was visible glistened with a sickly-green pus that oozed from gaping pores, and thin blue veins stood out through the transluscent epidermal layers. Instead of a mouth, Christopher's eyes were greeted with writhing, dripping tentacles. Two slits occupied the space where a nose should be, and a single, gleaming, black eye looked out from the only remaining eye socket. The other was a cybernetic implant, and the skin around it was red, irritated, and oozing.

Then a voice spoke in his mind.

Use your radio. Call the rest of your team. Bring them to this room.

Christopher simply gaped.

Call them NOW.

The final word was accompanied by a burst of pain over his left eye, shocking Christopher out of his fear-driven stupor. He raised the radio to his mouth, paused, and gulped.

"Uh... I... I'm not sure how to get them all here..."

I do not care how. I only care that you do it, and that they arrive in a timely manner.

"... o-ok then."

He pressed a button on the device.

"H-hey..." his voice was weak, stuttery. He cleared his throat, and gathered himself. "Calling all surviving members of the Las Orbitas Salvage and Reclaimation team, this is Engineer Christopher Schmaltz. I've found a way off this station. Come to the Naval Research deck, Laboratory 10. We're getting off this damn station."

Christopher let out a breath, and looked up at the monster standing before him.

That will do, said the voice in his head. Now, I must prepare for their arrival.

"W-what... what are you going to do?"

I shall start with killing you. I need a sacrifice.

"No, WAI-"

Christopher's cries of protest were cut sickeningly short as a metal hand shot through his chest, and removed his heart.

Re: The Gradual Massacre (GBS2G4) [Round 3: Las Orbitas]
Originally posted on MSPA by Schazer.

Re: The Gradual Massacre (GBS2G4) [Round 3: Las Orbitas]
Originally posted on MSPA by Schazer.

The Countess wrung her spidery hands over each other, though the movement was more thoughtful than agonised (even if the unpleasant little shiiirk noises they gave off were). She was tentative, if only because killing Ouroborous of any description sounded like work.

Not that she minded work; no, especially if the Controller had asked her to do something in particular. It was simply that, well… her initial expectations of this particular job had been envisioning it as a lot more… fun. Terrorising weak, fearful little fleshbags. Getting to travel to nice places like the Museum. If possible, keeping personal affronts like bullets and circuit-scrambling laser fire to a minimum. This whole Massacre business had gotten off to a great start, but now it was work. The Countess was disappointed, not to mention doubtful, when considering whether the voracious little prawns would elicit any cries of pain, let alone beg for mercy.

“How to make this interesting…” The Countess reached a T-intersection, noted the purplish slick continuing up the other arms of the corridor, was finally struck with inspiration, and turned around. The tiny, barely-conspicuous lens of a camera blinked at her from the ceiling, prompting a curious tilting of her head and the prickle of nanobots reorganising themselves on her left forearm.

Going to need more metal, the amalgam thought, as she retraced her staccato path until she spotted a ventilation shaft. She tore the vent off it, unhinged her jaw, and idly examined the blossoming spark chamber on her arm while the gears within set to work. Ten minutes and a handful of nuts and bolts later, the Countess sported what looked like a cross between a water pistol and an extremely anachronistic taser. She peered at the mismatched teeth of tiny gears, spitting out tinier protesting sparks which collected in the thin, glassy tube. A horrific clockwork arm was raised into the air; skeletal fingers stabbed accusingly at yet another surveillance device in the ceiling. Fingers clenched into a fist, tapping the trigger where the Countess’ pulse should’ve been. She grinned as a pleasing little lance of lightning connected with the camera, which responded sad curl of smoke. The hand sprung open to grab the falling scraps, before tossing them away.

Plastic casing. Disgusting.

The amalgam purred to herself as she strode up the corridor, pausing only to cook the occasional camera.

The line was dead, or everyone was understandably preoccupied. The fact hadn’t hit Algernon until he’d yelled hysterically at the receiver for a good five minutes. A bout of button-mashing failed to yield more satisfactory results, until the frenzied prodding of one button elicited a few garbled screams, punctuated by snippets of hurried questions and panicked rallies to Nav-

“Can anybody hear me?”

The static on this frequency was different – it sounded more like… ticking? Algernon held the device at arm’s length, half-deliriously wondering if this was the radio’s voice or something. Or, perhaps, he had immediately thought ‘bomb’ and was ready to drop the damn thing and run.

“Do you read me?”

The voice was modulated, chiming, crystalline. It had the calibrated, measured poise of something sharp and murderous. Recognition didn’t so much hit Algernon as tackle him to the ground and deal him a kick to the stomach before strutting off, but that sensation was more welcome than the steely-fingers-on-your-neck feeling that clockwork nutcase’s voice could induce.

He wasn’t aware of making any noise in response, but a choked “ulp” was clearly heard by the Countess, because she responded:

“Algernon, dear? …Yes, I suppose you’ll have to do. There’s a rather serious problem, it’s bound to get much worse, and if you don’t help me then nobody on this station will survive. Don’t run,” she added, the merest cracks in her placid tone appearing as Algernon dropped the comms device. “If you were close enough to talk face-to-face with, I wouldn’t have bothered trying to work this infernal thing.”

The Countess waited for a moment, failed to hear footsteps, and continued. “I’ve searched the station, destroyed all the surveillance systems I could so the Controller won’t know to interfere, but if the… engineer I talked to was correct we haven’t the time to be concerned by him.”

Algernon was trying not to think about what fate must’ve befallen the engineer in question, when the lights at the far end of the corridor flickered, and died. The next fixture was extinguished in a similar fashion, an approaching, shrieking wave of darkness.

“Th-the lights-”

“Indeed. They are the problem I mentioned – and not just them, the entire ship’s power supply is bleeding out. Algernon, you’re the only one I can find not stupid enough to hold a petty grudge against me, and I refuse to kill a contestant-”

“B-bullshit! That engineer’s pr-probably dead right next to you!”

The Countess glanced down at he feet, smiling in her feral, ferrous way at the dying welder impaled there. She bit back the obvious rebuttal while gently prising his torch from his weakly twitching fingers.

“If you don’t help me, he will be. Along with-”

There was a dull screech, barely registering over the ambient ticking. Something crashed in the background, followed by an intensifying chatter that threatened to tear its voracious way out of the device in Algernon's hands and lunge for him then and there.

The clockwork slowed to a choked, protesting halt, Ouroborous' screeches consuming the comms line.

Re: The Gradual Massacre (GBS2G4) [Round 3: Las Orbitas]
Originally posted on MSPA by MalkyTop.

Algernon fumbled with the communications device for a few seconds before finally managing to keep it still enough for him to turn it off. He tucked it away in a pocket, his hands shaking, and he stared morosely at the dark end of the hall, which was very quickly approaching him...

Oh dear god what was he even supposed to do how could he possibly figure out what to do in this crappy situation seriously he wasn't some sort of technical genius or something and wait a minute, Ouroborous was in the walls?! How did that even happen and oh my god that's bad oh my god.

Algernon backed up from the approaching wave of screaming darkness. Then he backed up faster. Then he actually turned around and ran. But it didn't take long for the screeching to catch up to him and dear god if he thought it was bad before it was nowhere near the fear he had when he had the feeling of actually being surrounded by them and

They just passed him by.

Algernon stood up straight again. The only source of light now was ahead of him, and that was already quickly turning into a speck as the bugs ate their way through the wires or stuff or whatever was in the walls or something. He wasn't sure why they would prefer a mass of wires to a snivelling hunk of flesh like him, but he supposed he shouldn't complain too much.

He could barely see a thing now. Actually, he couldn't see a thing. With a strange sort of disappointment, he wondered if he had to take off his new headgear to conjure up some sort of light when he suddenly remembered something and fumbled around in his pack blindly before pulling out the flashlight. He felt around and switched it on and blinked when the beam of light shot itself in his face, but hey, at least it was light.

Thank god for Pluck, wherever he is. With the flashlight, he supposed everybody would see him coming. But at least he would be able to see them coming too. And maybe there were some hallways that weren't shut down or anything, maybe.

So. Now that he was somewhat calmed down. What was he even supposed to do?

If she really destroyed a lot of the cameras, then there was nobody in surveillance to watch him...although he had no idea why he had that thought. Even if there were, they probably couldn't help. Especially if it was the...that guy with the sadism. And he felt it entirely unlikely that he would come across anybody else to help him. It was unlikely he would run into any willing contestants (yes, it may be surprising, but even the Countess herself didn't seem like the helpful type) and, if he caught that message right, then all the employees, who actually knew this techno stuff, were all running off to some other place. Nav-something. Navigation, maybe. So hurray for him, he was alone.

Seriously, couldn't the engineer do this? Oh of course not he was dead and that wouldn't nearly be as interesting enough. Maybe because he wasn't a wimp like him.

Algernon felt a sudden compulsion to start moving around and walked down the hallway, away from the Ouroborous and its feeding frenzy, swinging the flashlight around so that he could not, say, run into walls.

An energy leak. So there was some sort of power supply that was busted...? Or was there some hole in the wall that was just letitng energy fly out willy nilly? Did it even work that way? What the heeeelllllllll.

So. They needed some other sort of power source. Or repair the old power source. Or whatever the heck was wrong with things or something. Something like that? But then where was the power source room or engine or whatever? Would he even be able to fix that if he didn't even know what was going on inside? Also, if he made a power source, wouldn't the mass of bugs just eat it up again? Unless the...uh...output was faster...?

This was starting to sound like he would have to make some sort of perpetual motion machine. Which also sounded like an easy way to get knocked unconscious. Maybe he should actually go after the Ouroborous firstwait a minute no that was a horrible idea why did he think that.

But it couldn't be too hard. Sure, it was in the walls, but it was also trapped in the walls. He could, like, start...a fire or something and it would spread inside the walls and the bugs would burn up and there we go, screaming death bugs done. It's too bad that that plan would probably make things worse. And make him unable to then save the station.

Maybe...he had to make a perpetual motion machine, then. It really did seem like the only thing he could think of. Some sort of thingy that, despite energy flowing out somewhere else, would be able to...uh...keep making more energy? A continuous stream of energy? Did energy work like that? Would it even work to power the place up again?

Well, he supposed it wasn't much of a question of physics rather than a question of how much his worm needed to eat...

He peered at the walls with his flashlight for a moment before finding some sort of little crack in the wall. Prying at it with his clumsy fingers didn't work out too well and so he searched through his bag for anything that could help.

Unfortunately, nothing seemed quite so good at prying off stuff. In frustration, he finally decided to break off the wind-up key of the turtle and try to use that as a tiny crowbar. Amazingly, it worked. Somehow.

He stared down into the mess of rather torn and ragged wires. Goddamn. He was really not the best for this job.

Still, he thought up a few more details about a supposed device that could spit out energy without stopping. If he really was going to faint, he certainly hoped that he wouldn't hit his head too hard.

Re: The Gradual Massacre (GBS2G4) [Round 3: Las Orbitas]
Originally posted on MSPA by MrGuy.

Holly staggered to her feet, leaning against a wall. The crackling field around her had died down, long since replaced by an utter placidity. It might well have stayed that way if she hadn't become vaguely aware of a screech and a ticking followed by a couple of engineers desperately limping-- or in some cases crawling-- past her. She stared at one, currently clawing at a wound in a desperate effort to remove some foreign object from it.

The spark of fear was reignited, and it proved to be more than enough to light another flame of rage. The crackling began again, louder this time, and pluviathaums sprayed around her, releasing massive amounts of the magical energy known as mana into the surrounding environment. A few bystanders were lucky enough for instant death. Holly once again began striding through the halls, desperate to avoid the incessant ticking and-- if she was particularly lucky-- to ensure her revenge.

Ouroborous' newfound taste for the organic wiring had, it should be noted, not weakened its taste for human flesh in the slightest. In fact, the swarm Countess was tracking at the moment showed an interesting tendency to devour electrical infrastructure "between courses", so to speak, temporarily abandoning it for a brief meal of engineer before re-entering the walls as soon as that was finished. Countess had found by this point that the task was made not only far simpler, but slightly less tedious by yanking engineers out into the swarm's path, then lining up a shot that would electrocute a good 80% of them at once; unfortunately, the supply was beginning to dwindle, making even this small consolation unsustainable. What was worse, due to their irritatingly high reproductive rate, every time it seemed like she had almost finished off at least a significant chunk of the first strain, they merely retreated into the walls for a few minutes before springing forth once again in abundance. It was becoming quite clear that unless they were gathered in one place and killed faster than they could spawn, the attempt would be unsuccessful.

A smile played across her face as she began to notice a pattern. Whenever the Ouroborites entered a wall, about twice as many would go to one side as to the other, and their seemingly haphazard path was, on closer inspection, an attempt to travel diagonally to a single point near the center of the station. A few had even made their way through some sort of transport tube in order to more efficiently reach said area; Countess took this as her cue to commandeer a nearby elevator and press the large "HUB" button within. As it slowly began moving along, she uttered a muffled praise to whoever had made sure that the main methods of transport had their wiring particularly well-protected by an especially thick wall.

An indeterminate amount of time passed, as for the elf it was all beginning to run together, crumpling into nothing more than some vaguely constant progression of events. It didn't help that the arrangement of Las Orbitas was rather baffling to her; between all the various hallways, cargo holds, restaurants and occasional shops or laboratories, all looking more or less like the same old rusted door from the outside, it was all too easy to get lost, and the fury burning in the front of her mind combined with the panic nibbling at the back was making it hard to stay focused. How long had she been running? How long had she been fighting? Where was she in the city? She distinctly remembered wandering through a labyrinth of crisscrossing paths, and killing or severely injuring the rare engineer unlucky enough to cross her path, but no specific points of interest popped out. What would previously have brought her sadistic glee was now simply hazy inertia.

Her location, anyway, was fairly easily discerned once she put her mind to it. Looking back out the door she had passed through was another hall, which as far as she could tell was more or less identical to the others; she had long since either lost her map or burned it to a crisp, though she couldn't remember which. A few elevators, and several more rooms, were to one direction; a couple of corpses and the entrance to yet another cargo hold the opposite way. Several thick documents were laid out on a table, most of them labelled along the lines of "Bio-Engineering Project 6-A: Infiltration (Data Recovery)", and more than a few computers were also present. Holly proceeded into a sort of "side-room" branching off, not connected to the main hallway.

She looked around and found several transparent artificial habitats, each filled with several specimens of some bizarre creature or another, as well as a steady supply of food. Holly looked curiously at what appeared to be some variety of armor-plated lizard, then cracked a small grin and raised her gauntlet to the window. A slight squeaking noise emanated as she slowly traced a large hole in the plexiglass before finally punching it to the ground. The lizard turned its head and quickly began crawling towards the new opening. As it got closer, its pronounced claws and fangs became clearer, and with a crackle, a jolt of mana caused a pair of malformed wings to sprout from its back. Its desperate attempts to fly into the air were, to Holly at least, simultaneously horrifying and hilarious. She proceeded to do much the same with every window on the floor, unleashing all varieties of burrowing crustaceans, camoflauged parasites, and venomous arachnids, already warped by genetic engineering into architects of death and further twisted by the unstable magical energy flowing into them.

There was, for a brief moment, a very disconcerting lack of a crackle. During this brief window, the elf heard a loud ticking she hadn't noticed before. "No! No, I'm not ready yet! I'm not done with this place!" She furiously lashed out at the nearby wall, repeatedly whipping the deliberately old-timey clock adorning it until it fell to the ground, then stomping it and punching it and throwing it until its inner workings were scattered all across the ground. A scorpion with an exponentially increasing number of eyes came a bit too close for comfort before she could kick it away, and the elf finally decided to make her way out of the room, hurrying to an elevator, frantically mashing buttons until it opened, entering, and frantically mashing some more buttons until she was whisked to a different part of the station.

Countess gave her new surroundings the once-over. They'd do fine-- there seemed to be plenty of wiring and a fair amount of refrigerated meat available to her; the Ouroborites that had already arrived had scattered and began tearing individually at anything they could find, so she might have to hurry. She grabbed a nearby dumpster, which was thankfully empty, and began filling it with all the goo and other edibles she could find. If there was a display screen, she would remove it and extract the bounty concealed directly behind it; if there was a freezer, she would give it a quick zap to thaw its contents before tossing them in as well. She also made sure to shut the container whenever she wasn't throwing things into it; she couldn't risk any Ouroborites attacking the stockpile prematurely.

Soon the container was filled to the brim and ready to perform its duty as bait; the only thing remaining would be to find a place where it would be particularly unfeasible for Ouroborous to escape or hide before she could get to the rest of them. Still, some help would make the endeavor quite a lot less dreary, and there it was, that despicable elf skittering around like a decapitated chicken. At the moment, Countess felt the feud could wait; as it stood, the elf couldn't possibly be stupid enough to fight her when the mindless swarm was milling about. As for a place the bugs might be easier to keep track of, she seemed to be heading towards a rather large building cut off from the rest of the city, and it was as good a guess as any, so the clockwork creature trailed after her, making sure to stay out of sight until just the right time.

Once again, the elf's progress through Las Orbitas began flowing together, but for a completely different reason. Once strolling, Holly was now sprinting through what equated to downtown-- a large, open space with proper edifices, near the center of the station, which she had reached shortly after exiting the elevator-- cutting through an artificial park or ducking into a narrow, out-of-the-way corridor, ticking and tocking assailing her ears from every angle. Can't let her catch up no wait she's this way I was wrong she's that way wait it's quieter over there she can't be in that building because the door's closed. Holly had approached a large coliseum which stood out among the rest of the area. The steel of its construction still gleamed, and its windows were all still intact; even the massive sign adorning it had not a speck of graffiti or peeling paint. The tremendous double doors, as she had noted, were still tightly shut, and the ticking in her head seemed to abate when she turned towards it. It was, therefore, not particularly long before she had channeled her fear and rage into melting and crushing the door into nothing.

The elf ducked into the stadium and perked up her ears. The ticking, if it had ever truly been there, was certainly not audible any longer. She let out a sigh and began walking the vast hallways of the sporting establishment; it quickly became apparent that the inside reflected the stadium's state far more than the outside. Crates of all sorts of merchandise, snowglobes and foam fingers and sticks and facemasks and skates and books and jerseys and bobbleheads, lay haphazardly piled in a gift shop with the slatted gate permanently closed, laying beneath the flickering light, waiting for a journey to the next station that would never come, nothing but wasted plastic and paper. The stench of rotten food wafted from a concession stand that had been hastily abandoned, not even having bothered to take its wares off display; they now provided food for the occasional cockroach or rat.

After quite a bit of wandering in this manner, she eventually reached a recessed door with a clearly broken keypad. After an experimental kick, it ground open with a horrifying screeching sound that resonated in Holly's ears for several seconds after it ended. She took a second to recover before making her way through into an ancient locker room. A single trophy and several pennants were lovingly enshrined, along with several jerseys and hockey sticks; she grabbed a facemask lying on a bench and considered putting it on, nearly discarded it as far too battered, then decided to keep it just in case. She proceeded much in this fashion, wandering around the room until coming back to the display case, which opened easily, the lock long since rusted away. Holly wiped the dust off of an old picture frame. Inside was the 2284 Wyverns lineup, clutching their championship trophy and grinning at the camera. So happy, she thought to herself. How disgusting. She burnt the picture and frame to ash, the last record Las Orbitas had of its only Intragalactic Cup victory, and cast it to the ground.

The elf once again began wandering, the crackling surrounding her serving as her only reminder that she still had to exact revenge. She headed through a large doorway into the center of the stadium, where she quickly hopped down to the rink itself, which peculiarly contained an open dumpster. The floor of the arena, once coated in ice, was now merely damp; the gigantic screens which had once shown instant replays and promotional tie-ins were cracked and gave no output beyond the occasional crackle or spark; and the seats, once impeccably cleaned by a massive custodial staff, were now caked with dirt and cobwebs, the rare vermin being the only creature that ever deigned to use them. None of these reminders of a bygone era mattered one bit to Holly, however, after she realized that all she could hear was a combination of shrieking and ticking, each steadily rising in both volume and pitch. She gaped in a combination of awe and despair as a flood of Ouroborites poured in from above, quickly followed by the Countess arriving calmly from the side; this only increased when the latter's greeting was a highly-disconcerting "Oh, you. Help me out here, would you, dear? Enemy of my enemy and so forth." As the elf desperately fought back the encroaching bugs with terribly-aimed bursts of flame, she became convinced that the situation could not possibly become any worse.

A few seconds after that, the lights went out.