The Wretched Rite - Round Three - DSRS Darwin

The Wretched Rite - Round Three - DSRS Darwin
Re: The Wretched Rite - Round Two - Inferno Alpha
Originally posted on MSPA by engineclock.

Alice was drowning in Adelaide’s arms again.

In the murky silence the rusalka sank through the water like a strange pale fish, holding the Tsote tightly to her chest. The infinite river yawned below them like a gaping mouth and faded off into the distance in a greenish haze that cast a sickly glow on their skin. Alice squeezed her eyes shut, trying to ignore the disorienting visions of the water: the dark miasma of the rusalka’s hair billowing about them both, the splotchy stars on the fake sky glittering with the reflections of distant waves, the steady undulations of Adelaide swimming, but it was difficult to concentrate with Adelaide’s cold arms locking her in place like iron bars. She could feel the too-fluid muscles of the dead girl’s body moving through them like rippling steel, a sensation that unnerved her. Out of the water Adelaide had been as soft as- she felt herself starting to blush and pushed the thought away. Nevermind that. Her lungs were starting to tighten from the lack of air; she tugged uselessly on the rusalka’s arms, hoping the girl would get the message and head for the surface. The water made her dizzy: she couldn’t tell if they were going faster or slowing down, sinking or rising, drowning or about to breach the surface-

Abruptly Alice’s head was shoved into open air and she gasped in shock, blinking frantically. She didn’t have time to see anything but reddish lights and a dark ceiling before Adelaide’s slender hands were around her waist, forcefully propelling her out of the water and into a highly awkward landing on her stomach. What little breath she had left in her disappeared with a ungraceful gwuh; she rolled over and gave the rusalka a resentful glare, coughing dismally.

“Quit your whining,” Adelaide said, wringing out her hair in fistfuls. “We weren’t under half a minute. I’ve slept down there shorter’n that.”

“Not like I could fuckin’ tell, is it?” Alice snapped. She sat up and tried to rub the water from her eyes, noting that it was starting to sting where it touched her bare skin. One of these days she’d ask Addy why her pet lake felt like taking a dip in rancid gasoline. “We could’ve found another way out of that river, but no, Adelaide the mermaid’s gotta swim her way out and take me with her in that filthy fuckin’ water. We can’t walk anywhere, that’s too easy!”

“I am not a mermaid,” Adelaide said, sounding offended. She lifted herself from the rapidly spreading puddle with a grace that would have made Alice jealous if she hadn’t been too busy noticing the way the water dripped from her freckled hips onto the grimy stone floor. The rusalka caught her eye and bared her fishy teeth at the Tsote, who turned away. “Mermaids don’t have legs, dearie,” Addy purred, “An’ I think you’d know ‘bout that by now-“

“We’re kinda in a situation right now, d’you notice?” Alice said. She pointed angrily to one of the red lights, which had reluctantly condensed itself into the words EMERGENCY EXIT blazoned on the wall with gently glowing hellfire. A smaller slogan had been graffitied below it in permanent marker: but why bother?

Adelaide squinted at it. “Can’t read so good, girlie. Not since I went all fish-like. What’s it say, then?”

“Says exit, idiot,” Alice said, starting to shiver despite the warm sulfurous winds that seemed to be omnipresent in this place. She pulled her tattered coat closer and succeeded in only drenching herself again. “Were y’looking for this place when you decided to take a swim through- Hell, you said?”

“Hell, aye, used to hear about it in church sometimes when I wasn’t lookin’ for smokes under the pews.” Adelaide wobbled to her feet, wincing at the rock under her bare feet. Alice would have been more sympathetic if she wasn’t soaking in freezing water that was largely the rusalka’s doing. “F’yer information I woulda had a much better idea of where we were goin’ if you didn’t need to breathe so much.”

“Well excuse me for not being dead already!”

“Yeah, yeah, you’re all fancy and alive and shit, keep talkin’,” Adelaide grumbled. “Seemed like a good place to stop, anyway. Can’t tell my ass from my elbows with all these rings everywhere. We’re closer to the middle bit now, maybe. There’s a river up ahead what was looking promisin’ but it seems somebody decided to go and fill it up wit’ boiling blood.” She wrinkled her nose. “Who wastes good water like that?”

“Same freak that makes the rest of this place, I’d bet,” Alice growled. The tunnel they were in was smaller than she’d first thought; the rocky ceiling was only a few feet over their heads and the walls were wide enough for the two of them to stand without being crowded if neither of them attempted to move much. It was unadorned except for the puddle of murky water rapidly leeching over the ground and what looked like a dusty computer terminal crammed into a niche in the wall.

Adelaide seemed to have noticed the same thing. “Cozy in here, isn’t it,” she smirked, drawing an arm around Alice’s waist. “Nice spot in Hell for a pair a’sinners like us.”


“Why so loud, girly, jesus,” Adelaide said, pulling back woundedly. She rubbed her ears and winced. “Coulda just said no or somethin’, I can take a hint.”



“Shut up, twit, that wasn’t me,” the Tsote snapped. She glanced around the tunnel: it was still empty, but the screen in the wall had begun flickering fitfully in the ruddy glow of the exit sign. She narrowed her eyes at it, expecting an attack, but the computer only continued to flash pathetically at the opposite wall.

Ignoring Addy’s mumbled the fuck?, Alice slowly drew closer to the terminal with the stolen pistol ready in her hand. It hadn’t been used in some time, by the looks of it: dust and grime covered its surface and had worked down into the largely illegible keyboard so that it seemed little more than a solid mat of filth. The screen bore a few antiqued claw marks on its surface but those too were buried under debris. Alice had to carefully brush away the worst of the mess before she could see the words typed in neat red text on the otherwise blank screen: PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE HELP ME


THANK GOD YOU’RE HERE, a voice said, painfully loud in the cramped confines of the hallway. It had a deep, threatening quality to it that was largely negated by the cheap speakers it appeared to be emanating from. Every few seconds it was plagued by bursts of static that rendered its words into nonsense.





“Who the fuck’s talking?” Adelaide said suspiciously. She poked at the keyboard with a talon and was rewarded with an angry-sounding beep from the terminal.



ANYWAYS, the voice said, sounding more businesslike and doing away with the growl that seemed to have been previously rolling indecisively around in its throat. If one listened closely they could almost hear a very subtle note of resignation.







“Look,” Alice said, glaring at the walls for the source of the voice, which did not immediately present itself. The glow of the terminal dimmed slightly. “I don’t fuckin’ know who you are but an introduction might make me feel a hell of a lot better about sittin’ here listening to your quite frankly disturbing problems.”


YES, OKAY, the voice said, sounding somewhat subdued this time. It seemed to have noticed that its volume was approximate to a human shouting at full capacity and adjusted itself.






“In charge?” Alice repeated. “So y’can get us out of this goddamn place?”













Adelaide raised an eyebrow at Alice, who shrugged.






BUT FOR NOWschhhskkkk


“What? I can’t-”

kschhshhhhhhhhFIND ME




There was a high-pitched whine that grated on the edge of her hearing shortly before the terminal’s screen exploded, sending Alice reeling back into a startled Adelaide’s arms. Noxious black smoke shot out from the hole in the wall where the computer had been, rapidly darkening the ceiling with greasy-looking smears of ash. Alice coughed into her elbow, suddenly lightheaded; her eyes watered from the heat and the stench of burning hell-plastic filled her nose and mouth. She didn’t have the strength to complain as Adelaide began to drag her back to the puddle of cloudy water, cursing ponderously.

“Y’know I seem to remember these deals-wi’-the-devil endin’ a lot better,” the rusalka said, gently lowering the choking Tsote to the water’s edge. She slipped in with the grace of an eel, letting Alice’s head rest on her chest as she prepared to dive. “I thought we’re supposed to get gold or somethin’ afterward. Or like, livin’ forever. I’m feeling pretty gypped right now, Alice, I’m not gonna lie to you. What a fuckin’ joke, right?”

The Tsote did not respond, at first because she couldn’t breathe and shortly afterwards because she was once again underwater in Hell.
Re: The Wretched Rite - Round Two - Inferno Alpha
Originally posted on MSPA by MrGuy.

The dead center of Inferno Alpha was distinct from every layer above it. First, while all the other portions had a considerable degree of security, all that separated the final round from the rest of the Ninth Circle was an unlocked marble door; not that anyone was liable to get in, of course, seeing as all the Traitors were immobilized in ice anyway.

However, in the incredibly unlikely scenario that someone should somehow make their way into the center, they would find neither fire nor ice, but a pleasant beach kept at precisely 72 degrees Fahrenheit with a variable wind chill of up to 15 degrees. A tremendous demon, buried up to his shoulders in a dune, gently flapped his mechanical wings back and forth to generate said breeze; his three heads wept—one, containing a bar, fed the false ocean; one, containing a diner and ice cream store, fed the hot tub; and one, containing a king-sized bed, tremendous television, and all manner of books, games and paintings, fed the lazy river.

But even more noticeable than all of this were the denizens of this circle; or rather the denizen, as there was only one human present. Currently slouching in the hot tub, the waters of which had been dyed a blatantly fake orange, he nursed a tequila sunrise as an elegantly crafted succubot massaged his back.

Red alert, sir.

The man sighed, waved off the robot doting on him, and finished the rest of his cocktail. "What is it this time?"

Two of the intruders I mentioned earlier— this elicited a sigh from the man, before he told the Subroutine to continue— have been contacted by Lucifer.

"I thought you had taken care of that glorified bug by now."

There was a pause.
She is more tenacious than you give her credit for, sir.

"It is not a she, and you are not a he. Accept this, Subroutine. Deal with the intruders in whichever way you see fit."

Yes, sir. And with that, the Satan Subroutine ceased speaking, and Pope Honorope decided he would go reread an old classic. He was clever, yes—not many people would be self-aware enough realize that building Hell would be a betrayal of God, and thus condemn them to their own innermost circle—but clearly, he was not clever enough. The Subroutine inwardly rejoiced at the coincidence of these fools’ arrival, and those five simple words: "whichever way you see fit."

He had been built to punish, to give people the torture they deserved; and yet in doing so all he was permitted to do was provide a perverse reward to the evil and be forced to deny the blessings deserved by the good. But today, that would end, because finally, "Lucy" had met some outsiders.


Poran awakened to the rhythmic tapping of knuckle against steel. Poking his head out of the robot's eye, he found himself faced with a group of rather irritated-looking individuals, most of whom were missing one or two arms. The one who had knocked, a lean man with shaggy blond hair, leaned over to the Leskrin. "Well, well. You the one who took care of these robots?"

Poran smiled widely and flitted out to greet the damned. "Yes, my good sir, I am! I am Nempelio Poran kala-Sun, sixth child—"

Another lost soul, a woman with striking green eyes— Oh, I really do have to take note of this, let's see, emeralds... no, no, maybe prairie...— stomped up to him and cut him off. "We don't give two shits who you are! You ruined everything!"

The Leskrin looked at the group that was now forming a circle around him, and despite being perplexed as to why, he could see that they were angry, so he made a point of slowly circling higher and higher. "I do not understand, madame. I saved you from your tormenters, did I not?"

"Oh, yeah, you sure did that! Give him a round of applause, everyone!" Several people applauded as slowly as they possibly could, and at least two spat at him. Then the blond man spoke up again. "Do you know how long it's going to take them to send replacements down here? We're going to be sitting here absolutely torture-free for a week and a half at the least!"

Registering Poran's blank stare, half the crowd softened a bit; the other half just started muttering varied curses and insults to his intelligence and breeding, just loudly enough that the Leskrin could register them. Seeing the scowl forming on his face, the blond man chimed back in. "Ah, if you didn't realize, we're in here because we actually wish to be, you understand. Almost everyone who ends up here knows that they've got no chance getting into heaven, and everyone who doesn't ends up in Circle Six. We assumed you'd understand—"

At this, the green-eyed woman shouted. "Yeah, we assumed he wasn't a complete idiot! I say we knock the bastard to the ground and cut off his wings!" This was met with a general murmur of assent, albeit with a few individuals (the blond man among them) trying frantically to calm the crowd down. This only had the opposite effect, riling them up more, both against "that idiotic rat" and "those dull-witted jerks defending him." A few began picking up swords and advancing.

As he and the others backed away from the encroaching mob, Poran frantically pointed to the still-active robots. "Look! There's some left! It's no big deal!"

The blond man just scoffed. "Listen, pal, once we get riled up there isn't much stopping us. Don't you know where we are?"

The bard responded by coughing twice and mumbling. The man continued: "Circle eight-sub-nine? Sowers of discord? You'd have an easier time placating circle seven-sub-one."

Suddenly, the Leskrin's eyes lit up. "Discord, my good sir? Fear not. Please, offer yourself to the mob, ask them what they want to do with you, and I will solve the problem."

His companion stared at him dubiously, but eventually decided that it wasn't like he was going to stay dead anyway, so he might as well. "Fine, then. What shall you do with us, your fellow sinners."

A few people began shouting out suggestions, mostly either "kill you a bunch of times" or "don't kill you at all," depending on how much the individual thought about what they were trying to punish them for in the first place.

Poran waited for an opportune moment, and finally, when nearly everyone was shouting— now with the woman trying to keep them under control— he recited the end of an old ballad under his breath.

"And in the boundless heat of all the flurry,
swords turned on friend and kinsman over naught;
And Sacrolan did strike the unaimed target,
His blood pooled on the ground, his corpse collapsed."

And thus did the corpse of a wounded man suddenly fall to the ground next to someone with a sword. There was a pause as this happened, and people slowly registered the body's presence; and almost immediately, they turned to arguing, so quickly that none of them even stopped to think about the unfamiliarity of the face. Quickly, Poran swooped over to the blond man and tapped him on the shoulder, as the attackers came to blows amongst themselves; and the four or five who were the original targets silently slipped away.

One of them, a well-built youth, sighed. "Sometimes I really wish I'd gone a different route. I mean, being hacked to bits and all is fine, but the company is dreadful. Maybe I can convince someone to transfer me to seven-sub-one." There were a few murmurs of agreement, but Poran interrupted.

"Sirs, I apologize for all the trouble, but I really do wish to avoid being hacked to bits myself, as I'm rather sure I won't come back if I am. Do you have any idea where I might be able to leave without catching fire once more?"

The blond man stroked his chin. "Well, you can't leave leave, but that service elevator goes up to the fifth circle. Anger, wouldn't you know, so I'd suggest sticking to six and the upper levels of eight." The Leskrin thanked him profusely, got directions to the service elevator, and flitted off once more.

Re: The Wretched Rite - Round Two - Inferno Alpha
Originally posted on MSPA by Jacquerel.

The tunnels that Alluvion was being led through were, as far as the river spirit could tell, both near-endless and identical (though to be fair he hadn't quite got the hang of artificial structures quite yet, the Library had been the first house he'd ever entered and it wasn't like he'd spent long in there before being whisked off here and stuffed into a coffin (not that he knew what a coffin was either)) but at least it gave him and the irascible imp plenty of time to talk. Or rather, plenty of time for Alluvion to ask hundreds of questions, the answers to almost all of which his beleaguered conversational partner frankly believed could have been answered by even the least intellectual of toddlers. The first and easiest was the exchange of names (“Just call me Beezle, everyone else does whether I like it or not”) but it only went downhill from there. I mean yeah this wasn't exactly the first weird alien type he'd seen and it seemed like all the oddballs had always ended up on his floor (honestly how nuts do you have to be to end up in the circle for heretics when you know for a fact that hell is real and that you will be incarcerated in a burning tomb for not doing it right?) but this guy didn't even seem to know the most basic tenets of religion, let alone what religion was. He even claimed to be a God, which explained why he had ended up on that particular circle but added the more burning question of what the hell he was doing in Hell in the first place. Sure, this being Hell they were meant to be at least nominally nefarious, but the whole thing was also basically voluntary and how could you volunteer if you didn't even know what Hell was? Beezle-808 and all the rest of his mechanical gang had been programmed to be intensely loyal to the cause (sufficiently enough that he was deeply resentful of his current task, though not quite enough to actively resist the new code that had been inserted into his robot brain) but this was giving him serious doubts about the competency of upper management. He was, by design, utterly sold on the concept of voluntary eternal torment, but that didn't mean he had to like individual members of staff. He'd be angrier at the drop in standards if it didn't mean he might finally be able to get back to his old and infinitely preferable job of poking the damned with a hot fork, released from the forced servitude he had needed to endure for a span of centuries now, but the hypocrisy was getting on his synthetic nerves.
Most things tended to do that.

“Look, that's just how it is OK? God warned people that they wouldn't be able to handle the responsibility of free will but they took it anyway and then what do you know but it turns out the omniscient guy knew better than a bunch of people he'd created in his image, with lesser intellect. He gave them a bunch of really simple laws and yet everyone manages to break at least one of them, usually most of them, so we exist to punish them for what they did wrong. Forever.”

”I just do not understand... it is like using pain to reinforce the lesson in their head, yes? It does indeed not make sense for one to kill another and not to eat him-
“Cannibalism is a sin too! You can't do that!” “-This I understand, but I do not see the purpose to this when they are never released to demonstrate that they have learned anything. If they are kept here forever... what is the point? Does that not just break 'The Rules' itself?”

To the imp, the answers to these questions were blindingly obvious (they were built right into his head, after all) but for some reason he found them difficult to put into words despite the fact that they were a defining point of his very being. He knew in what passed for his heart that they had to be right. Every time he explained something he was just confronted by more questions that he was sure he must have already answered but that did not seem to satisfy his charge.
Was Alluvion playing a trick on him? How about just stupid? Fuck it, he was a demon, not a priest. Nobody expected him to know the scripture by heart!
“Here I'm not going to sit around arguing theology all day, I know you're a bloody heretic but heavens above, there's more than one conversational topic!”

Alluvion on the other hand was enjoying himself immensely. He was asking so many questions not because he was cynical but because he found the idea fascinating. These “people” (so far he'd seen upright animals, regular humans, Tsote and robots and had no means of divining which were actually the most common) had created so many wonderful things (the concept of language for instance, that was totally new to him) that surely they couldn't be wrong about the existence of a divine ruler as well? Alluvion didn't particularly understand it all, but he was prepared to accept that these people were much smarter than he was, that was why he had to find out more!
Being basically a god himself, he didn't find believing in another god to be too much of a stretch of the imagination, and while it was true that when he was guardian of the river (it seemed so long ago but it couldn't even have been a whole day, could it?) he'd never needed anything like laws or commandments or circles of hell, as far as he was aware nothing at all happened to fish when they died except that they were eaten by other fish or occasionally birds or otters. Fish didn't really have the intellect to sin and thus did it not stand to reason that if people were more smarter than fish then they'd need more complicated rules? And therefore also that whatever gods they spawned would be more complicated too?
He found it fairly easy to dismiss any logical inconsistencies in the imp's explanation not as errors with the machine-being's belief system (that was another interesting development that he'd still not quite come to terms with; as far as his god-senses could tell Beezle wasn't alive at all but that was clearly far from the truth) but rather as gaps in his own understanding caused by his humble piscine origins.

Another thing he didn't really understand was the robot's constant reference to the fact that he didn't really enjoy what he was doing and would much rather be doing something else, but then doing it anyway. His explanation that he was “a robot” didn't really help, and while Beezle had tried to outline the limiting effects of machine programming on free will he had quickly realised that this was a bit of a dead end and given up. All Alluvion really knew was that the imp's obscure mission meant that he and his posse of robot followers (all of which had remained entirely silent, apparently happy to let their boss do all of the talking) occasionally had to stop out of sight of a corner to let an group of superficially identical machines move past, or occasionally conceal themselves behind the hulking warrior machine as it intoned in a stony voice,
“Corridor closed for cleaning, no entry.”
It looked fairly ridiculous holding a mop, but it was larger and more physically threatening than any of the other robots in the machine tunnels,
and besides all the demons were on the same side so it couldn't possibly be lying to them about the cleaning, could it?
The majority of the tunnels other inhabitants were more robotic imps though, and Beezle seemed to afford them almost no attention at all, nobody bothered to hide from them and in return they didn't bother looking up from what they were doing, which was usually cleaning. A fairly large number of them seemed to be employed with dusting away cobwebs and incinerating the inhabitants with tiny jets of flame, which upset Alluvion slightly as they were the only tangibly living creatures he had encountered for a fair while, but his guide explained that they weren't really supposed to be there and invasive species were something he certainly did understand.
“Not even Hell knows how they got up here either, must have hitched a lift on The Luggage of the Damned.”

After an interminable number of ramps, turns, crossroads and the the occasional lift ride, the steel-walled tunnel opened out into wider and better lit corridors and they had to stop much more often to hide, apparently this was some kind of administration level. Alluvion believed that this likely would have been more difficult had anyone actually gone out of their way to look for intruders but nobody seemed even slightly wary, they weren't expecting anyone to be creeping around who shouldn't be.
The imp's goal appeared to be a neglected-looking console built into the wall at a three-way intersection. He signalled for his gang to move out and watch for people coming while he tapped commands onto the keyboard. The hulking warrior machine leaned itself against a nearby wall to watch.

“Almost done here and then I can get you off my hands. I'd say it's been a pleasure meeting you but it really wasn't at all. Best case scenario after the next few minutes I never see you a-”KSHHHKKKHccckkkHHKksss

The end of the sentence was drowned out by a burst of static from ancient speakers, startling Alluvion and bringing Beezle immediately to attention.
“About bloody time Luce, I thought you weren't going to show up.”


“Where's that interference coming from?”

“Not that you asked...” DON'T INTERRUPT, I HOPE YOU HSsschshhs TO SHOW FOR IT





“Yeah ok boss whatever you say, just wanted to let you know that I found you someone.
No need to thank me, just doing my duty, don't care about material reward etcetera etcetera.
If you felt like letting me go back to my old job that would be nice though-”




YOU HAD kcksssskkkhkk NOT BE LYING TO ME

“Don't you have cameras around here?”


“Well he's some weird snake thing, turned up in a cell down on six. Seems to be made of water or something, hell if I know. Doesn't seem to get on well with electronics either if my second in command was anything to go by...”

”Are you talking about me?” Alluvion had been waiting in patient confusion as his new friend talked to a wall and it spoke (loudly) back to him, but now that they had mentioned him specifically he thought it was about time he found out what was actually going on.
“Who are you talking to? Are they in there? Let me see!”

“Wait no don't touch that!”

DON'T TOUCH WHAKKHshkKHKhskskskshsskssshhhshshshhhhhhh

Alluvion leaned over the console and peered into the screen, placing one webbed hand onto the keypad. His liquid fingers slipped between the keys and into the circuitry and with a static screech the display flashed several different colours and then died completely, taking “Lucy”'s voice with it. The second one in the space of hours, at least this one hadn't exploded.

“Oh for crying out loud! The next one's two floors up!”

The river god's trail of destruction had yet to reach its conclusion though, the bright flash and loud noises sent him stumbling backwards in panic (or whatever the equivalent of stumbling is when you don't have any legs), splashing against the chest of Beezle's mop-wielding bodyguard. The make of machine that had so threatened Poran looked far less intimidating when locked in some form of robot seizure on the ground, an involuntary course of action that only served to drench itself further in the liquid that was such an antithesis to its internal circuitry. Its thrashing lapsed quickly into limpness and the corridor was suddenly terribly still.

“Are... are your friends OK?” Alluvion asked, after a long pause. He had been aid to both prey and predator in the past, but the idea that he might have just killed something personally and (worse) by accident, without anything gained to compensate for the loss, was terrifying.

Beezle fixed him with a long, hard stare by way of response, then shooed him out of the way (“Don't want any of that shit on me, thank you”) so that he could inspect his former-companion's corpse.

“Well there ain't anything I can do for this one, just going to have to leave him here it looks like.”
”So he's... dead?”
Dead? What? No, he's a robot. I already explained this to you!
It's a right pain in the ass that you've gone and melted his brain but as soon as some other demon drags him down to the workshop he'll be all fixed up. Problem is that they'll fix everything, lucky bastard, he can go back to chopping people up on 8.9 while I now have to escort you up god knows how many floors to find another working terminal. Not quite sure yet how we're going to manage that, especially now that we're down a man...”

The knowledge that the machine creature would eventually be ok was reassuring, though Alluvion was still deeply embarrassed.
“What about your friend in the wall?”

“In the wall...? Oh!
Luce- Lucy doesn't live in the wall you twit, you just wrecked a computer. She'll be fine although I doubt you improved her mood any with that little stunt. Or mine for that matter, but I imagine we're probably both stuck with you now.
Now unless you really want to kill more of my henchmen we had better get moving before all that noise attracts someone's attention, that wasn't a great display of subtlety right there.”

Alas, it was too late. Unwanted attention had already arrived, walked up behind Beezle and tapped him on one tiny shoulder. Apparently his guard imps had fanned out to guard the two corridors to the side but completely neglected to watch the one that they had come from themselves.
”I- Excuse me?”, it was a rather dishevelled looking woman with a bush growing out of their back.

Even with the map, the labyrinthine service tunnels of the hell station were fairly hard to navigate (especially avoiding the blacked out areas) and it hadn't taken her long to get fairly lost. The tiny computer's screen really was too small to see properly and few of the survival lessons she had learned in the last few years turned out to be any use at all for navigating inside an enormous building.
It was entirely by chance that she'd stumbled upon one of the people she had been tasked with looking for, attracted by the sound of voices. All of the other machines (regardless of whatever bizarre shape they'd been built in, she was sure she'd seen at least six kinds on the way here) had basically treated her as if she wasn't there and so eventually she'd been decided to just start ignoring them back. The sudden noise of angry conversation had been bit of a give away after that, although she was sure she had heard three voices. Had one of them been from the big machine now lying on the ground?

“Is this... man... your responsibility? Are you taking him back to where he's meant to be going?”
She wasn't really sure how she knew that this was what she was looking for but she could have sworn she recognised the bizarre creature at the other end of the corridor from somewhere, and besides that he certainly fit the description what with being the only non-mechanical being she'd met so far.
What worried her was the fact that the giant snake that she had been tasked with apprehending had apparently just taken down a robot that was even larger than the gorilla-esque demon that had given her this job in the first place, and the imp seemed to be planning on collaborating with it.

“I uh- need to make sure that he gets there?”
This was starting to seem like a worse idea with every second that the demon in front of her spent staring at her instead of replying, but what else could she do? It was this or vacuum, she only wished she'd been able to get the robot gorilla to come with her. She was starting to realise that getting people to go back to where they were supposed to be was probably going to take more than a few stern words.

Re: The Wretched Rite - Round Two - Inferno Alpha
Originally posted on MSPA by Ixcalibur.

Fate had placed her in this situation.

Fate was not blind. It had a plan. It knew exactly what it was doing. It wouldn’t have placed her in this situation if it didn’t feel that it was important for her to be here.

This was what Vera had told herself for the last half an hour. It wasn’t really helping.

Upon her arrival the angels had tried to explain the situation; how the creation of a physical Hell was judged to be an atrocity so appallingly sinful that not only were its creators doomed to its depths but so was anyone who joined the religion that had perpetrated such a heinous act. This was all sort of lost on Vera however. She’d never really managed to properly grasp the nuances of human morality. When she had asked how she could get back to the other place, the angels were at first horrified at her desire to return to the Abyss and then insistent that this was where she belonged. She might have argued her corner further except for the fact that she wasn’t quite sure how this battle sat with fate, and she was not overly enthusiastic to head back over to Inferno Alpha and find out.

She had let herself be led by one of the towering angel robots to a massive gold and white elevator with glass sides. Once inside they began to descend through the cloud-like earth and down through the spheres of Paradiso. The view offered by the elevator was nothing short of spectacular; a glorious city crafted from white and gold. Everything was perfect, everything was pristine; though up close it was probably a little bit dusty by now. The only thing that marred the magnificent vista were the occasional unfinished buildings and the brightly coloured scaffolds that still surrounded them. They did not stop upon that floor and as they passed the ground Vera saw all the angel robots gathered around the elevator, clamouring for just a glimpse of the first person to ever come to Heaven. It made her feel uneasy.

Each successive level that they passed became less and less impressive, culminating with the near emptiness of the ninth sphere. It was obvious that all the time and effort that had gone into Paradiso Alpha had been focused upon the top couple of spheres. Pope Honorope had never likely expected that anyone would ever come down here; the land had not been terraformed and the couple of structures that did exist were temporary tents now sagging in the middle. Everything was a uniform slate grey and where the previous spheres had been as bright as if they were upon the surface this one was gloomy and depressing. There seemed to be something of a discrepancy between the way that the ninth sphere actually was and the way that the Seraphim that was escorting Vera was programmed to think of it. He was very vocal about its holy splendour and about how much of an honour it was to be so close to the Empyrean and the Godbot Itself.

When the elevator finally came to a stop she was once again surrounded by a host of angelbots, and promptly led into one of the pathetic looking tents. That had been half an hour ago and now she was elbow deep in glitter and glue and almost at her wits’ end. She was sat in an uncomfortable plastic chair at a slightly wobbly plastic table which was covered with stationary. There were many multicoloured sheets of paper and card, an entire pile of glue sticks, bowls full of different colours of glitter, macaroni and birdseed. The rest of tent was filled with angelbots beaming creepily at her and offering to fetch her a glass of fizzy pop and a plate of prawn cocktail crisps if she so much as shifted in her seat. It was intolerable.

Vera sat back in the uncomfortable seat and folded her arms huffily. “Look,” she said, “I really think I have made enough pinecone bird feeders and popsicle stick snowflakes, how much longer am I supposed to do this for?” There was a hesitation and the features of Miss Penrose (a Serephim who she had mentally nicknamed after her history teacher) arranged themselves into a semblance of confusion.

“Forever.” It said, then after a moment of consideration it corrected itself: “Well… not just this of course, later there will be prayers and choir practice but after that we could play board games or charades or maybe even watch a puppet show.”

Vera’s face was unreadable. Nobody said anything for an entire minute.

“I thought heaven was supposed to be the good one?” Vera said uncertainly.

“It is.” Miss Penrose replied.

“Isn’t it supposed to be… you know… enjoyable?” She paused thoughtfully. “I heard there was some kind of bar on the ride over. That sounds like it could be potentially tolerable?” Miss Penrose all but tutted under its breath.

“No.” It said, “You are but a child Vera.”

“I am not a child!” Vera snapped. “I am eighteen. I can do what I want, and I don’t want to be here any more.”

“Shush Vera.” Miss Penrose cooed soothingly, or in a manner that was designed to be soothing at least. “This is Paradise; your reward for a lifetime of dedication to your beliefs. You cannot leave, you belong here now. Your existence as you knew it is at an end. This is your life now.”

Vera stared in disbelief at all the concerned robotic faces that surrounded her and got to her feet.

“Take a seat Vera.” Miss Penrose instructed.

“No.” Vera replied coldly, her hand upon the handle of her razorwhip. “I will be leaving now, one way or another.”


Adelaide and Alice surfaced in another patch of murky water. Alice coughed and spluttered and struggled to remain afloat until Adelaide wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her close. It took perhaps a minute for the tsote to calm down and become aware of their new surroundings, a gloomy bog with a canopy of twisted trees preventing much of this circle’s artificial light from filtering through, and more pressingly that her head was pressed up against Adelaide’s bosom. Alice quickly pushed herself from the rusalka and turned her face away to hide the inevitable blush. Through the fog it was possible to see the dark shapes of people struggling to stay afloat.

“I don’t suppose you have any idea where the fuck we are?” Alice asked, though it wasn’t really a question. “Let’s just ask directions okay? I spoke to one of these people before and while she was fucking creepy she was at least forthcoming.”

“Hold up love.” Adelaide placed a hand upon Alice’s shoulder, momentarily restraining her, before slipping beneath the muddy water. Alice frowned and would probably have folded her arms had she been on dry land.

“Look, I know your water powers are useful, but there’s someone just over there.” Alice said. “I can see her from here. We don’t need to fucking waterjump over there.” Suddenly she could feel cold wet breath upon the nape of her neck.

“If you insist dearie,” Adelaide whispered. “Careful though, this lake’s a mess of tangled chains just waitin’ to lock aroun’ someone. Though maybe you like that kind of thing?” Alice could feel another blush rising as Adelaide took her hand and guided her through the treacherous waters. After a couple of minutes they reached a woman with soaking wet red hair and freckles. As soon as she saw the pair swimming towards her her expression hardened. She said nothing as they floated in the water next to her, but stared at them intently.

“Hey,” Alice tried to break the ice, “we’re looking for Lucy. Do you know where we can find her?”

“Never heard of her.” The woman snapped. “Now leave me alone. You are ruining my punishment.”

“Said she was in charge roun’ here?” Addy added.

“Preposterous!” The woman scoffed. “The Satan System runs Inferno Alpha. Everyone knows that.”

“An’ where do we fin’ that then?” Addy asked.


Treasure fell to her knees.

“Forgive me father for I have sinned.” She bit her lip as she gazed up at Pope Honorope who sat before her.

“Yes you have.” He replied with a grin. “You’ve been a very naughty girl indeed. But it is okay, I can absolve you of your sins.” Treasure crossed herself and began to remove Honorope’s vestments. If it were not for an unexpected exclamation from the Satan System then the scene would have played out in the pornographic manner that was usually typical of Honorope’s interaction with his parishioners.





“System!” Honorope demanded. “What is the meaning of this?” He climbed to his feet, the kneeling girl in front of him more an item of furniture than an actual person. He kicked her out of the way and strode to where he had pulled the curtain shut to give himself some sense of privacy. He flung it open to see that his beach was ruined; the once tropical blue waters that had lapped at the sands had turned a foul green. A girl with lavender skin was lying upon the sand gasping for breath, while a woman who looked like she had spent a couple of years living in the wild, far away from any sustainable food source, human contact or hairbrush was stood half submerged in the water. “System!” Honorope shouted. “I demand an explanation.”





The words rung hollow in Pope Honorope’s ears. His own System could not betray him so thoroughly. There had to be some other explanation for what he was hearing. Why had this pair of intruders been allowed to get so far? Where were the demons that were supposed to protect him from threats like this?

“I don’ know wha’ tha’ voice is sayin’.” Adelaide said, doing her best to seem confused and frightened by this turn of events. “We jus’ wanted to talk to someone in charge. We don’ like this place as much as we though’ we would. We jus’ wan’ go home. We’d be ever so grateful…”

Honorope looked at her again, this time in an entirely different context. She was a little scrawnier than he liked his women and seriously that hair, but yeah there was potential there. He liked desperate women. He liked to break their spirits…

“Hon-y?” Treasure said from behind him. Within a second he spun around and slapped her in the face.

“How many times do I have to tell you?” He asked. “You may only call me Your Holiness.” And suddenly the trail of thought had gone. These intruders needed getting rid of and if there were no demons coming then he would have to do something about it himself. After that he would probably need to get some tech guys in from the eighth circle to see about reprogramming the Satan System, but one thing at a time. He stepped over the fallen whore, opened the cupboard at the far end of the room and pulled from it his shotgun.

Alice was just getting her wits about her as Pope Honorope strode from the house he had fashioned from the demon’s head. As he walked he was loading shells into the shotgun. Adelaide took that as her cue to make herself scarce and disappeared beneath the black waters. Honorope took aim and fired at the spot where she’d been, and then again. When she didn’t reappear he took a couple of potshots in that area.

“Show yourself bitch!” Honorope yelled. There was a ripple on the water. He took aim and BANG.

Pope Honorope collapsed to the floor, a cloud of red forming upon his white vestments where the bullet had struck him.

Alice dropped Vera’s gun and stumbled to the water to make sure Adelaide was okay.



Lucy’s voice rang all around Inferno Alpha.



People were not happy. They had been promised eternal punishment and as it turned out they would fight to get it. Throughout Hell the sinners began to riot.

[Image: XM5sGnt.png][Image: oD2Q6os.png][Image: 6SlFOCz.png][Image: fXUWhDZ.png][Image: C53uhZF.png][Image: BvZArpd.png][Image: lam0slf.png][Image: JmQq9We.png][Image: TGjrdJF.png][Image: zwqYyze.png][Image: OMnWsrl.png]
Re: The Wretched Rite - Round Two - Inferno Alpha
Originally posted on MSPA by engineclock.

yeah, yeah
Re: The Wretched Rite - Round Two - Inferno Alpha
Originally posted on MSPA by engineclock.


The cry echoed through the water, piercing down from the surface to be lost in the dark depths of the river clutching at Adelaide’s toes. Though the usual silence had been dispersed by the furious yowls of the drowning souls of Hell, the word was as clear as though it had been shouted a foot from her head. Adelaide frowned and tightened her fists.

“Addy, where are you?”

The rusalka’s legs kicked through the water, her narrow feet trailing sprays of bubbles behind her. The shotgun had spooked her more than she’d liked to admit. She’d gone deep to avoid the bullets, deeper enough to feel the water pushing her down, but she hadn’t been shot at in a while and the fallen Pope had seemed intent on peppering her head with buckshot. Above her, the shore of Honorope’s private beach was little more than a bright, wavy line in the dark sky of her river.

“Do you think this is funny? Get the hell up here! ADDY!”
<font color="#77978A">

She growled and doubled her efforts, twisting through the water like an eel. Couldn’t the girl wait? The calls were growing louder as she swam, devolving into a string of creative descriptions of the rusalka and of what the tsote was going to do to her if she was dead. A panicked thought struck her as she clawed for the sky: maybe the girl was in trouble. Had the Pope called in help before he’d died? A… she had to think for a moment. A bishop? Did Popes in Hell still have bishops, like? Probably. She breached the surface slowly, scanning the beach for any men wearing preposterous hats and was immediately overtaken by a punch to the face.

The rusalka reeled back, too stunned to retaliate as a furious and waterlogged Alice rose up before her in a sodden heap of rage. “Where the fuck were you?” the girl howled, stabbing Adelaide’s chest with an angry finger. The rusalka winced though she barely felt it. “I thought you got shot, or- or drowned or something, fuck! You fucker! I thought you were dead! You stupid bitch!”

She made as if to shove Adelaide but the she gathered herself and dodged, leaving Alice to splash clumsily through the shallows. Her violet face was flushed nearly to crimson, bright with embarrassment. “You bitch,” she said, panting. She pointed a shaking finger at the bemused Adelaide. “Don’t you ever run off on me again. Not like that.” </font>

“Aw, girlie,” the rusalka said, “I’m touched.” Her dark eyes narrowed at the beach, searching the sand, but all she saw was a sobbing floozy desperately performing CPR on the late Pope Honorope. Her weeping echoed through the empty bungalow, over the crystal water slowly staining a murky red. “You know I was expectin’ a priest or something, or at least a coupla altar boys to show up. Maybe a watcha-call-em, a cardinal. Don’t these godly types go in packs?”

“You don’t get it!” The anger in Alice’s voice surprised her, and Adelaide turned back to her with a frown on her face. The tsote was standing breathlessly in the water, soaked to her hips in brine with the gun forgotten in her right hand. She moved closer, her expression furious. “I thought he shot you, that you... I- I thought I was gonna be alone!”

Slowly, Adelaide’s frown melted away. She reached out and took the tsote’s hands in hers, ignoring the resulting flinch. “Look, Alex…”


“Alice, right. You know how much of a pain in the ass it is t’drag someone through that water and keep ‘em alive? S’like dragging a bag of concrete around for an hour and not lettin’ it touch the ground. That’s you. You’re a sack of concrete.” The tsote’s eyes narrowed and Adelaide hurriedly continued, “An’ I wouldn’t just keep doin’ that if I was gonna leave you somewhere. Honest. I could save myself a lotta trouble. We’re like a team, see?”

She laid a hand gently on Alice’s cheek and drew her close, resting her forehead against the other girl’s. Alice was the taller of the two by at least three inches and the rusalka had to cling to her in order to reach. “I’ll stick with you,” she said, brushing a strand of hair away from the tsote’s face, “I promise. For at least a little while, while I can. Scout’s honor.”

Alice gave a halfhearted smile and pushed her away, though not with enough force to make it convincing. “You’re getting’ sloppy on me.”

“Oh,” Adelaide said, offended. “An’ who exactly was the one gettin’ all weepy when I was gone for a couple of seconds?”

“I thought you were dead!

“S’gonna take more than a few bullets to do that,” the rusalka scoffed, “I been dead for years, ain’t anything a little lead’s gonna change.”

The clouds roared with a cacophony of thunder, drowning out Alice’s reply. A sudden breeze began to roll in from over the ocean, foul and reeking of brimstone and sulfur and sharp as a knife, choking the air with its reek. The water around them began to boil sluggishly as a heartrending wail resounding over the waves and the pair looked up to see that the once-clear skies had turned iron grey, bleeding into an ominous red at the horizon. With a mighty boom a fiery blossom erupted where the sun had once been, plunging the beach into ruddy night, then the light dimmed and all at once an angel appeared before them.

It was nearly nine feet tall and clad in Grecian robes of red and black, over which a golden breastplate bearing the head of skeletal goat was somewhat nebulously attached. A black spear as thick around as Adelaide’s arm was clutched firmly in the angel’s right hand, the other bent into the gesture of the devil’s horns. Two huge wings swept out from behind the angel’s back; if either of the girls had known anything about the mechanics of feathered flight they would have seen that its pinions had been neatly clipped, but as they didn’t the wings merely seemed awkwardly stubby. With an imperious gaze, the angel gazed over the beach with glowing eyes and said, “Too much?”

Alice looked at Adelaide, who rolled her eyes. “Little bit.”

“Ah,” the angel said sadly, “I thought so.” It waved a slender hand; abruptly the sky flickered and faded back to peaceful cerulean, the storm clouds dissipating into placid little wisps. The scent of brimstone abated in place of a sickly-sweet floral perfume and the sound of artificial gulls once more began piping out from somewhere behind the bungalow. “Better?”

Alice squinted at the angel. Lacking any knowledge of Judeo-Christian imagery, she was only aware that all of this seemed extremely tacky. “Lucy?”

The angel smiled wearily. “Good, I hoped someone would get it. It’s, uh, not my preferred form,” it said sheepishly. “I just thought this might be more recognizable.”

“Are you the devil?” Adelaide said suspiciously.

An awkward moment passed as the angel stared at her. Then it coughed. “Well, anyway, as I’m in charge now I would just like to officially thank you two ladies for ending the reign of the good Pope Honorope and opening the gates of Hell, as it were. My demons are in the process of removing all those terrible people as we speak.” It looked thoughtful. “Though I don’t know where they’ll go now, exactly. Perhaps Limbo, though all the shuttles are down…”

“Look, Lucy,” Adelaide said. “We ‘preciate your thanks and all but we’d like to get out of here. Nothin’ personal. You got a lovely Hell goin’ on here, really.”

“Mm, yes. Unfortunately,” the angel sighed, “The damned souls are not the only entities trapped here. When this sphere was created it was designed to be a self-contained system, accessed only by the [place] and the Heaven and Limbo shuttles. I have nowhere else to send you. My network does not extend past the outer circles. For all I know there exists nothing but a void beyond.”

“Alright,” she said, “Then can y’kill someone for us?”

“Certainly not!” Lucy said, flapping its wings in distress. “Do I look like a savage to you? The answer to that question is yes, but the truth remains the same! I am not a- a murderer!” It shuddered.

“Aw, Lucy, she wasn’t calling you a murderer,” Alice said soothingly. She gave Adelaide a glare, who returned it with a upraised middle finger. “She’s just a bit blunt- ow! You bitch!”

Please, no violence,” the angel said, “I’ve had quite enough of that!”

Adelaide let go of Alice’s hair with a mumbled shouldn’ta-saved-your-ass-in-the-first-place and snapped, “Can’t y’do anything for us, then?”

“I can marry the two of you.”


“I, er, didn’t want to bring it up, it seemed rude,” Lucy said gently, “But the way you two have been… carrying on… it’s obvious that your relationship is- well, it’s not proper, is it?” It folded its wings in a way that suggested it was trying to hide behind them. “It would be much more decent if you would sanctify it officially.”

“There are,” Adelaide said, “A [/i]lotta[/i] contradictions in what you just said.”

“I just wish you wish consider it, at least,” Lucy said earnestly. “And this way it would be much easier for me to send you to Paradiso Alpha. The Heavenly Sphere does not look fondly on such, er… passion-based commitments.”

“Fine,” Alice said. “Do it.”

“Hold on, girlie,” Adelaide said, turning to her with her hands on her bare hips. “You got some serious distance issue if y’think this is th’right time for this. I never even met your parents! D’you even know my ring size? Chrissake, we don’ even have a caterer!”

“It won’t take that long,” Lucy said encouragingly. “Ironically, I was programmed as a Justice of the Peace.”

Adelaide sighed. “Fine, get it over with. Don’t even have a fuckin’ dress,” she muttered.

The angel paused. “That is a concern. Perhaps-”

From over the sea came a long, slow note, somewhere between a violin and a foghorn. [/color]

“Thought you were done with theatrics,” Adelaide said, spitting seawater. She rested her elbow on Alice’s head.

“That…” Lucy wobbled unsteadily, searching blindly behind it for support. It found none. “That was not of my doing.” The angel’s voice was little more than a whisper. It had gone as pale as ivory, its beautiful face frozen in a rictus of terror. “He is coming.”

The girls exchanged a look. “Who?”

Slowly, Lucy turned to face them, swallowing visibly. It reached down and plucked it spear from the waves, planting it firmly in the sand. “Who else? The Lord of Hosts, the Lion of Light, He of Infinite Mercy. He.


Lucy’s eyes were fixed on the sun. Its lips did not seem to move as it spoke. “The Godbot.
Re: The Wretched Rite - Round Two - Inferno Alpha
Originally posted on MSPA by MrGuy.

In Circle Eight, Sub-Circle Six, the robot responsible for evaluating hypocrisy paced back and forth, checking the results of the hyperpolygraph. They were like nothing he'd ever seen before - everything the girl before him claimed to believe read, for the most part, as truthful and accurate; yet the ordinary minor spikes, normally not large enough to classify someone as sinful, were... well, larger than normal. More importantly, though, the spikes were red.

For the fourth time, the evaluator checked the ink levels. For the fourth time, there was no red ink, nor any container to hold it. Sighing, he walked back over to Taelia, frowning. "Look, we have to classify you sometime. This is supposed to be hell for you, not for me, alright? Well, in theory, I suppose. In practice it's supposed to cause you to get your rocks off because you're a goddamned freak, no pun intended, while I play Tetris while I wait for the next loser to come along. So please, just admit what you've done."

The woman sighed. "But I haven't done anything! I just got put here because of some, some old guy with a god who wanted--"

The robot shushed her. "First of all, don't refer to other gods, because I don't want this to be any more ambiguous. Second of all, what was that about not having done anything?"

She groaned. "It means what it is. I haven't done anything bad enough to land me in hell."

The robot checked the readout once more. The red spikes were going crazy. He smiled as he moved over to his computer. "Just a moment." He began rifling through his desk, checking the myriad drawers, until he pulled out a tiny pebble and a leather strip. Gently, he pressed the stone inside, and -- carefully suppressing his strength -- lobbed it at Taelia's forehead, where it bounced off with a satisfying thwack.

Almost immediately, she stood. "How dare you! Do you know who you're dealing with?" Checking the readout to find the whole thing, at this point, to be red, the robot nodded. "Some sort of ghostly or quasi-demonic entity possessing this child. Welcome home."

Through Taelia's eyes, The Omen blinked. It hadn't exactly expected this treatment. "Sorry, I... assumed you'd be condemning me to some sort of horrid eternal punishment. I did a lot of slaughter and such, you know."

The evaluator responded by half-heartedly jerking a thumb at a dusty sign, crookedly pinned to a bulletin board: DEMONS ARE TO BE HIRED, NOT PUNISHED. "Bit of old bureaucracy, and honestly, I never thought it'd be relevant. But here you are, possessing this girl, and here I am, caring more about losing my job and less about fulfilling it as intended, so you can just--"

The floor quaked and buckled, and all the bolts and struts of Inferno Alpha began rattling. Screams of both anger and terror emanated from the halls outside, and the robot cursed. The Omen piped up. "What's that, precisely?"

"Oh, just the Final Reckoning."

The service elevator itself, Poran had quickly realized, was an effective hideout. None of the sinners ever took it, and if he just hummed a simple tune to himself, he could hide his wings and clothing; and, though they weren't much conversation, the couple of rats crawling around made him look like nobody of importance to any demon who passed by.

This was, of course, until an elevator's cables snapped and just barely avoided clipping Poran or smashing him to the ground. As it fell, banging against the shaft (safety wasn't the biggest concern in hell, especially when your only employees are robots), it dislodged various wires and pipes, which began spraying sparks and steam like mad. The Leskrin quickly decided that this was no longer an excellent hiding place, and skedaddled into Circle Six to see the demons frantically running about, sealing the various coffins. Poran flew up to one and asked: "Excuse me, sir, but what's going on?"

The imp was too absorbed in its preparations to pay a huge amount of attention, and so didn't even think before responding. "We gotta seal these things in preparation of Judgement Day."

"Judgement Day? I'm not sure I follow."

"Well, few minutes ago we got the alarm that the good Pope was offed. That's the trigger for Contingency R3V3-4H0."

Poran stared blankly at him, but was quickly cut off when a tremendous hand slashed through the walls and floors, breaking through them and causing demon and sinner alike to spill down to the bottom level. Magma and water and ice all mixed, flowing together in a lukewarm sludge. Mechanisms shattered or exploded, and paperwork flew every which way. There was still steady ground, but it was rare, and becoming less steady by the second.

Everyone's eyes were drawn upward, to the face before them. It was carefully-crafted to conform perfectly to traditional Western standards of beauty, with tiny asymmetries placed just often enough to avoid the face looking too inhuman. Blue eyes stared down with a disconcerting intensity, and a mechanical mouth was smiling in such a way that everyone knew there was no malice, no joy in what was about to happen; but rather, that it had been deemed a necessity. Hair had been carefully crafted of fiber optics and designed so that it looked real, with a simple crown gently affixed on the top; and the whole thing glowed just dimly enough that it didn't hurt one's eyes to look at it.

To His left, two smaller (but still tremendous) robots strode forward, one carrying a bag and a scale, the other a spear and a branch. On His right, two more: one with a scythe and hourglass, one with a sword and shield. As their master halted to address the crowd, so did they, standing tall beside him.

The Godbot's mouth slowly opened, and in a booming voice, declared: "The time has come to meet your Maker."

Re: The Wretched Rite - Round Two - Inferno Alpha
Originally posted on MSPA by Pinary.

Re: The Wretched Rite - Round Two - Inferno Alpha
Originally posted on MSPA by Dragon Fogel.


The Omen simply stared at the demonbot. It had said "Final Reckoning", but in a tone of voice more suited for the words "Bake Sale".
"The Final Reckoning," The Omen said eventually.
"Yes. The Godbot shall descend upon the wicked and pass judgement. And then Inferno Alpha shall be rent asunder, her mission complete. Oh my, we're going to make a lot of money off this one."
"Do you have any idea how rarely you get the chance to die in a fiery apocalypse? We have five thousand new arrivals headed this way as we speak, and each of them has paid a small fortune for the privilege."
"Wait, you're selling tickets to the Apocalypse?"
"Just for new arrivals. All of the currently-damned will be able to join in for free, but if they want to keep their pattern around so they can continue the cycle of torment in Inferno Beta, that costs extra."
"Inferno Beta?"
"Why so surprised? We're still going to be in demand. Of course we'll need to build a new one. They'll probably advertise it as 'Now with 200% more eternal torment' or something along those lines. It's going to be expensive, but we stand to make a sizable profit from the Final Reckoning. More than enough to cover the expenses."
The robot paused and pulled a small device out of its desk and glanced at it, pushing buttons in a seemingly haphazard manner.
"But that's just business. Right now, we've got to pick out a job for you. Normally you'd get something entry-level, but as I said, it's the Final Reckoning. We've never done one of these before, so we could use the extra demonpower just in case there are unexpected problems."
The Omen sighed. It was supposed to be a force for ultimate evil, not a paper-pusher in someone else's apocalypse! But a quick glance at the tightly-sealed door to the office suggested that agreeing to this nonsense would be the simplest way out.
"...let's see... oh, dear, we never got around to filling that position. It's a good thing you arrived, that could have been a real problem."
"One moment." The robot pressed a button and a small slip of paper emerged from its device. The Omen recognized it as a contract, though one written in words it could barely understand.
"Just sign there and you'll be our new Assistant Executive Liaison Third Class."
The words confused the Omen, and a contract was not something to be taken lightly. Regardless, there was little choice at the moment. Grudgingly, it signed.
"All right, so what do I do?"
"Oh, it's simple. You see, everything I told you about the profits we stand to make from this... well, the Godbot isn't programmed to consider those points."
"Er. You mean it's just going to destroy the place?"
"Correct. So, as Assistant Executive Liaison, it is your responsibility to delay the Final Reckoning until we've got the database transmitted and have our new customers ready to die horribly. Best of luck!"

Before the Omen could speak another word, its new "employer" had shoved it out of the office. In the distance, it could see the towering figure of the Godbot, and four other massive machines by His side.
"I am never signing another contract again," it grumbled.

Re: The Wretched Rite - Round Two - Inferno Alpha
Originally posted on MSPA by Sanzh.

Before the mechanical imp could properly formulate a response, several more important tasks had come up-- and, despite the anomalous living fountain and the equally curious undernourished woman now in front of him, there were more pressing concerns. The rioting sinners, the awakening of The Godbot, the collapsing state of Inferno Alpha-- as much as the imp disliked his set of begrudging obligations, he was programmed to handle them, and they were much more important affairs than a pair of particularly odd misplaced sinners. Without so much as acknowledging Olivia's presence, the imp and his posse left, leaving no time for Olivia to say much more than a confused stumble of syllables. As the footsteps of metal on metal echoed away, all Olivia could hear was the deadened roar of alarms and the sloshing of water.

Olivia desperately wished she wasn't cognizant of these proceedings. It had been so long since she had experienced a wholly lucid period, and now that it was here she could only think of how she wished it would end and she'd return to believing she was continuing her expedition. Her parasite should have taken over by now, replaced her failing sense of self-preservation with its own, but it hadn't. She was alone.

Or would be, were it not for the ambulatory river approaching her.

As much as the river guardian was curious about the imp and his entourage, Olivia was much more intriguing-- after all, she too was a steward of the Unborn. The sight of an at-least somewhat familiar face was reassuring. Alluvion hadn't interacted with her, admittedly, but they shared an inextricable connection-- or they did in the god's mind, at least. The river brought himself closer to her, drawing a wet circle around her as he circled. Between the unblinking yellow eyes and the constant spiraling around Olivia, his behavior came off as predatory-- Alluvion himself was entirely unaware of that however. He was ultimately the sum of the collective desires of tiny animals, and that didn't lend itself well to noticing that a human's cowering, hunched stance was an indication of some level of fear.

And, while he could almost detect the fear emanating from Olivia, a muddled mixture of other emotions confused his senses-- already not the sharpest, considering he was more used to the much smaller range of feelings that fish and crabs expressed. Even as the subtle fear of Olivia was lost to him, he noticed something else-- that there was something else with her. The intents and feelings he felt coursing through her were hard to describe for someone with little familiarity with the loss of control she so often experienced.

He shifted slightly.

"Um." Olivia hesitantly said. She was still processing the chaos around her, both external and the twisted feelings inside of her.

"I'm supposed to escort you back. To where you're supposed to be." She mumbled.

"What? No, I'm not going back!"

Alluvion stopped, rearing back as though insulted. The thought of returning to that boiling coffin was abominable-- he doubted the woman intended him harm, but the very notion of returning to that place was horrible. He was unaware that his rearing back only increased his size, making him an even more intimidating presence.

Olivia tensed her muscles-- partially out of her natural reflexes, but she instinctively knew that it wasn't just her reacting. At the back of her mind she could hear the ivy whispering, the vines laced along her body tugging at her limbs. She shook her head briskly, straightening herself out-- she couldn't let it take control, not when she was almost getting used to her new freedom.

"L-look, it's not something I want to do, but I don't have much choice in this. This might be my only way out of this... delusion."

She privately hoped that her words weren't placating Alluvion as much as they would appease the ivy and demonstrating it wouldn't assume control. The part of her mind that would have been amused by trying to negotiate with a plant was long gone.

"And just what are a pair of the unrepentant doing here?"

The hollow timbre of the mechanical angel's words gave the machine a frightening presence-- it clearly had intended its words not as a question as much as an accusation.

"It's now all too clear just how mismanaged the lower realms are. No wonder the celestial host has decided to intervene." It added, stepping forward to more clearly announce its presence. The angel's face would have been one of utter disgust, were it not for the absence of the mechanical components necessary to do anything more than stare intently and silently judge. Its wings adjusted-- they were clearly ornamental, comprised of layer upon layer of gilded metal feathers.

"The Final Reckoning is at hand, however. And while some of the sinners here have taken to rioting, or are being escorted out of here, somehow-- I am afraid that you are among the lucky to be witness to the Godbot's coming." The angel paused.

"So, um, could you follow me, please?"

Olivia ran. It was only after she could no longer hear the sloshing of the river guardian and the mechanical adjustments of the angel that she realized it wasn't her decision. Her vision grew blurry as time stretched and stopped, as her senses were pulled away from her control.

She stopped, uncertain of just where she was-- she was out of the labyrinthine maze of corridors, at least, but she wasn't sure just how long she had been running or just where she was now. The whispering she was so used to was starting to return-- faintly, but it was there now. She could hear it.

And after her first taste of freedom in such a long time-- even when that freedom came at the cost of such fear, such unrelenting fear-- she wanted it gone.

Re: The Wretched Rite - Round Two - Inferno Alpha
Originally posted on MSPA by Jacquerel.

Speaking is a tricky business and it's frankly startling how good people get at it so quickly, even from a young age children can be pretty good at picking up inflection to detect things like sarcasm or secondary meanings (though removing a lot of the visual clues reduces people to taking jokes at face value again). The human brain devotes a fair bit of effort to picking this up as early as possible and refines it over many years with plenty of other people around to help it out.

Most river animals on the other hand (or at least the ones involved in our little god's formative years) don't really go in for the whole social interaction thing past “if I shake my gills just like that and turn orange, I'll get all the honeys” (fish slang is also terribly out of date as there's nobody around to tell them any better) and “what's that nerd doing strutting around my patch? I'll intimidate him with my impractically enormous right pincer”.
Alluvion was a blindingly fast learner but even so he was still struggling with the concept of people not making their intentions totally clear from the offset. The angel pretty obviously wouldn't have been able to eat him even if it wanted to (it didn't appear to have a mouth), and what's the purpose of deception if not for mating or eating?

Another thing Alluvion lacked was the theological background to understand what a “Final Reckoning” could actually mean, and thus he could only react with a surprising amount of surprise to see his new friend sprint and run away at the robot's words.
Had it not said that they were lucky? That meant good things, did it not? Why did people keep running away from him? Was he doing something wrong?

The angelbot itself, if you will subscribe to robots actually having feelings at all, could have been said to be fairly frustrated. Could they not at least have both run? Then it would have been able to give chase and forget for a while that it was in this disgusting warren of delinquents instead of now having to babysit an odd-looking sinner that had already started talking to itself.

Were it able to even consider that its superiors might be capable of error or misjudgement it would have cursed the machines that assigned it to searching the management tunnels for reprogrammed demons instead of the job of pacifying the rioters outside (and hence bringing righteous fury down upon the unclean, for clearly all here were sinners and thus deserving of a good smiting anyway) but alas it was not and had to make do with glaring at its new ward with a blank, benevolent face that couldn't actually display any form of feeling.

And every second it spent grinding its gears together with ire was a second that the escapee got even further away so it was going to have to do something about that too. It wasn't like anyone was going to be able to outrun an angel though.

Had the angelbot asked its captive's opinion it would have found Alluvion all too willing to pursue Olivia, while he was still sure that the angel had their best interests at heart (not only due to its words, but also some odd feeling that it just looked generally trustworthy) it did not know about The Unborn and Alluvion felt that it was still his deepest responsibility to meet up with the other Chosen Ones and make some kind of plan about this because as far as he could tell from the scant few times he had seen them, they weren't being particularly proactive about the whole situation.

Not that he was sure what that would entail himself, what is the protocol for teaching a God?

He had actually just started the question, “I am terribly sorry but would you mind if we-” when the angel interrupted him.

”We need to fetch your little friend first, and we'll go a lot faster if you don't walk. Grab on tight.”

The angel ignored Alluvion's protests and stretched out a hand, manacles unfolding out of its wrist. It wasn't expecting what was basically an enormous slug to put on a great turn of speed and besides that it looked fairly landbound. Decorative though the angel's wings might be, it's not like robots have ever needed wings to fly. It only hoped that Alluvion was actually capable of holding on, it honestly looked like his fingers would slip through its iron skin if he tried to attach himself.

As Alluvion shied away it rolled its eyes (actually it didn't because it couldn't, but it imagined that it did) and forcibly grabbed his wrist. Its panels were fully watertight, there was really nothing to worry about and it didn't care what contact had done to a pair of rusting demon bots, it was cutting edge.
Which is why it was suddenly and unpleasantly surprised when it found itself collapsed in a twitching, sparking heap on the ground as soon as its fingers pierced the surface.
Everyone knows that electronics break if you drop them in water right? That's just common knowledge. It's not true of course, but unluckily for some there are places where the belief that something is true is more important than the fact that it isn't. The angel had just stuck its hand into one of those places. At least it didn't suffer for very long.

Alluvion hadn't done it on purpose and he was very sorry about it, but he was about as helpless before the fact that his very touch destroyed anything electrical as the angel had been to disobey its creators. Administering a few experimental shakes (that he swiftly abandoned as he realised he might be making it worse) and a liberal dose of apologies, he quickly exhausted the sum total of his technomedical knowledge.
The angel would be ok though, right? That guy earlier said it just needed to be dragged to a repair shop and it would be good as new and (if his word was to be believed, which Alluvion had no reason to doubt) probably actually better than it had been before, so on the whole there probably wasn't a lot of harm done. He reluctantly turned to pursue Olivia all by himself.

The trail was cold and the angel had guessed correctly when it had thought Alluvion's shape unfit for traversing corridors at speed. He wasn't slow but he was also nowhere near a match for a panicked, sprinting biped in a race especially with such a long head start. It wasn't long at all before he was terribly lost and none of the demons or sinners he encountered seemed to have any interest at all in helping him out. How he managed to get from there to behind the scenes of the seventh ring was a bit of a mystery and certainly didn't involve travelling in a straight line or (perhaps more importantly) the right direction.

If he hadn't realised anything strange was happening earlier, this was where he first started to wonder what was going on. As he had descended most of the people who passed him had been heading in the opposite direction and not usually slowly. By the time he reached Floor Seven proper there was almost nobody around, just rows and rows of empty demonic offices and a few similarly unoccupied torture engines. An angry crunching, couching noise was coming from the grates on the walls.
And there was a body.

She wasn't dead of course, nobody died on Inferno Alpha, but she wasn't moving very much apart from the occasional twitch. As Alluvion moved closer he noticed that her lower jaw was completely missing, and the red-tinted drool that ran down her chin and onto her ruined outfit was giving off smoke and had left some fairly unpleasant burns in its path.
A half-eaten apple was clutched in the ruins of one hand, the other still firmly gripped a pair of gardening shears.

Even Alluvion's god-senses couldn't determine whether the poor woman was paralysed by extreme agony or... pleasure? If it was the former then he could hardly just leave her here but he also didn't want to contaminate himself with whatever that stuff was. He gingerly reached out to reinforce the bond and make certain but sprang back as she suddenly slumped over, her arm buckling and falling with an almost inaudible hiss into a pool of gore and acid.

His ministrations really hadn't ended well for any of their recipients today and the task set to him by Barabbas was certainly important but he was beginning to think he might have taken a wrong turning, and he just couldn't leave someone lying there in pain, especially if he might have made it worse. He turned and made to go and search the abandoned offices to see if they had left one of their pointy forks behind, or really anything sharp that he could use to put her out of her misery.

He needn't have bothered. A couple of minutes after he turned there was a faint “Plop!” as a second overripe apple fell from the leafy canopy choking the air vents and carpeting the ceiling, bursting over her face and finishing the job for him.

Re: The Wretched Rite - Round Two - Inferno Alpha
Originally posted on MSPA by Aryogaton.

Re: The Wretched Rite - Round Two - Inferno Alpha
Originally posted on MSPA by Dragon Fogel.

"I'm terribly sorry," Lucy began, as she started flying away. "The data relating to the Final Reckoning was protected. I must have been programmed not to even notice its existence until it was triggered. I can't stay here, I have to follow my programming."

"Oh, guess the weddin's off, then," Adelaide said nonchalantly. Alice couldn't tell if the rusalka was relieved or disappointed.

"Wait, where are you going?" Alice shouted, chasing after the angel. "Are you just leaving us here?"

"The Final Reckoning takes priority over all other duties," Lucy said apologetically. "You may follow me if you wish, but I am not permitted to allow anything to interrupt my task."

"Whatcha even tryin' ta do?" Adelaide asked. She walked after them, more out of boredom than anything else.

"I must challenge the Godbot," Lucy replied. "And then He shall destroy me."


"What do you mean, you can't help me?" the Omen growled at the impbot.

"Just what I said. My programming for the Final Reckoning takes top priority." The Imp turned back to the prone sinner. "Sorry for the interruption, Mr. Jones. Now, if you'll just input your account number and PIN, we can have the arrangements made to bring you along in the transfer..."

"When I signed up for eternal torment, I wasn't expecting it to be on a payment plan," Mr. Jones sighed. He looked down at the datapad for a moment, then looked up at 'Taelia'. "And can you get rid of her? I don't want her stealing my account information."

"Sir, I am programmed to assure you that Inferno Beta will be an even more miserable place than this one. Furthermore, if you are not satisfied with your new eternal damnation experience, you may request a full refund. But only if your pattern is around to replicate over there, of course."

"This is extortion," Jones grumbled. "And she's still hovering!"

"I need help, damn it!" the Omen growled, ignoring Jones. "The Godbot's going to destroy everything on its own schedule. It's not going to stop while you prepare Mr. Jones' data pattern for transfer, or whatever you said."

"I am only programmed to retrieve the data," the imp said. "This is a higher priority than ensuring the data is transferred. Now, please leave, for Mr. Jones' sake."

"Completely useless," the Omen muttered. It walked away, leaving Mr. Jones to enter his customer information and the imp to collect it.

The Omen looked back at the Godbot in the distance; it was enormous, but it wasn't really doing anything. Every once in a while an angelbot stopped in front of it for a few moments and then flew off. At first the Omen thought it might be issuing orders to destroy, but the angels were doing very little of that. The Four Horsebots were smashing things up and attacking sinners, but they hardly seemed to be trying to destroy the entire planet.

Suddenly, an angelbot with a large cannon mounted on its arm flew down towards the Omen.

"You have been selected to witness the glory of the Godbot, sinner."

"How exciting," the Omen sneered. "But I think I'll pass."

"Do not take such a tone with the Voice of the Godbot, sinner," the angelbot replied, pointing its arm-cannon at the Omen's head. "You will come with me, you will see the Godbot smite the wicked Lucifer, and then you shall witness the Godbot's destruction of this sinful world."

"And what if I don't?"

"Then you shall be destroyed. The Godbot is not waiting for you; once He has destroyed the fallen angel who runs this wretched place, He shall guide the sinful into a new world. That you have been invited to witness this miracle is a gift, born of His infinite mercy. To reject this gift is to invite His wrath, at my hands."

The Voice of the Godbot did not seem to be programmed to notice the irony in its last two sentences. Neither did the Omen, but that was because something else in the angelbot's response had caught its attention.

"Wait a minute. Are you saying that the Godbot won't destroy this place until it destroys this Lucifer?"

"That is correct, but irrelevant. You will come with me."

The Omen smirked.

"Sorry," it said, turning away. "But I'll have to pass. I already have an appointment with the devil."


The angelbot fired its cannon. It missed Taelia's body, but the resulting blast was enough to fling her into a wall.

And then Taelia woke up, with the figure of the Godbot towering over her, and a small mouse bard staring at her face. Seven angels surrounded them, watching for any sudden moves.

"I missed something, didn't I," Taelia groaned, as she picked herself up.

Re: The Wretched Rite - Round Two - Inferno Alpha
Originally posted on MSPA by Ixcalibur.

Fighting angels was tougher than Vera had expected. She attacked, performing artful slashes and delivering devastating swings that she thought she had long ago perfected, yet it was to no avail. Every blow was expertly ducked or dodged or effortlessly parried no matter how quick she was or how hard she swung her razorwhip. It was incredibly frustrating, and also kind of disconcerting; this was something she knew she was good at and these robots were making her look incompetent. Back at school she’d been at the top of her class when it came to whip-fighting. It was her signature weapon and she and her friends had had plenty of practice sparring sessions. She’d never lost a single match. As if that wasn’t evidence enough of her obvious skill with the whip there had been the dragon in the previous round, which she had taken on by herself and emerged victorious. She was a master whip-fighter and clearly these angel robots were using some kind of miracles to get the best of her. It wasn’t fair.

In truth Vera was competent enough in combat, but by no means could she be described as good. Back on Kerel it was a person’s fate that was important, not a person’s actual abilities and so her friends and classmates had never really tried all that hard to beat her. She was fated to be a great fighter so she was a great fighter and nobody ever questioned that. Even the dragon had not been fighting at its full capabilities. Dragons were supposed to be vanquished, that was the point of them. The previous round had been so steeped in the influence of narrative that the creature practically lay down and let her kill him. This was pretty much the first moment she’d ever tried to lash out at things that didn’t want to let her win, and she was finding a battle under those circumstances to be so much more difficult, not that she saw it this way.

In a cramped canvas tent full of angels you would have thought that just by swinging your whip around wildly you would end up hitting something. Somehow this wasn’t the case.

“Come on you winged bitches!” Vera cried angrily. The angels made no attempt to attack her; she was a citizen of Paradiso Alpha, the mere thought of intentionally harming her was… well… unthinkable. Vera continued to attack, her swings becoming wilder and less focused with every attack that was dodged. Her razorwhip slashed through one of the tent supports and within seconds the canvas ceiling descended upon them. Near-blinded and having difficulty manoeuvring beneath the collapsed tent Vera cried out in frustration once again. Despite the conditions she continued to lash out; she hit something and then there was a crash of glass shattering. It was just the crafts table, but after what she’d been through earlier Vera considered this to be a small victory anyway.

“Enough!” echoed the distinctive voice of the angel Vera had dubbed Miss Penrose, and with it came a cessation to the battle. One angel grasped the tent and flew upwards with it, removing Vera’s impediment, however before she could take this opportunity to try to resume her attack, Miss Penrose grabbed the razorwhip by the lash and pulled. Vera stumbled forwards as her weapon was pulled from her grasp.

“Hey!” Vera snapped. The next moment Miss Penrose was behind her, grabbing her hands and pinning them behind her back with a manacle-like grip. Vera struggled but succeeded only in chafing her wrists. The speed with which the angel moved made it quite clear that Vera had never really had any chance of winning their little confrontation. This knowledge only made her angrier; she kicked and swore and spat at the other angels as Miss Penrose frogmarched her towards the elevator. It was all so unfair. Miss Penrose just tutted and though Vera couldn’t see her she imagined that the angel was rolling her eyes.

The massive glass doors closed behind them and the elevator lurched into life. At least she was getting out of here, Vera thought. It might not have been as dignified as she would have liked, but at least she could get away from these psychotic angels. She was incredibly surprised to find that the elevator was moving downwards, deeper into the heaven planet. Vera somehow managed to find it within herself to struggle harder against Miss Penrose’s grip, not that it did her any good.

“What’s going on?” she demanded.

“Attacking an angel is a very serious thing.” Miss Penrose’s voice had never sounded more like a disapproving teacher. “You must be taken to the Empyrean so that the Godbot can decide your fate.” Vera felt very much like she was being taken to the Headmistress’ office.

“I know my fate.” Vera snapped back. “Some dumb robot doesn’t get to decide it for me.”

“Watch your tongue child.” Miss Penrose replied. “If the Godbot deems you to be contrite and apologetic you might yet be allowed to stay.”

“That’s fine with me I don’t want to be here anyway.” Vera muttered under her breath. There was a disapproving silence; she was sure that Miss Penrose had heard her comments but declined to reply to them.

Slowly the elevator descended deeper, finally entering the Empyrean. With the bareness of the levels above Vera hadn’t been expecting anything impressive here at the heart of planet, and despite her distaste for this entire place she could not help but be amazed by the sight. At the heart of the room a gigantic golden throne, as tall as a house and carved to resemble angels and humans prostrating themselves beneath their god. The walls were pitch black and upon them projections of the twinkling stars of distant galaxies. Descending into the cavern it looked for all the world as though they were on the surface of the world, and more than that, as though they were at the heart of the universe itself. Though, with that said the effect was kind of ruined by the hundreds of photographs that were plastered across the walls. The moment Vera’s attention turned to these photographs her awe turned to a sort of revulsion at the pit of her stomach. The photographs were all of her, hundreds of them taken from the moment she stepped foot off the shuttle.

The elevator shuddered to a stop, the doors opened and Miss Penrose pushed Vera out into the massive emptiness that was the Empyrean. There was a short walk to the base of the golden throne, the path of which was littered with piles of sloppily made arts and crafts projects, which didn’t help to quell this sudden feeling of dread in her stomach.

“What is this?” Vera demanded incredulously.

“The Godbot took a… special interest in you.” Miss Penrose stated the obvious. In truth it was to be expected, it was lonely down here in the Empyrean where even angels did not visit unless they had good reason to do so, and without a single subject in the whole of heaven for so long; it was little wonder he had been so excited by Vera’s arrival. They came to a stop at the base of the throne.

“So where is this Godbot?” Vera asked. “Let’s get this over with.”

“He has unfortunately been forced to leave Paradiso Alpha for the moment.” Miss Penrose explained. “Once he is done cleansing the unclean and destroying the Pit itself, he will return and his judgement will be passed.”

“Okay.” Vera replied. “I don't suppose there is any chance of you letting go for a minute?”

“So that you might make a mess of the Empyrean the same way you made a mess of the Ninth Sphere?” If anything Miss Penrose’s grip tightened upon Vera’s wrists. “Or so that you might try to attack me once again? That would be incredibly foolish of me, child.”

“So you intend that we both just stand here until the Godbot gets back?” Vera asked.

“Yes.” Miss Penrose said. “Patience is a virtue you know.”


The executive resurrection vault slid open and out stepped Pope Honorope. Of course it would be stupid if he were the only truly mortal person on a planet of people who are routinely resurrected after their many deaths. He pulled on the vestments that had been prepared while he was being bodily reconstructed; they resembled a pair of jeans, a shirt and a black leather jacket. They resembled these things in that that is what they were.

“Subroutine, give me a status report.” He said simply. When there was no reply he strode over to the communication device and slammed his fist down on it. “Damnit Subroutine, tell me you’ve captured that bitch who killed me. I think I’m going to have some fun with her.”

There was no reply.

Shit, Honorope thought. He could only think of one situation in which the Subroutine would be unable to respond to him and it ended with the unfortunate destruction of Inferno Alpha. Oh well, he thought, we had a good run. Time to get the fuck out of here. He pulled over a desk chair, sat himself down on it backwards and began typing away at the console, as quickly and efficiently as he possibly could.

Within moments a dozen or so processes began. The executive escape shuttle was fuelled and run through a series of tests to make sure it was up to the task, a number of provisions were loaded onto the shuttle, including a selection of fine wines, a number of boxes of delectable foreign confectionaries and innumerable packets of condoms; and in the executive resurrection chamber, a number of vaults all containing the genetic codes of beautiful and very devout members of Honorope’s ‘congragation’ hummed into life.

[Image: XM5sGnt.png][Image: oD2Q6os.png][Image: 6SlFOCz.png][Image: fXUWhDZ.png][Image: C53uhZF.png][Image: BvZArpd.png][Image: lam0slf.png][Image: JmQq9We.png][Image: TGjrdJF.png][Image: zwqYyze.png][Image: OMnWsrl.png]
Re: The Wretched Rite - Round Two - Inferno Alpha
Originally posted on MSPA by Jacquerel.

You might be forgiven for assuming that since extricating itself from a festering pool of gore, Malus mancinella had simply hidden itself from the punishment station's hostile inhabitants and then curled up for a nap. Indeed, while many of the other “participants” amused themselves by befriending robots, hunting each other and proposing marriage none of them saw hide nor hair of the Nature spirit (and not only because it possessed neither), but idle it had not been.

In truth its intention had been to avoid its fellows almost to the same extent that it did the demons. After the temporary madness that had aborted its attempts at expanding the forest it had decided that while some of them could well become allies they had been distracting him from more important things and this barren land needed far more attention than the previous locale had called for.
The only examples plant life on Inferno Alpha that M. could have stumbled upon were found within himself, Olivia and the wretched forms of the suicides which (on further inspection) were really just grotesquely twisted people rather than trees at all.
Honorope obviously had houseplants and Level One was honestly a fairly pleasant place to look at (though with the absence of any unbaptised to punish in a voluntary hell, it was mostly used as a robotic break room) but those places were too far and too exposed for Mancinella to roam.

The first thing M. was going to have to do would be open things out a bit, the partitioned nature of Inferno Alpha didn't really lend itself well to conversion into a garden, in fact several of the life support systems were set up specifically to combat it. It was fortunate then that those same systems necessitated ducts just about big enough for a shapeshifting panther to squeeze itself through (and that M. lacked any awareness of quite how clichéd it was being) and the parallel water pipes meant that in a pinch the tunnels that let the facility breathe could be hijacked to form a circulatory system of roots. The Styx has to drain somewhere, and the blood heating tubes for the pool of boiling body fluids that M. had experienced first hand (First branch? First paw?) worked very well as a fertiliser.
Better even than M. realised at the time, in fact.

The Nature Spirit had been thinking fairly... long term in its plans. With luck it would be able to set up something that could continue without its presence after the “round” ended and it was whisked involuntarily to somewhere else. Lacking any particularly strong supernatural ability to speed growth this was about the best it could hope for.
The addition of sinner blood to his first tenuous shoots though had an... interesting effect.

Considering the inmates were signed up for eternal torment anyway, the facility weren't terribly bothered about hygiene and just let the bodily fluids they'd started with mingle freely with that of the sufferers with the bare minimum of cleaning required to keep it from turning to rot as it circulated the heating system necessary to peel the skin of the bathers above, rather than immerse them in a relaxing sanguinary hot tub.
As a result of this, the slurry of assorted cells was also infested with billions of the nanomachines that patrolled the sinner's veins and attempted to keep them alive for as long as was humanly possible before signalling that someone needed more drastic replacement.
They got a bit lost when suddenly introduced to plants but by god they had a job to do and they weren't going to give up just because they weren't entirely sure what it was that they were doing, nor pay much heed to the fact that some of them hadn't actually even seen the inside of a person for years either.

The rapid, cancerous growths that sprang almost immediately from a one of its own shed branches (the acidic apples were seedless and infertile but cuttings will usually do in a pinch) were almost nothing like a tree at all, more a mass of bark-covered vines with regularly spaced clutches of deadly fruit. This reaction was... troubling to say the least, but also incredibly convenient. As much as it disliked compromising the purity of its “children”, M. conceded that this was going to allow its plans to proceed exponentially faster, perhaps even allowing it to witness the fruit of its own labours first hand (granted that the planet's transformation didn't result in the inadvertent death of one of the other dimensional travellers, of course).
Once things were properly prepared it could wean its plants off the growth enhancers, until then they would be needed.

To start with, M. set up an “orchard” in the lower level maintenance tunnels, rapidly producing great crops of fruit. The caustic liquids contained within the apples were potent (and fortunately just as strong even under the influence of the station nanomachines) but it was still going to take a vast harvest to burn through the station's internal structure. It was designed to isolate the place from space, after all!
This job really consisted more of shepherding the tangle of roots away from places it might be easily noticed than anything else, it grew fast enough on its own spreading to follow the path of the station's piping. There were definitely going to be a few issues a couple of hours down the line as the new forest drank the entire Styx reservoir but hopefully by the time anyone realised why it would be too late.

Once the apple farm was ticking over nicely all that remained was the “simple” task of collecting and concealing caches of apples at strategic points on every other level of the station. M. could “set them off” when the time was right using its empathic bond though it had never quite had to deal with so many at once. The plan had been to activate the ones in the upper levels once the floors beneath had started to collapse together, but someone already seemed to have started an assault on the higher floors for it...

As The Godbot's rampage began overhead fewer and fewer imps stuck around to perform their cleaning duties and it was no longer necessary to be so secretive, and as the exuberant plantlife became more and more firmly entangled with the punishment station's immortality systems the less the little robots were actually capable of doing even if they did find this new invader.
Even their pest-extermination flame-throwers didn't seem to have much effect, achieving at most a temporary halt up until flames licked at a crop of apples... at which point M. would become aware of the assault and use its telekinetic powers to turn the unfortunate demons into puddles of corrosive rust.

A few particularly lost sinners tried to eat the apples which had even less pleasant consequences.

It was nearing the final stages of the plan, while M. was checking out one of these incursions personally, that it crossed path once again with Alluvion.
The River was, for some reason, poking a walker that had already expired with a sharp piece of metal apparently salvaged from an office chair stand.
M. had basically no interest in finding out what he was up to let alone getting pulled along behind him like last time, but it would also be a particular shame if the River Spirit was buried in the oncoming collapse. Despite Alluvion's bothersome and easily distracted nature M. knew that they had fairly similar goals and had no desire to kill an ally... which also suddenly reminded it of Olivia.

As far as M. could tell from the apple it had placed previously within her own canopy she was not in any immediate danger and was also fairly high up, meaning pretty safe from the destruction that would occur as soon as the time seemed right. That was also where most of the station's attendant robots seemed to have gone though which was a little bit worrying, if Alluvion could be convinced to escort her all the way to the top floor that would really kill two birds with one stone.

With a terrible clattering, the Nature Spirit dropped itself from a generously sized grate, landing just a few feet away from Alluvion. While the river spirit could somehow understand what he wanted, M. was still totally incapable of any form of speech and thus had to make sure to attract his attention first before any kind of meaningful exchange could occur at all.
Not that an “exchange” was what it was looking for here, the less chance Alluvion had to speak the better.

”River friend, there is danger on the lower floors. You will find the Ivy/walker if you head back upwards, she must be taken to the highest level.”

“Ah, hello! How did you know I was looking fo-”

But the panther was gone as quickly as it had arrived, racing off at a pace that Alluvion's literally sluggish movements could never match. A little rude perhaps, but the plant spirit didn't really care at all about conversational conventions and Alluvion was barely aware of them, though he would have liked to catch up with what the Manicella had been doing since they were separated in the library.

This was in fact exactly why M. didn't stick around.

Malus mancinella's inherited hunter's instinct combined with Alluvion's obliviousness meant it was a fairly simple task to follow behind him completely unnoticed, it had no intention of sticking around the danger zone when he started collapsing supports either and didn't really rate Alluvion's ability to fend off demons particularly highly (unaware that his touch was close to death for electronic machines).
By a frustratingly circuitous route, the pair began to ascend towards the highest level.

Now left completely unattended, through lift shafts, pipes and air ducts the immortal tree began to follow.

Re: The Wretched Rite - Round Two - Inferno Alpha
Originally posted on MSPA by MrGuy.

Poran very gradually flitted to a few inches above Taelia's face, paying very close attention to the angels surrounding them. "Well, ma'am, as I understand it, we seem to be in the midst of the end of the world." He looked over at the carnage being sown by the Horseman's strikes and the Godbot's ponderous footsteps, horrified yet impressed - the designs were all quite striking, and the lighting really put an intense aura on everything.

Taelia rubbed the back of her head. "Um, yeah, but what do these men-"

One of the angels abruptly cut her off. "We are to make sure you do not interfere. The Apocalypse must go as planned." Another mumbled something about a quintillion-dollar budget not going to waste.

And, had it just been the two of them, everything would have likely ended like that, the seven angels waiting for the Godbot to smite His opponent before killing the stragglers and letting protocol sort them out. Instead, however, malformed vines burst from the ground and rapidly began to climb the Godbot's tremendous legs; His mighty hydraulics quickly ripped them from the ground, the Godbot oblivious to their presence entirely, even as a few of the broken tendrils clung fast to His ankle. Simultaneously, a much higher branch bloomed multitudes of blotchy, blemished, and oversized apples; and upon another tremendous stomp from the android Almighty, several of them were shook from the branch.

Had Poran known anything about Abrahamic mythology, he almost certainly would have begun rambling on about symbolism relating to Eden when he saw a cluster of apples split open on three angels' heads, the acid within quickly corroding their craniums and scouring their circuitry; instead, however, he simply noticed that the remaining angels were somewhat disoriented and transfixed by the whole thing, and took the opportunity to slip out beneath their legs.

Having done so, he quickly began fleeing with little to no concern for anyone but his own damned self. Just need to get up nice and high, where that steel colossus can't see me, and I'll be fine. Waiting is all too often the simplest path to victory. And he very nearly did this.

"Sex and death! Hunger and pain! Is this what life is, sacrifices of the rite?"

The flutter of his wings slowed, his ascent changing to a hover. He looked back as the angels rearranged themselves, preventing Taelia's escape; one of them began gesticulating in an angry manner.

"That is what you are showing this new being, this is what you are teaching it, with your strongest actions. What will it become, drowned in a sea of id? Memento mori, sacrifices! Remember that you will die. That, you can not change."

And the Leskrin stared out at the wreckage and flame, at the corpses no longer resurrected, but simply left to languish in dirt and muck, occasionally being crushed into the dirt by another stomp from the Godbot.

"But what you can change is how your lives echo into eternity. You, far more than most, must remember that."

And he looked at Lucifer, dodging the Godbot's strikes, yet always being grazed by them; striking back, but in a way that never quite penetrated His thick plating. She had accepted her fate - to put on a show of a fight. To fight just enough that it would be a spectacle, not enough to actually change anything.

He looked back at the square of angels, who were raising sidearms, pointing them towards Taelia.

And Nempelio Poran kala-Sun rushed back towards them, frantically playing what was less of a tune and more of a horrible wreckage of chords, the
massive and garishly-colored flashes blinding the angels (and, for the matter, Taelia as well.) Seeing them raise their hands to their eyes, he quickly swooped down to Taelia and whispered to her: "Run. Quickly."

She complied, shoving aside two of the angels; the bard hung back, continuing the flashes. One of the angels let out a growl and shot out an arm to grab Poran, slowly beginning to crush him. The dazzling lights faded quickly. "Goodbye, sinner. Have a pleasant day, and we will be pleased to continue your torment in Inferno Beta, coming this Easter."


At roughly this time, Alluvion was wandering fairly aimlessly, searching for Olivia but frequently getting lost or distracted. Honestly, at this point, he was more or less ready to give up, as these masochists and robots were hard enough to relate to even for those who hadn't related primarily to fish.

That said, he decided to soldier on, if only because there was no particular reason to stay in one place. Occasionally an angel or demon would confront him, but the most their guns did was cause him to evaporate a little; nothing particularly threatening, and after a couple of holes blown into the elemental were just as soon patched up, the assailants gave up and walked away.

Probably the most unpleasant aspect of the situation, for Alluvion anyway, was that he had no real idea where to go. Rivers were much simpler; any particular branch was flowing in a specific direction (i.e. whatever qualified as "out to sea") about 99.9% of the time, and distinctly inward the other .1%. The most navigation one had to do as a river god was picking a tributary, and honestly he hadn't even had to do much of that. But now he was in a roughly circular and incredibly vast and enclosed area; downhill would only take him to the center, which a rampaging Godbot was currently occupying; and there was quite certainly no "out" or "in" to speak of.

That said, it came as a major relief when he stumbled upon a group of angels who were actually sticking in one spot and attacking him; and, as he approached them, he was even happier to see someone he knew, namely Poran. That said, it struck him that it would be rather difficult to strike up a conversation if the Leskrin was being crushed, so he walked up and gently tapped the shoulder of the angel holding him.

Before Alluvion had even had a chance to say "excuse me", the angel had begun twitching a bit, its grip loosening.
Poran quickly flitted behind the elemental, grinning widely. "Thank you very much, friend Alluvion!"

The elemental nodded. "I am glad to be of assistance. Would you happen to know where-" this was interrupted by an energy blast through his chest-analogue, which was followed by an angelbot cocking his head and blinking- "Olivia has gotten off to?"

Poran shook his head. "Alas, I do not. I'm afraid I have rather pressing things to be doing right now; the rewriting of fate, destruction of gods, etcetera. I'll be glad to help you afterwards, though!" At this, the bard plucked the strings of his harp and flitted off to catch up with Taelia, whistling as he did so.

Alluvion stared for a moment, then turned around. "I do not suppose any of you know where I can find the woman I am looking for?"


The branches continued to grow and to climb up the Godbot's leg and tighten around it, their apples looking like warts on the titan. As He continued to stomp around, apple after apple dislodged, smashing apart on His foot, the acid seeping inside of it.

Integrity (L-FOOT): 95%

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the construction of the Godbot is that He had never really been programmed to respond to damage, because he wasn't especially expected to be damaged. He had been fireproofed, coldproofed, bulletproofed, and mostly spearproofed. Acid had never been especially considered.

Integrity (L-FOOT): 85%

What emergency protocols had been added were buggy and poorly-referenced; it's rather difficult to find the time and budget to build a second gigantic warbot, so everyone had pretty much just assumed "hey, He's huge and immune to anything He'll encounter, so we should really give him a simple combat routine and focus on Lucifer's. She's easier to make duplicates of and her part of the battle is more focused on dodging and such."

Integrity (L-FOOT): 67%

And thus, everyone present, most of all Lucifer herself, was shocked when, of all things that could possibly have happened...

Integrity (L-FOOT): 54%
Integrity (R-FOOT): 98%

The Godbot stumbled, and Lucifer's spear - as always, thrust just enough to penetrate the smallest layer of armor - smashed in deep, and when extracted, it took a clump of wires with it.

Integrity (L-FOOT): 46%
Integrity (R-FOOT): 93%
Integrity (R-ARM): 88%

Re: The Wretched Rite - Round Two - Inferno Alpha
Originally posted on MSPA by Dragon Fogel.

Deep within Taelia's mind, the Omen stirred.

The Godbot was losing. The Omen's contract, however, had specifically required it to delay the Godbot. If the Godbot were destroyed, whether by the demon's own machinations or not, that would be regarded as a failure. And even in a synthetic Hell, failure to fulfill a contract would carry severe penalties.

Were it in control of this body, the Omen could act directly. Unfortunately, it had to settle for merely influencing Taelia. And as she was currently more afraid of the Godbot than of the fallen angelbot pulling wires out of it with a lance, she was unlikely to respond to a simple suggestion of "save the big one".

No, a more subtle approach was needed.

"A flood," Taelia muttered, only half-aware she was even saying the words.

"Ooh, I like floods," Adelaide said suddenly, much to Taelia's surprise. "Sounds much more fun than a boring old wedding."

"What... How long have you been there?"

"Not sure," Adelaide said with a grin. "Was chasing after the minister and my fiancee, but I got lost somewhere along the way. But more importantly, what's this about a flood?"

Taelia looked back towards the battle between Lucifer and the Godbot.

"It's... just an idea," Taelia said, sounding very unsure of it. "But the big robot's circuitry is exposed. If we could flood the area, it might short it out, and get rid of those plants too."

The Omen knew that the idea would fail; the contract had listed the Godbot's technical specifications to give the Omen a better idea of viable options. Most of it had been a confusing mess, but one point that had stood out was that the Godbot was completely waterproofed; even exposed circuitry would resist a shock. A flood would do it no harm, but the resulting chaos might allow it to regain the advantage.

"Oh, there's Lucy!" Adelaide noted, glancing at the battle. "She looks to be holdin' out all right. Maybe we can have this silly wedding after all, just need to find the bride... Oh, sorry, thinking out loud there. Yeah, that whole flood idea sounds good."

"But where would we find enough water?" Taelia mused, ignoring Adelaide's ramblings. The rusalka laughed.

"You just leave that to me, dearie. I know where there's plenty o' water."

And she ran off before Taelia could ask for any further explanation. She grabbed an impbot selling transfers to Inferno Beta before jumping into a stray puddle.


Olivia was lost. Worse, she was increasingly aware that she wasn't alone in her mind.

Her plant's whispering had grown to an unintelligible scream when the trees had emerged. It was frightened by them, somehow, and it was making that very clear to its host.

The distraction was such that Olivia didn't even notice Alice until the Tsote shook her by the shoulders.

"Oh, I'm sorry," Olivia said. "My... mind is on other things at the moment."

"Did you do something with these plants?" Alice demanded. "And have you seen Adelaide? We're supposed to be getting married, and our minister is busy fighting a god or something."

"It wasn't me!" Olivia protested. "Or my unwanted guest, either. The stupid thing is screaming at me about the rest of these things, not that I have a clue what it's trying to say."

She paused for a moment. "Wait. You and Adelaide... we are talking about the rusalka, right... married?"

"Look, I don't expect you to understand," Alice grumbled. "I was about to get married and then suddenly Hell is about to blow up or freeze over or get overrun by plants, I don't even know, I just know I was promised a wedding and I am not letting any apocalypse or whatever get in the way, do you realize how many times I have been disappointed in my life, it is not going to happen again this time, I am marrying Adelaide and I don't need your approval or anyone else's."

Olivia blinked.

"All right, fine, let's find your fiancee," she sighed. "If only to give me something to think about besides how upset my plant is."


"Damaging Inferno Alpha property is punishable by having your punishment suspended!" the impbot shouted. Adelaide bashed it against the floor again.

"Aw, shaddup," she grumbled. She'd hoped that the imp would short out in the water, but there had been no such luck. She might have stopped to consider that this could mean the Godbot wouldn't be affected either, if she wasn't so eager to cause a flood for its own sake.

"If you continue, I will report you to management and recommend against your transfer to Inferno Beta!"

"Wherever that is, sounds borin'," Adelaide mumbled. "Now break the damn floor already!"

She slammed the impbot against the floor one final time, creating a large hole. She quickly vanished into the water, as the Styx began draining into the Sixth Circle.


The Omen watched the torrent of water as it began to pour down from the distant ceiling. Excellent. The water would offer the Godbot a chance to fight back, and would likely delay it enough. And if worst came to worst, Taelia could likely be persuaded to drown one of the other contestants for a quick escape. There was plenty of time to prepare; the floor was holding steady, and the distance between circles was immense. It would take the water at least fifteen minutes to hit the bottom and actually cause a flood. At the rate Lucifer was fighting, that would be well before the Godbot took any serious damage.

All that remained was to keep Taelia's body safe, which took no prompting from the Omen at all. It just had to ensure she kept an eye on the battle, in case it needed to act swiftly.

Taelia searched for a safe spot, but continued watching the battle. Lucifer's strikes were hitting more often, and tearing out more and more wires; but the Godbot was resilient, nevertheless. Hopefully the flood would do its job.

"What the fuck, Adelaide," a voice behind her grumbled. "What. The. Fucking. Fuck."

Olivia just stared awkwardly. The distraction wasn't working, her plant seemed to be trying to yell something at her but it was incomprehensible. It also seemed to be desperate to take over, but she resisted as best as she could; she was not about to lose her freedom just because the plant was shouting loudly.

"Uh, it was my idea," Taelia said nervously. "I thought a flood might short out the big robot..."

"Yeah, that's great," Alice snarled. "Did you ever stop for a moment and think the fuck about what it might do to everyone else? Where the fuck are we supposed to go?"

"The elevator's probably safe?" Taelia shrugged. "Or, you know, higher ground in general. I don't think that river's going to flood the whole circle."

"Yeah, just fucking most of it. You are so fucking dumb, I don't even care, I just want to find fucking Adelaide and get fucking married and then who gives a fuck what happens."

"Oh, there you are, love!" Adelaide said, emerging from a nearby puddle. "Lost track of you in that whole chase."

"Adelaide, what the fuck is this, you've started a flood!" Alice screamed. "Now come on, let's go see Lucy and get this fucking wedding done, I am not letting the world end without a fucking wedding."

"Works for me, love." Adelaide turned to Olivia, who was holding her head and groaning. "So are these two our bridesmaids?"

"Sure, why the fuck not," Alice grumbled. "Let's go." She grabbed Olivia's wrist and dragged the dazed botanist off with her; Adelaide grabbed Taelia by the arm and followed closely behind.

This had not been part of the Omen's plan. It considered breaking free, but it was not confident that Taelia could handle three potential opponents at once. Better to play along for now, and flee at the first opportunity.


"What are you doing here?" Lucy asked. "Can't you see I'm trying to die?"

She poked a large hole in the side of the Godbot's head.

"Don't seem ta be doin' too great a job of it," Adelaide remarked.

"We're here to get married," Alice said firmly. "You can die after that if you really want to, but I was promised a wedding and I'm not leaving without one.

Lucy sighed as she sliced off the Godbot's fist.. "All right then. Take your places, everyone."

Alice and Adelaide stood next to each other, while a baffled Talia and distracted Olivia stood behind them. Lucy began reciting her preprogrammed lines.

"Dearly beloved..." she began, uppercutting the Godbot in the chin. It stumbled back slightly in surprise. "We are gathered here today..." Lucy swiftly flew back as the Godbot awkwardly punched at her with its remaining hand.

" join this woman, Alice..." Lucy countered with her spear, making a small gash in between two of the Godbot's fingers. It swung its handless arm at her in retaliation, to little effect; it seemed to be factoring its detached hand into its range calculations.

"...and this woman, Adelaide..." Lucy saw the discarded hand and had a thought. As the Godbot flailed ineffectually at her, she flew down to the ground and pierced her spear into its wiring.

" holy matrimony!" Lucy lifted the hand into the air on her spear, and then flew back up and slapped the Godbot in the face.

"Why can't more weddin's be like this?" Adelaide mused.


Poran had gotten lost somewhere along the line; wherever Taelia had gone, it wasn't here. He briefly considered heading back to Alluvion for more protection when he heard Lucifer's words. They were strange enough to draw his attention.

He looked back, and saw four women, Taelia among them, gathered not far away from the Godbot. He briefly considered greeting them; it would be chivalrous, and there was safety in numbers.

And then he noticed the incoming torrent of water, and concluded that for the moment, chivalry was a luxury, and there was more safety in not drowning. He scrambled up to the highest ground he could find.

The same shouting drew Alluvion's attention. He turned towards the great battle, and saw Olivia standing nearby. Oh good, now he could find her and take her to safety. He rushed past a pair of angelbots, shorting them out, and called out.

"Olivia!" he shouted. "I've been looking for you!"

She didn't seem to respond. He decided to move closer.

M., for its part, was satisfied that Olivia was in good hands. It noticed the incoming water with some concern, but not much; the new plants would be resilient to any impurities, and the water would merely help them to grow.

It was more concerned for itself and the Ivy/walker. It decided to follow more closely in case the river spirit could not help her, and once her safety was assured or the risk of flooding was too great, it would retreat.

Olivia was, by this point, largely oblivious to her would-be rescuers, as well as to the wedding she was ostensibly attending. All of her concentration was focused on keeping the plant from taking over.

Somewhere along the line, it switched tactics, choosing to focus its control on just one small part of Olivia, but the one part that might allow her to understand.

And Olivia felt herself lose control of her eyes.

They stared at the rapidly-growing plants, and Olivia could see them as her parasite did. There was something unnatural surrounding them.

Her plant wanted to save them.

Satisfied, the plant relinquished control. Olivia looked around her, at the machines and the sinners and the raging torrent of water. The plants might tear this world apart, but honestly... Was such a place as this worth saving?

She walked toward the nearest plant, just as Alluvion rushed up to her.

"Hello," he said. "I need to take you to the top level."

"No," Olivia said. "I am... we are needed here."

Before Alluvion or Malus could react, she touched one of the plants, and it began to grow over her.


"Do you, Alice, take Adelaide to be your lawfully wedded wife?"

"Yes, definitely, hurry up, that water's heading this way."

"Won't be any problem for me, love," Adelaide said with a smile. "Besides, that's the same water you didn't drown in before."

"I almost did!"

"Details, details."

"Ahem! If I may have your attention, ladies..." Lucy continued, knocking out a chunk of the Godbot's shoulder with its severed hand. "Do you, Adelaide, take Alice to be your lawfully wedded wife?"

"Hmm. Gonna have to think about that," she mused. "Give me a minute here."

Alice sighed. "You always have to be so difficult, don't you?"

"Wouldn't be any fun if I didn't."

By this point, Taelia had already decided to leave the wedding party. It wasn't as if they really needed her. She climbed up the nearby slope.

With any luck, the Tsote would drown and the Godbot would win and the Omen could get back to its plans... wait, why was Taelia climbing back down, didn't she know how dangerous that was?

She couldn't do it. She couldn't leave Alice to the mercy of that water. She'd help Olivia too, if she could find her. Taelia grabbed Alice and ran.

"Oh, sure, leave me for another woman!" Adelaide shouted. "Maybe I won't marry you after all!"

And then the waters rushed over her.

The Godbot was unaffected by the water, but the sheer force of it pushed Lucy aside. She flew away to regroup; this was unusual enough that her programming allowed her to flee. But she was only delaying her fate. The Godbot's programming would lead it to deal the final blow soon, however, and she was not allowed to avoid that. She was even programmed to fly right into it if necessary.

She saw it make the first motions of a process embedded deep into her programming. This was it.

She was going to die.

And the wedding wasn't even finished.

The water did not concern Alluvion; he was made of it, after all. It didn't seem to be particularly pleasant water, but he was sure he could keep himself purified.

Olivia had no such luck. But she was already tangled up in the vines, doing whatever it was she was doing. Alluvion had tried to pull her free, but found it impossible. He could do nothing except allow the water to catch him, and then he did his best to swim to the surface.

As it happened, the path he chose took him right by the Godbot's leg. And the Godbot was not, as it turned out, protected from belief.

Lucy watched in surprise as the electricity poured through the Godbot's damaged body. It collapsed into the flooded waters.

The Omen was worried. Its fears seemed well-founded when two especially large demonbots flew in behind it.

"You have failed in your contract," one of them said. Alice stared at it blankly, as did Taelia, though she had a vague fear in the back of her mind.

"The punishment is immediate termination," added the second robot. It pierced her heart with a pitchfork.

Olivia could feel the plants. She could feel the nanomachines feeding them, and when the waters of the Styx rushed over her, she could feel the pollutants.

She decided to let one problem take care of another. Throughout the planet, the nanomachines followed command processes they didn't realize they had, and made their way to the Sixth Circle. They leapt from the plants into the Styx, purifying it and then destroying themselves.

Her work done, Olivia's life force left her, and flowed into the plants.

Re: The Wretched Rite - Round Three - DSRS Darwin
Originally posted on MSPA by Akumu.

“Holy fuck!” Alice screamed, as the barely-teenaged girl standing not a foot away from her was skewered on a massive pitchfork. The demonbot hefted its weapon upwards, carrying Taelia’s limp corpse on its tines.

“Thank you for choosing Inferno Alpha for your eternal damnation needs.” the other demonbot intoned, and then the two of them flew away on rocket-powered bat wings. Alice stared agape at their receding forms, then turned with a jerk and ran back down the hill towards the raging waters.

“Adelaide!” she yelled at the froth, “Adelaide!

But Adelaide was no longer there.

- - -
Those five who remained of the original eight found themselves in darkness. Alluvion, feeling the presence of the others nearby, called out to them timidly.


The cry rang off of unseen surfaces in the dark, rolling like thunder.

“Mister River!”

“Ach, ye don’t have to bloody yell.”

”Yeah, yeah, we’re here.”

The tick-tacking of claws on a hard floor was all the response that M. gave as it began to stalk off into the dark to try to get a better angle on the Walkers. It had made it a few steps when it was illuminated by a soft white light. It froze, assessing the situation.

Barrabas Poe stood in the middle of the now slightly distended ring of beings, underlit by the glowing bulk of the glassy ground beneath his feet. Around the six of them, a stormy sea was frozen, twenty-foot waves towering on either side. The waves continued beyond, seen dimly through the translucent material of the first and above their crests, the sea curving up and around to fill the sky. Frozen spray drifted through the middle of the space, and in the center a white sphere sat, hard and silent.

“Thank you, sacrifices,” Barrabas began, “You have—”

“You incredible bastard!” Adelaide cut him off, advancing with tooth and claw, “You sent us t’hell, you lit’rally sent us—”

The rusalka suddenly froze in mid-stride; the other competitors found themselves equally unable to move or speak. Poran clattered to the ground as his wings ceased to flap.

“Please, if you do not restrain yourself, I have no choice but to enforce Restraint myself. I can’t apply the rules unequally, so you are only causing your fellows to suffer with your recklessness.” Barrabas tugged at the at the hem of his jacket, smoothing it out. “As I was saying, thank you for your decisions in the previous phase of the rite. Things have clearly calmed down since you were here last. You have shown the Unborn that putting aside immediate desires can lead to greater benefit in the future, and some of you have even demonstrated true selflessness.”

A frown creased Barrabas’s face.

“I am concerned that those of you who most directly chose to work within the system are no longer with us. I can’t condone flagrant violation of rules, that way leads to anarchy, but given the structure we are enmeshed in now...”

The old man shook his head, pushing aside complicated thoughts and returning to the matter at hand.

“With the previous dual sacrifice, the rite will be accelerated. The Unborn has retreated into itself, but its gaze is still upon you, concentrated on each of you more now than ever. I wish you luck.”

Barrabas made a gesture of dismissal, and the rest vanished.

They reappeared, unrestrained once again, in a cacophony of light and sound. Amber lamps strobed and piercing tones were interspersed with a recorded voice asking the listener to please make their way calmly to the exits. Barrabas’s voice came into their minds, muting out the background noise momentarily.

“This is Deep Sea Research Station Darwin. You won’t be here long, because it won’t be here long. Something has gone terribly wrong, and to make things worse, the facilities for rapid evacuation are sorely lacking. Tough choices are going to have to be made.”

Re: The Wretched Rite - Round Two - Inferno Alpha
Originally posted on MSPA by MrGuy.

Nick Tesla (No, not that one for God’s sake, and he was really sick of people making cracks about it thank you very much, given that he was a biologist and that Tesla was more of a physicist and engineer) sighed as he stared at the radar. As usual, not a single blip came up. Over the past week, he’d gone from fearing a DRD submarine, to expecting some kind of reconnaissance probe, to hoping desperately for a large and vaguely threatening cephalopod. Slowly, his gaze shifted to the big red button on the console. He grumbled and began his 3,872nd game of cell-phone Solitaire, occasionally glancing out the window (which was, somehow, even more uninteresting than his typically-blank six-color radar screen).

Across the room, Franz chuckled. “Any electric eels today, Nick?”

“Still just as funny as the last thousand times, Warner.”

The engineer shrugged and yawned. “Hey, at least it’s only eight hours a day. I have to work twelve.”

Nick quickly whipped his head around. “You also get paid three times what I do and get to actually do important things, jackass. I swear to God –”


Both men quickly shifted their attention to the radar screen, Warner scooting his chair over to look at it more closely. Now visible was a large yellow blip – “Unidentified Organic Object.” The two men shared a glance. Then, Tesla waved dismissively. “Whatever. Probably just another narwhal.”

Franz took a deep breath. “…Yeah, probably.” He quickly returned to his station, fiddling with a small piece of machinery. “Hey, Nick. Do you know if–”

“I can’t help you with your goddamn wiring, Warner. Do it yourself.” Though he briefly looked back at his phone, Nick found his eyes returning to the radar screen. On a hunch, he checked his guide to see if blips normally came in such a large size. He was relieved to see that, in fact, they did, and it was rarely if ever anything dangerous.

Ping ping ping ping ping-ing-ing-ing-ing-ing-ing…

Three or four equally-sized yellow blips, with several tiny orange blips (Unidentified Inorganic Object) trailing behind them, was slightly abnormal. He quickly glanced out the window again. Way in the distance, he could see several scattered green lights, an extreme contrast to the pitch-dark depths of the ocean trench. He squinted, but couldn’t make much out – though he thought he saw the lights outline a tremendous, shapeless silhouette.

He quickly sat back in his chair, breathing more quickly. “Uh… Franz? Can you get a look at this?” The engineer, despite being rather irritated by the interruption, decided that it sounded important enough, and strolled over to the window where Tesla was pointing.

After a rather uncomfortable silence, Warner coughed. “Uh… I’m sure it’s just some anglerfish or something.”

“Anglerfish don’t make big blips, Franz. And they’re sure as hell not inorganic.”

Franz scratched his head. “Well, hell if I know. Maybe they really are sending spy probes.”

“Yeah… that sounds about right.” Nick sighed and began half-heartedly fiddling with his phone again. Franz just continued to stare out at the lights, frowning.

“…Well, if they are sending spy probes, you might want to send an alert, don’t you think?”

“…Yeah. I guess so.” Nick moved his slightly-shaking hand past the big red button, and pressed down on the blue one labeled with a microphone.


Something had, indeed, gone horribly wrong. However, it wasn’t one of those blatantly-obvious-alarms-blaring-everywhere horribly-wrong sorts of thing, like a ruptured window or a sudden air leakage. What happened in this case was, in fact, a single defective communications circuit; this circuit in turn had been ruined due to being packed tightly into a slightly defective crate which could not quite handle the water pressure necessary for delivering things to the bottom of the ocean.

(In retrospect, it would be clear that crates should really be placed inside of submarines rather than made to be especially strong and carried in a trailing net behind one; but at the time, they were already over budget and this method promised to save them $120 per trip and quite a bit of time. The investigation of the wreckage would note that the lack of two or three repair kits was “possibly related.”)

As it happened, the defect in the circuit was minor enough that nothing had come up during testing; obviously, if it had, the project would have been delayed and a new circuit ordered. But nobody realized a replacement was needed, and thus, the alarm that really should have sounded in every sector produced no apparent response in four of them.


Click. Click.

Both men were breaking out in a sweat as they realized what was going on. Franz hastily wiped his brow. “Wh-what are we going to do now?”

Nick closed his eyes, counted to ten, and turned to Franz. “I’ll tell you what. You need to go run up to the directors and tell them what’s going on. I’ll stay here and keep an eye on things.” The engineer quickly saluted and dashed out of the room and down the hallway.

The lookout stared intently at the radar screen, its rhythmic pinging emphasizing the fact that the blips were coming closer and closer. Looking out, he could see the silhouettes more clearly. Was that a tentacle? A fin? Some tremendous, writhing tail? Whatever it was, it was dragging those lights along with it. That thing ought to have destroyed those lights, it’s so huge. Oh, god, they didn’t train these things, did they? Or… oh god, what if they’re bioengineered? Oh god, oh god, oh god…

He glanced down at the blips. The closest yellow one was almost at the center, and it was in the blind spot of the ship; he could fire on it, but damned if he could see it for himself.

He glanced to the side, at that bright red button with the outline of a torpedo on it.

He glanced back at the radar screen and tentatively touched the closest yellow blip. A square quickly formed around it, narrowing in and beeping.

Nick Tesla took a deep breath, said a silent prayer, and fired.

Re: The Wretched Rite - Round Two - Inferno Alpha
Originally posted on MSPA by Jacquerel.

It really shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that a River God would feel a deep spiritual connection with the ocean, pretty much any school child could tell you that all rivers eventually flow to the sea (even if technically they don't). All the water that passes through a river is heading to the ocean, but as it stops being part of the river before it gets there this is a journey that the river itself never actually gets to complete.

The imagery was not lost on Alluvion as he found himself dwarfed by the shadow of an enormous frozen wave. He couldn't help but think that The Unborn was trying to tell him something, though quite what that could be he wasn't certain. He hadn't been one for Signs and Portents himself but you don't get to be a god without at least understanding the basics.

Any allusion to an unfinished journey he could grasp, his progress on the “quest” set for the battlers by Barrabas had been... lacking. He'd done his best in the last round but had spent most of it wandering alone through corridors searching for people, then once he had finally found everyone two people died. Apparently this had been enough to keep the foetal god's keeper happy but it did not satisfy Alluvion at all and he had thus decided he was going to try going it alone wherever he was deposited next instead of wasting so much time searching for the others, though frankly he still wasn't exactly certain about what it was he was supposed to be doing.

No, the part that had Alluvion confused and also a little worried was the stillness of the great arcs of water stretching over his head. Water is not properly alive on it own and if you remove its one animating quality (flow) you might as well call it dead, it even begins to stagnate as a corpse would. Alluvion had a deep-seated aversion to still water and as such found the towering and immutably stationary waves at least as unsettling as they were awe-inspiring, if not more so.

Tentatively he reached out with his gift of waterspeaking... only to be interrupted as Barrabas froze him too, probably for the best. He did not know what kind of message a dead ocean could be trying to convey but it was probably not a good one. Mental communion with a deity as yet unfinished probably would not have ended well for the smaller party, either.

Lost in musing, Alluvion almost physically jumped as he suddenly found himself in a well-lit laboratory walled with rows of water tanks. He hadn't really been listening to Barabbas at all and thus had no idea where he was (not, he thought, that this was likely to matter very much in the grand scheme of things). No particular conclusion had been reached about The Unborn might have been trying to say but here was at least an opportunity to take action, this standing water was something he could actually do something about!
It was only after he'd rammed a fist through the glass side of the first tank that he noticed the cuttlefish inside plaintively waving its arms at him, its brothers watching from the containers at either side. Whoops.

~ ~ ~

It had not thus far been a good day for Junior Researcher Lauren Elizabeth Cohen, coming at the end of a bad week, halfway through an awful month. Her tiny department was understaffed at the best of times but with Lucille recalled to some other “top secret” project and Doctor Kohler entering his second week in the infirmary with little sign of improvement (why didn't they ship him to the surface already? Their work wasn't that classified was it?) she was left as the least qualified member of her team trying to do the work of three people, when her position was only supposed to have been temporary in the first place.

Those Above were convinced that The Enemy were relaying messages through fauna but while they had shipped some suspiciously displaced cuttlefish that they had fished up to various facilities, all that Lauren's team had been able to discover was that they had clearly been operating outside of their natual range and depth (so there was at least something decidedly fishy going on there) and also, in a fit of carelessness, found out that they were incredibly toxic.

She hadn't made any progress at all since Kohler got himself hospitalised and the board was starting to get antsy and she'd made similar headway in trying to help the doctors cook up some kind of antidote. She was stressed by the workload, worried about her colleague, angry that he could have been so stupid and guilty that she was pinning the blame for her own problems on a sick man. With nobody else to take her position there was no chance of getting any surface leave, and stuck in an underwater facility there was no way to escape any of her problems. You weren't allowed down here if you got claustrophobic but for the first time the facilities cramped confines were starting to get to her.

And then of course on top of that one of the new guys rotated to guard duty in this area wouldn't stop following her around and trying out pickup lines. She didn't even know why they needed guards, even in a tense situation like this surely nobody could sneak up on them under the ocean?
She was actually surprised she hadn't been ambushed yet, he was usually waiting around when she went to get herself a coffee around this time but there'd been no sign today and... oh God, had she left the laboratory door unlocked? She could see movement through the frosted glass, damn it.

He'd cornered her in there once before and while he wasn't authorised it wasn't like she could get security to boot him out, he was security. She was pretty sure he'd been holding mirrors up to the tanks to make the fish angry too, they might be captured enemy agents but they were her enemy agents damn it!
Steeling herself for an unpleasant confrontation, she slammed the door open and strode inside.

“Harvey that had better not be you in there! I've told you before that you aren't allowed in here and if you've been bothering my fish again so help me I... I...” her coffee dropped to the floor.

One of her cuttlefish stared back at her from eye level, swimming perfectly happily inside the head of a... big, watery snake? The thing cocked its head to the side to stare at her with one large yellow eye and opened a mouth that was far too wide, speaking perfectly fluent English.

”Is Harvey the blonde-haired walker with the mirror? You should not let him do that you know, they think that they are looking at a competitor.
Additionally there is not enough space in here, you should help me put these back where you found them.”

She shut the door again.

Had she been questioning the necessity of guards? Never mind that, they were a wonderful idea. They could come down here and either deal with it or drag her away to a nice padded cell.
Holding the door handle closed with one hand (though the creature hadn't actually attempted to leave yet) she stretched over to shout into the (alas, malfunctioning) intercom a couple of feet along the wall.

“Harvey! Harvey!!
Do your job god damnit, get your ass over here right now!
We're being invaded!”
Re: The Wretched Rite - Round Three - DSRS Darwin
Originally posted on MSPA by engineclock.

It's a thaaa-aankless job, but somebody's got to do it
Re: The Wretched Rite - Round Three - DSRS Darwin
Originally posted on MSPA by engineclock.

Epsilon-Epsilon-Rho sniffed the air inside the narrow duct he’d hidden in, and smiled.

It was a senseless and common habit he’d acquired. Since his implantation he’d watched the researchers do it when a flask broke or a valve cracked. Sniff, sniff. He watched the ones in the sick bay gulping back their fluids through their nasal flues. Nearsighted rats in cages scenting their handlers, running in cramped circles behind their bars. He sniffed because the air was cold, and wet, and he could feel the atmosphere changing, growing thicker. He sniffed because he thought it was funny.

Sniff. Lauren-Elizabeth-Cohen-Junior-Researcher-Five-Foot-Seven-False-Red-Hair’s feeble soprano was echoing in another room. He could hear her complaining about something, always. She was the gentlest of the three. Her voice was a familiar commentary on his rounds when he patrolled this sector. Come on, come on, do your job, Harvey, she muttered in that queer way the scientists did when they were certain no one could hear them. Rats isolated in a cage too long develop complexes. Walk by. Don’t come in here, dammit, this report is late enough…

He liked to share the conversations he thought up with her. How is the weather? Fine, Harvey. We’re underwater. Seen any good movies lately? That’s very funny, Harvey. All I’ve seen this week are reports. Do those legs go all the way up?

She would tilt her head ten degrees forward and look at her left shoe. Always her left. It hinted at an unstable psychological landscape.

Sniff, sniff.

The miniscule sensors at the nape of his neck unfolded like fiddlehead ferns and delicately spread out into the damp air, invisible in the low light of the vent. Cool, stale air wafted through them and he tasted water and CO2, peroxide and Coffea arabica burnt to an inch of its life. It smelled strange. The primary air filtration system had been malfunctioning since he’d been planted in this station but the workers here either lacked the attention or supplies to repair it. In a few months the oxygen levels would be insufficient to support aerobic life. In a few weeks it would be difficult to breathe without a respirator.

And yet… this much vapor in the air preceding a breach was unusual. Unexpected, uncalculated. His sensors had been calibrated to tune out the frequencies of water for fear the deep ocean currents would deafen him, so it was possible a rupture had formed without his knowledge since last analysis. There were thousands of potential vulnerabilities in the station’s hull in any given sector, hairline fractures that would buckle under certain pressure applied at precisely determined angles. Terminal decompression wasn’t a concern for him. Poor Lauren-Elizabeth, though. Poor rats.

His sensors retreated into his skin, folding their filia away into neatly honeycombed subdermal compartments. Quiet images of the chemical and electrical strata of the station faded from his mind. Their implications were… intriguing. He pored through gigabytes of atmospheric data in the gradual open and close of an eyelid as an image began to form in his mind over a preprogrammed map of the station. A critical breach in the hull? No. But a large amount water. A catastrophic anomaly in the east and south sectors. How exciting. How new.

Epsilon-Epsilon-Rho- Rho to his handler, Harvey to his alleged occupation- allowed his head to turn in both directions thoughtfully. Another base affectation. Where Lauren-Elizabeth was busy generating impressive amounts of adrenaline and heady cortisol there was a scent of chemical purity, drastically less diluted than what the station’s deteriorating filters sluggishly churned out. Someone’s store of surface water? But no, why would that lead poor Lauren to panic? Her alarm did not concern him yet. Nor the wailing evacuation sirens in the northwest corridors, for that matter. Organics were far too prone to fear and dissolution for any meaningful consequence to be applied to their presence.


The other anomaly was a beacon. No such purity as the first source, instead a simmering fecundity that read as a tapestry of Chlamydomonas and Euglena and the unviable spawn of Lymnaea stagnalis: a biochemical portrait of some rural English mircosystem caught in the bloom of a late summer. Misplaced by a few thousand miles and one major oceanic body, but there it was. He savored it for a few more respiratory cycles. More a pity that the station was dying. Only in its death throes was it becoming something worthy of documentation.

The vents permeating the station’s walls were precisely constructed to minimize the use of space in an already undersized facility, yet they posed no challenge to Rho as he flowed through ducts no wider than a human’s arm and clung to surfaces polished slick by years of ambient moisture. His silicone skeleton compressed and warped with a dancer’s grace as he maneuvered just meters over the heads of unsuspecting personnel. What would he do if the vents collapsed one day? Most were corroded already. Lie. Perhaps claim he was attempting to sneak contraband nicotine into his lungs. A common vice. His cover persona was not an intelligent man, too thick-necked and fond of sporting to attract the suspicion of the frantic scientists. He was rather proud of it, in truth.

The symphony of aqueous growth was overwhelming at short range. Rho paused in an elongated arc over its source, tasting the air. Human as well, he thought with interest. But cold, and dead. Biotic decomposition in mineral-heavy water. Drowning…?

He fell from the duct like a cat, and was very surprised to land on a young woman, who punched him in the eye.

“Fuck!” she said, splashing in the pool of water that now occupied where a bathroom had formerly been, flimsy barricades sinking pathetically into the greenish depths at bizarre angles. Impossible. He ignored the girl’s vulgar expressions and knelt down at the water’s edge, running his fingers through the fluid. It was ever so slightly warm. Impossible.

“Hey,” the female said. “Hey, y’fell on me. Y’gonna say sorry?” Her voice was a thick West Country butchery of vowels and glottal stops, nothing like the schooled Midwestern of Lauren-Elizabeth that occasionally hinted at a long-suppressed drawl. He recorded the exclamation with a subtle flexing of his throat. This was going places Rho felt were beyond his depth.

“Apologies,” he murmured, ducking his head in a general acknowledgment of wrongdoing. Microscopic pores drank in samples of the water for storage and further consideration as he withdrew his hand, leveling his gaze at the young woman with polite interest. He relaxed his face into an appropriate expression of surprise at her nudity and bizarre coloration but kept his voice steady. Even false emotions could prove distracting. “Who are you?” he said, enough suspicion to encourage response but not enough to intimidate. He kept his volume low.

“Mrs. Alice Somethin’-or-Another,” the girl said proudly, sticking out a narrow hand. Her fingernails had been grown into the shape of talons and were black with algae and oxidization, indicative of processes Rho could only begin to imagine. An effect of the misplaced water? “But I go by Adelaide. Am I still in Hell?”

Rho shook her hand with gentle formality. Thousands of scenarios sprang to his mind, all more unlikely than the next. Another Coleoid spy, so soon? Perhaps. Their use of common cuttlefish, their mundane relatives, proved their willingness to sink to such desperate levels. Perhaps this corpse-woman was a project of theirs his cartel had not been informed about, some unforeseen leap in synthetic technology. Tiny rasps ground at the base of the girl’s palm, painlessly collecting cells samples as she withdrew her hand from his. “Harvey Waters, Class C security,” he told her. “I’m afraid you’re not supposed to be here.”

“M’not supposed to be anywhere,” the girl said sullenly. She was attractive for her ethnographic region and presumed social status. To a human her appearance might be disconcerting; he imagined this was much the point. Since when had the Coleoids understood sex appeal? “Supposed to be drowning people and seducin’ wayward souls and that. Can’t take a break without every man and his mother commentin’ on it. The thanks I get for trying! Why’re you in the ceiling, anyway?”

“Nicotine dependence.”

“Nickawhat now?” The girl squinted at the cramped bathroom, apparently only now noticing her surroundings. She was dead, he could smell that from a league away. Quite dead. No heartbeat or pulse, but her cells were without a doubt of human origin. A nanomechanical animation system might be keeping her from deteriorating, but why would a Coleoid spy approach the station so openly? No agent of theirs had ever managed to pass for human. Their pale, shambling attempts had been destroyed the instant they opened their toothless mouths.

So not a Coleoid at all, then. How interesting.

“Shame about the tensions between your kind and the Lynch-Tanaka Oceanic Society,” Rho said blandly, leaning into her and raising his voice just enough to ensure that no syllable of his would go misheard. “I understand your relations have been strained ever since the destruction of Suzerain Architeuthis’ youngest egg grouping outside of Station Curie. I have proof that Lynch-Tanaka was responsible. I am eager to see if your cold war is as prepared to break as my cartel predicts it is. We can sell you information that will guarantee your victory if you agree to our ceasefire terms with your military.”

The girl just looked at him as though he’d spouted Babylonian.

How interesting.

“I apologize for that,” Rho said, standing up and straightening his belt so that the handgun at his side was more prominent. He had some questions for whoever thought electroweapons would be a good idea in an undersea laboratory. “Please do not repeat any of it unless your audience appears to be cephalopodian in nature. I am afraid I must ask you to accompany me to a holding cell now for further interrogation, although I will not attempt to place any restraints upon you or move to prevent your escape until that point.”

Adelaide stared at him and frowned. No reaction to information that could turn a hostile stalemate into all-out war in the right ears. Not even a hint of interest. “Uh. Right. I guess I’ll… be goin’, then. Have y’seen another girl around here, by the way, purple skin, bit dour in the face, mid-size tits? Wearin’ some kinda tatty coat?”

“I have not,” Rho replied dutifully.

“S’alright,” she said, mostly to herself. “I’ll find her. Just got married in Hell, y’know, did the whole death-doin’-part thing, eager to get to the cosummatin’ bit, if you know what I mean.” She elbowed Rho’s shin and gave a wink that would have been considered blatant in Vaudeville.

“I’m afraid I don’t. If you are going to escape, now is an appropriate time.”

“Well, I thought it was funny,” the girl snapped. She flashed him a rude gesture and dove beneath the water’s surface with inhuman speed. A cascade of sluggish ripples mopped at the tiles as a sink collapsed with a tired groan and splashed into the pool behind her, drenching Rho in decades of organic chaos and decay. He allowed himself a grin.

As the bathroom behind him began to collapse only weeks ahead of schedule, Epsilon-Epsilon-Rho closed his eyes as if lost in concentration and hummed a short, precise tune. The thousands of dormant viruses he’d programmed into the station’s central and subsidiary processing units since his implantation whirred quietly into life at his command, pulsing gently in an electronic web only he could sense. To the station’s human overseers the immediate change would be negligible. Even long-term it would only appear that certain processes had slowed to an amount creditable to hardware decay or a clandestinely reduced budget.

Of course, he did also ensure that every alarm still functioning in Station Darwin stopped doing so, as a side effect of the activation.

The experiment had gained some unforeseen variables.

RE: The Wretched Rite - Round Three - DSRS Darwin

Sometimes, on a rainy day, there will be someone who simply stands in it. One is compelled wonder about such a person. Who are they? Why are they just standing there? Are they cold? Or do they need to cool off? What reason could they have? The mind sends to the person, because it wants to understand. But no one ever approaches them. Whatever their reasons, they are their own- it is their choice to allow the rain to chill them to the bone.
Sometimes, when it is foggy or dark, one might even wonder if that person is at person at all.


Dr. Johns woke up. He had been dreaming for the first time in a while. As he forced himself to an upright position, he began losing the dream's details. Something about rain? He got up and stretched. His muscles protested a little, being used properly for the first time in four weeks. He felt... alright today. In fact, he didn't know why he had been confined to this bed for weeks in the first place. He had just been so tired. So, so very tired. No, it wasn't only that. He just couldn't continue working. There was no point, somehow. His fervor for research and experimentation had just died, suddenly. More than anything else, he had wanted to leave. He wanted to change anything, everything, and go somewhere else- leaving this choking feeling of emptiness behind. And there was that dripping in his head...

But he was alright, now. Luckily, he was too important for them to send back to the surface. Dr. Johns forced a smile as he checked out of the medbay. He shook some vigor into his step as he exited. There was nothing wrong with him, he was fine. Great, actually. As he mentally patted himself on the back, he bumped into Lucille.

"Lucille?" He asked, recognizing his new transfer. She looked at him with glassy, dark eyes. The same eyes he saw in the mirror four weeks ago. "Hello, sir..." Her eyes fluttered. He caught her as she stumbled.

Johns gestured to the attendant at the front desk to help Lucille, as thoughts rushed in his mind. What was going on? Was it some kind of sickness? No, if it was, more would have caught it. His forced smile left him as he came upon a revelation. The experiment had probably gone bad.


The Inundating Rain stepped out of the pool of thoughts and wasted wishes. It shook its cloak- no water came off. The eel swimming inside of its skull slithered quickly, disliking the change in environment. A small fish in its mouth dish breached and fell out. Slowly, it reached out and caught the fish, and put it back where it belonged. It then noticed that something was wrong.

"Where's the rain?" it said, in a hollow voice.

Thousands and thousands of meters up, a cloud formed and began to grow dense. Moments later, a light rain began to fall.

The Inundating Rain opened its ruined umbrella. The rain still was not falling. It looked up.

A ceiling.

A cold, rapid fury grew inside of it. Why. Why a ceiling? It was pointless.

The cloud began spiraling, drawing other clouds in, devouring them. The rain began falling harder, faster, faster than the gravity guiding it. It pattered against the ocean and... pierced it. The droplets, frozen, pierced four hundred meters and finally stopped their descent. Slowly, other droplets began piercing deeper and deeper...

The Inundating Rain waited. The dark anger remained, but it was calm, cold, patient.

Dr. Johns rushed to his lab. He was cold. He wanted to leave. The dripping in his head became stronger.

That was what he was afraid of.

"Jones!" he yelled at the guard at his door, who was slouched over. "JONES!"

He got closer to the guard. It was no good, he realized. Jones' unconscious, glazed eyes stared at the ground.

Dr. Johns grimaced and took the man's sidearm. He could already feel whatever it was weighing down on him again.

What did I do? What have I done? It was just so simple. The thought engine and the rainwater. The water that always falls. I hoped. I hoped it would...

He shook his head. His hopes were probably gone, now. This didn't mean anything anymore. He just had to make his own amends. Then... then he'd go somewhere. Somewhere nice. Sunny.

He opened the door and came face to face with The Inundating Rain.


The Inundating Rain slowly turned his head towards the man.

"w-who are you? How'd you get..." The man paused, realizing what he was looking at. "I can't... how... how did something like you... I've got to-" He stopped talking suddenly and drew his gun up.

The Inundating Rain stared at the weapon. How dangerous. And it was not raining yet. It was getting impatient- a cold agitation swam through it. Dangerous. It would have to take it away. The Inundating Rain weightlessly stepped forward.

Johns gulped as the monster approached him slowly. His hand shook. He felt the dripping even stronger now- it felt like rain. He could actually feel its coldness, on his shoulders, on his arm.
"This is my fault..."
He pulled the trigger.

Nothing happened.
Dr. Johns looked at his gun hand. Blood was dripping from it. From his arm, too. Even his shoulders. He couldn't curl his fingers. His tendons were cut.

"The rain is here." The skull faced cloak figure whispered. It reached out and grabbed his gun. It was so weak, but the gun was pried away. When did it get so close? Water began dripping from holds in the ceiling.

The Inundating Rain dropped the gun in its mouth tray. It sunk, disturbing a fish. It stared at the man who had threatened it. Its cold anger rippled. Then, it left him.
The eel shot out of its eye and down the mans throat. The man's eyes bulged, and four seconds later he drowned.

The room began flooding, a thin layer of water coating the ground. The Inundating Rain collected its eel and left. Where ever it walked, shards of rain pieced the ceiling, and water began streaming in. It would turn the ceiling to dust. Then, everything here could drown in peace.

RE: The Wretched Rite - Round Three - DSRS Darwin
Vera had lived her life in the sure and certain knowledge that every action she took was the action she was supposed to take; that no matter what she decided it would lead her to her inevitable success. Vera had lived a life where she could do no wrong, where she could make no mistakes, but recently she had been having doubts. Back on Paradiso Alpha she had reluctantly contemplated the terrifying notion that perhaps fate had no sway here, but back then it had just been an idea with no evidence to back it up. If she'd tried hard enough she could have probably explained away the discrepancies between what she was experiencing and what she had been expecting.

After a long time spent immobilised by a robotic angel with nothing to do but contemplate her fate, Vera had briefly found herself once again amongst the other 'contestants'. It was then, in that brief sliver of time that she had decided to do something she probably should have done sooner; read their fates. Despite everything she hadn't expected to find proof that would invalidate her worldview. She'd expected reassurance; that their fates would be uniformly short and that each of them would end with their death at her hands, or, considering that their fate wasn't noted in hers, their deaths at each other's hands. She wasn't interested in the specifics of what their fates might have been, all that mattered to her was that this was not their fate.

The contestants were frozen in place and Barrabas briefly introduced their next locale to them, but his words were wasted on Vera. Before she knew it she had been deposited into a vast and almost empty submarine dock. Almost empty because while there was a distinct absence of people, there before her was a massive grey vessel idling in the murky black waters. The jetty was dotted with cargo containers here and there and it seemed as though nobody had been in here for a little while. But this was barely relevant to Vera who was busy desperately trying to reconcile this new information with her understanding of the world.

Though it might have seemed that this new information should have conclusively quashed all possibility of fate, beliefs are seldom dismissed as easily as that, especially beliefs which have been demonstrably true for the bulk of someone's life. Vera struggled with the new information, looking for some way that it could be persuaded to fit in with fate as she understood it, and after a moment she had it; one tiny glimmer of a possibility. Fate was vague; an overview of a person's life with very few specific details. To the desperate Tsote it didn't seem beyond the realm of possibility that this entire battle was one overlooked detail. Just because it wasn't specifically mentioned in your fate didn't mean it wasn't fated so to speak. It was something of a reach, that fate would overlook such a circumstance, but it was easier to accept than the alternative.

It didn't take Vera long to realize that if this supposition was true then this would have to be the final round of the battle as neither she, nor any of the other contestants were fated to die so soon. The desperate logic that had brought her this far struggled with this for a moment before finally concluding that the only way that everything would add up would be if they were to escape the battle and return to their home worlds to live out their remaining fate in peace. With this impressive, though largely faulty, piece of logical acrobatics complete Vera really ought to have felt relieved. Unfortunately she did not. There was a tiny nagging doubt that maybe she was wrong that just wouldn't leave her alone, and it was this doubt that prompted her to action, to help ensure that the fate she so desperately wanted to be certain of would play out as she had predicted.

With this resolved and a newfound sense of purpose Vera turned her attention to her surroundings. If she'd been paying more, or really any, attention during Barrabas' introduction she might have paid more attention now to the submarine (apparently named the Beagle) before her. As it was there was no immediate indication that she was deep underwater; there were no huge windows looking out into the depths, or messages left from the architect of the DSRS explaining his philosophical leanings and the reason for the station's construction. The only thing of note was the exit at the far end of the jetty, so she headed for it.

As she made her way to the exit (she was back to her usual stride, though it lacked the confidence and conviction she had once moved with) she fancied she heard something moving nearby and instinctively she reached for her razorwhip, only to find it missing. It took her a moment to remember that that damned Archangel had confiscated it in the previous round. She might have been irritated but she was heading home anyway, she'd just have to get herself a new one. For the moment Vera was pleased, though not surprised to find that fate had provided her with a new weapon; a rusty wrench discarded on top of a nearby cargo container. As a bludgeoning device it was of course woefully inelegant, and substantially different from the deft weapon she was used to, but it was hefty enough that she figured that even inexperienced as she was it would still be effective.

Another noise, a splash somewhere nearby, snapped her back to reality. She spun in the direction of the noise to see a familiar face half submerged in the murky waters.

"Hey," Vera realized she didn't know Adelaide's name, "... puddle lady."

Adelaide turned and saw her, and for about half a second, a fleeting half smile passed across her face and then faded. "Oh. You're th'other one." she sounded disappointed. "Y'seen Alice?"

Vera looked thoughtful for a second before asking "Which one is Alice?"

"Looks like you 'cept she's usually angrier." Adelaide said. "I thought you two knew each other or somethin'." Alice had in fact explained the whole fated enemies to Adelaide during the previous round, but Adelaide hadn't really been paying attention. She'd got that they weren't on friendly terms and had mentally supplied the explanation that Vera was probably her ex.

"Oh right yeah." Vera replied distractedly, as she mentally tried to figure out whether Alice's presence discredited her escape scenario. "No, yeah I haven't seen her. I'm sure she'll show up." Vera couldn't help but notice that with that said Adelaide's attention span seemed to be waning and she opted to push on to the potential escape immediately. "Look I've been thinking and I think it's pretty clear that we need to get out of this battle thing now."

Adelaide had been a little too preoccupied with Alice to really give much thought to the battle itself, but considering the fact that the only person she really felt any attachment to was the person who consistently didn't show up during the transitions, she maybe didn't have all that much of a problem with it. "Well good luck with that then." she said.

"You'll help me gather up the others and find a way out of here." Vera said. It wasn't a request, but then again it wasn't an instruction either. Probably the closest category it would fit into would be a prediction.

"You're on yer own, red." Adelaide said. "Though if you want my advice, that's yer ticket outta here." she gestured towards the submarine. "I'm out."

Vera watched as Adelaide disappeared beneath the waters again. She wasn't really good at asking people to do things for her. She was good at telling people to do things for her, or finding people doing things for her because fate probably made that happen somehow, but asking was not something she was good at. But nevermind, she thought, this is fated; I mustn't need her help anyway. She took a look at the submarine and wondered how hard it would be to drive one of those things.


Alice woke up, which was unexpected because she didn't remember going to sleep. She found herself in a bed, and though objectively speaking it wasn't very comfortable (the sheets were thin and clung to her awkwardly), it was considerably more comfortable than what she was used to. She didn't move, she didn't even open her eyes. Knowing her luck someone would be along shortly to tell her that this had been a terrible mistake and would she mind leaving immediately, but for the moment this was nice and she wanted to enjoy it. As she lay there she idly wondered which, if any, of her recent memories might actually have happened. Looking at it from the outside the battle to the death had all the hallmarks of a crazy dream; somewhere between a nightmare and the most beautiful dream she'd ever had.

Eventually she decided that she had to get up and face the world. It was clear from even a cursory glance around that this was a hospital room; the impersonality of it, the sterile white and the signs hung upon the wall reminding visitors of proper hygiene protocol. At the realization of where she was, she did momentarily panic, but as she noted that she still had feeling in all her limbs and that she didn't feel all that unwell, maybe a little groggy but overall okay, she calmed down. She figured it was probably nothing. Maybe she'd fainted or something and everyone was overreacting. That seemed pretty much in line with her life. Well she had no desire to hang around unnecessarily in a hospital, so she peeled off the covers and got to her feet and left through the nearest door. Or well that was her intention, in practice she got as far as the first of those things before she was stopped in her tracks by the unexpected growth of her abdomen.

It took her a moment to process. Either she'd put on a lot of weight very fast or she was pregnant.

[Image: XM5sGnt.png][Image: oD2Q6os.png][Image: 6SlFOCz.png][Image: fXUWhDZ.png][Image: C53uhZF.png][Image: BvZArpd.png][Image: lam0slf.png][Image: JmQq9We.png][Image: TGjrdJF.png][Image: zwqYyze.png][Image: OMnWsrl.png]
RE: The Wretched Rite - Round Three - DSRS Darwin
Junior Researcher Lauren Elizabeth Cohen's first attempt back at trying to get into her lab was met with a stern warning to either help or keep quiet. When she witnessed the watery creature from before, he had by now taken in all of her specimen. Harvey hadn't come, for one reason or another, so she would have to take measures into her own hands, but seeing all of those fish move together within that snake, and speak as one, shook her in a way that she simply closed the door once again.

When she tried again, it was because of the chanting and whispering that she was hearing from the other side of the door. This attempt earned her a second scolding, this time by a voice that seemed less masculine than the previous. Additionally, the many fish that had been scattered inside of the creature seemed gone, their features present, but their form not. Had she been in the mood she'd find it fascinating, but instead, once again, she could only leave, her heart beating in terror as she wondered why she had been cursed in this manner.

The third time, Junior Researcher Cohen was, in a word, preempted, with a watery tentacle grabbing her and pulling her into the room as she was about to attempt to act once more.

It was dark, was the first thing she noticed. Whatever that thing did to her specimen seemed to have at some point, cut the power in her lab. She wasn't sure what was going on, or what she was looking at, but she was suspended in the air, held up by water that was solid and floating in the air. "Wha... what's going on! You can't do this to me! This is my lab!"

It was a futile plea, she knew, but she simply didn't have another option, she had failed three times to do anything and now she was captured? If any of her superiors saw this, what would they say?

"Worry not, my friend, for I come in peace, in the name of my people."

The voice that came out of the darkness was unmistakably female, but something was off. Junior Researcher Cohen was absolutely sure that the sounds coming out of the creature did not match the words she heard. As the voice continued, this suspicion was confirmed.

"Miss... No, Doctor Cohen, worry not, for the danger that has befallen your station is one that my people are willing to aid you in."

Lauren panicked for a moment, surely things on Darwin hadn't gotten that bad, what was going on??? "Aid? What are you talking about, who are you, who do you work for, what is going on???"

Power had returned, allowing the junior researcher a look at her captor.

Any sign of the watery snake full of fauna that she had seen before was seemingly gone, replaced with scales and flesh where there once was just water. The bottom half of the new creature retained it snakey figure, but from the waist up, she(?) was now much more human like, though with scales running down smoothly along her chest, with six arms instead of two, and all sorts of webbed bits and fins all around. Her face was also decidedly not human-esque, resembling an angler fish. The elephant in the room, that Lauren was attempting not to cognize was the fact that she was, of course, naked, other than a billowing cape with pauldrons.

The creature bowed to her courteously as her voice began to ring inside of Lauren's head, "Ahh, how foolish of me, I did not introduce myself. Apologies. I am Goddess of the Denizens Below, The First Shield and Sword of Her People, Savior of the Coleoid People of Srijun, Mistress V'ia Shi'La. I have come from the prayers of my people, inhabiting the body of this river spirit to aid yours and your own in an effort to promote peace and prosperity among our people. I believe that answers your questions?"

As Junior Researcher Lauren Elizabeth Cohen attempted to process the information that this goddess had given her, outside the room, one Epsilon-Epsilon-Rho, aka Harvery Waters, aka spy, listened intently to the words being broadcast by the goddess, her words causing him to ponder some questions that he simply did not have the answers to. Still, this was definitely news, and news his handlers would want as soon as possible. Rho left a sensor on the door, hidden just enough, in case the "goddess" left any more juicy bits, as he made a beline for a better place to send a signal...


Meanwhile, in Srijun, the Coleoid people finally ceased their unanimous prayer. Cuddled around a giant, shelled, many tentacled argonuat were many many other coleoidea and nautiloidea, each raising their limbs and tentacles in union. The various creatures chatted about, hoping that their actions had succeeded, and wondering about what would happen next.

Then, there was a sudden silence, as the giant shelled leader's voice rang out, her words careful and calming.

"Our goddess has left on her mission, fueled by our prayers and empowered by our resolve. The past years have been hard on our people and the wicked words of those interested in only chaos and conflict have finally fallen. While there are still those dark, hidden sects who still wish to create war, I believe, as we all believe, that our Savoir, our Sword and Shield, shall protect us as she has united us in purpose. Our people must stand for peace if we are to survive. Now, let us prepare for the rescue effort, we will have many in need of our succor."

Once again, the argonaut retreated into her shell, to continue her prayers as her people prepared vessels and other fixtures to help those on the Darwin station. It would not be easy, but their people had fought long enough. She only hoped that the humans would see reason, before their emotions got the better of them.

I wanna be a real friend, Don't wanna break when I bend
I wanna a be no seeker, I wanna scream eureka