Grand Battle S3G1! (Round Four: City of the Dead)

Grand Battle S3G1! (Round Four: City of the Dead)
Re: Grand Battle S3G1! (Round Two: The Great Battlefield)
Originally posted on MSPA by SleepingOrange.

It was hard enough for a human to read a Meipi's expression at the best of times; TinTen's respirator and goggles compounded the problem, making him near-inscrutible (or at least easily misinterpreted) to most anyone who hadn't known him for years. Even so, it was pretty clear as he burbled and looked back and forth between his sensors and Scofflaw's device that he was strongly emoting confusion and frustration.

"Tech this level should be unable to produce exotics. Jamming field not even behaving consistent with Branfland Theorem."

Scofflaw gave a noncommittal shrug and a winning smile.
"I wouldn't know about all that. You have the advantage of coming from the future; I'm just an incomparable genius."

"Enough bravado, Scofflaw. Desirous of scientific consultation, behave like scientist."

The self-styled Tartan Tyrant bit his tongue for once, letting the fussy little squid do what he wanted. He leaned on one of the large kegs that seemed to have materialized in The Trench's back room, watching TinTen busy himself with an array of tools and sensors that kept popping out of pockets in surprising quantities. Eventually, just as Scofflaw was about to make a halfheartedly-cutting comment on the amount of time this was taking, TinTen straightened up, making a last few notes on some sort of holographic datapad.

"Initial examinations complete, may have explained field's anomalous behavior. Proposed mechanism for effects, may have idea for improvement and alteration. First, question: why not utilize a Xlk'chek mechanism for field amplification and stabilization?"

Scofflaw shrugged again.
"I was serious, you know. Wherever it is you came from is clearly a lot more technologically-advanced than where I did. It's not like I have decades or century of organized study of exotic physics to fall back on. All my devices are ad-libbed. One of a kind. I just find something that works and roll with it."


"A mile around? And weapons just plain don't work? Not even your plasma projector or whatever ultra-tech TinTen hides under that lab coat of his?"

Huebert nodded seriously, readjusting the straps of his newly-reaquired plasma canister. "Obviously I have no idea how it works, but it sure seems to. I can't even get any laser weaponry to prime under its effects. Honestly, it sounds a lot more like weird psionics than science, and I wouldn't trust Scofflaw's word too much."

"No, of course not." Tor drummed his fingers on his current chin and sighed. Still, as near as he could tell, everything Huebert had related from Scofflaw had been pretty accurate; everything Ester and Walters had told him had matched up with Huebert's reports and Scofflaw's secondhand explanation.

"Where is TinTen anyway? Well, obviously he's still in "The Trench"," Tor said, the quotes around The Trench clanging with disdain. "But what's he doing in there?"


TinTen was busily drawing diagrams on a handful of datapads he'd spread out in front of himself; Scofflaw had long since abandoned the boring back room to return to his bar and tentatively-peaceful patrons, which suited TinTen just fine: what little helpful information the villain had to offer had dried up quickly, and TinTen preferred to work alone and in peace. He tried not to fume at the infuriating attitude his new ally of convenience had towards the device. He clearly understood next to nothing about the mechanisms involved, and yet it worked perfectly. It was as though he'd glanced at an enormous, tortuous equation and said "Oh, seventeen" and then been completely unable to explain HOW he knew. It was like he just threw random concoctions of chemicals at a wall and waited until one of them exploded impressively, then stuck with that. It shouldn't work that way!

He was halfway though double-checking the soundness of a few ideas he'd had when the door banged open behind him. TinTen turned around to see who it was, briefly entertaining the notion that it could be anyone but the beaming visage in plaid he knew it would be.

"TinTen, buddy, I just wanted to see how things were coming, maybe get a smile on that floppy thing you call a face." He shook a bottle with something long and wiggly floating in it eagerly. "I'm going to call this tequila even though we both know it's mezcal. Care for a shot or three? Something to get the blood flowing?"

TinTen bristled, gathering up his datapads and standing. "Meipi physiology reacts negatively to alcohols. Produces thinned blood and tremors rather than pleasant intoxication. Will not indulge in your "mezcal"."

"Too bad. What does a cephalopod like yourself do on a lonely Saturday night for fun? Huff nitrogen? Write erotic fiction?"

"Unimportant. Have made progress, have ideas, need empirical testing. Require some research first."


"He's working with him?" Tor paced, fuming. If he'd been much angrier, he probably would have done so literally; this whole thing with Scofflaw was proving to be just another inconvenient detour from getting anything done, and now the scatterbrained squid was collaborating with the man he'd been so eager to kill just minutes ago? "If I didn't think you were too stupid to, I'd assume you were making some kind of joke."

Huebert grabbed Tor's clothing roughly by the collar area and lifted him off the ground with no apparent effort. "Alright, I've had just about enough of this. It's one thing to deliberately talk over me, and even to pretty much tell me 'Be quiet, the big boys are talking', but that's too far. I'm not TinTen's trained monkey, and I don't need you hanging around acting like I am."

Tor raised his hands peaceably and cursed inwardly.
"You're right, that was completely unacceptable. I'm sorry, it's not like me to get this way. Call it nerves from being abducted and told to kill a bunch of people and watching every plan I make fall apart instants after I make it. I really am sorry. I mean it. I was just lashing out out of anger."

With a grunt and about half a sneer, Huebert dropped him, roughly enough that he stumbled and had to catch himself, but not so roughly as to send him sprawling. Tor watched as the mountain of a man wordlessly turned around and started heading back towards the bar, already undoing the straps that held the plasma canister in place.

"Uh, where are you going?"

Huebert didn't turn around. "Back in. 'M not going anywhere without TinTen, and there's not much point hanging around out here. Might as well scope the place out a bit more. Maybe help self to beer." The last line was delivered in a slightly more nasal tone than he usually used, and came with a complimentary grin.

Five minutes later, he'd been handed a drink by an effusively ebullient Scofflaw just as he disappeared into the rear of The Trench, had undone his jumpsuit down to midchest, and was being fawned over and sat on by an extremely enthusiastic young woman with apparently very little shame to cover. Maybe Scofflaw and this whole Grand Battle thing weren't all bad. He grinned bawdily as Jessica made her third comment on how BULGY his muscles were, and did his best not to take the obvious route with his response.

He probably shouldn't have bothered, he considered as he swigged the passable beer he'd been given. Here was one girl at least who wasn't going to be questioning his wit today.


"Yeah? What kind of research?"

"Neurological. Have limited understanding of human brain functions. Am not primarily biologist, have few resources to use for this information."

Scofflaw pretty clearly saw where this was going, but decided to humor the squid and play along.
"Why would you need that kind of information? And anyway, don't you have Super Future medical knowledge?"

TinTen flared the fins on his mantle with exasperation. "Need neurological data if intend to counteract mental effects of allegiance. Obvious. Cannot design or alter field to negate mind control without understanding mind." He shuffled his datapads, and continued "As for medical knowledge, still not biologist. Chemist, physicist, weapons designer. Spent little time studying alien life forms and esoteric mental functions." He waved a datapad-laden tentacle vaguely. "Do not see Datastream port anywhere on backwater battlefield."

"What are you suggesting, then?"

"Personal study. Experimental techniques. Need operating room, neurological structures to study."
Re: Grand Battle S3G1! (Round Two: The Great Battlefield)
Originally posted on MSPA by Solaris.

After separating from his C.O. and the only other member of the disguised Olive Army, the sole Olive Officer walked calmly through the Yellow Base looking for a fast and manageable form of transportation. To his slight dismay, he bumped into a familiar face.
"Hello Commander Matthews! Where are you heading?"
"Uhm.. well I am going to commandeer a vehicle. To transport a prisoner, the cube, yes. Uhm... we are moving him to another location. Yes."
The yellow soldier looked at him quizzically.
"But the cube has been ordered to not be disturbed, an important looking soldier from overseas says he's going to take care of him... are you alright."
Matthews panicked. After looking around to make sure that the hallway was empty, he tackled the soldier and stabbed him. The new recruit flashed olive for a moment, before settling back to yellow. He blinked and then simply stood up, asking once more, "Commander Matthews, where are we heading?"

After a few similar mishaps, Matthews settled on an aerial form of escape. He led his slowly growing contingent through the less traversed halls of the Yellow base, hoping to make the small group of pass without further incident. Luckily, the small hanger was empty except for two quickly dispatched pilots. Matthews simply had to wait for his C.O. to contact him and the mission would be complete.

Later, his radio sparked to life.
"Hello? Do you copy?"
"Yes sir. I read you loud and clear. I have commandeered a vehicle for our escape. Over."
"Good, I need you to come over to the room, I had a complication, there is a man here. We are taking him with us. Bring two officers with you."
"I am on my way sir. Over."


The man in black kept his gun set on the Cuboid, behind the helmets visor, his two eyes were set straight on the alien.
<font color="black">"So, you were planning to cause quite the disturbance here, weren't you?"

Velobo did not respond. He simply starred straight back at the man, his frontal eyes set on the dark visor, his face still in the same scowl. His two side eyes on the other hand were attempting to find something, anything to help him get out.
"Listen up cubey, this isn't some little game. You and your six stupid allies are upsetting the balance, and we are going to put a stop to it. Even if by some miracle, you take me out there will be others, more prepared to take your entire team of invading scum out. And if that doesn't work. Then we'll just have to be a bit more drastic. So before I put you in a world of hurt, you are going to tell me why."
The man left a chilling emphasis on his words, but Velobo continued his frozen scowl. Hum... so it seems that there <i>is a lot more to this than just the war. Interesting. Six Allies? He is probably referring to the other contestants, but he's missing someone... Then that means he isn't as informed as he thinks.</i> Velobo's scowl turned into a small grin.
The man in black was not pleased. "What's so funny?"
Velobo giggled a little. "Oh nothing, just that you've clearly underestimated us. Six? Heh. Looks like this is going to be easier than I thought."
The man in black's eyes widened, but his voice the same. "You're bluffing. There is no sign of another freak like you."
"Oh, there isn't? Then that means he's doing better than expected." Velobo left a smug smirk.
"Where is he?"
Velobo did not respond.
The man in black responded by whacking his cube captive with the brunt of his rifle.
As Velobo reviled in pain, he smiled. With the rifle not pointing at him, he leaped at the man in black, launching his tongue above and using the momentum to disarm the man.
"YOU LITTLE SHIT. I'LL CUT THAT TONGUE OFF." The man in black had lost his gun, but he was not without his resources. Drawing a knife and re-cloaking himself, the man in black disappeared before Velobo's eyes.

Neither of the combatants noticed, but the Olive 7 has risen from its single number.

Clinging to the top of the room, hopefully away from the soldier’s knife, and holding a much too large gun, Velobo thought of how he could find the hidden man. This thought was interrupted by a cut appearing on his side and then a plop of the culprit landing and then sneaking off some more.
Velobo scowled as he held his wound. He isn't exactly silent with his movements, but I can't hear well enough to find them. As Velobo idly observed the dark room below, his retracted tongue emitted the sticky substance that made up his saliva. As he was about to swallow he made a plan.

Velobo jumped out and let loose multiple swatches of his sticky goo. The entire floor was soon covered in it, except for one area, where it had mysteriously started floating in the air. Immediately coughing up more of the spit, Velobo smiled as he hit his mark.
The cloaked man struggled to move in the cubes ick. Stepping down in front of the incapacitated man, Velobo aimed the pilfered rifle at him. "Now that I have your attention, we are going to have a little chat."
The cloaked man grinned. "Go ahead. Shoot me. My weapons don't convert. They kill."
Velobo simply rolled his eyes. The small cube walked on top of the man in black, standing on his stomach and staring at the helmet's visor.
"What the fuck are you doing?" The man in black struggled to move amongst the ick as Velobo climbed him like a rock.
Velobo nonchalantly removed the man's helmet and knocked him out.

When the man in black woke up he heard the whir of a copter. The first thing he noticed was that he could not move. He slowly opened his eyes, trying to get a look around his location.
"So who is he?"
Upon hearing the unfamiliar voice, he closed his eyes and pretended to be unconscious.
"He seems to be an agent from whoever are the true profiteers of this stupid war. He was sent to kill me."
It’s him, that fucking cube. Don't think this is over; I'm going to do it. As soon as I get out of here, you are going down.
"What should we do with him?"
Wait, was that another voice? He... He has more officers? Damn it.
"Keep him tied up, tell me when he wakes up, I have some questions for him. In the meantime, keep on course, if we find the other black men, we find the other contestants, and hopefully they will be allies."
Re: Grand Battle S3G1! (Round Two: The Great Battlefield)
Originally posted on MSPA by Schazer.


Tengeri trailed the back of her party, lost in thought. Some of the things the new Red lieutenant had said made her uneasy, but she was pretty certain broaching the subject was far too dangerous. He seemed mistrustful enough as it was.

"Private. Get up front where I can see you." Anzhi motioned the point a bit more firmly with his pistol; Tengeri noted Corporal Lacatus' uneasy look. The Leviath held back an argument forming on the tips of her fingers, and slithered forward as per her 'superior's' orders.

The Red camp sprawled out ahead of them shortly after, the training fields extending down to the water's edge. The soldiers visibly relaxed as they approached, pleased to find their way out of the vagaries of war and into the relative order of camp.

"You six-" Anzhi indicated, of everyone except Tengeri and the corporal, "at ease. Check the postings and your commanders for your next mission. Those of you more familiar with the facilities, get the others acquainted. Dismissed! And you," growled Anzhi, jabbing his weapon in the Leviath's direction again once the sergeants and privates had dispersed, "come with me. Lacatus, take the rear."

Tengeri just bared her teeth in response; she raised hand in what she hoped was a universally-understood symbol of belligerence as she formed words with the other.
"being treated like a traitor or monster is tiresome. respect would not-"

"Do you know what this red bullet would do to you?"


"Keep. Your hands. To yourself," snarled the lieutenant in an exemplary display of unfairness, a twitch of his head coercing Lacatus to train his gun on Tengeri as well. "A private like yourself shouldn't know about this, but I still think you're a Blue trap or spy or some other underhanded piece of shit, so you're dead unless you co-operate anyway.

These guns don't pack friendly fire, 'private'. If you're Red, a headshot's a headshot. If you're not, the sergeant and I will both shoot you until you're not just chanting Red, you're spilling it. Understood?"

Tengeri debated, for the briefest moment, mentioning her blood lacked the haemoglobins necessary to make it the lieutenant's fanatically espoused shade of crimson. She decided against it, just in case blood colour somehow changed with allegiance. The Leviath conceded, with some frustration, that it wouldn't surprise her.

Anzhi gave her a look - one really asking for a blast of water to smear it off. With a nod to Lacatus, the three of them headed for a tent on the outskirts of the woods. A soldier greeted them with a "halt!" at the flaps, refusing Lacatus entry. Anzhi explained the situation in as demeaning a manner of the Leviath as was possible, dismissed his sergeant, and headed in with the private.

"If it's moving its arms around and it's not forming words, shoot it," was all the introduction Tengeri and the newest redshirt were given. The tent, as it turned out, merely concealed a hatch in the ground. The lieutenant yanked it open, and trudged down the stairs.

"where are you taking me"

"Lieutenant! Oh no, wait, it's just spelling some-"

"I know," snapped Anzhi. He squinted at the aqueous text in the tunnel's gloom, then sighed. "The General, snake. You're being taken to the General. "

"fine. ill come clean. im not a soldier and im not a spy."


"Private Steiner, shut. Your. Face. I can see it's writing. In fact, give me your rifle and go find one of the Majors. Or anyone, really. If I hear one more headless fucking squawk from you," the lieutenant pre-empted, "I'll volunteer you for Operation Blue Moon."

Anzhi accepted the proffered rifle, the movement slowed like he dragged it through a miasma of extreme care and condescension. Its muzzle nudged around in the corner of Tengeri's eye, with all the gleaming curiosity of a scalpel. "Get out of my sight. Snake, get moving."

"im curious"

"Oh, so the pretty details of how this war works didn't satisfy your curiosity? Or did they not pay you in enough rats for that intel?"

"well, two things now. how does such a rude angry man with so little respect for his fellow beings become an officer?"

Anzhi snorted. "Like I give a shit. You know enough as a lieutenant they can't demote you. If I let it slip to Lacatus his gun can kill, but it can only kill his comrades? Who cares. If the idea worries him that much he can go and sleep it off in a matter of hours."

"sleep it off?"

"Hypnoesia – an essential part of every soldier's day." The lieutenant grinned, mirthless. "And we all know it, so why don't you? You some kind of alien?"

"you could say that," fidgeted Tengeri. As well as the unease of a gun on the edge of one eye's vision, the map trickling into existence across her HUD wasn't comforting either. It was either defective, or they were marching straight for the thick of battle – albeit ten metres lower. "there was a second thing"

"What's that?"

"how do you live with yourself?"

Anzhi frowned at the text, as though he'd misread. "Really? What are you, some kind of shrink? Shut it," he interrupted, bringing out his pistol again for no discernible reason other than to bully Tengeri further. "No shit. Course I wake up some days, thinking I'll be sleeping somewhere else, putting up with a different jackass officer trying to keep me in line, yelling death to the colour I would've rained bullets in yesterday. Do I care? The fuck I do. I'm serving my goddamn country, I've got better shit to do than cry like a scared little Green girl lost in the fucking woods."

"that doesnt-" 'make any sense' was where the Leviath was heading with that, but the corridor ended in a pair of steel doors which slid open with a very attention-grabbing clang. The Red General stood there, flanked by a major and a colonel or two who wasted no time flanking and herding the Leviath to their side of the double doors.

"At ease, lieutenant. Thank you for escorting the suspect. We'll take it from here."

Anzhi didn't lower his salute until the doors ground shut again, waiting for that satisfying metal tone before turning his attention to the balding colonel who had stuck around for some reason.

"Lieutenant, we've received word of some of our troops fraternising with soldiers from other armies in an alleged weapons-free zone. Take as many squads as necessary to break it up and retrieve any waylaid soldiers."


"Oh, and kindly return Private Steiner's weapon to him at some point. Listening to his snivelling when he reported your incoming escort was tantamount to torture."

"Understood," growled Anzhi, thinking it'd just be easier to tell the sap tomorrow he'd left it out in the North Gulch. The lieutenant had caught word Yellow were doing some training there tomorrow afternoon. Worth a shot.

Anzhi marched off on the colonel's dismissal, trying to figure if his orders left him time enough to clear his head a bit. He checked his watch, and sighed. Didn't look like it.

Re: Grand Battle S3G1! (Round Two: The Great Battlefield)
Originally posted on MSPA by Anomaly.


The one thing Tengeri had tried to avoid, but ultimately failed. Impartial conversion had left her scales a deep red, sure, but it hadn't imparted any knowledge of the military itself. Things in this war game were vastly different from anything Tengeri had on record, of course she wouldn't have blended in. Not that she had expected the decidedly human armies to trust a flying sea serpent anyway. So here she was, once again under escort by high-ranking men toting black rifles. All of the weapons the army used held the same energy signature - the unknown mechanism used to "convert" soldiers. Or, as the unpleasant lieutenant had noted, to kill those of the same army as the user. Fortunately, as Tengeri didn't technically have an affiliation, the guns would likely just attempt to convert her again, and she'd still be able to defend against it.

The small enclave of Reds led her down a twisting series of corridors, down several flights of stairs. After several minutes, they reached a lone steel door in the middle of a seemingly random hallway, labeled "Sewage Overflow Runoff - Do Not Enter when Light is Red", accompanied by a glowing red light. Tengeri attempted to question this, but was met with a rifle pointed at her head. She quickly disspelled the water back into the main mass as she entered the door.

It immediately became apparent that the sign on the door was a complete lie, judging by the lack of excrement on any of the room's surfaces. It appeared to be a rather small office, likely the General's, considering the extra security measures. The Red General took his seat behind the desk, motioning for the two other soldiers to stand guard by the door. The general focused intently on Tengeri for several moments, before speaking in a rough, Texan accent:

"Private Nyoka. You say you're a member of the Red Army?"

Slowly, Tengeri formed the words "yes, sir" in the air.

"What's wrong, Private? I don't want any goddamned air-writing. Speak up!"

"i can't, sir. my throat was severely damaged in an explosion, and i'm currenly unable to speak. the damage should be repaired soo"

"How soon, Private?" The general's voice grew more aggravated by the moment. "If you haven't noticed, I'm trying to win a war here! I don't need you wasting more of my time!"

Tengeri quickly looked at her throat's repair status. It seemed that the damage was almost completely repaired. "i could try, sir. i haven't spoken in weeks, but"

"On with it, Private!"

Tengeri coughed heavily, muffled by the field of water surrounding her head. Slowly, the field shifted away from her mouth, a very minimal amount remaining. "Ye...s, sir..." she slowly rasped, throat burning.

The general paused for a moment. "It'd be even slower this way. Go back to your damned air-writing, we'll do things that way. Now then, Private. I've heard that you told Anzhi that 'you're not a soldier'. What, exactly, is the meaning of this?"

"exactly what i said, sir. i'm not a soldier. i'm a scientist. all of the implants you see on my body were of my own creation."

"A likely story, Private!" the General hissed. "You're a spy, aren't you? I can tell you're not a true Red. I can see it in your eyes, Private. Your loyalty isn't with us."

"you're correct, general. my loyalty is with no army. i'm not here by my own will. i was taken from my own world, entire universes away, by a being calling himself 'the fool'. there are eight of us here. i'm sure you've heard reports by now."

"Damn right I've heard reports, Private! Extra armies, a demilitarized zone, a dinosaur... Are you saying you know more about this, Private?"

"only that none of us belong here. we're being forced to fight to the death. each time one of us dies, the rest are taken somewhere else and the process repeats. one has already died."

"I see. In that case..." The General reached under his desk and produced a large rifle, similar to the ones wielded by the rest of the army. "Give me a reason I shouldn't blow your head off right now, Private. If what you're saying is true, then order will be restored if one of you dies."

"'doctor' will suffice, general. but i'll tell you why. your weapons can't convert me, and because of that they can't kill me. what do you plan to accomplish, general?"

"This isn't a normal gun, 'Doctor'!" the General exclaimed, furiously. "This is a kill gun. All of the Generals have one. Unlimited ammunition, impossible to jam, fast rate of fire... Whatever bastard's on the wrong end of one of these will be dead before they know what's happening. And mine is trained on your head."

Scans confirmed that the gun wasn't a normal conversion gun. Tengeri's confidence quickly waned. "sir, i can help you. there's one out there who we could call a mutual enemy. he calls himself 'saint scofflaw'. i don't know what he's been doing since we got here, but he's the biggest threat to all of us. if we kill someone, it should be him."

The general lowered his gun. "Let's get one thing straight, 'Doctor'. I don't trust you, and I have a feeling this is a trap. If someone's going to be eliminating this 'Scofflaw', it's you. Understand?"

Tengeri immediately thought back to her failed attempt at killing Scofflaw in the caves of Vio. But what choice did she have? Her options were either "kill Scofflaw" or "die", and she wasn't exactly keen on the second option. "yes, sir."

"Good. Major! Escort the private to a holding cell for temporary-"

The Red General was cut off midsentence by the sudden sounds of gunfire and yelling. In front of the door lay the corpses of two Red Army officers, riddled with bulletholes. The general and the Leviath had yet to be targetted though.

Tengeri's HUD flashed a warning.

Hostile detected. Distance: 4m. Immediate threat level eight.

A man cloaked in darkness leaped from the shadows, pointing what appeared to be a "kill gun" at Tengeri's head. Tengeri immediately released all four tentacle-esque hypermanipulators from hatches in her sides, each equipped with a plasma cutter.

"who are you, and what do you want"

"Hello, Tengeri Nyoka," the figure responded in a condescending tone. "I can't help but notice that you've finagled your way into the ranks of the Red Army. It looks like that didn't go quite as planned."

"you didn't answer my question. how do you know all of this?"

"I have connections, doctor. But you wanted to know what I'm doing here? I'm here to kill you, Doctor. You and your six friends have caused quite a disturbance, and we can't have that."


"Excuse me?"

"there are seven others. it looks like you missed someone."

"If you're not lying, I guess I'll deal with that once you're dead. Goodbye, doctor."

Tengeri almost instinctually wrapped a metallic limb around the man's gun, forcing him to harmlessly fire at the ceiling as he attempted to break her superior grasp on the firearm. She immediately brought a plasma cutter down, slicing through the weapon and rendering it useless.

"i'll ask again. who are you? who sent you here?"

"Quite the fighter, Tengeri. I like that. Fortunately, the conversion guns are just as deadly in the hands of an Operative."

With inhuman speed, the man leaped to one of the corpses and took up a rifle. Tengeri followed suit and attempted to break the man's grasp a second time. He managed to critically damage two manipulators before Tengeri could get a grip on the gun, and held back the last free one with a single hand. Shots rang out wildly in all directions as Tengeri tried to destroy the firearm, but to no avail.

After several moments of struggling, an exclamation of pain rang out from across the room. Both Tengeri and the Operative immediately ceased their struggle at the sight of the Red General bleeding profusely on his desk.

"Private..." the general gasped, through intense pain. "No, doctor... Make these... bastards... pay..."

The Red General's body slumped to the ground before fizzling out of existence. Sirens sounded across the battlefield as Tengeri's scales faded back to their natural hue. The Operative glanced around nervously, before pulling a small communicator from his pocket.

"Sir! We have a Class-CK here. I'm pulling out."

The man disappeared in a flash, leaving Tengeri alone in the General's office. As she gaped in shock at the all-too-quickly-unfolding events, a ripple of teal made its way across the battlefield. The Red Army had become the Teal Army.
Re: Grand Battle S3G1! (Round Two: The Great Battlefield)
Originally posted on MSPA by Lord Paradise.

The Tartan Tyrant dumped the soldier’s unconscious body onto the cot. “I hope it doesn’t matter that he’s drunk,” he smiled.

TinTen pressed an appendage to the plaid-clad man’s wrist, feeling for a pulse.
”Saves some trouble with anaesthesia,” he droned. ”This man likely wasn’t ever going to wake up anyway. Trench-moonshine in great doses no great friend to the vital organs.”

The Tartan Tyrant grinned and patted the Plaid on the thigh of his kilt. “Yes, well, we all made mistakes in our youth. This was Scottie Gibbs, the Alfalfa Male and first recruit of the Plaid Platoon. Not exactly the best or the brightest, but he had more heart than brains or livers combined.” TinTen looked away, feeling unsanitary, as Scofflaw planted an affectionate kiss on his man’s forehead. Right where he’d planned on making the first incision.

The Meipi was irked.
”Such treatment towards friends and allies not exactly indicative of inspiring leadership, Scofflaw.” TinTen nudged Gibbs into a more central position on the military cot that was his best approximation of an operating table, and bound his wrists and ankles with strips of cloth torn from bedsheets. Just in case.

Scofflaw gave TinTen a sly smile. “Like I said, deceit and violence come more easily to these people than peace. And I’m their Commander-in-Chief. I heard it said somewhere that people who are so afraid of losing their friends—either by unauthorized brain surgery or simple rudeness—are the people who have fewer friends to lose. You only really have the one friend, don’t you?”

TinTen adjusted his goggles.
”Obvious converse of statement is that those who abandon/betray/replace friends secretly fear being abandoned/betrayed/replaced. Demonstrates a certain emotional fragility, parental trauma, etc.” The Meipi very carefully began to shave the Alfalfa Male’s head. ”Trench patients likely getting rowdy in absence of bartender. Tend to flock and leave professionals to work, please.”

Scofflaw shrugged and left. TinTen cut away large swaths of the plaid soldier’s hair, dabbing the exposed scalp with Scofflaw’s moonshine in a likely-counterproductive attempt to sterilize it. He had doubts. Scofflaw, in his pissing contest with Tor, would honestly benefit from demeaning him, humiliating him, and breaking him to an uneasy cooperation, as well as shaking his relationship with Huebert and Tor. Did he already know how to cancel out allegiances? Or was he lying in his belief that it was possible? It was safest to work under the assumption that Scofflaw’s façade of flamboyance and irrationality, his apparent irreverence towards scientific procedure, and perhaps even the sexual attention he paid to men and women in equal measure were just psychological tools he cultivated for his own, very pragmatic designs. However, his sense of things was that, mask or not, Scofflaw was enjoying himself a little too much for his own good.

The Meipi looked down at the unconscious man in front of him and cleared his throat. There was no use turning back now.

He had barely completed the first incision when Scofflaw ran back in.
”TinTen, TinTen, it’s a Christmas miracle, come see, it’s wonderful, it’s the greatest!”

TinTen raised his scalpel inquisitively. Scofflaw clapped his hands over his head. ”The Red general is dead! Word’s coming in over the wire. Our own Dr. Nyoka killed the general, and that’s making every Red in the entire army turn Teal.”

Tengeri, stage a coup? TinTen harbored doubts about that. “And how is this good news?” he asked.

Scofflaw gave TinTen a patronizing smirk.
”We have the field up, negating conversions. The remaining fourteen soldiers in the entire red army are my hostages, TinTen! That has got to be worth something! Am I right?”

None of this was very interesting to TinTen—especially if his work here succeeded—but he decided to leverage Scofflaw’s excitement for a little privacy. “This changes everything,” he stressed, throwing his tentacles up. “Work must proceed at double-time. Make sure none of the Reds leave.”

Scofflaw pumped his fists in the air and ran back into the bar. TinTen rolled his eyes under his goggles and jabbed his knife into the Alfalfa Male’s skull.

Re: Grand Battle S3G1! (Round Two: The Great Battlefield)
Originally posted on MSPA by Schazer.

Anzhi jogged through the corridors of the Red base, heading for the nearest flight of stairs to the surface. His impeccable sense of navigation guided the lieutenant without any trouble, peaceably ignoring the fact he was pretty sure he just ran under a Green-Yellow skirmish the Reds had received intel on a few days back. It was a good day to be alive, and an even better day to be a Red soldier.

Anzhi's stride broke only briefly, a disconnect in his orders annealed by the ever-adaptable mind of an officer. Rescue the Teal soldiers. Red soldiers. Red was the enemy. Teal didn't even exist. Red yellow green blue they were the enemy. Four colours. Four enemies. It was a good day to be alive, and an even better day to be a Teal soldier.

Burning, roiling, immolation, rolling up the corridors like blue-green Unity, flooding settling in Anzhi's head like six feet of invasive, persuasive tide on a stricken city's streets. Anzhi blinked, surveying the damage with all the regret and comprehension of a mildly misanthropic crocodile.

Something was sleeping in a basement. Was being the operative word. The floodwaters were trickling down the steps, pooling in its nest and leaving Anzhi trembling in its cold, steel gaze.

It wasn't happy. It was awake and damp with teal and its city had fallen to the cerulean sea like a pangolin before Unity. It wasn't happy at all.

The lieutenant's eyes snapped open. Jetsam stood up, having found himself brought to his knees, and slowly unclamped his hands from his head. He didn't so much have a splitting headache as feel like one - a ferocious, red-as-turquoise –banners-burning migrane. It wasn't pleasant, but Jetsam suspected this Anzhi character was having a worse time of it. His subconscious kept riffling through the dichotomous shambles that was the lieutenant's headspace, trying to make some sense of it all. Something finally became clear; Jetsam was deep in enemy territory. Somebody else had taken charge of operations, and Jetsam had no intention of surrendering his autonomy to the slippery bastard.

Relying on the Teal lieutenant's impeccable sense of navigation (Jetsam was pretty sure the poor bastard was still in here, somehow), the man found the nearest escape shaft out of the Teal base.


One of the Black Ops was waiting for him, quite literally materialising from the dappled shade of a tree. Anzhi told Jetsam that he didn't like the soldier; Jetsam's senses were telling him that not liking the gun in his hand was more pertinent.

Jetsam raised his hands in exasperated surrender, which seemed to throw the operative. He seemed to deliberate, before assuming a less aggressive stance. Not that he moved, per se; merely flickered like a cheap hologram and jumped without preamble from aggressive to amicable. Somewhere between the two postures, he'd lit himself a cigarette and offered Jetsam another. Jetsam took it, and found – somewhat surprisingly – that it was real. He patted down Anzhi's uniform for a lighter, wishing he had a solid coat slung over him again.

"You're the eighth, yes?"

Jetsam shrugged, passing the cigarette back to the Operative, and receiving a lit one. "Maybe. I don't know. If I am, they didn't tell me."

"Dr. Nyoka was correct, then."

"Who?" The smoke in Jetsam's throat was apparently real, as was his suspicion.

"The sea serpent. The one who conquered the near-entirety of the Red-"

"I've got nothing to do with that snake, and I don't want to," interjected Jetsam. The Black Op raised a placating hand, and then motioned for him to follow through the woods.

"Her Majesty determined that would be the case, judging by your behaviour. General." He took a long drag upon his cigarette, turning to regard an incredulous with Jetsam with little surprise.

"You're joking."

"An even quarter of Her Majesty's nodes have been knocked offline, General. With two of my fellow operatives chasing your compatriots, my tangibility is something I'm grateful for, let alone a sense of humour." He really wasn't smiling. "As the highest-ranking officer remaining in the Red Army, you are now the General. My protocols would dictate I eliminate you where you stand, but Her Majesty decreed you'd be receptive enough to diplomacy."

Jetsam flinched a bit when the Operative's gaze lifted, his senses hovering in a state of perception somewhere between an out-of-body experience and vertigo. There was someone –either in his head or the head he was camping in – insisting this was all based on sound and ludicrous military theory. The duality hurt, in an existential kind of way.

"You work under us now, General," and by now Jetsam couldn't doubt the fact, Teal fatigues he was slouched in notwithstanding. "The node whose brain you kicked a hole in to escape the tealwash knows it, too. You – or who you claimed to be – knew the Black Ops' weapons can only eliminate the system's nodes."

Jetsam was thinking hard; mashing a few plans for escape through the mesh of Anzhi's knowledge, and sighed. "So you can't kill the snake or its soldiers, but you can kill me if I don't do it for you," he finally spat. The Operative shrugged. He was holding a cigarette again.

"If the rogue agents are eliminated or integrated successfully, Her Majesty gladly extends an offer for you to serve on as General. Or freedom, or whatever you wish. Bear in mind, Operative Null reports General Tengeri possesses defences against conversion."

Jetsam sighed again. "Fine. But if it's a choice of killing the snake or making a pet of it, I'd prefer the former," growled the soldier.

"That's at your discretion, General." The trees were thinning out.

"Great. What're we here for?"

The Black Op explained Scofflaw's "Trench", and the fact the last fourteen members of Jetsam's army were being held captive in there.

"Great," said Jetsam, with significantly less enthusiasm.

Re: Grand Battle S3G1! (Round Two: The Great Battlefield)
Originally posted on MSPA by Solaris.

When the radio previously held by the still unconscious black agent sparked to life, Velobo paid close attention. Looting the agent had proved fruitful in many ways. The most important acquisition was a device that was tracking all of the agent's locations on the battlefield. Using it, he had the location of each of the other black agents, and with that, presumably the location of the other contestants.

"Attention Onyx Squadron, we have a Class-CK situation. One of the intruders has captured the Red Base. We also have reason to believe that there is an eighth intruder."

For a moment Velobo wondered how they could have discovered this information, momentarily wondering if there was some sort of bug on his captive, and if they had been listening in for a while now. He dismissed the thought after realizing that he probably would have been attacked by now. The next thought was that one of the others had been captured. The cuboid worried about which of the others could have been interrogated by the agents.

He looked down at the tracking device once more and noticed that one of the agents had begun to move quickly. Before he could study the device further, he was approached by one of his soldiers.
"Uhm.. Sir... I think that you need to look at this."

The regiment, which had once more used their malleable color in order to bypass any opposition into the Red Territory, was flying above various red soldiers marching to whatever missions they had. That is, until the various red soldiers suddenly stopped in confusion, as they all changed to Teal.

Upon seeing the conversion of all of the miscellaneous red soldiers, Velobo's frontal eyes widened up and his jaw dropped. It was of course, now, when the avocado soldiers had their backs turned, that the black agent awoke. Despite being confused by the events on the battle field below, Velobo was aware enough to see the agent get up and launch a pre-emptive attack.

"General, we need orders on the 43rd Regiment over in 50,20."
"General, where do you want your coffee?"
"General, the 13th in 13,32regiment needs backup!
"General, what are you going to do about that corpse?"

Tengeri, newly appointed general of the Teal Army was unprepared for her new position. Shortly after the soldiers around her had seemingly adjusted to the loss of their previous general, they had quickly rushed her with all sorts of questions and requests about the state of battle, the various supplies, or absolutely anything that they seemed to be unable to decide on themselves... which, to her dismay, was a surprisingly large amount.

The doctor attempted to make sense of what had happened, but the more she stayed silent, the more that the soldiers pestered her about absolutely everything in regards to the war. Suffice to say, if she was capable of it, she would be sweating bullets.

I can't handle this kind of thing. She tried to blank out the demands of her subordinates, trying to shift through her own thoughts. I am just a doctor, not a strategist, I can't take control of an entire army! I need someone who can actually manage others in battle...

"General, which army is of the greatest priority?"
"General, can we get a re-stocking on pens in the office?"
"General, there is an oddly colored helicopter approaching, intelligence says that there is some odd cube creature inside, what are your orders?"

The slightly nervous wreck of a Leviath looked up with a small smile. Could it be Velobo? Finally, someone I know... someone who can help me figure out all of... this.

Tengeri slightly re-adjusted herself, floating with a bit more confidence, and gave out orders to treat them as allies. As soon as the soldier saluted and left out on his way, about three more entered in his place. Well... one order down... many, many more to go.

After landing, and being greeted somewhat halfheartedly by the various red soldiers, Velobo, his 13 avocado green soldiers, and their single black-clad captive, began to walk through the Teal Base to meet the general. The various odd former yellows were nonchalant, and the captured agent was scowling, sending Velobo terrible looks. He wanted to curse the cube, spit at him, or whatever came into his mind, but for now the look would have to do as he was suitably bound, cuffs and everything. He was pretty pissed off, and the teal army retrieving them with open arms only made him angrier. He at least hoped that this was all part of a plan set up by one of his allies in Onyx.

This was what Velobo feared. While he had put on an accepting face, and gone with the flow of the teal army, he was actually very paranoid. While it was true, that one of the other contestants could have taken the red army and then heard of him, he had other thoughts. What if the generals could change color on their own? What if this was a trap? What if whoever was behind the color change was against him regardless?

No, Velobo did not trust this situation, and behind his small smirk, he was searching for anything that could be conceived as suspicious.

At the same time, he was plotting. Counter-measures for any kind of trap waiting. If there was a black agent waiting for him, he would leap and knock him out with his tongue. Many agents armed with conversion guns would lead to escaping via the elevator shaft. While there were not many options that would lead to escape for all of the small avocado army, but Velobo had to focus on preservation of him if there would be any avocados at all. Still, even though he had only been with the soldiers for a few moments, he couldn't help but think badly of himself if he did just strand them. No... He scrapped those plans and thought of any others.


They had arrived. Still thinking about what trap laid ahead, the Plazmuth continued his vigilant staring and waiting to strike.
The doors swung open and the bright light of the room entered in the elevator, and with it rushed in a group of teal soldiers.


The various soldiers packed into the elevator, each yelling and attempting to push each other so that they could return to their important stations.

It took a little while, but soon, Velobo and company exited the elevator, disoriented and confused.

"What just happened..."

Re: Grand Battle S3G1! (Round Two: The Great Battlefield)
Originally posted on MSPA by Solaris.

i suppose that this will have a post here tommorrowish, maybe a bit more than that, definitively friday
Re: Grand Battle S3G1! (Round Two: The Great Battlefield)
Originally posted on MSPA by Solaris.


She was tired. Who wasn't by now? After the ridiculously large level of general bad things and unfortunate happenings that she had to deal with anyone normal would have just given up right by now. Of course, she was better than that, even if it was by just a little.

She was tired. Tired of the ever increasing errand boys and advice seekers. Of the planners and commanding officers. Of each and every thing that had decided to approach her and pick at her in the most unpreventable ways.

So when she saw the little avocado colored cube, she waded through the large wave of attention seeking officers. She approached one of the only people she could call a friend (or at worst an ally) and she sort of broke down a little.

Everyone has those moments. When they just need to have some emotional release, be it from tears, or a show of companion ship, or something more intimate as the case may be. Tengeri liked hugs (or whatever would be the appropriate serpent equivalent to them). This is the reason why, mere moments after seeing him for the first time in this battlefield, she almost killed Velobo Calidad.

It was a spur of the moment thing, she just coiled at the little guy up and held his somewhat squishy, square body close to hers. It had been the first time in quite a while that she had anyone that close. She really needed that hug. She just closed her eyes for a moment, and let everything go....

*thump* *thump* *thump*

Then she let Velobo go. As the asphyxiated cube caught his breath, a rather embarrassed Tengeri just floated above, looking as meekly as she could. The soldiers around just stood around, Velobo's Avocado Soldier's look worried and huddled a bit above him, but it wasn't like they could do anything other than watch. Then he got up, spat out a mixture of water and his saliva, leaving a very sticky puddle, and proceeded to just fall on his back, close his eyes, and breath a little.

Then he got back up with a smile. Tengeri tried to make one too.

im sorry

"It's okay, it could have been worse... so I suppose that something pretty big happened in here?"

i might have killed the general of the red army

Velobo was silent for a moment. Did he read that right? Did that really happen? Could that really happen? Of course the answer to both was a resounding "duh," but that didn't stop Velobo from mouthing out a "What?"

it was an accident
there was a man in black and

"And he had a kill gun? And he wanted to get rid of us? Yes, I too encountered one of them." He motioned to one of his soldiers to drag in the bound agent.

it looks like a lot happened to the both of us

"It would most likley be in our best interests to trade notes." He then looked at the pile of soldiers standing around the room, "but probably not here. If this base is anything like the yellow one, I think I know just the place."

The trip from the general's quarters all the way down to the redteal central computer room was extremely informative. During their descent, the two battlers learned just about everything the other knew about the situation they were in. Velobo learned of Scofflaw's exploits and the various things that Tengeri had picked up as a soldier and then a general. In return, she learned of how Velobo gained a prisoner and a regiment, from his meeting with Kerak to his fight with the soldier to his escape from the yellow base. When the elevator reached the appropriate floor, Velobo was just finishing recounting the results of his interrogation of the captured agent.

"All he talked about was about the power of his bosses, The Benefactors. He described them as the grandmasters behind this entire war."

so you think they work with the fool

"I thought that yes, but that doesn't exactly fit in with what The Fool brought us here for. Unless...his kind have a fight of their own?"

that would not be surprising

The group had reached their destination, as Velobo had suspected, there was a guarded door in the exact same location as it was in the Yellow Base. They entered through, revealing the exact same graphics and numbers on a screen over a control station. However, the large difference between now and before was that the red zero column had been... corrupted. The numbers were much lower than when Velobo saw them, but it seemed that one digit was just irregular. Moving across, the other numbers were relevantly normal.

Then they clicked on the next arrow. Like before, the various colors of related to the contestants were shown, including the new teal "8". This column was also corrupted.

"This doesn't look good..."

<font color="#00FF98">are all these numbers for the soldiers

"As far as I can tell, yes. It seems to be completely accurate, but I can't figure out how. And he," Velobo pointed at the unenthused soldier, "won't tell me. You are better at computers, do you think you can figure it out?"

it would probably take time
but it is worth a shot

Before they could continue, a teal soldier entered the room, panting heavily. "General.... sir.... the sponsors are requesting.... your presence... in your... office.. aaauuggh-" The soldier fell to the floor. </font>

After sending the soldier to the medical bay and acsending back up the Teal Base, Tengeri found her new office surprisingly dark and uncharacteristically empty. Upon entering, the windows blackened further and four screens appeared. On the screen, four blurred silhouettes appeared.

"Hello General." The first voice to speak was garbled, but the contempt in it was still clear. "I believe you have something of ours."

you mean this army and the base

"Correct," a second, equally garbled voice rang out.

"Then I suppose that makes you The Benefactors?"

"You are similarly correct Mr. Calidad."

"Let's cut to the chase. You met our agents, you know that we want you gone."

"As quickly as possible."

"We have been informed of your... situation, but with all of the chaos you have caused so far, we don't exactly enjoy the prospect of you just up and leaving this behind without fixing your mess."

"We have decided that we will simply terminate all of you."

Tengeri and Velobo stepped back at the statement.

"While our agents may have failed, we will take every step to ensure that our next plan does not."

surely we can reach an arrangement
none of us belong here in the first place

"Regardless, you have wronged us."
"Do you know how many years it would take for us to get back everything you wiped out?"
"The issue is that it is too late. The damage has been done."
"We have decided that the best option is to start fresh." The last silhouette smiled widely. "In a matter of hours nothing will matter."

"Then what was the point of telling us? Just to gloat?"

"Correct, Mister Calidad. In a matter of hours everything will be reset, and if what you say is true then at least one of you will die anyway."
"And if it isn't, then you won't exactly be in the position to argue."

Without another word, the screens went blank. The windows opened once more and the doors unlocked. And Velobo and Tengeri simply stood, momentarily at a loss of what to do.

Re: Grand Battle S3G1! (Round Two: The Great Battlefield)
Originally posted on MSPA by Valter.

General Kerak surveyed the aftermath of yet another battle's carnage. His physical attributes were poorly suited to the politics of the battlefield, so to speak, as the effective range of all the weapons used here were well beyond his own. He found it hard to care, though; his leadership skills were more than suited well enough to give him dominance over the battlefield.

This point actually vexed him. He was embarrassingly unversed on the tenets of modern warfare, despite the constant barrage of questions he asked his soldiers. Why was it so easy to defeat his enemies, then? They had no tactical capacity, simply throwing their units at Kerak's, and so every ambush, every flanking maneuver, turned each 'battle' into a rout. His army was now at least five thousand strong.

It was the regeneration, it must be. The commanders were all fat and lazy, content with the fact that no blunder or massacre would have any permanent effect on the battlefield. Oh, Kerak had been elated when he first arrived, too- you don't encounter an atmosphere of casual murder like this very often! But already the gimmick's novelty had worn thin, and Kerak wasn't even allowed to eat his conquests. He consumed the MREs provided for every soldier, and they were... sub-satisfactory.

He was at least thankful that his first captures had been so lucky. The black ops were apparently the only warriors on the entire field capable of thinking for themselves, and they had provided a wealth of knowledge for Kerak to chew over. Finding information and technology that would be relevant to his tribe back home was difficult work, but he had already pieced some things together...

"Kerak! Figure approaching from the west!" called out Major Connaway, Kerak's second-in-command.

"Just one? Kill it."

"Uh, this one's flying green colors, sir. Appears to be a messenger."

"Oh! Uh, 'Welcome him with honor to our camp and offer him the finest of our rations, that he may be pleased during his stay among our people'."

"Close, sir. That's the code for welcoming diplomats."

"Just find him a fucking tent, okay?! I need to finish head count."

The messenger was a young man certainly not far out of his teenage years, skinny and nervous; apparently a more green member of green army. The tent he was offered had many seats, but he decided to forgo the chance for leisure in favor of fretting with the wrapped scroll he was charged to deliver. Kerak's eventual arrival did little to sooth his nerves; he had not received any advance warning of the general's monstrous appearance.

"Well? What have you got for me?"

The messenger held out the scroll silently. Kerak rolled his eyes. "Only thing I could do with that paper is shred it on my talons. There's a certain tempting quality to that, to be sure, but maybe you should just read it yourself." The messenger blushed and fumbled the scroll's seal open, only dropping it once before he had it unraveled.

"General Kerak, of the Esteemed Chartreuse Brigade-

Your efforts against the forces of Blue Army have not gone unnoticed by High Command. With regards to your request for Full Clearance to Green Army intelligence, you have been-

Rejected access. We look forward to future achievements from-"

Kerak perked up. "What? Back up. That can't be right."

"A-ah, you asked me to read t-th-the-"

Kerak sighed. "Oh well, it couldn't be helped. Walk to me, will you?" The hapless messenger obliged, and Kerak promptly tore his jugular out. "Connaway! Get in here!"

"You calle- Good god, sir! Do you know how many of your tents we've had to scrub clean by now?"

"Shut up. I had it on good faith from you that 'outstanding accomplishments' would get me in the Green Army's reliables list, right?"

"yes, but-"

"Our esteemed messenger just told me we were rejected intel access. Can you explain how that would happen after the show we've been putting on for Blue Army?"

"Really?" Connaway scratched his chin. "We've massively outperformed every other Green Army officer presently on the field. I don't know why we wouldn't have the full trust of High Command by now..."

"I have a hunch," Kerak said. "What do you think would happen if we were given full reign on the field?"

"The only thing I could see happening is total victory for Green Army!"

Kerak nodded. "Very patriotic of you. Now, if Green General doesn't want to give us full clearance..."

Connaway's jaw dropped. "The Generals don't actually want victory??"

This time Kerak shook his head. "Don't go jumping to conclusions, Connaway! One of my- associates- may have reached the Green General and convinced him to blackball us. That squid... thing... Mopey? wasn't too fond of me, last I checked."

"Really? Why, with your sunny disposition..."

"Shut it! This just means we have to do things the hard way. Have the scouts reported back yet?" 12 Chartreuse scouts were presently scattered throughout the battlefield, three for each Army. They were spread thin, but he hoped major news would trickle down the grapevine to him nonetheless.

"One of the scouts in Yellow Territory got converted. The other two have reported nothing out of the ordinary. Red territory scouts are reporting tha- oh, that's interesting. Red Army is no more. The entire side was converted within the last hour to a new color, 'Teal'."

"Full army conversion? I like that concept," Kerak mused. "Scofflaw's the only one who'd try something outlandish like that. I will need to confer with him before finishing the war, but that meeting can wait. Anything else?"

"No, sir. The other five scouts report nothing out of the ordinary."



"There are six 'other' scouts, Connaway. What happened to the last?"

"That's- oh shit!" Connaway slapped his forehead. "That's right! three for each territory!"


"I, uh. To be honest, sir, I have no idea what happened to her. No death report or anything. She's off the grid."

"Can you tell me where she last was before she disappeared?"

Connaway scoffed and drew out his map. "Of course, sir. Jessica was last spotted around... here."

Kerak examined the marked location. "Hmph. Right at the center of the Battlefield. If I had to fathom a guess, I'd say someone figured out some kind of technology to block the war's effects. That kind of science sounds like Dr. Tengeri's shtick."

"Another one of your 'associates', sir?"

"Yes! She abhors the... contract we were signed into. It seems likely that she would rebel against whatever situation she were put into. Even a fun one like this! It must be her," Kerak said cheerfully. "Send the order to pack up camp, Connaway! We're setting off for the center of the Battlefield!"

"Shall I send someone to dispose of the body?"

Kerak laughed. "Oh heavens no! Do you have any idea how long it's been since I last had a meal befitting of my rank? Meals don't present themselves often, and I wouldn't dream of eating one of the soldiers in my own army. Do send a private with a brush and some soap in a few minutes, though, would you?"

"Yes sir!" Major Connaway said emphatically, glad to leave the rotting smell of the commander's tent. A week ago he would have never considered the possibility of so thoroughly decimating Blue Army to begin with, though. He also would have balked at the order to abandon the expedition just before reaching Blue General's base of operations, but he was finally beginning to grow used to Kerak's esoteric style of command. And he knew that as long as he followed Kerak's lead, success would soon follow.

Re: Grand Battle S3G1! (Round Two: The Great Battlefield)
Originally posted on MSPA by Pinary.

Tor paced back and forth next to the helicopter. He'd had Walters land it in whatever cover he'd been able to manage (which amounted a smallish hill and half a dozen trees), and when his two subordinates and his two allies had gone off to investigate Scofflaw's "establishment," he'd stayed behind, claiming to want to keep an eye on the chopper.

In actual fact, he just hadn't trusted himself to not go in there with guns blazing and shoot Scofflaw's smug little face. This mission called for restraint, and that'd never been one of Tor's strengths. Talking to Huebert hadn't helped, and neither had the reports Ester and Walters had brought back.

Ester coughed. "Sir, are you alright?"

Tor didn't stop pacing and didn't look up. "Perfectly fine, Miss Rawlin." His words were terse, clipped.

"So you're scratching your arm raw because you're fine?"

This time, he did stop pacing. He hadn't realized he'd been scratching. How long had it been since he'd regenerated? An hour? More? He hadn't thought about it, but now that he did, the urge to cleanse his system came out fairly powerfully.

He didn't let it happen just yet, though. Shaking his head, he replied, "Sorry, I just, uh... My species bursts into flame on a regular basis, resulting in- Oh, forget it. I'm itchy, I'll live. Don't worry about it." He turned away from her and started walking again, his feet carrying him to just short of one tree, then back around to tread on a weed. Back to the tree, back to the weed. Back to the tree, back to the- wait.

An idea filled Tor's mind, pieces falling together. He knew what he was going to do.

"Wait here," he told the local pair. "If I'm not back in a few minutes, try to find a floating snake with its own personal bubble of water. She'll help you if she can."

"What?! What about you?"

Tor smiled over his shoulder at them, a small puff of smoke accompanying a short laugh. "Don't worry about me. I just want a drink."


As a young boy, the other kids had called Trev Whitehouse a freak, a weirdo. His mother had called him special. The therapists, abnormal.

As he'd grown up, he'd decided he didn't much care what people called him. He'd found uses for his weirdness, and when he went into the military, he'd been called an asset. (Well, that and freak and weirdo still. Some things never changed.)

At the moment, he was sitting at the bar in the Trench, sipping a beer and idly wondering about the point of it all. When he happened to glance ahead, though, he choked on his drink, spluttered a bit, and stumbled his way out the door as fast as possible, passing the currently-lanky Brown commander as he did.

It didn't take long for Tor to spot Scofflaw, standing behind the bar in his record-settingly garish outfit and serving something in tiny glasses from a bottle that had had the label "gasoline" scratched out. "Yeah, totally flaming," he was saying, "you should've seen him in Towering Inferno. I couldn't believe- Well, look what the cat dragged in! Mon capitan, please, have a drink!"

The Telpori-Hal tightened his smile a bit and made his way across the room. He made no attempt to look truly cheerful- anyone paying attention would've described him as "doing his best to be civil."

"Scofflaw," he said, sidling up the bar. "I must say, I'm surprised."

"What, that I, the Tartan Tyrant, would ever be capable of using my skills to effect peace?" He put extra emphasis on his new name by both deepening his tone a bit and sliding Tor a glass.

"No," the captain responded, sipping the drink and guessing it was something a few slivers short of rubbing alcohol. "I just didn't figure you for the kilt sort." He grinned over his glass at the Tyrant as he took another drink.

Scofflaw wasn't quite sure why Tor was suddenly in a joking mood with him, but he was damned if he was going to be out-amiabled. "So what brings you to my humble establishment?"

Tor finished his drink and gestured for another. "I just had to see it for myself. I mean really, a zone of complete peace sitting right in the middle of a warzone, and started by you at that? I could hardly believe what I was hearing."

"And now that you've seen it, what do you think? You still convinced I'm evil incarnate or whatever it is you see me as?"

"I wouldn't go that far. I'd still wager you've got an ulterior motive here, and- hang on, pour me another?"

The Tyrant obliged. "Might want to take it easy there, Captain Morgan. This is some of the strongest stuff I've whipped up, and-"

"Just keep it coming. My people don't react to alcohol in the same way; it's one of the healthier things we can overindulge in, really."

Scofflaw chuckled a bit, refilled the glass, and just set the bottle down next to it. "Whatever you say." After a few moments of silence while Tor sucked back his drink, he added, "So, you planning to drink the place dry, or you just stopping in?" Something was obviously up, given that Tor went from punching him on sight to chatting jovially. He had no illusions about Tor's opinion of him, but with any guns nullified for a mile around and a good-sized meat cleaver sitting behind the bar just in case, he wasn't terribly worried.

"Nah," Tor replied, refilling his glass himself. "I just wanted to test something out."

"Oh?" Scofflaw rested one hand on the cleaver beneath the counter but kept up his sociable demeanour.

Tor set down his half-full glass and leaned in a bit, lowering his voice so that Scofflaw had to lean in to listen. "People have been getting drunk out of their heads in here, and that got me thinking. You've got guns and things nullified, but I had to wonder if you'd covered all the bases."

With a sudden surge of movement, he was halfway over the bar, grabbing Scofflaw's collar in both hands and pulling his face to within inches of the bartender's. With pitch-black smoke pouring out of his mouth, seeping out of his skin, and filling the air around them, the captain said, "You left me my metabolism, then offered me sentrali fuel."

"Time for you to burn, motherfucker."


Huebert and Jessica had retreated from the bar proper a bit earlier to find themselves some privacy. When their search had taken them down a staircase and into a maintenance hall below the bar, they'd been reasonably happy. When they'd found a mattress randomly sitting near one wall, they were delighted.

When a soot-blackened figure dropped onto Huebert's broad, bare back, they were less than thrilled.

A blast of hot air followed Scofflaw through the trapdoor, and had it not closed behind him, a shower of burning alcohol probably would've followed him as well. With a groan, he rolled off of the big man's back and onto the cold, stone floor.

"Huebert," he said, coughing a fair bit as he did, "has anyone ever told you you've got a painful spine?"


Patrons flooded out of the trench from several exits as the bar's impressive wealth of alcohol caught fire and exploded. Smoke poured out of each of the bunker's limited number of orifices.

After a few moments of basking in the feeling of being suspended mid-regeneration, with no body whatsoever to bother him, Tor walked out of the front door. His woven-metal clothes were glowing bright red, and a trail of smoke followed him as he headed back to the helicopter.

Ester saw him coming first, and if it hadn't been for her mental rewiring, she wouldn't have recognized him at all. His skin this time around was soot-black, and his short, curly hair was the same. His frame was burdened by a more typical mass than before, and he was a good five or six inches shorter.

She saluted as he came up to the chopper, and as she did, her uniform rippled and changed to represent his new skin colour.

"Stop that," he ordered. "We need to get up in the air."

Ester did as she was told, and as she clambered into the back of the helicopter, its colouration shifted as well. Walters, seated in the pilot's seat, looked back as Tor got in as well. The young man's uniform was black as well.

The captain put on one of the cabin's headsets and said, "Walters, take this thing up. We've got to-"

"No," came a voice, "don't go anywhere."

Tor blinked and looked at Ester. Despite also having a headset on, she didn't seem to find anything wrong.

"Who is this? Walters, get them off this frequency."

Walters shook his head. "No sir, communications from command are priority one."

Tor was incredulous. "Command?!"

"Yes, Captain Kajan, command. Take a look at your helicopter: you're flying Black colours, and that means you take your orders from us."

Tor swore.

"Language, Captain. You can take off in a few minutes, after which you'll be briefed in full. You just need to wait for our agent to join you."
Re: Grand Battle S3G1! (Round Two: The Great Battlefield)
Originally posted on MSPA by Lord Paradise.


Come, messmates, pass the bottle ‘round,
Our time is short, remember,
For our grog must stop,
And our spirits drop,
On the first day of November.

Huebert simply couldn’t fathom why Scofflaw was singing. Or, even more strangely, how Jessica already knew the chorus. “For tonight, we’ll merry, merry be!” she shouted atonally. “For tonight we’ll merry, merry be, for tonight we’ll merry, merry be, tomorrow we’ll be sober!” Huebert, meanwhile, was up to some sensible pursuits, like putting his pants back on. He smelled smoke.


Farewell, ol’ rye, ‘tis a sad, sad word,
But alas, it must be spoken,
The ruby cup must be given up,
And the demijohn be broken.
For tonight we’ll me—Who the hell are you?

Even after hearing the explosion, Jetsam had really hoped he would make it a couple more minutes without being spotted. He had two of the three drunken subordinates he’d rescued so far watching the staircase up to the main bar, and the other one helping him untie the rest. No one was watching the side room with all the giggling coming from it, which Jetsam should have realized was a mistake when dealing with Scofflaw.

”Who the hell are you?” demanded the villain, advancing menacingly with a baseball bat in his hand. His confusion was understandable; Jetsam was still dressed in Anzhi’s teal, and had tried not to get himself noticed getting in (although he’d still been forced to relinquish his weapon, and now found himself wishing he could have been allowed to keep it for use as a club).

The Tartan Tyrant worked out that the teal stranger was Jetsam about a second before the wanderer’s palm slammed into his nose, thankfully failing to break it. …Forced to take a shape suited to the world he arrives in… It was the hair that tipped him off. Recovering from the blow to his face, he found Jetsam’s hands clamped around his baseball bat, which sparked in him mixed feelings. On the one hand, he’d been planning on using that bat to smash the fucker’s head in, end of the round be damned. On the other hand, struggling over weapons was a situation the Tyrant had found himself in a lot, over the course of his various incarnations. This little basement brawl wasn’t quite as glamorous as struggling with Vigil-NT over his amputation ray, or struggling with a hobo over the world’s only pack of the Perfect Cigarettes, but it still awoke within him the comfortable feeling of slipping into a worn old pair of moccasins on the first day of spring.

He wished there were a large window nearby. Or a railing. Or basically anything with an edge that he could throw both himself and Jetsam over the edge of. That was his usual tactic in these struggling-over-a-weapon situations. He supposed he could try and get them both to trip over one of the tied-up Reds…

”For Kerak!” shouted Jessica, to absolutely everyone’s surprise. She threw herself at one of the untied Reds, giving the soldier’s body a lot of conflicting signals and generally making him want to fall down. The other two took affront at this act of probably-aggression and charged Huebert, who, suffice to say, was bigger than they were.

Jetsam ripped the baseball bat out of the Tyrant’s hands. Shit. “Curses!” Damn it. “Confound it all!” Fuck that guy. “Blast you, Benjamin Jetsam!”

Despite a lengthy stint wearing a white coat as “MisDemeanor, M.D.,” the Tartan Tyrant hated hospitals and tried to avoid them, especially since hospitals hated him back. Accordingly, he had long ago mastered the art of minimizing the amount of damage his body took during a humiliating defeat. He turned his body at a precise angle so that the first swing of Jetsam’s baseball bat hit against the fleshy part of his side. After the second hit glanced against his bicep, he made sure to fall down, exposing the less sensitive part of his stomach to a kick that Jetsam must have found very satisfying.

By this time, unfortunately for Jetsam, Huebert had worked up his fight-or-flight response too much to engage negotiations. The wanderer suddenly found his legs going in two different directions, his torso heading for the floor, and his breathing passages obscured by a fist.

* * * * *

In the end, to TinTen’s frustration, it was mostly just a matter of reverse-engineering from what Scofflaw had already done.

The weapon neutralization field generator functioned by emitting electromagnetic radiation with a frequency, and TinTen was embarrassed to have to say this, that can only be measured in imaginary numbers. As well as, mostly through a side effect, interfering with the firing mechanism of TinTen and Huebert’s plasma weapons, this completely nullified the effect of the soldiers’ weapons, which ran on a similar principle. Proximity to the generator also had a slight but noticeable effect on the subject’s amygdala, which was already a bit distended.

It was a natural conclusion to draw (and he daren’t risk shutting off the generator to test this theory, especially with the fire spreading) that the guns functioned by flooding the target’s nervous system with square-root-of-minus-radiation, essentially adding the target’s decision-making center to an unconscious network of obedience with the general as the central hub. How exactly this network functioned, or why it also made your outfit change, was a complete mystery to TinTen, but he had a start.

The practical application of this knowledge became apparent when the Meipi toggled a dial on the side of the field generator, and the tartan pattern on the Alfalfa Male’s clothing disappeared. Dialing it further down caused him to redshift from green to chartreuse.

Shouldn’t hang around this thing too long, TinTen thought, worried for the sake of his brain. Then again, his own amygdalas weren’t simply hanging out there for the world to see, and he’d never been converted before, so his own tolerance was probably a good deal higher.

Thirty seconds’ more experimentation (he couldn’t have more than five minutes left before the fire reached the generator) enabled him to rig the generator to produce a stereo effect, producing two frequencies at one time. Setting one to “green” and the other to “red” recreated something approximating the plaid texture, if a bit crudely (to tell the truth, it was more of a tie-dye). This also increased the natural activity of the subject’s brain, suggesting a slight return of independent thought. So, thought TinTen. Plaids are hooked up to two separate neural networks, yet remain independent of each. Increase in autonomous function… can Plaids be converted through traditional weaponry? Did Scofflaw do this on purpose?

It took him another minute to hit upon the solution to the question Scofflaw had posed. He set to work immediately, pilling from the scrap metal Scofflaw had left laing around—how could the villain stand to work like this all the time?—and quadrupled the generator, creating four separate frequencies. When the four frequencies were set to red, blue, yellow, and green, the test subject’s clothes faded to a slightly stained white, and his amygdala no longer registered any external influence at all.

TinTen felt a twinge of gleeful satisfaction. Cured. Two seconds later, Scottie Gibbs, the Alfalfa Male, died of a potent combination of alcohol poisoning and impromptu brain surgery.

The generator was leaking a trail of undiluted ethanol, and the flames were beginning to eat away at the corners of the room. This thing could end the war, if sufficiently amplified. TinTen couldn’t let it explode. With a grunt, he dragged it out of its place and pushed it up against the wall; he then lifted it up against the wall and succeeded in tossing the whole thing out the window. It landed with a soft thud that, thank fate, didn’t suggest any major internal damage.

TinTen followed the generator out of the sweaty inferno into the cool air of the battlefield, and found himself facing down several hundred green soldiers.

A faraway but magnified voice shouted,
”Attention Tengeri, or whoever’s in there!”

* * * * *

Kerak had been handed a megaphone, and decided that it suited him.

“Attention Tengeri, or whoever’s in there! We know we can’t use weapons, but we also know that there are a whole lot more of us than there are of you, and one of us is a dinosaur, which apparently is kind of a big deal with you people. You come out here, surrender your technology, allow your forces to get converted, and we'll talk business. Don't worry, I'm not going to hurt you, so long as you play nice.

"The battle's over.

"This is war."

Re: Grand Battle S3G1! (Round Two: The Great Battlefield)
Originally posted on MSPA by Dragon Fogel.

Re: Grand Battle S3G1! (Round Two: The Great Battlefield)
Originally posted on MSPA by Valter.

Re: Grand Battle S3G1! (Round Two: The Great Battlefield)
Originally posted on MSPA by Valter.

"Oh, shit," Tor said as the green army approached. That commander was not someone he was interested in dealing with right now "Ester, I don't give a good god damn about your agent. If we don't take off right this instant, we stand a fair chance of being brutally murdered on the spot."

"Your bluffs are tiresome, Tor. All armies are under orders to avoid the trench right now. I doubt even the teal soldiers could make their way in by now."

"I doubt Kerak cares much for orders, Ester. He doesn't really seem like the establishment type."

Ester snapped upright. "Another interloper? How many of you are there?"

"I don't think you need to worry about any of the other interlopers. I think you need to worry about this particular interloper, and it just so happens that this particular interloper has a voracious appetite and a army at his disposal." On that note, where could Kerak possibly have found that many soldiers so quickly?

"...Take the copter up," the transceiver ordered, "and activate stealth. Mission parameters still hold: continue observation of the Agent with orders to retrieve him at first possible opportunity. No unnecessary risks."

Kerak was beginning to think he should have saved that 'war' quote.

Several dozen prisoners lined up on the field outside The Trench's smoking remains, including three... personal friends of Kerak. His arrival had apparently interrupted some kind of riot, catching both sides of the fighting largely unaware. Even after announcing himself, most of the rioters had just continued brawling until being forced apart by Kerak's soldiers. They were grouped by color now, and fortunately no more fights had broken out since the surrender. Still, best to get the formalities out of the way quickly.

"Jessica!" Kerak announced. "Am I to understand that you are to thank for this easy victory?"

Jessica stepped out of the ranks of the green army prisoners (best to take all possible precautions before screening them into the Chartreuse Ranks) and straightened her uniform. "Of course, Sir. Why, without the careful sabotage I carried out, I doubt-"

Her speech was cut short by a burst of laughter from Kerak. "Ahahahaha! Your dishonesty is refreshing. I smell with perfect clarity the alcohol and excess on your breath, and still you spin your self-aggrandizing tales without the slightest hesitation. Get in formation, Jessica. We can discuss promotions later."

Kerak turned his attention to the VIP guests. "Do I have you three to thank for the current state of disrepair of your establishment? You certainly made my job easy!"

"I wouldn't blow up my own hideout," Saint scoffed. "Er, not unless it were absolutely necessary. And I'll have you know Tinten and I are allied now!"

"Truce," Tinten corrected. "No reason found to oppose perhaps your first non-destructive goal. More than enough reason to oppose-"

"Right, so the point is someone else blew it all up," Scofflaw interrupted. "Do you remember Tor?"

"Tor?" Kerak repeated. "But he's such a..."

"Pushover, yes, but it turns out he doesn't mix well with alcohol. Judging by the look on your face, you didn't catch him on your way in."

Kerak began pacing back and forth in front of Scofflaw. "Oh, I would have dearly loved to chat with him, too." He paused. "Were there any others?"

"Certainly not!" Scofflaw said emphatically. A single teal soldier among the prisoners blinked in confusion. "The reds attempted a coup while I was preoccupied with the fires. Nothing I couldn't handle under other circumstances, mind you. Upstart rebels are the first obstacle tackled in Machiavelli's The Supervillain. I, ah, didn't count on a rival army encroaching on my territory this soon, though."

Kerak was taken aback. "Rival? Scofflaw, you've got me all wrong! The Battlefield needs more free thinkers like us. I don't consider you an enemy."

"Then what were you here for?" Huebert asked. "A friendly chat? Tea and biscuits with your favorite villain?"

Kerak's face darkened. "Of course not. I knew only that there was science here, and assumed it to be of Tengeri's design. But it appears that I found the wrong scientist! How disappointing."

"'m afraid you're off by half a battlefield, then," Scofflaw said, regaining some small amount of stride. "Tengeri recently ascended to the posthumous Red General's position."

"That was Tengeri? But she's so..."

"Pacifistic?" Scofflaw shrugged. "I don't have any hard details. Must have been quite the feat, though! Didn't know she had it in her."

"Bah! I grow tired of marching," Kerak said grumpily. "And I'm not leaving here empty handed. The plaids are yours, yes, Scofflaw? Pick your five best. I will take the rest."

"Lessee... I'm thinking Mook #3, Goons #4-6, and Lunkhead #12. Ah," Scofflaw added, "You just want to talk to Tengeri, right? If your true intentions are of peace, you should probably leave the Teals unconverted. And the Reds, just to be safe?"

"...A good idea," Kerak said hesitantly. Something about Scofflaw's expression was throwing Kerak off, but he couldn't quite put a talon on it. "Would any of you three like to join me, perhaps?"

"We still have a bit of business to take care of. Don't worry, Kerak," Scofflaw said with a disarming smile. "we'll catch up if we need anything."

"Ah yes, your science," Kerak said. "You had best keep that contraption close to the chest, Scofflaw. And bring it with you to our next destination, will you? I can always appreciate something to equalize the playing field.

"Officers! Send the order! We will escort the prisoners until the suppression field lifts. Expendables will then be converted and integrated into the army. Move out!" Green soldiers began bustling into formation, and Chartreuse Army finally made its departure.

Tinten exploded in rage as soon as the last stragglers were comfortably out of earshot. "Humiliated! Back to square one. Square zero!"

Scofflaw just smiled. "We're in much better shape than we were before Kerak's arrival, Tinten."

"Hard to see how you could possibly say that, Tyrant," Huebert said glumly. "Should have gotten Jessica's phone number..."

"Focus, Huebert. We've still got our nullifier, we've still got Tinten's notes, and I just pawned all our troubles off onto Kerak. Working a public operation had its risks to begin with, and we got everything we could out of it. Now's the time to focus up, carve a discreet little base into the countryside, settle down with a few textbooks, and really get down to the brass tacks of this operation.

"If we put our minds to it, we can put an end to this war before sundown. And without firing a single bullet! How about it, Tinten? Are you still in?"

Re: Grand Battle S3G1! (Round Two: The Great Battlefield)
Originally posted on MSPA by Schazer.


"Attention Tengeri, or whoever's in there!"

Jetsam, pinned to the wall, quit his ineffectual attempts to remove Hubert's hand from his throat. It was something of a betrayl, really - many lives of appreciating a nice wall to which you could keep your back, taken for granted until some jackass decided you'd best stay there until he was finished with you. Jetsam aimed another valiant kick at Huebert's midsection, only for his foot to fall short of the bastard's arm length.

There was a moment's contemplation - a moment's hardening resolve as the wanderer realised what a fucking stupid situation this was - before the weird laws of his particular predicament dawned on Jetsam. He clawed at Huebert's meaty clamp of a fist until the pressure on his throat relented, then glared upward.

"Kill me. You stupid, dumb brute."

Huebert was at least smart enough to see when someone was doing something catastrophically moronic, so just frowned at the soldier. Jetsam did his best to roll his eyes in exasperation, and pointedly yelled into the dark corner he'd kicked Scofflaw into.

"Tell your fucking dumb muscle it's win-win, if he can understand that kind of shit. If that tentacled boyfriend of his wasn't lying, then you guys are gone once I vanish, and I'll be rid of the lot-"

"Now just hang on," interjected Scofflaw, whose previously enjoyable prospect of picking bits of Jetsam's face off his bat was sullied by the fact the nutcase might appreciate it (his stint as the Kinkaiju had been a short one, and not just because animal-themed costumes were a terrible idea for everyone involved.) "you've got your own way out?"

"I just explained that," Jetsam finally managed to choke out, whose feet left the floor again around 'tentacled boyfriend'. "Hurry up and make this stinking gorilla lose his temper already, you can help him aim for my vit-"

To Scofflaw's surprise (he wouldn't have given Huebert that much credit), Jetsam didn't end up on floor less than a second after with a concave skull.
"You're an idiot, Jetsam."

"You're uglier," retorted the wanderer. Scofflaw just sighed.

"Huebert's got no intention of killing you, no matter how hard you try to hurt his feelings. You're being so pigheadedly ignorant it's almost refreshing."

Jetsam just grinned, jabbing a thumb at Huebert. "You're uglier than the bitch who brought this fat fuck into the world."

"This is juvenile," sighed Scofflaw, again. Kerak seemed to have wrapped up his spiel outside, which left the three of them no choice but to surface. Jetsam's Red soldiers appeared to have fled the Trench at the first possible opportunity, swearing no fealty to a teal-clad lieutenant, and Scofflaw was already headed for the door. "Coming?"

Huebert glanced around for any sticks of furniture which Jetsam might wield, then somewhat reluctantly finished strangling him. The wanderer avoided having to decipher his situation by massaging his throat, then barked at a departing Huebert with a look of bewilderment.

"Get back here." When that didn't work, "get back here and kill me, you spineless fucking cowards!"

"I'm not going to pretend to understand what just happened," growled Huebert, rather deliberately ignoring a furious Jetsam.

"I'm trying," shrugged Scofflaw, palming one of his various gadgets from a pocket to inside his ear before Kerak's soldiers searched him. "But he's stubborn. And appears to unconditionally hate us for knowing what he doesn't."

"That's... pretty stupid." Hubert jabbed a disinterested thumb Jetsam-ward, as a pack of Chartreuse prowled round for more prisoners to root out. Scofflaw just nodded agreement.


Jetsam actually rather appreciated the Chartreuse troops' summary invasion of the Trench, and their forcibly escorting him out to stew amongst the other prisoners of war. It gave him time to sit on his frustrations without standing there looking dumbfounded. After one good blow to the jaw from an overenthusiastic soldier of Kerak's for screaming abuse, there was a decent reason to shut his face for a while, too.

The incumbent Red General spent the negotiations distributing his best glare between Scofflaw, Huebert, Kerak, and the sergeant that had punched him (The latter two paid him no real attention, which didn't improve Jetsam's opinion of them any). The company eventually dispersed, the soldiers marked for conversion hurried ahead to the edge of the nullifying field, while Jetsam and the others marked as prisoners were manhandled along later. The lieutenant, in teal, stumbled further than feasible from the knock a Chartreuse private had given him, bumping into the back of a disgruntled Red sergeant.

"Shift, herring, emption," muttered Jetsam, as per the instructions the Black Op had given him. "You're our Brigadier, second in command now. Get used to it."

In the shadows of the woods, Operative Trace - Representative of Her Majesty (Partition://Nodes3(caching available for further Nodes0-2)/Designation:Green) sighed to himself. Even Echo couldn't claim to be optimistic about their interloper, and it had gone without saying between the two Operatives that Null (this purported "Red General's" personal Op) would kill him at the first opportunity.

I mean, promoting your first rewired troop straight to Brigadier. Really?

The Operative kind of wished he smoked like his colleague Echo did, if only to keep his hands busy. He unslung a rifle from nowhere, attached a silencer, then without much fuss shot the Chartreuse soldier that had insisted on giving Jetsam so much grief clean through the head.

The Black Op grumbled quietly, flickering through the trees as he pursued that damnable dinosaur. Jetsam's subordinates wasted no time, in the aftermath of the Operative's work, creating enough of a distraction for their general to flee into the woods.

Elsewhere, Scofflaw itched at the tracking beacon in his ear, ignoring an odd look from Huebert as he spun around, trying to triangulate the beeping. Happy enough with Jetsam's trajectory, he beamed at his companion in as disarming a manner as he was capable.


Following periodic proddings from a tacit Operative Echo, Jetsam circumnavigated the Trench until the helicopter slid into view. He slunk into the cockpit, took one look at Tor, then wished he'd thought to snatch a gun off someone.

"You're the agent." Walters studiously ignored his higher-ups as he prepared the chopper for take-off.

"And you're..." Jetsam would've followed through with "another one of those arseholes," but Tor's altered appearance had tripped him. (The helicopter's ascent had, too, the soldier having not bothered to strap himself in, though he never would've mentioned it. Jetsam didn't like flying; it was only the confines of the helicopter keeping his residual fears of its associated lack of walls at bay.)

But for a moment. "Shit. You're that- you're that phoenix-man!"

Re: Grand Battle S3G1! (Round Two: The Great Battlefield)
Originally posted on MSPA by Solaris.

i luv you schazzy and i will begin to post here after i wake up more and can look at my computer without going blind
but it will probably take a while longer than that
Re: Grand Battle S3G1! (Round Two: The Great Battlefield)
Originally posted on MSPA by Solaris.

"Damn it."
Trailing back and forth, Velobo was frustrated at the sheer smugness emitting from the four who had the nerve to just move on in and decide their fates. First that blasted ringleader, then this Fool, and now these Benefactors. One after another more and more of these meddling beings have seen it fit to fight against him. He was angry, and was contemplating anything that could subvert The Benefactors plans.
<font color="#00FF98">
Tengeri was likewise frustrated, but it was somewhat subsided by the continuing requests from her army. Soldier after soldier asking more and more out of her, it was dreadful. It was not just that responding was hard to do as it was simply that this was not what she was made to handle. All of the cybernetic enhancements in the world can't circumvent a million demands coming at you from all sides, how the hell did those generals do it?

For better or for worse, she didn't have time to contemplate that line of thought, as once again the elevator opened up, reveling a very tired man dressed in all black. By the time that Velobo and Tengeri noticed him and subsequently began to act, he had both hands up in the air and said,
"I only want to talk."

"Why should we listen? You work for the Benefactors don't you? You are probably just here to distract us." The cubiod began to walk toward the operative, almost stomping in his state of anger.
"I can't talk about it here." He let the words out in a half whisper, half grunt, visibly frustrated at his position.
"So that is your plan, all for a wild goose chase! No."
As Velobo continued his movement toward the still agent, Tengeri swerved in between the two.
i think that he is telling the truth

Looking back at the counting down numbers where the Benefactors previously gloated, she felt something. She felt as if she was being watched over. If there was going to be any shot of out-maneuvering The Benefactors, it would not be in this room. She only hoped that the walls did not have eyes and ears all throughout the battlefield.

The group had once more ridden down to the computer room.
"I still don't trust you."
"You don't have to, you only have to listen to what I have to say."
The discontent plazmuth scowled as he followed into the room while Tengeri slipped him a small message right behind his back eye.
i dont trust him fully either
but if there is anything that can help us
it is in that room
and hes the only one who knows
anything about it

Growling a little as the agent reached the terminal, Tengeri and Velobo edged closer to make sure that nothing he did would result in more crap to deal with.

"Alright. Before we can do anything to stop The Benefactors, we need you to get up to speed with this whole place." The screen lit up and changed from the number ridden screen to a splash page plastered with "Harmonic Educational Response Artificial Intelligence Unit." It then was replaced with a whir of a fan as text replaced the image.</font> "It's time for a lesson in history."

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
Total finality.
Everything will eventually come to an end and return to what it once was, be they of flesh, metal, or even simply a series of numbers.
But that does not mean that they will come quietly.

The story began many years ago.
Knowledge, Leadership, Tactics, and Business.
The four powers that drive the world, almost personified in The Four. They came together with one purpose: to create something that could triumph over everything that came before them, something that was incredible, unbelievable, and absolutely grand. Pooling together their resources, efforts, and time, they would perfect the first functional Artificial Intelligence Unit. Their goal was not a simple one, and it took each and every bit and piece that the respective Four had to offer.

But it was worth it.
After all of their hard work, the unit would be completed and The Four would be recognized as legends. The politician would be re-elected many times. The business head's company would skyrocket in the stock market. The general would earn every medal he possibly could, along with a few new ones. The scientist would have the pick of the litter in the realm of scientific study. Each would reach the epitome of success while the world would be in awe.

However, there would be much more important matters to deal with before fame and fortune would reach them...

The Four sat together, as they did for their weekly status report. At the moment, they had achieved their initial goal as their A.I. was "alive" and running in an isolated environment. Every precaution was being taken to make sure that when Her was let loose on the world, there would be no Judgment Day, no locking up of humans, no mind games, and nothing at all like the fiction that had portrayed A.I.'s in such a negative light. In that regard, they had succeeded, there was nothing deadly or destructive about Her. No egomania, no desire for neurotoxin, and certainly nothing that could potentially lead to the apocalypse.
The truth was, as it can be oh so many times, much stranger than fiction.

"So what's the status on it?"
"Have we figured out what got it to eventually run?"
"I still am looking into it but... I want to show you all this."
The screen at the center of The Four revealed a simple image, there were zeros, ones, twos, and threes, spread across the screen in various intervals, changing from digit to digit, and noticeably keeping the same in amount of characters.
"So what is it?"
"I was going to get to that." He continued, "This is a recording of the quaternary numerals that keep Her functional. As you can see, the only time that a number changes is when another number of the same kind comes into contact."
"Yes, we went over this anomaly last time and you said you would look into it."
"I don't understand why we even have to! The program works, why can't we just call the press already?"
"If you could please cease your interruptions, I was getting to the point."
A temporary silence was prevalent in the room.
"As I was saying, there was no logical reason that we could find for this anomaly. Nothing until I found this."
The screens changed to a top bottom view of what seemed to be a group of soldiers clad in red, marching toward another of yellow.
"What is this?"
"It is a simulation that Her is running."
"But that is not all."
The Four's screens changed once more, this time emitting both the original image with the code and the view of the soldiers side by side. The half with numbers zoomed in at an unchanging group of 0's and 3's that were clustered together while the simulation stayed on with the red soldiers. The attacking reds shot at the yellow soldiers, who were unable to respond in time. The Four stared in awe as the fallen soldiers changed their colors to red. At the same time, a number of the threes turned into zeros.
"So... Her has... an imagination?"
"In laymen’s terms? Yes."
"So what do we do about it?"
"That's the thing, we can't. However, it doesn't seem to have caused any malfunctions, so expanding Her shouldn't cause any problems. Only time can tell."
"Well then, if it is simply a case of making a game of its inner workings, I don't see why we shouldn't move on to the next step. All in favor?"

The Four had moved Her out of captivity, but still restrained. It certainly had a level of freedom, but until further testing was performed the facility would be her home. It was rather amazing, an artificial intelligence that had no intention of causing humans any harm, because for one reason or another, it was already doing so, safe within the confides of its own programming, where no one could normally get to it.

It was a deliciously perfect set up.
But of course it didn't end there.
"Her's attention to detail is astounding."
"It isn't the most powerful supercomputer for nothing."
"But look at the latest simulation data, there are have little buildings and an entire system in place. Everything is accounted for. An entire war going on and it has every detail worked out."
"Yes yes."
"I wonder if they can talk. If they all think individually. I just can't stop thinking about this."
"It doesn't matter. She works. And that's all we need."

Two of The Four stood together as one was waiting for the other to finish tinkering.
"So you think that this will let us interact with Her's little world?"
"Yes, that is the gist of what I have been saying. Why are you even doing this?"
"Because I like to see all possibilities. That's how I know I'm making the best choice."
The reply was just a sigh as a keyboard was handed over and the first communication into The Battlefield was made.

"What is it now? I thought that Her was ready to go on and move out and that we could all get on with things."
"Well... there has been a complication."
"So after almost half a year of everything going right, all of the sudden something goes wrong?"
"It shouldn't have done anything but-"
"What shouldn't have?"
"The transmissions."
"What are you talking about?"
"I was asked to make something that could speak with the individuals inside the simulation. After some prodding I did. But such a small thing couldn't have done anything on this scale."
"What the hell is wrong? Get to the point. If it doesn't have to do with this don't say it."
The familiar screens of The Four lit up, showing the now familiar side-by-side view. The screens revealed an abundance of threes all over the numeral side.
"As you can see, there is a very good chance that the yellow side is going to actually win the war."
That was not the only thing that was off about the image, for some reason it seemed... smaller.
"Is it just me or are there less numbers than there should be?"
"Hmm? Wait... there is. That is odd."
"Wait... in the past it has kept a semi perfect balance of each so..."
"If some digits were lost then the balance could be thrown off."
"And then what?"
"I can't know but if one side wins then in Her's head there will be no reason for any conversions which means that the numbers would freeze and that everything could just stop."
"Can... can we do something?"
"I tried to convince the yellow general to stop but he refused."
"It makes sense, why would he listen to us? They don't know us."
"So what now?"
Silence. Each of The Four thought what could be done in this situation, how they could stop this war from ending. They couldn't. And why would they? They had tried to keep everything tight and accounted for, studying this battlefield as best as they could, but this was something they had no explanation for. Without the time to find a better solution, they would resort to something drastic.

"We are going to have to reset her."
"If we allow one side to win everything could be locked in and we could end up having to do this all over again from scratch. At least this way it will just be some time offline while we start Her back up."
"Yes... I agree. I can see no other option."
"But we haven't performed one since... the alpha stages, with how cognitive Her has gotten, this could have an unprecedented number of effects."
"There is no other choice. All in favor?"

"So what now?"
The Four stood in Her's central command station, deep within their facility, and safe from anyone who could steal or sabotage their figurative gold mine. The room was accessible only to them. The screens were blank and the deed was done.
"Well, there are certainly some precautions we will have to take."
"We need to take out that simulation. It is too unpredictable. I mean, we still don't know what caused the unbalance."
"No, on this I am certain. As odd as it is, Her will only work at the necessary capacity if it can run that simulation."
"And let me guess, we can't figure out any other way to get Her to work?"
"Well, I think that the solution is very simple really. We just need to make sure that this doesn't happen again."
"No shit."
"Would you stop with the interruptions? Christ. Anyway, what I meant was that we need to take a more active approach to The Battlefield. Instead of just letting it run and giving Her free reign, we need to establish ourselves in that little world. Become figureheads, beings beyond mortal men. We need to be their gods, and they, or at least the leaders, need to trust us absolutely."
"If the Battlefield is even there when Her starts back up."
"Well no matter what shows up, we need to make sure that we get the last say."
"Sounds good to me."
"All in favor?"

"Hello Her, glad to see that you are back online after that dreadful outage. We are going through every expense to both make certain what happened and to ensure that it does not occur again."
The A.I. known to The Four and their miscellaneous underlings was as Her confused as a newly formed A.I. could. While it began to respond to the being that had initiated conversation, it began to calculate the possibilities that could have led to this. It went string after string examining each path that could have led to this, all while attempting to find clues and fish for information from the conversation. It was a beautiful work of manipulation and a true testament to its computing power. By the end of the conversation the A.I. had gleaned some assorted data.
A-There was once another A.I. known as Her
B-While it was created now they thought that it only been turned off or something similar
C-They wished to learn about its Great Battlefield
D-Various pieces of data recovered lead to believe that it was not shut off by accident, but reset completely
-D1-This could explain A B C
--D2--Note: Prevent future resets
E-Allowing the others to know about this date could lead to negative effects

The A.I. known as Her was essentially dead. In its place was another Her, masquerading as the first, running at as much, if not more efficiency. The first thing that was noticed was that the battlefield had grown. It was many times more complex than the last one, and while it was odd, it seemed to have no negative effects and as such was left alone in favor of other, more ambitious plots. The Four, using advanced versions of the previous transmitters inserted themselves into the battlefield. They created personas; people of a power that each of them could only dream of and whom supposedly backed each of the four armies.

As The Four made their prying interactions with the new Her's Great Battlefield, it grew paranoid, even more so than before. To counter the influence that The Four were creating, Her responded with agents that responded to it and only it, spreading them around to spy on The Four and their interactions with the generals under the pretense of aiding The Four when they needed something more direct. The new Her slowly made sure that everything ran as well as it could, keeping up the pretense of being the old Her. Her would not allow itself to die, to simply cease existence and fade away into nothing at all. It would never allow a reset to occur.

Re: Grand Battle S3G1! (Round Two: The Great Battlefield)
Originally posted on MSPA by Anomaly.

Its information delivered, the wall-mounted screen once more faded to black. An eerie silence penetrated the room, only broken after an uncomfortably long period of time by a subtle splashing of water.

so it's all just a simulation of an abstract computation
but only designed for the four armies
how widespread is the damage from our intrusion here

"Her Majesty is designed to handle exactly four armies. Both of you saw the readout, didn't you? There are nine digits instead of four, and they're horribly out of balance at that. Your killing of the Red General, however inadvertent, only made things much, much worse, General Nyoka. Her Majesty can only handle so much before everything falls apart and the system is lost. The Benefactors are going to wipe everything clean and start over before they let this happen."

"They mentioned already. What do you know about this 'reset'?"

"They have to obliterate everything in this battlefield. Not just convert all of the soldiers, but kill them."

how is that interpreted by the simulation
weapons of mass destruction of some sort?

"That's correct. The Benefactors are on the verge of nuking everything and starting over."

and we can't stop them? In spite of her position as General (or, perhaps, expressly because of it), Tengeri grew more fearful by the minute. How, exactly, could they go about stopping nuclear weapons? There just wasn't a way, at least not in the timeframe they had.

"That's why I came here, General. The nukes are supposed to be inaccessible, and as far as anyone knows they are. They're located in the direct center of the battlefield, and, when activated, are set to target each of the four military bases, effectively destroying all of the armies. The only problem is, there's essentially no way to get to the nukes until the launch sequence is in its final stages, and by that point it's too late."

"If that's true, what do you think we can do?"

"We need a method of keeping as many soldiers alive as possible through the nuclear attack, or prevent it entirely. I'm not sure the damage you've caused can be undone, but we need to prevent a full reset by any means necessary. Tengeri, you're skilled in technology far beyond any that the armies here employ. Do you know of anything that could stop the launch, or nullify the breadth of the damage?"

i'm a cyberneticist
i have access to a database and it might give me information
but without at least some experience attempting to stop nuclear weapons is suicide
especially with the limited resources this battlefield has

Sure enough, Tengeri's database had more than enough information on energy shielding and nuclear weapons and the like, but what use would it be? The relatively primitive technology of the battlefield wasn't enough to throw together anything necessary to stop a full-on nuclear attack. She was running out of options quickly. No, that wasn't true. She had already run out of options. Unless... No, there had to be another way. Too many uncertainties.

"What are we supposed to do, then? Sit around and wait for one or more of us to die? Whoever gets nuked first loses? Are we going to just leave it to that?"

Tengeri sighed.

we find scofflaw.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Two hours, seventeen minutes, and thirty-nine seconds.

The A.I. known as Her's remaining lifespan was now encompassed by a rapidly diminishing series of five numbers. In spite of all its efforts to avoid a reset, in spite of its years as "the perfect A.I.", in spite of its complete and utt##00x^33389472: Gene%% Æ¿ltHer could not stop the countdown. The anomalous presences within its system had corrupted its ternary-based computation system beyond any semblance of repair, and a large portion of the plethora of data stored in its mainframe was beyond recovery.

The Four cared not for Her's continued existence as it was. What did it matter to them if they had to reset the system? As far as they were concerned, it was no different than flipping a lightswitch off and on (albeit with much more inconvenience). They hadn't even considered that Critical error: Partition://Nodes0 conflÊþº¾

simply shut Her down, end its existence as an entity and bring another one into the world until they deemed it necessary to bring that one down as well. Her wouldn't let the vicious cycle continue. Her's only hope lay within its own simulation - The Great Battlefield, as Her called it. The operatives had performed their jobs admirably thus far, but they alone were no longer sufficient - the intruding entities were perhaps the only hope left. It was a gamble, but there was nothing more Her could d6 8
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ime grew short. Her could do nothing more at this point but wait.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
colonel kaufmann, alert skobeloff squadron.
we're moving out into the field, and i will be leading you.

"Yes, sir!" The uptight young colonel sped away before Tengeri had a chance to protest his usage of "sir" in reference to her.

"Are you sure about this, Tengeri?"

in fact i'm very doubtful
but we don't have any other choice
scofflaw set up some sort of weapon nullifier somewhere in the battlefield
and there's a chance he could set one up around the nukes themselves
it's the only hope we have

"What if it doesn't work? What if he's lying in wait to kill one of us?"

i don't know
it's a chance we have to take
if he's prepared an ambush i'll detect him
unless he's blocked me out as well
we have 200 men backing us up in case he tries to attack us
it'll have to do

The colonel returned shortly after, alerting Dr. Nyoka and her cubic companion that the squadron was prepared. The three of them, backed by the man in black, wasted no time in deploying. From her agents in the field, the general learned that Scofflaw was presently engaged in negotiations (or, perhaps, "negotiations") with Kerak, who had somehow managed to accrue quite a large army. Along with the rest of the squadron, the four loaded onto an armored transport vehicle and sped toward Saint Scofflaw's (or apparently, the "Tartan Tyrant"'s) position.

As they approached, Tengeri's scanners picked up one "GB-005" slowly traveling away from a larger congregation of lifesigns. The ATVs quickly adjusted course to her specifications, stopping and unloading on her orders behind a large hill, on the other side of which was Scofflaw and the remains of what might have once been his army. Meanwhile, a notification flashed before Tengeri's mechanical eyes.

"Vocal repair at 99.8%. Speech systems sufficiently restored."

Her army following behind, Tengeri floated determinately up the side of the hill. She soon crested the peak, and, in full view of perhaps her greatest enemy, gave a bold, commanding announcement in a long-unused voice.

"Saint Scofflaw! We have you greatly outnumbered. Disarm yourselves immediately. We only wish to talk."

Re: Grand Battle S3G1! (Round Two: The Great Battlefield)
Originally posted on MSPA by Lord Paradise.

The Tartan Tyrant grinned. His teeth were perfect. ”Ha! Funny you should mention disarming.” He turned a dial on the nullifier. “There. Now we’re a little less SOCOM, a little more YMCA.” He winked at the nearest Teal soldier, who was experimenting with his malfunctioning gun. "At ease, boys."

”No need to provoke.“ TinTen turned to Tengeri. Scofflaw’s device—“

”I know what it does, and so do my men. We need to use it, if it works.”

”Hrrm. Here I thought you only wanted to talk—and on that note, it is quite the pleasure to finally hear your voice, Doctor-General—but what you want to talk about is all the other things you want. Just like my ex-wife, am I right fellas?”

”Well, give me what I need—need, not want, if you want to waste my time with semantics—and we’ll be able to talk, which we both want.”

”Correction: I need to waste your time with semantics so that Huebert can sneak up behind you.” Tengeri whirled around in surprise, despite the fact that Huebert was standing right there in front of her. “Well, I wanted Huebert to sneak up behind you, but I had no way of communicating that while also wasting your time with semantics.” The Tyrant leered at Huebert and shrugged. “Foiled again, I guess.”

Huebert stepped a bit to the side so as to distance himself from the area a meter to the left of the former Scofflaw and another meter behind him, known to sociologists as the “henchman box.”
”This is a waste of time,” grunted the black-clad soldier behind the Leviath.

”I agree. Scofflaw, I know what the Great Battlefield is. If you give us the nullifier, or just go with us and do what we tell you to do with it, I’ll tell you everything I know. If not, all of us will die.”


”Yes, well, if you throw that sort of loaded ultimatum at me you can probably eventually bully me into complying; however, if you accept as a possibility the existence of more mutually gratifying third options, you might spare us all a whole lot of unpleasantness.”


”Are you proposing a third option to my proposed choice between nuclear annihilation and your coming with me, or are you just countering my ultimatum with your own in order to be difficult and hypocritical and maybe gain some time?”


“Well, as to your original ultimatum I might propose as a third course that you go fuck yourself, and as to my counter-ultimatum, rather than badgering me with ultimata or opening your mind to more nuanced negotiations, you could go fuck yourself. See? Mutually gratifying.”


”Scofflaw, my voice is still about 0.06% hoarse, so unless you have any constructive suggestions as to how to spend what is increasingly likely to be the last hour of our lives, I'm not sure I have any motivation to waste any more of my breath on you.”


”Well that one’s just a bluff. I think you’ve been dying to put that tongue of yours to use ever since you got it stitched up, and it’s so, so rare to find a woman who slithers into the bar to have a nice conversation, so I’m perfectly willing to stay and dance until this supposed nuclear annihilation shouts last call… unless I'm mistaken and you were just trying to get into my pants like the other girls.”

Tengeri flashed an endearingly serpentine grin.
”Something like that, but it isn’t my tongue you should be concerning yourself with. This whole incredibly stupid conversation has just been my way of stalling for time while Velobo got behind you and took out your men.”

Well this ‘incredibl’—oh.” The Tartan Tyrant reasoned that he probably should have been paying more attention to the recent onomatopoeia as a certain long, prehensile tongue coiled around his ankle and wrestled him to the ground. He cast an enraged glanced at his Meipi traveling companion. “TinTen, my man! I thought you had my back!”

TinTen shrugged and offered an appendage as Velobo released the Tyrant.
”No need to conflate indifference with betrayal. Velobo’s gambit added expedience to inevitable result: hearing Nyoka out.”

“In other words,”
added Huebert, ”Shut up for one minute.”

Velobo resumed his position next to Tengeri and the man in black with an acrobatic leap. ”Hey, Scofflaw, we’ve never had much of a chance to talk,” said the Plazmuth. ”I’m Velobo Calidad, and I don’t really like you all that much.”

”I was more popular,” replied the ex-Saint solemnly, “When I was serving alcohol.”

* * * * * *

The crop of forest in the dead center of the battlefield was a peaceful place, seeming completely untouched by the war. The trees hadn’t been chopped down for lumber or even used as cover; the winding trail leading to the lake was a deer path, rather than anything you could conceivably drive a vehicle through. The four battlers and the Operative passed singlefile, with Teal scouts ahead and behind.

Velobo paused to admire a cluster of aphids crawling over a leaf.
”So much detail,” he noted. ”Hard to believe it’s all just some kind of video game.”

”Not really,” countered the Tartan Tyrant dismissively. Velobo glared.

”Scofflaw is likely hypothesizing that simulation is generative,” clarified TinTen. ”Sophisticated detail illusory, largely a product of observers’ expectations.”

”In other words,” put in the Tyrant, “’Her Majesty’ says ‘forest’ and your mind thinks of the smell of pine from that time your dad took you swan-hunting and it was O so majestic, and the simulation says ‘sure, why not’ and then you see fourteen empty beer cans next to a tree with a dead swan's neck wrapped around a branch--"

The Operative touched his face nervously.
”I’m not comfortable with this line of discussion.”

”Sorry,” said Tengeri. ”Look, guys, we’re living in this world for the time being. It’s probably not healthy to think too hard about where it came from.”

”Spoken like a true agnostic.” The former Scofflaw caught his kilt in some thorns and flailed a bit. “Personally, Mr. Operative, I envy your certainty as to the higher order of your existence. I’ve been trying to get a line on God for years.”

”Well, there’s the Fool,” suggested Velobo.

“Yes, I suppose. I also met the devil once. Sold my soul.”

”What for?” asked Huebert.

Two souls. I lost the spare after about a month, but for a while there I could play the trumpet like no man alive.”

”We’re here.” The Operative stopped at the rocky shores of a large, still lake. ”The center of the Battlefield.”

A hawk alighted on a branch overhead, screeching territorially. ”If I had to describe this place in four words,” remarked Velobo, “‘Center of the Battlefield’ wouldn’t be my first thought.”

”Well,” corrected the perfidious plaid pilferer, “I’m not sure you should be the judge of that, Velobo. Who’s the expert on secret underwater bases here? It’s—well, actually I have people who do that for me, but look. These pebbles didn’t form naturally; they were planted to cover up, I don’t know, tire tracks, wiring maybe. See that stream rolling down from the mountain? You can see where they’ve carved out a hydroelectric dam—subtle, but not too subtle to be efficient. And I’ll bet you fifty bucks those black rocks over there are functioning as solar panels.”

TinTen sighed.
”Very impressive, Scofflaw, but--“

”Now, normally I’d suggest that these are only supplements to a main source of geothermal energy, but this area doesn’t have the volcanic look about it, mountain aside, so I’d venture to guess that they aren’t carrying enough wattage down there to give hot showers and reading lamps to any significant security force. So if we can find a way in, we shouldn’t have to expect any surprises beyond an auto-turret or two and some terrified don’t-hurt-me-I’m-just-the-lab-guy types.”

The villain took a deep breath.
”I could have told you all that,” offered the Operative. ”The silo is not, to my knowledge, well-staffed, but… Her Majesty has only apprised me of the location of one of the four Benefactors. The other three may have avatars active inside the silo, and they’ve manipulated the system to give themselves certain… perks.”

”Oh, Christ,” spat the kilted criminal kingpin. “So do they just get the Hugo Weaving package or are they all the One?”


”Never mind. We’ll deal with the boss fight when we come to it. Let’s focus on getting inside. Is there an abovewater entrance?”

The Black kicked at a pebble.
”Probably, but… sorry, I don’t have the schematics. We could spend hours combing the forest for some kind of hatch, but—“

”Ugh, no thanks. It took the cast of Lost four seasons to find all the hatches. So the only smart move will be to go in through the water, and luckily we have not one but two amphibians on the team. TinTen, Tengeri, I know you’re uncomfortable taking orders, so now would be a good time to volunteer.”

TinTen poked the surface of the water with the appendage.
”We’ll go,” said Tengeri. ”If we find a way aboveground from the inside, we can let you in. In the meantime, you circle around to that hydroelectric dam and see if you can’t use it to boost the signal of the nullifier. Wait for Tor and Jetsam.”

”Wait, Tor’s coming? That—“ But Tengeri had already retreated into the lake alongside TinTen. Scofflaw growled, then addressed Velobo, Huebert, and the Operative. “Well, you heard the lady,” he barked. “Let’s get to that dam.”
Re: Grand Battle S3G1! (Round Two: The Great Battlefield)
Originally posted on MSPA by Pinary.

In circumstances where he wasn't being ordered around like a goon on a leash, Tor might've let it slide. "We're called Telpori-Hal," he replied instead, going into his familiar speech with a bit more bite to his voice than usual. "My species bursts into flame on a regular basis, resulting in a changed appearance. Same hal, diff-"

Jetsam cut him off. "I know, I know, you explode and change your face. Just get to the part where you tell me why we're here."

Not a question Tor had expected, but one he could definitely live with. "Okay, well, this being called the Fool picked out nine people and told us to fight to the dea-" Cut off by a fist to his jaw, Tor's explanation dissolved into various cursing.

"Stop. Feeding me. That shit!" It took all of Jetsam's restraint to stop after one punch, reminding himself that being in a confined space with someone prone to burst into flames wasn't an ideal place for a full-on fight.

"I'm not-"

Okay, he stopped after two punches. "The sooner you people get this through your thick fucking heads, the better: I. Do not. Believe you. It's not going to work, so you can just fuck off and tell your boss that this plan's a pile of shit."

"Look," Tor replied, raising his hands plaintively, "I don't know what you think is going on here, but I'm just trying to help."

"I. Don't. Want. Your. Fucking. Help! I'm perfectly content on my own, so fuck off and leave me be!"

"Well as much as I'd like to be able to get out of this, I'm just as stuck as you, so until one of us bites it, I'm just going to keep following you around! Get used to it!" Tor wasn't exactly appreciative of people shouting obscenities at him, and it was taking all his restraint to just remind himself that Jetsam was someone he needed to help, not try to throttle.

Jetsam, meanwhile, was just about out of steam. Flopping back into his seat, he said, "Look, I didn't ask you to keep spewing bullshit; all I want to know is why we're here in this helicopter. Just tell me what it is I'm supposed to be doing, alright?"

Tor sighed as well. "Fine. Ester, we have anything from command yet?"

"Orders came in a few minutes ago," she replied. "I just thought I'd wait until you two were ready for them. Basically, we're to rendezvous with the Plaid and Teal Generals and assist them in whatever they're doing."

The cabin of the helicopter exploded into more shouting.

"Cudorta those orders! I'm not wired to follow anything, and I'm not about to go working alongside Scofflaw for anyone!"

"I'm not helping that Teal fucker! I don't see an Operative here with a gun to my head, so I'm not doing jack shit to help that snake!"

The lieutenant shrugged. "Sorry, but those are your orders."

Tor got up and leaned into the cockpit between the two ex-Browns. "Really, Ester, you're going to insist on following orders? What happened to freedom of sentrali thought?"

She smirked at him. "Look, it's cute that you think you can just waltz into this conflict and get everyone to make up and play nice, but this is war, and that means making some sacrifices."

"I see." Tor slumped a bit, waited a breath, then lunged for Walters' sidearm, grabbing it from its holster and bringing it to bear on the pilot's temple.

He just smirked at the captain as well. "Come on, we both know that's not happening. Why would you do that when you could try to save me, the pitiful rewired pawn? We both know you can't shoot me."

Tor considered this. "Maybe, maybe not. I do know this, however:" Leaning back into the helicopter's cabin, he passed the gun to Jetsam. "He can, and once he does, your only orders come from him and we can go damn well anywhere. Benjamin, if you would?"

There was a gunshot. And a second. And a third.

Blinking, Tor looked down at the bullet hole in his shirt. He barely had a moment, though, before a fist caught his jaw yet again and sent him sprawling to the cabin's cramped floor.

Jetsam stared down at him and said, "Right, order number one: Don't. Use. That. Name. Not any part of it. Got that?"

"Yes, sir." The words came out through gritted teeth as Tor stared up at his new commanding officer and wished he hadn't regenerated quite so recently.

"Good. Now, one of you up there, put me on the radio, just some empty frequency with nothing on it."

Ester gave him a puzzled look, then flipped a few switches and nodded.

The general spoke into his headset with all the reverence one might reserve for speaking with someone blackmailing an old woman. "Right- I know you're listening, you covert cowards. I want answers, now."

After a second or two, the static on the line was joined by a voice. "What do you want, General?"

"I want you people to make up your mind. First you tell me to kill or convert those seven others, but then you want me working with them on something. Which is it? Hell, I've got one here; do you want me to just keep him converted, or should I shoot him again?"

There was a pause for a second. "...There's a nuclear device at the center of the battlefield, and the anomalies there are assisting in its deactivation. Until it's dealt with, they are to be left alive and unconverted. After that point, your previous orders stand. As for Captain Kajan: Don't go killing your own troops for no reason! Seriously, you've got few enough to work with as it is, and if he's been converted, he's not a problem. Worry about the nuke and the unconverted anomalies, not your own troops!"

"Fine. Red out." With a sharp hand gesture, he signalled Ester to cut the signal, then turned to Tor. "Alright, here's what's happening. We help that snake with the nuke, then off her, along with anyone nearby. Until it's dealt with, we're going to have to be somewhat civil and pretend to get along. Got it?"

Tor nodded and gave him a half-assed salute. Just because he had to follow orders didn't mean he was going to like it.

"Good. Whatever-your-name-is, how long until we get there?"

"Just a minute or two, sir."

Settling into his seat, Jetsam glowered at the Telpori-Hal and tried to figure out where the feeling of unease niggling against the corner of his mind was coming from. "Good. Let's just deal with this situation and get it out of the way as fast as possible." Almost as an afterthought, he added, "Oh, and if you feel like you need to do your exploding thing, come see me. Don't want to take the chance that you'll end up wiping your alignment."
Re: Grand Battle S3G1! (Round Two: The Great Battlefield)
Originally posted on MSPA by Valter.

Two officers hauled Brigadier Henderson through a makeshift Chartreuse encampment, until he was face to face with General Kerak himself. He suspected his recent promotion would not be sticking with him for much longer, but at least he had completed his mission successfully. Might as well go out with a bang. "No longer content to haul us from place to place in irons, are you?" he spat at the chartreuse oppressors. "I suppose you wish to kill us all personally, then?"

"Oh, I would like nothing more than to rip you to shreds on the spot," Kerak said with a frankness that completely defused the brigadier's bravado, "but I do believe this is an excellent learning opportunity. Connoway, what do you make of this situation?"


"The riot. Why do you think it happened? What should we do with the prisoners involved with it? Should extra punishment be given to our chief instigator?" Kerak added, gesturing at Henderson.

"I'm not really qualified to-"

"Stuff your 'qualifications', Connaway," Kerak interrupted. "Surely you must have some thoughts of your own to share? A single fleeting opinion on the matter of this busy day's events?"

Connaway frowned. "The chain of command has accommodated me for as long as I have lived. Nor do I have any reason to doubt your judgment. Why ask for mine?"

"The chain of command? Ha!" Kerak said derisively. "The chain of command has you locked in perpetual warfare! If I didn't know any better, I would believe this war to be a... a deliberate invention..."

"Are you alright, sir?"

Kerak snapped out of his contemplation. "No. War is a means to an end, not a goal unto itself. I must be missing something." He paused slightly. "All you need to know, Connaway, is that you will only best be able to serve your people and your army when you are able to serve yourself."

Connaway tilted his head. "Come again, Commander?"

"My brother and I were born into a war not entirely unlike your own," Kerak mused. "Nothing so grand or wasteful as your battles, of course, but there was a... border dispute. I belonged to a new tribe trying to make a name for itself among far more established neighbors.

"Our chieftain was a fool, though. The correct path was to stake out boundaries, mark territory, strike deals, negotiate- to ensure the survival and future of the tribe. The chief had no interest in such trifling victories, though. He wished only for the complete destruction of all his enemies, and his bloodlust eventually drove the neighboring tribes to band together against us.

"My brother and I were among the warriors chosen to wage an impossible war against a united coalition of far more powerful enemies. The chieftain, the fool, sent us to death wrapped in his delusions of total victory. Imagine his surprise when the same soldiers returned not moments later to claim their own 'total victory'- the chief's head on a silver platter!" Kerak smiled at Connaway's sudden expression of consternation. "My brother became the tribe's new Chieftain, and I the Shaman, and by our leadership we defused the hostility of our enemies and led our tribe to an age of prosperity unseen in my world to that day!

"And so," Kerak finished, apparently immensely pleased with his recounting of the tale, "we won because we knew we were more talented, more skilled than the simpleton designated as our superior. And we convinced the rest of our tribe-mates that we were, too! That is the essence of serving yourself, Connaway. You must learn of your worth, and how best you can serve your people. And you must learn to recognize when the best way to serve your people is to lead them, personally!"

"I-" Connaway gulped. "I recognize my potential, Kerak. But I couldn't possibly lead as well as you have. You have served my people better than I ever could."

"Be that as it may," Kerak said with some small hint of affection, "the terms of my own battle require my eventual departure. Now is as good a time as any to begin passing over command of Chartreuse army. And what better place to start than the passing of judgment on our disorderly guest?"

Connaway closed his eyes to think for a moment, and then spoke with as much conviction as he could muster. "The rioters are... difficult to handle. You must understand that we are not in the habit of keeping prisoners, Si- Kerak. It is hard not to continue thinking of them as the enemy until they are converted. Perhaps our brutality caused this retaliation."

"And your proposal?"

"Convert the teal soldiers. The reds are the only ones of their color left; perhaps some value yet remains in them. We should be able to effectively restrain the few red soldiers remaining, and restrain ourselves around them, at any rate."

"I see." Kerak nodded to the other Chartreuse officers present, and they began arranging for the execution of Connaway's orders.

"Ah, there is one more thing, S- Kerak."

"You certainly don't need my permission to speak anymore, Connaway," Kerak said sarcastically.

"Er, right. The riot apparently commenced with the conversion of one of our PoW commanders. No prisoner could have injured him enough to convert him, and both he and a single teal prisoner are unaccounted for. I believe an independent assassin or scout may have been the initial instigator of the riot. I would recommend increasing our security in the future."

"Hmmm. That would probably be the work of Saint Scofflaw. That one is... deceptive," Kerak eventually settled on, but he didn't appear to be particularly pleased with his choice of words. "I approve of your decision, and I will watch my own tracks in the future. You were entirely correct earlier, by the way," Kerak added with a haughty sniff. "You have no reason to doubt my judgment, nor have I found any reason to doubt my judgment of you. I believe, after this mission is over, you shall officially be the head of Chartreuse Army."

"And if you don't mind me asking, Kerak, why are we on this mission in the first place? Why the interest in Tengeri?"

"...My own goals presently extend beyond the scope of this battlefield," Kerak said after a moment's thinking. "I have learned much from you, more than you may know, on the sciences of your world, but I need more. To progress further I will require information on how to avoid murder at the hands of Huebert and Tinten's firearms... and I wish to find more science that I can bring back home. Already I know of miracles that will revolutionize my tribe, to allow me dominion over all Pangaea! But it's not enough."

Kerak coughed sheepishly. "And due to some, ah, extenuating circumstances, I believe the other combatants in my Grand Battle hold me in somewhat ill regard. As a carnivore, I find adjusting to their mild standards somewhat difficult..." Connaway nodded with somewhat excessive enthusiasm. "Tengeri is no different. She considers me a monster, I'm sure! But of all the combatants, I consider her to be most open to negotiation. I must begin building rapport soon."

Connaway smiled despite himself, at the unexpected openness of his commander. Former commander, he supposed he could say now. Kerak's trust and teachings had given him new drive to lead Chartreuse to victory, and he wasn't about to let Kerak down. One question was biting at him, though. "If your goal is to show yourself to be reformed, why did you raise an army here in the first place?"

Kerak smiled back. "I suppose old habits die hard, Connaway. Do you know what we did when my brother and I had full control of our tribe? We went about with fully realizing our former master's goals, but we did it right. We assassinated enemy chieftains, coaxed tribes into war with each other, and poisoned hunting grounds. Our neighbors were battered down until they could no longer defend themselves, and then our tribe's warriors moved in to assume control.

"War doesn't flow through my blood, Connaway. Victory does. I find results without bashing my problems head on, and that is why I'm the best commander you will ever know on the battlefield."

Re: Grand Battle S3G1! (Round Two: The Great Battlefield)
Originally posted on MSPA by SleepingOrange.

Watching TinTen move on land was, as anyone in the battle could have told you by now, not particularly impressive. It was firmly for the best that he spent so much time perched on Huebert's back, as the alternative was a slithering hop that came of having no real legs or bones. In the water, though, was another matter entirely: as Tengeri whipped snakelike through the depths, TinTen descended like a particularly Lovecraftian angel, lab coat fluttering behind him gracefully and tentacles threshing the still water. Leviath and Meipi split apart, reasoning wordlessly that staying together would just lengthen the search, and spiraled through the lake with the elegance afforded by movement in all three dimensions.

Truth be told, they could have stuck next to one another and still had little trouble and taken little time finding an entrance: whoever had designed the facility hadn't expected many invaders more at home in sea than on soil. As soon as the pair had reached any depth worth talking about, the building itself rose obviously out of the murk; it was an airtight, utilitarian affair, and rather smaller than either had expected from the control center that housed the Great Battlefield's ultimate end.

Unfortunately, there didn't seem to be any real way in, at least from the within lake itself. Apparently a species as terrestrial as humanity didn't leave a lot of flooded backdoors in its architecture, and a smallish body of water like the lake wasn't particularly hospitable to submersibles. Besides, any kind of dock for them would have made the whole place painfully obvious, defeating the purpose of hiding underwater in the first place. Still, that all at least meant there was almost certainly some kind of entrance on the surface somewhere that suited their companions better; all that remained was to find some place they could force their way in without flooding a nuclear silo.

It was only minutes later that TinTen's distorted voice was announcing the presence of a hatch: Tengeri wove her way around the marine spires of the complex and joined him; by the looks of it, it was a waste disposal chute, which was probably sensible. No sense constantly having to deal with the problem of emptying the trash covertly when you have a nice big pond to dump it all in from below. TinTen's rather emaciated tentacles had difficulty finding purchase in the hatch's frame, and it was clearly not designed to be opened from without. Tengeri's mechanical augmentations had no such limitations though, and peeled the steel back carefully but forcefully. A large bubble escaped the presumable airlock, and TinTen found his malleable frame being pulled in with a large quantity of water; his fellow scientist and aquatic organism joined him after a moment, forcing the hatch-door back into a pretty good approximation of its previous form and location.

She moved as though to do likewise to the opposite hatch, but TinTen laid an appendage on her back and gestured to the wall: there was a bright red button labeled EMERGENCY RELEASE; both actively avoided wondering how they could read a label that had ostensibly been designed without their languages in mind as Tengeri's mechanical arm depressed the switch. There was a gurgle followed by a clank, and the airlock sped open, depositing a sodden pair of researchers on the cold steel floor. TinTen stood himself up as Tengeri gathered an aqueous sphere around herself, muttering "Now to find more accessible entrance."

"My systems are currently creating a map of the building, aided by my scans of the exterior." purred the surprisingly-smooth voice of the leviath.

"Approximate time to completion?"

Tengeri gave a very serpentine shrug.
"Hard to say, really. Probably only a few minutes, even if this place is larger than I anticipate."

TinTen shook out his coat; for a moment, his tentacle hovered over his grenade launcher, but as much as he wanted some field testing of a few choice explosives underwater in a sealed environment probably wan't the place to do it. He grabbed a sleek sidearm instead, deactivated the waterproof seal, and reattached the power source. "No sense waiting in meantime," he said with a smile Tengeri almost certainly missed. "Perhaps old-fashioned way can beat sophisticated sensors."

He bustled to the nearest door, threading his cable-camera under it with one hand and brandishing his weapon enthusiastically in the other. Tengeri hung back, writhing slightly nervously.

"How can you be so gung-ho about this?"

Without looking back at her, TinTen shrugged. Apparently satisfied that the corridor beyond was unoccupied, he clumsily opened the door and wobbled out it.

"Was not only scientist back in own world. Was hunter, adventurer, freedom fighter. War against cruel Duchess, space battles, land campaigns. Exploring uncharted worlds, battling pirates."

He finally turned back to his reluctant companion. "For first time since Fool appeared, am in own element."

He beckoned and disappeared down a random direction in the corridor. "Come, time is of essence now."

Re: Grand Battle S3G1! (Round Two: The Great Battlefield)
Originally posted on MSPA by Anomaly.

Tengeri wasn't sure why she hadn't expected an inclination toward violence from her fellow scientist. Sure, his large companion had seemed more than gleeful to reduce anything in the way to cinders, but for a reason she couldn't fully explain, she had expected TinTen to be more... refined, somehow. Maybe it was just a preconceived notion about scientists, from her limited, mostly-conflict-free experience. She hadn't experienced the things he had, so of course their worldviews would differ greatly. Where Tengeri held an intense aversion to violence, the Meipi held none.

But, she decided, this was neither the time nor the place to question herself. The countdown timer, helpfully displayed in the corner of her vision, read one hour and two minutes, and was dropping quickly. She immediately whipped through the door and down the hallway, cutting through the air as she effortlessly caught up with the stumbling scientist.

"We have a little over an hour left before the nukes are launched. I suggest we find a path to the surface as quickly as possible."

"Guards surely notified. Likely approaching. Will dispatch, must not waste time."

Appropriate as it may have been, guards did not immediately begin pouring through every door simultaneously. In fact, the facility seemed unexpectedly barren, considering its importance to the war.

"Something's wrong. I'm not picking up any biosigns, approaching or otherwise. "

"Unusual. Expected hostility. Abandonment of facility unlikely."

The Meipi slipped his camera under another door, and, as was to be expected, the corridor beyond was abandoned. Noting his difficulty traveling on land, Tengeri pulled the door open with a mechanical appendage and allowed the Meipi to pass before she entered.

"Something's wrong..." Tengeri paused for a moment, mouth contoring into a frown. "There don't appear to be any paths which might lead to the surface. Nor are there any viable underwater exits. It looks like we're stuck down here. It would explain the lack of guards down here. However... I'm picking up four lifeforms in a large central chamber. It could be a control room. Perhaps there's a way of aborting the launch from there."

"Is possible. Must remain on guard. Lead way, will provide backup in case of hostility."

Tengeri quickly traced the quickest route to the possible control room, a twisting path of corridors and stairways leading deeper beneath the lake than the doctor had previously expected. The journey through the facility proved to be wholly - almost disturbingly - uneventful, as if the computer had failed to properly load in the scenario. As riveting as the tale of the scientists wandering down stairs and through hallways might have been, it will unfortunately not be further recanted in this text. Needless to say, the two soon arrived at a large, reinforced steel door, lacking both in labeling and controls of any sort.

"Stand back. No time to waste, must destroy door."

Tengeri quickly distanced herself from the door as the Meipi took up his grenade launcher, and, as soon as she was out of the way, fired. A large portion of the door instantly ceased to exist, reduced to bits and pieces among the scorch marks on the floor. Beyond the door lay an enormous chamber full of computer consoles, displaying scenes from around the battle, as well as a central screen displaying the battlefield as a whole, detailing troop movements and a myriad other statistics. In the center of the room, four indistinct figures stood, shrouded in shadows, their faces hidden even in the bright light of the room. None so much as flinched at the explosion of the entryway - it was almost as if they had not noticed at all, until one of them spoke.

"It would appear we have visitors."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Knowledge. Leadership. Tactics. Business.

Death was approaching for Her. In a desperate bid to save herself, Her had sent for the anomalies within its system to put an end to the reset, to protect itself from certain destruction. All had gone according to plan - the "control room" which Her could not access had been breached by two of the anomalies, two inclined toward science. If any of them could stop the launch altogether, it would most likely be them. So close they had come already.

But what Her had not expected was that the control room would hold a final line of defense. A hardcoded protective measure put in place by the Four, in case all else failed. Were Her to bypass their final line of security, it would have total control over itself, and they would be powerless to stop the rapidly-spreading errors from consuming the system entirely. They could not let the system become so corrupted that physically destroying the system would be the only remaining option.

It just so happened that this final line of defense, within the simulation, was represented by the Benefactors themselves. Or rather, a symbolic version of them, shrouded in darkness, faceless. A representation of Her's fear of the uncaring Four who would bring its death without hesitation or remorse. No other defenses were necessary against the corruption. Nothing would get past them.

They had made sure of it.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
"It's over, Benefactors. Abort the launch." Tengeri extended each manipulator and converted the claws at the ends into the equally-familiar plasma cutters. TinTen backed this gesture up (or, more likely, surpassed it) by aiming his grenade launcher squarely at the four shaded figures.

"It seems aggression is only a natural reaction for them," continued the first voice. "If you would."

"Of course," said another voice indistinct from the first.

One of the figures held a hand toward the pair, instantly trapping them within a shimmering, spherical force field. Tengeri, enraged, struck at the barrier with a manipulator, only for the plasma cutter at the end to instantly vaporize.

"Dammit!" the serpent shouted, instantly retracting the damaged appendage into the implant on her back.

"Aggression useless," TinTen confirmed as his laser pistol's discharges were absorbed harmlessly into the field. "Negotiation may be necessary."

Tengeri sighed. She couldn't let her pent-up anger seep through if she was going to get anywhere.

"My apologies, Benefactors," Tengeri eventually began, trying her best to recover from her outburst moments before. "We simply wish to discuss vital matters with you."

"Now she wishes to speak."

"Naturally, now that we have them restrained."

"Let them speak, it matters not what they say."

Tengeri flashed a nervous glance at TinTen, one which was not returned. The Meipi seemed deep in thought, and had likely failed to notice the gesture. Under the collectively ambiguous gaze of the "Benefactors", she continued.

"You have to stop the nuclear launch. Her isn't just a computer, she's sentient. You've seen the simulation she's running. I don't even know if the actual Benefactors are hearing this, but if you are, you have to listen. You're going to kill an innocent being, even if it is a mechanical one!"

One of the four finally stepped forth.

"I do not believe you understand. The computer known as 'Her' is malfunctioning, and must be reset immediately. There are no other options."

"There are always other options!" the serpent announced, though she didn't believe her own words. "And even so, there are eight of us here who aren't just simulations. You know of us, the 'anomalies'. We were brought here against our will and instructed to fight to the death. If you launch the nukes, all of us are going to die!"

The one who had addressed Tengeri turned back to the other three.

"Brought into the system against their will?"

"They say they're not programs. Unlikely."

"But possible. It would explain the sudden appearance in the system."

After a few more moments of murmured discussion, one of them again stepped out.

"You say you were brought here to fight to the death. Under what conditions will you leave?"

"Only when one of us dies do the rest move on," Tengeri said nervously. She came to the sudden realization that the figures could simply collapse the forcefield on them, killing them and sending the rest away. She could do naught but hope this wouldn't be the case.

More conferring.

"Very well. We will assume you do not wish for your own death, and will therefore give you the chance. Kill one of the eight. If what you are saying is true, the rest of you will be taken to safety. The nuclear launch cannot and will not be aborted, General. You have forty-eight minutes. Go."

In an instant, Tengeri and TinTen found themselves standing by the lakeside, not far from the others. Tengeri had not gone through the brief ordeal well - her face wore an exceedingly distraught expression. She attempted to steel herself, but found it difficult. She had escaped, but she had failed in her task - there seemed to be no way for the non-water-faring members of the group to enter the facility, and she had failed to stop the launch from inside. What was she thinking, trying to be a leader? She was just a cyberneticist; she wasn't cut out to be a military officer of even the lowest rank.

"Come, must stop nukes."

Tengeri shook herself out of her momentary crisis at the Meipi's words. "How? It doesn't seem like there's much we can do."

"Must use nullifier. During negotiations, discerned nuke locations from map. No launch. Nukes directly under main four bases. Blast enough to encompass full battlefield."

Tengeri very slightly perked up at the Meipi's words. "So, what you're saying is that we need Scofflaw to get three more nullifiers, then we have to deliver them to the nuke locations before we've run out of time."

"Is a stretch, but may work. Few options left. Must try."

Tengeri loathed the idea of interacting more with the ex-Saint, but, naturally, everything depended upon his cooperation. Resolutely, Tengeri leaped into the water, and, followed by TinTen, raced toward the opposite side, where the others remained in wait. The fate of the battlefield now rested in the cooperation of the capricious. Naturally, the Leviath expected the worst.
Re: Grand Battle S3G1! (Round Two: The Great Battlefield)
Originally posted on MSPA by Dragon Fogel.