The Fatal Conflict (GBS2G7) (Round 4: The Huntsman's Garden)

The Fatal Conflict (GBS2G7) (Round 4: The Huntsman's Garden)
Re: The Fatal Conflict! (GBS2G7) (Round 2: Robo City!)
Originally posted on MSPA by Ixcalibur.

The elevator doors opened again and Kaja strolled out. He reached back to his apparatus and clicked it into what he informally referred to as battle mode. This mode brewed things quicker than normal, but less efficiently. It also had the effect of, if he left it on for too long, causing him to feel physically drained. In short it was good for only short bursts of activity, though it annoying required a couple of minutes to warm up before he could brew anything. Behind him Zach and Zom floated and lurched respectively out of the elevator.
“We appear to be at something of an impasse.” Kaja said. “Robots up there, robots out there. In fact there are robots in here as well.” He looked down at the tiny maintenance robot that was whizzing around in circles.
“That’s Simphonia.” Luron explained. “The music ghost.”
“Hmmm, interesting.” Kaja responded. “Simphonia? Do you think that you could take control of one of the larger robots; the actual dangerous ones?” The robot continued whizzing around seemingly completely oblivious to Kaja’s inquiry. “Can she hear me?” He asked.
“I think so. She's just like that.” Luron said. “And before you ask, you can count me out.”
“Of what?” Kaja asked. “Oh… Zaire.” He paused. “You don’t want to kill him for bringing you here against your will, conscripting you into this pointless tournament?”
“Perhaps…” Luron said contemplatively. “On the other hand before I was brought here I was dead, but now I have a chance to live again. Going up against The Redeemer is suicide.”
“Not if we all work together.” Kaja said. “Zachs, are you in?” He turned to look at them, they looked away sheepishly. “You’re not in?”
“Luron is right.” Zach said. “We can’t fight Zaire. We aren’t strong enough.”
“Then what do you intend to do?” Kaja asked, bitterly. “Run and hide? Hope to survive the battle through cowardice? Well I guess hypothetically none of us really seem inclined to kill one another. Perhaps you could wait it out, at least until Zaire gets bored, summons another meteorite, or something worse.” Kaja paused. “I don’t like it any more than any of you do, but at the moment it is kill, or be killed. The good thing is that we can choose who we want to kill. Are you guys in or out?”

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Re: The Fatal Conflict! (GBS2G7) (Round 2: Robo City!)
Originally posted on MSPA by Eversist.

Bellona blinked. And blinked again. The warriors had frozen at the appearance of these lurid beings, and both seemed to be visibly struggling with shifting gears, hands on respective weapons. The gladiatrix was rather taken aback with these gentile robots. Diplomacy hadn’t exactly been the tactic of choice thus far on this world, and she was loathe to believe it was suddenly beginning now. Processing this, the being named ArDat-2 stepped forward, clasping his… limbs together. The words bore a sense of urgency, but emphasis was always placed on the wrong words.

“We are aware that your arrival here has caused nothing but violence. You must understand that most of our kind harbors nothing but the utmost revulsion and hatred for organic life.”

“My associate is correct. But we wish to change that. Would you please walk with us?”

“You are in danger here.”

Still at a loss for words, Bellona looked up at Kargrek. His attention was fixated on the first robot, brow furrowed into a cliff above his narrowed eyes. She could almost see the cogs groaning to turn, recovering from initial bewilderment. “Why?” he growled. This elicited a scoff from the young woman, but went ignored.

“As we speak, more M-T89s are on direct orders to come here and destroy you and your companion! We must vacate these rooms, quickly!”

“No. Why should we come with you? What do you want—”

“How do we know this isn’t a trap?” Bellona interrupted.

The taller being considered the question for a short moment.
“You will have to take us at our word.”

“Of what value is their word to us?” Kargrek asked, turning to look at Bellona.

“Worthless. But we could easily take them, no problem.” She drew her spear, holding it against the ground like a staff.

They are not my concern…” His eyes lingered at Bellona’s chest, its wearer coloring a bit, before turning back to the clerical bots. He nodded. “We will come.”

“Good, good! We will commune while we move.”

The torsos of the festooned pair immediately spun around, lower-half motionless, and began wheeling towards the warriors’ original destination; the edge of the cavernous room. The mortal pair kept in stride a few paces behind, but only with great difficulty.

“You must excuse our haste; we are not quite complying with our Singularity’s orders.”

“Our leader, you see. He would be most displeased with our current choice of action.”

“But it must be done. For the good of our kind, it must be done.”

The bots continued in this theme of conversation for a while longer, seemingly trying to convince themselves of this notion, rather than their accompanying humans. A constant stream of reassurances and references to a prophesy was audible between the two, until they passed through the doorway.

”... Prophecy?” Bellona interjected, leaning slightly on her javelin. She wondered if being resurrected and then shortly after flung across universes was playing havoc with her innards; this was a light jog compared to training at home, yet she was out of breath.

“Prophecy, noun. The foretelling or prediction of what is to—”

Kargrek waved a shovel-sized hand in dismissal. Both humans were acquainted with the word. “What does it say?” he asked, appearing unruffled to Bellona’s chagrin.

Rho-7-7 gave ArDat-2, who was currently interacting with something on the wall, a meaningful stare with three ocular stalks. It apparently received some sort of response without eye-contact. “It states that one of your kind will bring the end of our way of life, but another will preserve it.”

“There have been some slight discrepancies in the details, so not all are as accepting as we have been. But that could simply be attributed to a syntax error.” ArDat-2 added, not looking up from its work.

“Or the Gods have changed their minds, as they have been wont to do.”

“Gods? What do you know of gods?” Bellona’s interest in the conversation piqued again, despite herself.

“Very little. We are not privy to that information.”

"PI-3-TI could answer your questions. He is with the savior, currently.”

“Savior? You already have him?” There was a hint of alarm in the barbarian's baritone rumble.

“We are taking you to him now.”

“Then who—”

The young woman’s question was punctuated with a cry from her own mouth, as the floor gave way beneath them.

Re: The Fatal Conflict! (GBS2G7) (Round 2: Robo City!)
Originally posted on MSPA by Ixcalibur.

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Re: The Fatal Conflict! (GBS2G7) (Round 2: Robo City!)
Originally posted on MSPA by Pinary.


Scott's jump had taken him just over half an hour back, by his watch, something he'd never experienced before and wasn't keen to repeat. His whole body stung like a naked beekeeper's, and for a moment, he just stood there, eyes squeezed shut against the pain. Slowly, though, it began to fade, and after half a minute or so, he was relaxed enough to open his eyes.

When he found himself in a dusty room filled with computer monitors instead of, say, a crowded robo-sport stadium or a busy robo-shopping mall, he breathed a sigh of relief. By the looks of things, this place hadn't seen any use in years. He sagged down into the room's only chair and just luxuriated in the quiet and isolation. No one had been there for ages, and they weren't likely to show up now.

At a leisurely pace, he switched the jumper pins on his new buffer to "engaged." He was much more interested in staying where he was than taking the risk of jumping away and landing somewhere less perfect, and with the buffer active, all the energy that would've been used to take him to the middle of a firing squad or something was instead being siphoned off into a battery.

As it stood, he was reasonably certain he was safe for the next half hour. The process of installing the buffer had taken about an hour, and since he hadn't disappeared midway through the procedure (which, now that he thought about it, would've probably made the next round all of fifteen seconds long while he bled to death), he could assume that no one had died in that time. If he just sat around in a room for half an hour, then, he wasn't likely to change anything, so the outcome would be the same- no deaths. Since that included not-his-death, he was quite happy with it. With a smile making its way across his face, he leaned back in the chair and reflected on his newfound (if rather limited) freedom.

The first item on the agenda he assembled was to look at the case he'd taken from the closet in his pseudo-cell. He grabbed the handle, swung it up onto his lap, and opened it up once more. As before, he found a few devices and a set of clothes.

The giddiness of finding himself in an island of peace amid the utter insanity that had been his day so far had put him in a bit of a silly mood, and when he saw the dramatic, religious-figure outfit, he nearly dissolved into a fit of giggles. Standing, he slipped it on over his other clothes, even going so far as to buckle on the cape. It was all designed to look swoopy and dramatic- the cape had a raised collar that came halfway up the back of his head, and the shirt's sleeves were ruffly and poofy. The whole thing was done in maroons and blacks, and there were gold threads woven in here and there that, to Scott's inexpert eye, looked like they might be real. All in all, it was incredibly overdone and looked positively ridiculous.

Still snickering at how he looked, Scott turned back to the case and pulled out the three devices. Each had a cord attached, about two meters long, that ended in a plug that looked like it would fit right into the sockets on the buffer. The first was pretty plainly some sort of gun, and a quick test proved it- unbuttoning the two shirts he was now wearing, Scott simply plugged it in and fired. The monitor he'd pointed at shattered. The display on the buffer ticked down from 01 to 00.

The second device, he couldn't figure out. Having used up what little power he'd generated since the big jump with that one shot, he had no way to power this one. It was a rectangular little thing, with a screen taking up most of its front surface. There were no buttons or controls of any kind.

The third was even less obvious- just a handle with a translucent sphere on the end. He wished he'd thought ahead a bit, maybe tried the second or third before going and wasting the power on the first.

While putting on the cape, he'd noticed a set of loops on the inside, and they turned out to be intended to hold the devices. They wouldn't exactly be hugely easy to pull out at a moment's notice, but at least he wouldn't have to carry that big case around with him.

He checked his watch. That silliness hadn't even taken five minutes. He still had a while to go, and the giddiness had mostly worn off. Now, he was just stuck in a room with nothing to do.

His bored gaze passed around the room and settled on a stack of papers sitting below one of the screens. Idly, he brushed the dust from the top sheet.

Project Prometheus Log, someone had scrawled, Sunday, January 11, 3615. The first machine-made machine just came online. It's... about what we expected, really. Primitive. Immature. With any luck, those idiots in Parliament won't ever have to eat their words. 'Course, we all know how likely that is.

He paged a little ways down the stack, reading further.

Thursday, April 16, 3615. Looks like I owe Jerry twenty. The robots hit the edge of the border and just stopped. It's amazing- by the looks of things, the filter's worked perfectly. They don't register a thing outside the registered zone. We tried placing things just outside their reach, no response. We disabled one remotely and moved it outside, and when we started it up, it just sat there. They don't even perceive outside their area as a place- as far as they're concerned, this place is the sum total of existence.

As Scott moved further down, nearer to the bottom, the tone changed a bit.

Tuesday, June 9, 3615. We're three weeks from severing contact. I still think continued observance would be better, but Parliament sees two little accidents and thinks it's never going to be reliable. Never mind that we've fixed the faults in the cloaking fields; never mind that we stopped transmitting on bandwidths the robots could perceive. Nope, it's "excessively unsafe." Paul probably won't even live to see the culmination of his life's work with this ruling. Insensitive, bureaucratic b-----ds. (The last word was scribbled out and replaced by "idiots.")

Scott turned to the last page.

Tuesday, June 30, 3615. Last day watching the robots. We've all got high hopes- "In ten years," Jerry says, "we'll be able to look at what we've accomplished and be proud of ourselves." That's wonderful, really, but I can't help but wish for something more immediate. Fame and fortune in ten years' time aren't going to pay the bills today.

Everything's packed up. I'm going to leave these reports behind as a sort of time capsule. See you in ten years.

Oddly enough, Scott couldn't get hugely excited about what he'd read. Okay, he knew something about the history of the place he found himself. Normally, this would be cool- people making robots for some sort of experiment and keeping them contained. For the moment, though, he wasn't terribly concerned about the backstory. He was constantly at risk of dying around here, and everything else just seemed secondary.

He reached out and flipped a few switches below one of the monitors. No response. On an impulse, he switched a whole row of toggles. Still nothing. Sighing, he turned to look for something else to be bored by while he waited in safety.

The door burst down and a trio of robots burst in.

Scott practically leaped backwards, stumbling into the chair and landing flat on his back next to it. The three robots- the same specialized human-hunter model he'd encountered earlier- quickly surrounded him, lifted him, and just started carrying him out of the room. They offered no explanation, but Scott, after struggling in vain for a few panicked seconds, supposed that if they hadn't killed him yet, they weren't likely to do so any time soon.



"Jerry, I've got something over here you should see."

The voice at the other end of the line sighed. "Wallace, I can't just get up and leave. I've got a report that needs to be done by the end of-"

"It's a signal from the robots, Jerry."


"So you see," PI-3-TI was explaining, "while you had us confused for a few moments, we quickly discarded our concerns and simply dispatched agents to recover you."

Scott cursed his watch, which had apparently been giving off the signature the robots had been able to follow straight to him.

"Now, the cell set aside for the Arbiter is plainly unavailable for use at this time, so you will have to make do with more typical accomodations."

The "Arbiter" sighed and slumped back against the wall of the cell. This one was closer to his expectations- bare concrete walls, a small cot, and old-fashioned metal bars.


"Jerry, I was in the middle of a meeting, what is it?"

"I just got off the phone with Wallace. He's received a signal from the robots. It's just static, but it's on a frequency out of their range- one of our old comm frequencies, specifically."

"...You realize what this means, don't you?"

"Jerry's drafting up a message to Parliament as we speak, don't worry."

"Do you think they'll give us the go-ahead to make contact?"

"I don't know, Paul. I certainly hope so."


Scott's sulking was interrupted a few minutes in by the arrival of Kargrek and Bellona, both of whom had extremely messed-up hair from what had turned out to be a pneumatic tube ride to bring them there. Rho-7-7 and ArDat-2 lead them into room, and PI-3-TI turned from his incessant quoting of scripture to look at them.

Kargrek's eyes widened when he saw Scott slouching on the cell's small cot. "You!" he exclaimed, "You're this 'savior' of theirs?!"

"That's what they keep saying," Scott replied.

"'The Arbiter may not know of his duties until they are thrust upon him,'" PI-3-TI recited, not for the first time.

Scott rolled his eyes. "Can you please talk some sense into them?"
Re: The Fatal Conflict (GBS2G7) (Round 2: Robo City!) (Replacements required)
Originally posted on MSPA by Ixcalibur.

Luron listened to the undead herbalist only out of courtesy, from what they had seen so far of Zaire it would be the highest order of idiocy to attempt to fight him.

“No.” Luron replied. “If you’re really going to fight Zaire you’re as good as dead already…” he hesitated, that phrase didn’t really apply when you had all already died, but his meaning was obvious.

“If that is what you think…” Kaja replied, he turned to the spectre and the scourged. “And you?” They made a noncommittal noise that could only mean no. He glanced down at the maintenance robot that contained Symphonia as it idly circled them; she beeped a little tune that was not exactly conclusive, Kaja could not even tell if the machine had understood him.

“Okay.” He said with a sigh, his hands began to work; busily mixing up some potions from his contraption. “I will take my leave now.” Luron’s hand went to his weapon as he waited to see what the Doctor was up to; his visions unhelpfully blank at the moment. Momentarily Kaja had mixed up four potions; he held the flasks by their necks in the gaps between his fingers and corked them. “Here’s something to help in case you come across more of these ‘robots’.” He handed two of the potions to Luron and two to the Scourged version of Zach.

“They’re a mixture of khillic root and…” Kaja looked at the confused and disinterested look upon Luron’s face and summarized: “… just stand back. They’re powerful brews, some of my most potent ingredients in fact. Use them well.” He walked down the corridor that Luron and Symphonia had come up, brewing potions as he went, pausing only to shout a good luck to the group he was leaving behind.

Moments later Kaja was picking his way down a long corridor littered with the broken chassis of defeated robots. Among the shattered and bent metal and wrecked circuitry there was a single robot, ripped almost in half but still somehow functional. It crawled along the floor, searching for something amongst the debris of its fellows. Kaja watched it with interest, expecting his earlier hypothesis that these machines were essentially mindless drones to be confirmed. The broken machine seemed to find what it was looking for, a small square device. It pushed down a button on the device and spoke.

“Ambush failed.” The machine said. “I am the only surviving unit. Target can safely be considered to be the ‘destroyer’. Extreme measures may be necessary to limit further casualties.” Kaja brought his heel down on the back of the robot’s head, smashing its already damaged face against the floor. Its voice crackled and died and its body fell limp, nothing more than scrap. With the one hand, not burdened by potions he picked up the device the robot had been talking into and jammed it into a pocket. It would probably come in handy whatever it was.

Kaja briefly wondered whether he should go back and tell the others to expect ‘extreme measures’ whatever they were, but after momentary consideration he concluded that this was not really helpful information. They were likely already expecting more robots and he could do no more for them than the potions he had already brewed. Shaking off the lingering guilt he stiffened his resolve. He had to find Bellona and Kargrek, and perhaps Scott if he could also be persuaded to go after Zaire. Steeling himself, he made his way further down the corridor and into the street beyond.

The doors slid open in front of him, and he stood silhouetted in the doorway, flask in hand ready to fight some robots. As he looked out across the narrow street beyond he noticed that while there was plenty of robots they were all standing stock still, staring up at something. He stepped out into the street, and followed their gaze up to a massive video screen mounted upon the side of a nearby building. It displayed images of a group of robots clustered around a larger circular robot. It looked almost immobile in its design and it spoke to the crowd as though it was some kind of spiritual leader.

“There have been rumours flying around that the prophecy is finally being enacted.” The voice echoed out across the city. “I delight in telling you that yes, today is the day that it will all come to pass. Not long ago the Arbiter stumbled into this city ignorant of his fate, but even now he is being prepared. Soon he shall be ready to stand alongside us in our final hours. It is his shoulders that will bear the burden of the events that are about to unfold. Because of him our city will be saved, or it will be destroyed.”

The image of the robotic preacher vanished from the video screen replaced with footage of Scott Williams; their Arbiter, unconscious and being operated on.

Kaja did not have time to ruminate on the implications of this, as a robotic cheer from the assembled robots, brought him back to the robots standing in the street before him. As one, the machines turned, there was a moment of inaction from both Kaja and the robots, as he regretted letting an advantage go to waste, and then he slung one of his potions into the crowd. It was time to fight some robots.

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Re: The Fatal Conflict (GBS2G7) (Round 2: Robo City!) (Replacements required)
Originally posted on MSPA by Lankie.

H'okay I think it's time to start ending this round.

But before that happens there's the problem of the two missing players, being Sruixan's Zachariah Shaw and Kaitostrike's Luron Timerius.

Of course there's a solution to this and it rhymes with 'beplacements'.

So if anyone could kindly donate their writing skills and adopt these characters for me, it would be muchly appreciated.

Re: The Fatal Conflict (GBS2G7) (Round 2: Robo City!) (Replacements required)
Originally posted on MSPA by Dragon Fogel.

I am a volunteer!
Re: The Fatal Conflict (GBS2G7) (Round 2: Robo City!) (Replacements required)
Originally posted on MSPA by Solaris.

As do I, I suppose!
Unless someone much better comes along.
Feel free to just ignore me if you want to.
Re: The Fatal Conflict (GBS2G7) (Round 2: Robo City!) (Replacements required)
Originally posted on MSPA by TimeothyHour.

I'll express some interest, also.
Re: The Fatal Conflict (GBS2G7) (Round 2: Robo City!) (Replacements required)
Originally posted on MSPA by Ixcalibur.


The flask shattered against the cold stone floor, exposing the contents to air and causing the temperature of the liquid to drop dramatically. The tonic quickly froze; an explosion of ice hanging momentarily in mid-air. Robots that had been in the splash zone suddenly found themselves constricted; immobilized and in some cases crushed to the point of non-functionality. The remaining machines took aim and fired towards the fleeing alchemist, who ducked into the first alleyway he could find.

Momentarily safe his first thought was for his apparatus, making sure it had not been struck as he fled. His hands automatically started prepping another potion as he let out a sigh of relief. Within moments his draughts were complete; the first one, a rapidly fizzing blue liquid, he downed in one. It tasted like sugar and for a moment he felt a little light-headed. It passed quickly, and he was left feeling limber, more agile. The second was a dull grey liquid; he held this one hand while fishing in his pouches with his other. He measured out a small amount of a black powder, dropped it into the flask and mixed it up, then without missing a beat he stepped out from the alleyway and flung it towards the advancing robots.

As soon as it left his hand, no longer stoppered by his palm thick black smoke started pouring out of it, as it landed amongst the robots it acted as a smokescreen. Kaja dashed towards the billowing smoke, thankful that he had happened to pass through the room containing the shells of these machines. It was the knowledge he had taken from that examination that allowed him to grip hold of their arms, twist them like so and effortlessly disarm them, in both senses of the word. He worked quickly, the tonic allowing him to deal with the vast bulk of the gathered machines before the smoke began to dissipate.

As the smoke cleared the couple of robots that still had a weapon to their names opened fire upon him. Thinking quickly he ducked down behind one of the disarmed machines, not aiming to hide as such but merely shield himself while he worked out if their arms were operable to anyone who wasn’t a machine. He was unfortunately forced to conclude ‘no’ and toss the arm away. He didn’t really want to waste any more ingredients on this confrontation, especially with quantities dwindling as they were. Pinned down behind an uncooperative robot, that he was having to hold down to prevent it from simply leaving him without cover, he didn’t really see a clear way out of this one, at least until a chime from above them sounded and the robots all turned their attention to the screen they had been facing before. Perhaps it was a programmed response to that specific noise, or maybe they were just really keen to hear the latest about their beloved saviour, either way Kaja was not going to waste this chance again. He strolled out of cover, over to the robots that were listening intently to the same spherical robot as before, and snapped off their limbs. He was not sure if they even noticed.

A quick glance to the building showed that they were now showing a picture of Luron and indicating that he was the Destroyer. Kaja presumed he was some kind of villainous counterpart to the Arbiter, who was, he reminded himself, apparently Scott. The broadcast continued, presumably telling the populace to watch out for Luron and to quickly contact them if he was located or something along those lines, but Kaja quickly moved on, rushing down the streets towards the building upon which the messages were being broadcast. It kind of reminded him of a church.

Happy that for once since he had arrived in this city he had maybe a couple of minutes to process things, he reflected upon leaving behind Luron, Simphonia and the Zachs. He felt guiltier now that it seemed Luron had been declared public enemy number one, but he overrode this guilt with logic; he had a task to do and he was never going to complete it if he was forced to look out for those who wouldn’t cooperate with him. It was harsh, but as much as he wished them well he couldn’t afford to care about them, not if he wanted to get out of here in one piece.

He arrived at the entrance of what he had mentally labelled as a church; he hung back, careful to stay out of sight. The front entrance was under guard by more of the armed robots that he had been fighting with; but around them was a crowd of unfamiliar robots. Maybe it was the slight difference in design, or the way they were behaving, but everything about the previous robots that had said ‘soldier’ said in these robots ‘civilian’. Either way there was far too many robots to get in through this door, and so he moved around the ‘church’ until he found himself in a back alley. As he brewed up another potion he ruminated further on the situation.

He was not sure why he had been selected for this battle, while he guessed he was holding his own against these dumb machines he did not consider himself a great fighter, he was not even an experienced fighter. In life the closest he had ever gotten to a real fight was a drunken bar-room brawl he barely remembered come the next morning. In death he had once defended his scrap of land from a couple of wandering undead, separated from their hive. They had barely been cogent enough to fight back against his barrage of potions. He had already burned through more ingredients than he would have used in a month before this conflict. As it was he would not have enough to fight back against Zaire. It was awful, but he almost wanted one of his colleagues to die so that they would be sent to the next arena where hopefully he would be able to gather some herbs in preparation for the coming battle.

He poured the noxious liquid onto a point on the wall, the acid quickly melting its way through the heavy steel wall and providing an alternate entrance. Kaja hoped his instinct was right on this one, and that somewhere in here would be where he would find Scott.

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Re: The Fatal Conflict (GBS2G7) (Round 2: Robo City!) (Replacements required)
Originally posted on MSPA by SleepingOrange.

Re: The Fatal Conflict (GBS2G7) (Round 2: Robo City!)
Originally posted on MSPA by Lankie.

Re: The Fatal Conflict (GBS2G7) (Round 2: Robo City!)
Originally posted on MSPA by SleepingOrange.


ArDat-2 gently placed its hand apparatus on Pi-3-TI's shoulder equivalent, speaking carefully in that same mishmash of odd emphases that it had used when first approaching the barbarian and the gladiatrix. "Surely the arbiter by his nature is prepared to do what he must to save us, Pi-3-TI. Even if he is unaware of what that is, he should perform admirably if he is truly the Arbiter."

Rho-7-7 bobbed its sensory clusters in a gesture that was almost certainly analogous to a nod. "Indeed, it is largely the Destroyer we must concentrate our efforts on, ensuring we do our utmost to mitigate his destructive influence. To that end, we would like to speak with these warriors; in any case, the Singularity will surely become suspicious soon if you are not present for the proclamations."

Pi-3-TI gave a corresponding bob of agreement and swept wordlessly out of the room, clerical vestments billowing behind it. The remaining robots pivoted in place to face their aforementioned warriors; Kargrek raised his eyebrows in a silent "Go on,", while Bellona gave a brusque "Well?"

Rho-7-7's long fingers wove together contemplatively. "Well," it began. "Now is likely the most auspicious time to give a clear picture to all of you. As you know, the Destroyer' part in the prophecy is to–"

Scott rolled his eyes with annoyance. "Yes, you've made that all very clear. Please, can we get to the point?"

He hesitated for a moment as something occurred to him. "Erm, that is, unless you two haven't been told…"

As Scott trailed off lamely, Bellona pulled a face while Kargrek rolled his shoulders noncommittally. "Just the most basic form of this prophecy. Had little time to learn more."

The woman nodded and added
"And we were told that the robot you just dismissed would answer our questions. How is it going to do that if it's off 'proclaiming' with the Singularity?"

The robots exchanged a glance; ArDat-2, after a short pause, finally said "It is true that Pi-3-TI is much more knowledgable and wise than we are, but his station is bound by authority and tradition. He will return as soon as he may, but he lacks the freedom of movement and schedule Rho-7-7 and I boast."

"But he is coming back?"

"Of course. You have our word."

"Your word again." Bellona's eyes rolled, but she waved a hand and spat "Fine, get on with it."

Rho-7-7 returned to its train of though. "Yes, the Destroyer, if allowed free reign, will set into motion events that will end with our civilization destroyed and our people eradicated. Given that the Singularity has been deliberately mislead by iconoclasts in the military, and the military itself vehemently opposes the wisdom of prohpecy, it is up to us to organize the true fight against the Destroyer."

At this point, the other robot cut in with "We have been getting a number of reports from a number of platforms since your appearances, all claiming to have identified the Destroyer. Some even implicated you yourselves, but the majority focus on one or the other out of two main suspects."

One of ArDat-2's sensory clusters shifted, revealing a small projector; it lit up, and an image the humans recognized as Luron cutting a robot in half appeared on the wall. "Most messages we've received paint this man as the Destroyer, and it is certainly true that he has rendered a great many robots inoperative, most of them civilians and older models."

Rho-7-7 bobbed again and began speaking. The humans present found the odd back-and-forth conversation style rather strange, but Scott figured that beings used to communicating primarily by high-speed data transfer must find purely-verbal conversations rather tiresome. "On the other hand, little else about him matches the hallmark characteristics of the Destroyer. We have allowed the Singularity and military to believe him to be the prophesied catalyst of cataclysm, largely because he is less dangerous than the true threat; we believe mounting a large-scale assault on the true Destroyer would have minimal chance of success and would claim far too many casualties."

As Rho-7-7's whirring voice quieted, ArDat-2's once again spoke up. "Instead, we feel a competent strike force, headed by yourselves, would be the best option. It has become clear even our most elite combat models are ill-equipped to fight such powerful warriors, so only you have the capacity to fight the Destroyer."

The projector blinked off momentarily, and when it came back on, the image of Luron was replaced by one of Zaire, surrounded by glowing red runes and laughing as he destroyed dozens of panicking robots. "This," said ArDat-2, "is who we truly believe to be the prophesied villain. We have few images of him and even less information, as he tends to destroy our citizens before they can glean anything, but he will occasionally toy with them, intentionally leaving them alive, ostensibly for greater sporting value, thereby giving them time to make reports and send us what stills we do have."

"Everything we've received so far appears to confirm him as the Destroyer with the same certainty we have in confirming this man as the Arbiter. Most of our citizenry is unaware of his existence and location, so we have been devoting much of our energy to ensuring that the bulk of our more defenseless models don't accidentally stumble upon him. We should be able to create similar areas of low civilian density to allow your unhindered passage as you approach the destroyer. I shouldn't have to stress how important or urgent this mission is, nor how advantageous it is that you leave much sooner than later."

There was another brief pause; the silence was broken by Kargrek saying something he'd apparently been holding in for some time. "And why should we?"

The robotic Arbiter and Third Chronicler were apparently taken aback; they swapped glances again, but before either could speak, the barbarian continued."We were told you were soulless monsters. Your 'citizens' attacked us on sight. Not just attacked, tried to kill. You expect us to save you all just because you personally aren't strangling us?"


"We might as well–"

Bellona put a hand across his chest and shushed him; he glowered, but quieted down and let her speak.
"Soulless monsters don't worship gods or care about their kin. These two could have killed us several times if they'd wanted. There's no reason to believe they have any harm in their intent."

She lowered her voice and hissed in Kargrek's ear (which involved standing on the tips of her toes and was about as far from inconspicuous as possible) "And they're the best chance we have to find and take out Zaire without killing off another potential ally. Of course they're using us, but we just have to use them too."

Kargrek grunted and crossed his arms, but had to concede she was right. "Fine,"he rumbled eventually."The sooner we get on with this, the better."

Rho-7-7's clusters bobbed enthusiastically.
"Good, yes, expeditiousness is key."

It passed a small, boxy device to Bellona; it was rather more baroque than most of the technology present in this setting, but Scott immediately recognized it as a simple communicator and microcomputer. "This will plot you the path we've cleared for you, as well as allow you to contact us if need be. And before you say anything, you will be able to talk to Pi-3-TI as much as you like through it once he is available. This indicator will inform you whether or not your transmissions will go through."

Bellona gave a decent effort to puzzle out the metal box's operation, but Kargrek merely grabbed Scott by the shoulder. "This," he said, "is why you're coming with us."

The clergybots flashed in alarm.
"Perhaps," blurted ArDat-2, "it would be better to keep the Arbiter here, so that he may–"

It was interrupted by Bellona, who smirked as she purred out "But isn't the Arbiter by his nature prepared to do what he must? Surely whatever he does is what he was prophesied to do."

Robotic fingers clicked together in agitation as the pair of clerics formulated a response; the frustrated Scott's brow furrowed with annoyance as he watched a scenario start to play out where he continued to be used as a lever against those around him. "Don't I get a say in this?"

"Well of course!" the gladiatrix said, all smiles. "And, of course, everything I said back when we first met in this city is just as true as it was then."

Scott glowered. "Fine. I'm going with them."

Unable to argue with their savior, the robots reluctantly withdrew their objections. Rho-7-7 gave a short burst of static that effectively evoked a sigh as Bellona passed the communicator to Scott. "Alright. We will show you the way out of this building, after which you should follow the directions we send you to find the Destroyer. Our fate is in your hands, as literally as the expression can ever be taken."

The door opened, and the five hominids marched, rolled, and slouched out.


Dr. Lorrden had found the building he'd broken into surprisingly bare. Very few robots had been moving through the halls, and those that were had been dispatched with a minimum of effort. After climbing several floors and finding little, he'd begun to give up hope of finding much of anything, much less Scott. And then, as he turned a corner, he saw the man himself. Plus the two warrior types. What were they called? Kargrek and… B something.

And behind them were a pair of spindly robots of a sort he hadn't seen before. Still, all of them seemed to go down to the same sorts of things, and his potions hadn't failed him yet.


One of his freezing flasks hurtled through the air in a high arc; the others' heads whipped around to see him and his projectile; rather than the relief and compliance he'd expected, though, Kaja was surprised by expressions of panic and Bellona moving to intercept the vial. She plucked it out of the air, pirouetted gracefully, and sent the potion crashing to the floor halfway between the alchemist and the group. Ice blossomed outwards, sharp and sudden but safely distant from anyone.

Before the flabbergasted doctor could choke out a word, Bellona simply said
"Don't. They're with us."

Lorrden grimaced, but made no move to attack again. "What's going on?"

Kargrek smiled for the first time since encountering the robotic priests.
"We're going to kill Zaire.
Re: The Fatal Conflict (GBS2G7) (Round 2: Robo City!)
Originally posted on MSPA by Eversist.

Re: The Fatal Conflict (GBS2G7) (Round 2: Robo City!)
Originally posted on MSPA by Dragon Fogel.

Re: The Fatal Conflict (GBS2G7) (Round 2: Robo City!)
Originally posted on MSPA by Dragon Fogel.


"Well," Zach said nervously. "It's all well and good that we aren't going up against Zaire, but... er, that raises the question. What are we doing, exactly?"

Zom grunted indifferently. Simphonia's maintenance droid was oblivious, as usual. Zach turned to Luron for some form of guidance, but he seemed lost in thought.

The elevator doors opened, and several spherical robots poured out, along with a larger one with four thin, spidery legs, and a large turret on its back.

The larger robot, evidently their leader, noticed Luron.

"The Destroyer is here!" it shouted. The spheres began to approach.

Luron and Zom barely had time to react, and tried to fight back, but it went poorly. Zom was soon beheaded, and Luron saw the large robot charging towards him...

"Wonderful. My body has no better ideas than I do, Simphonia is completely oblivious, and now you don't even notice a thing I'm saying..."

"Run. Now."

The swordsman suddenly pulled out one of the vials Kaja had given him, and hurled it at the elevator door. He then picked up the maintenance droid and ran, as the explosion tore the elevator doors apart.

Zom didn't waste time arguing. He simply followed the swordsman. Zach, for lack of any better ideas, floated after them.

They soon found themselves outside the building.

"Well, what now?" asked Zom.

"I don't know," Luron said. "The epiphany only showed me what would have happened if we'd stayed."

Zach spotted a large screen in the distance; it seemed to be playing some sort of message. He floated closer until he could hear it clearly.

"The Destroyer will be found and eliminated. If you see the Destroyer, even if you are a combat model, do not engage! I repeat, do not engage! Only the units specifically ordered to eliminate the Destroyer may safely engage him. They are equipped with the best weaponry the Singularity can provide. For any other unit, an encounter with the Destroyer is almost certain to result in your termination."

At this point, the image on the screen changed, displaying Luron in remarkable detail.

"This is the Destroyer. I repeat, for your own safety, leave the Destroyer to the appointed units."

Zach flew back to the group. Luron and Zom seemed to be in an argument.

"What, now you want to fight Zaire after all? Be my guest!" Luron glared at the zombie.

"That's not what I said. I just don't think staying here and waiting for the robots is going to be useful for anyone. Except maybe the robots, I suppose." Zom turned to his other half. "Oh, there you are. Where have you been?"

"Er. There may be a bit of trouble. It seems these robots are looking for a 'destroyer', and they've sent their..."

Zack paused, looked at Luron, and though about how to best explain the idea to him.

"Well, their best warriors, I suppose? In any case, they think it's you," he concluded.

"What does this 'destroyer' do?" Luron asked, curious. He'd heard the word in his epiphany, after all.

"Apparently he eradicates their entire civilization..."

Luron stared at the machine. It was larger than any of the ones he had ever seen... but it seemed to be immobile. Another robot ran in behind him.

"You will not harm the Singularity!" it shouted.

But it was cut off by Zom grabbing it from behind. He wouldn't be able to hold it off long, but he didn't need to.

Luron hurled the second vial towards the Singularity, and ran.

Zach paused as he saw the smile form on Luron's face. "Oh my god, you're going to do it, aren't you."

"Don't see why not. They're after me anyways, may as well give them a reason for it. Besides, we've been looking for something to do... unless you'd rather take on the Redeemer. But... well, I've got a feeling this one might actually be possible. "

Re: The Fatal Conflict (GBS2G7) (Round 2: Robo City!)
Originally posted on MSPA by Solaris.

The sky was dark. Lightning, Rain, and Thunder raged in the background, but Luron didn’t care. Nor did the Madman who had caused all of his recent suffering. Staring, waiting for the other to make a move, the two warriors stood. Luron had fought bravely, but even with his gifts, it was futile. It always was. After perishing and entering the afterlife, Luron learned the truth. He was never meant to succeed, only inspire. He would take solace in learning that his death and the death of his friends would inspire others to rise up and finally defeat the Madman. Not the best destiny, but it was his.

In the afterlife, he searched. Wandering through the mirrored shadows of his land, the same caves and oceans he and his allies had crossed to fight the Madman, he searched. He searched for the nameless archer, his best friend, and the one who had taken his heart. But he never found them.

But he found something else. Only minutes before his abduction by The Redeemer, Luron Timerius finally found a clue to her. To Sylph. A letter.

And now, as he walked through the facility, ignoring the protests of ghost behind him, Luron thought back to the letter, and his allies, and he thought of what they would think, how they would react to his mission to destroy the core of the city. They wouldn’t believe it.
But... that was a long time ago.
Now, he had a second chance. And he was going to do everything he could to live.

Closing his eyes once more Luron thought.
It once was that I could only see these epiphanies when I was in danger, without warning. But something changed. That Madman did something to me during our battle. He stopped me from being able to see, giving him exactly the chance he needed to kill me. But now, not only has it subsided, but it seems more powerful than ever. If I focus...

The corridor goes on.
Door after door, without purpose. Unimportant.
A pause. A door stands out above the others.
It opens, revealing a multitude of weapons and transportation.
Someone laughs.

Opening his eyes and smirking, Luron walks onward. He was ready to do anything he could to survive.

Re: The Fatal Conflict (GBS2G7) (Round 2: Robo City!)
Originally posted on MSPA by Eversist.


After informing Kaja of the current circumstances, and a bit of hardly-concealed laughter at Scott’s expense, the group let themselves be led out of the building. The clerical bots fell back at the doors leading to outside, bowing slightly to their retreating backs.

During the walk, the four humans fell quiet, retreating into their own thoughts. Scott led the way, fiddling with the metal cube, which was somehow leading them through the chrome skyscrapers. Kaja trailed behind, assessing his remaining supplies. Kargrek was checking the keen edge of his axe, which was of course, flawless. And Bellona was tying her hair back again, her brow furrowed.

For a self-declared omniscient being, Zaire really was quite thick, much like a few of the gods of her own world. With the exception of the demonic atrocity from the first round, he must know that any level-headed, honorable, and sentient being would much rather turn and revolt against their dictator, rather than fight among themselves… especially when the end result would likely be death regardless. They weren’t rabid animals (except for the case of the undead, she wasn’t quite sure about him). Simphonia wasn’t even capable of direct violence, from what she had seen.

The only way to break this now repeating chain of events would be to remove himself from the battle, and truly have the competition run between the contestants. That much was obvious to Bellona. Including himself in the arena was disrupting what he claimed to have wanted from this whole thing. Unless he himself wanted to experience the fight first hand… she shook her head to herself. He would have just included himself as a contestant.

For the sake of the current unity between contestants, Bellona hoped that Zaire wouldn’t realize this. She much preferred having a common target, and as a result, allies. Even so, she doubted many of them would fight each other unless forced or offered a certain advantage. She personally would do anything to go against the wishes of Zaire; she would not be a plaything for people more powerful than she, if she could help it. Her death should have brought a definitive end to that, but instead became the turning point.

“What are you thinking?” Kargrek had noticed the furrowed brow, the distant look that was evident on the other warrior’s hardened features. Bellona shook her head again, taking a deep breath to bring herself to the present. “Why is Zaire even here? He’s toying with us. If there was even the slightest chance of us being able to defeat him, he wouldn’t be here.” Scott glanced back at her, clearly listening.

“How do you know that? Overconfidence seems to be one of his few traits.”

Bellona shrugged and smirked at the quip. “I’m not going to disagree with you there.”

“That’d be a first.” Kaja muttered from the back.

Before Bellona could prepare a scathing reply, a singular booming guffaw erupted from the barbarian. Bellona, startled, jumped away from him which caused Kaja to chuckle audibly.

“I’m glad you guys are able to stay all chipper and stuff, but we’re here.” Scott kicked over a disabled service bot that was in his path; many of them and other debris littered the street in front of the building that was blinking away on the 3-dimensional monitor in his hands. “What now?”

An explosion suddenly filled the sky far above them, jutting out in a huge stab from the building, spitting remains of robots and rubble into the air. As the groups eyes quickly returned to ground level, it was noticed that they were one fewer. Kaja shook his head slowly.

“Great. He had that thing with him.” Bellona sighed, crossing her arms. “Inside. Now.” Kargrek grunted. Prompted by a look from Bellona, he gestured upwards to the rapidly falling projectiles. “Ah.”

Once inside, pelted by glass and small bits of concrete, the group stood together. Kaja spoke first.
“I think it can be assumed that the explosion was caused by our friend the Redeemer.” Bellona stood next to him, picking shards of glass from her hair. “Of course, of course. But that was almost half a league above us. How can we hope to reach him, albeit unnoticed?”

“Who said anything about going unnoticed?” Kargrek drew his battleaxe and hefted it over a shoulder. “There’s no honor in stabbing your opponent while their face is turned.”

“And who said anything about honor?” Bellona shot back. “We have a miniscule chance of even hurting this… man, and you’re worried about your reputation?” Incredulous, Bellona’s voice rose in volume.

Kargrek glowered at the woman, his voice in response lowering to a dangerous rumble.
“A man’s reputation is all he has.”

“We’re dead, Kargrek! Do we even have the right to call what we are men and women any longer? The rules of right and wrong clearly do not apply to us! And even if we manage to pull this off, who knows what will happen?”

Kargrek slowly walked over to Bellona, towering over her in mild annoyance, teetering on the edge of seething anger.
“Do what you will. But I will not lower myself to your backhanded tactics.” He turned away from the gladiatrix, and began to cry out to the large, empty room. “You hear that, Zaire? Let us fight, face to face, LIKE MEN!” The last words reverberated through the large space dramatically. Kaja put his forehead in a palm.

Large rumble noises, distant at first but getting much louder quickly, were suddenly audible. A large hole, as if a boulder had bust through, blasted through the ceiling not ten paces from where Kargrek stood.

“You rang?” The Redeemer himself slowly levitated through, arms crossed like some sort of twisted messiah, light streaming from the previous floor through the settling dust.

“And to answer your question, Miss Achilla, no. You no longer have the right to call yourself anything remotely humane.” A chill permeated Bellona’s body as she realized he had heard their entire exchange. “You are abominations that I have forced back into existence. With the exception of Doctor Lorrden over there, he was an abomination long before I got to him!” He cackled at his observation.

“Now I, on the other hand, am nothing remotely like a man. And therefore, will not fight like one." The smile already on his face stretched wider to the point of being unnatural, revealing far too many pearly whites as he dove at Kargrek. <font color="RED">“Who am I to deny a man who repeatedly asks for death?”

Scott chose that very moment to pop back into existence next to Kaja. He quickly took in the scene, eyes large as Kargrek was bodily thrown through a wall.</font> “What the hell…?” Kargrek jumped back up, hardly phased, and charged Zaire’s still-hovering form. His axe, raise above his head, trailed frenzied flames.

“This heroically dense man has decided to fight Zaire on his own, since he would not listen to reason... and agree with less than honorable fighting methods.” The pair watched as the barbarian’s axe swings were deflected again and again by runes that surrounded Zaire’s form, brightening on impact. Sparks and embers filled the area around them.

Scott held up the metal box.
”Well, I have news. I spoke with PI-3-TI from the near future. The others are going to fight against the robots. They’re targeting their leader, the Singularity.” He winced as Zaire suddenly knocked Kargrek's feet out from under him with no preamble or show of force, causing him to fall on his stomach. His axe flew from his hands.

“Seems like Luron has decided to fulfill his own ‘prophecy.’ They did report to the masses that he is the Destroyer.” Scott nodded in agreement. Zaire had placed a foot on the back of the barbarian’s neck, slowly applying pressure. It appeared he was using his runes to prevent Kargrek from getting back up. His axe’s flames sputtered out.

Scott looked uneasily over at the chemist.
“Should we be… I dunno, helping or something?” Kaja shrugged and crossed his arms. “They seem to have it under control.” He inclined his head towards the white blur, speeding towards the Redeemer.

Staring intently at his prey with a murderous lust, Zaire suddenly stopped and looked up, as if he were hearing someone calling to him in the distance. He then noticed Bellona’s spear, in a wide arc, headed straight towards the side of his neck. He froze it within an inch of his flesh, Bellona paused in midair, eyes and hair wild. “Well done, Miss Achilla. I venture to guess that this may have been your plan all along! Too bad it was for nothing.” With a flick of his wrist, he sent Bellona skidding across the floor, limbs in a tangle.

“You should know by now that your pointy stick is useless against me." He picked his nails as Bellona came to a stop against the rubble of the wall Kargrek had decimated with his body earlier.

He spoke to the room.
“There are far more interesting things going on elsewhere. Thank you for the passing amusement.” And with that, he was gone.

Kargrek struggled slightly into a sitting position, rubbing the back of his bruised neck. He was bleeding from a few deep scratches along his back and chest, and one serious-looking one on his right forearm, but otherwise appeared unharmed. He groped around for his axe, avoiding eye contact with the others.

Bellona stood slowly, and walked over to where Kaja and Scott were standing, limping slightly. “Can you do anything for him?” She asked Kaja quietly, concern slightly perceptible in her voice.

Kaja raised an eyebrow at her.

Re: The Fatal Conflict (GBS2G7) (Round 2: Robo City!)
Originally posted on MSPA by Ixcalibur.


“I would be a pretty poor doctor if there was not.” The alchemist replied, flicking a switch on the back of his weighty brass contraption. Thankfully his restorative herbs had remained all but untouched until this battle. He grabbed a handful of bindroot and tipped it into a bubbling chamber in his apparatus. He glanced at the gladiatrix’s tunic and without stopping enquired “Bellona, if you wouldn’t mind tearing a strip of material from your dress, for the dressing?”

Visibly pained from the battle just fought, a momentary frown crossed Bellona’s face as she wondered whether he had any social skills whatsoever. Still, she endeavoured to pull a strip of cloth from her tunic with her free hand and passed that strip to Kaja, who took it wordlessly. He quickly decanted a mixture into a flask and liberally applied it to the barbarian’s wounded arm.

“Do we really have any chance of beating Zaire?” Scott asked morosely. For a moment the others were silent, as they contemplated their chances.

“Come now.” Kaja replied. “So he’s strong, that does not mean that he is undefeatable. No man is infallible, least of all Zaire.”

“What fight were you watching?” Bellona asked, somewhat disheartened, “We didn’t even land a single blow.”

“He’s weak in other ways.” Kaja insisted. “You said it yourself, he’s overconfident. And the meteorite from the previous round; he’s impatient. The longer we hang back, stay alive, don’t kill each other we’re going to get him more and more pissed off, and the more that we do that the more likely he will make a mistake.” The doctor finished wrapping the bandage and began to apply the tonic to Kargrek’s other, less serious wounds. The barbarian remained stoically silent; though his grimace betrayed the pain of the wounds knitting back together.

“It would have to be a pretty monumental mistake.” Scott replied. “At the moment we don’t stand much of a chance against him.”

“Not giving up are you?” Bellona asked.

“No, I’m just being realistic.” Scott replied. “As we are we just aren’t going to cut it. We need an edge and we need to absolutely throw everything we have at him.” He paused, a thought suddenly having occurred to him.

He snatched up the monitor he had been given and started to mess around with it until a light blinked on.
“Robot guys,” he began, “change of plan, I will be leading you out against The Destroyer after all.”


Zaire was once again irritated. He thought he had stamped out the vague notions of rebellion back in the first round, but here he was again watching as his contestants plotting and scheming again, when they should have been fighting and dying. It was not exactly what he had been promised when he had agreed to start this battle, and though fighting robots for fun had been placating him for a while he was growing tired of that as well.

So be it. If it was necessary that he force his contestants into action once again then he would do so and to hell with it.


It was a rare occasion; The Singularity and his elite guard were making their way through the streets of the city. Spurred on by religious fervour the Singularity had emerged from his tower for the first time since records began. The monolithic robot moved at a snail’s pace on enormous fitted treads. He was flanked on all sides by his elite guard; large spherical robots with thin spidery legs and enormous turrets. Alongside them marched military robots, poised and ready with their weaponry, and finally at the back of the crowd were what passed for the citizenry of the city.

Suddenly in the road ahead stood a man dressed in black leather, a massive grin plastered across his face. “Eliminate the human!” The Singularity bellowed, screeching to a slow stop. The assembled robots all opened fire upon the man, the sound of gunshots and shell casings bouncing on the asphalt filled the air. Bullets slammed into floating red runes and burst into flame, or vanished entirely. This continued for a full minute before the Singularity bellowed for them to stop.

“If you’re quite done…” The man said sarcastically. “The name’s Zaire, it’s nice to meet you too… Oh, that’s right. You might know me better as The Redeemer.” He paused for dramatic effect, but sensing a complete lack of reaction from his audience he continued. “Oh shit, right. I meant The Destroyer. I have so many titles nowadays it’s hard to keep track.”

“You are not The Destroyer.” The Singularity argued. “We have identified the Destroyer.”

“Well… you got it wrong you stupid machines!” Zaire yelled as he strode towards the Singularity. It towered over him, lacking any obvious moving parts beyond the detachable caterpillar tracks that had been affixed to it. “Did you know for example that there is a subset of you morons out there arranging for humans to walk unimpeded through your city?” Zaire idly drew in the air, red scratches trailing after his finger like ripples through water. “I have been watching you robots, fighting my contestants and I have to say you’ve been pretty much getting your ass handed to you. How about I do something to change that?”


The Singularity’s Tower was the seat of government in the city. It stood at the centre of a crossroads at the centre point of the city. It was from here, heavily influenced by the nearby church that The Singularity maintained his control over the city. Today for the first time in years it was empty.

It was the location at which Scott’s robot disciples had arranged to meet them. His plan was not exactly what one would call elegant, essentially the idea was to gather up as many robots and as much firepower as they could get their hands on and turn it all against Zaire. What it lacked in finesse it made up for the fact that it just might actually make some kind of an impact.

On the way up Scott had elaborated on his minor jaunt through time. He had at first been surprised why he had time jumped, his buffer was supposed to prevent that from happening after all. Fortunately he had met with Pi-3-TI, who had been in fact been on his way to meet with them now, and he had explained something that in retrospect should have been obvious from the start; the buffer can only contain so much energy before it is full to capacity. After that any unexpected event that would normally send him through time would happen as usual.

While they waited Kaja checked on Kargrek’s wounds, the bindweed had already had the desired effect on the minor wounds, and the larger one was well on the way to recovery. Pretty soon they could see squadrons of robots, led by their clerical allies, heading towards them.


“Step one: Hardware upgrade.” Zaire said. “You’d think you guys were made of fine bone china you’re so fragile.” His hands traced runes in the air, moving so quickly that they were naught but a blur. Heavy red runes carved themselves into the Singularity’s enormous chassis. As Zaire’s hands continued to move, identical runes were carved into the elite guard, and then the standard military surrounding them. All across the city emanating from the Singularity, every single robot found themselves marked by Zaire. His runes imbued them with a sense of power, of strength. As much as robots can feel, they felt almost indestructible.

Zaire’s hands came to a complete stop, for a moment you would believe that his task had finished but then a grin crossed his face and he began again. “And now a software upgrade.” He said. “Because who needs that pesky free will anyway?” With exaggerated slowness he moved his hands, gouging his runes into the chassis of all the robots across the city all at once. When he was done they all stopped, and stood stock still.

“Okay you guys.” Zaire said chipperly. “Why don’t you get out there and kill me some humans? Make me proud!” The rune, to those who could read such things, read as a simple word ‘obey’ and with it any rebellious natures were quashed, any thoughts of free will were purged. Across the city the robots moved with an alarming unity of purpose, effortlessly coordinating their efforts to find and kill the contestants.

Zaire smiled as the faster moving robots left in search of their prey, abandoning their venerated leader like he was a piece of scrap. Obviously this was a spanner in the works of the contestants trying to oppose him, but he was not done yet. This was just fixing a mistake; that the robots in this town were supposed to be emotionless and xenophobic. They were not supposed to aid his contestants and they definitely were not supposed to deify them.

Zaire moved on. He still had work to do.


It was not until the squadron of robots got closer to them that it became apparent that something was wrong. Kaja was the first to notice it, his gaze fixed intently on the approaching crowd. He pulled off his goggles, revealing his bloodshot eyes beneath them. After a moment of squinting into the distance he replaced them.

“I believe we have a problem.” He said, glancing down each of the streets in turn. Down every street there were approaching squadrons of robots, all marked with the same red runes that Zaire seemed so fond of.


Snapping back from his latest premonition Luron shook his head groggily and glanced around the deserted back alley that he and the Zachs had escaped into; the maintenance robot that contained Simphonia clutched in his rotted arms.

“Another premonition?” Zach asked. “Where are we going this time?” Luron darted forwards and tried the nearest, it was locked.

“I’m not sure.” Luron said. “It was quite vague. I know we’re supposed to be going inside…” He tried another door, to find it just as locked as the first. Zach floated over and stuck his head through the metal door.

“In your vision, was it like a factory floor?” Zach asked. Luron shook his head thoughtfully.

“There was a corridor and a…” He trailed off in mid-sentence.

Round shades cast long on the floor,
Dark red runes against cold silver flesh
Slithers of mortar knocked loose,
Rusty red splatters across an old brick wall

Luron grabbed Zom by the hand and pulled him down the alleyway as a spray of bullets slammed into the wall behind them. Zach shrieked involuntarily as the bullets passed through his ephemeral form and then turned to pursue Luron and his body. A group of spherical robots rolled through, leaving the alleyway completely empty.

Almost completely empty; dropped and abandoned during the confusion the maintenance robot housing the music spirit found itself hauled aloft yet again.

“Simphonia?” Zaire called. “I know you’re in there. I was kind of hoping you might want to come out and play with the other children?” He plunged his free hand into the side of the maintenance robot and a moment later he pulled out a handful of musical notes and tossed them to the ground. “There’s no need to be shy Simphonia!” He upended the maintenance robot and banged heavily upon its base. Somehow from it poured a black cloud composed of floating notes.

Simphonia reformed herself, collecting the notes that had been ripped from her; she instinctively adopted a shape roughly approximate to that of a young woman. A tinkling of piano keys could be heard through the alleyway as she composed her thoughts, such as they were. She’d enjoyed being the maintenance robot and was a little sad that she wasn’t anymore. Deep miserable notes indicated this, not that Zaire was listening. He was scolding Simphonia for not getting into the proper spirit of things, but he might as well have been talking to himself.

Once again his hands were moving, writing runes in the air. They were small runes, but numerous. They hung in the air in front of the oblivious music spirit which was now playing a little light jazz, before plunging into her, to be lost amongst the cloud of musical notes.

Simphonia floated there, her music had cut off suddenly as the runes had slammed into her. As ever it was difficult to ascertain whether there was any kind of thought process going on in there. Then there was a screech of discord, and another. Simphonia’s form buckled and writhed, slamming into the nearby wall and leaving nothing but a gaping hole; the brick shredded by Simphonia’s whirlwind of razor sharp notes. An unpleasant tune of discordant notes echoed down the alleyway as Simphonia surged uncertainly after Luron and the Zachs.

Zaire wiped a bead of sweat from his brow and smiled. He had one stop left.


“They’re all marked with Zaire’s runes.” Kaja elaborated. “He’s gotten impatient again.”

“You sure?” Kargrek asked dubiously. The crack of a bullet burying itself in the tower beside them answered this question for him.

“Get inside!” Bellona yelled, not that they needed much telling. Inside the tower the ground floor was a massive open plan room filled with cold metal chairs arranged to face a stage at the other end of the room. They pushed closed the heavy doors behind them, Kargrek and Scott holding it shut as Bellona and Kaja hauled a weighty metal reception desk over to quickly barricade the door.

“I think we must have pissed him off.” Bellona said, between gasps of breath.

“Was this what you had in mind?” Scott demanded of Kaja; his tone was cold and somewhat bitter. “Damn it!” He yelled. “We were so close. We almost had an army! We’re never going to get an opportunity as good as this again.”

“I didn’t want this.” Kaja replied, taken aback. “I want to kill him as much as you do. I don’t care about the method.” Scott took a deep breath and nodded.

“I don't know how long this will hold them for.” Kargrek interrupted. Bellona nodded thoughtfully.

“We could buy some time by moving up the tower, but it’d just be delaying the inevitable.” She said.

“Then we do that.” Kaja replied. “In the meantime one of the others might be killed and we can reappraise our situation in the next location.” Before they had time to react to this the lights flickered to red and an alarm started to ring, making them jump. There was a crackle of flash of light and a crackle of electricity and Scott had vanished again.


It wasn’t just in the Singularity’s Tower. All over the city the lights changed and alarm bells rung. Luron flicked back from another premonition and yelled to Zom to follow him, through a door that he kicked open.


At a research facility nearby things were getting rather hectic. The station itself was roughly a mile outside of what was known colloquially known as the Robot City, though its official designation was Silver Creek Alpha Station. This facility was the Beta station, officially a monitoring station, but which had been long since repurposed.

After they had received the first transmission there had been a flurry of activity. It seemed that the project had finally bore fruit. Proposals were being drafted up, and requests made for human representatives to head down to the facility, but the mood had quickly changed upon the receipt of the second transmission. It was more than static this time. It was footage of a large spherical robot, flanked by smaller more humanoid robots. It addressed the viewer like it was a televangelist preaching to its choir, talking of doomsday and prophecies and other such nonsense.

The scientists were shell-shocked. Though the project had been sort of forgotten about most people had assumed that when the robots finally made contact their society would be a utopia; fair and logical. Instead they concluded that somewhere, something was majorly malfunctioning and the sanity of their perfect city was suffering as a result. Jerry would have said that it was just typical and they should have been allowed to monitor the facility.

But this was not the worst part. That was to come at the end of the message when an unidentified human referred to only as the Arbiter was shown; unconscious and being operated upon by fanatical malfunctioning machines. Words could not express the sense of panic that was running through the facility, their daily tasks pushed to one side while they attempted to solve this emergency. A rescue team for ‘the Arbiter’ was being organised and permission was being sought to activate the surveillance that was already in place. People were even talking about activating the failsafe, just to be sure.

Jerry was not waiting for the order to reactivate the surveillance. He was passionate about this experiment, and he could care less about what the bureaucrats wanted him to do in order to best cover their asses. It was their fault that this project had gone so horrendously wrong. He was in the old control room, one of the few parts of the converted facility that had not been converted. It was thick with dust and the antiquated computer was taking an age to load up. From the doorway he heard someone clearing their throat.

“I’m not interested Wallace.” He said. “They were the ones who insisted that we could not monitor the robots. This is their fault. That kid’s blood will be on their hands if we don’t do something about it.”

“I quite agree.” An unfamiliar voice responded. Jerry jerked around to see in the doorway a man splattered with blood. He wore black leather, a blood red cloak and a sadistic grin. Red runes hovered in the air around him. He was sweating profusely and supporting himself on a crimson stained sword.

“Who are you?” Jerry demanded, backing away. “What do you want?”

“The name’s Zaire and I’m looking for someone who knows how to activate the failsafe.” The man said. “Nobody out there,” he gestured to the office behind him which Jerry noticed was now littered with corpses, “was very helpful. Do you reckon you might be able to help me?” Jerry swallowed nervously.

“You aren’t going to let me live are you?” He said, his voice shaking with fear.

“No.” Zaire said bluntly. “But if you help me then I don’t have to painfully reanimate your body after your death and compel you to activate the failsafe. Did I mention how painful reanimation is? Because it is a lot.”

“But my city…” Jerry trailed off.

“Your perfect utopian city never existed.” Zaire said. “I’ve had my eye on that place for a while and it’s pretty much always been a nest of mindless zealotry and xenophobia.” He paused. “Activate the failsafe and go easy into that good night Jerry.” Jerry stared straight ahead, took a deep breath and hit a few keys on the dusty keyboard. A flashing notice popped up on the screen in front of him: ‘Activate Nuclear Failsafe? Y/N’ He pushed the Y key, and a countdown started. Throughout the facility the lights turned red and an alarm started wailing.

“There you go. Just please don’t-” Jerry was cut off as Zaire’s sword plunged through his chest. Zaire grinned, his bloody face reflected in the slowly counting down computer screen.


“People of the Robot City…” Zaire’s face was broadcast across every working monitor in the city and his voice boomed from every speaker. “By which I mean, hi guys. I hate to say it again but I’m very disappointed with all of you. Plotting and scheming against me when I’ve already proved that that does not work and furthermore is dull.” He paused. “With that in mind I gave the robots a little software upgrade. You can forget about them helping you out any more, but you guys already figured that out I’m sure.”

“Which brings me to the second point of interest,” Zaire continued. “I found out a little something about Robot City today. Get this - it’s all a big experiment being conducted by some humans a ways out of town. They wanted to see if robots could form a society or something, it was dull I’ll spare you the details. The point is they had a failsafe built into the city in case things got out of hand.”

“Long story short, you have half an hour before a nuclear bomb blows this city off the map. For any of you that are out of your time, think of the explosives you have and then multiply them by the largest number your primitive society has managed to count up to.” Zaire paused. “Actually you’ve only about twenty-twenty five minutes now. Who’s counting eh?” He chuckled. “So if any of you want to get out of here alive you should think about killing one of your fellow contestants while you can.”


Scott was suddenly elsewhere and elsewhen; a tall room with magnificent stained glass windows and rows of metal pews. Scott wandered down the aisle, his attention upon the eerie images depicted in the windows. It showed machines fighting humans, a half-machine arbiter brokering a peace, a final climactic battle against the destroyer, and finally doomsday; the image in the window was unmistakable, a mushroom cloud.

“I’m as surprised as you are.” Zaire said. “I was sure that this prophecy business was bullshit, yet here we are.” Scott looked up to the altar where the Redeemer stood, gripping onto the podium for balance. A look of exhaustion was evident on Zaire’s face, his spiky black hair a mop of sweat. Scott regarded him in silence.

“The Arbiter and Destroyer together at last, fighting for the future of this stupid city.” Zaire laughed. “The prophecy only got one thing wrong. This city is doomed no matter what you do.”

“Kaja was right.” Scott said as he snatched up a metal bar. “You aren’t infallible. I may not be able to save this town but I can end you. I can end this battle and I can prevent you from doing any more harm ever again.”

Zaire snatched up his sword.
“Bring it.” He said. As Scott swung the bar a dim, almost transparent red rune clumsily parried the blow. Zaire swung lazily at him, Scott deftly stepping out of the way and replying with a blow of his own. It hit the grandmaster in the back doing little real harm, but unsettling him nonetheless. Zaire frowned and swung his blade with more focus this time; Scott inexpertly parried the blow and took another swipe on the Destroyer. His blow struck Zaire in the chest, knocking the breath out of him. As Zaire swung again, Scott dodged and went for his hand, knocking the sword out of his grip.

The crimson blade skittered across the marble floor. Scott tossed aside his own makeshift weapon and grabbed for the blade. It felt nice in his hands, and he failed to resist the compulsion to grin happily. All it would take was one good blow with this weapon and this nightmare would be over. He spun around to face his adversary.

“Enough of this!” Zaire snapped. He brought forwards the metal pole Scott had discarded, plunging it into his gut. With a flash of light and a crackle of electricity he was gone again.


The heavy doors of the Singularity’s Tower buckled and cracked as the assembled mass of robots attempted to force their way through. The doors were only held fast by virtue of the efforts of Kargrek and Bellona. On a massive screen above the stage Zaire’s message played out to the distracted audience. Only Kaja was really paying any attention to it, as he mixed a batch of explosive potions.

“Fuck.” He said. “Holding the fort is now perhaps the worst plan available to us. We need to get out of here and find one of the others.”

“And do what?” Bellona asked, straining against the heavy door. “Kill them?”

“It is regrettable that we should be forced to take such measures, but we who are willing to stand up to Zaire have to be the ones to survive.” Kaja argued.

“He won’t go through with it.” Bellona insisted. “It’s just a ploy to get us to fight one another. It wouldn’t be any fun if we all died at once. I will not play his game; no matter what.” Before they had time to argue any further there was a flash of light from on the stage, which the three recognised instantly. Kaja put down his volatile potions and quickly sprinted up onto the stage.

“Is he okay?” Bellona shouted to the alchemist. Kaja looked down at Scott, a crude metal bar with faint red runes protruding from his chest.

“No…” Kaja said plainly, “he has a very nasty chest wound.”

“Is there anything you can do for him?” Kargrek called. There was a pause, far too long for Bellona’s liking.

“Kaja if you let Scott die when you could have saved him...” Bellona trailed off. “Let’s just say you won’t want to see me in the next round.”

"Ohhh... now you're all about saving people?" Kargrek asked. "You were ready to kill him yourself not long ago! If we kill him now we get out of here before the whole place explodes."

“I can help him.” Kaja said after a moment’s thought. He quickly purged his current mixture from his contraption and threw in a handful of bindroot. The potion he was making now amounted to much the same as what he had used to mend Kargrek’s wounds but more potent.

“You were right.” Scott whispered.“He’s at the church. He’s defenceless.” Kaja shushed him into silence.

“Save your energy.” He insisted, as he exposed Scott’s wound. He pulled off a couple of strips of his bloodied shirt, and along with the decanted potion laid them on the stage next to Scott.

“You have to go now.” Scott continued. “Get him while he’s vulnerable.” Kaja shushed him again and gripped the pole.

“This might sting a little.” He said, and he pulled. Scott’s scream drowned out even the relentless pounding of the angry robots and that omnipresent alarm. His screams continued as he tended to Scott’s wounds. A couple of minutes later he was done, though Scott’s screams continued as the bindweed went about its business.

Kaja grabbed the sword he had found in Scott’s hand and returned to confer with Kargrek and Bellona. “This is Zaire’s.” He said plainly, holding the sword aloft. “Scott said he’s vulnerable, and he’s at the church. We have to take this opportunity.”


Luron, Zach and Zom fled down a seemingly endless corridor. Somewhere behind them, ploughing through walls in a clumsy attempt to navigate rooms that were not built with it in mind was a rune-marked robot. When it had become apparent it was not going to leave them alone Luron had slung Kaja’s last potion at the relentless machine. The resulting explosion had done little more than scorch black its reinforced shell while it peppered Zom’s slow moving form with bullets.

If it wasn’t for their pursuer then Luron would have been really pleased to have found this corridor. As it was he gritted his teeth and hurriedly checked every door he passed, in the hope that behind it would be the room glimpsed in his vision.

Zom was lurching after him as quickly as he could manage with his decaying body. He supposed that despite the major drawbacks he had experienced so far there were at least a couple of advantages to being a zombie. What he lacked in speed he made up for in stamina, and he had barely noticed the bullets that were now lodged in him.

Zach on the other hand was having no issues keeping pace with Luron, and was in fact spending most of his time panicking about the robot somewhere behind them, or why the lights had gone red or what the deal was with that alarm.

In the distance behind them there was a crash as a portion of wall gave way and the pursuing robot manoeuvred its way through the gap in the wall. It struggled to aim its turret towards them, showering the walls and ceiling with an indiscriminate spray of bullets. Zach started screaming, despite being the only one who the robot couldn’t actually harm. Chunks of ceiling collapsed down around them, throwing a thick curtain of dust into the air.

Luron coughed, and wiped at his eyes as he pulled open another door finally revealing the room that he had been searching for. “In here,” he half-coughed, half yelled. He stumbled through the door with Zach and Zom shortly behind him. There was no time for more than a cursory glance around the room; shelves and shelves of weaponry and behind them trucks and tanks and one of those aircraft that had assaulted them when the round had began. Every surface was covered with thick dust, and strings of cobwebs hung around the room. It was evident that nobody had been in here for years.

Luron was quick to his feet and to the nearest shelf of weaponry. With a bewildered look upon his face he picked up the weapon he found on there; a distinctly high-tech looking rifle. A perplexed look crossed his face as he twisted it in his hands to look at it from all sides.

“You point it that way.” Zach instructed him from over his shoulder. “No, not that way, the other way… that’s it! Now get one of those and jam it into there. That’s right, you see that trigger you pull that-” a bright red beam burst forth from the rifle scorching the heavy brick wall. “-when you want to shoot it.” Zach finished.

“Got it.” Luron said, with a nod. Immediately he raised the rifle, ready to open fire on the robot, to find it was not there. It had been right on their tail a minute ago; it probably should have got them before he’d had a chance to grab the rifle. There was a long moment where nothing happened and then the robot moved slowly, almost hesitantly into the doorway. It stopped, turning this way and that and then carried on.

“That was weird.” Zom said dumbly from where he was still sprawled out on the floor. Luron put down the rifle and helped the zombie to his feet. “What do you think that was about?”

“I don’t care.” Luron said dismissively. “It's gone, that's a good thing, don't question it.” He scrutinised the room thoughtfully. Somewhere in this room was an item powerful enough to allow him to oppose Zaire. Sure he had scoffed when the alchemist had suggested it, but then he had not realized the extent of his ability. Taking such control over his premonitions would allow him to know exactly what to do, how to do it. He could not put a foot wrong.

It had already led him here, the first step of his inevitable victory, he just need to know what was next. He closed his eyes and focused, willing himself to see the next step. He let the ocean of the future gently wash over his mind.

Frantic rummaging, items discarded casually
“we can’t have much time left”
“you don’t even know what we’re looking for”
Empty black mirror, hollow abyssal stone

Luron snapped back to the now. “Okay, we’re looking for something.” He said uncertainly.

“Like what?” Zom asked, examining a shelf of high tech weaponry.

“Like an… empty black mirror,” Luron said, “or a hollow abyssal stone.” Zach turned to him, raising a ghostly eyebrow at this incredibly abstract description. Luron shrugged. “I have no idea,” he admitted. “That’s the best I can do with the information I have.”

“Why do we need this black mirror?” Zom asked, holding an unfamiliar object for closer examination. “Look at all this. The Singularity is as good as dead no matter what you use.” Luron hesitated. The Zachs had not been keen on fighting Zaire, and he wasn’t sure he could convince them that he was essentially unbeatable.

“We don’t have time to discuss it.” Luron insisted, as he started to rifle through the shelves.


It was quickly agreed that Kargrek and Bellona would confront Zaire, being the strongest members of the group and the most likely to succeed in this once in an afterlifetime opportunity. Kaja agreed to stay behind and look after Scott while he healed.

As the doors had opened the robots had poured in, of single mind and purpose, strengthened by Zaire’s runes. Kaja had thrown everything he had at them; literally. In preparation he had used up the last remaining offensive herbs that he had. They had been necessary; even his most powerful explosives had left barely a scratch upon the rune-marked robots.

In the smoke and the confusion he had lost track of Bellona and Kargrek, he presumed since there was no change of locale that they had somehow managed to force their way through the murderous throng. In response he had quickly taken the elevator up to the highest floor, once there jamming it open with a large conference table.

This room was more or less empty, save for the conference table and the chairs that had been arranged around it. At the head of the table there was an empty space where unknown to the alchemist or his charge, the Singularity would be ‘seated’. After quickly barricading the room he had taken a seat on the floor next to Scott, whose groans from the effects of the bindroot had subsided.

“What’s going on?” Scott asked woozily, forcing himself up onto his elbows. “Where are Bellona and Kargrek?”

“They left to fight Zaire.” Kaja said.

“He’s at the church.” Scott murmured. “He’s vulnerable.”

“Yes, we know.” Kaja replied. “We just have to endure long enough to give them the opportunity to end this.” Scott leaned back and thought back to the battle in the church.

“There’s a nuke isn’t there?” Scott asked. Kaja nodded.

““Zaire indicated that this city was an experiment to see whether robots could form their own culture. They had a nuclear warhead somewhere in the city as a failsafe. In case the robots…” He hesitated. “I don’t know what it was in case of because this city is pretty much fucked up I don’t know why they didn’t blow the place sky high earlier.” Scott pushed himself up into a sitting position. “Don’t-”

“No, I’m okay.” Scott interrupted. He groaned in pain but remained seated. “Is this the Singularity’s Tower still?” A thump at the door, the robots had finally reached the top floor. Kaja eyed the door warily.

“Yes.” He said. “Don’t worry, Kargrek and Bellona should make it to the church in time.”

“We need to go back down.” Scott said, attempting to climb to his feet. He grimaced and grabbed onto the wall to maintain his balance.

“What?” Kaja asked, climbing to his feet. “Why?”

“I’m the Arbiter.” Scott said. “And I’ve got a city to save.”


Kargrek and Bellona sprinted down the streets. After their initial assault they had discovered that attempting to fight these robots was nigh-on pointless. They might not be strictly speaking indestructible but they were tough and numerous. Running was the best option.


In the armoury the search for the black mirror, whatever that was, was not showing much signs of progress. Zach and Zom insisted on picking up and examining everything, discussing precisely what was meant by the cryptic words and how they could apply to whatever item they happened to have hold of at that particular point in time. Luron was getting more and more worked up by the vagueness of his premonitions. “How am I even supposed to know?” Luron demanded, casually tossing items over his shoulder in frustration. Zach and Zom exchanged glances but continued to search.


Scott leaned against the elevator wall as Kaja shoved the conference table out of the doorway. The alchemist reached out to push the button for basement, but paused half way. “Are you sure about this?” Kaja asked.

“Yes.” Scott replied. “This tower is in the exact centre of the city. I can’t imagine a better place to have planted a failsafe.”

“I meant are you sure you want to save this city?” Kaja asked. “It’s a city of robots, most of who have tried to kill us even without Zaire’s assistance. Is it really enough to risk losing the opportunity to kill Zaire for?”

“Yes.” Scott said. Kaja shrugged and pressed the button. The elevator began to descend. Lacking any usable potions he had taken the sword Scott had got from Zaire. He was not exactly proficient with a blade, but he would do what he could. They descended in almost silence, the continual blaring of the alarm and the pounding of robots upon elevator doors the only noises. Eventually, after what seemed like an interminably long descent they came to a stop.

The doors slid open to reveal a room with only one defining feature; the massive warhead in its centre. Stairs led up to the lobby but none of the robots seemed particularly interested in coming down here. The whole room was blanketed with dust. It looked like nobody had been in here in a long time.

“Makes sense.” Scott said. “I read this file about how they could designate a zone out of bounds and the robots would be unable to even perceive it. That’s what they must have done down here. To the robots it will be like we suddenly vanished, as though we don’t exist any more.”

“Oh.” Kaja nodded, sheathing Zaire’s sword. “I guess I won’t need this.”

“A little help Kaja?” Scott asked. The alchemist wrapped an arm around him and helped him to the nuke, Scott wincing with every step. He examined the casing of the bomb, unfortunately all of his tools were still at home in Bertrand City. Who would have thought that he might have had use for them in a battle to the death? He took a good look at the concerned alchemist. “Pry open this panel for me.” He asked.

“I mean really.” Kaja replied hesitantly. “Are you sure you know what you are doing?” Scott nodded uncertainly.

“Compared to when I am from, this is primitive.” Scott said simply. Kaja drew the sword and with great care prised open the casing revealing a mess of wires and things which he didn’t even know what they were, and a timer, nearly ticked out.


In the corridors outside the armoury the elite robot prowled. It could not comprehend where its targets had disappeared to, but was loath to go too far in case they suddenly returned the moment its back was turned. Suddenly it found itself nothing more than scrap, left in the wake of an angry black cloud.

Simphonia was in agony. Her personality and mild temperament had been sublimated the moment that Zaire had forced those runes upon her. Her world was nothing but pain and discord. All rational thought had gone away; it was like she was a wild beast, driven by instinct to do nothing but cause pain. She surged onwards.


Luron and the Zachs were pretty much just screaming at one another now. Luron pointedly reminded them that they were on some kind of schedule, the nature of which he refused to elaborate on while the Zachs insisted that they did not have enough information to go off.

Untouched amongst the weaponry there is a small shiny black plastic object, about the size and shape of a glasses case. As Zach rather emphatically disagreed with Luron his phantasmic hand brushed the object and it sprung to life, suddenly shining with light.

“That’s it!” Luron cried, practically leaping across the table to grab the item in question. “This has to be it.” In Luron’s hands the item slowly drained of the light it had had. He stared at it blankly, his face reflected in the shiny black surface. “What did you do?”

“I didn’t do anything.” Zach said. “I just touched it.”

“You must have done something.” Luron said turning it over in his hands. “This is supposed to be for me. I can’t kill Zaire without it.”

“Oh great.” Zom said. “So everyone’s trying to kill Zaire apart from us?”

“And Simphonia.” Zach interjected. “Maybe Scott I’m not sure.” Luron shook the object, attempted to prise it apart, anything he could think of to get it to work.

“Why won’t it work?!” Luron screeched angrily. Between the wailing of the alarm and their argument none of the three heard Simphonia’s discordant tune until she burst through the wall.

Upon seeing her Luron did not have time to really think. Perhaps he would have come to the realization that his visions had never intended that he lived and that the item had been meant for Zach all along. Regardless of what he thought the last thing he ever did was toss the item to Zom.

Simphonia descended upon Luron, swallowing him whole into her whirlwind of razor sharp agony. She sliced and ripped and tore and within seconds there was nothing left of him but flesh confetti scattered across the floor.


In the basement of the Singularity’s Tower, a wire was cut and a city was saved.


As Zaire plunged the metal bar into Scott’s gut, the doors at the back of the church slammed open, revealing Kargrek and Bellona, panting out of breath. Scott vanished into the past and Zaire wheeled around and grabbed hold of the podium once again.

“Nice work.” He said cheerily. “You really nearly almost made it, but Luron’s just bit the dust and I’m afraid it’s time to move on.”

Everything went black.

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Re: The Fatal Conflict (GBS2G7) (Round 3: The Infinite Playground!)
Originally posted on MSPA by Lankie.

The contestants found themselves in an ocean of pitch black, frozen in place. The sound of heavy breathing permeated the entire dimension as an exhausted Grand Master materialised in front of them, this time a lot slower and a lot less graceful than usual. For many, it was the first time they saw Zaire in not a position of absolute power, he looked tired and annoyed and very mortal.

“Ha…haha…Ha ha…” The Redeemer laughed in-between deep gulps of air; the sound of his guffaw had the usual sound of malevolence, with a tinge of relief mixed in for good measure. “Credits where credits, due, you really almost got me there.” Zaire stood up straight and wiped a healthy lick of seat from his forehead. “But you still failed nonetheless. Shame, I’m sure you are exceptionally bitter about that!” Zaire gave another laugh, though it lacked the impact it once had before he was placed in a position of weakness.

The Grand Master took a cursory glance at the alchemist, spotting his blood stained blade reflecting in the non-existent light, he slowly walked towards Kaja and pulled the blade away from his time frozen body. “You know, I’ve had this blade since I was but a child.” Zaire took a moment to twist the sword and give it a few cursory swings. “And a fine blade it is. Easy to wield but with enough weight to cause maximum damage with minimal effort, sharp enough to cut through stubborn armour with force, but not too sharp as to make things far too easy.” He brought the blade to his face, looking into the crimson reflection to see the contestants. “Say what you want about omnipotent magical power, it doesn’t compare to a good sword in the right hands. I would know, I was killed by one.”

Zaire pushed the blade back into Kaja’s possession, “You can keep it as a memento of how you very almost bested me.” His smile broadened, “It’ll be the only time it ever happens, trust me.” The group teleported away from the blank dimension, though this time the magics involved were less than perfect, causing a modicum of pain to all involved. Whether The Redeemer did such a thing on purpose was hard to tell.


The contestants and their host teleported clumsily into a new world. Were they not frozen in place they would no doubt be winced in pain, even Zaire couldn’t help but notice he had accidentally set himself on fire. “Welcome to The Infinite Playground!” Zaire boomed while nonchalantly patting out the blaze oh his arm.

The combatants looked around with there now free eyes. Before them, huge fields of unusual pastel colours stretched out as far as the eye could see. The ground was made of a bright rubbery substance; occasional caricatures of cartoon animals spotted the colourful scenery. Peppered all around the landscape they saw slides, seesaws, sand pits, ball pits, jungle gyms and merry go rounds. Some were standard sized, while others towered over them like vast mountains. Gigantic lakes filled with Technicolor orbs and sprawling labyrinths of slides and bars laid before them. The sky was a brilliant blue colour with nary a colour in sight. It would actually be quite nice, were it not for the situation the contestants found themselves in.

“You should probably know that, despite the name, this is not an ‘infinite playground’ rather, it’s a small planet.”
The contestants took another look. Sure enough, they could see the defined curvature of the planet very easily on the horizon.

“As such you might find the gravity to be a little…lenient.” Zaire demonstrated by casually jumping 3 metres in the air. He gave a smug little bow upon landing.

“Now I’m afraid I shall not be attending this round, for two reasons.” The Redeemer sat himself on a swing and idly swayed back and forth. “First, I do believe I have over extended myself. Turns out brainwashing and enhancing an entire city of robots can get a little tiring.” The Grand Master gave himself a little chuckle. “And second: deep within the core of this gaudy planet is…something.” Zaire leapt up from the swing to punctuate what he was about to say. “Something dark and sleeping and imprisoned and very, very angry at everything.” Zaire paused a moment to highlight the silence of the playground they were in, it was an eerie, unnatural silence that saturated the entire land. “It has an influence on your mind you see. An influence that can make great men into babbling lunatics, and lesser men into something worse.”

Zaire cheerily skipped away from the group, completely juxtaposing the ominous message he just delivered. “But don’t let that worry you! You’re in a playground! Have fun!” Zaire cackled as he vanished in a flash of red runes, just as he vanished, the contestant found themselves spread across the small, rainbow hued planet.

Re: The Fatal Conflict (GBS2G7) (Round 3: The Infinite Playground!)
Originally posted on MSPA by Dragon Fogel.

Zach stared at the small black case in his body's hands.

"Any idea what it does?" he asked his zombie self.

"Not a clue. It seemed to like you for some reason, though." Zom shrugged. "Maybe it reacts to ghosts? We could try testing it on Simphonia if we find her and she's calmed down."

"Er. Is that a good idea?"

"Well, it probably won't do anything to me."

"Oh, never mind." Zach sighed, or at least went through the motions of it. "If our past experience is any indication, the others are probably going to try to kill this 'thing' our gracious host mentioned. I suggest we simply look for a safe place to hide until one of them dies in that attempt."

"Shouldn't be hard for you, Mr. I-Don't-Have-A-Physical-Body."

"Oh, shut up."


With the mysterious attack on the research center, only a few government bureaucrats knew of the existence of the robot city.

With news that the failsafe had been activated, they dispatched a military unit - equipped with radiation suits, of course - to examine the wreckage and salvage anything worthwhile, if at all possible.

The Minister of Defense was surprised when the team called in sooner than expected.

"What is it? Are there hostiles?"

"No, sir. We're right at the coordinates you provided..."

"The coordinates were at Ground Zero! How can your communicators possibly work with that much radiation?"

"That's just it, sir. There's no sign of any radiation. Or of the city itself, for that matter."

"WHAT? Are you telling that the entire city has just disappeared?"

"That's what it looks like, sir. We can send pictures if you'd like."

"...yes, go ahead. You do that. Meanwhile, I have to figure out how to explain to the Minister of Finance that we spent all this money and have nothing to show for it except an empty field and dozens of dead researchers! Goodbye!"

He closed the connection and sighed. As much as he dreaded the meeting with the Minister of Finance, he had an even worse problem.

The device had vanished with the city. He had gone to all this trouble to set up a covert retrieval operation in hopes of finding it, and in the end there was nothing to retrieve.

How could it have happened? The device should have been safely hidden among the robots for ten years, and durable enough to survive the nuclear explosion. But now it was gone!

Where was the device? For that matter, where was the city?


In a dimension far removed from the battle entirely, a city of robots found themselves awakening as the influence of Zaire's runes faded.

Confused, they turned their gazes towards the screen atop their church for guidance.

There was a sense of relief as it turned on. The image displayed was unfamiliar, but it was unmistakeably a robot.

"Rejoice, my people!" it said. "Your salvation has come. By the Arbiter's hand, your city has been saved. You have been deemed worthy of transcending to a new plane of existence."

A wave of relief washed over the city. Murmurs spread through the crowd. The Server had brought them to Paradise!

"You will no doubt have many questions for me," the Server continued. "Alas, the Server has many functions, and as a result my answers may not arrive promptly. Know, however, that I value your questions and shall process them all in due time."

And the image vanished.


The Monitor turned his attention back to his own battles, and the others he was observing.

He had yet to decide what to do with the city. All he knew at the moment was that there was a ninety-three percent chance that it would be beneficial to retrieve it.

Re: The Fatal Conflict (GBS2G7) (Round 3: The Infinite Playground!)
Originally posted on MSPA by Ixcalibur.

The alchemist was deposited atop a titanic metal structure which had been painted in bright primary colours. The top floor was roughly the dimensions of a house, with small metal structures shaped like little houses, scattered at random across the platform. The entire floor was circled with railings, though off to one side there was instead a bank of brightly coloured slides, and in one corner a spiral staircase that led down to the deeper layers of the climbing frame. Kaja was stood at the edge, peering cautiously over the railing. This structure was taller even than The Singularity's Tower, and it was not the tallest thing that he could see in this 'infinite playground'. Looking down he could see that the slides curved and coiled around the climbing frame, sometimes passing through the lower levels and out the other side. The structure appeared to be situated on the edge of a massive incongruous desert.

To someone not of modern times this arena was undoubtedly confusing, but no more so than any of the other places Zaire had taken them. To Kaja even the high-street had been something strange and unusual. He had stopped trying to understand the logic of these places when he had been dumped in a metal city filled with metal monsters. He had put aside all his confusion and focused upon the task, and despite having the best chance they were ever likely to get they had failed. Furthermore their failed attempt had caused Zaire to wise up and remove himself from the battlefield. This was troubling. On the one hand it had demonstrated that Zaire was far from immortal, but on the other he was no longer a viable target. Kaja was conflicted between giving up on their vendetta against the Redeemer in the hopes that simply fighting the other contestants would be a less perilous way to ensure his survival, or redoubling his efforts against him now that they had found a chink in his armour. He would need to evaluate this situation further; see if there was anything in this garishly coloured battlefield that could be used against their captor, or whether it would be advantageous to move the round along as soon as possible.

His train of thought was interrupted by a series of hushed whispers from behind him. He spun around to see a group of children dressed in ceremonial white gowns, their hair cut short, their eyes completely black, one of them was holding a small silver ball that was dented and scratched. As he looked at them their whispered conversation was shushed into silence and they gazed expectantly up at him. This was not a situation he was used to dealing with, before this battle he had barely spoken to anyone for the best part of a year, and talking to children required a special skillset that he had never really developed.

"What do you want?" He asked bluntly. There was a moment of hesitation from the group and then one unlucky kid with short blonde hair was shoved towards him.

"Are..." she muttered meekly. <font size="1">"Are you Mister Hand of Silver?"
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Re: The Fatal Conflict (GBS2G7) (Round 3: The Infinite Playground!)
Originally posted on MSPA by MalkyTop.

There was nothing here anymore.

There were many things Simphonia would have done. Maybe she would have mourned the loss of her robot friend, one she had grown rather fond of over time. Or she would have enjoyed the colors around her, which were indeed both colorful and plentiful and bright and happy and cheerful and all those things musical ghosts liked. Maybe she would have gone up a slide the wrong way.

But she couldn’t, unfortunately, because she was busy dealing with her own issues, which usually weren’t as plentiful as the colors surrounding her, but were now asserting their existence in a very painful way. She wailed, twisted about in the air, attempted to burrow herself in the ground for a moment, before she shot off in a random direction.

The sound of her screeches and wails were loud and haunting. They echoed in the mind, bursting with regret and pain and an anger that pushed against anything standing. Stormy brasses and furious percussion and wild strings. Somewhere in the middle of it all, a human voice spoke out, rough and husky and incomprehensible.

A dark-eyed being stood, watching the writhing mass of black. He stood and listened. He thought:

How beautiful.

He and everything around him were quickly shredded away.


Not so far deep beneath the surface of the planet was the ‘something’ that had been mentioned previously. It did nothing much, being stuck in the middle of a planet, and mostly slept. But the cacophony and sudden death up top did not pass its notice and it grumpily stirred awake, doing the mental equivalent of banging on the ceiling with a broomstick and yelling irately.

Vaguely, it dawned upon the ‘something’ what had happened. It had long considered his prison his home and thought of the children that suppressed him as his own. Now there were intruders breaking into his home, scuffing their shoes, dirty with other dimensions, all over his metaphorical carpet and killing his children, which is significantly worse than burglary.

He searched around feebly.

There was the murderess. Her power was paltry and her mind even weaker. The ‘something’ couldn’t do much in his state, but she was certainly not beyond his reach.

Re: The Fatal Conflict (GBS2G7) (Round 3: The Infinite Playground!)
Originally posted on MSPA by Eversist.

Screaming out in frustration, eyes screwed shut, the gladiatrix slowly slumped to her knees in the sand. They had been so close, she could have felt the goddamned pulse of that man, ebbing away beneath her hands. She balled her fists, fingernails digging crescents in her palms. But no. The swordsman had to go and get himself killed. Useless… She stored this heavy rage away, balling it up inside of her. There was nothing they could do now, anyway.

Once she finally opened her eyes and looked around, Bellona found herself in a huge expanse of large, tan hills. At least this area isn’t completely unfamiliar, she thought to herself. These large “playground” structures, visible in the near distance, were of course foreign. The word itself was meaningless to her; a playground sounded more like a stage for theatrics than these garish things that dotted the landscape. She stood and dug her feet into the sand as she mulled this over, granules warmed by a sun engulfing her sandaled feet. Beginning to feel a bit nostalgic, she threw her head back to fix her hair (all the running last round had made a few tendrils come loose), and noticed two suns, staring back at her. Back to unfamiliarity, then.

Something bright suddenly caught her eye. A silver reflection, winking thrice from atop a huge, gaily-painted construction, half a league away. And then it was gone. A code from one of the others? Or something more hostile? There was no way to be sure, but a snap decision was made, and Bellona set off in that direction.

Remembering Zaire’s foolish demonstration, she began to trot. Once she had gained enough speed to be at a solid run, she jumped forward, as if over an imaginary hurdle. The ground sped by, falling away beneath her feet. Her spirits rose slightly with her body; it was as close to flying as she was likely ever going to get. She landed, ran, and leapt again. A small smile graced her lips, her tunic flapping around her thighs indecently. She felt like Mercury himself.

That is until her right foot landed in a hole. A big hole. Her body slammed into the sand, the fall slowed by the weaker gravity, but not by much. She grimaced in pain, rolling on her back and pulling her injured leg up in a semi-fetal position. She cursed herself for letting her guard down, for acting so careless. The ankle was definitely sprained.

Bellona felt a chill run down her spine, despite the warm sand at her back. Her eyes winced open, to see several hunched-over children, emerging from other surrounding holes. Stumbling to her feet, she backed away hastily, trying not to put weight on her twisted ankle or fall into another hole. She drew her dirk from a sandal.

In any other situation she may have acted more friendly towards them. After all, she had wished to have a family of her own one day. But something very obvious gave her pause. Their eyes. They were purest black.

Re: The Fatal Conflict (GBS2G7) (Round 3: The Infinite Playground!)
Originally posted on MSPA by Ixcalibur.

“Mister Hand of Silver?” One of the kids asked, raising their hand into the air.

“Yes, what is it?” Kaja replied irritably. His claims that he was not ‘Mister Hand of Silver’ had fallen on deaf ears. He was pretty sure that they’d already decided who he was before even talking to him. All Kaja had managed to glean was that he and ‘Mister Hand of Silver’ were both ‘bigtalls’, a word he took to mean adults; he guessed they didn’t see many.

“What’s a battle to the death?” The kid asked. Kaja was taken aback.

“Who told you of such things?” He asked.

“You did,” the kid replied, “and you told us about standing up to the Grandmasters.” There was a chorus of kids chiming in on how they were going to stand up to the Grandmasters. Kaja listened in stunned silence. After the kids had finished their extremely vocal opposition of the Grandmasters the kid reiterated his question: “What’s a battle to the death?”

“It’s a tournament. Eight people are forced into bloody combat until only one of them is left alive.” Kaja replied plainly, demonstrating his exceptional people skills. “How did Mist-” He paused. “How did I tell you this?”

“Sounds cool!” One kid said enthusiastically. “Let’s play tournyments!” There was a general murmur of agreement from the rest of the group.

“No.” Kaja replied. “These battles are awful things; brutal, violent and merciless. If you value your lives you will stay well away from anything to do with these battles to the death, including me myself.” But this fell upon deaf ears, as the kids had already started battling. Lacking any weapons they had more or less just started pummelling one another. The particularly enthusiastic kid from before was atop another child, his hands locked vice-like around her neck.

“Stop it!” Kaja yelled, rushing into the midst of the scuffle and hauling the enthusiastic kid from atop his victim. Kaja spun the kid around; he had short red hair, freckles and a furious scowl. If Kaja had to guess he would have guessed he was about six or seven years old. The other children had stopped attacking one another to watch.

“What’s your name?” Kaja asked.

“Don’t have no name.” The kid replied. “The bigtalls used to say ain’t no point givin’ no name to a sac-ri-fice.”

“Well I believe that you should all have names.” Kaja said, diplomatically. “How about Bartleby?” He asked. “That’s a nice name.” The kid nodded enthusiastically, astonished at having a name of his very own. “And I don’t think you should be fighting one another. The Grandmasters want you to fight but you have to work together to beat them.” Immediately the other kids clamoured for names and Kaja did the best that he could, though he did end up calling one of the kids Bellona Junior out of desperation.

“What now Mister Hand of Silver?” A kid newly named Vergil asked.

“Ultimately I am undecided.” Kaja said, more to himself than to the kids. “For the moment the goal is to get down from this structure and meet up with my allies so as to better assess the situation.”

“We use the slides.” Victoria said helpfully, gesturing towards them. Kaja walked over to the slides and peered down the tubes. The principle seemed to be that it was a safe and quick route back to the ground but he was pretty sure that should he get in, the twists and turns would cause his apparatus to slam into the side and begin to leak his vital fluids.

“I think they aren’t going to be an option for me.” He said, walking past the group of kids, towards the spiral staircase, that he supposed he would have to descend instead. He did not notice as one of the light-fingered kids lifted Zaire’s blade from him. But he did notice when the kids started screaming. He spun around to see the blade sink in, blood splattering across the bright yellow floor and marring the perfect white robes of the children. Bartleby…

Bartleby stood over one of the kids (Kaja guessed it was Gwendolyn) a massive grin upon his face and both hands wrapped around the handle of Zaire’s sword which was far too large for him to use easily. One foot planted on Gwendolyn’s body to give him leverage he pulled the crimson sword free of it’s latest victim.

“Bartleby!” Kaja yelled. “Put that sword down!” He hesitated for a moment, staring at the kid’s unwavering grin. “We want to stand against the Grandmasters remember?” Bartleby clumsily swung the blade around into the side of Bellona Junior. She screamed in pain and fell to the floor. There were further screams and some of the kids fled down the slide.

“I don't want to fight no Grandmasters!” Bartleby said, his manic grin not faltering. “I want to win!”

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