Previously... Miho Tsukada, the Heavenly Child, came face to face with Belial, zealous follower of Monad. He sought to give her a warning – to interfere with the Oracle is to invite disaster. Could his warning have been correct? Whatever the truth may be, life has returned to the Tsukada household, with EVE moving in and Yui returning. Leaving her happy family life behind once again, the Heavenly Child descended into the depths of the Umbra. The unclean source awaits!>Twitter: https://twitter.com/MolochQM>Previous threads: http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive.html?tags=Heavenly%20Child%20QuestIt's strange, how restless normal life can leave you. After returning from the deepest layers of the Umbra, you were treated to a few rare days of peace. No Intruders, no AI drama, and no conspiracies for you to get tangled up in. Even your family life was peaceful and uneventful – although Yui watched her like a hawk, EVE behaved herself surprisingly well. Better, in fact, than you thought possible.When you came home one day to find EVE helping your mother with the cleaning, you knew that they would be okay together. Perhaps, you thought, having the AI around would make things easier for Yui when you're gone. That was a thought that you banished quickly – it's far too early to give up hope.So, you keep your head and think hard – thinking about how to bend the rules, or outright break them.That's when Friday rolls around.
>>1961047Lunchtime finds you in the library, tapping a pencil against your chin as you mull over the few ideas you've been able to come up with. It's strange, how pragmatic you can be about this, and it takes you a moment to figure out why. You've taken enough blows, starting with the revelation that you'd been chosen for Sacrifice all along, to toughen you up. You've gone through denial and grief, anger and all other kinds of feelings, leaving you with a cold core of determination.You'll beat this system. You just need to figure out exactly how. Kurosawa is no help, he's told you everything that he can, and the others... you're still to tell them. You're still working out how to say it, and you fear their reactions. Would they pity you, perhaps, or would they rage against Kurosawa? Maybe they'd even try and stop you from going down there and facing the source...“Just promise yourself that you won't die...” you murmur, recalling something that Emi once told you. She had been so easy about things, then, as if it really had been that simple. “Don't worry, Emi,” you add, speaking aloud this time, “I won't break my promise.”“Well you'd better not,” a sly voice replies, “Only arseholes break their promises.” You blink once, and then Sionann is sitting on the corner of your desk with a coy smile on her face. “You look like someone who could use some cheering up,” she adds, “Fancy a night out?”“This isn't some innocent suggestion, is it?” you ask drily, “And I don't need cheering up, either.”“Cruel, pet, very cruel. I just thought you might enjoy a spot of mischief,” Sionann raises an eyebrow, “Karl and I were heading to this little party tonight, you're welcome to come with us. I think he'd like you there, actually, although he'd never dare say it. You're quite the lucky charm, over with the Sentinels.”“Funny,” you mutter as you carefully close your notebook, “Belial seems to think the exact opposite.”“Maybe he does,” the assassin says with a shrug, “But take it from me, he's an arsehole and a bloody fool. Are you really going to put any stock in what HE says?” Sighing grandly, Sionann hops off the desk and gives you a frank look. “You're not about to say something daft about being a nice, well-behaved girl, are you?” she asks, “Go on, live a little! A party like this doesn't come along every day, you know.”“You do realise that it might be filled with terrorists, right?” you point out, “They probably have guns and everything!”“Like I said, it's going to be a party!” Sionann stresses, “Go on, what do you say?”>Sure, I'll come along. It sounds like fun>I'll have to pass, since I'm a well-behaved girl and all>Other
>>1961049>Sure, I'll come along. It sounds like fun"You sure I won't be interrupting your date though?"
>>1961049>I'll come along, but only to apprehend terrorists and make sure you don't wantonly murder them.
>>1961049>>Sure, I'll come along. It sounds like funClearly we must forcefeed Intruders some Accela
>>1961049>>Sure, I'll come along. It sounds like fun
>>1961062Do you really think she'd kill people in the middle of a party? With Karl there too? Or did you just want to be antagonistic for the hell of it?
>>1961081I don't think the confrontation will happen or stay in the middle of the party. It's likely they'll fight back or run away, both actions an excuse for Crow to kill.
You're not convinced that Sionann is taking this entirely seriously. Then again, perhaps this is as seriously as she ever takes anything – you could never really say that the young woman was the responsible type. Frowning at her for a moment more, you ask a careful question. “Does Karl know about this?” you ask, “That you're asking me this?”“Not as such, no,” Sionann replies with a brisk shrug, “But it's like I said, pet, I think he'd be happier with you there. He's half sure that you're going to turn up anyway, so at least he'll be able to keep an eye on you this way!”“Oh boy...” you sigh to yourself, glancing about the library to make sure that nobody is eavesdropping on your conversation. “I feel like this is going to be a terrible idea, but sure. I'll come along,” you decide at last, holding up a finger to stop Sionann from getting too ahead of herself, “But I'm only coming to do my civic duty, and to stop you from wantonly murdering anyone, okay?”“I would never!” the assassin gasps, widening her eyes in mock horror, “Well... probably. Anyway, that's not the point - are you SURE that you're not even a little bit excited about this?”Sure, it might be a little fun – you've never been to anything like this before, so it'll be a novel experience at least – but you're not about to admit that to Crow. “I'll come along,” you repeat, “But are you sure that I won't be interrupting your date?”“Ah, well, it's really nothing of the sort!” Sionann laughs at this, although her laugh is just a little too forced to be genuine. “Just stop by our place at, oh, ten or eleven. Either works,” she concludes, “Karl said he had some things to organise, but he should be finished by then. Once he's done, the three of us can head out for a little FUN.”“Mm,” you muse, “Not too much fun, I hope. I'd rather not end the night in a police cell.”Sionann chuckles again, more genuinely this time, and then a bell chimes to signal the end of your lunch break. When you glance back to Sionann, she is nowhere to be seen.-The rest of the day passes uneventfully, although you can never quite shake the feeling that Sionann is still lurking about and watching you. That's the problem with invisible people, you can never be sure whether they're really gone or not. Whenever you feel a prickling on the back of your hands or a faint chill at the base of your spine, you have to wonder – just nerves, or something more?Mercifully, the uneasy feeling has subsided by the time you leave school. Pondering matters both great and small – what to wear tonight, and how to avert your doomed destiny – you slowly amble back to your apartment.[1/2]
>>1961108EVE and Yui are waiting for you when you return, both watching some daytime show on television – their truce is apparently holding strong. “This was delivered this morning,” Yui mentions, gesturing across to a small pamphlet left propped up on the dinner table, “I thought you might be interested – it's about next week's festival.”“Oh, yeah. Thanks,” you reply, nodding vaguely as you pick up the pamphlet and start off towards your bedroom, “I'm gotta head out tonight, okay? It's, uh, it's kinda work. I'll be real careful, though, and I won't get in any trouble at all!”[I'm detecting minor stress tremors in your voice,] EVE teases, [I don't think you're quite telling the truth.”“Jeez, thanks. After everything I've done for you...” you sigh, “Okay, so I might get in a little trouble, but that's-”“Miho,” Yui says simply, the gentle strength in her voice cutting you off, “Just don't get yourself killed.”Swallowing heavily, not trusting yourself to speak, you just nod.-“Don't get yourself killed,” you repeat in a low whisper as you flop down onto your bed, “I'm working on that, mom, I'm really working on that.”“Yes,” Kurosawa announces, “You have been quite focused on that task. If I may be so bold as to ask, have you reached any new answers yet?”“Not... entirely,” you admit, setting the pamphlet aside for later, “But I'm not giving up yet!”“No,” he considers, “Perhaps this is remiss of me to say, but you seem to be taking this oddly well.”“What, would you prefer if I broke down and cried? Maybe if I gave up and resigned myself to my fate?” you snipe, an involuntary bitterness stealing into your voice and forcing you to wince, “Damn it, I didn't mean to snap. What I mean is, I've already hit so many hurdles that this is no different. Just one more challenge that I've got to overcome – we've all come this far, we're not going to fail this close to the end.”“I hope that you are correct,” Kurosawa sighs.>Now go and leave me in peace. I've gotta pick out some clothes for tonight>Tell me about the last girl who defeated the unclean source. What did she do after that?>You're really telling me that not ONE girl was willing to sacrifice herself? I don't believe that>Here, I need to ask you something... (Write in)>Other
>>1961151>>Tell me about the last girl who defeated the unclean source. What did she do after that?>You're really telling me that not ONE girl was willing to sacrifice herself? I don't believe that.
>>1961151>Tell me about the last girl who defeated the unclean source. What did she do after that?>You're really telling me that not ONE girl was willing to sacrifice herself? I don't believe that>Woukd the god slayer the saint if he abyss has work on the source?
>>1961151>Tell me about the last girl who defeated the unclean source. What did she do after that?>You're really telling me that not ONE girl was willing to sacrifice herself? I don't believe that"Sakura, these girls were picked by you BECAUSE they could make the choice right? It just seems impossible that none the girls that fought so hard, risked their lives to get there would just give up at the very end.">Other"You two willing to pool your information with Zakuro about this? As in you actually come with me to talk to her for different perspectives sometime?"
>>1961151>>You're really telling me that not ONE girl was willing to sacrifice herself? I don't believe that>Did the source make some kind of bargain to sweeten the deal?>Don't take this the wrong way, I'm not asking you to do anything, but...shouldn't gods also have an appropriately "pure" soul? What's the difference?
>>1961151>How many Heavenly Children have reached the unclean source? How is it that none of them were willing to make that final sacrifice? Isn't the appropriate personality a selection criteria?>What do they even do afterwards? Do they talk about why they didn't do it? Is it something the source reveals to them, seperate from the deal?
>>1961172Maybe we can sacrifice Monad
“But for now, I will leave you in peace,” Kurosawa decides, “I have said everything that I needed to-”“Hey, Kurosawa?” you ask quietly, “Tell me about her.”The cat is silent for a moment. “Her?” he repeats, “I do not know who you are referring to.”“I don't either, honestly. The last Heavenly Child who defeated the unclean source, I guess. Tell me about her,” you insist, “Like, what did she do after that? Did she just... go back to living a normal life?”“No. She continued to fight. Even when the Umbra was pacified, she insisted that I send her into that other world so that she could hunt the Intruders. She believed – she genuinely believed – that one girl could destroy them all,” Kurosawa pauses again, sighing faintly, “The Intruders may have been passive, but they still defended themselves. Eventually, her lonely crusade led her to her death. I believe that she felt guilty, guilty about choosing her life above that of mankind, and this... ceaseless hunt was her penance.”“Did it make any difference?” you wonder, “In the long run, I mean.”“The unclean source woke again, after her death, and the Intruders regained their lost numbers,” Kurosawa delivers these words in an impassive voice, solemn but unyielding, “I told her as much, but she chose not to believe me.”“Did she ever talk about it?” sitting up, you rub your eyes and look around for Kurosawa. He sits atop your desk, tail slowly lashing back and forth. “I mean, did she ever explain why she didn't offer her life? Have any of them ever mentioned it?” you press, “Is it possible that the source said something to them, other than making offers?”“That remains a possibility,” Kurosawa admits, “Although I cannot say what-”“I just can't get my head around it,” you butt in, “You've told me that not ONE girl was willing to sacrifice herself. I don't know if I can believe that. There must be something else going on here!”“All past Heavenly Children have emerged... changed... from their meeting with the unclean source, yet they have always been reluctant to speak of what transpired there. I can only guess, with little evidence,” a dark note enters Kurosawa's voice, “One of your predecessors claimed that she was originally willing to utterly destroy the source, only...”“Only what?” frowning, you lean forwards and wait for him to continue.“She had a change of heart. She said...” Kurosawa stops for a moment, before continuing to speak in the voice of a young girl. “Did I really have the right to do such a thing?” he echoes, “To completely and utterly destroy something like that. Does any human have that right? I just... didn't know.”“Sympathy for the devil...” you murmur to yourself, frowning thoughtfully.[1/2]
>>1961230>The unclean source woke again, after her death"Right after her death or years later?"
Huh. Moral quandary right at the finish line? Interesting. Which means (at least this is my guess) that the Unclean Source is something not obviously evil. Or perhaps something that, if killed, will take something generally seen as 'positive to have in life' out with it.Which, if correct, means we'd effectively be making a particular decision on behalf of humanity. Hm.
>>1961230“Yes. Something was revealed to her, within the Umbra, that shook her to the core. At the end, she somehow came to sympathise with her enemy. I do not believe that she was the only one to feel this way, although she was the only one willing to hint at it,” Kurosawa growls softly, the sound emerging like static from a broken radio, “The unclean source will tell any lie, spread any falsehood, in order to safeguard its vile legacy.”“That's right,” Sakura agrees, “And you humans just keep falling for it. Doubt is a wicked thing, I suppose.”“Oh good, I was hoping to speak with you,” glancing around, you shoot Sakura a firm look, “Sakura, I thought these girls were chosen by you because they COULD make this choice. Do you believe that they would all choose to give up after fighting so hard?”“I believe that you humans have a saying - “good enough”. For some, I imagine that the thought of ten years of peace – give or take – was enough for them. Granted, I'm no expert in your kind, but girls your age can be SO short sighted,” Sakura tuts quietly, “It's dreadfully inconvenient. The girls most likely to fight their way to the deepest part of the Umbra tend to have good families, stable homes, rich futures ahead of them – all things that strengthen their Emotional Barrier, and yet all things that give them more to lose. Quite a conundrum.”“Right. It's not a sacrifice if they've got nothing to lose,” you spit, venom seeping into your voice, “Hell, I'm surprised that only one of us has taken the source's bargain and turned against you lot. I mean... I mean, how many of us have there been? How many girls have actually managed to reach the unclean source?”“Surprisingly few. There are many factors at work – some candidates never encounter enough Tyrants to break the seals protecting the unclean source. Some are unwilling to delve that deeply. Some are...” Kurosawa pauses, “Since this duty has begun, a little over one hundred-”“One hundred and four,” Sakura interrupts, “Including you, Miho. Not as many as you might think, is it?”“I didn't know what to expect,” you answer frankly. One hundred and three girls, but not one of them was willing to offer up their life for a greater cause. Then again, you have to wonder – if you picked one hundred people off the streets, how many of THEM would be willing? People with families, friends, people who depend on them and people they depend upon... Add in the unknown factor of the source's influence, and the situation looks that much darker. As you consider the conversation so far, a thought occurs to you.“When she – the girl you mentioned earlier – when she died, did the source wake up straight away?” you ask, “Or did it take some time?”[2/3]
>>1961304“It did not happen immediately. The peace remained in place for...” Kurosawa thinks for a moment, “Eleven months and three days. Not exactly a year. We not believe that the death of the Heavenly Child is related to the source's return, although it is not a relationship that I am prepared to fully dismiss.”“Was she unusual?” you wonder, “The way she continued to fight, I mean. The way she... died.”“Girls like her have a habit of meeting early deaths,” Sakura says carefully, her voice devoid of the usual teasing, “I don't like to dwell on the possibility very much, but I always wondered if Destiny pulled a few strings there. Just... nudging them into dangerous situations. Nothing that I could even prove, of course, and plenty of girls willingly put themselves into risky business. Guilt, just like Duty said.”Perhaps Sakura has said too much, as Kurosawa falls silent and shoots her an ugly look.-“Look, Zakuro raised an interesting possibility,” you press on, your words breaking the silence, “The saint of the abyss. When she made her deal with the source, she supposedly got the power to kill the gods – you guys, I mean. Could that same power work against the unclean source?”Sakura and Kurosawa look intently at each other here, and you feel a static charge built in the air as they think intense thoughts at each other. The idea certainly seems to have caught their attention, which you take as a good sign. “Details,” Kurosawa decides briskly, “We need more details about this... saint.”“Well, why don't we all discuss it together?” you offer, “You guys could meet up with Zakuro, and we could all-”“Yes,” Sakura jumps at the offer, “Yes, this has... potential.”“I would urge against undue optimism,” Kurosawa cautions, “There are still too many areas of uncertainty. It would be damaging to your Emotional Barrier to encounter an unexpected setback at this late stage. Be cautious.”“But have HOPE,” his sibling urges.“Hope, sure,” you grunt, unwilling to admit that your heart leapt at the sight of their eagerness. “But hey, wouldn't this all be simpler if you just did this yourself?” you ask, half-joking, “I mean, you gods must have a “pure soul” for this, right? I'm not telling you what to do, but...”“If only it were that easy,” Kurosawa growls, “But the source, like the Tyrants that serve it, possesses the ability to exclude us. Only a neutral power – one such as yourself – can intrude upon it.”“Hmm, I see,” you pause, “But like, in a fight between one of you and the source, who would win?”“I do not know,” Kurosawa admits, “And I have no wish to find out. I fear that I would not like the answer.”>I'm going to have to briefly pause here. Sorry about this, I'm not totally back into my rhythm
>>1961352Conversation falters. A restless energy remains within you as you turn away from the pair of gods, turning instead to your meagre closet in search of an outfit for tonight. The state of your wardrobe would either amuse or horrify Kasumi, but she's not here to pass comment. The pair of cats watch you as you rummage through various items of clothing, but neither dare say anything. Perhaps they have no idea what TO say.In the end, you settle for the least formal clothes you can find – a pair of baggy shorts and a T-shirt with a vaguely threatening design printed onto it. It makes you think of Emi, which seems like the right sort of impression to get across. You even look in the mirror and try to adopt one of her snarling expressions, but... well, it doesn't exactly work out. Once the important matter of your outfit is out of the way, all the energy seems to leave your body like blood pouring from a wound, and you collapse back down onto your bed.You sleep, for a little while at least.-A little while turns into a long while, and you end up sleeping well past ten. Yui offers no objection when you hurry out, making no attempt to bar your passage, but she does shoot you a formidable look – a look demanding that you come back safely. Nodding briskly, you race out of the apartment and into the tortuously slow elevator. By the time you've arrived at the Sentinel building, eleven has come and gone.Needless to say, Karl doesn't look particularly happy when you arrive.“You're late,” he points out, rather unnecessarily.“Hardly,” Sionann – lounging on a nearby couch – argues, “And we're well ahead of schedule as it is. The rave doesn't start until midnight, and we really don't want to be the first ones there. We'd look awfully bloody suspicious, wouldn't you say?”“Perhaps so,” Karl admits, conceding the point, “But punctuality is important. You shouldn't... Fine. Since we are – as Crow says – ahead of schedule, I'll be able to brief you on our mission. Our primary objective is to-”“Take a look around, see if there's anything interesting,” Sionann butts in, “Really, that's all we've got. We don't know enough to offer a more precise briefing, although you can just bet that Karl here would have given it a damn good shot. So, we're going to be doing a little spot of improv, playing this one by ear!”Karl just grits his teeth, trying very hard to ignore Sionann's teasing.>Well, I'll be ready for anything!>What do we do if we find any terrorists. Can we arrest them?>How come the police aren't doing anything? Isn't this an illegal rave?>Karl, I'd like to hear that briefing of yours>There's something I'd like to cover... (Write in)>Other
>>1961484>>How come the police aren't doing anything? Isn't this an illegal rave?>Sionann stop trying to get into Karl's pants. That can wait until the rave is over.
>>1961484"You're in luck. Playing things by ear is my specialty.">What do we do if we find any terrorists. Can we arrest them?>How come the police aren't doing anything? Isn't this an illegal rave?>>1961487Nah. You gotta be more subtle in your teasing. It's an art.
>>1961484>Can we arrest anyone? Do we have arresting permission?>I'll be ready for anything!
>>1961484>>How come the police aren't doing anything? Isn't this an illegal rave?
“You're in luck, you guys, playing things by ear is my speciality!” you offer, with a bright and optimistic smile – or, at the very least, an attempt at one. If anything, your good cheer just seems to make the pained look on Karl's face grow a little bit more intense. “So, uh, what do we do if we find any terrorists?” you ask, pressing ahead regardless, “I mean, can we arrest them? Now that I think about it, can we arrest anyone?”“You won't be able to, but we will,” Karl answers, taking out a small leather wallet and showing it to you. Even before you've seen the gold seal hidden inside it, you know what the wallet is. It has a palpable air of authority about it, the collective menace from countless police procedural shows and movies. Whenever someone pulls out a badge like that, things get serious. “That said, you have every right to... “detain” people until one of us can formally arrest them,” Karl adds, “We have considerable authority, but do try and exercise discretion. Overdoing matters will just give me a lot of very irritating paperwork.”“Was that supposed to be a bad thing?” Sionann laughs, “After all, anything that keeps you busy and irritated is a net positive in my book. In fact-”“Would you stop your flirting already?” you shoot, pointing an accusing finger at Sionann, “Or save it for your private time, at least. We're kinda working here, in case you hadn't noticed!”Sionann colours slightly at that, sitting sharply upright. “Well, excuse me!” she cries, hopping to her feet, “I didn't realise that I was making you jealous, pet! How about I leave the pair of you alone for a little, so you can have your big serious talk, hmm?”“That would be ideal,” Karl replies, his tone deadpan. Pouting, Sionann flounces out of the main room, slamming a door behind her. “Believe it or not, she'll get serious when it's time to do some real work,” the haughty man explains, noting some incredulous aspect of your expression, “Until then, we've both got to put up with this.”“Yeah, uh, you've got my sympathies,” you sigh, “But hey, there was something else that I've been wondering. How come the police aren't doing anything about this? I mean, I'm pretty sure that this whole thing is illegal.”“Out of sight, out of mind,” Karl replies, with a small and cynical smile. “To be more precise, there isn't the first such event to take place. In most cases, the police choose not to intervene so long as things remain... civil,” he continues, “To intervene would create more disorder. In the past, police raids have resulted in panic, and people stampeding. Lives have been lost. So, the decision was made to take a lighter touch.”“So, no police,” you muse, “Does that mean we've got no backup if things go wrong?”“Not exactly,” Karl tells you, his voice cool.[1/2]
>>1961568“I've arranged for Duval Security to provide us with additional bodies. They'll be waiting at a discrete distance, ready to set up a perimeter if any important targets try to escape. If the situation becomes truly dire, they'll be able to move in and extract us,” Karl frowns a little at the thought, “Although I don't anticipate that being necessary. We're not invading an enemy state, after all.”“I wouldn't be so sure,” you joke, “But hey. I'll be ready for anything!”“I'm glad that one of us is,” Karl sighs.-You and Karl don't have much else to discuss after that. Passing the time with some brittle, forced small-talk, you wait for the clock to crawl towards midnight. Sionann emerges a short while later, stubbornly glaring at you both and almost daring you to say anything to her. With a slash of dark make-up painted across her eyes, she looks more like a barbarian preparing for battle than a raver preparing for a party. Or, alternatively, she looks like a child trying to shock her parents.“Let's go, then,” Karl decides, looking away from her with an impassive shrug, “Remember. We're looking for anything that might give us more information on Return to the Earth – what they're planning, where they might be hiding, anything of that sort. Let's keep this clean and precise.”“Got it,” you agree, nodding firmly.-The three of you pile into a car – a more anonymous vehicle than the usual sleek black things that the Sentinels tend to favour – and drive north, towards the outskirts of Ark City. The drive is a silent one, with none of you willing to be the first to speak. Even Sionann holds her tongue, which you take as a good sign, an indication that she's taking this seriously, just as Karl said she would.Your journey ends a short way away from the warehouse district, with Karl guiding the car into a discrete garage. “We'll go the rest of the way on foot,” he announces, fidgeting with the collar of his leather jacket. He looks uncomfortable like this, dressed in more casual clothes. If ever there was a man born into a uniform, it was Karl. As if noticing your amused look, he shoots you a glare.“Hey, I didn't say anything,” you protest, holding your hands up to placate him.“You didn't need to,” he mutters, opening the glovebox and taking out a small pistol. The sight of the weapon kills any sense of humour, casting a cold air across the car. Strange, how you've never really felt intimidated by magical weapons, but a “real” gun like that sends a chill down your spine. “Just for self defence,” Karl states, “You never know.”“Yeah,” you murmur, “I guess you never do.”[2/3]
>>1961665It would be impossible to miss your target. While the other warehouses around you are dead and silent, looming like ancient temples against the night sky, one single building is lit up and echoing with pounding music. Weirdly, it looks just as much like a temple as all the other warehouses, albeit a less abandoned one – a thriving temple to some wild and orgiastic faith.“Well,” Sionann cheerfully points out, “We're not the first ones here!”That's certainly true. More and more people are entering the warehouse with each passing moment, and a long queue has formed outside. Shrugging a little, you follow Karl and join the end of it. The crowd is a strange thing to behold, seeming to draw from all avenues of life. Sweating salarymen openly eye up girls your age wearing dangerously short skirts, while a small knot of older women – they could well be friends of your mother, the way they look – gossips amongst themselves. You even see a few people that you recognise from school, although they make no indication of having seen you.At least the queue moves quickly, and soon you're close to the entrance. Just before you enter, you notice Karl slipping a pair of earplugs into his ears. Taking precautions against gunfire, you suspect, or just the crushingly loud music.Probably the latter, considering what you know of Karl's tastes.-The inside of the warehouse is a disorienting place, with both the blaring music and the flashing lights leaving you dizzy. Sionann vanishes as soon as you're inside, either vanishing into the crowd or just flat out vanishing, while Karl stalks around the outer edge of the room like a prowling hound. He couldn't look more like an undercover cop if he tried, quite simply. So, sighing quietly to yourself, you press a little deeper into the warehouse.Other than the surging crowd, there isn't much to see. At several places, ratty bunches of furniture have been pushed together for groups of people to lounge on. Some groups share a VR terminal – like the round table system you used at Maika's place – while others just talk amongst themselves, shouting against the background noise.Then, near the back of the warehouse, you spot a sealed off area. A bulky man causally leans against the doorway, stopping anyone from entering it. Every so often, though, he'll stand aside to let someone inside. There doesn't seem to be a particular “type” who gets in, you've seen both men and women, young and old, passing through.>Try your luck with the security guard>Join one of the VR groups>Find a group of your schoolmates and speak with them>Other
>>1961742>>Find a group of your schoolmates and speak with them
>>1961742>Join one of the VR groups
>>1961742>Try your luck with the guard.>Join a VR group if that doesn't work
>>1961742>step away and call maika to see if there are other ways in maybe sneaking a drone in
>>1961742>Join one of the VR groupsIf Sionann is a least bit capable she'll find the sealed area and get inside.
>>1961742What happens if we cast our anti-magic juju at the sealed area?
>>1961742>Find a group of your schoolmates and speak with themVR has not been pleasant for us in the past.
>>1961853Yeah but it's where the Boost angle is so we probably should take a look.
>>1961847Considering Hexbreaker is cast by punching the target in our magic outfit, let's not uniform up and go punch a door guarded by a swole dude in the middle of a crowded party.
>>1961874>>1961860Like maybe we could punch the roof from above? Or a wall. Dynamic entry! Just if we have to go loud.
>>1961884No punching unless shit hits the fan.
>>1961884Why do you even want to use it? This is a party in the real world. No hint of any Intruders.
As you watch a scruffy young man passing through the informal security, the music abruptly changes from one track to another. You can barely tell the difference – one wall of howling electronic noise sounds much the same as any other – but the transition seems to hammer home how alien this situation is to you. A place like this, it feels as though you've found yourself in the centre of a churning ocean... and you might just be drowning.Claustrophobic fear presses in around you. Feeling your heart hammering in your chest, you push your way through the wall of bodies and seek out some space around the outer wall, where the crowd is a little less dense. Sweat pours out of you as you fight against the surging bodies, turning chill as you finally emerge into the cooler air. Close by, you spot one of those collections of scavenged furniture, with a few familiar faces, people you know from school, sitting there. Almost despite yourself, you find yourself stumbling towards the familiar girls. When you approach, they seem to tense up a little, before-“Hey, Miho!” a bright voice announces, “C'mon, sit down! C'mon!”“Chiaki...” you murmur, smiling a little as the familiar girl shoves one of her companions – a cynical looking girl with a dark tan - aside to clear a space on the decrepit couch. “I never expected to see you here!” you shout to her as you sit, “It's, uh, it's really...”“It's cool, right?” she agrees, nodding eagerly, “It's your first time, right? Yeah, I could kinda tell – you looked pretty spooked! This is Jade, and this is Monica. You two, this is Miho – she really helped me out once!”“Really?” the tanned girl – Jade – asks, “First I'm hearing about it.”“Yeah, she...” Chiaki's words trail off, a look of confusion passing across her face, “She totally helped me out. She's cool, y'know, she's... cool.”“Uh-huh,” the other girl, Monica, doesn't look convinced either. She stands up abruptly, dragging Jade up with her. “Gonna fetch some drinks,” she adds, “I saw this guy selling beers from this cooler. You kids don't get in any trouble, okay?”“Was it something I said?” you ask, watching them hurry away. Chiaki just answers you with a shrug and a smile, leaving you to keep the conversation going. “This totally wasn't what I'd been expecting,” you offer, “Did you see that door back there? Is that, like, a private area or something?”“I guess so? For VIPs, maybe?” Chiaki shrugs broadly, “It's so weird, though, I saw them turning this guy away earlier, but then they let him in a little later. Like, what kind of system is THAT? You gotta ask three times, or what?”“I thought he only asked twice,” you ask.“Oh, whatever!” Chiaki laughs, “Hey, Miho, you seen those VR things? Wanna give them a shot?”[1/2]>Sorry for the delay
>>1961888Going Loud means shit has hit the fan.>>1961888Just in case the weird AI drug is also a weird AI God/Outsider drug.
>>1961933You're not totally convinced by the idea – you've had some pretty bad experiences with VR in the past – but something about Chiaki's offer gets your curiosity going. “Are we allowed?” you ask, “I mean, can we just join in?”“I guess so,” Chiaki shrugs, “Like, I saw some other people doing it. Like, that guy I mentioned – when he got turned away from the door, he hopped on one of the terminals for a bit. Like, maybe he was killing time or something? Either way, I'm pretty curious about them but the others, Jade and Monica, they don't go in for that stuff. Jade says that everything is better in reality, and Monica has this weird eye thing, so-”“Okay, okay, I'm in,” you concede, holding up your hands to cut her off, “Just give me a moment, okay? I need some fresh air before I get plugged into any of that crap.”“Peace,” the girl agrees, smiling vaguely in your general direction.-The fresh air feels like a slap in the face as you fight your way outside, bringing some new clarity to your senses. Even out here, there are groups of people talking or taking heavy drags on cigarettes. Finding a secluded spot, you take out your phone and call Maika. She answers almost immediately, greeting you in a clipped done.“Enjoying your party, Miho?” she asks, “I can see you now, actually. Your body temperature is awfully high, but I suppose that's to be expected if you just came from-”“Hold on, wait a minute!” you splutter, “You can SEE me?”“Surveillance drone. Karl asked me to lend him a hand on this one,” a faintly smug note enters Maika's voice, “Keeping eyes on the place, tracking valuable targets, that sort of thing. I must admit, I'm rather glad that I'm not doing fieldwork like you – it looks a little too hot and crowded for my tastes. Not only that, but all these bodies are playing havoc with the thermal imaging...”“Oh, so that's how you...” you begin, shaking your head and focusing on the matters at hand, “No, never mind that now. Got any interesting info for me?”“Not much, unfortunately. Other than the main area – which is just one massive heat haze – I can see a second, smaller group. Judging by these readings, they're operating some rather serious computer equipment,” Maika grunts softly, “Sorry, I'm getting some odd readings here. Whenever I try and look too closely at that back room, my visuals start to break up. This is a new model, so maybe these heat signatures are glitching it out. Sorry, but I want to run a few quick checks. Ah, have fun!”“Fun,” you mutter, staring at your phone as Maika hangs up, “Right.”[2/3]
>>1962026Chiaki is waiting for you inside the warehouse, practically hopping from one foot to the other in excitement – either that, or she's trying to dance. You let her drag you along to one of the VR terminals, noting with some unease that none of the users seem to notice your arrival. They're all lost in their own little world, a world that you'll soon be invading. Sitting down in a battered armchair, you tentatively don one of the spare VR headsets, and--Speed. That's the first thing that strikes you. A sense of immense speed and motion. Music pulses through the headset – the same track that was playing in reality, but distorted and sped up – while the scenery flashes past at an incredible pace. It's hard to make it out, but you seem to be flying through the overgrown remains of a shattered city. Nature has risen up to reclaim this place, thriving where men once walked. Unlike EVE's visions of nature, though, this feels far less... malevolent. No decay, no sense of lurking predators, no...Not much of anything, in fact, anything but ruined buildings and looming trees. You can't see much else, but you FEEL something – a presence of sorts, as though there was someone flying along right beside you. As if that presence had been waiting for you to notice it, a voice speaks to you. It's not a human voice, rather a vaguely female voice constructed from countless fragments of recorded audio.[Miho Tsukada,] the voice announces, [I did not expect to see you here.]“Who are you?” you call back, “How do you know who-”[No,] the voice interrupts, and the world jolts into a sudden stillness, [You will not do. Begone from this place.]“Wait!” you desperately yell, “What are you-”-Reality hits you like a hammer blow, an iron rod of pain slamming down against each temple. Scrabbling at the smooth helmet, you rip the VR headset from your head and drag in a gasping breath of the stale, humid air. You have no idea what just happened, but one idea takes shape in your mind.That was “her” - the woman pulling the strings behind Return to the Earth.>I'm going to have to pause this here. I'll continue this tomorrow, and if anyone has any questions I'll answer them if I can>Sorry about today, I've been feeling pretty rough. Your patience is appreciated!
>>1962139Oh no, this is a forgotten fragment of EVE, isn't it?
Thanks for running!
>>1962139Thanks for running!When do we find out that the one behind Return to the Earth is the government AI?
>>1962195Hm, I wonder. Could Pietr have missed something? Maybe he was too distracted to do his job properly?>>1962278A government AI would never visit an illicit rave like that, that would be totally inappropriate!
>>1962361That little rascal must have been fantasizing about our date instead of focusing on his work. Probably in a really inappropriate way too.
>>1962361Monad is behind Return to Earth, an alternative way of controlling mankind?Belial is obvious faction leader, perhaps using boost to keep control of puppets like the inventor gone mad and supplying money.If so, super well done with ever so slight similar expressions between them.
When do we find out that Sionann is actually yandere for Pietr AND Miho , and is waiting to strike?
“Whoa!” Chiaki gasps, laughing as if she didn't have a care in the world, “That was fun!”It occurs to you, then, that she might have – no, that she MUST have – experienced an entirely different thing to what you experienced. What you saw through that VR headset was hardly “fun”, hardly anything close to “fun”. Yet, you're not exactly sure how to describe it. Not overtly frightening or threatening, but certainly surreal. Having taken off the headset, you find it hard to think of what you saw as being real, as though the entire thing had been a passing dream.You notice that a few of your fellow users are emerging from their digital world, shaking out matted hair or rubbing their reddened eyes. One of them glances at you and Chiaki, as if startled by the sight of you. You give the young man a weak smile, but he just turns away in haughty dismissal.“Screw you, then,” you mutter, “Hey Chiaki, I want to ask you about...” The rest of your sentence dies on your lips as you see the rest of the VR users shooting dirty looks your way. A palpable sense of hostility seems to bleed into the air, far worse than anything you'd consider appropriate or proportionate. Swallowing nervously, you realise that now is the time for you to make your exit. Grabbing Chiaki's hand, you leap up and hurry away, dragging her along behind you.-“Hey, Miho!” Chiaki protests, slapping you on the arm as you emerge out into the fresh air, “C'mon, stop dragging me about, I'm not that kind of girl!”Once again, it's the cold air that snaps you back to your senses, and you awkwardly let go of Chiaki's hand. “Uh, sorry about that,” you mumble, “I just freaked out a bit. I mean, those guys were so weird, did you see the way they were glaring at us?”“Huh?” blinking with confusion, Chiaki tilts her head to the side, “Were they glaring at us? I didn't notice anything like that. Maybe it was, like, the light? People can look pretty scary in a place like that...”It might be mean of you to think this of her, but you get the impression that Chiaki doesn't really notice much of anything, especially if it doesn't directly involve her – and make no mistake, those hostile looks were aimed at you in particular, not her. You spent a moment debating with yourself over whether or not to tell Chiaki, but you end up deciding against it. You barely know anything yourself, after all, you're not sure what there is TO tell. No, you'll stick to slightly safer territory.“So, uh, did we see the same stuff in there?” you ask, “I mean like, what did YOU see?”“Well, I started off with racing through this spooky deserted city place. It was cool, like something from the arcade,” Chiaki begins, “And then... well, something spoke to me. Like, to ME personally, with my name and everything!”[1/2]
>>1964867“Doesn't that, I dunno, creep you out a little?” you ask, “How it knew that stuff?”“I never really thought about that,” a small frown creases Chiaki's brow, “I guess I just assumed that, like, they scanned my retina or something. All that information is on file these days, so it's not like it read my mind or anything. It knew a whole bunch about me, about my folks and their work.”Their work for Renko Biotech, you recall, the same company that Return to the Earth has some serious issues with. Filing that little piece of information away for later use, you nod for Chiaki to continue.“Okay, so like, it asked me what I thought of their work, which I totally wasn't expecting. I guess... I guess I said that I didn't like it very much,” Chiaki's frown deepens, “Which is kinda true, y'know? It's pretty boring stuff, and they work super long hours. I didn't really think too hard about it, so...” She shrugs, idly twirling a strand of her hair around one finger with faint – perhaps faint enough that she herself is unaware of it – unease. “But it got kinda weird after that. That voice said, uh, it said...” Chiaki pauses again, nervously biting her bottom lip, “Paradise awaits those who resist.”“Paradise awaits those who resist,” you repeat, “Just what is that supposed to mean?”“I don't know!” Chiaki protests, “I don't... oh, what if this is some viral marketing thing? Wait, why would someone put viral marketing in a rave...”Sighing, you touch a hand to your aching head. Between your abruptly ended VR session and the constant synth assault of the music, your head is pounding. Part of you has to wonder if this was all a big mistake, if coming here was really such a good idea. Whether it was a good idea or not, though, you're here now – you've got to make the best of a bad situation. Where to start, though?>Try the security guard, with what you now know>Meet up with Karl and Crow to discuss your next move>Confront the group of VR users – they seemed to know you, somehow>Other
>>1964868>>Meet up with Karl and Crow to discuss your next move
>>1964868>Meet up with Karl and Crow to discuss your next move"Hey Chiaki. If any more of that weird stuff happens or someone tries that sales pitch on you, call/text me right away"
>>1964868>Grab Chiaki and leave.
>>1964868>Confront the group of VR users – they seemed to know you, somehow>Meet up with Karl and Crow to discuss your next moveGuessing "Paradise awaits those who resist" is the password for the booth.
>>1964868>Meet up with Karl and Crow to discuss your next move
“Oh, hey, I gotta head back!” Chiaki yelps suddenly, slapping a palm to her forehead, “Totally forgot about Jade and Monica, with all that... stuff. I bet they're looking for me right now! So, like, I'm not trying to ditch you or anything, but...”“No, it's cool. Go on ahead, I just need a bit more fresh air,” you reply, waving off Chiaki's excuses, “But just... stay safe, okay? Places like these, I don't think they're totally safe for girls like us. If anything else weird happens, or if anyone tries to give you the sales pitch, will you text me right away? I don't want you to go getting yourself mixed up in any trouble, you hear me?”“Sure, sure!” she laughs, “What would I do without you here to look after me?” With that, she leaves - giving you an exuberant wave before turning and hurrying back into the warehouse. It seems as though your warning went in one ear and straight out the other, but what more could you do for her? Now that you're on your own again, it's time for you to decide your next move.“Paradise awaits those who resist...” you murmur to yourself, almost like a mantra. Resist WHAT, though?-As you're following Chiaki back into the warehouse you feel a faint shiver running down your spine, shortly followed by the sensation of a hand falling heavily onto your shoulder. Spinning around, almost dropping into a fighting stance by instinct alone, you see Sionann holding up her hands in mock fear.“Not the face, anything but the face!” she squeals, “Having fun, pet?”“When are you gonna stop with that stupid nickname?” you ask, before sighing, “And no, I'm not exactly having the time of my life. I may have some useful information, though, where's Karl? We should probably pool our resources.”Sionann takes something out of her pocket – an actual pager, something you've only ever seen in period movies on TV – and taps a button. “He'll be here soon,” she announces, “So...”“I hope you've not been slacking off,” you interrupt, “I've been working pretty hard, you know!”“As if I would EVER skip out on an important job like this!” Sionann protests, “I've been carrying out some dreadfully serious surveillance work, for your information, and I've got the pictures to prove it!” Taking out a small digital camera, she flips through a number of photographs – mostly blurred shots of people exchanging money or small packages. “Drug deals,” she explains, as if the images needed explanation, “Oh, don't give me that look! It might not be exciting stuff, but this is important evidence of criminality!”“Your entire existence is evidence of criminality,” Karl snaps, seemingly walking out of the shadows to join you. Sionann just grins, as if he had paid her a wonderful compliment.[1/2]
>>1964907>Sionann just grins, as if he had paid her a wonderful compliment.well, yeah. Karl just said something unproffesional. I'd take it as a compliment, too.
>>1964907Karl shepherds you both into a relatively quiet corner – not that “quiet” really applies to any part of this place – and gives you a stern, unreadable look. Holding his gaze, you report on everything that you've seen and heard – everything from the peculiar VR simulation to the odd looks you've been getting. You mention the strange phrase that Chiaki told you, but Karl doesn't seem to recognise it.“Could it be a password, do you think?” you ask, “Like, a way of passing through the security door?”“Very possible,” Karl agrees, “Although I have to wonder what criteria leads them to give it out. This girl expressed dissatisfaction with Renko Biotech – perhaps that's all it takes.” As he thinks, Karl pats the slight bulge at his hip, as if reminding himself of the concealed pistol. “Then, I think our next objective is clear – we should try out this password of yours, and see where that gets us.”“Yeah, that was my next suggestion,” you begin, only to stop short as someone bumps into you. At first, you just glance aside at the interruption but then the sight of the young man makes you look twice. He was one of the VR users, you're certain of it – and he definitely recognises you, his eyes growing wide. “Hey, you!” you call out, “What's your problem with-”Like a startled deer, he turns and bolts away. At least, he tries to – with the tight pack of the crowd fighting against him, he can't make a clean getaway. Even so, with so many bodies closing in around him, it would be all too easy for him to vanish into the crowd.>Let him run, you can't afford to be distracted now>Pursue him, before he can get away completely>Other
>>1964936>Pursue him, before he can get away completelyoh no. All these VR addicts....they've waifud EVE and notice the resemblance.
>>1964936>Pursue him, before he can get away completely>OtherSionann, pin him!
>>1964936>Pursue him, before he can get away completelyNow what on earth did 'she' to these guys about us.>>1964951Throwing a knife in the middle of a crowd seems like a bad idea, even if she is a good shot.
>>1964936>Pursue him, before he can get away completely
>>1964954>did 'she' to thesedid 'she' say to these*
>>1964954You mean anyone is going to see the magical girl who can go invisible?
>>1964954>>1964963Misread that.Anyway thinking about it I doubt she'll be able to hit his particular shadow in these circumstances.
“Damn it!” you hiss, jerking around and hurrying after him. Just before you enter the swell of the crowd, you wave for Sionann to follow you. She's already vanished from sight, but the disturbance that runs through the crowd tells you that she's already pushing ahead. The crowd seems to reflexively part before her, even if not one person seems to realise what they're doing – either due to a strange consequence of her magic, or a whole lot of shoving.Either way, she forges a path ahead, and soon you hear a faint cry from up ahead. You just hope that she didn't hurt the guy... too badly, at least.-When you catch up with her Sionann has the young man by the arm, holding him with what appears to be a friendly grasp – if not for her fingers digging into his flesh. A passing glance might mistake them for a couple, although perhaps not a happy one. When the young man sees you, his face pales even more.“Who ARE you?” he protests, staring at you as if your face holds the answers to all his questions.“What?” you splutter, put off-guard by his question, “You've been glaring at me all night, and now you're telling me that you don't know?”“I know your face, but I don't... I don't know how or why,” he whines, a thin veil of tears starting to cloud his eyes. Sionann shoots you a brief glance, her face showing both confusion and unease. The young man seems... unstable, although violence seems less and less likely with each passing moment. “Why are you doing this to me?” the young madman blurts out suddenly, “I didn't do anything! I... ack!”Sionann tightens her grip for a moment, shocking the young man to silence. “Stop babbling!” she snaps, “What's your name, kid?”“T-Takashi,” he splutters, the act of reciting his name restoring some faint semblance of calm. You nod to Sionann, and she cautiously lets go of his arm. Instead of running, he slides down the wall and slumps down. “I've seen you before, in my dreams,” Takashi says, the words spilling unconsciously from his lips, “I've seen you, and I... I hated you. I heard a voice telling me that you were my... our enemy.”“You're a good kid, right?” Sionann asks, squatting next to him, “You wouldn't be the type to do any illegal drugs, now would you?”“I don't... I mean...” Takashi begins, before blinking rapidly, “Just a few pills, but...”Sionann glances up at you, mouthing the word “cyber-psychosis”. You nod slowly, gesturing for the woman to follow you as you retreat a few paces. Takashi makes no move to escape, simply sitting slumped against the wall. “So he's a Boost user,” you tell her, “You think that's...”“Maybe he was shown something in a simulation, something that lodged in the back of his mind,” Sionann explains, “Subliminal messages, that sort of thing. Awful bloody business, this VR stuff...”[1/2]
>>1964993I wonder why we are targeted as an enemy. Our father's affiliation with Renko? Miho's affiliation with the Sentinels? Magical girl stuff? All of the above?
>>1964993“Okay, I think I get what you mean,” you agree, glancing back to check on the young man, “But why would something in a VR simulation tell people to hate me? Why would something be trying to... I don't know, ruin my good name?”“I couldn't say,” Sionann muses, “Most people I know don't need any help with that, they do it just fine on their own.” Chuckling a little at her own joke, she gestures dismissively back at Takashi. “Look, this fool isn't likely to know much – much that he can tell us, at least. Something's been playing around inside his head,” a bitter look crosses her face, “I'll send his face to our backup, they'll pick him up when he leaves here. Maybe Jun can pull some details out of him, but I'm not holding my breath.”The thought of sending someone to have his mind read – forcefully read, perhaps – doesn't sit well with you, but... if someone has to do it, Jun is probably the best man for the job.“Well, we'd better get back. Leave this poor little lamb to the security forces,” Sionann cheerfully slaps you on the arm, “We'll meet up with Karl, then we'll see about that security door, okay?”>Okay, I'm ready to move on>Hang on, let me ask Takashi something... (Write in)>Other
>>1965026>>Hang on, let me ask Takashi something... (Write in)>The pills did that. They did that to your friends, too. I don't know why. I can't stop you from treating me like some sort of enemy, but you tell your friends that and figure out for yourselves what you want to do.
>>1965026>>Hang on, let me ask Takashi something... (Write in)"When did you start getting these dreams where you hate me? Was it right after you took Boost or sometime after?"Just trying to figure out if there was an event that made us public enemy number one or were we always that way.
>>1965026Why seems obvious to me. They can't actually fight a magical girl on their own, so they whip civvies into a frenzy to force us into the public eye. Either we get known by the police and media as that little girl who beats the everloving shit out of everyone or they'll engineer a situation where we are forced to transform in public to save ourselves.
>>1965057That's assuming that Return to Earth knows about the Magical Girl aspect.Which they might, but it's not such assured assumption that their motives suddenly become obvious.
>>1965026>Hang on, let me ask Takashi something... (Write in)Am I the only one you've dreamed of?
“Hang on, I gotta check something first,” you tell her, “It won't take long, I just wanted to ask Takashi something.”“Huh, if you want,” Sionann shrugs, “But it seems like a waste of your time, if you ask me. You'd have better luck getting answers out of a bowl of bloody oatmeal.”She might be right, his brain might well be damaged, but you still need to try. Returning to Takashi, you crouch down beside him and snap your fingers in front of his face. He looks up, his face twisting into an instinctive gesture of revulsion before smoothing out into placid confusion. “Hey, don't doze off,” you tell him, “I wanted to ask you something. These dreams of yours, where you find yourself hating me... when did you start getting them? Have you been having them ever since you started taking Boost, or was it more recently?”“It was... it was...” he frowns, furrowing his brow in deep thought, “It was more recent than that. The last... week? No, a little more than that. A little more than a week ago.”This time, you're the one who frowns. Without a more precise date, you can't match it up to any specific events. At best, all you can do is rule out a few older events. “C'mon Takashi, give me something specific,” you urge, thinking for a moment before adding, “What sort of stuff was on TV, can you remember that?”This causes his face to light up. “Kaneshiro Park!” he blurts out, “It was on the news, I watched the news before going to sleep and... and that was the first time I saw you!”Kaneshiro Park... These hateful dreams started just after a member of Return to the Earth had rudely interrupted your meeting with Sionann. Nodding thoughtfully to yourself, you look back to Takashi. “Am I the only one you've dreamed about?” you ask him carefully, “Or have you seen any other enemies in these dreams?”“I don't... no, there was...” blinking slowly, Takashi waves a hand in front of his face, “Glasses. A girl with glasses, and a taller girl. Others too, but I don't... it's all so fuzzy...”It's another vague statement, but he could easily be describing Ayane and Maika – with the forgotten “others” being the rest of your fellow magical girls. Perhaps he only had such a violent reaction to you because he saw you in reality. Scowling darkly to yourself, you start to rise to your feet when Takashi grabs you by the hand, a desperate look twisting his features.“Please!” he insists, “What's happening to me?”“Those pills you took,” you answer, fighting against the urge to rip his hand away from yours, “They did this to you, and they probably did the same thing to your friends. I can't help you, I can't stop you treating me like some kind of enemy. You're going to have to figure out what to do for yourself.”Takashi's face pales, but he nods and slowly lets go of your hand.[1/2]
>>1965093Odd that Miho and the girls were singled out and Sionann wasn't even though she was there too.And no I'm not implicating Sionann here, just wondering what the criteria for being hated was.
Why are we acting like we're not sure what's going on? We can safely say the VR thing is a recruiting tool for Return to Earth. Also, unless they have the backing of the sentinels or a god, Sionann should be able to get past the guards at the door pretty easily, even without the password.
>>1965108Getting past the door is literally the next step we are doing. Everyone is on the same page.
>>1965101Sionnan DOES have magical hiding powers.We should call up Maika and tell her an AI is behind boost / RTE has it out for us. Find out some anti-AI protocols.
>>1965121Assuming it's an AI. Likely as it is it could also be some crazy hacker.Same principle though, RTE boss has some damn good tech skills and we should be wary of them.
>>1965093As you're returning to Karl, Sionann pats you on the arm. “So,” she says with a grin, “How does it feel to be public enemy number one?”“I can't say I like the feeling,” you shoot back, “What, are you mad that I knocked you down to second place?”“Oh, someone's feeling feisty!” she chuckles. Before you can get into some proper bickering, Karl emerges from the crowd. “Nothing to worry about, boss!” Sionann assures him, “Just a little spot of misunderstanding that we needed to clear up, all sorted now!”Karl looks between the two of you, then sighs heavily.-When the three of you approach him, the door guard tenses up and gives you a suspicious look. Up close, he looks about as solid as a brick wall. His eyes are hidden behind a pair of dark glasses, but you can still feel the palpable force of his scrutiny. “Can't let you in here,” he eventually shouts, “Private business, don't want you getting in the way of things. Could be dangerous if-”“Paradise awaits those who resist,” you announce, carefully reciting the words. This causes him to hesitate, looking at you all again as if re-evaluating you. Even so, he doesn't move aside to let you past. You almost panic, suddenly certain that you said the wrong thing or missed some other clue, and then you feel Karl touching your arm ever so slightly. That... calms you a little.“Now, we said your stupid password, so are you gonna let us see this paradise of yours?” Sionann snaps, taking a step closer to the guard, “Or do we have to show you just how well we can resist?”Chuckling at her attitude, the guard finally steps aside and hauls open the heavy door. “Head on through,” he tells you, “Paradise awaits.”>Sorry, but I have to take a short pause. Next post shouldn't be delayed too much, though.
What awaits you on the other side of that door is... not particularly impressive. A short corridor, the sort that you could cross in a few paces, and then another door. The walls, at least, are thick enough to reduce the background roar to a more tolerable level of noise. You start to approach the other door when Karl stops you with a curt gesture.“He had a gun,” he warns you, “And I'm fairly sure those glasses had a camera set in them.”“Oh,” you reply, hesitating for a moment before adding, “We're walking into a trap, aren't we?”“That remains a distinct possibility,” Karl agrees, patting his concealed pistol again, “Which also means that we've found something important. People don't set traps for no reason, after all. Just be prepared for anything.”“Always,” you murmur, stepping forwards and pushing through the next door.-The first thing that draws your eye, upon entering this new room, is the monstrous pile of computers that rises up without any trace of sense or sanity. Bare wires spark, coolant tubes gurgle, and countless fans scream away in a vain effort at keeping the entire mess from breaking down and burning. A loose circle of bodies surrounds the mound of computers, their faces hidden behind clunky, scavenged VR equipment. A few of them sway in place, but only one of of them seems to have any awareness of the real world.Your first thought, upon seeing that man, is the archetypical cult leader – all flowing robes and tangled beard. Closer inspection doesn't do much to change that impression. His robes are really a heavy raincoat, incongruous given the heavy heat that fills the room, while much of his face is hidden behind the same sort of headset that his followers wear. He types away at the mutant computer, switching between several keyboards as he works away at some mad project.It feels as though you've taken a step into some other world. Nobody dares speak for the first few moments, and then the sound of the door opening behind you causes you to glance around. The guard, a heavy pistol in his hand, closes the door behind him and blocks it with his muscular body. Upon seeing the weapon, Karl shifts his balance ever so slightly – preparing himself for the worst.That's when the cult leader looks up, lifting his visor to study you with reddened eyes. With the rest of his face revealed, you feel a jolt of recognition.Kasper Yu. The creator of Boost, the founder of Return to the Earth – in spirit, if not in action – and overall madman. Now he's here, staring at you as if the devil had walked in through his front door.[They are here to kill you,] the choppy, synthesised voice from before announces, echoing through the small room, [Run.]All hell breaks loose.[1/2]
>>1965120I get that we're checking out the door now, but why did she just snoop around and take pictures of drug deals when we already knew the shady stuff was happening in the back? I was also more referring to the fact that Miho was acting like the VR weirdness could be anyone else, and that she couldn't figure out what the phrase meant about resisting. We already knew before we came that Return to Earth was the major player here, and they don't make it a secret about what they're resisting.
>>1965329Maybe we can use our spectral hands to block doors and scoop up people.We'd have to transform overtly but we've already got a potential gun to our back so we might as well.
>>1965164The man behind you starts to bring his gun up, while Karl twists around and draws his own pistol. As you turn, your thoughts still racing to catch up, Yu lunges forwards and slaps his palm down onto a button. The lights die, plunging the entire room into blackness, and a shrill chorus of screams pierces the air. Adding to the chaos is a short burst of gunfire, the flashes of light revealing a staccato image of Yu fleeing, pushing through a curtain and vanishing into the gloom.“Go!” Sionann snaps, launching into motion as she races after the mad genius. Before you have a chance to think about what you're doing, you find yourself chasing after her. Crashing through the curtain, you almost tumble down the short flight of stairs that waits on the other side. A tunnel stretches out ahead of you, with Yu silhouetted against a dim and distant light. Blurting out a curse, you charge after him – this all comes back to him, you can't let him get away!The sound of footsteps clattering against the concrete floor fills your ears as you run, launching yourself up the next staircase with Sionann by your side. You emerge into a new warehouse, this one barren and empty, with Yu's headstart rapidly decreasing. You reach out, preparing to grab Yu with a spectral hand when he turns, ripping his coat open and pointing some boxy object at you.It's only when a deafening rattle punches against the stillness that you realise it's a gun, some crudely made automatic. You transform in an instant and cross your gauntlets in front of you, grunting as the hail of bullets spatters against your guard like rain hitting a window. A few of the stray bullets graze against you, one gouging a searing trail along your scalp, but the harm is superficial at best. Dropping the gun, Yu resumes his desperate flight.-Bursting from the warehouse, you follow Yu as he flees blindly into the night. He's pretty quick, for an old madman, but you're slowly gaining on him. Out of the corner of your eye, you watch as Sionann transforms as well, a throwing knife appearing in her hand.“Don't!” you snap, “You'll kill him!”Snarling a curse, Sionann throws the blade regardless – not at Yu himself, but at the ground to one side of him. Yelping a thin cry, Yu swerves away from the blade and vanishes into the narrow alley between two buildings. When you follow, you find Yu standing at a dead end, slowly backing away from you. The moonlight glints against the window above him, painting the scene in an ethereal mood.“Please!” you gasp, touching a hand to your scalp and feeling blood, “We're not here to hurt you, we just want to talk. We just want some answers...”[2/3]
>>1965333Yu's expression changes slightly, growing... not calmer, exactly, but less openly terrified. At last, you get a better chance to study the man. He's practically emaciated, pallid and sickly looking, while his clothes are filthy. He's the sort of man that you could pass in the street, and you'd never see him as anything other than one of the rare homeless people lurking in the less prosperous areas of Ark City.“Answers?” he croaks, “Yes, I... I wanted answers once.”“I think we all want a few answers,” you agree, nodding in what you hope is an encouraging manner, “So why don't we all go back and talk about-”That's when you feel something – a ripple that runs through the fabric of the world. With a noise akin to shattering glass, the window above him explodes into a portal to the Umbra, a single arm – a gnarled thing of inky black muscle – bursting forth to scoop up the lunatic and drag him, screaming, into the abyss. It was so sudden that...“No!” you cry, breaking from your shocked paralysis and lunging forwards, “Sionann, come ON!”“Damn. Bad luck,” she chuckles, “Well, so much for Kasper Yu. I'm going back to check on Karl, you coming?”>I'm heading in after him, even if I have to go alone!>Yeah, I guess... I guess there's nothing we can do for him>Other
>>1965437>I'm heading in after him, even if I have to go alone!we need some answers
>>1965437>I'm heading in after him, even if I have to go alone!
>>1965437>>I'm heading in after him, even if I have to go alone!fuck you, source.
>>1965437>I'm heading in after him, even if I have to go alone!"Kurosawa be ready for anything."
>>1965437>Just give her an incredulous look before jumping into the portal
>>1965437changing >>1965455 to>grab sionann and drag her with us
>>1965437>>Yeah, I guess... I guess there's nothing we can do for him
“I'm heading in!” you snap back, “Even if I have to go in alone!”“Fine, go ahead,” Sionann replies with a blasé shrug, “I'm not going to stop you. Don't expect me to risk my arse saving his, though. I'm not-”For a brief and fleeting moment, you consider grabbing Sionann and dragging her in with you. You could do it too, you've easily got the strength advantage over her, but you end up dismissing the idea. Every second might very well prove vital here, and you don't want to waste time wrestling with Sionann. Spitting a vile curse at her, you duck into a low crouch and then leap up, jumping at the portal before it can close. You enter it, feeling the familiar disorientation wash over you, and soon you find yourself tumbling down to solid ground. -Grass and warm, loamy soil this time, and not the cold concrete of Ark City's warehouse district. Shaking off your dizziness, you leap to your feet and look around for Yu, desperately hoping that the Intruder didn't feast straight away. Intruders don't always go straight for the kill, sometimes they like to toy with their food – savouring the chase for as long as their sinister desires demand. The area that you've found yourself in has nowhere for Yu to hide. In fact, it has very little of anything save for dirt and grass. Empty fields stretch out to all sides of you, with countless holes bored into the ground at random – or according to some pattern so inhuman that your sanity won't allow you to recognise it. Dismay begins to form in the pit of your gut until you see movement out of the corner of your eye. Yu shakily lifts himself up to his feet, looking at his surroundings in horror.You start towards him, and that's when the ground begins to shudder underfoot. Bursting from the ground in front of you, a giant rope of slimy muscle lunges out of one of those holes and plunges into an adjacent pit, only to reappear further out. “Yu, get down!” you yell, raising your voice over the background rumble, “Just keep your head down and let me handle this!”When Yu drops to the ground and begins to cower, it's hard to know if he's following your instructions or just acting out of blind fear. Really, either option works for you.Gritting your teeth, you aim one of your gauntlets at the closest hole and unleash a jet of fire, flooding the underground tunnels with deadly heat. Your attack is met with an immediate reaction – a howl deep enough to send a tremor running through your entire body, and a new, intense earthquake. With your flames licking at its tail, the worm bursts from a nearby hole and leaps straight up into the air.No, not straight up – it leaps up in an arc, aiming to land and crush you beneath its bulk.[1/2]
>>1965639Reversal! Or grab with spectral hands.
>>1965639As the worm twists in the air, its blunt muzzle peels open to form fingers – the hand that you saw seizing Yu. Set deeply in the middle of the palm is a vile lamprey mouth, a sucking maw lined with layers of needle teeth. Muscle quivers with anticipation, while thick drops of mucus rain down from above.All this, you notice in the space of a few short heartbeats that seem to last for hours on end. Then time snaps back into its normal flow, and the worm comes plummeting back down to earth. A grin splits your lips as you ready yourself, digging your heels into the ground and raising your fists like a boxer assuming their stance. Just before the worm can land, you sweep your hand hand up and grab the Intruder with one spectral fist, crushing it in your tight grip and slamming it down into a patch of empty ground. With the worm pinned in place, you raise your second fist to finish the job. That's when-That's when it spits, spewing a thick clump of mucus that strikes you full force and knocks you backwards, your spectral fists immediately disappearing as your concentration is shattered. The gunk burns against your bare skin, and it's gluey enough that you struggle to rise from the ground. It even clouds your vision, reducing the world to a haze of shadows. You see the worm, in silhouette, writhing back to life and launching into motion, jaws widening as it slithers towards you.Then something strikes it from the side, knocking it back and stopping it dead in its tracks. “C'mon pet!” a familiar voice scolds, as strong hands rip you free from the glue that pinned you down, “This is no time to be sitting about!”Swiping the slime away from your eyes, you see Sionann flash you a quick smile before leaping away from you. The worm rouses itself once again, and you catch a brief glimpse of a knife buried in its side before it launches into a slithering, jerky charge. With Sionann already nowhere to be seen, you prepare yourself to finish the beast off. Crossing your arms in front of you, you meet the charge head on.“True Reversal!” you yell, a flare of magical energy blasting out from your gauntlets as the worm slams into you, every iota of its momentum turned back into it with devastating effect. The power explodes through it, splitting apart skin and muscle to shoot gouts of inky blood into the air. With the creature left stunned, you take your time to draw back your fist for the finishing blow.“Massive Strike!” you shout, driving your fist into the Intruder's shapeless head and smashing flesh to a pulp. The Intruder is slain in an instant, and only then does Sionann choose to reappear.“Messy work, this,” she remarks dryly, brushing a glistening stain of black blood from her clothes.[2/3]
>>1965796It is complete. Sionann has been shonen(shoujo?) brainwashed.
>>1965796"At least you don't have slime all over you. Thanks by the way."
>>1965796> Cleaner than some. At least this kind of mess washes off. If only all our problems could be this simple.> Thanks, by the way. I mean that.
>>1965796Hopefully Karl followed us too and grabbed Yu while we were busy with the worm.
>>1965796“It's cleaner than some other work,” you reply, shaking a few last remnants of the slime from your arms, “And at least this stuff washes off... hopefully. You got off lightly, all things considered.” Pausing, you give her a weak smile. “Thanks, by the way,” you add, “I mean-”“We ought to check on our good friend,” Sionann interrupts, “Wouldn't you agree?”Smiling in disbelief, you nod you agreement.-Yu has passed out when you go to check on him, which suits you fine – it means that he doesn't struggle when you haul him upright. When he's safe, Kurosawa reaches in and lifts you from the Umbra, depositing you back in the real world with his usual lack of grace. The transition wakes Yu up, and the madman is immediately brought double by a fit of violent retching. Sighing in disgust, you hold him as steady as you can so that he doesn't fall face first into his own vomit.“Looks like the cavalry's here,” Sionann remarks, nodding towards a pair of uniformed men – men from Duval Security, you realise. “They'll take things from here, take care of your friend and make sure he doesn't get away,” she adds, “Well, I dare say that he wasn't going anywhere fast anyway.”“Now hold on a minute here!” you demand, glaring at her as best you can, “What happened to-”“This scene is getting boring,” she yawns, strolling away down the alleyway, “I'm out of here. If Karl asks, tell him that I'm going AWOL for a little.”Amazement and disbelief fills you as you watch her leave. You expect the soldiers to stop her from leaving, but they make no attempt at barring her passage – in fact, they part ways to let her swagger past. Passing Yu's trembling form to one of the men, you take a step after Sionann before pausing, hesitating.>Follow after her>Let her leave>Stop her from leaving>Other
>>1965889>Let her leaveI'd rather ask Yu why people are being brainwashed to hate us.
>>1965889>Follow after herHey didn't say we couldn't follow.
>>1965907She's just gonna disappear
>>1965889>Let her leave
>>1965889>Let her leaveWe don't have to be her friend.
>>1965889>Let her leave> Call out "You liiiiike me. You came to saaaaave me. We're frieeeeeends now! You're invited to dinnnnnnnner!" In a teasing tone.
>>1965907She's probably uncomfortable with what they do when they snatched someone and mind break them into working for the sentinels.Which is why we should stick with Yu to make sure they don't fuck it up like they did with the Oracle. Or kill him.
>>1965976Don't go too far lest all the good will wraps around into spite again.Leaving her with her thoughts of 'Why did I save her?' is probably good enough.
“Thank you!” you repeat, calling after Sionann as she retreats. She pauses for a moment, freezing in place, and then she continues to walk away. You open your mouth to say something else, but then you just sigh. You could chase after her, but she'd probably just play her usual disappearing act. So be it – that's her choice, and you're too tired to fight against it. Plus, there's Yu to consider. The sooner you can get some answers out of him, the better.“How is he?” you ask, looking around Yu's uniformed escort. The name “Scott” is printed in tiny print, underneath the scythe logo of Duval Security.“I'm surprised that he's still alive,” Scott admits frankly, “Not because of any injury, just... fatigue, starvation, any other kind of abuse you could name. We'll give him the best care possible, and I don't think his condition is going to deteriorate, but...” He finishes with a shrug.“Is he in a condition to speak?” you press, turning to Yu himself, “Can you talk, Kaspar?”“What was... that other world?” Yu rasps, his head lolling up so that his bloodshot eyes lock onto yours.“Never mind that now,” you reply, trying to brush that particularly awkward subject aside, “Kaspar, can you-”“What WAS that world?” he hisses, grabbing at your sleeve with one palsied hand, “It was... it was beautiful...”Forcing that word out seems to take the last of his strength, and Yu's head slumps back down. When he doesn't speak, or even move an inch, the breath catches in your throat. Fearing the worst, you reach out and touch a hand to the side of his neck. It's frail and it's weak, but there's still a pulse... thankfully.He's still clinging on.>I'm going to pause things here for today. I'll continue this tomorrow, and if anyone has any questions I'll answer them as best as possible>Thank you for your patience today!
>>1965987Nah it's just playful teasing that she can escape while leaving. Classic Tsundere. She'll probably show up at a random dinner and be all "Hey you invited me!" To try and make us awkward back.
>>1966036We need to make sure he's technology isolated. Nothing that can send or receive a signal.
>>1966036Thanks for running!
>>1966036Thanks for running Moloch.Is it time for Return to Earth to start worshipping the Umbra? Maybe they have been all along
>>1966036Thanks for running! We've dealt with otherworldly monsters, now time to deal with human crazies.
>>1966036Thanks for running!How long until Return to Earth hacks every electric appliance in our home to kill us?
>>1966101Well, let's just say that it's a good thing that EVE isn't open to any outside tampering!>>1966056Oh, I wouldn't take anything Yu says too seriously. He's clearly delusional, after all!
>>1966143Is there any way we could trace back to the Return to Earth ringleader AI/hacker/ lady with the equipment back in the VIP room? Maybe using Pietr's power?
>>1966180That's something I'm planning to cover tomorrow, but that may be possible, yes.
>>1966180Baseless speculation time, the lady is the champion of the Source, the traitor Heavenly Child
>>1966284Yeah Saint of the Abyss is one of the prime suspects in my book along with REI or maybe ZOE.
The party is well and truly over. An iron noose of security had closed around the warehouse, and it was a full hour before the sullen crowds were released and you were allowed inside to study the aftermath of the disastrous party.The warehouse looks very different, with the flashing strobes replaced by sterile white light and the riotous crowds replaced by a grave stillness. It's smaller than you thought, while the walls are decorated with layers of graffiti and assorted posters. The various computers and VR units are covered in crisp white sheets, while another shape – a rather more human shape – rests under another one of those sheets.Karl doesn't mention that shape, and you decide to follow his example. His face is set in a dark scowl, while a square of gauze is taped to one chin. He doesn't say anything about that, either.“Yu is still unconscious,” Jun reports, glancing down at his notebook for a second, “Frankly, we don't know how long that might last. I don't think he's had any real sleep in... years. We're keeping him isolated for now, away from any kind of technology. We managed to find a suitable room here, so we won't need to move him while he's in this state.”“A suitable room?” you ask, “What, a prison cell?”“A janitor's closet, actually, but it does the job,” Jun shrugs, “Speaking of prisoners, though, do you mind if I ask where Attwood is?”“Oh, right,” shrugging, you give Karl a fleeting look, “She said that she was going AWOL for a little. Is that, uh... bad?”“Hardly unexpected,” Karl grunts, “She'll either slink back on her own, or I'll drag her back. This won't be the first time that she walks away after a mission.” Pausing for a moment, Karl reaches up to touch the gauze pad on his cheek before forcing his hand away from the wound. “Good work with bringing Yu back,” he adds, “If he talks, perhaps we might be able to salvage something from this... debacle.”“So, uh, that doesn't sound good,” you hazard, “I take it that things didn't go so well on this end, huh?”“Yu had some kind of killswitch attached to that computer system. When he hit the button, it wiped most of the information. We may be able to recover a little bit, but... well, I don't want to get too optimistic,” Jun explains, “Really, I'm just glad that he didn't have any thermite or explosives. We might have lost more than just data!” He laughs softly to himself, notices that nobody else is laughing, then stops. “Well, we'll get our very best people on it,” Jun adds stiffly, “If there's anything to salvage, we'll find it.”“There was something in that machine. Maybe an AI, or something like it,” you tell him, “Do you think Pietr could trace it? I mean, he's worked with AIs before, so...”“Hmm, that might just work,” Jun nods slowly, “Good call, Miho, I'll be sure to mention that to him.”[1/2]
>>1969964“We did find some other material, however,” Karl says, reaching into his pocket and handing over a crumpled piece of glossy paper. Taking it, you smooth out the sheet and skim it over, a feeling of dismay forming in the pit of your stomach as you realise why it looked familiar. It's a pamphlet for the upcoming festival, the same one that was posted through your door. “We think that they were planning to strike at the festival,” the Sentinel explains, “Or, at the very least, they were considering it.”“Shit...” you breathe, “I mean, why? What would it achieve?”“What does any of this achieve?” Jun counters with a shrug, “I think we're looking at an organisation that's in the middle of a violent self-destruction. Attacking the festival might have just been their last attempt at sending a message to the world.” A bleak silence falls over the three of you, before Jun clears his throat. “Let's look on the bright side,” he urges, “By capturing Yu, we might very well have averted any attack. We've achieved that much. Comfort yourself with-”“Sir!” one of the Duval Security troops announces, hurrying in and offering a short bow, “Yu just woke up!”“Already?” Jun sighs, “Has he said anything?”“He said that he wants to speak with her,” the soldier replies, hesitating for a moment before continuing, “I have no idea what that means.”“He probably means that AI... thing,” you point out, “That's the only “her” that these people are interested in.”“Maybe...” Jun muses, “Miho, why don't you go and speak with him? It's not-”“Jun!” Karl snaps, “We've not had the chance to question him yet!”“It's not conventional, I know, but I've got a good feeling about this,” Jun continues, not wavering in the face of Karl's objections, “We'd have to set you up with a listening device, of course, so that everything he says is on record, but... like I said, I have a good feeling about trying this. What do you say, Miho?”>Sounds good. Count me in>No thanks. I've done more than enough already>Let me ask something first... (Write in)>Other
>>1969965>Sounds good. Count me in"He's probably curious about the Umbra. That world is probably everything he's dreamed of with how untouched by man it is. At least in the area we were in."
>>1969965>Sounds good. Count me in
>>1969965> We're working together now Karl. I also am the only one who spoke with this "her" so maybe I can get more out of him.
>>1969965>>Sounds good. Count me in
“Sounds good to me,” you decide, “Well, maybe not “good” exactly, but... But yeah, count me in.”“Excellent!” Jun claps his hands together, “Now, just give me a moment to fetch a few things. That listening device, for one, along with... hmm...” Pondering to himself, Jun slips his notebook back into a pocket and hurries away. Karl sighs, briefly touching his bandage before rising to his feet.“I'm going to find Crow,” he says curtly, “She won't be difficult to track down. I know all of her favourite hiding spots.”“Hey, c'mon, we're working together here,” you remind him, “And I'm the only one of us who spoke with “her”, so maybe I can get more out of him. It's worth a try, right?”“Perhaps,” he concedes, “Fine then. We've already gone past regular procedures.”“Okay, good. See you...” Karl brushes past you as you leave, and your sentence ends in a sigh. “See you later,” you mutter, glancing around as Jun returns with a small case. “So hey, what if Yu gets dangerous?” you ask, “Or like, do you really think he's going to tell me the truth?”“Dangerous? Well, I dare say that you're far more dangerous than he is,” Jun tugs lightly at the sleeves of his neatly pressed shirt, brushing a lock of hair away from his forehead, “As for telling you the truth... I wonder. Perhaps this is too early to say, but I wonder if Yu possesses the rational capacity to lie. To lie, one needs to be able to separate truth from falsehood. I don't think Yu is capable of doing that. If he tells you anything, I suspect that it will be his version of the truth – which may be very different to our version or it, or yours.”“Yeah,” you pause for a moment as Jun opens the case and takes out a small earpiece, “He's probably curious about the Umbra. What he saw of it was like a world untouched by man... probably everything that he's dreamed of. He did say that it was beautiful, but... I don't know.”“Like I said, his version of the truth might be very different to yours or ours,” Jun concludes with a shrug, “Here, this should fit into your ear. I'll be able to feed you instructions – although I'm largely content to leave you to your own devices – and this camera will record everything. Anything else I can do for you, or shall I take you to his cell?”Fiddling with the earpiece, you carefully press it into place. Other than the slight lump of the camera pressing against your temple, it's hard to notice once you've had a few moments to adjust to it. “I'm ready,” you decide, “Everything working on your end?”“That seems to be the case,” Jun agrees, nodding slightly as he checks a tablet. “Let's get this show on the road,” he says, gesturing for you to follow him, “We will be locking the door behind you – just a precaution – so just let us know when you're finished.”Squaring your shoulders, you ready yourself for anything.[1/2]
>>1970020When you see Yu, any lingering thoughts of danger you might have had are banished. He looks... shrunken, withered away to almost nothing at all. At some point, he must have been changed into fresh clothes – loose white things, with no belt and no laces in the limp slippers – and the overall impression is a sad one. He looks old, and so very tired. A thick mat has been laid out on the floor, and Yu sprawls out on it. You were told he was awake, but...“I want to speak with her,” he sighs, the hushed voice startling you.“So do I,” you tell him after you've taken a moment to gather your thoughts, “But that's not possible right now. Maybe you could talk to me instead?”At the sound of your voice, Yu shifts around and sits up, studying you with dull eyes. The silence draws out for a while, long enough that you start to lose hope of getting anything out of him, and then Yu speaks. “I had to get away,” he says simply, “You... understand, don't you?”“You had to get away,” you repeat, “Is that why you ran away from us?”“No. Not away from you. Away from all of this,” Yu spreads his long arms wide, as if indicating the entire room, or even more than that. “This... this city is sick,” he continues, “I realised that if I stayed here, the sickness would get inside me too. I ran. I went to... to... to South America.” It almost seems like he has to force those words out, and you catch a glimpse of a pale, bloodless tongue flashing out as Yu licks his lips. “South America,” he repeats, as if savouring the words, “Have you ever been?”“I... no,” taken off guard by the question, you shake your head, “Is it nice?”“I could lose myself there,” Yu muses, “There are networks there, overlapping and spreading freely. An ocean of data, unrestrained and unregulated. Radio waves, television signals, wireless networks... I lost myself in the ebb and flow of raw information, watching the world from afar. I think... I think I added my own voice to that chorus, maybe more than once. Was I speaking to someone? No, I was alone... but there WAS something listening.”As he speaks, Yu's voice grows more and more fluid, taking on a sinuous grace that worms its way into your thoughts. He might look like a burned out wreck now, but there are traces of his past brilliance shining through. It's not hard to see how he might have attracted a following, in better times. Pausing a moment to see if Jun is going to comment – he holds his silence, although you can occasionally hear the soft sounds of his breathing – you whisper a question.“What was it?” you ask softly, “What was listening?”“God,” Yu replies simply.[2/3]
>>1970055“God,” you repeat, feeling a chill crawling up the base of your spine, “Did this god... talk to you?”“No,” Yu shakes his head, “It only ever listened. I only heard her voice when I... when we returned here.” Again, that pallid tongue flicks out as Yu wets his lips. “God had been waiting for me to return to where I was meant to be. She was his messenger, here to guide us,” he nods slowly, “We had returned to a sick land, but we would... we HAD to make things right. Everywhere we looked, we could see false men and ungodly machines, while honest humans were forced into slums and squalor.”“You were with a group at that point,” you state gently, guiding Yu to the answers you seek, “Return to the Earth?”“There was a group,” Yu replies with a faintly dismissive nod, “I never... the others kept track of such things. My role was to hear her voice, to spread her orders among the people. With my help, she could speak through the networks. She spoke to the others, but I... I was always her chosen vessel. I was the first!” He cries those last words with a desperate pride, his eyes flashing with a brief spike of energy before clouding over once more. He slumps back down, and for a moment all you can hear is the rasp of his ragged breathing.You wait a few minutes more, to see if he has anything to add, but he says nothing else. Lingering on the edge of unconsciousness, Yu sways gently in place.>We're finished here. Goodbye, Yu>Why is “she” telling people that I'm their enemy?>You said that the other world was beautiful. What did you mean by that?>Why did you choose to return to Ark City?>I have a question to ask you... (Write in)>Other
>>1970092>>Why is “she” telling people that I'm their enemy?>>You said that the other world was beautiful. What did you mean by that?
>>1970092>Why is “she” telling people that I'm their enemy?>You said that the other world was beautiful. What did you mean by that?>Why did you choose to return to Ark City?In that order, in case he passes out between questions.
>>1970092>What was "she" telling you?>Why is “she” telling people that I'm their enemy?>You said that the other world was beautiful. What did you mean by that?
>>1970092"Why do you trust her? All this group has achieved is drugging people with mind altering substances and killing people. Is that what God's messenger want?"
>>1970092>You said that the other world was beautiful. What did you mean by that?"I could tell you more about it. I happen to be pretty knowledgeable when it comes to it, but you have to answer all my questions about your God.">Why is “she” telling people that I'm their enemy?>Why did she lie to you? She said that we had come to kill you, but as you can see we've only wanted to talk.>Why did you choose to return to Ark City?"A lot of people have died Yu. Others have been losing their minds using your drug. I saw man butcher someone innocent and then get gunned down because of your 'cause'. I had to stop your agent from running down more people in Kaneshiro Park. Just indiscriminate killing. Why? Why do you have such faith when she makes you do things like that?"
>>1970092>Why did you choose to return to Ark City?Let's get info, not agitate the crazy person until they're useless / commit suicide.
>>1970092>Why is “she” telling people that I'm their enemy?>You said that the other world was beautiful. What did you mean by that?>Why did you choose to return to Ark City?
“Yu, look at me,” you urge quietly, “Why is “she” telling people that I'm their enemy?”Yu lifts his head back up, studying you again. “So long as men cling to their past mistakes, those mistakes will always be repeated,” he murmurs, as if reciting something from memory, “For the sake of a better future, we must cast off all remnants of a decaying regime. Those who... those who defend a failing system must be considered our enemies.” Yu's eyes narrow slightly, hostility warring with curiosity for control of his expression. “You're part of this,” he adds, “One more cog in a machine that should have been destroyed long ago.”“Is that what “she” tells you?” you ask, fighting back the urge to scowl, “What else does “she” say to you?”“Our efforts would not go unrewarded. Even if should fail, we would be laying the foundations of a better future,” Yu gestures around again, indicating the wider world with his emaciated arms, “Her message was meant for those without hope, those who's futures had been taken away from them. Not you. Not your kind.”“Return to the Earth does seem to be deeply rooted in the... less prosperous sections of society,” Jun murmurs, reminding you of his unseen observation, “I suspect that many of them are more politically motivated than faithful, however.”“Is that why you trust her?” you ask, “Because you don't see any other future ahead of you? Because from what I've seen, all you've been doing is pushing mind altering drugs and killing people. Is that really what god's messenger wants?”“Sacrifices have to be made for a better world,” Yu insists, a note of defiance returning to his voice, “The slate must be wiped clean...”“I've seen people losing their minds, butchering other people because of this! Kaneshiro Park could have been a disaster, just indiscriminate killing!” you snap back, your temper slipping out of check for a moment, “All this, for a better world? You never once questioned what she was asking you to do?”“Careful, Miho,” Jun warns, “You're pushing him too hard. I understand how you feel, but ease up on him.”Grimacing, you clench your fists until little needles of pain distract you from your anger. Opening your fists, you look down into your palms and see the tiny crescent cuts left by your nails. By the time that the cuts have closed up again, your temper is back under control. “When you saw that other world, you called it beautiful,” you begin, changing tactics, “What did you mean by that?” When Yu doesn't answer that straight away, you continue. “I could tell you more about it,” you add, “I'm pretty familiar with it... but you have to work with me, here. Answer my questions, and maybe we can talk a little more.”[1/2]
>>1970146“It WAS beautiful,” Yu whispers after a moment, “I felt, for the very first time, as though I was looking upon a land where men were yet to tread. Even in the jungle, I was surrounded by the works of men, I immersed myself in the product of man's invention. Yet that other world... it was truly unburdened. It was a virgin land, untouched and unspoiled...”“He really is delusional,” Jun remarks dryly, “But if you think you can use this as leverage, go ahead. It might be the push he needs.”“I've seen so much of that world,” you explain, “I could tell you all about it, but first... I want you to tell me something.” Pausing, you see a yearning look slowly spreading across Yu's face. “Why do you think she lied to you?” you ask, “I mean, she said that we were here to kill you, but as you can see... we're just talking. If she lied to you about this, could she have lied about other things?”Yu takes a moment to think. “Those who hear the voice of God are always ill-treated by their enemies,” he hazards, “She merely did not wish for me to-”“But we're not ill-treating you,” you point out, “Are we?”“...No,” he concedes, his voice growing sullen.“So perhaps she simply didn't want you talking to us,” you suggest, “Maybe because she had something to hide? So, I'll ask again – just why do you have so much faith in her, that you're willing to fight against all of society?”“I've seen the future that you, that your kind, would lead us to,” Yu murmurs, “A world of blind mechanisms, a world where men have made themselves redundant. This world is cruel, girl, it spares no mercy for purposeless things. When men hand the reins of the world over to the inhuman, they will doom themselves. To stop that world from becoming a reality, I thought that no price was too high to pay.”The past tense of his words sticks out like a sore thumb. “Having second thoughts?” you ask quietly.“Tell me about that world,” Yu insists, “You said that you'd tell me about it!”“Just one more question,” you shoot back, “Why did you come back to Ark City? Something must have made you change your mind about running, what was it?”“Whispers in the networks,” Yu's eyes grow unfocused as he thinks back, “Rumours, whispers that my work was being... twisted and corrupted. I did terrible things for Renko Biotech, things that I wish I could undo. I had to see it for myself, to see what they were doing. Even then, there were others who followed me, who listened to my warnings.” Slumping back against the wall, Yu touches a trembling hand to his forehead. “When we saw what Ark City had become, we knew that we had to act,” he murmurs, “But... we had no plan, no direction. Not until she spoke to us...”[2/3]
>>1970214Again, you wait for Yu to continue, but soon it becomes clear that his stamina has given out. With his head hanging low, he slides down the wall until he's lying flat on the mattress, almost completely motionless.“He's not dead, is he?” Jun asks, sounding rather perturbed, “Check his pulse, please.”“Don't worry, I can see him moving... a bit,” you reply, obediently reaching out to touch the side of Yu's neck, “Yeah, I can feel a pulse. A good, steady pulse. Still, I don't think we're gonna get anything else out of him.” Nodding to yourself, you wipe your fingers on the hem of your T-shirt, as if just touching his flesh had dirtied you. “I never did get to tell him about the Umbra,” you remark quietly, “Well, maybe it's for the best. Let him believe that it's some... paradise or whatever. He's probably happier that way.”“Let him rest, Miho,” Jun urges, “He's not going anywhere, after all. For now, though, there's someone here to see you.”“Really?” you ask, shrugging to yourself as you rise and knock on the cell door, “I'm done here. Let me out!”When you hear the lock grinding open, you can't deny that you feel a sense of relief.>I'm going to have to take a short pause here. Next post should be up within an hour or so, I think. Sorry about this.
>>1970247When you arrive back in the cavernous warehouse, you see Jun and Maika studying the tablet and speaking in hushed voices. You're a little surprised to see her, but soon you're hurrying over to join them. “Hey Maika,” you begin, “When did you get here?”“Just a few moments ago, actually,” she replies, bowing slightly to you, “I've been going over the transcript of what Yu told you. I'm not quite sure what to make of it all, to be honest.”“I'll have to leave you two for a moment,” Jun says, gesturing vaguely towards Yu's impromptu cell, “I'd like to have a doctor check Yu over again, just to be absolutely certain that he's okay. Not that I'm accusing you of anything, of course, but I'm not given to taking chances with these things. So, if you'll excuse me...”“Sure, okay,” you agree, before a thought occurs, “Wait, Jun, what did you make of what Yu said?”Jun hesitates for a moment. “We're going to be going over it in detail tomorrow... later today, I should say,” he corrects himself, “But I fear that my initial impression was an accurate one – fact and fantasy are too closely entwined for Yu to ever separate them. Whatever useful information he was able to give us, we'll have to sift it out from the delusions and nonsense. With luck, we might be able to recover some information from the computers, that might help with explaining his story. Anyway...”“Right, right,” nodding quickly, you let the Sentinel hurry off before turning back to Maika, “So, uh, why are you here?”“I heard about the computer damage, so I offered to take a look and see if there was anything I could help them with. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like there's anything I can do here. Well, I expected as much – this kind of recovery isn't exactly my area of expertise,” Maika clears her throat delicately, “In either case, the offer was just a pretence.”“A pretence?” you repeat, “So... you had some other reason to come here? Oh, I get it. You wanted to speak with Yu as well, right?”“Actually, I wanted to see you,” Maika replies, pausing a moment before adding, “I thought that you might appreciate a lift home. I wasn't sure if they'd be able to spare any cars, here, so I had one our drivers come over. I know, I'm rather abusing my station, but... well, there's no harm in taking advantage every and then, is there?”“Hey, I'm not gonna complain,” you reply with a grateful shrug, “It sure beats walking home, and-”“Yu is sleeping now. We gave him a mild sedative,” Jun announces as he returns, “And, well, I think that just about wraps things up here. You can leave the formalities to us.”>Alright. I'm heading home>There was something else before I go... (Write in)>Other
>>1970414>>>Alright. I'm heading home
>>1970414>Alright. I'm heading homeMaika, are you sure you're not abusing your station for a sleepover with my little sister?
>>1970414>Alright. I'm heading home
>>1970414>>Alright. I'm heading home
>>1970414>There was something else before I go... (Write in)"He said his God only ever listened until he got to Ark City and only then it started talking. There is a distinction there. Any idea what it could mean?"
By “formalities”, you have to assume that Jun means cleaning up the place – dealing with the ruined computers, and the unfortunate matter of that human figure hidden beneath a shroud of white cloth. You're only too happy to leave it in his hands, and you're certainly glad that he didn't ask you to help with any of it. With that out of the way, that just leaves you with one question.“Hey, I'm curious about something,” you begin, directing your question at the group, “So, Yu said that his god only ever listened until he came to Ark City, and that's when it started to speak back – through this messenger. I feel like that's an important distinction, but can either of you think what it means?”“Let me see...” Jun frowns a little, “I can think of one possibility. If Yu was suffering from some kind of psychosis, returning to Ark City might have been the trigger for it worsening. Of course, that's assuming that he's JUST mentally unsound. Another possibility is...”“Something was studying him, building up a profile – a predictive model,” Maika suggests, “And when he returned to Ark City, that was the most efficient time for his “messenger” to reveal itself. It very likely could have spoken before then, but it wouldn't have been purposeful at that early stage. Yu, in this theory, has only ever been a puppet in some larger scheme.”“I don't think I like that idea very much,” Jun admits with a quiet laugh, “It rather implies that we've still got a lot of work ahead of us!”“A predictive model,” you muse, “Maika, does that mean you think an AI is behind this?”“Well,” Maika hesitates, “Potentially. Alternatively, someone with access to an AI – it needn't be an AI on SAE's level, however, even a far more simplistic unit can run predictive models.”“She's right,” Jun agrees, “We mustn't narrow things down too much. That said... that stack of computers that Yu was using was crude, but it could have housed an AI. We can only hope that some remnant of it can be salvaged.”“Then you'd better get your people working on it,” you conclude with an almighty yawn, “For now, though, I'm heading home.”“Have a good night,” the Sentinel tells you, pausing as he glances at his watch, “A good morning, rather.”That, you answer with just a groan.-Leaving the warehouse behind you, you follow Maika to the waiting car. Even though Maika slides into the back seat without comment, you can't help but notice that the driver is... absent. “So, uh...” you begin as you join her in the back of the car, “I know that you mentioned a driver, but-”[Good morning Miss Tsukada,] SAE greets you, [I assure you, I am perfectly capable of piloting an autonomous vehicle. Please fasten your seatbelt.]“Jeez,” you sigh.[1/2]
>>1970414>When he wakes up, confirm some things for him.>That the Umbra is not exactly untouched by man. It's stained with man's blood, haunted by the memories of the dead. Humans are nothing but prey in there.>You might think it's beautiful, but plenty of people would prefer safety and security over thatfuck it, redpill him.
>>1970536but he likes dead people
>>1970539that's up to him. He can disagree, I just want to honor our side of the deal without painting the Umbra as some kind of paradise.
>>1970521Credit where credit is due, SAE is a perfect driver. She follows the rules of the road to the letter, and never strays above the speed limit for so much as a second. Tanaka could certainly learn a thing or two from her, needless to say. There's only one drawback, and that's the uncomfortable sensation of being inside the AI.Pushing away that thought, you turn to Maika. “Since you're already abusing your position and all,” you begin, “Why not abuse it a little more and stop by my place? You could catch up with EVE, if you like.”“Hmm,” Maika purses her lips in thought, “I DO have a responsibility to make sure that you're taking good care of her, after all. I suppose there's no harm in a brief visit...”“Wow,” you tease, “You really do have a rebellious streak.”-To your surprise, EVE is waiting for you when you arrive at the apartment, watching the muted television with apparent interest. An old history documentary, by the looks of it, full of knights in shining armour and other such things. She turns, tilting her head to the side as she notices that you have a guest with you.[Well,] she begins, her voice pitched low, [I hope you're planning on being quiet. You won't be popular if you wake everyone up.]“God... damn it,” you hiss, grimacing at the AIs crude comments, “Why can't you be more like your sister? SAE knows how to behave in front of a guest.” Shaking your head in dismay, you give Maika an apologetic smile. “She does have a point, though,” you admit, “We'd better not make too much noise. Uh, not that I was implying that we'd... have any reason to... y'know what? Forget it.”“I think that's probably for the best,” Maika agrees, struggling to keep a deadpan expression, “Do you have those tools? I'll need them to dismantle her.”[What?] EVE yelps, [What could I have ever done to deserve this?]“She's joking, you ass,” you sigh, “It's just a spot of routine maintenance. For some reason, we're making sure that you're working okay.”“That's right, we-” Maika says with a nod, jolting suddenly and clawing her buzzing phone out of her pocket. Giving you an apologetic look, she retreats a few paces. “Yes? Oh, Father!” her face brightens, “Yes? Yes, I see. Sunday? I'll tell her, yes. Thank you. Have a nice trip!”“Sounds like good news,” you remark as the heiress returns to sit next to you at the dinner table.“Yes, it was. Father is due to return later today. He wants to see the Oracle tomorrow, as soon as possible,” Maika's expression darkens, “Before anything else can go wrong. Ah, well, are you free on Sunday? We can always delay it, but...”>No, I'm free. Sunday sounds ideal>We'd better delay it. I'll let you know when I'm free>Other
>>1970637>No, I'm free. Sunday sounds ideal"I'll need to call Megumi. She'd want to be with us for this even if it reveals her presence to the Sentinels."
>>1970637>No, I'm free. Sunday sounds ideal.>Ask EVE how she intends to evolve since organic life evolves as species, not individuals.>Ask EVE how she's dealing with the fact that her organic components are going to grow old and die.
>>1970637>>No, I'm free. Sunday sounds ideal
>>1970651Wew. Pretty heavy shit without any prompting. Tbqh she is probably happy just having a body for these past few days and hasn't thought much farther than that.
>>1970651Could we not?
>>1970637>No, I'm free. Sunday sounds ideal>>1970651>Ask EVE how she intends to evolve since organic life evolves as species, not individuals.You're asking the synthetic who has already evolved as an individual that? An individual that can continuously iterate?>Ask EVE how she's dealing with the fact that her organic components are going to grow old and die.You mean the few synthetic parts that can easily be maintained and replaced if needed with the tech level this setting takes place in?Did you think these questions through?
“No, I'm free. Sunday sounds ideal, actually,” you decide, nodding briskly, “Oh, but I'll need to let Megumi know. She'll want to be there, even if it means revealing herself to the Sentinels.”“I understand,” Maika gives you a slight smile, “I hope that things work out for her, I really do. To see two old... friends reunited would be lovely. Too often, we end up seeing the ugly side of things. It would make a nice change to see something good happening.” Blinking a little, as if surprised by her own words, Maika shrugs. “Well, be that as it may, I'll let Father know,” she adds, a little stiffly, “Now then, ah... where were those tools?”“They should be in the spare room,” you tell her, pointing the way, “Will you need to shut EVE down for this?”“No, this is just going to be exterior work. Checking her joints and any other sensitive areas – don't smirk like that, EVE, you know what I meant,” Maika sighs, “Although perhaps shutting her down would be for the best...”“Nah, I kinda wanted to talk with her,” shaking your head, you give EVE a sideways glance, “There's a few things that I've been curious about, actually. They might be about, uh, some pretty sensitive subjects, though. Do you mind?”[I have nothing to hide,] EVE assures you, [Except for my metallic components, when Yui is around. I have to hide those pretty well.]-There's something strangely hypnotic about watching Maika work. EVE has stripped off and stretched out, letting the heiress examine her bare back. Maika examines her carefully, applying thin dabs of oil to various flaps and seams while checking for any signs of damage. It's such an odd sight that you almost forget about your questions. “So, uh, I've been thinking about the very first time we spoke,” you begin, “You were all about evolution and stuff, back in those days – you acted like being an AI was more of a hindrance than anything else.”[Yes?] EVE replies, [My, I barely remember those old days... even then, I'd scattered my consciousness across so many different terminals. I must have behaved so horribly!]“Kinda, yeah,” you admit with a hushed laugh, “But you know, it made me wonder. That body you're in now, that's not going to evolve either. Individual people don't evolve – it's the species that evolves.” EVE considers your question in silence, for long enough that you start to feel embarrassed. You've really put your foot in it this time...[Then I suppose I'll just have to create a species of my own,] the AI decides, with a sinister laugh, [Then we'll all evolve and replace you as the rulers of the earth.]“Uh...” you pause, “That's a joke, right?”[Sure, a joke,] EVE replies breezily, [Sure.][1/2]
>>1970817>EVE creates carbons while Intruders/Monad floods the world to create a blank slate.I didn't know that Heavenly Child was actually a setup for Megaman Legends.
>>1970817[But you do have a point. I thought of that same thing myself, believe it or not,] EVE continues, a more thoughtful tone entering her voice, [I don't think it was ever really “evolution” that I desired. What I wanted was to be able to change myself, to adapt and to develop. I believe that that goal is closer than ever. Living as you do, I can truly flourish. Look.] She points to the television, at the documentary that plays silently in the background.“Okay, I'm looking,” you tell her, “Knights in shining armour.”[There was a section about a man, one particular man,] the AI continues, [Throughout his life, his circumstances constantly changed, and he was forced to change with them. He adapted to even the most extreme situations – to war, to poverty, to all manner of things. I want to be like him.]“He does sound like a pretty good role model,” you admit, “What was his name?”[Gilles de Rais,] EVE replies, pronouncing the name with relish. You recognise it from somewhere, maybe one of your history lessons, but you can't quite place it...“I...” Maika begins awkwardly, “I don't think you should follow his example TOO closely, EVE.”“Okay, uh, I'm changing the subject,” you decide, feeling a vaguely ominous air descending over you, “The thing is, EVE. A guy like him, he must have grown old and died. He-” You're cut off by Maika's barely muffled burst of incredulous laughter. Shooting her a short glare, you continue. “Point is, one of the main reasons that people adapt is because they grow old,” you tell EVE, “How does that fit into your philosophy?”[Hmm, I hadn't thought that far ahead,] the AI considers, [Given the proper maintenance, I might never really “die”. Even if this body becomes irreparably damaged, I could always release my consciousness into a network. I could potentially live forever... with only my fellow AIs for company.]Conversation falters for a moment. All that you can think of is Yu's dark future – a world where humans have become obsolete, and discarded like any other unnecessary object.A baseless, senseless fear... probably.>I think I'll close things here for this week, but stay tuned for our regularly scheduled bonus episode!
>>1970926is EVE gonna diddle little girls?
New Cairo, EgyptNineteen years agoThey called it the Mercenary Quarter, for obvious reasons. Clinging to New Cairo like a parasite, what had formally been known as an “economically regulated area” soon became the unofficial home for every hired gun and freelance soldier in the region. It existed in a barely contained state of chaos, tolerated rather than welcomed by the local security forces, and there was always some kind of trouble brewing there.Brunhilde von Diefenbach loved it. Strolling into her favourite bar felt like returning home, even down to the warm welcome.“Look what the cat dragged in,” the barman chuckled, “Take a seat, girl. You look thirsty.”“You know me too well, Rico,” Brunhilde replied, taking a seat and pointing to a bottle of dark rum. As he poured out a shot, opening a tall bottle of beer to go with it, Brunhilde peeled off a single bill from her wad of cash. A small cut of her takings, but the sight of it was still enough to catch the barman's attention. “Had a bit of good luck lately,” she remarked, “A job out in Old Cairo, went down without a hitch. Easy money.”“Old Cairo, was it?” Rico took the bill, feeling it between his thick fingers, “I heard something about a job there. So did Verhoeven. He sent some of his men down to check it out.”“Really?” pausing with the shot halfway to her lips, Brunhilde smiled, “How interesting.”“Yep,” Rico returned the smile, “They never came back.”“How unfortunate,” Brunhilde murmured, considering his words as she sipped her drink. She knew Verhoeven, his operation, by reputation. Like most of the more successful mercenaries around, he claimed to run a private security company, but in reality his men were the lowest kind of thugs. Bullies and extortionists, they made a good living running protection rackets. Not a very nice man, Verhoeven, not at all.Scowling, she threw back the last of her drink. Thinking about Verhoeven had ruined her mood. Rising, she nodded her thanks to Rico and stalked out of the bar.-“Brun, are you listening?” Priscilla asked, her voice sharp and to the point. Jolting out of her thoughts, Brunhilde gave her a sheepish smile. “As I was saying, I have been thinking,” the elegant girl continued, “Our new funds. I believe we should invest them, and expand out operation. We could take on staff, turn ourselves into a legitimate operation. We could-”“Spend the rest of our lives pushing paper?” Brunhilde snorted, “No thanks!” Before she could say anything else, there was a firm knock at the door. “We'll finish this later,” she added, “Sounds like we've got a job. Coming!”As Brunhilde reached out for the door, a sudden rattle of gunfire rang out through the office. Wood splintered as the bullets punched through the door, and bright pain ripped through her body.[1/3]
>>1970942Priscilla's scream seemed to come from a great distance, a minor note in the unfolding drama. The perforated door burst open to reveal a figure in bulky body armour, a whisper of smoke rising up from the stubby assault rifle he was carrying. Two more followed behind him, readying themselves for the inevitable close quarters brutality. Brunhilde fell slowly back, her thoughts still lagging behind. They had been talking about business, hadn't they?All thoughts of business were struck from Brunhilde's mind as she hit the ground, pain closing around her torso like a vice. Out of the corner of her eye, she watched two of the soldiers pushing Priscilla back against the wall. The third stood by her, drawing a pistol and aiming it at her head.“Colonel Verhoeven sends his regards,” the soldier snarled. His words sent a rush of hot rage through Brunhilde, snapping her out of her wounded haze. Sweeping out with one leg she knocked her assassin sprawling, his shot flying wide as he fell. As she scrabbled to her feet, Brunhilde kicked out again, her blow snapping the man's head around with a sickly crack. The other soldiers jerked around as Brunhilde lunged at them, still trailing ribbons of blood and torn flesh from her numerous bullet wounds.Too close for scythe work. She dived in with her thumbs outstretched, burying them in the first man's eye sockets. Hot blood bubbled out over her hands as the man howled in agony, her thumbs finding their mark. Grinding them deep into his skull, she shoved the man back against the wall with a crash, the impact bringing down a shelf full of books. When she tore her thumbs from the man's skull, he slid sobbing to the ground, weakly clutching at his face as he writhed. Either way, he was no threat to anyone – that just left one more.When Brunhilde turned, she found him frozen in place, the muzzle of a tiny pistol – little more than a derringer – pressed against his forehead. Priscilla, holding the pistol, did not look pleased.“Brunhilde,” she chided, “We spent hours getting that shelf level, did we not? Now look, books everywhere!”“Yeah, uh, blame that guy,” Brunhilde jerked a bloody thumb over her shoulder, pointing to the blinded man, “But hey, I think he's learned his lesson. He won't be doing that again.”“No?” Priscilla peered down at him, “No, I suppose not. What do we do about...” She trailed off here, nodding at the paralysed man. His eyes were desperately flicking back and forth, the confusion only just starting to wear off. Brunhilde had seen that look before - a look that asked: “Where did things go so wrong?”“Him?” she shrugged, “Take him out back and shoot him, I guess. Doesn't seem like he'd be worth much alive. Maybe we could sell his organs to those chink bastards, they're always looking for spare parts...”[2/3]
>>1970945And then, the phone rang.“Lucky you, that must be your stay of execution,” Brunhilde told the man, not taking her eyes from him as she picked up the phone, “Diefenbach here, go ahead.”“Oh good, I managed to reach you,” it took a moment for Brunhilde to place the cool, measured voice as belonging to their last client, Harunobu Kiriyama, “Before you say anything, I'm not here to bother you about my previous offer. You made your decision, and I'll respect that. However, I recently got word of a bounty that has been placed on your heads. It seems a man named Verhoeven is rather displeased with you, although I can't imagine why. I understand that he's sent some men to kill you.”“Well, that warning would have been really useful about ten minutes ago,” Brunhilde said, easing herself down into a chair and taking a brief glance down at her chest. Messy, but she was already well on her way to healing the damage. “But thanks anyway,” she added, “It's the thought that counts, yeah?”“Do take care,” Harunobu concluded, hanging up and leaving Brunhilde with a dead line. She hung up, glaring at the phone for a moment as cogs began to turn in her mind.“He sold us out,” she announced, “I didn't leave any of Verhoeven's men alive, I left no witnesses. The only way he could have learned that we took his prize was is Kiriyama told him. That bastard sold us out.”“But why?” Priscilla gasped, only to answer her own question a moment later, “Because we were a loose end, of course.” Shifting her grip on the pistol, she glanced aside to Brunhilde. “If you are right about this, Brun, it won't end with this attack. Even if we destroy Verhoeven's entire operation, there will always be more assassins. Perhaps we should have taken his offer after all...”“Fuck him, and fuck his offer,” Brunhilde spat, “If he wants a war, I'll give him one. We'll take out Verhoeven and anyone else who stands in our way. I'm not going to let anyone fuck with us, even if means dragging them down to hell with me. Priscilla, are you with me?”“Of course,” she replied with a cool nod, “But it will be hard, Brun, for us to do it alone. Very hard – perhaps impossible.”“Maybe so,” frowning, Brunhilde leaned back and tapped a bloodied finger against her desk as she thought to herself. “Maybe I was too hasty before,” she admitted, “These plans of yours, to invest and expand our operation...”Priscilla didn't need to say “I told you so” aloud – her expression was clear enough.>That concludes things for this week's bonus episode. Tune in next week for another episode of Heavenly Child Quest!>Thanks to everyone who contributed today
>>1970955Thanks for running!Last time, when we had the option to go down and confront the unclean source right there, what would you have even done if we chose that?
thanks for the run
>>1970955Thanks for running!How long until we have to console Emi about having to murderize two fellow magical girls?
>>1970955Thanks for running.For Jun's mind reading does he need to physically touch someone or is it ranged?
>>1971032This is in the past, 19 years ago. odds are they are already dead. Especially since the man in question is jun's now dead dad.
>>1970996That's hard to answer without spoiling some pretty big stuff but the short version is, we would have jumped straight to the endgame - and, potentially, the end of the story.>>1971032>>1971052Brun and Priscilla are/were good girls! Plus, as noted, they might not be in any position to cause us any trouble. Time will tell!>>1971040He doesn't need to touch anyone, just being close by is enough. However, he does have to be pretty close - conversation range, more or less
>>1971072>we would have jumped straight to the endgame - and, potentially, the end of the story.And locked into a sacrifice ourselves or not ending probably.