A gentle breeze blows through, a heavenly gift that those who've earned their affinity for the clouds could tell came from the very same. The fresh air makes you realize just how strangely heavy the air in this country is, how… Dense, if that is possible, the air in the capital of Orsis is
Yet here you are, standing before the dilapidated building of the highest court of the nation, a monument to the state of the country and it's rulers- Forgotten and ignored, a mere idol left behind for empty prayers
Anton offers a smile to Hughbert. "I'm happy to report that there are no more potential threats to our escorts life for at least the week I investigated. Alcor, much like Mai has not come near us even once since we arrived in this country. Both seem content to harass us with long ranged predetermined attacks."
Hughbert: "Hmm… Could that mean their objective is something besides one of the tasks we were given to accomplish?"
Harriet: "I'm sure we'll end up stumbling face-first into it. That happens a lot with us."
Serenity‘ shakes her head, before leaning it against the passanger seat window.
Amal: "Mmm, good to know we’ve got some time, at least."
Anton: "We good to start the next thing on the agenda, Hugh?" He stretches before holding back a yawn.
The city has a kind of noise you haven't heard before, cars travel by but that is not the uncommon noise, the noise you haven't heard before is the bustle of people unlike you're used to in Masharas. They seem to lack the enthusiasm you've heard before
Hughbert: "I believe so. You're reasonably certain he is safe, so I believe we have no reason to linger. Now, which is closer, those coordinates, or the location where we would look for the Icy Maiden…?" Hughbert checks a map, with some notes in hand.
Harriet is leaving the coordination up to Hughbert. This is called the efficient division of labour based on skill.
Amal doesn't look like they're a big fan of this place; maybe that's why.
The coordinates are a good ways southeast from here, over a day of travel. There are a few worker's camps and two little towns on the way, althoug the map does shows other three towns nearby with Xs crossed over them
Hughbert: "Both objectives can be worked towards on the same route. If we go… here…" Hughbert traces a line with his fingertip, going from the present location, to the coordinates, tracing over roads and covering those X'd off towns on the way. "We should be able to stop along the way to gather information while also moving towards the spot from the note."
Amal: "Sounds good!"
Anton: "When we do eventually encounter Mai here, what's our approach by the way?"
Anton: "I can't imagine she's going to ignore us forever."
JayM: So onwards towards one of those marked towns, huhn? It shouldn't be too long to get there
Amal: "Is 'beat the shit out of her' an option?"
Hughbert: "Hmm… Mai, huh… Remind me again, what's her motivation? She is with Terra Medical, if I recall, is she not?"
Serenity‘ makes a vague shrugging motion.
Anton smiles at Amal. "I’d beat the shit out of her even if she was arriving via boat as an important diplomat visiting Masharas."
Harriet: "I mean, I'd probably say something cool, like, 'Watt's up?' and then zap her."
Amal grins.
Amal: "She's, uh. I'm not sure yet. She's -using- Terra Medical, somehow, at any rate."
Amal giggles at Harriet. "Paws liked that joke, by the way."
Anton: "She's the guiding hand behind Terra Medical, at least. When Masharas's research on mediums fell apart she broke off from the country and pushed likely with other parties to continue it."
Harriet grins at Amal.
Harriet: "Yeah, Terra Medical's into artificially created mediums, so she's gotta have a hand in that."
Anton: "If her or Alcor are going to show up though, I should be able to give a bit of a heads up when they're close. Alcor was really hard to track early on since he could mask his aura but now that I'm more familiar with it if I'm actively looking I'm pretty sure I'll be able to find him if he's lurking nearby."
Hughbert: "…The Icy Maiden. Mai must be interested in her. We must be careful if we manage to draw her out of hiding. If we can choose where we meet her, we should do so in a place that denies her as much advantage as possible."
The car starts off and off you go as you talk, yet there is something slightly different as you head out… There is a little bit of a commotion near the gate heading outside, a couple of cars have stopped and you see a few people in security uniforms of five different companies
Amal: "Oh boy."
Serenity: "Sigh."
Harriet: "Hey, come on, we're trying to drive here!"
Hughbert: "I'll handle them. Find a spot to pull over."
And as you're about to head out- When did these two things arrive here?! Giant vehicles, they look like mobile boxes? No, there's tubes heading out of them, and there's a pair of flamethrowers and in it's front, a giant wrecking ball also hangs from it as well- They look like moving reagnite refineries combined with assorted construction material
One of the people in uniform stops you "Excuse-me, but we need to inspect your vehicle"
Amal: "(What the heck.)"
Harriet pulls over, lets Hughbert do his thing, stares at the weird wrecking-vehicles because they're really cool.
Serenity: "It's a car. There's some grumpy people in it. There's a lot of tools and parts. And a shit ton of weapons."
Serenity: "Nothing interesting."
Harriet: "It has a flamethrower. Can I add a flamethrower to my car?"
Hughbert hops out of the car, dusts off his uniform, makes sure his insignias are all visible, and glares sharply at the trooper. "What is the meaning of this? State your purpose, soldier!"
Serenity: "Where would you even put the fuel tank?"
Harriet: "… on the roof? No, that wouldn't work, we get rolled way too much. Hmm…"
Guard: "Look, we've recieved news of an armored column from Terchuan invading, and have reasons to believe it's been used as cover to deploy undercover agents"
Harriet: "Those mobile refineries really are cool though. I bet I could make 'em do a bunch of different work, not just this whole… war machine stuff they've got going on right now."
Anton: "Well, we're from Masharas so…"
Guard: "So for now, please comply…" he looks at Hughbert uniform closer after Anton speaks "Hrm… Look, man, I can figure you probably are. Just… Just lemme do my job here, okay? I'll let you pass and all, just can't let the boss see me slacking"
Serenity‘ flips a couple of switches on the dash panel to make sure the guard doesn’t accidently activate anything dangerous when digging around in the back.
The guard just looks around the vehicle. Does he even look around? Hughbert would probably have to tear a new one anyone in the High Guard that checked a vehicle this badly. Either way he's done within fourty two seconds "Alright, you're clear, move along now"
Anton glances at Hughbert. "(He'll only take 2 minutes and thirty six seconds.)"
Hughbert attempts to mouth the words 'good job, soldier' but cannot even fake that much. He swallows the urge to reprimand him, instead settling for a slow, solemn nod before climbing back into the car. "…sure. Let's go."
And off you go, heading down the road… You see the tracks left by the two vehicles as they came in, what a sad damage to the road
Harriet: "At least they didn't mess with my spare parts."
Anton nods as they drive off into the distance. "Thank goodness they didn't think we were suspicious enough to follow. It'd be kind of awkward to explain why we end up running into who they're looking for."
As you travel southeast you see a few further guard forces and other vehicles, including such a vehicle that looks like a giant kind of truck armed with buzzsaws, arms to pick up trees, a large flamethrower that seems to be connected to both a ragnite tank and a water tank as well as thick plating bolted on to it
Hughbert sighs heavily. "I hope you appreciate choosing to expedite our travel over sticking to my integrity and chewing that guard out for that sorry inspection…" He pauses, then looks over to Anton. "…who are they looking for?
Serenity: "…"
Harriet: "It's real hard to let bad work go unmentioned. You did a good job."
But still, the road ahead still must be gone through
Serenity: "Seriously who the fuck is in charge of their nation's engineering department? A five year old with some crayons?"
Anton: "His name is Flake. I can't tell you much other than the fact that he's an Oracle and he was driving the vehicle they were looking for but it got wasted by the border and they had to enter the country by foot."
Anton: "You can ask him yourself in two to four days. We're fated to meet eventually."
Amal: "Wait, didn't we meet that guy already…?"
Serenity: "Yes, we already ran into Snowflake a few times."
Anton scratches his head. "Ah, did we? I can never remember what timeline actually happened." He seems a bit frustrated honestly. "We'll see him again in this country at any rate!"
Harriet: "Wait, he's an Oracle?"
Serenity‘ settles back into her seat.
Serenity: "I really need to get out of this funk, you’re all worthless."
Anton: "Will it make you get out of your funk faster if we go to the batcave when we go back?" He winks.
Serenity: "…The what?"
Hughbert: "Hmm… Right. Flake. He knows how to meet the Icy Maiden too. We'll definitely run into him. As I recal…" Hughbert flips through a notebook. "He said to look for her in the coldest place we can find."
As you drive the day passes on, the light of the sun starts to dim as night starts to get closer
Anton grins before shaking his head at Serenity. "Man, haven't you ever heard of naming secret hideouts? Fine, whatever!" He crosses his arms. "Go nerd out with Harriet for all I care." He's pouting but it doesn't look very serious.
In the distance you see the first marked town approaching… And… There is no lights to be seen, the roads are destroyed not by active damage, but by simply passage of time and lack of care. The buildings have fallen into disrepair, and a few have in fact fallen apart
Serenity: "I don't remember that name ever coming up…"
Hughbert puts his other notebook away. He pulls out another one, muses for a moment… Then, after a bit of awkward shifting, writes something in it, and quickly stashes it away.
The most terrifying sight is perhaps a smaller version of those towers you saw in the capital, with a thin center and floating rings of rooms- Except the tower's base has been compromised and it is now slowly tilting towards falling
Amal: "Yeesh. What happened here?"
Anton: "Couldn't tell you anything other than the fact that it's been like this for a while now."
As you come closer you see in the distance- A sinkhole. A sinkhole left behind by an empty mine
A chilly wind blows past
Harriet: "Goddess, that's terrible."
Hughbert: "If any place has earned the title of 'ghost town', I would wager it's this. Let's begin gathering some information."
Amal: "Heck, is there even anyone left…?"
Harriet tries to find a place to park where the car won't disappear into a cavern by the time they get back.
Serenity: "Uuh…"
As you enter the town you see something interesting, hidden between buildings is a large bonfire. Or the remains of one, the char is still warm, but the wind here is getting colder
Serenity: "…yes, definitely."
Hughbert gets closer to the embers, kneeling down to get a good look.
Anton chews at his lip before reaching into his pocket and pulling out a lollipop and plopping it into his mouth.
Amal: "Creepy…"
The bonfine is… A bonfire. Mostly scrap wood. It's very large, it probably burned for two or maybe three days if there wasn't rain
Harriet: "Wonder what they were cooking?"
Anton: "There's definitely a lot of people around still. Families resting in buildings. They're exhausted. People laying around on the ground on rubble. They're starving and in pain. And the whole lot of them are getting really angry because of the dying bonfire."
Amal: "….oh. That's awful…"
Hughbert: "Don't suppose we have much of anything we could use to start another one, do we?"
Amal: "We…"
Amal: "We have Harriet?" :D
JayM: Fuel here's pretty much run out, you could rearrange it to get some more life out of it if you can ignite it again
Harriet frowns. "I mean, I could try and get a little more milage out of what they've got here…"
Anton: "We're going to need more wood if they want it to last more than a few hours."
Amal frowwwwns. 'Generating matter out of thin air' isn't really in their skillset.
Harriet: "What would really work here is a ragnite system set up to output flames, but I can't just magic one of those up."
Hughbert: "I wonder where they got this wood in the first place." Hughbert picks up one of the pieces that isn't completely ashes yet to check for any signs.
Harriet: "Ragnite could still be the answer, though. Soak the charcoal in it, light it up, it'll go for another day, give or take."
Serenity: "What a waste that would be though."
Anton: "You could always talk to one of them. There's over a hundred people here scattered about the abandoned buildings."
Harriet: "Oh, yeah, absolutely. I mean, I could always use the spare, but, ugh…" Harriet cups her hands around her mouth and yells. "HEY, TOWNSFOLK! Any of you got ragnite lying around?!"
Serenity: "I mean if you were going to do something stupid and wasteful anyway it'd be easier to convert some of their toasters into mini heaters."
Hughbert: "Before we do that… Harriet. No. Help me get this fire back in working order, and THEN we talk to them after we've demonstrated some goodwill." Hughbert sets about rearranging things and controlling the flow of air to create something more condusive to the wood catching flame again.
Shouting? Shouting in this kind of place at night? You hear the pitter-patter of feet
Harriet: "But that's how to solve the problem! Ugh, fine." Harriet turns and starts rearranging the fire.
Harriet: "As for the toasters, I don't think they'd be big and flashy enough if they're trying to heat up the town."
Harriet: "I mean, I can give it a shot."
Serenity‘ sighs, still not bothering to get out of the car, and puts a hand over her ear. "No danger. Calm down."
You hear the sound of rubble shifting
Hughbert does what he can before standing up to greet those who were attracted to the shouting. "At ease. We mean no harm."
You see someone running your way "Don’t shout!" it's a young woman going full tilt towards you "Dammit, don't fucking shout at night!"
Amal: "What's at night that we should worry about?"
Serenity‘ turns towards the woman. "You stop shouting. Fuck.."
The woman grabs the closest one to her and starts dragging you towards a dilaptidated old inn "You’ll rile up the shamblers, c'mon, c'mon!"
Harriet: "Look, you can stand to lose a little sleep to solve a problem. I do it all the time." Harriet doesn't bother turning around and keeps working on the bonfire.
Woman: "You don't want to wake up the shamblers"
Amal: "I
Amal: "I'm pretty sure we could handle the shamblers, whatever they are. We're pretty tough."
Anton rolls the lollipop around in his mouth. He glances at Serenity, then the woman, then Harriet and then finally back to Serenity. He doesn't say anything.
Woman: "Just- Just please don't just… Just wait until Ken's here, okay?"
Serenity: "Yes Anton I'm still the prettiest. That's probably not going to change all adventure long."
Serenity: "Also they've been awake this entire time."
Woman: "C'mon, look, I don't know what you're doing here just- Just don't make too much noise"
Harriet: "Look, if these monsters are causing you trouble we'll just kill them."
Hughbert: "Right, sure. It won't happen again. Harriet, please apologize. What exactly is a shambler, by the way?"
Serenity: "The less sentient mutants."
Harriet: "Ughhhhhhh," Harriet groans, dragging her hands down the side of her face. "I'm very sorry I was fixing this problem which was making you all so sad, I'll never do it again."
The old inn is… Apparently it has been converted into a communal house, the floor level has large tables set around, a few people mill about and the hearth is aflame
Amal pats Harriet on the shoulder consolingly.
The woman looks at Harriet once you're inside "Look, yeah… The shamblers are… They're those unfortunate ones, okay? They're really ugly, have those… Crystals growing out of their bodies, they just shamble around and… Do stuff, I guess?"
Anton clicks his tongue before wagging a finger at Serenity. "Now, now. You can't say that for sure. I've seen a timeline where Harriet isn't wearing her work clothes!"
Woman: "But if you get them angry they all start going around and… And being dangerous. They don't like being threatened"
Serenity‘ gives Anton a flat look.
Woman: "I don’t know what you were trying to do but without Ken here they… They can get out of control! And then they're really dangerous"
Harriet: "Oh. So why don't you just kill them?"
In this communal house it's easy to see there's aroung eight different families gathered
Serenity: "Hughbert you wanna get on top of that…?" Serenity flicks her eyes towards Harriet.
Woman: "Why? Well, I mean, if you make a large bonfire every week and you keep quiet at night they aren't dangerous"
Anton stares back at her before biting down on his lollipop with a crunch.
Woman: "But they keep you safe, see? When the companies come around to… 'Recruit' is what they call"
Woman: "Well, they can't get in, the shamblers and the dogs and Ken and the others keep them away"
Amal: "…that makes sense. Live and let live. Who's Ken?"
Woman: "I'd… I'd rather keep quiet at night here than go back to logging…"
Hughbert: "Hmm… Damned if you do, damned if you don't. That sort of situation, isn't it?"
Woman: "Ken? Hrm… Well, he's one of those… Ice people? I don't think they have a proper name. He takes care of the shamblers here, he keeps them fed, keeps them in line"
Woman: "He needs a little bit of time to himself now and then, but he's a nice guy, helps everyone around when they need. Just don't stay too close to him for too long"
Harriet: "Okay but your solution obviously isn't working great if your bonfire's burnt down."
Harriet: "Like, I'm just saying."
Amal: "Sounds like an ice person." They kind of deliberately mumble it in a way so the words run together and the joke works.
Anton holds out a hand to high-five Amal.
Woman: "Well, what can you do? We don't have a lot to burn here"
Amal highfives Anton.
Hughbert: "So if Ken is one of the 'ice people'… We're trying to get into contact with, ah… I believe she's called the Icy Maiden. If we help Ken by helping you out, do you think he would be willing to introduce us?"
Woman: "You want to meet the Icy Maiden? Man… She doesn't likes being found, though"
Harriet: "Oh, right, I guess that makes sense. Ugh, fine."
Woman: "There's people hunting for her. I guess he could help out but I don't know"
Hughbert nods. "That's why we'd like to prove we're worth meeting. Helping out here would be a start, wouldn't it?"
Harriet: "You realise a ragnite system would be way more efficient than a bonfire, though, right?"
She looks at Harriet "What'd you mean?"
Hughbert: "Harriet… Please write up a list of materials you need to create that system, and keep it operational. If we can get those easier than the materials for a bonfire, then by all means, we'll do so." "
Serenity‘ lets out a sigh, turning back towards the woman and sizing her up.
Harriet: "I mean you’re gonna run out of wood, but a ragnite system is way more efficient and - right!" Harriet grabs her notebook and starts scribbling.
Amal: "Lemme know if you need any help, okay, Harriet?"
Harriet: "So, what do you need this for, anyway? Is light the important part, or heat, or what."
Amal: "…anyways, in the meantime, is… is there any way we can help, around here…?" They don't seem very happy. :(
Serenity: "Is it Ken out west just past this little town's boarder, or … Ugh I really don't wanna call her by that name, what was Icy's real name again?"
Serenity: "Something with an L?"
The woman looks at Serenity as she's stared at "Hrm, I don't know where Ken goes when he needs time, but it'd make sense if he's there"
Woman: "Normally there's a lot of ice there after he's off, we usually use that for drinking water. So yeah, logical I guess?"
Woman: "Nobody really knows the Maiden's real name, but if you're hiding you don't want people to know your name, right?"
Amal: "I think someone told us once but I can't remember either."
Amal scratches the back of their neck awkwardly.
Amal: "A- anyways…"
Amal: "…things should be changing soon, with the guilds and the companies, at least."
Amal: "Hang in there, okay?"
The woman blinks "What do you mean?"
Woman: "I mean, things didn't change in all those years after all…"
Amal: "Well, yeah."
Amal: "That's because we hadn't shown up yet!"
Amal: "We're from Masharas and we're here to help!"
Woman: "Masharas? The big paradise city in the mountains?"
Harriet drifts off to start poking and prodding at the various devices in the inn, for… some weird reason. At least she's not talking any more.
Woman: "I've been hearing a lot about Masharas lately. Mostly that they've been taking down anyone that tried to compete with them for technology"
Amal: "Mmhmm! We're trying to help everyone else, bit by bit. Not so much 'taking people down', just, trying to organise peace talks, and stuff…"
Serenity: "…Who did you hear that from?"
Amal: "We've gotta stick together if we want to survive all the natural disasters that happened, you know?"
Serenity: "Terra medicial?"
Woman: "Can't really take much stock in the newspapers, I guess…"
Serenity: "Oh, your corrupt government heads. Okay."
The woman looks at Serenity, and nods "Yeah"
An older gentleman comes closer "Carla, who are those people?"
The woman looks at the man "Oh, gramps. Apparently they came from Masharas" "Why is one of them trying to take apart the oven?" "What?"
Serenity: "Because your heating solution is shit and needs a better long term one."
Gramps looks at Serenity "Heating? You mean you're getting something to replace the bonfire?"
Hughbert introduces himself. "I'll collect her. Please note that non-consentual oven dismantlement is not considered polite in Masharas proper… Ah, but first, I don't think I heard the response- is the bonfire needed for producing light, or heat? Perhaps, both?"
The thinks for a moment "Well, can it wait until tomorrow morning, then? I'd rather be able to make lunch first"
Serenity‘ glances over at Harriet for a moment, then back to the people. "Yeah… probably not."
Gramps: "It’s heating. Mostly, heating for our Ghoul, helps keep him going. And in turn he keeps the shamblers in line and keeps up safe from… Recruitment raids"
Harriet calls out over her shoulder: "Don't worry, I'm just looking to see what your ovens are made of."
Gramps: "It also helps when he's… Having a breakdown, and needs to use some energy. It gets really cold here then"
Hughbert: "Just put it back together when you're done, then." Hughbert shouts back to Harriet. "Don't worry, I'm sure it'll work better than it did before by the time she's done examining it."
Harriet: "Sure thing!" Annd she's back to tinkering around.
The man sighs "It's okay… We're already used to people messing with our things"
Amal: "Ohh, that explains why he wasn't doin' great."
Gramps: "At this point it's just hoping it doesn't turns out worse"
Anton scratches his head before offering a smile to the woman. "Talked to your brother a while back, by the way. He write another letter?"
The woman blinks and looks at Anton "My bro- Wait letter- Oh! He- You met him?!"
Anton: "Just to make sure you are the Carla who operates the Acid cutter, right?"
She blinks "I used to work for Maelphas, yes, cutting trees with that thing… Ran away three months ago"
Carla: "So you met him, huhn? Is he doing alright?"
Serenity‘ hand wobbles.
Anton: "He’d be doing a lot better if he heard from you."
She crosses her arms "I've been trying to send letters… But it doesn't seems like he's recieving any…"
Serenity: "The fuck was that?"
Anton glances at Serenity. "I was hoping you could tell me."
You suddenly hear loud groaning outside
Serenity: "Maybe a pile driver…? I duno."
Hughbert steps out to a window to check…
Everyone inside starts to panic "What is going on?" "Why're they shouting?" "Is there an attack?"
After a moment you hear something hit hard against the wall
Serenity‘ groans.
Serenity` grabs her rifle and heads outside, looking irritated.
Anton: "Pardon me, I can talk about your brother later." He winks before heading outside.
Hughbert walks out, booting up his force gear…
Amal: "Oh, dear."
Harriet: "Huh?" Harriet looks up from her work and groans. "Goddamnit, I was just getting to the really good parts!" Up she gets, hand resting on her cannon as she heads out. … she’ll fix the oven later.
Outside you see… They look like people, except for the darkened, necrosis-colored skin. They're flailing wildly about, thrashing here and there without aim or direction- There are large ragnite crystals growing out of their bodies, most notably their head, as if the crystals were driven right through their skulls
Amal: "Yikes…"
Harriet: "Eesh. These are the Shamblers, huh?"
Serenity‘ starts heading for a particular location, not paying the ghouls any mind.
There’s the noise of barking dogs- And you see the little beasts scurrying about, running in circles and barking- But the dogs don't look right, their skin is breaking up and they have no fur, the cuts in their skin glow a deep red and they bark and bark and bark
Amal: "…I want to tear Terra Medical apart brick from brick, have I… have I mentioned that yet today…?"
The shamblers don't seem to bother the party for a while until the party's almost to the edge of town- But then one of the dogs starts barking at Serenity as she moves
Serenity: "Heel."
And the shamblers just change directions to her- They are not few, they are not a dozen, you see almost a hundred of those shamblers turn and start running at you
Serenity: "STOP!"
Until Serenity gives the command, they halt for a moment and start shouting
Amal: "…holy crap?"
Serenity: "Consider how they came to be."
Serenity‘ continues stomping towards some other destination.
Hughbert: "…Ah, is it that crystal growth? I’m… Not sure how you're doing that."
Harriet: "Creepy." Harriet shakes her head and follows Serenity.
Serenity: "It's all the ragnite in their bodies, yes."
Suddenly there's a sudden gust of cold wind "F-fuckers… Kids, kids chill out! Chill out it's me, okay?!" a voice comes from behind you "Ugh… Fuck…" behind you is a man, pale like a sheet, he is missing his left arm, and body covered in heavy coats "Hey, hey now, here, listen to my voice…" the shamblers turn to him and start heading in his direction
Serenity: "Oh, that…. that explains the screaming."
Meanwhile, as Serenity starts heading onwards, it isn't long until she finds a couple of people with some kind of large cylindrical device that's been planted at the edge of town- Now is that a long ragnite tube? It's thin, and goes off and vanishes in the horizon. What is it even doing? It's gold ragnite in it, connecting to the device
Serenity: "Yo."
Serenity: "You got thirty seconds to shut that shit off."
The two people taking readings out of the device seem to be engineers, then turn around and see Serenity "Oh, shit!" "Run for it!" one of them slams a button on the device and they both bolt
Serenity: "Or you're going to regret every single life choice that had lead you to pissing me off at this precise moment."
JayM: Unfortunately, that is not the "Turn off" button, that is the "Overdrive" button
Serenity‘ hefts up her rifle and shoots at one of them, while groaning and moving for the control console.
Hughbert runs after the two engineers. "Anton, don’t allow them to escape!"
Harriet lobs a cryogrenade at the running engineers and then joins Serenity at the console.
Amal: "Oh, for…"
JayM: They're underpaid and undertrained technicians, i'm very sure a shot and an ice grenade will keep them deeply pinned
Anton gives a cheeky smile to Hughbert. "I already knew my beloved friends could handle the job~."
Harriet: "Shit, what is this thing?" While giving it the once-over for promising switches or buttons, of course.
Serenity‘ starts looking for a way to shut the thing off.
The machine, thankfully, only has two dials, one for power output and another for… Looks like frequency?
JayM: Dial it down to zero power and it’s going to turn off
Serenity: "I think it's an antenna of some kind?"
Amal: "Was wondering what was making all that metaphysical racket."
Serenity: "That's the first thing that comes to mind from it's core functions of make/hear/create anyway."
Amal: "Yeah, basically. It's like a radio transmitter, I think, except full of magic."
Serenity: "Yeah it was giving me a fucking migraine."
JayM: The machine is… Really awkward? You can't ascertain what it really is meant to transmit or do, the way the tubing inside it is structured makes no sense, it's a pattern you never saw before
Serenity‘ walks over to the two engineers, kicking the unfrozen on onto his back so he can look up, then places her boot on his chest.
Hughbert quickly throws the engineer that got shot into handcuffs first, then his buddy, then ties the two of them together. "Stay put if you know what’s good for you. And don't make a sound…" He leans in and adds in a very quiet tone for emphasis, "or the shamblers will get you." He leaves them with a grin and returns to the group.
Serenity: "What's it do exactly?"
Tech: "I-i don't know- ooow…"
Tech: "Look I don't know, okay? We were just told to bring it here and take measures"
Harriet puzzles over it for a few more moments before ambling on over to the pile of sad technicians.
Tech: "I think it makes mthose monsters go crazy"
Harriet: "And what measurements were you taking?"
Serenity: "Okay well you're gunna give me the thing you were making the measurements on,"
Serenity: "And I'm not going to shoot your kneecap out. Deal?"
Tech: "U-uhn… Power level- Look, it's- It's over there" they point with their foot since they're cuffed by now "Power level and energy fluctuation, just that"
Amal: "Who are you working for~?"
[OOC] Julian: Apparently Amal asked so hard I DCed
[OOC] JayM: In fact he asked so hard my entire internet died
Tech: "W-we work for-" the other tech intervenes "Dude they're going to kill us" "These ones ARE TOO if we don't, fuck it. Look, we work for Malus' R&D okay?"
Serenity‘ kneels down to search them for whatever they were writing the readings down on.
Amal: "It’s okay, we were gonna heck them up anyways."
A black notebook on their persons, full of times with readings
Hughbert: "So, give us a reason why we shouldn't turn this machine all the way off and smash it to bits."
Serenity‘ eventually produces a notebook and starts to quickly skim through it. This is basically her job.
Amal: "Probably because that means we won’t be able to take it with us and let Serenity and Harriet take it apart and figure out how it works?"
Serenity: "We probably can't take it with us anyway, it's connected to something else a couple of miles out that way," Serenity gestures with her hand, "And I don't think we have anywhere to drain all the golden ragnite if it's detachable."
Hughbert: "Can it be repurposed for that heating system you were talking about, Harriet?"
Harriet: "Hmm…"
Serenity: "Well, couple dozen miles I guess, but."
Serenity‘ tosses the booklet to Harriet, before turning back to the engineers.
Amal: Oh, gross. "
Serenity: "This thing intended to be a fence, or a way of moving them?"
Harriet flicks through the booklet.
Hughbert: "In any case…" Hughbert turns the Power dial down to zero. "Let’s calm down that swarm before Ken gets hurt."
Serenity: "Pretty clear you're trying to control the ghoul's somehow, but less clear what the purpose of the system's ultimately for."
Tech: "I don't know… I think it's just… Mean tto make them go crazy"
Tech 2: "Dude…"
Tech: "Look This is some shitty stuff, okay, i'm just trying to earn my food here, okay?"
Serenity‘ flicks the second tech in the forehead, before placing her palms on both of their heads.
Serenity: "Okay get bored with half answers. What’s the device for?"
Tech: "Already told you, dammit!"
Serenity: "Oh come on that isn't a real answer either."
Serenity: "So basically it's an antenna into another dimension, not that they have any clue what that means? And it pissing anyone with good magical senses off is just a side effect."
Serenity: "Oh this is Alcor's?"
Amal: "Oh, huh."
Amal: "That -does- make more sense."
Serenity‘ tilts her head backwards, looking at the others. "She didn’t say no, so that's about the size of it."
Harriet: "Hey, if anyone wants to keep this intact speak now or forever hold your peace."
Serenity‘ lets go of the technicians, then stands up and dusts her skirt off.
Hughbert: "Consider it all yours."
Harriet: "Okay, great."
Serenity: "I mean on principle, kind of, but knowing who made and and what’s it's currently being used for… eh go nuts."
Harriet heads over to the tubing, gets out her pocket welder, starts making calculations. It looks like she's planning to cauterise part of the tube and bring it back with her.
Serenity: "If he didn't want his shit broken he shouldn't of turned it off somewhere I could hear it."
Hughbert kneels down to the two techies. "I need you two to listen carefully. You two can't return to your employer now, right?"
Amal: "…smash anything that's not useful to bits." They shudder.
Tech 2: "Definitely not, they're going to have our heads"
Serenity: "Since when the fuck did Alcor go all scorched earth evil overlord?"
Harriet: "Hey, Amal, help me with this." Cutting into the tube and making sure the ragnite doesn't go everywhere is kind of a delicate operation! She might have to cannibalise the outer shielding on the control panel so she can weld metal onto the end.
Serenity: "I mean he's always been kind of a dick, but that's generally been directed at the people actively opposing him, not the minions."
Serenity: "Oh wait."
Serenity: "No it's probably the company he hired construction of this out to."
Serenity: "Nevermind that makes sense."
Serenity: "Viva la corporate dystopia. Anyway."
Amal: "When in Orsis…" They pad over to Harriet and nod, helping her out. Extra pair of hands, and all! At one point they point to a particular, complex, weird bit of the machinery. "Hey, you don't need that bit, right?"
Hughbert: "Things are going to change. Think less 'election' and more 'revolution'. You two should lie low. Keep your heads down for a while, and you'll get to keep them on your shoulders. I have advice for you that has a high chance of improving your odds of success." He gestures to the 'town'. "A lot of people could have gotten hurt - or worse - due to your work here. But, I will explain your situation to them. You both have been wronged by the
Hughbert: same higher power… You should be friends, not enemies. Work with them and make amends. Is that acceptable? "
Serenity‘ loses interest in the technicians, then moves back to the console. Makes a couple of sketches of the device and takes down some notes while Harriet is working on the tubing. Could be useful for her qualia machine later.
Harriet: "Not for the heater, though I was thinking of bringing it along anyway because it’s fucking weird. Why?"
Tech: "Ugh… It wouldn't be lowering the life standards anyway…"
Amal: "I wanna smash it. It's bad."
Tech 2: "Are you crazy? And eat rats or whatever the shit they do?"
Serenity: "Define bad."
Tech: "And you're saying that fucking gruel is better?"
Tech 2: "It's… It is!"
Tech: "You numskull…" he looks at Hughbert "I'm fine with that… No way in hell i'm clearing my debt anyway…"
Amal: "It won't work… /here/… but it's not something good."
Harriet: "What's it supposed to do, anyway?"
Serenity‘ glances up from her sketch book, gives Amal a look.
Hughbert starts undoing their restraints. He looks to the second tech- "Well, I’ll be introducing your friend to them. What will you do? What other option do you even have right now?"
Anton just stays in the back and shadows everyone. If someone tells him to fetch something he'll be glad to help out.
The other tech looks at Hughbert, looks down "Ugh… Fuck my entire life with a rusty screwdriver… Fine, I really don't'
Amal: "I don't know if whoever built this even knew what they were doing, but it's… kind of like a trap, it's- it's just bad! It reminds me of something Paws and I ran into a long time ago, that's all."
Serenity: "You know,"
Hughbert pockets the ties and the handcuffs. He applies some first aid to the shot wound and the frozen skin. "Are you good to walk? We'll get you somewhere to lie down and rest soon. Anton, can you lend this fellow a shoulder? We'll be taking these two back to the town."
Serenity: "For a magical imaginary friend constructed from hopes and dreams born of a desire to saving a dying parallel world from the future,"
Serenity: "You sure do get weirdly funchy anytime anyone else tries to peer into the void between."
Anton gives a half hearted salute before helping out. "Sure thing, Hugh."
JayM: Sounds like you're going to head back to town
[OOC] Hughbert: sounds like the rest of the party is gonna have a good old Arts And Crafts Fair taking that thing apart for now, but the two of us are going back I think
JayM: It isn't a big problem- On the way in you see the person from before, Ken you imagine, talking to the shamblers. He's talking gentle words to them, but he looks like he's also in pain
[OOC] Hughbert: maybe we'll wait for them to have enough things to cart back first?
Amal looks up at Serenity and the frown just… goes away and they grin and laughs a little, just because that's the most Serenity thing she's said in a while and they can't help it.
Harriet: "How's about we take it with us so Alcor can't come back and grab it? Because I want to see how it ticks, but, I mean, I guess I can see how you wouldn't want it just lying around."
Amal nods at Harriet.
Hughbert takes care not to raise the volume level too much and lets Ken do Ken things.
Amal: "Yeah, let's just get this taken care of and be on our way."
You get past the crowd, and you take the techs to the converted inn. More people have gathered here now from the upper floors. Carla and Gramps greet you "What's going on out there"
Amal: "Idiots being idiots."
Serenity: "Some mining company trying to kill everyone."
Serenity: "What you do to piss 'em off?"
Amal: "Probably 'exist'."
Hughbert: "Ken's keeping the shamblers pacified. We are disassembling the machine that agitated them in the first place. As for these two, is there some place we can lay them down? They may have set up the machine, but… They are just as much victims of their employer as anyone else."
Gramps chuckles "Well, that. I mean, we all used to work for someone before"
Gramps: "We all ran away at some point"
Serenity: "Speaking of you might wanna go do some of that weird regenerative magic on Ken, Hugh?"
Harriet cannibalises that part (as well as anything else in the control panel which looks immediately useful), shoves them into her bag, and works on finishing up with the tubing. She's welding a metal plate to the end of it which /isn't/ coming with them, so ragnite doesn't leak everywhere; she'll repeat that step with the other end, though Amal probably has to hold it upright for a bit
Harriet while she's working. And back she goes, golden ragnite tube hefted up on a shoulder. See, she can do physical things! They just have to involve machines!
Gramps looks at the two techs "Hah… Who here haven't had to sell friends and family for their next dinner?" he looks at Carla "Get them a cleaner bed to heal up" he looks at the techs gain "Don't make a mess and you're fine here"
JayM: Harriet's ready with basically all the materials she needs now
Hughbert follows Carla and sets them down to rest.
JayM: Man it's not really good medical beds but it'll do. Not like they're badly hurt, none of the attacks were deadly
Harriet: "Hey, old guy, point me to an oven I can actually cannibalise and I'll get to work on this thing. You want the whole town heated, right?"
Gramps looks at Harriet "Hrm… We only have three here but… I suppose you can use the one here in like two hours, as soon as lunch's done"
Harriet: "Fine, fiiine. I just need one to get the system going, with this gold ragnite I can spread the heat out easily."
Hughbert: "I'll see what I can do, but… I had to replace many of the parts I used for that with the parts for the high-density gaseous blade. I think Amal would be of more help with keeping him on his feet."
Serenity‘ shrugs. "Also fine."
Gramps: "That’ll be good. Please, have some food too, after all this help it'd help"
[OOC] JayM: * it'd be good
Harriet: "Sure, sure, I'll probably remember that."
Serenity: "Although that does explain why it sounds more wispy and less liquidy lately now that I think about it."
Harriet gets to work on the non-oven parts of the system until someone tells her lunch is ready. It's a problem she can solve!
Hughbert huffs and crosses his arms. "It's too bad. Water proved to be a fairly inefficient medium for the transmission of energy." He mumbles something about a story being unrealistic in the end.
JayM: There's a lot of work to be done, a lot of salvaging too.
JayM: But soon enough lunch's ready. The room is far too crowded as all those people gather to eat together
Serenity: "Anyway."
Serenity: "Where's your other Ghoul?"
JayM: But still, you manage to get a couple of seats at a table, and dishes and utensils (a few of you will have to eat either standing or sitting on the floor). It's… Real simple food, cooked beans and rice and a banana. The food's been cooked very well, presumably because it needed to be, the banana's been around for a good while
Carla has decided to eat with you "Other? There's only Ken here"
Serenity‘ wonders where the hell they even got the banana’s from, but doesn't question it out loud.
Harriet wrinkles her nose at the overripe banana, but she manages to swallow it down with the assistance of water.
Serenity: "…Was this not where we were supposed to be looking for her, Hugh?"
Carla: "Hrm… I guess there's this group that shows up now and again bringing food and a few supplies…"
Amal either thinks it's all delicious, or they're very good at pretending!
Serenity: "Yeah, them."
A chilly wind comes into the room as the front door opens "So you're… Looking for the caravan?"
Hughbert: "We were looking for information here that would lead us to find her, Serenity."
Serenity: "Ahah."
It's Ken, he could not look more deathly pale if he wanted, which is not a change at all given he was already bone white. He seems to have become covered in even more clothing, you can't even see his eyes "I'm sorry, Gramps… I need to eat a little, though"
Harriet shivers.
Harriet: "Yeah, don't worry about it, I'm working on a new heating system for you guys."
Serenity: "Yeah, them."
Gramps, who was elsewhere in the room shakes his head "Just find a seat and be quick- I'm sorry I can't offer you more time here but" "It's okay I understand"
Harriet: "(Am I being nice enough about this shit yet.)" Deadpanned whisper to Hughbert.
Ken: "A heating system? That'd be… Helpful. Working here is hard enough as is"
Serenity: "Oh, they just… generate it, they can't hear it okay."
Ken: "Hrm… I can't direct you to the caravan, sadly. We don't… Keep eachother too well informed"
Ken: "In case one of us is captured"
Ken: "Why are you looking for them, however"
Hughbert consumes his meal quickly- reminiscent of a cadet's rations. It's oddly nostalgic. "(You'll get your hands on that oven once it's cooled down, don't worry.)"
Serenity: "How do you call for help if something bad happens?"
Serenity: "Uhh something about overthrowing the government for the good of the world."
Amal: "We're here to help. And we need your help in turn. We're going to turn things around in Orsis, and we can't do that without you."
Harriet grins at Hughbert, and then looks over at Ken again.
Ken: "Well… We have a special mail system, using dead drops"
Serenity: "Ah yes. The ever secure message system of… dead drops."
Harriet: "We're the Fatebreakers, we fix shit when it breaks."
Ken: "Hrm… Well, if it helps… One thing we're told is that if we really need help, we need to find a proper place to pray"
Ken: "Which… There isn't one anywhere, so"
Serenity‘ pulls her jacket up around her, then puts a bit more effort into shoveling down the food in her bowl before ti freezes.
Harriet: "Okay so all we have to do is design the optimal prayer chamber?"
Hughbert gives Ken a quick rundown of the mission- We need Orsis at the peace conference table, and that doesn’t mean just the President, or just the guilds- the ghouls are being given a voice, too.
Serenity: "Pray…"
Serenity: "Oh, maybe she can hear it and it's just you that can't."
Serenity: "Somewhere near a lot of ragnite, right?"
Harriet: "Anton quick what are the specifications for proper prayer conditions."
Ken: "Hear it?"
Serenity‘ says something under her breath than’s basically inaudiable.
Gramps: "Well, there is a place to pray if it helps, to the south of here there's… An old church"
Anton: "What do you think I am, a pries-" "… Oh. Oooooooh."
Carla: "A church? What's that?"
Harriet: "Anton, you're the next super oracle dude, of course you're a priest."
Serenity: "Right… there HAVE been weird traces of the church outside of home on ocassion, haven't there?"
Serenity: "An entact church is pretty new though."
Gramps: "Oh, you wouldn't know. It's the last church of the silken priests, the oldest building in the entire country"
Amal snickers at Anton.
Serenity‘ points her spoon in Gramps direction.
Gramp chuckles "Hah… I used to be a hobby historian, I came across that church a long time ago on a prospecting mission"
Serenity: "Silken Priests. They were called that in Trechue, too. How much do you know about them?"
Gramps: "Well… Not much, really. Let’s see what I remember"
Serenity‘ says a little louder for Ken to actually hear, "(Anyway it’s a witch thing, don't worry about it too much.)"
Gramps: "Don't know where they came from, but they built the old church. The first guilds of Orsis were started under their tutelage, seems like they were more like scholar-priests"
Gramps: "Big on teaching people… Until one day they all vanished"
Amal: "Still curious what -happened- to them. I imagine we'll find out eventually."
Gramps: "Tore down every last church, burned down every last holy book, and disappeared from the land"
Anton nods to Amal. "It's likely."
Gramps: "Except this old church which they left here"
Gramps: "It's actually on top of a really, really big ragnite vein that's far too below the surface to be worth mining"
Serenity: "Okay I guess I'm not an idiot after all."
Amal: "Of course not!"
Serenity: "Anyway that's not even a hard one Amal."
Amal: "Yeah I thought about it for a second."
Hughbert: "There could be a clue worth investigating left behind there, somewhere."
Serenity: "I really doubt it if they left it unguarded,"
Amal: "You know I gotta wonder-out-loud even about obvious stuff, sometimes!"
Hughbert: "At the least, one could hope the church has a clue why they left."
Serenity: "But I can definitely get ahold of our girl if we go there."
Serenity: "…Well I think I could probably do it from here but that would probably freak her out."
Serenity: "And we probably want less spooky and not more…?"
Ken: "You could call her from here?"
Serenity: "Which is funny when communicating via spooks anyway but…"
Serenity: "I think so."
Serenity: "I wanna check out the church anyway though."
Ken: "You know, you've got a weird sense about you, like she does. Maybe there really is something there"
Amal: "Me, too."
Gramps: "Well, if you head around, let's see… It's around twenty kilometers south, there's a dry riverbed you can follow"
Serenity: "It's the ragnite vein, mostly."
Serenity: "She can communicate with it."
Gramps: "Oh, right… There was a mention of something- The temple of water the place was"
Serenity‘ tilts her head to the side.
Hughbert pulls a lollipop out of nowhere - was that from Anton’s pocket, perhaps Cor's bowl? - and holds it up to Ken. "As long as you can look at this treat and not suffer from symptoms of addiction withdrawal, you don't need to worry about that weird sense."
Amal giggles.
Gramps: "Not sure why it was called that way, I could also have gotten it wrong, there were simply some three pieces of parchment I had found in the temple mentioning 'this temple of water', it could have been a reference to something else entirely"
Anton checks his pockets before whining.
Serenity: "That's an Oracle thing, not a Medium thing."
Ken looks at the lollipop "W-what?"
Hughbert: "It's a litmus test."
Serenity‘ purses her lips together.
Amal: "You’re all silly."
Serenity: "Well that's interesting in any case, it's not like we know much more about the religion than anyone else."
Serenity: "Yet."
The old man looks at Serenity "Well, sounds like you're in for an adventure at this rate…"
Ken: "Oh… Maybe I should warn you of something, just in case you do… Meet more of my kind"
Ken: "It… Sometimes, even without that machine, it can be a little… Difficult to keep hold of… State of mind. Especially if we use too much energy, or don't use any for too long"
Ken: "So… Be careful, alright? We might try our best but… Sometimes, it's just not enough"
Harriet frowns, thinking to herself.
Serenity: "That's okay we have a lot of lollipops."
Harriet: "… hey, you guys go ahead with that. This system's gonna take a while to set up, but I think with a little more time I can get the entire town heated up. And Goddess knows there's more I can do if I get that done early."
Serenity: "If you say so."
Hughbert: "I appreciate the warning, Ken."
Ken looks around "And with that, I better leave…" the people around are starting to shiver "It has become too cold here"
Hughbert: "By the way, Anton… Can you check something for me?"
Anton glances at Hughbert. "Hm?"
Hughbert holds up a notebook, bound shut. It's the only notebook in his collection with a red cover. "I wrote something in this earlier today, in the car ride here. Are you able to read it?"
Hughbert: "…In case that request wasn't clear, I don't mean by opening it up."
Anton smiles. "It's actually really easy with you. I've probably mentioned this before but the better I know someone the easier I can read over their past, even events that I wasn't present for. For the group of us and Cor I'm able to replay every last second of your life up to 2 weeks with pinpoint accuracy. Since I'm nearsighted it gets a bit harder after that and little things like writing are harder to see."
Anton: "No, I'm not sure how people factor in oracles on the national security scale either."
Serenity‘ pauses.
Anton: "But yes, I can read the message." He smiles.
Serenity: "Wait wait wait I spent so much time getting worked up about your unparallel powers of peeping, that it never occured to me that you’ve probably done something even harder to see."
Amal: "Anton you're the best."
Serenity: "You've seen Hughbert not wearing his uniform, haven't you?"
Anton turns towards Serenity and has a deadpan look on his face. "He sleeps in a seperate uniform…" You can't tell if he's joking.
Hughbert: "…Are you certain that's how you meant to phrase that, Serenity?" He adjusts his glasses at her.
Amal giggles.
Serenity: "There is not a single doubt in my mind that Anton has seen me naked before, but I mean, I've never seen you out of the suit except that time you put on the hobo judge's cloak, but even than."
Anton: "What brought up the question, Hugh?"
Amal: "I bet he just blinks out of existence briefly and when he's back he's wearing the different thing."
Hughbert: "Hmm… As an officer, I must take this as a teachable moment. Serenity… If you want to know so badly, seize victory with your own power. Create some manner of scheme, or plot, to which the only apparent solution is to make me choose a different outfit. I will gladly match wits with you in this contest, and should you prove the better, you shall have your reward."
Serenity: "This conversation is moving in a really weird direction."
Anton leans towards Amal and stage whispers. "(This just crossed into bizarre fanfiction territory.)"
JayM: It sure sounds like
JayM: A bit of an eventful night, no?
Hughbert hands Anton a small pamphlet. "Keep this safe. It's for your eyes only."
JayM: But at least… Seems like it's ending the way most things tend to end with this party, which is a good thing, you've been needing that
Amal giggles helplessly at Anton. "(Goddess, these people must think we're weird.)"
JayM: And so have I, really
JayM: I hope you're ready for the future, it'll prove to be challenging
Harriet: "Okay, but, like, take pictures if you manage to convince him to do that."
JayM: And so we leave Harriet here for tonight, to meet her at a later date
Harriet: "You can take my calotype."
Serenity: "Okay."
JayM: As for me, i'm leaving the party here too. Good luck to all of you
Anton pockets the pamphlet before nodding. "If you were curious, though. Cor and I sometimes have conversations in one of the rooms behind her office. Due to what's in there the distortions on viewing the timeline are so thick that people like Alcor even can't listen in. Despite knowing Cor that well."
Hughbert: "Oh, that's quite fascinating. Thank you, Anton, that was a valuable piece of information."
JayM: Right now, you're going to get [+2 XP], but also as Harriet leaves the party for a little bit you gain Calotype x1. It has 3 uses, and gives you HP/MP/LP of the target, only Harriet knows how to operate it fully, but hey, it's useful
Anton: "It's not portable, for the record. The quicksilver chamber is there which is basically a gigantic version of the [Silver Mirror]."

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