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Old 06-29-2018, 01:38 PM
DarkAngel DarkAngel is offline

Priestess of the Moon
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Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: Northwest Ohio
Posts: 559
BattleTag: Samael#1487

Darkmoon Card: Portals Dispatch #42

Greetings, fellow travelers! I happen to have had some extra time in my schedule, so I used it to assemble another update. Some of that was motivated by the uptick in traffic this subforum has been seeing -- and part of it came from guilt about the last Dispatch being weak. I guess it's one of those really confusing things: Nova's character has been slipping, but that's kind of the point. Dynamic characters change. How much do they change? How fast? That's a judgement call you have to make from experience -- which is basically impossible for a first timer. However, no form of Nova would sit around feeling sorry for herself. When she has a problem, she goes on the offensive.

* * * * * * *

Personal log, November Terra:
Each time I’ve left the Battlegrounds, I’ve been looking for information about the Nexus—what it is, how it works, and how to get out. With 147 hours on the clock, I might be closer than ever before. It could just as easily be another dead end, but I’ve got time. You really can’t run out of it when you’re functionally immortal. It completely changes the rules. All sorts of things become possible that you’d never try otherwise—like eating at Tasty Food. If you get yourself killed, so what? Just try again.

Besides, it wasn’t like I didn’t have a sense of what to do. I’m a Ghost. I’m trained for infiltration—and that means I’m used to being outgunned. Plenty of ways to deal with that situation. The best way is to avoid the superior force. You distract, deceive, and hit them by surprise. The second best is to make them think they’ve already won. It makes them get sloppy.

My plan depended on the second. As much as I prefer the first, it wasn’t going to achieve my objective. No, I needed to get close—close enough to ask questions; close enough to feel out the politics. In other words, I had to play diplomat. I’m probably the worse choice in Dominion space for that mission profile, but I’ve only got myself. I had to hope I’d be so foreign and exotic they’d overlook any insults. If not, I was dead. Again.

The first step was to prep my partner, though I couldn’t be sure she’d go along with it. Her mind is broken, but very powerful. That made this the most delicate part of the whole op. “Tybi,” I started, “I need to show you something.” She didn’t look up from the floor. No surprise there. “Come on,” I tried again. “This is really important.” I crouched down in front of her. “Hey. Look at me.” Nothing. I lifted her chin, forcing eye contact. “I know you’re still in there. I need your help. Please.” All that got was a glimmer of recognition.

In the end, it took a good ten minutes of cajoling before I felt it: the barest tingle of contact. Just like last time. And just like last time, I had a package waiting for her. It was a bundle of ideas meant to brief her on the mission ahead—all painstakingly chosen. Tell her too much or too little, and she wouldn’t play along. Unlike last time, however, I couldn’t afford to shock or scare her. I had to spoonfeed each and every one into her grasp. Between the persuasion and the agonizing process of delivering the briefing, it took almost the whole morning to get her ready. But I got it done. I took one, last look around our final hideout; and then, leading my alternate self gently by the hand, stepped out into broad daylight.

The day’s heat was rising, but plenty of people were still out on the street. To a one, they stopped and stared. Maybe it was my skinsuit. Maybe Tybi was right about “straw-heads” being rare. Maybe they remembered her from Phagun’s edict. It didn’t matter. I just smiled and waved. For this to work, we needed to be seen. The more people saw us, the more likely one of them would alert the guards.

Unfortunately, that took quite a bit longer than I’d hoped. The sun climbed higher. The people withdrew—but we couldn’t. We just kept walking along, waiting to be intercepted. I could feel my neck starting to burn under the solar assault, but I had to stay visible. So, while it might sound strange to say I was relieved to see the enemy, I was. Up ahead, at a place where the streets converged on a well, a familiar face was floating. I approached cautiously. Atenhotep was powerful enough to drop a psi-storm, and the suspicion on his dog-face was clear. At the same time, he was my ticket out of the deserted streets and blazing noonday sun—even if that meant landing back in the Battlegrounds.

“Come no further,” the Anubet called as we entered the plaza. I did as he asked. No point in pissing him off just yet. “You wanted to be found. Why?”

I smiled. The guy was straight to the point. I could work with that. “Look,” I told him, “I came here to get information. Our first meeting didn’t go so well, so I thought I’d try again.”

Atenhotep was unmoved. I guess I’d be skeptical too if somebody switched from hostile to friendly in less than a week. “I am aware. But why now? Where is your companion, Li Li?”

The pressure on my mental defenses ticked up. Way up. Time to divert his attention. “Things have changed,” I said evasively. “My new friend here saw the whole thing, if you really want to know.” The suggestion did the trick. He suddenly stopping his push against my mind and focused on Tybi.

He paused, no doubt scanning her mind and digesting what he found there. I crossed my fingers. If I could convince him he already knew what he wanted to know—and convince him it was accidental—he wouldn’t need to take the answers from me. “Interesting. Your actions today are...out of character.”

I shrugged. “She was wrong about me. I’m no hero—and I’m certainly not an angel.”

“Snemar would attest to that.” The contempt in his voice brought doubt to mind, but it was too late to turn back now.

“Okay, yeah. I got a little carried away last time. But where am I going to run? Turns out you’re my best shot at getting what I want.”

He floated closer. “Maybe so, but you’ve proven yourself too dangerous for ordinary confinement. We’ve had to prepare very carefully for your arrival.” There was a blinding flash of light, not unlike arriving in a new battleground. Instantly, the sun was gone. We were somewhere dark and cool. “This chamber should be sufficient to contain you. You will remain here until the pharaoh decides what should be done.”

As my eyes started to adjust, the first thing I saw was a globe of golden energy around us. It was the only source of light in the room, though thin enough to make out the walls beyond. They were stone. That, coupled with the low temperature and high humidity, suggested we were underground.

I crossed my arms. “Let me get this straight. I take out a warlord terrorizing your streets, bring you the kid you’ve been looking for, and your reaction is to lock me in a cage?”

“I will concede the Pterah girl has been of interest to us for some time. But you are still a murderer.”

I was about to protest further when something caught my eye. There was man outside, watching us. His ridiculous cobra hood almost had me thinking he was another animal/human hybrid.

Dog-breath followed my gaze—and did a double-take. “Lord Xul. I was not aware—” He genuflected.

Xul waved dismissively. “Carry on, Atenhotep. I was merely observing. A creature from another world is a rare sight indeed.”

“As you wish.”
“Why don’t you take the girl upstairs?” he added. “I’m sure our master will be pleased.”

“Of course.” Atenhotep somehow opened a hole in the dome around us. He floated through it, and Tybi followed—probably mind control. No, definitely mind control. There was something unnatural about the way she moved. Not her walk—not my walk.

“She will be okay, right?” I asked.
He paused. “She will. I daresay you’ve saved us the first phase of the process.” The hole closed as soon as they were clear, my other self walking in front now.

I felt something watching them go—so I didn’t. I turned my attention to Snake-head. “You. What’s your role in all this?” He said nothing. He just watched me like some kind of lab specimen. “Is this how you treat your other guests?” I pounded a fist against the wall in his direction. Maybe that was reckless, but it didn’t hurt. It was just a solid, perfectly smooth surface under my hand. The only response it got was a smirk. He could hear me all right, but he turned and left without saying anything. There’s been no movement since.

It’s infuriating, really. I’d hoped to either be free or dead by now. Instead, all I can do is wait. I wish I didn’t keep thinking about Tybi. She’s screwed, but that really wouldn’t be a change. Besides, attachments are what got me into this mess. All I can do now is wait for the pharaoh’s verdict. If I’m lucky, he’ll see the value an assassin can bring to his war. If not, I’m dead. Nova out.

* * * * * * *

Maybe the hardest part of advancing the story from here is going to be the shifting ground. All those years to plot and scheme on the skin descriptions and suddenly I have to work around a story in progress. Suddenly, the Raven Lord is blowing up other realms. Suddenly, we have confirmation the Lady of Thorns isn't the same person as Queen Nightshade. Suddenly, we have a new character, Orphea, who'd arguably fit Explorer Li Li's role better. (It's pretty obvious she's one of the "heroes from the Nexus itself" they were teasing.) However, this "singularity shell" idea dropped into my lap at exactly the right time. Thanks Blizz!
Every ending is but a new beginning.

Last edited by DarkAngel; 06-29-2018 at 01:46 PM..
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