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virtualoctopus, CKW, Wesforce, Nyerguds
RPG Chapter 3: Betrayal of the Comet
"On the spot where the Eagle Shaman had been there was nothing left but a black, charred spot on the ground."
NewsEye Comet Special
Cut to floating talking green-haired Matrix-generated head of Carnia Chambers, the VirtualElven news presenter
"Welcome to the NewsEye Comet special! The day is finally here, my friends out there in the meat world. Halley's Comet is finally coming back!"
"We should all count ourselves among the select, most jazzy, most frikkin' lucky people to ever have taken residence upon beautiful gaia, for the last time such a momentous occasion made its mark on the Earth, it did so upon the Stone-Age savages of 75 years ago!"
Cue depressing old film of life in the 1980's, Challenger Shuttle disaster, Ronald Reagan, Baroness Thatcher, the old Soviet Union. It is followed by a wildly inaccurate dress reconstruction.
"Of course, our enlightened times enable us to finally wash this depressing era of metahumanity away for good. We have our magic now. We have technology. And what's more, we have our Megacorps to protect us from them!"
Coming up on NewsEye - Comet special:
* CorpWatch, with Ex Jolly Roger guard of the year, Xao Lung Chiu
* Live Feed from The Identity Zero gig at the Pizza Slut/Camden Ballroom, hosted by 'Nails' Bitchfist, ex-lead guitar smasher with Humiez Must Die.
* The Probe report, with Dervin Nicklebix.
Cut to Flaxine McJanadaren in newsroom
"Thank you, Carnia."
Cut to jubilant crowds at night-time. Big flashy screens show cartoon comets smashing into the Earth, loud music blares out, streamers and fireworks rocket across the sky. The scene is repeated, and footage is shown from earlier, from the Far East. OCU Ocean City, Auckland, Melbourne, Tokyo, Hong Kong Free-Enterprize Zone, Vladivostok, all the way through to London. No dragon cities are shown, being under heavy security.
"Well, what can I say? Expectations are running at fever pitch as the the world public eagerly awaits the appearance of what we've all been talking about for ages now."
Cut to stoned-looking London Shaman with sparklers in his dreadlocks.
"We're all gonna die, man. But it's okay. I talk to Squirrel, my Totem. He say it nature's will. So it be."
Cut to Bubblegum-pink corporate brat girl in shorts and pigtails.
"WOW, it's like, totally FRAGGING GROOVY! Daddy says he's gonna get me a new Nuovo Inzio for being good. I LOVE YOU DADDY!"
Angry looking UCAS man in his thirties. Wears a Freedom party button, and a button with an image of a cross over an old-style US flag.
"The Lord is gonna come down an' finally swallow up all these heathen bitches. Mark my words. I'll be waitin'.
Some Orks, drunk on oil-can sized beer cans, passed out on a huge target painted on a high-rise's roof, saying 'Bring it on Halley!' across it.
Some random Robogoths
Cut back to Flaxine.
"So, it seems whether you're having the party of your life or think we're all going to be destroyed, one thing's for sure. This will be a night to remember. The night of the comet."
"In other news, UCAS president Terence Gibbons rebuffed the senators calling him to crack down on the Canadian independancers, saying that this was a mementous occasion for the UCAS, calling for national unity to welcome the comet."
Cut to Dervin Nicklebix, in probe control centre, Kyoto.
"Since the tragic mishap which caused the AET Probe, Brightstar, and the General Metro Probe, Whittle to have an unexplained collision earlier this week, only one probe remains with a chance to catch the comet this time around ' Zaibatsu's Kamikaze. Zaibatsu's live matrix subscription has earned them record levels of profit this for their broadcasting subsidiary. So much so that five new channels are planned for Zaibatsu subscribers. The neo-Soviet Union must be fuming, having had to cancel the launch of their Gagarin probe, due to 'unforeseen complications'..
On a lighter note, it finally looks like man will make it to the Comet! Yay!"
Stay tuned to NewsEye!
Cut to advert for Transys Neuronet. Cheesy-to-the extreme song comes on sung in a Scottish accent. Happy, beaming family are shown being welcomed into the Transys Arcology, 333 floors high, with three spike-towers joined by a ring near ¾ up. The kid smiles at his mum, his mum smiles at his dad, everything is happy and clean and has the Transys logo on it.
"The Transys arcology. Own stock in YOUR future!"
Crystal was in the Camden Pizza Slut ballroom, a bizarre restaurant/strip club/music venue. It was dark and hard to see, but for the fluorescent lights on each table, and the LEDs in the ceiling like the stars themselves.
For this evening, the house had hired an Illusion-magician to project a stylised view of the solar system onto the ceiling, in light of this day's occasion. There was also a wall-sized 3DTV tuned to NewsEye, Crystal's most hated Channel. She found all the media Coverage highly irritating, maybe dangerous.
A almost naked woman with flowing platinum hair in a flimsy apron brushed past Crystal with a tray of steaming Pizza Slut, knocking her glass of Gluco-pop all over her table. The slut smiled apologetically.
"Sorry hon. I'll come back and get you another just this minute."
"Say, you're very pretty. You could work here, you know! Earn a pretty penny in tips!"
She'd meant that as a compliment, but she'd just called Crystal a slut.
"Um, thanks. I'm just here to see the band, really."
Identity Zero were playing here, live, tonight. Crystal missed the electrotechnoindustrial beats, and Lady Zero's impassioned wailing. Besides, if she'd taken time out from her busy filming schedule, it had to be good.
"Oh, the band. I don't like them." The Silvery haired slut said, making her escape.
Crystal checked her wristphone for the time. She'd arranged to meet the usual crowd here tonight. Cylinder Head was already here, with Illidia, helping her get used to her new leg. She wondered if Mary, Raven or the others would turn up. She wore her classy black dress again. She thought Raven might like it.
Two figures sat down opposite Crystal in the bizarre nightclub/restaurant seating area.
Lady Zero, and a familiar, amazingly dashing, handsome man that had the look of the old English gentleman. The fairytale type that only existed in World War 2 RAF films and the like. He wore a Thorvin Nielsen suit, his hair was slick and his features elegant.
"Crystal, meet Sir Anthony Taylor. And Hi." Lady Zero said, leaning over and kissing Crystal on the cheek.
Sir Anthony who?
"Oh frag, the actor slag out of that simflick, dearly, umm?"
"Beloved." Sir Anthony said. There was a twinkle in his eye, his smile was mischievous. "I'm working with Claudia on my next project. Well, be seeing you... Both."
He left without another word.
"He's got places to go. Um, I think he's spending Comet Night with the Queen. Don't quote me on that. What a guy. Um, yeah." Lady Zero said.
"Crash around?" Crystal ventured.
"He's coming, I think. Hasn't been himself lately..."
Orkessa was full of bright lights and beautiful faces. That is, if you were an ork, and a short-sighted one at that.
A filmy, warm silence hung over the city. It was a summer's evening, the warm, welcoming kind she'd love to spend by the waterside with a similar-minded man, and, as the flaming barrels bathed the buildings in a flickering glow, Mary wandered through the crowds of mainly Orks, Trolls and Dwarves that made up most of Orkessa's population. A hawker tried to sell her a 'I woz ere in bootiful Orkizlaiva for da comet' t-shirt, but she politely refused.
The good doctor pushed a frond of frizzy-blonde hair out of one eye. She didn't want to be here. She wanted to be back in London, or in Oxford on the university lawns, or anywhere.
Not here. She didn't want to be a runner, didn't want to have life so complicated and full of seemingly random violence.
She'd achieved what she thought impossible by returning Curim's staff to Remini. The young trollmaid was probably happily cleaning it in her house, far away in an isolated hamlet. Mary'd fullfilled her duty, but there was still more to do.
Silvia had been kidnapped.
During the rescue of Remini, and the subsequent chaos in the palace of Mawrose Delori, the half-dragon had dissapeared. Raven swore he saw her in the tunnels, being carried over the shoulder of some ork, accompanied by a man in rags. But they couldn't go back.
And Silvia's garbled vid-call to Mary during their escape. had hinted at something called Jadal, before she was silenced by her captors. Mary had later found out about the Jadal/Transys compound near Orkessa. Which had lead her, Raven aND Silvia subservant in her temporary and unwilling command of the runners, to the capitol of the country.
How she wished she was back home now.
Music twisted on the breeze. It was some neo-punk group, undoubtably something cooked up by depressed little UCAS-elves in the last few years. It was semi-popular around here, and the metahumans that surrounder her seemed to enjoy it.
She picked her way through the crowds around 'Greenskin Square', back to the others. Dorodo was seated on a wall, greedily guzzling at a packet of 'MackCrispos', Tank, one arm bandaged, leant next to him, against a statue of some Ork in armour. Sarah talked in hushed tones to Raven.
"They didn't have any left. We'll go thirsty while we watch the comet, I guess. They must have SERIOUSLY not expected these crowds"
Dorodo looked slightly upset at the prospect of no alcahol, but the other runners took it quite well. Soon the fireworks that hailed the comet would start. Tomorrow they would investigate the Jadal compound, but, being their first night in the city, and it being such a momumental, once-in-a-lifetime event, the runners had decided to call it a day, and watch the fireworks.
Mary climbed up onto the wall next to Dorodo, her raincoat falling backwards into the fountain. It was almost 11pm, and the comet would be here soon. At least everything would shut off for that little while, a little peace and quiet...
Mary checked her vidphone. There was one message on it. It was from Crystal.
Sorrow could see Damocles out of one eye. In between scraping pecies of wood off the thick, aspen branch he had chosen to form his new staff, he was keeping an eye on the gen-enginnerd half-ork.
In the huge, glassy observation tower above the compound, the man worked, and the Ork watched. Far below, Silvia waited, alone in a padded containment, deep within the citadel. There were few other voices she could hear, and most of them sounded crazy, other inmates in this dank prison.
Far below, to the south, the city of Orkessa was going to soon celebrating the arrival of Halley' Comet. Millions were converging on the centeral streets and plazas, to see the best view of the fireworks and satellites. In a typical orkish gesture, the government were to be turning off the entire lighting grid of the capital, in order to give viewers a better view of the comet. No-one had seemed to think on the 2000% crime rate increase this would cause.
Sorrow had a sneaking suspicion Damocles was waiting for the fireworks. He had no idea who had mentioned it to the half-ork, he certainly hadn't, he doubted Polt had, and the Elite Cadre certainly hadn't - they never talked anyway. Perhaps the Ork had a little radio built in inside his skull or something.
The man yawned. Maybe he should sleep, and leave the staff for later. It would take days of carving, anyway.
Damocles suddenly stirred from his crouch by the windows. The first firework had gone up, splitting into a thousand tiny explosions in the night sky, and Sorrow could swear he heard Damocles whisper an 'oooooooh' of appreciation.
Sorrow shiverred uncontrollably. Something was about to happen. Not to him, not to Damocles, but to the whole world, and everything in it.
Innumerable miles away, the icey comet slid along it's path. Almost at it's closest point to the planet, the mana-waves that surrounded it began to lap more frequently at the tiny blue-green planet, in the calm before the storm.
One of these waves of power grounded across Europe. The vortex at the heart of Geneva, now almost at Mary's ex-apartment shimmered, and deep inside, something changed. The cataclysmic rift the buclear bomb had caused in astro-space widened slightly, allowing more of the dark fuel to pour out, and the glowing semi-sphere to creep a little further. Another blasted building was now beginning to be enveloped.
Deep in the vortex, at the rift, something stirred. Something evil.
All of the sudden the hand Sorrow was holding the knife with slipped, he swore aloud, Damocles took no notice. He looked down at his finger, blood oozing out of it. Red blood, as red as the pits that were his eyes.
Strange really, blood is blue, his skin is grey... on the surface anyway, and it produces red. Amazing. But Sorrow sensed something wrong with this picture.
As the next set of fireworks lit up the night sky and Damocles ooooh'd and ahhh'd like a tourist, Sorrow saw it. Hard to spot with the human eye, but there was no mistaking it. Almost in the center of the glob of pure red blood there was a different colour... black. Small as the dot was it was still there, black. Black as coal.
Sorrow dropped the wood, it made a clanging sound as it hit the shinney silver surface of the metallic floor. Something was wrong... terribly wrong. Something lay dormant inside of him... inside the very Earth! Something wasn't right, something evil was about to rise...
A large piece of the east slave wing of Delori's palace had been reduced to rubble by the fighting dragons.
Out of the ruins, a small figure appeared.
"Aah! Finally. The sky."
David Shinz, the MUNDI 'wirecat', looked at the sky and breathed the fresh air. A smile appeared on his cat-like face.
Wait 'till I get back to MUNDI HQ... you'll regret keeping me as a pet, Mawrose. You won't get away that easily with kidnapping a negotiator.
How long had it been? Three weeks? A month? Too long, anyway... for too long had Delori humiliated him; kept him on a leash because he found he "looked funny". Because he looked like... a cat.
David cleared his mind and spirit.
I can't get angry now. Just let your instincts guide you, David... calm down.
As usual, the meditation woked. His cat-shaman training hadn't been for nothing.
Now... let's get out of here, and fast.
With the silent agility of a cat, and the sharp claws to give him more stability, the Wirecat ran over the rubble.
In the grass next to the ruined palace wing he found an air vent.
That must lead to the tunnel system. I really wonder who designed these tunnels... must have been a fragging genious.
He hooked his claws around the bars and pulled.
Frag... this is harder than I thought.
He pulled again. Nothing happened.
Ah, forget about it. Let's just find a place to hide.
He was lucky. About twenty minutes later he arrived at the fence of a poorly-maintained park at the edge of Orkessa. He quickly climbed over the gate and ran through the abandoned park.
At the other side of the park he climbed up a tree to chross the next fence.
Then, he noticed the crowd on the streets just outside the park.
What the frag is happening here? I've never seen so many greenskins in one place!
The Cat-man was lying on a thick tree branch hanging over the closed main gate of the park. Unnoticed by the crowd on the streets he looked down at the commotion, completely unaware of what was about to happen in the sky above him.
Shadow stood in his hotel room on the 6th floor looking out the window at the moon outside
He stood there thinking about past run in's and betrayals with Xecktos and things along that line.
Lukas then walked over to the bed and laid down on it, his handgun at his side along with the other weapons he had either, picked up or bought.
He then got up and walked over to the hotel door with his suitcase and opened it, walked out of the room, and down to the elevator.
A few minutes later, the elevator arrived, he stepped in and went down to the basement of the hotel.
He stepped out and walked over into the shadows, it was as like as if he were waiting for someone important...
Crystal spoke into her wristphone quietly, not letting the disappointment seep into her voice.
Mary wouldn't be here for Comet night - She had unfinished business to attend to: Silvia had been kidnapped, and two of her travelling companions had gone missing, but Crystal barely spared them a thought.
"Mary, I promise, I'll come over to Orkislavia, to help with what your doing. I'"
She was about to say 'I feel responsible', but caught herself. She had too much pride for now.
"I'm supposed to be meeting someone here. But please, be safe over there. Its not a safe country for humans, and that blackout stuff sounds well dodgy."
Meeting someone... I hope Raven caught the semi-ballistic okay. I... feel... Damn it. I need a drink.
Lady Zero was standing around again.
A few days before, she'd have to be fighting off the fans and groupies with a Panzerfaust. Now, she seemed to be unhassled. The venue was quite clear at the moment. Maybe all the fans were gearing up at a pre-comet party.
"What's up, Z?"
"Waiting for Crash. D'you think he's okay?"
"See no reason why he wouldn't be."
"I don't know. Maybe its my latent astral perception... This place, this whole city seems different to me. Charged, somehow. Wrong, somehow."
Crystal held her hand, comfortingly.
"I've been at your gigs before. You can make a difference."
She smiled faintly.
"You sound like you work for fraggin' Grexon or someone's PR Dept."
Outside, a huge procession of white-robed Church of the Undying Light marched past, banging drums, chanting and dancing gleefully. A few people stood at the side of the road throwing objects and insults - The organisation had taken a lot of flak for the terrorist incident which had destroyed the Vladistor probe.
In the basement of the hotel, Shadow could easily still hear the merriment beginning up above. A thought flickered across his mind. They all seemed to be having a good time. Why not he?
His mind snapped bck to the relevant.
A figure stepped from the shadows. A woman, wearing a form-fitting red jumpsuit with bare arms. She seemed to have a tail.
"Shadow... I know you." She hissed.
He recognised her, too, though the name couldn't come to mind.
She thrust a package at him, a heavy briefcase with a handcuff attached to the handle, locked with a security-grade maglock with a fingerprint reader.
"Take this to the Camden Ballroom Pizza Slut. Give it to Mr Fiennes. He'll pay you what you're owed. Do not open it."
"Each time i see that spectacle it is magnificent."
Roszondas replied, pointing at the sky.
"I had never seen a comet approaching... I wonder how will it be?"
Draco stared at the bigger, wiser Roszondas. He felt heavier with that dragon sized combat armour, and the dragon sized blade, but he did not mind. Soon he would start his training. Roszondas had promised him to teach the ways of the Hell Knights, the most fearful order in the past, fierce dragon wars.
"Ladies and Gentleman, we have arrived at London Airport."
Slayer woke up. He stirred himself. The flight had been long, even for a supersonic one, and he had no rest in the last hours.
He looked at the crowds before leaving the plane.
He had brought no baggage, only his sword. The metal detector Rent-A-Cop clerk went almost insane when he pulled the sword and showed it to him. But it passed through the control.
Two Pizza Slut girls entered inside the plane. But they were allowed to do so. The new ad campaign, flight&joy, was giving its results for both companies.
"What the hell! I need a drink."
And he followed the girls, remembering that the last time he stepped on a place like that, something terrible happened...
Illidia was still looking at her leg. She had big trouble in the run, but the leg Wolf had reconstructed was working like a charm. No horrible prosthetics, no post-operating trauma. Just...like natural.
"It took me 25 years to complete the final step. Soon, my desires will be pleased." N'zar smiled.
A minion came.
"Order the activation of Project Dark Moon."
Mary snapped off the vid-phone, turning back to the other runners. The fireworks had started now, and bursts of orange, pink and green were spraying across the starry sky. The comet wouldn't be here for a good few hours, however, so they had quite a wait. Dorodo offered her a Mackcrispo, which she took and munched showly in silence.
The crowed oohed and ahhhed as the flower explosions played out above them. A vladistok crowd-control mech, gaunt and skeletal on eight black legs was illuminated against a building on the far side of the square. It was armedm only with several high-pressure water jets, but still, it's insectoid profile unsettled the doctor. The government was obviously not risking anything, after the terrorist attacks barely a week ago, even if it meant hiring in Corp help.
Mary yawned in the darkness. Raven looked up, and suggestd looking for drinks again.
Jyl sat in total darkness in the ruined Geneva street. In the blasted city, there were no fireworks, or revelers in the comet's arrival. To tell the truth, Jyl had not seen anyone but a lone Daisaka Guard in the last three days. He should really get moving, get out of this blasted place where the only thing left to give him blood were the rats. Huge, brown rats with sharp teech and green welts on their backs.
But it kept him here.
In what was almost a month since that dragon had dropped a buke in Geneva, but the combined mages had contained the blast. Now the twisting, yellow-orange magic energies contained in the Geneva Sphere were stretched further than ever, and the vampire had been watching it ever since it was first created. He was becoming obsessed with it.
He didn't touch it, of course. He'd seen a stoned-looking elf do that 2 weeks ago, and although the blackended skeleton had long before been engulfed, he remembered it vividly.
Jyl watched another rat scuttle past. This one had blisters covering it's face, and looked positively horrible. He was hungry, though, so one tatooed arm shot out, and expertly caught the small animal. Time to feed.
Because Jyl was so intent on slowly sucking the rat's blood, the first warning hed recieve was the smell. Slowly, from the direction of the vortex he had swivelled away from to drink the rat's scaboruous blood, something was moving. And it smelt like burning flesh.
Heavy footfalls moved slowly up the short, dead-end alleyway, all but invisible to the feasting Elf-vampire.
Jyl finished the rat, and tossed the drained corpse away. He giggled, and muttered something to the rattlesnake tatoo, which had taken on the role of Bob.
Just then, he felt a heavy hand fall onto his shoulder. It was cold. Ice cold.
"Bob?" Jyl turned, and regarded the hand on his shoulder. It was black, contoured, and nailess. It was also the size of a bunch of bananas. A peice of blood-red armour began at the wrist, and ran back.
This wasn't Bob. Bob didn't have hands this big.
Jyl felt the cold, rhtymic breathing at his neck, and smelt the charnel-house scent that accompanied the Daemon. This DEFINATELY wasn't Bob.
Jyl squeaked in fear. He tried to slip way, but the hands were already at his throat.
Slowly, the first kill was turned, to face his murderer. He stared dumfounded at the brazen features of the Red Knight, before the darkness swept in by the closing hands at his neck enveloped him.
Jyl wasn't the only one with a taste for blood. Red Knight also had quite an appetite.
They hadn't taken any chances with the half-dragon.
Silvia was put in a cell without any windows, and with a door that not even a real dragon's claw could penetrate. There was a small opening in it, sealed off with four heavy bars.
"Sleg!" Silvia cursed, while slowly changing her claws back to hands. Since the Geneva bi-nuke her ability to recover from magic shocks seemed to have diminished; she still had trouble shapeshifting.
She was pretty much going crazy without anyone to talk to. They didn't even give her better clothes...
Clothes? But I still have my clothes! And my MP5 player! Safely tucked away in my skin with the Storage spell. Let's hope I can gather enough energy for this...
She removed the burnt green dress.
"Anusalim Siminael." she wispered. The words were just words, but like all spells they helped to guide her magic energy to the thing she wanted to do.
It took a lot of concentration to gather enough mana to cast the spell... and to keep it going.
Slowly, a fine pattern appeared on her skin.
A bit more...
Colors started to become visible. The black belt and MP5 player appeared.
Phew... that went pretty well. Just a little bit now...
Silvia sighed. She had succeeded. She was wearing her white T-shirt and dark grey jeans again.
She took the wireless earphone plugs out of the MP5 player and put them in her ears. These were Double-plugs, the kind designed for car drivers to make sure they would still hear the traffic through the music (or phone call).
They had also been very handy to make sure the gangs in the Geneva Ork District didn't get a chance to surprise her.
A bit later, the voice of Lady Zero distracted her from her awful situation...
David looked down to read the signs and T-shirts of the crowd.
Comet?! That must be Halley! Woah... I was locked up a lot longer than I thought.
Dammit, I'm hungry...
He looked at a fat Ork that was holding two hamburgers. He was busy eating one of them.
Wirecat quickly jumped down and grabbed the second hamburger. But the Ork was faster than he expected. He quickly grabbed the cat-man's leg when he tried to jump away.
"Well wod du we hov 'ere? Huh? Fragging thief!"
The Ork looked very surprised when he saw the man's face.
"Uh? A pussycat?"
A cat claw ripped through the skin of the Ork's arm, and left three red scars on it.
"Aah!" The Ork screamed, and let go of the leg.
Wirecat ran through the crowd. "Frag it... all this trouble for a hamburger!"
A bit later he had found the park gate. He quickly climbed back to his spot on the tree branch.
But his spot seemed to be taken... a small goblin was sitting on the branch.
"Hey... What are you doing there?" Wirecat asked.
"Whet ya think I'm doin'?" the Goblin replied. "I'm watchin', like ev'rybody!"
The blades crashed once again. This time, one of them flung away.
The two battlers stopped.
"Eva, you are by far one of the best apprentices we have. In a few weeks, your training will be completed." Behemoth replied.
Up in the castle the situation was repeated, but at bigger scale.
The thunder voice of Roszondas echoed the main hall.
The two titanic swords clashed once again, sparks coming from it.
Draco looked at Roszondas, his training had started.
Draco jumped , and delivered a blow from the upside.
The armor felt lighter now, and the sword was extremely easy to use... despite its size...
Shadow noticed the woman after she had stepped out of the shadows.
He couldn't quite picture her face, but caught the package, after he had seen her throw it to him.
Shadow examined the suitcase and all of what was on it.
Then he looked at the woman and listened to the woman, after this he had two suitcases total, one of his own, and the other one for Mr. Fiennes.
Shadow nodded and then walked out the back door of the basement quietly, he got into his car, the two suitcases were next to him.
He then started driving to the Camden Ballroom Pizza Slut.
The clock ticked on, each firework blast counting down to the comet.
It was almost midnight. This was the time the lighting grids were meant to go off, to give a brillaint view in the capital for the 1am point when the comet would be visible in all it's glory.
Sarah broke off the chat she'd been having with Raven about the benefits of Church of Light membership. She wanted to be fully aware in the darkness - all the runners knew what could happen - fights, pickpocketings, even muggings or rape - and anything could cost them their lives.
Hopefully the crowd would be too drunk to care about anything but the comet. But the atmosphere was too highly charged, for anything to go off without a bang.
Flisted Nash, blue haired Elf pilot of Skittergun Arachnid Pack, was busy playing cards in the small open area inside the crew capsule of the insectoid machine. The two other crew members, his old buddy Thundernel, a stoic and heavily bearded dwarf, and Korpil, the other gunner, a female Ork, both had better hands than him, and he'd ran out of cards to palm out of his uniform sleeve. With this basic crowd-control duty, it was going to be a long night - and the only weapons they could use if things got messy were high-pressure water sprays, a net thrower, and smoke launchers.
The elf tossed blue hair out of his eyes, and sucked deeply on the bottle of Narcobeer he'd smuggled in. Then he got back to the game. Maybe if he lost, he could trick the dumb ork into thinking she owed him the cash...
Under the starlight, the exit for the same tunnel the wirecat had left was still open.
A dusty, shambling figure dropped out of the vent. He was dragging what appeared to be a dead body behind him. In the other hand was a bottle of the kind of beer the guards drank in the the ruined palace.
It was Badjimmy. He hiccupped in the moonlight, and stared around him in wonder. There were pretty colours in the sky.
He dragged the corpse of The Binman.
Sarah watched what appeared to be two Orks beating each other up in another fountain. Of course, the smaller may have been a brawny human, the light was too bad to tell.
A fizzling rocket shot high into the sky above, and exploded violently in a shower of pink.
There was still music drifting across the darkness, but now it was freqently changed, as if someone was fighting over what was to be played, and the battle lines shifted rapidly.
Suddenly Sarah fell to her knees, gasping. Mary, Raven, and Dorodo leapt up, the last dropping his food. Her head felt like it was going to explode, and her whole body was playing with pain, like the moment before she cast a powerful spell, but longer, fixed in time, the split second seemingly forever.
Wooden staff fell from her grasp, as the witch-woman screamed, high in the night. It fell unnoticed in the general revelry.
A magical wave from the comet had grounded in Geneva.
The Red Knight inspected the corpse of his victim. It was fixed in a spasm of terror, at the killing moment. It was also particularly puny, and not something he recognised.
Was this the place of his memories?
Yes. It was. It tasted the same.
But this thing... he didn't remember anything that walked like it did, looked like it did. What was it? How long had they been imprisoned in the darkness?
A second figure tumbled from the shadows behind him, laughing incessantly. It was The Jester, in one hand a daemonically crafted bow and arrow, the other a skull caught in an expression of acute pain.
The others. The others were here too. Jester. Abomination. Siren, and Pariah. This whole world would be their's. Even the Dragons would fall.
The charnal-house smell around the edge of the vortex intensified. Now the five were through, a tide of lesser, daemonlings would spew out, insubstantial, like dust at first, but materialising wherever the wind blew them. These weren't minions, lacking the loyalty to the cause the Prime Daemons had, the knowledge of the past. But they were Daemons, and heralds of a new age.
Badjimmy looked at The Binman. Stupid Trogg was laughing at him. Still.
"DIE FRAGGING TROGG DIE!!!" He screamed, emotying a whole clip from a rusted AK47 he'd picked up from the unrecognisable corpse of a slave. 7.62mm Warsaw Pact rounds stitched across the body, puncturing the chest and cracking open the rotting head. The gun clicked empty. He rifle butted the head clean away, tossed down the gun ahd batted the chest until his knuckles bled.
He sank to his knees, laughing.
The Ork looked so much Like Grashnak, one of the bastards who'd gotten him thrown off the books at Daisaka.
The memory alone made him throw another flurry of punches, with both his good hand and his stump. The alcohol coursing threw his veins took most of the pain away.
But at least the smug Ork scumbag wasn't smiling anymore. He had little enough head left to smile with, anyway.
In a moment of sobriety, Badjimmy gathered the rags of his clothes around him and fastened his trencoat, salvaged from the rubble of the palace.
The car park full of luxurious vehicles was nearby - A Rolls-Royce Great Dragon limo, a Bentley Verde. With any luck, his electronic skills would be let him in to one of them.
But where would he go?
He thought on it for a while.
A whole country full of Troggs.
Hmm, government house... Do a spot of shotting. Do this stinking country a favour... Nah, don't wanna do that. I'll just head for the nearest big city, whatever it is.
Mage Officer Stephania Dyson was one of the firts Daisaka operatives to notice the sudden burst of activity at the Geneva Rift. She had been patrolling astrally on and off ever since the security cordon around what had once been Geneva was announced, checking for activity and occasionally showing mages from the WESForce around the area, assisting in their studies.
Hovering 150 feet up, the she could only begin to imagine the vastness of the city-sized energy ball.
She'd heard of mages and physical officers being drawn into the sphere. Some kind of compulsion spell. She'd cast wards on herself against it, as were standing orders for all patrol mages.
She spotted a figure down in the ruins. As she was watching with her astral eyes, an astral figure was a glowing aura of life, shining with the essence of humanity, teeming with emotions.
Except this figure was not truly alive.
Instead of vibrant, this figure was a dull red. Instead of showing emotion, all it broadcast was an intense, in human hate.
"Frag this." She whispered. The figure noticed her. She forgot herself for a moment.
This figure was a giant, huge, at least 9 feet tall. It wore battered armoured that flowed with the trapped essence of the damned.
Just then, it was as if the floodgates of hell had opened.
There was a sound from the rift. A cacophony. It sounded eerily like the sound of tearing flesh, yet, Stephania knew it was the tearing of reality.
A tide of floating forms spewed from a dark hole in the rift - Spirits, spirits the kind of which she, an experience mage had never seen before. Many resembled amorphous sea creatures, amoeba like. Others were like minature forms of the creature she'd seen earlier. Still others were tentacled, quivering masses...
Immediately she made the way back to her physical body.
The astral form can move at the speed of thought - Thousand of miles in a second, if not more.
The unknown spirits had overtaken her long before that.
Sergeant Bobby Gontarski, a Dwarf, had been on charge of protecting the bodies of the patrol mages while they patrolled the rift on this, Comet Night. At first he'd ben resentful, not being able to go and watch the show, but like the disciplined law-enforcement officer he was, he obeyed.
How he wished he hadn't.
At first, one of the inert forms of a mage had convulsed quietly, then died, bllod puring from his mouth. Bobby called in the medical personnel, but there was nothing they could do. aNother mage began to thrash about wildly, an she too, died.
Now Bobby ran up and down the inert froms, slapping them, trying to jerk their astral froms back to their bodies.
He suceeded. Mage Officer Stephania Dyson bolted upright, gasping. Cuts appeared on her face where her astral form had taken damage, which now manifested itself.
"Thank the Gods! Whjats happening-"
Stephania was no longer Stephania. Her eyes glowed red. She whipped her sidearm from her holster and exploded the Dwarf's brains out the back of his head. The corpse slumpd to the ground, rolling.
She then turned to the terrified med-techs in the room.
"Greetings mortals. You are to be the first to witness... The coming... Of the new... Age."
Shadow quickly realised he wasn't going to be able to drive all the way to the 'Ballroom.
His electricar came up against barriers and zapper strips across the road. A Chubby brtish cop in afluorescent jacket leaned into Shadow's canopy, motioning him to open it.
"Sorry guv, can;t drive past 'ere. Fragging place is crowded."
Indeed, Shadow could see the tumultuous crowds from here. Tens-of thousands of people crowded the streets of Brit-sprawl, braving the acid-rain. Chanting, dancing wildly to the vibrant music. A firework blossomed overhead, showring yellow light onto the procession of the Chelsea Ork Pensioners' Marching bagpipers, making them stop their incessant wailing for a brief moment of respite.
Shadow had to walk from here.
The crowd surged around him , jostling, pushing. Many of the crowd were white-robed Church of Light supporters or Comet-Worshippers - The two seemed to go hand in hand.
"And now, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN AND OTHERS! CELEBRITY MAGE PIERRE LeCHAMOIS AND HIS AMAZING ILLUSIONS!"
Shadow saw a distant figure climb atop a podium. He greeted the crowd with a 'bonjour'. He got some polite response from the crowd.
He was a show-mage, specialising in public illusions. That much Shadow knew. He was supposed to be fairly powerful, anyway.
The chubby white-suited and top-hatted figure smoothed his goatee and twirled his Orichalcum-topped staff around. He made many arcane hand gestures, and then one violent upward thrust with the cane.
He repeated the motions, with more vigiour this time.
Shadow saw those near the front of the crowd grow restless, and in moments, Pierre's white suit was pockmarked and stained with drinks and unspeakables thrown by the crowd.
With a disgusted cry of "MERDE!" The plump Mage waddled off into obscurity. The loudspeaker voice came up again.
"UM, SORRY LADIES AND GENTLEMEN... WE SEEM TO HAVE... A TECHINAL... DIFFICULTY".
This produced a roar of laughter from the crowd.
"Whats the matter, los your mojo, Austin?" One heckler yelled. "My Bell-end'd got more magic than you - And I'm married!"
Shadow walked along.
He staggered as a Troll knocked into him accidentally, walking on through the crowd, oblivious.
Crash was in one of his old hang-outs - 'Garcia's KnowSpace', a virtual meeting room set-up and owned by Deckers. It's location changed every day, trackable only by algorithms certain deckers sold. It had been shut down by the Matrix law enforcement agencies of several countries, but always managed to spring back up.
It was a prime point for meeting hot deckers and exchanging valuable information. Or for Deckers to chat about SOTA Ice-Smackers and Masking Software.
At the moment, the place resembled a lurid-green bar with hovering tables. The 'Bartender', who was the rules-bot, took information for sale and gave out 'drinks' which were nuyen files for download if the goods were good enough.
Crash hadn't been here for a long time. He'd been... Busy. The Voice had been asking a lot of him, like that Vladostor job.
A decker was speaking to him. The guy was an old colleague, though Crash had never met him in real life. He was known as 'Chromeball'. His persona took the form of... a Chrome Ball.
"Me and the guys were looking for you, Crash. You 'ain't been here much." The Inanimate Chrome Ball said, in a Texas accent.
"We been figgerin' ya been up to no good. I could use a job. What gives?"
A second decker came up, 'Angel of Love'. This one was a hovering figure, resembling a cute Anime girl with wings.
"Yeah Crash," The girl said, settling down at the hovering table. "Ya must have a good deal going in the meat world... Or a girl?"
Which reminded Crash. Wasn't he supposed to be doing something tonight?
The car Shadow was driving wouldn't be able to drive all the way to the ballroom.
Shadow then saw a British lookin cop, the cop leaned over and he opened the canopy and listened to the cop.
There were crowds and crowds of people screaming and going wild.
Shadow then got out of the car and began to walk.
The crowd surged around him , jostling, pushing.
He heard a voice now scream:
"And now, Ladies And Gentlemen And Others! Celebrity Mage Peerre Lechamois And His Amazing Illusions!"
Shadow saw a figure climb atop a podium.
Shadow then saw the figure greet the crowd with a 'bonjour'. He got some polite response from the crowd.
He then saw the figure being hit with liquids, a few moments later the figure walked off.
Shadow then started to walk along.
He staggered as a Troll knocked into him accidentally, walking on through the crowd, oblivious.
Shadow looked at the troll, with the cold and heartless look in his eyes.
Wirecat took a better look at the goblin. It was a female... and a pretty old one too. But apparently she had had little problem climbing the tree.
"Ah yes..." David replied. "The comet. I really can't understand what's the big deal with that thing. I mean; it's just a giant icecube, right?"
"It's a lot more th'n that!" the Goblin replied. "It's magic..."
She began to speak a lot slower and quieter all of the sudden.
"Some say it's the source... of all magic."
She looked at him, and smiled. Her old eyes were full of enthousiasm. Suddenly, she looked worried.
"Oh my... boy, you look..."
"... like a cat." David interrupted her, a bit annoyed. "Yes, I know, I've heard it a million times and more."
The lady grinned. "That too... that too. But I wanted to say "tired". You look really tired. So, what's yu'r name?"
"Wirecat. Well that's what most people call me, anyway."
"Heh. I'm Kirenu. Pleased to meet you."
Kirenu's long goblin finger poined at the sky.
"Ooh! Look there, you can see it!"
A small bright spot had become visible. The comet Halley.
Suddeny, a shiver ran through David's body. He somehow felt uncomfortable... as if the stone wasn't going to pass the earth, but would crash into it. Controversive feelings rushed through his head and body; his cat instincts were practically going crazy.
He heard a cat meow, down in the park. And another one. Something squeeked.
They feel it too... all of them! Something's wrong...
But then again... it's a comet. Something too rare to be stored in the instinctive knowledge of animals. They're just confused, frightened by its presence...
He calmed himself down, and looked up again.
In the control room, a pale grey-skinned Ork pulled the switch. Apart from a few seperate generated lights in special buildings, the city plunged into a darkness lit only by the burning fires.
The comet was here.
"Sarah! Sarah! What's wrong!"
Sarah was coughing and wheezing, one hand on her chest. She didn't look like she choking, but something was horribly wrong. Mary grabbed her, trying to clear her airway.
Overhead, the spark of Halley's Comet blinked into existance.
The lights flicked off, pluncing the city into a flickery blackness.
Froddin Gruzzi, Ork l'out extraordinaire, had been waiting for this moment. He was armed with a bar torn from some railings, and looking for a fight. The guards were too dangerous with the lights on, but under the cover of darkness, it would be alot more... chaotic.
Froddin grinned, and lit a fag. His home made firebomb was tucked in one pocket. This should start something. Something big.
The comet glowed it's nearest. Across the world, the users of magic began to feel slightly adverse, as wave after wave of mana crashed through the stratosphere.
Much as it was a lucrative business, Halley's comet wasn't necissarily a good thing.
Sarah reteched once, and felt suddenly better. She felt Mary's, and Raven's hands on her, and stood up slowly.
"I... I feel much better. I don't know what came over me"
"You sure about that?"
"Yes, totally sister. Now let's sit back and watch the com..."
At that moment, the whole crowd came alive. It was spontaneous, like a sudden wildfire sweeping across the square. It was the kind of thing that an Orkish government should have predicted, but didn't. It was the kind of thing, panic-striken, senseless violence, a hurled firebomb would start.
Sakhar had been on his way back to the compound, he had packed all his stuff and should have been back there by morning.
Shivers started to go up and down his spine, his magical gear was going crazy. Something was happening.
He threw his rune encrusted sword to the floor, it spun around and around on the floor, something was seriously wrong.
"Surely Halley can't be doing this" he thought to himself. He tried to think back to all that he had learned in the Golden Village, all the knowledge he had picked up about the comet. But nothing accounted for this.
His armour and crossbow were reacting slightly to the comet, but his sword shouldn't be THIS bad.
"hmm" he said aloud "I know it was called Deamon Hunter, but surely no fool would be crazy enough to sum..." He recalled his encounter with Sorrow. The remains of Mugen Ra! Surely that idiot wouldn't dare summon such a potent Deamon, he'd be mad to consider such a thing.
Sakhar cursed the Necromancer as an armoured hand shot out to grab his sword, he then made haste to the compound. He had to stop him, he didn't know what he could do!
Sorrow was still sat in the now pitch black observation tower. Giving up craving his staff, not wanted to relive that experience. He put the black speck of blood down to his imagination... for now.
Damocles had left after the fire works had finished, but Sorrow was quite interested in this "magical" comet. He wondered if it would have any real affect on him, he hadn't felt any yet. But he knew the dragons were taking it seriously.
He sat back and watched the white dot in the sky, he couldn't really be bothered finding a telescope, maybe he just liked the peace and quiet of the dark night.
Thats when it happened. An unearthly pain started to make it's way though his body, his mind clouded with abstract visions. As his body fell to the floor he saw many things before him.
Visions, running though his head. Visions of dragons, people oppressed by a deformed warlord dictator, what seemed to be the embodiment of anger and madness it's self and then, the most disturbing of them all. A powerful figure, dressed in red armour that seemed to bleed from wounds unseen. Sorrow's body was shaking, what was going on? What was happening?
"GET OUT OF MY MIND!" he cried among the madness of his thoughts. And then, as if nothing had happened, he returned to the dark observation tower. Shaking from head to foot, the comet still burning brightly in the sky.
NewsEye Comet Update
Cut to Dervin Nicklebix, Zaibatsu control
"And yes, we have confirmation of Halley's sighting over Eastern Europe. Estimated one hour before she's spotted over Western Europe and five hours before the East Coast of North America get to see her, where pressure has so far failed to see the government enforce a blackout. Now, as we all know, Flax, many of our comrades in the Comet Cult are up in arms about that, some even making threats, which, of course, the government has not taken seriously for a second.
Now, Kamikaze, the probe is expected to come within 5 kilometres of the comet within the hour, so those of you lucky enough to have a feed subscription, stay tuned!
Back to you, Flax!"
Cut to Flaxine
"Thank you Dervin. We're getting some pretty strange, unconfirmed reports of some kind of magical disturbances in the half of the world which can see the Comet as yet. More on this as we get reports in."
Cut to Britsprawl
"Over in England, there are reports of scattered violence from the thousands-strong party-procession marching through that country's major sprawl. Apparently, anti-magic groups are showing their ugly heads, and the government of Queen Antoinette has issued a warning to all magical practitioners of initaie grade 2 and above. Rumour has it the Queen herself has withdrawn from her scheduled public engagement, for personla reasons. Derv, you think this is something to do with her 'appointment' with Sir Anthony Taylor?"
Cut to Dervin
" 'No' "
Cut back to Flaxine
"Back to the evening's festivities. Wherever you are, I hope you-
Wait, this just in."
"A Huge explosion has been witnessed at the sight of the Geneva Buclear blast site. As yet, Daisaka security forces - who have the area under constant surveillance - have not issued a press statement. More later. Ciao!"
Camera still rolls
"Large explosion? What is this bollocks? Obviously they just saw the energy-dome thingy. Don't waste my time, Damn you! If you're going to roll this crap, let that damn talking head do it fo-"
Driving flat-out for Orkessa, Badjimmy made the drive in under an hour. It was kind of weird. One moment the lights of the city were all around him like some Eastern European Las Vegas, the next minute - poof! - all gone.
He swerved in the sudden darkness, avoiding a parked Man-U-Trans, clipping a scaffolding where some bored Ork Teeners were busy disconnecting a row of lights for some nefarious purpose. The structure came down, one Ork landing on the canopy of BadJimmy's Bentley. He grinned at the Ork. The Ork grinned back.
The next moment the Ork and the Car were flattened against a a brick wall. Instantly, the inside of the vehicle filled with securi-foam(tm) protecting Badjimmy from the damage.
A good minute or two later, he was ble to break out from the hardened crash-absorbent. Orks were standing around in the pitch dark, jabbing fingers at the wrecked vehicle.
"Yup, dat's a roight-off, dat iz."
"Yup." The crowd nodded agreement, even the two battering each other senseless with poles ripped from traffic signals.
Badjimmy whipped out a heavy handgun, fired into the air, twice.
"Nice gun. But small, tho'."
BadJimmy cursed, pushing trhough the crowd.
"Whats up with her?" One ork said to another.
Roundign a corner, despertaly in seacrh of an airport, BadJimmy stopped to gather breath, and to throw up. Despite ther securi-foam, he had received a nasty gash to the temple. His vision swam, and not just from the alcohol.
Then the whole area was bathed in flames. The shop BadJimmy had been standing next to erupted out onto the street in an orange fireball from the molotov cocktail thrown through the window.
A gigantic Ork mob (with a few Trolls for goods measure - If there had been any Goblins they were probably already crushed) surged down the street, directly towards Badjimmy.
The Troll took one look at Shadow. For a second, he was hit by the Pure cold gaze, taking an involuntary step back.
Then he recovered.
"HEURGH HEURGH HEURGH!" He laughed. "LOOK, DA LITTLE Umie'z GOT A FIGHTIN' ON. COme ON, LITTLE MAN..."
In the distance, Shadow could hear the beginnings of something big. He was distracted from the Troll for a second. At first he thought it was the Comet Cult starting a chant. The Comet was due to appear here pretty soon.
Then he heard distinct words in the chant.
Something about 'No magic', and 'Kill the Freaks'.
A distinct voice cut through the rabble, on a loudhailer.
"Pure humans of Britain! Now is the time! Rise up and smite down the monsters and demons that have infested our country - OUR WORLD - The Miracle of the comet has shown us the way. DEATH TO THE USERS OF UNNATURAL FORCES! DEATH TO THE FREAKS! DEATH TO MAGIC USERS!"
"DEATH TO THE MAGIC USERS! DEATH TO THE FREAKS!
DEATH TO THE MAGIC USERS! DEATH TO THE FREAKS!"
The Troll turned back to Shadow.
"Are doze da friendz of yourz, umie?" He snarled, jerking a thumb at the mob, which was now battering its way through the partygoers in the square with clubs and improviosed weapons.
"Make ya sides, umie!"
Crystal looked at the time. She'd forgotten what was going on - Identity Zero's gig was full-on. The Ballroom Pizza Slut was full to capacity now, although no sign of Crash or Raven yet.
On stage, Lady Zero put her heart and soul into her singing. Once more, the crowd were slaves to her desire, subservient to the beat, carried high on synth-waves.
Crystal hoped it would never end.
She was going to be disappointed - and soon.
Kirenu was perplexed by the sudden ouburst of violence on the street.
First, a firebomb... then, people screaming, running, trampling others. Total chaos.
"Oh my, that's not a pretty sight..." Wirecat said. "Thank goodness we're up here."
Suddenly, Wirecat fell sick. His stomach hurt like hell, and he got a splitting headache.
"K... Kirenu... I'm not feeling too good... Aaah!"
Wirecat lost conciousness. Kirenu reacted just in time to make sure he wouldn't fall off the tree branch.
"Wirecat? Wha's wrong? Oh frag... I gotta get ya outta here."
Silvia heard a scream in the corridor of the cell block she was in. Not a scream of pain... a scream of despair.
I'd really like to know what's going on here... Perhaps I could try reading the minds of the other prisoners.
Silvia concentrated. She'd never done this before; it was very hard to focus on something or someone she couldn't see.
Hmm... feelings... despair, loneliness... nothing more than I could have guessed. Sleg... I don't get any further.
Suddenly, a wave of mana from the comet hit the complex. For a split second, Silvia's ability was incredibly much stronger. Her focus rushed through the corridors, the cells, the doors, the walls... and found someone. Someone that couldn't shield his thoughts from magic.
Unfortunately for Silvia, it was Polt. Insane thoughts, paranoid conspiracy theories and other madness rushed through her mind.
Silvia screamed. It was too much.
Then, as suddenly as it came, it was all gone.
Silvia got a terrible headache. Polt's twisted thoughts kept haunting her mind. She tried to search the memories for useful information, but got only terrible madness instead.
That man isn't locked up here... but he's prisoner of his own delusions and fears. A madman.
The headache didn't go away. It kept getting worse.
Silvia felt scared an alone. All of her optimism was gone... consumed by Polt's mad, depressing thoughts.
Sleg... I can't take this much longer. I have to get out of here... but I can't. I simply can't.
She fell to the floor, and cried.
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