NPC43: Enter Your Name 4

Eris knew nothing. She did not even know knowing nothing. Nothing just was, nothing became her existence, her existence became nothing. There was nothing, but conversely, saying that implies something. Not even nothing had nothing and was not even a ‘was’. No existence whatsoever existed.

Eris was dead. And she no longer existed.

There was nothing for Eris. There was no time. There was no thought. There was no concept of self or being. She had nothing, she was nothing, she was not even a was. Nothing subsumed her very being and replaced anything that she was with…nothing.

There was a great dark void, but darkness implies a light. This was darkness compounded by darkness, an all pervasive and invasive darkness that forbade the very existence of light.

Just like it forbade the existence of Eris.

“Welcome back. You have lost half your gold. You have 1 XP to gain before earning your next level.”

Eris looked around, unabashedly confused. Where was she? What is she doing here? Where was here? She looked about in a slow circle, slowly taking it all in. The king’s throne room. And before her, the king. And next to the king’s throne, the empty throne for the princess yet to be rescued.

She patted her chest a bit, then gave a long exhale before inhaling deeply. She was breathing again. And thinking again. And was herself again. She had a sense of self and understanding of her place in the world. She asked the king what happened, but he gave no pertinent information. So she just ran down the stairs and out.

So that was death. That was terrifying. She had no idea how much time passed, for, to her, time itself did not even exist. One moment she did not exist, for what felt like an eternity, and then suddenly she exists once more. It was startling and frightening and objectively and fully terrifying.

It was not like the times when Reincarnated Heo DICK left the world and the world paused. Time still seemed to pass, somehow, then, even if she was stuck in stasis. This was…nothing.

Eris ran down the stairs and right to the Item Vendor. She shouted at him, “Give me all the healing herbs…what, antidotal herbs? What do they do?” She studied what it did, finding they cured one of poison. And she knew what poison did, so she bought two of those, then all the healing herbs she could.

No way did she intend to ever lose all her HP ever again. Even if she carried nothing but herbs. She would insure her own safety above all else.

She studied the merchant’s list of wares a bit curiously, looking at the torch. She examined it a bit, then remembered something about finding a tablet in a nearby, and dark, cave. She looked back at her stash of herbs, then the torch, frowning darkly. Eris hopped from one foot to the other, thinking.

Finally, she sold back two herbs with a sigh and bought two torches, just in case.

She then walked over to where she was originally coded to pace at, and stayed there. She sat down on the side of the road, and let her eyes travel over the five by five area she randomly walked and did not leave for seemingly forever.

Life was simpler then, when she did not have life. When she was just meant to pace and greet. There was something then that she had lost. She gained her intellect, her existence, but she lost something. There was something missing, a piece of her that could not be regained.

She thought it over. What did she give up for her to gain life? What had been taken away from her, or perhaps rather removed, that was given away just so she could exist? She considered this a time, glancing from the area she was pacing at to the gateway leading out into the world.

That’s what she lost. That’s what happened to her.

Ignorance.

She lost her ignorance of the world, forced to give it up to have the right to live within it.

Eris stood up with a sigh and a frown, running a hand in her long purple hair, the brown skinned woman adjusting her armor and copper sword a bit. Well, knowing that she had a place in this world, and that losing this world means losing herself, perhaps to a fate worse than death, motivated Eris.

Luckily, she knew there was no time limit. She could take things at her own pace. The tablet will be recovered, the princess will be rescued from the dragon, and the evil demon that is threatening the world will be defeated!

In her own time.

Eris looked back into the town that was her home, giving a little sigh. She took a soft breath then took a step out, leaving it for the bigger world beyond. She traversed into the wide world, full of danger and new experiences.

And experience points, whatever they were. She knew she kept gaining them, but did not know what they were.

Eris headed north, carefully. She tried to keep her eyes peeled for oncoming monsters, but it was useless. No matter how careful she was, they would just suddenly pop in front of her, randomly, without warning, when she moved forward. Sure, not everr step, but she did kill seventy some slimes in the same fashion, just having them suddenly appear from nowhere before her. The drakey did too, for that matter. Nothing was there before her, then suddenly she had to fight something.

Eris’ forward motion was suddenly stopped, even as she was thinking, by the appearance of another slime! It looked exactly identical to each of the other six dozen or so she slaughtered gleefully in the past. It stayed perfectly still, giving its somewhat creepy smile at Eris, waiting for her to select her commands.

Eris was about to select ‘Attack’, then…then she had a flashback to her own death. She held her copper sword up, waiting. She lowered her head in thought, her eyes shut. Did she not just condemn seventy some other slimes and a drakey to the same non-existence she just felt? Was there slime children growing up with dreams of being slime adults, only to be slain? Maybe these slimes really are seeking revenge.

Or…or maybe…she only ever saw one. The same one. The identically same one. One at a time, and that single one was always this one. Always the very same, identical one.

Did slimes instantly reincarnate? Is there just this one slime, coming back again and again and again, only to die at the hands of her vicious copper blade repeatedly? What about the drakey? Did that also reincarnate, just so it could meet her once again, only to be slain once more? Do they feel that state of non-existence before they return? Or are they as ignorant as she was, before, and they just exist without knowing it?

She lifted her sword up higher, frowning. She stared into its innocent eyes and smiling features, then growled, “What have you to smile about, slime?”

They slime, it kept waiting, smiling, watching. It just stood there before her, its doom impending, yet its smile ever present and not fading.

“Have you nothing to save for yourself? Can you do nothing?”

The slime kept smiling.

“I am about to kill you, you know. I am about to end your life.”

The slime jumped a bit, and kept on smiling.

“You’re about to be cleaved through with this sword and turned into a puddle of goo. I’ll…somehow…gain gold pieces and these ‘experience points’ from your death.”

The slime, it smiled.

“Is your life worth two gold pieces and one experience point? Is there nothing else for you?”

And still, the slime smiled.

Eris gave a growl of frustration, “Damn slime! Your life should matters as much to you as mine does to me! Say something! BE something!”

The slime simply smiled.

Eris gave a loud roar and turned her head away, cleaving the slime in twain. She had killed yet again.

Eris felt something. She gained two gold pieces and one experience point. The King said she gains ‘a level’ when she got one more of those. She felt power welling up inside of her, her hit points growing! Her strength increasing! Her defense going up! she had greater magic and more magic points!  She had grown in power, becoming a better fighter!

A better killer.

Her tears sprinkled over the goo that was the slime.

Eris felt the power grow in her. But she felt her heart empty.

Lone Dark Ember: Like Tears Not Falling

LIKE TEARS NOT FALLING

Into the silent office came the sound of a knocking before someone entered, asking, “You Decon?”

“That’s what it says on the door. Decon’s Detective Agency.”

“Yes, well,” says the alien who looks like a caterpillar crossed with an elephant, taking all  the ugly bits from each, “Anybody could be in here, so it’s not like that sign matters much.”

A derisive snort came from the reclining humanoid with two pairs of antenna sticking from his head and purple skin. He also has a third eye, presently closed, his other two only half so, “Ain’t no one in the universe, however small it may be left, that wants to be in here.” The detective glanced towards an empty bottle of alcohol that was dripping condensation like it was crying, “Not even me. What do you want?”

“I need to hire you.”

“Figured that. What for?”

The centiphant being demured a bit, “I was warned about your gruff demeanor, but told you’re the best.”

“Two things. I get paid for solving problems not making friends. And I’m the best because there’s no other detective out there. Now what do you want?”

“What is your specialty?”

“Haven’t got one.”

The centiphant alien asked, “What do you do?”

“Most days, I tend to sit around, wishing I had more to drink and less starlight shining in my eyes. But if you mean professionally, I used to do the whole spying on couples thing to prove an affair. Marriage hasn’t been in vogue for millenia, so that’s not bringing me in any money. I used to find lost pets, that was rewarding. but no one loses pets anymore. Got to figure out why sometime. Most of the time I get hired to find clue of a person’s past.”

“How’s that?”

“Well, we’re all unaging immortal right? So, what happens to a person when they live a few millenia? Or a few million years? Sometimes their mind can’t remember everything, and sometimes they shut down and get amnesia. And sometimes I get some of those people coming in, wondering who they used to be. Sometimes they thank me.”

“But typically not?”

“No, typically not.”

The centiphant asked, “What about murder?”

The three eyed being shook his head, “Never dabbled in it myself.”

The centiphant didn’t know how to take that response at first, so asked, “Are you meaning that…?”

“I’ve never killed anyone, though I been sorely tempted at times. And I’ve never had to solve such a case. No one’s ever been murdered, near as I can tell.”

The centiphant sighed softly, “There has been now. My son.”

The three eyes being gave a nod, sitting up, “Now, when you say son…”

The centiphant nodded, “Adopted, yes. He was a nice kid. Had his own set of troubles, sure, but everyone does. Troubling times, after all.”

“Indeed.”

“What can I tell you to help you start?”

The three eyed alien detective sat up and tapped his empty bottle of alcohol, sighing, “Like tears not falling.”

“Pardon?”

“How the liquid on the bottle looks. Like tears that do not fall. Did you have a good cry yourself?”

“Of course,” said the centiphant, indignantly, “I was even contemplating…I was despondent, my son was the only person I cared about in a long time. When he was gone, not only did I feel alone, but like something was torn out from the future.”

“Why do you say that?”

“He was a gifted poet, my son was. Very skilled. Had a bright future. I mean, I know money doesn’t mean anything now, but the fame and recognition.”

“Hmm, interesting. Did he write anything else?”

The centiphant sat his upper, elephantine half against his centipedal half, he had a seat that he carried with him always, “You mean like newspaper articles, opinion pieces, such like that?”

“I mean such like that.”

“As far as I know, no. His only skill was in poetry. He tried to write a few other pieces, but they paled in comparison to his poetry. That was his skill.”

The detective gave a nod and tapped his chin, “Any enemies? Debts?”

“How can you owe debts when money’s gone?”

“Debts of favors, for one. Debts of honor.”

The centiphant took his moment to tap his chin and gave a shrug, “Not that I know of. He only had a few people he talked to besides me. Maybe half a dozen or so. He was quite shy. Took him almost a full rotation of the sphere before he opened up to me and told me his name.”

“Shy, huh? So we have a shy poet who had not very many people in his life. Who was mudered. Can I ask when?”

“Almost a month back, now.”

How was it done? And how do you know it was murder?”

The centiphant gave a shrug, “One can’t put a knife in their own back, right?”

The detective gave a nod, “Typically, no. He was not triple jointed, right?”

“Never showed such an ability in my presence, no.”

“Alright,” the three eyed detective then asked, “Why did it take you so long to get to me?”

“Because until a day ago, I didn’t even know a detective still existed!”

The detective gave a short nod, “Understandable. Knife in the back, poet, shy, small circle of friends. I need two things to start me off, that’s the knife and a list of his friends. I also need you to take me to where you found him as soon as you can.”

“I can take you now.”

Decon nodded, “In a moment, then. I’d further require access to your domicile. In particular where he lived and his personal effects. And any locations he may have visited when not at home that you know of.”

“Doable, I’ll give you his keypass in to the house, you can go in and out whenever you want. As to where he’d go, the only place I can think of is that one old abandoned library.”

“There’s a few, which one?”

“Oh, right, sadly.There’s one about seven blocks from our house, that one. He’d visit it somewhat regularly.”

Decon asked, “It was abandoned, what did he see in it? There wasn’t any reading material left there, right?”

The centiphant shook his head, “Not that I know of. May have been. But I visited him once or twice there, took him lunch. I certainly never saw much, myself.”

Decon nodded, “Anything else you can think of? Has there been any changes to his personal life lately? Spurned lover? Found something of importance? Anything at all?”

“No lover, unless he took one in secret. He did come home with a book one day, which he was working on restoring, but it was a slow project and he wasn’t very skilled at it.”

Decon grabbed an energy pistol from a low drawer and made sure it was fully charged and ready. Then he lid it away into a holster and doffed a wide brimmed hat before tossing an overcoat on. Even so far in the future, certain fashions never go out for certain people, “Your dime, lead on.”

The centiphant began to backpedal on its many short legs until it got into the hallway, then it was able to move forward again. He lead Decon down the hallway and down the two flights of stairs and out. He asked, “It’s fourteen blocks away to my place, and from there another six.”

“Six blocks from your home…but seven blocks to the library. Was he coming or going from there?’

The centiphant shrugged, “Neither. Library was to the east, he was laying down to the west.”

Decon gave a short nod of his head, walking alongside the much faster centiphant, “Nothing in that direction he typically went to?”

“Not that far away, at least. We’d have food out often, but they all came from places closer to home. He didn’t care to travel far.”

“I see,” noted Decon, “But what about you?”

“Oh,” stated the centiphant, “I’ve traveled from one antipode to the other and all places in between. I seen much of this sphere. My legs are pretty quickly and don’t tire.”

Decon nodded, “I see. Good to know. Tell me though, how’d you find him?”

“Huh? What do you mean?”

“When you first met, how did you find him, and when he was murdered, how did you find his body?”

Gold Fox: Flashbang 4

Gold Fox set the two tommy crossbows against her legs as she crouched behind heavy machinery, and tied her hair up in a foxtail, a ponytail variant that goes up high before coming back down. Lady Thundercaster would likely tease her again that such a hair style does not make her any faster, but Fox sometimes feels it does. At the least, it will keep her hair out of her eyes, which is going to be important in a moment when she uses her crossbows at full auto. They’ll recoil and shake her torso and head. They’re effective, but annoying. Against an Original Silver Reaper, she hopes that they’ll be effective enough.

Gold Fox stood up after adjusting her long hair, holding her modified crossbows, hopping from one foot to the other. It was not out of impatience, she was testing something. When a person sends to Away items, their weight will still interact with the caster, albeit it at a fraction of their normal weight. Iteration D’s left arm was pretty heavy, heavy enough to slow down Fox’s speed almost ten percent from its maximum. Not ideal for someone whose fighting style is hit and run and utilizing her great agility, but should not be deadly.

Hopefully.

Lady Thundercaster stayed on the catwalk above the smelting pit, watching it, waiting to see if the Silver Reaper was defeated or forthcoming.  No-Face had taken to her flying reptile form, floating near the ceiling in cicles over the pit. And Iteration D was crouching down, her right hand crossed over her body to have small extendable tools from her right forearm give quick and effective field repairs to the damaged shoulder area of her left arm.

For awhile, nothing happened. Gold Fox even poked her head around the machinery she was crouched behind and gave a quizzical look to Lady Thundercaster, who just shrugged in response. The group continued to wait.

And they continued to wait.

And they heard people of the city starting to return to their lives and normal activities in the distance.

And they waited some more.

Then Gold Fox heard in her communicator ring Lady T say, “Awfully rude of him.”

“What, to not die in an undeniable explosion, or keeping us waiting to kill him for good?

The group waited long enough for Iteration D to have a back panel unfurl and extend out her explosive ballista, mounted over her shoulder. She also was able to mount one of her arcanoblasters on her right forearm, and retract her right hand to replace it with a diamond tipped circular sawblade. She also completed the slow process of having her body armor itself up. It took awhile to complete these tasks, but she had the time to become as powerful as she can be without access to her left arm.

And still the group waited.

They waited long enough to hear one of the still functional warehouses nearby to populate again with workers and the machinery there to hum back to life. Lady T noted, “Naval armor,” in the ring to Gold Fox.

Gold Fox knew from that, that the warehouse in question was one that manufactured armoring for naval warships. Most of the warehouses nearby would likely be focused on naval manufacturing of one sort or another. The armor plating, the munitions, the guns, even important yet non-combative parts such as the doors and bunks. She considered a bit before asking Lady T, “Any complete plating?”

“Only some, it seems they only recently restarted using that place.”

“Why?”

Lady Thundercaster gave a short shrug, “Lightning damage, from the looks of it.”

Gold Fox asked the obvious follow up, “Anything you saw in these factories or warehouses that can be of help?”

“If you can mount a ship’s cannon over your shoulder, perhaps. But D can’t even do that.” Lady Thundercaster asked a follow up of her own, “You don’t think he’s dead, do you?”

Gold Fox took a moment to cast a small spell before answering, “No.” It was an illusionary spy, and she used it to scout out the area. She saw laborers slowly making their way back to their workplaces and used the spy to scout out surreptitiously several local buildings, but found nothing of interest. She sent it higher up above the buildings to do a quick scan of the area, only to find a few gunships in the port and one half done in a drydock. Then she cancelled the illusionary spy and waited some more.

And the group continued to wait a bit more.

They went on alert when shards of lead flew out of the pit, splintered and shattered apart by force. The Silver Reaper then jumped out of the pit, landing in a crouch and scanning the area.

The newly freed Silver Reaper gave a short scan and took two quick steps forward, molten lead dripping off of its body as it lurched forward to attack the first member of the group is spotted.

No-Face and Iteration D did not move. This is a practiced stratagem of the group, the two heavy hitters stayed still. Against most beings, this would be confusing, but against an Original Silver Reaper, where each individual member of the team was weak in comparison to it, it had not noticed anything awry.

Individually. But teamwork compounds their individual strengths exponentially.

Fox launched the initial attack, right as the Reaper was moving towards D. She ran out from cover, firing her twin tommy crossbows at full automatic speed. The two large drums did not hold the ammo, but magically summoned it in place. She was able to fire fifty bolts a second from each crossbow, without stopping, setting the magical bolts to whichever element that would most aid her. It was a weapon unparalleled and would be a major factor in battlefields if they were able to be mass produced.

The only two in existence belonged to her. And they were throwing ice bolts at such speed that even a blizzard would be jealous. A hundred bolts of ice slamming each second into the Reaper was not enough to destroy it, but it was enough to slow it down. The cumulative effect froze the target.

Iteration D, the target that the Reaper intended to take out first, for her part, stayed still.

Lady Thundercaster then began to issue her death cackles again as she fired shot after shot of magical fire at the Silver Reaper, slamming hard into its ice frozen form and heating it up. As Gold Fox’s ice bolts never let up, the Silver Reaper simultaneously froze and burnt.

The temperature differences were enough to cause its otherwise nearly impenetrable and invulnerable metal shell to crack in places. The team heard a lattice of crackings fracture its way in stress lines across the Reaper’s joints. But the two half-elfs kept pouring it on.

Finally, they heard a major crack rip through the Reaper’s chest, and the two stopped firing, going under cover.

Iteration D, who had long been building up energy in pistons in her legs, suddenly released such in a pneumatic hiss of steam and she was launched at speed right at the Reaper. She fired her explosive ballista and two shots of her arcanoblaster, aiming for a stress fracture in its chest, then gave a wicked slash with her diamond tipped sawblade at the wounded spot as she crashed into the Reaper and past it, landing with as much grace as a heavily armored and metallic elf can land.

The Silver Reaper was knocked backwards and to its knees, and had but a two inch by two inch gap in its armor destroyed.

It was enough. No-Face flew down from her position in her flying reptile form, aiming at it. She instantly shifted herself into the ignoble but ever resillient form of a cockroach and wriggled herself into the casing of the Silver Reaper.

After suffering so much trauma in a short amount of time, the Silver Reaper took several moments to repair itself. The three others who had inflicted said damage had come together near a wall, just in case.

The Silver Reaper stood upright again and snapped its head around quickly, scanning the area. It locked on to the trio off in a corner and started to stalk towards the group with hard, heavy footfalls, the metallic soles of its feet stomping cracks into the floor of the warehouse.

The group readied their weaponry again, but did not fire. Not while No-Face was inside the enemy.

It stomped closer, but the group had nowhere to go, and did not want to potentially injure their own teammate.

Each footfall sounded like the drumbeat of doom approaching, a clanging of the bell of destiny.

Then it stopped and shuddered. It shook in a bizarre and grim fashion, inhuman but still humanly shaped, hissing in a deep and electronic voice. Then it fell onto the floor.

No-Face had torn herself out of the chest of the Silver Reaper, quickly growing from cockroach size to that of her war e’phant form, which shattered the chest armor of the Reapaer apart.

The group saw that the Silver Reaper had, in its torn apart chest cavity, its heart missing. They were about to congratulate No-Face, when all four noticed a peculiarity.

The Original Silver Reaper had a second heart!

NPC43: Enter Your Name 3

The blue slime stayed determinedly before Eris without moving at all. Eris, for her part, did her best to move as well, but somehow she was compelled to stay still and no matter what, she was unable to move. This concerned her.

But the blue slime and her just stared at one another. Neither moved. Neither did a thing.

After many minutes of this, Eris finally noticed that there were options down near the ground, options like what she had to do to climb the stairs before. She saw Attack, Item, Cast and Flee, and pondered them all. She tried Cast, only to see she needed to know magic spells, and she knew none. She tried Item, only to see that she needed an item to use, and she did not buy any before. She tried Attack.

She hit for one damage! Blue slime attacks! It hit for three damage!

Down near the ground she saw that there was something tracking what is called HP and that she had 13 of them left, out of 16. And she also saw something tracking MP, of which she had three out of three.

More to her, however, she felt the slime bruised her shin as it headbutted into her leg.

And after that, she just started at the slime again. And it stared at her. And they kept staring for many minutes. The slime did not do a single thing but stare at her. She gave the slime a wave, but nothing happened. Then she greeted the slime, yet still nothing. It seems that the slime did not respond to anything but an attack.

So she attacked again. She dealt one damage! Blue slime attacks! It hit for three damage!

Eris saw she was now at 10 out of 16 HP but could not tell what the slime was at. She found this somewhat disconcerting, what happens if she has 0 HP or less? She didn’t know what would occur then!

And having nothing else to do, she attacked again. She saw that she punched the slime for one damage, and that the slime was defeated! Then she saw that she earned 2 XP, whatever they were she thought, and 3 GP. GP! Gold pieces! she knew how to make money now!

Then she noticed that something stated she punched the slime. But she had a bamboo pole! You don’t punch with that, do you? That did not sound right to her. You strike with a pole, right?”

Eris ran back into town, panting some from the speed which she ran. She looked at the pole and armor that was laying in her backpack. Why weren’t they working? So she went to the Armor Vendor and asked, “Why isn’t this working?”

The Armor Vendor only gave her a list of stuff to buy and naught else.

She ran to the Weapons Vendor and asked, “Why isn’t this working?”

The Weapons Vendor only gave her a list of stuff to buy and naught else.

Eris contemplated for a time. She looked at the pole, she looked at the armor. She did not understand why neither worked. When Reincarnated Hero DICK came by, he wore his armor.

Wore. He wore his armor!

Eris held the armor up in front of her and stepped forward. It bounced off her chest and fell to the ground before her. She picked it up to try again, but only to get the very same results. She tossed it up in the air, but when it fell on top of her, it hurt. Then it fell on the ground again.

Eris crouched down, staring at the leather armor. This is confusing. She turned it this way, then that, tried turning it inside out and sliding it up her legs. Nothing happened.

Then she noticed words on the ground in front of her again. One of those looked interesting to her. Equip. Something about it sounded right. So she tapped it, and she saw Weapon, Armor, Helm, Shield.

Options! Many options! She selected Armor and then her leather armor. Suddenly, instantly, before she knew it, her leather armor was upon her! She selected weapon and then her bamboo pole, and it was suddenly not only in her hand, but she knew how to use it!

Then she saw that the Helm and Shield options were still there, but she had neither. So she ran off to the Armor Vendor, buying a Leather Shield and Leather Helm. And she selected Equip and instantly she was wearing the leather helm and had the leather shield protecting her!

She succeeded in understanding equipment! This made her smile.

Then she recalled items. There must be an Item Vendor around. She ran around town until she found him around a corner he had not noticed before. There she bought two things called Torch and several things called Herb.

Then she went to the Inn. Instinctively, she knew that if she rested here, she’d feel better.

So Eris slept overnight at the inn, waking up on the same day with everyone doing the same thing. But she was fully healed. That was enough to let her ignore the mystery of their existence, or lack thereof.

She left town and ran into a blue slime again. This time when she attacked it, she struck it gracefully with her bamboo pole and it instantly vanished without even attacking her. Equipment is great! She got the same amount of XP and GP as before. She also got an idea.

She remembered that there’s a Copper Sword being sold in town for 180 GP. And that it had better attack stats than her bamboo pole. She would save up for it. Then the slimes would pay for bruising h er!

She found another slime, but this time her bamboo pole did not defeat it in one strike, and it hit her for one damage. Much better than the three before! A second attack did beat it.

It was fifty two blue slimes later that she had enough money to buy the Copper Sword. She had to rest at the Inn twice, sleeping an entire night and waking up at the same day, twice. That was thrice now that she slept a full night at the inn, only to wake up at the exact same day as it was. Even she knew that was wrong. She understood it was wrong. But she did not contemplate on it.

For she had a Copper Sword! She swung it around some, then remembered her Bamboo Pole. She had no further use for that, so she went back to the Weapon Vendor to sell it. He only offered half the price of it!

Half the price! How unfair! It only had the viscous material of almost five dozen slimes coated in it, it’s practically new!

She put the cheap vendor on her list of people she was not very happy with, took the gold pieces he gave her, and left.

For she had more slimes to slay! With a sword!

Confidence abounded in her very being, and after slaying another nine blue slimes, she went into the nearby hills. She found something new and interesting. Red slimes! But they also were not that tough.

Eris slew another dozen or so of them before she sat and wondered, “I only see slimes about. This can not be the great that that the Reincarnated Hero DICK and I…who am now the Reincarnated Hero Eris…are supposed to fight? Is the big enemy just a big slime? Why can’t a bunch of villagers get a loan of swords and armor and beat up all these slimes?”

Then she wondered to herself after defeating another red slime, “Wait. My village has eight people in it now, and a King. I’ve defeated over seventy slimes now. That’s nearly ten of my villages!” Her eyes grew wide and she gasped, “Did I just destroy ten villages worth of slimes? Where do they keep coming from? Are they now attack me out of revenge? If only I could make friends with them!”

Eris left the hills, and, not wanting to depopulate the slime villages she imagined but never saw, went about the mountains and north of her village. There she ran into a Drakey, a black shape with a long tail and big wings. Something not a slime! Of course, there had to be things that were not slimes, as there was a dragon that captured the princess! So Eris heaved to and swung her sword at this new monster.

It survived and shot a ball of fire at her. Ouch! Eris patted at herself to put out the small fire that ignited on her, then swung again! This time the Drakey slapped at her with a tail.

Suddenly everything in front of her was red, and an alarm sound kept on beeping in her ears. It was a very persistent alarm sound, and nothing she did could make it stop. Knowing nothing else to do, she swung again.

Thankfully, she defeated the Drakey, getting many more times the XP and GP a slime gave her. But the alarm kept sounding and the red kept clouding her vision. She ran towards town.

Suddenly, a slime appeared! It must have had vengeance on its mind, for it made a sneak attack and scored what was called a Critical Hit against her. Eris’ HP rating went from 2 out of 16 to 0/16!

Eris has died!

Lone Dark Ember: Without Peer

WITHOUT PEER

Without a doubt, if Rod Serling were telling this story, he’d start with, “Meet Als’et…”

And yet I wonder, given the situation and the story…can I do no less?

“Meet Als’et. Like many at this point in time of the universe, he’s a man – an alien to be sure, but still a man n his own right – that is lonely. Without another of his species, Als’et has few others he feels he can talk to. No one else to talk about the problems only a member of the same species can relate to. But he is further without peer, for he is the only being in this time who has his one passion. Like all good passions, it is all consuming and ever encompassing. It runs and ruins his life. His very existence is dedicated to it, oft neglecting his biological needs of eating and sleeping. But it is a passion best shared, and without one to share it, it leaves him somewhat sad. Saddened not just by the loneliness and emptiness of a passion that requires a community, but with what he knows. It is because of his passion he understands the nature of the ending of the universe, and how long a lifespan it has, and how very little time is left with which a person can enjoy. he knows, without doubt, how and when all life in the universe will end forever. And, oh yes, his one passion…he is consumed with knowledge beyond belief, with facts before faith, understanding through experimentation. He is the last scientist alive.”

Most people would find Als’et a cantankerous and disorderly sort, but that is not precisely true. His passion overrides any other concerns he may have, even that of social obligations or keeping his domicile tidy. Even his biological imperatives, such as food, drink and sleep are all too oft ignored for this ever consuming passion of his.

The last scientist ever to live is a burden known only to him. There is no one left capable of understanding what he does, of being able to converse with him about topics he has great interest in. No one left to review his work and understand its nuances. No one left to work in other fields whose topics are of interest but not his specialty. No one to compete against, no one to confide in, no one to compliment each other with their skills.

The greatest genius of his generation, to be sure, but it is an empty title. No one can understand the crown he wears. For that matter, no one can tell what said crown is comprised of anymore.

Few people nowadays care about the sciences, when they live the sybaritic life. They need not science to understand that the universe is ending, they just understand that the universe is coming to an end, and eke out their existence from now until then in manners of their choosing. It is enough for them to know they live another day, and luck willing, will do so again tomorrow.

Enter yet another being bitten by the curse of passion. In to the chaotic mess Als’et calls his home he strides, tripping and falling along the various piles of detritus and notework the scientist has strewn about his place. The young one with short, stubby, barely articulated legs struggled to crest a mountainside of forgotten ideas to gaze upon the three headed faces of Als’et.

Who sat, staring through a telescope with a cracked mirror, ignoring the world about him.

Als’et kept staring for several long minutes, and the newcomer shifted some of the notes scribbled in terrible penmanship about casually. He picked a few up and gazed at them, trying to understand, but the ones he chose were full of equations, and mathematics was never his strong suit.

Finally, Als’et looked away from his telescope, rubbing the pair of eyes on his middle head. He eventually noticed the newcomer sitting perched atop a pile of his old concepts and asked, “Who are you?”

“Ah, greetings. I’m a reporter…”

“I don’t talk to them.”

The stubby legged one nodded, “So I hear. I hear tell that you do not talk to anyone, if you can help it. And further, that no one wants to come here because you installed defensive technology of various degrees of lethality.”

Als’et gave a short pause before nodding, “Huh. I think I did, once. Why are you here?”

“So I can interview-”

“No no, I mean, how’d you get past them?”

The stubby legged one laughed, “You installed them, sure, but how long ago did you maintain them?”

Als’et’s left head dipped low in thought before he shrugged, “I am not so sure, honestly. What year is it?”

A snort from the newcomer, “By what calendar?”

“Point. Alright, you’re here, that’s evident, and can’t be denied. Fine. What do you want?”

“Like I said, an interview. I’m a reporter.”

Als’et rubbed the eyes of his right head, then glanced with the other two towards the newcomer, “Wait, there’s still a news outlet?”

“Well, no,” admitted the newcomer, “I’m it. Much like you, I’m the last one of my kind. And not just by species, but by calling. The last reporter ever. Can I ask what you saw out there?”

Out there. Als’et’s telescope was one of the few things that pointed outwards of the sphere these people in a dying civilization call either home or prison, depending on their outlook. He was able to see what others never bothered to look at. He sighed, “Nothing.”

“Really? Nothing at all?”

“I mean, literally, nothing. There’s nothing out there. Not a thing.”

The reporter scratched his chin a bit, “You mean you can’t see anything out there?’

“No no,” clarified Als’et, “There is nothing out there. Literally, completely nothing. No stars. No dark matter. No dark energy. No ambient radiation. Not even any remnant matter from destroyed planets. There is nothing out there.”

“That seems like a waste.”

“It is. And, well, to be precise, there is one thing out there…singularities.”

The reporter asked, “How’s that?”

“Singularities. Black holes.”

A nod from the reporter, “But wouldn’t that be something?”

Als’et slid off of the chair at his telescope and stretched a bit, “No, not at all. Singularities..black holes, they’re literally nothing. The complete embodiement of nothing. So much nothing that they suck up the rest of the universe into their void.”

“So, if there’s nothing out there but them, what do they eat?”

“Each other.”

The reporter rubbed his head a bit, giving a soft frown, “I don’t understand.”

Als’et went over to his desk to scribble some notation down, hmmming softly and shrugging, “Didn’t expect you to. However, it is at least nice to tell someone, before…”

“Before the end?”

Als’et looked over at the newcomer, then around his own lab, sighing. He wrote some more before looking up, “I spent two point four million years trying to prevent the end of the universe, now, and all I have to show it are voracious singularities fighting over scraps as they cannibalize one another.” For inhabitants of the sphere at the end of the universe, immortality is a given. The Saviors, those who made the sphere, extended livable time in the universe, and gathered species here, placed anti-agathic – anti-aging – solutions into the food and drink everyone must of course consume. Everyone was unaging, here.

“How were you going to do that?”

Als’et pointed to the pile the reporter’s sitting on, “There’s a few ideas there. A few more in that other pile. Importing matter from other universes. Taking us to another one. Trying to smash our universe into another nearly dead one to instigate another Big Bang and give rise to matter once again.”

“But wouldn’t that destroy us?”

A shrug, “Maybe. Probably. But at least there’s be a universe teeming with life once again.”

The reporter asked, “You mentioned other universes though, wouldn’t they have life?”

Als’et nodded, “Without a doubt! I’m sure some of them are even new and young! Fresh from the fires of creation! i can barely comprehend what it must be like to have planets around every star, and stars almost everywhere! Can you imagine the menagerie of life that could exist?”

“Honestly, no, sorry,” said the reporter, “I can scarce imagine some of our fellow inhabitants here.”

“I can understand that,” agreed Als’et, “But let’s go to you. You are a reporter, do you have questions?”

“I…well, no.”

“Why not?”

“Honestly? I never thought I’d make it this far.”

Als’et gave a short laugh then glanced about, “Well, feel free to think of a few. Let me know if you have any.”

“Oh! I got one.”

Als’et was about to write some more, before he put his writing implement down and asked, “Oh? What is it?”

“What is the one idea you had to save the universe that came closet to success?”

Als’et pointed to a tarp in a corner, “Time machine. Chronal displacement device. It’s about 98% complete, or so I think. The only drawback is that I do not have the parts to do it properly, like I hoped.”

“No? Then what does it do?”

“It will still chronally displace someone…that is, it will still send someone back in time. But it’s a one use only and can only send one person. And that’s only if I finish it, I still need various parts that I have not yet salvaged.”

“Back into the past, but what about into the future?”

Als’et snorted, “Why would I ever do that? There is no future! That would be cursing someone to a punishment I can scarce imagine!”

The reporter asked, “Can you tell me what the future entails?”

Als’et slumped into the chair with a sigh, “Yes. Eventually, the star we orbit, a white dwarf, will go nova. It will blow much of its outer layers and nearly all its energy. The sphere we live in will be devastated by it. If the Saviors looked that far ahead, they may have put a contigency in place to keep the sphere and us intact, but I doubt that. Either way, it will turn into a brown dwarf star, a small stellar body who is only hot still due to the heat it used to have. Like ashes in a campfire.”

“When will this happen?”

“The Three Blind Ones, who dance in the star, sometimes come to me to talk. It is not very far now, as we ourselves understand it. Maybe millenia, likely centuries.”

The reporter nodded, saying something only an unaging being can, “Not long at all, then.”

“Indeed.”

The reporter sensed that Als’et had started to drift his mental processes, to daydream, so asked, “And then what?”

“And then…then it is the era of the singularity. Take the entire time of the universe to date, and multiply it by a factor of several thousand times. That’s their era. They will, so very slowly, come closer together, combine or each one another, cannibalize the others. Eventually, so very slowly, even they will be destroyed, one by one. Then there will be one left, one last black hole.”

“And its fate?”

“It will exist, on its own, a starving singularity, a lone black spot in the entire universe. And rarely, ever so rarely, will it lose a tiny bit of itself. And this radiation will fly off and evaporate, and after an impossibly long time, this last black hole will also die, starved and rotting away until it disintegrates.”

“And then?”

Als’et pointed to the light above the duo, “It all depends on that.”

The reporter looked up and asked, “An invention of yours?”

Als’et shook his head, “No no, not that. The light.”

“Light? Light will overcome the dark?”

Als’et gave a short sigh and a shrug, “Maybe. Light is made up of photons. When the last black hole dies, the photon will be the last thing in our universe. They will journey about in random patterns, miniscule streaks of elemental light zigzagging across an impossibly black canvas.”

“And what does that depend on?”

“Well, they’ll exist in this way. And it will take trillions of years before any two may collide into one another or do even anything else of interest. What is contigent is if the photon itself is truly immortal or if even they decay.”

The reporter thought a bit before saying, “I see.”

“What do you see?”

A soft smile on the reporter’s features, “One of two things. If the photon itself dies, then there will be nothing left in the universe.”

“Correct. And if it does not?”

“If it doesn’t…then there will be a true eternity of nothing but photons doing what photons do.”

“Exactly,” agreed Als’et, smiling himself, for he saw the spark of science ignite, however tenuously and briefly, in another, “That’s right. It is an extremely bleak future, is it not?”

“Very.”

Als’et asked, “You’re not really a reporter, are you?”

The stubby legged being shook his head, “I’ll admit it, no. But that is my passion, nontheless. It’s what I always wanted to be.”

“Wanted to be, but was not?”

“Yes. You see that one slagged spire off in the distance? There?” The stubby legged newcomer pointed out a window both could see from, “That’s where I worked as the errand boy. I was away when the sunshield failed and it, and all my companions, were taken away from me.”

Als’et did not give him a ‘sorry for your loss’ or other condolences. He just gave a soft squeeze on the shoulder, sharing the pain that immortal survivors felt.

Gold Fox: Flashbang 3

Gold Fox’s communication ring beeped twice, signifying Lady Thundercaster wanted to talk to her. Fox took a few seconds to get under concealment and hid as best she can from the Silver Reaper before tapping it and asking, “Yes? Did you find an ambush site?”

“Yeah,” came the voice in the communicator, “Near the harbor, a bunch of run down warehouses. Many still have equipment in it, some looks functional. I’m at the norrthernmost one. But I have a question.”

“Shoot,” Fox said to the sniper.

“You said before that this guy, what’s his name…”

“Baron Heinzglauf.”

“Yeah,” replied Lady Thundercaster, “Him. You said he was ultimately worthless to history.”

“More or less. Go on.”

“How can he be unimportant to history, yet his death caused the war to expand into a new theatre? Isn’t that pretty important?”

Gold Fox peeked her head out to watch No-Face and D fighting the Silver Reaper. The fight was a vicious one, but even without her left arm, D was holding her own. No-Face had taken to being creatures of cunning to keep the Silver Reaper off balanced. The duo pressed every advantage they could. Currently, No-Face had tripped up the Reaper, and D had summoned her gigantic battle axe from Away, smashing down on the Reaper’s left bicep. The two metals clanged off one another but neither gave. As she watched she spoke, “You recall anything about human politics?”

“Ah,” spoke Lady Thundercaster, “The so called ‘Elf Problem’.”

“Baron Heinzglauf is on the Pro-Extermination side. Him and his group want to kill all Elfkind, starting with the ones living in Elfland before wiping out the dark elfs living in human lands.”

“Never got that, why not start here and go there? But please go on.”

Gold Fox gave some aid to the fighting duo by firing an ice enchanted bolt into the Silver Reaper’s face, blinding him by encasing his head in ice temporarily, “Then there’s the Pro-Slavery side. They want to keep elfs alive but enslave us. They did that with the dark elfs, after they took over their lands. They see the benefit of elfs in bondage and want to capture as many as possible to keep as slaves. And as elfs live almost forever, they figure that will solve their labor problems from now on.”

“Despicable,” mentioned Lady Thundercaster, “Also, ambush set up, you may come when ready.”

“Right,” Gold Fox cast an illusion directly to the fighting duo, a small arrow pointing in the direction of the ambush, then started to run that way herself, “So the two sides want to fight Elfkind, but for different, obvious reasons. Baron Heinzglauf, being in control of a barony, was in the Congress of Humanity, a minor but rising member of the Pro-Extermination camp. He sold all his dark elf slaves to others to fund a death camp he designed specially for elfs.”

“Despicable,” muttered Lady Thundercaster, “Glad I killed him.” A pause from both women, then she continued, “Well…kind of. Glad someone did at least.”

“So it seems,” agreed Gold Fox, “Regardless, as he did so, he also gained valuable information on the Pro-Slavery leaders. He was as paranoid as he was spiteful.”

“Fat lot of good either did him.”

“Agreed.” Gold Fox rounded a corner, seeing a bunch of human kids playing in the street. She shouted at them, “Can’t you hear the explosions? Go home!” However, being of the age when they turn from young boys to young teenagers, the group just started at the beautiful half-elf as she ran by, ignoring her warning,. knowing you can’t force a horse to drink, she continued talking to Lady Thundercaster on the run, “Within the next six months, he gains…he would have gained, rather…a lot of information on these people that they’d rather not see come to light.”

“Oh? A blackmailer is he?”

“World of politics. Some of this information he gained is rather sensitive, though, and he forces a few key members of that camp to vote on some small acts the way he wants. None on their own meant much, but added together, they started something.”

“And when he’s assassinated, let me guess…his notes on others are found out?”

Gold Fox rounded another corner, hearing the fight behind her as the three combatants battled one another on the run, “A conspiracy of people find his material. They call him a visionary and a martyr, and prop him up as a man thinking of the future. They also state that assassins loyal to the Pro-Slavery faction killed Baron Heinzglauf and that they support terrorism. They gain enough clout to expand the war, invading a territory of Elfkind that had declared neutrality. This from some doctored evidence that those elfs supported the assassination.”

“And thus the Air War.”

“Right,” said Gold Fox, “We’re a few moments out.” Then she fired a salvo of three bolts behind her, again in ice, to freeze over the street she lately passed by, “And the Trench War.”

“Wow, two small wars from one useless guy.”

“It’s not who he was, it’s what he knew. Knowledge is power and danger.”

Lady Thundercaster asked, “Almost there?”

Gold Fox tapped twice on the factory wall as she passed it, then darted into the building. She scampered up behind some heavy equipment and lay in waiting. She gave Lady Thundercaster a short nod.

No-Face flew up in her flying reptile form, smashing through a window near the roof along the sunny side of the building. As for the Silver Reaper and D, they entered through a less traditional way, by smashing one another into the wall and crashing through it into the middle of the factory. No-Face dropped D’s left arm at Gold Fox’s side, who then concentrated on it for some time to try to send it Away. No-Face flew off towards the Silver Reaper, changing her form into that of an armored rhino, who dove horn first into the enemy.

The trio fought viciously for a time while Gold Fox concentrated on D’s left arm. As they did so, Lady Thundercaster pressed a few buttons on the control box she hid behind. As she did so, large mechanical arms moved on their tracks in the roof. D and No-Face left just as a dozen heavy steel beams fell with force upon the Silver Reaper, the clanging resounding through the factory. The Reaper stumbled a bit and looked dented, but the damage was superficial.

“We’re going to need something better,” said Gold Fox into her ring to Lady Thundercaster.

“There’s a smelting pit a few feet in front of me hidden in the floor. Covered by the dark sheets.”

“Will it be enough?”

“We’ll find out when we find out, won’t we?” asked Lady Thundercaster in reply.

Gold Fox fired a bolt at the Silver Reaper, then paused, “Help me out here.”

“What’s the plan?”

She spoke in her ring to Lady Thundercaster, as D and No-Face took the offensive again, “The steel beams, I can fire metal wires from them to the Reaper, if you can then fire some lightning rounds…”

“The magnetic properties of the beams may possibly resonate and give him the hiccups.”

“Close enough!”

Gold Fox started to fire her highly conductive but barely visible wires with her bolts, attaching them to the beams and to the Reaper. No-Face and D kept up the pressure, but did their best to avoid the thin wires. A half dozen stuck to the Reaper.

Lady Thundercaster saw her opportunity and took her twin pistols out, set on electrical shots. As she fired them rapidly, not at the Reaper but at the beams, she began to laugh loudly. She had a death cackle, the woman would issue a fierce shrieking laugh whenever she got into intense combat situations. Hardly useful for a spy, fine for a sniper as it only triggers when she’s close to those she attacks.

The electricity arced along the wires from the steel beams into the Silver Reaper, pulsing again and again with the shots. The steel beams began to resonate slowly, becoming partially magnetized. The magnitude wasn’t enough to issue forth an electromagnetic pulse, but it was enough to disrupt the Silver Reaper’s optical scanning and audial sensors. It also made him stumble as if dizzy.

No-Face took the opportunity to charge into the Silver Reaper again, horn first, knocking him down. She then instantly turned into the war’ephant form and slapped him with her heavy posterior as she turned and ran away. The Silver Reaper lunged after her, only to meet with D’s heavy battle axe into his upper chest just below his neck. This time he was slightly gashed.

Silver Reapers may be beings of metal, and appear to be dispassionate, but they could feel fury. And this one had his ire stoked. He shoved D aside with one hard slam of his fist into her chest, then kept after No-Face and her war’ephant posterior. He charged after her, only to see her instantly turn into the flying reptile form again and flew above. He did not see the metal covering the smelting pit, and his heavy stomping footfalls caused the metal to collapse, the Silver Reaper falling into the smelting pit.

Lady Thundercaster ran to one side and hit a button on a panel, letting a large quantity of lead fall from its scoop into the pit on top of the Reaper. She was hoping the lead would melt over the Reaper, then cool quick enough to encase it.

Gold Fox extended the stock of each of her pistol crossbows so they could be fired by keeping them stable with her body, the stocks being able to be placed between her arms and chest. She then extended the attachment section of the front underside of each crossbow. The woman summoned a pair of large ammo drums from Away, attaching one to each crossbow. In such a way, she formed what could only be dubbed ‘tommy crossbows’, capable of firing fifty rounds a second.

She was expecting that this fight was not yet finished.

NPC43: Enter Your Name 2

>Enter your name.

>****

Blink. Blink. Blink. Blink.

NPC43 stared at these words before her, demanding her. She could not walk about, she could not do anything, she was perfectly stuck. She wanted to go back to her familiar area that she had been stuck in for so long, confined to a small region she was so intimately familiar yet stuck within. She recognized it was a cage, that she was a prisoner and that she was going to imprison herself, but at least there, nothing was demanding of her.

>Enter your name.

>****

NPC43 looked one way, then the other. There was no one around to help her. What should she do? She had no idea what was being demanded of her.

What is a name? Also it says your name. What is its name? No, wait, it means what is her name. NPC43 didn’t know what a name was. What was her name? What was a name? Is my name something that no one should know?

Yes, of course, that’s it! If she shared her name, then others would have it, and if others would have it, it would not be her name any longer! She gave the tormentor demanding to know her name a hiss.

It’s mine! You can’t have it! Mine! If I share it, it’ll be stolen, and it won’t be mine, and other people can use it! There’s no way I can share it with you, thing who demands my name!

So instead of entering her name, she thought deep about the indignity and disgrace of having something so impersonal demanding her name. It started a softly boiling fury deep in her heart, a rage building up in her being. She shook from the unrestrained and barely repressed anger, gritting her teeth and growling.

Then, she was able to lash out by channeling her rage at a target, her right hand punching straight at the prompt asking her name! The words floating before her did not interact with her fist one bit, and she flew past the prompt and onto the ground beyond it.

She tumbled and rolled, landing undignified in a heap against some bushes lining the pathway. NPC43 gave a dark glare at the words floating before her, that just now became her mortal enemy. It not only demands to know her name, but it had the gall to deny her of her vengeance! She’ll make this foe pay!

But she did notice that she had moved at last. So NPC43 stood up and tried to walk again.

She failed.

The prompt kept floating before her, taunting her existence.

Her name she kept to herself still.

Then she had two thoughts. The first is that she still did not know what a name was, much less her own. This fightened her a bit, because if it is her own, then she should have it and know it!

The other thing she thought of was how she was able to move. She failed walking normally, her feet couldn’t move in such a way. But she did manage to move by punching at the words in front of her.

So she balled her hand up into a fist again and launched it in a straight jab at the words. Once again she was propelled forward and once again she tumbled and fall and skidded across the ground below her. But she moved several feet now, and noticed how to control her destination.

NPC43 adjusted herself for where she wanted to go, and launched her fist at the words floating before her again. She flew through the air, this time controlling her fall by acrobatically dipping her shoulder and falling into a somersault. NPC43 learned how to do the punching move without harming herself! She felt accomplished!

She had to keep moving in this absurd way through the town. NPC43 was positively enraged at the words floating in front of her. Such a rude prompt, demanding her name and blocking her path! It was beyond the pale.

But it took about seven such thrusts to get inside of the inn, the closest place that had someone in it to talk to. There she stood in front of the innkeeper and demanded, “What is a name?”

“I’m sorry, but it does not look like you have enough gold pieces to afford a night at our inn.”

NPC43 glared at the innkeeper, “No, you fool, I want to know what a name is!”

“I’m sorry, but it does not look like you have enough gold pieces to afford a night at our inn.”

“Blasted idiot, tell me my name!”

“I’m sorry, but it does not look like you have enough gold pieces to afford a night at our inn.”

“My name! I demand my name!”

“I’m sorry, but it does not look like you have enough gold pieces to afford a night at our inn.”

NPC43 threw a punch at the innkeeper, which, while it did connect, did nothing to the innkeeper. She just stood still and again stated:

“I’m sorry, but it does not look like you have enough gold pieces to afford a night at our inn.”

NPC43 howled in anger and batted her fist impotently against the countertop, giving the darkest glare she could to the innkeeper thwarting her quest.  Then she turned away with a sneer and punched towards the words again, tumbling herself out of the inn.

NPC43 punched and tumbled ten times, the words ever before her, ever taunting her, ever plaguing her existence. She stood before the weapon merchant and asked, “What is a name?”

“If you have no gold, I can not sell to you.”

“A name, I demand to know what a name is!”

“If you have no gold, I can not sell to you.”

“Idiot, tell me what my name is!”

“If you have no gold, I can not sell to you.”

NPC43 beat her hands on the merchant’s counter, “Tell me my name!”

“If you have no gold, I can not sell to you.”

NPC43 tried to pick up a copper sword on display to swing at the weapon merchant, but nothing happened. She was not able to hold the sword, and she was not able to swing what she could not hold.

“If you have no gold, I can not sell to you.”

NPC43 rung her hands and growled in her growing fury, then launched herself at the words. This time she had not tumbled. She just flew with both fists towards the armor merchant. There she started with, “I’ve had enough playing around, so let me set the rules. Tell me my name and do not say-”

“If you have no gold, I can not sell to you.”

“Damn you, I command you to obey me!”

“If you have no gold, I can not sell to you.”

“Filthy idiotic swine! Without brains you are utterly worthless!’

“If you have no gold, I can not sell to you.”

NPC43 rubbed her forehead and she growled low in her throat, “I refuse to believe anyone could be as idiotic as you, without any merit whatsoever. Give me my name!”

“If you have no gold, I can not sell to you.”

NPC43 kicked her foot at the stall again and again and again, but nothing happened. So she threw herself at the castle. It took thirty seven flying punches to get herself to the stairs. And only once did someone block her way, stating the obvious, “This is the castle.” She demanded that person to tell her what her name was, only to get the reply of, “This is the castle.”

When she made it to the stairs, her journey hit a roadblock. She was not going up the stairs. This confused her, for she was putting her feet on the stairs. But the stairs did not allow her to travel upwards, they did not interact with her in any effective way. NPC43 kept walking on the stairs, but nothing happened.

The taunting words demanding her name kept floating in front of her, both on the stairs and the wall they’re propped against. She tried to punch the words again, with the success she had earlier, but she did not go up the stairs, she just bumped into the wall before her. Utterly confused, NPC43 stared at the stairs.

Time passed for NPC43 while she stared at the stairs, but she saw that the world remained the same. Ever the same. The person stating that this is the castle walked  the same three steps in either direction. The armor and weapons merchants she could see just outside the castle doors stayed positively still, awaiting a customer that would never arrive.

Then NPC43 felt an itch that had kept on building up that she tried to ignore before. Finally unable to just ignore it, the brown woman scratched just under her red blouse with one hand and patted her blue scarft with the other, curing her itch. The woman wondered for a time how she got an itch in the first place.

And as she wondered, the world remained static, and her concerns over her name were forgotten for that duration. Then she figured it out. She felt within her the ability to issue a COMMAND. She stood up and looked at the Command Menu that had flashed in front of her before the naming prompt, and she selected: STAIRS.

NPC43 was suddenly upstairs! Here, the entire castle was a small room with two thrones, one empty. The other had the King sitting upon it, waiting to talk to someone. But he would not, could not, move, so he could not find for himself someone to talk to. But NPC43 could come to him. She did so and asked, “What is my name?’

The King made no reply. As much as he might have wanted to, he did not talk to NPC43. NPC43 imagined either it was because he was too aloof to talk to a commoner, or because he did not know how to talk. Either way, she asked, “I command you to tell me my name!”

Silence.

“NAME!”

Silence.

NPC43 punched at the king, yet nothing happened. She kicked at the empty throne, yet nothing happened. She tried to sit on the king, yet nothing happened. And everytime she did something, she yelled, “NAME! NAME! NAME!”

Then she stared at the prompt before her, ignoring the demands for her name and seeing below it.

>****

Four spots. A name must have four components…that’s not the word, she thought…letters! A name must be comprised of four letters. That’s it! Four letters. Just like DICK from before.

A four letter name.

NPC43 then stared at the word ‘Name’.

Name had four letters.

She stared and she thought and she considered. Is Name in itself a name? Is this a test, if she got her name wrong, what would happen to her? Would she once more become as nothing, losing her very existence? Could it accept Name as a name?

NPC43 pulled up a menu that was full of letters and numbers and other symbols. She did not know they were question marks and ampersands and the like. She did not know what a number was in comparison to a letter. And of course, she knew not what each letter meant.

She just knew that she had to choose four of them, and that was her name.

She stared at the letters that made up of the word name, contemplating it a bit more. She was very close to inputting Name as her name, but then felt trepidition. Such an absurid name surely would bring ill luck to her.

She stared and she thought, and she sat on the empty throne, thinking. For hours she sat, thinking. For days she sat, considering. For weeks she sat, contemplating.

Nothing came to her.

So she just touched four random symbols.

>ERIS

Is ERIS your name?

NPC43 thought for some time, staring at the question, before confirming it.

Welcome ERIS to Dragon Slayer, the world’s first console RPG! You play the role of the Reincarnated Hero, who in their past life defeated an evil demon that spread darkness across the world. Now evil once again reigns and the good people need your help!

NPC43…nay, ERIS stared at this information. She was now the Reincarnated Hero? Reincarnated Hero ERIS? It was her? But was it not DICK? How can a simple woman in a blue skirt, red blouse with gold sleeves and a blue scarf be The Reincarnated Hero?

She asked the King this, and he answered, “Welcome, Reincarnated Hero ERIS, to the Kingdom of Elfengard. Long ago in a past life you saved our world from despair at the hands of a dark lord and said you would return when we needed you again.”

ERIS stared at the king, and asked again how she can be The Reincarnated Hero.

The King kept on talking as if she did not exist, “We are plagued by another dark lord. Please recover your ancient regalia from your past life and save the world again. And please rescue my daughter, the princess, from the dragon who captured her. If you do, you may marry her.”

NPC43…ERIS…looked a bit confused at that. What was marriage? And isn’t a princess a female? Wasn’t she? Eris looked down her blouse at her brown skin and her ample breasts, then felt about her skirt. She thought that she herself was a female, though she wasn’t precise on the concept between male and female. But regardless, a reward is a reward.

“And please take these 200 gold pieces to help you start your journey.”

Speaking of rewards! Eris grabbed the gold, left the castle, and went out to the merchants. The armor merchant asked, “Welcome! How can I help you?”

Eris was now able to talk to people and get them to respond! she looked at her funds and the cost of items, and considered. She thought it would be better if she got hurt less, so she bought a Leather Armor for 70 gold pieces, the best armor Elfengard had to sell.

Over at the weapons vendor, that merchant asked, “Welcome! How can I help you?”

She wanted to buy the copper sword, but at 180 gold pieces it was too expensive. So she bought a bamboo pole for 10 gold. She could return for that sword! But she’d buy the one that she did not earlier try to use to murder the vendor for not telling her name.

And Eris had a bright smile on her face, for she was not plagued by the prompt demanding her name of her ever since she input her name and it, and this entire world, welcomed her.

Upon leaving the town, in the plains nearby, a bulbous blue teardrop propped up on a pseudopod came up to her, and she saw:

A blue slime appears! Command?

NPC43 Pixel Art

NPC43

 

Some really small pixel art of NPC43. It looked bigger in the editor I used. Suppose I’ll need to try again. Though it would be the approximate size of how it would display in the game, so….it’s to scale, hurray.

She’s wearing a blue skirt and scarf, with a red blouse and gold sleeves. She has brown skin and purple hair.

The pixel art is really pretty bad, even at the size I thought it was to be, but then again, it fits primitive/early 8 bit games, so it’s not just to scale, it’s to quality also.

Lone Dark Ember: Love at Last

LOVE AT LAST

Griyz looked over at the door as it swung open. Immediately his eyes bulged and he blurted out, “Oh no, not you! I banned you when you destroyed the Final Dive 13, thrice! And again when you destroyed the fourteenth!”

The bar was pretty full, at just about half capacity. When you’re waiting for the universe to end, half a bar full of customers is a pretty good day. All of them looked over first at Griyz, then the newcomer sullenly, then put their heads back in their drinks. They tried to ignore the newcomer, for they knew trouble when she approached.

The newcomer, to put it simply, was gorgeous. Heart stoppingly so. And so very human looking. Not human, to be sure, but in a place like this, so close. Two long legs that reached into a curvy pair of hips. That continued upwards into an inwardly curving abdomen into a chest with two ponderous breasts upon such. Two lithe arms, a single head with a single mouth, nose, a pair of eyes and a pair of ears. And long silky black hair that reached down to her mid back. The only features that would mark her as inhuman is the elongated ears, the golden glow in her eyes, and her red skin that bordered between ripe cherry red and blood red. She was known to all as The Red Princess, and she was known to all for she was one of the two generals in charge of the armies that faced off against one another many millenia ago in the final war of the universe.

The nude woman, for her culture never developed clothing, not because she could not afford fabric, strode in like she owned the place, giving a charming smile and saying in a sweet as honey voice, “I’m not here for a fight nor a drink, Griyz. I’m just here to meet someone. I’ll leave when they come, if you want.”

Griyz’s vertical slit of a mouth gave an approximation of a frown before he sighed, “Fine…fine. Alright. But if you start any trouble, I’m banning you for real!”

The woman gave a short nod of her head and moves gracefully to a table and took a seat, “I’ll do my best, then, to not be the cause of discord.”

Griyz gave her a look, then when another customer waved for his attention he went away, asking, “What can I do for you?”

The Red Princess reclined casually in her seat, right leg crossed over left, armed crossed under her impressive bust, watching for the door. She had arrived earlier than the scheduled meeting, to be sure, but she had expected the other person to be arriving momentarily.

It was, after all, whom she fought against in the war. The other side’s general. Her rival. The only person who could match her tactical acumen.

Some time passed before the door flung open again, in striding another naked woman of nearly human build. Just like Red Princess, she had our basic build. Two legs, two arms, a torso we’d recognize as such. She also had a rather fulsome bustline. Marking the differences are her smaller than human ears, her blue skin, her silver eyes, and that she had no hair atop of her head but her skull had swept back groove like tentacles whose tips lay limply behind her neck. Both women had female genitalia that we would recognize as such.

In a place like this, they were the only two that appearred humanoid.

The Blue Lady. Everyone knew her, too. A powerful warrior whose mind was as deadly as her martial arts. She was also fully naked, not because her people had not developed clothing, but because they had not the concept of shame. Clothing or not bothered her none.

The Red Princess, the last of the Borsuumite peoples, fought alongside the Anti-Breeders in the Reproduction War, the final war in all possible history as their leader. The Blue Lady, last of the Nastrians, was the leader of the Pro-Breeders. The two fought a major war against one another with neither side losing a life or a battle. They were that evenly matched.

They never met in the field of battle. Until this moment, the two never met. Even the drunkards knew who they were, however, and all looked up in a state of shock, mumbling amongst themselves. They fully expected fisticuffs to ensue. They waited and watched with abated breath.

Griyz was about to speak up and warn the two about causing trouble, but refrained.

The two met standing up, and swung their arms out, grasping each other in a tight hug. As they pressed their bodies into one another, they pressed their lips together as well. The kiss, a foreign concept to many aliens without an oral orifice akin to a mouth, was something to be viewed and remarked upon as it lasted. And lasted. And continued to last.

Finally, as all things must, even if such is the entire universe, it came to an end. The two  broke the kiss and took a deep, unrestrained breath and gave one another a smile.

“You can not imagine my surprise,” said Blue Lady, “When I found out that the person I had been communicating with, and with such intimacy, was my old rival.”

“Perhaps the only person I could come to love, should that be in our future, would be the only one that could rival my military prowess.”

The two former generals gave a laugh and held each other by the biceps, before giving another shorter, but no less passionate, kiss. Then they sat down at the table Red Princess had chosen before.

The two continued a conversation that they shared before, electronically, as if they merely paused in it before for some inconsequential reason like a cough or sip of water. They were talking animatedly but quietly, touching each other’s hands gently here and there, as if they had been at this Final Dive for hours, and were simply continuing what they had been doing for a long time already.

And for a long time, the two continued in this way in peace, becoming even closer friends and, mayhaps, beginning to start their journey along the path of love. The glimmer in their eyes they had for one another certainly gave such a hint. But even peacable conversation must inevitably return to nothingness.

Up to the table of the two beauties slithered a being with a pseudopod instead of legs, with warty green skin coated in foul smelling slime, and a rather pronounced prehensile proboscus. It said in a rather nasally voice, “I know you,” to the table, without differentiating to whom he was referring to.

Blue Lady and Red Princess continued their conversation unabated, but quieter.

The slapped one tentacle that was its manipulator onto the table and glared down at Red Princess, “I said, I know you.” His either tentacle gave a scratch at his crotch. He had three phallus, though only one was functional at any one time. The other two would rest and regenerate while the active one remained….active. And it was pointing rather rudely at the women.

Red Princess gave a short sigh and glared at the intruder, “Please, we are having a conversation. We would like some privacy.”

“Want privacy, get a room!” said the male interloper. Then he continued after a chortle, “In fact, that’s a good idea. You’re a universal breeder aren’t you?”

Red Princess rolled her eyes and tried to ignore the guy, Blue Lady did likewise. The interloper gave a drunk burp.

“I ain’t talking just to blow the air around, you damn bi-”

“Excuse me,” interjected Blue Lady, “But you are talking to my friend. Continue to do so with disrespect, and I shall be afraid for your own safety.”

The drunk alien gave a simple, “Huh?”

Red Princess smiled to her companion, “I promised Griyz I wouldn’t start trouble. Let’s just leave.”

The alien ballooned outward, a show of its species it is about to get aggressive, “No! I’m talking and you’re listening! You’re a universal breeder, and I want offspring! You will breed with me!”

Red Princess scoffed, “I will do no such deplorable thing. Now begone from my sight or I’ll guarantee none of your dangly bits will ever be functional for any period of time.”

The aggressive male growled, “I fought as a Pro-Breeder and we wons that war, and I’m declaring my right as victor to breed! Give me offspring!”

It was Blue Lady who spoke next, her hands sliding into an ancient but relaxed combat position, “I believe you are in error. We did not win. We did not lose. The war simply ended.”

“Now just who do you think…G-General?”

Blue Lady gave a small smirk, “Yes, it is I. Let’s see…you were one of my Rearguard Captains were you not?”

“And I served with great pleasure, General!”

Blue Lady shuddered visibly. There’s every chance that his ‘great pleasure’ meant that someone else suffered, likely unwillingly. This gave her no end to the sense of disgust she felt. She frowned and stated, “Regardless, my friend said no, out of respect to me, you should now leave.”

The slimy alien looked at Blue Lady in thought, then gave a smirk, “You’re a universal breeder too, and you fought for the Pro-Breeders! You’ll breed with me!”

“Decline.”

The sluglike alien ave another deep growl and slapped its one tentacle across the table, “Damn you both! I want a kid, give me one!” There was a tense sob and he said with muscous dripping from his elongated, mobile nose, “You’re the only two anyone in this bright hell can reproduce with. Only you two can become pregnant with the offspring of any species. You’re my last hope.”

Red Princess asked with some concern, and not a bit of pity, “Why do you want a child so bad?”

“Because,” the sluggish one tried to calm himself down, “I want to tell someone the ways of my people. Our heroes and legends, our songs and poems. Because the term ‘Father’ in my culture is one of utmost respect and…and I’d have to live in dignity once more, to show my kid how to be a proper person. I wouldn’t be a useless drunk anymore, I’d be someone. Someone’s father.”

“I still refuse,” started Red Princess.

“So do I!” quickly added Blue Lady.

Red Princess gave a short look to her companion then continued, “I still refuse, but I understand your pain.”

“How can you rerfuse then?”

“How can I not?” replied Red Princess to the sad being, “When you see the state of our existence? When we live hoping that the star we must live by doesn’t go nova and burn us all to a crisp? When our lives very tenuously continue on and on for what? An end in the vast emptiness of space? Our lives may be, barring trauma and bodily damage, immortal, but we’re still living on borrowed time until the universe itself dceides to empty itself in its death throes. What kind of life is that for a child?”

“May be none, or it may be something worthwhile for as long as it lasts.”

“For whom,” inquired Blue Lady, “You or your offspring?”

The slggy alien looked downwards in thought, before sighing and moving away, mumbling, “Not sure anymore.”

As he was walking by, the door opened and in came a large animal like being. With a quick look around, it found people it new. He shouted a dark, “You!” and charged at the table of the more or less trio, as the sluglike being was still not too far away. The newcomer lunged at Blue Lady, who quite easily dodged aside. The giant slammed into the sluglike alien and in a tangle of furred muscle against slimy and spindly body, the two careened across the floor and into a table full of others.

“My,” said a startled Red Princess, “I think I know him.”

“I imagine so, he recognized one of us.”

“Most likely you, Blue Lady,” stated Red Princess matter of fact, “He wanted you dead.”

“Oh? Perhaps it is best, then, we depart this place. So you can keep your promise to Griyz and I can keep my existence.”

“A good idea,” agreed Red Princess. Arm in arm, the new couple left. The fifteenth Last Dive was home that night to a gigantic orgy of violence that left lots of people needing time to recuperate and Griyz time to repair the damage.

The two universal breeders continued to walk arm in arm together, the new couple walking slowly and talking peacably. They were indeed the last universal breeders in existence, and that had some status to it. TThey could mate with any other person out there and give a child of that union, no matter the alien. It was either a quirk of genetics, or just a gift their species were given. Or mayhaps they were just some of the ancestor species to all the other sapient species. Either way, most saw it as a gift. They both agreed it was an ironic joke at their expense by cursed fate.

“So I wonder,” asked Red Princess after a lull in the conversation, “Why, if you’re so strongly against having children, why you fought on the side of the breeders?”

“Tradition, mostly.”

“What tradition?”

“Back in the day,” said Blue Lady, “when the stars were numerous and planets flew in orbits about them, the Stellariferous Age, when life was plentiful and both our species trekked through space, my people thought it was their calling to breed with others. That in doing so it strengthened our own people, and that breeding with our own people made weak children. I felt I owed it to tradition and my ancestors of ancient days to fight for them.”

“Hmmm. Somewhat honorable. Though tradition is odd.”

“Tradition is tradition, it doesn’t need to be smart. It’s just tradition.”

Red Princess gave a nod and looked to the white dwarf that shone across the inside of the sphere they lived within, “Indeed. You make me want to do something I haven’t done in a long while.”

The two universal breeders kept walking, heading towards Red Princess’ home at a leisurely pace. They had silently agreed to spend the night together, these two who could breed with anyone at all. Blue Lady asked casually, “What’s that?”

“Write poetry.”

Gold Fox: Flashbang 2

From out of the conflagaration of the steamobile recently shot stalked death sheathed in silver!

That which was Baron Heinzglauf stomped with heavy footfalls out of the wrecked, a piece of iron framework clinging to its pristine silver foot. It screeched along the street as the baron stalked its way away from the flaming wrecked it just escaped from. Its cold metal visage gave a frigid scan of the area, as if tracking the ballistic trajectory of the shots that just assaulted it.

Gold Fox’s illusion kept tracking the area of the former steamobile, and she altered it slightly to focus on the silver being. The illusion seemed to travel about the silver metallic being to allow the two half-elf women a full study of the being, then it focused on its chassis and head structure. After studying it a good while, Gold Fox finally stated, “That’s just impossible.”

“Improbable to be sure, dear, but obviously not impossible,” was Lady Thundercaster’s reply.

Gold Fox gave a frown and studied the illusion a bit longer, “Perhaps so. The question is, how’d it get here?”

“We’ll need to find the answer to that later, likely buried in a conspiracy and mayhaps forgotten.”

The woman with the red hair gave a short nod to her blue haired girlfriend, “True. Worse, it looks like we’ve just angered it. Looks like we’re going to be in for a fight.”

“Only if we allow it to find us,” stated the sniper half-elf calmly.

Gold Fox nodded, “This is true. Come, we should move away, it will soon be tracking your shots to our location.”

Lady Thundercaster sighed, “Why are they only my shots when something goes wrong?”

“Because that makes me look better in the long run, of course!” Gold Fox replied from behind a nearby tree. The duo stealthily in this fashion, until they came to an impasse. There were no more trees to hide behind. There were several buildings across a flat field and street, but they were many dozens of yards away. The duo would very likely be spotted by their enemy. Gold Fox stated from behind her tree, “So, how’d a Silver Reaper come to be here decades before they’re supposed to be made? Aren’t they WYRM technology?”

“You’re asking me like I’d know?” replied Lady Thundercracker quickly.

Gold Fox gave a short quirk of a brow at the reply of her girlfriend, “Well, no. Just talking aloud. That is a Silver Reaper. But they’re supposed to have been brand new from just before…”

“Yeah…” Lady Thundercaster gave a short sigh, “Maybe.” She then pointed out, “However, there’s another complication to things.”

“How’s that?”

“That’s not a WYRM made Silver Reaper.”

Gold Fox crouched low and asked her fellow spy, “How do you know that?”

“Cast of construction. It has none of the fabricated seams like a WYRM’s Silver Reaper.”

“So there’s no weak points we can exploit like we used to?” inquired Gold Fox.

“Sadly, no. Worse, none of our weaponry can destroy it. You may be able to stun it a few times if you set your crossbow’s bolts to the right magical load, and my guns could give it some pause if I fire them at high power, but we don’t have what we need to destroy it.”

“How can you be so sure?”

Lady Thundercaster gave her pistol handles a fond pet and a sigh, “Because…that’s not a WYRM made Silver Reaper…”

“Already established.”

“That’s an Original Silver Reaper.”

Gold Fox kept looking around, trying to find a sewerway or some other means of escape, then paused and turned to look at Lady Thundercaster again, “Wait, repeat that?”

“That thing there is an Original Silver Reaper, dear.”

Gold Fox gave a soft sigh and ran a hand in her red hair, along the white streak in it, “I was afraid you said that. But that’s even less probable!”

“But not impossible.”

“I suppose not, no, as the thing is most likely going to be attempting to remove our lovely heads off of our beautiful bodies,” quipped Gold Fox.

“If it matters any, I’d rather go first. Wouldn’t want to see your lifeless body,” said Lady Thundercaster with a grim set of her jaw.

“You’re adorable, and I love you for that. Thank you for your kindness.”

Lady Thundercaster continued, “Also, I know once an Original Silver Reaper starts to kill, they get more…creative…and painful in their methods of killing.”

“Ah, knew there was an ulterior motive.”

“It’s who we are, after all.”

The entire time the duo had been talking, the Silver Reaper walked a slow but steady pace towards the grassy knoll the duo had recently vacated. Gold Fox asked, “Original Silver Reapers came from another world, did they not?”

“Indeed, as far as we know it, at least.”

“Good enough,” Gold Fox sighed, “So maybe it arrived here long ago from the stars and only recently woke up.”

“To be Baron Prohibition?”

“Heinzglauf,” Gold Fox corrected.

“Regardless, to mimic some baron who is ultimately unimportant to history?”

“Not very unimportant,” stated Gold Fox, “The real baron’s death escalated the war between Humanity and Elfkind and initialized an entire new theatre of fighting. If it wasn’t for his death, six months from now, the aerial fights in the north-”

“Wait, so our mission was to kill a guy who was going to be killed a few months from now anyway?”

“Welcome to DRAGON!” said Gold Fox with a smirk. The Silver Reaper started to stomp across the grass, its heavy body distorting the ground beneath it, “I told our handler a few bits of information in an attempt to kill him before he set a few actions in motion that made his later death actually matter.”

A sigh escaped Lady Thundercaster’s mouth and she gave a shrug, “Sure, that works. Use information you shouldn’t have to undertake a mission you shouldn’t go on. I thought I told you before….”

“I didn’t tell any real secrets! Just a few lies coated in enticing almost truths.”

“Like when you wear your kimono with the shoulders bared, Fox?”

“Exactly, Lady T.”

The duo peeked their heads around the trees almost simultaneously, watching the Silver Reaper continue to climb the soft hill. Lady Thundercaster statedafter a moment, “I think we’ll need to call them.”

Gold Fox gave a short nod, “Guess so. If we’re going to die, let’s do it as a full team.”

Lady Thundercaster whipped her pistols out and grunted, “That’s the spirit.”

“We’ll be the spirit soon, look!”

The Original Silver Reaper jerked its head towards the copse of trees the duo were within. As Gold Fox was calling for reinforcements on the communications gemstone in her ring, the Reaper charged at full speed towards the pair, knocking trees down as if they were paper banners wet in the rain. Somehow, the Reaper averted its path to the left, as the duo sprinted off to the right.

Lady Thundercaster asked while adjusting dials on her large pistols, “Illusion?”

“Illusion.”

“Won’t affect him long. Likely, not again either.”

Gold Fox laughed, “It only takes once to save your life! Also, maybe a very elaborate one at the proper time will give us the edge we need.”

“Maybe. Contact them?”

“Yup.”

Lady Thundercaster, the faster runner, started to overpace her partner, “Where we headed?”

Gold Fox gave a point just past the nearest buildings, “Warehouse district. Maybe we can find an ironworks, melt him down.”

“Silver Reapers melt at a point far beyond that of iron.”

“Encase him in metal.”

“That…may work. Perhaps.” Lady Thundercracker ran past Gold Fox now, “I’ll see what we can use.”

“What about me?”

“Be bait, my love!”

Lady Thundercaster continued on, her long legs pumping quickly in the tight shorts she wore, allowing her to move at good speed. Gold Fox whimpered a bit and sad under her breath as she skidded to a stop around the side of a building, “Bait stinks.”

The Silver Reaper turned itself to follow Gold Fox again, having senses the false information the illusions instilled in him and deleting them out of its perceptions. It focused on the sound of the person running from it that was not panicing like the mob did in the direction it had come from. The silver being jumped high into the air, attempting to land upon or near its prey.

In the sky, however, a large flying reptile collided into it, its jaws clamping down upon the metal being. The two beings strained their powerful muscles against one another until the Reaper started to pry the flying reptile’s jaws open. In response, the reptile threw the Reaper hard into the stone lined street below, but away from Gold Fox.

Gold Fox gave a smile, knowing that the rest of her team arrived, and at such an opportune time. She saw the reptile for what it was, the shapeshifter No-Face, the silent member of the team. Riding atop of her was the team’s muscle, a Steam Elf. An elf who had undergone a major process to replace parts of their body with the magical metals to grant them great power. Each Steam Elf was unique, but they were all mostly metal, crafted for war.

“No-Face! D!”

The Steam Elf riding atop No-Face’s flying reptile form shouted, “Blast you, I told you before to call me by my actual name!”

“No, too long!”

“Child,” started the Steam Elf, an epithet that Gold Fox abhorred, “Fist of Flying Puissant Justice Iteration D is not a long name to say!”

Gold Fox grunted, “Maybe not in Elfin!”

The Steam Elf gave a snort and launched herself off of No-Face, who was diving at the Silver Reaper righting itself from its hard fall. D flew with her right leg out, giving a war shout to greet the Reaper’s senses. As she did so, No-Face flashed a bright light and instantly became the form of a heavy and powerful war e’phant with sharpened tusks and horns, charing at the Reaper.

The Reaper reacted to D’s nicoming flying kick by grabbing the Steam Elf at the ankle and pivoting upon its own, sending the elf with the heavy metal form into No-Face’s charing body, both careening away. It then jumped upon the duo, grabbing D’s left hand. With a quick and powerful twist and yank, D’s highly armed and powerful left arm was torn off and discarded.

Gold Fox grabbed her pistol crossbows and cursed, “Loki’s getting his jollies on this.”