After a long preparation and a series of painful goodbyes, Rosin and Gorbert moved to the Terra Rasa and their method of transportation to their hostile destination.
<DICE> Winged Rosin moves in and activates the rift generator. The arms swirl, the cage glows, and the Rift opens wider than ever. She's ready to leave.
<DICE> Winged Rosin steps through the gate and walks to the cavern. She's armed, ready.
<DICE> Gorbert Vanhousserhoffen follows her. He looks as he never has before--there is something different about him. He hops off of the once-gelding and leads it to the rift.
<DICE> Gorbert Vanhousserhoffen asks coolly, calmly, "Are you ready for this, Sister?"
<DICE> Winged Rosin nods and smiles. "I'm always ready to run. Might want to get on your horse, Brother." She turns and hops into the Rift. She's gone.
<DICE> Gorbert Vanhousserhoffen swings his leg over the creatures side and spurs it into the strange portal. Whatever comes, he will not regret it.
The Rift Generator sparks as the once-gelding passes through. The arms jerk, then lock in place. The Rift disappears, and the machine falls apart, bolt by bolt.
Rosin steps from a small rift, Gorbert riding the once-gelding just behind. The rift fades from existence behind the odd trio, and immediately there are shouts.
The sound of automatic weapons being loaded echos across the large room. White walls, white floors, machines. A laboratory, and a platoon of guards. "Gorbert, we run." Before he has a chance to react, she's already sprinting. A leap, a kick, and she breaks a gelding-sized hole through a wall.
Gorbert digs his heels into the horse's sides and is thrown back as it bolts after Rosin. He grits his teeth, doing his best to protect his body from the acceleration. Strangely enough, his hat remains where it is.
The once-gelding follows her haphazard path through the base, then out into the open air. The sun glares off the snow as Rosin sprints down the side of the mountain. She digs her heels in to slide when she hits rock, then drops onto a ledge, Gorbert not far behind. She steps into the cave, then throws down her bag. "Good enough. One encounter, no deaths yet." Before either Gorbert or the once-gelding can say otherwise, she drops to the stone and rests her head on the bag. "You take first watch." Then she's out cold, exhausted.
Sunrise hits the east-facing cave with a flood of soft light. Gorbert walks over to Rosin and shakes her shoulder. "Come on. We should move again."
She stirs slowly, then her ears prick up and swivel toward the cave's mouth. She holds a finger to her lips and points toward the once-gelding. Her left hand goes to one of the pistols on her hip.
Gorbert pulls the sword that he's taken to using from its sheath and readies himself by the entrance of the cave.
The hammer of the revolver is drawn back with a barely audible click, and Rosin crawls out onto the lip outside the cave. There's quite the distance left down the mountain, but her eyes scan the jungle beneath easily. A sharp intake of breath, and she edges back, pointing Gorbert to the once-gelding again. "Get on," she whispers, "but do it quietly."
He slips onto the beast without a sound and its clamps slide into place. Gorbert gives a single nod to Rosin.
She stands slowly, making sure that she's not in view of anything below, then steps backward into the caves. "They've released the hounds on us, Gorbert. Both of them." She's watching the entrance carefully, both of her massive revolvers aimed at the opening.
A quiet reply. "What are the hounds."
Rosin snatches up her bag from the cave's floor and loops it over her shoulder. A minute of quiet searching and she pulls a pair of field glasses. She hands them to Gorbert, then slowly leads the once-gelding near the entrance so he can see.
Below in the jungle, there is movement. It's difficult to see what exactly is causing the trees to shift aside, until they reach a clearing. To massive humanoid figures, at least ten feet tall, covered in thick hair. They could be mistaken for Kittymorphs, but there is something wrong. Their arms are too long, hands too large. Their claws are like blades, eight inches long. Their ears sweep back behind them, catching sound from every angle. But the most disturbing part of them is the head. Two rows of glistening yellow fangs, sharp and thin as needles, sit in massive jaws. Just above the nose sits a pair of eyes. They glow a dark dark red, as if filled with blood and lit from behind.
Gorbert hands the glasses back to Rosin. "All right. You know what we're facing and where we are better than I do. What now?"
She freezes. One of the creatures is looking straight at them, long ears standing up. "I hate hunters." It nudges its companion, then points. They both bare their fangs and start off at a sprint. "Gorbert, I hope you have more than your sword with you." The hunter pair take long strides, clawed hands stretching out and grasping things to pull them along faster. Trees fly away as the monsters reach nearly three hundred miles per hour and begin to climb.
He gives a single curt nod and responds, "If you think I need more."
"I think you'll need a tank." She leans over the ledge and fires a single warning shot. It tears through one of the hunters' legs and bone follows the exit. The beast hardly slows, the splintered white ends pulling themselves back beneath the flesh. They're halfway to the cave. "And you'll need it soon."
Gorbert shakes his head. "Sorry, didn't bring a tank this time." He slips his cane out of the case on his back. "That injury didn't seem to hurt it much. What will?" he asks calmly as he gathers.
With a flex of her hands, ten razor sharp blades spring from Rosin's fingers. Her claws are each three inches long, and taper to wicked points. "I've never seen one die, Gorbert. I don't know what will kill them." As she finishes speaking, a pair of clawed hands grasp the edge of the lip.
Gorbert doesn't have time to respond, only act. He projects his will into the land and bends reality as he wishes. The stone at the edge of the cave flows like liquid, shaping itself based on his needs. Before the Hound can blink, its hands are encased in half a foot of solid, unyielding rock. Not waiting to see if it can tear itself free, Gorbert lunges across the cave and shoves his sword through its chest.
The owner of the hands yelps, then snaps at the blade protruding from its ribcage. Its brother lunges up from behind, tackling Gorbert to the ground. Rosin fires two more shots, removing one of the trapped arms in her attempt to kill the struggling hunter.
Gorbert is suddenly trapped beneath several hundred pounds of something angry and vicious. His muscles bulge as he presses against its chest and throat, trying to keep its teeth away from him. Hot, foul breath blows in his face and the creature raises one arm, claws gleaming. Gorbert's eyes widen as it slashes towards his face with the eight-inch daggers. He shifts his grip and the claws sink deep into his left arm. Gorbert roars in pain and rage, and his head is lifting off of the cave floor to impact against its snout. Teeth and blood fly in all directions, and it looks momentarily startled. He uses that split-second to tuck his legs up against his chest, plant his feet on its ribcage and heave. The hound is bucked off of him, flies a few yards and hits the ground.
While Gorbert struggles with his own hunter, Rosin is trying to deal with hers. It somehow managed to break free of the rock trapping its hand, and is now trying to tear at her with its broken claws. She darts this way and that, always just out of reach, swinging her guns like clubs against joints. Bones break, then meld again as she continues her attack. She glances over her shoulder to check on Gorbert, and receives a curled fist to the abdomen for her efforts. There are bones sprouting from its bloodied stump, muscles reforming around the arm as it grows.
Gorbert doesn't hesitate once the beast is off of him. He hurls himself at the other one. He clings to its back, dodging the swipes of its claws as it tries to dislodge him. Grabbing a fistful of its fur, he swings himself up to its shoulder and seizes the handle of his broadsword. With a tremendous heave, he pulls the weapon up through its ribs, heart and lung. The blade lodges in its collarbone just as rough hands seize Gorbert and he is hurled across the cave by the other hound. His head connects with the wall with a sickening crunch and blood sprays.
Rosin jams her revolver's barrel into the mouth of the hunter that was so recently on top of Gorbert, pulling the trigger. The explosive round detonates inside its skull, destroying most of the creature's head. The hunter topples backward off the ledge, no new bones sprouting to rebuild. The single armed hunter swipes at her again, pulling away feathers. She kicks it back, then rushes over to Gorbert's side.
Gorbert's mind is reeling. Blood and brain fluid is leaking all across the stone wall of the cave and he has one bitch of a migraine. Snarling, he pushes himself into a standing position but staggers slightly. Damn it. He separates his mind from the weaknesses of his body and his head clears at once. He tries to run at the maimed hunter but his body is still too damaged to respond properly. Mentally growling in frustration as he falls back to the floor, he focuses all of his efforts towards healing his shattered skull and damaged brain.
Ignoring the remaining hunter completely, Rosin pulls a handful of vials from her bags. She pours a bit directly onto Gorbert's wounds, then shoves the rest into his hands as the beast lumbers closer. She kicks for its chest, but it blocks quickly. She tries to swipe its legs, it jumps. She swipes with her claws, and it blocks with its healing arm. A small beeping sounds, and her eyes go wide as she kicks it in the chest hard. She saw something blinking red on its back.
Gorbert gasps as his skull seals itself, as damaged brain tissue and shredded skin is replaced. He clasps his head and reels as a completely alien sense invades his body. He is not the one repairing it, and he doesn't like it. But it's doing the job, and well.
A screamed warning from Rosin brings him back to his senses. Without knowing the source of the danger, he reacts instinctively. Taking Rosin into his arms, he dives for the wall and they melt through the solid stone. The rock closes around them, containing them from danger until he can reorient himself and figure out a course of action.
Rosin's claws dig into Gorbert's arms out of instinct, struggling to see in the tiny space. There's a muffled thump from outside, the vibration carried through the stone. "Gor, let me out." There's panic edging her voice.
He hesitates for a fraction of a second, then they are pulled back through the wall as if the stone were tugging gently at them. The wall splits open and they are back out in the open again. The stone seals itself flawlessly behind them.
There is blood and flakes of bone everywhere, the once-gelding whinnying loudly. The stone that isn't slick and red is scorched, and there's a figure pulling herself over the lip of the cave's entrance. Her left leg is replaced with a blade, and her face carries a quite familiar smirk as she hefts the tube of a rocket launcher to her shoulder again.
Gorbert is already launching himself towards this new assailant when he stops dead. A very familiar face is staring back at him, and his brain freezes for just an instant as it tries to sort this out.
With a mix of a giggle and a snicker, the woman ducks out of the way of Gorbert's lunge, then snatches the back of his collar to stop him from taking a tumble off the edge of the mountain with the hunters. "Hold on there, sparky. Don't want you going so quick." Her smirk widens as she recognizes Rosin's face. "Well well, look who came home. Been a while"
Gorbert had already STOPPED DEAD.
After he comes to grips with what he's seeing, Gorbert readies himself for a fight. He's heard a few things about this one and is prepared to take her down hard if she makes the wrong move.
The woman approaches Rosin. It's almost like a mirror image, aside from the missing leg. "Hello there. Thought I'd stop by and finish some business." The winged Rosin glances at the rocket launcher on her shoulder. "How'd you get the tracker on it?" The woman in mercenary's clothing shrugs. Neither finds this sort of meeting odd.
Gorbert flanks the Other while glancing around quickly for his sword. Glowing red chips of metal litter the cave. Well. He hadn't needed it anyway--though he hadn't brought any other conventional weapons.
Rosin faces her double, each looking the other over. Simultaneously they say, "You're looking good." The winged Rosin waves a hand between Gorbert and her other. "Gor, Rosin. Rosin, Gor." The mercenary mocks a salute.
Gorbert keeps his voice even, but with an underlying threat in his tone. "I know who she is. I know what she is. And I've heard small pieces of her past exploits. Drop the weapon."
The mercenary lets the tube of the rocket launcher roll of her shoulder...right onto Gorbert's foot. "Oops. Sorry, how clumsy of me." Her smirk says otherwise. "Mercenary Command, third branch. Nice to meet you."
He takes no notice of his foot. His whole life is pain--why should such a simple hurt bother him? "I don't particularly wish I could return the sentiment. What do you want?"
The mercenary scratches the back of her neck. "Well, I suppose I wanted those damned hounds dead. Now, I'm not exactly so sure what I want. You two jus' showin' up out of nowhere, bringing hell with ya." Rosin stands off to the side, a small smirk on her face as she listens to the two.
Gorbert doesn't say anything, but he moves around to Rosin's front. "All right. Thank you for almost killing us. Now that you've accomplished what you wanted, I suggest you go as fast as that," he gestures at her leg, "will allow you."
The mercenary grins and gestures to the entrance of the cave. During the course of the conversation, a team of soldiers positioned themselves on the lip. "Oh, but what sort of host would I be if I didn't at least invite you to stay with us?" None of the soldiers are turned toward the cave, all watching outward.
Gorbert doesn't move, but readies himself for combat. A quick look to Rosin, asking for instructions.
She gestures to the cave's entrance. "Well, we might as well accept her offer. Besides, I could use a bite to eat." The mercenaries all have a short chuckle at this, then start to leap down the mountain. Their commander, Rosin's twin, follows after. There are ropes involved. "After you, Gorbert." Rosin motions to the once-gelding.
He shakes his head. "Unless you plan on running some more," he replies, "I'd prefer to move under my own power." He doesn't add the main reason for walking on his own. But he's much more combat effective on the ground.
They both move to the cave's entrance, watching the mercenary and her soldiers slide down cords of nylon. "Follow me closely," Rosin whispers, "I don't trust her any more than I would have trusted Dan." Her hand is still resting on the handle of one of her revolvers as she leaps from the side of the mountain and begins to glide down. Gorbert and the once-gelding are forced to content themselves with carefully sliding down across the stone and ice.
Gorbert frowns at the icy slope and closes his eyes. A moment later, metal spikes jut from the soles of his shoes. As unskilled as he is at altering clothing, this was a simple trick. He jams the ice cleats into the slick surface and follows Rosin, carefully guiding the horse.
Minutes later, they begin their plod into the jungle. Soon it becomes evident why there is so much Improbability flooding the atmosphere. From their east-facing cave, their view was blocked by stone, but here in the jungles south of the mountain, something is immediately obvious. From the approximate position of AceHigh rises an absolutely massive gleaming monolith, nearly as tall as the mountain they descended. Lightning of all sorts arcs from seemingly random arrays, striking the machine itself and the jungle around it. Rosin gestures up to Gorbert as they walk and whispers, "Horatio."
Gorbert stares in utter disbelief. "That's Horatio? That monstrosity? No wonder Alexei was unfamiliar with the idea of beating him." He flexes his fingers slightly. "But...I feel good. Great! There's so much power here...."
Rosin laughs as they continue onward through the jungle. "Of course it's Horatio. He decided to make himself bigger, got tired of pulling himself together so many times from airstrikes." There is surprisingly little resistance as the troupe marches onward, only firing a shot to scare away a baby panthzer. Soon they come within hearing range of massive engines and the pounding of metal on metal.
The jungle begins to open up in front of them and the mercenary's troops begin to fan out on either side. The clearing seems.. Familiar. Even with the massive armoury in the center and the manufacturing machines surrounding it, there's something about the field that seems to remind Gorbert of somewhere else. Maybe it's the way the grass moves as people walk across it.
He blinks and stares at the opening. Kneeling in the tall grass, he feels it with one palm. A frown. "Not quite symbiotic..." he murmurs. "But there's definitely something there." Gorbert stands and goes back to Rosin's side. "What should we do? I don't trust her any farther than I could throw Kai."
Before Rosin can even open her mouth to reply, the mercenary speaks up. "I'm sure you remember this place, don't you? Fixed it up a bit since you left. Proper operation going on now, fighting back against the military." She gestures to her troops, a motley assembly of all races and all varieties amongst each. Multi-armed Mutants work together with Kittymorph mechanics to repair a fleet of Kittybikes, each armed to the teeth (literally) with different weapons. A brigade of panthzers, each painted with a different emblem on their flank, dozes in the warmth near a group of Jokers and Humans playing cards. Rosin simply nods and asks, "But where's the food?" With a hearty chuckle, a nearby Gobot jerks his thumb in the direction of the armoury. "Food's in there. Eat up quick, Field's moving in a bit." With a tug on Gorbert's sleeve, Rosin's off.
Gorbert follows Rosin into the mess and stands close by her as she fills up a tray with food. "What do you think, Cap'n?" he murmurs in her ear. "Should we stick with them for a little while or go?"
Almost too busy loading her tray, as well as a smaller one for Gorbert, Rosin barely has time to respond between orders. "I'd been meaning to have a face to face with.. My other self for a while. Besides, if that Bot was correct, we'll have to get strapped down." Gorbert doesn't have time to respond as Rosin rushes over to a table, nudging a lounging trio of militant Kittymorphs out of the way. She takes a seat, strangely equipped with a harness, and begins pulling and latching the straps before covering the trays and locking them into the table. She motions to the seat beside her, "You'll need to get strapped too, Gorbert. Wouldn't want to break anything."
Gorbert responds with a wry smirk, but doesn't say anything as he sits in the chair and secures the harness over himself. Finally, he says, "You didn't answer my question."
After checking the clock, Rosin glances sidelong at Gorbert. "I believe we'll be sticking around for a bit. At least long enough to negotiate something." They sit in silence for no more than thirteen seconds before there's a terrible wrenching sound of metal being torn from metal. The once-gelding ducks under the long table, startled by the noise. Rosin grabs the sides of her chair and braces herself in the harness. The wrenching sound stops, but before the echos clear from the air the entire building rushes sideways at unimaginable speed. It continues in one direction for a minute, then goes the opposite, then downward, then in a different direction before settling. The mercenaries at all the other tables unstrap themselves and continue their business as if nothing had happened.
Gorbert looks slightly amused. "So that's how it moves about the Island, eh?" He keeps an eye on the other patrons of the mess hall while Rosin eats, touching nothing himself.
She laughs at his observation, then gestures toward his tray. "Aren't you going to have any for yourself, Gorby?" Despite the rather militaristic affair that is the rest of the Field, the food seems to be civilian made. That could explain the happy families of Orcs serving with their wives behind the counters, their small children playing around the tables. "You'll need some food in you later."
He shakes his head. "No, I really don't, any more than I need air in my lungs. And I'd rather be alert and ready if anything happens. But make sure you get enough to eat." He turns back to face her with a slight smile. "This might be the last time for a while, if things go badly."
She raises a curious eyebrow, then cleans the last scraps off her tray before stacking it with more than a dozen identical trays. "Suit yourself, Gorbert. If you'll excuse me, I'm off to have a chat with the kommandant. Socialize, learn what you can from the mercs. And please don't kill anyone." With that, she stands and secures her bag before walking off. The once-gelding pokes its head out from under the table and sets it across Gorbert's lap, giving a quiet whinny.
Gorbert looks down in surprise at the gelding and chuckles. He strokes its snout absentmindedly as he continues to watch the others. Nothing to do now but wait for Rosin's eventual return.
As for killing, well...he's one of the least likely people to kill without damn good reason, and is content to watch the mercenaries for the time being.
The assorted soldiers-for-hire mill about their own business for the most part, but occasionally one of the more adventurous Kittymorphs or Humans will walk past and examine Gorbert in detail. One Joker even ventures to make a rather heavy looking lead top hat appear on the table in front of him.
Gorbert raises an eyebrow at the Joker and then concentrates on the top hat. The metal flattens out and begins writhing and twisting, eventually forming a roughly detailed violin.
A few of the Joker's friends notice and clap as she blushes faintly and smiles at Gorbert. From across the room one of the more outright Mutants shouts, "Play us a song, why don't you? Boring as all hell without any combat."
Gorbert's lips twist into a wry smile, against his will, and he taps the hat/violin with his cane. A lead violin would sound godawful, so he transforms it into a real one. Setting the instrument on his shoulder, he draws, roughly, the shape of a bow in midair and grasps it as it appears. Placing the bow on the violin, he draws out one long note before launching into a lively tune. Good music for resting soldiers--something to lift spirits and evoke revelry.
The Mutant that spoke up looks rather grateful, his knee swinging in circles around his torso to the beat. A few of the more energetic Kittymorphs and Humans begin dancing, while the Jokers applaud. Barely two minutes into Gorbert's playing, the lights dim, then flash red. A siren blares. Suddenly, every mercenary has a weapon of some sort and is rushing out the door. Rosin ducks past the flood of soldiers and makes her way to Gorbert, covering her ears to block out the siren's wail.
The violin and bow are gone before Gorbert is even on his feet again and he's grasping his cane tightly. "What are we facing?" he asks, getting right down to business. "Military or jungle monsters?"
Rosin has a wry grin on her face as she tugs at Gorbert's sleeve, leading them outside. The immediate surroundings seem no different than before, but the monolith that is Horatio is much farther north. The once-gelding clomps out behind as they drop into the back of the parade ground in time for orders. "Good word, troops! Today, we strike our enemy in their heart." The mercenary leader, who is Rosin in only name and appearance, continues shouting, "Today, we march on Home! Our victory at NewPitts was nothing short of marvelous, and we may be one step closer to taking out the enemy once and for all!" The assembled mercenaries give a rousing cheer. "Prepare for a full assault, armour, aircraft, artillery, the whole show! Thank you, have a nice battle!" With a deeply theatrical bow, the mercenary jumps from her pedestal and approaches the pair of latecomers. "So glad to provide a distraction for you. Nice enough you handed us the downfall of the Butcher on a silver platter, now you're going after the rest?" Rosin nods with a grin and rests her hands on her pistols. The mercenary gives a nod and a grin, then scoops up a fallen rifle by its strap. A tiny salute, more in jest than respect, and she sprints off after her troops.
Gorbert turns to face his Sister. "Care to fill me in?" he asks mildly. "On the plans, and a few other questions. This--Butcher. Didn't you or Alexei mention that he's dead?"
Rosin nods, then checks her pistols. She loads a few cartridges into each, having a full twelve shots. "I saw the Butcher killed, Kuroiten managed to pull him from this world then erase him entirely in ours.. Well, yours." She looks over at the once-gelding and pats its muzzle affectionately. "Get ready to run, boy. You'll have fun, no doubt." She turns back to Gorbert as she continues rubbing the horse's nose. "They're going to surround Home and siege it from all sides. Just a distraction so we can get inside and go to the headquarters. There are two people left on my list now that we killed those hunters."
He raises an eyebrow. "Kuroiten did this? When was that? I never even noticed." He shakes his head and continues, "Only two more? I was expecting to face a full-blown army of people that needed to die. Didn't realize there are so few Hunters." Gorbert slings one leg over the steed and straps his cane to his back while waiting for a reply.
She ties the ends of her sleeves and the legs of her pants around her wrists and ankles, making sure that nothing will catch while she runs. "Kuro destroyed him a long time ago, we were alone at the time. It was just after my first accidental divorce." She checks her pistols again, then pulls a wicked looking pair of knives from her bag and slides one under the barrel of each revolver. Bayonets. "Seems that she killed most of the people on my list already. The only two left are General Redmarsh and the Field Marshall himself." The distant thump of artillery can be heard starting. All out-going so far.
Gorbert, in stark contrast, has no weapons to prepare and is supremely unconcerned by this. "I remember that...you putting him in contact with her...in the Common Grounds. She was rather bitchy, to be frank." He taps his chin as he waits for the signal. "I remember that it had to do with a favor--I thought it was a favor to him, but I guess it was one for you."
Rosin looks up from her preparations. "A favor? Oh no, it was all testing. Can't much tell you more than that, I'm afraid." She pulls a few extra things from her bag, speed loaders for her pistols in case she needs them, and another pair of knives. "They're sure taking their time on this. Probably just trying to soften up their defenses." The artillery fire has been brought to a crescendo, a rapid series of thumps coming from multiple directions in the south. "I suppose it means we have a few less people to kill, though."
Gorbert is slightly impatient to get started. He doesn't relish the idea of killing, but he has long since become accustomed to it. And the sooner they confront and exterminate Rosin's enemies, the sooner he can relax and return to the rest of his Family. To fill the time, he asks, "Why is she fighting the military, anyway? Shouldn't they both be fighting the Drive?"
Rosin looks up, her blank face holding for only a moment before she breaks into laughter. "Why should she -haha- fight the drive? -ha- Jokers here are -heehee- so much apart. They want to -ha- spread Improbability." She stifles her laughter, even managing to keep the grin off her face. Just a little. "Any way, the military is intent on destroying all things improbable. Including Jokers, Mutants, Zombies, the whole like." A single flare, bright blue, arcs high into the sky. "There's our signal, Gorby. Are you ready to ride?"
He looks irritated. "How the hell should I know how things are around here? You've explained the bare minimum about this world." He kicks his heels into the gelding's sides as a response to her question, and he's gone.
With barely contained laughter, Rosin bolts after him. The once-gelding's plates seal protectively as they move faster and faster. Four hundred miles per hour as they come within sight of the army surrounding the settlement. A narrow alleyway opens amongst their ranks and dust flies up as the two move through, barely more than two colourful blurs. A ramp is set at the front line of the mercenary ranks. With a burst of speed, they leap over the high walls of the fortress/city and continue upward through lines of enemy soldiers.
Alarms flash. Sirens blare. Bullets skip off the narrow cobbled streets as Rosin and Gorbert rush onward up the incline to the center of the city. A loud thump and a bright flash, and suddenly most soldiers are distracted by the hordes of mercenary vehicles pouring in through breaches on the walls. Kittybikes loaded with machine guns and covered in blades tear through clusters of soldiers while Panthzers take down buildings with ease. To Rosin and Gorbert, the sounds are distant and indistinct. Their focus is now on the armoured division separating them from the military headquarters.
Gorbert leans as close to the horse's back as he can with the harness holding him in place and the wind doing its best to break him in half. Lucky shots glance off of the beast's armor, and one hits him in the shoulder. He ignores it, using a tiny amount of focus to push the metal out and heal the wound.
As they get closer, the cannons begin to fire and tear apart the ground in front of them. Rosin lifts her right arm and fires three times. Two tanks go up in smoke, burning from the inside out. The third is hit in its magazine and explodes outright, destroying one beside it. A path is cleared and Gorbert and Rosin rush through. Into the headquarters itself. There are no soldiers, and all is quiet except for the clapping of metal soled boots and hooves on the floors. They skid to a stop, completely lost in the labyrinth of hallways. Still alert, Rosin asks, "Gorbert, can you do that trick you pulled in the lake? Point us toward the center?"
He nods and closes his eyes, centering himself. Let's see...they were headed south-southwest. He detaches himself from the confining lump of tissue that is his body and spreads his senses out in all directions.
Gorbert's eyes snap open. "Follow me," he murmurs and bolts down a hallway.
The sound of steel on the floors echos far down the halls as they run. The once-gelding runs halfway up walls when it takes turns, Rosin leaping and planting her feet before leaping again, such is their speed. In less than a minute, they find themselves in a massive antechamber, the ceiling arching at least fifty feet above them. In the center of the room two soldiers stand. One, by the markings on his uniform and helmet, is obviously a general. The other wears a simple red trenchcoat, open in the front. He stands easily two feet taller than the genaral and applauds politely as Rosin and Gorbert slide to a stop. "Well well, seems we have visitors, Redmarsh. Isn't this interesting?" The general shifts about nervously, reaching for a pistol that isn't there. The taller figure speaks up again, "I recognize one of my little runners when I see her. How are you, Ace? Doing well? And who's this you brought with you? Such a beautiful horse he has." The figure grins wide, exposing a mouthful of inhuman fangs.
Gorbert swings one leg over the gelding's side and drops to the floor. He takes a few slow steps forward. "Gorbert Vanhousserhoffen. Her horse, actually," he says, jerking his head in Rosin's direction. "The Watcher, I presume? We have business to settle." He is polite and conversational, casual, even. But he is alert and focused, his sharpened senses and heightened reflexes ready for the coming battle. Briefly, he thinks of the people he left behind, and wonders if he'll see them again. He pushes that out of his mind. This is what he exists for.
The taller man grins wider, his mouth stretching the entire width of his face. The general takes a step forward and glances about nervously, sweat dripping off his face. "Excellent guess, Mr. Vanhousserhoffen. Field Marshall Watcher, at your service. I'd enjoy getting to know you, but first I have some unfinished business with my little runner." There's a small click, and the general's eyes go wide. The bullet bursts through his chest and crosses the distance between them in less than a milisecond, slamming into Rosin dead center. The explosive payload in the bullet detonates and she's sent flying backward, trailing smoke and fire. The Field Marshall raises his hand as the dead general falls and blows smoke from the barrel of his revolver. "My my my, I didn't expect that to be over so qui-" He stops mid word. Something isn't right. He hit her in the chest with a bullet that would have destroyed a tank, but there are no pieces flying about. Rosin slowly pushes herself up, sleeves burning but no worse for wear. There is a covering of soot on her torso around the impact site in the general shape of.. A vest. "What? That's not.. You couldn't have survived that!" Standing shakily, a bit dizzy from her trip across the room, Rosin smiles. "Sessine sure knows how to work air."
Gorbert's heart stopped as the general exploded outward and Rosin was knocked off her feet. He staggers, a look of blank shock on his face, the Watcher's words drowned out by something only he can hear. His glowing green eyes quickly fade to inky black. His lips peel back from his teeth in a feral snarl. When Rosin stands shakily and mentions Sessine, he seems not to notice. One step towards the Watcher. Another.
Rosin clears her head and grasps Gorbert's shoulder, leveling a revolver with her other hand and unloading six shells at the monster in the red trench coat. His image flickers, and two of the bullets pass without doing any damage. Another three impact and merely bounce off his chest and tear holes in his shirt. The last explodes and makes him stagger backward, smoke pouring out of the hole in his ribs and between his grinning teeth. She tosses her gun away and picks up the other, three shots left. Unfortunately, whether for them or for the Field Marshall, she releases Gorbert's shoulder to grasp the handle of her pistol.
Gorbert wouldn't have stayed still another moment, anyway. He is somewhere else, and there's not a single thing Rosin or anyone else could do to bring him under control. As soon as Rosin's hand leaves his shoulder, he throws himself across the room, hitting the being before them with the force of an SUV doing 60 mph. The monster staggers but remains on his feet.
The sound of Gorbert colliding with the Field Marshall is like a thunderclap, echoing around the massive space. The massive figure grins and grips Gorbert by his neck, wrapping one massive hand all the way around to the point of breaking blood vessels on every surface, then throwing him away as if he were a toy. Rosin raises her remaining pistol as the Field Marshall draws nearer. One shot goes wide as he dodges, the second impacts his shoulder with no damage, the third barely singes his coat after hitting him again in the chest. He raises his pistol once again, pointing it directly at her from ten feet away.
Gorbert rolls in midair and kicks off of the wall, leaving a small crater on the surface. Any damage done by the Watcher to his neck is gone. He hits the floor running. The Field Marshall seems intent on Rosin, considering, certainly, that the other one is no real threat. A mistake.
Grasping the thing's gun arm with his right hand, he smashes its locked elbow with his left. The bone shatters as though it was made of clay. Wrenching the weapon from the marginally slackened grip, he snaps it into pieces and tosses them aside. The Field Marshall retaliates with a lightning fast jab that connects with Gorbert's ribcage. The unnaturally dense bones crumple inward and Gorbert staggers backwards, blood fountaining out of his chest. He does not fall, or even seem affected.
Rosin is amazed. In one blink, Gorbert had disarmed the deadliest thing she'd ever encountered, then survived a blow that surely could have killed anything else. She doesn't take time to think, her claws shooting from finger, thumb, and toe. She leaps toward the Field Marshall faster than even his eye can track and whirls, slicing more than one hundred three inch deep cuts over every inch of his left side. The monster looks up from where his other opponent is recovering and tries to swat her aside. She ducks, hair flying behind her as she continues slicing away, always just out of reach. Her teeth shift, becoming needle like fangs not unlike the Field Marshall's. Her eyes pulse with a dark light, indigo hues shining through her green iris.
Gorbert howls, an unearthly, disturbing sound. Neither the Field Marshall nor Rosin pause, but they slow for a fraction of a second. Gorbert is already charging at the Field Marshall, hands oddly distorted. His left splits open, a hideous simulacrum of blade jutting out of his wrist. The blood flow stops quickly, and the bone glistens as he slashes in towards the Field Marshall's shoulder. Meanwhile, his right hand is plunging towards the gaping hole in the monster's chest, doing its best to grab hold of rib, heart or lung. Whatever it encounters first.
The whirling attacks continue for only a second after the Field Marshall staggers, repeatedly breaking Gorbert's arms with heavy blows. Rosin dives away while the two grapple, Gorbert tearing away organs and bone from inside the monster's chest. She tries to clear her head, fangs returning to normal as her blood lust fades. She manages to grasp one of her discarded revolvers and loads a single bullet. The tip is black, seeming to draw light out of the environment. She snaps the gun shut, then rushes up behind the Field Marshall.
Gorbert seems to take little notice of the shattered arms. Jagged shards of bone jut out of his ruined limbs, and he uses these to gouge and stab the Field Marshall, taking no notice of the pain. He bends at the knees and rockets almost straight up, the dome of his skull connecting with a sickening CRUNCH with the Watcher's chin.
The Field Marshall's head flies backward, straight onto the ready bayonet of Rosin's pistol. She doesn't make any last comments, doesn't smirk or laugh, just pulls the trigger as the skull hits the barrel. The resulting explosion throws Gorbert back a full ten feet, but sends Rosin flying backwards into a wall with a sharp crack. Where the Field Marshall stood, nothing remains, even the floor is gone, the very air around it burning.
Gorbert slams into a wall and crumples to the floor. He is back on his feet in seconds. Seeing no more targets in here, he charges back the way they had come, tearing through walls when direction becomes a problem. Soon, he is back outside, ripping, tearing and slashing everything in his way.
The hole in the air where the Field Marshall stood slowly grows, its pull taking hold of everything in the building. The pieces of bone and metal from the fight are sucked into the void, as well as mechanical and medical equipment around the room. The friction on the air is such that it burns nearly white, objects being sucked in from everywhere. Slowly, Rosin is dragged toward the hole. Unconscious, she puts up no fight as the void pulls her in once again.
Behind Gorbert, lost in his murder and blood lust, the building collapses inward, then is gone. Slowly, surrounding structures and burned out wrecks fall to the emptyness as Gorbert slaughters his way toward the city walls. By the time he exits, on a road paved with bodies aside a river of blood, the city is gone. The void howls, then is silent as it collapses inward once again. Where the military base once stood, absolutely nothing remains.
Emptyness. Bits of debris pass by, corpses, hollow burned husks of vehicles.
Rosin seems to be the only thing alive in this place.
Slowly, slowly, she wakes. Eyes glowing a dark indigo, as well as the feathers of her wings.
"Am I dead?" No. A silly question. No answers from the darkness.
"Then where am I?" Still no answers. The dead cannot hear or reply, so why does she bother to ask?
She feels something. Something large, dark. Something.. Familiar.
Out of the darkness comes a lone figure, massive, blacker than the emptiness surrounding it.
The creature speaks, "Welcome back, child." Its voice is warm in the blackness.
"Have you come again for the end? I have no gifts for you to deliver." She remembers. All her lost memory flooding back. Feralism, speed, friendship, flight, family.
"I have to go back," she calls to the darkness, "I have promises to keep."
The black entity responds, "But why would you want to go back? It is merely the ending of another era."
"No," she cries, "It is a new beginning. It was at the last, it shall be again."
"Child, why do you wish to leave? You are free again, home in the void." The feathers of her wings shimmer, each glowing a different shade for only a second.
"But my family is there. Without them, there is no joy in freedom." Truth rings out into the darkness, making the black seem a little brighter.
"If this is how you wish, this is what shall be. Farewell, my child. We shall meet once more before your time is through."
The entity disappears, swallowed whole by the darkness. Rosin feels something pulling on her, her wings falling backward into something.
A rift opens.
Gorbert slows as he finds no more foes to launch himself at. He stands, panting and dripping gore, in the middle of nowhere.
On his back, his cane, undamaged through all of the fighting, suddenly glows brightly enough to damage a person's eyesight. Gorbert gasps and staggers as an unfathomable pain rips through his mind. He crumples to the ground--as he lies there, his face slowly relaxes and his eyes return to normal.
Slowly, he rolls over and tries to push himself to his feet. A raw-throated scream is ripped from his lungs as the shattered bones in his arms grate and tears even more flesh.
He falls to the ground and lays curled there, unable to do anything.
A rift opens. Soft indigo light shines from the undefined edges of the hole in the air. The grass surrounding Gorbert sways in the slight breeze coming from the emptiness. A body falls from the rift, her wings bloody and torn, legs and arms limp. Rosin is barely conscious when she lands next to Gorbert.
Gorbert slowly, painfully turns his head to look at what just fell next to him. It takes a moment for recognition to sink in, and then. .. .
". ..Ros?" He grits his teeth and rolls onto his side, the nerves in the now pinned arm screaming in protest. "Ros? Are you okay?" His voice is barely a whisper.
Her hand twitches, moves slowly toward her hip. Improbability begins pouring into the air to replace that which was thrown into the void. She manages to grab hold of a small glowing green vial first, a smaller blue one next. Her arm stretches until the two liquids are near Gorbert, then her thumb struggles to remove the stoppers. The two glowing fluids mix on the grass near Gorbert, the puddle just barely reaching him. He begins to heal, slowly but surely undoing all the damage of the last two days.
Gorbert thrashes and rolls away from the liquids. NO. It doesn't feel right. He can't stand it. He relies on himself, always. Slowly, torturously, he hauls himself to his feet. Concentrating with all of his might, he draws all of the Improbability that he can feel in the area into himself, bolstering his exhausted natural supply. Bones crunch and grate as they push back into place and fuse. Shredded flesh seals and gaping hole in his chest closes.
Still incredibly weak, Gorbert stumbles to Rosin and scoops her into his arms. He drags himself along the rim of the destroyed city, hoping to find help.
The few mercenaries left stumble around in a daze. The entire city was destroyed. The won the war. But how many of their own were inside those walls? Far too many. A single figure dares approach the two, the rest too afraid of the beast they saw slaughter so many, friends and foes alike. She hobbles toward them using a rifle as a crutch, her steel blade shattered from the fighting. "You. Murderers. Why'd I ever. Believe you." Her breathing is heavy, one hand pressed over a bullet hole in her left side. "I know. What you want. There's a lab. No more than. One mile. From here." She falters again, blood oozing out from between her fingers as she glares at her twin. "Use the. Generator. In the lab. Get out. Of my world."
Gorbert looks lost and broken. He sways on his feet as he listens to her. "What....What happened?"
The mercenary curses and waves an unsteady hand toward the crater where a city once rested. "You. Killed them. All of them. Friend and foe." She points again, south west, the edge of the jungle. "Leave. My island. In peace."
Gorbert is staggered. The exhaustion and mental agony he was experiencing a moment ago is nothing compared to what he feels now. "No...." he whispers. "I couldn't have. I...I...." don't remember.
His legs buckle and Rosin slips in his arms. For a moment, his mind clears. Rosin. See to Rosin. Make sure she gets home. Pushing everything to the back of his mind, he stands and drags the two of them in the direction that Rosin indicated.
The walk, while normally a mere stroll, takes nearly an hour in Gorbert's weakened state. When he leans against the door to the lab, it swings open without protest. Deserted. He moves slowly toward a familiar sight. Seven tall arms positioned around a mesh cage.
He sets Rosin down outside of the cage and stumbles to the controls. After some random experimentation, the machine whirs to life. He picks up Rosin and, hoping that he got the right dimension, steps into the portal.
A rift opens in the square. A tired figure steps out, carrying a smaller winged figure in his arms.
<DICE> Gorbert Vanhousserhoffen staggers into the square and the rift seals behind him. He blinks slowly and looks around. No one's here. He grits his teeth, body flooded with pain, though he appears uninjured.
<DICE> Gorbert Vanhousserhoffen carries Rosin slowly off towards the Residentials. He is drawn towards one particular building as a man lost in the desert is drawn towards the sight of fresh water.
<DICE> Gorbert Vanhousserhoffen stumbles and falls across the threshold of his realm, sending the unconscious Rosin sprawling. The whole building darkens, but not in the same way that it had when he was broken.
<DICE> Gorbert Vanhousserhoffen and Rosin seem to be drawn further into the house by something, or perhaps its merely that the space is shrinking. Regardless, the innermost chambers are soon just in front of the two figures.
<DICE> Gorbert Vanhousserhoffen groans, a sound full of pain and despair. He pushes himself slowly to his feet and carries Rosin once more. So close....he murmurs in his head. He reaches the bedroom and, for the second time,
deposits Rosin into his bed. Immediately afterward, his brain decides that it's time to shut down.
<DICE> Winged Rosin stirs slightly, groaning in pain. Her limbs feel like they're filled with lead, and she can barely move anything below her neck.
<DICE> Gorbert Vanhousserhoffen collapses at the side of the bed, Rosin safely tucked into the covers.
<DICE> Winged Rosin opens one eye, barely. "Gor.. Bert." Her breathing is pained, but slowly her wounds are healing.
<DICE> Winged Rosin lets her eye drift closed once again, her breathing slowing. "Thank.. You.." Then she thinks no more, asleep in this strange place.
<DICE> Gorbert Vanhousserhoffen is gone.