Tyger, Tyger, Burning Bright (Sess)

GEAR

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#1
February 11th, OE 102
8:00 PM DST

L4 Shoal Zone

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Some places, not even the Space Pirates would tread.

The outskirts of L4 had been subject to numerous cleanup efforts over the course of the years, but never had they been full-throated. The looming half-cylinder of a semi-completed Colony prototype had lingered there for years, bogged down in administrative limbo, as every governing body pointed its fingers at another, trying to get someone else to do the hard work of getting rid of it. Some said that it was cursed- "The Curse of Charybdis", the "Vanishing Trooper's Ghost" that lingered over it, despite the two being separated by hundreds of thousands of miles of space.

These rumors were easily dismissed, and as a consequence it had remained, an immense form wreathed in dust that tumbled through the vacuum at the fringes of the L4 group.

But, after the Lamalice incident, the rumors had taken a new tone.

A "Demon" had taken up residence there, some said.

A horrible beast with sharp claws and long teeth, whose bellowing could be heard in its abandoned halls with such force that they shook the battered structure to its core. Even the regular pirates had fled it in terror, often bearing wounds that couldn't be explained by regular causes, almost as if their ships had been bitten and slashed apart.

Yes, when a problem becomes bad enough, people won't care who comes along to solve it-




"Wow. What a dump."

The Shurouga's pilot gave a low, unimpressed whistle to his partner as they approached the derelict, the dark machine unceremoniously elbowing its way past a floating corpse. Ze'ev was semi-reclined in his seat, mostly allowing the auto pilot to handle things as he focused. He let the power of the Sphere flow through him, letting the visions of the future come, flickering across his mind's eye as destiny unfolded, like a black and white film.

The fish woman. She was "supposed" to be here as well, though for reasons he couldn't fathom just yet. That was the trick about seeing the future. Not all the pages were filled in, as it were - and there was always more room for error than it seemed.

He opened his eyes, and straightened, stretching as he continued:

"I'm sure this is the right place, though."

The controls were cool under his grip... and he couldn't help but smile.

"The Sphere is here." He said, quietly.

"There's no doubt about it."
 

Hitura Rael

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#2
"This place feels like a graveyard," Sedna muttered to Ze'ev. The place had the same feel as a sunken city back home, complete with wreckage looming in the near distance, eerie foreboding feeling, rumors of a monster living there, and the bodies of the dead that nothing dared to draw close enough to feast on. This was the kind of place that rumors spread about of hauntings and people disappearing never to be heard from again. A place that in a different environment, children would linger here on the outskirts and dare each other to go into the still graveyard and make a terrifying game of who could get further. Perhaps some intrepid youth would even go so far as to make it into the ruins to explore them. Why did it feel like Ze'ev was that intrepid child dragging her along on a scare tale?

She sighed and kept pace with the Shurouga, stopping briefly to stare at the corpse. Decay had no hold here in the vacuum of space. Pale bodies blue with death and frozen forever in the empty void. The Gaddess gently cupped the corpse in it's hands. The poor soul wouldn't have even received the proper rites for their people. It was not her place to do so but perhaps after they recovered the sphere for Ze'ev... Ice blossomed around the corpse, encasing it within a frozen cairn. She could retrieve it easier that way and given a proper send off, however humans did it in this world. The Gaddess gave the ice tomb a little nudge, sending it to drift listlessly out of the way of their mission before resuming following the Shurouga.

"If you say it is here, then it probably is. I do not think that it would lead you that astray from your path. A fitting place for a monster to dwell. But I doubt that what we face is a Giant Mottleback Eel... How do we lure our creature out?"
 

GEAR

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#3
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"Ggggkrrrrr..."

Ze'ev opened his mouth to answer Sedna's question - but it turned out he didn't need to. Had it always been there? Just waiting, watching their approach? Or was it much as its taut, muscular form indicated - a predator, and they, the prey?

A pair of glowing red eyes leered at the two from within the Colony structure, issuing a threatening grown that seemed to resonate through even the void. A hulking, feline body slunk out from its makeshift den, matching the height of the two machines even on all fours, gliding through the vacuum by means uncertain to the modern world. Regal burgundy fur, striped with black rippled as it stretched, pulling back about its face to reveal twin rows of bloodstained fangs.

"Guess that answers that." Whistled Ze'ev.

Despite the sense of danger lurking in the air, the outsider floated forward with an amicable air.

"Alright you big, stupid animal... Just give me what I want, and I'll be on my way."

The Shurouga spread its arms wide as the Chokijin, the maneater Kyuukioh, eyeballed it, tail swishing back and forth cautiously. It seemed, at least to understand his words, carelessly spoken as they were. Ze'ev gave a wry shrug. Whatever it was doing here wasn't his problem - all he wanted was the Sphere.

"You can go right back to eating as many people as you want afterwards. It's not like you can even use-"

An unexpected pulse of force rippled through the surroundings, causing the words to die in his throat. An eerie, neon-green glow surrounded the tiger as it spread its wings. The unmistakeable metallic tang at the back of his throat, the pricking of hairs on the back of his neck - Dimensional Force! As Ze'ev's eyes widened, he couldn't help but imagine that the beast was grinning at him.

"Oh... shit-"

The Chokijin lunged, one massive paw swiping out to smash the Shurouga aside as if it were little more than a child's toy, sending Ze'ev flying. Instantly, it rounded on the Gaddess, claws extending as the aura of determination rippled about its body, bounding forward to deliver a crushing horizontal slash capable of splitting a mountain, aimed directly at the Elemental Lord's chest.
 

Hitura Rael

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#4
The growling echoing through empty space sent a chill down her lateral line. Fitting of a predator to stalk them and now pounce. Or perhaps at the moment it was being territorial rather than predatory. Predators struck as silently as possible under the waves. Surely it was no different above them.

It was a majestic and beautiful creature, she'd admit. Lean and agile framed, built with rippling muscle under concealing fur. The bloody fangs only leant to the predator's beauty. A shame they'd have to put it down. Perhaps the pelt could be retrieved after as a rather large gift or trophy. Many people would be able to be clothed from a pelt that size.

And Ze'ev... being Ze'ev... ruined the moment with his cocky attitude. The Gaddess drifted back, slowly, away from the Crow like machine, "That does not seem to be such a good idea-" She watched it's tail. She had not seen big cats before this, but surely tail swishing was NOT good. It was not a dog, cats were the opposite of dogs. So if a dog wagging it's tail was good, a cat doing it was bad surely.

She shuddered at the ripple of dimensional energy spread through the area. The massive tiger pounced and batted Ze'ev aside like an insect. Well... she wouldn't admit out loud that he deserved that at the moment. Perhaps, maybe, he would learn his lesson to exercise more caution. It was... what did the humans call it here? A snowball's chance in hell. And when the big cat finished with Ze'ev, it rounded on her.

Her scales prickled at the feel of the aura, her body tensed. Sedna was ready for the coming blow. A wall of ice went up in front of Gaddess, seconds before she propelled upward to avoid the slash. The ice would at least serve as a small shield to slow it's momentum at least. She hung there for a moment, like a comet threatening to fall above the tiger. The Gaddess held the trident in front of her chest, oriented horizontally, as if to defend from further attacks. The free hand leveled behind the weapon, an icy blue glow built from the center of the shaft. In a brilliant flash the shape of the head changed, becoming more spear like atop a crescent moon with a pearl suspended in the center. "Ze'ev if you die that easily I am going to freeze your corpse and use it as a display piece to teach children the price of over confidence for generations to come!"

The Gaddess gripped the shaft with both hands and dove at the beast, thrusters burning a cerulean trail behind her, glowing spear leading the charge, aimed to sink deep in the tiger's flesh. She aimed for the back of the beast, a large enough target with a better chance of her strike landing and doing some damage. She did not know if this thing was a well made machine, or some odd creature of flesh and bone, or some horrible amalgamation of the two. If it was organic... Her best hope was to land this blow and sever something in the spine.
 

GEAR

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#5
Ze'ev managed to right himself just in time, the Shurouga pulling out of its tailspin with an unflattering fluttering of its thrusters. Its hands went up immediately, only barely managing to halt a pair of jaws from closing about its neck. Both strained against one another, and sparks flew from the Shurouga's elbows, causing Ze'ev's eyes to widen in horror. Was this it? Was he REALLY going to die like THIS?

"This isn't funny!" He managed to spit in response, practically sensing his own death hovering over his head at the very instant.

Thankfully, however, it seemed as if the Grim Reaper had other plans. The Gaddess' spear drove into the Chokijin's back, causing it to roar with pain, instantly rounding on the Masouki, giving him a second to breath. In that moment, grasping at its wrist, Ze'ev drew the Discalibur, gleaming like frozen wine in the flickering light, and darted after his prey, the blade whipping out to score a slash across the beast's hind legs as it lunged at Sedna, the claws once more coming forth in smashing, sweeping arcs that atomized every chunk of debris they met - once! Twice!

All the while, its eyes watched the dancing of the spear, wearily. There was a kind of intelligence there, keen as a razor sharpened by a millenia of hunger and hunt. Were Sedna to attempt to impede its path, Kyukioh's jaws would leap into action, attempting to seize the weapon brazenly between its teeth and wrest it away from the Elemental Lord.
 

Hitura Rael

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#6
"I did not say it to be funny." Sedna bit back, "I am serious! Do not die here!"

The Gaddess jumped from the creatures back to retreat into the debris field. It was not going to go down easy, and Ze'ev needed the time to recover. The colony provided decent cover, plenty of material to put between her and the sweeping claws. The Gaddess twirled the spear in her hands, swapping it back and forth occasionally, keeping the cat's eye on it. She was relying on Ze'ev to strike it while it's attention was on her. For good measure, she swatted a few smaller hunks of metal, sending them at the cat like a batter hitting a baseball. "Now would be a good time to gut it instead of idling and looking pretty."
 

GEAR

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#7
Kyukioh watched the Gaddess' backward response, prowling forward as it watched the dancing spear with mild interest. A cat, after all, was still a cat. Its tail flicked out, and caught the edge of Shurouga's arm, causing it to recoil. The Outsider grit his teeth within the cockpit, wondering for a moment if, perhaps, he had made a mistake coming here after all - but he wasn't out of tricks. He'd come prepared for this outcome, just in case.

"I've got an idea." He breathed.

Ze'ev exhaled within the cockpit. It was time to take the seal off the forbidden technique. Loathe as he was to utilize it, this wasn't a foe that he could just slice to death. What was needed was a single, decisive deathblow - far from his strong suite... but he had no other choice.

"Never tried this one before but... Just, keep its attention!"

The Shurouga gripped the Discalibur with its other hand - and slid its along the blade, raking its own palm wide open. Black, tempestuous energy flowed from it, arcing and crackling in the air around the Dimensional Reaper, an eerie glow forming about its body as it gathered the strength it needed.

Let your mind wander. Focus on the dream. The distant light above.

And... Reach for it.

Meanwhile, Kyukioh extended its tail over its shoulder - and long, menacing blade erupted from its tip. The beast seemed to grin, not at the Gaddess, but at the woman in the cockpit, like a walking can of sardines. The tail flicked-

And a dizzying flurry of strikes followed, disintegrating the thrown rocks in the air with minute precision. Even as the beast itself remained almost stationary, the energy blade whipped about left and right as it looked to score hits on her shoulders, her legs, aiming to tear free the spear in the Gaddess' grip as it advanced slowly. It was taking its time - as if it were positioned over a pool, with a variety of colorful fishes swimming about just beneath the surface, with its paw poised over their unsuspecting heads.
 

Hitura Rael

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#8
It was unclear if she should be glad or disappointed that this giant cat could be distracted as any other cat. Surely, one would not expect a being like this to go wide eyed and batty at a wiggling blade of grass... or rather spear in this instance. Perhaps they should have brought cosmic cat nip. Or something to make it vomit. Ah if only they had brought a particularly rancid giant squid to this fight.

"I've got an idea. Never tried this one before but... Just, keep its attention!"
Now those were some terrifying words. His ideas were what got them into this mess. But now was not the time to rib on him for that. It could be done later with less devestating effects if it upset him too much and made him leave her there alone with a man eating beast playing bat the boulder with her. And she was running out of ways to entertain this cat.

"Yes, no problem. I could do this all day."

She should have researched cats before this. She really should have. Maybe then she'd have found something more likely to entertain this- Oh. Oh no. This was not good at all. Since when did cats have can openers?! The Gaddess angled down, pushing back and under the shoulder blows just enough to clear herself. She pulled her arm back and hurled the spear at the beast, for lack of any better ideas that could be accomplished while the creature was assailing her in that flury of blows.
 

GEAR

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#9
"Watch closely, fleabag."

The beast paused momentarily in its assault, as if sensing something it couldn't quite put into words. it turned its head just as Ze'ev extended the Dimensional Reaper's hand before it , a magic circle pulsating into being ahead of him. Within the cockpit, the man seemingly wrought of monotone opened his eyes.

"I'll demonstrate to you..."

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"Shurouga's true power."
With a burst of speed, the dark wing accelerated forward, form wrenching - changing - as it flew through the circle, whose rune-enscribed surface splatted across its surface like fine spiderweb, transferring the words of power to the now avian frame as it built up speed, thrusting forward like a spear hurled from the depths of oblivion. As the beast turned, however - the Gaddess' own spear punched forward, stabbing it clean through the throat, causing a roar of defiance to die in its throat as it recoiled-

A moment that cost it everything.

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"𝔏𝔈𝔜 𝔅𝔘𝔖𝔗𝔈ℜ!"

A muscular paw struck out, connecting with the surface of the black bird... and then all went dark. A curtain pulled across her sight, as if the world had winked out of existence, all of her life nothing but a merry jest by a half-rate magician.




For Sedna, it would have been as if she had been whisked to the very bottom of the sea. Soft sand crunched underfoot. The distant rays of an unfamiliar sun plucked at her eyes, shimmering through the surface of the ocean. And yet-


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It was... empty.
In every direction, as far as the eye could see... Not another living thing stirred. Only the eerie, gentle lullaby of the receding tide met her ears as the seconds ticked by, a mere moment feeling as if it were dragged out for an eternity. Yet that too was interrupted by a noise, one strangely close to her ear.

Crick, crick-a-rick...

Were she to cast a glimpse down, perhaps sensing a strange numbness in her arms... Her own fingers, coated with a layer of frost, the skin flayed, as if by the most bitter of cold. Were she to try and move them, to warm them perhaps, or to flex them-

They would splinter and shatter into a million pieces, each sparkling like a thousand diamonds. The rest of her was losing sensation as well. Bit by bit, piece by piece... breaking apart, scattering into the ocean. Yet... There was no pain. No fear. Nothing but a strange sense of... peace.

"-edna!"

Except... for that annoying voice.

"SEDNA!"



Reality rushed back.

The monster was gone. The ruined remains of its body drifted in all directions, filling the Colony interior with an array of red hair, like an exploded carpet factory. Her body had sustained no injuries, yet all the same - the Shurouga was carrying her in a fashion not unbecoming of a princess. That pointed, avian head looked down at her, its own emotions unreadable. Yet, after some time, Ze'ev spoke.

"What was it?" He said, a strange kind of urgency in his voice.

"What did it show you?"
 

Hitura Rael

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#10
The sudden shift was quite jarring. But the vision... that was worse. So much worse. An empty sea was not normal. The sounds of crackling ice was not unfamiliar to her. She should be afraid, she should be panicking. But there was nothing but peace and tranquility. The calm of death but... it was wrong in a way. Something was off-

She gasped, gripping the controls as reality flooded her senses, chasing away the serene sea in a rush. She released her hand from the controls to hold her head, shutting her eyes tight. She could sense the urgency in Ze'ev's voice over the vision, but she had to gather her thoughts and calm herself. When the rapid rise and fall of her chest finally normalized she let out a slow deep breath and opened her eyes again.

"I... I don't know. I saw an empty ocean, I heard ice cracking. Everything was numb... I don't know." She swallowed and ran her fingers across the bindings on her arms, wishing to be in the calming embrace of the ocean. "It was like I was covered in melting frost, but my body couldn't tolerate it... My people- When the woman in my position dies, she is sealed in ice to be called on when the world needs us most... but my body just broke apart like..." She paused, brow furrowed. She did not quite have the vocabulary to describe it. "Like... sand on the wind... but not quite as fine." She shivered and curled in a ball in her seat, hugging her knees close. "But I could only feel peace, no matter how much my mind felt I should be terrified or something was not right."
 

GEAR

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#11
Ze'ev absorbed her comments in uncharacteristic, stoic silence. Slowly, the Shurouga relinquished its passenger, leaving her adrift in space as it pushed itself back. For a moment or two, it was motionless... but them, with blinding speed, the Discalibur ripped out, burying itself into a chunk of debris with such force it seemed to cause the entire Colony structure to rattle around them. As the dust cleared... only the weapon's hilt protruded out of solid stone.

"Still! STILL! Even after all this...?!" Hissed Ze'ev through clenched teeth, veins visible on his forehead as he closed his eyes.

"Nothing... has changed."

Of course it wouldn't be that easy, he thought. Just attaining one Sphere was not going to be enough to change the course of history. What she - what Sedna - had experienced was proof of that. "She" was still coming... and their chances of survival were at best marginally better than when he arrived. Was all of it for nothing? Was it hopeless? He felt it fluttering at his heart - the Dreaming Twin Fishes, sensing his doubt, his frustration. Now, however, a new emotion joined it.

The will to carry forward, no matter the cost.

The unbreakable determination of one chosen by fate.

The Swaying Scales.

After a long silence, Ze'ev spoke again.

"You wanted to know, right?"

One foot was raised and planted against the Colony wall, and the Shurouga slid its weapon free from its tomb with a spray of sparks. In one flourish, it was returned to its holster, the dark machine still facing away from the azure vessel of the elements.

"...What happened to you in my time."
 

Hitura Rael

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#12
The Gaddess righted itself when released, moving to retrieve the trident from the scattered remnants of the tiger. She had forgotten about it with... whatever that was. She remained silent, letting Ze'ev have his moment. It was not the time to tease him, not the time for questions yet. She didn't understand what was bothering him, but it upset him enough that he needed to get it out. For his own sake.

Sedna surveyed the remains and the debris, silently contemplating. The Gaddess turned to face the Shurouga when finally Ze'ev addressed her. She remained silent, contemplating for a moment. "Honestly... No. It was irrelevant to now. To me... Time seems like a river. It flows one way from source to end." The Gaddess drew it's finger across the air, trailing a solid stream of ice as an example, from a pool, winding its way through an imaginary landscape, to a vast ocean. "Things happen naturally... sometimes, a little at a time. Things gradually shift the stream, changing it's course. Sometimes..." The Gaddess shattered a portion of the river with a fist, then reconnected the two bodies of ice, "something big happens that completely shifts the river's course, destroying the old path and creating a new. And... sometimes..." The Gaddess followed a curve in the river, drawing out new splits heading toward the end, "sometimes the rare sentient being digs out a new path, diverting some of the river through a whole new path."

The Gaddess gave the diagram a gentle shove toward the Shurouga. "What happened to her... whatever that vision was... that is her fate. Given how you act to me, I doubt she was someone you even knew. She was from your time, but she was not your Sedna." She gave Ze'ev a gentle smile, the Gaddess reached her hand out to gently place it on the Raven's shoulder. "I am. And Together we will carve a new path for the river to follow. One that will have a happier ending. But... I think to do that, you will need to be more honest and open with me, Ze'ev. I cannot fight if I do not know what I am fighting or what I am fighting for."
 

GEAR

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#13
As Sedna reached out, Ze'ev seemed slightly startled, the pointed machine turning its head to look back at her-

But for a few, lingering seconds, he wasn't seeing "her".

Many things he had seen in his brief trek across the Earth, in search of James Steelheart. Shurouga, and its Sphere, had guided him through the dangers of the dying world, and showed him its last, faded glories. Its futile triumphs. Its desperate heroes.

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A lonesome figure, encased in a tomb of ice, scarred and pitted from a battle that shook heaven and earth. The last of her line, now little more than a sculpture of salt, joined by its three fellows in a somber, makeshift tomb. The remains of grave offerings were strung at their feet by those they had given all for, yet as the Ruina had encroached further and further, nothing was left of these but tatters, scraps, and rotten stems.

To carry the power of the Elemental Spirits was the ultimate sacrifice, and those noble souls had given up their bodies so willingly, with such forceful purity, that the howling, malevolent, towering abomination of gleaming crystal had at last been felled - at a truly terrible price.

The spiritual death of the world.

Had Kali Yuga not finished the job, those who had endured would have been forced to watch all the vitality train away from the planet... until nothing remained but desert, ash, and bone. Was that, he wondered at the time, as the crow perched thoughtfully over their silent, still forms, a sacrifice? Or was it little more than glorified suicide?

Ze'ev blinked.

Sedna was there, now. The Gaddess' hand was resting on the Shurouga - his other self's - shoulder. He realized he had been silent for quite some time, not even breathing, yet he felt nothing - no pain, only an inexplicable discomfort in his chest.

"A happier ending, huh?" He echoed, quietly, closing his eyes.

Pretty sure he thought to himself, nobody deserves to die like that. He'd been working as hard as he could since he'd arrived in this place - but to little effect. Maybe it was time for a change after all. At length, he gave a low sigh - but didn't object to her proximity. Instead, he turned his gaze away, towards the distant stars...

And thought of a red, setting sun.

"Where do I even begin...?"