The Open Door (megacrossover)

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Re: The Open Door (megacrossover)

Post by Academia Nut »

Chapter Twenty-five: Irritation

Petty Officer First Class Topher Walker of the Stiletto was a simple man of simple tastes. He liked his booze either straight from the bottle, or if he was feeling fancy, straight from the nipple. He enjoyed hot pizza and hotter women. He knew that professional wrestling was “real”. And he felt that devotion to the gods had its place, but that they were probably busy scheming to conquer the cosmos, so they wouldn’t have much time for a guy like him, so he rarely bothered them with prayer.

Today however he was letting loose the kind of invocations to the gods that they were bound to hear. For one, the volume of such was great enough to reach across the void of interdimensional space.

BY ALL OF THE GODS MOVE YOU PIG-FUCKING SPAWN OF A QUADRUPLE AMPUTEE AND A SYPHILITIC WHORE!” PO Walker screamed while trying to turn a damaged bolt on the casing of one of the ship’s torpedoes. The rest of his work crew stood back in mute terror as their chief looked ready to have a stroke or to begin bashing in the casing of the two gigaton warhead they were trying to disarm.




The two men who got to scurry out of the jammed torpedo tube were just glad that they could get away from the apocalyptic shouting of the pissed off petty officer.

“They’re shooting what at us?” Rong-Arya asked.

“Looks like thermonuclear weapons. We didn’t even notice the first few, they were so low in yield, but once they noticed that they were completely and utterly failing to hurt us they started throwing megaton level ordinance at us,” Ichiro-Faust elaborated.

“Damn it! The Borg already messed up some of the more delicate instruments with that stunt they pulled back at Damocles. I do not need even more paint added to our expense reports. And did the hangar doors at least get closed?” Rong-Arya asked in annoyance.

“That was the first thing we did once we had power there. They should have closed before transit into the Warp, but you know the circumstances of that incident,” Ichiro-Faust groused.

“Yeesh, anything else?” Rong-Arya asked in irritation.

“Uh… well, they tried to hack into our computers, but aside from the fact that the communications gear is physically isolated from the rest of the systems, our reactive firewalls and offensive counter viral system seems to have given them… huh… wow,” O’Hare noted before he shrugged and looked at Ichiro-Faust for confirmation.

“What happened?” Rong-Arya asked with an annoyed tone.

“Uh… one of the enemy ships appears to have detonated all of its nuclear weapons in their tubes, destroying it, while coordination between enemy elements has just dropped by about seventy percent. I guess they were highly networked and not prepared for this level of electronic warfare,” Ichiro-Faust said with a shrug.

Rong-Arya blinked a few times before she said, “This is a frigate! Not an electronic warfare cruiser, we shouldn’t be able to do that!”

Shrugging, O’Hare said, “I don’t know! The comm. gear practically has the word ‘Norton’ on its anti-virus software; it doesn’t even have a single daemon working on it. I mean, yeah, the virus is a polymorphic, adaptive, pseudo-intelligent algorithm, but unless these guys are running the slowest processors I have ever seen for a space-faring race even the Federation with its crappy computer security should be able to simply out process such a simple virus.”

“They are shooting nukes at us,” Ichiro-Faust pointed out.

“Their acceleration profiles suggests minimal to no inertial compensation as well,” Xavier added in.

Holding their forehead in frustration, Rong-Arya said, “So we’re fighting guys who have weapons that have no chance in hell of denting our armour, to say nothing of making our shields flicker once we get them up, and whose computer science is probably a couple of centuries, if not millennia, behind our own admittedly accelerated knowledge. This is worse than fighting the Federation. At least with them we could pretend that they were a threat. Tell me, please, that at least these guys have shields.”

Xavier shook his head sadly.

“For the love of! All right, is there any way they could at all threaten us?” Rong-Arya asked.

Looking over his display, Ichiro-Faust vacillated on saying something for a time before he shrugged and said, “Well… I suppose some of these contacts might be boarding ships, but they can’t actually penetrate our hull, so it’s kind of a moot point.”

Frowning, Rong-Arya finally said, “Oh fuck it. Get the transports into their storm shelters and open the hangar doors. I want to find out if these Cylons have souls.”

Getting up out of their command chair, the daemonhost unsheathed their most prized possession, a daemon weapon capable of ripping the soul out of anyone it ran through. The tortured faces of several Borg drones still swirled about the surface, their essence having yet to be consumed by the creature bound within the surface of the sword.

Today was not a good day to be a Cylon.

The crew of the Galactica looked on in stunned awe as more firepower than had been used in the genocide was hurled at the giant ship… and failed to do anything to it. They kept having to check that their sensors were working properly, because they were seeing megaton level nuclear weapons make hull contact before detonation and the ship was not perturbed in the slightest.

Also, one of the Cylon Basestars had inexplicably exploded, which had left everyone scratching their heads at that.

“Can you still raise them on the radio?” Adama asked in a hushed voice.

“Hailing now,” the communications officer said.

After a slight delay due to the propagation speed of light, a voice over the radio said, “This is communications officer Lieutenant O’Hare of the Stiletto. You are hailing us Galactica?”

“Uh… yes… we just wanted to see if you were still alive over there after all of those fireworks,” Adama admitted.

There was a slight crackle as another city killer weapon went off, to which O’Hare responded, “We’re just fine over here. A little irritated, but otherwise alright.”

Irritated?” Adama asked in incredulous shock. “You’re getting frakking pummelled with thermonuclear weapons.”

“Yeah, well, the last guys we fought had terawatt lasers, antimatter warheads, atomic breakdown beams, and some weird shit that distorted space and time in a strange manner, and all they managed to was get us lost, so don’t worry about us,” O’Hare said dismissively.

Adama would have called bullshit to anyone else, but considering that he had seen the frakking ship take city killer missiles, he wasn’t about to argue. Instead he asked, “Okay then… incidentally where is your captain, lieutenant?”

“Oh that. We saw a bunch of boarding ships incoming so she decided to open the hangar doors and confront them. I can pass you on to our tactical officer, he’s the current ranking officer on the bridge, or send a message to the captain if you want to speak to her directly,” O’Hare replied.

Adama blinked once. He blinked twice. Then he said, “What?

“Well, thing is that these Cylons have no actual way to hurt us, and the captain has some frustrations to work out, so she drew her sword and went down there to vent. So do you have a message for her or would you like to just sit here and chat for a while. I really have nothing better to do at the moment so I wouldn’t mind the conversation,” O’Hare said.

“You’re in battle lieutenant,” Adama said, the professional soldier in him disgusted by the casual attitude.

“Actually, we haven’t even sounded general quarters; we’ve just announced radiation warnings and recommended that people stay off the outer hull, so technically we’re not in a battle,” O’Hare replied.

“What is wrong with you people?” Adama asked.

There was a short pause from O’Hare before the lieutenant replied, “Well, depending on how you want to track it, we’re somewhere between tens of thousands to millions of years more advanced than you guys, so your weapons are like popguns to us, thus a certain amount of laxity in the situation is to be expected. I mean, seriously, we don’t even have power to half our main systems and you could shoot at us all day and it wouldn’t matter.”

“That kind of attitude leads to you getting bit in the ass,” Adama growled.

“That statement implies that you have teeth capable of penetrating our ass. This match up is like… like well a sea bass in a poorly constructed wooden barrel versus a main battle tank. The bass isn’t even a threat to the guys inside the tank, let alone the tank itself,” O’Hare said nonchalantly.

“That’s insanely arrogant,” Adama said.

“That’s reality,” O’Hare replied.

“…and that gentlemen, is how you can get a stubborn detonator out of a damaged Mk. VII anti-ship torpedo just using a little spit and elbow grease and a few strikes from a spanner,” PO Walker said, holding up the now badly mangled detonation mechanism to his wide eyed crew.

“Now that the detonator has been safely removed, we can drain the warhead’s fuel tanks without risking initiation, and then break out the meltas and free up the parts fused to the launch tube so we can take this entire bitch out. Shouldn’t take more than half an hour if we put our backs into it,” Topher said with a smile.

Up above a man popped his head into the jammed tube and said, “Hey PO, the LT says that we’ve got power back to the lifts, so if you’ve got your tube cleared, he wants a fresh one in the pipe ASAP.”

“Damn it man, we can get it cleared right quick, but the tube is still damaged,” Topher said.

The messenger just shrugged and said, “Port tube won’t be fixed until we get back to dry dock, and the torpedoes have internal power systems so we can fire them at minimal power.”

Grumbling while his men worked to drain the warhead of its fuel, PO Walker said, “Yeah, well that is what you get when you improperly fuse these things to deal with ships lacking void shields. Disabling the terminal approach of the fuse means that these things are hot the moment they leave the tubes.”

“Incidentally, we’re apparently fighting guys who don’t have shields, period, so we’re going to need the torpedoes fused like the last battle,” the messenger said before ducking out.

WHAT THE FUCK DID I JUST SAY? DID I NOT JUST SAY THAT WE WERE IN THIS FUCKING SITUATION BECAUSE OF THAT SHIT YOU LITTLE FUCKWAD! FUCK!” Topher screamed out while waving his spanner in the general direction of the retreating man.

The Cylons were… confused. They had heard a great warning against a new ship that had appeared, one who’s very presence was offensive to God, and that they needed everything they could to deal with it. Occupation fleets and even defensive fleets for their own worlds had been called away, such that more and more ships were arriving every moment, but so far the blasphemy had yet to respond to their presence in a meaningful way.

Even when they had nuked it.

So far, the only response had been a hacking that had managed to reprogram the nuclear weapons in one of the Basestars into thinking that they had just made contact, causing them to initiate and destroy the ship. But there had been no follow up attempts though, indicating to some that perhaps the attack had been accidental.

Still, for most of the Cylons, they had orders to destroy the strange, gargantuan ship at all costs, even if it meant ignoring the hated Galactica. Only the bio-Cylons had the free will to question such things, and none of them were on the boarding ships that would hopefully do what nuclear weapons had not.

The Centurions aboard the transports had not the initiative to wonder why the hangar doors had opened for them in between launching from their Basestars and their arrival at the ship. Nor did they question why such an obvious weak point was undefended. They simply disembarked, weapons at the ready, while Raiders remained in station keeping formations just outside the hangar doors.

The only thing that could be said to have worried the Centurions was the fact that their tactical subroutines were warning that this had a high probability of being a trap. Still, as their numbers swelled into the thousands and they continued to secure the hangar, they wondered if the trap would ever be sprung.

Then they opened the first door to the inside of the ship.

The air lock was filled with a fluid the colour of rotten bile, and upon contact with the Centurions that had opened the door the unfortunate robots immediately began to run away in fear and pain, two things that had been programmed into them at that moment by the contagions that contacted them. The tiniest droplet that came in contact with their metal frames was enough to cause death as rusting corruption quickly spread, consuming and destroying them.

Of course, by running in a panic they spread the fluid about, causing dozens more Centurions to be infected. As the fiftieth soldier was contaminated, the order was given to execute those already infected before they could spread the metal eating disease further.

The order to cease fire was given a second after the order to fire, for the bullets veered off on impossible vectors, time and space warping within the confines of the hangar bay so that instead of putting down the infected Centurions, they instead returned to the Cylons that had fired, ripping them to shreds.

At about that time the hangar bay doors abruptly slammed shut, sealing several thousand Centurions inside. The Raider immediately opened fire, but their shots just flattened harmlessly or ricocheted dangerously back at them.

Inside the hangar atmosphere was returned and airlocks began to open to release the anti-boarding crews, lead by an extremely annoyed Captain Arya-Rong. The Centurions opened fire, but again space warped to ensure that none of their bullets went where they were supposed to. Some of them noted that this effect was probably why the humans were carrying melee weapons.

And then the repulsion team struck the robots and the metal started flying.

Despite being organics, the humans were unnaturally strong and tough, their mono-edged axes and swords more than capable of cleaving through Centurion armour with contemptible ease. Worse yet, there was one human female that appeared to be on fire with no ill effects who was mowing through Centurions single handed, and worst of all, aboard the Resurrection Ship the memories from those slain by her were refusing to show up. It was as if anyone she killed was simply… erased.

The battle was over far, far too quickly for the Cylons liking, and while things did not entirely go the way of the enemy, full auto fire at ranges of less than a metre could still hit the psychopathic brutes, the fact of the matter was that the Cylons were in over their heads in the worst way possible.

Sitting back down in her chair on the bridge, Rong-Arya brushed a lock of hair out of their face and said cheerfully, “Well that was refreshing. Did anything interesting happen while I was away?”

All the bridge officers shrugged dismissively. Ichiro-Faust said, “The starboard torpedo tube has been cleared and is being readied for firing as we speak.”

“Oh? Excellent. Which ship do you think we should target?” Rong-Arya asked.

“There are three ships hanging well back from the main formation that seem to be major communications hubs for the others, so I would guess that they are command ships,” Lieutenant O’Hare pointed out.

Looking at the data, Ichiro-Faust said, “If we target the central ship we should be able to catch one or both of the other ships in the explosion.”

“Very well then, let’s do that. How long until the rest of our weapons are operational?” Rong-Arya asked.

“We can probably get some of the fusion batteries online in an hour or so,” Ichiro-Faust replied.

“Eh… if they don’t scatter after this I guess we’ll just have to wait an hour to finish them off,” Rong-Arya said with a shrug. “Do we have a targeting solution?”

“We do. This will also please the crew techs down there as an optimal detonation requires the activation of the terminal phase in the torpedo,” Ichiro-Faust reported.

“Good. Also, point of note, we need to work out a way to properly fuse the torpedoes against enemies where the terminal phase is unnecessary,” Rong-Arya said before saying dismissively, “Fire.”

To the Cylon and Colonial sensors, the Stiletto launched a single missile the size of a small office building, and then two of the three Resurrection Ships they had brought along to service the armada of Basestars and Raiders vanished in an impossibly huge ball of white plasma a few seconds later.

This was for the simple fact that their sensors relied upon electromagnetic radiation and assumed that any physical object they encountered would not be moving close to the speed of light. Unfortunately for them, the plasma torpedo accelerated to 0.8c in approximately three seconds, crossing the ten light seconds that separated the Stiletto from its target in approximately fifteen seconds. This meant that for almost the entirety of its flight any signals bounced off the torpedo returned either red or blue shifted, and more significantly, the torpedo passed through sweep regions faster than the sensors could mechanically track.

Only in the last second before the volatile plasma warhead detonated did it slow down to the point where it could be tracked, although this involved firing its engine hard enough that the backwash obliterated the majority of its target so even then the Cylons never really knew what hit them before two gigatons of terrible light and heat swept over their ships, flashing thousands of minds into vapour in an instant.

A single shot had just killed more Cylons than any other event in the war, and it had slipped past a good twenty Basestars to do so.

The ship they faced could shrug off thermonuclear warheads like rain, was filled with organics stronger than Centurions, and could one shot two of their most protected ships with contemptuous ease. This truly was a demon ship.

The Cylons broke and ran. They had nothing that they could throw against this monster right now.

Adama was speechless. He had been moving the Galactica well away from the Stiletto since the Cylons appeared and thanking the gods that they did not seem interested in his people, but then right before he had given the order to jump away from the monster fleet assembling the ship had gone and done something like that.

There was only one thing to do right now.

“Call up the Stiletto again. Let’s see if that offer to follow them is still good,” Adama said, swallowing his pride.
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Re: The Open Door (megacrossover)

Post by Academia Nut »

Chapter Twenty-six: Guest

There were two kinds of daemon bound to physical objects under the new system of Chaos. The first and most common were made from the souls of those who pissed off the gods but not quite enough to warrant getting sent to the Hall of Torment, guys like child abusers and the like. They were turned into very minor entities and stuck into things like swords and such, the idea being that spending a couple of centuries as an inanimate object would get them to shape up, and if they didn’t, well at least they were well away from other souls and doing something semi-useful.

Then there were the few souls who volunteered to get the process done to them. It was pretty rare that there were positions open, but with the commissioning of the Stiletto there were a variety of places where a person looking for a shot at immortality could find work. For Lars, being turned into an incorporeal entity and stuffed into a communications mast for a few hundred years beat out being eaten by the gods upon his death.

That was of course until his perch had been shorn off the Stiletto and he had been sucked into a Warp rift and hurled across the multiverse.

Fortunately for him, since he had volunteered he had actually been given a healthy measure of knowledge about what it meant to be a daemon and thus how to survive on his own. All of the prisoner daemons would dissipate once their container was destroyed, but for Lars, he still had a chance to get back home.

If he could figure out where home was. He had hit the Warp pretty hard and his mast had bounced across the multiverse for quite a while until it had hit something that finally disintegrated the material component and sent him tumbling out into the Warp. Unfortunately, while the analogy was a bit crude, the reason he hadn’t jumped from the mast in the first place was that he had been moving very ‘fast’ through the Immaterium and he could have easily been ripped apart by the shock.

Thus when he finally did exit that which he had been bound to, it was less like a fighter pilot ejecting from a damaged aircraft and more along the lines of a guy being thrown through a windshield from his disintegrating Ferrari in a three hundred kilometre per hour roll over.

Thus when Lars came to a rest in a plane of existence, he was in a considerable amount of pain and soon blacked out. Considering that he didn’t exactly have a body properly capable of feeling pain or with the biological capacity to pass out, this indicated just how battered he was on a fundamental level.

When Lars had managed to put the battered chunks of his essence back into proper alignment and consciousness returned to him, he discovered that he had assumed a corporeal form, one based on his old, mortal body. This worried him a bit at first, but he had been warned that in some realms such things were possible, and it didn’t seem likely that he was going to dissipate any time soon.

It was also obvious that wherever he had ended up, someone had been taking care of him as he was in a room, lying on a futon on the floor, with a set of clothing set aside for him. Getting up, he considered the clothing for a moment. They looked to be from a reasonably advanced culture, although they were perhaps a bit too small for him. Then again he was in an unknown universe and he wasn’t about to forget the first rule of survival.

There are some places where there are beings that can squash a daemon like a bug. If you find yourself in an unknown place, assume there are such beings about and thus be polite. Be polite to a fault. Do not engage in senseless acts of violence. Do not give any excuse to any deific being to try and kill you and then find out where you came from. You are a guest, so act like one.

Lars really, really hoped that he was in a nice, peaceful place with few gods so that he could just start looking for home instead of having to explain that no, he wasn’t in fact the vanguard for a daemonic invasion, but considering his luck that seemed unlikely at this point.

Slipping on the clothing, he found that it was a little too small, but fortunately just in the height department and not in any way that would pinch uncomfortably. True, such concerns were ultimately meaningless, but it could still be annoying.

Taking in his surroundings, he quickly ascertained that he was probably somewhere in Japan. Somehow Earth and its cultures could be copied endlessly throughout the cosmos, but no one really knew why. Then again, the gods seemed interested in human cultures because they were easier to work with, so humanity’s cradle showing up repeatedly was not too much of a stretch if you considered that they were actively looking for it. Still, finding a copy randomly seemed… strange

Sliding the door to his room open, he glanced about the hallway and found no one around. He said in a soft by audible voice, “Hello? Is anyone home? It’s me, the strange naked guy you found and took in. I’m up.”

Hearing no reply, Lars stepped out into the hall and cracked open one of the sliding doors to see if it led outside, to a main living area, or just to another room. He quickly closed it again, as it was definitely a room, apparently the living space of an apothecary or something judging by the large array of cabinets filled with bottles and boxes and the presence of a couple of mortars and pestles.

Checking another door, he found a cross between a living space and some sort of high tech machine shop littered with mechanical and computer parts. The next door proved to be to a more regular looking room, although the decorations suggested that the occupant was interested in motorcycles, while door number four featured a room that was just generally well kept.

Finally he managed to find a door that led out of the habitation area and into what appeared to be the living room/family room area where there was a modest sized cathode ray tube television and some chairs and sofas. Wandering a bit more, Lars eventually managed to find his way outside, where he discovered a short, round, almost wooden-soldier like robot standing guard over the compound.

Blinking a few times at this rather incongruous sight, Lars said, “Oh, hello. I guess I was brought in by the people of this place. Would you happen to know where they are? And if you are included amongst their number, then no offence was meant, it is just that you are giving off a very good appearance of being a devoted guard at the moment.”

The robot looked up at him and pointed down a set of stone stairs. Nodding, Lars said, “Thank you,” before descending to find a young man working away at a motorcycle with attached sidecar. Clearing his throat in a polite manner, Lars said, “Uh, hello?”

Looking up, the young man said, “Oh, you’re awake! We thought you would be asleep a bit longer so we were doing some errands. Sorry we weren’t in the house.”

“Oh, uh, no need to worry, I’m pretty hardy,” Lars said with a shrug. Technically the only thing he had to fear was anything capable of unmaking him, so if it didn’t kill him outright he had little to worry about in the long term.

“You were pretty badly hurt when we first found you, but you do seem much better now. Anyway, my name is Morisato Keiichi, and come on with me; I’ll fix you up something to eat. You’ve been asleep for two days, so you must be starving,” Keiichi said with a bright smile.

“Oh, thank you Keiichi, but I uh… alright, I need to know how you’ll react, so I’ll need to know whether or not that robot guard is normal around here,” Lars asked somewhat nervously.

“Oh, Banpei? He’s uh… experimental… yeah, experimental,” Keiichi said while nervously scratching the back of his head.

“So not at all normal, as in you deal with weird things on a regular basis… like say strange men suddenly appearing by your house in such a way that you choose to take care of them there instead of taking them to a hospital,” Lars said.

“Umm… yeah. I’m guessing that you know that you’re umm… not human,” Keiichi nervously pointed out.

“Yeah, so don’t worry about it. Besides, I’m more worried that you would be offended or spooked, I am the interloper here. But anyway, I don’t need to eat… at least not in the way you do,” Lars explained.

“Oh, I see. Sorry…” Keiichi began.

“No, no, no! I thank you for the offer; I just don’t want you to waste your food on someone who has no need for it. Also, please excuse me, but I have yet to introduce myself. My name is Lars,” Lars explained.

“Ah yes. Well, Lars-san, most of the rest of the household should be home soon, so we should head in,” Keiichi said.

“Oh, please don’t let me distract you from your own work, although I can understand that you might not want a stranger having free access to your home. Perhaps I could help you with your bike first?” Lars offered.

Keiichi smiled and said, “I would appreciate that Lars-san, if you think you would be of help.”

Shrugging, Lars said, “I’m more familiar with large maritime engines, but I think I can be of assistance.”

Keiichi blinked and he asked, “You know about machines.”

Shrugging, Lars said, “It depends on the subject area. You want me to work on a diesel engine for a commercial fishing ship? I’m your man. You need me to get a finicky naval radio working, I can help you out. I also know a bit about military grade communication and navigation gear.” The fact that the reason behind that last one was because he had been bound to the gear was left out.

“You’re a sailor?” Keiichi asked in interest.

“I used to be. Times change… it’s a bit of a long story that probably only needs to be told once, so we should wait until there are more people to hear the tale. Anyway, what exactly is the trouble with your bike?” Lars said, quickly moving the subject into more comfortable ground.

“Oh, it’s nothing major; I’m just giving the Beemer a tune up. Changing the oil, cleaning the spark plugs, that sort of thing. I’m already almost finished,” Keiichi said.

Squatting down next to the bike, Lars looked over it and said, “Nice, you’re really taking care of this baby. Although I can see from the varying ages of the parts that this old girl has been through quite the number of scrapes.”

Keiichi laughed nervously at that and said, “Bad luck seems to follow me wherever I go.”

“We make our own luck kid. Even if the universe seems intent on giving us a bad hand at every turn, even if the gods themselves are out to get you, we can still make our own fate. Looking at this bike, I would say that you’ve had a lot of problems thrown your way, but the fact that you are still here to fix it tells me that you’ve made some really good luck for yourself,” Lars said, growing sentimental. Despite his outward appearance of being in the prime of his life, he had been quite grizzled when he had made his decision to cheat death.

Third Impact had not been kind to him.

Shaking away the bad memories, Lars picked up a piece and said, “Well enough sentimentality from an old man. Let’s get to finishing the job you started.”

For about half an hour the two of them worked quietly, two experienced men doing a job they were good at, and Lars marvelled at the peaceful intensity Keiichi put into his work. He was the sort of quiet, dependable man of incredible patience and compassion who Lars would really not want to have to talk about his employers. Lars had long ago come to peace with the gods, but trying to explain his culture to such a peaceful young man from what appeared to be a peaceful universe would be… awkward to say the least.

Then Lars’ senses began to tingle with the approach of a being on incredible power. Maybe not quite the same amount of power as say one of the major Daemon Nobility like Princess Hikari, but considering the fact that the feeling was also very different in its texture as well as its magnitude, Lars felt that even that impression might be off. Either way he would probably get ripped apart if he stepped out of line around this approaching being.

Sighing, he stood up and looked to where he felt the entity approaching from, and wondered why one of the big shots from this region had not shown up already. Keiichi noticed this as he was packing away his tools and asked, “What is it?”

“Something of incredible power is coming this way,” Lars explained.

Frowning, Keiichi looked down the street before a young woman rounded the corner and his face broke out into a broad smile and he said, “Oh, that’s just Belldandy-sama!”

It took Lars a second to recognize the fact that the woman he was looking at was also the source of the power he was feeling, and then he could just goggle in surprise at the way the two were greeting each other in such a familial way. Keiichi was clearly mortal and not a particularly impressive example of a mortal either, but here he was waving happily to a woman who could probably erase the planet from existence if she tried hard enough.

“Ah, Keiichi-san, I see our guest is awake. I hope you’re feeling better today. My name is Belldandy,” the young woman said, a bright, cheerful smile on her face, accentuated by the odd geometric facial markings and her long brown hair that framed everything so nicely. Then, incongruously enough, there were a few bags of groceries in her hands. Lars figured that she could probably just will such things into existence, and yet she had gone shopping.

Stumbling over himself, Lars plastered a somewhat terrified smile on his face and said, “Ah, hello. My name is Lars, and I thank you for your hospitality.”

Her smile turning into something of frown/pout, Belldandy asked, “Lars-san, you’re frightened. Why?”

“Well… err… you see… you see, I can feel just how powerful you are Belldandy… uh… sama would be the correct suffix I think… and it intimidates me,” Lars admitted.

“Lars-san, don’t be frightened of Belldandy-san,” Keiichi said in protest. “She wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

Holding up his hands in warding, Lars said, “I’m sorry, I don’t mean any offence, it’s just like… well… an ant being able to comprehend an elephant. No matter how gentle the elephant, it is still so much enormously larger than the ant that it can’t help but feel intimidated.”

“Please don’t be afraid Lars-san, I’ll try to better to hide my power,” Belldandy said conciliatorily.

Shaking his head, Lars said, “I don’t think that is possible. I’m a uh… the technical term is a psychophage, in my case a panpsychophage, but a more understandable if less accurate term would be ‘emotion eater’. I naturally consume ambient emotions and psychic emanations, so I am attuned to noticing those sorts of things. You, Belldandy-sama, shine like a star to me, so I will just have to accommodate to you.”

“Oh, I see. Well, I’ll try not to shine too brightly then,” Belldandy said. “And please, call me Belldandy-san, or just plain Belldandy.”

“Ah, thank you,” Lars said.

Talking a bag of groceries from Belldandy, Keiichi followed her up the stairs to their home, with Lars following in some degree of confusion and trepidation behind.

Once inside, Belldandy and Keiichi went about preparing dinner. A moment after starting, Keiichi added on, “Oh yes, we won’t need to make as much tonight. Lars-san said that he doesn’t need to eat.”

“Oh? If you don’t mind asking, you said that you eat ‘emotions’ Lars-san, could you explain a bit more about that,” Belldandy asked sweetly. Keiichi clearly missed it, but as a daemon Lars was much more sensitive to the subtleties of emotion that could come off a person. Right now Belldandy was saying, ‘Hurt Keiichi here and I’ll introduce you to an eternity of pain.

“Uh… it’s fairly complex, but it suffices to say that the majority of my daily diet is derived simply from ambient emotion. I don’t actually have the capacity to ‘drain’ the emotions out of a person, and that would be counter-productive in the long term. So don’t worry, I’m not any kind of monster or something like that,” Lars explained hastily.

“So, what, you get sustenance from just being around people?” Keiichi asked curiously.

“Basically. So long as I’m around most kinds of sentient organic life I’ll never starve, as I need very little to sustain myself unless I’m doing heavy activity. Obviously the stronger the emotion and the more people being emotional, the more energy for me,” Lars explained a bit more thoroughly.

“Any emotion?” Belldandy asked, just the hint of suspicion in her voice.

Nodding, Lars said, “Yes, any emotion. But no, while a riot or war would fuel me with copious amounts of things like anger and fear and hatred and despair and the like, it’s toxic for me in the long run. My kind needs to get a balanced diet or we’ll eventually go insane. There are a few more specialized psychophages where I come from, but they are somewhat more limited and even they need to eat from a spectrum rather than just one type. My people are actually very interested in maintaining healthy, if expressive, populations of people. We’re not bogeymen.”

“Oh. That’s interesting. I’ve never heard of any spirits quite like that before though,” Belldandy said while chopping up ingredients.

“I’m kind of lost,” Lars admittedly with a sheepish shrug. “I’m not from around here.”

Smiling, Belldandy said in a happy, earnest tone, “Well, wherever you’re from, you were taught excellent manners.”

“Ah… thank you Belldandy-san,” Lars said, glad that he had apparently satisfied her curiosity.

“Oh, Keiichi, could you fetch me some whole wheat flour from the pantry? We appear to be out over here,” Belldandy said, causing Keiichi to nod and say, “Of course.”

Once Keiichi was safely out of earshot Belldandy narrowed her eyes and asked in the nicest manner possible, “I can feel other voices emanating off of you, suppressed, enslaved ones. And psychophage means ‘soul eater’, not ‘emotion eater’. So can you explain that to me?”

His eyes going wide with fright, Lars said in a hushed, strained voice, “Look! My existence is complex, but I’m really not here to hurt anyone you love or care about, nor am I a scout for some evil daemonic army. I’m just a guy trying to make the most out of my situation. And… and the souls in me aren’t enslaved. Not in the way you would think.”

“So you do have the souls of others in you,” Belldandy said, somehow becoming infinitely more threatening without her appearance changing from that of a sweet, loving young woman.

“I’m not from around here. Things are very different where I come from. Please, let me explain!” Lars begged in terror.

“I am Belldandy, Goddess First Class, Unlimited License, Norn of the Present, and I know every last part of Creation, every last plane of existence. There is no place for things to be ‘very different’, a place where soul eating would be acceptable,” Belldandy said while looming over Lars.

Before Lars could begin blubbering her words clicked with him, and he instead blinked and asked, “Wait, where am I?”

This seemed to take Belldandy off guard because she asked, “What?”

“Seriously, I thought that you were an experienced extra-dimensional traveller, but unless I’m really lost you should know that there are some places in the multiverse where things are rather unpleasant for the normal people,” Lars stated.

Belldandy started to frown at him, but he was fortunately saved by Keiichi showing up with the flour and her apparent unwillingness to obliterate Lars in front of him. That gave him some time to think.

Okay, he was manifested here, and not stuck in the Warp, or the local equivalent. That was possible, but it required a universe that was capable of manifesting spiritual entities like him. If it did not have sufficient energy to support him or a side plane, then he would have not have been able to appear in this universe at all without being bound to a physical object. No matter how much energy was supplied to him, he simply would have bounced off.

That meant that he couldn’t be very far outside the Great Wall, the outside multiverse just got too thin to support manifesting daemons. In fact, it was more likely that he was still somewhere inside the Great Wall. But Belldandy seemed ignorant of the wider multiverse while still being a dimensional traveller. But that was impossible. Inside the Great Wall you needed a hub universe to move around.

Unless of course this was a hub universe contained by the Great Wall. But with a hub universe you could go anywhere but another hub universe. Surely they should know just how much life sucked for the vast majority of the cosmoses contained by the Great Wall.

Then again, if he had bounced around the Doldrums he might very well have ended up in one of the theorized Z-hubs… but he didn’t think the Borg had hit them that hard. Ugh… he was just glad that his job had given him some degree of multiverse cartography in order to relay messages across the void.

“Can I see a map of your universe?” Lars abruptly asked, causing both Keiichi and Belldandy to pause in confusion.

“What?” Keiichi asked.

“I need a map to try and figure out where I am, and where I’m from. I know you can do that, right Belldandy-san?” Lars asked.

Belldandy looked at him with a slight hint of suspicion before he spoke something in a language that Lars immediately recognized as a cosmic control language of the sort used in psychic incantations, only much more complex and powerful. In the middle of the table Lars was sitting at a holographic image sprang up.

“Oh… shit…” Lars muttered in Swedish. “I am lost. This is nothing like the cartography I’m used to.”

Belldandy blinked and asked, “How can you not know of these places Lars-san?”

Frowning, Lars said, “I’m used to two types of multiverse cartography, inner and outer. Inner is for all of the places inside the Great Wall, while outer is what we theoretically use for stuff outside the Great Wall. If you were using Inner Cartography you would know that there are a lot of places in the multiverse not to touch with a ten foot cattle prod. If you were using Outer Cartography, you would know that there is a whole collection of places that were set aside because no one wanted to touch them with a ten foot cattle prod. But your multiverse map is strangely… contained. You’ve got a home for demons and the like, but everything is more or less all under a central authority. That’s not what my home looks like.”

Keiichi just stared at the holograph dumb founded while Belldandy frowned. Finally, she asked, “Okay, let’s suppose that you are from somewhere outside Creation. How does that explain some of the things I’ve noticed about you?”

“Where I come from, people don’t get an afterlife,” Lars said bluntly.

Belldandy blinked and then asked in horror, “Where do the souls go?”

“Two options: the first is to be absorbed by a being capable of doing such a thing. You don’t exactly survive the process, your identity tends to get subsumed into the commanding spirit, but it mostly beats the second option,” Lars said.

“Which is?” Belldandy asked.

Lars formed both hands into loose fists before sticking them together and then blossomed them out. He said grimly, “They vanish. Poof. Gone. It takes a bit of time, but within a century or two all that is left of most minds is… residue. My deities have been eating the decomposed matter of billions of souls for decades now and show no signs of stopping. Most of the other minds within me come from that process… except for the soul of my wife.”

“You ate the soul of your wife?” Keiichi asked in disbelieving shock.

“Technically one of my gods ate her soul and then regurgitated it into me when I agreed to join them. There was a… a disaster where I came from. Two actually. A lot of people died. Our world was nearly destroyed. We did what we had to do. And I’m not saying that as a fanatic excusing his behaviour, I’m saying that we often literally had no choice in our actions if we didn’t want to go extinct. We live in an extremely hostile universe,” Lars explained with increasing vehemence and passion.

“What did you do?” Belldandy asked, all signs of hostility gone, replaced by the caring, nurturing personality that seemed her default. Even Keiichi seemed eager to help. Lars could feel the emotions radiating off of them, and aside from the welcome boost in energy, he knew that these two were meant for each other despite their wildly differing circumstances.

“Me personally? I was a Danish fisherman whose home was destroyed when some greedy old men blew up Antarctica. Then, fifteen years later after the same old men badly abused a bunch of teenagers into trying to finish off the other half of humanity. Instead, they only absorbed the souls of two-thirds of the global population, my wife being one of them while I survived due to random chance. Their ascension to godhood was costly, half a billion souls each, but worth it. There are… things out there that would not be so merciful. Eventually, when I realized that my time was coming and that I was terrified of ceasing to exist as a person I cut a deal with the gods. I’ll let myself be crammed into an antenna for a few centuries if you ascend me… and I want one of the souls used to power me up to be my wife, so I wouldn’t be away from her ever again,” Lars admitted.

“That’s… that’s impossible. There’s only one Earth in the planes, and we would know about something that damaging,” Belldandy said.

“I’ve seen two Earths. My home and one in another universe. There are lots of Earths scattered about the wider multiverse. I have no idea where your bubble multiverse is in relation, but there is a whole wider set of planes outside the boundaries of your cosmos,” Lars explained.

Before Belldandy could reply to that there was a bright light from the living room and a clearly looking woman with dark skin, pale hair, and a fashion sense that Mislaato would approve of stumbled into the kitchen.

“Urd! I thought you had gone upstairs to get more info on our guest,” Belldandy asked.

Panting from some form of exertion, she said, “I did. Turns out that malfunction in Yggdrasil that Skuld had to take care of was caused by him. According to our data he’s from outside Creation.”

Lars just looked at them and asked, “Do you believe me now?
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Re: The Open Door (megacrossover)

Post by Academia Nut »

Chapter Twenty-seven: New Syracuse

“I must say that I am impressed that you decided to come here,” Rong-Arya noted while idly tracing a clawed finger around the edge of the cup held in their hands, smiling in a shark toothed way at the man sitting across from them. “Although you needn’t be so spooked, we are not monsters, contrary to evidence. We understand what a white flag is and we are not the sort of folks who would shoot people coming to talk about a peace treaty. We might not actually agree to a treaty, but we won’t shoot you for asking.”

“Yes, well, you haven’t exactly been very… talkative over the last year. You have mostly ignored all of our entreaties so far,” Picard noted, his own tea not having been touched yet.

“Actions speak louder than words Picard. You’re the first people to actually come in here, alone, weapons and shields down, broadcasting ‘We want to talk’, rather than sitting back somewhere distant surrounded by lots of guns. And then when we demanded that you come alone and in person, you did so. Most impressive, most impressive. That took the sort of balls we had thought had been excised from your culture,” Rong-Arya said with a smile.

“I felt that under the circumstances it was better to take a risk such as this than continue with the way things had been going,” Picard replied.

“Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Now, tell me what was so damn important that you had to come here for. Is the maelstrom of war too much for you? Have the conflicts finally broken the back of the Federation and now you come here to surrender to us… or is there something else?” Rong-Arya asked, her eyes seeming to burn into Picard’s soul, and he wondered if he was being telepathically analyzed. All accounts said that these people were incredibly skilled psychics, so it did not seem beyond their commander.

“Surrender? No. We take pride in our principles and will stand by them, unto death,” Picard announced.

“An admirable sentiment, although I only wish that you had a better set of principles to stand by. Many Nazis also had principles that they held onto until death,” Rong-Arya replied in a bored tone.

Wincing from that, Picard said, “Let us not get involved in an ideological debate at this juncture, we have a problem. A problem that concerns your people as well.”

“Can you not be grateful for the Dominion fleet we took apart?” Rong-Arya asked before taking a sip of their tea.

“While you did it for your own reasons and the net result was less damage to us than your own raiding, that incident is immaterial to why I am here. I actually disobeyed orders to come here because there are elements in Starfleet who would prefer you dealt with at any cost due to the… destabilizing nature you have been having on our politics, I feel that despite your abominable practices you are less of threat to the Alpha Quadrant than the Borg,” Picard explained.

“The Borg, huh? And are you sure that you aren’t just more afraid of them personally than us?” Rong-Arya asked with a serene smile on their face.

“No, this is definitely beyond just my own hatreds and fears, although I will admit to them. For all the damage you have done, you do not seem concerned with conquest, just raiding and looting and sowing chaos… as it were. The Borg… the Borg, they will exterminate us, perhaps not in body but in the mind. And they come for you,” Picard said.

“And what would you have us do?” Rong-Arya asked, assuming a bored slouch, a hand supporting their tilted head.

“I realize that I can ask you nothing, but I bring with me the location of where they have constructed a transwarp relay point. With this they can rapidly bring large numbers of their ships from their own space into the Alpha Quadrant,” Picard said, pushing forward the data pad he had brought with him.

Picking it up, Rong-Arya went over it and said, “The Briar Patch huh? Eh… maybe those morons will put up a scrap. I will think…” Rong-Arya trailed off as a yeoman walked up to the door of the meeting room and made a gesture indicating that he had an important message.

Nodding, Rong-Arya let the yeoman come forward and whisper his message. Frowning slightly, the daemonhost said, “If you will excuse me, an important matter has come up. We will continue this conversation again once this other matter has been resolved, as it may have some bearing on my next set of actions. Yeoman Hallowell, please escort Captain Picard to his assigned room as a diplomatic guest.”

Getting up, Rong-Arya immediately began to move through the raw stone halls of New Syracuse, the name of the settlement that had been constructed on the moon of Syracuse over the past year. Buried beneath the cratered surface of the airless satellite, tens of thousands of captured Federation, Cardassian, and even a few Klingon personnel worked alongside hundreds of thousands of transplanted Syracusans expanding the base and building the economy to make it a new home for all of the Syracusans still left on the planet below.

It also served as an emergency fallback position for forces operating beyond the Great Wall, with an enormous cavern two kilometres across and two hundred metres high excavated to allow an entire army the room to make a quick stop over. Normally the colossal chamber was kept empty and clean, but just a few minutes ago a great black orb had materialized out of the Warp and then unfolded to release a gore drenched army, a mighty, blood red Evangelion at its centre.

Marching through the somewhat confused troops, Rong-Arya barely spared a glance at a medical team carrying a young red-headed girl away on a stretcher before she came to the gigantic figure of Primarch Toji and saluted.

Primarch! You honour us with your presence, although I suppose that this means that not all has gone well?” Rong-Arya said.

Shaking his head, Toji grumbled and returned the salute, “No, the enemy gained orbital superiority and we were forced to retreat. They thought to pin us on the ground by sacrificing their own troops, but unfortunately they were not made of stern enough stuff to delay our escape. What is the situation here, captain?”

“Unchanged from my last report. The shakedown of the Stiletto has gone well and we are ready for our next mission at any time, although we must admit that we would prefer to be relieved rather than abandon this outpost. The locals are no match for us, but we have made sure that we have always engaged in asymmetric fights assuming we were on the same technological level as the locals,” Rong-Arya said, dropping the daemonic voice now that formal introductions were done with.

Nodding, Toji said, “We shall not trouble you long. We merely need to rest and clean up from the fight and the journey before we head back home. That should take no longer than a few hours.”

“Nonsense good Primarch! Stay with us at least a day or two to rest. While I am sure that your marines are in fighting shape, I can see that you have civilians amongst your number who could use the extra downtime, and I am sure your men would appreciate the time just as much,” Rong-Arya insisted.

“Well… yeah, it would be a good idea to wait a little bit longer if you have the resources to handle the strain. Now that I look over my forces, I can see that Operation Leliel was harder on them than I anticipated. In fact… damn it! I thought I ordered that thing shut off before something like Operation Leliel,” Toji said, staring at the crew of his World Raider.

Looking over the fried anti-grav pods, they shrugged helplessly and said, “Apologies sir. The drive was off but it must have still been too hot and cracked under the strain of the transport.”

Burying his face in a gauntleted hand, Toji said, “Kensuke is going to be right ticked off over this one.”

Glancing over the tank, Rong-Arya said, “Nice. New model?”

Nodding, Toji said, “Yeah, it’s the new anti-armour model. It can’t carry Terminators because of all the space devoted to increased armour and generators, but with sponson mounted twin-linked bright lances, hull mounted twin-linked assault cannons, and a pintle mounted multi-melta means that one of these babies can rip apart pretty much any another tank we would ever come across. Throw in a squad of Marines kitted out for anti-tank work and the fact that the hover system lets you hot drop this baby behind enemy lines and one of these things can rip apart just a squadron of lesser vehicles single handed. Kensuke really went all out with this one.”

Sighing, Rong-Arya said, “Too bad that this monster, like the Stiletto, reveals our weaknesses.”

Having been floating bored above the two adults; Ali hovered in closer and asked, “What weaknesses? It’s a Land Raider with the tracks replaced with Eldar anti-grav technology and weapons. It’s faster, tougher, and hits harder than any weapons platform of its size from that the Old Gods would have had access to.”

“Yes Little Ali and they’re even thinking of trying to squeeze void shields and holo-projectors into the next production run… but I know what the captain is getting at and I agree with them. Kensuke understands it too, which is why he’s designing the damn things in the first place. Simply put, we’re too damn weak to afford anything less,” Toji said with a sigh.

“That doesn’t make sense. If we were weak we wouldn’t be able to afford so much lavish technology,” Ali pointed out.

“The Stiletto and the various makes of the World Raider tanks represent an enormous investiture of resources, in fact, too much investiture if we were a larger empire. For the price of one World Raider we could get twenty or thirty lesser tanks, which would be able to perform their job much more effectively as a group than a single super tank as they can cover much more ground. The problem is that our population is so small we can’t afford the crews for twenty or thirty lesser tanks, so we have no choice but to invest all of our eggs in one basket if we want to have a hope of winning an engagement. The Marines are the same. The assault troops for the Reavers of Asukhon have jump packs and jump belts and Warp Spider teleporters, and the only reason that we don’t all have power weapons is because chainswords and axes are already overkill most of the time. Simply put, we have a shiny military with all sorts of toys but that’s because it’s tiny enough that we can afford to get away with everyone getting the premium polish,” Toji explained.

Blanching, Ali asked, “So what happens once we start expanding?”

“We’re already looking at less expensive and more logistically sound technologies, but for now all the shiny stuff is also serving as test beds for later on. For example, if we can solve the ammo and parts problem, my back-up sidearm will probably become the standard for officers in the next century,” Rong-Arya said, patting one of the pistols at their side.

“Oh, is that a Mk. II Hellstorm fusion pistol?” Toji asked, taking a critical eye to the weapon.

“Mk. III actually, I got it just before the Stiletto left dry dock. Slightly less powerful but with more shots,” Rong-Arya said.

“Nice. I know that Toji had a Mk. VI when we left just because he wanted the latest model off the assembly lines. I love the guy like a brother, but he’s really obsessed with getting the newest stuff. I have no idea how his wife deals with it,” Toji muttered.

“How does your wife deal with you hanging out all night to play plasma ball?” One of the Sons of Toji asked sarcastically while hauling some gear away.

“That’s training!” Toji cried out in an annoyed tone while his men laughed. Obviously it was an old joke between them all.

“Toji?” Ali asked softly.

“Yes Ali?” Toji responded.

“How weak are we?” Ali inquired.

Frowning, Toji said, “That depends on your definition of ‘weak’. If you mean in absolute terms, then the guys from this universe could destroy our major population and production centres on Earth if they threw a big enough fleet there, as we simply don’t have the coverage to repel an attack of sufficient numbers. That said we’ve made sure to be very careful to cover our tracks and only engage in powers that can’t fight back, so we're in no danger, thus from a certain point of view we are very strong. If the… Federation?” Toji paused, looking for Rong-Arya for confirmation, who nodded. “If the Federation were able to track us back to our Earth, it would be useless as we intentionally picked this place because it’s in a balance of power situation with several other neighbors. They would have to strip most of their fleet assets to ensure enough of their ships slipped through our defenses to begin bombardment of our cities, and their neighbors would most likely swoop in an take them apart if they tried, something they know would happen. Incidentally, you did leave a couple of powers alone, right?”

Nodding, Rong-Arya said, “We left the Romulan Star Empire and several of the lesser powers alone, and the Dominion are sufficiently aggressive that they would never ally with the Federation against us, although the reverse might be true.”

“Good. How did the briefing go again? Oh yeah, the only guys you weren’t supposed to antagonize were the Borg as our scouting indicated they were nuts enough and had enough resources to try and take us on single handed,” Toji noted.

Rong-Arya blinked and said, “You know, it’s been a year since I sent the report, but does blowing up a lone cube far away from its home system in self defense count as ‘antagonizing’ the Borg?”

The warning sirens chose that time to go off.

“Fuck,” Rong-Arya noted unhappily.
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Re: The Open Door (megacrossover)

Post by Academia Nut »

Chapter Twenty-eight: Damocles

While jogging to the nearest launch pad, Rong-Arya pulled out a communications device similar in appearance to a military radio but working on completely different principles and demanded, “Stiletto, status report!”

“Multiple Borg cubes have just begun appearing on the far side of Syracuse. Current count is at thirty cubes and rising at a rate of approximately one every two seconds,” O’Hare replied crisply.

“Son of a bitch,” Rong-Arya muttered while pulling out the data pad Picard had given them. They thought that they had set up a proper bottleneck in the nebula but the only way to get ships in like that was with some form of FTL that bypassed the disruptive effects of local conditions. “Can you make a straight line vector, or at least a near straight line, between their current location and the following coordinates?”

After a few moments O’Hare replied, “Affirmative ma’am.”

Running through two life times of tactical and strategic training and one of actual experience, along with a survey of the coming timelines, Rong-Arya figured that the Borg had placed their LZ behind the planet to prevent the Stiletto from simply shooting them as they exited.

“Alright, hold station over New Syracuse. All weapons are to go free, all defensive measures activated. All rules of engagement are suspended. Shoot to kill, shoot at full charge with all available weapons, and do not stop shooting until all of those bastards are scrap, you here me? No artistry, just kill them: quick, clean, and efficiently,” Rong-Arya ordered.

“And you captain?” O’Hare asked.

“I will attempt to make my way to the ship, but we cannot afford to delay the battle once the Borg decide for it to be joined. You are all well trained and you can function without me. Perhaps not as well, but a single person, no matter how skilled, cannot become the lynchpin of battle,” Rong-Arya replied.

There was a pause and then several voices, the entire bridge crew all announced, “Yes ma’am! For the glory of Chaos!”

Code: Select all

Tactical Cube Designation 1 of 60 beginning combat mission against species designation 9251

Primary objective: Species 9251 ship designation Stiletto

Secondary objective: All other species 9251 assets

Tertiary objective: Gather data on Species 9251 for further analysis

Primary objective threat analysis: Species 9251 ship designation Stiletto

-Power generation: Unknown
-Defensive measures: Unknown material used for armour, scans inconclusive.  Unknown method of energy shield detected, energy handling capacity presumed high.  Defensive holographic screens detected, reducing accuracy by 15.2009%
-Offensive measures: Unknown.  Prior engagement burned out sensors upon activation of primary weapon system.  Assume extreme
-Acceleration profile: Unknown.

Overall threat rating: EXTREME

Beginning engagement


Cubes designated 12 of 60 and 38 of 60 destroyed by primary weapon of Species 9251 Stiletto

Tactical consideration: Avoid aligning cubes such that a shot from the primary weapon of Species 9251 Stiletto cannot strike more than one cube simultaneously

Cubes designated 7 of 60, 19 of 60, 58 of 60, and 59 of 60 destroyed by primary weapon of Species 9251 Stiletto

Updating data on Species 9251 Stiletto: Nonlinear acceleration demonstrated capacity to exceed 1000G

Tactical consideration: Recharge time and acceleration exceeds capacity of cubes to comply with prior tactical consideration

Tactical analysis of the destruction of cubs 7 of 60, 19 of 60, 38 of 60, 58 of 60, and 59 of 60

-Shield analysis: Primary weapon of Species 9251 Stiletto is a high frequency coherent electromagnetic beam.  Proper shield modulation will allow all energy to be devoted to energy cancellation
-Energy handling: Energy output of primary weapon for Species 9251 Stiletto exceeds total reactor output of four tactical cubes by an unknown number of orders of magnitude.
-Structural analysis: Photon momentum imparted by primary weapon of Species 9251 Stiletto exceeds structural integrity fields and materials capacity by an unknown number of orders of magnitude

Adaptation consideration: Shield modulation possible but of negligible use.  Construction of new cubes required.  Addition of sufficient armour, inertial dampers, reactors, and shields not possible with current technology.  Increase reactor and attendant technologies output by a minimum of five orders of magnitude.  Increase materials technology and attendant technologies by a minimum of five orders of magnitude.

Species list known to have such technologies:
-List contains 1 entry
-Species 9251

Assimilation priority of Species 9251 recommended increase

Tactical consideration: bring additional forces

Cubes 2 of 60, 3 of 60, 4 of 60, 6 of 60, 11 of 60, 17 of 60, 20 of 60, 23 of 60, 31 of 60, 33 of 60, 47 of 60, and 52 of 60 all destroyed by secondary weapons fire from Species 9251 Stiletto.

Tactical consideration: Maintain minimum safe distance of 20 km between cubes in all directions

Tactical analysis of destruction of cubes 2 of 60, 3 of 60, 4 of 60, 6 of 60, 11 of 60, 17 of 60, 20 of 60, 23 of 60, 31 of 60, 33 of 60, 47 of 60, and 52 of 60 by secondary weapons fire from Species 9251 Stiletto

-Cubes 4 of 60, 23 of 60, and 52 of 60 destroyed by secondary weapon causing critical structural damage while passing through superstructure at high relativistic speeds
-Cubes 2 of 60, 3 of 60, 6 of 60, 11 of 60, 17 of 60, 20 of 60, 31 of 60, 33 of 60, and 47 of 60 destroyed by high energy plasma warhead detonation

Adaptation consideration: None known against high acceleration relativistic kill vehicles at short ranges.  Destruction of launcher only known effective countermeasure.  Construction of new cubes with improved materials and/or energy generation and shield technology possible adaptation method against detonation of warhead.

Species list known to have such technologies:
-List contains 1 entry
-Species 9251

Assimilation priority of Species 9251 recommended increase

Tactical consideration: bring additional forces

Tactical consideration: 28.3333% of initial forces destroyed

Tactical consideration: Mission clock reads 0 days 0 hours 0 minutes 8 seconds 57 milliseconds

Tactical consideration: Tertiary and quaternary weapons of Species 9251 Stiletto have yet to fire.  Probable reason: insufficient time to acquire targets not destroyed by primary and secondary weapons as multiple weapons locks already detected

Tactical consideration: Probable tertiary weapons mounts exceed number of remaining cubes

Tactical analysis: 98.4713% chance of complete destruction of remaining cubes within the next 40 seconds

Tactical consideration: Temporary disengagement from combat operations recommended.  Methods of disengagement before destruction: None

Mission analysis: Mission has 0.0000% probability of completing primary objective.  Mission has 0.0001% probability of completing secondary objective.  Tertiary objective unsatisfactorily fulfilled.

Mission update: Primary objective changed

Primary objective: Observe effects of Collective weapons on Species 9251 Stiletto

Tactical consideration: Species 9251 primary and secondary weapons ranges unknown but exceed Collective ranges by a minimum of an order of magnitude.  Probable ranges of tertiary weapons also exceed Collective ranges

Mission analysis: 3.8014% chance of completing primary objective

[Unknown] consideration: Ha!  Ha!  Our psychics hacked your Collective, eat shit and die motherfuckers!
“Well… that’s sixty down. Let’s see what the next wave has in store,” Rong-Arya commented as they sat down in the captain’s chair, having only recently managed to get a shuttle up to the Stiletto once the shooting died down.

“Are we just going to sit here and let them throw shit at us?” Ichiro-Faust asked.

“Negative. As much as these bastards are self-contained a cube on a combat mission has to chew threw fuel and ammo at a high rate, and they only have an outpost in this part of the galaxy. There are a limited number of cubes in this quadrant that their logistics should be able to reliably support, so we will wait half a day for the next wave before we attempt to move on their outpost. If it was just us fighting I would go on the offence right away, but…” Rong-Arya trailed off at the last bit, the implications clear. “Right. Plans for evacuation are already underway. Once the civilians and the Primarch are secure we can go kick those Borg fucktards in the balls.”

“Ma’am, we are detecting new contacts on the opposite side of Syracuse,” Xavier reported.

“Hmmm… let’s see what they learned from that spanking,” Rong-Arya muttered while leaning forward almost eagerly.

Over the next few minutes two hundred Borg cubes of several different makes and models appeared, arranging themselves into two groups of a hundred each, arranged into hemispheres with each individual cube positioned so that the Stiletto could not hit multiple cubes with the Pulsar Lance or its torpedoes. Once both hemispheres were formed up, one began to go spin-wise around the planet while the other went anti-spin-wise two minutes later. More cubes were arriving and forming up into a third formation.

“Clever… clever. Still rather simplistic and brute force, but they are clearly trying to minimize damage the speed at which we can blow them to the Warp so that they can get in close to brawl with us, and possibly attack New Syracuse while we are engaged with them. This will require… finesse on our part,” Rong-Arya noted, looking over the approaching formations.

“Commander, we still have the Bearers on board, correct?” They finally asked.

“Affirmative ma’am,” Ichiro-Faust answered.

“Designate a cube, I don’t care which, and cripple it. But do not destroy it. Make sure all of the gunners have it designated as a friend until I say otherwise. Once its shields have been knocked down, teleport the Bearers on to it. Make sure that they are carrying the Infinite Despair Plague, with the objective of getting into as many communications nodes as possible. The only way to keep up this sort of brutal meat grinder tactic is if your troops either are more afraid of going back than forward or if they have no fear. I want to make sure neither is a factor,” Rong-Arya said with a predatory grin.

“The Bearers will be overjoyed,” Ichiro-Faust replied with an equal grin.

Sergeant Gregor Stamatelos was overjoyed. The last time they had fought the Borg they had slaughtered the slow moving cyborgs by the hundreds before growing bored, but this time they were authorized to carry one of Mama Reigle’s greatest blessings: the Infinite Despair Plague. Created as an anti-boarding measure, it was capable of corrupting metals as well as flesh, and as an added bonus it could force grow circuitry capable of causing fear and pain in anything more advanced than a calculator.

The idea was that if your boarding vessel sudden was terrified of the ship it was trying to board it would make the operation considerably more difficult.

Locking his helmet on his a wet crunch of rusting mechanisms lubricated by bursting, necrotic boils, Gregor lead his men to the teleport pad where fellow servants of Reigle were standing by with hoses to douse them with fluids tapped directly from the organic parts of the ship so that they would be inoculated with the deadly plague. The only down side of this operation was that they would have to give up the disease as it was too dangerous to keep.

And that meant- horror of horrors- decontamination!

As he was being sprayed down with the thick brown slurry, Gregor said over the radio to his men, “Alright boys, once we get aboard we are to split into two teams of five and hit as many communications nodes as you can, spreading the blessings of Mama Reigle as far and wide as possible. Let us teach these Borg to embrace pain and despair as thoroughly as we have.”

With a flash of light and the bang of air rushing in to fill the void where they had once stood, the Terminators from the Bearers of Reigle disappeared from the Stiletto and reappeared on the cube that had just recently had its shields knocked off-line by a single hit from a bombardment cannon.

“Swarms active boys!” Gregor cried out wetly while giving the psychic cue to the living hives of flying insects within his body. He gave his flesh to them willingly so that they would have a home and food, and in turn they would attack his enemies. All of his men were the same.

It took three Borg drones collapsing screaming to the ground for the Collective to notice that the Bearers were even on the cube and thus take action. By that time the walls of the cube were already starting to corrode under the influence of the deadly plague carried by the Bearers and the swarms of buzzing insects surrounding them like black clouds. Force fields snapped up to contain the Terminators, but the ones that did not fail due to sudden and rapid decay were downed with the simple method of a power fist to the projector.

As the two groups of Terminators made their slow march through the cube, the Collective watched on in horror as more and more drones collapsed, tearing at their own implants, wailing in agony. At first they tried to gather more data, but when they detected the presence of microscopic fusion reactions they realized that they were dealing with something willing to fire plasma guns at their nano-probes and that they could not devise a defence against that sort of thing. So they just shut off the infected drones before their screaming could disrupt the purity of the Collective.

Then the plague began rewiring their transmitters. The Infinite Despair Plague was creating a new Collective, one where all of the processing power was dedicated to transmitting the dying, agonized screams of thousands of drones into the Collective at large.

Coordination in the cube dropped considerably.

The Sergeant Gregor found a communications node; one used for broadcast, and plunged his Viral Cleaver into the mechanism. Instead of being destroyed, the node was instantly infected, and Gregor broadcast to the Collective, all of it, “Resistance is futile. You will be infected,” before he was shut out.

The Collective was composed of countless trillions of minds spread across the galaxy, but hundreds of billions of them were unwillingly assimilated. The screams of the dying and the declaration of intent in the Alpha Quadrant forced into their minds temporarily awoke the terror of forced assimilation. So many billions of voices joined their fears to others, creating a chain reaction of panic and terror. For exactly twelve seconds before the cold, machine parts of the Collective could clamp down, a single emotion raged across the length and breadth of the galaxy.


Ironically, what happened next would not have occurred if not for Rong-Arya’s decision to terrify the Borg. One of the cubes, gripped in panic, began shooting wildly. A single, solitary torpedo went far, far off course, if it could be said to have ever had a course to begin with.

By Chaos standards, it was a pathetic bomb, two hundred megatons of explosive energy from a matter/antimatter explosion. Just enough to possibly cause minor damage if it could penetrate the shields of the Stiletto and it hit a sensitive location.

It wasn’t aimed at the Stiletto.

The weapon crashed into the primary hydroponics facility on New Syracuse before detonating. Most of the blast was directed outward, and with no atmosphere on the moon to contain it, a little more than half the energy radiated harmlessly into space.

Rock, organic matter, glass, plastics, metals, they all flashed to monatomic vapour in milliseconds after initiation under intense gamma ray bombardment. Again, most of the energy was lost as instead of this vapour compressing against an atmosphere much of it was blown off into space. But in the connecting tunnels beneath the facility, there was enough confinement that pressure could build in the instant before the rocks they were carved from turned molten from the incredible heat.

The entire hydroponics facility, the size of a small city, was destroyed in an instant, but nearly twenty kilometres away was where the significant damage was done. One of the hab domes exploded as a ball of superheated gas to point where it became plasma erupted out of the connecting tunnels. Thousands died, cooked by the fury of the fireball in an instant or suffocated when they found their air either lacking in oxygen or simply evacuated out the hole in the ceiling.

In orbit, the bridge crew of the Stiletto blinked in surprise. So far the Borg had been ignoring the settlement.

Then Rong-Arya’s perfect memory kicked in. They had helped plan the construction of New Syracuse. The primary habitation area and the arrival area for the Primarch hadn’t been touched but they knew what had been in that hab dome.

THAT WAS THE PRIMARY NURSERY DOME!” They screamed out in horror. Tens of thousands of children and youths of half a dozen species had been in there along with their care givers.

New plan boys. We finish these guys up, we smash their outpost in this quadrant, and then we track them back to their homes and we make the Borg extinct,” Rong-Arya declared, ripping apart the armrests of their chair in fury while a selfish part of them was glad that Cassandra, the babe they had adopted from the installation that had grown into New Syracuse, had been kept aboard the Stiletto.

The Borg would pay for this.
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Re: The Open Door (megacrossover)

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Chapter Twenty-nine: Briar Patch

“Communications uplink from Earth ma’am, Priority One
,” a disembodied voice declared to the bridge crew of the Stiletto a few minutes after the last Borg cube was scrap in space. The battle had been… rather underwhelming really. For hours the Borg had come like lambs to the slaughter, utterly unable to damage the Stiletto while their own coordination was still disrupted from the earlier attack on the Collective. It had all of the nervous energy of battle with none of the risk, leaving the crew on edge and drained.

“Let me hear it then Lars,” Rong-Arya demanded dismissively.

Message requests that you take it privately,” Lars informed her with a touch of nervousness.

Rong-Arya raised an eyebrow at that. ‘Requesting’ in this context meant that someone really high up the chain of command was about to chew them out. Damn it! The New Syracuse Disaster had been an accident!

Getting up, Rong-Arya went over to the private communication chamber, opening lock with a particular psychic key before entering and securing the thick armoured door behind them. They then said, “Okay, Lars, let me hear it now.”

In the center of the large chamber a massive psycho-holographic image appeared and said, “Oh, but it will be so much to speak face to face.”

Rong-Arya’s jaw dropped before they hit the ground and said, “Lord Tzintchi! What have we done to receive this honour?

“Oh don’t grovel, if there’s one thing I can’t stand its people grovelling,” Tzintchi said dismissively.

“Uh… I thought you loved grovelling?” Rong-Arya asked.

“Actually I do, it’s a massive stroke to the ego. But I enjoy screwing with people’s minds more and quoting from a movie nearly seventy years old really screws with people,” Tzintchi said with a shrug.

“You are… as unpredictable as ever Lord Tzintchi,” Rong-Arya admitted.

“Damn straight, and don’t you forget it,” Tzintchi replied. “Anyway, on to the reason I called. I am giving you a direct order here. Do not engage the Borg outside the Alpha quadrant.

“What?” Rong-Arya asked in shock.

“You heard me. Stay the fuck away from their home territory. We’ve done an analysis and the Stiletto does not have the firepower to do sufficient damage to their primary defensive installations. So you are ordered to not risk your ship or your crew trying to pull an Ahab. Take out their base in the Alpha Quadrant and then return home. New Syracuse is to be completely evacuated by Toji and his forces,” Tzintchi ordered.

“We… Lord… we can’t let this go!” Rong-Arya cried out in outrage.

“Rong-Arya, what do you call proclaiming a crusade to kill trillions of beings and drive a species to extinction, toppling one of the most powerful groups in a galaxy all over the deaths of a few thousand people?” Tzintchi asked.

“Official government policy?” Rong-Arya suggested.

“Yes! But you also have to be successful at exterminating your enemies the first time or they tend to come back to bite you in the ass. And, if necessary, you almost might need to bide your time and wait for the right moment to do that. Which is why with the destruction of their base, the Stiletto’s first tour will officially come to an end. That said, we’ll remember this,” Tzintchi said, and then the holograph shifted to a slowly rotating image of a new ship.

“You like?” Tzintchi’s disembodied voice said. “It’s the early design model for our first battleship. A bit overambitious, yes, but we figure we can start construction within the next fifty to a hundred years once we have the construction yards built and the experience of building cruisers. It’s obviously an early draft of the design, but honestly, our designers are bored. With all the information we’ve passed down to them, for the most part they can only twiddle their thumbs and come up with crazy ideas until we can actually build and test their designs. Thus on paper, we already have over twenty different classes of ships.”

“And you’re showing us this because…?” Rong-Arya asked tentatively.

His face returning and replacing the ship, Tzintchi said, “Because the New Syracuse class battleships will have the first mission to exterminate the Borg from the multiverse. Don’t fuck up and you’re guaranteed the captain’s chair for that mission. Really impress us over the next few decades and that will be the flagship for the fleet deployed to the task.”

There was a pause before Rong-Arya said, “So when do you want the keys back by?”

“Well, you need to have the girl home by ten, so I’ll want the keys in my hands no later than eleven, you got that? And make sure you fill up the tank before you bring it into the garage,” Tzintchi said with faux seriousness.

“Got it. Thank you Lord Tzintchi, we won’t fail you,” Rong-Arya said.

“I know you won’t,” Tzintchi replied before the transmission cut out.

In the Palace back on Earth, Tzintchi moved a few pieces about. Things were about to get interesting. With the aftermath of the first stage of his overall scheme still having yet to cool, there was still much to do for the next stage. He had some info now on the outside multiverse. Now he needed more on the structure of the barrier they were trapped in. They could see much, but it seemed that the designers of this trap had made sure that it was impossible to go anywhere you wanted.

For example, their agent Ethan Rayne could not be contacted if a psychic signal was sent from Haruhi’s universe, but it could be sent directly, something that indicated that any of the hubs they had discovered so far were incapable of direct contact with each other. Quite interesting really.

Then there were the Doldrums, sections of entire universes where the energy content was much lower, and the physics much less compliant to things like psychics or faster than light travel. As far as early scouting could tell, you had to go directly from one universe to the next in the Doldrums instead of using a hub, but as one moved away from the ‘centre-line’ travel became harder.

So far any long range expeditions had remained theoretical, centuries off at best, but Tzintchi could feel the tides of fate tugging at him. There was something out there that demanded a thread be pulled to unravel something. But he couldn’t exactly say what was happening.

So he was going to throw the Stiletto into the heart of things and see what happened. It should have the supplies to make it home through the Doldrums.


In the past two months the Briar Patch had been transformed radically by the appearance of the Borg. Originally a number of scout ships had arrived with the equipment to construct a transwarp gate, and within a month they established a forward base hiding in the unstable nebula, the greatest concentration of Borg military might in well… ever. Not since the war with Species 8472 had the Borg met such a threat, and unlike the biotech of Species 8472 there was as of yet no reason why assimilation should be impossible. The Borg just needed to use the right methods.

Also, as an unexpected bonus they had discovered a planet inhabited by primitives that had some unusual radiation about it that locals had been studying. They actually had a collector mostly finished but seemed unready to use it.

After capturing the installation the Borg, seeing the metaphasic particles about the planet as more valuable than the effort make the small population on the surface into drones, had completed the array and turned the world into a lifeless rock. Thus ended the Baku.

Even better, the Borg had assimilated one of the warships in orbit after it had destroyed one of the scout ships with a peculiar weapon. While subspace weapons were not exactly something new to the Borg, very few races pursued research into them very far as the weapons were far too unstable, these were something they had never seen before and thus had happily assimilated the ship.

Now, in the wake of the disastrous assault on the Damocles Nebula, the Borg were scrambling to adapt. The initial target had proved not just worth the effort, but the fact that it had repulsed hundreds of Borg ships had forced a re-evaluation of current tactics. They were at least fairly certain they had solved the problem as to how Species 9251 had hacked the Collective.

Unfortunately they had not quite figured out the problem of how to deal with a multi-gigaton spewing death machine with an unknown FTL system suddenly appearing on the edge of their base and accelerating towards high c velocities while firing all guns.

“You know what? I love high c combat. It’s the colours really,” Rong-Arya stated in a bored tone as the explosions began. “On approach, all the pyrotechnics get blue shifted, so you get to see all of the infrared that we miss most of the time, and there really is a lot of it. Then, while moving away everything is red shifted and we get to see the interesting ultraviolet tones that add so much. Add in length contraction and all of that fascinating relativistic stuff and it’s really quite pretty to see a twenty-seven cubic kilometre cube take a hundred gigaton bombardment cannon shot to the centre of mass.”

“The battle is going according to plan ma’am. Borg forces are currently at 75% initial strength and dropping rapidly,” Ichiro-Faust noted.

“Excellent, excellent. Continue the attack like this. Nothing new from them?” Rong-Arya asked.

“No new tactics or technologies being displayed. Sensors do show that there is a ship near the centre of the formation that is not of standard Borg configuration, but it is communicating with them. It’s probably a captured local vessel, so no threat,” Ichiro-Faust noted.

“If the Borg captured it then it must have some interest to them. Get a firing solution to the gunners for the next time we make a pass on their position. We don’t want to take any chances,” Rong-Arya ordered.

“Affirmative ma’am, it’s… it’s fired something into our current path,” Ichiro-Faust reported with some confusion.

“Switch from our current path to a linear one Lieutenant Striker, keep us out of the path of whatever that was,” Rong-Arya demanded.

“Aye-aye ma’am,” Striker replied, taking the ship out of its long, slowly spiralling inwards side-slip that allowed the front and port guns to be fired at the Borg and throttled the engines up 80%, breaking them off from the Borg until they could evaluate this new threat.

Half a light second from their previous location something very strange happened.

Rong-Arya blinked and asked, “Lieutenant Xavier, what in the Warp is that?”

After several seconds, Xavier said grimly, “It’s a Warp space rift.”

“Damn it! We didn’t know that they could do that!” Rong-Arya cried out.

“Captain… it’s accelerating towards us,” Xavier reported a second later.

Rong-Arya blinked their burning eyes once before they asked, “What do you mean by that Lieutenant?”

“I mean that it is rapidly moving towards us, its velocity increasing with each second,” Xavier clarified in a somewhat stressed tone.

“Captain, I think I know what’s happening. Weapons crews are reporting an increase in the stress levels on the S2 and S3 engines. They’re essentially Warp taps so with a tear like that out there, it could be drawn to the nearest point of similar energy,” Ichiro-Faust suggested.

“Cut all power to the holofields and divert the energy to the void shields,” Rong-Arya snapped, and the crew quickly relayed the orders. “Also, I want torpedoes launched at their transwarp gate; we should at least make sure that bastard gets take out before we leave.”

The Stiletto ploughed through pillowing clouds of unstable metreon gas, the strange substance lighting up off their void shields, creating a strange counter point to the eerie light of the tear that followed doggedly at their heels, and it dropped a pair of torpedoes in its wake. Their engines lighting up and pushing them through the nebula, they cut trails of fire straight to the heart of the Borg position, crashing into the ring in space they had constructed to serve as their way in and out of the Alpha Quadrant. The torpedoes actually had a much lower yield than the main guns, but they were designed to slip past void shields and punch through armour to detonate inside a ship, a design that mostly made up for their lack of overall firepower but was rather useless against enemies that did not use void shields.

“Damn… okay, so the explosion shut down the gate, but there’s still a lot of debris that could be reactivated,” Xavier reported.

“Hit it with another pair then,” Rong-Arya retorted.

“The rift is getting awfully close ma’am,” Xavier pointed out.

“Fire when ready then. The gods have some plan for this region and the Borg do not factor into them. Plus if we can’t wipe out their species right now, we might as well settle for ruining their plans,” Rong-Arya said.

“Port tube is ready, starboard will be ready in ten seconds,” Ichiro-Faust replied.

“Fire,” Rong-Arya ordered.

What happened next was something that no one in Chaos particularly liked to talk about. As befitting their nature, random, unlikely things tended to happen around them. Unfortunately, while they liked to use this to screw with people, it also meant that Murphy and his friend Finagle liked to take a wrench to them with equal frequency.

The tear struck the back of their void shields. A sheet of lightning rippled across the surface of the shield. It could have gone anywhere. It chose to go up the port side of the ship. It could have happened at any time. It chose to happen just in time for the torpedo just launched to reach the void shield and get a massive amount of energy grounded into it.

The warhead was normally well designed and would have simply gone inert, but the crews had been ordered to tamper with the fuses so that the torpedoes would not slow down before detonating as if they were facing void shields, meaning that it was live the moment it left the tubes.

A small star was birthed next to the Stiletto right as the tear in reality caught up to them. The port torpedo tube was smashed, and dozens of weapons emplacements were stripped away in the explosion. The starboard torpedo was knocked off its track just as it was launching and its motor fused the weapon into place before it realized it was stuck in the tube and shut off.

“Status report!” Rong-Arya demanded.

“Severe damage to the port side, damage reports still in coming but several weapons mounts are inoperative. Void shields are down. Starboard torpedo tube is inoperable. The rift appears to have been sealed by energy from the explosion,” Ichiro-Faust reported quickly before adding on, “Oh and the Borg appear to have noticed that we have no shields and are incoming.”

“Fuck. All hands, prepare to repel boarders. I want shields up as quickly as possible and a firing solution on that fucking ship. I want it dead,” Rong-Arya snapped.

As the bridge crew began to go about their tasks, a strange humming noise alerted them to trouble. Even before the Borg boarding parties had finished materializing though Rong-Arya was already out of her command throne, daemon sword drawn while security crews were readying their own weapons.

The first three Borg on the bridge did exactly nothing before being cut down, but as was typical Borg response they simply sent more drones. As was the response of a well trained bridge crew, no one being directly attacked did anything but their jobs. Striker brought the ship around so that the starboard side and its fully functional weapons were presented to the incoming Borg ships. O’Hare coordinated inter-ship communications to make sure that damage control and the anti-boarding parties did not interfere with each other. Xavier made sure that the still functioning sensors were giving adequate data to the gunnery crews. Ichiro-Faust prioritized targets while also occasionally ripping the head off a drone that got too close.

After decapitating one drone and setting another on fire with their minds, Rong-Arya said, “How goes getting the void shields online Mr. Ichiro-Faust?”

“It goes, oh captain my captain, but these blackguards help not the matter,” Ichiro-Faust replied.

Blowing away a drone with their fusion pistol, conveniently decorated to look like a 17th Century naval pistol, Rong-Arya said, “Oh aye. Do we have the range of that cutter that crippled us so? We do so wish to see her captain swinging from the yard arm.”

Ripping the heart out of a stunned drone, Ichiro-Faust replied, “Alas, these scallywags seem to have realized the only way to bring down our shields is with whatever they have stashed away in that boat, so they have formed up a defensive wall of cubes. If we had torpedoes…”

“What was that last part Mr. Ichiro-Faust?” Rong-Arya asked with a grin on their face while running a drone through, causing its life to fade as its soul was ripped out.

“Torpedoes ma’am,” Ichiro-Faust replied, a grin growing as they realized where this was going.

Damn the torpedoes! Four bells! Mr. Striker, take us ahead into the fray,” Rong-Arya said with a laugh that soon infected the rest of the crew as the Stiletto came about, pointing its ram prow at the heart of the Borg formation, its massive engines flaring enormously, causing the frigate to surge forward like a rapier thrust from a lunging duellist.

“Mr. O’Hare, if you would be so kind as to give me the intercom,” Rong-Arya asked, sword in one hand, pistol in the other, and Borg blood splattered on their face and uniform.

“Aye-aye ma’am!” O’Hare replied, snickering at the absurdity of the scenario. He then nodded when it was ready.

All hands, this is the captain speaking. We are currently about to plunge head first into the enemy position, so preparing for impact would be advised at this time. Also, I appear to have decided that today is silly accent day, so crew hands are asked put on their best pirate voice while officers are urged to speak like 19th Century British Royal Navy officers. Stiff upper lip when facing these knaves and all that. What do you say to that?” Rong-Arya announced.

Even as blast doors sealed across the ship the cries of “YAAAAAAR!” could be heard on the bridge.

After a moment O’Hare said, “The Space Marines request to know which silly accent they should adopt.”

Tell those daft leathernecks to give me an oorah!” Rong-Arya demanded flippantly while decapitating a drone.

After a moment O’Hare said, “Response is ‘Oorah’.”

Laughing aristocratically, Rong-Arya shot the bowels out of another drone before saying, “Maybe those Devil Dogs will put some steel in the spines and fire in the bellies of these daft knaves!”

“Wrong century my captain and I suspect the sentiments will be reversed, but good show nonetheless,” Ichiro-Faust said in a bad faux British accent.

“Mr. Ichiro-Faust, I suspect that none of the tongues we are so aping have ever been used outside of bad motion pictures. Oh ho! Let the cheese flow like water and deal with it, for the madness has taken us. All hands, brace for impact!” Rong-Arya cried out theatrically as the Stiletto plunged into the heart of the Borg formation.

Aside from beaming hundreds, possibly thousands of drones in a vain attempt to seize the ship, the Borg had also been hammering away at bare hull as the Stiletto bore down at relativistic speeds on their position, firing cutting lasers and torpedoes as quickly as they could. The warship was awash with plasma and several deep cuts had been gouged where focused fire had hit weak points, but the mighty warship had yet to suffer anything that could really stop it. Its entire ram prow glowed white with thousands of strikes from dozens of cubes, but the materials that made it up could handle much worse.

Like a burning arrow, the Stiletto plunged into the Borg formation, its prow slicing through the tangled jumble of piping and machinery that was a Borg cube like it was made of butter. In an astonishingly tiny fraction of a second the Stiletto was through and ploughing into another cube, burning its retros as it went, shedding velocity while frying enemy ships as effectively as if they had been hit by direct weapons fire. They punched straight through four cubes before they came to a relative stop.

Once slowed down enough, the weapon mounts that had been covered up to avoid being ripped off by the ramming popping out of their covers to begin blazing away at the targets in all directions.

“The scoundrels that did so wound us are ahead my captain!” Xavier announced, affecting a French aristocratic accent.

“Ah! Then ram them you Napoleonic bastard!” Rong-Arya declared.

Non! It is the Louis who I serve! For the Crown!” Xavier announced, cackling as Striker throttled the engines once more.

“Yar! Just do it ya poncy bilge rat!” One of the anti-boarding crew announced while chainsawing a drone to death.

“I am an officer and a gentleman good sir! Of course I will do it!” Striker replied as the Stiletto bore down on the relatively tiny ship now desperately trying to get away.

As a last ditch effort the assimilated Son’a ship tried to fire its subspace weapon again while getting out of the way, but unfortunately it only managed to get clipped by the Stiletto and launch its destructive and unpredictable weapon straight into the remains of the transwarp gate… where there were still functioning and energized transwarp coils.

“Oh. Shit,” Rong-Arya noted a swirling green and black vortex of fractured space-time opened up off their port bow. “Get us out of here!”

“Already on it ma’am!” Striker announced as he engaged the engines to try and take them out of range of the rapidly expanding singularity.

“Gravitational fields are increasingly exponentially. We’re getting drawn in!” Xavier cried out.

Outside the Borg ships that had not already been destroyed discovered to their chagrin that they were now falling towards a ravenous maw of non-reality that was ready to rip their ships apart with glee, and not only were their engines not quite up to the task, but there was also a perceptible ‘wind’ of debris and nebula gas that was really not helping in their efforts to escape annihilation. Already the metreon gas was igniting, damaging ships that had so far escaped the battle untouched.

“Engines are at 95% captain!” Striker announced as the tidal forces fought to suck them in, causing the whole ship to shake violently.

“Put them to max! We need every scrap of thrust we can get!” Rong-Arya ordered.

“But the resonance in engine four…” Striker began before seeing the look in his captain’s face and he quickly shoved the throttle all the way open.

For a time the Stiletto hung in space upon a pillar of blue plasma, struggling for every centimetre of ground as it tried to climb out of the massive gravity well that was devouring the Borg down to the last drone and setting the entire nebula on fire, the whole thing rattling as the tides and the number four tried to shake apart. Something had to give.

With a bang and a massive lurch the number four engine failed, the flaw in its construction that had prevented it from ever being properly powered up causing the entire thing to nearly come loose and force an automatic shut off. Unfortunately for half a second the thrust was completely unbalanced and the Stiletto went into a massive spin before the other engines cut off as well.

Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuck…” Someone screamed out.

Struggling to get strapped into their chair, Rong-Arya cried out, “All power to the Gellar field! Maybe we can ride it out like a Warp storm!

Spinning wildly, the Stiletto plunged into the rift and towards shores unknown.
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Re: The Open Door (megacrossover)

Post by Academia Nut »

Chapter Thirty: Interrogation

Lars sat quietly in the interrogation room of the small safe house Heaven had prepared for individuals like him, the ones who they really wanted to talk to but didn’t trust to actually bring beyond the Gates of Heaven. It was the sort of thing usually used for potential demonic informants and the like, but Lars was most definitely the most unusual guest they had ever featured within their halls.

For one, they had never met someone who could be so polite and yet so utter unhelpful. Repeatedly he had given them the basic facts that he knew, but he had also repeatedly stated that he had absolutely no intention of getting involved in their politics and he would only help them in a way that would help him get home presuming he did not lead them back to his home.

The most frustrating bit though was that all of their psychic probes revealed him to be honest in his statements and completely terrifying to get too close to mentally. They could hear the other minds subsumed within him if they tried to get anything more than surface scans, something that frightened them all to their core for such a thing should be impossible, and yet here he was.

Many advocated killing him outright as a threat to Creation. Only the fact that he held so many souls within him and they had no idea how to get them out safely prevented them from taking action.

Finally, after several days, Lars said, “Look… its not that I can’t see where you are all coming from, but I think we can all agree that as much as I scare you, you all scare me. I can feel it in all of you, the surging power to rewrite reality if you want, and as much as that scares me, if I lead you back to my home, the damage that could result scares me more.”

It was an enlightening moment for some of those looking on. He was an Outsider, something that did not belong, something anathema to the order they had crafted, to the structure of the universe they knew so well. He had acknowledged the fact that he required the consumption of mortal souls to perpetuate his own existence and had volunteered to have this nature hoisted upon him. And yet despite the feeling of unease they felt around him, he was behaving just like a man trying to protect his family.

Which was why on the fifth day, a very confused Keiichi Morisato found himself in the little white interrogation room across from Lars.

“Well this is interesting,” Lars commented.

“I uh… I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to do here,” Keiichi said.

Grinning, Lars said, “You’re here to talk to me Keiichi-san. It’s not a bad tactic really, if a bit sloppy. See, in this session I’m probably going to learn more from you than you or your friends will learn from me, but since you’re an amateur and a mortal, I won’t be able to get much of substance out of you. The point though is that over several sessions they hope that you will develop a rapport with me and thus I will be freer with my words.”

Keiichi blinked and looked at the two way mirror helplessly.

“Oh relax man, to a certain degree I’m going to let it work, partly because I wouldn’t mind hearing a good story or two, partly because I know from working with you that you’re a good man,” Lars replied.

“I wouldn’t say that…” Keiichi began before being cut off.

“No. Shut up now. You are a good man, emphasis on both parts. I’ve met a lot of people in my life, and I know the difference between good and evil, even if where I come from the distinctions are significantly more muddled than here. You are kind and patient and you somehow have the heart of a goddess. A freaking goddess. And not the kind like I have with the thrones of skulls, but an actual glowing with holy light goddess. Unless the basic standards of manhood around here involving eating armed thermonuclear warheads and farting kittens while banging a harem of supermodels, I’m fairly certain you qualify as having balls of solid titanium in the manliness department,” Lars told Keiichi with more passion than the young man was used to seeing.

By the time Lars had finished ranting Keiichi’s face was bright red as he knew that Belldandy was watching through the glass to make sure nothing happened to him. He really hoped Urd wasn’t watching as she would definitely bring that up later.

“It’s nothing really, I…” Keiichi began again.

“Live with a goddess. Listen, I know it might be different here, but where I come from that’s a huge freaking deal. Do you know how much power she carries around with her? Well, I’m a psychic, and it’s like looking at the sun. And she freaking loves you, with every inch of her being. If you got a girl who loved you that much and she was mortal, I would punch you out of principle for being such a magnificent bastard. But no, you had to go one higher and get the girl with not just a beautiful body and soul, but administrative access over the universe. The fact that you’re not strutting about like a peacock about the fact that you have the love of Belldandy-sama actually makes me angry, because you’re just that good. Gah!” Lars ranted. He then put his head in his hand in irritation and said, “Sorry… sorry. I got carried away. I’m not really angry at you.”

Keiichi looked at the mirror and asked, “Did one of you threaten Lars-san psychically?”

Shaking his hand, Lars said, “No, but thank you for your concern. My wife was just telling me to shut up because I was scaring the boy. Sorry. I was really angrier with myself than anything.”

“What’s… what’s wrong Lars-san?” Keiichi asked.

Frowning a bit, Lars slumped down into his chair and looked to be choosing his words carefully for a moment before he said, “I look at you and I remember how angry I was with myself after my wife died. I was out fishing when a massive explosion flash melted Antarctica. The tidal waves and rapidly rising water levels devastated coastal cities across the planet, including where we lived. I was more or less safe on my boat while she drowned. Afterwards, all I could think about was how little time I had with her, how little of our lives we had lived together. Then I see you, and how low your confidence is, and you should be living your life to the fullest. You should have the confidence to go up to the Pope and tweak his nose, not because you know you’ll be bailed out, but because you should be just that full of life. How did you even get the attention of someone like Belldandy-sama?”

Keiichi rubbed the back of his neck in nervousness before he began. He told about how he had met Belldandy, and then it got going from there. For hours he just talked while Lars listened raptly, and every time someone tried to cut the conversation short Lars just held up a hand and said, “I’ll talk more after this, please, let him continue.”

Finally, after ending with the confrontation with Celestine a month or so back, Lars got up out of his chair, walked over to Keiichi, placed his hands on his shoulders, looked him in the eye and said, “Balls. Of. Neutronium. Kid, I don’t know what you have in your head that is getting in your way, but seriously, marry her. Marry her, and make sweet, sweet love until the Grim Reaper himself taps you on the shoulder to let you know that you should take a break before overdoing it.”

“But…” Keiichi began, embarrassed.

Shaking his head, Lars replied, “I don’t want to hear any bullshit excuses. You could nut Kensuke Aida, one of two superhuman military commanders from my world, and he would just be like ‘Damn, that’s Keiichi Morisato; I don’t want to mess with him!’ because you are simply that bad ass. I know you don’t think it, but you’ve stood up to gods and demons and told them to back off, and they have. You have nothing to be scared of. You love Belldandy and she loves you, stop messing around and just say it!

“I…” Keiichi began again before Lars held up a hand and then walked back down to take a seat.

“Alright, you’ve talked my ear off, now its time for me to return the favour, and satisfy the interests of our hosts. Let me put it this way: where I come from, strength in all of its forms is extremely valued. We have a highly Darwinian society at times, and combat is common amongst individuals. Young boys in their early teens will often compete in gladiatorial death matches for the right to be chosen to be turned into genetically modified super soldiers. One group is a bunch of fanatics obsessed with bloodshed and taking the skulls of their enemies to appease their goddess. They’re about two and a half to three metres tall, wear power armour adorned with kill trophies, and wield chainsaw axes, to list the obvious ways in which they are dangerous. However, if you told them your story, they would bow to you in awe and respect. There’s another group of these soldiers whose idea of worshipping their goddess is to play host to just about every disease imagined and then simply deal with the pain to the point where stopping them involves incinerating the body. They would saint you for your ability to persevere in the face of overwhelming odds. Our head deity would probably try to adopt you into the family for simply being as awesome as you are. Pretty much the only guys who wouldn’t grovel in amazement to you are the worshippers of our passion goddess who would be using very vulgar language to try and convince you to have large amounts of kinky sex with Belldandy-sama as often as possible. Of course, once you actually score with her, then they would be throwing the flowers at your feet. To put it simply, my culture is violent, crass, over-sexed, scheming, and some might say evil and you would be a celebrity there and you wouldn’t have to change a thing about yourself, you are just that incredible. The words do not exist to express how much I am amazed by your compassion, tenacity, patience, humility, and capacity for love. Should I return home, my report will be, ‘I have met the greatest man in the multiverse and his name is Keiichi Morisato, and we should be humbled to know his name.’ That is all that needs to be said,” Lars said with as much emphasis and sincerity he could muster.

Keiichi tried to stop the speech, tried to stop Lars’ praise, but he felt transfixed by him. As much as he wanted to deny all the things said, Keiichi knew that Lars would be deeply disappointed in him if he tried to sell himself short again. Of all the people Keiichi had met, no one had ever heaped such praise on him, and as much as it felt undeserved, he could feel that Lars felt it was the truth.

“Kid, live your life,” Lars said.

The next day, a very angry looking child deity kicked in the door to the interrogation room while brandishing her mallet and roared out, “WHAT DID YOU DO?

She was then tackled from behind by the flustered members of the security detail, who dragged the young goddess to the ground in a pile of flailing limbs with much screaming.

Lars blinked twice before he replied, “Well this is a new tactic.”

As the security gods hauled the young goddess to her feet, she spat out again, “What did you do to my big sister?” before the guards started to carry her out.

Making the connection to the stories Keiichi had said the previous day, Lars shouted out, “Wait! You’re Skuld-sama, right?”

The guards paused and looked at one another for a moment, trying to figure out what to do. Meanwhile, Skuld said, “Yes.”

“If it’s alright with you two, I’d like to talk to her,” Lars said.

One of the guards said, “We’ll talk to our superiors,” before closing the door.

A few minutes later Skuld returned to the room, although this time disarmed and having a large degree of sulk mixed in with her righteous fury. One of the guards just glared at her before shutting the door.

“So I take it this has something to do with Keiichi-sama and Belldandy-sama’s relationship and some of the, shall we say ‘words’ I used with him yesterday?” Lars asked.

“I knew you did this. For years now he’s been trying to take my big sister away, and then I find out today that he and sister have been… making out,” Skuld said in an absolutely aghast voice.

Lars’ reaction was definitely not what she had expected, for Lars immediately launched out of his chair, punching the sky while shouting, “YES!” He then proceeded to begin dancing while chanting, “Go Keiichi! Go Keiichi!”

“It’s not funny!” Skuld cried out, and Lars suddenly noticed that she was on the verge of tears.

Stopping his dance, Lars said, “Look… I’ve heard stories from Keiichi-sama about how you don’t exactly approve of his relationship with your sister…”

“Oh yeah, take his side,” Skuld pouted.

“…and while I’m normally something of a coward terrified of death, Keiichi-sama has inspired me to say this. You’re a bitch. In fact, you’re an absolutely selfish cunt,” Lars finished.

Skuld’s mouth was hanging open in utter shock at being called that.

Turning to the two way mirror, Lars added on as an aside, “Also, if your sister Urd is listening in, while your heart is definitely in the right place, you’re a bitch too- although from descriptions you might take that as a compliment.”

Turning back to the still stunned Skuld, Lars looked at her and said, “Belldandy loves Keiichi. Keiichi loves Belldandy. They want to be together. When you stand between them, it hurts both of them. I know my guards probably roll their eyes every time I get all effusive and hyperbolic of my praise of him, but the guy has earned the right to be happy with your sister. Leave. Them. Alone!

Skuld did burst into tears now.

Lars winced and he said to no one in particular, “Okay! Okay! I’ll apologize to the girl! But you know I’ve always been a bitter, blunt old sailor and my ascension to Chaos hasn’t helped.”

This caused Skuld to pause in her tears and look up. She asked, “Wait… did you just say ‘chaos’?”

Lars pinched the brow of his nose and muttered, “Oh great Lars, you managed to go six whole days without mentioning the word ‘Chaos’ and now you blow it.”

Rising from her seat, Skuld pointed an accusing finger at him and said, “We’ve had a huge number of bugs in Yggdrasil since you arrived, so many that I’ve been away almost non-stop debugging. Not only did you fill their minds with icky thoughts, but you made sure they would be unsupervised!”

Lars opened his mouth to say something, thought better of it, and then held up his hand in a stalling action.

Skuld looked at him funny before she asked, “What wicked plan do you have now?”

“I’m waiting for the situation to inevitably get worse. At this point something will come along placing me in some form of existence threatening peril and I will be forced to rise to the occasion or die whimpering,” Lars explained.

“Are you insane?” Skuld asked.

“Yes, but it gives excellent insight into the workings of the universe. Wait for it… wait for it…

The building was rocked by an explosion and someone cried out, “We’re under attack!”

Lars wore a smug yet defeated look and said, “Told you so.”
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Re: The Open Door (megacrossover)

Post by Academia Nut »

Chapter Thirty-one: Heroics

“What’s going on?” Skuld cried out in fear as further explosions rocked the building.

“The building is under attack by over a dozen different entities, nasty ones too. The majority are fairly low level, but two appear to be providing artillery support and are quite powerful and one is off the charts. All are quite spectacularly malevolent. I suppose that these are the demons that my interrogators kept asking about,” Lars noted.

“How do you know that?” Skuld demanded suspiciously while glancing about in fear.

“I’m psychic, and all of them are glowing like black holes about to enter final evaporation. If I had to guess, I would say that Hell has found out about me and are leading a full scale assault. Unfortunately I don’t think the guys here were prepared for something of this magnitude. I don’t think they’ll be able to evacuate me in time,” Lars replied with a hint of sadness.

“We have to get out of here!” Skuld announced.

“That one entity I mentioned? Yeah, that one is more powerful than any being I’ve met so far, including your sisters,” Lars replied.

“Hild…” Skuld breathed in horror. Facing the Demon Queen with her sisters was something that scared her, but alone, or worse yet, with an untrustworthy creep like Lars?

Getting up, Lars flipped the interrogation table onto its side and then kicked it against the far wall. With a sigh, he then grabbed Skuld by the collar and threw her behind the table.

What are you doing?” Skuld screamed once she had recovered enough.

Shaking his head, Lars said, “Being an idiot. I appear to be Keiichi-sama’s number two fan right now, and unfortunately if you get hurt that will cause a great deal of pain to his number one fan, Belldandy-sama, which will in turn cause him grief. I don’t want that. Me… I’m nobody to you people. If I die… so what? If you die? Well, let’s just say that I couldn’t live with myself to see the faces of your friends and family after.”

“What?” Skuld asked in confusion and growing horror.

“I’m going to make sure that the attackers don’t notice you. So stay behind that table and don’t come out until it’s over, and hopefully you’ll get away,” Lars said sadly as he positioned himself in front of the door to the room.

“But… but…” Skuld began.

“No girl. The reason I called you a bitch is because you fail to look beyond your own selfish desires. Your sister loves you and always will, but she also loves Keiichi-sama, and if you force her to choose between the two of you, you will lose. Not because she loves Keiichi-sama more, but because forcing someone to choose between two loves is a sure fire way to drive them away. So hide under that table and let me do this as a favour to you and your family,” Lars explained.

“But…” Skuld whimpered.

Hide girl. I don’t want you to see this,” Lars stated in a weirdly echoing voice as his eyes began to cloud over and the temperature began to drop.

Skuld did indeed drop behind the table, partly because she was too scared to disobey and partly because she suddenly felt very ill. Still, she did manage to say, “Don’t kill any of them… if you do you’ll kill one of the gods.”

There was a pause as the lights began to flicker and Lars replied, “I won’t kill anyone.

It took a second for Skuld to realize why she was feeling so sick. She was a Norn, tasked with the maintenance of Yggdrasil, with the very integrity of reality. Normal magic, be it demonic or divine, involved the manipulation of the coding of the universe. But whatever Lars was doing was radically different. Instead of temporarily changing the local manifestation of the laws of the universe, he was essentially glaring at the laws of physics and making them run away in terror. It was not a pleasant feeling for a goddess like Skuld.

The lights went out and ice began to form on every surface, while the scent of the sea, of salt and fish guts, became overwhelming. Skuld then noticed the sounds of chains rattling and a low rhythmic thumping coupled with what sounded like barely audible chanting in a language she did not understand.

Then someone kicked in the door to the room, bringing a flood of light into the room.

Then the screaming started.

Skuld could only clutch at her head at the horror of the sounds. It was like a hundred voices all crying out as one, their throats filling with water, turning their screams into terrible gurgles that impossible refused to be silenced. It was as loud as a tsunami and as intricate as the play of foam across rocks in a storm. It keened and echoed and reverberated, a monstrous noise.

And that was Lars.

A second later two voices, the coarse and brutish throats of demons, joined into the horrible banshee wail, but their cries were ones of absolute terror, the squealing of frightened babes. A second later their screams were cut off by the sound of drywall shattering.

Skuld kept her eyes closed and her hands clamped about her ears.

Lars hated using this form. It wasn’t him. No matter what deals he might have made, he refused to revel in the eldritch abomination style that so many other daemons preferred. He wanted to remain as human as possible.

And yet he had spent most of his human life terrified of death and now he had somehow got it in his head to challenge a Hell God to save the life of a bratty bitch all because she was related to someone who was in love with a guy he had just met. He had been warned that ascension to daemonhood would result in an increase in emotional response and impulsiveness, but this was just pushing it.

Lars was terrified. He wasn’t a combat daemon, fuck; he wasn’t even an infiltrator daemon. He was a minor technical daemon, a glorified radio operator. And not even the good kind of radio operator that served in the field and could call down fire from the sky, but a long range guy. He shouldn’t be fighting the local equivalent of trained soldiers.

And yet, he did, instincts he did not even know he had coming to the fore. The gods had inherited millions of years of experience from the old deities, and ancient, primeval impulses began to take over. He could not take out the enemies all at once or in a fair fight, so he squeezed every advantage he had. For example, none of the grunts he had thus far fought had very good defences against a direct psychic assault, something that Lars was actually quite good at, considering that he had needed to have good broadcast skills to do his job.

Also, for demons, these guys did not seem to have much dealing with the whole cosmic horror aspect of life and thus it was quite possible to reduce them to weeping wrecks without having to rely on much psychic activity. If he could pick them off in ones or twos, he could neutralize the grunts and then make a run for it to try and draw the big powers away from Skuld. Who knew, he might even be able to flee outright.

Using his senses, he determined that there was a pair of grunts immediately below him, and that the floor was made from simple mortal building materials. Mustering his strength, he positioned himself and then plunged his hands down through the floor, and thus the ceiling. His limbs made from infinitely mutable Warp-stuff, they extended weirdly so that he had the reach to grab one of the demons by the head with his hands.

Of course, Lars’ hands did not look remotely human, looking at a distance skeletal, but up close it was clear that they were crabs legs, with the thumbs actual pincers. Someone who really knew their Decapoda would actually identify the limbs as being quite similar to those of the Red King Crab. After all, fourteen of the souls within Lars had been fishermen who died harvesting that species.

Hauling up with a wail like a whale being tortured to death by a blender, Lars picked the demon off his feet and slammed him through the ceiling. Towering over the creature, Lars bent over, his pallid, soggy face a shark toothed smile before his whole head split open at the middle to reveal a gaping maw, Lars’ tongue replaced by a set of grasping cephalopod arms with a snapping beak at the centre. Replacing the suckers on the tangle of arms were dozens of tiny lamprey mouths filled with tiny yellow teeth. As Lars’ horrid visage descended upon the demon’s head, frigid sea water dripped on its eyes and into its screaming mouth.

Lars dropped the demon quickly; the creature going into severe psychic shock as Lars drained him of a huge amount of emotion, fear specifically, leaving a shattered mind behind in his wake. He then rolled out of the way as the other demon on the floor below started shooting with some sort of magical weapon.

Lars could feel that powerful mind that was surely the leader of this operation starting to take direct control over the movement of the troops. Lars had very little doubt that he was being tracked what with all of the energy he was throwing about with his psychic attacks.

Thus it was time to run.

Barrelling through a wall, Lars made a beeline towards the nearest window before abruptly stopping and ripping out a chunk of the floor, dropping down a level, and heading in the opposite direction. He could feel the confusion in the psychic probes sent his way. Not only was his mind undoubtedly alien and hard to read, but his physical actions were hard to predict.

This was because Lars honestly had no idea what he was doing either. He just kept moving, randomly picking a new heading at random intervals. He would punch through walls and floors, even ceilings so as to move up a floor. He would attack demons or run from them without any rhyme or reason, just because he could.

Only when the enemy was scattered all through the building well away from Skuld did Lars move on to phase two, which involved running as fast and as hard as he could down the first hallway he found towards a window big enough to fit through. He then jumped through said window. He wasn’t exactly sure where he was, but he was fairly certain from the topology he had so far seen that he was in a large building.

With glass streaming about him, Lars noted that he appeared to be on the sixtieth floor of a downtown office building. For a brief moment a burst of animal instinct from the human part of him told him that he was about to die, but the fact that he had no true physical form quickly overrode that fear.

Sure, he did splatter against the pavement, but he quickly pulled himself back together to the amazement of hundreds of onlookers before running for all he was worth towards the nearest alley while trying to mask his psychic signature. He severely doubted he was going to get away, but at least he accomplished what he set out to do.

Skuld wandered about in mild shock, surveying the damage as Valkyries and war gods secured the building. Lars had ripped apart much of the area, and while Hild, who had been confirmed in the attack, had pulled out most of her demons, one of them had been found, covered in near freezing sea water and rocking back and forth catatonically, missed in the rapid evacuation. So far psychic probing had… not been pleasant.

All of the gods were disturbed by the implications. They had known that Lars was alien, that he was put together in ways that the Almighty never would have allowed, but he had been so calm and peaceful when they had talked to him, and he had never raised a finger against them.

And yet, when provoked, he had done this, despite claiming that he didn’t care for their conflicts. It didn’t seem to fit.

Skuld slumped down and knew. He could have waited quietly, would have waited quietly for the fight to be decided, if not for his need to protect her. And his reason for protecting her? His reason for doing all of these terrible things on her behalf?


The bane of Skuld’s existence for years, and he had saved her for Keiichi’s sake. He said that he respected Keiichi too much for him to be hurt by the hurt Belldandy would feel if Skuld got hurt because Hell was after him. It was a complicated chain, but it hurt. Hurt because this monster, this soul eating abomination, cared more for others than she did.

Because now that she saw this she realized that she had been selfish all these years trying to keep Belldandy to herself.

Skuld began to cry.

And she wished that Lars was safe somewhere.

While hanging upside down, Lars noted, “Well that didn’t work.”

“It almost did,” Hild replied with a shrug and a broad smile.
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Re: The Open Door (megacrossover)

Post by Academia Nut »

Chapter Thirty-two: Dilemma

It had been months since Kyon had heard from the beings of Chaos, but he had been stewing about it since then. Haruhi was such a handful, and the words of the ‘avatars’ still echoed in his head. How long could he keep taking the high road with Haruhi?

Thus, when the next card requesting a meeting arrived in his mail, Kyon was not surprised that it arrived, just surprised that it had taken so long. What were those creatures plotting now?

Arriving at the same hotel as last time, Kyon was led by a bellhop not to the restaurant but to the penthouse suite, which was pretty freaky. When he knocked on the door, he heard a distant, “It’s open, come on in.”

Stepping tentatively inside, Kyon discovered a place where the decorations on the wall probably cost more than what his family made in an entire year. After taking off his shoes, he wandered forward carefully, giving everything inside plenty of room. Even if it wasn’t filled with psychopathic monster, Kyon would never take Haruhi here for fear of racking up hundreds of millions of yen worth of damage that she would somehow find away to foist off on him.

“We’re by the pool, just turn a bit to your right,” a male voice, Shinji, said. Following the directions given and the origination point of the sound, Kyon found himself stepping through an arch into a massive room with a full sized swimming pool encased in the trappings of what looked like an Italian Renaissance grotto or some such elegant location, complete with stained glass windows and a exquisitely carved angels and nymphs acting as fountains to circulate the water in the pool.

“You like?” Shinji called out, and Kyon noted that the male avatar appeared to be sitting in a pool chair, carved out of stone of course, facing away from Kyon so that only his arms and the top of his head were visible.

Approaching cautiously, Kyon said, “It’s… impressive.”

“I know. We actually had the hotel remodelled to suit our tastes,” Shinji replied.

“You…” Kyon’s question died on his lips as he got close enough to see past the back of the chair… and the state of dress of both Shinji and the red headed girl with her head concealing his lap.

Asuka raised her head from what she was doing to say, “Hi,” before going back to work.

Panicking, Kyon tried to run only to back up into someone larger than him with very soft features but the sort of imposing strength from the impact that told Kyon that he wasn’t going anywhere.

“Oh do relax Kyon-san, we’re not going to do anything untoward to you, we’re just trying to freak you out because… well mostly because it’s funny. Plus from our point of view it’s nice to enjoy the good things in life,” Shinji stated as Kyon found himself marched towards one of the lounge chairs and ordered to sit. Once he was sitting and he found that he was quite firmly rooted in place, the as of yet unseen figure sat down, revealing to Kyon that he had bumped into a very naked Misato.

He was now flanked on either side by naked people who were the avatars of cosmic horrors from another universe.

Smiling broadly at him while picking up a bottle of oil, Misato said, “Oral sex or a hand job to relax you during this meeting?”

No!” Kyon cried out in horror.

Raising his eyebrows, Shinji said, “Trust me when I say ‘Your loss’.”

“Why have you brought me here?” Kyon demanded in a near panic at what was going on around him.

“Well, for one, we find the sex education courses in your school deplorable and we feel that in your situation that is simply unacceptable,” Misato replied as she oiled herself up.

“The other, and rather more important one, is that we have some things important to you that you have to find out about. Also, since it looks like you’re getting close to having your panic overwhelm your fear of us, Rei, make sure he doesn’t move,” Shinji said.

Walking up from behind the chair, Rei, also naked, sat down on top of Kyon and promptly went to sleep, pinning a now epically nervous Kyon in place as he tried not to move.

“Oh relax, they’re just tits. Plus you can literally do anything to Rei and she won’t stop smiling. Seriously, if you want to get some experience in, Rei’s a great starter for figuring out the basics,” Misato encouraged.

Kyon could not say anything he was so shocked.

“Now that we have your full attention, we should get on to the point of this meeting. In essence, what is happening right now is that there is going to be a… disturbance. Something went awry, and there is, for lack of a better term, a shockwave approaching. It will arrive in a few days and last for about an hour or two. During that time, interesting things will happen,” Shinji explained.

Kyon heard all of this, but the fact that he had a naked girl sleeping on top of him prevented him from forming a coherent reply.

“Thus we all need Haruhi distracted for about a week for the majority of the furor to die down. And we mean really distract her, such that… wait… ah. Anyway, we each have a couple theories about how to best go about it, although most of these will be relegated to a ‘back up plan’ status in your mind,” Shinji said.

Her work finished, Asuka wriggled up until she was sprawled across Shinji and said, “My first suggestion was to simply knock her out for a week. One blow to the back of the head when she’s not suspecting it and she’s out. I can make sure not to kill her too.”

“The obvious flaw to that plan is that she could still possibly exercise her powers while asleep, and we don’t want her to create a fantasy world that becomes reality,” Shinji said.

“And, let’s face it, you probably don’t want her knocked out,” Misato added on. She then said, “I bet you could guess my suggestion. A week long orgy, with us joining in at your discretion. We keep Haruhi’s legs so close to her head she can’t think for days on end. We have some incredible drugs that will give males and females inhuman endurance and sensation. Plus, if you want, we can show you how to make every nerve in the female erogenous zones work to your advantage.”

Rei muttered sleepily, “I said we should just give her the flu and all of you can take care of her for a week. She’ll remain in her house and shouldn’t notice any of the weirdness. You’ll have to deal with Haruhi and cabin fever, but you already know how to deal with that.”

That, surprisingly, was the first option Kyon actually liked. Somewhat.

“Me, I said vacation,” Shinji replied.

Kyon finally had acclimatized to having Rei lying on him long enough that he said, “It’s not summer break though.”

“Huh… would you look at the time? Your school should have flooded from a fault in the fire extinguisher system by now. The damage will be pretty severe, enough to shut down everything for about a week or two while clean up occurs. You have time to go on vacation now,” Shinji replied.

Kyon’s jaw dropped open.

“So anyway, how would you like to go to Canada? A private jet all the way to Vancouver where you will spend three nights with accommodations at the Hotel Vancouver before getting on a train to Banff and spending two nights in the Chateau Lake Louise. It’s absolutely beautiful this time of year as its autumn and the trees are changing colour. You’ll then travel across the country in style to Toronto over the course of two nights in an extremely comfortable and luxurious train car. You will spend three days in Toronto as guests of the Fairmont Royal York before moving on to Montreal and the Chateau Frontenac for three days before flying back to Japan. It will be quite the adventure, with plenty of opportunity for exploration, excitement, and dare I say it, romance?” Shinji explained in detail.

“And how exactly would we do that?” Kyon asked.

“Surprise, someone entered the SOS Brigade into the Canadian Grand Railway Hotels Tour contest, which just happens to have not existed until you approve of the idea. And don’t worry about passports or the fact that you’re all minors, that has all been taken care of,” Shinji noted.

“What about our parents?” Kyon asked.

“Well, only you, Haruhi, and Itsuki need to worry about that sort of thing, and Itsuki with his contacts in the organization is very good at arranging these sorts of things. That said; your parents and Haruhi’s both just won contests at work. Paris and Kenya beckon, respectively. Arrangements for siblings have also been organized. I’m very good at planning these sorts of things,” Shinji explained.

“How are you doing all of this?” Kyon asked in disbelief.

“Our current net worth is 4.2 billion USD and we have controlling interests in the companies your parents work in. Why do you think they’ve suddenly had their careers accelerated so nicely?” Shinji explained.

Kyon’s eyes bulged out in shock and horror and he asked, “How did you get that money?”

“We used telekinesis and pachinko to turn a few hundred yen collected off the streets to into enough money that telekinesis, precognition, and roulette let us set up that first meeting with you and we had enough funds to begin playing the stock market as day traders for a few weeks before we started aggressively leveraging what we had into corporate acquisitions and mergers,” Misato explained.

“My favourite parts are the hostile takeovers and subduing entrenched middle management. Who knew corporate politics could be so violent?” Asuka said with a grin.

“You just had to earn yourself the nickname of ‘The Axe’, didn’t you?” Shinji said with an exasperated sigh.

“It’s hilarious to make a forty-seven year old salary man break down weeping because a girl younger than his own daughter is making him beg to keep his job,” Asuka cackled.

“Don’t forget rooting out all the nepotism, cronyism, and patronage appointments so that we could replace them with our own people. It’s the best part of any turnover of power: replacing one form of corruption with another,” Misato pointed out.

“Wait… wait… you all control where my parents work?” Kyon asked in stunned horror.

“Yes,” all four avatars replied as one.

“You deserve the good things in life for having to deal with Haruhi. Right now we’re making sure your parents have nice, cushy jobs and lots of money. We also control your school board, and a couple other things,” Misato replied.

A sudden chill ran up Kyon’s spine and he asked, “So I don’t really have any choice in these matters, do I?”

“Well, you could leap off this building if you really don’t want to choose or come up with your own way to distract Haruhi, but if you’re concerned that we’re going to hold the well being of your friends and family over you, don’t worry. While yes, these acts have given us leverage over you, such leverage really only exists in theory as we have no intention of punishing you that way. Instead, think of it as we think of it; a reward for good work in our eyes,” Shinji explained.

“Just as we’re all willing to give you or any other members of the SOS Brigade a reward for your good work,” Misato said seductively.

“I really…” Kyon said.

“What do you want to do Kyon? Do you want to take the help from creatures friendly towards you and your goals but who you don’t consider ‘ethical’? We can give you a list of our investment portfolio and some of our corporate actions and you can look over them. You’ll find our actions are well above the basic standards for corporate ethics and responsibility, and we have in fact been attempting to improve the quality of life for all of our employees, all joking of ‘new forms of corruption’ aside. The only problem you have is that we are extra-dimensional horrors with incomprehensible agendas and rumours of abhorrent treatment of our subjects. That is not true,” Shinji stated.

“It’s our enemies who need to worry,” Asuka added on cheerily.

“So really, the question you have to ask yourself is this: do you want to accept what we have to offer you and move our relationship up from ‘uneasy neutrality’ to open alliance, or reject us entirely and make yourself an enemy,” Misato said.

“Align with evil out of fear of what it will do and hope of the rewards it will bring, or reject it and face the consequences,” Kyon stated.

Nodding, Shinji said, “Yes. But question has two questions behind it you must answer. The first is, are we truly ‘evil’? The second is, even if we are, how noble are you? Additionally, I think you really should get a sample of what ‘selling out’ will get you. Girls?”

Giggling, all of the females scrambled about until they were all resting their heads in Kyon’s lap, their faces looking up at him eagerly, much to Kyon’s chagrin. Then Shinji took up position behind Kyon and said, “Also, for added incentive, let me point out some things.”

Rei’s outline blurred and then her appearance changed to that of Mikuru. Naked. Lying on top of Kyon.

“Quiet and accepting, she will go along with just about anything. Will enjoy just cuddling and will never speak ill of you. Cute and pleasant. Excellent for beginners,” Shinji said with a sinister smile.

Then Misato’s figure rippled and changed to that of Yuki. Again, naked.

“Confident and knowledgeable. Has high standards, but is a superb teacher so if you follow along with her you will learn much. An advanced subject for once you have sufficient confidence to not embarrass yourself,” Shinji detailed out.

Finally Asuka transformed into the form of Haruhi.

“Wild and untamed, extremely demanding and will be abusive and obnoxious if you screw up. Still, a wild ride if you have the courage and skill to go for it, a challenge as she will try to dominate you if you show any sign of temerity. Definitely a master level girl,” Shinji said.

The girls were now starting to move higher up on Kyon, their hands searching about, making it hard to think. Leaning over, Shinji said, “So what do you say Kyon? Do you follow the noble path and leave here, or do you come with us? Don’t forget that you still haven’t busted open Haruhi’s abuse of the Computer Club. Don’t forget that you have stood aside so many times when she starts to ‘play’ with poor Mikuru. Don’t forget you kept all of those pictures instead of deleting them because you couldn’t bear to erase such nice cleavage. Don’t forget all the other times you have taken the low path. Now is the time to join us, or leave here and make yourself a hypocrite, or leave here and take up the burdens of following the high path at all times. So, what will it be Kyon? What will it be?”

Kyon opened his mouth to reply.
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Re: The Open Door (megacrossover)

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Chapter Thirty-three: Consolidation

“The Ori have been too quiet since the battle of the supergate,” Mitchell noted sombrely while looking over reports in the commissary as he idly ate his breakfast.

“Our agents report that they are attempting to downplay the magnitude of their losses. Many Priors who were active in this galaxy were aboard the destroyed ships and their disappearance has produced much fear and uncertainty amongst their converted populations. They are thus attempting consolidation of their assets before continuing expansion,” Teal’c noted as he sat down with his own tray opposite Mitchell.

Picking at his scrambled eggs, Daniel said, “There’s also the fact that by all accounts they lost the majority of their native army in the battle and are probably having problems back home.”

“Indeed,” Teal’c agreed.

“What I don’t get is why they haven’t just used their Death Star to take out all majority points of resistance yet,” Mitchell asked while flipping through the report.

“In size and effect the Ori super weapon is closer to an Eclipse-class dreadnought than a Death Star,” Teal’c pointed out helpfully.

Mitchell blinked a few times before Daniel said, “Teal’c enjoys the expanded universe as well as the films.”

“Sometimes. Recent works I have found sub-standard,” Teal’c admitted.

“Moving on…” Mitchell noted.

Shrugging, Carter said, “Long range scanning by the Asgard indicate that the Ori super weapon is currently in close orbit about the black hole they created, in all likelihood refuelling. It probably only has one or two shots for its main gun at full power. It would also explain why they haven’t ventured out with their other ships yet. That close to a gravity-well their ship would be extremely vulnerable to bombardment, and the loss of it would be a massive blow.”

“So it’s just a matter of time before they get their act together and begin again,” Mitchell said pessimistically.

“Then we had better use what time we have to prepare for them,” Daniel pointed out.

“Indeed. Perhaps that mysterious ship will return and we can learn who they are,” Teal’c suggested.

Glancing down at the plans she had been asked to review from the treaties being discussed elsewhere on the base, Carter said, “If we’re lucky we’ll have a few surprises they won’t be expecting.”

The plans laid out before Carter were for making a factory to produce something called ceramite.

The Tok’ra had felt bad about betraying the trust of their allies by hacking into the Tau’ri database, but with the stakes they were running, stepping on a few toes was better than letting multiple galaxies fall into ruin and the deaths of billions. They would apologize later.

“I must admit a degree of distaste at your plan Anise,” Vel’nak, a Tok’ra in need of a new host and loyal to the new path Anise had set for the Tok’ra.

“I would be lying if I disagreed with you, but this will be a necessary evil,” Anise replied as the equipment was prepared. “Also, how is your host, Taros?”

“Fading. I am having a degree of difficulty maintaining bodily functions at this point,” Vel’nak admitted sadly. He had been blended with Taros for almost three hundred years and unfortunately the man had developed a neurodegenerative disorder that Vel’nak had been helpless to stop. For the past three years Vel’nak could only sit by as Taros’ mind disappeared, one of the most horrible experiences a Tok’ra could have.

“To what is left of him, let him know that the end is almost here,” Anise said warmly as the next host for Vel’nak was wheeled in.

Vel’nak sighed and said, “This feels too much like what the Goa’uld would do.”

“I know,” Anise replied. “But it is a far better thing that we do it than they.”

“Agreed,” Vel’nak said before his aged body was leaned forward by attendants towards the confused and struggling subject. He added on as an aside, “If this doesn’t work, let it be known that I regret nothing and I can die happy knowing that the Goa’uld were toppled in my lifetime.”

Taros’ eyes then closed for the last time, the host body rapidly dying as the symbiote left it. The worm-like symbiote shot out of the mouth and into the forced open one of the restrained test subject. There were a few moments of thrashing and struggling until the eyes flashed. The mouth clamps were removed and Vel’nak said in a weirdly modulated tone, “Strange… the neural architecture is somewhat different, but it is possible to dominate the subject. Ugh… I never thought I would speak those words.

Anise then took a few minutes to run some checks with safe words and such to make sure that it really was Vel’nak before removing all of the restraints except for the wrist and ankle cuffs.

Having figured out the body a little better, Vel’nak said in a mostly normal tone, “While I understand the necessity of these, I do wish they were unnecessary.”

“In time, once we can trust that you are in full control, we will remove them. For now however, we must ask how you feel,” Anise replied.

“Hungry, although that is to be expected. I have a handle over it, primarily because I am flooding the subject’s mind with endorphins relating to the pleasure response of feeding, severely damping the hunger instinct. I think I may be able to win him over to our point of view with time. Obviously if we starve to death we might find that a hard time,” Vel’nak stated.

“What about the immune system? Is it giving you any trouble?” Anise asked as probes were hooked up now that the restraints had been removed.

“Some. It is more robust than what I am used to, but I already have it mostly suborned and I do not think it is a threat. Of course, I will come in for further check-ups,” Vel’nak replied.

“Good. Good,” Anise said before she asked, “Do you think you would be ready to try today, or should we wait?”

Vel’nak considered for a moment before replying, “The chance that this could kill me remains the same whether we do it today or tomorrow. Let me try now, before I get too comfortable in this body.”

Nodding, Anise said, “Bring in the next subject.”

Shackled and stripped bare, the captured Wraith warrior was brought into the experimental room while the cuff around Vel’nak’s right hand was remotely released. Flexing it out a few times as the warrior was shoved into close range, Vel’nak said, “Well, this is going to be interesting.”

Striking forward, Vel’nak, the first ever Tok’ra with a Wraith host body, began to feed.

In the shadows, a Black Pharaoh of Tzintchi, whimsically named Epimetheus in contrast to his ‘brother’ in the Milky Way, watched on and observed while he simultaneously looked over the design specs for the Kull Warrior armour. So far the only change was that the palm of the right hand had been left exposed.

More were to come though.

The crew of the Eventide watched sadly as their sensors detected the storm close in about the universe where they had been forced to retreat. The storm was a massive, surging dimensional dislocation that had swallowed up the only path to rescuing Vita.

They had a window to run through, a chance to try and get their friend and family member back, but a red eyed Hayate had decided that they couldn’t take the risk. Their first and only engagement in Wild Space had nearly killed them all. They needed back up.

They also needed to get their stories straight.

“I left her to those monsters,” Nanoha kept muttering angrily when it looked like no one was listening. Everyone had heard her say it already. Everyone knew it wasn’t her fault. Hayate had given her a direct order to retreat even after she had heard of Vita’s status.

Fate on the other hand was having a hard time just accepting that her sister was alive, and her mother had somehow been transformed into the AI for an Intelligent Device, let alone the fact that her sister had been transformed into some sort of soul eating monster willing to slaughter people at the slightest insult.

Then there were the conflicting reports between what Nanoha had experienced and what had happened in space. Nanoha was insisting that the defenders of the planet were the evil ones, while Hayate knew that the people attacking the planet had been the aggressive ones while the defenders in space had actively helped the Eventide.

Quite simply put, they had stumbled into a nasty political situation and despite their best efforts to remain neutral they had ended up picking a side… only it looked like they had somehow managed to piss off at least two of them. Out of self defence.

They needed to contact the TSAB and request assistance. They needed more firepower, which meant more ships, and they needed politicians to smooth over the disaster.

They also needed psychiatrists as the fact that Vita was missing was putting an incredible strain upon the morale of the crew.

Hayate asked Yuuno, “How long will the storm last?”

Frowning, the young scholar replied, “From our perspective? Weeks to months. From theirs? It could be anything. The time could pass in the blink of an eye and we can return almost immediately. Or… well, absolute worst case scenario, the universe could be cold and dead by the time we get back there. That’s not likely, but there is a remote possibility of that much time distortion.”

“So Vita could be trapped there for years?” Hayate asked, her guts twisting up over the fate of the girl she had long ago come to see as her sister.

“Quite possibly,” Yuuno answered sadly. He then sighed and said, “Also, we know that Chaotic Space is open and that Alicia and Precia were both oddly affected. If they came from Chaotic Space they very well could have returned there with Vita… in which case I have no idea what will happen.”

“We’ll get her back,” Hayate resolved.

Captain Picard stared down dumbly at the proposals he had written. After Q had returned him to the Enterprise, waiting anxiously outside the Damocles Nebula for word from their captain or those who had taken him, Picard had led the Federation in doing a more thorough dig of the Chaos base around Syracuse. Very little technology had been left behind, but the cultural insights were incredible when viewed through the lens of what Q had led Picard to understand.

Picard now knew that if the Federation were to survive, it had to change to meet this threat and all of the others opened up by the destruction the Stiletto had caused. Unfortunately, Picard was not the only one to raise his voice that things must change.

So now he sat here in San Francisco, data pad in hand, waiting for his turn to speak before the Federation Council to tell them what he thought had to be done to ensure the continued survival and prosperity of the Federation.

Already the proposals had been made by others to increase the budget to Starfleet, to militarize, and even to begin removing freedoms in the interests of security. All of the standard arguments made to frightened masses of people in times of crisis, all of the paths that led wounded democracies into the dark realms of dictatorships. All of the things that Picard had once thought impossible in the Federation, but now he realized were far closer to reaching fruition than he had realized.

Someone said something to him, and Picard remotely realized that he was being told it was time to make his speech.

Picard stepped out into the chamber, surrounded by representatives from all hundred fifty member worlds. Walking slowly forward, he took centre stage and waited to be formally acknowledged before beginning. Clearing his throat, Picard said, “Greetings representatives of the Federation. I come to you today bearing… ill news. For the past four months I have been studying the ruins of the base called New Syracuse, abandoned by the group called Chaos after it was heavily damaged in a Borg attack. An attack I myself was involved in, my room partially collapsing and leaving me trapped for two days before I managed to dig my way out. But I do not come before you to tell you what happened to me, I come before you to tell you what I have learned, and how we can use it to stop these beings of Chaos should they return.”

There was some sagacious nodding amongst the various members, before Picard said, “My colleagues before me have come before you asking that we devote more resources to military spending, and while we need ships to protect us from those already here that threaten us, I am afraid that it won’t be enough to stop Chaos when they return.”

Now there were murmurs of dissent within the crowd. This was not what they wanted to hear.

Holding up a hand, Picard said, “Military might alone cannot stop them. Their leaders are their gods, and this works for them because their gods talk back to them. The leaders of Chaos are transcendent beings with the knowledge of the universe. Their technology is thousands of years beyond our own, and the ship that left behind a debris cloud of hundreds of destroyed Borg cubes was listed as a frigate in their registers. We cannot stop them with military might alone. We cannot stop them with military might at all. The Briar Patch, containing the fortified forward base for the Borg in the Alpha Quadrant no longer exists. Representatives, the Borg nearly destroyed the entire Federation a decade ago with a single cube. A single ship of Chaos did to the Borg what the Borg did to us ten times over, a hundred times over. No number of ships, no amount of technology can stop them. These are simple facts, things that anyone can see with their eyes, not the ravings of a madman.”

“Then how can we stop them?” Someone shouted out.

“We can’t,” Picard stated before he said, “All we can do is convince them that we are not worth it. From examinations of their culture, all they respect is strength. We cannot hope to match them in military strength or scientific strength, so we must best them elsewhere. We must best them in cultural strength. We must show them that we are better people than them, that to destroy us would be to make the universe a darker place. They are violent and savage, but they have tales of great respect and reverence towards those who have the courage to take the high path when surrounded by factors that would lead them down darker ways. They feel that if selling your nobility does not lead you to power almighty, it is not worth it. But right now, they do not view us as morally superior to them.”

There was rumbling of discontent. Already there would be those who would see him as a defeatist and a coward, willing to sell out the Federation for a chance at continued survival. Picard would weather the slings and barbs though to protect all the peoples of the Federation from the dangers within and without.

“What do they view as nobility? Surprisingly, the same things we do, for their tales tell a time when they were more like us in the past. Justice, freedom, compassion, and tolerance; these are not alien concepts to them. What makes them alien to us is that that they view such things equally with rage, anarchy, lust, and despair. They are intensely emotional beings, but their emotion grants them strengths that we cannot imagine. In the Federation, we have all, from humans to Vulcans to Andorians and all the other species in between, walled off our emotions in deference to the cold logic of living together. Chaos hates that. So long as we live like that, they will see us as weak, a target, and so long as we are a target, we cannot win against them.”

The crowd was growing agitated, the Vulcans especially, although of course unless you knew them they would seem the least upset by Picard’s words.

“Like the Klingons, they value honour and glory… but that would involve challenging them to a fight, something that I have already said that we cannot win. Like the Romulans, they enjoy twisted plots and conspiracies… but they have plans that span millions of years, so we cannot hope to compete in that arena. There is only one place where we can make them respect us: the guardian. The guardian of the weak, who uses whatever strength is available to draw a line in the sand, no matter how hopeless the situation. This is what started the war. They saw us, with all our technology and science, sitting aside while an entire planet with Bronze Age people died, and they grew enraged. The only way to cool that anger, to turn their greedy eyes away from us, is to become the one thing they will respect us for: the guardian of the galaxy,” Picard entreated to the crowd.

Someone cried out, “But that would violate the Prime Directive!”

Now was time to say the words he had been dreading. Picard nodded and said, “I know. But I believe that the Prime Directive was founded on yet more fundamental values, values that stated that you cannot simply tell a person how to live, that people must be free to make their own choices, make their own mistakes, and to learn. But if we wish to continue to hold those values of freedom and justice we must not be gobbled up by these monsters. If we wish to survive, we must restructure how we deal with others, we must remember that the Federation was founded on the dream of peace and prosperity for all. As it stands now, the Prime Directive excludes billions from this peace and prosperity. If we wish to survive, we must change how we view the intent of the Prime Directive, to the point that it may be necessary to scrap it all together.”

The council chambers exploded into shouting.
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Re: The Open Door (megacrossover)

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Chapter Thirty-four: Pre-trial

The past few months since Halloween had been strange, to say the least. Aside from the regular dangers of the Hellmouth, there had also been the internal changes that had required a great deal of coping to deal with, resulting in some remarkable, and some terrible, changes to the youths Giles had watched over.

On the decidedly more remarkable side was Willow, for whom the memories of the assassin had, once she learned to accept them, given her a whole new perspective and confidence in life. Willow had learned to accept the fact that she was Willow, and no one else, a concept many people spent their whole lives struggling to learn. She now had a sort of inner peace that reflected in all of the things she did, a centre of absolute control. Her studies, be they academic or magical, had improved incredibly from their already great position, and there had been other changes too. She had, in practice sessions with the others, developed the poise and grace of a dancer… or rather an assassin, but it was much nicer to think of her as a dancer.

It was little surprise that she had already attracted a boyfriend, a quiet young man with the name of Oz who was the lead guitarist of a local band. Their relationship was rapidly drawing the young man into the world of the night, but he seemed to accept it with a frightening degree of stoicism and laconic wit.

On the somewhat less remarkable part of the scale, there was Buffy. While Giles had initially been thrilled with her new found devotion to duty and learning about all of the dangers of the world, his enthusiasm had quickly been tempered by the fact that Buffy’s newfound focus included a newfound ruthless demeanour. Buffy now wanted to spare no expense when it came to killing vampires and demons. While Giles had managed to talk her out of trying to acquire military grade heavy weaponry, although the flamethrowers idea had been quite the argument, she had managed to talk him into obtaining arbalests to replace the regular crossbows they had been using.

She vowed to upgrade to large calibre firearms and explosive ammunition once it became practical to do so.

Then, deep in the terrible side of things, there was Xander. Xander was handling his situation astonishingly well, but unfortunately his situation was beyond what he could handle. Since Halloween, he had grown pale and twitchy, always on the verge of exploding from the slightest provocation. His grades, never spectacular, had slipped, as he found himself spending more and more time focusing on not losing his mind. His body was falling apart on a fundamental level, the energy that filled him keeping him from proper rest. He had admitted, painfully, to Giles that he had to spend many nights just running himself into the ground simply so that he could sleep. He was painfully thin, most of his fat burned away to reveal whip-thin cords of muscle wound tighter than steel wires on a suspension bridge.

The worst bit though was his home situation… or rather the lack of one. Amongst one of the admissions he had made to Giles when confronted, he had explained that he after a week of living with his parents he had simply left and now wandered the streets of Sunnydale, an incredibly dangerous activity that Xander acknowledged as being stupid… but if he hadn’t left he would have lost it. As he had joked, at least when he had to work out his frustrations it was on creatures that deserved it and no one cared about.

A dark part of Giles felt that since Xander’s parents had not raised any fuss after he had left perhaps they fit those criteria all too well. He had since managed to get Xander into a safer location, but it was still something that Xander was clearly uncomfortable talking about.

Then, on the furthest end of the spectrum, there was poor, poor Cordelia. She had not worn one of the costumes Ethan Rayne, curse his name, had enchanted, but that just meant that she had to carry the scars of that night without anything in compensation. The only glimmer of light to come out of that situation was the fact that the young woman had discovered who her real friends were. Xander, Buffy, and Willow had all rallied behind Cordelia and were aiding her in whatever ways they could. Of particular note was the way she and Buffy had managed to bring lace and veils in style. Of course, when someone had implied that such things were demeaning to women, what had occurred had Xander quipping, “Scary ladies deserve scary lace.”

Perhaps that was the brightest element that could be recovered from this whole tragic affair: the way Buffy and all of her friends had stuck together despite what had happened to them. Willow never would have found her strength, Buffy would have let her new ruthlessness completely take over, Xander quite probably would have gone insane, and Cordelia would probably be suicidal.

Giles just hoped that with all of the problems with someone trying to reassemble the Judge, they would weather this storm as they had the all the previous ones.

The group, minus Buffy and Angel who had gone to dispose of the arm of the Judge, was relaxing, as much as possible for them, in the abandoned warehouse they preferred to use for training purposes. Once mostly the domain of Buffy and Giles, it had come to be the gathering place when they were not researching in the library as it allowed them to be a touch freer with weapons than at school.

“So this is what you do at night,” Oz noted in deadpan at the collection of gymnastics equipment and weapons racks scattered about.

“Yeah. I would call it our own little Batcave, but we and bats don’t exactly get along,” Xander replied as he took up position on his favourite meditation pillow. Xander now knew multiple forms of meditation and was quite good at it, but unfortunately having the berserker rage of a demigod stuck in him made achieving enlightenment a somewhat difficult task.

Cordelia drifted wraith-like behind him, her figure obscured by laces and veils, but as everyone who ever mentioned the word ‘burkha’ around her learned, she was submissive to no one. It was just that the plastic surgery she needed took a long time, even with her father’s money, and so it still hurt to talk without proper lips and she still disliked being seen, especially by strangers. But she would be damned before she hid in her house or some clinic somewhere. She was stronger than that.

And she would be doubly damned if she were to do anything as gross as walk around with visible bandages. So Buffy, who after having a hundred plus year old lady stuck in her head developed a sudden affinity for lace and petticoats and skirts capable of concealing heavy machine guns, had made it her mission to bring back the fashions of an older era in Southern California so that Cordy wouldn’t look out of place.

It had been really quite touching, almost as much as the way Xander tried to care for her in his own stupid, berserker sort of way. When everyone else had been abandoning her, he and the others had stuck by her side, and she felt she definitely owed them. So the fact that she helped calm down the chronically ill Xander meant that she stuck to him like glue whenever possible.

Of course, when Cordy asked Xander to take off his shirt that raised an eyebrow from Oz, who asked dryly, “So you… an empty warehouse… three girls… every night?”

Smiling thinly, Xander took off his shirt to reveal an intricate pattern of symbols all over his torso, while Cordelia opened up a small kit with paint brushes and the like. She also flipped up her veil to reveal her skull-like face, the scarred tissue still mostly stretched over nearly bare bone except for a few places where the reconstructive surgery was adding shape back. They still hadn’t managed to give her back proper eyelids, which made the veil extra important as it helped keep dust out of her eyes and a heavier one was necessary for sleeping. Right now though, she wanted to be able to see what she was doing clearly.

“Hmm… while a nice thought, I haven’t managed to talk any of them into that sort of thing yet,” Xander replied, earning him a swat from Cordelia as she mixed her paints.

“So what’s with the tribal man stuff?” Oz asked.

“Suppressive seals. They’re really neat. I figured them out first, but Cordelia really took up their study when we realized they could be used to help Xander with his… problem,” Willow explained happily before trailing off at the end, looking nervously at Xander.

Waving it off, Xander said, “Willow, we’ve trusted him this much, he deserves to know about the Hulk-thing.”

“Hulk-thing?” Oz asked.

“You remember Halloween?” Xander asked in turn. Upon Oz raising a single eyebrow as if to say ‘What do you think?’ Xander waved it off and said, “Okay, dumb question, most of the West Coast remembers Halloween. Anyway, there was the whole turning into monsters and aliens and fanatics-”

“Oh my,” Oz noted.

Smiling at that, Xander continued, “And anyway, the guy I turned into was considerably stronger than most. Unfortunately, he was also kind of cursed and the curse carried on to me even after I got my body back. I say kind of in that it wasn’t exactly him who was curse, but I got the same results in the end. The pros: enhanced strength and stamina. The cons: said strength and stamina are linked to a psychotic rage that if ever triggered fully will become permanent and ultimately fatal. Oh, and have I mentioned that I now have nearly overwhelming cravings for raw red meat and blood?”

Oz winced and he said, “Wow. That sucks man.”

“I know. Willow gets all of the cool superpowers and all I get is ‘Xander smash!’” Xander complained sarcastically.

Having gone off to a corner, Willow said, “Hey! I did not get all of the cool super powers.”

“Then what are you doing over there?” Xander asked as Cordelia began to repair the seals on his body that had worn out since the previous day.

There was a sheepish pause before Willow admitted, “I’m trying to use sympathetic magic, a hilt, a large quantity of mercury and a piece of the costume I wore on Halloween to recreate a phase sword.”

“A phase sword,” Xander deadpanned.

“What’s a phase sword?” Oz asked.

“It’s a sword that can cut through anything,” Xander replied.

“Come on, it would be really useful against heavily armoured opponents like this Judge guy,” Willow pointed out.

“I thought he couldn’t be harmed?” Xander asked.

“Not by forged weapons. This is a magical construct of a weapon made by processes that are so alien that forging can’t possibly enter into it,” Willow responded.

“You know those sorts of statements never really made sense to me. I mean, sure you know what won’t kill you, but there are all sorts of other stuff out there. By the way it’s worded, a pointy stick could kill the Judge,” Oz pointed out.

This caused considerably amusement as everyone within earshot imagined a nigh invulnerable demon with a pointy stick jammed in an eye keeling over dead. Of course, the fact that the primary weapon of a Slayer was a pointy stick added new connotations to any possible conflict.

Xander added in a moment later, “Yeah, now that I think about it, all sorts of things aren’t forged that would really hurt to get hit with: rocks, baseball bats, a block of C4 with a detonator counting down to zero, bullets, uh… even good old fashioned fisticuffs should all fall under the heading of ‘not forged’.”

“Fisticuffs?” Oz asked in an equally amused and bemused tone.

“It’s a real word! I have culture you know,” Xander protested, eliciting a snort of derision from Cordelia. Xander retorted, “I have culture beyond the stuff growing between my toes!”

“Hey man, I wasn’t saying it was bad, just kind of funny,” Oz replied.

“Well, let’s just say that all of our vocabularies are larger than they used to be,” Xander said.

“Gothic,” Oz said knowingly.

Everyone capable of blinking looked at him and Oz said, “So it would seem that you all now know that I did in fact get a costume from Ethan’s this Halloween.”

“What did you turn into?” Willow asked as she came up behind Oz, curious.

“If I said my music and interpretive dance improved afterwards…” Oz answered.

“Ooh. Sorry about smashing you into the pavement,” Xander replied sheepishly.

Shrugging it off, Oz said, “No worries man. The Harlequin actually knew that was going to happen, and in fact wanted it to happen.”

Willow however had perked up and she asked excitedly, “Did you practice any of that stuff? Because it would be neat to add an Eldar martial art to the ones we already have. I bet the two of us could also pull off some wicked dance moves.”

Oz raised an eyebrow, and in answer Willow said, “I was the assassin.”

“So you’re a ninja now?” Oz asked.

“Kind of…” Willow replied cheerily.

Cordelia rolled her eyes and groaned in annoyance while switching paint colours for her work on Xander.

“Oh let them have their fun,” Xander chided.

The moment however was ruined by Buffy practically kicking the door to the warehouse off its hinges, her entrance backlit by a bolt of lightning. Walking in from the storm, soaking wet and clearly upset, she said, “We need big guns.”

“Buffy! What happened?” Willowed asked, concerned for her friend.

Visibly shaking with outrage, Buffy said, “Right now I have three things I need to kill. The first is the Judge, now completed by Spike and Drusilla. The second is whatever idiot thought that putting conditions on Angel’s curse and neglecting to tell him was a good idea. The third is Angelus, that vampiric bastard!”
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Re: The Open Door (megacrossover)

Post by Academia Nut »

Chapter Thirty-five: Ignorance

When a soul claimed by the new Chaos gods is released from its mortal coil, the first thing it does is get taken to the Halls of Sorting, where facets of the gods less independent than daemons worked out the individual merits of each soul. It was also a great place to stick all of the bureaucrats when they died. Those directly dedicated to a single god were of course the easiest to sort out, but those with no strong associations in life it took a little work to find out what god they would join with. A large number were divvied up randomly according to which deity was in greater need of a boost.

Once assigned to the appropriate god, most souls were simply consumed, made into a part of the larger whole. Loss of individuality was complete, and only by a special act by the gods could the unique essence of a person be returned. A few souls upon death were passed along by the gods to their servants, the daemons, to add to their power. And an astronomically small number were ascending to daemonhood after death and allowed to keep their identities intact.

Then there were those who did not make it past the screening process. These were the guys who somehow ticked off the gods. By far the vast majority, this resulted in getting stuck in a sword and auctioned off to the highest bidder for a three thousand year long work-release program for the purposes of attitude adjustment. These were primarily abusive assholes and serial criminals, the sorts who pushed the limits of tolerance to the point where a response was required to serve as an example to others so that society wouldn’t collapse into the sort of anarchy that would cut off the god’s food supply.

And finally there were the tiny, select few who really pissed the gods the fuck off. These included serial child rapists, genocidal maniacs, and anyone who somehow earned the ire of all of the gods simultaneously. Also, anyone who was terrified of death and tried to go out in a blaze of destruction for the purposes of getting stuck in an inanimate object rather than being consumed also fell in this category. It was this category that no one wanted to end up in, for that resulted in a one way ticket to the Hall of Torment, the one place where the gods would freely indulge in their most sadistic desires.

The Hall of Torment, while quite deep in the Palace, was open to mortals to let them know the price for breaking the big laws, although viewing wasn’t recommended on a full stomach, but forbidden to any daemon under the level of a Prince or Princess or a direct offspring of the gods. The reasons for this were quite simple: the atmosphere was bad for daemons. That much suffering condensed into one area required a very strong will to avoid consuming it and being driven insane by all of the highly negative emotion. Higher level daemons considered it seasoning to a well balanced emotional diet.

Lars on the other hand was a minor daemon. He had only about a hundred different voices to deal with that sort of thing. Just getting stuck in a mortal place of extreme suffering, like say a long used and still active torture chamber, would be like the daemonic equivalent of doing a line of high quality, uncut Columbian cocaine. It would super charge him, but it would also send his aggression through the roof, lower his inhibitions, and cause all sorts of unpleasant side-effects.

Right now, Lars was in Hell, literally and figuratively. If he had known that this was what was in store for him, he would have stood his ground and risked annihilation rather than face coming to this place. He could not count the number of souls down here, or how long they had been here, but none of them were very happy. For Lars, well isolated from the main concentrations of souls and kept in rather neutral conditions, it was essentially the worst experience he had ever had.

It was like someone had injected him with a concentrated solution of cocaine, meth, and LSD, while also force feeding him processed sugar and caffeine slurry. Every moment he could feel himself being inundated with the psychic chatter of all the souls in Hell, filling him with their pain and fear and anger and sadness and… it was just too much. He could feel the primordial animal rising up within him, the alien psychopath that dwelt at the heart of even the most urbane daemon. The voices within him were being drowned out by the instinctive need to lash out.

ENDURE! RAPE! KILL! ESCAPE! That was the mantra running through his mind. Find someone, anyone, and utterly destroy them before finding someone else and repeating the process until he was away from this nightmare. He was starting to hallucinate, lurid fantasies of destruction and desecration.

He was trying not to absorb all of this emotional content, but it was like trying to hold his breath. He absorbed emotional content the same way he absorbed Warp energy, so trying to shut himself off caused him to simply weaken up until the point where he lost conscious control and automatically started sucking up the psychic smog of this place. He had resorted to basically trying to ‘breath’ less; only taking short gulps of energy when necessary.

Not only was he trying to slow his rate of ingestion, but he was trying to slow his rate of digestion by forcing all of the negative emotions he was taking in into a little ball of malice. The only problem with that was that if he kept suppressing all of that psychic energy it would eventually hit critical mass and gain sentience, at which he would give birth to an unrepentantly evil daemon that would probably rapidly begin feeding on the ambient emotions before attempting to get amongst the souls. So Lars was forced to absorb small amounts of that bile to slow down the rate of growth.

It was a delicate balancing act. On the one side, emotions were energy for him, so even though the atmosphere of this place was poisoning him, it was also making him stronger, more capable of tolerating the damage. The more he took in, the less of effect things had, and if he could reorganize the emotional content it wouldn’t hurt him. The problem was that his rate of growth was less than the rate of intake, hence why he was accumulating so much undigested psychic material. If he could process the toxins fast enough, he would be able to acclimatize…

If he failed either he would go insane and attempt to become a Hell god, or he would birth an insane daemon, probably a la Alien, that would attempt to become a Hell god. Neither of those options particular appealed to him. He gave himself another day before he either pulled through or exploded.

This was one of those things that if Lars had known were going to happen, he wouldn’t have allowed himself to be captured.

The situation with Yggdrasil had gone from ‘bad’ to ‘teetering on the edge of insanity’ in the few days since Lars had gone missing. The bugs had been multiplying at a rate never before seen, not even when Lars had first arrived. Shifts of gods were assigned to just smashing bugs and they had graduated to heavy artillery in the form of magical flamethrowers capable of taking out large numbers of bugs at once. The downside, aside from rapidly depleting the energy of the user, was that such objects also tended to do significant amounts of damage to Yggdrasil if not aimed properly. Unfortunately, at the rate the bugs were forming, it was worth the risk.

“Okay… so a nutty chaos monster appears to have been captured by the demons and dragged off to Hell. Can we list all of the ways that this is bad?” Skuld muttered to herself as she worked on the World Computer as quickly as she could, trying to figure out something to do to stem the tide of bugs on a fundamental level rather than just fighting back the tide.

Urd, having borrowed Skuld’s mallet for her shift of bug smashing, answered, “Well, he’s a self admitted psychophage, so exposure to damned souls probably isn’t good for him.”

Skuld blinked and then cried out, “Of course!”

“Of course what?” Urd asked while splattering more bug guts everyone. On the other side of the control room a flamethrower flared, incinerating a forming ring of bugs.

“While technically under the purview of Yggdrasil, the demonic realms are all encrypted so we can’t do advanced searches down there. Aside from that, Lars doesn’t have any coding that we can track anyway. However, we can plot emotional densities anywhere in the multiverse, it’s just not something that would normally be useful,” Skuld explained, her fingers flying over the keyboard to write the necessary program to do what she needed.

“But since Lars is a psychophage we might be able to find him by looking for any anomalous points,” Urd finished. “I’m going to have to admit, that’s pretty brilliant.”

“And… running search now,” Skuld said just as she hit the ‘Execute’ command for her program. For a few moments holographic displays skimmed over various readings until several different screens displayed locations with unusual emotional densities. Some, like the abnormal stress levels in the usually serene Yggdrasil Control Room, were quickly discarded.

The black hole in the middle of Hell on the other hand kind of scared the pants off everyone wearing pants. For anyone wearing a skirt, it made them want to put on pants for the sake of safety and so that they could have said pants scared off.

“What do you think; does that swirling vortex of doom look like it might be who we’re looking for?” Urd asked, her eyes wide at the display. Huge masses of pain, rage, loss, and despair were all swirling down into a single point where it was being compressed into a ball of raw malice waiting to explode in an orgy of violence.

“Probably,” Skuld replied. “I’m going to run a search for unknown readings and cross-reference with this report.”

Splashing bits of bug across the absolutely filthy chamber, Urd wondered aloud, “Do you think that has anything to do with the upswing in bug production rates?”

“I would bet a fifty gallon tub of ice cream they are,” Skuld answered. “There’s a lot of energy in that vortex, and if his presence in the multiverse causes the production of bugs, it seems safe to say that as that energy goes into him, he would have a more disruptive effect.”

Another screen popped up, and all of the gods paused to look at what was there. Finally Urd noted, “Well there’s the problem!”

Had any of them known who, or rather what, was listening in, they probably would have been more careful with their words.

Think watch Hunters. Think avoid Hunters. Think listen Hunters. Think learn Hunters.

Hunters hunt Not-Like-Think. Hunters kill Not-Like-Think. But Hunters not kill Think. Think smart. Think hide. But Think not want Hunters kill Not-Like-Think. Think want more Not-Like-Think. Think want Like-Think.

Think watch Hunters. Hunters hunt Big-Think. Think hear Big-Think sometimes. Big-Think not know Think. Think still hear Big-Think. Big-Think and Think linked. Not-Like-Think not liked to Big-Think. Like-Think linked to Big-Think? Think not know. Think want know. Hunters kill Big-Think, Think never know. Hunters kill Big-Think, Think be like Not-Like-Think? Think not want know.

Hunters find Big-Think. Hunters find source of Not-Like-Think. Hunters want leave Think alone. Hunters want kill Think. Think not like that.

But if Think get Big-Think to source of Not-Like-Think? Maybe Big-Think makes Not-Like-Think into Like-Think? Think like that.

Not-Like-Think try to make circle, make more Not-Like-Think. Never work, too many Hunters. Maybe if two circles at once… probably if three circles… definitely with four. Think just need get Not-Like-Think to all make circles.


One moment the gods and goddesses were all staring at the gaping hole in reality at the edge of the multiverse where they really ever looked that was tied by a thin string of energy to the ‘swirling vortex of doom’ in Hell, the next every bug in the room suddenly got the bright idea to sudden form a summoning gate or five.

To say that things exploded into mayhem would be akin to saying that getting caught under a thermonuclear explosion at point blank range was ‘hot’. It was technically accurate, but failing to grasp the full context of the situation.

Bugs and gods were flying everywhere, weapons scything down massive numbers of bugs, but they just kept coming. In all of the confusion, only one deity noticed an oddly coloured bug sit down at a now unoccupied terminal for Yggdrasil and begin writing a program.

Snatching her debugging mallet out of her sister’s hands, Skuld rushed over to smash the oddly behaving pest before it could do too much harm.

Just as she arrived the bug completed its task and leapt away, landing on one of the fully formed rings in time for the program to execute. What happened made everything that had preceded it look tame in comparison.

Lars was sitting down in his isolation cell, hallucinating chopping Hild into tiny pieces, using the remains to grow magic mushrooms, and then getting amazingly high when he noticed the fact that a hole in reality seemed to open up in front of him.

Lars blinked once before self-preservation kicked in and managed to return him to something approaching lucidity, at which point he really only had time to mutter, “Well fuck…” before the sudden rush of air falling into the tear sucked him in.

Upon hitting the other side of the unexpected portal, Lars’ physical form disintegrated and he became more of an idea. For those who knew such things, this was his true form, a collection of emotions and thoughts bound together by one another. For those capable of seeing such things, he resembled a sort of bat shaped cloud of dark blue and green light, with a tight ball of luminescent whiteness at the centre and twin ‘eyes’ of blackness at the ‘head’.

Taking ‘flight’ on currents of cosmic energy, Lars observed his surroundings. He was in an infinitely large neutral space of blank white, except for an enormous hole that led into the sort of inky blackness that Lars was used to when in the Immaterium. From that hole an enormous amount of energy was being spewed, creating great black tendrils of mixing reality.

Banking into the cosmic winds, Lars discovered that there was another hole in the limbo than the one he had fallen through that led back to Hell and the gaping rent in the structure of the universe. Out of this hole dozens of eight legged rabbits fell, streaming in towards the hole in reality, where they promptly began to explode when brought in contact with the darkness emitted from the exit from this section of the multiverse.

Following the tumble of the rabbit-things were several gods and goddesses, surprised by the sudden breach of space-time next to them. Several of them quickly flared wings or had angelic figures pop out of their backs and pull up, assuming a wide circling pattern around the hole, but one figure in particular took quite the long tumble before manifesting an angel, assuming a very close orbit about the hole.

Swooping in, Lars discovered three things. The first was that the pressure from the cosmic winds were quite strong, trying to push him away from the tear. The second was that the figure that had fallen so far was Skuld. The third was that Skuld’s angel was struggling to hold them away from the tear, the complete opposite of the force Lars felt.

“Lars?” Skuld cried out in confusion and terror as she circled closer to the blackness.


“Lars! Help me!” Skuld begged while tears of panic streamed down her face. “If I touch that stuff…” Her point was made when another one of those rabbit-things impacted a tendril of alternate reality and promptly triggered a mutual annihilation process.

Of course.

Swooping in, Lars sent out tendrils of thought to wrap around Skuld and then he flared his wings, trying to ride the storm up and out, but even with both of them pulling up and Lars being affected oppositely by the storm, all he managed to do was slow down Skuld’s downward spiral.

The force pulling you in is too strong.

“Oh God! Oh God! Help me daddy! Oh God!” Skuld wailed, terrified and child-like.

Lars looked at the storm and then up at the gods in higher orbits, clearly able to get out at that range as they were not beyond the event horizon yet of their capacity to escape the pull, while Skuld was far past that point. He considered the detritus still falling. Lars considered the situation for a moment before he made his decision.

Can you hold on by yourself for a few seconds? I’m about to do something incredibly stupid.

Skuld screamed in panic as Lars let go, but her angel did not cease trying to pull them out of the maelstrom. Banking sharply, Lars flew up and snatched up an odd looking rabbit-thing an enveloped it in his essence. The thing went surprisingly calm as soon as he had it, which made what he did next significantly easier.

Lars stooped and dove into the storm, carrying the rabbit-thing with him as he smashed into the clouds of other-real essence. As he suspected, it was the equivalent to Warp-stuff so it was utterly harmless to him. As he hoped, by keeping the rabbit-thing out of direct contact with the stuff, it did not explode inside him, and was in fact utterly unharmed by the experience. Lars considered dropping the rabbit-thing but decided against it as while the force pulling it in was quite significant, the closer he got to the centre, the hard it was to dive, so he figured extra ballast might be a good idea, plus it would help him for part of his idea.

Flaring his wings again, Lars let himself be pushed out of the storm and back up to where Skuld was, and he noted that she had dropped perilously close to the edge of the clouds. It seemed that because she and her angel were not fully mature they were rapidly losing strength fighting the pull of the storm.

Settling in next to Skuld, Lars stabilized her like he did before, although this time it was significantly harder since she was lower.

Skuld, can you hear me?

“Y-y-yes…” Skuld answered, terrified of the looming black clouds that were at most a dozen metres away and getting closer with every second.

I’m going to wrap you up so that I completely surround you, and thus protect you from the black essence. We will then dive into the storm. If everything goes well, I will drop one of those rabbit-things at the bottom of the dive and we can slingshot back out. If that works, we might have to make several passes, but I’ll be able to get you out. If it doesn’t work, then we can plunge through the hole and I’ll find a stable universe where you’ll be safe and we can work on getting you home. Are you fine with that?

Skuld nodded fearfully.

Lars wrapped himself about Skuld and then dived towards the heart of the storm once more. This time however, he could immediately tell that he had made a mistake. He hadn’t realized that all of the material he needed to cocoon Skuld would adversely affect his ability to produce lift as much as it did. Lars could feel the pressure trying to essentially blow him off Skuld and the rabbit-thing as they approached the very heart of storm, and he had to divert more of himself to just keeping her safe. There was no way he was going to be able to pull out of this dive and keep his cargo safe.

Sorry Skuld, we’re going to have to do this the hard way.

Skuld had been screaming through the entire descent but now she was really panicking as they picked up speed and got closer and closer to the point where one form of reality began to intrude into another.

Upon impact with that interface, Lars was given a brief moment of insight as he realized that he was what had been holding the breach open. Unfortunately, now that he had enough energy, in the form of the kinetic energy built up by holding onto Skuld as they fell, he had essentially reversed the pressure on the system as he left.

This meant that instead of exiting the breach fast but at a controllable speed, Lars instead discovered that he was now a ballistic missile instead of a diving hawk. It was all he could do to hang onto Skuld as they shot across the void between universes like an arrow loosed from a bow. Skuld was of course panicking as she couldn’t see anything of what was going on, but considering that she couldn’t see the higher dimensional structure they were about to smack into at ludicrous speed, that was probably a blessing.

They impacted the outer shell of the universe at a velocity slightly less than what Lars had struck Skuld’s home at, so he mostly retained consciousness even as he started to tumble like a bullet through flesh, ricocheting off internal cosmic structures until finally they had shed enough energy that they got stuck in one place and stayed there.

Manifesting his human form when through into a fully material world, Lars ended up dumping Skuld and the forgotten rabbit-thing back out as his form coalesced into his preferred human shape, and the three of them came to a painful, bouncing stop.

Recovering first, Lars quickly checked out their surroundings for any sort of threat, but all he could really detect was that they were in some sort of lightless, underground cavern that was quite large, so hopefully they would be able to find their way to the surface. Lars still had a headache from their entry, so he couldn’t get a clear psychic reading, but it seemed that they were alone.

Feeling fairly confident that they were out of immediate peril, Lars did a quick check on Skuld and was immediately dismayed by what he found. Physically she was alright, but he could tell just from looking at her that psychically and spiritually she was in bad shape, probably due to the fact that she was cut off from her home universe. If he had to guess, he would say that she was probably little better off right now than an annoyingly precocious and genius fourteen year old mortal girl.

This meant that when the darts smacked into him and Skuld, he was more than a little worried. Skuld had just enough time to wake up from the pain of having a dart in her gut before she fainted again, obviously some sort of drug coating the barbs.

Lars on the other hand was not so affected and he immediately whirled in the direction the darts had come from, all of his senses flaring out to look for targets. Whoever had done that had picked the wrong daemon to shoot at.
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Re: The Open Door (megacrossover)

Post by Academia Nut »

Chapter Thirty-six: Darkness

Darts pattering into him uselessly, Lars stalked forward towards the attackers, the darkness acting as no barrier to senses adapted to the infinite lightless void of the Warp. He might not have been able to see directly, but he could tell where everything was. When it became apparent to the attackers that their poisons and darts were not working on him, they decided to switch tactics and Lars felt some form of magic wash over him. Unfortunately for whoever had cast it, the spell was keyed towards living creatures of this reality, and not a daemon like Lars.

He could feel their minds and how they were little better than mortal humans. How dare they fire upon a goddess and a daemon? Just for the insult Lars would kill them. For the injury to Skuld, he would ensure that it wasn’t pleasant. He could feel the haughty pride in all of them, how their confusion at his ability to shrug off their attacks was outweighed by their own smug sense of superiority.

He would enjoy breaking them of that belief.

The attackers were clustered on a ledge formed by what was probably a tunnel exiting into this cavern. There were four beings arranged in a firing line, with two behind them, each with lines of magical energy leading into them. It however was nothing like how Lars or any other daemon or psychic would perform sorcery. It was too… tentative, in comparison to the ‘Seize the Warp by the throat before it causes your head to explode’ style of Warp sorcery he was used to.

Before these creatures knew what was happening Lars had leapt up to where they had formed their battle lines, causing the front four to jump back a step in surprise, dropping their little hand crossbows to draw their melee weapons. For two of them, it was not enough. Grabbing the centre two warriors by their heads, Lars hoisted them up and hurled them over the edge, causing them to go screaming face first into the hard stone below, their cries abruptly silenced by wet crunches.

Then one of the two rear line creatures finished its spell and hurled a bolt of lightning straight into Lars’ chest. The blast caused some amount of heating damage, but since Lars didn’t have a nervous system or for that matter proper matter making him up, the vast majority of the damage was superficial.

Lars’ retaliation was… disproportionate. A single lance of psychic power straight into the sorcerer’s mind was all he did, but there were a few things that made this a little off scale. The first was that Lars’ abilities were oriented around psychically shouting across distances so vast the concept of distance as a concept meaningful to three dimensional creatures broke down. The second was that the last time he had calibrated his psychic attacks it had been against demons who had managed to fight deities capable of direct reality editing to a standstill. The third was that he still had a huge amount of energy stored up from his stay in Hell and that was both supercharging him and making him not give a damn. The fourth was that he’d had a really lousy past two weeks and he really didn’t feel like going easy on someone who had just shot him with a lightning bolt.

The impact tore through the relatively fragile defenses of the mind with a degree of violence similar to a berserk Evangelion going to town on a beached whale. The creature’s psyche simply tore like wet tissue paper, the remains of its soul vacating its body with an agonized psychic scream. The shock was so great that the other creatures around it suffered, their brains temporarily thinking that they had died and causing total muscle relaxation for a moment. While it didn’t quite cause them to keel over, it did disrupt the other sorcerer, and more embarrassingly, it caused them all to soil themselves.

Recovering before the warriors, the sorcerer said in a feminine voice, “Kill it!” before she began to chant again, casting a new spell. Shaking off their shock, the warriors finished readying their weapons only to discover Lars was quite capable of blocking their blades with his bare hands and that getting bitch slapped by him knocked out teeth. Knocking a shield aside, he thrust the heel of his palm into his target’s chest so hard it was killed by shards of sternum perforating its heart.

Then the female sorcerer completed her spell and Lars suddenly found himself feeling rather a great deal of pain as the universe tried to violently reject him only to discover that it had nowhere to really put him, so it settled for just warping the fabric of space-time around and within him.

Staggering back, Lars had his guard opened up so that the final remaining warrior managed to bury its sword in his neck. This stung a great deal, but considering that it trapped the blade there and it couldn’t actually kill Lars, it was actually a net loss for the being that had once wielded the sword.

The sorcerer tried something else now, releasing a burst of oddly formed energy that felt a great deal like certain flavours of the Warp tinted with an aspect of psychic command, but Lars batted that aside effortlessly with his mind. Reaching up, he snapped the blade embedded in his neck in two before breaking the arm of the warrior trying to finish him off with a dagger.

He could taste the remaining two creatures’ fear and confusion, and he revelled in it. This was what it meant to be a daemon. Bloodshed and insanity! Destroying the minds and bodies of his enemies and then feasting upon their flesh and souls after. As the warrior reeled back, in pain, Lars plunged his hand into its chest and the chain mail that offered absolutely no protection against his warp sharp claws. Gleefully, he ripped out its heart, cackling with delight at the dying screams of his victim.

The last remaining member of the party cast one last spell before Lars could turn his full attention on her. Space and time buckled and a hole opened in reality, allowing the sorcerer to leap through, but unfortunately for her Lars found the twisted path easy enough to follow, much to her surprise.

She had not gone far, but she had picked her target well. She stepped through her little hole in reality right next to where Skuld was sleeping under the influence of the dart in her gut, and with lighting quick reflexes managed to get a dagger next to her throat, just in time to enter into a Mexican stand-off with Lars, who had his hands around her throat.

“Take the knife away from her, now,” Lars demanded, using his ability to pluck languages out of thin air to good use.

Her arrogant pride quickly returning, the sorceress said, “The fact that you have not taken my head off yet indicates that you are somehow bound to this top-worlder, as I thought you might be. Are you compelled to protect her?”

Suppressing his rage, and suddenly feeling rather disgusted with himself for losing control so spectacularly, Lars thought about it for a moment before he replied, “I am compelled to protect her.” Technically true as his compulsion was that he didn’t want to see the brat get killed, but he left the words ambiguous enough to perhaps let this creature think that he was defending her beyond his own will.

“Then take your claws off my throat,” the sorceress ordered.

“Take your blade off her throat first,” Lars counter demanded.

“No,” the creature replied, pressing in deeper, eliciting a whimper from Skuld in her sleep as a tiny prick of blood was drawn.

“I said off, not away. I know who has the upper hand here,” Lars demanded.

“No. I saw what you did to my wizard, and while I do not know your breed demon, I am not willing to risk that you might be able to do it again in short order. If I die, goddess only knows where my blade might go as I twitch,” she replied.

Muttering obscenities in Finnish, one of several dozen languages he knew from the souls within him, Lars said, “Just remember that she is only as good as a hostage while alive. She dies, you die.”

“Release me,” she ordered, and Lars reluctantly replied. Practically purring with smug self-satisfaction, she then said, “Good. Now back up several paces.”

Lars backed up several paces, growling in frustration. The sound was not pretty, and it was not entirely audible as it also had a psychic component, but he could do nothing at the moment but growl.

Sitting down, the sorceress set Skuld on her lap so that she would be able to keep her unconscious hostage between her and Lars while keeping her dagger at her throat and leaving one hand free. Reaching into a pouch, the sorceress removed a scroll that was curiously imbibed with energy to Lars’ senses and then she spoke a few sharp syllables, followed by a quick message.

“Encountered demon and human. Demon bound to human. Demon wiped out rest of team. Have human hostage, demon at bay. Request back up. Locator activating.”

Carefully observing, Lars felt the message head off into the ether. He could have easily intercepted it and destroyed it, but that would have distracted him and potentially tipped the sorceress off. As the message was sent, the sorceress dropped the scroll and turned something around on her chest, activating a small psychic signal and generating a low blue glow.

Finally seeing his quarry for the first time with actual eyes, Lars discovered that the creature that had Skuld hostage was a humanoid with sharply edged features and pointed ears, somewhat like the descriptions of the Eldar, only with ebon black skin and far less of an alien air. She was adorned in chain mail and a black tabard with spider web filigree, while her cloak seemed to drink what little light there was, helping her to blend into the background. Her white hair was tied back tightly and kept out of her face by a tiara with a single black diamond at the centre. Strapped at her side was an unpleasant looking mace with a definite spider motif going for it.

Lars on the other hand looked like a human sailor wearing a yellow rain coat. While he had looked like that all through the fight, except for his fingers, and the dark skinned creature obviously had some way of seeing in the dark, she was definitely taken aback by his incongruous appearance when fully revealed.

“You think you can unnerve me by concealing your true form?” The sorceress asked with contempt.

“Well, considering the fact that I already made you soil yourself, I doubt I can unnerve you more than I already did without driving you permanently insane,” Lars replied nonchalantly.

Hissing with enormous rage, she spat, “And for that you will pay demon.”

“Oh, I doubt you can make me pay more than the rest of the multiverse already has,” Lars noted dryly.

“Do you chafe under the dominion of this one?” She asked, obviously sensing an opportunity.

“She’s not exactly the sort I get along readily with, but I don’t particularly have a choice as my superiors would be displeased should I let anything happen to her,” Lars stated, which was something of an exaggeration as he would probably be able to get away with his neck intact and unsealed in a sword, but the gods wouldn’t be exactly happy with him letting a young girl like Skuld get killed.

Okay, so as a deity she was probably a couple of centuries old, but she still acted like an adolescent, which was the important thing in his gods’ eyes.

Incorrect enlightenment passed across the sorceress’ face and she said, “Ah… so the little surface dweller is important to your masters?”

“In a way. I do not attempt to comprehend their plans or plots; I simply do as they tell me. Should you kill that girl, I will have failed their commandments,” Lars explained. Once again, everything he said was not an actual lie, it was just that his statements were not related to one another in the way he let on.

“So no actual magic binds you to this one?” The black skinned woman asked, tilting the knife slightly.

“Stronger things than mere magic compel me to do what I do,” Lars answered, leaving unsaid the fact that said ‘things’ were compassion, duty, and honour.

“So it would seem. You must protect this one, no? So if I ordered you to do something upon threat to her life?” The sorceress asked.

Lars glared at her and replied, “It would be noted that the threat is more important than the action. Push me too far, or into something that might make me disobey the commandments of my lords, and you will see what such actions bring you.”

“But you…” She began.

“Some orders are stronger than others. Attempt to divine them at your own risk,” Lars replied with a growl.

“Duly noted,” the sorceress replied. “However, a demon of your calibre would make a formidable ally to my house.”

“So I would. Just remember that you will have to keep the blade at her throat at all times or I will take my revenge,” Lars replied.

“We will see. If no magic binds you yet, then that simplifies binding you to us,” the sorceress sneered.

“What makes you think you will succeed?” Lars countered. While he had little doubt that these creatures knew how to bind demons, if they thought their methods would work the same on daemons, they were sorely mistaken.

The sound of others arriving at the ledge where the battle had taken place ended the conversation, the dark skinned woman finishing by saying, “We will see.”
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Re: The Open Door (megacrossover)

Post by Academia Nut »

Chapter Thirty-seven: Capture

Now surrounded on all sides by the black skinned creatures, Lars could do nothing as they isolated him from Skuld and kept her under close guard while two new sorcerers kept him and another female sorceress interviewed the one who had survived, obviously disgusted by both the fact that Lars had caused so much trouble and by the fact that the survivor had soiled herself.

Lars for his part was trying to hide how much that one spell had hurt. He had the feeling it had not interacted properly with his otherworldly nature and so he was still trying to pull his stretched being back into alignment. He just hoped that these creatures did not figure out that that particular attack was effective on him.

Finally the sorceress who had been grilling her subordinate approached Lars, flicking her wrist so that a tiny spell was launched at Lars. Clinging to him, it lit him up in pale, ethereal fire that provided only light. Obviously she wanted a better look at him. Of course, this also gave Lars a good look at her. She appeared much like the other sorceress, if a bit more ornately decorated and her features perhaps a touch older.

“He looks like little more than a filthy top-worlder,” the new leader noted scornfully.

Licking an eyeball with a thin tentacle extruded from his mouth, Lars noted dryly, “Looks can be deceiving.”

One of the lesser sorcerers standing guard over Lars noted warily, “I do not like this one highest. My scrying has not let me know of what manner of demon he is, if he be demon at all.”

Growling in annoyance, the sorceress said to her minion, “I do not care. Can we control it?”

The two sorcerers deliberated for a few moments before they declared, “Probably. But it will take time and careful deliberation highest. We cannot bind it in the wild.”

The sorceress seemed ready to give a command when salt water began to drip profusely from under Lars’ coat and rime ice began to form on the cave walls. Lars then grinned over broadly and with far more teeth than he had shown a moment before and hissed telepathically If the next words out of your mouth are anything but ‘we take them both with us’ you will regret them.

Everyone in attendance boggled at this sudden change and while the leader refused to show her fear, she did say, “You think petty trickery will change my mind?”

Glancing at him and then at his leader, one of the sorcerers whispered, “Highest, it hasn’t cast a spell yet. That’s a wild magic backlash.”

The sorceress blinked and then a grin crept over her face. “I see. So you will do what we say so long as we keep your little pet alive?”

“And in good condition. But yes, I must protect her, and I will take whatever steps necessary to do so. Please remember that your deaths are quite high on my list of necessary steps,” Lars commented.

“Quite. Well then, your little pet here dies unless you eliminate this soiled piece of offal for failing me,” the leader said with a sneer while jerking her thumb at the one who had originally held Skuld hostage.

Lars was on the surprised sorceress before she could register the betrayal, his mouth opening up hugely large while his tongue became a grasping set of tentacles that ensnared the sorceress’ head and face, pulling her in. Her screams were only cut short by Lars’ tentacles filling her mouth, nose and throat. When it was done, the dead body slumped to the ground, the face drenched with frigid seawater and covered in thousands of tiny bites, none of them fatal. The true fatal blow had been Lars ripping her soul from her body for consumption. He was still feeling aggressive and impulsive from his stint in Hell

Tucking away his tentacles, he shifted his appearance to that of the dead sorceress for a moment. He said in a weird echoing version of both his voice and hers, “I enjoyed that.” He then reverted back to his usual form.

Everyone looked shocked at the sheer brutality of it, but the leader recovered first, laughing greedily. She said, “Now I see why you did so much damage! Ha! I should have promoted the bitch. Oh well, now I don’t have to share the credit for your discovery. You will call me either Mistress Aruvixa or highest.”

“Very well Mistress Aruvixa,” Lars growled out.

They had been marching in silence for hours, the only brief respite being when about half an hour after they left the cave where Lars and Skuld had arrived they had come across a camp where strange, bestial slaves had been waiting. They had quickly broken camp and the carriage of Skuld was turned over to two of the slaves with a pole that they tied her too, with a warrior standing by her at all times, sword drawn and ready to thrust.

Lars tirelessly followed along, an eye on Skuld and Aruvixa at all times, although mostly he delegated this to some of his other minds while he worked on a rather personal problem. Namely the little ball of unpleasant emotions he had sitting inside of him. It had, for lack of a better word, hardened. Lars had compressed it too much and delayed attempting consumption so long that the energy had taken on its own ontological inertia.

Right now it was little more than a psychic jaw breaker, and if Lars took a few days to consume it, the problem would be solved, which was what he was slowly doing. The problem was that he still had a lot of unprocessed hatred and anger in his system, especially after the fight, and consuming more would not do wonders for his disposition. Especially after eating that sorceress, although now that he had her apparently the title used for her particular brand of magic was ‘cleric’ as she had to have her spells prepared for her by her goddess and then begged for them each day with prayer.

With all of the toxic emotion still in his system, Lars found it quite amusing to slice apart her soul in a sadistic form of dissection, peeling her apart like an onion. While she released more poisons into his system, he just turned all of that hatred and avarice against her. She would have got the Hall of Torment back home anyway, so his crude ministrations did not seem out of line. Once the memory of sacrificing a child captured in a raid was discovered, things got really unpleasant for the cleric.

“What are you grinning about demon?” One of Lars’ guards asked in a whisper.

“Digesting,” Lars replied cheerfully, his face twisting into an agonized mask of the dead woman before subsiding again. Inside he immediately felt a twinge of regret, noting just how badly tainted he was at the moment, but he didn’t let it show.

The guard went very silent after that.

His attention temporarily distracted, Lars returned it to keeping an eye on Skuld and was immediately alarmed. He had been watching her so continuously up until that point while being otherwise distracted that he had not noticed what was happening to her.

Namely, she was very slowly running out of energy. It was why she had yet to wake up even after the poison had worn off. And if it continued it would become lethal.

Stopping, Lars announced, “Mistress Aruvixa, I have just noticed that my ward is quite ill. If you do not want her to die and for me to slaughter you all and eat your souls, I recommend you allow me to tend to her.”

Halting the march, Aruvixa turned to Lars with a lethal look in her eyes and asked, “Do you think your threats frighten me?”

His face straight, Lars replied, “Considering my ward still lives, yes. Now, will we have another discussion about our relationship, or will you take a recommendation with your best interests to heart, Mistress Aruvixa?”

Nodding to the guards about Skuld, Aruvixa ordered, “Set the surface dweller down and keep your swords on her throat.”

Nodding, Lars said, “Thank you Mistress Aruvixa.”

Sitting down next to Skuld, Lars probed with his psychic senses, and confirmed what he had suspected. Cut off from her native universe, Skuld was suffering from magic depletion, and as a goddess, this would be an ultimately fatal state unless she had some way of replenishing her energy.

There was magical energy all around, but Skuld’s body seemed unable to tap into it, which was unfortunate as her divine body could certainly handle being plugged into some of the main lines of power that Lars could detect. Probing about, Lars examined the relationship between the magic of this world and the creatures around him. The slaves had a very small connection, but it was there, while even the black skinned warriors had noticeable ones. The cleric’s direct link was about the same size as the warriors, but there was a secondary connection of much, much greater magnitude, presumably the link to her goddess. The wizards on the other hand had huge links directly to the lines of power, enough that he could tell that they knew he was examining them.

Skuld had no such link.

Running a psychic finger over a stray strand of free floating magical power, Lars was intrigued by the fact that there was a second set of strands that under laid the other, a subtle darkness to the bright light. That network seemed unconnected to the living creatures, so Lars left it alone, although he would have a look at it later.

Taking the filament of natural magic, Lars grasped it between two sharp psychic ‘fingers’ and gently snipped it. The two pieces of the filament immediately snapped apart, and it was all Lars could do to contain the backlash. It wouldn’t have been very big, but possibly enough to spook the guards into slicing Skuld’s throat open.

“Sorry! Sorry! I’m trying to do something delicate here and it got away from me,” Lars announced as a slight electric hum built up and hairs began to stand on end, but it died down before anything exploded.

“What are you doing?” Aruvixa demanded.

“My ward has suffered from a mishap and she is currently cut off from her normal supply of magical energy, so I am attempting to splice her into the local magical field,” Lars explained as he found another thin filament.

“She’s cut off from the Weave and you’re trying to tie her back in?” One of the wizards asked incredulously.

“Yes,” Lars replied.

“You can do that?” Aruvixa asked.

“I’m going to try. Umm… she might convulse a little, would you mind moving your swords just a bit for a few seconds?” Lars asked the guards.

Aruvixa nodded and said, “I want to see if this works.”

Once more Lars cut the line of magic, but this time he immediately grabbed one of the ends firmly. The other went sparking off for a second before tying back in to the rest of the network, creating a small burst of light and noise as it did so. Holding the live wire of magical energy was like sticking his finger in a wall socket, but Lars managed to hold on to it. He then reached out and as gently as he could he lifted up a tiny portion of Skuld’s soul so that he could connect the two.

Bringing the tiny but raw vein of magic together with Skuld, Lars managed to tie the two together and get them to stick. At first Skuld’s body recoiled and she began to go into convulsions, but very quickly she settled down. The peak output when first connected was quite large, but considering that Skuld could handle several orders of magnitude more energy easily, she survived the initial surge and once it settled down so did she.

“There, I’ve fixed the problem, we can continue now,” Lars replied.

The wizards looked at him incredulously before one of them pointed out, “You just took a raw piece of the Weave and plugged her into it!”

Shrugging, Lars replied, “I did what I needed to do. She needed the energy; your ‘Weave’ had it.”

Calculating this sort of thing, Aruvixa asked, “Could you do this to others?”

“I could, but I wouldn’t recommend it, Mistress Aruvixa. I used the smallest strand of magic I could find and it nearly overwhelmed me, and if my ward had not been already used to handling large amounts of magic, the initial shock might have killed her,” Lars explained.

“Curious. We will discuss this more later. For now though, we continue. You may prove even more valuable than I had anticipated,” Aruvixa noted.

“That I may,” Lars replied. He idly wondered what Aruvixa would smell like if he plugged her into the Weave on her orders. He guessed burnt bacon. That was the smell of a greedy animal set on fire after all.
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Re: The Open Door (megacrossover)

Post by Academia Nut »

Chapter Thirty-eight: Menzoberranzan

A few hours later, after they had encountered a strange point of space-time where reality folded in on itself to form a wormhole to another point in this strange underground world, or a portal as the drow like to unimaginatively call it, Skuld began to wake up. Possessing constantly active psychic senses meant that Lars was the first one to notice.

Skuld, its Lars. Don’t say or do anything, okay? We’re in a bit of a tight situation here, what with being surrounded by homicidal maniacs currently holding you at sword point, and any screaming or whining on your part would not help.

Skuld’s eyes fluttered open and considering that she probably only saw blackness while feeling the ropes binding her and the fact that she was suspended from a pole being carried, her first instinct probably was to scream out in fear.

Don’t scream!

Skuld somehow managed to keep her mouth shut, although a small whimper did escape her lips.

Her current guard glanced down at her, noticed that she was awake, and paid her no further heed.

Okay Skuld, here is the unfortunate situation. You are currently being held as hostage to ensure my good behaviour as they are appreciative of my ability to kill people… gods; I’m a freaking glorified radio, not a soldier! Anyway, let them hold you for only that, and not because you’re a goddess, for which I have no idea how they will respond. They are a bunch of xenophobic, matriarchal theocrats with access to some really nasty magic. Magic of the sort that can hurt me, and considering you’re cut off from home, you’re really weak right now. You got all of that?

Skuld nodded slowly and weakly, obviously terrified out of her wits by the unknown around her.

Please relax Skuld. I can’t exactly say that there is nothing scary in the darkness, but I’m here… actually, in retrospect I probably am the scariest thing in the darkness right now, but I’m on your side. Uh… okay, I was trying to be reassuring, but that appears to have not worked. Umm… shit, this is awkward. My culture isn’t very good at reassuring people from outside of it. Our reassurances involve promises of vengeance and evisceration and raining unholy fury upon enemies. We’re not a very cuddly group.

Skuld just blinked at him in the darkness, more confused than scared now.

Seriously, it’s pretty morbid and perverse. I never really got into it, but even our children are told that if any monsters dare hide in the closet or under the bed mommy and daddy are going to disembowel them and put their heads on stakes as a warning to any other monster planning on scaring their little one. Never having had children while mortal, I can’t really comment, but I must say that for all the problems my people have, child rearing is actually one of those places where we shine.

Where was I? Oh, right, umm… just, don’t get scared and freak out, okay? I’m doing everything in my power to protect you, and if you keep quiet that will make my job much easier, and incidentally extend your lifespan. This brings me to my next point. Uh… how should I put this? In order to save your life I had to do something… rude and unpleasant really… to you. Yeah… bear with me here for a second while I work out a proper analogy.

Skuld let a cross look reach her face, but she stayed quiet, waiting for an answer.

Okay… okay, I’ve got an analogy here. Let us say, metaphorically- metaphorically- that your heart had stopped beating, and in order to save you, I had to apply CPR. Not that it did, or that I did, just you know, as way of analogy. Anyway, in the course of performing CPR, I would have to touch your chest and make lip-to-lip contact during the compressions and the rescue breathing, right? But, I was just saving your life and nothing sexual or the like was meant, and any bruising you might receive would be considered just one of those things, right? And…

Skuld was glaring at him. She wasn’t saying anything and her aim was off in the darkness, but she was definitely glaring at him.

Look, I’m sorry! I only did what I did because I needed to save your life. You were running out of magic so I made a quick and dirty connection between your soul and the local magic field of this universe to keep you from fading away to nothing.

Skuld blinked.

Okay, maybe it’s a little different where you come from, but touching someone else’s soul uninvited is considered extremely rude, and even a crime where I come from depending on the exact circumstances. I mean, outside of combat anyway, but we consider cunt punching a viable combat tactic, so don’t even go there. But yeah, what I did would be considered like CPR. Still, sorry about that.

Skuld went silent and seemed to be thinking about these things.

Anyway, just keep quiet for a little while. I think we’ll be stopping soon, and you should be able to safely talk then, and we’ll discuss this. Okay? Aside from clearing this up, we’ll need to work out the implications of this world’s magic and its affect on you.

Skuld nodded slightly and remained silent and afraid. About an hour later Aruvixa did call for a stop for the day, and the entire party moved up to a defensible cave that branched off from the main tunnel they were travelling down. Setting up sentries, the drow quickly established their camp.

“My charge is currently awake; may I speak with her to ascertain her health?” Lars asked.

Aruvixa considered for a moment before she waved him off and said, “You may speak with her, but nothing else for this time. When we break camp I will have a more efficient arrangement.”

Skuld was sitting uncomfortably on the hard stone, surrounded by the brutish creatures used as slaves and a single guard that kept his sword at her throat. She was stretching out her wrists, rubbed raw by the bindings that had been kept around them. There was a faint amount of light from somewhere, just enough to see at close range.

Okay, time for some theatrics. Speak in a quiet but imperious voice no matter what is actually being said, and use Danish. We want these creatures to not understand what we say while still making them think you are in charge.

Lars then knelt before Skuld and bowed his head, saying sorrowfully, “Sorry about getting you into this situation.”

“Sorry? You saved my life! At least twice, maybe more!” Skuld cried out in an angry tone with a furious look on her face.

The drow all glared at her and Lars immediately said softly, “Please do not speak so loudly.”

Frowning, Skuld lowered her voice and said, “You don’t have anything to be sorry about. I mean, yes, if I had been conscious I probably would have asked you to find a different method before you… ahem… plugged me in to the local magic, but only because I think it might have been a bit rude to the one in charge of the network. As you said, what you did to me was like CPR. Just don’t touch my soul again unless similar circumstances come up. Your ‘hands’ are kind of clammy.”

“Sorry,” Lars noted. He then furrowed his brow and asked, “Wait… there’s someone in charge of the magic?”

“Yeah, that is why I wouldn’t have wanted you to do what you did if there were any other options. I feel a distant mind in the magic, sort of like Yggdrasil, but not. I kind of feel like a hacker who has yet to be noticed by the system admin,” Skuld explained.

Leafing through the dissected memories of the drow priestess, Lars said, “The deity in charge of the Weave, as they call it, is Mystra. I guess we’ll have to apologize the next time we see her.”

Upon dropping Mystra’s name the drow all looked sharply at Lars, which caused him to hang his head in exasperation while Skuld frowned further. Lars noted, “I think they might now believe you to be even more valuable.”

Aruvixa chose that moment to interrupt, coming up to Lars and saying, “I think you’ve had enough time with your ward. Now, go take watch at the mouth of the cave and kill anything that tries to get inside.”

“Yes highest,” Lars replied, dropping out of Danish before walking to the mouth of the cave and sitting down, shutting down most conscious thought while remaining alert. He could probably outwait a star sitting like this, but as it was he only had to wait about eight hours before Aruvixa summoned him back inside the cave.

She had a hand on Skuld’s head and a dagger to her neck. “I prayed to the goddess while we rested, and she provided me with the tools I need to ensure your compliance. Now tell her your ward not to resist or this will hurt more.”

Lars knew that Skuld understood, but he kept up the charade they had started by saying in Danish, “Don’t resist now; she knows that if she tries anything I’ll kill her. I’ll keep you safe Skuld.”

Skuld nodded a fraction of an inch, as much as she could with the knife against her throat, and Lars said, “You may do what you want highest, just remember…”

“Yes, yes, she dies, I die; we’ve been over this. Now…” Aruvixa then unleashed power she had dwelling within her and channelled it into Skuld. Skuld cried out and Lars tensed to move, but then Aruvixa shoved Skuld away, a sneer upon her lips.

“Ah, now we can act more civilized. Your little surface dweller here is now marked for death. At any time, I can activate the spell now residing within her, and she dies. Oh, and should I die, she goes with me, so my continued survival is now in your best interests. Don’t even try and undo the spell either, as that will trigger it too,” Aruvixa explained.

Lars growled, but he noted that he could now at least go to help Skuld up as the sword at her throat was now a metaphysical one, something that he could not get in the way of with his body. He tentatively probed at her mind with his and discovered a pulsing, ugly mark on her soul, one that had buried in deep and he knew that he could not safely remove it.

“You can carry her now; the slaves have better things to do. Now come on all of you, we’re moving out. We’ll be at Menzoberranzan within another five days,” Aruvixa ordered.

Lars picked up Skuld and carried on his back. She was crying. He asked, “Did it hurt?”

Trying to hold back her tears, Skuld said, “I… I… I can feel that thing inside me. It’s like the Doublet System, only stronger and more present. It’s sitting there, letting me know that any moment it can kill me. Oh god, it’s so scary.”

“The instant I get this thing out of you, I am so eating her soul,” Lars growled. “I’m going to peel her apart, raping every part of her being with delicate care and… oh… uh… sorry about that Skuld. Daemon thing.”

“Can I take my mallet to her a few times before you eat her?” Skuld asked angrily.

“I’ll hold her down for you,” Lars replied.

“You’re sweeter than I thought,” Skuld told him.

Lars frowned at that but did not say anything.

Five quiet, miserable days later, during which they started to run into other patrols of drow, although they mostly just breezed past them as it turned out that Aruvixa was the leader of her own patrol, just one with a much larger sweep radius as it extended through several portals.

Then Aruvixa said hungrily, “We’re almost to Menzoberranzan now,” just as they rounded a corner at a tunnel that opened up into a huge cavern that faintly glowed with flickering magical fires all over dozens of buildings and structures.

Tired from the march and concerned for Skuld, Lars asked, “So this Menzoberranzan place is just beyond this little town, right highest?”

There was a general confused blinking amongst the drow, and Aruvixa said, “This is Menzoberranzan.”

Lars frowned and asked, “But I thought you said that Menzoberranzan was a giant city, highest?”

“This is a giant city!” Aruvixa insisted. “It’s one of the biggest in the Underdark, the crown jewel amongst the drow!”

“Oh. Sorry highest. It looked small to me. Where I come from a community needs to be at least three times as big to be considered a city at all, and to qualify as a big city it needs at least five million inhabitants,” Lars replied.

Aruvixa’s eye twitched for a moment, probably from considering five million creatures like Lars all packed into a single city, before she said, “It is of no matter. This is Menzoberranzan and you will obey every order I give. Understood?”

“Yes highest,” Lars replied.

Marching into the city, Lars could already feel the prickle of emotion. This place was old, and treachery and pain and anger and despair and every possible negative emotion had suffused it for every last second. There were slaves being whipped, there were siblings betraying one another, and there were sacrifices being made. It wasn’t anywhere close to being stuck in Hell, but it was certainly getting Lars a little high.

They went down the ornately designed streets while passer-bys observed them quietly while trying not to gain notice. At only one time did Lars know he had someone’s undivided attention, and that was because he had felt a mind accustomed to psychic combat, barriers raised against Lars’ basic probing.



The link was then broken as they moved past, but Lars knew that somewhere within this city there was at least one foe that might be able to match him mind to mind.

Moving further along into the city, the group arrived at a compound in a sort of central area beneath a large plateau. Opening the gates upon Aruvixa announcing her identity and the guards seeing her, they were admitted inside. As with the city in general, everything within was overly ostentatious and drow were creeping in every corner, plotting something.

Turning to the group, Aruvixa said to her subordinates in her group, “Take the slaves back to their pens and find some place to store the surface dweller where she shall be comfortable… but not too comfortable. You, demon, follow me.”

Glancing at Skuld, Lars said, “It’ll be alright, I promise.” He then nodded to Aruvixa and trailed behind her as she took off.

Following behind Aruvixa, Lars soon found himself in a small throne room of sorts, where an elderly drow woman sat upon a throne made of black basalt carved to appear as a spider brooding at the centre of its web. No doubt this was the leader of their clan, their matron mother, and if Lars’ stolen memories were correct, the mother of Aruvixa.

Glancing up, the old drow woman glared at Aruvixa and Lars and snapped, “Aruvixa! I was told you had returned back early, but why do you bring this offal male before me as well?”

Grinning, Aruvixa turned to Lars and said, “This one is not a surface dweller, he merely hides behind that form, mother. He is in fact some breed of devil.”

Lars obligingly raised his right hand and let it mutate into the sharp, segmented crab leg form he used for combat, while lifting up his head and smiling to reveal his unnaturally broad set of shark teeth.

Raising a now somewhat interested eyebrow, the matron mother asked, “So you found a devil, so what?”

“He wiped out my dear sister’s entire patrol group single handed when they had surprise and the advantage of height. He is highly resistant to magic, and in fact is capable of manipulating the Weave directly. Quite the find for the house, no?” Aruvixa gloated.

“And how exactly did such a beast come to follow you?” The matron mother asked suspiciously.

“Oh, I have my ways. The one thing I can guarantee you is that this demon obeys every order I give. For example, devil, kill my mother,” Aruvixa commanded rather nonchalantly.

Having expected this, Lars let out a tiny sigh before he went into full eldritch mode, all tentacles and claws and he let out a horrific psychic wail that caused everyone in the chamber to clutch at their heads in pain. They recovered quickly and the matron mother immediately unleashed the first spell that came to mind, speaking a single word.

There was a riotous explosion of energy that washed over the entire hall, doing nothing to the guards that surrounded the matron mother, but it caused Lars to drop in mid charge while Aruvixa grabbed her ears in agony.

The guards were immediately on Aruvixa, but before they could run her through, the matron mother held up her hand and said, “Stop! I will not allow any male to kill my daughter, only I shall be given the pleasure. Just restrain her; the effect will wear off in a moment.”

Doing as they were told, the guards pinned Aruvixa’s arms behind her back and punched her in the face, knocking out teeth and ensuring she would not be able to speak properly around her broken nose and swollen lips. Then they kicked out her knees so that she was kneeling.

Towering over her daughter, the matron asked, “Oh, when will you learn that the goddess has no place with those who are not as chaotic as she?”

Looking up, Aruvixa started chuckling.

“What now my incompetent daughter?” The matron mother asked.

“It was a demon,” Aruvixa replied through her broken mouth.

Blood sprayed all over Aruvixa’s already soiled face as Lars punched his fist through the mother’s chest, her heart clutched in his clawed hand. The guards had a moment to look shocked before Aruvixa noted, “I do believe that I am now the matron mother, so if you would be so kind as to unhand me?”

The guards immediately released Aruvixa and prostrated themselves on the floor, even before the previous matron mother’s eyes had time to grow dark.

Standing up, Aruvixa brushed herself off and asked Lars, “How do I look?”

“Like you just had your face smashed in and are in need of serious reconstructive surgery, highest,” Lars said.

“I was afraid of that. Kill these two for harming the matron mother’s beautiful face,” Aruvixa said casually.

Scrambling to their feet, the two elite warriors drew their weapons and silently announced that they were not going down without a fight.

“Do you want their skulls for your throne? It’s very popular where I come from,” Lars asked.

“No,” Aruvixa said as she sank into her new chair.

Lars shrugged and hit them both with massive psychic blasts that caused their heads to explode.

“You’re definitely taking me places Lars,” Aruvixa announced cruelly as savoured her victory.
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Re: The Open Door (megacrossover)

Post by Academia Nut »

Chapter Thirty-nine: Politics

Rong-Arya sat brooding in their ready-room, thumbing through the reports that had been flooding in over the past twenty-four hours. Very few of them had been good. The Stiletto had taken a major shit kicking from the Borg, but not in the way anyone but the crew would have expected. The armour was relatively undamaged, which was unsurprising considering that a major armour break was likely to have simply destroyed the ship outright, and most of the shield generators were still intact.

No, where the battle with the Borg and the subsequent ride through the storm across the multiverse had really hurt them was in spare parts. Thousands of pieces of machinery had been damaged by the surge firing up the Gellar field cold had caused, many of them critical in key ways. Oh, there were organic systems derived from the Angels that could regenerate, but since they were more susceptible to damage in the first place, they were only ever complements or back-ups to inorganic systems. That meant that they had a definite set of problems when it came to resupply at the moment.

Rong-Arya looked over one report that indicated that the ship was simply out of AAA-grade fuses. Trip-As were used by life support, the reactors, and the energy weapons. They had enough amongst stores and in undamaged systems to repair two out of three of those categories. Rong-Arya went back through several other reports and categorized what in those groups could conceivably be saved, and they chose to give the order to have nearly three-quarters of the energy weapons taken off line to restore 95% of the life support machines and 80% of the reactors that could be repaired and needed the trip-As.

Picking up another report, they then passed along the order to remove the giant servo-actuators from half the pillaged guns and use them to get some of the offline lifts going. In what was perhaps one of the more brilliant strokes of stupid genius, some bright lad had decided to make the winch system for the lifts and the servomotors for the guns compatible, if only barely and neither set of machines worked very well outside of its assigned role. The design had initially been considered idiotic for compromising some of the performance of both, but it had somehow passed.

Rong-Arya would personally find the boneheaded engineering team that did that and kiss them when they got back to Earth. There was a large degree of standardization and swap ability between unrelated systems, and it was exactly for this sort of thing. The gods had anticipated their ships to be operating alone for long stretches of time so they had demanded the capacity to jury rig them and to let them limp home.

Once they had the nearly a hundred damaged lifts working again, in particular the mass freight transports, they would have a large increase in their ability to affect repairs. They could also start moving a lot of the big pieces of scrap to engineering and the machine shops within and start cutting things up for useful parts and materials to recycle. Aside from the superstructure, the armour, and the biggest reactors, the ship could more or less rebuild itself given the time, energy, and materials.

Of course, energy was a whole other problem. They were stuck in the Doldrums, which presented all sorts of lovely issues in terms of power generation. It was a rule of interdimensional travel that visitors carried their own little bubble of physics with them, but they still had to play by a lot of the rules of current location, especially when interacting. Thus their plasma reactors would work great… right up to the point where they had to try and refuel them with local materials that probably didn’t have the same energy density as the exotic stuff they could obtain back home, at which point output would drop. The S2 and S3 engines were only able to feed a tiny trickle of their full power output, their ability to tap the universe nearly nonexistent here.

Thank the gods for the Necrontyr!

It was actually one of the greatest ironies of the situation. If it hadn’t been for the Great Warding it would have been nearly impossible to develop the technology capable of adapting so well to the lower energy environments that prevailed in the majority of the universes visited so far. Even though the S2 and S3 engines were barely functioning, that extra trickle of limited power but unlimited energy would ensure that they would, given time, let them limp home.

Rong-Arya sighed at the final report, the one they had been dreading to look at. The casualty list; or at least the one from before the attempted boarding by the Cylons. The worst hit area had been the port side launch tube, and associated areas. Sixty dead there. Despite the fact that a medieval army armed with pole arms could slaughter Borg drones essentially forever the things were so slow and stupid, in some of the areas damaged by the fighting, again the port side, there had been wounded individuals who had ended up dead.

Borg nannites and the standard military medical nannites based off of some of Tzintchi and Reigle’s designs for Chaos microbes did not get along, and the results were often fatal. Those with mutations often fared better though as the alien physics and biology that went into them really confused Borg technology.

Oh, and they had also lost a few of the daemons working on the outer hull when they went into the Warp storm. The worst had been the loss of Lars, the primary communication daemon. He would have been useful to have around.

Hopefully he had ended up somewhere nice and had found his way back to Earth already. The sometimes morose former fisherman really deserved to catch a break eventually.

What it all added up to though was that Rong-Arya needed to plot a path for the Stiletto that would get them home. So far, their interdimensional sensors had given them a little information about the area of the Doldrums they were in. From their energy readings, they had a few options. The first was to see if they could ‘cut across’ the lower energy places and hope they were headed for home, as it was believed that the energy in the Doldrums was the lower the further from the Cosmic Plane and the Great Wall you got. It was pretty low right now, so they were probably really close to the middle of the region. The problems with that strategy were that they could easily get lost and starve, energetically speaking.

The other strategy was to head in the direction of increasing energy levels and essentially grope around until they found the Great Wall before sliding their way back to a Hub universe then finding a familiar place and hoping back to Earth. The problem was that that was the long path and they were certain that they would be travelling in the wrong direction for quite some time. The only advantage was the ability to forage and resupply would be improved by taking that route, and once they found the Great Wall, they would have a navigational point.

Of course, the resupply problem had a flip side. In any universe where they were better able to collect energy, so would any potential hostile forces.

Quite frankly after looking at the reports, Rong-Arya was more inclined to take the shorter, more risky path if it meant that the natives were throwing nukes and high explosive warheads at them with chemical rockets rather than neutronium and singularity warheads at them with reactionless drives. They could sit around storing up energy in the former sorts of places for years without anyone being able to touch them, but if they needed spare parts while in a running battle, they would not have that luxury of time.

A yeoman politely knocked on the open door to the ready room and said, “Ma’am, they’re sending over their representatives now.”

Oh yes, and there was this other problem to deal with too.

President Laura Roslin sat quietly in the Raptor as they approached what had been unofficially dubbed in the fleet the ‘Hell Ship’. Over two kilometres of mean, already it was starting to light up as it repaired itself. There were scorch marks and cratered pits along its weirdly designed surface, but none of them had been inflicted by the Cylons despite their best efforts.

The entire structure of the ship was… unholy. Their gun ports, big enough to launch a Viper out of, looked like the mouths of leering demons and gargoyles, while the overall architecture was equally disturbing, aside from just its terrifying enormity. It was the most terrifying sort of alien, for while the Colonies had never produced anything like it, the designers had clearly been human, for it possessed the sort of blocky structure that only humans could love for their warships.

Sliding up alongside the monster vessel, the Raptor lined itself up with a relatively small, yet still enormous, hangar bay open to vacuum and yet within there was clearly a massive assemblage of people, arranged in neat rows and blocks. Hundreds of soldiers, all turned out to welcome the representative sent over, all dressed up in what looked like bright red plate armour from an earlier era.

Those within the Raptor were silent as it was guided down into the bay, except for a startled yelp from the pilot as they crossed the threshold and somehow, impossibly, atmosphere returned.

Then they set down, and Roslin wondered again why she had volunteered for this. Hundreds of faces concealed behind snarling masks set with re-breather equipment were staring at them, at her. Then she remembered. William had initially volunteered, until she had overruled him. They needed someone with high level authority for this meeting, but unlike an admiral who had precious experience and knowledge, she was just a politician and in their situation, ultimately replaceable in comparison to him.

Stepping out of the craft, she looked behind her at the expanse of stars just sitting there, impossibly, and for a moment found it hard to breathe, her throat instinctively trying to shut to conserve what oxygen she had before it was sucked out into the void of space. She fought down the urge though and tried to look presidential as she set foot on the deck plates for the Stiletto.

A curious thought passed over her face as she realized that the deck felt much like any other space ship and did not make her skin crawl the way she expected. Oh, the gravity was a little different, and the air had a strange flavour to it, but there seemed surprisingly little wrong with the place from the inside.

A strange person of indeterminate gender dressed in oddly flowing clothing that obscured its entire form from the top of its head to its feet moved up to the Raptor, and while the marines kept it back, it politely requested in a hissing voice, “May we know the name of the representative sent to speak with our captain?”

“Laura Roslin, President of the Twelve Colonies,” Laura replied in a clear, commanding voice.

Nodding in an almost reptilian manner, the cloaked figure turned slowly to the assembled soldiers and announced in a boom, amplified voice, “ALL HAIL PRESIDENT LAURA ROSLIN!”

The response was immediate and the force could be felt in the bones, as hundreds of warriors all cried out as one, “ALL HAIL!” while raising their weapons into the air, a brutish collection of axes and swords and other unpleasantly primitive instruments of death.

Then, on cue, the doors on the far side of the hangar opened up, allowing sixty giants in armour, or at least Laura hoped they were giants in armour and not robots, to pour out and form a pair of lines stretching between the set of doors they had exited out of and the Raptor. There were six unique designs to the giants; each in a group of ten paired up along the lines so that there were six blocks of five along each line. Once they had finished lining up the began raising their weapons to form an archway of crossed swords, axes, and halberds, down which more cloaked figures carried armfuls of heads from Cylon Centurions.

“Tribute to you, a show of solidarity against the Cylons, who so cravenly attacked us both without provocation,” the cloaked figure explained as neat stacks were made of the decapitated robot heads.

It was a creepy display, and also a powerful message. The Cylons attacked you and the Twelve Colonies ceased to exist; the Cylons attacked us and we’re stacking their heads up like firewood. These people had a definite air of an older, more barbaric time about them, but they also possessed a great deal of firepower and all of this seemed excessive to try and get her to drop her guard when one considered how easy it would be to kill or kidnap her already.

Not quite knowing what to say, Laura replied, “On behalf of the Twelve Colonies I… thank you for this gift. We only wish we had some way of thanking you in kind.”

The cloaked figure said, “You are refugees, those without homes, a state many of those aboard this ship can relate to. Our captain was in fact an orphan in a war zone. We need no recompense for doing the right thing.”

That surprised Laura. This ship had suffered damage. Could these people have been driven from their homes too? Although anyone who could do that was not someone she wanted to meet.

“Come, come, the captain will meet you in the banquet hall,” the cloaked figure said, gesturing for Laura to follow down the line of giants. Reluctantly, she did so, her guards following along behind but no doubt feeling woefully inadequate.

Entering into an elevator large enough to move a Viper, they wait quietly for a moment before Roslin asked somewhat innocently, “Umm… why are you cloaked like that?”

“It is out of consideration for you. We have never experienced anything that could relate to you and the Cylons, so we have different views on certain things than you. We thus felt it best to earn your trust and friendship before revealing certain aspects to you. If you wish I can lift my veils, but please do not be alarmed,” the figure replied.

“Umm… what exactly are you afraid to show us?” Laura asked suspiciously.

“Two things: ritual scarification and uh… how to put it that won’t cause you to demand to leave immediately? Well… the thing is that we believe that the body you are born with need not be in the same form as the one you die with. Genetic engineering, body modification, and uh… cybernetics… are all used,” the figure explained.

There was a very, very quiet tensing of all the Colonials in the lift and Laura asked with that ultimate politeness of someone who now really wants to be very far away, “Cybernetics?”

The cloaked figure shrugged and said, “Our gods hold no sacred trust for the human body, and in fact alteration is considered a holy act. We are soldiers aboard this ship; many of us willingly take enhancements to better do our duty. Nothing is required though, and we are all born human. We are not vat grown creatures, we are not mass produced. We are not like the Cylons.”

Laura was very quiet before she said, “Let me see.”

The figure nodded and lifted the veil over the head to reveal a human face set with piercings, tattoos, cables, input jacks, a loudspeaker, and perhaps most disturbingly, the left eye had been replaced by a large implant that glowed a dull red. At least it didn’t scan from side to side like a Cylon though.

“Would you prefer my implants were less visible, that you might fail to see the machine within me?” The man asked, somewhat rhetorically, before replacing the veil.

Laura really wanted to turn and run, but for all their terrible creepiness and disgusting use of cybernetics, they were at least honest, as far as Laura could tell. And they may hold the key to salvation, so don’t reject their offers just yet.

The elevator coming to a stop, the creepy, cloaked cyborg led them through the darkened corridors of the ship, telling them not to wander off or they would become hopelessly lost. Then, pushing open the doors, he said, “Announcing the arrival of President Laura Roslin of the Twelve Colonies to Captain Rong-Arya of the Chaos Frigate Stiletto.”

The room was enormous, a cathedral within a warship, only it was made for dinning, as evidenced by the long table set with what looked like small thrones for chairs, with the largest being at the end where a very peculiar woman sat.

First off, her eyes were burning… as in there were actual flames coming out of her eye sockets. Second, she had a set of horns growing out of her head. Third, she had clawed fingers. Fourth, her eyes were on fire. That one needed to be said twice really. Of the less pants soiling strange features were a tight, bleached leather uniform and some eye wateringly strange iconography.

And then there was the fact that she was holding a small child in her arms, playing with her while waiting. Upon the entrance, the captain looked up and smiled slightly before she said, “We do apologize, but our daughter Cassandra has been rather upset with recent events and we felt it would not do to shirk our duties as a parent for our duties as a captain, especially when they compliment each other so nicely.”

It was a blatant and unsubtle move that actually somehow transcended such considerations to move back into the subtle territory. What this terrible creature was saying as she played with the child was that for all of their horrific appearances, they were still people. That they could be gentle with their claws enough that they would not scratch a toddler’s soft skin.

A slight frown moving across her face, Rong-Arya said to Roslin and her guards, “Just as a note, we would appreciate you relinquish your weapons while in Cassandra’s presence. Child rearing is the most sacred of duties among our people, and should our daughter come to any harm, the consequences for everyone involved would not be pleasant. We have of course already disarmed.”

Clever. The Colonials were already hopelessly outgunned, but until they had been brought to the negotiating table they had not had to give up their weapons. Interesting psychological tactic.

Taking an offered seat next to the captain, Roslin nodded to her nervous guards and said, “We’re just here to talk gentlemen, I see no harm.”

Of course there was harm. It was just that not doing what these people said right now was even worse.

Cloaked attendants moved up and politely took the guards’ weapons, to hang them on ceremonial racks brought out apparently just for this purpose. It was all very civilized in an archaic, barbaric sort of way. People had a place to safely stow their weapons for these sorts of things.

Stroking her daughter’s hair, Rong-Arya said, “Now, while we’re sure you are rather… nervous about people such as us, we will reiterate the offer we made your admiral. When we leave this place and head for our home, Earth, we will take you with us if you wish. We will not come back for you though. This is a one time only offer.”

Roslin nodded and said, “Yes… I can understand that, but should we take up this offer of yours, would we be able to change our minds?”

“Yes and no,” Rong-Arya replied with a shrug, a very curious expression for such a being. “You are free to leave at any time, but your engines are unlikely to carry you back here. Also, once you arrive at our home, you will not be allowed to go about as you wish beyond the confines of our solar system as we are currently in what might be considered a war that one side doesn’t know about yet, and thus security is a major concern.”

“So this is basically a one way trip,” Roslin pointed out.

“For all practical purposes, yes. From here to Earth, if you don’t want to die, you will have to stick with us. Once we get to Earth, you may be able to open discussions with our government to make a return trip here, but that is not something we can comment upon,” Rong-Arya replied.

“I see. I must admit, that as tempting as your offer is, your culture is pushing me away from it with near equal force as I am attracted to it. So I’m going to have to say: what’s in it for us?” Roslin asked bluntly.

“A new home, although there are already people living there you will have to share with, people who do not share your culture. A new home in a place the Cylons cannot chase you to. A world of fresh air and new opportunities. There will be jobs for you all too, of that I can guarantee simply from the fact that there are always jobs. Your soldiers can keep their old jobs but with better equipment, or they can retire to civilian life. Your children can grow up safe and sound with opportunities their parents never dreamed of open to them,” Rong-Arya explained.

“And the downside?” Roslin asked.

“You will be but a drop in an ocean. We do not believe in the same gods as you, and while we do not exactly proselytize, there are aspects of our religious life that makes recruitment a very aggressive affair. We do not share the same conflicts as you. In the long run, your culture is very much likely to vanish into ours,” Rong-Arya explained.

Sighing, Laura said, “I was afraid of that.”

“We actually got into a war about this in the last place we visited before we get lost. Is it better to help a group weaker than yours and destroy their culture from the simple fact that your society is more advanced, or is it better to stand aside while everyone in that culture dies out? Quite frankly, anyone who believes that leaving behind perfectly preserved mummies and ruins free from contamination from other cultures is a good thing deserves whatever comes to them,” Rong-Arya explained.

“I guess then that will be the discussion I will have with my Quorum when I return to my people: is it better to die here or follow you and have our ways disappear?” Roslin said morosely.

“Amongst our people, Rong is a worshipper of the god of hope. So we say that being alive is better than being dead, no matter the situation, for as long as there is life there is hope,” Rong-Arya said, drawing a confused look from Roslin, who did not quite understand the grammar. They had already explained that they were using a special translator, but this did not really make sense, so obviously it was not quite as good as they made out. The captain then said, “Now, before you return to your fleet, might we tempt you to stay for an hour or two to discuss some of the logistics and politics over a nice meal?”

“What are you serving?” Roslin asked.

“Nothing special, really. All of our food on the ship is based off of a mixture containing all essential nutrients, but we can add certain additives to mimic just about any flavour, texture, consistency, and shape you can image. The food isn’t quite as good as the real thing, but it saves a lot of space and you can still get a nice variety. I believe the chef tonight made a close approximation of a three course meal with steaks as the main entree,” Rong-Arya explained nonchalantly as veiled attendants brought forth cutlery and bowls of soup.

Roslin stared down at hers and blinked. For the life of her, her nose was telling her that she had a light, spicy soup in front of her, and her mouth began to water involuntarily. It had been a long time since she had smelled something this good.

“Ah, I remember that look, although not exactly fondly. That’s the look of someone who’s been on a poor diet for so long they forget what real food tastes like. If you want, we can share such painful stories for the next few hours instead of talking politics,” the captain offered.

Roslin knew that this was still politics, that Rong-Arya was trying to convince her, but damn it, with her stomach grumbling like this, she could at least get a good meal out of it.

“Also, if you want, we can talk the very effective and permanent cancer treatment our people have,” Rong-Arya added on.

Roslin’s head snapped up and she asked, “What did you just say?”

Rong-Arya smiled in a demonic manner.
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Re: The Open Door (megacrossover)

Post by Academia Nut »

Also, This will be wanted within two paragraphs.

Chapter Forty: Use of Weapons

Aruvixa Roreril, recently ascended matron mother of House Roreril, had given a very simple command: annihilate House Ayaur. She gave no reason for the order, but everyone knew what it was that she wanted. She wanted to do two things. The first was to demonstrate to all of the other clans that House Roreril was in no way weakened by overthrow of the previous matron. The second was to show off the acquisition that had allowed her ascension.

The quiet, eternal twilight of Menzoberranzan was interrupted by a low, hauntingly plaintive whistling, soon accompanied by a strange melody that then morphed into an unusual song, chanted by many male voices all at once.

“Wer zu Lebzeit gut auf Erden
wird nach dem Tod ein Engel werden
den Blick gen Himmel fragst du dann
warum man sie nicht sehen kann”

A serene female voice, one that could only be attributed to a female drow of considerable skill, then joined in.
“Erst wenn die Wolken schlafengehn
kann man uns am Himmel sehn
wir haben Angst und sind allein”
The choir then picked up again, singing from somewhere within the shadows in the unknown language.
“Gott weiß ich will kein Engel sein
Sie leben hinterm Sonnenschein
getrennt von uns unendlich weit
sie müssen sich an Sterne krallen (ganz fest)
damit sie nicht vom Himmel fallen
Erst wenn die Wolken schlafengehn
kann man uns am Himmel sehn
wir haben Angst und sind allein”
Those on the wall had brought forward a mage capable of translating any language via arcane means and thus the last few refrains of the strange song were intelligible.
“God knows I don't want to be an angel
Only once the clouds have gone to sleep
can you see us in the sky
we are afraid and alone
God knows I don't want to be an angel”
Right as the song was ending did the source become visible, a strange creature that was its own choir, dozens of faces all mashed over one another competing for space, all singing in harmony except for two faces, one a drow woman who got all of the female lines in the song, the other a central face that did the accompanying whistling.

The faces then all disappeared except for the whistling one that smiled mournfully and said, “Fire.”

There was a short, sharp explosive bang that hurt the sensitive ears of the drow and bedazzled their even more sensitive eyes. A few seconds later there was a whistling sound, but much harder and more metallic than the soft song of the strange creature, which was now rushing along the dead zone towards the wall.

The whistling ended when the source plunged through the roof of the gatehouse and down into the sculpted stone over the gate itself. Extremely poor quality control actually helped with what the small device had intended, as the detonator failed to go off after first hitting the roof, but when it struck the floor of the gatehouse it did go off.

The gatehouse to House Ayaur stronghold exploded in a shower of high velocity rock shrapnel that scythed into the troops on alert along the wall and in the courtyard around the gate. The wizard brought forward to try and understand the song keeled over dead, a single piece of stone no bigger than a thumbnail having passed through his head and turned his brains to bloody soup. The captain of the guard was in the gatehouse at the moment of impact, and in a single, inglorious instant House Ayaur lost its greatest warrior.

Vaulting onto the wall in a single instant, Lars ripped apart the closest two warriors as they tried to regain their feet after the blast. He then pulled a long harpoon made of bone out of his arm, an act that did not hurt him any, before opening up his mouth wide to reveal the squirming tentacles and pointed shark teeth within and rushed the still confused and disoriented defenders further along the wall.

Lars wasn’t a fighter, wasn’t a warrior daemon, but every daemon had within it the spark of bloodlust and the instinctive drive to kill that made them so dangerous, and of course Lars had the advantage that he was, quite simply put, an outside context problem for the drow. They needed specialized weaponry and spells to properly harm him, which they did not have.

Already the scaling hooks were up, clinging to the parapet and bringing with them the soldiers of House Roreril. With the gatehouse and the stairs leading from the courtyard and the stairs on that side reduced to rubble, the troops scaling the walls only had to worry about an attack from one direction. And that direction was the one Lars was covering.

Reaching the stop of the wall, the drow soldiers brought their heavy shields off their backs and began to form up into a tight line. The drow predilection for two weapon fighting was fine for skirmishing and raiding, but in the tight, close confines of a siege, heavy shields and short, stabbing weapons was preferable. It had taken Lars a bit to convince Aruvixa to get all of her shield fighters into one formation, but it would hopefully pay off.

Standing atop the corpses of several warriors, the gatehouse rubble in the background, and a wall of steel shields and swords forming up behind him, Lars was a red splattered, yellow coloured daemon of the deep, freezing oceans, salt and sea ice accumulating on flat surfaces around him as he drew on increasingly large amounts of energy to enhance his strength.

As one the lamprey maws that covered his mouth tentacles all began squealing. That was enough for the average soldier to break and run, but a few of the more skilled ones decided to hold their ground.

For a brief moment it looked like their decision to stay had paid off as a bolt of lightning lanced out to crash into the line of troops, only for it to fizzle at the last moment, countered by the Roreril wizards on standby to stop just that sort of tactic from working.

Turning away from the warriors, Lars leapt off the wall and hurled his harpoon at the wizard that had fired the lightning bolt, his invisibility now dropped. The Warp stuff that made up the harpoon punched through the drow’s magical defences and impaled him through the stomach. Sending a psychic signal to the weapon, which was really part of him anyway, Lars caused the harpoon to thrash about and sprout dozens of spikes that ripped apart internal organs, causing the flying mage to drop to the ground, dead.

Spying a group of slaves running about in a panic, Lars charged into their midst and dropped his eldritch form, assuming one of his human shapes and changing his ‘clothing’ to match what the slaves were wearing. He had two objectives. The first was to ensure that the wall was taken. From the sounds of evisceration going on, that was complete now. His second objective was to kill, or at least distract, the matron mother.

Running about, Lars made it to an inner door where one a female cleric from the House Ayaur was exiting angrily. Pointing at him, she demanded, “Iblith! What is going on?”

“Highest I… oh fuck it,” Lars noted as he got to within a arms length of the priestess and grabbed her by the face, turning his fingers into probing tentacles that penetrated her mouth, nose, and eyes. After a few moments of wet crunching, Lars dissolved himself away and displaced the fleshy remnants of the priestess with the sick noise of wetly raw meat being forced through a colander by an industrial press.

When it was all over, the priestess stood exactly where she had been in exactly the same clothing, only there was about a hundred extra pounds of blood and finely ground meat and bones on the floor, soaking into the armour and clothing. Making sure to get the mace and his face nicely wet, by pounding the mortal remains of the drow he had eaten, Lars then set off for the matron mother.

He passed through their ranks without suspicion, knowing exactly where to go and exactly what to say, because for all intents and purposes he was Mihix Ayaur, although the part of her that was not associated with such memories was currently tied up and being vivisected, integrated into the overall whole that was Lars.

Even Aruvixa’s deceased sister Orebe had joined in, for she had ceased to exist as an individual, every last shred of her soul consumed by Lars and transformed into just a piece of the greater whole. Not that it took much for a drow to want to inflict pain upon another.

Passing through the guards manning the throne room, Lars in the guise of Mihix knelt before the matron mother and said, “Highest, I come bearing news of the fighting.”

The matron mother of House Ayaur was a canny old crone, and while her house was not very high up, it had been slowly climbing the ranks for the past four centuries under her guidance. As such, even in the midst of battle, especially in the midst of battle, she would not drop her guard to one of her children. Looking at the blood soaked attire, she asked suspiciously, “It goes well?”

“The enemy are but carrion before me highest, but their numbers are sufficient that I have already exhausted today’s boons from the goddess. Last I saw before coming here to inform you of the situation, the attackers had taken the southern wall,” Lars reported. All of it truthful as well.

“And the reports of some strange magic that breached the wards of the gatehouse?” The matron asked.

“I did not see it in use, but the gatehouse was brought down highest,” Lars replied. The thing about mortars was that wards that shielded against magical attack were useless against high explosives.

The other thing about mortars was that so far they only had one shell, and they had used that to blow up the gatehouse. A sustained bombardment would have been nice.

“This does not bode well. It would seem that we must call in our favour early. Cael’al, accompany Mihix and repel the invaders,” the matron commanded, causing an enormous brute to emerge from the shadows behind the throne.

And that would be a hezrou.

The enormous, hulking demon looked somewhat like a cross between an ape and a toad, and actually had the sort of mental defences that would allow for defence against Lars’ psychic attacks, along with the brute physical strength to simply smash him flat. This called for drastic measures. Lars had been really hoping not to have to use this…

Turning, he extruded what he needed from out of his body while he said, “Of course highest. Come this way.”

The demon, however, was not fooled, and asked, “Wait… what’s that in your hand?”

Holding up the now armed grenade, Lars looked at it innocently and said, “Oh, this? Nothing.” He then tossed it at the demon while diving away.

Carrying the grenade had been a major bitch as, even in her massively depowered state, things that Skuld built carried a touch of the divine, which was itchy to Lars’ chaotic form. Of course, high velocity fragments of divinely crafted shrapnel made of cold forged iron hurt considerably more than just carrying the damn thing.

Especially if you weren’t Lars.

The matron mother had just enough time to realize that her throat had a large hole in it before blood loss caused her to keel over and collapse. The hezrou on the other hand had taken the brunt of the blast, but was still quite alive if leaking ichor from dozens of wounds that refused to seal.

Abandoning the restrictive armour, Lars went into full on eldritch mode and leapt upon the demon’s back before it could recover. Unlike with mortals though, its flesh did not part easily to Lars’ claws. He drew upon more energy to strengthen his attacks, and he began to cut long gouges into the thick hide, and he sent his tentacles in deep to cause as much internal damage as possible.

Bellowing in anger, the hezrou reached up behind and grabbed onto Lars, who continued to claw and rake at the beast even as he was torn free. With a mighty heave, the demon slammed him into the floor, producing a crazed spider web pattern of cracks. Lars felt his form crumple and buckle, but he held on and continued to rip and tear and bite into the hand that held him until he sawed off the thumb in a shower of gore.

Bellowing, the hezrou retracted the wounded hand and slammed the opposite into Lars, who took the blow but grabbed on to the fist as it was retracted to start worrying that limb. Flinging him aside, the demon decided it had had enough and began to teleport away. Not standing for that, Lars snapped out a psychic tendril into the folding space-time and disrupted the teleport… messily.

Wiping the gore out of his eyes, not that he really needed his sight considering his other senses; Lars went over to the downed matron mother and ripped off her head so he could present it to Matron Aruvixa as proof of his service.

Also, walking out of the throne room with the head of the person the guards were supposed to be protecting had a great way of demoralizing the defenders.

A few minutes later as the siege went into its final, bloody stage the drow leader of the assault, a particularly nasty war mage called Ilaam approached Lars and asked, “Demon, I understand that your senses are tuned to finding the living, correct?”

Lars nodded while sitting down, slowly digesting the Mihix more carefully now that he did not need her face as a ruse.

Ilaam then asked, “Could you then help us find the crèche so that we might ensure that House Ayaur well and truly ceases to exist?”

Lars blinked.

Within a day of Aruvixa’s ascension to the status of matron mother, she had realized Lars was much more valuable when he did things willingly rather than grudgingly, so she had started attempting to supply him with luxuries such as slaves and material goods. That had sort of worked, in that Lars only accepted on Skuld’s behalf, as he quickly explained that his kind were sterile and technically genderless, thus he really had no interest in a harem of imported slaves. However, he didn’t exactly want to leave those handed over to him as slaves to the drow, so he began accepting the gifts given to him on Skuld’s behalf.

Skuld wasn’t exactly happy either when Lars showed up with a bunch of frightened, naked women of various species bound in chains, but they had quickly figured out how they would do things. Skuld found shackles and manacles ‘unsightly’, so at her command everything but the slave collars were removed and the women were made her ‘handmaidens’. Although considering what had happened to all but two of them, ‘maidens’ wasn’t exactly the right term.

Lars would have sold his left nut, kidney, and lung and both eye teeth, while he was mortal at that, for one freaking N2 mine. By the Warp, a MOAB would have probably done the trick in such a confined space.

The material goods he had received also quickly turned into things for Skuld, at first stuff to make her more comfortable, and then stuff to keep her from going insane with boredom and panic, which in Skuld’s case meant access to things she could build with.

After the first Skuld Bomb Aruvixa decided that maybe the hostage could be nearly as valuable as the creature she was controlling. Together Lars and Skuld had built the mortar and the grenade, using up three weeks worth of nearly non-stop work to make one shell and one grenade.

Aruvixa had also greatly rewarded them for their work in introducing the Underdark to ice cream, and made the acquisition of cream and sugar a top priority for raiding and trading. And then Lars had identified cocoa beans in a caravan of exotic foods.

Modern chocolate… in a decadent, female dominated society.

It was worth more than its weight in solid, clear, flawless diamond at current production rates. Nobles had been stabbed to death in the streets to get the precious substance. House Roreril’s coffers began to swell from the trade.

Chocolate ice cream was still in the experimental stages, but murder rates were already climbing over the rumours.

Thus Lars had attempted as best he could to insulate Skuld from the horrors around her, by giving her the challenge of trying to rebuild all the luxuries of home starting from a medieval basis. It wasn’t easy, but at least the alchemists had some relatively purified chemicals for Skuld to work with when making explosives for Lars.

However, for Skuld, the illusion came crashing down when Lars walked in and instead of telling her whether or not the mortar or the grenade had worked properly, he just sort of sat down on one of the chairs with an utterly devastated look on his face.

Rushing over to him, Skuld asked in terror, “Did everything go alright?”

Lars looked up and said in a numb voice, “What? Oh… yes. Yes. The attack was completely successful. You’re safe. Matron Aruvixa will probably reward me again in fact.”

Skuld was quiet for a time, her guts disentangling from the knot they had been somewhat before she asked quietly, “Then why are you so upset?”

“Because I broke the biggest, most sacred rule of my people,” Lars said in an emotionless tone.

“That is?” Skuld asked, suddenly feeling very, very small.

“I hurt children,” Lars stated.

Skuld was very, very still until the trembling she felt overtook her and her knees gave way. What had happened? Had one of her weapons gone off in the wrong place? Oh god! Had…

“Don’t worry, it wasn’t you, it was me,” Lars explained. “I was ordered to hunt down where the enemy was hiding their children. At best, someone else would have found them. At worst, no one would have found them and they would have died from thirst or starvation, as they were hidden in a sealed room that they would have been unable to escape from. The drow have no compunctions against killing children.”

Lars lapsed into silence again while Skuld cried in horror at his story. She hated the drow already, which was why she had been so willing to make weapons to kill their kind, but she had not expected that sort of barbarity.

“Our most sacred commandments are to protect and care for children at all costs. I asked them what they were going to do. Some of the kids were to be taken and raised as members of this house. Most though were to be slaughtered then and there. I could not save them, not while the matron holds you hostage, so I did the only thing I could to protect them,” Lars said, signs of breakdown evident on his face.

“What… what… what did you do?” Skuld asked in horror, dreading the words she knew were coming.

“I ate them. I fucking ate them!” Lars cried out, breaking down into sobs. “I held their little bodies in my hands and I ripped out their souls! Gods damn me, but I did it!”

Intellectually, Skuld knew that Lars was a monster of the worst sort, but he was so kind and gentle most of the time that in the weeks they had been stuck here she had forgotten just the sort of damage he could do, just the sort of horrors he was capable of. And yet, despite the fact that he had done such an atrocious thing, the fact that he was clearly remorseful, clearly felt that he had picked the lesser of two evils meant while hating being forced into the choice indicated that he still had a human heart.

Lars was a total wreck now, blubbering on about how they were “Tiny sparks” and “I just wanted to save them”. Finally though Skuld managed to force her feet beneath her and she got on her feet and somehow worked up the courage to hug him. She said, “You’re not a bad person Lars, you didn’t digest them, right? So they’re still around.”

“No! That’s the worst part!” Lars bawled.

“What?” Skuld asked.

“Oh gods Skuld… I’ve been trying to figure out what to tell you for weeks now. Skuld, have you been feeling more aggressive and blood thirsty lately?” Lars asked, looking very, very small for a man who had just killed a hezrou in hand to hand combat a few hours ago.

“I’m surrounded by blood thirsty scumbag slaver elves; I think being a bit more of a bitch than you used to attribute to me isn’t much of a stretch,” Skuld replied firmly.

“See… that’s the thing, it’s not just that, and your language shows it. I’ve been worried since we talked back in that cave, but I’m about 95% certain now that when I hooked you up to this world’s magical field there may have been a tiny, accidental swap of soul material. For you, that would manifest in some… more daemonic proclivities. For me on the other hand… uh… boy, this is hard to say. If you don’t kill me your family certainly will,” Lars said while looking extraordinarily embarrassed and small.

“We agreed that no harm was done and you were just trying to… save…” Skuld began before the look on Lars’ face caused her to trail off.

“Skuld… my experience in Hell wasn’t good for me. I picked up a lot of negative emotions that I compacted into a tight ball of darkness, and it formed a little proto-daemon that I could have slowly digested… right up until the point where we swapped a little bit of our souls and the piece from you mixed with it. Skuld… I’m pregnant, and technically, you’re the father,” Lars explained, before adding on, “You have no idea how sorry I am about all of this.”

The look on Skuld’s face was indescribable and bordering on the non-Euclidean.


The multiverse exists to screw over Lars, in this case metaphorically literally!
I love learning. Teach me. I will listen.
You know, if Christian dogma included a ten-foot tall Jesus walking around in battle armor and smashing retarded cultists with a gaint mace, I might just convert - Noble Ire on Jesus smashing Scientologists
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Re: The Open Door (megacrossover)

Post by Academia Nut »

Chapter Forty-one: Hawks and Flies

Finally, after what seemed like forever, Skuld stuttered out, “You’re pregnant?

“Well… technically now that I think about it, ‘pregnant’ is a somewhat inaccurate term but…” Lars began before Skuld interrupted him.

“But that’s impossible!” She cried out.

Lars was quiet for a moment before he shifted into Mihix’s form and looked down, noting, “Oh hey, look, boobs and a twat,” before he shifted back to his male form and said, “No wait, it’s a flat chest and a pecker now.”

Skuld glared at him for a moment before he said, “Sorry. I’m trying to feed the growing daemon some more positive emotions but its thrown my equilibrium off.”

“Wait… don’t tell me that-” Skuld began.

No. I said that the term ‘pregnant’ is inaccurate. I will not be having mood swings or cravings or anything like that, those are all unconscious, physiological responses. I am in full control over what I am doing; it’s just that by my nature I’m affected by these things. So right now I’ve got a much shorter temper because I’ve been trying to ensure that I don’t feed any more rage into the damn thing, it already has enough of that already. I’m more morose than usual because I’ve been letting a lot of hope flow into the forming entity, but that means I’m also having a hard time seeing the brighter side of life,” Lars explained.

“You know, I never really understood how exactly you work, and now that I’m going to be a mother-” Skuld began.

“Father. You’re going to be a father, in that your contribution was merely inheritable material while I actually gestate the offspring… and don’t give me any ‘seahorse’ crap, cause if you want to get that technical then male/female distinction is determined by gamete size and you would be the male in the relationship again,” Lars explained.

“This is so weird,” Skuld replied.

“Tell me about it. I suppose its time for you to learn about the hawks and the flies,” Lars said with a defeated sigh.

“Hawks… and flies… what the…?” Skuld asked in confusion.

“Birds and the bees only for daemons,” Lars replied dryly.

“Oh. This isn’t going to be fun, is it?” Skuld said with a displeased look on her face.

“Well, sort of. The way my kind makes more is relatively clean in comparison to the more organic methods… except for one method that usually involves a whole lot more spilled bodily fluids, but we’ll get to that. There are four kinds of ways in which new daemons are made, although in this instance it might be considered four and a half… but we’ll get to that in a moment. Anyway, the four methods of daemonic production are natural coalescence, budding, ascension, and sexual recombination. Of those four, one doesn’t involve our gods,” Lars explained.

“I’m guessing natural coalescence, judging by the name,” Skuld noted while sitting on the ground, hugging her knees to her chest.

“Yes, this is what I will be focusing on. The other methods, in short are; budding, which involves one of our gods breaking off a small piece of their essence to make a beast or lesser daemon; ascension, which involves one or more of our gods taking a mortal and remaking them into a daemon, like how I got this job; and sexual recombination which involves two or more of our gods combining their essences into a unique new pattern to create a greater daemon. You will note that the gods are all required for these tasks, as all lesser beings are incapable of such acts,” Lars explained.

“But…” Skuld began, trying to point out the obvious.

“I’m getting there. The fourth method, the natural method, doesn’t require the gods, but that’s not a good thing. You have to understand what exactly a daemon is though. A daemon is essentially a… standing wave of emotion I suppose would be the best descriptor. You get a sufficiently large bundle of psychic energy compacted into a small enough space, and it starts reinforcing its own structure. This obviously isn’t possible where you come from, but where I come from the laws of nature are different,” Lars explained.

“Wait… how does psychic energy accumulate?” Skuld asked.

“You need a lot of it. It’s sort of like a gas in a vacuum. For the most part it will just dissipate out, but occasionally you get enough of it in one place that gravity starts to draw everything together and boom, you get a star or a planet, or in this case a daemon. The problem is that certain emotions have different wavelengths and amplitudes. Emotions that have the same ‘wavelength’ reinforce one another and add to the substance of a growing proto-daemon. Emotions with different wavelengths destructively interfere and cancel each other out. Strong amplitudes have more ‘mass’ than weaker ones, and thus tend to accumulate faster. The whole process favours simple emotions felt in large quantities by a large number of people at once. Things like fear, anger, hope, passion, and despair, these are the most basic fuels for natural daemons,” Lars explained.

“Hope? That-” Skuld began.

Lars gave her a blank look that cut her off and he then said, “Famines, plagues, wars… what do you think the vast majority of people are doing?”

“Praying for salvation… oh dear,” Skuld said, suddenly getting what Lars meant.

“Yeah. The problem isn’t so much the emotions themselves so much as the fact that once critical mass is achieved the first things natural daemons want to do are to start feeding to increase their power and propagate their kind. They do this by manipulating their fuel source: mortals. Your basic natural daemon is a psychotic animal of genius intellect that can only comprehend spreading pain and misery according to its nature. They tempt, corrupt, drive insane, and kill everyone they meet, depending on their mood and how useful a mortal is to them. It’s not a pleasant set up,” Lars explained.

“How come you’re different?” Skuld asked.

“Two things. The first is that I am an ascended daemon; I started out as a human and I retain a piece of my humanity, so I can control my impulses the same as a human can, and must, control instinctive responses. The second is that my people’s origins are rather complicated, but it is safe to say that only the gods have created daemons thus far, and we take a different tack to ensuring our food supply. We prefer healthy human minds to deranged ones, for while the intensity of emotion is much lower, it’s no where near as toxic to our state of mind. And that’s where we return to what exactly has happened with me,” Lars said.

“This has to do with your stay in Hell,” Skuld stated.

“Oh yeah. The emotional content there was… not good for me. If I had just drunk it all in I would have lost my mind and developed a ‘burn, maim, kill’ attitude towards life, something that while perhaps cathartic while dealing with some people, is not exactly the way I wanted my life to go. So I took all of that emotion pouring into me and I bound it all up so I could take my time processing it. I would turn blind rage into righteous anger, turn lust into love, turn despair into tolerance, and turn avarice into hope. Unfortunately, by shoving all of that emotion into a tight little package within me without absorbing it into my self, I created the conditions for the creation of a natural daemon. There wasn’t quite enough there to achieve critical mass, but…” Lars trailed off.

“Then a little piece of me got in you and reached the undigested stuff. I see what you’re talking about now,” Skuld said.

“Makes sense? Yeah, and now the little bastard has started to try and feed on me, but I’m controlling what it gets… except for the souls of the kids. Oh gods…” Lars said, his morose mood returning. “For the most part when I eat a soul I rip it apart into its constituent components and memories and then integrate into my total identity. All individuality is lost, although I can bring the pieces back together as easily as a human can hold their breath… easier in fact. I didn’t want to do that to… unfortunately the growing creature inside me wasn’t so picky; hence I get a double dose of guilt.”

“And if you hadn’t done anything?” Skuld asked.

“They would have been butchered anyway. I still don’t have to like it, and in fact I’m glad I don’t like it. If I liked it then I truly would be damned. As it is, I can probably argue my way into a couple millennia stuck in a toilet scrubber rather than eternity stuck in the Halls of Torment,” Lars replied.

“Well, yeah, but… well, what exactly is going to happen next? When will the new daemon be born?” Skuld asked.

Shrugging, Lars said, “It’s achieved semi-sentience already at this point, but in order to survive out in the open it needs more energy. About a hundred adult human souls are required to make a minor daemon, but as it is I’m not going to be feeding it any more souls if I can help it. Child souls don’t have the memories and emotional content of an adult, so two or three magnitudes more children would need to be fed to it. Which I’m not doing. And if I fed an adult soul into the developing daemon then the first personality would become dominant, and I’m not unleashing a daemonic drow on the world, nor am I eaten a good person. So its just going to get raw emotion until such point as it is self-sufficient, so that its own identity can be developed.”

“Do you need me to do anything?” Skuld asked.

“Not until after the birth, at which point I probably will need your help handling the ‘little darling’. It picked up a lot of negative emotion, so it’s going to be pretty evil at first, but if it follows the pattern of the children of the gods, then it will show fanatical devotion to both parents, at least for the first couple of years,” Lars explained.

“How ‘evil’ are we talking here?” Skuld asked.

“If I give it the right diet during gestation… oh… it’ll probably bring you ‘bad’ people’s heads to try and make you happy,” Lars stated.

“That bad huh?” Skuld asked.

“Yeah,” Lars deadpanned before going silent again.

There was a quiet pause between them before Skuld asked, “So how long will this take?”

“At least I year I think, if not more. It’s a slow process,” Lars said.

“Is the waiting going to drive me nuts?” Skuld asked.

Lars paused for a moment before his features changed into those of a middle aged human woman who said, “Dear, take it from me, the waiting will drive you both nuts.”

Skuld blinked a few times before Lars shifted back and then she asked, “Who was that?”

Smiling faintly, Lars said, “My wife. She died twenty-five years ago when the gods ascended, her soul claimed as part of the sacrifice to fuel their launch into divinity, while I was spared. We actually have a rather sombre holiday on that anniversary, Passover- although it’s nowhere near the old Jewish version- where those of us who were there remember what it was like.”

Skuld was quiet while Lars was lost in thought before she asked, “What exactly was your wife talking about there?”

A pained look crossed Lars’ face before he sighed and said, “Back before an event called Second Impact, our Earth was much like yours: relatively prosperous and peaceful. Oh, there was crime and poverty and conflict, but in general you could probably take a map and a dart and if you hit land the place wouldn’t be consumed in destruction. Then Antarctica blew up and everything went to hell. My wife was six months pregnant with our first child when that happened. The stress… I don’t want to talk about it, okay?”

Skuld nodded. A puzzled look then crossed her face and she asked, “Wait… why don’t you separate your wife into the new daemon?”

Lars looked at her and asked, “Would you enjoy giving yourself an at home lobotomy? It doesn’t work like that now. My wife is an integral part of me now. Sure, I can draw together the pieces, I usually do when it’s quiet, but who she was is part of who I am. It’s actually kind of masochistic, in that all I can talk to her about are her memories, because anything beyond the day she died are my memories. Trying to talk about current events with her is just talking to myself with a different voice.”

“Wow,” Skuld noted.

“I know. Sucks to be me, huh? But still, I love my wife and I’m not going to part with her. It’s why I got so pissed at you for trying to interfere with your sister and Keiichi. You love your sister, but you’ve never felt what its like between lovers like them, and you can’t comprehend the pain of not being with them. You haven’t lived half a century in a little shack on the Baltic knowing that the guys who took the person most precious to you in the world have taken over. You never had to work your fingers to the bone supporting the monsters in charge until finally deciding to throw in with them. And… I’m sorry, do I sound bitter?” Lars said, the last bit coming out sarcastic rather than apologetic, and as he continued to rant his features aged considerably, until he was a sea tanned, wrinkled old man.

Skuld’s eyes went very, very wide as she watched Lars’ mood darken considerably. Finally she decided to ask quietly, “Do you want to make some ice cream?”

Getting up, Lars said, “Fuck it, I do want to make some ice cream. Enough moping around, I need to balance my diet and some joy and laughter, even if it's just from you Skuld, would be greatly appreciated.”

And so they made ice cream.
I love learning. Teach me. I will listen.
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Re: The Open Door (megacrossover)

Post by Academia Nut »

Chapter Forty-two: Brewing Trouble

The Roreril family fortress rang out with the sounds of growing industry, disturbing the quietly treacherous nature of the city of Menzoberranzan, while the stink of brewing organic chemicals and molten metals permeated the air. The neighbours were growing anxious, but the destruction wrought already was enough to keep them from challenging the suddenly upstart minor house without risking enough damage to make themselves vulnerable to other houses. A coalition could take them down, but first a coalition had to be made amongst the treacherous drow.

And every day Roreril was left alone, they grew stronger, making an alliance harder to forge. The ruling houses had yet to have the new weapons and horrors of the Warp turned upon, and just considered it all some form of magic, something they felt confident they could deal with. After all, you couldn’t stockpile magic in a meaningful way.

The production rate was painfully slow, but when they had the resources, Roreril could make about one shell a day, although resource supply was often restricted. Of course, when not making high explosives, propellants, or other such sundry materials, they were making high quality trade goods. A gallon of fresh ice cream in Menzoberranzan could get you the supplies to build a dozen high explosive shells, which was enough to destroy the majority of the fortifications in a house… including the top eight houses.

Hells, Roreril didn’t even need to do a direct assault. If they blew up the walls of a fortress from long range natural drow behaviour would take over as the opportunists would be all over the stricken house like rats on a corpse.

Quite simply put, the city’s days were numbered, and only Lars and Skuld knew it was coming. Aruvixa was drunk on power, she could taste the way here little empire was growing, the way her two acquisitions were giving her power overwhelming. Lars had become the topping rather than the cake with Skuld running around, turning her genius and divine catalogue of technology towards the task of making it easier for drow to kill each other. They had quite literally jumped hundreds of years, bypassing enormous theoretical and developmental hurdles. Oh, they were still many, many years away from building the tools that could build the tools that could build the really nasty weapons in mass quantities, but there were all sorts of little examples.

Like steel production. It had been quite amusing to watch Skuld verbally berate, in Danish, centuries old drow smiths with millennia of traditions backing them up for their incompetence at working with iron and even more amusing when she showed them just how bad they truly were. Oh, they were skilled at what they did, do be sure, but their methods had nothing on what sound theoretical background on mixtures of iron and carbon could give rise to.

But the drow just didn’t understand what they beheld. To them it was all just another form of magic, another tool to be used against the enemy, another method of showing individual superiority. For such a long lived species, they could be remarkably short sighted. Like how their constant internal competition would always keep them under the earth, away from the power of the sun.

Like how their infighting was making them weaker with each passing year, consuming their energies pointlessly and killing off the masses of the average in favour of the few excellent.

The drow were doomed as a civilization. The addition of high explosives was just going to accelerate the process.

While contemplating such things, looking down at the industrious courtyard while leaning on a parapet, Lars glanced over at Skuld devouring her ice cream and asked, “How can you stomach to eat that with the fumes around here?”

“I get one bowl a week and not enough time to eat it elsewhere,” Skuld replied in annoyance while hugging the bowl protectively against her chest.

Once she had finished up, she glanced over at Lars and asked, “So what are you being all silent about?”

“Oh, just contemplating life, the universe, and everything,” Lars replied.

“It’s a number. I checked. I have to maintain the program,” Skuld replied.

“Where you’re from maybe, but I was thinking in great, overarching terms. For example, how utterly fucked the drow are,” Lars said.

“I give it a year before they realize that slave hands can fire a howitzer as easily as a drow hands… which will also be the point where the slaves rebel and everything blows up,” Skuld said dryly, switching to Russian from Danish in case any of the people who had picked up some the language working with her were listening.

Snorting, Lars said, “They’re teaching the human slaves, with drow oversight of course, to fire the cannons because they’ve spent centuries learning to fight in single combat and they find the guns… unfair, if useful. We’re industrializing a slave holding society… they won’t survive the process. Guns and explosives are too much of an equalizing force and slavery is too inefficient of a system to keep up with industrialization. They also need the population granted by industrialized agriculture, unavailable down here away from the sun, to make any significant gains in the long run.”

“Want to lead a communist revolution?” Skuld asked.

“Nah, I grew up just as the Cold War was ending, so communism still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Then again, I’m also from Europe, so a little socialism doesn’t frighten me. Of course, any sort of bloody, violent revolution would be nice so long as it’s successful. What do you say? You start penning the book as theoretician and I can be the charismatic leader and future dictator for life. Skuldist-Larsism they’ll call it,” Lars replied, sweeping his hand out as if trying to dramatically picture the future.

“Will I get to complain about how you’ve altered all of my ideas and say, ‘I don’t know what I am, just that I’m not a Skuldist?’” Skuld asked.

“Of course, because where would we be if poorly thought out ideas were not abused and made even worse after being thought up?” Lars asked.

“I don’t know. But who gets to play Mao?” Skuld asked.

“Oh, probably a surface nation with plenty of agriculture but little industry,” Lars replied.

“Will there be awesome hats?” Skuld asked cheekily.

Lars was very quiet for a moment before he cried out, “De hats! How could Hy hef forgot de sveet hats after all des veeks? Quickly, ve musht hef sveet hats!”

“Can’t you just alter your form so that you have a hat?” Skuld asked.

“Yes… but you can’t. Come now, we have enough resources and pull that I think we can pester someone into making what we need,” Lars said.

Half an hour later the best transmuter in the house, who had already been placed under Skuld’s supervision because of his ability to rapidly fabricate items with his magic, had created what Lars wanted.

“I’ve got to admit the hat is really sweet,” Skuld noted as she adjusted the hat. “But doesn’t this send the wrong message?”

“Nah, no one would get it,” Lars replied. “We’d have to invent Russian style communism first. Now all we need are bolters and chainswords and the look will be complete.”

“I think if I took a month I could maybe make a crude, inefficient approximation of that monstrosity you described,” Skuld said in annoyance while checking out her new greatcoat. “The chainsword though? Not in this world any time soon.”

“Don’t bother, until you can start making at least Semtex it wouldn’t be worth it,” Lars replied in a blasé tone before he thought for a moment and said, “And now I do believe it is time for me to go blow up another hedge wizard for the matron mother’s amusement.”

“I’ll go see if we got another load of hydrocarbons I can crack with the crude distillation rigs I’ve built so far. We should be able to start making incendiary shells with the flammable liquids we get out of that,” Skuld said.

“Mmmm… napalm, it’s what’s for breakfast,” Lars said before leaving for the ritual chamber where Aruvixa ran her experiments with Lars.

Within was a small, tightly sealed and warded chamber where Aruvixa brought young, promising mages before Lars to see what he could do with his ability to directly manipulate the weave. Today she had a fresh faced new recruit looking to join up with the rising star of Roreril… and probably also get some revenge in on some other drow. Their stories were all the same in the end.

Not that they lasted long anyway.

Looking over the mage with his other senses, Lars contemplated what he would do to this one before he paused and noted that Aruvixa was looking at him. He asked somewhat cheekily, “You like the new look, highest?”

“It is less… brash, I must admit,” Aruvixa noted.

Lars smirked at the thought of a ‘commissar’ being called ‘less brash’. Last bastard with the kick ass hat he had met had been back in the early days when the planet was being militarized and he was forced to attend militia training. Ah, good old Commissar Hugger, only one person had to ever question the intimidation factor of his name before everyone else fell in line quite nicely.

“Mostly it’s for the hat, because you can’t have the hat without the accompanying uniform, and people dig the hat, highest,” Lars replied.

Aruvixa considered the hat for a moment before she nodded and said, “You’re right, the hat is worth it. A wardrobe change may be in order.”

Lars considered a female drow priestess in a commissar’s uniform and laughed for quite some time inside his head before he said, “In any case, shall we proceed with the experiment for today, highest? I believe we agreed that the subject should not have any spells prepared at all this time.” Lars also conspicuously changed his uniform out to his rain coat, something that was actually mirrored by the other drow in the room as they put on oilskins, except for the test subject.

They had learned their lesson.

“Yes, it has already been made apparent that having no spells currently prepared is essential to the continued wellbeing of our new wizard,” Aruvixa said, glaring at the wizard, who had a stoic expression on his elven face.

Selecting a tiny strand of the Weave with a psychic claw, Lars noted, “Trust me on this one, kid, you had better not have anything in your head when I do this. Everything in here is non-stick cookware for a reason.”

Lars then cut the strand and shoved the raw end into the mage’s soul. The other end was quickly grounded in the wards and quickly repaired itself, but as for the mage, something different happened.

For one, he did not exploded, unlike the last seven weeks worth of experimentation.

Unfortunately, the second bit was that he promptly started screaming and dropped to the ground, frothing at the mouth.

“What went wrong that time?” Aruvixa asked dryly.

“My bad, highest,” Lars said with a shrug. “I was trying to avoid doing something I would rather not do and I think he got a glimpse of my mind during the process. I think it drove him a little mad.”

“Will he recover?” Aruvixa asked her advisors.

There was a collective shrug and Lars said, “He might be able to block it out and forget what he saw.”

“What did he see?” Aruvixa asked.

“My homeworld,” Lars replied. He looked down at the twitching wizard. He had seen were cities of glass and steel on the surface filled with millions of humans, all wielding casual abilities of unimaginable power… before the addition of the Warp. A single regiment of such humans could destroy the entire drow civilization without much effort. It had shattered the elf’s arrogant ego.

Aruvixa looked down at the twitching mage and said, “I really must visit one day.”

“Oh, I would love for you to come over, highest,” Lars replied with the utmost sincerity. He knew that whatever happened to him when he got home, he would at least be allowed to see her punishment given out first if she came with him.

Oghma had felt a strange stirring somewhere in the Underdark, in that someone was involved in a great deal of invention down there, a fact confirmed by his subordinates. He would have to take a closer look at what was going on, as there was a strange slipperiness to the situation that kept him and his underlings from making a casual observation.

Maybe he would also ask Mystra about the rumours of strange things happening with the Weave down there after the big meeting of the gods Ao had just called.
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Re: The Open Door (megacrossover)

Post by Academia Nut »

Chapter Forty-three: Calm before the Storm

Leaving the room behind, Lars was surprised when one of the mages approached him quietly, away from where Aruvixa could hear. He was a strange one amongst an often eccentric breed, a specialist at summoning forth swarms of scuttling spiders, and it was rumoured, other, stranger entities. He had undergone a ritual scarification, leaving his face marked with lines that suggested the outline of a spider, and he often had several of his pets crawling about his body at all times, hidden beneath his deep robes.

“Rask?” Lars asked quietly.

Nodding slowly and oddly, the strange wizard said, “Yes… yes… I would speak with you of… things… yes, things.”

Stepping into one of the many secluded alcoves, Lars peered intently at Rask and asked him, “You wanted to talk about something?”

“Yes… yes… I have been considering you… you are not a demon… no… no, you are something different. At the least… you are not a tanar’ri… no… you are at least an obyrith… a primordial demon… yes… but I think you are something else… yes… I think you are from not the Abyss but the Far Realm… yes…” Rask explained in his oddly sibilant speech.

Lars looked at him blankly and asked, “And what of it if I am?”

Smiling, Rask replied softly, “The Spider Queen holds no place in my heart… no… no… and yet I do not wish to end up in the Wall of the Faithless… no… so I have been making pacts with other powers… yes… powers from beyond. If I am damned… I would wish to choose my hell… yes… yes. I had thought that perhaps the madness of the Far Realm would suit me for my afterlife… yes… but now I wonder if perhaps… perhaps… my lot would be better off with you… yes… yes.”

Lars blinked and then he asked, “Are you asking me to claim your soul?”

“One day perhaps… perhaps… I would serve you until that day though… yes… yes… I would serve well. Do you like my work?” Rask asked, reaching into his robes and pulling out a tiny chitinous horror, what appeared to be a daemonic spider, all eyes and fangs and hooked legs. “I have long enjoyed the company spiders… yes… but as I have learned of their alien minds I have found a greater need… yes… need… for further refinements to their forms.”

Then we should speak more privately. I do not seek followers, but I do seek aid for my ward Skuld. You understand that she has a spell binding her by pain of death to Aruvixa?

Rask nodded quietly.

Then assist me in helping undo what has been done. I do not trust that you are not some plant for her, but even she should realize that this is my goal. So all I wish is that you find me information on what might undo the spell, and I shall judge from there.

Nodding, Rask said, “Yes… yes… most prudent. I shall see… yes… thank you for your time.”

Returning the horrific spider to his robes, Rask bobbed his head and slipped away, leaving Lars to consider the implications of all of this.

Wandering out into the halls, he noted that a curious entourage was arriving at the gates, a trio of drow with minds that his standard psychic senses bounced off of. They immediately glanced up and stared right at him.

So this is the creature.

Most interesting.

His face passive, Lars replied psychically. I see, so there are a few psychics in this place.


Sighing, Lars headed for the audience hall. Aruvixa would probably want him in attendance for this one.

Jarlaxle discovered much to his amusement that he was in audience with the very recently ascended matron mother of House Roreril. It was to his amusement because such a previously minor house now had the resources to actually start making offers to Bregan D’aerthe, and because for once they probably knew more about his organization than he theirs, due to the fact that over the past few months any spies he sent tended to end up vanishing without a trace.

And here he was now, in an audience with Matron Aruvixa and an envoy from House Oblodra, a very curious meeting made all the more curious by the creature standing next to Aruvixa’s throne. To all outward appearances he was a surface dwelling human dressed in some very snappy clothing, but Jarlaxle could feel his enchanted eye patch warding off near constant psychic intrusions. At first he thought that the creature was actively trying to break into his mind.

Then he realized that the damn thing was probably just automatically doing it. The psychics from Oblodra were looking rather ruffled all at the same time, indicating it could either attempt to peer into all of their heads simultaneously or that psychic senses were as automatic to this creature as vision was to any being with eyes. Either way, it indicated a great deal of power.

“Ah, my guests, I am so glad you could make it,” Aruvixa said everyone had finished arriving. “I do hope that you are currently wondering why exactly I have both of you here at the same time.”

Neither party accepted the bait, although House Oblodra obviously bristled at being invited at the same time as the male mercenary company leader.

“Lars, please show them the claymore,” Aruvixa said.

Nodding, the strange creature picked up what was most definitely not a sword, but rather looked like a sort of slightly convex box and brought it before them. He said, “It’s been disassembled so you can see the inner workings.” He then lifted off the top plate to reveal hundreds of silvery spheres closely packed together, held in place by a sort of resin.

“What… is it?” The representative from the third house asked.

“It is a claymore anti-personnel mine, although most of the words have different meanings from what you probably expect them to mean,” Lars stated.

“Tell them what it does,” Aruvixa replied wickedly.

“This current model is somewhat underpowered in comparison to a true claymore as ideally we would want to use some form of plastic explosive, but we have been able to make due with other forms of high explosive. The current configuration fires seven hundred steel balls at approximately three times the speed of sound in an effective lethal cone approximately fifty yards wide and two yards tall at fifty yards. The maximum range is roughly two hundred yards with this model,” Lars explained.

Jarlaxle caught on first. Every little ball in there had the potential to wound or outright kill anything it hit, and it had a spread bigger than the cone of fire of a great wyrm red dragon. Against a formation it could cause dozens of casualties as those murderous little balls cut through flesh and bone. House Oblodra also quickly caught on. You always brought wizards to a battlefield not because of their ability to do area damage, but to counter the enemy’s ability to do so. This couldn’t be countered; it was ‘just’ alchemy.

“How many do you have?” Jarlaxle asked nervously.

“Two dozen,” Aruvixa smirked. “At the suggestion of my demon, we started producing these at the first possible opportunity due to the fact that they are excellent defensive weapons, especially against large numbers of enemies. Also, tell me Lars, what is the range on the howitzers?”

“The long range howitzers, when loaded with high impulse propellants rather than the more plentiful black powder shot, are capable of hitting any point in Menzoberranzan from the House Roreril compound, although ranging shots with solid slugs enchanted for location are recommended to conserve the high explosive rounds,” Lars reported sharply.

“How many howitzers do we have capable of doing that?” Aruvixa asked.

“We currently have three built, with the primary limiting factor being the production of the ammunition for them. Currently we have a dozen high explosive shells for each howitzer, along with two high explosive armour piercing shells and several incendiary shells in production. We also have enough propellant for two dozen solid shots spread amongst the howitzers, and if we switch to black powder we have enough propellant and shot for four hundred rounds, although the range is significantly reduced,” Lars stated crisply.

The smug look growing over her face, Aruvixa asked, “And the effects of an anti-magic field on all of these devices?”

“None whatsoever. We have already checked during live testing, the presence or absence of magic has no effect on the shells,” Lars replied.

“So a force bunkered in a compound protected by anti-magic fields could, theoretically, bombard any target in Menzoberranzan and have relative impunity?” Aruvixa asked.

“Most certainly. The only viable methods of attack would be massive swarm tactics and/or psychic powers, which are not affected by anti-magic fields. Thus strategy would be to either align with any such force or neutralize them before engaging in any military venture,” Lars replied.

Enlightenment dawned on the envoys from House Oblodra. “You wish our aid in destroying another house?”

“And the aid of Bregan D’aerthe, well known for their skills. Perhaps you should ask your matron whether or not she would like to rule Menzoberranzan, with House Roreril as number two?” Aruvixa asked, beaming broadly. “With the failure to capture that rogue Drizzt and his subsequent destruction of the House Baenre chapel, I do not believe the First House retains enough of the Lady’s favour to stop our combined forces.”

Jarlaxle frowned. This had the chance to be spectacularly good for him or extraordinarily bad. He would have to think long and hard about which side to throw his weight with, because if he chose wrong the consequences would be catastrophic.

Before he could reply, a sudden look of confusion passed over Aruvixa’s face and she said, “I am sorry… something just came up. Lars, go check the perimeter immediately.”

Jarlaxle wondered what had spooked the young matron, although he suspected it would make choosing his side easier.

Ao had not exactly planned on doing what he did, but damn if his underlings had not really pissed him off this time. When he found who had stolen the Tablets of Fate, he would ensure their punishments were…

Ao blinked as he realized he was being summoned. Only one creature in the entire multiverse had that power, and they had already had their centennial discussion just a few decades ago. Ao had been planning on contacting him early to enact the changes he planned after this latest mess, but being contacted in turn early was rather unexpected.

Slipping away to a far corner of his realms, one that no being in the entire multiverse but he knew about, Ao waved his hand and engaged the link that connected him to his distant superior officer.

A holographic image appeared in the middle of the hidden chamber, showing a large, imposing face set with many lines that could be described of as wise, and a large patch concealing the empty eye socket.

“Ao, I have a job for you, one that needs your utmost attention,” the Almighty proclaimed.

“Umm… can it wait? I’m kind of in the middle of a management issue with my underlings and…” Ao said, a sinking feeling filling his soul.

“Ao! This isn’t something that can wait. One of my daughters has gone missing, you hear me? She got sucked into the Void,” the Almighty exclaimed.

“That’s… unfortunate,” Ao replied nervously.

“She was protected by a creature from the Void. We know that she survived, and by their trajectory we are almost certain that she landed within your domain. Find her,” the Almighty ordered.

“Are you sure that she landed here, because I’m really quite busy at the moment and-” Ao said before he was cut off.

“I said find her! I know how incompetent you’ve been with your own creations, but I swear, if you don’t find my little girl, the first thing I’m doing is cutting off your access to the Yggdrasil codes you need to run your little bubble of stability in the Void. The second thing I’m doing is finding a way to announce that whoever finds her and keeps her safe and sound gets your job. The third thing is to get a battalion of Valkyries and Einherjar, mount up on Sleipnir, and find you so I can shove Gungir so far up your ass it will knock out teeth. Do you hear me Ao? I’m talking old school, face smashing, blood eagling wrath of the Norse here Ao. Do you understand me? I have put up with your shit for millions of years, and I am not going to let you screw this up. Not with my daughter on the line. Now, I don’t care what you do, find her and protect her until I figure out a way to get her home. She should be travelling with a creature from the Void, I want him alive and well too. My baby Skuld however gets top priority,” the Almighty roared.

Ao remembered the old days, when he was still a subordinate to the Almighty, before the Sundering and Ao’s displacement. He remembered what the Almighty was capable of when he got riled up.

“I’ll do it right away. But you do know that all divine senses are blind to entities such as your family…” Ao began before trailing off at the glare from the Almighty.

“I don’t care what you have to do, find her. Put up a bounty for your petty gods to squabble over. Put up a bounty for the mortals, I don’t care,” the Almighty ordered.

“Ah… about that…” Ao said.

“Ao…” the Almighty growled. “I swear that if it weren’t for the fact that I haven’t been able to physically get to you, I would have smacked some sense into you a long time ago, starting with the mess you made with Shar and Selune. Well now we know it’s possible to cross the Void, so you had better start shaping up or I’m bringing you home to where you were an office clerk! Shape up!

“Yes sir,” Ao grovelled.

“And find my daughter!” The Almighty roared.

“Yes sir,” Ao begged.

“I’m going to expect frequent updates on this one,” the Almighty stated.

“Of course sir,” Ao replied, still cowering.
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Re: The Open Door (megacrossover)

Post by Academia Nut »

Chapter Forty-four: Siege

The industries of House Roreril had ceased their incessant pounding five days ago, reducing Menzoberranzan back to its preferred state of a low susurration of half heard voices whispering rumours and conducting business. But it was not business as usual, for the past five days had been tense ones, with much scrambling about by all parties as they tried to discern why the Spider Queen had gone silent.

Then why all the gods had gone silent.

The air was charged with fear beyond the usual tinge. Everyone was waiting for something to happen, for someone to make a move. It was only a matter of time.

The drow had no proper conception of thunder. Oh, their wizards could conjure forth lightning, but for the most part those bolts were paltry things in comparison to the true fury of a summer’s storm unleashed. They had never truly heard the apocalyptic crash of air displacing.

Until now.

The silent Roreril compound’s courtyard suddenly issued forth a trio of explosive bangs that grabbed the attention of the entire city, for nothing like that had ever been heard before.

A few seconds later a trio of hard iron spheres, specially enchanted with a modified form of the antimagic field spell, slammed into the House Baenre compound, shattering once enchanted stone. One shot smashed into the central family living area, crashing through a door and then bouncing on a manic pattern through the halls, killing two orc slaves and an unlucky minor priestess that had been moving towards the door to see what the banging sound was. The second hit the main barracks and just stuck in the stone, the shrapnel wounding a minor soldier. The third struck the still being rebuilt main chapel and demolished a statue of a priestess.

All around the three shots there were little pools of darkness where the faerie fires that coated the stonework had gone out, snuffed by the antimagic fields on the cannonballs.

Back at the Roreril compound diviners hired specifically for this task, or rather hired and not told exactly what it was that they were doing until the first shots were fired and they thus had no way to back out from an attack on the First House as they were already involved, used their magic to discern the effects of the initial ranging shots. Mages loyal to House Roreril had already been used to make the final corrections on the howitzers with a less expensive form of divining magic.

The natural radiation of Menzoberranzan and the wards about the House Baenre compound made scrying difficult, especially on the living members, but those were immaterial problems in that the mages only wanted to see what parts of the compound had been hit and they could judge by the extinguished light.

“Barracks shot was on target,” one of the mages reported.

“Living area on target but went deep inside the house,” a second replied.

“Chapel area on target,” the third announced.

Nodding, Skuld said sternly, trying to hide just how upset she was by the cold, clinical violence she was perpetuating, “Reload, and keep the same settings as before. Like we instructed, the sequence is high explosive, incendiary, and then fragmentation. If a shell fails to detonate, continue with the sequence anyway.”

The loading crews, human and dwarf slaves selected for their quick learning ability and proficiency with machines, had already been swabbing out the hot barrels, ensuring there were no sparks. The howitzers were ugly, inelegant machines, muzzleloaders trying to do the same job as breechloaders, but Skuld didn’t trust the industry they had built yet to be able to make safe, reliable breeches.

Meanwhile, much closer to the destruction, Lars watched from a concealed position and noted quietly, “Nice shots.”

Is momma doing good? Momma kill bad people?

The tiny little daemon growing within Lars had within the past few days of heightened emotion developed enough intelligence to begin communicating with him, and it was about as innocently bloodthirsty as a baby daemon could be. Lars and Skuld had also settled on gender pronouns and decided that for the sake of sanity they would go with what required less explanation to confused people later.

Although they had decided that when they first talked to Skuld’s family they would call her father at first to give them enough time to explain before the smiting happened.

Momma’s doing well; she’s setting up to kill lots of bad people. Now stay quiet little one, poppa has to assassinate someone.


Crouched at the edge of the compound along the fence, Lars carried the one rifle they had decided to make. A brutish gun, it could only be carried by someone with Lars’ daemonic strength and only fired well by someone with his intelligence. It was a .50 calibre rifled breechloader that took brass cartridge rounds. It could fire a 600g steel jacketed lead armour piercing bullet at about twice the speed of sound.

It was a beastly creation that had sucked up a lot of time and effort to make, but Lars could handle it and knew what to do with it.

A series of explosions rocked the House Baenre fence, causing the metal strands to sway back and forth. Kobold slaves from House Oblodra had just planted demolition charges around several of the posts, demolishing a massive section of the fence. Since the Spider Queen had gone silent the magic controlling the fence had died out, but it was still a barrier and if it unexpectedly powered back up that would not do for it to remain a danger.

The shuddering boom of the quartet of less advanced cannons, brought up with the rest of the army fielded by Oblodra and Roreril under cover of magical concealment in the past few hours, signalled the doom of the main gate. With the loss of the fence, House Baenre’s days were probably now numbered whatever happened. The other drow houses would see this as a massive sign of weakness and start circling like sharks about a bleeding seal on an ice floe.

Lars intended to club that seal a few times and then kick it back in the water.

“Come on… come on… yeah, your personal magic isn’t working, but you’ve still got magic items, right? And you’re basically a medieval warlord at heart, right? So you have to see what’s happening. Oh, you might usually have your own magic so you can stay in the safety of your throne room, but unless you want to rely upon a male you’re out of luck. Come on…” Lars whispered silently, urging his target to appear.

Matron Mother Yvonnel Baenre stepped out on to a viewing balcony.

Lars smiled at the inefficiency of the loading crews. They could take up to three minutes between each shot, and if the high explosive shells the plan called for had landed the matron might not have stepped out like she did.

The rifle didn’t have optics, but Lars didn’t need them. His psychic powers let him reach across the gulf of the multiverse, with some mechanical help, and make contact with other minds. When outside her compound, Yvonnel was like a sparkling gem in the sun, as were those around her.

Lars aligned his rifle, adjusted for the drop, and fired. The range was about four hundred metres, plus or minus five percent, and the height was maybe twenty metres above his position. Some of the souls that had made him up, especially the other northern Europeans had been hunters in their lives. With no wind, no breathing to foul his aim and such a flat ballistic profile for the powerful gun, the shot was well within Lars’ ability.

Still, he technically missed. He had been aiming for Yvonnel’s centre of mass as the magic about her would probably warp the path of the bullet so he needed to make sure it went where he wanted it to. Unfortunately, quality control was still abysmal by the standards Lars and Skuld were used to, and the bullet moved faster, and thus dropped less, than Lars intended.

Then again, to say he missed was to say that instead of hitting her in the torso, he instead hit her square between the eyes with a .50 bullet still travelling faster than the speed of sound. There was a brief flash of light as the magic items that surrounded her body in layers of force and distorted space attempted to turn aside the bullet. Yvonnel had protection exceeding that of full plate armour. The gun in Lars’ hands would have been classified as a light anti-material weapon where he came from.

To say that the daughters and guards standing around the matron mother were shocked when the thousands of years old leader of their house suddenly had her head violently explode was an understatement.

Lars broke open the breech and let the smoking cartridge fall out as a tentacle brought the next round up and slotted it into the hot barrel. Snapping the whole assembly back into place, he cocked the hammer once more and aligned with the next target on his list: Triel Baenre, the first daughter of Yvonnel.

This time he missed his targeted area while still hitting scoring a lethal strike again, overcompensating for the previously high round and striking Triel lower than he intended, just barely missing the stone banister of the balcony in his estimation. Still, with a round that big the shock of having one of her kidneys and the surrounding pieces of liver and intestine blow out her back, along with the hydrostatic shock that destroyed her heart and lungs, Triel tied nearly as quickly as her mother.

Not pressing his luck any further, Lars immediately abandoned his position and made for the main Roreril/Oblodra camp to report his success. Besides, he was down to his last round. The things were damned difficult to make when everything else was demanding resources.

For now.

A contingent of driders, freaky things that looked like a cross between a drow and a spider along the lines of a centaur, lead by a spider covered Rask, were already assaulting from the roof of the cavern, while the battle between the wizards of Baenre and the psychics of Oblodra was heating up.

Oh and a dozen invisible mages no doubt heading off to attack House Roreril. The fact that the high explosives shells had landed and reduced rock to flying rubble and severely weakened the structural integrity of several buildings probably had something to do with their heavy response.

Pity for them Lars didn’t need his eyes to see them. Finally his last shot, the most difficult really as he was attacking a flying object, landed in the centre of mass and sent the remains of the wizard’s heart and lungs and bits of rib and spine flying off into the darkness.

Lars grinned with satisfaction as the flight scattered, shocked by this unexpected attack. The dead body suddenly appearing in the air also alerted the attacking forces to their presence and anti-invisibility forces immediately went to work.

Rejoining the main army, Lars met up with the artillery forces, transforming his outer appearance from camouflage gear to a commissarial uniform, although he gave it his own personal touch by liberally adding barnacle encrustations and the appearance of being waterlogged. If there was any way of making a commissar look scarier, it was to make him look like a drowned, undead commissar rose from the ocean depths, not even death keeping him from kicking ass.

“How goes the battle?” He asked while handing his gun off to a servant, a slave really but he made sure every individual turned over to his or Skuld’s care was treated with as much respect as they could get away with under the circumstances.

The incendiary rounds chose that moment to arrive. Two of them failed to ignite on impact, a problem they had anticipated might arise, but the one that hit the broken rubble of the barracks went up in a spectacular fireball as a mixture of gasoline, kerosene and a thickening agent ignited.

A few seconds later the one that hit the main family living area also ignited.

The drow had thought that they understood fire. They were wrong. Ever since Prometheus had made his gift to humanity, fire had been theirs to master and control. No other species had ever relied upon the flame so much, had learned from it and respected it and used it the way humanity did.

The drow did not face the radiant heat of lava or the solid burning of a wood fire or the instant burst of heat from a wizard’s fireball or a dragon’s breathe. No, this was hot, hungry flame that stuck and burnt, that flowed and dripped and was hot enough to cause fat to weep out and burn like a candle. This was napalm, or at least the closest thing they had to that destructive, sticky stuff. There wasn’t much of it in each of the shells, but what they did fire scared the hell out of those facing it.

The drow noble in charge of supervising the cannons shrugged and said, “It goes well. You succeeded in your task?”

Lars nodded and said, “The matron of House Baenre and her heir are no more.”

The officer smiled and said, “Then Baenre is no more. Its leaders are slain and its defences are being destroyed. All that is left is to subdue the twitching body.”

Lars frowned and said, “That is always the messiest part. And House Baenre still possesses a number of powerful mages, enough that they might wound us with their death thrashes, such that other houses look to our forces with the same eyes that we looked at House Baenre.”

“With House Oblodra we will…” Lars did not hear what the noble said next for his attention was suddenly taken away by his otherworldly senses suddenly picking up something bad about to happen.

Lars was in communication, but his abilities also leant him to doing crude sensory work if the situation called for it. He knew what a warp storm looked like. He knew what the sudden surge of energies could do, especially to those sensitive to them. This wasn’t quite the same, for it involved the Weave instead of the Warp, but it was similar in structure.

Lars blinked for a moment, those all staring at his blank eyed expression before he said in a panic, “Cease all magical operations, now! Tell the psychics to batten down as well… no, I don’t care if you understand that word, just tell them that we need to stop everything we’re doing right the fuck now. Go on the defensive and stay out of the air. Cut off all spells. Just tell everyone no magic, you got that? I need to warn those at House Roreril.”

Taking off at a run, Lars launched himself into the air, shedding most of his outward appearance for the horrific bat-thing form that carried him along until he arrived at the Roreril compound just in time for the trio of howitzers to go off in the courtyard, throwing the fragmentation rounds that would hopefully play merry hell with anyone trying to extinguish the burning napalm.

If they were really lucky they would hit a mage wasting dispels against the fires that only spread when water was thrown on them.

At least they hadn’t tried experimenting with magic to make chlorine trifluoride. The ability to make something that could cause sand to burn wasn’t worth the risk of making something that could cause sand to burn.

Crying out, Lars said, “Cease all magic now! Something bad is about to happen.”

“What is the meaning of this?” Aruvixa asked as she stalked out of her observation shelter.

“I can feel a… wave… of magical distortion approaching in the Weave. I would not want to have any arcane magic going when it hits,” Lars explained.

Aruvixa looked at him suspiciously for a moment before she glanced over at her nearest wizard advisor and asked, “What do you think?”

The wizard hummed and hawed for a moment before he nodded and said, “Master Lars may not have a firm grasp of the theory behind Weave magic, but his instincts and abilities are beyond what we wizards can dream of possessing. If he says something bad is going to happen, I say we trust him highest.”

Nodding, Aruvixa announced, “Shut down all use of arcane magic, now. With any luck this will damage House Baenre. Speaking of which…”

“They are dead, Matron Aruvixa. The head has been taken from the serpents, so to speak,” Lars replied as something niggled at his senses. He could feel arcane magic shutting down all around him, but there was still a strong signal from…

Lars turned to Skuld who was looking incredibly frightened indeed.

The artificial connection was still there and still actively drawing energy from the Weave to sustain Skuld. Skuld had a pained look on her face. Approaching her, Lars whispered, “What happened?”

“The… the goddess in charge of magic here just died, and it’s damaged the system,” Skuld replied back, tears starting to well up in her eyes.

Lars raised an eyebrow and he asked, “Is there anything you can do? You’re a… you know…” They had fastidiously not spoken of her true nature, the risk of someone overhearing.

Skuld shook her head. “No, I can feel the damage. It will take some time to repair, time I don’t have. I can’t shut down the link… Lars I’m scared. There’s a huge wave coming for me and…”

Lars shut his eyes in pain before he said, “I can sever the link. We can ride it out.”

“It’s not going to stop until the damage is repaired. That could be months. That could be forever. And I don’t have the same reserves of energy I did when I arrived,” Skuld replied.

Is momma going to be okay?

I don’t know.

Finally Lars said, “There is an alternative.”

“What?” Skuld asked.

“There’s… another Weave, it’s in between the gaps, lying under the one everyone seems to know about… but the fact that its pretty unknown and its much darker seems to make it more dangerous in my mind,” Lars replied.

Skuld looked at him and said, “Do you think it would work?”

Lars nodded. “Yes, I can feel the energy in there when I examine it. We need to make this decision quick though, the wave is going to arrive within a minute.”

Skuld was quiet before she nodded and said, “Do it.”

A psychic knife sliced through the connection Lars had made between Skuld and the Weave, which caused her to immediately drop to her knees as she began to burn through her only personal supply of magic at a ferocious rate.

Then the wave hit and everything relating to the arcane went wild. Faerie fires burned painfully bright or were extinguished, the ring of heat about the city’s central pillar Narbondel went erratic, and general chaos took over. It was particularly bad over at House Baenre where they were using extensive magic to try and contain the damage inflicted and counterattack. The results were not pretty, to say the least. Oh, sometimes the magic was magnified spectacularly and sometimes it fizzled, and sometimes it went out of control and destroyed the caster while other times something completely random happened.

“It’s raining daffodils… remind me to kick the ass of whoever was in charge of this…” Skuld noted weakly as she collapsed.

“Duly noted,” Lars replied grimly as he sliced open a piece of the shadowy version of the Weave, completely unaffected by the disaster, and spliced it into Skuld with the hopes that the dark, oily energy was compatible with Skuld’s divinity.

Lars got his response right away as Aruvixa started to praise him for saving the house from disaster. He watched the dark energy surge into Skuld and rapidly undid the spell that kept her bound to Aruvixa. Lars did not have time to jump for joy though, as that was not the only thing that happened.

Skuld went into a convulsion as the colour started to drain from her face and her veins began to go starkly black beneath her skin. Weeping, she said, “Oh… oh Almighty! I can feel her mind! She’s jealous! She’s jealous!”

Grabbing her, Lars forced her up and made her look him in the eyes. He asked, “Who?”

“The one in charge of this magic! She’s so dark… so jealous… so evil!” Skuld cried out.

Lars looked at her and said, “Then kick her ass if she’s evil! You’ve got a bit of daemon in you, if you’re going down, go down swinging! And show that medieval bitch what computer science means Miss Norn of the Future!”

Skuld looked at Lars for a moment, her face twisted in pain; before she began to mutter under her breathe a series of algorithms, incredibly complex formulas and instructions that were part computer programming, part quantum physics, and part fundamental reality editing.

“What’s going on? Why can I no longer feel the spell in her?” Aruvixa demanded angrily.

Lars looked at her and considered a dozen possible things before he decided Skuld was more important… and deserved her shot at revenge. He walked up to her, backhanded her hard enough to send teeth flying, and then said, “I’ll deal with you later. For now, anyone who wants to interfere with Skuld here goes through me.”

Going back to Skuld, Lars could see the connection between Skuld and the shadows grow and evolve at a rapid pace as she sought to do what had not seemed necessary before: hack the system and boot out the previous administrator. Magical energy flowed into her and then spilled out in the form of shadows. The symbols on her cheeks and forehead morphed about and faded from purple to a deep, almost black, violet. Her hair seemed to grow longer and darker while gaining a life of its own, becoming a flickering thing.

Lars could only watch on as the whole thing took place, ensuring that nothing happened to her. Everyone else watched in awe at the strange transformation.

Tears were starting to flow freely down Skuld’s face, evaporating as they fell into wispy shadows that disappeared quickly against the darkness of Menzoberranzan. She paused in her incantations for a moment to say, “She’s so much more powerful than me.”

Having gone through the souls within him to glean some sort of knowledge for Skuld, Lars said, “It’s Shar, right? Shar is the goddess of darkness.”

Skuld nodded as her body was wracked with another tremor from the effort she was putting into it.

“Use her portfolio against her,” Lars replied. “She is the goddess of loss. Make her lose this. Make her lose everything if you can. Attack her mind. Let her know that everything she cares for will be taken from her… and oh dear, I do believe that this battle is yours and yours alone from this point on.”

“What?” Skuld cried out in horror as Lars took a pained step back and fell on his ass.

A twisted look crossing his face, Lars said, “I do believe that another sliver of your being transfer over at some point between cutting you off from the Weave and splicing you in to the other version, and it was enough to finish the maturation process for the one inside me. Oh boy… this is going to hurt…”

A strange spasm passed through Lars’ body, one that would have been physically impossible had he been constrained by bones or three dimensional physics while a strange sort of un-light poured from his eyes and mouth for a moment.

“Yup… those of you who have not seen the movie Alien should probably look away. Those of you who have should probably run screaming right now. Does anyone want to look after Skuld for a moment while I lay down and scream for a bit?” Lars noted through glazed eyes that were starting to wander about his face.

Surprisingly, one of the dwarven slaves assigned as a loader, a poor bastard named Steb who had his throat cut out years ago but had somehow survived and continued to live despite a missing voice box, stepped up to help support Skuld. Aruvixa, now unsteadily regaining her feet, looked ready to try and order her terrified troops to attack, but before she could make the attempt to snap them out of their stunned awe Steb walked up to her and beat her back down before returning to Skuld.

Sometimes it really paid to be nice to the help.

Skuld's whole body tensed up as she fought mind to mind with another goddess, it came as something of a relief for Skuld when her wings, followed by all of her angel, burst out of her back.

Skuld had gathered enough power to manifest Noble Scarlet, and now her angel had joined in to the mental assault on Shar, adding a wordless song to the most epic hacking in the history of the Forgotten Realms. Unfortunately she too seemed to sicken with exposure to the Shadow Weave.

Thrashing about on the ground, Lars managed to force his bubbling, frothing form into a semblance of stability long enough to ask, “What’s wrong?”

Her teeth clenched, Skuld replied, “My angel… she can’t handle the shadow magic. She’s a being of light, not darkness.”

Manifesting a single stable mouth, Lars said, “There is always light in darkness. Think of a lunar eclipse and how the moon does not go dark but turns red in the umbra.” He then destabilized again as his amorphous form began to ooze and stretch, a face on the inside pressing against his skin in an attempt to get out.

Skuld was silent for a moment before she said, “Scarlet in the umbra…”

Noble Scarlet let out a loud wail and then was no more.

She was no more because she had been transformed into something else, something new. A tinge of shadowy grey had seeped into the white feathers of her wings; her blonde hair had gone dark like Skuld’s; and her skin had become like the palest, finest alabaster. But not all the colours had seeped away, for her eyes glowed a brilliant copper red like the most spectacular lunar eclipses, and she seemed bathed in a halo of such light.

Skuld was the Norn of the Future, the Goddess of the Undiscovered Country. The secrets of what was unknown were hers. The future lay in the shadows, in the tiny, lightless realms of quantum mechanics or the vast gulfs of space between the stars. From the tiny slivers of the daemonic she had received from Lars she remembered the Stiletto in the endless voids of space or the Warp.

Far away in the Underdark, the avatar of an ancient greater goddess screamed in agony as the Shadow Weave, her creation, was forcibly ripped from her and she was locked out of it by secrets she could not understand. For all of her divine intellect, Shar was still limited to the methods of thought Ao had allowed, and she had never conceived of the sort of cryptography Skuld threw her way.

In a flash Skuld completed her transformation as she tied herself into the Shadow Weave and became its new centre. Her hair was still the flowing shadows, but if you looked hard enough at it there were tiny points of light like stars, a reminder that even in the darkness there was still light if you knew where to look. Her angel’s hair was similarly ethereal.

Everyone had stumbled back in terror as the transformation took place, except for stubborn Steb, who remained next to her in silent vigil through the entire thing, loyal to Skuld and to Lars’ request.

With a final psychic cry, the thing inside of Lars exploded out with a burst of otherworldly light and indescribable colours and landed with a wet plop on the ground next to him. All in attendance not blessed with daemonic or divine resilience promptly forgot the horrid form as it quickly shifted to a much more pleasant shape; that of a female drow child possessed with rather strange eyes, dark as the oceans, and pale marking on her face reminiscent of those that Skuld had. She ‘wore’, as much as daemons could wear things made out of their own essence, a loose sort of gown and her white hair was unbound at shoulder length.

Oh, and she was currently wearing a hungry grin that would make a shark turn and run.

Pulling himself back together, Lars grabbed on to the child’s leg and said, “No eating anyone right now dear.”

The little daemon turned to him and gave him the saddest look imaginable and pouted, “But poppa, I’m hungry!

“Yes, but we like some of the people in here,” Lars replied before he looked over at Skuld and asked, “Are you alright?”

Inhaling deeply, Skuld nodded and said, “Yes… this will take some time to process properly, but Noble Umbra and I should be alright. Ugh… there are so many little errors in this system…”

“We’ll find your mallet, wherever it went, and you can debug it later. Right now though, I do believe that some revenge is in order. You or me?” Lars asked Skuld.

Skuld tilted her head to the side before she said, “I want to get to know my daughter first, and I think you got it worse what with the baby eating and the pregnancy.”

Nodding, Lars said, “Fair enough.” He then turned to Aruvixa with an enormous grin and said, “Hey Aruvixa, did I mention that my charge here was a goddess from another world? Since I’m feeling in a bit of a generous mood what with just giving birth, I’ll give you what you always wanted. A long shot at unlimited power. How's that sound?”

Seeing the writing on the wall, Aruvixa asked fearfully, “Unlimited power?”

Lars shrugged and said, “Suit yourself, but unless you have unlimited handling capacity, you probably shouldn’t have wanted it so badly.”

He then grabbed on to a piece of the Weave that was in a low state and jammed it into Aruvixa, being careful not to swap bits of soul with the bitch. Her eyes went wide as she felt the new trickle of power in her and the insight into Lars’ mind and what he had seen and experienced… and how utterly outclassed her entire civilization was against true power, power wielded effortlessly by humans of all creatures.

A moment before the energy surged back up to full power, Aruvixa understood what she had been dealing with and could only let out a tiny terrified whimper as she soiled herself, the very same crime she had her sister executed for all those months ago.

Then the strand surged back to normal size and beyond with the latest ripple in the Weave and Aruvixa was carried away, her soul consumed by the raw magic and carried away, leaving only a burned husk of a body behind.

Once the steaming corpse of the previous Matron Mother hit the ground, Lars asked, “Does anyone else want to piss me off today?”

Far away, a tiny creature looked up in surprise before twitching its rabbit-like face and going to where it had stashed its one treasure. In its wake a small squadron of enormous dark green spiders followed, their colouration more invisible in the darkness than pure black. The shadow spiders followed the tiny creature with the loyalty of those who knew their place in the pecking order and what both defiance and obedience brought.

Think was back!
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Re: The Open Door (megacrossover)

Post by Academia Nut »

Chapter Forty-five: Departure and Arrival

Striding on to the bridge, Rong-Arya sank down into their command throne and asked cheerfully, “How are preparations going?”

“The ship is at maximum readiness ma’am. Our course is charted and the first step is programmed into our navigation computer. All that is left is for a reply from the Colonials as to whether they want to follow us into the Warp,” Ichiro-Faust reported crisply.

“And the engineers?” Rong-Arya asked.

“They’ve already got the Gellar Field set up to help shield the Colonial ships or for normal operation, as necessary,” Ichiro-Faust reported.

“Excellent. All that is left is for their reply. Lieutenant O’Hare, please inform the Colonials that we are ready to depart and that they have one hour to make their decision to us known,” Rong-Arya replied in a bored tone.

“Transmitting now ma’am,” Lieutenant O’Hare replied.

The debates of the past few days had been fierce, the press coverage oily and backstabbing, the whole affair one long, nasty, drawn out fight over the two dominant philosophies amongst the refugee population of the Colonials: fight or flight. After New Caprica, after seeing what the Cylons still had in reserve, and after everything they had been through, the vast majority of the population wanted to just keep running until they found somewhere the Cylons would never, ever find them.

But then again there were still those who held out hope that maybe one day they would return to their homes. That there was a friend, a family member, a lover, a child still waiting for salvation in the grips of Cylon occupation and if they just fought a little harder they could save them.

And somewhere amongst these two forces there was the fact that many of the Colonials simply did not trust these strange, barely understood newcomers. The long range pictures of the monstrously sculpted, titanic ship had made the rounds like wildfire, blurry images of colossal turrets shaped like screaming demons and structural members that had been crafted to look like tortured souls in the depths of some terrible Hell.

Thus, there were four camps. One group that wanted to take their offer, one group that wanted to leave them and run, one group that wanted to get them to eliminate the Cylons, and one rather deluded group that thought that they could take on the Cylons without help.

The masses were in favour of getting these new comers to eliminate the Cylons so they could all go home and rebuild their shattered lives. The upper levels of government and the military on the other hand knew that the Stiletto had its own problems to worry about and would in no uncertain terms stick around and tried to make that fact clear to the angry, scared populace. The alien warship from Earth could not be bargained with, could not be told to help them.

Thus after a great deal of arguing, the remnant fleet found itself going to the polls once more to decide what to do, only this time there would be no tampering with the ballots, no matter how much the administration might not like the will of the people. They had suffered enough problems last time they did that.

So here it was, the decision: keep running on an uncertain course that no longer had an end point, or follow these strange and terrifying people to the promised world of Earth. The phrase ‘rock and a hard place’ came to mind.

Of course, for Roslin, sitting and waiting for the results to come in was only about the fifth most terrifying thing in the past two days. The fourth being watching the colossal battle between the Cylons and the Stiletto, although the alien warship had considered it a light radiation storm combined with recreation during the boarding phase.

The third most terrifying thing had been boarding the Stiletto and meeting its creepy, unnatural crew and being told the conditions of the deal. Worst of all had been the captain, Rong-Arya, saying, “We have turned lying while telling the truth into an art form, letting people’s own fears and judgements shape the facts into the story they want to hear and we want them to hear. Of course, telling you this is part of the process, and I leave it up to you to figure out how this is shaping your impression of me. As is that statement. And that one. And so on and so forth. It’s really a quite amusing game to play, don’t you think?”

They were devils with silver tongues, but they knew when to approach people with the right offer at the right time.

The second most terrifying thing in the past two days had been sitting on the cold, uncomfortable examination table wearing a flimsy hospital gown waiting for Dr. Cottle to return with the biopsy test results, to see if the gift from Rong-Arya had actually been true and not some trick.

The most terrifying thing however had been asking the strange creature that commanded the Stiletto about the cancer cure only for an enthusiastic veiled man to approach her, saying how it was a joy to work for the Mother and he would gladly taken her burden as his gift. He had been disturbing and intimidating to say the least, speaking of the cancer that was slowly killing her as ‘a naughty child who can’t play nice with others’.

He had then reached out a filth encrusted hand out of the shroud concealing his body and grabbed her by the wrist, punching a twisted, broken, rotten yellow thumbnail into the blood vessels there. Before Roslin or her security detail could react however, she felt the cancer in her body migrating through her arteries, seeking out the intruding thumb and joining with the disease already present. He then withdrew his thumb, leaving behind not a scratch and began humming pleasantly.

An utterly blasé looking Rong-Arya had then said, “Only those who want to get sick do so where we come from.”

What miracles. What horrors. Where these creatures sent by the gods or were they demons sent to lead them astray? Roslin had no idea, not when the report came back that said that not only was her cancer gone, but her blood work was clean of all harmful pathogens and even residual traces of diloxin. It was as if her entire body had been swept clean of poisons and diseases.

For now. As Rong-Arya had said, “Who knows when you could get sick again? You obviously have the risk factors.”

So Roslin waited for the results of the referendum. Everything waited on that result.

Tapping their clawed fingers on the edge of the command throne, Rong-Arya asked, “Have they decided yet?”

“We’ve got some inter-ship chatter as they count up the votes, but nothing definitive yet ma’am,” O’Hare replied.

“Five more minutes then,” Rong-Arya noted dryly.

“Going to go early or late?” Ichiro-Faust asked.

“Late of course, we might be chaotic but we’re not complete dicks,” Rong-Arya replied indignantly.

However, at two minutes before the deadline a communication channel opened up and Admiral Adama’s voice was heard over the radio saying, “On behalf of the fleet, I would like to announce that the decision has been reached and the Colonial military will abide by the decision of the people. As such, while individuals are free to follow the Stiletto or stay behind at their discretion, the Galactica will follow or stay as the people demand.”

“Looks like we’ll be bringing a few people along either way,” Rong-Arya noted away from the pick up mike.

There was a moment’s pause before Roslin’s voice was heard over the channel as she said, “Before I announce the results of the referendum, please allow me to make it clear that as with the military, the political apparatus will follow the decision of the people, and despite any personal feelings on the matter, we too will do as the people request of us and maintain a unified front.”

“Sounds like they’re staying,” Ichiro-Faust mused.

Pursing their lips, Rong-Arya replied, “Perhaps they are… and perhaps they know how contentious the issue is and are thus outlining beforehand that they are forming a unified block to prevent people on the losing side from leaving en masse. If their little fleet is split in half the outcome would be… disastrous for them.”

Ichiro-Faust thought about this for a moment before nodding in agreement.

There was another moment of silence before Roslin announced, “Having counted all of the votes, we have a 53/47 decision… to follow the Stiletto to Earth.”

“I don’t think she liked that decision,” Rong-Arya noted. “I guess her belief that we are monsters outweighed her desire to be free of disease and to have a home again. Ah well, you can’t please everyone all the time. Please begin sending directions to the fleet on how to form up with us as we activate our drives. Oh, and remind them once again that this is going to be a long trip.”

“They already informed us that they recently stocked up on food and other consumables when we laid out the plan for them to consider,” O’Hare pointed out.

“It bears repeating in any case. Where we’re headed the highest form of energy storage is probably anti-matter. Ugh… artificial gravity without forward or rotational acceleration, not for me thanks,” Rong-Arya replied.

“Technically that’s just simulated gravity,” Xavier pointed out.

“Shut it. Let’s get this show on the road; we don’t want to spend any more time in a backwater universe than we have to. Makes our skin crawl in such lower energy places,” Rong-Arya replied in an annoyed tone.

“So we’re really doing it,” Adama commented as the Galactica formed up close to the monster ship, the rest of the fleet in similar positions all within four hundred metres of the behemoth.

“Doesn’t feel frakking right,” Tigh commented bitterly. “We shouldn’t be leaving.”

“Perhaps not, but where else do we have if we don’t follow these people back to Earth, where else will we go now?” Adama asked sadly. How strange for a lie to transform into something like this. Perhaps it there was some truth to how lies could take on a life of their own if left alone too long.

Staring quietly at the DRADIS read out for the monster as it began to do something to local space-time, William wondered what his lies to inspire hope in the survivors had spawned.

For a long period of time, about fourteen billion years or so, give or take a couple hundred million, the most interesting thing to pass through a particular patch of space was the occasional rock-ice comet, while in the system of this particularly unimpressive red dwarf star the only thing in particular of note was a pair of dimples in space time left over from the Big Bang that served as doorways to other parts of the universe. However, these dimples did not lead anywhere particularly interesting either, so local sentient organisms had only bothered to place a small listening post there, along with a linear accelerator to move about mass between the wormholes to keep them stable.

In short, the place where the Stiletto decided to bend the laws of physics over a table and violate in multiple orifices simultaneously was rather unprepared for the abrupt arrival of the warship and the Colonial Fleet that accompanied it.

Their flames dimming slightly as the shock of arrival in this new, lower energy reality took a toll on both Rong-Arya and Ichiro-Faust but they both quickly recovered despite the discomfort and the captain immediately snapped to attention. “Begin a full sweep of this system. We want to know if anything is alive out there.”

“Aye-aye ma’am,” Xavier reported as he set the ships’ sensors to work. Already powerful radar, microwave scans, and lidar sweeps were pulsing out at the speed of light, probing at the surrounding bubble of reality, but rushing ahead of them were psychic signals that dance along the substructure of reality, foreign things that did not belong, but had to belong because the crew of the Stiletto proved their existence.

Galactica is also performing sensor sweeps. Getting superluminal feeds in now… huh… that’s unlucky,” Xavier noted unhappily.

“There’s someone here,” Rong-Arya replied in annoyance. Space was supposed to be huge, and yet three times in a row when they had dropped into a new universe the locals had been in system.

“Looks like a listening post and a pair of cosmic formed wormholes. Nothing major, but in about two minutes our light cone will reach them, and we’re radiating pretty brightly. They would have to be blind to miss us,” Xavier replied.

Tzintchi was fucking with them… somehow. Somehow the bastard was sitting on his throne back on Earth, fingers bridged under such that his mouth was concealed, and he was cackling while proclaiming, “Just as planned.”

Of course, as Mislaato proved, just because someone was fucking with you didn’t mean you couldn’t enjoy it.

“How long until our next jump?” Rong-Arya asked.

“It will take the S2 and S3 engines approximately two weeks at current output to build up sufficient fuel reserves to perform an interdimensional jump. We are already preparing for all possible scenarios,” Ichiro-Faust reported.

“Including the one where a giant space eel composed of the residue of the universe slithering back through time arrives and attempts to mate with the local star, triggering a sudden outgrowth of petunias on the engine manifold?” Rong-Arya asked sarcastically.

There was silence for a moment before Ichiro-Faust asked, “Do you really think it necessary to bring up Scenario HH-Alpha-3Z?”

“Yes! Because we’re Chaos and shit like this is always happening to us, and as a follower of Tzintchi, I, as in Rong Xun, believe that if something completely random like that shows up to bite you in the ass then you had it coming for not having the a dozen or two contingency plans in place necessary to turn things to your favour,” Rong-Arya declared.

“Do we need to include the…” Ichiro-Faust began.

Yes! We do! Sorry, but Arya is kind of groggy in this universe since as a Daemon Prince he kind of sucks up a lot of energy, so I’m feeling a bit bitchy, okay?” Rong replied.

“Yes ma’am. Of course ma’am,” Ichiro-Faust replied.

Sighing, Rong rubbed her forehead and said, “First contact… again. Ugh. O’Hare, please inform the Colonials of our discovery. And would one of the Mislaato fucks out there get me some aspirin? Two weeks in this place… I hope we can shoot something.”

“Battle would deplete our reserves and thus prolong our stay ma’am,” Ichiro-Faust pointed out.

Raising an eyebrow in annoyance, Rong did not have to say another word before the other daemonhost shut up.

In the wisdom of the Praxis, the Shaa had not equipped the surveillance posts with particularly sophisticated sensor packages, seeing them as a waste for stations designed to simply monitor traffic in and out of the wormholes and guarantee their stability. As such, they actually missed the unnatural light show that heralded the arrival of the Stiletto and her charges.

They did not however miss the sudden high powered scans that began to bounce off their sensor arrays, announcing the arrival of the something with potent electromagnetic sensors into their system.

“What in the name of the Shaa is going on down here?” Lieutenant Ferdinand demanded as he floated into the now absolutely chaotic main command chamber.

“Sir, unknown contacts just… appeared,” Luuka, the Lai-own NCO on duty reported crisply. “Triangulating now with the opposite outpost, but they appear to be a cluster of ships in orbit between the star’s second and third debris rings, somewhere between two and three light minutes distant. Current vector relationship states that… they should have passed within three light seconds of us two months ago.”

“That’s impossible,” Ferdinand noted angrily.

“Rerunning calculations. Same result. Running diagnostic program. No errors detected. Rerunning calculations. Sir, I cannot account for these readings,” Luuka replied, raising her throat to her superior officer for punishment if necessary.

Looking over the displayed calculations, Ferdinand frowned and replied, “I see no error in your work. Gather more data and account for them.”

“By the Praxis sir,” Luuka replied before her avian face contorted in a way that Terrans could only understand as displeasure after long contact with a Lai-own. “Sir, emissions from the most powerfully emitting contact have dropped off and assumed a structured pattern, a reading of prime numbers along with a repeating sequence.”

“Decipher what you can,” Ferdinand ordered. “Meanwhile, we must inform the rest of the Empire. Emil, prepare a data burst to go through the wormhole, detailing what we know and requesting further instruction.”

The Terran communication NCO nodded and immediately began compiling the appropriate message.

A few minutes later Luuka squawked slightly and said, “Sir, secondary pattern has been deciphered; it is a set of instructions for interpreting binary digital logic using the prime numbers as a starting point, followed by what appears to be a communication codec using said logic.”

There was silence for a time before Ferdinand asked, “Are you trying to tell me that the unknowns just sent us basic comm. information?

“Yes sir. The logic is basic and I see no reason why it should be transmitted, but the codec is… strange. It follows no computer science theorems approved by the Praxis for use in communications, but it is conceptually sound,” Luuka reported.

“Can we implement it?” Ferdinand asked.

“I would advise caution, but if we create the codec on an isolated drive we should be able to get it working within an hour. The program is simple enough,” Luuka replied.

Ferdinand glanced over at Emil who said, “All relevant information has been added to the message, response time should be within a day.”

Nodding, Ferdinand said, “Emil, Luuka, I want you two to isolate a drive and have us ready to talk with them as quickly as possible. The Praxis states that everything that can be known is already known, so I want us to live up to that lofty ideal. Meanwhile, begin counter-broadcasting prime numbers.”

An hour later and Ferdinand had a small drive loaded with the apparently alien codec and connected to one of their secondary communication arrays, the entire system isolated from the rest of the computers physically. By that time the data packet had changed to a different set, obviously something meant to be run by the codec. Plugging the new data into the isolated drive, they all watched as it was interpreted.

“The contents are audio data, unknown language sir,” Emil stated.

“Play it,” Ferdinand ordered, which caused a strange voice to play over the speakers.

“Sounds vaguely like one of the ancient Terran languages,” Ferdinand, who as a Peer had a classical education in the history of the Empire and its conquests, noted idly. “Conjecture?”

“Phonemes groups are simple and repetitive, they are probably attempting to get us to reply in turn so as to begin learning our language,” Emil guessed.

“My colleague’s assessment seems reasonable if we are dealing with a first contact scenario,” Luuka replied. “Although why they do not continue to use computer communication I do not know.”

“Very well. Broadcast a message to the mystery ship and set it to repeat. ‘This is Outpost 7-53-2 of the Praxis; we demand you identify yourselves and your purpose in our territory’,” Ferdinand ordered, to which his subordinates immediately complied.

Only after the message was sent did Emil ask, “Sir, do you think that message was too complex for them?”

“Perhaps, but the Praxis demands nothing less from a Peer,” Ferdinand stated.

Five minutes later the signal changed to a burst code. This time however when it was played it said in perfectly understandable speech, “Greetings Outpost 7-53-2 of the Praxis, this is Captain Rong-Arya of the Chaos frigate Stiletto, also representing the Colonial Remnant Fleet as they are under our protection. We intend you no harm as we are simply recharging our faster than light drives before moving on, but any and all aggression on your part will full and overwhelming might.”

There was a long moment of silence before Ferdinand shouted out, “What?
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Re: The Open Door (megacrossover)

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Chapter Forty-six: Training

Maria Godwin stood at rigid attention in the rows of fresh, raw recruits to the 73rd Armed Forces Training Schedule, Athens. Three times a year since fully consolidating their rule, the gods had declared they would hold training for all of those who volunteered in one of four locations scattered around the globe: Tokyo, Athens, Moscow, and West Point. These locations were only for regulars, the militias were all trained locally, as was the initial screening physical exams for recruits.

Maria had been hoping for placement in Tokyo so as to be closer to the gods and because officers usually received training in Tokyo, but apparently she had done something wrong during her examinations and interviews as she had been shipped to Athens, which had so far had very little reputation. West Point was the secondary officer training point along with the primary facility for the more technically minded non-commissioned troops, and Moscow was the biggest training facility and secondary feeder for the Space Marines training in Siberia, but Athens was the least respected base thus far.

Still, Maria would serve faithful and true no matter what the gods decided was best for her. So here she stood in the blazing Aegean sun, wearing only a set of military issue panties and nothing else, including hair as she had been shaved completely bald all over before been marched out here. She thought she smelled the soles of her bare feet cooking on the tarmac. She did not however comment and neither did the hundred or so others gathered in nice neat rows around her. Everyone assembled looked as deadly serious as her.

Well, except for two notable points. The first was that a girl a row ahead of her and to the right was fidgeting ever so slightly, obviously not used to the heat and trying not to show it. Maria wasn’t used to heat like this either though and she refused to show it, and neither did anyone else here.

The other slight aberration from stillness had to relate to the girl immediately to Maria’s left. While the girl herself was not the problem, it was the reaction in others. In the assembled lines men and women were in about equal number, and all wearing just boxers or panties, and despite the fact that everyone assembled here were about eighteen or nineteen, the men had shown considerable restraint… right up until the little girl -petite woman really- had walked in. So far no one was acknowledging anything, but even Maria had to admit that she was turned on a little.

It was the scars. It looked like she had gone toe-to-toe with a tiger that had ripped out her entire abdomen and she had somehow come out alive at the end. In current Earth culture, body scars were highly desirable and sexy. They said that a person was a survivor. And from the stern look on the woman’s face, she was clearly a survivor. In fact, looking at her the question of whether or not whatever had given her that scar had survived the encounter was a tough call to make.

Although now that Maria thought of it, she noticed that there were very few identifying marks on those around her. She saw the occasional scar from an accident or fighting, but there was nothing intentional like patterned burns or cuts or tattoos or piercings. The only brands visible were the simple star and eye pattern used to designate trained psykers. Otherwise everyone was whole of body.


Maria then felt a curious electric tingle pass over her for a second before she noticed a slight distortion begin to emerge at the viewing stand where stern faced officers waited, although none of them appeared ready to give any sort of speech. For a few seconds a sort of ethereal mist leaked out of the distortion before it began to coalesce into a humanoid figure. As the distortion faded the mist condensed and darkened until the image of a lady draped in thin gauze began to emerge.

They had sent out a daemon to speak to them? Maria had never heard of such a thing. Were they in trouble? Or was this some sort of special honour?

And then the face finished forming and Maria had to restrain the urge to gasp in shock, a sentiment clearly expressed by everyone else. The fidgety girl clearly had the most overt reaction and had to bite her tongue to avoid saying something.

It was Daemon Princess Hikari, Beloved of the Gods, Wife of Primarch Toji, Queen of Justice. It was under her stern, unwavering, caring eye that she ensured that none of the laws of the gods were broken, and she brought down swift and terrible retribution upon everyone who dared defy their orders, sometimes personally but usually through the Ministry of Justice she oversaw.

Many an embezzler who thought they could skim a little off a government project and get away with it discovered that Hikari did not forgive and did not forget that sort of thing.

Why was the greatest of all the daemons here?

Gazing out over the assembled crowd, Hikari put on a beaming, ten thousand watt smile that framed her mature, thirty-something face perfectly. Hikari was the reason pig tails remained fashionable into middle age for women. Of course implicit in that smile was that the spotlight could also be focused into fine point capable of causing spontaneous combustion.

“Greetings recruits,” she said in warm, motherly voice. “I suppose you are wondering why you are here, or more likely, why I am here. Well, I am here today to tell you all that you have been selected for a special training program we have instituted at the behest of the gods themselves that shall be a joint venture between the Ministry of War and the Ministry of Justice. Normally our non-marine Special Forces operatives are taken from the cream of the crop of the various departments of the armed forces after a few years of duty. However, we have decided to start up a more specialized program, one that can cover a wide variety of roles while having no specific attachment to any originating branch. The training will also be highly specialized from day one, so we can sculpt you perfectly to the task at hand.”

Hikari smiled enigmatically for a moment before she said, “I would like to congratulate you all on making it to the first day of class for the 1st Session of Assassin Corp training. Not all of you will pass, and in fact most of you won’t. We expect one in ten of you to make it through the process, but those of you that fail will not fail out completely but be sent back to regular training where you will surely have careers in the Special Forces. Those of you that pass the four year course will become death incarnate, modified in mind and body to be able to kill or capture anything we set you against. On Earth, you will serve the Ministry of Justice in hunting down our most elusive targets, while beyond you shall be our scouts, for while you shall know and embrace death, your skills will be useful elsewhere too.”

Maria felt her heart leap at this proposal, but she, like no one else in the assembly said anything, even if there was a definite air of anticipation in the crowd.

Seeing the anticipation and silence, Hikari continued, “You have been selected for top physical and mental score results along with a high degree of loyalty and no significant body alterations. With time you will be given cybernetic enhancements. With time you will be given nannite colonies. With time you will be trained in the use of potent combat drugs. With time you will be given mutations and other gifts by the gods. With time. For now though you are clay and you will push yourselves to the peaks of what mortals can achieve without assistance. Incidentally, for those of you with psychic powers, outside of specialized training for you, getting caught will result in an automatic failure.”

One of the men branded with the seal of a psyker gave a slight cough which caused Hikari to direct an eyebrow in his direction. Returning the look until she nodded her head, he asked, “Ma’am, judging by the fact that this is Greece, what value of ‘caught’ are you applying, ma’am?”

Smirking dangerously, Hikari said, “I see you know your history. Yes, if you can get away with cheating, you can prosper, for a time. Then again, there will be daemons watching… including me. And despite my continued friendship with Tzintchi, I firmly believe that cheaters never prosper.”

There was a general nervous gulp from all of the psykers present.

“Smart batch we have here,” Hikari noted.

Gliding back slightly, Hikari gestured for one of the officers to come forward. Nodding, one of the men stepped up to the pulpit and said, “Greetings recruits I am Captain Lawrence, and we are going to begin today by dropping the bottom ten percent of you by a simple endurance test. There are currently a hundred and twenty of you, so the first twelve to drop today are out of the training. Today will be the most gruelling part of your training as the failure rate should drop precipitously, but don’t think just because you get by today we will go easy on you.

“The endurance test is as follows: there is a bay five kilometres from here, and two kilometres out in that bay is a small island with some abandoned pre-Second Impact buildings, which will be used as an obstacle course. The first part of the test is thus to reach the island, by any means necessary. Of course, to make things interesting, twenty minutes after the start of the exam a Whip of Mislaato will be asked to… is this word right?” Captain Lawrence asked, turning to Hikari while holding up a set of papers.

“Befriend is the correct term,” Hikari confirmed. This surprisingly caused the petite woman next to Maria to snort derisively.

“Yes… well, if any of you are not in the water by the time the Whip catches up you will be ‘befriended’. Thirty minutes after the beginning of the exam the gunboats will come out to encourage anyone still in the water to get to the island. After that, the test will consist of laps around the island until a sufficient number of you drop from exhaustion that the test will end. Bearers of Reigle will be used to ensure that you keep moving and that your endurance ends before theirs does. Any questions?” The captain asked.

There was a long silence before he nodded and pulled out starting gun that he pointed into the air. “Then you had all better get going!” He then pulled the trigger and everyone assembled rushed off.

Bare feet painfully blistered from standing on hot asphalt, Maria managed to ignore the pain that shot up her legs every time the sole of her foot made contact with the ground as she joined the middle of the pack as they followed the road conveniently marked off for them that led away from the heart of the training base on the outskirts of Athens.

Running five kilometres in less than twenty minutes had been physically possible for humans for decades, but having to conserve energy for a two kilometre swim and then an obstacle course in an urban environment put some constraints on things. For a time though all Maria could think about was her own breathing and the slap of flesh on hot asphalt all around her.

Then, just as their first object came in to sight, a large purple flare went up into the sky, its light not particularly noticed amongst the noonday glare, but the signal was pretty clear. Twenty minutes was up. A Space Marine could run at sixty kilometres an hour. Whips of Mislaato were faster than that. That gave them five minutes to get into the water. Some of the frontrunners, the ones who had pushed themselves during the initial leg of the course, had already made it down the long path into the water, while others were starting to climb down the closer cliffs.

Maria watched as the petite girl peeled off from the main group and went to one of the cliffs and paused for a moment, looking out over it. It wasn’t a good climbing spot, the stone having been eroded such that it was a negative incline. Seeing this, the fidgety girl also broke off from the pack, and realizing what this meant, Maria too followed.

Maria did not slow down, not after she saw how the petite woman started running as well once she had enough of a head start. Others were following now, but Maria would not fail. The fidgety girl, then the petite one, then Maria all leapt off the edge of the cliff, their legs still kicking as they flew out over the rock and were suspended in air for a moment above the azure blue waters of the relatively shallow bay.

It was a long fall, but all of them were experienced athletes and pulled into smooth dives that reduced the impact from bone shattering to just like getting hit by an economy car at low speeds. Emerging from the water, Maria looked over at the petite girl and said, “You’re nuts,” before she started swimming for the island as other bodies began to rain down around them.

The girl shrugged and said, “You followed.”

The pain in her feet did not go away, for while she was now in cool waters, Maria was also in salt water which stung what had to be open wounds on her feet. She ignored the pain however and continued to swim.

Time slipped away again as Maria focused on just swimming, but somewhere along the line she started to notice the stream of swears the fidgety girl was kicking up as she swam. Pausing for a moment, Maria asked, “Are you alright?”

“I’m fine!” The girl announced angrily. “I tore up my feet pretty bad on the run and they hurt like motherfuckers right now.”

“I did too but we need to keep swimming, and you’re just wasting your breath, now come on and just swim,” Maria stated before returning to swimming.

“Why do you care?” The girl asked as she too started to swim again.

“The glory of the gods demands nothing less than we give our all, and I would not see you squander this opportunity by jabbering,” Maria stated grimly.

The girl quit her swearing but her breathing seemed to take on an air of grumbling after that, but focused on her own swimming, Maria barely noticed.

The ‘encouragement’ phase of the swimming leg was heralded by a six inch naval shell landing in the bay just far enough to the streams of swimmers to not hurt them but close enough to scare the crap out of them.

“I do believe the gunboats they were talking about were pre-Ascension destroyers,” someone commented wryly in the cluster around Maria.

Pausing for a moment to consider the situation, Maria noted that the little daredevil was doing the same and she commented, “Gunships, lovely.”

Maria peered at the trio of destroyers on the horizon and noted that yes, there were shapes raising off of them that were probably vectored thrust Sea King-IIs, which would probably be armed with mini-guns in their role of infantry harassment.

“Don’t worry, they’ll have to work to not hit us, they’re just a reminder to keep going,” the fidgety girl said as she swam past.

“That’s not encouraging,” the daredevil noted as she started to swim.

“The gods will provide,” Maria replied.

“Gods will provide my ass,” the fidgety girl retorted.

A minute or so later, with more naval shells raining down in a precise pattern that harmed absolutely no one, the gunships arrived, their submarine hunting gear replaced with enormous loudspeakers so that the pilots could taunt them while tracking lines of bullets up and down and across their paths.

Still, despite the fact that few of swimmers stopped and indicated that they had had enough, Maria kept going, resolutely putting one arm in front of the other and continuing to kick her feet despite the fire of exhaustion and salt on bleeding wounds that tried to stop her.

Eventually though the waves started to carry her in to the island, which was an industrial wasteland of decaying buildings over forty years old. Also, all of the beaches and climbable cliffs were blockaded by army regulars and daemons circled about preventing other modes of access. Already those who reached the island were being rounded up.

Reaching a tiny beach of the island, Maria managed to get her feet on something solid and almost immediately wished she hadn’t. The rocks beneath her feet were fairly recent and were thus not smooth sand but rather sharp, which combined with the damage already done, caused her to nearly collapse. It was obvious that pretty much everyone who had made it this far was suffering from severely damaged feet as all of those rounded up so far had thick bandages around on them.

Refusing to give up this close, Maria surged onward until she noticed the daredevil looking back. Turning, Maria saw that the fidgety girl was floundering. The daredevil looked at Maria and said, “We don’t leave people behind on missions.”

Nodding, Maria turned around and half-waded, half-swam back to where the girl was obviously finding it impossible to set her feet down. Looking at the two coming out to help her, she said half-mournfully, half-angrily, “They’re never going to let me live this one down.”

Taking the right side while the other girl took the left, Maria hauled the girl on to the beach, dragging her along while she practically crawled until Hikari settled in front of them.

“Too hard this year?” Hikari asked, confusing both Maria and the daredevil, but making the girl between them laugh.

They all did it,” she noted, gesturing to all of those on the island before she winced and said, “I forgot how much a limiting factor pain could be though. Never been this sadistic before.”

Nodding, Hikari said, “Hey, you’re the one who agreed to this all those years ago.”

“Only because we got to see him squirm first,” the girl replied as she looked at her bloody and ragged feet before noting quietly, “Do you think this counts as ‘blood for the blood god’?”

“Can you sacrifice to yourself?” Hikari asked.

“Not really,” Asukhon noted as she shed the mortal form she wore this year, sighing in relief as all of the mortal pains she had been bearing slipped away. This of course left everyone not in on the deal staring at one of the four gods in absolute shock.

Getting up on cloven feet of iron, Asukhon stretched out her limbs and shook out her newly re-grown hair before looking about at everyone and saying, “Hey guys, it’s me, your Blood Goddess, Patron Deity of Kicking Ass and Taking Names. Sorry about the bit of deception, it’s just that Tzintchi pointed out that we need to stay grounded, so every couple of years we spend a day or two mortal to remind ourselves what it’s like. And let me say, what a pain in my ass. Get Mislaato down here with the painkillers, stat! These people all deserve something for being awesome, especially these two,” Asukhon then pointed at Maria and the daredevil girl.

Maria at that point fainted from religious ecstasy. She had talked to, no touched, no she had helped one of the gods and was being singled out for praise. It was too much.

Hikari sighed and said, “I told you that you should have waited another half an hour before taking divine form again, it makes my job so much easier.”

Shrugging, Asukhon noted, “Hey, I spent twenty-four hours in a mortal body devised by the others without using any powers and did you see what that run did to my feet? Not on your life was I staying one moment longer girlfriend.”

“That attitude kind of ruins the point of these exercises you know?” Hikari said while medical staff looked over the fainted Maria.

“Hey, I’ve got a fuck load more respect for these hard asses now. It’s Reigle’s thing to keep going, I’m all about getting the job down quick and messy,” Asukhon said with a smirk.
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Re: The Open Door (megacrossover)

Post by Academia Nut »

Chapter Forty-seven: Graduation

Maria stared at herself in the mirror, at the face she saw in the reflective surface. Had four years truly gone by since the day she had met one of the gods? Had four, bloody, painful, exhausting years truly gone by? Years of endless, repetitive drills on building endurance, stealth and avoidance skills, social skills, combat skills… just about every kind of skill a human could learn really.

They had been tortured endlessly for days, just to see how long it would take for them to break, and they always did break. Then they would be built back up, mentally and physically, into something stronger than before. They had been run literally into the ground with training, then picked up and rebuilt once more. Again and again, they had been tested to fracture in every possible dimension before they were reinforced. New training, gifts from the gods, cybernetics, combat drugs… the list went on and on.

One hundred twenty human young adults had entered into the program. Thirty-seven had died in training accidents caused by over-estimation of their abilities, usually an overestimation of the ability to jump or dodge fire they really should have stayed in cover from. Maria herself had her heart restarted four times, not counting surgical procedures or during interrogation sessions. And now, at the end of it all, twelve assassins remained.

Calling them ‘human’ was probably over generous.

Still, when Maria looked at her face in the mirror, she looked just as innocent and unscarred as the day she had entered into the training. The innocent part was just a carefully cultivated mask however, while the unblemished visage had to do with the fact that assassins with distinctive features were not as useful as ones that could blend into a crowd immediately after a hit.

She still remembered her first killing. A year into the training she had been taken to a hospice. Reigle had removed disease from those who did not follow her, but the gods did not have the powers to stop the effects of aging or of critical injuries. Thus there were still places where people went to die. And sometimes they wished the process expedited somewhat.

So all of the assassins had been given a room where a person waiting for euthanasia waited inside and a variety of tools to accomplish the job. Of course, every assassin had to ensure that the target was dead, so if you chose poisons or other quiet methods you had to sit and watch the target slowly pass away. Maria still remembered the smile on the old woman’s face- that hundred plus year old face- as she pushed the barrel of the gun between her eyes and pulled the trigger.

Her first victim had been willing and had gladly joined with the gods afterward, but every assassin was expected to kill someone face to face, so see the light in their eyes die away. That first mission in the hospice had been to sort out those who could perform the fact… and also who performed it properly, with the sort of emotionless detachment that would keep them from doing something stupid later on.

There had been later missions, ones involving less willing targets. Despite the nearly anarchic law set of the gods, there were still those that insisted on breaking the rules. Not just little ones like bylaws or taxes or even universal conscription, but the big ones. There was still trafficking in humans, drugs that even Mislaato had agreed were more harmful than fun, and a variety of social ills that the gods disagreed with. Oh, sure, they occasionally skirted some of the lines themselves, maybe even stepped over every once in a while, but there were a few points that they refused to compromise on.

Disembowelling the leader of a child smuggling ring had been one of the crowning moments in Maria’s life. To see the terror in his face as his soul left his body, knowing what lay on the other side for him, had been like the sweetest of wines. To purge the world of scum like him made all the pain and misery and tears worth it for Maria.

The look of betrayal on his face when he realized that his trusted lieutenant was in fact an infiltrator had been a cherry on top though. The original second-in-command had been replaced days before the op, but only Maria, her team, and her superiors knew that.

The fact that her face remained unblemished also had to do with the fact that she had a polymorphine gland in her body along with the blessings of the shape shifting Tzintchi. She had a thousand faces. When it came to infiltration through camouflage and social interaction, Maria had top marks.

So wrapped up in internal dialogue was she that only noticed the least stealthy member of her team, or coven as the lingo went, when she felt small arms wrap around her and naked breasts press up against her own bare back.

“Are you going to stare into that thing all day?” A long familiar voice asked.

Placing her hands on those about her stomach, Maria asked, “The boys getting antsy without us?”

“You know it. They love to watch us play together, but leave them alone and they just stare awkwardly at each other,” she said.

“Oh, don’t tease them like that Vita,” Maria said playfully.

An assassin’s coven was a strange outgrowth of their construction. Apex level assassins like them could not relate to anyone other than other assassins, and to keep them all sane their handlers had discovered that integrating them into teams worked very well not only in increasing their lethality but keeping them healthy. Each coven was as good as a marriage, stronger in fact when you considered that they would probably all receive ascension to daemonhood after death. There were no secrets between them.

Such as the fact that Vita was from another universe, another branch of the multiverse really, and the reason she had joined the military was because she refused to stay still. She had another family out there, waiting for her, and after spending five years technically as a POW but really more of a civilian with a government pension for living expenses, she had decided that something had to be done. She was going to find her original family, one way or another, and show them her new family.

So she had found a legal advisor, relinquished her previous citizenship, something she had no real attachment to as she only owed her loyalty to her ‘mistress’ Hayate, and signed up as a citizen of this world. Something that meant that she had to sign up for military service. Of course, as a former NCO in a training academy and an experienced warrior and soldier, she excelled at her initial examinations and been bumped up to the assassin trials.

She had access to a strange sort of sorcery that originated from another set of physics, but here abilities were primarily combat-oriented, making her unsuited to the sort of psychic powers that typified other sorcerers. She did however earn her code name as ‘The Scarlet Hammer’ in the coven with her skills. Where Maria would infiltrate and then eliminate the enemy before disappearing again, earning the code ‘Holy Ghost’, Vita had a slightly different tack. Her method of assassination was to use her petite body size to get close to an unsuspecting target and then unleash horrific violence upon them and any allies within the lethal radius before slinking away again.

The two of them worked well together, as they had somewhat similar styles of ‘get close then kill’, so on group missions they were the closest. Of course, that meant that it had hurt the most when as part of their training each member of the team had been isolated and lead quite strongly to believe that the others had been killed quite horrifically. Psychic probe teams lead by daemon princes could pull quite the number on the mind.

Then again, the members of the coven were the only ones who could relate after being subjected to a week long session with a Slaaneshi greater daemon. Not one of Mislaato’s lot, but the actual psychopathic, predatory train wreck of a monster that had hitched a ride along so many years ago to assist in the ascension of the gods. That had not been fun. Of course, when it was revealed that everyone was in fact still alive and not decorating the torturer’s racks, that had been the greatest, most relieving moment in all their lives.

Interrupting her reverie once again, Vita said while nibbling on the back of Maria’s neck right where she liked it, “But it’s so easy to mock them. Why is it that the girls do all the hard work while they get to stay behind?”

“Because neither one of us are physical capable of using someone as a mind puppet, and you must admit that what Jose does with a rifle is art. Do you remember what he did to those brain rot smugglers?” Maria pointed out.

“You mean where he put a round between the eyes of that one guy with poor trigger safety and someone managed to have the bullet spray from the death spasms break the locking mechanism on a crane, thus dropping a cargo container full of volatile drugs on the advancing forces right before we were about to be overrun? Yeah, I’ll admit that was art,” Vita conceded.

Leaning into the ministrations of her coven-mate, Maria said, “Or what about the time Charles rushed those arms smugglers bare assed to haul you out of range of those lascannons that had you pinned down?”

Maria could feel Vita lean in to her back and smirk, saying, “I couldn’t walk straight for a week after that I was so grateful. Still, they’re fun to tease.”

“I know. You’re the hammer of our group Vita, the blunt one. I’m the deep, moody thinker who has to put on the masks, become the social butterfly and interact with the worst people in the world, the ones who think Chaos is to strict on their way of life. Half the time you just tie off her little tits, put on a jumper, and then bite the dick off the first pedophile you lure in,” Maria noted.

“Hey! My missions are much more sophisticated than that! Most child abusers and sexual predators target only those they trust and feel safe around. I go undercover in schools and orphanages. And you know how much I hate those missions anyway. I can’t get off for a week afterward because I feel guilty for my partners sleeping with me,” Vita complained.

“I know, I know. We all have our issues. I get the deep infiltration stuff, you get all the sexual predators, Jose has to deal with the simultaneous distance he operates at while still knowing the faces of his targets intimately, and Charles, Charles rapes people’s minds and takes over their bodies. They had to replace his heart with an artificial one because every time one of his puppets dies his original heart stopped beating and had to be restarted. We’re all screwed up,” Maria replied.

“Yeah, but when you smash in a man’s ribcage and you know that he got off on tying up little kids in his basement, it’s the greatest thing in the world to watch that flicker of fire in his eyes die, and to know that the last thing going through his mind before he meets final judgement is the sense of shock and betrayal that his ‘helpless victim’ turned out to be an assassin. Then you get to untie all of the kids and be the hero for a few brief seconds before slipping away in the mayhem as the regular fuzz arrive. Those are the times that make it all worth it,” Vita said.

Maria smiled before she turned around, picked up a rather surprised Vita, and said, “Alright, that’s it, you’ve just convinced me. Instead of moping around, we’re going to go have fun, get clean, and then go to our graduation ceremony.”

The four members of their coven stood proudly at order amongst the proud members of the surviving first class of assassins, decked out in their full gear. Maria the Holy Ghost wore her chameleon skin suit, a nano-motile fabric capable of rearranging itself into nearly any configuration Maria could think of, although right now she had it set to a dense weave, skin tight body armour. She had on display a wide array of melee weapons, from poisoned blades to a power sword. She also had, concealed about her person, a compact hell pistol.

Next to her on the left, Vita wore her barrier jacket, blood red and liberally decorated with skulls but mostly unchanged from its original design, except for the addition of an iron collar about her neck, a gift from the gods to help regulate the flow of otherworldly energies into her body while outside of her home environment. She had not soaked up nearly so much Warp energy as the only other mage from her home dimensions to require more drastic measures. Attached to her collar was her device in its dormant state, appearing so innocently as a little pendant.

To Maria’s right was Jose the Artful Scalpel, the coven’s sniper, and he too wore a chameleon skin suit, although his did not have quite the same configurability as hers but had a better protective rating. His eyes had been replaced years ago by low profile cybernetics, but since he did not want to go incognito he did not have the camouflage turned on so they were silver and gold orbs of metal. Also, invisibly, he had a ‘third eye’, a sort of psychic insight that surpassed all of the others when it came to combat precognition. Standing on the ground next to him was his baby, the two metre long Finale rifle. While often too conspicuous for standard work, the enormous laser weapon did have its uses in ultra-long range anti-personnel work and in a pinch as an anti-tank weapon.

Then to Vita’s left was Charles the Waking Nightmare, pale and resplendent in his robes. He looked the like the least likely candidate for an assassin as an albino African, something that most people would probably remember, but he rarely got himself into a position where he was seen. He was the group’s psyker, an extremely powerful telepath and telekinetic who had specialized in forcibly taking over other’s bodies. He needed no weapons, for his body was a living weapon, and he tended to borrow the items of his foes. Still, a truer friend and a more incorrigible prankster could not be found.

So the four of them waited, proud amongst the elite of the elite. Naked, any one of them could give a Space Marine a hard time. Properly armed and prepared… their enemies often never knew what happened to them.

They waited patiently as Hikari manifested. Clearing her throat for effect, she said, “I’m impressed to see so many of you still here today, four years after you began. Honestly, we weren’t sure if we could get one quality assassin out of this program, but it seems that our initial estimates were wrong, and that 10% of you actually did pass. Out of hundreds of thousands of possible candidates and a starting cohort of a hundred-twenty, twelve of you have made it here today. Twelve of you have survived to today, as our training showed the frailty of the human body in comparison to the human spirit. To those in the military who know only of whispers of your presence, you send chills up their spines to think that we have produced something so perfectly lethal yet still human.

“To those who know you more intimately… well, we’re not sure just what to make of you really. You have consistently surprised us. After the second year, all losses were caused by trainees pushing their bodies beyond their limits and suffering the fatal consequences. We honestly tried to break you permanently, to do things to you that we thought no one could withstand, and yet you consistently pulled together the pieces and spat in the face of our expectations. We could not defeat you; we could only kill you, something we had no interest in. So here you stand, the greatest humanity has to offer, and the gods are impressed,” Hikari said before nodding to an officer carrying a case.

“You have all graduated, that is a foregone conclusion at this point, and you all may now carry, for the first time, the titles of Divine Assassin, a rank unique to you and conferring the privileges of a colonel in the army. You answer only to your handlers, who in turn answer only to the Gods themselves. While we are here though, I would like to announce something of interest,” Hikari explained to them before idly opening the case and pulling out what was inside.

It was a sword, a strange weapon of a matte grey material that seemed to shift in and out of reality at times, morphing and fluid. Smiling, Hikari explained, “In the old ways, the Imperium outfitted some of its assassins with fearsome blades known as phase swords, weapons derived from alien technology. Specifically the C’tan, the creatures we seek to overthrow. We however have learned that the C’tan themselves derived phase technology from observations of their wars with the Angels. Knowing these facts, we have managed to miniaturize the Lance of Longinus. This is currently the only copy of the one melee weapon more fearsome than a daemon blade in our arsenal. This is an Angel Cutter. In the whole multiverse, there are few weapons this deadly. We present this morphing blade to an assassin using polymorphine and who has demonstrated the best use of that shape changing chemical. Would Maria Godwin please step forward?”

Four years ago Maria had fainted away at the praise of one of the avatars of the gods. Now she confidently stepped forward to the stage, exchanging her power sword for the phase weapon.

Returning to the line with a grin, Maria waited expectantly. Hikari paused for a long period before she said, “I give up; I can see you are all too well trained to not anticipate one last thing. We have one final task for you as students. The gods wish to send their avatars to a public meeting in another universe. Your task is thus to provide security detail for them at an Iron Maiden concert.”

“Which era?” Charles asked.

“It’s up to the security detail to figure that out, but the gods do demand that we get some daemons summoned in during either ‘Number of the Beast’ or ‘Dance of Death’,” Hikari replied, the grin rapidly growing on her face.

The assassins all looked at each other for a moment before they all nodded sagely. They knew how to pull this off.
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You know, if Christian dogma included a ten-foot tall Jesus walking around in battle armor and smashing retarded cultists with a gaint mace, I might just convert - Noble Ire on Jesus smashing Scientologists
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Re: The Open Door (megacrossover)

Post by Academia Nut »

Chapter Forty-eight: In Concert

The book sat in his hands with the familiarity of a slow growing tumour. It shouldn’t have been there, but it had always been there in a way, and if he excised it, he would rub at the spot wondering where it had gone. It was a question wrapped in an answer. It was the sort of history that none of his comrades could provide. It was the sort of insight only an outsider could provide. It was ghastly to read.

And it rang of the truth.

It was why they had gone to Canada and avoided the shockwave of a massive explosion several universes away that caused the whole world, but especially Japan, to light up with spectacular auroras. It was why he had accepted their help to avoid Haruhi’s imagination from sparking too radically as all of the reality warping she had already done interacted with the strange radiation from other worlds.

He had asked ‘why?’ and Chaos had told him. They had told him how stories could resonate throughout the universe, how archetypes could bleed through. They had told him that they had discovered another hub universe, one that unlike with here, remained sealed off.

They had discovered the universe ruled by Azathoth; the Nuclear Chaos; the Demon Sultan. Yog-Sothoth had shut the gates to that reality to protect the multiverse from the insane slumbers of that deity. Nyarlathotep had been spawned from the dreams of the ruler of all creation in that place, a major-domo for the gods and a cruel corruptor and despoiler.

And Haruhi was the same. She had come into being, probably been constructed, untold aeons ago and then somehow been driven insane, sealed within her domain by forces beyond understanding, to dream away eternity. Only somewhere along the line she had woken up and erased existence and began to play with reality like clay. Technically until a few years ago she hadn’t even been a ‘she’ or a human. She had simply been. She had experimented with forms and realities, plucking stories out of the ether and trying out the roles out of sheer, mad boredom.

This time she had decided to erase her own knowledge of what she was so she could play the role of ‘Japanese schoolgirl’ more fully, but even then she could not contain her infinite curiosity and wanton, casual disregard for the puppets constructed for her amusement.

And if Haruhi was Azathoth then Kyon was her Nyarlathotep, the part of her mind that had separated out in frustration but still had to keep her entertained. How many billions of iterations had they gone through? How many uncountable intelligent beings had they wiped out with each press of the reset button?

The worst bit was that the gods had presented evidence, of the sort that Yuki and her allies had confirmed. It was all here in this book, a map of the cosmic detritus left behind by the alterations made to universe. It made Kyon want to scream out, to take refuge in madness, but he hung on and kept his mouth shut. Maybe he wouldn’t be able to contain Haruhi forever, but perhaps a lifetime or two, maybe make her see the worth of the world. Make her stick with things instead of abandoning everything for the next passing interest.

It was the only hope if Kyon wanted to contain this insane deity. Even Chaos looked all happy, fluffy bunnies in comparison to the unimaginable destruction wrought so far. At least their death toll had a number. Kyon wasn’t even sure if there was a word for the number of lives and civilizations wiped from existence by Haruhi.

Although to be fair to her, Haruhi was really just the latest incarnation; not exactly blameless, but her personality was relatively unique and thus she might be horrified by her own past actions if she was aware of them. Unfortunately, from some of the wreckage uncovered in the space between realities the realization of that seemed to trigger a suicide event that erased the latest universe and incarnation but could not actually undo the deity behind it all.

It was the ultimate in Catch-22s. Tell Haruhi what she’s done and the whole universe goes bye-bye and nothing gets solved. Don’t tell her and risk her continuing what she’s always done and making the universe go bye-bye. Neither was a particularly pleasant option. Especially for the one being who was sure to get dragged along for the ride, no matter what.

Then again, his allies occasionally made weird demands of him, like making sure that Haruhi stayed away from a heavy metal concert on another continent. Apparently it was all for their safety, but Kyon still wasn’t sure why the request needed to be made considering that she was contained here in Japan.

Kyon then looked down at the book in his hands and the terrible truths within. No, with Haruhi, or more precisely the entity she represented, it always paid to go to that extra bit of caution.

Perhaps even some proactive steps might be necessary.

“This was really the only place we could find?” Charles asked while leaning up against a wall near the stadium where the concert would be.

Maria shrugged and said, “Too many of the main sequence universes are beyond Maiden and time travel is a pain in the ass to get right. We couldn’t guarantee we would hit a point with a tour going on unless we went into the Doldrums, which are still mostly unexplored even on the edges.”

“Did His Majesty Pen-Pen have to come along? This place is dangerous enough as it is,” Charles griped.

“Come on Chuck, its not like this place is one time-quake away from annihilation, we’ll have enough forewarning to pull out right if necessary,” Jose said reassuringly.

“Yeah, well, I just get the feeling that guarding the gods is going to be a right pain in the ass,” Charles said sullenly.

“You’re just pissed that you can’t puppet one of the band members,” Vita noted.

“I believe the gods said that would be ‘Extra heresy!’ to do that,” Maria said while smirking.

“It wouldn’t be ‘puppet’; it would be ‘observer’!” Charles said.

“This is a light hearted assignment, let’s just do it and have fun and… oh good gods, they’re here,” Jose said before planting his right hand over his face in embarrassment.

“MAIDEN! MAIDEN! MAIDEN!” The gods whooped in excitement while marching along with the crowds, wearing somewhat aged, adult versions of their human selves wearing the most stereotypically over the top heavy metal clothing possible.

Once she picked her jaw up off the ground, Vita griped, “I hope the bastards assigned to security detail around the Emperor Penguin are having a better time than us.”

At one of the private skyboxes at the stadium in one of premium positions for the rich and powerful who wanted to see the concert but didn’t want the sweaty, crowded, pot and tobacco filled air of the floor, a customer service rep found that her gift basket was stalled at the front doors of the room by some large looking men in suits, although they looked more like shaved gorillas than men.

“Our client thanks the establishment for the gift, but he does not want to be disturbed at the moment,” one of the rather freakishly tall guards said before passing the gift basket on through.

Catching a peek, the woman asked, “Hey, did I see a penguin in there? Because an-”

“You saw nothing,” the other giant replied angrily while moving to block things off her view.

“But-” the woman began.

She found herself lifted off the ground by her shirt, the guard all but yelling, “You saw nothing!

Before she could wet herself in terror however the little microphone thing in his ear started to squawk… literally. It sounded like whatever was on the other end kept saying something like “Wark!” Eventually the guard cooled down and dropped the poor girl.

“My client would like me to apologize to you and explain that while he enjoys his privacy, he felt that I was a touch overzealous with you, and he would like to offer you fair monetary compensation for any fright you might have suffered. How does twenty thousand dollars sound?” The guard replied, and it seemed the pay would be coming out of his salary if his expression was anything to go by.


“MA’AM, IT’S REALLY HARD TO KEEP AN EYE ON YOU WHEN YOU CROWD SURF!” Maria cried out as she tried to follow Asuka across the ocean of jumping, head banging, moshing fans in front of the stage.

Just then the whole stadium went up with the final cheer of the song, “CAN I PLAY WITH MADNESS?”

As the band settled down and went into some inter-song banter, the assassins managed to round the gods back up into one place in the crowd.

“Okay, let’s check in here. Misato, how high are you exactly?” Maria asked.

“I can see SR-71s beneath me,” Misato said dreamily.

“Right…” Maria noted. “Asuka, you… is that a necklace of teeth?”

Asuka shrugged and said, “Mosh got crazy, what can I say? I donated a couple of my own, but they grew back.”

Maria held out a hand and said, “I’ll pass those along to medical. And Shinji, I don’t even want to know why you have a shoe collection.”

“All will become clear in time,” Shinji replied with a grin.

“Rei… Rei, what happened?” Maria asked, dreading the answer.

“It is advisable you not be informed until after the mission so as to not turn your stomach and thus decrease your effectiveness,” Rei replied as softly as possible in the crowd as Bruce continued his story up on stage.

“Goddess of disease tells me not to ask, I’m not going to ask,” Maria said with a shake of her head.

Up on stage, Bruce then said, “…and shouldn’t kill that albatross, lest you end up like this fellow. It’s the Rime of the Ancient Mariner!

The whole crowd, including the gods, threw up their arms in glee and cheered as the most cultured and literary song on the set list started up. As the song progressed however, the whole thing took on a strange, charged, ethereal quality.

“What’s going on?” Maria asked as the gods took on a more concerned look to their faces.

Then their faces split into grins and Misato said, “I think the god of this reality just got laid! Go Kyon!”

“Why is this happening?” Maria inquired.

“Probably our presence, don’t worry though, we can evacuate everyone quickly, but we might take the stadium along with us if we try,” Shinji said with a shrug before he went back to singing along to the song off key.

When the song went into its quiet, ghost ship portion, something very strange happened. Shinji felt a prick in his mind and he realized he was in psychic contact with someone.

Who’s there?


Shinji quickly switched his state of mind over to Tzintchi and dredged up the psychic voice before he asked Lars? From the Stiletto? Is that you?

This is Lars, although I was separated from the
Stiletto a few months back after the attack on the Borg. Umm… could you get back to me in a day or two, sir? I’m kind of in the middle of something.

This is a freak occurrence man, I don’t know if I’ll be able to replicate it. You and the ship have been out of contact for nine years.

Bugger. Okay… err, just a second sir, I have to put a bullet between the eyes of a wizard. Okay. So, I got separated and hurled across the multiverse. To make a long story short, I land in the middle of a divine Cold War and am forced to flee into the inter-universe void to protect the daughter of the leader of dominant faction. We then land in an absolutely lovely medieval world and get caught up in the power struggles of a bunch of crazy elves. I also get pregnant.
Long story. Currently I am fleeing along with a band of refugees out of a subterranean world while being chased by an army because said daughter I rescued kind of usurped the power of one of the local gods and now a rival wants to take that power. Real complicated.

Oh. Wow. We’re just at an Iron Maiden concert right now while the deity of this place is getting some action, and it’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” which I guess is producing a sympathetic effect given your background.

Nice, although right now I am more preferential to a slightly modified Red Hot Chilli Peppers song.

Which one?

Running away, running away, running away now. Running away, running away, running away now.

You’re surprisingly clever for a guy under attack.

My sarcasm has been honed to a razor sharp edge. What can I…

The connection was lost.


Oh, and fun fact, here is a picture of the author at the June 6, 2008 concert in Edmonton.


And the source video where I got the picture from
I love learning. Teach me. I will listen.
You know, if Christian dogma included a ten-foot tall Jesus walking around in battle armor and smashing retarded cultists with a gaint mace, I might just convert - Noble Ire on Jesus smashing Scientologists
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Re: The Open Door (megacrossover)

Post by Academia Nut »

Chapter Forty-nine: Cornered

Things had not gone well since the fall of House Baenre and the ascension of Skuld. Actually, that was a bit of an understatement, along the lines of suggesting that an ocean wasn’t exactly the driest place in the world. Technically true, but it lacked a significant amount of nuance and power to the statement.

Unfortunately, it was difficult to parse what had happened in that time into a pithy statement as it had mostly been either packing to get the hell out of Dodge, or when Lolth had shown up in Menzoberranzan, it had involved a great deal of actually getting the hell out of Dodge.

Skuld still wasn’t sure if Lars’ decision to ask her to bless a .50 round had been the best of ideas or not, but they were still alive, so she supposed that should count for something. As they had been moving the refugee column, primarily freed slaves from House Roreril or claimed from the ruins of House Baenre as ‘spoils’, but a few others who just wanted to escape drow society in Menzoberranzan had followed, Lars had handed her the round and made his request.

Skuld had merely nodded and reached in to the round, finding the tiny little bit of essence that defined the bullet as a bullet and asked it to be the best damn bullet it could be, in imitation of her sister Belldandy… although Skuld highly doubted her gentle sister would ever ask a weapon to do its very best at attempting to kill or maim someone. When she had finished and opened her eyes from her concentration, Skuld discovered that the bullet was now etched with runes of absolute darkness.

Lars took the round and smiled, saying, “This should work.”

He had then left for a minute before there was the loud, echoing boom of his rifle firing in an enclosed space followed by him rushing out, his face pale. He said, “Okay, I have news. The news in general is that I just shot Lolth. The bad part is that despite the fact that getting a divine blessing seems to have ensured it would hurt, it wasn’t enough to actually kill her and thus I probably just pissed her off more than she already was. The good news, maybe, is that I don’t think she’s going to be coming after us for a while.”

“Why? Where did you hit her?” Skuld had asked.

Lars winced and said, “Well… she’s currently bleeding… from the breast. I was aiming for the heart but she turned at the last moment so that she got caught in the right breast just above the nipple. Just as well I suppose, I think the bullet was stopped dead by her rib cage, which is obviously tougher as a deity than I expected. But yeah, her right boob kind of exploded like… well… a milk bag caught in an industrial press. Blood and skin and fat everywhere, Lolth is currently rolling around on the ground screaming while her followers just sort of stare in shock. And you’re wearing the same sort of pained expression and clutching yourself in the same way guys do when they hear about another man taking a really nasty shot to the groin.”

“You shot her tits off?” Skuld cried out in sympathetic pain.

“Just one! And it was an accident. In any case, I think I bought us an hour or two and I probably crippled her ability to motivate the drow by publicly maiming and injuring her. I don’t think she’s going anywhere naked like that anymore though,” Lars replied grimly.

That had been a week ago, and now the whole column was holed up in a dead end cave, every drow looking to gain Lolth’s favour camped out two caves down. Despite getting cornered, they were in an excellent position to make a last stand, for the massive cave they were in was a dead magic zone and in between the cave where the refugees were camped out and the cave where the drow and their servants were camped out, there was a long gallery with a slight downward slope and a choke point from the drow cave.

A choke point where Skuld had set up a nasty little spell, one that only she and Lars understood the workings of, but that scared the crap out of the drow. It looked like a simple globe of darkness, but that was just a side effect of both its function and the fact that Skuld was still trying to figure out how exactly to manipulate her new found magic properly so she was stuck with shadows.

What the little sphere of darkness did do was any outside electromagnetic radiation was allowed in but it was not allowed back out. Air molecules significantly above the average speed of ones outside the sphere were also reflected if they tried to exit. Finally, the globe technically didn’t reflect electromagnetic radiation; it absorbed it and re-emitted photons along one of two energy levels; either 100 milli-electron volts or 1.22 Mega-electron volts.

This was to say that Skuld had turned the interior of the globe of darkness into a combination microwave/gamma ray/positron oven with no way to lower its interior temperature. Rask had thrown a few fireballs in there on the first day and they kept a fire next to it on their side so that they would not drain all of their air out through convection and keep a minimum input of energy. Once the first unlucky enemy soldier had stepped inside the globe and thus been vaporized by all of the water in his body explosively boiling away and the organic molecules catching fire from the intense gamma ray bombardment, the globe had become a death trap.

Skuld, as the creator of the spell, knew the current contents of the globe, and as such she had advised no one to go anywhere near it as the internal pressure and temperature was quite high. Not yet high enough to trigger nuclear fusion, but considering that the drow had driven several hundred goblin cannon fodder slaves into the globe in a mad rush before they realized what was happening, Skuld did not want anyone under her protection to be anywhere near that thing when the spell failed. Already, the only way for the globe to shed heat had been to melt the granite it had been touching, but that had only lasted so long and a great deal of the energy had been returned to the globe once the stone had melted away and radiated away much of the energy.

So the drow had been trying to hop wizards across the barrier created by the globe to establish a beach head, but Lars had been camped out at the far end of the gallery with his rifle and sniping them as they came through. The drow were learning how to deal with bullets, but it was difficult for them as their leadership still demanded progress.

For her part, Skuld had been helping to manufacture fresh ammunition, reassure the terrified civilians, and most of all she had been trying to master the Shadow Weave she now controlled. It was difficult. A great amount of emotion, mostly rage and loss, had been dumped into the magical construct over the past several thousand years, and it was trying to distort Skuld’s mind. It was also clearly made by someone who had a medieval mindset so it was organized in a way Skuld would have never allowed.

Oh, and she tried to rein in her daughter.

Four times during the retreat she had disappeared only to reappear, her white hair and the simple white silk dress she seemed to like to wear soaked through with blood while she used all four limbs to drag a dead drow by the throat with her teeth. It was very kitten-ish. In an utterly terrifying way the first two times, but the little daemon was very cute when she wasn’t ripping things apart.

Right now she was sitting next to Skuld as she meditated on the Shadow Weave and tried to reorganize things. She was intently working on inscribing tiny runes of destruction, where she had learned them Skuld wasn’t exactly sure she wanted to know, into the surface of shot that would be going into the shells destined for Lars. While the task wasn’t exactly easy, the shots were triple-ought rounds destined for an eight gauge. Still, it was rather cute to watch her with her tongue stuck out in concentration as she made miniscule marks with a scratching tool in the soft silver metal.

They had run out of lead a few days ago and had resorted to melting down some of the precious metals from valuables people had brought with them, making the most expensive shotgun rounds ever. They had ten twelve gauge shotguns already made before the assault on the House Baenre compound, except for the ammunition, and Skuld had privately made Lars’ new weapon as part of her experimentation with her new powers. She knew that she could get them all out of this situation… she just needed the time to figure out how!

“All done!” Gunnhild cried out triumphantly as she held up the last shell she had made for her daddy. She was really quite the industrious one; having inscribed enough shot for a dozen shells and then packed them all.

Opening her eyes from her meditation on the nature of the Shadow Weave, she smiled at the rather humorously named daemon and said, “Good girl. Here, let mommy see those.”

It kind of scared Skuld just how fast she had become used to using maternal pronouns for herself, but when Gunnhild buried her face in Skuld’s lap, terrified by the excess fear radiating off the refugees despite the fact that daemon could, and had, rip any one of them apart with her bare hands… claws… tentacles… well, there were appendages of some sort in the whirlwind of death anyway… Skuld had felt something ancient well within her. Gunnhild was her daughter, no matter how strangely she had been conceived and born. And Skuld would do her part in raising the little murderous psychopath into something not quite so evil.

Skuld was of course terrified of where this line of thought was leading her.

Taking the double handful of shells, Skuld let them start floating around her, whispering to the spirits within them. Already they had been enchanted by Gunnhild, each piece of shot carrying a tiny, malevolent Chaos rune. The effects on flesh would not be pretty. Scratch that, the effects on any sort of matter would be disgusting. But then Skuld started whispering to them, telling the shot that each and every one of them was a god killer, imbuing them with a tiny piece of divine essence. Not much, but she was certain that anything less than a deity would not walk away from being shot by one of these shells.

Especially when once loaded into her gift for Lars. It was this world’s first pump action shotgun, the others being double barrel break action breech loaders. Eight-gauge with a seven shell tube magazine, it was only something Lars with his daemonic strength could handle in combat, but it would make him an utterly lethal at medium to close range. Of course, since Skuld had crafted this personally using nothing but her mind channelled through her shadow magic and some raw ore she had discovered here, the gun itself was ridiculously enchanted. It was coloured shiny obsidian black but with tiny green flecks that resolved into alien stars and nebula if you looked at it too long.

Divinely made magical shotgun loaded with god killing Chaos 000-buckshot wielded by a daemon related to the ones who had made the weapon and its ammunition. If Skuld could make anything for Lars that might give him a fighting chance should Lolth herself decide to come through the globe of darkness, this was it.

As the shells slowly orbited about her, Skuld noticed Lars coming in to the main chamber where they had established themselves. Lars and Gunnhild were the only two the ever loyal Steb would not stop trying to get close to her. Once they got out of this, Skuld’s first line of research would be to figure out how to restore the dwarf’s vocal cords.

“I’m out of rounds for the .50 cal. Worse yet, there are magical sensors down there. I think they’ve cooked up a new idea,” Lars replied.

“I think I’ve almost figured out how to open a portal out of here. I’m 95% certain I can open one to the Shadow Plane, and about 25% sure I can figure out how to make a direct one to the surface. I don’t want to go to the Shadow Plane if we don’t have to though as I’m pretty sure Shar is there and pissed off beyond belief,” Skuld said.

“We may need to risk it,” Lars replied. “I’m calling forth the volunteers now. We’re going to be in a fight soon, I can tell.”

Skuld’s voice trembled for a moment before she said, “Before we go out there, could you do something for me?”

“Yes, what?” Lars asked.

“Marry me.”

Lars blinked once. Lars blinked twice. He opened his mouth to say something, raising a finger as he did it, before he abandoned that action half way through. Finally he just sort of spluttered, “What?”

Pulling Gunnhild close and hugging her, Skuld said, “Gunnhild is my child as much as yours, even if the circumstances are like no other conception ever in that it was honestly a mistake and an accident on both our parts. But I still love her, even if she is trying to build me a skull throne.”

“It’ll be huge momma, thousands of skulls for you lounge on,” Gunnhild said with a huge smile.

Finally Lars voiced his biggest problem, “You’re practically a child yourself!”

Skuld’s eyes narrowed and she said, “You are what? Eighty?”

“Oldest component is seventy,” Lars muttered.

“I’m three thousand,” Skuld replied imperiously.

“Yeah, but you look and, most importantly, act like you’re fifteen,” Lars commented, feeling a sort of black coil of… something… well up inside him. He was used to having considerable control over his emotions, but this was different.

I am a goddess, twice over. Such things are trifling considerations,” Skuld replied.

“Oh, so it’s a ‘whose voice can get more reverb’ pissing contest is it? Well I am a daemon, and while this form may be nascent, the essence within me can trace back tens of millions of years. I have infinity behind and before me. A paltry three millennia means nothing to me.

Then we have time to wait for you to get over your hang ups once we are through this, but so long as we fight with deities we do not have time in the present. We will marry,” Skuld commanded.

Lars considered making a counter-point before he shook his head and he said, “This is a shotgun wedding where the bride is holding the gun, isn’t it?”

Pulling out the weapon she had built for Lars, Skuld said with a bright grin, “Better yet, the shotgun being used is the wedding gift from the bride to the groom.”

Lars remained silent for a long moment before he sighed and hung his head. He then requested, “Could we at least wait for the wedding night until I won’t feel like a complete pedophile?”

“Hey! Look, I have boobs! And hips! I’m at least seventeen in human terms!” Skuld protested.

“It’s still creepy! We have rules about this sort of thing where I come from! The sort that end with trying to shove your intestines back into your gut and your genitalia in another time zone if you break them! And that’s only what happens before you die!” Lars protested. “They’re kind of ingrained into not just the human part of me, but the daemonic part!”

“We have eternity, okay? A couple of years don’t mean anything to me. But… but I’m scared okay? And I come from a bit of a traditionalist family, and no matter how weird the circumstances, I’d feel worse having a child and not being married than getting married without my family here. Okay?” Skuld replied, holding back the frightened tears.

Suddenly, Lars got it. Skuld had interfered with her sister’s love life for years because she was afraid of her family breaking up. Family really was everything to Skuld. Lars had originally felt more of a fatherly/big brotherly relationship, but Gunnhild complicated things. Skuld didn’t do well with multiple roles per person. She was Gunnhild’s mother. He was Gunnhild’s father. Of course they had to be married.

“I will note as part of my protest that your insistence we get married like this is one of the marks of immaturity that I am protesting against,” Lars replied.

“Duly noted,” Skuld said as she began to float higher into the air, her wings manifesting out of her back and wrapping about her for a moment as shadows swirled, changing her outfit into something more elegant. She was wearing a simple sort of gown the grey colour of a brilliant full moon, untouched by yellow or blue tones while a faint aura of shadows surrounded her.

“We’re kind of about to go into battle here Skuld, I’m not sure if we have time for…” Lars pointed out.

Lars, Daemon of Chaos Undivided, do you declare in front of all of these witnesses that you will be faithful and true to me, a friend and a companion throughout the eons, until the stars lay down their burdens and we are no more?” Skuld asked; her wings spread wide as she hovered, thousands of refugees gazing up at her in awe, the hem of her dress just barely failing to conceal the fact that her feet were not touching anything.

Lars was quiet for a moment before he shifted his form from utilitarian clothing to something less shabby. Not quite the terrifying ostentation of the commissar outfit, more along the lines of a sea captain’s formal dress wear. He replied, “I do. Do you, Skuld, Norn of the Future, declare in front of all these witnesses that you shall be faithful and true to me, a friend and a companion throughout the eons, until the stars lay down their burdens and we are no more?

I do,” Skuld replied.

There was a tiny tremor in the fabric of reality and had Ao actually had the Tablets of Fate on him he would have been able to notice that for the first time in a long time one of the deities had actually got married. And none of the temporary consort crap that caused all sorts of drama, but actually declared a marriage in the ‘this will take the mother of all lawyers to divorce’ sort of way.

Of course, if the Tablets hadn’t been stolen he would have known almost immediately that Skuld had taken over the Shadow Weave from Shar two weeks ago. Just one more thing to kill the bastards who had taken it for.

Lars waited calmly at the end of the gallery, watching the point of blackness that signified the boundary. He could feel a breeze as the air was being drawn into the globe, unable to escape as it was heated up. They’d added way too much energy to that thing in one form or another over the past few days. If it lost containment it would probably bring down this entire section of the Underdark.

He grinned slightly as he sighted along his new shotgun. That would make a great parting gift if they could figure out a way to safely get out of here.

Lars then felt a slight tremor in the ground, causing him to call out to the volunteers, “Alright boys and girls, looks like this is it. Remember, those of you with the guns, don’t open fire until I do, we have limited ammunition. Skirmishers, keep the enemy off our backs.”

They had three humans, four dwarves of various kinds, two orcs, and one wickedly good shot of a goblin armed with the shotguns and seven rounds apiece. Lars had a dozen ‘god killers’ and twenty regular, if still divinely blessed, shells. Not enough to do anything anywhere else, but maybe enough to break a charge and for those armed with more primitive weapons to hold off the rest of the forces long enough to buy time for Skuld to get everyone else out.

Then the source of the shaking ground emerged from the globe of darkness.

“Oh. Fuck,” Lars noted.

They had brought an iron golem. The top layer of its iron body seemed to have been melted off by the incredible heat, but that appeared to have only pissed it off while making it more as it would now surely set fire to anything flammable that it came into contact with.

“I will handle it,” a voice next to Lars replied. Looking over, Lars discovered one of the less likely members of the refugees crouched next to him. No one knew exactly what he was, just that he went by the name Shyft and he was either some sort of intelligent, free roaming golem or a guy in a really sophisticated suit of enchanted armour. Either way, he had followed the refugees for his own reasons and had not felt inclined to share.

Then, before Lars could say otherwise, the strange being broke from cover and charged down the gallery. Its armour was strangely baroque, almost as if someone had taken a dragon’s bones and arranged them into a form that a human could wear, and then dipped it in a curious metal that flowed like quicksilver but was hard as adamant and coloured a dull grey.

Then Shyft reached the edge of the dead magic zone and Lars realized where it got its name, for it began to blur into motion, its feet no longer connected to the ground and reaction and action somehow not quite balancing. Shyft glided along, changing vectors moment to moment, and danced around the gigantic animate piece of iron in the shape of a humanoid. Sliding around behind it, a blade shot out of its right arm above the wrist and glowed brilliant white for a moment before he plunged it into the golem’s left calf.

Iron hot iron went flying away as Shyft danced away from the golem once more, steam venting out from the back of Shyft’s armour as he purged the waste heat from a blade so hot it could cut through and damage a creature that normally got stronger in fire.

Damn,” Lars noted while whistling appreciatively. This guy would have been useful during the siege of House Baenre.

Then the portals started to open. Obviously the golem was just a distraction, and somewhat more importantly a screen against fire to the yawning gaps in reality forming just beyond the globe of destruction. Once they were fully open, the things on the other side started spilling out.

“Devils. They’re learning,” Lars noted as he controlled the feeling of dread. The portals were like open windows to a storm to him, but he had suffered worse when in Hild’s domain, and he had grown since then.

Hacking through the golem’s right foot at the ankle such that it was no longer capable walking properly, not that such a thing would stop the construct, Shyft glided back and away from the rows of devils forming up in neat lines.

One blessed claymore, that’s all I need right now. Alright, runner, go tell Skuld we’re leaving now. I don’t care where we go, it just can’t be here,” Lars replied as he lined up on one of the devils that looked like a sergeant.

“One my signal, fire one, repeat one volley, at the devils! FIRE!” Lars cried out as he pulled the trigger for his shotgun and the other gunners around him did so raggedly a second after him. He was however relieved by the fact that he only heard one barrel per man fire.

The result amongst the devils was… interesting. Because of the use of silver in the shot, several of the evil creatures were on the ground clutching at wounds that would not close, spurting oddly coloured blood into the air. Despite the screams and the thrashing, the others remained impassive and calm, and in fact occasionally finished off their own comrades to keep them from disrupting the ranks. They showed no signs of emotion, they just closed ranks around the holes caused by their dead and injured and continued to form up.

Then the pit fiend stepped out of the portal, its leathery red wings draped over its shoulders like a macabre cloak to its hard, ridged scales of armour.

“Well… fuck!” Lars noted, the only thing he really could say. “Fire at will on the troops! I’ll deal with the leader.”

Breaking from cover, Lars rushed down the slight slope of gallery, shotgun at his hip. At this range, he would have to get closer as the spread of the shot made hitting any particular target instead of the closely packed masses of devils more a matter of blind luck than skill. As he got closer, Lars started unloading his shotgun into the front ranks while the pit fiend throwing magic his way like it was going out of style. The creature was obviously scouting out the limits of the dead magic zone more than attacking though.

Then Lars was at the battle line, now with a hole in it where the enemy had taken five rounds of 000-buck from Lars personally and many more 12-gauge blasts from his men and had yet to close the gap of thrashing bodies. Bending low, Lars grabbed one of the fallen pole arms while he used tentacles to feed god killers into his weapon’s magazine. Ducking under an incoming fireball, he jammed the blade of the weapon into a convenient crevice in the rock and pole vaulted over the entire formation of lesser devils.

Grinning his wide, shark toothed grin as he arced through the air, Lars fired off one of the rounds made by the most special ladies in his life at the pit fiend at point blank range into its chest. A wave of green and purple fire shot out of his gun as he pulled the trigger, impacting right at the heavily armoured sternum of the devil.

The pit fiend exploded.

Not in the gory sort of meaning of blood and guts flying everywhere, but it actually went up like a small nuclear weapon as the hellish components of its being, mostly soul energy harvested from the damned over millennia, came undone all at once. Lars was thrown into the ceiling hard before being he dropped down into the midst of the flattened battle formation of devils, his fallen quite comfortably cushioned by a devil’s head.

Not that he needed the cushioning, but it was still nicer than having to go amorphous. Plus it ensured at least one more enemy was dead.

The completely unharmed shotgun still gripped tightly in his hands, Lars scrambled for purchase on the twitching, thrashing pile of bodies and sharp implements. He then noted two rather unfortunate things.

The first was that the globe of destruction Skuld had set up had been destabilized by either the pit fiend’s detonation or a stray piece of buckshot enchanted by Skuld having struck it. His eyes going wide, Lars cried out in a psychically enhanced voice, “RETREAT! THE GLOBE IS GOING TO GO!

The second was that the detonation of the pit fiend had destabilized the ceiling of the gallery, which was now coming down in pieces.

Trying to find solid footing, Lars transformed his legs into a quartet of tentacles and attempted to just grope his way out of the pile of devils. The metaphor of a nuclear weapon going off had been stretching it a bit for the pit fiend’s death, but not for Skuld’s spell cutting loose. She had really overdone that little pressure cooker by a large margin.

Lars looked back at the far end of the gallery where everyone but Shyft had already evacuated. He could feel it; there was no time to get back there before everything turned to fire. The others would wait for him, and they would get caught in the explosion. Lars saluted, and the enigmatic creature saluted back before turning to run.

Lars ran as well, but in the opposite direction, towards the still open portals. It was his only chance. He picked one and leapt towards it just as the globe of darkness failed and released all of the light it had been holding inside. A huge amount of matter had been turned to gas, and under the influence of the microwaves and gamma rays that gas had been turned to plasma. It was extremely hot, but confined to a set volume, so the pressure was incredibly high. The drow had stupidly been throwing spells and combustible slaves and males, and thus energy, at it for two days trying to figure out why nothing they did worked properly.

A little under a kiloton of energy was released in an instant, shattering rock and wiping out about 90% of the best fighters, wizards, and clerics the drow had to offer in the local Underdark. Most were not actually killed in the explosion as their camps were well back from the battleground, but rather the subsequent cascading collapse of all caverns in a four kilometre radius was what did it.

Up above the ground shook as dozens of cubic kilometres of once open space collapsed into much more compact rubble. The scenery was completely rearranged and a new lake started to form as numerous rivers were diverted. The coastline was different by the end of the season as rivers dried up and new ones cut their way across the landscape. The entire north-west of Faerun was re-sculpted by the blast, with much of the Northdark becoming impassable or flooded by the sudden, abrupt destruction of so many tunnels and caverns.

Most of all though, the drow presence in the area was completely obliterated. While Menzoberranzan itself was far enough away to remain relatively unscathed, the city had been stripped of too many in the fighting to continue to prosper. House Oblodra remained, having not participated, huddled as they were in their compound against Lolth’s expected wrath, but there was too little left to rule and the city was ripe for plundering by irate neighbours.

Meanwhile, Ched Nasad lay in ruins, the suspended city having lost one of the ossified spider webs that supported one of the upper buildings come loose in the massive earthquake and triggered a domino effect as building after building crashed through layer after layer of the city.

The destruction wrought was incredible, but the author of it had no idea how bad it truly was for he was busy using a portal as an interposition between him and the ball of plasma rushing out to obliterate everything in its path. The magic only lasted a second, but that was enough for Lars to survive the initial flash. Unfortunately as the magic of the portal came undone from the loss of the wizard maintaining it and the destructive energy assaulting it, everything caught in the shadow it cast was pulled into the planar collapse, randomly hurled across the planes of the Realms.

Including Lars.

For a moment the whole world twisted inside out and turned upside down, before Lars discovered that he was standing in another cavern. But this one was bigger. And on a plane where the backs of Lars’ eyes itched from all the agony and hatred permeating the place.

And he was surrounded by dozens of rather surprised looking women with black feathered wings and drawing rather sharp looking swords or pulling back on powerful looking bows now that they noticed the intruder.

Lars quashed the first impulse to complain. He’d had enough of complaining. Instead, he pumped his gun, ejecting the remains of the primitive shell that had killed the pit fiend and he looked around him for a moment before he asked, “I just killed a pit fiend, survived a nuclear explosion and a random trip across the planes and I maimed a god a week ago. So who wants to go first?”
I love learning. Teach me. I will listen.
You know, if Christian dogma included a ten-foot tall Jesus walking around in battle armor and smashing retarded cultists with a gaint mace, I might just convert - Noble Ire on Jesus smashing Scientologists
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