Wstfgl

Welcome To The Jungle [OPEN Mini-RP]

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Ingkells snapped into cover while muttering a curse in draconic under his breath as a stream of bullets exploded continuously from the other side of the room, redecorating the wall and furniture along the corridor into something not unlike Swiss cheese. He had an inking his dragon scales could stand up to this kind of punishment for a second or so, but no inclination to test out that theory.
 

Some kind of battlefield robot was Ingkells’ first thought as he caught glimpses of the attacker, but not after the latter started taunting the group in some kind of Russian-accented English. He was a Cyclops with no face, or rather no room for a face because of the big bloody eye that wrapped around his futuristic helmet. His outfit resembled a cross between an atmospheric diving suit and an astronaut's getup, and Ingkells was immediately reminded of the fact that he had seen this outfit in a movie before. What was the name? Something something lock...either The Heart Locker or The Hurt Locker. The man was wearing an EOD suit, one specifically made for the task of bomb disposal.
 

Which mean it was about as effective as a few hundred pounds of sandbag in halting projectiles. It was also completely sealed and insulated, rendering even his best lightning blade all but ineffective.
 

“COME OUT AND SAY HELLO TO SASHA, LEETLE BABIES. SHE WEIGHS 65 KILOGRAMS AND FIRES HIGH EXPLOSIVE CUSTOM-TOOLED CARTRIDGES AT 1000 ROUNDS PER MINUTE, AND SHE HAS BEEN DYING TO MAKE SOME NEW FRIENDS!†the creature started bellowing, waving that cannon in one hand like it weighed a hundred grams.
 

Ingkells got annoyed by the taunting and decided to launch one of the remaining three spheres at the guy. It hit the giantdead in the chest, and against all odds, bounced away with the thing remained standing.
 

Damnation! How bloody tough is that thing?

 

The giant staggered, rocked back on his heels, almost went over, but didn’t. “AWW, DID YOU WISH FOR MR. HEART TO STEAL YOUR HEART? WISH GRANTED!†he bellowed and aimed the gun barrel toward Ingkells’ general location, its ammo belt flapping and slithering through the weapon.

 

A few of them pierced through the cover and hit him right in the shoulder, the last one going cleanly through. Ingkells grimaced, but made no other indication of pain. As big as the golem was, it didn’t seem capable of getting a solid lock on a target, and all that devastating firepower was just spraying in wild arcs toward a general direction.

 

Let’s try this, he thought and commanded the second ball to zip toward the weapon, trying to reduce it to a bunch of scrap metal.

 

By skill or luck, Mr. Heart – as he referred to himself – shot the ball out of the air even before electromagnetism could detach and redirect the thing, ricocheting it toward Linda’s direction. Ingkells could hear a yelp of surprise coming from her even amidst the cacophony of sound.

 

The dragon's nostrils flared as he impatiently grabbed the last orbiting ball out of its path with his silver gauntlet. A touch of the button in the elbow region revealed the 20-megajoule capacitor bank inscribed with the phrase Velocitas Eradico built into this seemingly medieval layer of protection, and as Ingkells slotted the ammunition into a rail made from two parallel golden plates, he overcharged every solid-state switch within the device with enough electricity to power a small house. A lock snapped in place with a click soon afterward, and all lights within the circuit flashed green as a cannon resembling a dragon's maw extended out from below his arm.

 

If this doesn't work, I doubt anything short of a dragon's Breath can affect the brute.

 

Gritting his teeth, he stood up and unleashed it at the giant: a Tungsten sphere the size of an apricot electromagnetically launched at thirty times the speed of sound by the equivalent of a handheld railgun, the projectile warping the air in front and leaving a plume of fiery plasma in its wake. The recoil was immense, as though his gauntlet had exploded in his hand, but it did accomplish the very satisfying task of turning everything above the brute’s collarbones and the two guys behind him into a cloud of bloody vapor, tearing away a huge chunk of the wall in the distance before disintegrating in a path of destruction.

 

And then the giant's head started growing back.

 

...Should have brought more balls after all. Guess hindsight is always 20/20.

 

[in a sense, dragons are the best Worf-substitute in the fantasy world. They are the guys who are there to act tough, their ego has its own gravity and usually they have access to very impressive pyrotechnic, so that newly introduced villains/heroes can beat the ever loving crap out of dragons and immediately establish how amazing they are.

Ingkells is vaguely aware of this, having spent some time wandering this site called tvtropes, so he cheats and packs a railgun and a lightsaber along for the fight. Heroic and efficient weapons means less chance to become a sacrificial lion.]

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Isabel made a diving leap behind a desk as the boisterous Mr Heart began firing his heavy machine gun all over the room, focusing his attention on Ingkells, thankfully. Nevertheless, she placed a hand on the overturned table she was using as cover, casting a general-purpose Vectormancy spell on it to reduce the speed of anything that touched it to zero. The magic might not work fully due to the high speed of the rounds, but it should still reduce their velocity sufficiently for her suit (which also had a similar enchantment) to block the bullet completely.

 

Mortal weapons are so annoying.

 

As Ingkells hurled his balls around (hurr hurr balls), Isabel leaned over her cover, taking aim at the random thug standing behind Mr Heart as she fired the revolver, once. The bullet smashed through his helmet, emerging through the other side before abruptly changing direction, killing another soldier, and then a third. The single bullet zipped left, right and center, controlled by Isabel's finger, as it efficiently put down the entirety of Mr Heart's 'support group' before lodging itself in his brain from the back of his skull.

 

Unfortunately, that only seemed to draw the man's attention towards her, and a hail of bullets hit the desk as she barely ducked behind it. This time, she removed a spherical container from her belt, tossing it over the desk like a grenade. Except, it was less of the exploding type and more of the 'fill-the-room-with-flour' type. Why flour? It could have been anything that had been pre-infused with Isabel's Vectormancy, actually. Once the flour particles were in the air, any bullet that passed through would have its velocity angled slightly away from its target - and then the magic in the flour would amplify that change a thousandfold.

 

The rounds from the heavy machine gun ricocheted everywhere upon striking the flour cloud, destroying office furniture and sending sparks into the air throughout the room. Isabel stood up, aiming her revolver through the cloud as she fired, willing the bullet forwards at the same time. The bullet struck Mr Heart's machine gun, smashing through the weapon and destroying it completely, before penetrating (hurr) through his heavy armor, leaving a small bullet hole in the centre of his chest.

 

"Your turn, Valkyrja! Get him!"

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[i am somewhat disappointed that Isabel didn't use the 'looks like Ingkells is losing his marbles' line. Also it is my opinion as a self-proclaimed Freudian psychologist that Artemis needs to get laid.]

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Mr Heart looked down at the broken remains of the gun, a single tear sliding down his cheek. "YOU KILLED SASHA! I WILL KILL YOU... AND KILL YOU... AND KILL YOU!"

 

Then, he grabbed the weapon of his fallen comrade, flipped open the cover and fired. Four rockets streaked out, only slightly affected by the Vectormancy Isabel had wrought, and detonated, knocking Isabel, Ingkells and Linda to the ground with a concussive burst, but more importantly showering the entire corridor with napalm. The napalm ignited, turning the entire room into a choking, searing firestorm. Then, Mr Heart pulled out the largest knife any of the three had ever seen, waiting to strike at anyone who emerged from the flames.

 

[You're all on fire now.]

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Ingkells knelt in the inferno of hell itself, the world turning red and orange around him. Immediately, he ripped away his overcoat, revealing charred flakes of blackened scales, which fell off to give way to the pink flesh beneath that immediately hardened as it became infused with keratin, forming a new but slightly less capable layer of protection. With that out of the way, he stopped, dropped and rolled around to put out the few patches of fire on his body, trying not to be distracted by the Valkyrja's current state of clothing, or rather, the lack of it due to the fire.

 

Heaving a breath, Ingkells looked at the sea of scorching flame conjured into being by Mr. Heart's weapon - guy was probably a Strigoi as well seeing how this was a vampire lair and the giant had demonstrated the capability of coming back from mortal injuries. For a bunch of creatures vulnerable to heat and light, these guys sure employed a hell lot of both. He had half the mind to phone Priscilla and ask for an absolute zero ice javelin delivered from where she was standing, but his concerns for her injuries after their last clash with the werewolves of Manhattan prevented him from doing so.

 

So instead he turned toward Artemis and Linda, an expression of pure frustration and anger evident on his face, for Ingkells could not believe the situation had forced him to the point where he had to resort to such a desperate measure. The words came out of his throat hoarse, bitter and barely audible.

 

"Let's just ignore this guy here and continue climbing the stairs," he said, pointing at the fiery wall separating the group from their gigantic adversary.

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“No,†Linda said, whipping off smoldering fatigues before the napalm could reach her skin. Newly-gained energy swirled within her, a tempest howling for release. “You can go on ahead, but I’m killing this one. Nobody messes with me like that and lives to tell the tale. Nobody.â€

 

“Eyes on the prize, Valkyrja. We are here for the Strigoi, not his foul offspring.†The wyrm said.       

 

“It healed from otherwise-fatal wounds,†Linda replied. “That amount of essence will feed me well. Besides, this won’t take long at all.†She called her bow back into existence and stalked through the flames, not looking back to see if anyone followed. Power rippled across her skin, shielding her from the brunt of the heat, and she raised her bow as the giant came into view.

 

“THERE YOU ARE–†She cut off his yell with an arrow to the face. Her shot landed with the force of a thunderbolt, exiting the back of his skull in a spray of blood and brain matter. He reeled back, somehow regrowing his head before toppling over. Curse you and your unnatural durability, she thought as she nocked another arrow.

 

The giant regained his balance and charged Linda, roaring: “YOU KILLED SASHA! I WILL TEAR YOU APART LIKE SANDVICH!†He closed the distance remarkably fast for a nine-foot tall man in a bomb suit, and his machete cut the air a few inches above her head with an audible whoosh as she threw herself into a hasty roll.

 

Wow, he’s a lot faster than I thought he’d be, Linda thought as she came out of the roll behind him. And his strength must be ridiculous. One swing would ruin me, whether I blocked it or no. Two arrows punctured the bomb suit at the back of the knees as the giant tried to bring his bulk to bear, and she stepped out of range of his return swing.

 

His endurance is a dozen times as strong as a normal human’s – he’ll just regenerate from any punishment I can dish out. But my arrows will keep going until he is dead. They wriggled like worms, ripping muscle and cracking bone as they gnawed deeper and deeper into the giant’s legs. Absorbing the vital energies dissipating from the wounds they made, she sent another arrow streaking toward the point where arm met shoulder, but it failed to penetrate the armor.

 

“RRRRAAAARGH! I WILL CRUSH YOU, LITTLE FLY!†The giant tried to take a step toward her, but his kneecaps gave out and he hit the ground with a crash. Undeterred, he crawled toward her, spittle pouring from his mouth and hate in his eyes.

 

Linda put an arrow into each eyeball, taking care not to fire them with too much power. If they stay in, they’ll do far more damage than overpenetration would. He twitched and shuddered as the arrowheads dug toward his brain, bringing massive hands forward in an attempt to pull them out. She pinned his limbs to the ground with two more shots and yelled back to Isabel: “Could you get me that flamethrower? This is taking far too long.â€

 

The red-haired woman nodded and bent down, liberating the weapon in question from its dead owner. Her magic sent it sliding through the sea of flames at an incredible speed, and Linda grabbed it as it sped toward her – the metal was hot, but not unbearably so.

 

She levelled the weapon at the giant, who’d gotten one hand free and yanked out the arrows in his face by then. “I’m about to brighten up your day, asshole,†she snarled, and pulled the trigger.

 

A horrible shriek filled the air as she dropped the flamethrower and wandered over to one of the dead guards nearby, ignoring the burning vampire. A walkie-talkie! Great. As she walked back over to the bonfire, she flicked it on to hear some static, followed by: “6th floor, come in. Is the situation under control?â€

 

Linda pressed the “Transmit†button, bringing the receiver close to where the giant’s face had been. Howls and screams of mindless agony escaped the mountain of charred flesh as he regenerated and burned in an unending cycle, and there was no response from the other side.

 

She turned the walkie-talkie off, dropping it into the flames, and drank deep of the dying vampire’s power. 

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The Valkyrja incinerated Mr. Heart like a piece of overcooked steak until a layer of burnt black crust formed around him, indicating that there was nothing left for the fire to consume, the body looking to the rest of the world like a human-sized lump of charcoal. Her eyes never once turned away from the dying Strigoi, Linda let out a long sigh and a languid smile that bared far too many white teeth once the creature stopped struggling, as if savoring herself in the afterglow of some incredibly gratifying process.

 

That sent a cold shiver down Ingkells’ spine, though he did his best concealing the emotion from reaching his face. Truth to be told, he had his doubt about going into hostile territory and fighting a battle that would leave him more and more drained while filling the Valkyrja with power proportional to the amount of blood shed. He hadn’t forgotten what these maidens of death were capable of, nor was he ignorant of their maddening desire to harvest souls, the more powerful the better.

 

Dragon souls were apparently a delicacy among their kind.

 

Have I walked into a a trap? Linda belonged to the Thulsson Corporation after all. No one would raise an eyebrow if she were to take him down right here right now and claimed that Ingkells had gone rogue. Not that he would have backed down from such a challenge, naturally. Thankfully, Artemis’ presence would significantly cut down on the chance of them going at each other’s throat. Ingkells had yet to figure out for what reason did the Olympian Big 12 decide to involve themselves in this conflict, but seeing how he was once a whelp under the tutelage of her father and them being childhood playmates, it was safe to assume she probably meant no ill will coming here.

 

“It's Isabel Stormheart now, isn't it?†he asked, approaching the red head and offering his hand. “I can see who came up with the family name. What strange wind brought you to the mortal plane, my old friend?â€

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Isabel picked up the empty flour capsule from the ground, resetting the now-empty canister before putting it in her pouch. "Well, there's this vampire that needs killing," she mentioned. "But I'm sure you're not interested in such mundane details." She paused for a moment, considering whether she should talk about the motives of Olympus in front of two outsiders, even though she had known one of them for a long time. But then another thought came to mind - what if she could get them as allies? The upcoming battle would definitely need warriors like Ingkells.

 

"Mortals tend to dabble in places where they should not be," she finally explained, whispering into his ear. "One of their organizations is attempting to breach into Tartarus."

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[i am somewhat disappointed that Isabel didn't use the 'looks like Ingkells is losing his marbles' line. Also it is my opinion as a self-proclaimed Freudian psychologist that Artemis needs to get laid.]

(...I'm studying to be a psychologist so, knowing how wrong Freud was about so many things, this irks me >. < though since your comment does relate to how Freud thought, it's also funny and I'm glad I got it x3

WILL POST AS SOON AS I HAVE MY LAPTOP-less than an hour)

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[ Welp since Ice went and edited her post, I need something to fill the space here.

 

Damn I can't think of anything.

 

...

...

...

 

What does Batman get in his drinks?

 

JUST ICE! ]

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(Yeah yeah if you'd waited a bit longer you'd have seen I finally got it and edited :P)

 

Colin took a moment to weigh his answers to Luke. Tell him he didn't have a way to hurry them up? That'd be a lie. And after witnessing Luke offering so many of his own powers, proving he, too, was not human, would that be a fair way to repay him the easy access into the building? Probably not. Adding in the fact that he needed the money from this job, that harsh reminder, chose his answer for him.

 

He nodded to Luke. "Yes, I do." His blue eyes looked meaningfully at Luke, focused. Then both of their feet left the ground as they ascended into the air." Though he hadn't been there for the briefing, it was hardly a difficult task to discern what direction they needed to be heading in. The sounds of danger surely didn't echo from below them; instead, it traveled down to them. Moving much faster than running stairs would have given them, they began ascending the floors. They moved past the lower floors without any trouble, easily reaching the 6th floor in time to see the end of whatever scene had occurred there. Luke and Colin immediately landed lightly on their feet on the floor with the others gathered around. Colin pulled off a shy smile. "Sorry we're late." He offered, though only feeling relief that he hadn't missed more. The scene itself helped to bring his adrenaline around. He wasn't worried about the upper floors. "So, are we staying around here or are we moving onwards?" His eyes fell on Isabel, noticing the new face among the others he'd previously studied. He gave no questions or greetings, simply let his eyes pass over her. He was curious, but he wasn't one to show that. Curiosity was just a hobby.

 

(Sorry if I missed or have some wrong information here. I somehow forgot how much time was needed to dedicate to a mini rp D:

 

Also, West, I think I missed a joke where you 'changed the guy's mind'. Explain it to me? :( )

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"So much for a pincer attack," Luke muttered. In the end, they'd all ended up in the same spot... oh, and the entire room seemed to be on fire. Also, some woman in combat gear had showed up out of nowhere; judging from the fact that neither Ingkells nor Linda had shot her yet, she was probably a friendly. Or at least, someone they weren't going to shoot until later. I guess we've lost the element of surprise, then. The vamp knows we're here by now. We better make sure he doesn't bolt.

 

"So... the vamp knows we're here. We'd better get a move on; he probably can't escape via magical means in the daytime, but that doesn't mean he couldn't slip out amid the confusion. Ingkells and Linda, come with me; random newcomer and Colin, cover the other stairwell-"

 

He paused. "Hold on, did anyone see the Shifter girl?" 

 

I hope we didn't just get betrayed.

 

[i changed the guy's mind. Literally. That's the joke.]

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Ingkells was struck with laughter as the sheer absurdity of the red headed girl’s statement sunk in. “Mortals trying to get into Tartarus? I say lift the triple walls and put a welcoming sign at the entrance,†he remarked.

She gave him a flat look, then gestured discreetly toward Linda. “We had this conversation about your lack of indoor voice before Ingkells, and this is no laughing matter,†Isabel whispered. “Everyone on Olympus is concerned about the humans’ intrusion. We think they are trying to reach the heart of the realm.â€

“Which means they have to overcome the Hydra at the adamantine gate, the Titans within the pit, and the three Hecatonchires roaming the place. All of this is assuming they could pass Phlegethon’s flaming current in the first place. Mortals are strong in number because they have the overwhelming firepower available to them on this plane. Take them to Tartarus where none of their battleships and air support is available, and a pack of ghouls is more than enough to wipe them all out.â€

Isabel just sighed and shook her head. “Complacency is something all of us can ill-afford, my friend. After-â€

 

Ingkells sensed she was going to elaborate more on the subject, and placed a finger on her lips before gesturing with his cane toward the door connecting the corridor to the staircase, where Chief-Sitting-On-His-Ass and Colin eventually walked out. At this point, he noticed something funny.

Linda’s clothes, having been previously consumed by the fire, were now replaced by the shadowy corvids as they congregated on her body. However, instead of deciding on a permanent form, the inky mass of feathers shifted and transformed into a plethora of shapes once every few seconds, forming something like a series of Rorschach inkblot test made primarily out of clothing designs.

Hmm, let’s see. A petticoat, a Renaissance court dress, now it’s a European high-waisted gown, blouse and long pants, and finally it's…

 

A bikini?

Where’s the rest of the show-I mean-her clothes?!

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Though the marking on the stairs piqued her interest, Gidget was far more curious about the stifling blackness that clouded the entirety of the third floor, or at least where she was. Casting a look at the mark, the pointed a finger and said, "You wait right there. I'll be back soon enough," adding on in her thoughts hopefully soon at least.

 

Hearing the tell tale squeak again, Gidget spun around to address the matter, he scarf flicking slightly . "Alrighty then! I'm not entirely sure what's going on here, but since we're both aware of each other, how's about you pop out and chat for a bit," she called out, one hand on her hip, the other holding her weapon straight forward into the darkness. 

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Gidget waited expectantly, but much to her disappointment, there was nothing. Not a sound, not a change, not even a small money toy clashing cymbals. She tapped her foot impatiently and called again into the void around. "Hello? Anyone out there? It's rude to keep a lady waiting you know!"

 

Still no response. "Geez. Nothing good all week. It's always gotta be something," she said to herself with a sigh, lowering her blade to her side briefly. 

 

Raising it with ease, Gidget braced one foot stepping forward and swung her blade upward diagonally into the nothing, then lazily and rather clumsily changed directions and swiped right in a straight line, the blade dragging her slightly before resting against the floor by the tip. She waited after this display then said, "I guess you're just afraid or something.Either way, it's boring I think I'll leave you here then."

 

With an added rude tongue and eye gesture, She spun around and started heading for the stairs careful of anything that could happen as she set foot on the stairs again.

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When Gidget stepped over the stairs, she felt a sudden tension in the air vanish.

 

Then, she heard a huge cacophony of squeaking as hundreds of bats swarmed out of the darkness and all around her.The bats' bodies bloated up and exploded, showering her and everything within fifty feet with flesh-eating slime.

 

[You're now covered in horrible flesh-eating slime. It was a trap! Surprise!]

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[basically these bats are Gelatinous Cubes with wings. Wstfgl confirmed hack writer if the next thing we fight is a Kraken with rocket thrusters.]

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[Rubbish. The next thing you're fighting is an oncoming train.]

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Coated in the layer of slime, Gidget could feel her skin start to tingle as she complained about how disgusting this was. Soon, however, her skin started to burn, and she realized it wasn't just slime, but it was eating away at her. Everything save her blade and scarf. "Geez! You stupid vampires! I swear I'm going to carve you up like one of those TV dinners!" she yelled out while trying to get the slime off.

 

With no hope in the method she'd chosen, Gidget changed plans. Calming her breathing, she put the pain that had begun to seethe into her aside and focused. The air around her began to distort and an unusual power rippled through the space. Gidget's scarf began swishing back and forth as the power increased and then, without warning, she vanished in a cloud of purple petals. Not the third floor, but seven floors up Gidget reappeared with another puff of petals and the slime was absent from all her body, as well as a significant part of her clothes that were eaten away. "And I loved this skirt too," she said seeing how much have been eaten away.

 

Though her skin was exposed, she paid no mind and continued up the floors, gripping and complaining about how she'd need a whole new outfit and a new bra as well having part of hers eaten away. I swear. When I get my paycheck for this one, I'm treating myself to something nice. I'll have plenty left after all. Especially if one of the others kicks the bucket. Guess I should watch out for more absurd traps. That Strigol isn't short of them is seems. C'mon girl. Fight on! 

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As the minor draugr’s writhing died away, the rest of its life force rushed from it in a wave. What I got from those mortals earlier was nothing compared to this, Linda thought as the energy washed over her. In both quantity and quality. The draugr’s last moments were filled with an intoxicating mix of anger and defiance that lingered on long after the meal was done, but there was too much pain for her liking. I suppose beggars cannot be choosers. Ah, when was the last time I had a courageous one?

 

She looked around. Isabel, the newcomer from Olympus, was muttering something to the wyrm. He laughed and said something about Tartarus, and Linda perked up. That’s sort of like the Corpse Shore, I think? Where the worst sinners get gnawed on by Nidhoggr. I wouldn’t want to go there again, for sure. She shuddered, trying not to remember the grisly sight.

 

Just then, a breeze played across her bare skin, and she realized she wasn’t wearing anything besides her underwear. “Um. Come to me, O shadows. I require a new garment and, well, you are awfully comfortable-looking,†she said.

 

Most of her flock’s members were still re-forming after the abuse they’d taken earlier, but a bedraggled group of corvids complied with her request. They swirled around her, resting on her skin and melting to form something suitably modest. There we go.

 

“Hang on,†one of the shadowy ravens said. The croak sounded like it was coming from the bottom of a deep well, and a patch of darkness on her lower back shifted and tried unsuccessfully to jostle its way downward. “Why do you crows get the best spots?â€

 

Oh no. Is this what I think it is?

 

“Shut up,†cawed a few crows. “We got here first.â€

 

It is, isn’t it? Why is this happening?

 

“This is unacceptable,†the raven complained. “First you try to trick her into thinking we’re all crows. And now this.† A few other ravens croaked in agreement, and Linda’s outfit reverted into a squawking, fluttering mass of birds. Something pecked her in a rather sensitive spot, and she yelped.

 

“Ow! Can you– can you not?†Linda asked. “Stop fighting. Why is this even happening in the first place? You’re birds. Not even birds, you’re shadows of birds. None of this should matter.â€

 

“Give us a break, boss. Everyone’s got needs, you know? Besides, we got pretty torn up by the guards,†one of the crows said.

 

“I sent you to scout. You wouldn’t have been torn up by the guards if you’d spotted them in the first place.â€

 

“There was magic involved,†the spokesbird complained. “How were we supposed to know there was magic involved?â€

 

“It’s a draugr, of course there’s going to be– urgh. My bad. I thought you knew.â€

 

“No worries, boss. Now, about the other matter…â€

 

Linda rolled her eyes. “Sort it out yourselves. But no fighting.†She regretted her decision a few seconds later, as her outfit shifted into a half-dozen forms before shrinking into a bikini. I knew it. Damn me, I knew this was going to happen–

 

O’Brien and Colin emerged from the stairwell, and she hurriedly turned around.

 

“Look, just get me a,†she waved her hands around in desperation. “At least a T-shirt and shorts or something. Quick.â€

 

The birds complied reluctantly, and she heaved a sigh of relief. All right. They don’t seem to have noticed.

 

O’Brien was giving orders. “Ingkells and Linda, come with me…†Finally. Let’s go.

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[isabel and Colin]

 

As the two of them approached the second stairwell, they heard footsteps. Then, they saw some kind of monstrous, vaguely humanoid creature missing a good deal of its skin and wearing nothing but scraps and wielding a monstrous scythe-like blade heading up the stairs in their direction. When it spotted Isabel, it tensed up and seemed to ready its weapon.

 

[Linda, Ingkells and Luke]

 

Luke signaled for the others to stop as they headed towards the seventh floor. "Shhhh. Plenty of guards ahead. This calls for a little subtlety." Luke's voice abruptly sprung into their minds. "Hold on for a second, I'll deal with this."

 

Then, he glanced at the form of a fallen guard and crouched down, and the air shimmered and distorted around him as his appearance became that of the guard. Then, he climbed up the stairs, and was met at the eighth floor by a patrol of guards about to head down the stairs. "Relax," he said to them, "We bagged 'em."

 

"So the boss' plan worked. Ha, I knew those Thulsson suckers didn't stand a chance."

 

"I've got a trophy off the kills, just in case the boss insists," he said, passing over what looked like a severed hand. The other man took it gratefully, nodded and then paused. "Hold on, this feels like a-"

 

However, Luke was already gone.

 

"-grenade?" The guard finished, turning pale.

 

Then, the hand grenade Luke had taken off the fallen guard went off with a thunderous bang. The few survivors of that blast, dazed and bleeding all over, were promptly greeted by the sight of their erstwhile ally reappearing behind them, leveling a submachine gun at them. "Surprise, motherfuckers," he muttered, before executing all but one of them with several swift bursts of fire. Then, he vanished from sight again, reappearing in the guise of the surviving guard on the ninth floor. The moment he saw more of the henchmen arrive, he jabbed a finger urgently down the stairs, tersely announcing, "The Thulsson dogs are here! At least one of them's a shapeshifter; they took out my entire squad! Help!" 

 

Meanwhile, another patrol on the eighth floor came across the dying guard that Luke hadn't finished off. "He... he slaughtered us... Thulsson sent a shapeshifter..." The others nodded, their faces turning pale, and they rushed up the stairs. As they came into view, Luke pointed at one of them and shouted, "That's the one! Shoot! SHOOT!"

 

Immediately, both patrols opened fire on one another, and taking the opportunity, Luke took a step and vanished from view. The sounds of gunfire had died down when he reappeared again before Linda and Ingkells, giving a thumbs-up. "They took care of themselves. Let's head upwards now. Careful, it's starting to get radioactive from here on up."

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With red, irritated skin and eaten clothes, Gidget climbed the stairs at her own pace. She noticed that most of the chaos she'd heard from the others had faded, leaving only the sound of her boots, still mostly intact, that clapped against the stairs and the creaking of the building. She resisted the urge to scratch her wounds and instead focused on her scarf. It flicked and coiled, swished and swayed, all at her will. Occasionally, she would stop and listen for anything, but only once did she hear the sound of gunfire from elsewhere. Not my problem right now. I'll let them deal with that. Not like I have much in the way of surprise here, but whatever. 

 

Gidget slowed her pace slightly feeling something off in the atmosphere. It didn't take long to realize it was the radiation from the dragon's breath, however, it wouldn't do anything harmful to someone who shifted through different dimensions. She was built tougher than that.

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"Hang on," Ingkells stopped the rest of his group with an outstretched arm, eyes lingering on the set of stairs leading upward that had been irrevocably damaged by dragon fire. The majority of the floor was gone as well, with the four walls forming the room scorched down to the metal framework deep beneath. The dragon could feel a wave of cascading headache building up within him, while at the same time his human body started to display some irregular signs.

 

Of all the thing I've got to endure without my true form, it just has to be radiation.

 

He took out an icicle from his inner coat pocket, then gestured for Linda and Luke to stand closer as an unseen force melted the object within his palm. The liquid stir in a swift ripple, then evaporated into a misty screen that seeped into the trio's body.

 

"Relax and take a deep breath," assured Ingkells, noting how the throbbing in his head and the shaking of his hands would disappear shortly thereafter. "This is one of the more potent forms of protective magic amongst our dragon kind. It will ward us against poison, magic, harmful energies and even high dose of ionizing radiation. Ditch that primitive protective gear of yours, fey, it will not do you half as much good."

 

The Valkyrja raised an inquisitive eyebrow. "Well, that would have been useful half an hour ago when Mr. Heart tried to roast us."

 

"It would have," answered Ingkells. "And we would have nothing left to fight the Strigoi behind all this. Priscilla only made one of these for myself, and I have already diluted its potency by sharing it amongst us three here. I expect there is an hour or so left on the timer before we all start feeling the effect of swimming in radiation, so my suggestion is that we make haste for the top." He looked up and squinted his eyes, noting a horizontal bar of steel protruding its end out of the mass of ruble half a dozen floors above.

 

Ingkells blinked, and lightning raged from him in a flash, illuminating his skin, as the laws of physics seized to maintain its dogmatic grasp on the dragon. Magnetic force as potent as one generated by a cyclotron reached out and pulled him toward the steel bar, as if that direction had become the new flow of gravity only for him. More lightning leaked from his limbs as Ingkells deftly landed both of his feet on the underside of the metallic section, and he looked down on the rest of his group, still perching precariously upside-down in a pose oddly reminiscent of Batman.

 

"Next few floors looks clear to me. Are you folks waiting for a red carpet to be rolled out or something?"

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"Parkour!" Luke muttered as he sprang off a wall and landed on his feet besides Ingkells, panting slightly. The grace and agility of his kind were legendary, but thirty pounds of protective gear did put a damper on that... slightly. The dragon raised an eyebrow as he glanced at him. "Still wearing that cumbersome outfit?"

 

 

"Bah. I thought you knew which neck of the woods I was from," Luke replied nonchalantly. "One does not simply just take a gift like that; you should know we hate being indebted to others."

 

"Suit yourself," Ingkells muttered bemusedly.

 

A few moments later, the Valkyrie girl appeared behind them, borne aloft by whatever sorcery she'd been granted by her Allfather, and the trio proceeded upwards, the Geiger counter hanging off Luke's webbing ticking incessantly. Then, a few more floors up, they found their way barred by an incongruous bank of mist.

 

Luke sighed melodramatically. "Just come on out already." Immediately, the mist coalesced into a tall, gaunt man wearing a fedora, red-tinted sunglasses and a black leather trench coat. "Hmph. Such impudence. However, it is only right that you know the face of your killer." Then, with a dramatic flourish, he unsheathed a katana and a wakizashi from somewhere within the trench coat. "There is nothing that my swords, folded a thousand times in the forge of the greatest swordsmith alive, cannot cut-"

 

A stream of bullets shot past the melodramatic vampire's head. "How uncouth, mongrel. Your bullets cannot harm me-"

 

There was a ripping noise as a tarpaulin behind him tore and fell away, letting sunlight stream into the room. Immediately, the vampire's skin started flaking and peeling as he fell to his knees and let out a blood-curdling scream -- which was promptly silenced by the staccato rattle of fifteen armor-piercing bullets leaving the muzzle of Luke's gun and tearing his head and upper torso to shreds.

 

Well, that was easy.

 

Then, Luke noticed something in the pile of disintegrating ashes that was all that was left of the vampire, and walked over to pick it up. "It's an access card," Luke stated, pointing at the conspicuous steel door at the other side of the room. "Conveniently enough, it will probably open that door over there. What is this, some kind of video game?"

 

He stepped towards the door, and abruptly stiffened, his face turning pale as he jerked back. "Okay, I have a bad feeling about this. Anyone volunteering to take point?"

 

[WHERE IS ICE AND TIMEY? I REPEAT, WHERE IS ICE AND TIMEY? THE WORLD WONDERS.]

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