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20 hrs ago
Current The world is full of obvious things
1 day ago
A great first week of posts for my new Persona RP. Now's a fine time to join in!
2 mos ago
He who desires, but acts not, breeds pestilence
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10 mos ago
The world is full of obvious things.


Current GM of World of Light and Soldiers of Fortune. When it comes to writing, there's nothing I love more than imagination, engagement, and commitment. I'm always open to talk, suggestion, criticism, and collaboration. While I try to be as obliging, helpful, and courteous as possible, I have very little sympathy for ghosts, and anyone who'd like to string me along. Straightforwardness is all I ask for.

Looking for more personal details? I'm just some dude from the American south; software development is my job but games, writing, and helping others enjoy life are great joys. Been RPing for over a decade, so I know a thing or two, though I won't pretend to be an expert. Ready for some fun? Let's make something spectacular together.

Like my words? Maybe you'll like my pictures. I'm pretty new, but I hear the exchange rate's good.

Most Recent Posts

As the second round begins, your characters might start noticing narrow but sizeable cracks in places around them in places they haven't seen before. Nobody else would seem to notice them, however.
Barney Rynsburger

8:40-9:55 AM

As the minutes passed by the gnawing feeling of wasted time eroded away what comfort the student center couch offered Barney, and as he grew more uneasy his little refuge lost its savor. He’d been able to rest for a little while, but without news or gossip to distract him from himself he’d started stewing in his own juices. Like the oysters in those sea life documentaries he’d seen as a kid, left out to bake on a rocky shore by the falling tide. It wasn’t doing him any good, and it sure wouldn’t leave a better impression of him on anyone who happened to see. It was time to leave.

But where to go? As he shifted his weight around again to fight off the numbness, his head couched in one hand, Barney thought about his options. It would be a good idea to use what little time he had left before the nine o’ clock classes started to get a bite to eat--they say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, after all. But right now, the idea of food sounded revolting. It wasn’t just that Barney wasn’t hungry; rather, he felt as if he wouldn’t be able to keep anything down if he did force himself to eat. Stomach’s as upset as the rest of me, he thought with a painfully dry smile. Besides, eating when unhappy was what made him like this in the first place. And did he even deserve a meal in the first place, after the stunt he pulled? Have a little discipline, Barney, he chided himself. Might as well head back to his room to swap out his Calculus book for his other laughably overpriced text, then mosey on over to his second class ahead of time. Wouldn’t want to be late to that one, too. As he stood, he noticed a crack in the wall beneath the television, and his eyes lingered there for a moment longer than they should. Had that always been there...?

When he got back to his dorm he found it just the way he’d left it. No sign of his roommate Felipe. “Where’d you go, man?” Barney whispered, worried. He remembered arriving with his friends last night from the restaurant, everyone a little boozed up, but he didn’t recall Felipe dispersing along with him and Matt. Maybe he’d crashed at her place. As he put his Calculus book on his desk Barney made a mental note to give his bud a call before lunch, then reached and took the much fatter English book from the windowsill.

Immediately he sensed something wrong. The book felt cold, clammy. Barney gulped and looked over at the windowsill. Stale water pooled there, having leaked in from the window. A sinking feeling took hold of him. How long had it been there? Since…? As the realization hit, dread took hold of him. It had rained on the Friday of Thanksgiving break, at least two days ago. He plopped the text down on his desk and turned it over. The back cover was peeling. Not a good sign. When he tried to flip through the index he got hit by a funky, moldy smell, and the rumpled pages stuck together. Those he did tenderly pry apart he discovered to be blotched all over, a whole lot of ink ruined, entire pages unintelligible.

Groaning, Barney sank into his chair. If his early misfortune killed him, this was his soul leaving his body. Of course, losing the back of the book wouldn’t hurt his studies much, but there was no way in hell the bookstore would buy the text back now. Two hundred dollars, down the drain. Like he needed that right now. As he teetered, however, he pulled himself back. Calm down, calm down. It’s a textbook racket anyway. No way those scammers would have bought it back for more than, like, forty anyway. Then it would go back on the shelf for two hundred dollars for the next poor sucker to be forced to buy. This wasn’t that bad, he rationalized. This was lose-lose from the start. He stood and slipped the damp book into his bag. Better get a move on.

A few minutes later he entered Principles of English Composition, coming in just as the previous class let out. Those students shared the same unamused look of suppressed annoyance he saw every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in his own class. Not a surprise--this gen ed course was, after all, about as required as it was useless to the vast majority of young adults obliged to plant themselves in its chairs. Which was to say, extremely. But everyone had to put up with it, so put up with it they did. While a lot of the students found some solace in the class’s aide, a very pretty senior who stood in stark contrast to the typical professor fare, the better saving grace for Barney was Felipe. Their friendship began with commiseration over this very course. After seating himself Barney kept an eye on the door, watching for any trace of his companion.

And just before the cut-off, Felipe did appear. Small and lean, with a perpetual five o’ clock shadow and disheveled look that rode the line between confidently carefree and sloppy, he slouched into the room with a terribly overcast expression. Uh oh. Not good. He sat at Barney’s left as usual but kept his eyes focused ahead. Something was eating him, too. Barney decided to respect his privacy for now so things wouldn’t get awkward right before class, but it was hard to hide his troubled expression. Just two dudes, falling apart together. We must make quite the pair.

The class seemed to pass quickly. Barney had a hard time focusing. If either the professor or Harriette called on him he knew he wouldn’t be able to answer, but luckily he seemed to escape their gaze. Pretty soon the students were shifting their sorry carcasses to make for their ten o’ clocks, but neither of the sorriest moved just yet. A few moments passed of silent, mutual companionship before Barney took a deep breath in through his nose. “Hey, man,” he said softly, his first words to another human all morning. “You okay? I didn’t see you this morning.”

“Naw, man.” Felipe shook his head. He turned to his friend, revealing for the first time a blackened left eye. “Things...things went bad last night.”

Barney’s heart sank once again. “W-what happened? Are you hurt?”

“It, well, I mean, this is nothin’.” As he reached up and touched his eye he winced. He let his arm fall back to the table and continued in a hushed voice. “Thing is, last night, me and Maria got into another fight.” He hesitated, but the sympathy in Barney’s eyes assured him that he wouldn’t be able to get away without spilling the beans. “Okay, well, here’s what happened.”

“After you guys went in, she stops me in the parking lot, all pissed. Starts goin’ off about me goin’ out to drink all the time, never tellin’ here where I am, all that stuff. And I know she’s got a point, y’know, but I wasn’t thinkin’ straight and I started talkin’ back. Sayin’ she’s always too controllin’, demandin’, can’t just be there for me without makin’ a fuss. Then we’re pretty much shoutin’, and this asshole pulls up.” Felipe’s face turned angry. “Cole Baby Face Steiner. This goddamn white knight walks over, says I’m botherin’ Maria and ought to leave her alone. She turns on him sayin’ to mind his own business and I join in and give ‘em a little push. Just to say, y’know, back off, dude. Next thing you know this guy’s on the ground, howlin’ like I broke his ribs or something. He comes after me sayin’ some crap about self defense and not lettin’ me harass Maria anymore.” Leaning back, Felipe shook his head. “So I slugged him. Maria did, too. He runs off cryin’ somethin’ or other. I turned back to Maria, all happy we pulled through against this asshole, but she just gives me this look…” He closed his eyes and sighed. “Told me I’m hopeless. That I never think about anythin’ before doin’ it. Then she just...goes.”

Barney rubbed his head. “That’s really bad. Cole’s in the SGA. If he whines about could be really, really bad.”

“I know.” A despondent nod told Barney that his friend knew what penalties might await him. “It’s not just that, though. Maria...she looked at me like I was trash. Like she never wants to see me again. I know I’m not the greatest guy ever, but...but man, she’s like, the best thing that ever happened to me. She’s all I got! If she, I don’t know what I’ll do. Might as well kill myself.”

This wasn’t the first time Felipe whipped out a line like that. As inappropriate as it was, he issued remarks like that habitually when faced with all sorts of misfortune, from bad grades to sucky cafeteria food. But given the current situation, something about the way he said it chilled Barney’s spine. “Hey, don’t joke like that. Not when it’s serious.”

Felipe laughed once, abruptly. “Yeah, yeah. Sorry, man. Just got a lot to think about.”

Unconvinced, Barney decided to play a risky card. “Well, if it’s any consolation, I’m pretty much screwed, too. Missed a big test this morning. Only a matter of time ‘til I’m out.”

“Aw, bro. We can share a cardboard box together. Roommates for life!” He held out a hand for a fist-bump. Barney didn’t give him one. After a moment Felipe cleared his throat. “Uh-hmm. Well, uh, later, man.” The weight of Barney’s lightless eyes on him sent him on his way in a hurry. After he disappeared Barney turned to face forward again, drawing his feet across cracks in the tile beneath him, to stare straight ahead at the classroom’s smartboard. Other students would be arriving in a few minutes, but until then he figured he could take a moment to try and swallow the lump in his throat.
hello! I don't think I've mentioned this yet on this roleplay. On August 1st I'll be leaving for a road trip and won't be back until Augest 8th. So I won't be online very much, if at all. Especially from the 4th-6th where I won't have an internet connection at all. Either way I won't be posting that week, even if I do get online a little bit.

Thanks for the heads-up!
Tora, Poppi, and Big Band

Level 9 Tora (34/90) Level 8 Poppi (104/80) Level 3 Big Band (24/30)
Location: Al Mamoon Northwest - Obelisk Temple
Primrose’s @Yankee, Fox’s @Dawnrider, Yoshitsune’s @Rockin Strings
Word Count: 1266

With time of the essence, the Grimleal captains and their associates busied themselves searching their new locale for any sign of a way forward. More like the bridge-spanned cavern that Band and Primrose braved than the rest of the Temple of Khamoon, this place appeared to be more of a naturally-occuring (albeit massive) cave that ancient buildings constructed within, rather than an area painstakingly cleared by the laborious efforts of miners and masons. The manmade section actually occupied a comparatively small area, with untamed rock walls, roiling sand pits, and bulky columns around it. At least four stalactite-lined tunnels extended haphazardly away from the central cavern, any one of which could reasonably lead to the stronghold of the Resistance.

Seeing all this, Band couldn’t help but wonder if Tora and Poppi might have jumped the gun in declaring that the route to their destination lay right below everyone’s feet, just waiting to be revealed by some clever mechanism. Depending on how far those tunnels went, his team could be here for hours, even days, and never know if this or that ordinary-looking stone was actually a button for a hidden door. “Ugh. We ain’t got time for all these stolen moments.” The idea of getting stumped in such an unceremonious, mundane fashion after coming all this way pissed Band off, so he deployed his magnifying glass and stepped forward after Primrose to scope the place out with renewed vigor. He was a detective, after all! If the Resistance came this way, there had to be a sign.

The first problem he ran into wasn’t too little evidence, but too much. So many feet had trampled the sand in the area going to and fro that nothing useful could be gained by trying to trace them. With furrowed brows Band widened the scope of his search. After a couple minutes of examination between the assembled party members, he came to what he thought was a conclusion. “It don’t look like there’s much sand up and around the rocks. If their base was down a tunnel, all those bozos trampin’ though woulda left some kinda trail. That means we can set some...aerial boundaries.”

Kan-Ra, crouched down before the recessed relief of a scarab beetle, murmured his concurrence. “Mm, yes. I believe that this is the door. I’m sensing a magical artifice here as well, which would indicate some sort of security mechanism in place.”

While the others searched, Azwel had reclined against a pillar, ostensibly to recover from his fight with Es but also to keep sand out of his raiment. “Or a trap of some sort, hmhm,” he added helpfully.

“There is indeed some sort of curse at work,” Kan-Ra confirmed as he stood to his full height. “The work of an inferior magician, I might add, but it would likely trigger if we attempted to force our way in nevertheless. I highly doubt it to be so sophisticated as to distinguish friend from foe, so the solution must be around us.”

“Hem-hem!” Tora cleared his throat with his little arms akimbo, all smug and full of smiles. “What did Tora and Poppi tell friends? Smartypons know puzzle when see one!”

A double honk from Big Band’s little horn, just like that of a clown nose, cut through the Nopon’s elation. “Instead of gloatin’, how ‘bout you make yourself useful and hustle down that sidepath, since you two can fly ‘n all?” the detective told them.

Aware that he was pushing it a little thanks to the Grimleal captains’ shared look of annoyance, Tora turned to give it a shot. After Poppi helped boost him over the shifting sands the two disappeared down the little tunnel, leaving the rest to continue their search for anything that might be of use. Their concentration didn’t last, however, as less than a minute later the sound of running footfalls drew their collective attention toward the entrance. After a moment Yoshitsune, Skull, and Panther appeared, banged up and burned to varying degrees but otherwise okay. “Hiya!” Panther greeted cheerily, waving to everyone. “Looks like we didn’t miss much. Everyone alright?”

Skull took stock of everyone and came up a few short. “Wait, where’s, uh, Tora and Poppi? And Red?”

“The duo went off to explore a side path,” Kan-Ra explained. “As for Red, if you mean the masked woman, she was injured in the initial ambush. When we moved on, she turned back and left.”

Touching bases with the Phantom Thieves put Primrose’s mind at rest, allowing her to fully focus on the task at hand. As luck would have it, the dancer happened on something interesting just moments thereafter. Like the others her eyes and hands had been tracing the intricate patterns and carvings that covered the pillars and walls in this place nonstop, and though she wasn’t nearly so fixated as to accidentally fall in a sand pit, she wasn’t watching her feet, either. As such, it took her by surprise when her open-toed shoe happened to hit something hard in the sand. A glance down revealed what looked like a dark stone half-buried in the sand, but it glistened oddly in the light of the chamber’s braziers. A closer inspection revealed it to be far from natural: it was a carving of a beetle rolling an orb. If touched it emitted a slight yellow glow, and if struck the shaped crystal would light up.

In response, the wings of the scarab on the doorway opened, and the first of the three symbols connected by lines beneath it gained a glowing, circular outline the color of sunlight. The door itself, however, did not open. Band gave a long, low hum of contemplation as he looked at the door and Primrose’s find. “Hmm. This beetle...just like with Eliza.” As Azwel and Kan-Ra looked at him, he explained further. “Lemme back up. There’s this vicious li’l honey I’ve tangled with once or twice back home named Eliza. Blood’s her thing, and if she’s goin’ all out she might turn it into a bug just like that and fly around. Straight up, straight out, straight down, big boom. And ‘cause she won’t shut up, she sometimes calls out ‘sunrise, high noon, sunset’.” He shot a look at Azwel as the sorcerer yawned, then cut to the chase. “Anyway, I’m thinkin’ we got two more bugs to find. One in the middle, one up high.”

Kan-ra grinned as he gave a soft clap. “I am impressed. It is rare that the myths of ancient Egypt come in handy, and rarer still to find someone who knows them--however that knowledge might have come about.”

Crossing her arms, Panther squinted at him. “Are you saying you recognized this stuff too? You coulda led with that!”

“And rob our good detective of his time to shine?” Kan-Ra looked amused. “Perish the thought. Now, let us seek the remaining scarabs.”

Band took serious issue with that sort of condescension, but since he’d already wasted enough time, he let sleeping dogs lie. The team dispersed, only a little closer to their destination but with clear targets in mind. Skull brushed some particles out of his hair after he got a little close to the sandfall on one side of the ruin. “Gah! Y’know, this’d be a lot easier if we could use Third Eye like Joker can.”

“You mean, if we could cheat,” Panther laughed. “C’mon, let’s climb up on the rocks. I’ll have Carmen send up some Agis and we can shoot any beetles we see up high.” Skull nodded, and the two jumped to higher ground.

Ms Fortune

Level 4 Nadia (78/40)
Location: The Maw - the Depths
Blazermate's @Archmage MC, Bowser's @DracoLunaris, Ace Cadet's @Yankee, Sakura's @Zoey Boey, Frog's @Dark Cloud, Mirage’s @Potemking, Link’s @Gentlemanvaultboy
Word Count: 859

The hollowness in Nadia’s stomach forced her to agree with the Cadet that she could have chosen her insults better. Even for a stray kitten used to living on scraps, this hunger was becoming a serious problem. It could only be worse for those with more normal, well cared-for childhoods, but Nadia found that telling herself she had it better than the others didn’t help her out a whole lot. There was no telling how much farther the kids had to go to be free of the Maw and its damnable curses, but just two areas sounded a little too good to be true. The odds of them making it were slim. Consequences or not, the kids needed to eat something soon, or else grow too weak to carry on.

But there was neither food nor rest to be had in the hanging catwalk labyrinth, and both Nadia and Ace agreed that they needed to get a move on. While trying to deal with Moreau they, Link, and Bowser had managed to get the platforms and both the start and end of the aerial maze wrecked. That left them both stranded in the middle without an immediate option, and left Nadia in particular bemoaning the fact that she left her bedsheet parachute behind. On the subject of Bowser, however, the little king started hollering across the former Depths’ upper reaches to make sure Link and Kamek were okay. While Kamek didn’t exactly make a great case for spending his time productively, Nadia was still glad that everyone seemed to be okay. Although, she couldn’t see that green-haired kid. Did he end up hiding in the storeroom? Falling in the water when Moreau attacked? Hopefully not.

Bowser ended up directing Nadia’s attention downward. She could see Link making his descent, but apparently Junior was down there, too. By pure coincidence she smacked her own forehead at the same time as Ace, having not put two and two together earlier. Of course, that meant that the young hero who just saved everyone’s bacon by risking his life to open the way now faced an irate Moreau on his own. Worse still, and hopefully not thanks to Kamek’s ‘help’, Moreau seemed to be plodding toward Flow Control at the north side of the room.

They intrepid climbers didn’t need to waste time discussing what that meant; instead, Nadia took off after Ace toward where Bowser hung over the platform by the Command Center. The route taken by Link proved that the stair towers didn’t need to be intact to be traversable, and right now the Seekers didn’t have enough time to be picky. The two ran, jumped, swung, and slid like lives were on the line until they reached Bowser’s ladder and could shimmy down to what remained of the stair tower.

Nadia paused as she landed on the twisted platform, her spine chilled by a grotesque noise that issued down the hall from the direction of the Command Center. “W-what was that?” she squeaked. “Are they in trouble in there?” In vain she craned her neck to try and see inside, but couldn’t get a clear shot down the corridor without committing to it. Then she looked back down to see Link reach the bottom floor and promptly start making a racket at Moreau. Indecision clutched her heart like an ice-cold hand, squeezing in two directions. This was a crossroads; she needed to make a decision, and make it fast.

“Ohhh…” she moaned in dismay, both brain cells working overtime to come up with an answer that would break her out of this paralysis. “W-well...whatever’s in the Command Center, it can’t be worse than the fish monster, right? And we’ve only got two guys down there.” But doubt riddled her. Did she think that just because the exit lay that way, too? Before she could second guess herself, the kitten leaped down to the mangled stair tower’s third floor. From there she could race down the stairs as fast as her little feet could take her, headed for the bottom.

Meanwhile, Link’s noisemaking earned him his desired results, for better or worse. Rather than comb through the debris to try and flush out Junior, Moreau rounded on Link with a bellow. Its anger could not be mistaken, but it held something else as well, a sort of piteous, quavering, almost sobbing quality. “Don’ cruel,” Moreau cried. “It’s not fair. It’s not fair! I should be the one with her...not them…” He hauled himself toward Link, crawling faster than one would expect for such a misshapen monstrosity. “Rrragh! You’re the reason nobody loves me!” his garbled moans echoed through the once-flooded base, addressing all the intruders at once. “If she didn’t need monsters terrorize intruders, I...I wouldn’t be stuck with this miserable life!”

Like a walrus he reared up and slammed his weight down where he last saw Link. “They’ll have to respect me if I kill you! Please!” he pleaded. “She’ll make me better...I just need! Grrah!” He started lumbering around, trying to ram and bite anything that moved on either the ground floor or the metal walkways just above.

Once it became clear that the Proxy found its targets by sound, the Command Center quickly filled with grave silence. Even as the horrific pile of pustules began to stalk among the gathered children, however, there existed a glimmer of hope. Its senses were not so acute that it could detect the muffled shuffling of little feet here and there, particularly when timed with the nauseating cries that issued from the creature’s warped gullet. And though its strength and speed made actually fighting it a near-impossibility for a bunch of tired, scared, and hungry kids, Mirage awakened his team to a different possibility. Smack dab in the center of the room was a four-story drop that not even this abomination could survive.

First, Peach needed to vacate the area right between the opening in the pit cage and the pilot seat, which was about to become a highly contested area. Sakura moved in to help the fallen princess out. She got lucky with her footsteps, but as she maneuvered Peach face-up and whispered to Peach to no response, the sound carried far enough to alert the Proxy. With a gargle the fleshy horror turned her way, but the sudden rattle of Mirage’s dart against a section of the chain-link pit cage got its attention off her back. The Proxy howled and threw itself against the fence, thrashing its imagined prey, but despite the frightening display of violence Geralt came back to help drag Peach to safety. Mirage’s distraction also allowed Rika to take charge of the submarine controls without getting mobbed herself, and once the mechanical arms started up their mechanical ruckus the Proxy’s wrath was thoroughly occupied. Together Sakura and Geralt two pulled the little princess around the side of the cage opposite the Proxy and toward the communications station by the window. If either checked her pulse en route they’d be relieved to learn that their ally was still among the living.

A few moments later they’d ferreted the half-conscious Peach in the legroom of the desk and could turn to reappraise the current situation with their unwelcome guest. Rika’s efforts with the arm controls had drawn the wailing Proxy around the cage, through the open gate, and onto the extension over the pit itself. There, unable to jump or otherwise reach the source of the noise, it could only stamp and scream in hideous frustration.
Just as a helping hand for anyone who may be in need of it, the plan at the beginning it to start off your character's day, then run through a bad day in your character's life. I do apologize for relying a little more on the players at the start here, as you know how best to realize your character's sorry situation. Tension already has your characters fraying at the edges, and the events that befall your character during this school day will only bring you closer to the brink. I'm looking for some insight into your sufferer's life, what's currently going on, the recent past, and of course the day's events at the university.

The IC day will play out over the course of a few rounds of posts from everyone, possibly running through the day's highlights, which can (and probably should) include meeting with a fellow PC or two. If you have any questions about the sorts of things you can make, include, or do to, please feel free to fire away. I'd also be happy to interact with anyone, either as Barney or the world.

As the school day wraps up with the last period ending at around 5 o clock, the red strings of fate will bring our characters together in a singular location, and things will start getting Persona-y. At that point I'll be doing more as the GM to really get things kicked off in style for you all.
Team Mao

Location: Al Mamoon Northeast - Rocket Inc.
Midna’s @DracoLunaris, Sectonia’s @Archmage MC, Mao’s @Potemking, Jesse’s @Zoey Boey, Laharl’s @Dark Cloud, Joker, Mona, Fox, Necronomicon, Braum

Though the group gathered in hesitation before the maze of arrows laid out before them, the Overlord who led them to the office in the first place was quick to take the lead once again. He managed to make it a good way though before he needed to take a break and quell his nauseousness. . As he swore his vengeance, Joker couldn’t help but wonder why the people who made this trap didn’t place down facing arrows themselves, or just make the puzzle unsolveable in the first place. Their goal, he figured, must not be to stop any intruders but to annoy them. What that might accomplish he couldn’t say, but he resolved to beware any post-maze traps that might befall someone driven by irritation to incautiousness.

One by one the intruders braved the puzzle. Despite being too big to even fit comfortably on a single tile, Braum got spun like all the rest, and ended taking a different route to the same destination that Mao did. At that point he chose wrongly and ended up back at the start. If the experience perturbed him, however, he gave no sign. “Ahaha, oh well!” he exclaimed cheerily. “At least this is fun!”

With Joker busy observing his allies through the glass to get an idea of the patterns and hopefully set a good example by going straight to the end, Fox stepped up after Jesse to give the puzzle his best attempt. He paused to give Midna, Sectonia, and Necronomicon enough space to float right over the troublesome pads and to the next room. The royals went ahead to secure the premises while Necronomicon remained at the finish line to give her allies a hand. “Hey, try this one! Oh no, not that one, ugh! Now you’re back there...well, there’s no way out. You better start over.”

As she helped as best she could, placing waypoints to clarify locations her directions and tentacles could not, she heard Midna and Sectonia yammering away. At first she paid them no mind, but she ended up hearing a familiar name, and after that she couldn’t help but tune in. As the Twilight Princess mentioned recruitment Necronomicon flew north, almost to Mao’s stopping point, so that a wall lay between her and the royal conclave. Luckily, sound could travel in ways vision could not.

Her eavesdropping only got as far as the start of Sectonia’s monologue about altruism before Fox stole her attention away. “Necronomicon? I thought you marked a tile to avoid rather than a tile to try, and seem to be back where I was before. How can I make the best of this?”

“Uh…” the Persona focused back on the task at hand. “Well, that entire section down there is pretty much a dead zone. Just back up to the middle of the room and...hey, hang on a moment.” A number of eyes fell on the flying saucer as she scratched her hull with a tentacle. “Why, um, don’t you just try jumping over the tiles?”

Joker and Fox both looked down at the tiles, noting the clearance between them and the ceiling. The leader of the Phantom Thieves cleared his throat. “...I was...wondering how long it would take us to notice.”

His friend ran a hand through his hair as if to preserve some dignity, adjusting his mask as he did. “It would appear I missed the forest for the trees.”

After that, Ciella and the remaining Seekers made quick work of the so-called puzzle, each member yet to get through feeling various levels of shame. With the aid of her mask the Grimleal Lieutenant remained frosty and inscrutable, and though Joker understood why she stayed back to let the others solve the puzzle first, he felt like they missed out on seeing her inelegantly spun around, too.

Everyone reunited with the royals in front of the staircase, by the wall-mounted telephone and technological-looking vending machine, which on closer inspection appeared to be totally deprived of both beverages and its payment system. Having plenty of SP anyway, Joker disregarded it to focus on the stairs ahead. From here he could see a laser grid at the top, and when he ascended to check he saw a closed room beyond the lasers that appeared to be used for storage. A look around suggested no terminal or other control in the vicinity through which the lasers might be controlled, so there wasn’t much use spending any more time on it. That route being a dead end left only one option: the nook right beside it and the elevator housed within, colored orange. Ciella stooped to examine it, but her lack of experience with modern technology meant she couldn’t figure out any way to open the door. After fruitlessly trying to insert her fingers to prize open the doors, she turned toward the rest of the group. “Anyone care to make themselves useful?”

Having already situated herself nearby Jesse obliged, pressing the elevator call button, and like clockwork the doors slid open. Knowing she couldn’t help blind spots like these, Ciella suppressed a scowl and ducked inside. As it turned out the elevator was more like a lift, a placeholder from original construction, being both bigger than usual and lacking any walls between the passengers and the sides of the elevator shaft. Despite its size, the whole group couldn’t fit inside thanks to the total volume occupied by Ciella, Sectonia, and Braum. The Seekers would need to make two trips, unless Jesse made some helpful adjustments with her Tool Gun.

No matter how the raiders chose to descend, there was only one destination, labeled ‘Base’ on the wall panel. Once started, the elevator creaked to life and began its downward trip. It moved at a decent pace, as indicated by the shaft walls speeding upward, but as the seconds ticked by it gradually became clear that they wouldn’t be reaching their destination any time soon.

Unfortunately the trip was far from uneventful. When the lift came to a abrupt halt the Seekers were more than ready to proceed onward, but not for a sudden ambush in a small room. This happened several times, with one or more walls gone to reveal a room. Handfuls of jab-happy Craws, mace-wielding Clubbas, tough-bodied X-Nauts, and laser-shooting Yux and tried their luck, attacking the moment the elevator-riders appeared. Four times the lift came to a premature stop, sometimes in the corner or along the wall of a room and twice in the center, but invariably enemies lay in wait for its riders. None put up too much of a fight against their opponents’ vast and varied talents, although the Wizzerds distinguished themselves with both offensive and stat-boosting magic. Most of the time Joker and Fox could regain the initiative by leaping into battle the moment the lift came to a rest, beating even Ciella’s arrows to the punch, but even minified Braum’s shield was a valuable asset against the mobs’ ambushes. Once cleared out the enemies left behind what amounted to pretty ordinary facilities for the Resistance: a boardroom, a washroom, a kitchen, and living quarters. Some food could be found in the kitchen, but other than that nothing Joker could identify nothing of particular use or value.

After the fourth time no more stops interrupted the lift’s downward progress, so its riders could relax a little. Still, they were going far, far below Al Mamoon, deeper than the roots of the city could possibly extend. After the brief skirmishes Joker kept calm, breathing steadily as he composed himself, even as the known world receded and the unknown drew near. Nobody could predict what lay ahead.

Suddenly the elevator shaft opened up with a rush of air, forcing everyone inside to grab hold of something or someone, lest they fall. The solid stone had given way to a cavern of elephantine proportions, its exact dimensions impossible to discern through a haze turned bluish by distant lights. What Joker could see, however, was the immense dome structure suspended in midair by a support column from the ceiling. The elevator came to a stop on some kind of high-up platform, and Ciella wasted no time stepping toward the edge to look down at the structure for a better view. Enormous tubes or cables of some sort reached down from various directions to plug into its sides, and the curved bars of metal atop one another brought the image of a birdcage to Joker’s mind. In front of them one part of the cagelike lattice appeared to be busted open, and it was straight toward this opening that what looked like a propulsion device right in front of them pointed. Like the gigantic cage-arena it looked highly technological, of the otherworldly sort he’d only glimpsed in Okumura’s Palace and perhaps Alcamoth until now. There could be no doubt; this was alien construction.

What is it with desert buildings on top of super advanced tech? Though he wondered about the odd trend, there were more important things to consider, and Joker adjusted his glove as he thought. “That place has ‘boss fight’ written all over it. Assuming that cannon-thing will send us, we should make sure we’re prepared before going over.” He peered toward the edge of the platform he and the other Seekers stood upon. Precarious indeed, but with the absolute lack of wind there wasn’t that much danger, as long as nobody tripped. He looked back to see Necronomicon insert herself into the man cannon for the sake of experimentation and get catapulted off in the direction of the cage, forcing her to decelerate mid-air to make her way back toward her allies. “We could wait for Mona to join us.”

Ciella huffed. “I will not stand idle while our foes lick their wounds and bolster themselves. Any moment now they might activate some artifact, or complete some ritual to make good their escape. This is our chance to dispel their false justice. To take another step to a world without deceit!”

So saying, she stepped onto the man cannon and rocketed off in a rabbit-eared blur, her hail trailing behind her like an ice-blue comet. She passed Necronomicon on the way, who approached the others with an intensely quizzical look despite her lack of face. “H-hey, are we doing this?”

Joker shrugged. “Guess so.” Though some part of him felt exasperated at Ciella and her status as a wild card, he couldn’t deny that he wanted to get things over with, too. A familiar feeling was rising inside him, the same that beat in his heart and pumped through his veins just before assaults on other rulers and other cages. That electrifying feeling of anticipation! Like music to his ears.

He and Fox exchanged a nod, both young men galvanized by the same vigor. Joker took off toward the cannon at a sprint and blasted off the second he hit its stream of energy. At dizzying speed he soared through the empty air, his arms spread like wings as he flew, a wild smile on his face. This was exhilarating! This was what it meant to be alive.

All too soon his flight came to an end. Joker landed with a roll on metal coated by sand and rose to his feet to find the place every bit of a colosseum as he imagined. What he saw before him was no reason to quit grinning. There were no traps, no machinations, no attempts at escape. Just the enemy. Silhouetted against radiant light from behind were an assortment of figures, all shapes and sizes, eight of them ready and waiting. He recognized the floating one in an instant. All that really mattered, though, was that they were here to receive him, and he and his team were here to be received.

As he watched, the shadow of a ninth figure approached through the light. Though short and blocky, she sported what looked like a skirt and a bun, and her position above and behind the rest suggested that she was their superior. The enigmatic Number Two that Mao mentioned, Joker assumed. But if that was so, who -and where- was number one?

Ciella stepped forward. “Hear me, you hypocritic pretenders, you so-called Resistance! For the havoc you have wrought against the city of Al Mamoon and its people, and on my authority as a Lieutenant Captain of Validar’s Grimleal, I place you under arrest.” She raised and threw down one arm, calling forth some magic, and behind her back manifested six giant arms of water floating in the air. “This is what became of one fool who dared to resist. Choose the same and fare likewise.” Her lips curled into a smile. “Please.”

A no-nonsense voice reached back across the arena, hailing from the little woman at the very back. “Yeah, um, I’m gonna have to tell you that your orders mean nothing. There’s no use trying to convince them. They’ve already sworn allegiance, and I’m gonna need you to as well, ‘k? But uh, you're gonna need a little disciplinary action, I let's get started, hm?”

She clapped her hands, and the Resistance got to work.

Cold Monastery

Location: Frozen Highlands - Alpine Skyline
Linkle’s @Gentlemanvaultboy

Although the question took the villager by surprise initially, a little more reflection made it seem like a pretty obvious line of inquiry. Either way, the diminutive townsperson was happy to oblige Linkle with a response. “Just hitch ride like normal! Our flag lines are magic. You can zip down, zip up, even zip down branching path! Along with goats, they make life in Alpine Skyline possible!”

With raised eyebrows Albedo recontextualized the whole area. All things considered, the lines possessing magic of their own made a lot of sense. How a branching line worked he couldn’t fathom, but the fact that simple rural communities existed atop these sparse peaks in the first place was testament enough to something special at these villagers’ disposal. That said, it made him wonder about what exactly lay below, other than the autumn glade of the goddess Freya. Naturally ordinary people wouldn’t want to live in the frigid peaks and wastes, but what kept people like these from a less perilous existence down in the misty valley? The alchemist resolved to keep an eye out.

Meanwhile, while Linkle took to the idea of a race to the zenith of Goat Village with gusto, it wasn’t her first instinct to just take off running. Instead she paid more attention to a certain rather suspicious individual in the vicinity, and Albedo agreed. In a place uniformly dominated by cheer and color, a strange figure like that, whose very body eked a dark miasma as it fought an internal war against the laws of physics, stood out like a sore thumb. As Albedo watched, the mask tilted sideways, in increments like the hand of a clock, until it was almost upside-down, then snapped back into place. “Yes, let’s.”

As the pair approached, the odd individual took notice and gave a slow, cumbersome bow. In a smooth, slow voice he greeted them. “Good day. I am the badge seller. Please disregard my twitchy behavior. My body has been to places that left a permanent mark. Badges are...totally ‘in’ right now. That’s what I’ve been told to say. So please, by all means, make a purchase.”

His free arm ceased its spasms to summon forth a menu. It contained an array of badges, each with a name and description, as well as an associated cost in green gems.

Before looking at the products Albedo considered the gems. “What are these emeralds?”

“Those are called Pons,” the Badge Seller drawled. “They appear scattered around the whole Skyline and can be collected easily. If you leave and come back, more will appear, too.”

Albedo crossed his arms. “I feel as if this may be an improper question, but if you want these Pons, why not simply take them yourself?”

The Badge Seller’s mask vibrated sharply. “...As you can see, my ability to move is limited. I cannot.”

“I...see.” Clearing his throat, the alchemist looked back over the menu. It sounded like he and Linkle would need to run and jump around a lot to even make a purchase in the first place. That meant a race would be of even more benefit, so he tensed himself to spring into action if Linkle thought she’d get a head start.
I decided I'd go ahead and make a Discord server for whoever wants it. The link is at the bottom of the OOC's OP.
Been busy working on some other stuff, but I managed to get a few important things written down in a compact manner. Excited to get started today!

Good stuff! I'll get that catalogued.

And in other news, we're live! Soldiers of Fortune is officially in business.
November 29th - Morning

Barney’s eyes snapped open, his body shocked awake by the impact of realization that struck him with the weight of a freight train. “Oh no. Nono.” He felt a little too well rested; a slight soreness afflicted his head at the point where it lay against the pillow. That sunlight peeking through the cheap blinds of his dorm room looked a little too bright. Like a snake his arm lunged out from beneath his cover to snatch the phone from the desk beside his bed. He didn’t need his glasses to see the time on display and confirm the impulsive fear that had seized him. “No no no, dang it!” He’d slept through his alarm. He was late. Again.

Even as his heart sank, his body leaped into action. Barney hurled himself out of bed, scooped up his little basket with soap and shampoo, grabbed a reasonably fresh set of clothes from the closet, and made a beeline for the communal bathroom and its showers. Since he couldn’t wait for it to warm up he had to shiver through a brisk wash before pulling on his clothes and booking it back to his room. No time for breakfast, which sucked but at least it wasn’t the first time. Just folders, notebook, pencils, laptop, all in the backpack, shoes on, and run for it. His wet hair in the chilly air of an overcast November morning just about froze his scalp, but the anger and embarrassment of his repeated mistake stung him a whole lot more.

“I’m so dead,” he moaned as he hastened toward the lecture hall as fast as he could. If he couldn’t cut it in the first and easiest semester of college, he wasn’t going to cut it, period. All that debt incurred for nothing--his hopes of finding a better future, squandered. “That’s just it. I’m dead. Dead for sure. Woodward’s not gonna let it slide again.” Not after Barney forgot to bring his laptop to the semester’s first test. No matter how much he wanted to blame it on his manager insisting he close the night before, no amount of excuses would have saved him. Only the grace of Professor Ed Woodward, who let him run back to get his computer. He’d been allowed to both start and end the test late, but doing well on it was another story. That episode put his already struggling grade in the class in jeopardy, and Barney got the sinking feeling that Rockwell wouldn’t give him a third chance.

It wasn’t fair. Between studying for this very test and work he’d barely gotten to actually relax on Thanksgiving Break at all. At least he figured he’d be prepared for the test the day after, but of course, leave it to Barney Rynsburger to mess things up right at the end. Screw me for at least wanting to go out to eat a Thanksgiving dinner with my friends, huh? He, Matt, and Felipe ended up reaching for one too many beers. Barney didn’t even remember how he got back to the college. Felipe’s girlfriend Maria, probably. At least I don’t have to deal with her. Still, that wasn’t a lot of comfort for the dead.

The building loomed ahead of him, but as Barney drew near he came to a breathless stop. He was half an hour late; he had no chance in hell. Why go in there and just sit in the middle of all the test-takers, unable to do anything, and be tortured by his failure? If he was dead, he might as well rest in peace, at least for a little while. Hanging his head, Barney turned around and trundled back down the hill toward the student center in the middle of campus. He could grab a coffee and a donut from the built-in cafe and find a cozy couch to sink into for the rest of time. After suppressing his look of anguish so that nobody would see him like this he pushed inside.

A few minutes later Barney had achieved his resting place. Even with first period in session the student center was pretty full. Everywhere he looked he saw clusters of eighteen and nineteen years olds, chatting, catching up, complaining, and so on, many with the sort of excitement only freshmen could possess. Because everybody had somebody, though, that left a vacancy in front of the TV where a guy by himself could take a seat. Barney heaved a sigh and stared listlessly up at the news.

“...Indicate this incident to be just the latest in the string of so-called protests against alleged police corruption turning violent in recent months,” the host was saying. “Furthermore, our correspondents on site interviewed a number of eyewitnesses who claim to have seen Sofia Kucharski in the vicinity.” An image flashed on screen of a blonde woman in a green overcoat. “Kucharski, a self-identified anarchist and longtime anti-police agitator, is a convicted felon released from a prison sentence only a few years ago. Since then accusations of seditious activities and conspiracies continue to pile at her feet. At this time her involvement cannot be confirmed, but if this spate of civil unrest is indeed her handiwork as suspected, there could be even more dire incidents yet to come. We turn now to Barclay’s own police commissioner Maurice McCord for comment.”

The news station transitioned to a shot at the front of the BPD building, situated on its idyllic peninsula on the waterfront. Front and center was the commissioner himself, who with his white suit, old-fashioned gold star, and ten-gallon hat looked every inch the southern gentleman sheriff he clearly sought to be. “First thing I wanna do is set your minds at ease. All these rumors y’all been hearin? ‘Bout corruption ‘n whatnot? Nothin’ but heinous slander! There ain’t a police department in the nation more open ‘n carin’ than we are. Why, just look around ‘n see fer yerself! Watchin’ out for folks--that’s our motto.” His wide, reassuring smile turned serious, his look concerned. “But this Kuth...ah, Kucharski lady? She’s bad news, lemme tell ya. I know ‘cause I’m the one who put ‘er away in the first place. She’s the type who’s willin’ to take advantage of people, stir up trouble, get poor folks hurt, then sit back ‘n let others take the fall. The reason she’s doin’ this -the one and only reason- is for revenge. So to the good citizens of this fair city, please: if ya see any trouble brewin’, just stay calm, keep clear, ‘n call the police. If ya bring in info that ‘elps lead to ‘er capture, we’ll even reward ya. So help us help yew stay safe. God bless.”

After that the segment changed, and Barney’s attention drifted away. He heard some people sit down behind him. One girl exhaled heavily, saying, “Guh! There’s still SO many people everywhere. It’s seriously nuts. Back in August I thought it was just, like, a bunch of kids visiting from all the high schools or something. I’m so sick of waiting in line for coffee.”

Her friend finished a long sip of her own drink, smacking her lips before replying. “I mean, Pondwater did say it was a record-breaking freshman class back at the first assembly. He was really proud about it, too. Kept going on and on about recruiters this and outreach that. Must be raking it in.”

The first girl snickered. “You know, I can’t get over his name being Pondwater in the first place. It’s just so perfect. He looks like a bullfrog, stuffed in that disgusting brown suit of his.”

“I know, right?”

Barney knew he shouldn’t be eavesdropping, but he didn’t have the energy to distract himself as the girls continued. “Anyway, did you hear about Kirsty? It happened AGAIN!”

Her friend sounded a lot more annoyed than surprised. “What else is new? With her looks, she’s always gonna have guys swarming all over her, and if she can’t pick ‘em...well, serves that bimbo right. It’s like winning the lottery and dropping the ticket on the way to cash it in.”

Barney allowed their conversation to drift away as his thoughts turned inward, a displeased look on his face. Even as a freshman he recognized the name they mentioned. In fact, he’d be surprised if anyone could go a semester at BWU without hearing about her. Kirsty Shishani, the beautiful but ditzy sophomore cursed with terrible luck in love. It seemed like her blunders through the world of romance were practically a spectator sport at this point. No matter who she ended up with or how well things seemed to be going, things would eventually turn sour. The guy would turn out to be a creep or jerk of some stripe. Two guys had even been expelled for sexual harassment. And of course, the minute she was single again someone else would swoop in to fill the void, and it’d happen all over again. Barney’s heart went out to the poor girl. He’d seen her a couple times around the school, and rumors really didn’t do her justice. Drop-dead gorgeous, terribly friendly and kind-hearted, always quick with a smile, never picky or prideful. It was easy to understand why guys went nuts over her, and why girls hated her guts. Bright or not, she didn’t deserve all the misfortune that befell her. She was way out of his league, but Barney felt sure that if he got a shot, he could make her happy. And considering some of the guys she did get with, maybe she’d give him a chance after all?

Barney shook his head and busied himself with his coffee. What am I thinking? He was a dead man walking. He had no future, least of all one with a girl like Kirsty. Soon he’d be out of here, with nothing gained from BWU but debt, probably unable to keep providing for his family. Nobody would ever know he’d been there. Nobody would remember he was gone. He groaned, and attempted to sink deeper into his chair.
Chapter One - Neither Here nor There

You jolt awake to the sound of thunder, your body wholly shaken by a sudden, forceful upheaval, like the tremor of an earthquake. As alarms go off in your head you instinctively try to jump to your feet, only to find your torso bound to your chair by some sort of harness. While struggling, however, the panic subsides, and you come to realize that this isn’t your bed, your home. You’re surrounded by metal--metal floors, rows of metal seats, metal ribs holding up the metal walls of a metal tube...the belly of a mammoth, man-made bird. The constant clamor of component parts and the hum of the engines fills your ears as the alarm bells fade away. It’s not a building at all. It’s a plane. It’s a dream. The same dream.

Another loud noise rattles the aircraft, shaking you to the bone. Everything is familiar. You’ve been here before. The same fold-out benches, the same straps, the same tangle of cables and pipes overhead, the same door opposite you, sealed nice and tight. And the intermittent blasts of hellish artillery outside, every detonation palpable. But this time something’s different. At the front of the cabin, the door is ajar. A warm light pours through. A way out of this nightmare.

It takes only a moment to find the buckle and be free of the harness. A shaky trip across the length of the cain between the rows of empty seats leads to the gleaming crack. Your hand closes around the handle. There’s no doubt in your mind, just a singular question: why this dream, again and again, only for this door to open up now? That amber light promises an answer, an escape from the monotony. Another explosion rocks the plane, forcing you to steady yourself. There’s nowhere to go but forward.

It’s easy to open the door and slip inside. Things seem normal. Straight ahead are the pilot and copilot seats, but the light is coming from the right. There’s a console there against the wall, and in the velvet-lined chair right in front of all the switches and buttons is a glasses-wearing police girl in a royal blue uniform, resting on her arm in the warmth and comfort of the portable lamp on her desk. Despite all the commotion she’s sound asleep, snoring heavily, her jaw slack and a puddle of drool on the desk beneath.

“Ah, finally decided to pay me a visit, hm?”

A gravelly voice from the front of the cockpit wrenches your focus away from the inattentive navigator. For a moment the copilot turns to look at you, revealing an old man in a black suit and tactical helmet. His beaklike nose protrudes a good foot from his face, and his eyes bulge from their sockets with a soul-piercing stare. Wearing a somewhat deranged-looking grin, he swivels the empty pilot’s seat around and beckons you over. “Come, sit. There isn’t much time.”

He faces forward once again as he begins to speak, his every word possessing such a weight that you can’t help but listen. “Welcome to the Velvet Room, such that it is. This plane exists between dream and reality, mind and matter, and here, of all places, you are.” He gave a sensible chuckle. ”I must admit, your situation is not an enviable one. I couldn’t blame you if you called it Hell. After all, you’ve been thrown to the wolves, so to speak.” Another blast forces him to pause. This one you can see through the windows as you look through them for the first time, the sudden outbreak of flame illuminating dark clouds against a starless night sky. Then it fades, and only impenetrable blackness lies ahead.

Igor continues. ”Your life is no longer your own. Gone are the comfortable and innocent days of your youth, free of worry and responsibility. The governors of your existence plucked you up and sent you to war. They threw you into a hostile and unforgiving world to fight for your life, each and every day a battle, until you die.”

With a leer he performs a sweeping gesture to indicate the whole plane. ”And so here you are, as far as you can get from the ugliness and tumult of the world below, sealed away at a safe distance and along for the ride.” He nods his head at the pilot’s console. The wheel jerks back and forth, and no amount of strength will bring it under control. Then Igor’s brows furrow as he points to another especially big explosion going off up ahead. In its glare you can see not just storm clouds, but the vague outlines of countless other planes, all headed in the same direction. ”But those shells will keep coming until they hit their marks. Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but eventually. Lost souls circling the drain, day by day, until you go down.” He shrugs and leans back in his chair, tenting his fingers. “But where there is opposition, there is the chance to claim victory. To fight, not to survive, but to win. Already, the impossible has been set in motion, and the hour is close at hand. Soon you will wake up, but whether you face reality -whether you awaken- is up to you. And should you find your worth, we will surely meet again.”

He looks over your shoulder and nods. You turn to see the police girl from before, sleepy but awake, with her hand on a lever. The next second the floor falls out from beneath you and you plunge into the darkness, the wind whipping your clothes and hair. Overhead the plane disappears into the clouds as you continue to plummet down, down, down, until the sky finally meets the earth below.
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