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Writing The Legionnaires: Arbiter [PG-LV]


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[center][img]http://i5.photobucket.com/albums/y170/retri_trib/arbiter.jpg[/img][/center]

Welcome to [b]The Legionnaires: Arbiter[/b]! This is an all-purpose thread that will provide supplementary stories, poetry and artwork for The Legionnaires universe created by the players. All players involved in this event are welcome to post here, explore the backstories of their character, and flesh out the universe as a whole.

Please post your side discussions, questions, or comments related to this thread in [b][url=http://otakuboards.com/showthread.php?t=49109&page=1&pp=15]The Legionnaires Underground[/url][/b].

([i]Note:[/i] The 'blanket rating' for this thread is [PG-LV] although if one wishes to post more adult content in here that is fine. Please include a specific rating to your post if it goes beyond the [PG-LV] rating.)

[center][size=5][b]:::Index:::[/b][/size][/center]

#1: [i]Monday Morning[/i] - Shy
#2: [i]Peeks at a Life Through Poetry[/i] - Ajeh
#3: [i]A Conversation Between Echo and Vernacular[/i] - Sage Kaley
#4: [i]Fear Me a River[/i] - Sage
#5: [i]It's Just a Classic[/i] - Retribution
#6: [i]If Only She Knew...[/i] - Sakura
#7: [i]A Day, Night and Day[/i] - Nuevoxraiha
#8: [i]I Will Never Love Again (Part 1)[/i] - SolarPrincess
#9: [i]Shift (Part 1)[/i] - Takuya
#10: [i]"I am not going to battle to win."[/i] - Dagger
#11: [i]Mission #110: Tetros[/i] - Baron Samedi
#12: [i]Mission #105: Aftermath[/i] - Shy
#13: [i]Shift (Part 2)[/i] - Takuya
#14: [i]A little bit more than arthritis[/i] - Circéus
#15: [i]A Question of Morals [M-LV][/i] - Domon
#16: [i]Harmless Incident[/i] - Raiyuu
#17: [i]"Blessed are they..."[/i] - Gavin
#18: [i]Estate[/i] - DeadSeraphim
#19: [i]Boatman of Acheron[/i] - Sandy
#20: [i]Homecoming[/i] - Retribution
#21: [i]Deadline[/i] - Shy
#22: [i]Descent into Grey[/i] - Nuevoxraiha

[font=trebuchet ms][center][size=4][b]"Monday Morning"[/b][/size][/center]

It was Monday morning, 7am to be exact, and Jack Barnes was enjoying the last moments with his wife before he left for his job. Jack sliced into his eggs, humming to himself as he stuffed forkful after forkful of them into his mouth. His wife, Maria, was talking to him about how crowded in the grocery store was these days, or about the cute new beagle the Johnson family got next door; it didn?t actually matter if he listened or even knew what she was telling him about. Jack knew that his wide would go on with her little story regardless.

??and you know Gladys always seemed to get into the most [I]interesting[/I] situations,? Maria said as she swept up the random crumbs that had fallen onto their green tile floor. ?Just the other day she was at the Greenfield Observatory during that big fight with The Legionnaires?.?

Jack?s eyes lit up. He put his fork onto the plate gently, focusing his attention on what his wife said for the first time that morning.

??It was just one of the smaller names, though, ?Impasse? or something. You know, the [I]flaming one[/I]. Anyway, traffic had come to a complete stop on both sides of the highway as the poor thing was getting torn apart by some kind of beast. Lucky the rest of The Legionnaires had shown up, or else who knows what would have happened??

Maria looked at Jack, his eyes focused intently on her own.

?How many innocents were hurt?? He asked.

?Innocents? I don?t know, Jack. The news stations never give out those kinds of numbers,? she paused for a moment. ?But they did say it would have been a lot worse if The Legionnaires weren?t there.?

?You know what I told you,? Jack sighed.

?Oh. I?m so terribly sorry, your majesty,? she said. Maria ran her fingers through her long, dark hair. ?I forgot that you?re the only one in [I]the world[/I] who hates The Legionnaires.?

Finished with his meal, Jack pushed his plate of eggs forward, ?I don?t hate them. I just don?t think it?s a great idea to put such unwavering faith in a group of individuals like that. They?re nothing more than a bunch of reckless mercenaries.?

?That?s the same song you?ve been singing for three years, Jack. Don?t go blaming your problems on those heroes up there,. All they?ve done is protect you, protect all of us since before we were in diapers. Would you rather it was you going out there, risking your life against freaks like Countdown??

Jack stood up and removed the napkin placed under his collar, revealing a neatly pressed, dark blue uniform. ?Officer Barnes,? read the white letters stitched over his shirt pocket.

?You know I don?t want to see you hurt, Jack,? Maria whispered to herself. She placed her hand softly on Jack?s shoulder, ?Why can?t you be grateful that they?re here for us? The worst you deal with is purse snatchers and parking tickets; without them, who knows if you?d even be here to have this conversation.?

Jack took her hand with his own, and pulled it away from his shoulder.

?I don?t have time for this,? he said with a sigh. ?I need to find my badge.?

The doorbell rang. Maria went to the hallway to answer it while Jack put on his coat. Several moments passed, and Mrs. Barnes could be heard talking to an unfamiliar voice, seemingly nervous. She sounded nervous, and Jack reluctantly left the kitchen to check on his wife.

In the entryway of his small downtown apartment stood Maria, speaking to a dark male figure in a full, flowing cape. He stood over six feet tall, easily overshadowing the two residents; the man had a slight, athletic frame and a black metallic costume to cover his body. The few highlights of color were on his chest - a logo of some sort - the letter ?A,? in crimson red, and a set of faint, glowing eyes.

While they had never met before, Jack knew the stranger well. He was The Arbiter, the only founding member of The Legionnaires still associated with the group, and widely regarded as one of the greatest heroes the world has ever seen. The Arbiter was a god among men; but why he had come to the Barnes residence remained a mystery.

?Once again, I apologize for startling you,? The Arbiter said coldly. ?If there were another alternative, I would have used it, but I must see your husband, Jack Barnes.?

?H-h-he?s right in?the kitchen,? Maria replied, pointing her hand towards the back of the apartment.

?I?m right here, Maria,? Jack said as he stepped closer to the door. The man began to tremble slightly, embracing his wife from behind.

The Arbiter stared at Jack for a moment, filling the room with an uncomfortable silence.

?Mr. Barnes, you must come with me. The world?s safety may depend on information only you can provide.?

Maria turned to face her husband, startled.

?What is he talking about??

Her questions were only met with more silence, as Jack himself had no idea what the visitor was talking about.

?I don?t understand,? Jack said. ?What do you need from me??

?As I stated, I need information only you may be able to provide. You will join me at Legionnaires Headquarters where the questioning may begin.?

Before Jack could respond, The Arbiter?s eyes began to glow a fiery red. The entire room filled with darkness, somehow muffling the sound of Maria?s scream. He felt the floor beneath him disappear, only to return a moment later. The darkness began to fade out; revealing that Jack and The Arbiter were no longer in his apartment.

Instead the two were in another room entirely; some sort of control room, with numerous television screens displaying news feeds from around the world. Along the walls stood enormous supercomputers, with other strange pieces of technology littered about the grounds. Jack had been transported to The Legionnaires Headquarters, a mobile ocean base on the opposite end of the Earth.

The Arbiter turned towards his attention towards the video screens as Jack collapsed to the floor.

?Nausea is a side effect of my molecular teleportation abilities. You may need several moments to recover.?

?What did you do to my wife?? Jack asked, tears streaming down his face as the room around him appeared to be spinning wildly. ?I swear to God, if you hurt her--?

?Your wife is resting comfortably at your home, Mr. Barnes. The sooner we finish your questioning, the sooner you will be returned to her.?

Aside from the two of them, the room was empty. Jack tried to regain his footing, wondering where the rest of The Legionnaires were. Unknown to him, during his fall Jack?s badge had come loose from his pocket, falling onto the ground. With such a large organization, it was odd that the headquarters were so quiet.

The Arbiter motioned for Jack to follow him, and they headed down a small hallway of doors. Between each doorway was a portrait of a different member of The Legionnaires. Many he recognized, many he did not. Below each portrait was a small plaque, indicating their names, and the time they served. It appeared that these portraits were of former members.

?It is believed that I wear this? costume to intimidate,? The Arbiter said. His cape was still flowing, as if a phantom wind were blowing through the hallway. ?This uniform, these colors, are symbolic of the blood shed during our missions. It reminds me every day that there is a real sense of danger in our line of work??

He stopped for a moment, turning towards the nearest door. The door slid openly automatically, surprising Jack.

??and with such a line of work, it?s important to stay one step ahead of our? enemies,? the glow of The Arbiter?s eyes disappeared for just a moment as he looked towards Jack. ?Please, Mr. Barnes, enter the room so that we may begin.?

The room itself almost appeared to be a museum of sorts. Various artifacts from The Legionnaires? missions were hung from the walls, while certain pieces were trapped behind thick glass containers. In the center of the room was a small table, with several folders and photographs resting on top. The Arbiter and Jack approached the table. The dark figure pointed at the photographs, showing black and white images of some sort of large crater.

?What are you showing me? What are these??

?These were photographs commissioned by your father at the impact site in Klamath, Wyoming.?

?Impact site? You mean the meteorite impact in the 1960?s??

?As you were aware, Michael Barnes was an officer for the United State government. While the devastation of Klamath was publicly attributed to a meteorite impact, we have reason to believe something much more sinister was at work.?

?And what is that??

?I am unable to share my theories at this time. But I can say is that these photographs were numbered, one through two hundred and ninety. Over seventy-five photographs are missing, as well as large portions of the report filed by your father.?

?My parents died when I was young, he never mentioned any of this to me??

The Arbiter lowered his head, thinking for a moment.

?You know nothing, do you? Your father, his crew, and their immediate families were all killed by whatever was recovered from that site. Powerful radiation formed deadly tumors on their bodies; it was so strong that it affected those they came into regular contact with. Your mother died as well, although her symptoms were less severe, and as such she suffered for many more years as a result.

By the time the authorities had realized the danger, it was too late. The most they could do was quarantine those who were immediately affected, and classify the information.?

?But I-I-I? Jack struggled to form a sentence, overcome by this revelation.

?You were away, at a prestigious military school during these few years. It appears that your family?s desire to keep you at a distance has saved your life.?

The Arbiter raised his hands, and darkness soon enveloped Jack, lifting him off of the ground.

?You have given little assistance to my mission, Mr. Barnes. Do not share any of the information I have shared with you on this day; the price of revealing the truth may be too great for you and your loved ones.?

Quickly, the darkness disappeared, and Jack along with it. There was silence for a moment, and then a sultry, feminine voice could be heard coming from The Arbiter?s earpiece.

[I]?Arbiter, are you there? Was the Barnes kid of any use??[/I]

?Your ?source? was a failure. It will be necessary to trail him and his wife for the next few weeks, make sure that nothing about our encounter is leaked to the authorities. If it becomes necessary, you have my authorization to exterminate them.?

[I]?And what of the others??[/I]

?The surveillance devices have already been wiped clean. All of the agents are on assignment currently; there will be no record of this ever happening. I?ll contact you with further instructions if it becomes necessary.?

[I]?Yes, sir. I?m fully committed to the mission, for the country.?[/I]

?Not for the country, for the world. Together we will make history.?[/font]

[size=1]-Shy[/size]
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[size=1][center][b]Peeks At A Life Through Poetry[/b][/center]

[b]The Vacation During My Holiday[/b]

I stare out my plain window
at Manchester Rain and hail.
It's so dark and too cold
to play on concrete and grass.
Nothing to do except work
but I'm wearing my headphones-
Too busy holidaying.

[right]-[i]A poem written by Face taken from his diary, 18th December 2003[/i][/right]

[b]Wish Upon A Moon[/b]

When streetlights blow the stars
out of the indigo skies,
The children and thieves look up,
hoping to see the red moon instead.
Deep within the city,
everybody has a wish to make.

[right]-[i]A poem written by Face taken from his diary, 6th January 2004[/i][/right]

[b]Boy In The Book Interlude[/b]

The boy in the book,
He couldn't turn the page he was on
so he waited for someone to dare read his tale
And turn his pages for him
so he could be unstuck and continue on his travels.

[right]-[i]A poem written by Face taken from his diary, 7th February 2004[/i][/right]

[b]I Won't Wait[/b]

A broken merry go round
I will not wait for the world to spin for me
Don't bother to save me a seat
Building my own world to spin for me
I ride alone stopping for no one
There are no more seats.

[right]-[i]A poem written by Face taken from his diary, 28th March 2004[/i][/right]

[b]Curtain of Colours[/b]

I sit to myself
for an eternity that just isn't long enough.
I have people to see and places to go
so I hide myself behind a smile and a curtain of colours.

[right]-[i]A poem found by reporter Lois Chase after the interview with the youngest Legionnaires,
scribbled on a small scrunched up piece of paper, 4th August 2005[/i][/right]
[/size]
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Echo smiled at the waiter as he finally came to their table. It had been quite some time since Echo and her friend, Vernacular, had been able to get out and relax. With a mission approaching, this was the best time. Neither she nor her friend were truly looking forward to their grim sounding ordeals and so they had taken a night out. The waiter listed off the night's specials and Echo nodded until she heard one she liked.

"Steak with the side salad." Echo repeated easily.

"With or without the tomato sauce?" He asked. Waiters were some of the best to talk to.

"Without." Echo answered.

Vernacular grinned at her friend, it was the first time she'd smiled since she'd heard what her mission was to be a week ago, and turned as the waiter directed the same question at her.

"No, I really, truly, honest to goodness, do not want any of the specials. I'll have steak, rare, priceless, hard to find and mashed potatoes..." The waiter stared at her as she continued, "And I'll have a red wine please, of a nice vintage, year, era, decade...." He nodded and attempted to leave but Vernacular grabbed hold of his jacket, holding him in place "you haven't taken my friends, comrades, companion?s drink order yet!"

Echo giggled at the look on the waiter's face. "I'll have red wine please...nice year." Echo smiled, glad that she and Vernacular had the same taste in food and drink. In fact, they had the same taste in many things so whenever she was in the area, they'd go shopping and such. It was lovely being back with her, even though she knew what it meant. Once the waiter had walked, more like ran away, Echo sighed. "I really do not want..." She mirrored a few words but that was all she could say. Luckily, Vernacular always understood her. They both knew the only reason either of them were unhappy this evening.

?To go on the mission I'm assigned to..." Vernacular finished for her. "I know, that is not a pleasant, joyful, fulfilling, mission...And mine, my own, the one I am assigned to...I do not know how I will be able to fulfill, finish, complete it." She sighed, shaking her head "To see, observe, watch, children going about jobs, assignments, of such a nature...." She shuddered. "It is going to wound, hurt, pain me..." She played with the silverware on the table.

"Children...that is not joyful. To see that..." Echo shook her head, looking down. Sometimes she hated her limited words. "My own mission is..." She groaned, then smiled and took out a small piece of paper and wrote upon it 'and don't even get me started on my teammates'. "Not pleasant." Echo groaned, handing the paper to Vernacular. Her teammates were, to say the least, dreadful. She knew from hearing the mission briefs that Vernacular hadn't faired too well there either.

"I would never be able to help, assist, work with Okita....there are certain things I cannot, will not, refuse to, deal with....Vampi-" She stopped as the waiter brought out a tray bearing their meals on it. "Thank you, danke, gracias..." The man rolled his eyes.

"Ok, you frighten me with your incessant babbling..." Vernacular grinned.

"It is my goal, endeavor, hope in life to scare, frighten, terrorize people this way..." She reached out and stopped the man as he tried to place her meal in front of Echo and smirked. "Mine."

Echo chuckled, taking her plate from the slightly afraid waiter, who then set down their drinks and dashed off without even pouring them for the ladies. "To work with Okita..." Echo mused, shaking her head. "Frighten me." She said as the girls inspected their food, finding it to their liking. "I cannot deal with it." She laughed lightly but the truth was, she really couldn't deal with it. Vampires were...freaky. That was one thing she never wanted to mimic and her other teammate well, he wouldn't be any help. "Your?" She asked, in a way that might confuse others. Of course, she meant Vernacular's teammates.

Vernacular poured some wine into two glasses and used the time to reflect on her team-mates. "It's going to be hard, difficult, nigh-impossible to work with Saturn, my personality is happy, cheerful, carefree and Saturn is depressed, angsty, moody...we will not mix well. And Dust...Well you know, can relate to, have been around me enough to remember, recall that I do not really hold with violence, force...and he's a master, expert with the gun..." She shrugged as she cut into the steak. "And the one we are to recruit, coerce, bribe, into joining us, I have no opinion formed, figured out, as of yet." she chuckled.

"Saturn?" Echo made a face, she had only worked with her once and didn't want to think of it again. "Angsty, moody...I can relate." She shook her head. "Dust...hm..." She had not worked with him but still, he didn't seem too bad. "A gun expert...enough force to recruit?" It seemed strange to her that there would be such a forceful man in a recruiting party. After all, even if it was an army of children, they were still just children. She knew that Vernacular had a child of her own, that had to make this mission even worse.

"Yes...I'm going to try, attempt and see if we, the team, can do this as un-forcefully as possible...." She speared a piece of meat into her mouth. "I fink we woul d'bes to jus get in an' out af foon and af quickly as we canf..." She swallowed her mouthful, grinning.

Echo blinked at her companion and laughed, pausing in her eating to write 'Silly, don't talk with your mouth open' on her paper. It was times like this that she was so glad to have paper and pen on her always. "I fink it bes to." Echo mirrored her speech, strange as it sounded. Then, more curious than anything having not seen her in so long she jotted down quickly 'How's family life going?' before diving back into her steak.

"Glad, happy, joyful you asked! Daniel is doing fine, good, quite well even if I do not understand how he is not bored beyond belief with his accounting. And Hira is doing more, greater, immensely better than fine, in her opinion anyway. The little fright." She chuckled at a memory. "Last week she asked, inquired, wondered were you were and when you'd be visiting or residence, home, house, domicile..."

?Little Hira...a fright. Good!" Echo smiled, glad to know the girl was still as hyper as ever. She was rather fond of the little girl and truth be told, seeing Vernacular's family made her wish she had her own. That still had yet to happen in any of her lifetimes. She leaned back in her chair, listening to the table over discuss travel plans. "I'd love to come..." She paused, waiting for them to continue. "It's hard to arrange a time." Echo smirked. Dropping in on other's conversations was always good for her too.

Vernacular finished her mashed potatoes and pushed her plate into the center of the table. "We'll have to have you over soon, sometime after, ensuing, our missions...Hira has started to call you, has named you, refers to you as Auntie Echo..." She smiled.

"Auntie Echo..." Echo grinned, nodded. She too had finished and pushed her plate aside. "Soon, after our missions..." She agreed, happy to have something to look forward to after their dreadful missions.

Vernacular nodded as well. "It's settled, finalized, permanent then. You are coming." She stood up from the table, and glanced over at Echo. "Whom shall we leave, drop, give the check to?"

Echo paused thoughtfully then grinned and pointed at their waiter. He probably didn't want to see them ever again and that was exactly why. She stood, snatching up her pen and notebook as she did and listened to the words around her. "It was a lovely evening." She repeated, meaning it of course.

Vernacular paused before the largest grin that evening spread across her face. "Good, brilliant, genius idea! Love you..." She hugged the younger woman before she headed out the door. "Don't forget! You're visiting!"

"Love you!" Echo said back with a smile. "Brilliant, visiting!" It really had been a wonderful night, she thought, as she went through the doors.
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[CENTER][COLOR=DarkRed][SIZE=3]Fear Me a River[/SIZE][/COLOR]
- Rated Mature for Violence - [/CENTER]

Her mother had brought her here, to this new city. It was no Quebec, she could see that from the first glance.

She stood at one of the windows of the attic-room where her mother had carried her with her demonic powers. The nocturne streets of Chicago were full of bright lights and busy people, cars and busses and neon signs and noise.

The attic was on top of an abandoned rental building. There were signs of renovating everywhere - plastic covers, rolls of wallpaper, ducktape - but it was obviously unfinished, probably due to lack of money. Everything was now covered in a thick layer of dust and cobwebs.

She had tried to clean up the room that was her home now, but ultimately she had seen it was pointless - the layer of dust would return soon anyway. It didn't really bother her, she was half demonic so no such trivial things could affect her!

The room had little furniture: a metallic bed and a wooden chair next to it for the night-lamp - not that she did much reading anyway - and a cabinet for her few clothes and possessions. All three pieces were located in one corner of the rather spacious room, opposite to the wall with the door. There was a bathroom and a small kitchen that she used on the floor below.

There were six windows in the room, three on both sides. Her favorite one was the one closest to the door on the right side - it had the best view. There was seven story drop to the streetlevel. Right below the specific window was a t-junction, so she could see far into the distance.

She rarely ventured outside, mostly when accompanied by her mother. Part of her hated the outside world, part of her feared it. She resented the way people looked at her, like she was some kind of a freak.

To be honest, she [I]was[/I] a freak. Nobody had the other side of the body black while the other was pale. Nobody had hair that was black on the right side and pure white on the left. Nobody had one blue eye and one flaming red eye. Nobody except her.

More than anything outside the window, she hated herself. She had no bigger fear than herself. She could make others whimper and tremble in fear, but their eyes reflected her own fear of her twisted soul.

She was so sunken into her thoughts that she nearly somersaulted when she heard a voice behind her. An all too familiar voice calling her name.

"Melinoë."

She turned to face the source of the voice.

"Mother."

Her mother, Nemesis. [I]The[/I] Nemesis. Nemesis the Vengeful, Nemesis the Merciless, Nemesis the Angel of Revenge. But she was no angel, she was a demon. Her skin was black as night, her incredibly long hair swirled around her naked body like mist. Her eyes burned like the funeral pyre, yet her voice was as freezing as the deadly dephts of the ocean.

"I have a gift for you. For your birthday. It is a human custom to give gifts at birthdays, isn't it?"

"It is my birthday? You have never brought me gifts before. How old am I, then."

"You are eighteen, my daughter. Full-grown. An adult. This is your gift."

Nemesis conjured a long burning whip out of thin air.

"This is [I]Phlegethon[/I], a whip forged in the fiery river where it gets it's name from. Take it, it's yours now."

Melinoë walked to her mother, and carefully grasped the handle of the whip. Despite it's look, it didn't burn her. On the contrary, it was ice-cold. She ran her fingers along the length of the spiked chain. At the other end was a curve blade, like the Reaper's scythe.

"Thank you mother... Will you show me how to use this?"

"No. It can control itself. It won't hit you, even if you tried, but it will seize your enemies like a boa. Give it a try."

Melinoë lifted the handle, and noticed that the whip was very light, as if it moved by itself. Then she realized that it in fact [I]did[/I] move by itself. Melinoë did a lashing move, and the scythe lunged forwards, cutting the air. Then the blade returned, and the chain swirled around Melinoë.

Melinoë was thrilled inside, but her face remained blank of emotions.

"This is... magnificent!"

"Yes. Come now, it is time to put everything I've taught you to a test."

Melinoë had no time to ask questions as her mother grasped her by the shoulder, and the surroundings blurred.

They had teleported to some windy rooftop, although they were still in Chicago. Nemesis pointed down at the street, where a dark-skinned youngster ran. He looked like he was running for his life.

"There. Seize that boy. Make him regret what he has done!"

"What has he done, then?"

But as Melinoë turned to look at her mother, she was gone. Little did she know that it would be a decade before she saw her again.

Melinoë turned her attention back to the young man, but he was already out of sight. She closed her eyes, and felt that the boy was running away from her, to the right. It was one of the skills that she had inherited from her mother.

Melinoë leaped to another rooftop, and then to another. She was a huntress now, a merciless avenger. Soon she saw the young man, crouched on a dark alley, panting. Silently like a spider, Melinoë descended the fire escape, and jumped behind the boy.

The young man jumped around, and like a raflex lifted his fist. Melinoë looked deep into his eyes that began to spread in horror. His fist began to shake, and he fell to his knees.

"W-what are you?"

Melinoë was slightly amused to see that the boy had wet his pants, but her face was still emotionless. The Phlegethon began to rise, and her hand rose with it.

"N-no, p-please! I haven't done anything!! No, it wasn't me!! P-please, the others made me do i-it! I s-swear, I'll turn myself in, I didn't mean to -!

His begging was cut off by the slicing blade of the Phlegethon. The young man's decapitated head rolled to Melinoë's feet.

An overwhelming emotion struck Melinoë as she realized what had happened. She had killed somebody! She hadn't even known what the boy had done, but she had murdered him... because her mother had told her to.

The Phlegethon dropped from her hand, falling to the growing pool of blood at her feet.
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[center][SIZE=2][b]It?s Just A Classic[/b][/SIZE][/center]

[size=1]?Mother,? he called quietly to the woman sewing in a creaky rocking chair. Her head turned towards the boy, but her eyes were captivated by her work still. ?Why did Romeo kill himself? And why did Juliet kill herself? Why didn?t she just find another husband?? He was shocked, after finishing the thrilling ending to Romeo & Juliet, but his 11 year old mind was not old enough to process the information.

?Romeo couldn?t live without Juliet, he was in love, and he thought that she had died, but she was really asleep. When she woke up, she saw her lover dead, and she couldn?t live without him either,? she sighed. ?Why do we let ya read them things, anyway??

?So they loved each other very much??

?Yes. Look, kiddo, put the book down.?

?No! I love Shakespeare! He?s my favorite author,? the boy became frightened, and clutched the tattered copy of Romeo & Juliet tighter than ever. He took a few steps backwards, and glared coldly at his mother. ?Don?t touch it.?

?A man doesn?t need to read classics, he needs to be strong, he needs to know how to ride a horse an shoot a gun an love a woman. What is that teaching ya??

?All of them. I?ll tell father if you do. He lets me read them,? he said franticly, backtracking away from his mother. She stood up from her sewing job, and looked gently at her child.

?Oh, come now, child. Go swim in the lake like the rest of the boys! Why do you read so dern much??

?Swimming?s boring. Reading teaches me how things used to be, and how life works, and how people work. It?s amazing, and I don?t want to put it down. I?ll tell father, I swear if you take another step.?

They stared at one another, his mother?s warm gaze quickly fading into a stone set expression of hate for the books he read. Dust was internally afraid that she would take justice into her own hands and burn the book without his father knowing, and later tell a lie that Dust had done it. His mother?s thoughts, in reality, closely mirrored the imagined ones. She wanted to steal the book and bury it forever. She took another step forward.

Without another word, Dust bolted out of the door, and into town carrying the book, flopping in the wind. His mother was on his heels, slowly catching up with the young boy. He banked off the dirt road, and through a cornfield, franticly searching for his father.

[I]The saloon.[/I] The single thought burned in his mind as he dodged through the maize and into town. It appeared he had lost his mother through the field, and had bought himself enough time to make it to the saloon.

His lungs burned as he inhaled dust kicked up by passing horses down the dirt road. His sporadic coughs could not slow him down, though, as he pushed into the dingy saloon through two ever-swinging doors. He navigated through the crowded room, around the hips of men until he saw his father sitting at the bar.

?Father! Oh father it?s mother, she?s coming, and she?s going to burn the book. You?ve got to help??

?Whoa, partner, what?s the fuss all about? Yer mother?s not gonna burn that book,? he said with a calming voice that agitated Dust even more.

?She is! And if you don?t stop her, she?ll get away with it. I don?t want to stop reading. I don?t want to stop, please,? he began crying, began attracting more attention with his frenzied cries. His mother silmultaneously burst through the doors, glaring at her son with anger burning in her eyes.

?Relax, son, it?s just a classic.?[/SIZE]
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[center][b][color=Navy][size=3]If Only She Knew...

[/size][/color][/b] [left][color=Navy]Sakura took deep breaths, she stood in front of the large gates of a large mansion, she clenched and unclenched her hands nervously. She wasn't entirely sure if she wanted to go through with this. Then she made her decision, this was her only chance to find out about him.

Sakura rubbed her sweaty palms on her pants and pressed the buzzer on the panel beside the gates.

[b]"Whatdya want." [/b]a gruff voice asked her.

Sakura looked at the security camera, it was pointed right at her.

[b]"I'd like to speak with Mr. Takeo Ishida." [/b]Sakura said clearly into the speaker, pressing down the button.

[b]"You think you can just talk to him. Psh, go home, kid." [/b]he told her.

[b]"Hey! Just tell him the name 'Hiwatari'. He should let me in." [/b]she was getting irritated, if it came down to it, should would sneak in.

[b]"Fine, hold on." [/b]

Sakura crossed her arms across her chest and tapped her foot impatiently. She couldn't stay out too late, or her mother would get home and find out she wasn't home.

The speaker crackled back to life.

[b]"Come through." [/b]he said.

There was a buzz and the gate clicked open. Sakura pushed it and walked through, closing it behind her. She walked up the long path to the mansion, taking in the statues, highlighted through the darkness of the night by lights that shone upon them.

Sakura approached the front door, there was a large burly guard standing there that opened the door for her with a frown on his face. She slipped through, thanking him quietly. There was another guard waiting for her inside the door who led her to where Takeo was.

When she entered the room, she was disgusted at the sight. The door closed behind her and she looked upon the man who was her father, being surrounded by at least ten women who were all giggling and hanging off him. He laughed loudly at something one of the women said and looked at Sakura who was still wearing a disgusted face, noticing her for the first time.

[b]"Who are you?" [/b]he asked, looking down on her.

[b]"Sakura, Sakura Hiwatari." [/b]she said clearly, keeping her eyes on his face.

He stopped what he was doing and held up a well jewelled hand to stop the ladies. She glared at him and he picked up a grape from a bowl, putting it in her mouth.

[b]"So, why should I mean something to you?" [/b]he asked.

[b]"You know perfectly why! I am the daughter of Sora Hiwatari, conceived with the help of [i]your [/i]sperm!" [/b]Sakura shouted, she couldn't believe this man, acting like he didn't know who she was.

It was evident from his facial expression that he did [i]indeed [/i]know as he blanched slightly.

[b]"Why, that's absurd! I know no one of the name!" [/b]Takeo said indignantly.

Sakura was shaking with fury. [b]"Bull****! Why else would you have allowed me entrance when I gave you the name Hiwatari?!"

"Because you're just another girl that wants a piece of the wealthy, Takeo Ishida!" [/b]he announced.

[b]"Liar! Why do you pay child support then? Huh?! Answer me!" [/b]she roared, charging toward him.

[b]"GUARDS!!" [/b]he yelled.

Immediately, four burly men rushed into the room and grabbed her before she could hit him. Sakura kicked and yelled obscinities at the man that had donated his DNA to her body structure.

[b]"Remove her." [/b]he ordered.

[b]"Yes, sir." [/b]they replied in unison.

As Sakura was dragged from the room, she heard the voice of one of the women pleading with Takeo to reconsider. There was a sound of a slap, and a yelp and shouting. Sakura stopped fighting angrily and was thrown out into the street. It was raining and she had been tossed into a puddle. She got up and stared at the mansion, turning her back on it and walking back home, taking her time.

Sakura was walking through an area when she heard a woman's cry. She whirled and heard it from a dark alley. She ran forward and turned the corners. She saw a man ending a brutal rape and he whipped out a gun. The woman was bleeding and crying, she saw the pistol and begged for mercy. The man aimed and there was an echo of a gunshot through the alley. Sakura was frozen in place and watched as the man did up his pants. He noticed her and smirked, she recognised him, he was one of Takeo's guards. He tucked the gun away and disappeared into the darkness.

When he was gone, Sakura ran forward and looked at her, it was that woman that had tried to defend her. For punishment for trying to defy him, Takeo had most likely ordered for her to be disposed of. Perhaps not raped, but murdered at least.

Sakura was sad and started to cry for the loss of the woman, it was her fault that the woman had been killed, she had tried to help her. The sky continued to cry its raindrops, disguising her tears.

Sakura left the body, finding a handkerchief from her pocket and laying it over her face. She gave a prayer for the deceased woman and continued home.

She arrived home and quickly took a shower and changed, washing her clothes before her mother got home. When she hung her clothes, she was tired and emotionally worn out. Sakura got into bed and silently cried herself to sleep.

Sora got home and checked on Sakura, seeing her sleeping quietly, she shut the door.

[b]"Poor girl, she must be worn out from doing homework." [/b]Sora commented.

If only she knew...
[/color][/left]
[/center]
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[COLOR=DarkOrchid][FONT=Times New Roman]
A Day, Night, and Day


[i]Saturn, helpless in the face of her depression, slumped to the floor, her tear-filled eyes going dead. She?d tried for so long to kill herself, but every time she slid the blade up her arms, no blood would flow for her. Eventually she gave up, and rose to her feet. She made her way, unsteadily, to the bathroom, and pulled herself to the sink. She plunged both arms deep under the faucet, an explosion of hot water that reminded her she wasn?t dead. When the wounds, if they could even be called wounds, had closed, she dried them off and wrapped them slowly, tape going around until the adhesive went from her wrist bone all the way to her elbow. Then, vastly unpleased, she went to the closet and pulled on a long sleeved shirt. She buttoned it slowly, her fingers slipping the black buttons through their holes without resistance, then walked over to the window and looked out. There was no smile on her face, as she had never had an excuse to smile.

There must have been millions of people living their lives, out there in the crowded city. And here she was unable to end hers when she wanted to. She was a failure at everything. She was a failure at living. She was a failure at dying. And even a failure at killing herself. Pathetic. She knew. She didn?t bat an eyelash, and she didn?t even crack a faint smile at the irony. Instead she walked over to the closet and pulled on her black jeans. Walking away from the living area, she noticed her face in the mirror. The reflection showed a pale, slender woman, perhaps 20, maybe older, with long tousled auburn hair. She refused to comb it, but instead ran her fingers through it haphazardly, then slunk away from her reproachful stare to the kitchen to feed her body. No matter whom she met, she always felt the depression and sorrow of people rolling over her like a wave. She had stopped taking the pills months ago, and she knew the difference was minimal. Depressing. She felt the same fear she?d felt in thousands of other patients in the hospitals she?d been to. It was the greatest fear any depressed person could have. The fear that no matter how many pills the doctors prescribed her, no matter how much therapy; she could never be happy. So, succumbing to that feeling; she refused to take any sort of medicine they thought would fix her. It was liberating, in a way and definitely less expensive. She chose instead to spend the extra money on a fish.

Instead of naming him, she chose a scientific designation and let him swim around the one-gallon tank. The betta looked at her through the plastic partition, and then resumed swimming around the bubbles at the surface. He had no strong feelings she could discern, and no raw emotions. Blessed by his presence, or lack thereof, she sat down at the kitchen counter, propping her head up with one elbow, and turning a page in her favorite novel. The thoughts in her head tried to focus, but the only thoughts she could keep for sure were,[/i]

?Nothing ever changes, no reason to keep going, but still no reason to kill myself, if only for the knowledge that it wouldn?t work no matter how hard I try.?

[i]As far as she knew, no intelligent being would license her for a gun, and she didn?t use kitchen knives big enough to cause any damage as she now understood. Saturn always cut her nails short and refused to buy any sort of switchblade, pepper spray, or club. There was no point after all. How could she manage? She didn?t even know how to use a gun. Doctors had told her there was no way to escape her ?abilities,? and she might as well get used to it. Well, according to Saturn?s very accurate calendar, it?d been 26 years and no progress. Empathy. The bane of her existence, and the reason she was giving up hope.

The nights were as bad as the days. She showered in blisteringly hot water despite the already warm temperature, then dried herself and dressed in her nightgown. The evenings in Guangzhou were so hot, she didn?t even need to wear one, but she decided it was better to err on the side of modesty, then to forget and open the window or door to someone and give them the show of their life. Thus attired, she crawled into bed with the same book from before, pointing the lamp on her end table at the novel in her hands. She sighed and turned another page, her eyes tracking the fine print. Later, she marked her place with a hairpin, then set it down, turned off the light and grasped her pillow to her chest and slept. Her dreams were neither cheerful, nor encouraging. She dreamed of horrible deeds, done by appallingly wicked people, children being maimed and raped, then killed. Her thoughts were disorganized, and her empathy, drawing on everyone in her building, fueled the nightmares she resigned herself to every night. If others could?ve seen what Saturn did, their anguish and grief would drive them mad. Sadly, she had experienced it so often throughout her life, it was merely an irritation, and it wasn?t enough to wake her up in a cold sweat. That usually happened before a crime wave swept the city, and then dissipated after. To the outside, and untrained eye, Saturn slept peacefully. She turned and slept on one side, then the other, clutching a king size pillow, the blankets draped across her slender figure. Then, eventually, she woke up.

The sun was chinning itself on the skyscrapers outside her window, when she rose languidly from her bed, folded up the sheets, and replaced her pillows. She stripped off her nightgown, and then went to her closet to pull on more of the same dark clothing she always wore. She sighed and pulled back her hair, catching it up in a strip of black ribbon. A knock on her door gave her a start. Most of her patrons communicated with her through the computer at her desk. She walked to the door, curious, but not bouncing up and down with excitement. A tall stranger with stubble on his chin and dusty clothing was looking down at her, probably wondering if she was a real person and not just a strange dream. Her eyes slanted upwards, cold and still, with very little spark in them, nothing to give away her feelings, if there were any. He stared into her eyes and she stared back, feeling his emotions surge and change as he viewed her. Saturn felt his smile before she saw it. He was radiating pleasure at finding the right person, and at the same time, thinking to himself that she was rather pretty. She blushed and the man excused himself.[/i]

?I?m sorry ma?am, I forgot myself. May I come in?? [i]She looked at him as if he was crazy. What on earth could he mean by that? The confused woman stepped aside and let a perfect stranger enter her apartment. She shut the door behind him and bade him to sit. He did, and she watched him warily. There was no real fear, besides, what could he possibly do to her anyway? She was no babe in the woods, no idiot girl. Not anymore she wasn?t. Instead she sat at her kitchen table and gazed at him steadily through light brown eyes.[/i]

?You must be Saturn.? [i]He held out a hand, introducing himself. She took it and shook it with a strong grip.[/i]

?I am she.? [i]Thus affirmed, he reached into his jacket, then paused and asked,[/i]

?Mind if I smoke?? [i]His eyebrows rose slightly as he asked the question. She reached into her shirt and brought out a silver Zippo lighter. The man withdrew two cigarettes from a case, handing one to her and putting the other in his mouth. She lit both and they sat in silence, letting the smoke curl upwards towards her low ceiling. He pulled a card from his pocket and handed it to her. It was printed on heavy stock, the writing in English, and completely legible, if the words didn?t make a great deal of sense to her. It read: ?Legionnaires, Heroes for Hire.? She looked up from flicking away the ashes on her cigarette, her own eyebrows rising.[/i]

?Why are you giving me this??

?I represent the Legionnaires. We fight against the injustices of the world, and through an anonymous source we heard about you. Saturn. We could use someone like you in our organization.?

?Someone like me?? [i]Her voice trailed off quietly, then returned,[/i] ?You could use someone that?s so completely depressed she never leaves her apartment and shuns contact with other humans.? [i]Her disbelief was amusing to the man, but he caught himself.[/i]

?You?re an empath. That?s a useful skill.?

?Granted. But still. Why do I want to do this besides out of the goodness of my?heart?? [i]She took a drag from her cigarette, and then stubbed it out onto the ashtray in the center of the table.[/i]

?Well, there isn?t much other reason, besides a monetary income to match or quite possibly top what you?re earning now.?

?I don?t kill people. Is that a problem?? [i]He started. Here was a different sort of woman. Didn?t kill?people?[/i]

?Well what do you do?? [i]He seemed confused and perhaps a little let down. Saturn gave him a penetrating stare, then spoke.[/i]

?I manipulate people into committing suicide. It?s fairly easy, but I?ve never had to do it consistently.? [i]The man laughed at this and folded his arms across his chest.[/i]

?We?d be happy to have you with us. Saturn.? [i]She raised an eyebrow at this and then a half smile formed on her perfect lips. He smiled back. Then she pocketed the card and exhaled slowly.[/i]

?Fine then.?[/FONT][/COLOR]
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[COLOR=GREEN][CENTER][B]I Will Never Love Again: Pt. 1[/B][/CENTER]

Aura sat on a stone bench in the student commens of her privet high school. She stared out at space, a blank expression on her face. The minutes seemed to pass like days when she was here, but she really had no choice but to appear to be leading a normal life. In reality, though, Aura had given up any notion that this was even possible any more.

Suddenly, a basketball came wizzing towards her from the dirction of the court. Without even bothering to stand up, or even look over, she casually raised one hand into the ball's path and stopped it. She clasped the ball in both hand as she stood up to see one of the basketball jocks rushing towards her.

"Hey, sorry about that. My idiot friend over there can't pass worth a damn.Oh, nice catch, by the way."

Aura didn't say anything, but passed the ball back to the boy with such force that it caught him off guard and knocked the wind out of him. "No problem," she finally responded, though her expression remained the same. She wished he would just go away now so she could continue to reminise on the past, but instead he lingered.

"So, your name's Aura, right? I think your really nice. Alot of the other guys think your stuck up, but I just think that attitude means you have class." Aura crossed her arms and tapped her foot impatiantly. She hated when guys tried to flirt with her; it was only a waste of their, and more importantly, her, time.

"You about finished? Because I'm not interested. So just take your little ball and go play your little game." Aura was usually cold, yet streight to the point, when letting guys off; she didn't want any of them getting the wrong notion and coming back to try again. The jock left with an offended sort of scoul on him face, but Aura's expression remained emotionless as she turned and walked off. [I]I'll never love again,[/I] she thought, [I]I just don't want to go through that pain again.[/I] A tear formed in her eye as thoughts of her former love swam into her mind.

[CENTER]---------------------------------------------------------------------[/CENTER]

It was a clear winter's day in a world much like Earth. A girl, no older than 16, seemed to almost be skipping down the street, her periwinkle-blue uniform skirt bouncing as she went. Even though Aura, whom in this world had long golden brown hair pulled into a high pony tail and emerald green eyes, had suffered the loss of her "father" 6 months ago, she seemed to have a extra bounce in her step. Her newfound happiness was all thanks to the events that had coresponded the night before, though they didn't start out very pretty.

For the past several months, Aura had been pushing her loved ones further and further away and sneeking out every night to get drunk. The night before had started out the same as all the rest. She had an argument with her "sister" Sara about how she shouldn't be ruining her life. Aura just proceded to shout out that she should mind her oun buisness and slammed and locked the bathroom door. She then changed, climbed out the bathroom window, hopped on her custom motorbike and sped off to the nearest nightclub.

The night went normal enough, all things considered; she ordered some sake and began to drink while watching some of the people out on the dance floor. She then ran into her old friend, Seth, whom she hadn't seen in over a year. It's funny how when they first met as high school freshmen, they were bitter enemies. Their friends, though, thought it amusing how they always faught, and kept pushing them together. Eventually, through many trials and adventures, they became good friends. Now he was back in town and they were getting ready to start the new term.

After hours of talking and catching up, Seth had to go. They bid each other good night and Aura was left alone at the bar again, but not for long. She didn't even have enough time to order another round when her ex came slinking up beside her. He was no doubt trying to recruit her again. Bret was a no good slime ball who was head of his gang. He had discovered Aura's "talents" early on in their relationship and became power hungery. It was then that she broke it off with him.

After a very heated argument, which involved Bret treading on some sore spots, Aura stormed out of the club. She headed strieght for a nearby bridge over a canal. When she reached the center, she gripped the railing and strared down at the icy, black water below. It was then that she finally broke down and cried. She pulled a small crystal vial of blood red liquid out of her purse. She had been having suisidal thoughts for some time now and she had managed to get a poision that would be strong enough for the job.

But just as she was about to remove the stopper from the vial, she heard a soft familiar voice call her name. "Aura? Are you okay?" Aura quickly stashed the vial back in her purse, stood up and whiped her tear strune face before turning to see Seth standing before her holding an open umbrella. In her fit of crying, Aura had failed to notice the sudden down pour. She must have appeared shivering cold and pathetic to Seth since he walked over to her, held the umbrella over her with one hand and pulled his jacket off and draped it around Aura's shoulders with the other.

Aura stared up into Seth's kind, dark-blue eyes, unable to find the works to thank him for his kindness. Instead, moments later, she found herself sobbing into Seth's shoulder, unable to hold back her cascade of emotions any longer.

After about five minutes, Aura had finally calmed down enough for Seth to suggest a walk. The two of the walked through the dark and deserted park for over an hour, during which Aura began to tell him everything that had led her to being on that bridge, all the while Seth just listened silently. Finally, he drove her home and once again bid each other good night.

Now it was morning and Aura was happier than she'd been in ages. She could hardly wait to get to school and to see Seth again, though, at the time, she couldn't really explain why. When she arived at her first class, she took her seat near the front. Seth came in shortly afterwards and asked if she could spare a moment. She concented and the two walked out to the roof of the school.

Aura had wanted to talk to him too, but now that she had the chance, she didn't know what to say; this was fine, since Seth broke the ice. "After last night, I couldn't stop thinking about you. After seeing you like you were last night, in so much pain, I reliezed I never wanted to see you like that again. So I've desided to be with you, to stay by your side and protect you from expriencing that sort of pain ever again, for as long as I live.... Aura, I love you."

Aura was silent for several moments. Seth had managed to articulate his feelings for her, and best of all, she reliesed that she felt the same way, that this feeling of extreme happiness was love. But before she could respond, Seth began to turn away, thinking that her feeling weren't mutual. She quicklly grabbed his hand to stop him. "Wait, Seth! I love you too!" He turned and smiled and Aura smiled back as the two embrasses and then kissed. And as they kissed up there on that roof top, Aura was filled with such joy and happiness that her only wish was that time would just stop.

[CENTER]-------------------------------------------------------------------[/CENTER]

Aura sat under a tree and whiped the stay tear from her face. Her only wish now was that she could return to that moment in time.


.....[I]To be Continued in Pt. 2[/I]......[/COLOR]
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[color=#008080][center][font=Tahoma][size=4][color=seagreen]Shift[/color][/size][/font][/center]
[center][/color][font=Tahoma][color=seagreen]Pt. 1[/color][/font][/center]
[left][color=#2e8b57][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#2e8b57][/color] [/left]


[color=seagreen]It would be worse tonight. Laqara could tell this as soon as Kajo walked in the door. He'd been deteriorating steadily for a long time. When Laqara had first come to live with Kajo after her mother's death nearly two years ago, there hadn't been any problems. Since then, Kajo had goneinto a downward spiral. First, he started drinking heavily. Then he started losing it at Laqara for no good reason. Then he started throwing things. And then there was the night he came home with what looked like blood on his hands. Laqara knew it was only a matter of time before Kajo came after her, but she didn't have anywhere else to go. She had no choice but to keep living with the man. So she enrolled in martial arts classes. She'd learned fast, which was good, because she'd only been taking the classes for about five months, and she knew she'd run out of time. It would happen tonight.[/color]

[color=seagreen]Kajo was in a rage, and started throwing things as soon as he walked in the door. Laqara tried to make her way to her room unnoticed, but it didn't work. Kajo saw her. Shes stiffened; she knew exactly what was coming next. She'd seen it coming for months now. He was going to rape her.[/color]

[color=seagreen]"Take off your clothes," Kajo ordered as he advanced towards Laqara. [/color]

[color=seagreen]Laqara was scared, but she didn't let it show. She decided to play dumb. "Why do you want me to do that?"[/color]

[color=seagreen]"It doesn't matter," Kajo replied. "Take them off."[/color]

[color=seagreen]"I'd prefer to leave them on."[/color]

[color=seagreen]"I didn't give you a choice." Kajo lunged at Laqara. Next thing he knew, he was on his back. Laqara was about to strike again when he drew a gun. Laqara stepped back. Kajo pulled himself to his feet, keeping the gun pointed at Laqara. "Take off your clothes. Now."[/color]

[color=seagreen]Laqara was in a bad position. She was about to be raped. She didn't want to let Kajo do it, but she couldn't try anything, because Kajo would shoot her if she did. She couldn't make a run for it for that same reason. She only had one choice. She did what Kajo told her to.[/color]

[color=seagreen]Kajo looked over Laqara's now naked body. "Damn," he muttered. "You're the best one yet." He advanced towards Laqara once more. She'd already been afraid; now she was scared shitless. [i]My God! How many women has the bastard raped? And what about that night, with the blood on his hands? What the fuck did he do?[/i][/color]

[color=seagreen]Laqara knew she had to escape, and there was only one way she could. She let Kajo advance. She let him push her against the wall, and then she brought her knee up into his groin. Kajo fell to the ground, and Laqara knocked him out with a blow to the head. Then she took off into the night.[/color]


[color=seagreen][/color]
[color=seagreen]Laqara ran as fast as she could, her mind too clouded by fear for any rational [/color][color=seagreen]thought. Her only goal was putting as much distance between herself and Kajo as she possibly could. When she tired, she slowed to a walk. She kept going for quite a wile. Eventually, she calmed down enough to start thinking.[/color]


[color=seagreen][/color]
[color=seagreen]She came to a halt and looked around. She'd started from Kajo's house on the edge of one of the suburbs of Flagstaff, the name of which escaped her at the moment. She'd headed outwards, away from the city. To her right, she could make out moving lights off in the distance, presumably cars. There was nothing within sight to her left, or in front of her. Several miles behind her was the city. [i]How long was I going for?[/i] she wondered.[/color]


[color=seagreen][/color]
[color=seagreen]She had no idea what to do next. She had nowhere to go to in the city, there wasn't much chance of her finding help on the highway/interstate/whatever particular kind of roadway it was, and there wasn't anything else in sight. Plus, she was completely naked.[/color]


[color=seagreen][/color]
[color=seagreen]There was a sudden flash to the left. Laqara turned to look, but saw nothing. She sun in a complete circle, but the source of the flash illuded her. Suddenly, she saw a blueish-green light moving extremly fast, and it was heading right for her. It hit her before she could get out of the way, and she found herself on her back, lying on the ground. The liht seemed to be gone, but then she saw it. It was coming towards her again. She felt something when it touched her. It seemed to dissolve into her, and she lost conciousness.[/color]
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  • 2 weeks later...
[center][b]September 27, 1915[/b][/center]

[CENTER][i]"I am not going to battle to win."[/i] [/CENTER]

It was dark now and Okita crept in softly, kneeling to open the sliding door. The smell of sickness hung low and thick throughout the room; it had an odd sweetness to it. His stomach turned. He had thought at first that the man would be sleeping, but he glimpsed open eyes and quickly moved over to the futon--the deathbed--laid in the center of the floor. "Saitou-san," he called, resting back on his ankles. "Saitou-san?"

Even if his memories were not so blurry, Saitou's face would have been unrecognizable: creased with age, pinched from the continual pain of the ulcer that consumed him from within. Okita bent closer to make certain Saitou could see him, and finally he heard a dry thin voice which seemed to rattle up from somewhere deep in the man's chest: "Okita-kun."

"It's me," he said unnecessarily. Once he and Saitou had been true equals, the two greatest swordsmen in the Shinsengumi. Now . . . now, if his information had been correct, they were the only ones left. And Saitou, his body ravaged, lay close to death.

"You haven't changed," Saitou remarked after a moment; he seemed startlingly lucid. But more surprising than that was his lack of reaction, as if deceased friends visited on a daily basis. Perhaps he thought Okita was a messenger from the underworld, a guide to come bear him home. Perhaps he was accustomed to hallucinations and had become so old that slipping into unreality or dream-reality no longer affected him. After a moment he went on, the dragging, clutching sound in his voice waking Okita from his reverie. "What happened?"

"Why am I like this, you mean."

"Yes. You died, Okita-kun."

"I . . . came back to life." A needless guilt surged up through his chest. "It's a long story."

"No need to tell it, then. I haven't much time left."

"Saitou-san--"

"Yes?" He coughed suddenly, and hearing it reminded Okita of how it had felt to slowly die of consumption, to double over hacking and then see the blood like a scarlet flower on his hand.

"I was told--I was told that Hijikata-san spoke to a doctor friend of his, before he made his last stand. Could you tell me what he said?"

Saitou turned his head ponderously, looking toward the paper screen on the other side and the hint of moonlight seeping through it. "[i]I am not going to battle to win. With the Tokugawa government about to collapse, it would be a disgrace if no one is willing to go down with it. That is why I must go. I will fight the best battle of my life to die for the country.[/i]"

"You knew it by heart," Okita said, strangely moved. Then the despair closed over him. "He died before me, Saitou-san. It wasn't right. They shot him in the back. What was all of it for? He knew he had no chance to win."

"You're still so young," said Saitou dreamily. "Even in the way you think. These things seem more beautiful to those of us who have to die. Human life was meant to be transient; he made his decision in absolute peace. Didn't we all wed our lives to this land? It's not your place to condemn him."

"But he--"

"Rather," Saitou went on, "It's not the place of a creature like you to condemn him. Whatever you've become--your perspective is different now. You'll have to accept that, if you're going to continue existing."

Okita did not fully understand it until later. But that night, he thanked Saitou, and stayed up with him to talk of the old times which he remembered only from hearsay. Saitou had been right, though; he was playing at being human. He left before dawn, as quietly as he'd come. Truly, he was the only one remaining, the only one to carry the legacy of the Shinsengumi . . . What legacy? he would think in his darker moments--Hijikata had been shot; Kondo had been executed. History had proven them fatally wrong. What, then, was left? Pride? Sacrifice? The glory of tragedy?

The evening after, he learned that Saitou had died.
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[CENTER][B][SIZE=3]Mission #110: Tetros[/SIZE][/B]
[SIZE=1][I]Official Mission[/I][/SIZE][/CENTER]
[SIZE=1]
Tetros was in the Engineering Hall when a young lieutenant approached him, and handed him a short missive. Tetros thanked the lieutenant, and broke the seal on the note. It was only a few lines long, and it read.

[center][i]Esm. Tetros.

Your presence is requested in my office at 1355 precisely. I
suggest that you be prepared to leave at a moments notice
as there will be some new orders for you. We here at SATEC
appreciate your efforts here over the last few years and would
be pleased if following the completion of this new mission
you would return.

Gen. Alexander Lloyd.[/i][/center]

Tetros filed the plans he was working on in his safe, and headed off for the on-base apartments reserved for the non-military departments.

----

He was waiting in the hall outside the General?s office by 1353, and was admitted at 1355. The General ordered him to be at ease and left the office.

[i]Shortly after the General left, the room began to fill with an ambient humming, followed by what could only be described as a burst of darkness.

And then he was behind the General?s desk. Him. The Arbiter. Leader of the Legionnaires. Whilst not bulky, or spectacularly muscled, he filled the room. The room quailed in his presence.

Despite the still air of the office, his cape flapped at some unseen breeze. He stepped forward and said to me.

?Tetros, I must once more request that you leave this behind and commit yourself fully to our cause. We have located the missing 308-A class android, and he needs to be terminated. His actions are a possible infringement of another mission of ours, and our other localised resources are currently?busy. After this mission we will require you to return to Headquarters, as thee are some other issues to be resolved.?

With that, The Arbiter handed Tetros a dossier.

?I apologise for the haste, but things are happening. Important things, and I must attend to them immediately. You understand??

?Yes Sir.?

?Good. You will find what you need in the dossier. Be careful.?

And with that, there was a pulse of darkness, and he was gone. I could detect faint notes of discordance in the air, but it gradually dissipated.[/i]

As Tetros read through the dossier, he made his way to the apartments. He already had all of his equipment boxed and in the back of his station-wagon.

He slid into the drivers seat, and started the car.

Time to visit Sydney.

----

After 18 hours of continual driving, and two border crossings, Tetros drove into Sydney along Parramatta Road. He had a reservation at the Metro Inn under the name David Copperson.

Tomorrow was the big day. One of the city?s biggest mafia families was attending the funeral of Anthony Fontanini, a big time crook and fraudster, who had blood connections to the Velios?.

The target was Angelo Velios. What relation this man had to anything that The Legionnaires could be interested in was unclear to Tetros. From some mild background information provided by the dossier, it seemed as if the world would be better off without Angelo Velios. But it was not Tetros? place to judge.

He was merely there to interfere with his assassination.

[i]And then, I found in the last few pages in the dossier, a photo of this other android.

Not that I really needed it I guess. I mean, I?d recognise him anywhere.

He looked just like me.[/i]

----

[i]I got into position early. Posing as a groundsman, I moved among the graves, trimming grass and removing old flowers. Half an hour before the rest of the procession arrived, a group of men entered the cemetery and spread around, standing in the nonchalant fashion of men who were confident in themselves. Obviously bodyguards for the Velios family.

To be honest I was not anticipating any great challenge in the disposal of this other android. I mean, I knew my own weaknesses: therefore I knew his. And I had the element of surprise. The only concern of course, is how was he going to attempt to murder Angelo Velios? I had been expecting him to arrive early, but unless he had been there since the previous night, I did not see how he could silently get into the cemetery.[/i]

Reasoning that he had done enough work to provide his cover, Tetros straightened up from the headstone he had been tidying, and walked across the lawn to the gardeners shed, which was tucked in the corner of the grounds behind a wall of foliage. He stripped off his overalls, revealing dark mottled Kevlar armour, and packed them into a rucksack stashed underneath the bench inside the shed. He withdrew a scoped rifle, and a number of small taser-knives for close up skirmishing. And then he got into a position and waited.

[i]After a short period of time the funeral party entered the grounds, and moved towards the southwest corner of the cemetery where the burial was to be held. It was perhaps a hundred metres to the west of my position. And as I scanned the area with the scope on my rifle it was then that I spotted what I perhaps should have noticed before. There was a very fresh grave perhaps four rows away from the main funeral party. But the headstone which accompanied it was old and cracked.

And then I saw the earth under it move.

The target launched upwards out of the ground, sending dirt flying in all directions. He spun around and it was then that I saw his knives. He had a whole bandolier of them across his chest. With that, I shot him straight in the chest, emptying the four-clip rifle.

He paused in mid-movement and whipped his head towards me. I dropped the rifle and sprinted towards him across the cemetery grounds, at speeds far exceeding those of any human runner. I powered straight through some of the tombstones, crushing them with my legs.

He had just withdrawn two of his knives when I tackled him around the legs. As we slid along the ground, demolishing another few tombstones, I made an attempt to withdraw one of my taser-knives. It was then that he tried to stab me in my back, but the Kevlar armour proved resistant to the blade.[/i]

And as Tetros and the other android engaged in hand-to-hand combat, the funeral party had dispersed, women and children running every which way, and Angelo Velios disappearing surrounded by a wall of bodyguards. The only person who hadn?t left was Fontanini, whose casket had been dropped amidst the general confusion, and now lay half on it?s side across another memorial grave.

The other android snapped a kick to Tetros? head from the ground, and took the time to check his surroundings. The cemetery was empty.

?Shit, fuck, [i]fuck[/i]? he swore, before back-flipping off the ground.

He faced Tetros and said ?Why, of all the times in the world, would you find me now??

Tetros? only response was to reach for one of his taser-knives. The other android then discharged two smoke-bombs from some hidden area of his person, and turned to run.

[i]I switched to infra-red but couldn?t see him. And there was nothing on my radar either. And then I realised: whilst he had my weaknesses, he also had my strengths. I was heat-shielded and had radar scrambling capabilities. And so did he.[/i]

----

The other android stepped through the rubble that cluttered the doorway. He had a bad feeling about this. The stately home, set well back from the road, was absolutely trashed. The three security guards in the outer grounds had all been killed. They simply had no heads. It was if someone had just torn their heads off. It had to have been that other android, the other ?him?. The one who had ruined everything at the funeral. But how had he found out so much about him?

As he moved through the house, from one corpse littered room to another, he reached the office that had belonged to Max Darlinghurst, who for the time being was his employer.

[i]Had been[/i] his employer.

This room was relatively untouched. There were no people impaled on chair legs, no holes in the walls. But lying on the powder blue Persian carpet, with his eyes as vacant as they would ever be, was Max Darlinghurst, with the phone?s receiver clutched firmly in his death grasp. His cause of death was obvious. Massive bruising existed all across his neck and upper arms, and when he removed his shirt he found more mottled bruising up Darlinghurst?s torso.

He had been crushed against the desk. Probably lifted up and slammed into it. The force would have ruptured many internal organs, but he would have lived for several minutes. Enough time to make a phone call.

And that?s when it hit him. This other android, his replica was destroying his life. They looked identical. By now, at least one other person thought that he, Nightblade [a persona he had constructed for his assassination jobs], had just murdered his employer and likely bungled a job.

As he turned around to leave the office, he then saw the message that had been stuck squarely on the door. It was written in blood, on a yellow Post-it note. On it, it had a time and location.

----

Tetros had it all sorted, or so he thought. He knew what to initially aim for, in order to cripple the other android. He then knew where to go from there. Unfortunately, it required what amounted to utter destruction of the other android.

308-A Class androids were built for war. They weren?t invincible, but there wasn?t much shy of a direct hit with a missile that could permanently put them out of action. Concussive shock waves from large-scale explosions were also quite disastrous for the androids, and there were other things that could kill them. But it was no easy task.

----

The other android strode across the concrete, to the base of the stairs, and looked around. There were some people in the court, but not very many. It was a cool night outside.

The impressive bulk of the Sydney Opera house towered above him. As he turned on the spot, he felt, rather than saw, a vague sensation of movement along the roofline. And then, like some avenging demon out of the night sky, leapt Tetros. With a taser-knife in each hand, he crashed feet first into the chest of the other android, knocking him flying. Without wasting any time, he charged across the court, as the few pedestrians in the area fled shrieking. The other android was lying on his back, apparently dazed, but just as Tetros got within striking distance, the other android lashed out with his feet and flicked Tetros over his head, sending him crashing into a wall.

And then he ran.

Tetros stared in astonishment for several seconds, before chasing after the other android. They continued in this hit and run manner around the entirety of Circular Quay, past the old frame of the trampoline bungee, crashing through several of the plate glass windows at the iMax cinema.

And then, they were at the bridge. Rather, the Bridge. The Sydney Harbour Bridge, and Tetros was following the other android as he [i]crawled up the outside of the pylon[/i], fingers stretching for the tiny ledges between the sandstone blocks. Tetros knew that he was being driven somewhere, as surely as if he was the one being chased. The other android obviously had the place all picked out, but Tetros felt confident in himself.

Perhaps this was once more his under-estimation of others.

----

And then, for what was to be one final time, they faced each other across the span of the bridge, each with a taser-knife held firmly in their fist.

[i]We sized each other up, and then he leapt forward, charging at my low down, in an attempt to tackle me. But he wasn?t as good as he thought he was. He was too brutal, and lacked the finesse that was necessary. I leapt high over his back, and spun around when I landed to slack him across the back of his knee. This was a point where the highly resistant skin compound was thinnest, and the taser-knife punctured, severing through the main hydraulics for the leg, and simultaneously sending thousands of volts through his system. It was enough charge to level a raging bull-elephant, and he faltered before turning.

?You stole my idea? he grunted at me, before making another pass. I wrapped my arms around his shoulders, and in time-honoured tradition, pole-drove him headfirst into the steel of the bridge?s arch. He grabbed my legs from his upside-down position and attempted to do to me what I had to him. Still holding onto his legs, I kicked him in the hand, crushing it in part, before plunging my hand into the hole I had cut before. I jammed my arm further up his leg, ripping and tearing anything within my reach. He managed then to drive his knife into my thigh, and I fall, causing both of us to roll dangerously close to the edge of the bridge. With an effort he rolled both of us back, and made another attempt to cut into my legs. I kicked him in the head, and once more drove the taser-knife into the hole in his leg.[/i]

And then, he had won. With one hand wreaking havoc inside, and gripping his opponent by the throat, Nightblade grabbed hold of the Central Power Core inside of Tetros, and tore it out.

And as he was flung out into the night sky, Tetros wondered how it went so wrong.

----

[i]He leaned forward over his desk and said ?Well Tetros, to be frank, I?m surprised that you managed to accomplish your mission. Nightblade had killed two other agents that we had sent after him. The Legionnaires are deeply grateful to you for your services. Please, head down to the Technical Center and see if we can?t find someone to repair your leg hydraulics. We?re going to need you sometime in the next few days, depending on how things turn out.?

?Yes Sir.?

?Good man. I?d recommend Frank Mitchell: he?s a genius with technical repairs?

?Thankyou Sir?

And with that I wheeled myself out of the office, and down the corridor. Who said that meeting Tetros was that bad a thing?[/i][/SIZE]
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  • 3 weeks later...
[font=trebuchet ms][size=4][center]Mission #105: Aftermath[/center][/size]
Two massive hanger doors opened slowly as a small aircraft flew inside. The Legionnaires? fleet or planes were traveling throughout the globe, and the Red Team?s personal transport almost seemed lonely on the runway. Awaiting the group was The Arbiter, watching silently from a distance as the bickering passengers exited.

Dust, Group Leader and part-time cowboy, tipped his hat to The Arbiter as he approached. Trailing slowly behind him was the apathetic Saturn, ironically the most powerful empath on the planet, Vernacular, master linguist, and a young girl, a new face in the crowd. The Arbiter recognized her from the mission briefing -- Speedy, the latest recruit to the organization. Though he was pleased that the child had been recovered safely, there was much regarding the Red Team?s previous mission that needed to be discussed.

?Are we the first ones back?? Vernacular asked, noticing the empty hangar. ?Should? should we be concerned, worried, nervous??

The Arbiter?s expression remained stern. He stepped closer to Vernacular, answering her question in his typical formal manner.

?A situation arose that required immediate attention. Kaida led the remaining reserve members to deal with it, and have yet to return.?

?I hope-- I [I]know[/I] wherever they are they?re okay,? she muttered to herself. Saturn rolled her eyes and lit her cigarette. The Arbiter glared.

?You are perfectly aware that much of the jet fuel in his hanger is flammable, Saturn. Unless you suddenly gained the power to coat yourself in asbestos, I suggest you put away that cigarette for the time being.?

Saturn sighed, and leaned in closer to the Arbiter, running her finger up and down his chest.

?Lighten up,? she said with an unenthusiastic sigh. ?Unlike little Lolita over there, I?m an adult. I can take care of myself.?

Saturn pressed the butt of the cigarette against her palm, extinguishing it in a most masochistic way. The Arbiter?s eyes let out a faint glow.

??and you also know that your powers have no effect on me.?

?Hmm. You?d be surprised how persuasive I can be without my powers, Arbiter,? she leaned in to whisper in his ear. ??but don?t flatter yourself. This girl?s taken.?

?I know what you?re trying to do. Lightening my mood will have no effect on my opinion of what happened in Korea. You should know that we have lost the ability to continue operations in much of Southern Asia as a result. Was it necessary to kill so many minors for Speedy??

[I]?I knew that little bitch was bad for business.?[/I]

?Perhaps she?s not the only one, Saturn.?

?It was just another fire you needed to be put out, boss,? Dust placed his right hand near his holster, and stared into the glowing eyes of The Arbiter. ?You?re going to attack her for completing the mission that [I]you[/I] sent us on? Nobody talks to a lady like that in my presence, no sir. Arbiter, I think it?s high time you learned some manners--?

?We shouldn?t be speaking like this in front of Speedy. She?s only a child, a little girl,? Vernacular grabbed the newest member of The Legionnaires by the hand, and began to drag her away.

?That won?t be necessary, Vernacular. I will deal with Dust in private.? A cloud of dark energy poured out from The Arbiter?s cloak, and shrouded Dust. Within an instant both had disappeared, transported to some unknown destination.

Vernacular began to walk Speedy out to the private rooms.

?Come on Speedy, don?t worry about the boys. Those two seem to butt heads more often than not. I?ll show you to your new home, and maybe in the morning we can go to the coast and get you something without so much? blood on it. Ugh.?

Saturn continued to stare into the space that The Arbiter and Dust had once occupied.

?You coming with us, Saturn?? Vernacular asked.

?I think not,? Saturn paused, lighting another cigarette, ?Did you hear what Dust just said a moment ago??

?Yeah, and we all know what happens when people talk, or say things like that to The Arbiter.?

?No not that,? Saturn said with a smirk, ?He called me a ?lady.??

The Arbiter and Dust both reappeared thousand of miles away, somewhere deep in the American Mid-West. Both had visited this place many times before; it was Dust?s home, and the place where he had been recruited into The Legionnaires.

?I never get tired of that trick, you know,? Dust said with a grin, ?You?ll have to explain to me one of these days how your molecular teleportation actually works.?

??Secrets lost to the ages, I am afraid. I have been doing this for a very long time, both of us have. It almost seems as if we have lost sight of our true mission.?

?You lost sight of the mission the day you started wearing that mask.?

The two began walking towards a small, abandoned house in the distance. It was late in the afternoon. The sun was setting, and they were the only two lone figures on the horizon.

?Never doubt my judgment, Dust. Your wisdom, leadership and skills are what made you such an obvious selection to be a Group Leader. On this latest mission, it has been proven that you are reckless. The Children?s Army were a very dangerous opponent for any group. It seemed impossible, but in spite of your actions everyone had managed to survive.?

?I?m not willing to risk that again, Dust. Don?t expect us a briefing for your next mission. The Legionnaires will contact you when and if your services become necessary again.?

Dust seem unphased by this announcement.

??I?. I?m sorry, Dust.?

And with that, the Dark Defender was gone.[/font]

[size=1]-Shy[/size]
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[size=4][color=mediumturquoise][center][size=4][color=teal]Shift[/color][/size][/center]
[center][/color][/size][size=2][color=teal]Pt. 2[/color][/size][/center]


[left][color=teal][/color] [/left]
[left][color=teal][/color] [/left]
[left][color=teal]Laqara slowly came to her senses. [i]What the hell was that thing?[/i] she wondered. As she got to her feet, she noticed that the air around her felt... well, wet. [i]Did it rain while I was out? No, it couldn't have. I'm completly dry. Maybe it's just me.[/i][/color][/left]

[left][color=teal][/color] [/left]
[left][color=teal]It was at this point that she realized she was seeing[/color][color=#008080] something that she hadn't seen before. Everything she saw was giving off an odd blueish-green glow. It was non-illuminating, but that hardly mattered, because it was literally everywhere, even in the air. She raised her hand in front of face. The glow was in her, as well, and it was brighter in her than anywhere else.[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]Her hand seemed diffenent somehow, and it wasn't the glow. She looked at as much of her body as she could, and got the same impression. It was hard to tell with the glow, but her skin itself seemed to have changed to a blueish-green color. Also, she was no longer completly naed. She was sprsely covered, but it was better than nothing. But what she was covered by, she didn't know. It certainly didn't seem like normal clothing.[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]Part of her noticed how little of a shock these changed seemed to be. It was less like discovering something new or changed, and more like nticing something that was already there. But none of this had been there before. [i]What the hell happened to me?[/i] she wondered.[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]Laqara knew that, before she spent too much time wondering what had happened, she needed to figure out what she was going to do. She couldn't go back to Kajo's house, obviously, but she didn't have anywhere else to go, and she didn't want to spend the entire night in the middle of nowhere. With some amusement, she remembered that she'd been thinking about the exact same thing when whatever had happened to her happened.[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]Laqara's thoughts kept returning to whatever change had taken place. There was something about the change that she was missing. It was right there, right in front of her, but she couldn't place it. And then, suddenly, she had it. Water. that was what it was. The air felt wetter not because it was, but because she could sense the water in a way she hadn't been able to before. And the glow she was seeing was water. Water is in almost everything on our planet, but humans normally can't see it. [/color][color=#008080]Laqara now could.[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]Again, the realization felt more like seeing something that was always there than anything else, and she had to wonder if that was an effect of the change as well. Any while she was at it, how had she reached that conclusion, anyways? Now that she knew water was the answer, it seemed obvious, but she knew it shouldn't seem obvious. She couldn't figure out how she'd come up with that. It seemed like she'd pulled it out of nowhere. Regardless, she somehow knew she was correct. Maybe that was part of the change, as well.[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]Laqara didn't know why she decided to try and do what she did. That, too, might have been part of the change. Whereever she'd gotten the idea from, it should have seemed ridiculous, but for some reason did not. She reached out with whatever sense allowed her to feel and see the water. She focused on some of the evaporate water she could see, condensing it until it became liquid water and fell to the ground.[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]Laqara had no idea what had just happened. [i]How the hell did I do that? And how did I know I could?What the hell happened? Any why, oh why, am I not terrifired? I should be scared shitless by these changes, but I'm not. Why don't I feel strange? Why the hell do I feel normal?[/i][/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]Laqara knew she wouldn't get anywhere by thinking about that now. Whatever happened had happened, and as a result, she had been changed. She was able to feel and see water when before she could not, and apparently she had some control over the element as well. She briefly considered tat the whole thing might be a dream, but somehow, she knew it was real.[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]After spending quite a while experimenting, Laqara began to get an idea of just what her powers were. She was able to manipulate water in any form. She could create it as well, though only in very small amounts. She could see it, and she coud feel it. Also, her skin seemed to be noticably tougher than human skin normally was. She suspected that she might be able to breathe underwater, but she couldn't test that theroy right now.[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]One ability that surprised her (though again, it felt more like noticing something that was always there) was that she could alter her form. She was able to temporarily shift herself into a liquid state, though she could hold it for only a minute or two. She could also shift only her appearance. Looking at herslef after shifting her appearance, she saw that she appeared normal, looking exactly as she had before the change. She thought she could maintain that state for quite a while, though not indefinatly. It took a little effort to hold herself in that state. Howeever, she could probably hold it for a couple days if she had to, which would allow her to live among humans, a group she knew she was no longer a member of. The effort needed to hold her human appearance was proof of that.[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]Laqara began walking back to the city. She'd decided what she was going to do next. She would wait for Kajo to go to work in the morning, then she'd let herself in the house using the key Kajo kept hidden under a rock. She'd find something to eat, then get some rest. She'd make sure to leave before Kajo got home. What she'd do then, she didn't know.[/color][/left]


[center][color=#008080][/color] [/center]
[center][color=#008080][/color] [/center]
[center][color=#008080]~One Year Later~[/color][/center]
[center][color=#008080][/color] [/center]


[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]Laqara walked into her apartment. After closing and locking the door aand making sure all the blinds were shut, she dropped her human appearance and reverted to her natural form. She preferred to be in her natural form whenever possible, shifting to her human appearance only when she was out in public.[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]Laqara reflected on the events of the past year. After the night of her change, she'd returned to Kajo's house as planned. She'd wanted to leave Flagstaff as soon as possible, but there were some things she had to do before she left. As she'd gone about these tasks, she'd lived in Kajo's house while he was at work, and slept in the backyard, thankful that it had been June. Kajo had never noticed her prescence.[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]Laqara's fist move had been to officially withdraw from college. That was the easy part, especially since she hadn't been taking any classes over the summer. Next, she had to find somewhere to live. Phoenix was a good city to look in, as it wasn't that far from Flagstaff. She'd called apartment complexes in Phoenix until she found one she liked.[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]After that came the hard part. She'd secured a place to live. Next, she'd needed to get to Phoenix. She'd needed money, too, but that hadn't been too hard to get. She'd simply entered the house while Kajo was asleep, taken his bank card, and withdrawn the money she needed from his accuont. She'd then returned his card, and he'd never even noticed that his account was missing a significant amount of money.[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]Laqara'd managed to make it to Phoenix, of course. She'd been able to get a ride down with a trucker in exchange for a little cash. Once in Phoenix, she'd located the apartment complex she'd chosen. Her apartment then was the same one she was living in now.[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]After moving into her new apartment, Laqara'd gone out to find a job. It hadn't been too difficult. She'd been able to get a job as a lifeguard after taking a quick certification class. She'd gotten a job lifeguarding at a local pool. Not too long after that, she began teaching swim lessons at the same pool. She was still doing both of those today, but concidering where she'd started from, she thought she was doing very well. She didn't think she'd stay where she was for the rest of her live, of course, but for now, she was living comfortably.[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]There was one thing Laqara was waiting for, and it wasn't for Kajo to track her down. He'd never even try to find her. No, she was anticipating something else. like everyone, she'd heard of the Legionnaires, and she knew they'd find her eventually. It would be nothing more than a matter of time. In fact, she was surprised that they hadn't found her already.[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]There was a knock on her door. Laqara quickly shifted back to human appeearance, then opened the door. A man she didn't recognize was standing in the hall. "Hello," she said.[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]"Laqara Solero?"[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]Laqara nodded. "That's me. Can I help you?"[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]"My name is David Kaneson. I am here because I believe there is more to you than meets the eye. May I come in?"[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]Laqara knew immediatly what David wanted. "Sure," she said. As he entered, she closed the door behind him. Laqara sat down on the sofa as David pulled over a chair from the kitchen table and took a seat. "Now, I suppose you're wondering what I want," he said.[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]"Actually," Laqara replied, "I have only one question: what the hell took you so long?"[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]David was clearly taken off guard by that one. "What?"[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]"What took you so long?" Laqara repeated. "I thought you'd have found me by now."[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]"Then you know why I'm here?"[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]Laqara nodded. "You're with the Legionnaires, and you've determined that, in your own words, there's more to me than meets the eye."[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]"Very good," David said. "You're a quick one."[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]"Well, I've kind of been expecting you."[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]"Yes, I figured that out," David replied.[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]There was a pause, then Laqara said, "Well, get on with it."[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]"With what?"[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]"You're here to recruit me, right? Get on with it."[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]David laughed. "Okay, fine. You're right. I am indeed with the Legionnaires, though I have no special powers. I'm just a normal human. The ones with the powers usually don't go out recruiting. Anyway, as soon as the Legionnaires realized that you... well, why mess with a good phrase? As soon as they realized that there's more to you than meets the eye, they sent me to talk to you."[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]"They want me to become one of them," Laqara said.[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]David nodded. "That's correct. They're wondering if you're interested in joining."[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]"Well, I don't know," Laqara replied. "I don't have any reliable information about the Legionnaires. Just the rumors and the gossip, which I'm sure are in no way accurate. I need to know more about the Legionnaires before I consider joining."[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]"Understandable," David said. "Well, I hope you're comfortable. This will take a while."[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]David was right. It did take a while, but then, there was a lot for him to say. he started with a basic history of the Legionnaires, then went into how they worked, the teams and mission assignments and that kind of thing.[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]Eventually, David ran out of things to explain. "That enough information for you?" he asked.[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]"More than enough," Laqara told him. "Now, I'm sure you'd prefer an immediate answer, but this is not a decision I'm going to be able to make quickly."[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]"I can understand that," David said. "Shall I return in, say, two days?"[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]"That should be long enough. I assume you have no further business with me?"[/color][/left]

[left][color=#008080][/color] [/left]
[left][color=#008080]David got to his feet. "Not for two days. I'll see you then." He left Laqara's apartment. Laqara locked her door again, then reverted to her true form. She already knew what her decision would likely be, though she did want some time to really think about it. But she believed that, when David returned in two days, she's agree to join the Legionnaires.[/color][/left]
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  • 1 month later...
[CENTER][B]A little bit more than arthritis[/B][/CENTER]

A loud coughing resounded across the room. Pygmalion wanted to move his hand in front of his mouth, but the grinding pain in his joints every time he tried to move prevented him from doing so. His breath wheezed like a pierced balloon and he wanted to just disappear.

A nurse entered from the right side and turned the inhalator on. Medics insisted on him using the humidifier to keep his lungs from drying up like parchment. The young woman jammed the end of the tube in his mouth with a warning glare. Paying no heed, Pygmalion spat it right back.

"Mrs Malkins! You're not being helpful!" she complained.

"It's not being either" Pygmalion retorted, referring to the humidifier.

Oh darn. He could just hear the rating sounds in his jaw joints mixing with his voice. Despite the pain, he turned his head away from the nurse when she tried to insert the tube in his mouth. A fine grey dust spread over the pillow his hair as they crushed away. The nurse stepped back in surprise. Pygmalion snorted, but that only triggered another coughing fit that shook the bed with it.

The doctors couldn't do anything but watch as his body slowly calcified. First his joint had begun to ache. Then it had spread to his hair and nails, the latter of which were turning grayer every day. Something apparently wanted to turn Pygmalion's powers on himself like a cosmic punishment.

"It's payback time..." he muttered to himself as yells in the next room indicated that Augur was having another crisis.

[i]ooc: It's a bit short, I know and I'm sorry about it. I'm having inspiration trouble these days.[/i]
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[CENTER][SIZE=2][COLOR=DarkRed]A Question of Morals[/COLOR][/SIZE][/CENTER]


[SIZE=1][COLOR=RoyalBlue]The usual day. The usual routine, super hero stops your average villian blah blah blah.. This had been the usual for Arachnid for about a week. That was until today. Until he was approached by the chief of the L.A.P.D.

The gang MS13 had been causing a bunch of unusual crimes that didn't fit their MO. For one they had been moving into other gang territories and just slaughtering anyone and anything in their sight. One recent battle resulted in a school getting destroyed, only one person had been killed while the rest had been evacuated.

"Dammit Arachnid, these guys are just blasting the crap out of inoccent people. I mean they killed a two-year old and his mom just because they were driving along in that area! Its getting to the point where the S.W.A.T. can't handle them either. I'm not getting any damn help from that bastard mayor and he won't help, the govenor has said that he's been trying to get ahold of the army but they can't help because of a bunch of gang wars breaking out closer to the border. So I'm asking you Arachnid, will you help us?" The chief said as he sat back down, his face was flushed and he obviously looked pissed off.

Arachnid, who had been hanging upside down from the chief's office cieling landed on the floor with a slight thud and stood up. He'd already made his decision due to the fact that his alter ego, Cael, had found out that one of his long time friends had been in that slaughter and he wanted to stop this as well.

"Cheif, consider me in this." Arachnid said as he strode towards the window.

"All right then. One of our informants will call you on this cell phone, meet him where he tells you to, but don't be too obvious." The chief said as he tossed the phone at Arachnid as the wall crawling hero jumped out the window and fired off a webline and swung around LA.

At about dusk the cell phone finally vibrated which caught Arachnid off guard and he nearly fell off the side of the skyscraper he was sitting on. He took the phone out of his pocket and answered it.

"Hello?" Arachnid answered, the voice on the other end sounded scared.

"Yo dawg, the chief told me to call you. You 'dat web-swinging dude that is always kicking some serious ass?" The voice said as Arachnid suppressed a snort.

"Yeah, this is Arachnid. Where do you want to meet me?" Just then Arachnid's senses blared as he heard from the phone.

"Never you son of a bitch." Just as that was said gunshots streaked through the window behind Arachnid. The wall crawler went limp and fell off the side of the building. He then fired off a web line to catch himself on and he used his downward momentum and used his line as a bungie cord and was flung back up to the side he'd fallen off of. The guy was still standing there with look of terror on his face when Arachnid landed inside the window not two feet away from him. The guy unfortunately dropped his gun and ran but instead was webbed up and hauled back towards Arachnid.

"All right buddy who put you up to this??" Arachnid said as he held the guy up by the neck of his shirt. The guy kicked his legs and he squirmed as he tried to get loose of the vice grip that Arachnid had on him.

"A'ight, A'ight. I was being followed by some of those fuckers from the gang. One of them flashed me a machine gun and the other one had a rather big handgun. Then another guy showed up and he said that if I blabbed to you or anyone else they'd kill me and my family. I got a kid and a wife." The guy said and Arachnid felt a twinge as he dropped the guy down after he kicked the gun behind him.

"All right, well no one is here now. So tell me what you know and what the hell is going on." Arachnid said as he sat down on the window sill.

The guy quickly spilled his guts. The MS13s were cuasing such hell because their drug runners, gun runners, and what have you were getting killed while in their own turf and while trying to get back into their turf. So the money was not doing so well for the gang so the higher ups decided to wagea war on other gangs. Unfortunately this meant the inoccent people in the area were targets too. Arachnid's anger twinged when he heard this.

"Thanks for the info. Now as for you and your family. Get yourself to the nearest Police headquarters." Arachnid said as he lept out the window and fired off a webline and swung towards the MS13's turf.

The area was mainly low houses and buildings. What caught Arachnid's attention was the large amount of cars gathered in a construction zone. All of the members appeared hispanic and quite a few of them were carrying guns out in the open. Thankfully it was dark and no one could see the wall crawler land on what would be the fourth floor. As he creeped along the area quietly Arachnid got within range of knocking out the lights. Arachnid fired off weblines and pulled the lights off their poles and let them drop to the ground. Screams of surprise and anger followed the crashes. Arachnid grinned as he lept down and tied up most of the people. The only thing he wasn't expecting was a gang member with a machine gun. His senses blared and he jumped up high enough to dodge the wave of bullets. Despite being able to dodge the bullets, one did find its way and embedded itself in Arachnid's left shoulder. He dropped down onto the ground he gripped his shoulder while blood flowed freely down his arm and pooled on the ground. The punk walked closer to Arachnid, his grin was quite visible, even if Arachnid couldn't see it very well because of the blinding pain.

"Yes, I naild that fucking dick Arachnid! Now I'll use your head as a hood ornament you dumb ass." The guy said as he pulled out a pistol and dropped his machine gun. Arachnid felt the barrel of the gun press against his head and then he went ballistic and webbed the guy's arms together, pile drived him, and pinned the guy and started to punch his face in with his uninjured arm until blood spurted from the guy's face and he let out only an audible gurgle.

"You son of a bitch! You killed how many people in the past few days!? Huh?! I want to know, how many died because of your fucking stupidity! ANSWER ME DAMMIT!" Arachnid screamed at the guy. The response was anything than what he'd expected.

"Heh.. You had someone that you cared about killed by us didn't you? Heheheheh.. It doesn't matter, live for the gang, die for the gang, be the gang. I don't give a damn about your fucking loved one you..." He didn't get to finish his sentence because Arachnid punched the guy's rib cage in hard enough that he was sure he heard three or four of the guy's ribs snap and break. Another guy had been webbed up and Arachnid walked over to him and looked him dead in the face.

" Tell all your friends. Tell them they're finished. Tell them the streets belong to Arachnid." With that he lept off into the darkness and when he was far enough he called the chief of police and told him that he'd managed to round up a whole bunch of MS13 members and they have guns and drugs in their cars. When Arachnid hung up he sat on the rooftop holding his shoulder as he thought about that guy's face when he beat him into a pulp. Was he any better for what he'd just done or was he just as bad?

When he arrived at his parents lab he was greeted by his mother who was surprised that he'd taken a bullet to the shoulder. She and her husband quickly put Arachnid under the anesthetic and removed the bullet.

After Arachnid came to his mother was sitting at the foot of his bed and he explained what had happened.

"Your morals are in the right place dear. You only gave into your anger, you just can't do that anymore if you do then you won't be any better than those thugs out there. Remember that. Morals make the man." She said as she left the room leaving Arachnid to himself.

"I need to get out of this city." He said laying back in bed.[/COLOR][/SIZE]
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[center][b][font=Trebuchet MS]Harmless Incident[/font][/b]
[/center]
[font=Trebuchet MS][font=Book Antiqua]
Incident Report (Disciplinary)

Disciplined party: Mirror

Reporting officer: Sparks (Blue Team Leader)

Date of incident: 24th November

Nature of incident: Mirror was apprehended while attempting to gain access to restricted areas of Legionnaires HQ. At the time of apprehension, she was using my form in order to pass iris scan, voice recognition and CCTV security.[/font]


Ash had planned on using the sheepish, whipped-puppy approach at the disciplinary hearing, and in the event it proved impossible [i]not[/i] to appear sheepish in the crushing presence of the Arbiter. Rather than being overtly huge, he seemed instead to make all other occupants of the area shrink in size. Back in her ?default? form, she stood, her head hung and unable to meet the imposing man?s gaze when he eventually looked up from the incident report.

[b]?So it was luck only,?[/b] he said evenly, [b]?that you were identified as an impostor??[/b]

[size=1][b]?Yessir.?[/b][/size]

[b]?Speak up, Legionnaire!?[/b] His voice echoed and buffeted around her head.

[b]?Yessir! Sparks tried to get in and the records showed she was already inside, and she put two and two ?"

?I see.?[/b] The Arbiter returned to brooding over the report. She could almost sense his ponderous thoughts forming; the Arbiter recognised the weight his words carried, and considered all his decisions for appropriately long periods of time. But there was never any suggestion that he was slow-witted. The dark eyes radiated industrious mental activity.

That scared Ash. It felt like the longer the Arbiter considered, the more severe her punishment would be. She shivered. Clasped her hands together in front of her, to hide the trembling. Dug her fingernails into her palms, concentrating on that pain to block out the memories of what she?d seen down there.

[b]?And you were trying to access the basement why??[/b] When he stirred from inactivity, it was like a mountain moving. Ash jumped.

[b]?Um ? when Tech kitted me out with these"[/b]? Ash tugged at the stretch-fabric shirt and slacks - [b]?she made me take off my pendant, and my, um, my mum gave me that. She told me not to lose it.?[/b] Ash was sweating. Even without eye contact she could feel his gaze lighting her up, like a prison spotlight on an attempted escapee.

[b]?The lab where you left the pendant is on the other side of the complex.?

?I?m new! I got lost ??[/b] The indirect accusation pushed Ash instinctively onto the defensive, but then she remembered who she was talking to. [b]?I just didn?t want to bother Tech and ask her for it.?[/b]

The Arbiter sighed. [b]?It seems your motivations were not malicious, and no harm appears to have been caused.?[/b] Ash looked up, suddenly hopeful of redemption. [b]?However,?[/b] the Arbiter continued, [b]?I will be placing you under tighter surveillance from now on. We cannot have unauthorised persons roaming headquarters at will. Do not let this happen again.?[/b]

[/font] [center][size=3][b][font=Trebuchet MS]~~~~~~~~~~~~[/font][/b][/size]
[/center]
[font=Trebuchet MS]
[font=Tahoma][i]Moaning, like she?d sometimes heard when her mum had a migraine ?[/i][/font]

Ash was still shaking after she?d left the Arbiter?s presence. There was no question of telling anyone what she?d seen now, not now she?d lied to him about it. She just hoped with all her strength that the man she?d met had been off his trolley, raving nonsense.

[i][font=Tahoma]Thoroughly lost in the mazelike basement levels of Legionnaires HQ, she?d been contemplating simply giving herself up and yelling at the nearest CCTV camera to please get her out of there. She?d get in trouble, but that was a better option than having to sleep down there with the strange humming noises and ?

- moaning.[/font][/i]

Ash forced herself to stop trembling. She stopped, leaned against a wall and tried to slow down her breathing. She suspected she?d already be under the tighter surveillance the Arbiter had mentioned, and she didn?t want to give him reason to suspect anything was amiss.

[font=Tahoma][i]Somehow she?d made the assumption that the basement levels were all storage; restricted and therefore dangerous storage, admittedly, probably full of experimental weapons or bits of alien spaceships, or something. The one thing she hadn?t expected to find stored was another Legionnaire.
[/i][/font]
Remembering him made her start shivering again. Stop it, she berated herself, you?re stronger than this.

[i][font=Tahoma]Seeing him through the door, strapped down on a medical trolley bed, writhing and moaning and trying to hold his head with arms tied to the mattress, she?d had no choice but to get in there. He?d reminded her of her mum with a migraine; but more painfully, he?d reminded her of Jonathan, thrashing in the grip of a poisoned cocaine hit.

The iris scanner by the door hadn?t accepted Sparks? clearance. The LCD beside it had insisted on Gold Team only. She?d only very briefly seen the Gold Team leader, when the newest recruits were divided into their respective teams, but she?d caught his eye and that was enough.

When Ash had entered the infirmary room, the occupant had instantly calmed down, but it had seemed forced, as if he were controlling his malady with difficulty for the benefit of his visitor.

His eyes had opened, and he?d said, with perfect clarity:

[b]?Unhate. Don?t go back to the temple. I?ve seen it. You won?t make it out alive.?[/b]
[/font][/i]
[/font]
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[SIZE=1][b][CENTER]"Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" [Matthew 5:10][/CENTER][/b]
"My dreams grow worse as time progresses, my screams echo down the halls, my wrists are contused from the restraints and yet I cannot be sure I am even awake, that this is not another more subtle nightmare. I have never given serious thought to the numbers of people I've saved, like so much else in my life it is simply something I do without forethought and without regret. But then there are the screams, the wails, the silent tears, the faces and voices of those I am cursed to see and yet be unable to help. I feel that sometimes my soul has shattered with the grief this bane has wrought, that fate has a will and this is my punishment for defying it.

My mind is consumed by doubts at times, what if in saving a young woman, honest... innocent... pure... I have allowed the next Hitler to be born, that my intercession will bring about even greater pain and suffering. But I cannot see the future on such a scale, and if I were faced with the choice to sacrifice one innocent to save innumerable others, I would find myself unable to do so. I do not doubt that there are others who would make such a choice without hesitation, without pity, that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one. I can only pray that I am never called upon to make such a choice. From smaller mercies do greater ones grow, that in saving one life I will help to save many, and that thought drives the doubt from my mind and gives me the strength I need to continue.

It was my first time in South Africa, I have been with the Legionnaires close to ten years and yet there are still many parts of the world I have not had the pleasure of visiting. To see such fanatical devotion to a cause, to a master, is to see the converse of my own faith, to see what might have been if not for the will of God... I can feel another nightmare begin to take hold of my mind, to gnaw at my sanity... Their presence increases with every waking hour, only in the depths of my soul am I safe from their influence, I have seen them and become a threat. This contest is that of wills, if I am victorious I may save the lives of every living being on the planet... defeat will sentence me to horrors I dare not even conceive.

My vision grows dark, I've never liked the dark, as I child I was terrified of it and even now part of the same dread is with me. Small beads of cold sweat have begun to form on my brow, my breathing has become more rapid, more forced, I can feel the fear taking hold. I try to move but they won't let me, I feel like I'm drowning in my own terror, my arms lash out against the restraints... in a few minutes my throat will be raw from screaming. Tear drops are flowing down my cheeks... I can't see a thing... darkness all around me... darkness within me... the screams... the screams... the screams...."

[CENTER]----------[/CENTER]

I was going to go further, and do one of his era-based nightmares, but I think just letting it sit like that is better from the point of view of the story. From the other people's perspective, Augur has only been able to utter a few words between his nightmares and most of it appears to be gibberish.[/SIZE]
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  • 2 weeks later...
[COLOR=Indigo][SIZE=1][FONT=Arial][CENTER][B][SIZE=1]Estate[/SIZE][/B][/CENTER]

Rural Australia. Tall yellowed grass covers the landscape in every direction, and a lone female magpie flies in lazy circles around it's nest. It's mate is probably out finding food for the chicks the pair had created. Normally the chicks would be squawking loudly, craving attention, needing it, as young birds are wont to do. Today, however, they are silent. The whole landscape is.

A lone woman stands beneath a tall ghost gum, dressed in black. She wears a veil, her eyes are hidden. Long dark lines frame her face, remnants of mascara-tainted tears. Her body shakes intermittently. She's sobbing. Sobbing hard. Why? Why cry? The answer is obvious. She stands before a statue.

It's not especially impressive. The sculptor's could've done a better job. It's about 6 feet tall, not including the pedestal. Made of granite. Sturdy. It would break down in rain though. Lucky it was placed in the desert. It's of a man, built like a rock, stern, aggressive. Buzzcut haircut, large chest. A pistol held in each hand - fitting. He'd never been without a pistol. Or two.

The pedestal is of different construction. It's metallic, titanium, the woman was told. It'd cost her a lot. It was worth it though. On the front of it was a plaque, made of bronze. She'd have chosen gold, but it was too expensive. The pedestal and statue had been too much as it is. Especially considering the quality of the statue. She'd have to ask for a refund. On the plaque, written in handsome serif font, are inscribed the words which make her cry so. They are so few, but so meaningful. Heavy with meaning.

'John Silver - The Father I Never Knew'

She reads the words again. A heavy sob wracks her body. She wished she'd had some time to meet him. To know him. But she'd never had a chance. It wasn't of her making though, no. It was his. He worked for an international security agency. Very secretive. She'd asked for him many times, but she'd never been allowed to talk to him. She had to know his codename to talk to him. She hadn't known.

She didn't even know he was dead until a month ago. A letter had arrived, black, with no return address. It simply said, 'The Legionnaires'. That was the security agency. An odd name. She'd been hesitant to open it. It was unmarked, nothing revealed it's purpose. But open it she did. Reading the letter inside had been painful. So she did it again. And again. And again. Until the letter fell from her shaking hands.

It had been short, simple.

[I]"Gloria Silver,

We regret to inform you your father, John Silver, has died whilst acting on behalf of our agency in South Africa. We extend our condolences to your family. We have enclosed the last photo of your father ever taken, and a cheque for $100 000 US to pay for funeral arrangements. We are sorry for your loss.

The Legionnaires"[/I]

That was it. Nothing more. It didn't even specify if she'd see his body. She assumed no. She assumed rightly. So she used the funds to build the memorial statue before her, almost identical to the photo she'd been sent. It wasn't smiling. It was stern, almost angry. She wished she knew why. But she didn't. She would never know.

Her mother had told her about the man when she was young. Told her about an unwise one night stand in which all she'd been left was a business card and a child. He'd worked for the military then, the Australian Army. He never returned to Singapore. Her mother and her had immigrated to Australia to find him. Gloria was 15 at the time. When they'd arrived he was already gone. The Army said he worked for The Legionnaires now. They were given a phone number and nothing more. Gloria was asked to return in two years time, however, to prove kinship. They needed a place to send his army pension, they said. She submitted to the testing. They proved positive. Her mother had been collecting the pension for years. What she would do now it was stopped, Gloria did not know.

The magpie chicks spot their returning father, and start chirping. Startled out of her revery, Gloria blinks. Looking around for her husband she sees him standing a distance away, respecting her quiet moment. He sees she is done, and walks over. A gentle loving embrace is shared.

"I'd like to go home now," she says quietly. Her husband nods and began to lead her gently back to their hire car, rubbing her shoulders. They climb in wordlessly, and drive slowly away from the large property. John Silver's property. Now their property. It had been the only item in his will, the only acknowledgement Gloria ever received from the man. It had an odd name. More like a real name than a property name.

It was called "Unhate".[/FONT][/SIZE][/COLOR]
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[COLOR=DarkSlateBlue][FONT=Franklin Gothic Medium][CENTER][SIZE=3]Boatman of Acheron[/SIZE]
~rated PG~[/CENTER]

A gondola drifted in the complete darkness. The only light it had was a green lantern attached to it's bow. A single figure was on the boat, slowly paddling down the dark river in silence.

The former Keeper of the Beast knew that his work contract had expired when the rockheaded man had blown up the Temple of Aton. He had decided that it was better not to stick around when it happened.

The old man sighed bitterly between his sown lips. So this was how it felt to be unemployed.

Suddenly the gondola shook faintly. The Keeper looked up and saw that a naked, black-skinned woman had appeared on the boat. He knew this woman well.

[I]"Nemesis, what gives me the honor?"[/I] he sent a telepathic message to the demoness.

[B]"Did she get it?"[/B] Nemesis asked with her freezing voice.

[I]"Who? What?"[/I]

[b]"The whip, you senile mummy! Did my daughter get it?"[/b]

The Keeper knew better than to play games with the she-demon of vengeance, and nodded.

[B]"Good..."[/B] Nemesis said approvingly, and extended her long black arm into the dark water of the river. The spot she touched began to glow eerily. [B]"The souls of this river will amplify the power of the whip tremendously. I was a fool to underestimate the hazards of the Plane of Mortals. What about you, Zamborak?"[/B]

The old man shuddered. He hadn't heard that name in aeons! He faintly recognized it as his own. Zamborak...

[I]"What about me? I'm not going anywhere, gyah."[/I]

[B]"I have an... interesting offer for you. The Overlords of Hell could use a new raftsman to this river. The current one is... unqualified. What do you say?"[/B]

[I]"You're asking me to come to Hell with you?"[/I] the gondolier asked baffled. [I]"Gyah, why the hell not?"[/I][/FONT][/COLOR]
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[center][B]Homecoming[/B][/center]

[size=1]??I?. I?m sorry, Dust.? The words echoed through his hollow body as the world stood still. He was no longer a Legionnaire. He was no longer a Team Leader. The meaning of the words took a second to sink in fully ? the scope and meaning to the words were beyond him for an instant. It seemed surreal, that he, a praised Team Leader and faithful Legionnaire, was no longer a crime fighter.

?Fuck.?

Of all the volumes of Shakespeare read, of all the libraries of Voltaire consumed, of the piles of Virgil absorbed, it was the most fitting and eloquent word he could use. His mind was in a state of static and suspended animation as he stared at the residual plumes of The Arbiter?s. His very soul felt as if it were in shock as it replayed the entire mission a million times in his head. He remained still.

??Partner, you alright there?? Dust?s gaze remained steadfast, fixed upon the setting sun of the West. ?Dammit, are the lights on in thur??

?No,? he spat simply. The word was as much as his preoccupied mind would allow him verbalize. The man eventually gave up on Dust and his lack of manners, and strolled back into town. As the stranger left, Dust choked out a pitiful question.

?Is dad still here??

?Whadyousay, partner??

?Is he still home? ? My dad. I?m his son,? he said, and finished in nearly a whisper, ?I?m his son.? The stranger stooped down to see underneath the cowboy?s hat, attempting to steal a better look at the so-called son. He covered his mouth in surprise upon the recollection of the boy.

?Mary, Mother of God and all the Saints in Lord God?s heaven? It?s you. Welcome home, partner!? The significantly shorter man wrapped his gleeful arms around the man in a joyful embrace. In sheer elation, he shouted to the silent, undisturbed town.

?He?s home!? Lights winked on like fireflies in the distance at the proclamation. The townspeople scurried out of their homes and down the dirt road towards the two men. Leading the group was Dust?s father, and his mother close behind. The scene seemed strangely familiar ? like a picture out of a children?s book, or a line of memorable poetry.

?It?s the prodigal son!? The shout issued from the group, and solicited nods of approval.

?Welcome home, my son,? his father said with a growing smile on his face. The two embraced for what felt like eons ? and he was truly sorry he had deserted his family and friends for a faraway life. The bitter tears of sadness mixed with the relieved ones of joy as he was lost in the feelings that stole his mind from the physical realm.

?I?m home now.?[/size]
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  • 1 month later...
[font=trebuchet ms][center][size=3][b]"Deadline"[/b][/size][/center]

Molly stared into her compact mirror lovingly as she adjusted her hair. Had she known this afternoon would change her life forever, she probably would have worn her auburn locks down that afternoon. Molly Mills, Ace Reporter, her business card read, 2001 Pulitzer Prize Winner. Yeah, she had a Pulitzer for her articles with ?Key to the City,? but anyone could have won those awards, given the circumstances.

How could they not give her recognition? She was the young woman who had been kidnapped by Countdown and lived to tell the tale! She was the living embodiment of celebrity, a living legend; one who was quick to turn her fame into a lucrative career in journalism.

An opportunist? Yes. Beautiful? Perhaps. But not once did Miss Mills ever try to attribute her achievements to genuine talent. Her name got her the job, but it had been months since Molly had written something that sold, and she could feel the pressure. Quietly she sat outside the office of her editor, Sam, counting down the minutes until her weekly 10:00 am meeting began. She adjusted her skirt, fidgeting in her seat as the clock above his door continued its loud string of ticks.

A few moments passed and the door opened, with Sam, a tired, middle-aged woman stepped out from behind. She dressed as if she were in a gangster film, complete with suspenders and hat.

?Miss Mills?? The large woman asked, staring at Molly suspiciously. ?You?re here??

?Of course!? Molly stood up proudly. ?We had a meeting scheduled for 10:00, Sam. You sound surprised..??

?Your message said you had a big story in the works. Everyone at the Key just assumed that meant you had been kidnapped again. I was about to go out for a drink. You don?t drink, do you??

?I never have anything more than a Coca-Cola, and besides, we?re on the job.?

There was a moment of silence quickly cut in half by Sam?s loud laugh.

?Ha! Of course we are!? She slapped Molly on the back enthusiastically and led the young girl into her office. Molly followed Sam into her claustrophobic office space. Awards, degrees and old newspapers decorated the space, with piles of notes, photographs and copy nearly everywhere else. The editor shoved aside a pile of folders labeled, ?Celebrity autopsies,? revealing a simple wooden chair across from her desk. The two took their seats.

?So let?s talk. It?s not often I get a call from a writer. I?m usually the one trying to get them to finish their articles on time??

?This is different. I?ve been putting a lot of thought and research into this so far, and I think I have something that can put my career back on track.?

?And what exactly do you have planned, Miss Mills??

?Planned?? Molly scoffed, ?The story is already done. I?ve uncovered the secrets of The Legionnaires.?

There was a moment of silence as her editor thought about what she had just said.

?That?s impossible. Some of the best reporters have struggled for years to get an interview with one of The Legionnaires ? it?s not as if you can just walk into that fortress of theirs and start taking pictures.?

?I understand that, Sam.? Molly opened her purse and revealed several photographs inside of it.

?These are photographs made public by the Chinese government. This is the first photographic evidence of its kind not distributed directly by The Legionnaires. It was my first clue that something terrible happened.?

?And you were able to find this out because..??

?Look, this really happened, okay?? the young woman pointed at a photograph of a man in a cowboy hat, ?This man, Dust, he was once one of their top agents, and now he?s living in an isolated ranch in the Midwest. His full name, his address, I have it all, Sam.?

She pulled out her story, a thick, 20 page manuscript and threw it onto the desk.

?Something [i]terrible[/i] happened there with what is known as the ?Red Team,? something they didn?t want the world to know about. It?s my job to share the truth with the world, isn?t it? No matter how awful that truth may be??

?Not unless you reveal your source to me, first.?

Sam stood up and looked out her office high-rise at the streets below.

?You know, my dear, I?ve been playing this game for a terribly long time. My parents? your grandparents, this was their only source of news. Key to the City was once the finest publication in the nation, but the times have changed, and more often than not we?re forced to print the stories that sell rather than the stories that matter. But I?m not even going to entertain the idea of printing this slander, a story that if untrue could ruin us forever, unless you can tell me the name of who gave you this information.?

Molly quietly pulled another photograph from her purse and placed it face down onto the manuscript.

?This stays between us, Sam. It has to.?

Sam nodded, and flipped the photograph over. She stared into it deeply for a moment, and then placed it back onto the desk, exactly as Molly had.

?Miss Mills??

?Yes, Sam??

"This story is going to destroy their organization. You know that, right?"

"I do." Molly nodded.

"Okay then," Sam handed Molly back her manuscript, "Drop this off to Ken on your way out. Tell him I want the front page cleared for your article. We've got the story of the year on our hands."[/font]
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  • 1 month later...
[FONT=Times New Roman][COLOR=DarkOrchid][i]Saturn could feel her mind slipping downhill very slowly. Ever since she'd killed Saturnine in the museum, ever since she'd killed the children in Korea....everything was slipping back into the chaos she'd felt since her childhood. Only now she had been taught exactly how to kill and how to kill herself more effectively. Slitting her own wrists would be too easy, but since she'd come home from the mission, she'd felt things inside her.

Special feelings, crawling up her mind, feeling her thoughts and emotions, that she couldn't hold back any longer. And the sorrow to her was maddening. Insane, cold, empty, like the emptiness she'd been feeling since Dust had been dismissed from the Leginnaires. There was nobody for her to share herself with, nobody but herself. But even she'd been killed. Saturn lit herself another cigarette and sat back. Like usual, she was resting on the roof of the building she'd been living in for some time. One foot propped up on the grate, the other resting on the cold concrete. Her eyes focused directly on the setting sun and the clouds obscuring her view. As usual, the clouds had changed from a soft gold and purple to a icy gray. She sighed and tilted her head back, leaning against the metal of the walls. The smoke drifted lazily up to the sky, disappearing like her sanity was.

With a cold stare into the fast fading light, she extinguished the cigarette onto her left forefinger, noticing the past burns over the bone.[/i]

"That's my life... ....you know... ...Like my life was golden and bright for five minutes, and then it was .....it is...this way now."

[i]Saturn shook her head from side to side very slowly, and then looked at the cigarette butt stuck into her left finger. With a twist, she pulled it off, feeling the pain, but only just.[/i]

"And everything slips back into where it came from. I came from dark. From cold. From insanity. Didn't I?"

[i]She stood and turned to face the cold metallic walls. Her fist burried itself into the metal, her knuckles splitting open, blood pouring down her fingers to streak the wall below. Her voice raised itself above the monotone she'd been speaking in for weeks and raised to a shriek of manic rage.[/i]

"Didn't I?!"

[i]The door to the downstairs opened and Augur walked out onto the rooftop. He spoke to her softly, smelling a mixture of cigarette smoke, residual on her clothes, and blood, but from where, he couldn't tell.[/i]

"Did I miss the sunset? I don't feel the warmth anymore."

"Yes. You've missed the sunset. Everyone's missed the sunset."

[i]He turned his face in her direction, seeing her heartbeat, or sensing it as it were. But by then she had already pushed past him and re-entered the building, taking the stairs slowly, running her fingertips over the cold metal railings; leaving bloodstains as she went.

She had noticed, that since the Korea incident, she'd been picking up more than just emotions from people. From her fellow Legionnaires...if she could even call them fellow, she was starting to notice their blistering resentment and dislike of her. Not only that, but she was also finding herself less and less capable of blocking out a choking sense of guilt. All she could sense was the bitterness that sometimes lingered in her mouth after she spoke to any one of them out of necessity. Whether the guilt was her own, or someone else's impressing itself upon her, she was too bereaved to find out. And now it was threatening her sanity...but the crux was more of a threat.

Saturn didn't know whether she should embrace the madness for the first time in her life, let go of her tenuous grip on reality, or keep holding on.[/i]

"If I was mad, I would be happier."

[i]But those words sounded hollow to her. About as hollow as the space left in her heart. All her actions, and the sensed actions of everyone she'd sworn fealty to, was starting to mean very little. If anything, she wondered why she held loyal. Okita hated her, Dust was gone...and for all her supposed reverence...if that was the word...for Arbiter, she was starting to doubt his wisdom in anything more she was ordered to do.[/i][/COLOR][/FONT]
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