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RPG Population Zero


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[FONT="Palatino Linotype"]April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.[/font]


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[font=lucida sans unicode]Vicky as [b]Galileo Chase[/b]
Neko as [B]Ilyasviel von Einsbergh[/b]
Mr. Blonde as [b]Lon Grosvenor[/b]
Nessaja as [b]Chiyoko Hasashi[/b]


[size=4]Novus Ordo Seclorum
Honey and Sulphur[/size]


[size=4]Novus Ordo Seclorum[/size][/font][/center]

[size=1][align=justify][I]Genius is a talent of a person who is dead…[/I]

He wasn’t sure if he were dreaming or if he were dead. He wasn’t sure how he got here, or what it was meant to be, just that he was here, and people only came here near the end. Maybe.

Despite loving abstract knowledge as much as maths and logic, Chase was generally uncomfortable in his situation. He was stood quite idly in a reception that was painted white, a blinding white, with nothing to the white itself except an oak wood long desk to the side of him. He raised his eyebrow and looked towards the desk, where a woman sat, almost invisible with the white uniform against the white room, her head down.

[b]“So what, I’m dead and this is my Hell, right?”[/b] Chase placed his palm on the desk and leaned over to the woman, a grin playing on his face (only his Hell could be so boring). [b]“Where am I supposed to go? Stand around?”[/b]

She looked up at him and her face was blank. Not a picture of beauty or marvel, in fact [I]nothing at all[/I]; simply skin pulled over a skull, no eye sockets nor ears, with strands of blonde hair falling over her face. Chase recoiled back.

[b]“Fuck me.”[/b] He grimaced.

The secretary, so he assumed, pointed a sharp finger towards a door that Chase hadn’t notice. It was idolised by massive oak pillars either side, and engravings above, of all kinds of symbols and languages that even Chase himself didn’t recognise.

[b]“Cheers doll… err… face…”[/b]

Chase grimaced again and mentally slapped himself but felt somewhat at ease when the secretary ignored him and got back to her work. Chase walked across the floor that amplified his footsteps so eerily and oddly, coming to the door and looking up, his neck craning trying to take in all the symbols. He only managed to get half way as even him, who stood at 6”5’, was too small to see all the way.

He pushed his way through the door and stepped through. Immediately he was attacked by a harsh cold against his face, a blinding blizzard in front of him, the snow dull and blue even though he was squinting from the temperature. He covered his eyes with his hands - which seemed to already be frozen – in an effort to make sense of everything.

When he had stepped forward the wind from behind him was far too powerful for him to keep his footing and he tripped, his head falling against something cold and hard, knocking him out for the time being.


He coughed onto the floor when he tasted the grit between his teeth. He turned his head to the side and blew out through his nostrils in an irritated motion; even through his disorientation, he knew those fucking scientists would screw something up. He breathed in a ragged breath and pulled himself up from the ground, his hands touching some rather sharp stones and gravel, which seemed rather strange for them to be present in the lab.

He was so cold, as well. He could feel the chill of damp and the irritation of the weather, and he was too disorientated to understand it. Why was he so cold now?

Chase wasn’t too easy on his feet when he stood up. He stumbled for awhile, hand to his forehead, most of his limbs feeling heavy and numb from being unused for so long. Just to make sure he wasn’t dreaming anymore he turned around to the cryogenics pod behind him – it smoked from the inside, blue lighting against the comforting insides and the door pushed open. It didn’t looked different, except the metal. Why did the metal look so old?

He turned and looked around some more. In front of him was a row of computers, some lights off… in fact, too [I]many[/I] off for Chase’s liking. Behind the computers were another row of cryogenic pods, the same blue lights in some of them. [I]Some[/I] of them. Chase’s brow furrowed and he continued looking around, from the desk that lay at the bottom of a set of stairs, to the uneasy, chipped roof, the misplaced wires and the dust that had been complied all over the room.

[b]“You guys don’t hire cleaners anymore?”[/b] he shouted. Of course, he assumed, this was a joke; some kind of horrible joke played on the new awakees. He only hoped humanity hadn’t degraded so much that they had comedians and college students as scientists.

He wandered over to the desk and ran his fingers over the dusk and the material. It felt old and it smelt even worse, like rust and decay, musky and the damp on it. The computer at the table was off and from the looks of things it had been like that a long time. Chase began to suspect something now, that it definitely wasn’t normal. As his mind began to reconnect itself and shake off the icy disorientation he realised, to his shock, that this wasn’t the same lab he was taken to. Oh no, all wrong. [I]His[/I] lab was the biggest in the world, like a dungeon, not like a [I]basement[/I].

[b]“2149…”[/b] he mumbled at the calendar which had been eroded at the edges and some of the ink dripping from water seeping in through the roof.

He was sure he wasn’t supposed to wake up this early. He was also sure he couldn’t wake up by himself; he had been told that waking up would be a gradual process, so not to disorientate patients and make sure that everything in their head was still intact. Right now he felt groggy and still a little lost which was definitely unusual for him. He always knew where he was, why he was here and how he got there. He [I]always[/I] knew.

Behind the desk were lockers. He remembered back at the old lab putting his items in a box, so he assumed they had transferred them. Stepping around the desk, Chase looked for his name and only managed to make out the start of ‘Galileo’, since rust seemed to have attacked the name tag, but not the outside.

His fingers paused over the keypad which seemed only to be a simple mechanical lock. He was given no number at the start of this whole charade, so it must have been a number he knew of, and a number the scientists could easily remember. Something in common.

[b]“2085?”[/b] he whispered under his breath as he typed it in. A grin played onto his face when the lock came open, his ego growing even bigger getting it first time.

His lighter, made of metal but not rusted (the material of the locker, he gathered, was made of titanium and prevented anything inside from being subjected to the elements, yet that arose the question to him of [I]why[/I] the elements were there), his leather wallet with his ID and thirty pounds in it and a packet of cigarettes.

He glanced to the side and saw another locker – ‘Chiyo…’ was all it said, the rest cut off – slightly ajar and open. He peered into it and found clothes, laughing. They wanted him to jump into the damn thing naked, too, but when the Jackal said no there wasn’t a single person in the world who would disagree.

To be honest he had enough with this whole joke. He took himself up the stairs and took out a cigarette, pushing the doors open at the top (it truly was like a basement) and wondering why there was so much resistance. When the door opened he was showered with dust and bits of concrete, a blight of irritating through him.

[b]“This isn’t even funny…”[/b] he muttered, all the more realising perhaps this was no joke at all.

When he stepped out into what would have been the second research lab, into something he expected to be refined and extremely high-tech – he did not, and he knew, for sure, something was terribly wrong.

The cigarette dropped from his mouth as he gaped at the sight. Everything was almost completely pulled away, eroded and weeded down to almost nothing. There seemed to be a massive whole in the roof where even the sky was different, droplets of rain from the metal falling onto a floor that was broken and slashed away by inhuman things. The tables had been turned over, cut down, broken, and weeds were growing through the walls that had collapsed, the wildlife gathering in itself from the outside. Chase felt even colder now.

He wandered through the building to the front door which didn’t seem too much of a distance away as the walls of the place had fallen into heaps of material and grit. The door itself, almost gone, was ajar, and Chase stepped out onto the steps that would have led people to the building. Outside he saw something he expected after seeing the inside – everything was overgrown by vegetation, the buildings in the distance barely there anymore, birds stalking about in a sky that seemed to lack human intervention.

Chase spied a statue not too far away from him, though it was barely such. He head had fallen and all that remained was a body of uniform, a vulture sat atop its shoulder, eyes trained on Chase almost like it was smiling at him.

Chase backed back into the building with a swallow and shaky breath. He bit his lip and swore, in his head, far too many times than he could count. Even his head wasn’t fast enough to make the connections, find the solution and sort this problem out; no no, not even centuries of combined knowledge was going to sort this shit out.

He had stumbled around the lab for an hour, picking up all he could, finding bits of ingrown trees that had not been wet. When he found all he could he threw them under a still standing table and gathered that clothes from the poor bugger’s locker who had left it open, throwing them onto the twigs and lighting them, to make a fire, which he sat huddled over smoking a cigarette and exhaling, all the time, like he was going to break down after that last breath.

Chase was just damn lucky no one was around to see his state. [/size][/align]
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[SIZE="2"][FONT="Book Antiqua"][I]So many dreams. So many, many dreams. Far too many dreams too count, or maybe not enough dreams to remember. Chiyoko wasn't able to tell, wasn't even aware that she was dreaming or how long it had been since she started. Maybe she started dreaming at the start of the project that she agreed to be a part of. Or possibly even before that. Maybe the whole project was a dream. Chiyoko could not be sure, and wouldn't be sure either. Because for now, she is still dreaming.[/I]

A birthday party. [I]Her[/I] birthday party. Which one was it? How old was she? She didn't know or care. Perhaps it was all of them. All of her birthdays rolled up into one fantastic party. For it was the most fun that she ever had. But then something strange happened. Something about a doll. She didn't want to share it but then she couldn't get away from that doll. Then the cake was lit, but it wasn't just the cake that was on fire. As the guests laughed, the walls were burning. The presents were burning. They were all burning. Smoke, burning, fire that burned but somehow it was cold. She definitely could smell smoke but the fire was cold. She tried to run but fell out of her chair. Only it wasn't a chair. It was some sort of boat. However there was no water when she fell, it was more like she was being thrown into some new world.

[I]Was she being born? And if not, is this what it was like?[/I]

Chiyoko came to slowly. She picked some gravel out of her mouth, hair and face and stood up slowly. She nearly toppled over again and caught herself on something. Something her size, that she almost thought was a bed. But her fuzzy mind tried to remind her that it wasn't a bed. It was something else, made for a much longer sleep than beds are for. Then it hit her.

[I]Burning. Smoke. She had to get out of here.[/I]

She walked out, towards a door and passing up a fire that was burning both a table and a man but she didn't want to look. Didn't want to stop and think why he wasn't yelling. Maybe he was already dead. However, what she stopped outside stopped her in her tracks. Everything outside looked like a city that wanted to be a part of nature. Or like nature itself tried to grow cities, to please the men and women that lived on this planet. Then Chiyoko remembered. The headaches, her uncle, the project. The project. She stepped back inside and looked for the locker with her name tag on it. She found one that had some of her name on it, but it was empty. She looked over to the man, who she now noticed was not burning but instead was just enjoying the fire. He looked at her and the locker and then back at the locker. After that look, Chiyoko had guessed already what had happened to her clothes. There was nothing she could do about it now, so she decided if she was going to be naked, she would be. At least there was a fire and she was still alive. She sat down opposite the man, not saying a word. Just hoping he wouldn't mind her company.[/FONT][/SIZE]
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[SIZE="1"]As she slipped, going down that familiar stairway, that familiar descent to the front door of her home, the last thing she thought before fainting was that she was quite certain that this time, she was definitely going to die.


Thud[/i]. She landed wetly on a hard, white-tiled floor, nothing like the lavish carpeting she had expected to run into. Panicking, she tried to stand, but only made it up to her hands and knees. She looked around, shaking with fear and confusion. Where just a second ago she had been in her home, a dark room now laid out around her. The room was dimly-lit, not for lack of lights, but for lack of lights that were still functioning. Two ceiling-inlaid lights glared a blinding white, illuminating only small portions of the room she was in. Three more lights flickered sporadically, throwing monstrous shadows here and there, creating monsters in the corner of her eyes that appeared and vanished in an instant. All of this, she perceived in the first moment her vision had begun to return to her.

She screamed.

Or, at least, she tried. What she managed was a breathless gasp that preceded a collapse onto the floor. She coughed up a large amount of clear, gel-like fluid that tasted vaguely chemical. A tear began to roll down her cheek before crystallizing right there on her face. And at that moment her sense of touch returned to her, and brought with it such a powerful pain that she spasmed, her muscles seizing up and sending her into a fit on the ground. Gradually, the spasms subsided, though the pain did not. She panted against the icy floor, her breath clouding the surface before crystallizing on it. She began to recognize the pain for what it was.

It was [i]cold[/i]. It was cold beyond anything she had ever experienced before in her life. Cold like winter at home in Russia ten times over. Cold that froze so thoroughly that it felt like burning; cold like a white fire. Cold like silence. Cold like death.

As her nerves started functioning again, she felt her bare skin against the cold of the floor. She slowly picked herself up, limbs shaking from the cold. She felt her skin peeling reluctantly off of the smooth, hard surface of the tiling.[b]

“Mo…m-m-momm-ma…” [/b]she cried weakly, her voice returning to her. The sound echoed off the steely walls around her and returned eerily. [b]“M-momma…poppa…w-where are y-you…?”

[/b]No response. Hearing came back to her next. Her voice carried far and long, coming back as an echo for eleven seconds. There was a dripping sound, and she was numbly aware that she was dripping condensation.

Why? Why was she here, in this frozen hell? As she looked around, she began to take in more of her surroundings. The more she saw, the more she wished she hadn’t. Cords and wires ran across the floor, scattered carelessly about, connecting to what looked like heavy machinery or any one of the forty-some computers that were lined along the desks. Like the lights, the majority of the monitors were dark. A few flickered haphazardly, and only one was still somewhat bright. Dust thickly covered everything, and drifted heavily through the air, visible all-too-clearly in the sparse lighting. She coughed sharply with her next breath, and tasted blood in her mouth. She was in far too panicked of a state to commit any of this to memory.

A dream. Had to be a dream. No other explanation. No way this was happening. A nightmare. But the pain was real. Everything felt real. There was no denying it: this was the reality she had woken up into. She took a few shaky steps forward before her legs gave out again. As she landed, panting, on the floor again, she felt something tugging painfully back at her from under her skin. She looked behind her and saw several cords going into her [i]body [/i]from the inside of a steel coffin that gave off a faintly blue aura from the inside. Her eyes widened in frenzied terror, and she scrambled forward, fear and adrenaline overriding the pain as, one by one, the wires dislodged themselves from her flesh. A dark monitor beside the coffin briefly flashed her vital signs from under a thick coat of dust before going absolutely dark for the last time.[i]

This isn’t working, [/i]she thought to herself after settling back into her wits after a minute of helpless panic. [i] I have to figure out what’s going on here. [/i]She picked herself up from the floor again, shaking herself off, trying in vain to warm herself. She slowly walked towards the computer that still seemed to be working, and felt one last cord begin to pry free of her arm. She yanked at it, and it came free, trailing a clear, viscous fluid. She wiped away the frost on the screen and numbly stared at the monitor that was still blaring brightly, the light even now overloading her still-recuperating eyes. She blinked a few times, rubbing at her eyes, before giving it another go.[u]

Subject: Ilyasviel von Einsbergh
Condition: Stable
Mental State: N/A
Cryoprotectant Levels: normal

Updating in 53 seconds…

[/u]The timer didn’t go down. In fact, the entire system was unresponsive. It was impossible to determine what time it was. And that’s when she realized it. [b]“What…w-what time is it?” [/b]she asked herself. She always, [i]always [/i]knew exactly what time it was, but now, all she knew was that she had been awake here now for three minutes and twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four seconds. [i]I…I have to get out of here, [/i]she thought to herself, holding back a sob. She turned back toward the coffin-like object, the faintly-blue glowing machinery all around, as if in some last hope that someone might jump out and yell ‘just kidding’ from behind something.

The sliding door that led out of the room was narrowly open, and as she approached it, she smelled a powerful odor coming from the other side. She shuddered, but the almost instinctual need to get out of this room before she died of hypothermia briefly overpowered the manic fear that had taken hold of her. She forced open the door – it was easier than she thought it would be, because the mechanical systems that held the door in one place didn’t seem to be functioning. She peeked around the corner, apprehensive, before braving a few steps into the next room, using the walls to keep her balance.

Everything was worn away, covered in rust and greenish mold, or covered in dust. Her hands were filthy with the detritus covering the wall, and the floor was a mess of broken tiling, roots, fungus, and, she discovered with a wet snap and another scream, a dead rat. There was a briefly clean section of wall near the door to the room she had just come out of that had the word ‘cryopres’. The rest of whatever the word was had been scoured by who knew what. She continued on, exploring the dank, sparsely-lit room, her shaky limbs betraying her increasingly terrified psyche. Still so cold…

One area was more brightly lit than the rest of the room, and had a few shelves lined up in the center. The wear seemed minimal here. There were many doors in the shelves, but she couldn’t open them. There were numeric pads on them; they must be lockers. She found what she suspected was hers – she could just barely make out the letters ‘el von Einsb’ on the front plate. Her locker was open, and her clothes were neatly folded inside. She reached in and grabbed gingerly at the fabric. It crumbled away at her touch like it was dust, and something flew out of it, hitting her in the face as it went by – a moth. She reeled back, heart racing, and slammed into the shelf behind her. Gasping wildly, wide eyed, she glanced around, calming herself as best as she could. She mustered up the courage to continue examining the lockers. There were long, vicious scratch marks in some areas, and a few of the other lockers were open. She managed to find a locker with a white overcoat that seemed to have not been exposed to [i]too [/i]much – just a few holes here or there. She threw this over her back, desperate for some warmth – her limbs had long gone numb from the cold.[b]

“Hello?” [/b]she called gingerly, [b]“Is…is anyone there?” [/b]This felt just like so many nightmares she’d had before; dreams of dark, scary places that reeked of decay. Where monsters could come out from around any corner and get her. But this was, she was slowly beginning to see, reality. And the more she saw of it, the more she wished it was a nightmare.

This room had another coffin in it – several coffins, in fact. They were much bigger than hers, but the build was the same. A few were open, and one was still hissing faintly. The room was dark, but her eyes were beginning to adjust. Another computer seemed to be on. Hopeful, she examined it. This one was completely blank. Disheartened, she continued to examine the room. There were more lockers – and again, with the exception of a ‘Chiyo’ and a ‘Gali’, both empty, the lockers were all closed tightly. A calendar on the wall read 2149.[i]

2149…? [/i]She thought to herself, panicked, as she did some quick math. [i]I’ve…I’ve been asleep for 7 years?! [/i]It was strange; it was impossible that she had been asleep that long, and yet she somehow felt as though she had been gone longer – much, [i]much [/i]longer. Water dripped from the cracked ceiling, and roots were beginning to break through the walls. Crumpled, torn, or eaten-through papers littered the desks, and wires were in disarray. None of this was anything like any of what she had seen in her entire life – certainly not amidst what seemed to be what might have once been some kind of laboratory.

A stairwell, leading upwards. That seemed to be the only way to go. Shaking from a mix of cold, exhaustion, and sheer abject terror, she hurried over to the stairway.[b]

“Mo-mma, papa!” [/b]she called up the stairwell, holding onto the increasingly absurd hope that someone would come and take her from this hell. Again, the only answer she received was her own echo. And at that moment, something wet, cold, and furry brushed against her leg. She looked down out of instinct, and found, to her horror, a large rodent staring back up at her. The scream formed in her mouth even before the thing bit her, and the pain wiped away any trace of calm she had developed up until that point. She kicked wildly, flinging the rat from her ankle, and dashed madly up the stairwell, throwing the door open and blindly running headlong straight into a cold, hard wall.

And then everything was once again dark.[/SIZE]
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[FONT="Book Antiqua"][I][B]Cold and black like the night... [/B][/I]

“You may not make it through the cryo-process, Mr. Grosvenor”

That was the last thing Lon remembered hearing…

And then there was the darkness… and the cold. He could feel the ice crystallizing in his veins, his drudging heart beat losing momentum as his organs began to freeze. His tongue swelled, bones cracked, and his eyes became frozen in icy tears. The electrolytes in his brain flickering like flares in the night. Pieces of moments of fevered dreams… that’s all he has been clinging on to for far too long.

The pain! The old man hit the floor like a bag of bricks. Lon gasped for a breath, but he just gurgled on the ice that has melted and filled his lungs. He reached out for something, anything. He pounded against his chest, throwing himself back against the wall, dying. Finally he choked up a thick mix of water and blood, but like a child taking their first breath Lon’s lungs rapidly expanded to fill with air and his chest was racked with excruciating pain. His arms and legs thrusted about, kicking the door to his cryo pod closed. His body twitched and quivered; he curled up on the floor, unable to move… minutes, hours passed…

He opened his eyes slowly, but everything was still a blur. The floor was slippery and the old man stumbled a few times before rising to his feet. His entire body ached. His throat was scratchy and dry; his muscles so weak he could barely stand. His joints were swollen, and even his bones felt brittle.

“I guess this is what they meant. What the holy Hell happened here?”

Grosvenor staggered around the room aimlessly, attempting to get his bearings on this new surrounding. He leaned against the wall while he stumbled, his hand crossing over a wall calendar. He rubbed his eyes and strained to read the date.

“2149… Jesus Christ, what happened to being under for 40 years!?! God damn government always half-assing everything!”

As his eyes cleared up the faint blue electrical glow was enough to guide his way. There were several more of the pods (similar to the one he was incased in) lining the walls of the room. The glass panes in the front of the pods were frosted over but as he stepped closer to one he could just barely make out the face of the young man still frozen inside.

“Boy, you look familiar…”

Lon moved on, not knowing that this young man would soon be joining him. Lon came across the lockers. Panic hit him and he frantically began feeling around his neck. Relief; on a small leather cord hung a small key. He yanked on the key, the cord snapped and in a moment he located the locker bearing his name, or what was left of it.

“There you are.”

Grosvenor stared down at the only thing he deemed necessary to bring along with him: a 12” stainless steel bowie knife.

“Now all I need is some clothes.”

But it was actually quite warm, so Lon put that on the back burner. For that moment the thing that most concerned him most was finding a way out of there. He wandered around for a bit and noticed a singular flight of stairs, but for some reason it didn’t seem safe to him. That old hunter mindset may have been playing tricks on him, but never-the-less he wanted to find another, less conspicuous way out. An old emergency hatch did the job and he began the climb up the rusted out ladder. The metal was rotting and the ladder could barely be considered such anymore.

“And you viewed this to be the safe way… old fool.”

Lon climbed upwards for one hundred feet or so and reached a manhole cover. With all of his strength he strained and just as he threw the cover off of the hatch the ladder gave out underneath him, caving down into the darkness. Root and swig snapped as he clutched onto the surface, pulling himself up into the world.

“I guess I’m not going back down there. Maybe I should have taken the stairs.”

The moon hung high in the sky, peering through the thick canapé of the trees tops, bathing the city in a pale evening light.

“Dear, God… What have we done…?”

Lon looked around in every direction. The city was no longer such; the ruins of a metropolis that died long ago barely peered through the overgrowth of jungle that stood in its place. Lon didn't let this revelation stun him for long. He knew what he must do.

“A fire…”

The moon light gave Lon just enough visibility to find what he is looking for along the jungle floor: a piece of flint rock. He struck it off of the edge of his bowie knife and a spark jumped up from the rock. Soon Lon had a roaring fire and the next thing crossed his mind: food. But ever more on his mind was the pacing footsteps of a predator just out in the darkness. For now the fire kept the beast at bay, for now.

Over the next few days Lon scavenged for food by day, and huddled by the fire at night. Luckily he had found a natural spring close by, and washing the stench of cryogenics off of him made him feel a little more human. However finding food was a different predicament all together. He employed every trick he knew in the book, but for the first week the largest meal Lon was able to find was a few grubs and the scarce leftovers of his mysterious pacing predator. This predator wasn’t finding much food either and it was only a matter of time before either one of them came for each other. Hunger or madness would have the better of one of them.

“It must be close to summer. The days are getting longer.”

Lon sat by his fire as the sun set in the West. All of his knowledge told him to stay put. The first rule of being lost is stay where you are so that someone can find you. But what if he wasn’t lost? What if there was no one left to find him? He has always been alone, but this was strangely different. The old man made a decision. He was going to make a go for it tomorrow. There was no food here; there was nothing, except for his friend out in the darkness. He was going to gather what little strength he had and venture out into the wild. He pondered this as starvation racked his body.

Just then... perhaps from madness, hunger, or forgotten fear of the flame of man, the pacing beast, a lone wolf charged in at the old hunter. Adrenaline pumped through Lon’s veins. They both knew this moment was coming. Lon’s fear turned to focus; this is it! It lasted but a moment, and the struggle was over. Blood ran from a gaping wound on Lon’s arm… and the wolf lay still with Lon’s knife buried deep in its chest. Lon panted and dropped to his knees. The wound was bad, but he’s patched up worse. Just then a soft yelp spiked in the distance. It caught Lon’s attention and he pulled his blade from the wolf’s chest. The old man slowly creeps towards the darkness, ready for anything…

But there, in the brush, just outside the glow of the fire was a lonely wolf cub. Lon sighed and lowered his knife. He reached down and the cub attempted the best growl he could muster up. Lon chuckled and picked up the young wolf, whom quickly changed his tone and began lapping at Lon’s face.

“I’m sorry there, young one. It seems I’ve left you an orphan. We shall have to remedy that.”

Back at the fire Lon prepared his kill, and just as he had done for years before he used every part of the animal. He clothed himself in her hide, carved arrow heads out of the teeth and bone, and of course ate the meat. He couldn’t help but feel certain guilt as he and the wolf cub dined on its mother’s flesh.

“Echota; it’s Cherokee for wolf. That’ll be what we’ll call you. It’s not very inventive but I’ve never been good with names. But you're not much of a wolf at all are you. You're a mutt, just like me I suppose.”

For the first time Lon began to feel at home.


It’s now been months since Lon killed the wolf and adopted its cub. With his canine companion Echota, the hunter now has little problem finding a meal and keeping predators at bay. He spends his days covering his territory, searching for any remains of civilization, but still he's not sure what he would do if he found them. The old man spent years out in the wild even before he was frozen. The city now belongs to him. This is [I]his[/I] jungle.

But someone else is now here. Lon and Echota kneel silently in the thick brush and watch that same young man Lon saw in the cryo pod before. The kid exits into the wilderness from a pair of shelter doors Lon has been unable to open from the outside. The kid ascended the stairs Lon refused to use so many months ago. Lon pulls out his make-shift bow, and slips an arrow onto the string. He pulls it back tightly and targets the kid in his sight. The young man looks around, but after a few moments steps back through the doors. Lon lowers his bow, but draws his knife. He steps from the brush, Echota close behind him. Who has entered the hunter’s city? Who has trespassed in his jungle…[/FONT]
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[size=1][align=justify]They said truly insane people didn’t know they were insane. Well, Chase was sure he was going insane now, therefore he wasn’t, which didn’t help his predicament all too much.

He had watched from under his table a girl – [I]naked[/I] – walk and peer outside then walk back only glancing at him. Chase’s brow furrowed at the sight and he took a drag on his cigarette, knowing that no one alive would truly be so ignorant to his existence in a time like this. He shook his head to clear his thoughts in order (pushing back everything he was worried about and everything he was afraid of), watching this person intently, until she came and sat near him.

Chase narrowed his eyes and drew on the cigarette again. He blew the smoke in her face, but did not say a word. He coughed from the bottom of his lungs and curled his lip at her, but did not say a word. And neither did she. He sure felt, with the fire coming up in his face and the shadows from the very flames cast against him and the girl, like he was subjected to some kind of Inferno. Something like Dante would have imagined, with an hallucination so vivid that even Chase would be convinced.

When the cigarette burnt to the bottom Chase flicked it at her. He was surprised, almost, when the girl recoiled backwards and gritted her teeth from the burn. Chase laughed.

[b]“I always knew I had an imagination but I never knew it was this good. Larkin has nothing on me.”[/b]

The girl – so realistically, Chase thought – frowned at him in confusion. Like there wasn’t anything to be [I]confused[/I] about. Chase was sure of himself now, that he must have conjured up something in his loneliness and that, yes, he was indeed the last person alive. And his own insanity would be his company. At least it was a naked.

[b]“That hurt…”[/b] she whispered to him, complete and solid emotion for someone who was lost in a destroyed world at the moment. Chase, again, grinned at himself.

[b]“You even sound afraid! That’s wonderful. I should have written a book.”[/b] Chase laugh came from his throat now, more dismal than hearty. [b]“I’m lucky imagination can’t freeze to death; stop shivering.”[/b]

The girl looked even more confused.

Chase, still entirely possessed by the idea this was all a part of his imagination, leant forward to be careful of the fire and thrust the point of his fingers into her forehead. She moved her head away the first time and Chase sighed.

[b]“You seem real. I really [I]do[/I] have a great imagination.”[/B]

Then it dawned on her. Whoever she was, Chase could see she was cold – without clothes on of course – and her expression was likened to a real person. She had caught on and her face bordered disgust, but Chase knew it wasn’t, as he had seen it too many times in his direction.

[b]“You think I’m not [I]real[/I]?”[/b]

[b]“You think I’m stupid? I don’t think I’m stupid, therefore you cannot think I’m stupid, and…”[/b] he paused, shook his head, [b]“nevermind. I’ll have no one play tricks with me, girl, especially myself.”[/b] He chuckled his tongue realising he was probably talking to himself.

[b]“Are you crazy?”[/b] she croaked.

[b]“Apparently I am!”[/b]

He lit another cigarette from the fire which almost burnt it all, but the girl tried to snatch it away from him to get his attention. Chase, annoyed and shocked, kicked gravel at her with his shoe and sneered.

[b]“This is absurd. I’m not going to take crap from my imagination.”[/b] He hissed.

[b]“I’m [I]real[/I].”[/b]

Confident and arrogant per usual, Chase leaned into the fire, his dark features illuminated. [b]“Prove it. Prove you exist.”[/b]

She blinked. [b]“What?”[/b]

Chase shrugged. [b]“If you’re real, you can prove you exist. I can prove I exist. Mathematics.”[/b]

He assumed that, if the so-called girl could prove she existed, she was not real, as very few possessed the mathematical (and revolutionary) knowledge to state such a fact. Then again, Chase also assumed that, since he knew this, his mind could play tricks on him, and do the opposite. He mentally slapped himself for thinking too much.

[b]“Look, I’m Chiyoko, and I was frozen –“[/b]

Chase cut her off with a loud spluttering cough. [b]“These are your clothes then,”[/b] he laughed putting two and two together, [b]“And you’re called Chiyoko. [I]How lovely.[/I] I don’t need to tell myself my name but I’ll entertain the thought.”[/b] He eyed her as she shivered but offered no coat. [b]“Galileo Chase, the Jersey Jackal. Here’s hoping I’m dreaming, hm?”[/b] he gave a fake grin and opened his mouth to add some more, something horribly insulting, which was interrupted by a scream.

Both heads turned to the basement they had arose from. Chase’s eyes grew wide with fear but he quickly shook this away, so not to even let an [I]illusion[/I] see him scared. He turned back to the fire and smoked his cigarette.

[b]“What was that?”[/b] Chiyoko whispered.

[b]“A scream.”[/b]

[b]“Shouldn’t we go and see what it is?”[/b]

Chase grinned. [b]“It’s not my problem.”[/b] He looked up at her. [b]“You’re still an illusion. You can go, then part of me was already there.”[/b]

[I]Hilarious[/I], he thought, [I]absolutely hilarious.[/I][/size][/align]
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[FONT="Book Antiqua"][I]So far, things kept getting stranger and stranger. Which sounded like a line from a book Chiyoko had read, years ago when she was little. Or no, she remembered now. It was her father who read it to her. Something about 'curiouser and curiouser'. But that didn't sound right.[/I]

Chiyoko left the crazy man she had unfortunately ran into. She wasn't even sure if his real name was Chase. If he had lost his mind, he could have just given himself that name because he liked it. She didn't even look back as she headed to the basement. If it wasn't for that fire, and her want for human contact or answers to this strange situation, she would have left him alone.

On her way down, Chiyoko gently rubbed the cigarette burn on her left breast. She was just glad he had thrown it at her, and didn't try to hold it down against her. He was definitely a strange man though. Maybe he had been left here alone for years? However, it certainly didn't look that way, judging by his hair and clothes. At first, after her initial nightmare of him being on fire or a demon of some kind, Chiyoko thought he might have been one of the scientists.

She shook her said suddenly, as to throw any other thoughts about him out of her head.

"I've got to focus. Find out who screamed, and if they're okay."

Chiyoko stopped for a moment, frozen in her tracks with fear.

[I]"But what if whoever screamed isn't alive? And what killed them is still down there?"[/I]

Again, another thought for Chiyoko to shake out of her head. They had to be alive. Whoever it was, just had to be. And more importantly, he or she might need help. If that is the case, then thanks to Chiyoko's fear, no help would have come. Chiyoko picked up the pace and soon made it to the basement.

It was dark, but she made up a rat next to a young girl's body. She chased it away and gently tried to wake up the girl. She was breathing and still alive, so there was still hope. Chiyoko sighed in relief and continued trying to wake up the girl. No luck, and she was cold. Chiyoko picked her up and decided to bring her to the fire, although she was a little worried about that strange man there. But maybe he would be gone. Maybe he was really a part of her imagination, and not the other way around like he was telling her.[/FONT]
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[FONT="Book Antiqua"]The Jackal backs into the lab, closing the shelter doors behind him, shutting out the dim blue light emanating from the stairwell. Sunlight breaks from the clouds and a comforting warmth falls back over the jungle. Lon steps out of the tall grass but halts just a few strides into the clearing. Had he really seen what he thinks he just saw? Is there really another person alive in this world? It can’t be. Lon’s thoughts races as he tries to think back to a time before he was alone: nothing. All that exists is this moment, the now… the wild. Anxiety swells in his brain. A panicked sweat overtakes him; his mind runs out of control, like a runaway train. His vision begins to fog, his heart pounds out of his chest, his breathing labors, and a great pain grows inside of him. Lon hunches over his agony, crippled through his body and mind. His grip of his Bowie loosens as a tingling numbness runs from his chest and into his limbs. The knife falls from his fingers and hits the ground.

”Come on, old man… not like this… not… now!”

Anger, confusion, and fear washes over Lon; he stumbles backwards and looses his footing. Echota whimpers and whines as Lon writhes and spasms in blinding pain. Lon can’t help but think of the “complications” the men in the lab spoke of. Was this why he had been frozen for so long? What was this new condition that was afflicting him… that was killing him? Through the tall grass in all of his agony Lon notices a girl, unclothed exiting from the lab, out of the shelter doors. The girl is confused and frightened. A warming calm overtakes the old hunter and the pain seems to melt away. The girl hurries back into the lab, seemingly terrified of this unfamiliar wild.

Was the old man hallucinating? Was the pain and/or the girl just a wide-awake fevered dream, like the ones he had slipped in and out of so many times before in the cryo-pod? Nothing would surprise him at this point. When you’re alone for so long your mind begins to play tricks on you, and that deep freeze seems to have had some lingering effects as well. Lon pushes himself off of his back and sits up against a thick tree stump. Echota is happy his old friend is alright and laps with vigor at Grosvenor’s face and neck.

”It’ll be okay, I’ll live… for now.”

Lon pats his canine companion on his side and pushes off of the tree trunk, rising to his feet. Lon picks his knife out of the grass and sticks it back into its sheath.

“Now I believe I’ve retained a bit of my sanity, so there’s definitely something going on here. Those people have to be from those ice coffins in there. We’ll have to do something about this.”

Echota growls with a piercing gaze towards the lab doors, but Lon quickly pulls on the nap of his neck to silence him.

”No, boy… we don’t know about these… people yet. I think it’s obvious by now something horrific happened that caused this city and the outlying areas to be abandoned. Maybe they have some answers. We’ll have to make a proper introduction, boy.”

Lon turns back towards the brush and the thick trees of the jungle, but gives one last glance at the shelter doors.

”In due time… in due time…”

The hunter disappears into the wild.
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Ilya could feel the sensation before she was even awake. The feeling of warmth – true, natural warmth, like the kind she felt when she sat near the enormous fireplace at home. [i]Oh, no, [/i]she thought to herself, [i]I fell asleep by the fireplace again. Poppa will probably be lecturing me again. [/i]Gradually, her strength came back to her. [i]What a strange nightmare I had last night, though…[/i]she thought, recollecting that horrific dream that she’d been stuck in some kind of abandoned underground laboratory.

Then she opened her eyes.

When she wasn’t greeted by a soothing morning view of the front gates in the distance through the living room window, but rather a damp, cracked ceiling, dripping in places where the cracks reached all the way to the rooftop, she remembered that her dream hadn’t been a nightmare at all, but a horrible reality. She glanced around wildly, and saw that she was lying next to a fire.[b]

“…Look, she was in danger down there! The poor thing was about to freeze to death, and-”

“I already told you, it’s not like I [i]care [/i]or anything. But just because you’re a figment of my imagination doesn’t mean you can go around picking up all my other imaginary friends,” [/b]a man’s voice cut in, his tone mocking anger, though it was apparent that he was on the verge of breaking out in laughter. Ilya slowly picked herself up soundlessly, propping herself up by her elbows to get a better view. The first voice belonged to a young woman who wore a look of mild irritation, and, Ilya noticed with embarrassment, seemed to be completely in the nude. The woman was addressing the source of the second voice, a striking man with intimidating but sleek features.[b]

“Hoo, boy, this is pretty crazy, huh,” [/b]the man whistled under his breath. [b]“First I imagine up some chick, then that chick goes off and finds me [i]another [/i]imagined chick.” [/b]He giggled to himself, considering his perceived situation. [b]“I must be some sick fucker.” [/b]He glanced down at Ilya, seemingly unaware that she was looking back up at him. [b]“Huh. Well, at least this one’s [i]wearing [/i]something, fer Chrissakes. You should put some clothes on,” [/b]he added to the woman, eyeing the overcoat Ilya was wearing that looked as though she had borrowed it from a scientist.[b]

“You [i]burned [/i]mine, remember?!” [/b]she responded angrily, pointing an accusing finger at the fire. Ilya looked, and indeed saw the last remnants of a sleeve go up in flames before turning to ash. [b]“Oh, nevermind, I don’t even know why I even bother…” [/b]the woman turned around angrily, concealing her…feminine attributes as best as she could. Ilya felt that it was perhaps at this time that she should make her presence known, before the situation got anymore out of hand. She hated fighting, after all.[b]

“Um…excuse me?” [/b]she started, her voice barely carrying above the dull crackle of the fire. The two both turned to look at her. The woman walked over to her and carefully crouched down next to her.[b]

“You’re awake, thank goodness. How are you feeling?”

“Um…o-okay, I suppose…” [/b]Ilya responded, looking over herself briefly. Just a couple scratches, nothing serious. She was still a bit cold, but the fire was taking care of her on that account. [b]“O-oh, I forgot!” [/b]she jumped up, buttoning the overcoat quickly so as not to expose herself at all. She faced the two and bowed deeply, adding a makeshift courtesy at the end with the ragged hem of the coat. [b]“Please forgive my rudeness. My name is Ilyasviel von Einsbergh. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” [/b]She looked up expectantly, hoping they would accept her introduction.[/SIZE]

[SIZE="1"][COLOR="DarkRed"]Ilya' taking a quick break from panic-mode to make introductions, but please keep in mind that she still has a lot of freaking out to do as she continues to see more of what her surroundings are like. Confusion and fear are what I'm thinking of. Please just keep this in mind :catgirl:[/COLOR][/SIZE]
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[size=1][align=justify]Chase looked at the new girl from the fire, chewing the inside of his mouth. Oh indeed this was strange and even he was having trouble coming up with the solution with all that faced him; how could he concentrate with two [I]women[/I] stuck with him, let alone figure out what had happened here?

[b]?Delightful to meet you,?[/b] he had said sarcastically to mock her courtesy and dignity. She didn?t seem to notice too much and Chase wandered if his situation was effecting his sarcasm. [b]?Well I?m Chase. Galileo Chase. And I?m still not entirely sure how real all of this is ? especially you two.?[/b]

[b]?[I]Of course[/I] it?s real.?[/b] Chiyoko had stated with a roll of her eyes.

[b]?Recognise the World of Illusions, doll face? Or the Twilight Zone? Parkton Parkinson?s Dream World Syndrome??[/b] he turned from Chiyko to the new girl ? Ilya, he recalled ? who shifted uncomfortably in her spot. [b]?Don?t look so keen for approval. We?re probably the last people around here and it isn?t likely we?re going to spread nasty rumours about you to your friends? that, and, all your friends are dead, now.?[/b]

Chiyoko clucked her tongue. [b]?My name?s Chiyoko.?[/b] She said firmly ignoring Chase and extending her hand to the girl over the fire.

Chase sat back on his hands (even though the gravel irritated him) and looked at them both. He was becoming more and more convinced this was nothing like an illusion, nothing like a little bit of insanity, but something real. And he wasn?t liking it. He cleared his throat so that when he spoke there would be no indication of any fear or confusion in it and turned to Chiyoko, putting on his best chuckle.

[b]?You want a coat before you freeze to death??[/b] he asked her.

[b]?I?m fine.?[/b]

Chase rolled his eyes and took off his jacket, handing it to her. [b]?I don?t need it, I?m wearing enough layers already. We?ll have to check through the lockers and see what we can find before Alice in Wonderland freezes to death as well.?[/b]

Ilya looked confused, almost boarding hurt.

[b]?You remind me of Alice. Nothing personal, kid.?[/b]

That confusion didn?t fade away and a sense of panic has risen in her, her chest heaving now and looking considerably worried (getting sympathy from Chiyoko but none from Chase).

He looked at her some more and realised how young she was; he felt a little guilty for not going to help her but Chase sincerely doubted they would survive if everything around them was common with the entire world. Ilya noticed him staring and looked up, allowing Chase to catch something in her eye. He had seen it before, in only one person previous: himself. It was a talent that many people were crippled by but some gifted in so many ways that it was impossible to group them together? unless you were one of them, and then you knew.

[b]?So little girl,?[/b] he started inclining his head, [b]?know any party tricks??[/b]

Both Chiyoko and Ilya looked at him, but only Ilya responded. [b]?P-pardon??[/b] her voice cracked and so did a smile on Chase?s face.

[b]?You don?t act like a little girl. You don?t seem like a normal girl, in fact you remind me of me - except I were much smarter at your age - ?ah, what [I]is[/I] your age??[/B]

[b]?I?m eleven years old, four months, two weeks, one day, five hours, twelve -?[/b]

Chase cut her off by standing up all of a sudden. The girl looked terrified by his sudden movement, and who wouldn?t be by the look in his eyes; it was a mixture of astonishment and, [I]almost[/I], despise, because the great Jersey Jackal hated others smarter than him (he always likened himself to being better, anyway; often the others suffered from massive retardation, or crappy social skills, and never possessed the persona that Chase had developed, nor the creativity that spawned from his memory).

[b]?I know you didn?t just make that up.?[/b] He growled from his throat. The girl was in a state of panic and confusion, even more so, until Chiyoko jumped in.

[b]?Hey, you leave her alone!?[/b]

Chase narrowed his eyes. [b]?I will do. For now, you two can be real, and you can sit here while I figure this out. She?s too young to help me with this. She hasn?t got what I got.?[/B]

Chase was, arrogantly, referring to the ?balance? he claimed to have found between memory of creativity. While other ?savants? or geniuses were plagued with retardation or diminished social skills, Chase had none ? he was, from cradle to the grave, savant on all levels. Sometimes they just couldn?t see it.

He didn?t allow a word of protest and if there was any he ignored it. He turned on his heels and walked away from the fire, back to the doors of the building, stepping outside. He breathed in heavily a breath of air that was so clean to him it almost burnt his lungs, pushing back the other two in his head (he wasn?t going to have a child undermine him today). After a brief pause, Chase faced his surroundings, biting his lip.

Again the vulture stood atop the statue, still staring, and just waiting. Chase swallowed in the knowledge he hated statues and birds and diverted his eyes to the sky, where he only swore louder at a kettle of vultures above him, circling.

He stepped down the stones into the world and came to the conclusion that things had been like this for a long time. For nature to overturn the fortunes of humanity there must have been at least four hundred years on its side and Chase wondered if people had simply left this area for that long or?

?or everyone was gone.

He let it run through his head, past all the logic and algorithms, through all the philosophy and history but he was still unsure of himself. Having not been around so long he had no idea of the political, economic or social situation of the world. He had no idea what could have possibly happened.

Whilst is played on his brain he thought he heard something in the bushes. He turned his head to it, slightly, and narrowed his eyes. When it dawned on him that the wildlife was back now he stepped back into the lab slowly and, somehow, an idea came to his head.

[b]?See if you can get the girl to come over here!?[/b] he shouted from the door over at the fire. [b]?I got a bit of a surprise!?[/b][/size][/align]
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[SIZE="1"]Ilya looked on with increasing confusion and, more prominently, horror, as Chase looked around outside. Now that she was more fully alert, she was beginning to take in some of her surroundings. What she was beginning to see simply did not add up in her mind, which was running at full-tilt to try to make sense of what she was looking at. The word ‘overgrowth’ briefly came to mind, but even that fell short as a gross understatement.

Everything was gone. No, that wasn’t quite right, either. There were still buildings, or in some cases the skeletons thereof, and there still seemed to be a road and a sidewalk, but beyond that, not much else. Grass came up through cracks and divots in the pavement, vines crept up, into, and around building infrastructure, vegetation ran rampant everywhere it could. Also, she noticed, the air seemed…[i]fuller[/i], or possibly[i] cleaner. [/i]As though somehow, in the seeming absence of pollution, the amount of oxygen in the air had increased. And all around, everything hung with an unfathomable sense of [i]time[/i], something Ilya alone could feel the pressure of with complete alacrity.

This wasn’t her home at [i]all[/i]. And, she was beginning to feel more and more certain, this wasn’t her [i]time [/i]at all.[b]

“Miss Chiyoko…?” [/b]she looked up at the woman standing next to her, who seemed to be throwing Chase a contemptuous glare. As soon as she heard Ilya’s voice, she looked down, smiling apologetically.[b]

“Yes, erm…Ilya, was it?” [/b]she responded.[b]

“Where are we?”

“I’m not entirely sure…” [/b]Chiyoko trailed off, taking in their surroundings. Then, seeing the beginnings of a panicked outburst from Ilya, Chiyoko smiled in reassurance. [b]“I’m sure we’ll find someone who can explain all this eventually. Shall we head over there to check out what [i]he [/i]wants?” [/b]she added, nodding her head off in the direction that Chase had gone off to. There was a note of apprehension in her voice. Ilya didn’t enjoy the prospect of seeing more of this crazy place, and she certainly didn’t want to see anything that terrifying man had to show her, but she also wanted to know more about what was happening (as much as the thought scared the living daylights out of her), and standing around wasn’t going to accomplish anything. [b]“Here, I’ll go first. Is that alright?” [/b]Chiyoko offered, extending a hand. Ilya backed away a step, looking down.[b]

“Please, no touching,” [/b]she apologized. She didn’t want to…to [i]see[/i]…without telling this woman first, but she didn’t want to reveal herself that much, yet. [b]“…thank you for offering, though,” [/b]she added with a bow, not wanting to offend. She followed Chiyoko outside, and was greeted by a warm sunlight and a light breeze – nothing like her home in Russia. It was incredibly warm out; about fifty or sixty degrees, she guessed. As the last of the cold melted away from down in that [i]dungeon [/i]of a place, she almost felt at ease about things, until she looked around.

It seemed an abandoned city, or something like that. She had only read stories about abandonment, had only really seen cities in picture books and history books from her old teacher, but she was quite certain that this is what the two would look like put together. It sent chills down her spine. Cities were, from what she’d read, places where great concentrations of people gathered. Where, then, had everybody gone? None of this made any sense.[b]

“Jeeze, it took you long enough.” [/b]Chase was standing at the base of a statue, looking slightly uneasy, but still arrogantly confident, nonetheless. Ilya looked up and gave a small yelp as she saw a large, decrepit-looking bird glaring down at her.[b]

“Relax, it’s just a vulture,” [/b]Chiyoko said, but there was a waver in her voice, and Ilya noticed that she took a slight step back herself at the sight of the ugly bird. [b]“So,” [/b]she directed her attention to Chase, with some resentment. [b]“What do you want?”

“C’mere, Alice,” [/b]Chase said, ignoring her. Ilya had read the story [i][u]Alice in Wonderland[/i][/u], but only the Disney version, and wasn’t too sure she was comfortable with being associated with such a character.[b]

“Um…Please, Mr. Chase…my name is Il-”

“Dammit, kid,” [/b]Galileo cut in,[b] “if you’re a figment of [i]my [/i]imagination, [i]I’ll [/i]be the one that decides what to call you, alright?!” [/b]Ilya took a step back, frightened by the man’s aggressive tone.[b]

“Hey, cool it already, will you?!” [/b]Chiyoko stepped in angrily. [b]“She’s just a kid, you’re scar-”

“Please,” [/b]Ilya said, surprised at her own rudeness. [b]“…Forgive me for interrupting, Mrs. Chiyoko, but it’s alright. I’ll do as Mr. Chase says.” [/b]Not wanting to upset him any further, she stepped forward until she was only a foot or two away from him. [b]“How may I be of service to you, sir?” [/b]she bowed slightly. [i]Never make eye contact with your superiors unless given permission, [/i]her mother had told her once, educating her in proper etiquette. [i]It is unbecoming of a sophisticated young lady such as yourself.[b]

[/i]“Alright, cut with the polite bullshit, it’s beginning to get on my nerves,” [/b]Chase growled.[b]

“I’m sorry, sir,” [/b]Ilya replied simply.[b]

“I thought I told you to – Oh, nevermind,” [/b]Chase shook his head in irritation. He turned his attention to the statue they were standing in front of. [b]“Anyways, see this statue here?” [/b]he nodded at the sculpture. Ilya nodded. [b]“How old do you think it is?” [/b]Ilya jumped a bit at the notion that he wanted her to see how old it is. Did he know…? No, no, that was impossible. There was no way he could have guessed, just from her telling him how old she was.[b]

“Really…old?” [/b]she offered, trying to play it safe, just in case. She saw the anger in Chase’s eyes, and she knew she’d made a mistake.[b]

“Don’t screw with me, kid,” [/b]he growled. [b]“You listed off your name to the [i]hour [/i]back there, and I’m sure you would’ve gone even further if I hadn’t shut you up. I’m finding it hard to believe that anyone’d just throw out numbers at random at a time like that, so you must’ve really known that accurately. So tell me, and give me a nice, [i]juicy [/i]answer.”

[/b]She hesitated, but there was no choice. She placed her hand on the stone, and she felt the immeasurable stretch of time that it told her. What she saw confused and greatly troubled her.[b]

“This statue was erected on June tenth, year twenty-one thirty-five at two thirteen and six seconds PM.”

“That’s around fifty years after I went under,” [/b]Chase muttered under his breath.[b]

“But…but there’s a problem,” [/b]Ilya added hesitantly.[b]

“What’s that?” [/b]Chase said gruffly.[b]

“…Unless what I’m feeling is wrong…the head of the statue was destroyed when it was struck by lightning two hundred thirty-five years, seven months, two weeks, five days, sixteen hours, forty-three minutes, and fifty one seconds ago.” [/b]Those words hung in the air for a few seconds while Ilya did some quick math.[b]

“…I can’t give an exact time, but this statue can’t be any less than two-hundred thirty six years old.”[/b][/SIZE]

[SIZE="1"][COLOR="DarkRed"]There you go. That should give the others a good estimate of just how far in the future we are, how long we've been 'gone'. Of course, the numbers are off, but it's the best Ilya could give with what she knew. If my math is correct, we're actually much further in the 'future' than even that, correct?[/COLOR][/SIZE]
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[FONT="Book Antiqua"]
Ilya runs her hand gently over the statue, feeling every bump and imperfection along the way. There they stood: our three survivors next to one of the last signs of humanity remaining in this city, or in fact… the world.

“What are we going to do?” Chiyoko says aloud to herself.

“Don’t ask me questions like that! It makes you sound stupid!” Chase snaps at Chiyoko.

“I wasn’t asking you!” Chiyoko snaps back.

“Well maybe you shouldn’t ask questions if you don’t want people to answer them!”

Chase marches up to Chiyoko and points his finger in her face. The woman is taken back a moment but regains her composure and glares back into Chase’s eyes. She’s had quite enough of his malcontent behavior. Chase is infuriated. The fear and uncertainty that he now feels is so unfamiliar, so foreign to him he has no choice but to expel his frustration in anger and contempt for his fellow survivors. While Chiyoka and Chase continue their argument no one seems to notice that Ilya has wondered off. The yelling and fighting has grown to be too much for the young girl. She has to get away.

Ilya rounds the side of the laboratory and enters the thick jungle brush. The grass is practically over her head now, scratching at her face and neck. Tears stream down her face as she throws herself deeper and deeper into the wild. Meanwhile back at the statue Chiyoko notices something.

“And another thing… can you please but some pants on! I can not argue with a woman without pants! We have to find you--”

Chase’s words are muffled by Chiyoko’s hand. Chase won’t be silenced by anyone, and bites down on Chiyoko’s finger.

“Ow!” Chiyoko yelps.

Chase is quite pleased with himself. Chiyoko is infuriated with this man, but she has something more important on her mind. She turns and runs away from him.

“Hey, I didn’t mean to bite you… that hard!” Chase indolently runs after Chiyoko.

Chiyoko walks through the tall grass, searching for Ilya.

“Ilya! Ilya! Where are you?!”

No answer. For moments there is only silence, an uneasy silence. Chiyoko doesn’t like the look of those trees, of the darkness of the bush. Just then a high pitched scream spikes in the distance. With renewed vigor Chiyoko runs into the wilderness after Ilya… and the scream. Chase reluctantly follows close behind her, lighting up a cigarette along the way.

“I can’t believe this shit…”

Chase strolls along puffing away on his smoke… but then freezes… freezes at the sight before him. Ilya is down on the ground, Chiyoko stands close to the young girl, and a mountain lion crouches idly in the tall grass, mere feet from them both. Its eyes are fixed on Ilya, whom lies motionless, trying as best she can to conceal her tears and muffle her screams.

“Holy fuck!” Chase covers his mouth, as if trying to recapture the words he just let slip out.

This noise is enough for the lion to make its move. The beast rises from the grass and sprints with all its force at our young survivors. Fear has them frozen. They now try to scream, in the fool’s hope that someone… somewhere can save them in the split second before this beast is upon them, but terror takes the sound before they can make it. Everything is in slow motion now. The lion leaps off of the ground; ascending upon Ilya and Chiyoko. Our survivors are now stricken with tunnel vision; all that exists is the lion before them. Everything else is black; this may be why they could not see the animal that jumped from the bush and took down the mountain lion.

The panic breaks, and Chiyoko grabs Ilya, running with the young girl from the tall grass. But curiosity overtakes Chase and he inches closer. What was that creature that jumped out at the lion? He moves further into the brush, and is taken back by what he sees. A lone wolf faces off against the vicious cougar. The two beasts pace around each other, neither one getting close enough to make contact. The tension is thick; Chase is drawn in closer and closer, to his own folly.

The lion catches a glimpse of Chase from the corner of his eye and turns from the wolf, leaping into the air. Chase has not a moment to respond and the only thing he thinks to do is shut his eyes tightly before the claws of the lion delve into his flesh. Chase goes down, the lion over him… but the beast is motionless. Chase slowly opens his eyes. He’s covered in blood, but not [I]his[/I] blood. An arrow sticks out of the lion’s neck, and blood gushes from a large wound. Chase rolls the lion off of him and sits up in the grass. He sits wide-eyed, mouth gaped, unable to speak.

“So for the first time in his life the great Galileo Chase is without words.”

There, standing over the lion is Lon and his wolf Echota. The hunter extends his hand to Chase who hesitantly takes it. Lon pulls the young man up to his feet.

“I knew I recognized you before, now I’ve finally got it. I’m Lon Grosvenor.”

“Yeah, umm… thanks, for ya know… saving my life,” Chase cringes at the reluctant gratefulness he has to show this man.

Chiyoko and Ilya stand a few feet away, their faces painted with mystery and intrigue.

“So there [I]are[/I] people here!” Ilya is quite excited at not being the only people alive.

“Well hello, ladies. The name is Lon Grosvenor,” Lon removes his coon skin cap and bows to Chiyoko and Ilya.

Ilya politely curtsies in response. Chiyoko still seems a bit uneasy around this wild man.

“I hate to burst your bubble, young lady but I’m the only one around here. I came out of those ice boxes, same as you three I imagine,” Lon pulls the arrow from the Lion’s neck. Chase grimaces at the splintering sound of bone and the sloshing sound of loose meat as the arrow head dislodges itself from the lion’s muscle.

Hopelessness washes back over Ilya’s face as she begins to once again tear up. Chiyoko wraps her arms around the young girl, holding her tight.

“So is that your… wolf? Kind of stereotypical of you don’t you think? Maybe you should have had a bear or a hawk as a sidekick instead,” Chase is amused by his own wit.

“If you keep your mouth shut, you might live past today.” Lon pulls out his bowie knife and sinks it into the lion’s flesh, carving it up.

Chase turns away. This is all a little much for him. Meanwhile Echota makes himself familiar with Chiyoko and Ilya, lapping at their faces and hands.

“Is he safe?” Chiyoko asks as the wolf puts his feet up on her knocking her to the ground.

“Safe as can be… and he’s not a wolf. He’s a mutt, the bastard child of feral dogs and wolves whom I’m guessing starting mating with each other soon after whatever the Hell happened around here sent the people packing up and moving out. His name's Echota. I hope you’re all hungry, cause this lion is dinner. We’ll take him home and cook him up.” Lon continues to carve up the lion’s flesh.

“This is fantastic…” Chase rolls his eyes.

“Sarcasm… You’ll be the first one to go.” Lon smiles at Chase, whom doesn’t seem to be too comfortable with anything that’s happening.

Minutes later Lon guides our other three survivors through the thick jungle. Chase reluctantly carries an arm full of lion meat wrapped in the animal’s hide, gagging along the way.

“This is horrific,” Chase pulls his head away from the stench of the raw meat.

“Well you better get used to it, because… oh here we go… home.”

Our four survivors stand on the edge of a clearing, there in the middle is the ruins of a brick building. Over it Lon has thatched leaves for a roof and used logs and sticks to fill in the gapes left by the crumbling stone.

”Welcome to the wild”[/FONT]
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[FONT="Book Antiqua"]Thanks to the fire, and Lon's good job at insulation, the inside of the brick building was very warm. Chiyoko removed her jacket. She looked around at all of the animal furs.

"Wow, you must have been here for quite some time, Lon." She remarked.

He only nodded in agreement as he helped Chase with the lion meat. Then, Chiyoko felt something furry brush against her leg. It was Echota. She kneeled down and petted him as he licked her face.

"It's kind of hard to imagine him fighting that lion. He seems so sweet. But then again, he must be very loyal too."

Chiyoko got back up and brushed off her knees. She looked over at Chase and Ilya. If it wasn't thanks to Lon and Echota, the three of them wouldn't be standing here right now.

"Hey, I've never cooked lion before, but if you want I..."

Before Chiyoko could finish her sentence, a sharp pain interrupted her. Her cluster headache was back, and she had forgotten to tell anyone about them. She grabbed her head and paced back and forth. She thought she could hear someone talking to her.

"Chiyoko..." Was all she could make out. The pain was too great. She felt something touch her, so she tried to get outside. She had to be alone. She didn't even think of how dangerous it would be to be alone right now, with all of the other growling outside. She just had to get away.[/FONT]
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[size=1][align=justify]If there was anything worse than being stranded with idiots, it was being stranded with idiots and a creepy old man who saw himself as the Lion Man. Chase hated that show.

He surveyed his surroundings and shook his head. The resources around could have called for much better engineering of the shelter itself, but Chase couldn’t blame the old guy, he was probably part of the normal population. Or maybe just a little bit special, but hardly anything to Chase.

The wolf – scrawny thing – rubbed up against Chase’s leg but he only looked down at it and removed his foot.

He barely noticed Chiyoko leave. Instead he was stood there, idly, catching a glimpse from Ilya, who he narrowed his eyes at until she turned away. He shook his head at the old man as he was cooking the meat and hoped he would realise that even the wild would bow down to human superiority, and human superiority didn’t mean becoming the animal itself.

[b]“I’m sure you can have fun devouring a lion, but you see, most of us house more than one brain cell. Which, when used together, can solve mysteries and riddles. Like this one. Now if you’ll excuse me I’ll be off to collect something [I]useful[/I], and some information.”[/b]

Chase said to them with a slight hint of a laugh in his voice. He walked out, and didn’t speak a word, not intending to come back anytime soon.

When he walked outside he heard a noise that he thought was probably belonging to the wildlife but, immediately, realised it wasn’t. He turned around with the cigarette hanging out of his mouth and saw Chiyoko was crouching (Chase wondering why he didn’t realise she left) holding her head, as if in pain, and what a pain it looked like.

He played with the idea of being nice – offer a cigarette, a hug, some kind of medical information he knew – but he only breathed in and did the best he could.

[b]“Hey, kid,”[/b] he sighed to her rather loudly until she titled her head to indicate she heard, [b]“Lion Man gives me a headache, too. I’m off back to the lab to find some stuff – you know, something worth while. You can come along when you feel like it. Just follow the ash.”[/b]

He paused for a moment and heard her whimper, squinting at her for a moment. He had never come across something that came on so fast, unless it was a disease, which a few ran through his mind, but he decided not to ask.

Chase left her with a little sigh and wandered off back through the wilderness, keeping his eye out for all kinds of animals (he assumed they had broken out from the zoo and thrived, since lions didn’t live in marshy lands or continents of the sort). He took his surroundings in with a glance to make sure he couldn’t get lost no matter what direction he went in and found the building again, entering from the side rather than the front (as the vulture still sat there).

He took a look around and lifted his head to the roof, still dripping from the dew of… spring, he guessed. He finished his cigarette and threw it aside, deciding to make his way back down to the cryogenics lab.

Not a change in it except displaced gravel and mud. The lights still bleeped as before but even Chase could tell they were wrong, broken. He walked forward and took a look into a few of the tanks that were still on, wiping the dust at one, the gaze in and –

Chase backed away slightly when a skill stared back at him, completely limp, its marrow dusted and cracked in places to form the remains of a face that was the perfect epitome of death.

He breathed in and turned away. He thought about this, for a moment, and the date on the calendar, as well as the date the girl gave him. He knew nature took its time to rebuild, and he knew he needed more information. For now, he was going to stick with the idea that they were around three hundred or more years away. Three hundreds years after everyone was gone.

He turned to the lockers and bashed his elbow into the nearest one, against the lock. It buckled some so Chase did it again until the edges (not laced too thickly with titanium) were pushed outside, so he could jab his fingers into it and pull it open. The first locker contained a book… a [I]diary[/I].

[b]“Jean Ford…”[/b]

Chase raised his eyebrow. Jesus Christ. Jean Ford was the Frenchy he had seen on TV, once, who knew more about politics and all the problems in the world than anyone else. A pessimistic wanker. Grinning, Chase slipped the diary into the back of his pocket and processed to break the rest of the lockers.

He found nothing interesting – a sketchbook, a boring biography on Barack Obama, the life of Sodrin, photographs and a wad of cash. The last locker he came to, though, belonged to one Captain Dean Thomas.

Chase’s grin grew wider the more he found. A handgun, silver and only rusted slightly but made to last (he remembered before he was frozen the army had developed so much strong material, barely able to rust yet still effective, that it nearly threw America and England into another credit crunch). He checked the ammo and noticed it was full, which gave him around fifteen rounds, and another clip. Lovely.

He slipped that into his side pocket and left the rest.

Then he got to work with the machines. He opened up the ones that did not work and looked at their insides, powered by Monemium extracts, he thought (he had read about the theory but never seen it as he was frozen before it came into wake but he definitely recognised the structure). He found a bag from one of the lockers and began to fill it with the crystals as well as wires and chips, just in case. For safe keeping he also took the near-burnt memory chips, should he ever find a computer left alive in the world.

He sighed, and sighed, and sighed again, toying with the idea of returning yet without an explanation to what had happened.[/size][/align]
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[SIZE="1"][COLOR="DarkRed"]Sorry for holding you guys up for so long. College has proven a more worthy adversary than I had anticipated, a sentiment to which I believe Vicky can attest. :catgirl:[/COLOR][/SIZE]

[SIZE="1"]Ever since Chase had left, there was an air of unease between the two remaining inside Lon’s makeshift refuge. Lon himself maintained a distant, stoic expression as he went about the preparations of cooking the Lion meat, the look on his face making it obvious that he was not the type to indulge in idle chitchat.

Equally silent, Ilya sat across from him huddled into a ball, keeping her thoughts to herself, and outwardly doing nothing but staring blankly into the fire, which crackled and spat on occasion, but was otherwise maintaining a healthy blaze. With the meal being prepared, out of necessity, in such a primitive manner, she had all the time in the world to gather her thoughts, now that the initial horrors of the day seemed to have, for the most part, passed.

Two hundred twenty-seven years, seven months, two weeks, five days, seventeen hours, twelve minutes, and twenty-four seconds. According to what she’d felt from that statue back there, this was the [i]shortest [/i]amount of time she could’ve possibly been asleep. And, come to think of it, this was assuming that the statue had been struck by lightning upon the very moment of its completion, the odds against which were astronomical. Beyond that base number of over two hundred years, anything was possible. She could be hundreds, [i]thousands [/i]of years further into the future than she had predicted.

There seemed to be nobody left beyond her and these three strangers, and given a timeframe [i]that [/i]vast…

     …[i]anything [/i]could’ve happened.

She shook her head, trying not to think about it. If it was true that she was among the only four people left on Earth, then momma and poppa…no, best to stop right there. She knew what she was getting at, but she felt almost as if thinking about it would somehow make it more likely to be true. Adjusting herself so that the lab coat better covered her, she stared into the fire even harder, in an effort to take her mind off of her current predicament.

This worked for exactly sixteen seconds.[b]

“…Tells me it doesn’t take any smarts to catch and cook up a meal in the wild,” [/b]Lon muttered as he continued his impromptu meal. [b]“…well, we’ll see who’s well-fed in [i]these [/i]conditions by the end of the day.”

“Um…th-thank you for saving me from that lion, Mr. Grosvenor,” [/b]she said suddenly, trying to engage in conversation with the expressionless hunter. The old man looked down at her briefly while his fingers nimbly continued to work at preparing the ‘meal’, if it could be called that.[b]

“Just catching dinner, kid,” [/b]the man said gruffly, glancing briefly at her before turning back to his work. [b]“Y’just happened to be there.”

“O-oh…” [/b]Ilya trailed off, startled and uncertain whether she should feel comforted by this. [b]“Well, thank you still, in any case.” [/b]She bowed politely. The hunter absentmindedly nodded, the lines in his face showing his age, his weariness. He was old, but there was no sense of weakness about him. This was a strong man, well-lived. [i]His life must be quite a story, [/i]Ilya thought to herself as Lon continued to cut the meat of the Lion from its flesh and bones. She averted her eyes; this wasn’t the sort of thing she was used to seeing, and she found it somewhat grotesque.

Silence continued as Lon began holding a chunk of Lionmeat over the fire with a stick. It was the sort of silence that Ilya liked to think in. She closed her eyes and nodded to herself slowly, sorting out what she knew.

2149. The year marked on the calendar she had seen in that hellhole she had woken up in. Common logic dictated that if that place had indeed been some kind of laboratory, she would expect that the people there would’ve been keen to keep the date, month, and year accurately. It was obviously not 2149, but the calendar had remained on that page. So, she concluded, the [i]something [/i]that had happened here had occurred during that year. People had been gone, at least from this area, a mere seven years after she had gone unconscious; two hundred seventeen years, seven months, two weeks, five days, seventeen hours, twenty-nine minutes, and fifty-six seconds, at the very very least. She wasn’t particularly well-educated on advanced biology, certainly not in long-term progressive natural growth, but from what she’d seen outside, she strongly suspected that the numbers were, in fact, far larger.

And all this was neglecting an even more puzzling question: how had [i]she [/i]come to be in a place like this in the first place? The last thing she recalled before her awakening here was feeling suddenly weak, and falling down the grand stairwell at home. She had awoken to this; what seemed to be an overgrown city, devoid of human life, and apparently two hundred twenty-four or more years later than her last consciously-formed memory.[b]

“Now that there are other people here, I suppose this lion gets split five ways,” [/b]she heard Lon mutter under his breath, breaking her concentration. He didn’t sound particularly happy about it.[b]

“I’m sorry that we’re imposing on you like this,” [/b]she apologized. [b]“…If it’s a burden, please don’t feel obliged to accommodate [i]me[/i], at least.”

[/b]Lon handed her the first piece of cooked meat. [b]“Shut up and eat. Looks like it’s just us four here, n’ I don’t need a kid dyin’ of hunger on my conscience.” [/b]He sounded irritated, but he was offering it to her nonetheless, and it would be rude not to accept it.[b]

“Thank you, sorry…” [/b]she didn’t know what to say first, as she gingerly accepted the food. [b]“…thank you.” [/b]It wasn’t quite what she was expecting, but the Lionmeat was filling at least, and with some food in her stomach, she felt refreshed. There was plenty of Lion to go around, but she probably wouldn’t be able to eat anymore. She simply huddled closer to the fire, taking in the smell of cooking meat and basking in the warmth of the blaze.[b]

“If you’re full, you should get the others,” [/b]Lon said after a few minutes, still cooking up hunks of fresh meat. [b]“It’ll get dark soon, and out here in the wild, the night is when the [i]real [/i]predators come out.” [/b]The prospect sent chills down Ilya’s spine. [b]“They can’t have gone far, but you’d best hurry, just to be safe,” [/b]Lon added indifferently, almost as though he couldn’t really care less if any of them made it back. Ilya nodded hesitantly, before getting up and taking a peep out the doorway of the makeshift shelter.

Chiyoko was crouching down nearby, clutching her head tightly. She looked like she was in pain, so Ilya ran over. [b]“Are you okay, Mrs. Chiyoko…?” [/b]she asked, beginning to put a hand on her shoulder before stopping. No telling what she’d see, and it would be better to ask permission first. Chiyoko didn’t seem to hear her, and she repeated herself a few more times. [b]“Mr. Grosvenor said we should come inside, and that it’ll be getting dark out soon,” [/b]she urged, looking upward. The sun was still fairly high in the air, but she could still tell that nightfall would be approaching swiftly, soon.[b]

“I…I-I’ll be…in in a b-bit...” [/b]Chiyoko managed to say, gritting her teeth to get the sound out. [b]“D-don’t worry…I’ll ex-plain later,” [/b]she added. Ilya nodded. She set about searching for Chase. She suspected the first place he’d go would be back to that lab-like place, and the lingering smell of smoke that she followed seemed to attest to this, so she set out to find him before it got dark.[/SIZE]
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[FONT="Book Antiqua"]Chiyoko watched as Ilya walked away. If she could focus on anything besides the pain, she would have felt bad for not being able to explain herself to Ilya. But right now, all she could worry about was her headache.

Chiyoko cried out. It felt like someone was slowly hammering a hot nail into her head. She cried out again. It was all she could do to ignore the pain. Well, besides slamming her head into a wall repeatedly. But she had already tried that when she was young, and she swore to herself that no matter how bad the pain she wouldn't do it again. However, that just got her thinking about her old life before the project...

[I]"Taro! Taro come here!" Chiyoko's mom cried out.
She had just discovered Chiyoko slamming her head into the wall and screaming. Taro, her father ran into the room and stopped her from hurting herself anymore. They took her to the doctor right away.

"What's the matter with her doctor? I've never seen anything like this." Her father asked, quietly.

The doctor frowned, looked at a chart in his hand and crossed his arms.

"I'm afraid that your daughter is suffering from a disease known as cluster headaches. It strikes at regular times for years depending on the person, and will only stop for a week or a few months but that also depends on the person. What is strange though is, this disease should only strike middle aged males that drink and smoke. I cannot tell you right now why your daughter is affected."
Chiyoko remembered her mother crying to the doctor, asking him to do something...[/I]

Finally, the headache went away. It felt like it took hours, but it must have only lasted for twenty minutes. Ilya wasn't even back yet. Chiyoko headed back to the shelter, almost turning around and going to find Ilya. But more lions were probably out here, and if so she would need Lon's help or she wouldn't get so far. Then again though, neither would Ilya...Chiyoko moved faster and made it into the shelter.

"Where are the others?" Lon asked.

Chiyoko looked towards the door. "Still out there..."

She just hoped that they were still safe.[/FONT]
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[FONT="Book Antiqua"]Lon looks out into the fading light, and then at Chiyoko.

”The darkness is not a safe place. Where did they go?” Lon asks her.

“I don’t know, but we should go and find them,” Chiyoko blurts out.

“That son of a bitch will get us all killed with his antics…” Lon clenches his fist.

”Let’s go and find them!” Chiyoko insists.

“…No… it’ll be dark in a matter of minutes, and I can’t risk my life for them. But if he comes back alive without that little girl he’ll wish he was still in that freezer,” Lon grits his teeth and storms back into the hut.

This answer does not satisfy Chiyoko and she follows Lon back inside.

”We have to go after them; the four of us is all that’s left!” Chiyoko screams.

Lon doesn’t answer and just stares into the fire. Echota nuzzles up against his arm, and a look of despair washes over the old hunter’s face.

”Leave,” Lon mutters nearly under his breath.

”What?” Chiyoko is unsure of what Lon means.

“I want you to leave… now,” Lon stands up, towering over Chiyoko, the light of the fire bathing both of them in shadows.

”You… you can’t mean that! I’ll die out there!” Chiyoko backs away from Lon slowly.

”Not my problem… None of this was my problem. I knew I should have just left all of you alone,” Lon says nearly under his breath.

“At least let me wait until morning, please! I’ll leave in the morning!” Chiyoko pleads with Lon.

Lon grabs the girl’s arm and drags her out of the hut. Chiyoko kicks and screams along the way.

”Do you hear that?” Lon covers Chiyoko’s mouth.

The eerie growls and grumbles of countless beasts surround them, in the darkness of the jungle.

”Your fear, your noise, your presence… has drawn the entire wilderness to my doorstep. If you stay here until morning we’ll both be dead.” Lon releases Chiyoko’s arm and turns to walk inside.

Chiyoko attempts to run back inside of the hut.

”Echota!” Lon calls out the name of his faithful companion.

Echota bolts for the doorway just as Lon passes inside. Suddenly this wolf isn’t the harmless pet Chiyoko knew before. Echota bares his teeth, growling between them, snapping at the air. He’s not going to let this girl inside. Chiyoko now feels more alone then she thought she could. She slowly backs away from Echota and the hut; she backs away into the jungle, into the darkness…

Lon sits back down by the fire in silence; Echota lies down next to him. The old man thinks over what he’s done. He thinks about how things were easier when he was alone… but he [I]was[/I] alone. He had forgotten the sound of someone else’s voice, the feel of someone else’s skin, the pain of someone else’s tears. Yes… it was easier to be alone… easier for the old hunter to be the only one. And when time and old age have forsaken him and he can no longer hunt, run, survive, live… no one will mourn him, no one will cry over him or miss him when he’s gone. It’s easier this way…

”No…” Lon rises to his feet and rushes out of the hut. ”Hello?! Hello!? Are you out there?!”


Lon darts back inside and returns a moment later with his accessories. He slings his bow and quiver over his shoulder, slides his bowie knife into its sheath and tightens the sash made of hide around his waist. He looks down at Echota.

”I’m an old fool, boy. But now we’re going to remedy that.”

Lon steps into the night with his wolf… into the wild, and to certain death.[/FONT]
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[size=1][align=justify]He vaguely recalled (to others it was a total recollection) that song he once heard, by Nine Inch Nails, as he shifted through the piles of crap and decay on the open floor of the lab, through tables and broken chairs. It was getting dark now but he didn?t care too much, because human was smarter than beast, and if humanity could subdue to wild once it could do it again.

[b]?And you can have it all, my empire of dirt??[/b] he muttered under his breath picking up a rusted screw driver and throwing it into the bag. He knew all he had to contend with was an old man - who could try and hide up stupidity with wildness but was still, at heart, stupid ? until Chase himself was the empire of dirt.

He had collected a nice little lot so far ? the gun, some documents, the wires and computer chips, a screw driver, a whistle and a thick plastic water bottle.

Chase looked up all of a sudden at the snapping of branches outside. He placed his thumb just over his armed pocket, ready to draw and shoot if he had to. He saw a head appear from outside, poking in from the hole that had been bashed through the bricks; Chase growled in annoyance, seeing it was Ilya, probably looking for him.

[b]?Past your bedtime. What?re you doing here??[/b]

Ilya walked into the lab and took a look around before turning to Chase. [b]?I said I would come and find you, because it?s -?[/b]

[b]?Getting dark. I know.?[/b] Chase only laughed. [b]?I don?t need Lion Man to survive the night, and neither do you. We keep these bitches as pets, and they ain?t so tough because they?re [I]wild[/I]. Just like the old guy ain?t so tough because he?s [I]wild[/I].?[/B]

Chase was about to mentally slap himself for talking to the girl but, at the moment, he didn?t care too much. If he let them all die they he wouldn?t have anyone to talk to when they were gone.

[b]?But wouldn?t it be wise to have someone like that with us??[/b]

[b]?Depends if you wanna be the Master or the Servant. We?re not animals so why act like one? We?re the last of a master race and I intend to show everyone of these fuckin? wolves and cats that we?re still the top even in four numbers.?[/B]

He threw the last of what he was collecting in his bag and turned to her, sighing again. He walked over to the outside and leaned against the bricks, staring at her.

[b]?It took one man to invent the light bulb. So how much do you think [I]we[/I] can do, with all these resources around now? The construction is complex but I know that, at some point, we?ll have guns and weapons of mass destruction to rule the planet until we die. So at least we can leave with a bang.?[/B]

Chase wasn?t trying to talk to her like an equal, he was trying to scare her, and it almost looked as if it worked. He grinned and licked the side of his lips, tossing the bag over his shoulder and stepping out.

[b]?What?s it going to be, kid? Are you a Master or a Servant??[/B]

He didn?t actually wait for an answer and carried on walking (his heavy footsteps interrupting any answer she could have given). Ilya followed him and it was now getting far too dark, mostly only the sun setting and the stars in the sky. Chase traced his path back through the woods and came to a figure he recognised as Chiyoko? since she was bloody hard to miss.

[b]?Hey kid, what you doin? out here? Lion Man scare you off??[/b] he shouted, but Chiyoko didn?t move.

Her eyes seemed to be fixed on something in the heap of grass and vegetation, transfixed and glued to the spot with fear. After some time, Chase caught the sound of low and feral growls, as did Ilya, who yelped and covered her mouth.

Chase wasn?t too afraid, his thumb on the tip of the gun in his pocket, moving forward as quietly as he could. He came only a few metres behind Chiyoko and followed her gaze but, the gazes staring back, where not yellow or the eyes of wolves. They were brown with only the slightest hint of blue, and a growl that was feral but not instinctively wild. They were the descendants of domesticated dogs.

He began to back away and Chiyoko looked at him almost with disgust, thinking of him as a coward now. He backed away from the dogs, Chiyoko and Ilya, as far back as he could, and watched the dogs work their way forward (definitely descendants of the domesticated, with all their mixed German Shepherd furs and smaller statures).

He reached into his bag and pulled out the whistle and, before the dogs could advance on her anymore. Their heads turned to the sound and eyes widened at Chase, but it wasn?t of fear and offence, it was of familiarity; all dogs, wolves or no, could hear a whistle but domesticated dogs had it almost bred into them by the 22nd century to listen and adhere the sound.

They had turned to Chase now but the instinct of murder couldn?t be surpassed by a whistle. Their eyes turned, once again, murderous, but seemed to ignore Chiyoko for now. Before they could leap on him Chase blew the whistle again, briefly, and threw it into the trees. The dogs followed it and leapt away after it, chasing cars again but never knowing what to do when they caught it.

[b]?Any other dogs will want to know what that was, you two can stick around here like sheep or come with me.?[/b]

He had run off as quickly as he could in the direction of the statue, recalling how tall the base was and that it was made of marble. He heard the two following them and, because they were so close, it didn?t take long for them to appear at the front of the lab entrance. A few birds dispersed themselves from the area when Chase appeared and, to his relief, the vultures had retired.

He came to the base of the statue heaving heavily, looking up to notice it was almost two and half times he height. He only glanced back briefly at the two and took out the gun and a long, long piece of tough fibre wire (he knew this stuff, invented in his birth year that could be pulled by three lorries either side and still hold itself together, invented by a guy who got pissed off with flimsy computer wires).

Chase tied the gun to the end of the wire and spun it around in a circle, realising it and aiming for the arm of the statue but missing first time. He tried again and got it, the gun clicking against the arm. He realised some of the wire and let the gun drop back to his level, untying it and grabbing both sides of the rope now to pull himself up.

He slipped a few times on the marble base but found it relatively easy once his boots touched the statue ? the gruff, eroded metal was like mountain climbing, really. The arm of the statue was thick enough for him to sit there and very close to a heavy tree branch which, incidentally, also led to the roof of the lab; if Ilya and Chiyoko couldn?t fit on the statue, they could sit in the tree, or sit on the roof.

He tied the rest of the wire securely around the arm and, fully aware of all the growls coming from the trees and shadows, motioned for the two girls.

[b]?Try and get yourselves up here, but I?m not coming back down.?[/b] He told them. [b]?I?ll pull the kid up.?[/b]

Oh god. He was being far too nice.

He just knew he wasn?t going to help Lion Man up at all if he arrived.[/size][/align]
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[SIZE="1"]As she looked up at Chase, extending his hand down to hoist her up even as Chiyoko somehow managed to get some footing on the statue and make her own way up, she saw the sky, the last hues of blue fading slowly to black. Nightfall had come earlier than expected. Ilya cursed her poor judgment of the time. Tucking her hand into the sleeve of the lab coat so as to make sure not to make direct contact with him, Ilya grabbed Chase? hand and closed her eyes as he hauled her up onto the statue. She allowed herself a moment to be surprised at the notion that Chase would help her, as opposed to simply leaving her for the dogs. Provided that they got out of this mess, she had to make sure to thank him later.

Still, what an [i]awfully [/i]rude man! There was no need for such vulgar language, even in such a situation as this. No cultured, self-respecting individual should ever use foul language. [i]It reflects poor character, [/i]mother said. Ilya peered cautiously at Chase, careful not to catch his eye, lest she anger him by looking at him. He was endlessly self-confident, arrogant, rude, and seemed to be massively egotistical ? everything that her parents had raised her [i]not [/i]to be. And yet, she owed him the respect of one whose life has been saved by another, just as much as she owed Mr. Grosvenor her respect, as distant and sour as he seemed.

But wait?if Mrs. Chiyoko was [i]here[/i], then surely Mr. Grosvenor wouldn?t be too far behind, right? Ilya looked down. One by one, pairs of glimmering eyes were beginning to gather around the base of the statue. She silently prayed that he wasn?t coming after them. Perhaps he was a skilled hunter, but, looking down, Ilya could only see certain death for anyone on the ground who caught the animals? attention.

As Chiyoko grabbed hold of the tree branch and relocated herself into the nearby tree, Ilya wondered how this had come to be. The ferocity with which these wolf-dog-things had attacked made it clear, at least in her mind, that the world that she was now in was a dangerous one. ?Kill or be killed?. ?Dog eat dog?. She?d read the lines in so many books, but they?d always seemed so trite, so blatantly cliché and overly-dramatic. Looking down now into the eyes of the pack, which were slowly beginning to circle the base of the statue, Ilya saw, for the first time in her life, what the meaning behind those words was.

This was an environment far removed from anything resembling her life up until now. Here, things were serious, and there was a very real possibility that any further mistakes she made could very well cost her her life. Her breath grew shorter ? she could feel the panic starting to well up around the edges of her mind.

[b] ?If [i]I[/i] were you, I?d probably want to go ahead and get onto the roof right about now,? [/b]Chase noted with a matter-of-fact tone, indicating the ledge several feet away, accessible (if one could consider it that) through a hefty branch from the tree that Chiyoko was situated in. Ilya looked at the space, judging. It wasn?t that far away, and this statue wasn?t terribly tall (or at least, retrospectively, it could?ve been a [i]lot [/i]taller), but at the same time, her legs felt weak, she wasn?t good at balancing, and the height of the drop, while admittedly not that much, was still a good five times her height.

And even if the fall didn?t kill her, it would probably leave her too injured to escape the dogs, who would?

Best not to think about it. Even as horrifying as the prospect was, she could even now sense that she was losing her balance from the statue?s shoulder. She wouldn?t be able to stay in this position for very long. She nodded, cautiously, slowly maneuvering her way over to the tree branch. It was difficult, and she felt herself lose her grip a few times, but she somehow managed to safely get herself onto the branch. Doing her best to ignore the rising sound of growling coming from below, she carefully made her way out onto the branch, before hopping off and landing safely on the roof of the building. She swelled with pride for her accomplishment, allowing her heart to stop racing. [b]?What now?? [/b]she asked, looking down. The way in which the dogs below paced around the statue and the tree seemed to suggest that they would be perfectly happy to keep vigil until their new prey had to come down from their lofty havens.

[b]?They?ll give up after a little bit to go find some easier food,? [/b]Chase shrugged nonchalantly. [b]?So,? [/b]he added brightly, with a defiant, sarcastic tone that suggested that he thought that all of this was some kind of game, [b]?Who?s up for a game of ?I spy???

Ilya was appalled. [b]?How can you say something like that at a time like this?!? [/b]she asked. [b]?We?re in danger, and we don?t even know what?s going on, where we are!? [/b]all of the questions and doubts that had been welling up in the back of her mind suddenly came pouring out without warning. [b]?What is all of this? Where am I, and how did I get here??

[b] ?This sure is a hell of a time to be getting worked up over the details,? [/b]Chase muttered under his breath.

[b] ?Ilya, please settle down for a moment, you?re going too fast,? [/b]Chiyoko said, trying to calm Ilya down a bit.

[b] ?And lower the damn volume, while you?re at it,? [/b]Chase added.[b] ?Every animal within miles of here could?ve heard that.?

[b] ?The first thing I remember about being in this..this [i]place [/i]is waking up in some kind of frozen laboratory, having just come out of a [i]coffin[/i], and, and?-?

[b] ?That was your cryopod,? [/b]Chase cut in, as if this was perfectly obvious, [b]?Don?t you remember??

[b] ?I don?t remember [i]anything [/i]like that!? [/b]Ilya sobbed. [b]?I?ve read about cryostasis, of course, but I?ve never been in a facility that supported that kind of technology! I fell down the stairwell at home! [i]That?s all I remember!!!?

[b] ?You don?t remember being put into cryostasis? That?s odd, the doctors said there shouldn?t be any damage to our memories?? [/b]Chiyoko observed, recalling her own procedure.

[b] ?She probably passed out when she took her little trip down the stairs or whatever,? [/b]Chase openly theorized. He swund his leg over the arm of the statue to get more comfortable as he situated himself to face Ilya. [b]?Alright, for the sake of shutting you the hell up, I?ll explain. I?m only gonna say this once, so pay attention and commit it to memory, like I [i]know [/i]you can.? [/b]Ilya nodded in response. [b]?Alright, they?d been freezing people for a while before?[i]this[/i]...happened,? [/b]he indicated [i]this [/i]with a sweeping arm gesture at the state of the city around them. [b]?I don?t know what time this happened to you, but a bunch of government leaders started up this thing called the ?Sustainable Future Programme?. You with me so far? Just checking.? [/b]Chase didn?t stop to check. [b]?They started putting exceptionally gifted, rich, or the sick and dying people into cryogenesis in hope for a better future or something like that. Judging from your?[i]abilities[/i]?I?m probably gonna say they put you in for the former, although if you say you passed out in your house, I suppose the latter could be equally possible.?

All of this took Ilya completely by surprise, but somehow it rang true in her mind. She was aware of the program?s existence, and it certainly explained that nightmare that had been her first experience in this new world. [b]?So they just?put me into cryopreservation without asking me first??

[b] ?You were unconscious, remember?? [/b]Chase said irately, as though he felt he was repeating himself too much.

[b] ?Someone probably got permission from your parents,? [/b]Chiyoko offered, trying to be helpful. [b]?I?m sure they thought it would be in your best interest, considering the possible circumstances. They probably just put you into the program to help you.?

[b] ??Or to dissect your brain,? [/b]Chase added sarcastically, turning back around to face the street and keep watch for any change in the situation below. Ilya didn?t catch the sarcasm in Chase? tone, and the notion sent shivers down her spine. [i]Well, [/i]she thought to herself, returning her gaze downward, before averting it up into the sky as she saw the hungry gleam in the dogs? eyes, [i]now I know the truth about how I got here, at least.

A tear welled up in her eye. To tell the truth, she wished she hadn?t asked.[/SIZE]

[SIZE="1"][COLOR="DarkRed"]I don't know about this one. It felt kind of awkward to me. Tell me if anything about this post felt a bit...off to you too. On a side note, guess who managed to work out how to code paragraph indentation! :catgirl:[/COLOR][/SIZE]
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[FONT="Book Antiqua"]Chiyoko was worried about Ilya, but she didn't say anything further since she seemed to be deep in thought. It was strange though, that she had no memories of being put in the cryostasis. Did the whole procedure damage Ilya's memories, even though the doctors said nothing like that should have happened? Or was that really a bad fall and Ilya had been in a coma when her parents agreed to put their daughter in the project? Chiyoko shook her head at Chase's sarcastic remark, especially since it didn't seem to get through to Ilya as being sarcastic.

"Leave her alone, Chase." Chiyoko said quietly, silently trailing off since he didn't seem to be listening.

It didn't seem to be such a good time for scolding anyways. The dogs' growls were getting louder. It seemed that Chase was right about all of the animals hearing Ilya. More dogs were coming, or it at least sounded like that was the case since the growls seemed to be getting more frequent.

"There's got to be..." Chiyoko stopped mid-sentence, as she tried to think.

There had to be some way off this roof. Chiyoko didn't expect Lon to come to their rescue again, especially because of the way he had talked to her earlier. But she didn't want to tell either Ilya or Chase about that. Ilya didn't need more things to worry about, and she had a feeling Chase wouldn't even care. Or if he did care, he wouldn't show it. Chiyoko started walking around, causing Chase to ask her why she was so restless.

"I'm not going to just sit here. There's got to be a way out of here."

Chiyoko sighed. Things weren't looking good. Sure they could just wait it out, but who knew how long the dogs would be there. Also, they had to get down and get something to eat soon. Thanks to her headache, Chiyoko had left before she got a chance to eat any of the lion. Her stomach rumbled, but it wasn't loud enough to be heard over the growl of the dogs. They had to get out of here soon...[/FONT]
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[FONT="Book Antiqua"]The wild rumbled with hunger. Lon and Echota made their way back to the laboratory where he had first encountered the others. He could feel countless prowling eyes on him. He was used to living out here, but this was different. He knew better then to come out at night. What had he gotten himself into? With his hand on his Bowie, and his faithful companion by his side the old hunter inched closer to the lab.

“I think it’s time to use that Indian Cigar, boy.”

Lon reached into his bow quiver and pulled out a small bundle of brush wrapped in dried bark, tied together with long grass. He knelt on the ground and struck a small piece of flint off of his knife. It sparked and in a matter of moments the bundle was glowing like a torch. The old man held it high and continued on his path. He made his way to the clearing, where they had encountered the mountain lion just hours before. With the sigh before him his heart began beating out his chest, his palms sweating and his nerves jumping high.

“Oh dear God no…”

Lon stopped dead in his tracks as he saw the pack of feral dogs circling around the statue, and Chase, Ilya, and Chiyoko holding on for dear life atop the stone base. The dogs growled and nipped at each other as they furiously jumped at the stone, at our survivors, trying to pull them down. The old man knew he had to do something. Every instinct in his body told him to turn back, go home, just leave, but he didn’t… he couldn’t, not this time.

“It’s time to see what kind of man I really am, boy.”

Lon reached back and with all of his might threw his bundle of burning grass and wood into the air. It hit the ground among the dogs and burst open, throwing sparks and flames in every direction. The sparse, yet tall grass around the statue began to catch fire and soon the dogs were forced into smaller groups, divided by the growing flames. Lon then removed his quiver and bow, and slid an arrow into the string. He pulled it tightly back, but then… PAIN!

A crushing pain overtook the old man and he dropped to his knees, crying out in agony. This noise was enough to catch the attention of the already distressed dogs. Their quest for the prey atop the statue had proved too dangerous, but this old, dying man would be a much easier target. Lon gripped his chest tightly; tears welled in his eyes. Then he noticed the dogs making their way quickly in his direction. The fire began to spread as well; the flames were now wild, taking over the brush, and licking the edges of the tall trees.

“Echota, go home, boy”

The wolf just whimpered and nudged at his master’s arm, while the dogs closed in by the second.

“Echota… Go home!”

His faithful companion did not heed him, and now the entire pack of ravenous dogs was upon the old hunter. Echota growled and snapped, keeping the dogs off of the old man for a few moments, just long enough for the beasts to circle both of them; all the while the flames crawled ever closer. If Lon didn’t get his strength back, even if the dogs didn’t get him, the fire would. The dogs tightened the perimeter by the second, moving in for the kill, their mouths foaming, eyes wild, and minds gone mad from the evils of this unnatural apocalyptic world.

The dogs on the outside of the circle began to be consumed in the growing fires. Their cries pierced the night air as their fellow pack members feasted on their burning flesh. The fire blurred Lon’s vision, a fact of which Lon was now thankful for , the death cries of Echota were too much for the old man to bear, he took solace in not seeing them tear apart his K-9 friend . When they had finished with his fallen companion they would move on to him. It wouldn’t be long now. Death was upon him.[/FONT]
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[SIZE="1"]Fire. The warmth rises up into the trees, up to the roof, and carries smoke along with it, inking out the remaining light from above. Only the ground ? glowing now with the orange light of spreading fire ? provides a source of light for me to see.

And I see. With chaos unfolding below, and the howls of hunger and pain and fear screaming out from the pack of wild dogs, I see [i]everything[/i]. In that hellish glow of flames, I see as Mr. Grosvenor?s companion bravely stands by his side to the very end, lashing out angrily at the pack of ravenous wolf-dogs surrounding them. I see the flames grow closer ? the circle of wild animals grow tighter. I even see, in those last moments, the one dog leap, just out of Echota?s reach, to pounce on the loyal wolf.

I [i]see [/i]it. Every instinct, every desire in my mind screams at me to turn away, but I am somehow compelled. I watch. Watch as even as he is clawed at, torn at, bitten at, he lashes out, still fighting even now, digging deep furrows into the face of the one that pounced on him. I see redness begin to outline the movements, almost too swift to see. It seems to last an eternity, but in reality what I am seeing surely must be happening in the blink of an eye. I?m [i]enthralled [/i]in the moment, overcome by fear and horror and regret. My eyes remain fixated even as that sudden, vital burst of red blossoms out, and, for the first time in my life, I truly see death.

I blink, and notice the wetness across my eyes, the beginning of a tear forming in the corner. This shouldn?t be happening. A mere eleven minutes and thirty-two seconds ago, we were all safe, thanks to that very man down there and his brave companion. Now he is mere moments away from possibly being torn apart, if not burned alive. I never should have followed Mr. Chase out here ? no, that?s not right. None of us should be out here in the first place.

Mr. Grosvenor is going to die. This is a simple, inescapable fact. Between fire and fang, there is no hope for him; he came to save us, but there is nobody to save him. I looked down at myself ? physically weak, inept at fighting, and practically naked. What use am I?
And yet, I?m the closest one, and Mr. Chase probably won?t do it anyways.

[b] ?We have to save him!? [/b]I shout over the din of the fire below and the wild dogs beyond. I can feel my heart racing, my vision blurring.

[b] ?I ain?t going down [i]there[/i]!? [/b]Chase yells back, pointing at the flames licking at the base of the statue. He shakes his head. [b]?Crazy girl, this is no time to go playing stupid!? [/b]I shake my head, horrified at Chase? attitude at a time like this. I look pleadingly at Chiyoko, but she?s having problems of her own; the rising ash has burnt out most of the leaves on her branch, and the wood will catch fire once it finishes drying out. It?s up to me.


I see something metallic gleaming orange in Chase? pocket, something that wasn?t there when he left Mr. Grosvenor?s shelter. I recognize the handle of a pistol; I?ve read about pistols, naturally, and my father was something of a collector so I know the design. Mr. Chase probably found it while he was rummaging around. I glance back down to Mr. Grosvenor, measure the distance between us and him, between the dogs and him. If I can get a hold of that gun?

Mr. Chase isn?t paying attention to me; his gaze fixed below on the developing chaos. I have to be quick. Without making any sound, I hop back onto the branch and quickly cross back to the statue. I can feel the heat radiating upwards, washing over my body, but just now, in this moment, I don?t have time to be scared. Without thinking, without any wasted or unnecessary movements, I reach over to Mr. Chase? pocket, grab the handle of the weapon, turn around, and bolt back down the branch, onto the building. It is all one fluid motion, and in total, takes three point two seconds. By the time Chase turns around and shouts [b]?What the fuck do you think you?re doing?!?[/b], I?m already over the gap between the branch and the building.

[b] ?Get back here!? [/b]Chase shouts. I don?t have time to listen. Below is covered in fire, and simply jumping down to the ground would probably be the death of me. I race along the edge of the building, and a solution presents itself in the form of a fire escape. I veer my course, running madly down the stairs, running hard into the outer edge once or twice, but never losing a step ? I don?t have time. My heart is racing wildly to match the frantic beat of my steps against the rusty metal, which creaks in complaint and threatens to shatter under even my light weight at any second.

Ground. The sidewalk is cracked and overgrown with grass, which helps lessen the pain on my feet as I go back around the building, back to that orange-hued hell. And, as I round that corner, the heat from the flames rushing out to welcome me back, for just a brief moment, somewhere in the back of my mind I become dimly aware of exactly how stupid and crazy what I?m trying to do is. Heart racing, adrenaline coursing through me, I pick up my pace before stopping ? the dogs are still advancing slowly toward Mr. Grosvenor, still unable to move. Only one or two more seconds, at most. Time?s up. I raise my arm, taking aim.

And I feel the world suddenly slow down, as if my body is focusing all its energy into this one last moment. I become aware of a lot of things in that last moment. The feel of the cool steel under my hand, the history of the pistol resonating in my mind. I see things like targets, like the kind you would expect to find at a shooting range. Clay discs. The former owner of this gun must?ve been a professional or a policeman. I recall the days that papa would take me out back and let me fire off a round or two of his favorite Makalov. I feel my heartbeat reach a manic threshold, and the blood in my temples thrums, my vision going red with dizziness before everything becomes crystal clear.

Three rounds. Without thinking, breathing, or even consciously aiming, I fire three rounds. The closest three dogs go down. Through sheer luck, or maybe somehow through the countless hours of practice on the part of this pistol?s previous owner, all three bullets found their target. I take another step closer. [b]?Get away from him!? [/b]I shout, accentuating my demand with another shot. Another dog goes down, a hole where it?s left eye had been. The rest of the pack turns to face me as I continue to slowly close distance. Cold, numb, and with a perfectly calm mind, I take two more shots, every motion automatic. A knee shatters, a lung collapses. Two more go down. The pack turns its attention away from Mr. Grosvenor.

To me.

Facing the gleaming eyes of thirteen natural-born killers, the cold-blooded instinct inside me fades, and I become aware of something that should have been obvious to me in the first place. This is hopeless. They say animals can smell fear. I tremble, the gun in my hand wavering. There is a dangerous moment as twenty-six eyes stare at me, and I look back. I don?t know why I feign fearlessness, staring back at them like that, re-steadying my aim. Animals are below the threshold of intimidation.
Slowly, the first dog turns and backs away, growling with its tail between its legs. One by one, the rest follow their ?leader?. I breathe for the first time in forty-one seconds.

[b] ?Are?a-are you okay, Mr. Grosvenor?? [/b]I ask as I reach him. He?s clutching at his chest, out of breath.

[b] ?Echota?? [/b]he replies. I look behind me; the advancing flames are consuming the fallen as they go, and I am able to make out the remains of Echota, more torn apart than the others, before his body is overcome by the fire.

[b] ??I-I?m sorry?? [/b]is all I manage to say. [b]?Can you stand?? [/b]The man nods and slowly rises to his feet, but the lines on his face are creased in concentration and pain. I do my best to help him up, but he?s much too heavy for me, and I can?t help him more than a few feet further away from the flames. I turn and look up to Chase and Miss Chiyoko, both watching me intently with mixed expressions of rage, horror, and perhaps maybe even relief. Well, the latter only from Chiyoko, but even so, it?s there. [b]?Please come help get him to safety!? [/b]I call. My voice is rough and raspy, and with that knowledge comes the rest of what I?d been ignoring as I rushed to help Mr. Grosvenor. Every fiber of my body is screaming for rest, my heart hasn?t slowed its frantic pace. I?m shaking, and I can?t catch my breath. My legs are numb ? I could fall over where I stand now.

[b] ?Like Hell!? [/b]is the reply I get. Chase, naturally. [b]?It?s still way too dangerous to get down from here, and-?

[b] ?Fire escape. Over there. Do it.? [/b]Exhausted, overrun with anger, sorrow, and guilt, I?m unable to maintain my calm. I raise the gun again. [b]??Now.?

[b] ?Alright, alright, I get it!? [/b]Chase complains irately, throwing up his arms in frustration. [b]?Jeeze, kids these days?? [/b]He helps Miss Chiyoko from her tree just as the end of the branch begins to catch fire, and makes his way, with her following, over onto the building, before heading off to the fire escape, disappearing from view altogether.

I sigh, and step back, the cold pistol falling from my numb fingers, before losing the remaining feeling in my legs and falling back down myself. Mr. Grosvenor kneels down slowly, his face still contorted in pain, and looks down at me. [b]?I suppose you saved me, then, huh,? [/b]he grumbles. The usual grate of irritation and age is still there in his voice, but I can tell that he?s being sincere.

[b] ?That?s one-for-one,? [/b]I reply with a weak smile. [b]?We?w-we?re even now, okay??

It?s a poor joke, but he smiles anyway. [b]?Yeah?? [/b]he says, and I can almost make out a smile on that old, weathered face, [b]?Sounds good.? [/b]I smile, and exhaustion finally overtakes me. [/SIZE]

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[center][font=lucida sans Unicode][size=4]Honey and Sulphur[/size]


[align=justify]Diary of Jean Ford
20th September, 2130
Chinese Border Control

I assume that, even with the horrible political tag-team going on with Korea and China at the moment, I would be allowed to continue my stay in this country. The tension between the United States and the possible new rising super power - that being Korea, China and a few lands of the Russia's new found glory - is too tight to even comment on. Threats are being thrown back and forth but aren't being covered by the media by order of both sides; you have to have been there to hear it.

Unfortunately I am stuck on the border at the moment with nowhere to go and not enough money for a plane ticket (the raid in the hotel was fast and swift and didn't leave me time to collect everything). I have tried to convince the Chinese Border Police to allow me back in, under observation, to collect my belongings, but they simply said that they will not allow Latins (I'm assuming they mean [i]descendants[/i] of the Latins) into their country - they said I belong in the Westworld.

This reminds me all too much of Nazi Germany.

Viva Novus Ordo Seclorum.[/font]


[size=1]He was so lucky he could read French. There was something to be said about being a genius in a world where no one could appreciate it - every day was a new dawn but there was no face of yours on TV, not phonecalls from producers, no media coverage, no brainwashing, no remains of the frenzy life of reality television which was actually your own front door and, above all, no government and no man behind the curtain. It was all gone. It had all fallen, the system was gone; he would have been glad to see it but he'd missed it and now he was left with the end of days.

Chase closed the diary and sighed. After the whole episode of burning fire and dying dogs they decided to retreat into the lab where the wolves stayed clear, Chase dragging Ilya and Chiyoko taking Lon?s arm over her shoulder. They had slept on the floor but Chase hadn?t slept too much, too angry to actually sleep, but knowing what he was going to do. He had been almost an idiot for not realising that, being a smart girl, Ilya was going to get the upper hand. Unless she was afraid. And if she was afraid she wouldn?t wrong him, but that fear was only secure if the others didn?t know.

The fire they had managed to make in the centre of the falling lab flickered out and Chase looked through the gap in the world as the run rose above buildings in the far distance. He placed the diary back in his pocket and looked over at Ilya, curled up with her back against a knocked over table. Her eyes opened a little and she blinked, but closed them again. Chase looked around him; Lon was too injured to be awake at this time, sleeping and snoring, and Chiyoko, the only threat, seemed content wrapped up in animal skin in the corner.

He got up and snuck towards Ilya quietly, the gun lay beside her (Chase hadn?t taken it off her yet). He whipped it up and, in lightning speed, threw his hand over her mouth. Ilya gasped and raised her arms, to which Chase quickly grabbed her wrists together and threw them down.

[b]?If you scream I kill you,?[/b] he whispered, [b]?I wouldn?t want to kill a child, but if you [I]scream[/I], I will.?[/B]

Ilya nodded and Chase slowly removed his hand. He traced the gun along the side of her face and pressed it into her temple, Ilya whimpering back at him.

[b]?Listen, kid, I?ve got no desire to make a rift between us lot. But I do have one desire, and that?s to keep what?s mine? mine.?[/b] He began. [b]?I will help you live and I will use my smarts to keep us alive but I won?t let any rats take my place. Now, you?ll listen to me or I?ll kill you. All the time. I say jump you don?t say how high, you just do.?[/B]

He brought his face close to hers and sneered to make his point, glancing around to make sure everyone was asleep. Licking his lips he continued with a Chesire-cat grin on his face;

[b]?You don?t steal from my again. And, above all, you don?t fuck with me. I?ll be nice to you if you remember who?s got the gun, and that?s me. You take this gun again and I swear - ?[/b] he placed it between her eyes and watched her gulp, a stray tear running down her cheek, [b]?I?ll use every last bullet to mash up your brain. Now you keep this between me and you ? I?ll protect you like a sister, unless you fuck with me again. Then I?ll fuck you up. Keep quiet and do as you?re told. Got it??[/B]

He was angry and he knew Ilya could see it in his eyes. Chase had a superiority complex and he knew it, but he?d twist fear into control if he could. Even if it was a little girl. Ilya was shaking, furiously or through fear, but nodded on the less. Chase supposed, to keep the peace, he would have to be nice, as long as she kept it in mind not to fuck with him.

[b]?Good kid.?[/B] He grinned and wiped the tear away with the gun, giving her a sarcastic wink before walking away.


When the day time had came about fully Chase had time to wander off into the forests by himself, the wolves having abandoned their posts for sometime thanks to Ilya wasting the bullets. He managed to find a few fruits ? berries and whatnot, even an apple tree (though the apples weren?t too precious) ? and brought them back into the lab. The others stirred but only Ilya was awake, huddling herself and obviously terrified. Chase [I]couldn?t[/I] imagine what for.

[b]?Apple??[/b] he asked her munching on a bunch of berries. She looked at him but gave no reply. With a click of his tongue Chase threw one of her, which she caught suspiciously. [b]?I haven?t poisoned it but I wouldn?t know about any worms being inside.?[/b]

He grinned and moved to walk away, leaving a bunch of berries and fruit on the floor for the others. He smiled and took a walk outside once again; the air was so fresh now, and the blood on the floor from the night before was even more refreshing.

He knew they needed to collect more stuff before they moved on anywhere. More materials, more weapons, and he knew they had to venture into the city to find all of that. Or Lon could go back to his hut and find something, if he wanted to come with. If [I]anyone[/I] wanted to come with. If not, Chase would go it alone. He knew all he needed to survive, and he?d rape this world if he had too.

Perhaps it was time for cooperation. Not that he wasn?t already cooperating, he just wasn?t taking orders from rodents and idiots. He tapped the handle of the gun in his pocket and sighed, looking up to the statue, where the vulture had returned, fluffing its wings violently, eyes always on Chase.

He turned away.[/align][/size]
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[FONT="Book Antiqua"]Chiyoko slowly shoved aside the animal skin she was covered up in and yawned. The event with the dogs and the fire seemed like it had happened years ago, after a good rest. Chase didn't seem to be anywhere in sight, but she didn't look for him long after seeing the berries on the floor. They reminded her of how she didn't get a chance to eat that lion. Also, the fear that had chased away her hunger was now gone. She crawled over and picked up some berries off the floor and ate them quickly. She would have grabbed some more, but now that she had something in her stomach, she remembered that they probably had to forage their food out here. Besides, she wasn't the only one who was trying to survive.

Speaking of one of those other people, Chiyoko noticed that Ilya was awake. Her lab coat was against a table, probably used as a blanket since Lon didn't bring enough animal skins for everyone, so Ilya was as naked as Chiyoko. Chiyoko didn't notice this though, she just noticed that it seemed like Ilya had been crying. She put down a berry and went over and hugged Ilya.

"What's wrong, Ilya?" Chiyoko asked.

She hugged her a little closer, and repeated the question. But that still got no response.

"It's okay, I know how you feel. You're sad about Echota too? Even though I didn't know him for long, I felt really attached to him. He was a good dog."

Still no response, except for a quiet sniffle. So Chiyoko continued.

"I guess he just reminded me of this puppy I used to have. Did you ever have a dog, Ilya?"[/FONT]
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[size=1][align=justify]Chase had spent a god awful long time wandering around outside by himself. He could feel his eyelids getting heavier and heavier due to lack of sleep but he was determined not to let it get the best of him; there would be time to sleep soon enough, in a safer place. All the time he thought about the vulture and it played in his mind what had happened - where are the skeletons, where are the other remains of the largest species on the planet? There was no future now. Or if there were to be it would be a small and short lived one for humanity.

He had managed to avoid the last of the wolves in the woods whilst he had been out and about. Most of them, he assumed, had ran far away after hearing gunshots; it was easy to assume it had been a long, long time since they heard something that loud. Right now even Chase felt a bit eerie - the sun, fully up, and the only sound around being birds and faint winds - but he knew he had to keep alive as long as he could. And do anything to keep his heart beating.

He wandered back into the lab and saw Chiyoko talking with Ilya but decided to ignore them. Just as he had appeared the Lion Man began to stir, grimacing as he pushed himself up off his side.

[b]"Alright there Lion Man,"[/b] Chase smirked from above him. He was about to hold his hand out to help him but the old man just growled.

[b]"Go away."[/b] He hissed at Chase as he dragged himself up clearly in pain. [B]"I don't need [i]your[/i] help."[/b]

Chase frowned. [B]"Then I won't fuckin' give it."[/b]

Chase wondered what it would have been like to lose someone who you had been friends with, alone, just you two, for so long. Then Chase also remembered it was a wolf - not a person - barely anything at all to lose a friendship with. He rolled his eyes but decided not to comment on it.

[b]"Listen, I'm going to head deeper into the city and I think we should all go. There'll be less wolves there because of less vegetation, and we might be able to find some answers."[/B]

Lon adjusted his wolfskin and scoffed. [B]"I've made my home here."[/b]

[b]"Well, fine,"[/b] Chase shrugged, [b]"I'll just get these two to come with me - seeing as I have the gun - and you'll be alone. Won't even have your wolf with you this time."[/B]

Chase smirked to himself and lit a cigarette, fully aware he only had fifteen left. He blew the smoke out through his nose and grinned again at Lon.

[b]"There's fruit over there, by the way, because you're not the only one who knows their way around nature."[/b][/size][/align]
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[FONT="Book Antiqua"]Lon slowly rose and stepped up to Chase, still dragging his feet a bit. The old man snatched Chase’s cigarette from his lips and stuck it in his own mouth.

“Oh, what the fuck?!”

Chase went to grab the cigarette back but Lon shot him a look that would curdle milk and Galileo reluctantly recoiled.

“I haven’t had one of these in years… I’m a cigar man myself, but I didn’t figure to bring any with me.” Lon sucked on the cig’s filter and bellowed out a large cloud of smoke.

“You’re a fucking asshole.” Chase stuck his finger in Lon’s face and turned away.

Lon hobbled around the lab, not much pleased at being there at all. He was never one for the indoors. He tottered over to Ilya and Chiyoko, whom still seemed to be a bit shook up from that night’s incident.

“Hello, Mr. Grosvenor, how are you feeling?” Ilya asked Lon politely, standing to help him sit next to her.

“I’ll live, thank you, young lady.”

Lon lowered himself next to Ilya and Chiyoko. The girls still seemed a bit nervous around the old man. Lon could barely stand the tension.

“So… that one over there wants to go into the city.” Lon stared down at the floor, addressing the question to anyone that would answer.

“Chase? Um… yes, I suppose,” Chiyoko said softly, nearly under her breath. “Do you think that’s a good idea?”

“I planned on leaving this place a long time ago, but I didn’t need to. I had everything I needed right here. I’ve scouted this area for miles around; there’s nothing, nobody. The city is abandoned and I never found anything there that was worth looking into. I don’t know what that kid hopes to find but he won’t find it there.”

“But it’s dangerous here.” Ilya spoke up.

“It’s dangerous everywhere… but there is less animals… less wild things… in the city, or what’s left of it.”

“Don’t you want to know what happened to everyone?” Chiyoko asked.

Lon sat in silence, puffing on his cigarette.

“Mr. Grosvenor?” Ilya uttered.

“This is no place for you, little girl… no place for either of you, no place for him either.” Lon motioned to Chase who stood in the doorway, smoking another cigarette, looking out at the statue and his friend the vulture.

“I have nothing left… I’m alone… and this is no place for me either.”

“Then come with us.” Chase chimed in from the doorway.

“I don’t believe there is any place in this world that is for me anymore…”

Lon stood up and walked over to Chase.

“I’ll come with you to the city, I’ll show you what I’ve seen and you’ll realize there’s nothing here for anyone.”

“We’ll see about that.” Chase smirked and flicked his cigarette on the floor of the lab.[/FONT]
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