[Tell] -->Yuki Frost: ((JULY PERSPECTIVES TOPIC BITCH))
[Tell] Yuki Frost: ((FUCK!))
[Tell] Yuki Frost: ((YOUR TOPIC IS GO MAKE ME A GODDAMN SAMMICH!))
...so I ran with it, and used the opportunity to write some creepy Ani villainy and show how e and Seer Carnegie got off on the wrong foot from the start.
St. Martial, Rogue Isles. August 2007.
The Androgyne stalked across the casino floor, deadly transgenic radiation seething out of the vents in eir silver gauntlets. A hail of bullets rang out from the well-guarded corridor leading to the elevator that would take em down to the vault, which eir intel suggested doubled as a panic room, and e skidded to a stop to seize on a thread and pull emself out of harm's way. Someone had warned them e was coming, as they'd gone to the precaution of evacuating all their people from the lower level, making it impossible to bypass the ground floor security by merely following a thread of fate to someone below. Someone always had to make things complicated, e thought irately. Despite the pay-off e could pick up as an incidental while carrying out this assignment, this was the last thing e wanted to be doing.
It was official as of a few days ago: the media had begun to refer to the renewed invasion as the Second Rikti War. From the moment they'd returned, Ani Hess had been hurling emself into the fray against their ground troops. The Rikti had taken eir parents and eir home from em in their first incursion against Earth. Then, e hadn't known the potential of eir power, had only been frightened of it for the death it had caused in its first awakening. Over the course of those six months, e learned to wield eir radiation out of necessity, but with nowhere near the skill e possessed since Arachnos had freed em from the pharmaceutical neutralization Paragon City had kept em in. Now, e knew what e was doing, and every day e only grew stronger and more capable. Arachnos' Arbiters had noted the fury with which e threw emself at the Rikti and upgraded eir threat level considerably, bringing em to the attention of the Vanguard, who allowed em to pursue them right to their stronghold in the mothership.
Even now, as e tore through the Lucky Devil Casino, Rikti dropships were raining bombs across Nerva Archipelago and Peregrine Island. The Androgyne crouched low behind a bank of video poker machines as bullets punched through them above, showering em with glass, sparks, and shrapnel. Eir hands skittered through the air around em as e sought the shortest thread of fates, those binding em to the Devil's machine-gun-equipped security staff. One was less agitated than the rest, the furthest down the corridor from the doorway that gave them cover to spray lead from. He'd moved well away from the door to reload several minutes ago. He was calm, either waiting for the go order from his boss to return to the forefront of the battle, or hoping not to be noticed and merely waiting the gunfire out. Either way, he was the least threatening of the bunch, and in his more sedate, disengaged state, would be the least resistant.
Ani's hands wrapped around the trembling thread that wound through the air, through the poker machines and through walls directly to him, braced a foot, then hauled with anger and insistence on the thread. He felt it as it began, and Ani heard a sharp cry sound from the corridor full of guards, or begin to sound at least. It finished right beside em as the guard slammed out of thin air into the ground, shocked by his transplantation, dropping his gun as he whirled over onto his back and tried to both scramble away from a threat he wasn't sure of and figure out where he'd been teleported at the same time. Ani didn't give em a chance to do either, throwing emself on top of the startled guard, straddling his waist and pinning him to the ground, then laying a fingertip over his lips and cooing, "Shhh." The grunt, tattooed up the neck and scarred from several successful past defenses of the casino from Ani's contemporaries in the Isles, froze. Anger flared in his eyes at the sight of the slender, effeminate-looking being that had gotten the drop on him.
The Androgyne smiled, then a sickeningly brilliant greenish glow shone in a brilliant flash from the entire front of eir body, lethal and corruptive radiation cascading in a single powerful pulse to cover the man's face and torso, rewriting and nullifying his DNA and blasting his vital organs into carrion inside of him in a matter of instants. As his pain-wracked writhing subsided beneath Ani, e drew eir finger away from lips which now mirrored the shape of eir own and touched the necrotized cheek of this now crude doppelganger. E whispered a single word. "Beautiful."
Another hail of bullets shattered through the gambling machines and Ani rolled off the dead guard to make a break across the floor to behind the slots. Sturdier machines with solid internal workings instead of flimsy electronics, they absorbed much more of the gunfire and gave Ani more time to scan the threads for eir next move. E waited for a pause in the shooting, then with a sweeping motion gathered the threads of all the remaining guards into eir hand and lunged forward as if throwing emself headfirst into the slot machines, hauling and pulling emself through space in an instant to overshoot the men and women in whom the threads anchored and rematerialize at the far end of the corridor from them. Whipping the handful of threads in eir hand in a dramatic cracking motion as if e were a lion tamer, or perhaps a conductor, e delivered down their length the promise of what eir powers would do all of them, overwhelming their senses with the vision of eir corruption.
E was past them now. E could probably enter the elevator and descend to the vault without a one of them realizing e had passed. Even now, as e walked towards them, they were oblivious to eir approach thanks to the visions of their impending death at eir hands assailing eir senses. E smirked as eir hands played through the air, delving into threads and letting the interdimensional mire within spill out to further obscure reality from them. They would not know the ruin that was theirs until eir radiation was rending them apart at the cellular level and reconstructing them into something beautiful and inevitably dead. The Androgyne's eyes shone with anticipation. Most of it at the thought of what the person hiding in the A/C ducts, most likely eir target, would feel as they heard the last of their guardians destroyed.
"Stay your corruption. If, that is, you want to get into that elevator." Ani whirled around to face the source of the voice, one hand snapping up, ablaze with eir sickening shine in warning. At the end of the hallway, a ventilation grate had been kicked out of the ceiling, and a woman clad in skin-tight, reflective red material was rising from a landing crouch, her features hidden behind the featureless conical helm of a Fortunata. She stood in place, regarding the Androgyne coolly and patiently, waiting for eir next move.
"Huh. You're not Barkley. What are you doing here?"
"I was dispatched because Arbiter Reno expected that your target knew he was marked and would take exceptional precautions. As I have learned lying in wait for your arrival, one of those precautions is that the elevator to the vault has been refitted to require both DNA identification and voiceprint-matching password authentication. One of these men has the knowledge needed to bypass this measure and is flagged in their database. I could not determine whom, this I apologize for."
The Androgyne turned to look at the remaining guards as e listened, all of them still cowering away from unknown sights. "Psychic, I presume?" E stepped close to one of the mired, pressed a knuckle under his chin and pushed his head to make him stare at one of his companions.
The featureless helm tipped forward once in a nod.
Ani whispered into eir captive's ear. "Tell her what she wants to know, or you will be the next." With that e held a hand out and hurled radiation into the face of the petrified guard he was being forced to look at. A short gurgle preceded the sound of that one's collapse as his brain necrotized in his skull, and Ani shoved the one he held out of the murk and sent him stumbling down the hall to collapse at the Fortunata's feet.
With a single graceful motion she lifted a foot to pin him down at the throat with a stiletto heel. She gave him no other attention yet, however, still regarding the Androgyne. "And if the one you've just killed was the one we need?"
"Seven of them, good odds he's still alive. Go on. Reno really thought I'd need help?"
"She did, this once. A more formal introduction was planned for after this operation, but circumstances necessitated this." Her helm was tilted down now, as she assessed the mind of the guard she kept pinned. The Androgyne's attention had returned to manipulating the threads to keep the rest of them dazed and useless, but e listened.
"My name is Brenda Carnegie." Her speech came a little thick as she split her attention between delving into the resistant mind of the man at her feet and conversing with the Androgyne. "Your dedication to the renewed war effort is admirable. Arachnos wishes to show its gratitude to you for your defense of our territory since the Rikti's return, to which end I am to be assigned to serve you as a liaison. To allow you more freedom to pursue your evident interest in the Vanguard, while through me you will find it easier to remain in contact with Grandville." She paused a long moment, then lifted her head and exhaled. "This is the one."
"I know." The Androgyne released the threads, standing in the center of the stunned guards. E threw eir head back and lashed both hands out, and gasped as e surrendered eir restraint to release a devastating torrent of radiation that surged out from em and halfway down the hall, startling Carnegie back from her captive though the corruption did not reach quite that far. The guards e had held suspended in their terror cried out as one as the radiation bathed over them and collapsed, hair whitened, bodies and faces reshaped into crude mimicry of the Androgyne emself.
The pain of their five threads severing in the same instant gave Ani pause, but e'd felt worse. E gave emself a moment to catch eir breath, then stalked towards Carnegie and the last guard, who was struggling to his feet now that Carnegie was off his throat. Ani lunged forward and seized two handfuls of his hair to jerk his head back and dropped into a low crouch, glaring with eyes seething with radiation into his face. Past the Androgyne, the guard could see his dead comrades, and froze. The corner of Ani's mouth quirked up into a teasing grin. "You see, Brenda, his was the only thread that had any weight to it at all. The rest were nothing, but him...you." E now addressed the guard himself. "You have what we need. Call the elevator if you want to live."
The Androgyne released him and stood, stepping back. The guard seemed to be considering his options, but only for a second before he scrambled back and lunged for the elevator's controls, whimpering. Seer Carnegie turned to observe, standing beside the Androgyne. "I've been told of your threads. It hadn't occurred to me you could deduce such significances from them. I hope you'll be willing to teach me more about them as we work together, I find the subject fascinating."
"Mm, I'm sure." The Androgyne gave her a small, bitter grin. E had no doubt in her role as liaison she was really intended to serve as little more than a leash, a monitor to ensure eir continued loyalty, if e could ever have been said to be loyal to Arachnos in the first place. They had given em eir freedom in exchange for putting eir power to use for them, that was the extent of the arrangement in eir eyes. Now, with as many denizens of the Rogue Isles joining in the war effort as were heroes of Paragon, Arachnos no doubt wished to keep close tabs on their valued operatives.
Still, e could find a use or two for Carnegie if e was going to be saddled with her aid. "Go on." E gestured to the elevator as the doors slid open. "There's no thread down there. That means one of two things. Isaac Barkley escaped well before I arrived, or it may just be I'm just not fated to encounter him. You scout below, and if he hasn't evacuated, kill him. I'll go back to his office up here and see if there's anything that points to the identity of his Longbow contact."
Carnegie's faceless helmet wobbled a little as she regarded em in surprise, realizing e had annihilated the casino's guards despite the failure of eir mission seeming guaranteed. Still, she was an obedient servant of Arachnos and strode forward into the elevator car as directed, after firing a poisonous dart into the neck of the remaining guard to leave him paralyzed while the remainder of the operation was conducted. She pressed the button for the sub-basement.
Irradiating the majority of the casino's protection had taken a lot out of the Androgyne, and eir stomach growled as the elevator doors began to close. E called back and waved a hand indifferently over eir shoulder as e threw out the afterthought, "There's a kitchen down there, too. Go liaise me up a goddamn sammich while you're at it."