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View Full Version : [CLAN WAR] Night Creatures v. The Coils of Nehushtan



Azure
07-12-2016, 09:30 PM
At long last, I finally got my clan war. This is a battle between the Night Creatures, a clan led by Leoncio, though currently is being led by Manny Ken, and the Coils of Nehushtan, which is not a clan in the traditional sense, but is a close knit group of the Nehushtan organization, and is led by Doctor David MacBeth.

Relevant Links:

Night Creatures (http://forums.stickpage.com/showthread.php?96623-Night-Creatures-Rebirth-(War-Complete))

-Manny Ken (http://forums.stickpage.com/showthread.php?48890-Manny-Ken-Mannequin)
-Zalgo (http://forums.stickpage.com/showthread.php?86416-Zalgo)
-Kai Havoc (http://forums.stickpage.com/showthread.php?98117-Kai-Havoc-King-of-Chaos)

Coils of Nehushtan (http://forums.stickpage.com/showthread.php?99698-The-Coils-of-Nehushtan)

-Dr. David MacBeth (http://forums.stickpage.com/showthread.php?98529-Dr-David-MacBeth)
-Zoe Thanatos (http://forums.stickpage.com/showthread.php?82679-Zoe-the-Fallen-Angel&highlight=Thanatos)
-Dracustos (http://forums.stickpage.com/showthread.php?83043-Dracustos-the-Draconian)
-Dante Rockwell (http://forums.stickpage.com/showthread.php?46051-Dante-quot-Delta-quot-Rockwell)

Another good resource to glance over is this List of Organizations within the wRHG Universe. (http://forums.stickpage.com/showthread.php?95163-List-of-Fictional-Organizations-(wRHG-resource))

Both because of the length of the battles as well as this being the first clan war in wRHG history, we'll be having a poll for twice the typical length. C&C is highly appreciated, and thanks to anyone who manages to make it through this. Both clans gave it their all, and we had a lot of fun making this historical event. The winning story will decide the canon between the two clans, so please take time to carefully consider this when deciding which story to vote for. Nobody from either clan is eligible to vote, so if you have any friends who enjoy reading as well, let em know to come and check this out! Thanks again to Alph and the Coils for making my years long dream finally come true.

With the formalities out of the way, let's get to the actual stories themselves!


[Night Creatures story]

Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified,
is not a crime.
-Ernest Hemingway
_____

Manny Ken was in a good mood. In fact, he was in more than just a good mood. He was in a great mood. Hell, why deny it? He was in a fantastic fucking mood. He looked over the contents of the letter once more, making sure to take in each and every word carefully. It had been written by a steady and careful hand, rather than simply printed off, adding on to his mood: it seemed to simply strengthen the event’s relevance and importance.

To Whomever Currently Heads the Night Creatures,

It has come to the attention of this board that there may be an organization which has prioritized your clan as being… pernicious. There have been reports from several areas in which gladiator battles are conducted, as well as from several of our offices, that they’ve not only shown prowess in combat, but that they’ve also infiltrated the gladiatorial system as well. For your own safety, and the safety of your clan, we will be providing you with an escort as we deliver yourself and your clan members to a secure facility, until such a time that proper actions can be taken to ensure that those who would seek to interfere with our program no longer have sufficient ability to do so.

Your cooperation in this matter would be much appreciated, and we thank you ahead of time for complying with our requests.

Though it was short, it told Manny all he needed to know. There were people who were fucking with the system, and these same people would likely be coming after the Night Creatures. Heading over to the conference room, he grabbed the black phone from the wall. Recently, just before the kid left, he’d convinced him to get a comm system installed so that everyone could be called up nice and easily. Placing the phone to his head, he paused a moment to grin to himself before speaking.

“Yo, everyone. Report upstairs to the conference room, ASAP. We’ve got something fun to talk about.” With that simple announcement, he hung up and proceeded to make his way to the head of the conference table, throwing himself into the chair as he kicks his feet up. The first to arrive, unsurprisingly, was Kizu. Her shiny mocha skin was always refreshing to see, and her piercing green gaze never failed to read his mind. Taking a seat beside him, she set her spear across her lap, brushing aside a few stray strands of hair.

“What have you done?” she asked in her soft but firm tone. Manny snickered lightly, not at the question, but at the answer, which he knew she wouldn’t believe.

“Abso-fucking-lutely nothing, doll.” He tosses her the letter, as well as the envelope with the official RHG System seal. She glances over the hand-scratched letters, before gently pushing it forward, folding her arms. It appeared Manny had managed to win this one easily enough. Just as he gloated internally over this small victory, the newest member of the clan, Kai Havoc, entered the room, looking bedraggled. It seemed he was still growing accustomed to living underground. His pale as cream skin seemed even paler somehow, his scars prominently on display as he let his two-sizes-too-large tunic try desperately to cling to his pale Asian frame. Manny couldn’t tell if his squinting was from the low light or his Ching-Chong heritage; Manny could tell, however, that it was pointed towards Kizu’s less than prude attire. “Oi, Lego. Stop looking at my lady and take a seat. I ain’t Leo; I’ll actually mess your shit up.”

“I wasn’t looking, I wasn’t looking,” Kai says, holding up his hands as he finds a seat. “Even if I did, she doesn’t have anything anyways.”

“Which makes you all the sadder for it,” Manny says. “Anyways, we just gotta wait for Mr. Drippy now, and we can get this little meeting underway. How’re you adjusting, anyways? I know you ain’t got any fights under your belt so far, but you’ve at least set up your room proper, right?” Almond Eyes scratches his hair, looking a bit embarrassed as he glances over to the side, though, he does try to hide it.

“As of now, not really. I’ve got a bed and junk, but I don’t really know what else to put in.” He casually forms a small blade from his palm, plucking it out, and begins to clean his fingernails with it. “But I’m pretty sure this isn’t about my room, so let’s just wait on the other guy.”

“Whatever floats your boat, Mr. Edgelord.” The wait for the last arrival wasn’t an overly long one. The Alien King slowly strode up the stairs, finding himself in the chair at the opposite end of the table from Manny, as though to place them on similar grounds. The gesture wasn’t lost on the puppet, but neither did he much care; after all, he knew that no matter how much Zalgo liked being on top, he wouldn’t go and try to take control of the clan. It would be too much of a bother, and wouldn’t benefit him in the long run.

”For what reason did you call us all here…?” the black creature asked them all mentally. Though he had a mouth… several mouths… it seemed that mental communication was still his preferred manner of speech. Ever since his loss at the hands of some other strange superhuman being, things had changed with him; not only in how he seemed to behave around others, but in his physical appearance as well. Before, he had been deceptively scrawny despite his impressive strength, he was now a hulking monster. The somewhat concealable massive mouth in his abdomen now constantly apparent and, though it couldn’t be proven, it appeared to be in a constant sneer of annoyance. Behaviorally, he seemed to be more withdrawn, as though he were plagued with thoughts upon thoughts upon thoughts. Sometimes, he seemed to lose focus to the physical world entirely, though he still never allowed himself to be taken off guard.

“Well you two, it seems like we’ve managed to attract us some attention. Some people have been messing with the RHG System, and it appears they’ve set their sights on us. They want us to change locations. Now, just based on how this system likes to behave, they’ll be coming for us pretty soon, so they can ‘take us someplace safe.’ Considering the fact that us gladiators are as we are, and these people managed to get into their system, I doubt it’ll be all that simple. Honestly, it’ll probably end up being a trap.” Manny’s grin returned even wider than before. “So, since they’re already looking to pick a fight with us, how’s about we go along with their little plan?”

“Wait, so you want us to play into the hands of guys who are after us?” Kai gives an apprehensive look. “Isn’t that kind of, I don’t know, retarded?”

“Not really,” Manny says. “Chances are they’d find us anyways, and while we could just say ‘Piss off!’ to the RHG people and wait for them here, this place isn’t exactly built for large scale battles. Better to take it someplace where we can go all out without risk of our shit getting destroyed. Besides, then we’ll be on equal grounds in regards to how well we know the terrain.”

“...I agree that this is the best course of action,” Zalgo states calmly, before Kai can attempt a rebuttal. “If they truly desire a confrontation with us, all of us, then there will be no hiding. There will be no fear. We shall meet their challenge head on, and we shall crush them underfoot.”

“I like that thinking,” Manny agrees. “So, all we gotta do is get nice and ready. Kizu, you’ll be in this too, so be sure to bring your A-game-” Before he can finish his sentence, he finds the point of her spear between his eyes. She casts her eye towards him slowly. The meaning was clear. “Got it, good to hear. Just bring some medical supplies for the kid, alright?”

“I can heal myself,” Kai grunts.

“Yeah, but I doubt you can heal fast enough to stop disembowelment.” Manny takes a small pleasure in his shutting up. “Alright then. So, go and get yourselves mentally prepared. Looks like we’ll be going to war.”


_____

Elsewhere, truly dark forces were at force, watching the clan’s meeting. When it concluded, the White Man turned off his screen. Leaning back in his throne, he brought up his feet, letting them rest softly on the slave’s back. Snapping twice, he counts the seconds until another slave arrives, this one bearing a pillow with a silver bell resting gently upon the center. “You were two seconds slow, Nadine. You wouldn’t want anything happening to that child of yours again, would you?”

The fear in her eyes was delicious, though she quickly cast them down. “I understand, Mr. Nightshade sir. I will be faster next time.” His smile doesn’t reach his eyes as he takes the bell, lightly ringing it.

“See to it that you are. After all, I’m not sure how much longer she’d last in her condition.” He places the bell back and sends her off as his most loyal follower arrives. Clad in modified plate armor, the chocolate skinned young man, only but a few years younger than his current body’s age, kneeled before him. “You may rise, Grey.”

Grey rose slowly, spreading his legs shoulder length apart and holding his arms behind his back. Behind his silvery mop of hair, Nightshade could sense his fierce gaze, focused in on him. Grey had been a simple one to recruit; lost, alone, feelings of hatred and guilt swirling in his breast. It had taken little to make him into the perfect puppet, and his strength was one to be reckoned with. “What need do you have of me, sir?” His voice had grown deeper, more firm over the years. Still, the tones of loyalty never seemed to falter for even a moment. Nightshade knew he owned the boy, body, mind and soul.

“I’ve need of you and Bastet. It seems that a snake has reared its ugly head, and is looking to lash at my pet project. We can’t have that; Snakes, however, are but another creature, however. We’ll be using them to our advantage.”

“Will we be recruiting, sir?”


“No, no,” Nightshade dismisses with a wave of his hand. “With a group as broken as theirs, it would be pointless, to say the least. There would be nothing to achieve from it, as the only members who would be worth recruiting would be amidst their upper echelons. No, we’ll simply be planting seeds. Seeds that, upon taking root, will help spread my garden of madness across the land. And when the trees of the people’s suffering bear fruit…” He makes a snipping motion with his fingers. “...I shall cut away all without use, and the process begins anew. For now, however, Bastet will need to perform reconnaissance. While I’ve an idea of who this group has wrapped in their midst, I’d rather there be nothing to interfere with our plans.”

“Yes, sir. I’ll retrieve Bastet for briefing with haste.” With a curt nod, he heads off to speak with his compatriot. Nightshade calmly takes a goblet from beside his throne, drinking of the coppery red liquid within, losing himself in his mind. A faint aching came from the base of his skull, and he absently rubbed it. Though he had a new body, the phantom pains remained; Manny Ken. The one who had taken both his old body, and his place as leader of the Night Creatures. It had been some years ago, but he still remembered their fight as vividly as though it were yesterday. The events following had been pure chance. If the organization, now identifying itself as the M.A.C. Organization, hadn’t chanced upon his core and conducted their human experiments, it was uncertain where he’d be now. Their continued hunts for him, as well as the flame users Kasai and Adena, meant that his operations needed to be kept to a minimum. After all, they were likely the only ones who knew how to put him down permanently.

“It’s still a shame I don’t get to dirty my own hands anymore,” Nightshade mused to himself. “Those may have been some of the happiest days of my life. And looking through the records, the RHG system has some gladiators who may actually prove to be fun.” Thinking of the system, his thoughts drifted to one particular gladiator, whom he’d done some research upon, and whom he was sure would be the perfect target to strike at in order to poison the heart of Nehushtan.


_____

Altaer gritted slightly as he lowered the mug from his face, the unpleasantness and harsh bitter aftertaste of the coffee still lingering for a moment before dulling off his oral senses. It seemed that despite the food’s quality, the small diner couldn’t quite make a decent cup of joe. He glanced out of the booth window for a bit, the reds and violets of the late afternoon sky painting a picture, as if just for him. He looked over his appearance in the transparent reflection of the glass; dressed in black and crimson as per usual, instead of his typical attire, he’d instead chosen to dawn a more casual appearance. His striped polo, though not small, clung well to his form, accenting his olympian physique so that little was left to the imagination for how chiseled he was. His smoky black eyes held whisper of gold within them, the Shadowlight that made up his being seeming to have synchronized with his rebellious spirit. Perfect black curls frame his face, softening the sharp angles of his jaw, a dark halo. His dusky bronze skin seems to lightly glow as he taps on the table a touch impatiently with his calloused hand. Wearing a pair of black denim jeans, he pulls out a flip phone, checking the time, before looking back out the window.

“It’s no good to keep me waiting, Doc,” he lightly says to himself. “Especially when you’re the one who called me out here.” He casts a glance about the diner, checking to ensure there had been no changes since he’d arrived a while before. The same small crowd sat about: an older man, looking to be in his mid to late fifties and wearing an open flannel shirt with a trucker hat upon his head, still taking bites at a steak whilst conversing with a balding man in a suit and holding a briefcase about how the economy is bound to be hit once more under the current president’s “reign”; the same small blond woman cast glances towards him when she thought he wasn’t looking, wearing a navy blue sundress with a white sweater over her shoulders, sipping at another cup of the disgusting coffee, though, she’d added creamer; the same three kids were typing on their phones at the booth down the way a bit, sipping on milkshakes as they occasionally brought up topics about what they were doing for the summer, not loudly, but loud enough that one didn’t need eavesdrop to hear them. Altaer let out a quick huff of indignation. This was beginning to annoy him.

A few moments later, the door opened, the bell jingling to let all within know that there was yet another customer in this excuse for an establishment. Catching the eye of everyone there quite easily, the Doctor made his way over to where Altaer was sitting. Doctor David MacBeth was, in no mincing of words, a beautiful man. His fair auburn hair rested gently upon his shoulders, feathered and combed meticulously. His emerald pendant earrings dangled lightly from his ears, light catching in them to bring a shine about his face as though angels wept at his mere presence. His pale brown eyes had the wrinkles of many smiles on their sides, but within them, Altaer knew was a mind that rivalled his own in brilliance. Dressed in a white designer coat, an embroidered black vest over a cream colored dress shirt, and red dress pants he was sure was made from only the finest of imported Chinese silks, David was many times less inconspicuous than Altaer. That said, both of their presences made them the center of attention rather quickly; a waitress was at their table immediately.

“Af’ernoon sir,” she said with a not overly thick Southern accent as she places a menu down before the Doctor. “Is there anything I kin get for ya to drink?”

“Just a glass of water would be a delight dear,” David says, taking up the menu and looking over it as though it were a work of art. The waitress nods and is off within seconds. His eyes dart up to meet Altaer’s annoyed ones. “Come now, don’t give me that look. I’m only ten minutes late.”

“You’re usually thirty minutes early,” Altaer informs him. “So I’ve been stuck here for roughly an hour, with nothing to do but listen to these people talk about nothing, the news on their television ramble on about nothing, and get ogled by every woman who passes by.”

“You could always give yourself a less attractive appearance,” David says as he looks back to the menu and ignores Altaer’s scoff.

“Of course you say that, Mr. Pretty-Boy. Why’d you call me out here to the boonies, anyways? We could just have easily have met at one of your offices, and I wouldn’t have to worry about any of these people possibly being related to the system.”

“That is precisely why I called you here,” David says as he removes a sheet of paper from his short, sliding it over to Altaer. “This, Al, is a message I was sent recently from an unknown person or persons. Please, look it over and tell me what you think.” Al took the paper, the words on it looking as though they had been typed via typewriter rather than on a computer. He does as the Doctor asked, looking it over, his expression slowly darkening a tad as he reads over the words.

“To the Head of the Serpent

You would do well to consider carefully whom you make into an enemy. Do not think that the hydra can not die, when faced by the beast who fears not the snake’s bite. Do not think that relations between yourself and the Night Creatures may end in anything but bloodshed. Bring forth your Coils if you desire; their sacrifice will certainly work to someone’s greater good.

Do not think you can run.

Do not think you can hide.

None of you are safe.

I shall see you sooner than you see me.”

The letter ends with nothing to identify who may have written it, though considering who was mentioned in the letter itself…

“It was certainly not written by the Night Creatures,” David states simply. “They’re much too young, and have no way to have gained knowledge of our organization.”

“What about that abomination, Zalgo?” Altaer notes. “Though it turned against him, he was in my mind before. Could he be using his clan to get revenge against me by targeting Nehushtan overall?”

“I’d considered that a possibility; however, this does not play into the style of any of its members. Besides, there’s also this announcement that was sent to them from the RHG System itself.” He passes Altaer the same message that Manny had received. “Whoever or whatever sent this message is able to operate outside of the system’s sphere of influence. They likely do have some attachments to the Night Creatures, however, to bring them up. I’ve my suspicions, but…” He smiles to the waitress as he she returns with the glass of water, declining any food for the moment.

“But? But what?” The Lord of the Abyss didn’t take well to missing information. Already, he’d been formulating plans; any gaps in his knowledge would make them entirely useless.

“It’s simply something from the past, a rumor I’d heard of. Something to do with the founding of the Night Creatures. I’ve no idea how true it is, nor do I have all the details. However, according to the system’s records, the clan was founded in a less than traditional manner. It was apparently initially formed as a manner of tracking down highly dangerous and inhuman creatures which often went after gladiators. The RHG System would unsanctimoniously send Gladiators to pacify them, as well as keep their destructive habits to a minimum. Leadership was passed on through the leader’s defeat.”

“So, what does any of this have to do with who sent you the letter?” Altaer asks as he finishes reading the message. “And why does it seem as though we’ve been set up for a fight?”

“I’ll begin with your second question. It seems as though we’ve indeed been set up, as I’ve seen few reports of direct engagement between Serpents and the RHG System, and I myself have certainly sent no Coils to do so.” As he speaks, several customers leave, others entering. The waitress from before attends to them, though she does keep glancing towards the two. A few people sit closer to them, namely a couple seating themselves in the booth directly behind David, and he lowers his voice accordingly. “To answer your first question, however, many of those who originally formed the Night Creatures simply disappeared without a trace from the system. The only one who remains is the current temporary leader of the new Night Creatures, Manny Ken, and even his background is shaded in mystery. Whoever or whatever has arranged these events, more likely than not, had ties to the original Night Creatures; whether they were a member, an ally, or an enemy, I’m unsure. However, they’ve set their sights upon us, so no matter what their relationship, they are an enemy to justice.”

Altaer crushes the papers in hand, dropping the ball into his still unfinished coffee, a small grin appearing on his face. “And if they oppose justice, then they’re to be dealt with. So, how are we to handle the situation with the Night Creatures? They’re not likely to take this sitting down, and I’m sure that Zalgo in particular still feels the sting of defeat from our earlier encounter.”

“We’ll simply do as we always do. We begin peacefully, and if they refuse to stand down, then we’ll proceed with force. They’re indeed a clan in conflict with our ideals. Whether we’ve been forced into this encounter or not, we can use it to our own advantage, especially since you’ve already bested one of their members before. We can not compromise when it comes to what we believe in.” He drinks his water in a single gulp, setting the glass down with a clang as the cubes within bounce.

“I think I prefer it this way,” the Dark Lord chuckles. “Taking the passive route is no fun anyways. And lucky for me, ever since our fight, I’ve been able to track Zalgo quite easily. No matter where they hide, we’ll certainly be able to find them.”

“That will most definitely be a great asset. I’ve contacted the Coils; we’ll be changing locations to meet with them in the next hour or so.”

“That reminds me,” Altaer says as he leans back, dropping off his discarded coffee with a passing waitress. “What exactly held you up? You’re not exactly the ‘tardy type.’ Did something happen that I should know about?”

“Nothing too serious,” David answers, though his eyes betray him. “A patient just arrived at the clinic is all, and they needed my attention.”

“If they needed your attention,” Al says, raising an eyebrow, “then something must’ve been pretty wrong with them. Spill it.”

MacBeth prepares to put up an argument, then resigns himself. “Fine. When they arrived, they’d been nearly torn apart. Young girl, no more than nineteen. I could only tell from the size of her body, as there was nothing left that could be used as identification. Aside from the obvious damage, such as the violent abdominal hysterectomy, missing left arm and the compound fractures to both kneecaps, it appeared there’d been damage within her as well. I’m unsure how, but her organs had been forcibly rearranged within her, different medical instruments had been implanted within her body to constantly apply pressure to several nerves, and she was given a near lethal drug cocktail consisting of morphine, methamphetamines, and GHB. I found her tossed on the curb when I was coming originally, and had to provide immediate attention. I have my doubts that it relates to all of this, but with how thoroughly she was harmed, as well as the timing, I can’t help but worry this was meant to be further provocation. While I managed to stabilize her, it will take several days of careful surgery for there to be any chance of her survival, and it’s minimal at that.”

Altaer tightened his hand into a fist slowly, his eyes growing hard. “Well, consider me provoked. Somebody’s dragging innocents into this. I will not let that sort of thing stand. Call the Coils again; we’re going to meet right now.”


-----

Dante slowly ran his hands through his hair as he finished getting the last of the shampoo from his silken black locks. Turning off the water, he wraps a vibrant green towel around his waist as he steps out and onto the tan shower mat, wiggling his toes a bit. It had been a pretty nice morning for the beautiful man, and as he walked past the mirror, he had to double back just to reaffirm his own good looks with his lovely seafoam green eyes. Though there was light scarring across his athletic six foot frame, it in no way distracted from the well defined muscles he’d managed to attain from his years of “jogging.” Droplets of water glistened as they dripped down his somewhat broad shoulders onto his six-pack, and he grinned to himself as he flexed his pectorals in a small display of skill and finesse.
The towel, which he’d obtained in Peru, left little to the imagination as it hung around his waist, and he found he couldn’t help but pose a bit, flexing his arms and kissing his biceps. The image was essentially brought together by the bright yellow gloves he’d had specially made for his cybernetics, travelling up his forearms with a pattern of ducks cheerfully smiling on them. He gave his arm a quick pinch. “Quack, quack,” he said playfully, as he slowly peeled them off and set them on the counter. Exiting the bathroom into his bedroom, he looked wistfully to his bed, where two forms lay hidden beneath the sheets, thoughts of last night’s fun times coming back. It took all of his efforts not to make a lumberjack joke in regards to a steadily growing desire that his towel was having trouble containing.

Just as he prepared to get back in bed and see if either of his dates wanted sausage with their dinner, his cell phone rang. He groaned, heading over to pick it up before it woke either girl up. “Dante here, service hours ended at seven.” He listened as there were sounds of shuffling in the bed behind him, and he turned to get a peek at what actions were occurring, the voice on the other side of the line being ignored just a tad. “Uh huh, uh huh…”

A young lady slowly slithered her way free of the comforter, stretching like a cat as she rubs her eyes, letting them adapt to the low lighting in the room. She glances over at Dante with a smile, before moving to wake her companion, her long golden hair bouncing as she moves. The other form slowly stirs, a brown-eyed brunette lad slowly finding his way out. He glances from the girl to Dante, before a smile appears on his face as well. Slowly, he and the girl begin to make out, and Dante’s focus falters more and more.

“DELTA. FOCUS.” Hearing his old moniker snapped him back to attention, and he focused back on the voice on the line.

“Ok, ok, I’m listening. What do you want?”

“I’ll repeat myself then. This is Doctor David MacBeth, and I’m calling because the meeting of the Coils is going to take place sooner rather than later. As soon as you can, I need you to report to the Healing Hands Clinic. Be sure that you’re not followed. Is that understood, Delta?”

“Got it,” he replies, more than a touch annoyed. “And I go by Dante. Or Big Daddy D. Do not call me Delta.” He ends the call with a click, before turning back to the currently ongoing gladiator match of tongues. “Sorry you two, but I’ve got to actually get some clothes on. I’ve got your digits though, so I’ll be sure to keep in touch.”

“Alright,” the girl says, pulling away to give him a pout. “Tell that roommate of yours we said hello, though.”

“And make sure to show that neat trick with vibrating again,” the boy adds. “It’s for, ah, science.” Dante simply smirks as he helps the two gather up their things and get dressed, giving them both a kiss as he leads them on their way. Once they’re out of the apartment, he heads back to his room, his demeanor shifting to match the situation. Whatever had happened to change the meeting time likely wasn’t something to take unseriously. Grabbing his phone as he put on some boxers, he dials up Sencarn. After a few rings, there’s an answer.

“What is it, Dante?” Sencarn asks. Judging by his voice, he hadn’t been close to sleeping yet, despite the time.

“The Doctor is calling for the Coils sooner,” he informs him, now attempting to put his pants on both legs at a time. “It seems something has happened; any ideas from your side?”

“Nothing that we know about or that we’ve done. Aside from the information we received in regards to the Night Creatures being moved and some facilities being attacked, we’ve gotten no reads on anything that would make Nehushtan act strangely.”

“Yeah, I was worried about that. I’ll be sure to keep you up to date on things. It was smart to send me into their midst though. After all, even if our goals are similar, they’re too close-minded. I’m lucky they need talent among them, otherwise who knows how difficult they’d be to keep track of.”

“Just be sure to keep whatever sins you commit in their name to a minimum. You may be a member of Sanctuary, but a sinner is a sinner.”

“Whatever you say, boss,” Dante says as he rolls his eyes, hanging up the cell and tossing it on his bed as he pulls on a shirt. Both groups had been simple enough to get into, and both lacking stronger members. They were so desperate that they’d place their faith in anyone with above average skill with a gun. It played out well in his favor; after all, both sides had money, and lots of it, and both had a chance to take down the RHG System, which had become so closely tied to the government that bringing it down meant bringing down half of the nation’s governing body with it. And no matter who took their place on the throne, he would be there, a loyal troop until the end. Carefully smoothing out some wrinkles, he grabbed his coat and his diamond-edged butterfly knives, placing them within the hidden pockets of the coat, before heading out to the meeting place.


-----


Doctor MacBeth looked over his Coils with dreary eyes from his position at the round table. He’d preferred having a circular table as, despite being the head of Nehushtan, amongst the Coils, he wished to be viewed closer as an equal. They were his closest supporters, almost like a family. The Coils had only been together a short time, but they’d formed a strong bond within that time. Aside from Valera, who was rarely brought in for such discussions, all but one Coil had arrived. To his immediate right sat Altaer, a grim expression on his face as he taps on the table’s finish, small sparks of shadowlight belying his true frustrations. Next to him, sitting somewhat awkwardly, was the black sheep of the group; though, “blue dragon” would be more accurate.

Dracustos had been an unorthodox addition to the Coils. Though humanoid in shape, he was a dragon, and likely of European descent if the myths of man were to be believed. Coated in an armor of scales the color of the deep sea, the blood gem centered in his forehead stood out plainly. Despite Dracustos’ explanation of the apparent “teleportation organ,” MacBeth had difficulties understanding how such a mutation was possible; naturally, due to the nature of their world as well as well as gladiators within the system, he could at least accept it, especially after witnessing it firsthand. He stood well above everyone else, which, in addition to his tail and wings, led to having to provide a special seat for him. A black cloak lay about his shoulders, a somewhat futile method of disguising his form as he made his way over.The dark fabric had helped in blending him into the night sky at least. He’d been fiddling with one of his swords, not particularly interested in making small talk in the current mood of the room.

To MacBeth’s left sat Zoe, the young girl taking a silent sip from her can of pepsi. She looked a touch uncomfortable; it hadn’t occurred to MacBeth that a group could be so quiet. She idly glanced from the group to the door with her piercing blue eyes, as if expecting the last member to arrive at any moment. Wearing a camo tank top, she had on her favorite black trench coat, some black denim capris and some dark green high tops. It seemed she’d been preparing to go out anyways when he’d called her, leading to her being the first to arrive. Her choice in drink when offered belied her youth. Throwing her raven hair over her shoulder, she began to absently comb through it with one hand as she glances back at the Doctor. It seemed she was going to say something when a knock came to the door.

“It seems Dante is finally with us,” David said, moving his seat back. “I’ll fetch him, and we can begin our discussion.” Making his way over to the door, he opened it to find the green-clad agent casually spinning a knife about his fingers.

“Nice place,” Dante says. “Always good when a clinic is having slow days.”

“I’d agree, if not for the circumstances.” He leads the last Coil in, where Dante takes a seat between Zoe and Dracustos, his weapon somehow disappearing in the transition. David leaves the room for a moment, before returning with a manila folder. He places it on the table, hesitating to open it. “Now that we’re all here, allow me to open with the purpose of this meeting: we will likely engage in hostilities with the Night Creatures in a week’s time.”

The already moody atmosphere grows even more morose. Despite his late arrival, Dante was the first to speak. “I get that we’re on bad terms with them, what with them being anarchists and all, but any particular reason why we’re going directly onto the violence route? I thought we preferred talking things out, try to bring people to our cause.”

“Typically, this is the case, yes, and I do believe the usual leader of the Night Creatures, Leoncio Cardozo, is a young man who can be reasoned with. However, the man currently leading it, or mannequin to be precise, is not the type who settles things with words.” He pulls a picture from the folder, tossing it onto the table. It reveals Manny Ken, smiling face covered in blood as he strikes down some gangbanger of indeterminate race. “Manny Ken, age indeterminate. He’s violent, crass, and temperamental. Despite his looks, he’s proven on several occasions to be more dangerous than he leads on. If sources are to be believed, and I’ve no reason to doubt them, his original purpose was that of a demon hunter.”

“So this… doll… was made to hunt demons?” Zoe asks, setting her can down. “Do you think that’ll be a problem for me?”

“I’m not entirely sure. Due to your angelic descent, your demonic nature may be diluted enough so as not to bring out any unknown latent talents he may possess. Still, if possible, I’d prefer you not engage him yourself. Though you’re strong, he has experience on his side, and he was able to escape the system’s detection for years. He’s back now of his own volition; due to this, he can be classified as a considerable threat. His ‘girlfriend’ is another issue.” MacBeth now tosses a picture of Kizu, her sitting solemnly on a statue, grinding her spearhead with a whetstone. “How long she’s been together with Manny is unknown, her origins are unknown, and her combat skill is unknown. She’s an anomaly; because of her relationship to Manny Ken, however, we can assume she is highly dangerous. Do not underestimate this pair under any circumstance.”

“Fighting toys,” Altaer says through his teeth. “I’ll be next to useless since they probably don’t have souls. Annoying.”

“Next, we have the most powerful of their team, as far as we’re aware. At the least, we’ve the most information in regards to his abilities.” He tosses a picture of Zalgo, though, it’s older; his body is still slender, shorter. “High strength, high durability, telepathic and able to break minds, and able to churn out oil which he can manipulate. Zalgo is extremely dangerous; the battle will very likely begin before we’ve arrived. Dracustos, I’ll be looking to you to keep a telepathic link between everyone, to help defend against his mental attacks.”

Dracustos gives a slight nod. “Understood. I must ask, however, what I should do lest he focuses on me. If I were to go Feral, all of you would be at risk.”

“Don’t worry; Altaer here has bested him before, and gained an immunity. Likely, at least some of this should transfer to you, and then to everyone. Once we’ve overcome it, we’ll be able to go without worry for the rest of the conflict. If you should succumb to your feral nature, however, I will have sedatives on my person to neutralize you until such a time that you return to your senses.” He gives a comforting smile. “We’ll all make it through this, I can promise you that.”

“That’s definitely a relief,” Dante exhales. “I was almost worried for a moment, considering you called all three of them very dangerous.” He casually glances away from David’s look. “Hey, I’m being serious here. This isn’t really all that good for morale.”

“While your point may be valid, Delta, I ask that you keep such comments to yourself.” Now it was his turn to ignore the glare cast towards him. “The last member of the Night Creatures who will be relocated is Kai Havoc. Though we’ve little information on him, he is a relatively new gladiator, and is young. He’s highly inexperienced, and is certain to be their weak link. If we bring down the other three, he will likely yield and can be reasoned with.”

“Since introductions to our opponents are over and done with, let’s get to the main reason we’re all here.” Altaer leaves his seat, heading towards the door. “Doc, you going to be ok?”

“It’s not as though it’s the first atrocity I’ve seen in my time,” David responds, his tone seeming heavier. “Fetch her and return as soon as possible.” Altaer nods and leaves, heading for the clinic below. Meanwhile, the Doctor drops the folder, letting the rest of its contents spill free. The documents he showed Altaer earlier were among them, as well as other reports. Of note, several were of attacks on RHG facilities were Serpents had been located, which were seemingly destroyed in the name of Nehushtan. “The primary reason we’ll be going directly into battle against the Night Creatures lies here. It seems that someone or something is starting an open conflict with the RHG System using our name, and is killing Serpents as they do so. The attacks are timed with our own, and rather than ensure the destruction of the location with minimal if any loss of life, their own turn into pure bloodbaths. This provocation seems an invitation to test ourselves against the Night Creatures so that our name, which I’d hoped to keep from the public eye, may be cleared.”

“So somebody’s starting a war with us,” Zoe states. “But why? What is there to gain from this? We just want peace, justice.”

“It’s for that very reason, I suspect. They’re hoping to destabilize the organization, and promote widespread anarchy. Without either the RHG System or Nehushtan to maintain any semblance of control and law, the country, possibly even the world, would fall into chaos.” David cuts himself off as the door reopens, Altaer coming forth with something wrapped tightly in blankets. As he makes his way back to the table, it becomes apparent that what he cradles in his arms is a body. He gently sets it down in the center of the table.

“I’m sure the Doc already gave you most of the technical details,” the Abyssal Lord says in a voice barely containing his anger. “However, this here is the personal reason for the fight.” He unwraps the blankets, revealing the barely reconstructed face of a young girl. Her dirty blond hair looks freshly washed, and calmly streams around her shoulders and down her back into the covers. Her skin, likely once coppery and glimmering, now lay dull, the shade of death. Her lips are a pale blue, blood no longer flowing through her still body. Altaer hardens his jaw as Zoe looks away, and a fire burns in Dracustos’ eyes. Dante slams his hand on the table.
“Ok, excuse me for asking, but why the fuck did you bring a body up here?! We see this kind of thing enough when we have to deal with the system; we don’t need to see it during a meeting you pushed up.”

“This is the reason,” MacBeth says as Altaer lowers the blanket further, revealing the top of her breasts. What’s revealed makes everyone’s blood run hot and cold at the same time. Like a tattoo from the inside, the words Night Creatures appear, the text spidery and formed through blood vessels beneath the skin. “Terri Mayweather, age nineteen. She was a Serpent who was recruited because she shared in our ideals of justice. She was reported missing by her single mother two weeks ago after having never returned from a date. When she arrived at this clinic earlier tonight… the acts that had been performed against her were things no person could do to their fellow man. Though there’s a chance that this was done by some outside party, I believe this is the true face of the Night Creatures. We must remove their poison from this system; not only for ourselves, not only for ideology, not even for Nehushtan itself. We must remove them so that no more may they harm innocents like this, whom have done no harm to anyone, so that no more tears will be shed over loved ones lost at their vile hands.”

Each Coil nods their head, eyes fixed on the girl before them. After a few somber moments, Altaer rewraps her, picking her back up and once more cradling her in his arms. Doctor MacBeth clears his throat, reclaiming their attention. He raises a single finger.

“One week. Prepare yourselves.”


-----

Manny slowly tapped his chin, staring at the television without an expression. The news report was talking about some random act of cop violence, though this time it was a black cop killing a white guy. Everybody was losing their minds over what was happening with society and if this was to be expected. After about twenty minutes of their idiotic dribble, he smashed the screen to pieces with his pickaxe. He pressed the buzzer on the table beside him, speaking into the attached intercom.

“TV’s busted again.”

A woman, Carol, replies in an annoyed tone. “That’s the fifth television that’s been busted since you’ve gotten here.”

“Not my fault that there’s nothing on and they’re not sturdy.”

“You’ve been here three days, sir. Though we have the funding to continue replacing the televisions, it’s really quite an annoyance having to do so with such frequency, along with the other expenses you and your clan have managed to incur. Shall I read it off for you?”

“No thanks, Carol,” Manny answers. “As much as I thoroughly enjoy listening to you drone on about finances and how much you hate your job, I have literally a thousand better things to do with my time. An immediate one that comes to mind is sticking my head into an open flame until eventually it manages to burn its way through my fire-proofing. But tell ya what; get some interesting shows going, or some gladiator matches or something, and I’ll consider not having to put in yet another maintenance request. Deal? Deal.” And he hangs up before she manages to get in a word edgewise. He hears a door open behind him, and glances back.

Kai continued drying his hair with a towel, dressed in some new clothes the RHG System had provided when they kindly escorted them to this “Safe House.” The outfit didn’t exactly look all that new anymore, considering all the holes in it from the boy forming swords. Had to “make it fit his style” or some nonsense. “Manny, when do you think those guys are gonna come and attack us?”

“No idea, kid, but I hope to that big nonexistent asshole in the sky that they get here soon. I think Carol may actually consider not sending me more televisions soon.” He gets up and grabs his pickaxe from the screen, giving it a quick spin. “If they decide to puss out though, I’m definitely hunting their asses down. I don’t get stood up when it comes to a fight.”

“Don’t think you or the organization may have overreacted, huh?”

“That would be admitting I was wrong. I’m never wrong.” Kizu enters the room, glancing at Manny with her lone eye. He brings his hand up, chuckling. “Ok, ok. I’m only wrong when Kizu’s in the right.”

“Correct.” Kizu heads off in the direction of the training room. Kai gets a nice laugh in when she disappears from sight.

“Looks like your lady has you on a short leash. Are you sure you’re fit to be leader with Leoncio gone? As much of a bitch as you’re acting, I’d say I could take you on easily-” He gets smacked in the face immediately by the top of a pickaxe, before being tackled to the ground, the shaft now pressed to his throat. Manny looks down at him, still expressionless.

“Kid, listen, and listen carefully. I may just be a mannequin, but I’ve seen more action, faced more trials, and taken more lives than you could likely imagine possible. If you think some greener-than-grass piece of newbie shit has a chance against me just because I’m not some super powered demonic overlord who can shit out destruction on a whim, then you’ve got a rough journey ahead of you.” He removes his pickaxe, standing up and moving back to his seat. Kai brings his hand to his throat, his breaths rapid and shallow. For a moment, he’d seen a different side of Manny; he’d seen what had made him a Clan Leader.

After an hour, the locked door to the safehouse opens, several men dressed all in white and wearing masks entering, two carrying a new television. They get to work fixing the damage, whilst one goes over to Manny, a pen and pad in hand. “We’ll need your signature yet again, sir.” His voice, filtered through the mask, was impossible to place. The RHG worked hard to preserve identities it seemed. Well, identities aside from Carol’s; of course, it was very likely that wasn’t her real name.

Manny signs it, not really all that focused. “How long did you all say you were keeping us again?”

“Until we’re sure of your safety, sir.”

“Cut the bullshit,” Manny says firmly. The man moves back a slight bit. Though he was unable to see them, Manny met his eyes. The painted on black marks seemed to burrow through the blank mask and see into the man’s very essence. “We’re gladiators. The only exception is Kizu, and she’s more than capable of being a gladiator herself, otherwise you all wouldn’t have allowed her here. Being gladiators, the RHG System makes money from us signing away our safety so you all can reap in the profits of your blood money. Some threat targeting their gladiators, who I know for a fact you all can bring back from death, shouldn’t be more than a temporary nuisance at worst, and an advanced pay-per-view event normally. So I’ll ask you again, because we’ve been here for days, and nothing has happened, and I’m starting to get bored and annoyed: how long are you bastards keeping us here?”

The man backs away, and brings up his cufflink, seeming to speak into a hidden microphone. Moments later, the group moves out, leaving Manny without an answer. He prepares for yet another “accident,” when the television flickers to life on its own. A silver-haired man in a dark blue suit with cold grey-blue eyes stares from it. Manny slowly lowers his pickaxe as the man begins to speak. “Good day, Mr. Ken. I am Nathan Wilde, one of the CEOs of the RHG Organization, and very often, I’m in charge of any matters concerning the group’s interests. I may be considered a final say in many matters, if it’s more convenient to think of me that way. Now, I understand your concerns, and you’re correct to assume that your safety is not our primary concern. I’ve no reason to lie to you; I’m a businessman first and foremost. There’s no purpose in lying to you, since it would cause problems further down the line.”

“Alright then,” Manny says, leaning back on the couch. “Spill it, then. If you’re the CEO, you’ve probably got your hands on all kinds of records about me.”

“You’re correct of course. Ever since temporary leadership of the Night Creatures clan was passed to you, or should I say, returned, I’ve been looking into you. It’s rather intriguing to find somebody from so far back in the organization’s history return. Or have left in the first place. But enough of that, having looked into your past, I’ve found that you’re surprisingly adept at seeing through deceptions. Allow me to reassure you that what I’m telling you now is entirely honest. You Night Creatures are being used as a trap. It is as simple as that.” Wilde adjusts his tie slightly, before continuing. “It is abundantly clear to us that your group is quite powerful and quite talented when it comes to eliminating high-risk targets. For this reason, coupled with this mysterious group’s interest in you, we’ve used you as bait to bring them to this location, where they shall be taken and either eliminated or tortured until we have all the information we need from them.”

Manny remains silent, the expression on his face unbroken, until he breaks out into a smile, snickering to himself before entirely cracking up. “Oh god, this is rich. Heh, listen up, Mr. Wilde. You and your men? Yeah, you’re going to do nothing.”

Nick Wilde raises a single eyebrow, but he remains silent. His eyes meet Manny’s easily enough, and the mannequin feels an iota of respect in his breast. It seemed the organization wasn’t full of weaklings after all.

“You’ve kept us locked up for days now. I don’t much care for it. So, here’s what’s going to happen; I’ll be sure to spell it out for you slowly so that you don’t have a chance to misinterpret anything. Whatever defenses you’ve got set up? You’re going to drop them. Leave some guards if you like, I don’t care. They’re not going to do shit against these guys, we both know it. I want a good fight, so keep from interfering. When we’ve had our fun, if they’ve not found some way to escape, you can have what’s left. Understood, Mr. CEO?”

Nick Wilde silently stares at the puppet, his eyes unwavering, before he gives a firm nod. “Alright. I accept your proposal. However, do know that, to ensure that profit is gained from this, we’ll be sure to record everything that occurs.” His tone suggests much, and Manny’s grin only spreads wider in response. It seemed they were on the same page.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way.”


-----

Grey glanced over at his partner with slight hesitation. Bastet had always left him uncomfortable. She sat beside him, dressed in a strange kimono. Made of a silk and cotton blend, while it ended just below her waist, the sleeves of the Japanese dress went well past her hands, obscuring them from sight. A blood-red flower pattern decorated it, going well with the deep violet coloring. Thin white padded slippers covered her feet, and she wore faded pink knee-high socks. The most curious thing about her, however, was the mask she wore. White as a snow-covered grave, it bore but a simple design upon it; a cat-like smile, four slits where eyes might lie, and in the center, a painting of an eye the same blood-red as the flowers that dotted her. Her purple locks gently flowed along the side of the mask in the gentle breeze atop the truck they’d been assigned to transport them to where the Night Creature clan lie in wait for their upcoming battle. The pixie cut and bangs suited her, as did the cat-ear like protrusions of hair atop her head, though he’d never admit it. Mostly, it was out of fear. He’d never seen her face; as far as he could tell, no living man had.

She turned her head towards him, and he looked away. It would be a long mission; hopefully, things would run smoothly. Nightshade’s orders had been clear: remain out of sight, and out of detection as much as possible. If the situation became troublesome for them, then the two were to step in. Aside from that, however, Bastet was to handle a majority of setting things up so that Nightshade’s plans could progress. All that needed to occur was the defeat of the Nehushtan Coils, and everything would proceed without issue. Bastet types on her phone, Siri’s voice reading out her message.

“What is it, Grey?” Siri asked in Bastet’s stead. “Are you having cold feet?”

“No,” the dragonkin replies. “I’m simply thinking is all. Are we certain these… false Night Creatures will be able to handle these Coils? From what’s been gathered of them, they’re quite the force to be reckoned with.”

“They shall prevail. We shall ensure it, though there will be little need for our assistance.” She pulls out a small handheld device, which Grey had seen in use before. It was a powerful EMP device of unknown origin; one of its more notable features being that it could recharge itself after use. “The main priority is isolating them from the RHG Organization’s eyes. What happens next simply happens.”


-----

Dante gave his equipment one final check. The Protech FAV LV SM02 Level IIIA Vest was firmly strapped in place, hidden beneath a dark camo tank top. The vest had been slightly modified from its original design; aside from the increased ballistics and piercing resistance, he’d also gotten some help from Rhami to make it even lighter, so that his movements were barely restricted. The black bomber jacket at his side contained his prized diamond-edged butterfly knife, as well as its twin, and a pair of S&W M&P .40s, modified to have red dot sightings. Typically, he didn’t dual-wield the guns for practical reasons, but being able to swap between the two was faster at least once versus changing the mag. He had two extra mags on him, giving him a grand total of sixty-four shots between the handguns.

To his side, awaiting assembly, was an M&P 15-22 Sport, a rifle using .22lr ammunition. While it could only fit ten bullets at a time, it was a powerful weapon, and he’d gotten thirty additional shots for it. It would likely be his primary weapon for the skirmish; he was dealing with dangerous psychopaths with deadly abilities; range would be his ally as he supported his fellow Coils. After ensuring the rest of his gear was in check, he dropped out of the van and met up with the others, forming a quick huddle. Dracustos was the only one missing at the moment, as he had chosen to perform reconnaissance from the air. David held the walkie talkie out for everyone to hear.


“It seems there are a total of fifteen men guarding the facility,” they hear crystal clear through the device. “Five on the roof at each corner with one in the center, two groups of four making rounds, and two guarding the entrance.” David gives Dante a nod, handing him the modified Daisy PowerLine BB gun, which he’d upped the CO2 pressure allowance on, and adjusted to shoot tranqs rather than the usual metal balls.

“Dracustos, please neutralize the targets on the roof. We’ll break into two teams and take out the roaming parties, before taking the men guarding the entrance.”

“Understood, Doctor.” The radio goes silent, and David motions to the group. He and Zoe would head right, Dante and Altaer would take the left. The two men nod, moving out. As they stalk the men, Altaer speaks silently to Dante from behind his mask.

“Zalgo’s been still for some time now in there. It has me somewhat concerned; he may be setting up a trap with his oil. Do you have any defenses against it aside from your guns?”

“Well, I can’t say for sure, but possibly.” He needed to keep up his bluff in regards to his arms’ strength. “It’s sort of a… untested, highly dangerous, possibly cataclysmic move on my part. It’d be better for me to hang back…” He lines up the shots, marks them in his head mentally, then fires four tranqs in rapid succession, the white-clad bodies soon falling to the ground. “...and provide fire support for you guys. After all, you all are the ones with powers. I’m just a normal guy who’s good with weapons.” He heads over to the men and places his fingers to each of their necks, checking for pulses. All of them were still alive; good, no need to spill unneeded blood.

“You’re pretty good, y’know that?”

“You flatter me, Mr. Fixer. Almost reminds me of back when we were handling Orecho-” And suddenly, he woke up in bed. “What the hell…?” He felt something grinding against his left thigh wetly.

“Mmm, baby, what’s got you in such a mood?” The female voice was heavenly, though he couldn’t recall ever having met anyone with that voice. Still trying to figure out why he was suddenly in bed when he was just talking to Altaer, he was greeted by a horrifying sight: it was Zalgo, dressed in skimpy lingerie, long black tongue playing with his leg uncomfortably close to his sensitive parts. The mouth on Zalgo’s face seems to turn into a contorted grin as it spoke once more. “What’s wrong, lover boy? Cat got your tongue?”

And as Dante screamed, he was awoken by Rhami shaking him, Astor watching him from his headboard, his form that of a peregrine falcon. “Dante, Dante, calm down! It was only a dream.” He sits up immediately, holding his chest as a cold sweat pours down his brow.

“A terrifying dream,” he says. “There was a monster in my bed, licking my thigh, staring at me with those beady black eyes…” He puts his hands to his face, trying to let the memory fade away. “But… it doesn’t make sense. I was just outside of an RHG safehouse; now I’m in bed. What is going on here?” He felt something drip onto his head, and looking up, he saw oil pouring from Astor’s mouth, his eyes the same inky black that Zalgo’s had been.

“Don’t worry,” Rhami said, and as he turned to look at her, the same affliction had befallen her. “Just let it all go. You’re in bed after all. Just rest, Dante. Rest.” As she spoke, the sheets began to wrap around him, growing thick and moist as a tongue. Around him, teeth seemed to rise from beneath the frame, slowly closing around the three. The mattress falls away from beneath him, and he felt a rhythmic pulse come from somewhere behind him. The tongue slowly turns him around, showing a black heart; however, it was no normal heart. As he continued staring at it, the details slowly became more defined.

It was him. Dante stared at himself, curled into a ball, pulsating as black fluids flowed through tubes into him. Slowly, Heart-Dante opened his eyes, and darkness flowed out of them. Something within him twisted, looking at this abominable recreation of himself. He was being toyed with, viewed as someone easy to manipulate. He wouldn’t accept it. Calming his breathing, he let his mind empty, revolve around himself and himself only. As he did, an easiness filled him. This place had no power over him; Zalgo had no power over him. This was his mind, and here, he was in control. Slowly, he reached into his pocket; he was dressed now, no longer feeling the slimy, disgusting appendage about him. Taking Chance’s gift from his pocket, he rips apart the tongue, remaining aloft in the air of his own volition. Very slowly, he moved over to the dark shadow of himself, staring into its empty eyes.

“You are not me, and I’m not afraid of you.” Pulling back, he let his pent up anger unleash itself in the heart. As the blade hilted, his eyes opened, and he looked into the eyes of Altaer, who was tearing his shirt off. “Wha… what the hell are you doing?”

“In case you hadn’t noticed,” Altaer says, “you’re currently bleeding quite a bit.” Removing the armor, he grimaces slightly. “That’s a deep wound. Puncture, like from a sharp blade. Doesn’t look like it hit anything too vital, but this bleeding will likely be a serious issue. Dammit, we don’t have the materials to properly dress this. Looks like Zalgo got to you; his range has grown.”

Dante looked down at himself; though he could see the wound, see the blood bubbling out, he couldn’t feel it. Memories of what happened came back; had that been the monster’s plan? Rather than attack himself, have Dante do it for him? He cursed himself for his foolishness. He’d been training his mind specifically to counter Zalgo, and had fallen directly into his trap instead. Taking his shirt, he tore several strips from it, measuring them to make sure they’d be long enough. Then, he took drastic measures. Shooting off one of his M&P’s, he grit his teeth as he pinched the wound closed and pressed the hot metal to it. It wasn’t the best way to cauterize a wound, but it would have to do; the pain was excruciating, though. As he suffered in silence, the radio came alive. MacBeth sounded… very unhappy.

“Dante, Al. Zalgo got to Zoe. I’m unsure what exactly happened, but wounds started appearing on her body, and she began to transform into her demonic form. I had to tranquilize her; if I hadn’t, there was a good chance she’d not only kill the humans around here, but she’d critically injure several of us as well. Is everyone else alright?”

“Dante got a bad wound to the stomach,” the Abyssal Lord said. “He’ll need first aid; this may be a bust.” The walkie-talkie is snatched from his hand. Dante gives him a glare to rival any of the imprisoned spirits he stood watch over.

“I’m fine,” he informs the Doctor in a guttural voice. “It’s not that serious. Besides, I’m sticking to the back anyways. We can get Zoe to the van and then storm the place with the just the four of us. You’ve got your invincible clones anyways; there’s still the advantage of numbers. Of course, with two of us already in this state without meeting them… we may have to consider a retreat.”

MacBeth eventually says, after but a moment’s hesitation, “We’ll regroup, I’ll do what I can for your wounds, then we’ll decide if we’re still in any condition to handle the Night Creatures. Move out.”


-----

Zalgo opens his eyes. His telepathic voice holds a hint of smugness within it. ”It seems that the attack was effective, Manny. One of their own has fallen, and another is in a poor state. Only three are still in proper fighting condition.”

“Good going, Zalgo.” Manny hefts his pickaxe over his shoulder, stretching a bit. “Guessing one of those three is the dickwad who kicked your ass, huh?”

The smugness is replaced with anger. ”The Lord of the Abyss is amongst them, yes. I will personally see to it that he is crushed for the humiliation he placed upon me.”

“Sure thing, sure thing. Just remember, we’ve got to make sure to handle this right. Dude’s not human, right? I can feel some weirdness about him; here but not here. Ain’t quite demon though, not like that girl I felt.” A grin spreads across his face. “Me and Kizu will handle him first, so you can take your sweet time finishing him off. Then we’ll handle the others. Got your oil set up proper?”

”Yes,” Zalgo answers as the smugness returns, alongside a hint of pride. ”Every single inch of the floor has been covered in my oil. So long as I continue to let it flow from my body, nowhere within this place is safe from me. It will be interesting, seeing if your plan shall work. Though I’ve sent forth armies with my mind before, I’ve never moved others in a way such as… this.”

“Don’t worry, dude. Toys were made to be played with, anyways. Just keep us updated on when they’re coming in.”

”Easy enough- wait. There are two other presences. Their minds are… very powerful. I don’t think the Affliction would affect them in the slightest.” Manny turns to him.

“Whoa, what? They’ve got two more on their side?”

”No. They’re… on someone else’s side. They don’t mean us harm, however. It seems they’re here to assist us, to some extent at least.”

“Ugh, alright. Keep an eye on them too. I don’t need anyone else trying to interfere in my fun, dammit.” He glances over to Kizu, who was simply inspecting her spear without a care. “Kizu, that goes to you, too. I want a chance to fight.”

She simply shrugs.

“Thanks.”

”They’re coming. They’ll be here in a few moments; the Abyssal Lord is taking the front, while the critically injured one is hanging back. It seems they’re trying to keep him from the fight as much as possible. I can also sense that his shadow-beasts are trying to survey the area for him. They’ll be eliminated with haste… there. Five have been eliminated. No more of that.” Zalgo’s oil slowly wraps around Manny and Kizu, lifting them into the air. Their limbs become coated in a viscous iron armor, and their minds linked through Zalgo. It was finally time for things to begin.


-----

Altaer resumes his human guise. “I’m unsure how exactly, but they’ve managed to rig the place so that my Shadyns are killed instantly. It’s likely Zalgo’s doing. He’s inviting us to them himself; we’ll be going in blind. Doc, have one of your clones follow behind me, followed by Dracustos. You’ll come in behind Dracustos, with your other clone sticking close to Dante to provide him additional backup.”

The Doctor nods, his reflections phasing from his body. “You two know what to do, correct?” They give a swift nod before moving to their designated positions. “Be careful, Al. This is quite obviously a trap.”

“And that’s why I’m going first. At least I can’t die.” He turns and moves ahead. “Zalgo, and likely the rest, are behind this door. Be ready you guys. This war is for our justice.” He opens the door, and steps through. And as he does so, the world fades into darkness all around them.


-----

Bastet moves her device back within the folds of her kimono, bringing back out her phone, which had been given a special casing to prevent it being destroyed by the device. Siri’s voice speaks to Grey. ”That takes care of that. This facility uses closed network cameras to prevent their systems from being hacked into. This should destroy all footage they have, and destroy the primary power source. They’ll have to rely on their secondary power, which removes external access to the facility, as well as has overall lowered conditions.”

“In simpler terms, RHG can’t interfere or determine who the attack is led by, and the battle conditions are more in the Night Creatures’ favor. Next, we simply keep track of how the battle progresses, and provide assistance if need be.”


-----

It was within the same instance that the lights went out, that Manny and Kizu’s weapons pierced through the disoriented Altaer, Manny’s pickaxe going through where his heart would be whilst Kizu’s spear pierced through his head, both propelled by Zalgo’s oily grasp. The sheer force rips his head from his body, and like that, his mortal shell dissipates in a glowy mist. Red lights turn on through the facility, giving a tint of madness to the two dolls as they look through the doorway at the others.

“Sup, assholes,” Manny says with glee. “We’re gonna have a lot of fun tonight. Try not to disappoint.” A gunshot rings as a bullet is stopped by Manny’s Oil Armor. He leans his head back. “Thanks, Zalgo.”

”That wasn’t to help you. He was attempting to shoot me through you.”

“Oh, so they already know? Good. Just means we don’t have any holding back to do.” The Coils retreated, looking to earn some space. David MacBeth spoke loudly.

“This need not end in more bloodshed. I believe that this all was arranged by-” He’s silenced by Kizu’s spear flying past him, the blade leaving a red streak across his perfect cheek. He brought his fingers up, touching the blood and bringing it to his face, faint shock filling him.

“Kizu, baby, we’re beyond the point where we intimidate them. We’re on the ‘beat them within an inch of the grave’ part.” Manny snickers to himself, slowly walking towards the group.

“Sorry,” Kizu apologizes, holding up her hand. The spear returns, and she spins it before wielding it within both hands, pointing the head towards the ground. “I won’t miss next time.” MacBeth’s expression turned grim.


“They can’t be reasoned with. We must take them down. Everyone, attack!” From his coat, he pulled forth a Winchester ‘73 One-in-a-Thousand, taking aim at Manny. His reflections pull out similar weapons, the same actually, though for the moment they keep them lowered, awaiting a command or opportunity to strike. Dante, still hanging back, keeps his gun pointed towards Zalgo, cursing himself for missing his chance earlier. Dracustos let his swords hang loosely in his grip, smoke slipping from his bared fangs. Manny and Kizu halted their approach, Zalgo remaining where he was in the other room. The air was heavy with feelings of the two groups, their wills already clashing though their bodies were still. This fight could be settled in an instant, or it could be drawn out; all that mattered was who moved first.

Unfortunately for the Coils, Dante was the first to move. A pang of pain ripped through him from the wound he’d received earlier, and his gun lowered as a result. Zalgo made full use of this, using the oil he’d already spread around to form tendrils to grab the inactive Reflections, dragging and binding them to the ground, their guns being tossed aside. MacBeth seems unphased, shooting at Manny’s legs in order to seal his movements, though the armor simply deflected the bullets. Manny rushed forward, weapon scraping against the black floor as he targets Doctor.

Moving between them, Dracustos looses a tunnel of flames towards Manny, the puppet backing off and rolling to the side as Kizu moves in, thrusting her spear towards Dracustos’ chest. The blue dragon manages to sidestep from the fatal blow, though the spearhead still left a serious wound upon his left breast. From behind, MacBeth and Dante both take aim at her, ready to fire, though it was in that moment that Kai dropped from the ceiling, slashing them both in the back with blades from his forearms. The two’s shots misfire; Dante’s goes to the floor, while the Doctor’s hits Dracustos in the back, the armor piercing rounds digging deep into the scaled one. The Doctor quickly regains his composure, turning to fire onto the bladed youth when a iron spike goes through his leg.

Gritting his teeth, he fires through the spike just as Kai rushes him, tossing his gun in the air as he fends off the attack with the two tactical knives. Bracing himself with his bad leg, he pushed Kai back, slipping his knives back in their pockets as his gun falls, firing it off into the youth’s stomach and turning to fire off several shots at Manny. They manage to get through the front of the armor, but remain lodged in his body; Kai, in the meantime, falls back, blood pooling around him. Dante looks down to him coldly, but turns his attention back to the fight at hand. He had no time to get empathetic. The two proceeded to fire at will at the three attackers, Zalgo protecting himself with a wall of oil.

Their focus, however, would prove to be his demise. Kai’s eyes came back into focus, the pupils turning into reptilian slits as he broke himself free of his human form. The Anarchy Wyvern burst forth, blood exploding from the shell that was once his body and getting both David and Dante’s eyes. Whipping its tail around, it knocked Dante off of his feet, slamming a foot down on his chest as it shattered a few ribs, before ramming its head into the Doctor’s midsection, rushing forward and smacking him into a wall. He drops his gun, the air leaving his body as the wyvern pulls back, ramming him once more. Something inside of him breaks, likely a rib, and he feels it pierce something. When the beast pulled away again, he quickly reached into his jacket, pulling out a syringe. As the beast slams against him once more, he braces himself, jabbing it between the scales with the powerful tranq. Though the dosage would be lethal to a human, on a creature of this size and biology, the effects would likely simply render him unconscious for a time.

Dracustos’ fight was faring even worse; with none to assist him, he alone had to try to take on the toy couple. Manny and Kizu moved in sync with one another, Manny taking the lead and launching blows left and right, keeping Dracustos’ swords at bay whilst Kizu moved in at the weak points in the dragon’s defense and struck him between his scales. With Zalgo’s assistance, their speed and fluidity was a force to be reckoned with, and Dracustos decided it was necessary to take a gamble. Igniting his most powerful flames, he spilled out the white and blue superheated fire towards them, moving his head back and forth to cover as large an area as possible. Zalgo’s armor leaves off of them, forming a wall; though they were both resistant to flames, the heat would easily still burn them to cinders. Even Zalgo’s wall wasn’t enough to provide suitable protection, it steadily breaking down at the continued onslaught of heat.

It didn’t need to provide continuous protection, however; it simply needed to provide a distraction. From the top, Manny comes down, bringing the blunt side of his pickaxe down on Dracustos’ head, striking the gem in the center of his forehead. The crystalline organ shattered on impact, still mostly intact and in his skull, but broken into a myriad of pieces.Dracustos fell to his knees as Manny held the pickaxe to the side of his head. “Huh. Wonder which side I should use. What do you think, Mr. Stank Breath? Pointy end, or non-pointy end? I don’t know how much you can handle exactly.”

A bullet goes through Manny’s head, and he turns to MacBeth, just as another bullet goes through his forehead. The Doctor, knowing it’s useless, sets his gun to the side, drawing his knives once more. “Leave my comrade be.”

“Come on,” Manny says. “Look at you. You managed to knock out ol Kai there, but you’ve got a foot in the grave already. Everyone else here has already been defeated. Are you really going to keep struggling?”

“Yes,” David says. “Your evil cannot be tolerated in this world. Even if it destroys me, I will reject your ways until the end.” Manny smiles, pushing Dracustos over with his foot. He turns to face the Doctor fully.

“Y’know, Doc, when people say things like evil and justice and shit like that, it just comes across as a joke to me. Thing is, people like you like to get all preachy about things that they’ve got no right to get preachy over. Shit, you can’t quantify your justice or evil. They’re concepts; concepts can’t be measured. So while you sit atop your pedestal looking down at people, judging them by your own conceited beliefs, who is there to defend people from you? I know I ain’t gonna do it, because fuck, I don’t give a shit. But think about how much blood you’ve gone and spilled because you were right, cuz you were just. Shit, you’re crazier than I am if you think anything you’ve done is justified, prissy pants.” A knife lodges itself in his chest. He looks down at it, bemused.

“Shut your mouth, you filthy cur.” Unbridled rage filtered from David’s eyes, sharper than any blade could hope to be. “I am a pillar of righteousness, a beacon of perfection. All I do is for the betterment of man as a whole; I sacrifice so that others do not have to. Comparing my ideals to that of a common man is like comparing God to an ant. You are evil, vile, despicable. You can do nothing but cause harm, and it is my responsibility to ensure this does not come to pass.” He pulls a syringe from his jacket pocket, jabbing it into his chest and pushing on the plunger.

“Doping yourself up? Really? That’s sad, dude.” Manny pulls free the knife, tossing it a bit, before throwing it back to the Doctor, hilt first.

“It’s morphine. I’d like to ensure I’m in a proper condition for when I finish you all off.”

“Heh, funny. Here I was thinking I was just gonna kick your ass then find out if the television still worked.” As he proceeded to attempt to make his way towards MacBeth, he finds his movements halted, something grabbing his leg. He looks down to see a mechanical hand, attached to a mechanical arm, attached to a fleshy, bloodied Dante. He gives a whistle. “Well, well, well. I thought you’d already thrown in the flag, man. You’re still fighting too?”

Dante coughs up some blood, spitting it aside, before locking eyes with Manny. “Terri Mayweather. Nineteen year old girl. Did you kill her?” Despite his injuries, his voice didn’t waver in the slightest, his spirit surpassing his flesh.

“Unless she was a demon, a gladiator, or she pissed me off, then no. Teenage bitches don’t exactly hold much interest for me.” Manny turns back to David. “Yo, you got more Morphine on you? I’m thinking I wanna fight this guy over you. Kizu can take you down a few notches.”

MacBeth goes over the situation in his mind a few times, before tossing Manny another syringe, which he drops onto Dante’s chest. Kizu, in the meantime, moves over towards MacBeth.

“Take that morphine and get up,” Manny commands. “You and me? We’re gonna have us a one on one. The rest of your team is pretty much finished; since it doesn’t matter anyways, might as well have some last minute fun together, huh?” Dante takes the vial in his hand, glancing from it, to Manny, then back to it. Without hesitation, he crushed it, letting the drug drip down his arm.

“I don’t need a pick me up to kick your ass.”

Manny bursts into laughter, wiping nonexistent tears from his painted on eyes. “Holy shit, I don’t see how your pants fit with balls that massive.” Manny offers him a hand. “Alright tough guy. Let me get you on your feet at least; consider it my respect as a fellow fighter.” Behind him, Manny hears the clash of blades as Doctor MacBeth parries aside Kizu’s thrusts, this movements getting smaller and smaller to conserve as much stamina as he could. Even with the morphine, his multiple wounds hadn’t been patched up, and the blood loss was beginning to affect him. The sounds did serve to distract him, however, as something unexpected happened.


Altaer, the Lord of the Abyss, appeared behind him, his body skeletal and pulsating with power. Shadows clung to him with desperation, forming a robe of pure darkness. A double tipped, barbed spear materializes in his hand, and silently, he prepares to strike Manny down; perhaps not to finish him, but to remove him as a current threat. Dante’s eyes widen slightly at the sight, though not the sight of Altaer: his eyes widen at the sight of Manny’s smile.

“Didn’t know I could sense your energy, huh, pal?” He tosses his pickaxe into the air. “Should’ve stayed down.”

From above, coming crashing down, is Zalgo. Holding Manny’s pickaxe, he tosses it aside, curling his fists as his Fraysan Oil creeps upon them, hardening into thick gauntlets. “I have waited to return upon you the humiliation I suffered that day.” He brought his fist down upon Altaer’s back, using every bit of his strength. Tentacles of oil hold the physical specter in place, as he shifts to his human form, unable to maintain his Aetheron form any longer. Manny just gives Zalgo an annoyed glare as the alien king unleashes his pent up aggression.

“You fucker! You can’t just throw away my weapon-” He receives a solid blow to the jaw, knocking him to the wall. Dante dashes forward, grabbing Dracustos and throwing him over his shoulder. “You cheeky shitnugget!”

“Sorry,” Dante apologizes as he shoots at Kizu’s feet, breaking her focus and allowing MacBeth to sweep her legs. “I’ll take you on in a fight proper next time, but for now, I’m prioritizing us getting out alive.” He pulls free something from his jacket, and dangles it in one finger. It takes Manny but a moment to recognize it wasn’t just one item, it was a bundle of them. Namely, it was a bundle of grenades.

“Zalgo! Oil around us, now!” Zalgo glances up, noticing the situation, just as Dante pulled a pin free. With black tendrils grabbing them, Zalgo pulls in the members of the Night Creatures, concealing them within an oily cocoon as Dante helped the Doctor out of the room.

“This was a really shitty idea…” Dante chastised himself for the hasty action, just as a white blur surrounded him, and explosions filled the building.


-----

Zoe sets down her companions, tears flowing from her white eyes. It seemed she’d recovered during the fight, through either luck or some other reason, she’d transformed into an angel. With wings of the purest ebony lightly flapping behind her, and divine armor protecting her frame, she slowly returns to her normal form, tears still in her now blue eyes. “I’m… sorry,” is all she can muster. MacBeth holds his hand up.

“It’s fine, my dear,” he groans, trying to comfort her. “It was not your fault; it seems their evil was greater than could be anticipated. They may have won this fight, but we are the ones who come out on top. After all, we’re all alive. We’ll need rest, but we will recover, and we will grow stronger. Those on the side of righteousness may face many trials, but they’ll always prevail.”

Dante glanced at them, then back to the night sky. He thought back to what Manny had said, how he’d behaved. Though he was an asshole, he seemed more battle-crazed than evil. What evil person would offer aid to somebody who came to take them down, who fired at them? He left his thoughts to himself, however; if his employer knew he was having some doubts about the cause, then he could kiss those fat checks goodbye, as well as the favor of the group overall. It was a risk with no reward.

Dracustos slowly came to his senses as well. He looked around, trying to comprehend what was happening, when he spotted a strange sight. A silver blur flying up the building on reptilian wings. He slowly got up, trying to focus on it. “Is that…?” The others turned to him, then looked to where he was facing, missing whatever had been seen. Doctor MacBeth speaks up for everyone to hear.

“We’re heading back to the clinic, everyone. We need to recuperate. We’ve lost this battle, yes, but the war has yet to conclude. We’ve gained valuable information from this; for now, we need to focus on other matters.” He pauses, glancing around. “...seems Al Abby is going to be with us at a later time. Zoe, do you mind taking the wheel? I don’t think any of the rest of us are in the proper condition to be driving.”

“Alright,” she says, wiping her tears away. “Let’s go then.”


-----

Grey arrives on the roof, shifting back from his full draconic form into his human form, rubbing his head. “It’s rather unpleasant having you in my head,” he grumbles to Bastet. “Even if I do understand the necessity of it.” He drops the unconscious Altaer. “Lucky for us, he was hurt enough to become susceptible to your mental invasion as well. Is the return device ready?”

The masked woman pulls a small box free from somewhere in her kimono, dropping it out of her sleeve. Crouching to the ground, she presses several buttons on the side, before the box lights up dully.After a moment, it opens, a cross forming on the ground that slowly grows in size until it’s the size of a car. Bastet makes her way to the center square, and looks to Grey. The dragon-man stretches a bit, before picking Altaer up once more, moving to stand beside Bastet on the platform. It takes but a moment before the box closes on them, sealing them within darkness. Almost immediately, they find it opening again. No longer were they on the roof of the RHG Safehouse; they were back in the base of the Night Creatures, the true Night Creatures. Nightshade stands there near the door of the translocation room; though Nexcorp had proven to be decidedly against them in terms of their stances in regards to where the Night Creatures belonged, when it came to financial backing and research material, they’d proven to be… malleable. It helped that aligning with them, even to such a small extent, helped Nightshade to track M.A.C’s movements. Similarly, the Fountain had proved useful in providing the slave population that helped to run the facilities.

Grey presents Altaer to Nightshade, kneeling as he does so. “We have brought the Abyssal Lord, sir. Bastet informs me that this was the primary reason for our interference.”

“Good,” Nightshade says. “Take him to the reeducation facility. I’ll be with him shortly. You and Bastet may then take your leave.”


-----

In the Safehouse, Manny was punching a wall, his mood having turned dour. “Fuck fuck fuck fuck FUCKING FUCK! We finally had a good fight, everything was going amazing, and they pull a stunt like that? C’mon! Fucking pussing out like that, what the hell? I was having so much fun, and we were gonna teach that holier-than-thou prick a lesson in goddamn humility! Argh, this pisses me off!”

Zalgo was in a similarly dark mood, though he was less open about it. Though he’d managed to let out some of his anger, the Lord of the Abyss had yet to feel the full extent of his wrath. Still, he knew that they would be back. The tie between them would call to him, draw him in, over and over. This had been a victory, no matter how small; he had the power to bring the bastard down, and would continue to do so. Of this, he was certain.

Kai sat up, having returned to his human form, buck naked. “What… happened? Is the fight over already? Did we win?”

“I don’t call it a fucking win,” Manny says, punching the wall again. “They ran with their tails between their legs.”

“Sounds like a win to me,” Kai grumbles to himself. “I’m gonna get dressed. Since we dealt with them or whatever, can we go home?” Kizu and Zalgo look to Manny, who punches the wall a final time.

“Hell yeah. We’re done here.”


-----

Nightshade looked down upon Altaer, his expression vacant. Altaer glared back at him, still trying to shift forms. “Try as you might,” Nightshade says dryly, “You’ll find it won’t work.”

“Who the hell are you?” Nightshade simply stares at him.

“You know who I am. Or, at the least, you’ve heard of me before, to some extent.”

“Then refresh my memory.”

“...” Nightshade gives a small grin. “While I don’t have a name per se, I’ve a moniker I was given many years ago, which I’ve retained given my fondness for it. I am Nightshade, the founder and leader of the Night Creatures.”

“You’re that bastard the Doc was talking about. In the diner.”

“Quite right, yes. And before you make the asinine assumption, no, I’ve nothing to do with the little clan in the RHG System. Not any longer, anyways. Well, that’s both true and untrue, I suppose. While I no longer am directly connected to them, that is not to say I no longer have a vested interest in them. And this organization retains the name Night Creatures; after all, it was named after myself. I saw no reason to change it once we’d left from RHG to pursue things for ourselves.”

“Well, Mr. Stereotypical Evil Overlord, why don’t you continue telling me your plans for killing off humanity so I know what to do when I break free?” At that, Nightshade gets a laugh.

“Ah, so foolish. I don’t plan to kill all humans, Mr. Fixer. You see, despite what many might have you believe, I love humans. I love you all so very, very dearly. After all, without humans, I wouldn’t be.” He starts to walk around Altaer, staring to the ceiling. “My Father, in trying to better understand and connect humanity to one another, seeking global peace nonetheless, inadvertently did something else, something which, in my opinion, was much greater: he gave life to those which lurked within the Collective Unconscious. The emotions, the instincts shared by all people. Though we were each created differently, some of us sharing aspects, some of us entirely foreign to what humans would understand now, we were all unique, and all tied to humanity. I was the one who slipped free; a manifestation of the darkness that lurked deep within the animalistic desires of humans. To feed, to kill, to seek power, dominance. These are the traits I was born with, and these alone made up who I was. However, after my birth, came my death, in a way, and from it, my rebirth. No longer was I simply a bundle of animalistic fears and desires of the Collective Unconscious; I now had access to the conscious mind as well. I was able to learn. So you see, I love humans dearly; I’m a part of each and every one of them. All who have existed, and all who will exist. Though they call me a monster, call me a demon, really, I am but an unkindness born from themselves. If there is any to blame, it is their god or gods who gave to them these feelings which make up my being.”

“Thanks for the backstory,” Altaer sneers, starting to make some leeway with the restraints. “But this doesn’t answer the question of why I’m here.”

“Ah, that. It’s quite simple, really. You see, as I said, I am a part of every human. That includes those who were once human, such as yourself. The reason you’re here, is because I’m going to plant some seeds in your mind. Your little organization? Nehushtan? They’re going to belong to me; not directly, but through you. And don’t worry; in true villainous fashion, once I’ve finished remodeling your mind, you won’t remember anything about our little conversation, nor this place. However, you will find that your anger is greater, your desire for justice on the side of obsession. Will you undermine this Doctor MacBeth? Possibly. Will you fight? Oh, very likely. The seeds I plant in you will slowly fracture your organization apart, and with the extensiveness of it, the cracks in society will grow deep. And from the seams, my madness will seep in.” Nightshade places his hand to Altaer’s head, and brings their faces close together.

“You won’t get away with this.” Altaer spits in his face defiantly. The smile doesn’t leave the dark void behind Nightshade’s eyes.





“Allow me to unofficially welcome you to the Night Creatures.”


-----

If you battle monsters, you don’t always become a monster.
But you aren’t entirely human anymore, either.
-Johnathon Maberry
GDoc Version (https://docs.google.com/document/d/1mQUiTn94Oa0jD4DybkZuqAxFYZessqlRD8Q-705xjh0/edit?usp=sharing)

Azure
07-12-2016, 09:31 PM
[Coils of Nehushtan story]

“Woe to those who devise iniquity,
And work out evil on their beds!
At morning light they practice it,
Because it is in the power of their hand…
Therefore you shall have night
Without vision,
And you shall have darkness
Without divination;
The sun shall go down…
And the day shall be dark for them.”

~~ Micah of Moresheth

__________________________________________


The personal office of Dr. David MacBeth is a place well loved, and well used. The air within it is light, and warm, and comfortable, yet it bears a sharpness as well -- not unlike the taste of air after a lightning strike. Many people see this office, as they come to him for this or that. A masterfully crafted wooden desk is the centerpiece of his side of the room. They all see the rear of it, but none see the contents of its drawers. Let us examine the main one. It slides out smoothly -- of course -- but is surprisingly empty. In fact, there are only two things that it contains. The first is a carefully preserved Star-of-David patch, its faded yellow stained from years of filth. Beside it lies a simple thin wooden picture frame. As we pick it up and turn it to catch the light from the window behind his desk, we see that the paper within is colored with age, and stained with little droplets of something rust colored. Upon closer examination, the very script itself appears to be written in the same rusty liquid, dried into the beautiful calligraphy of the Doctor.

Labyrinth Straight

Another breath –
Deep…in and out,
Swirling before my lips as silver cloud…
Then gone…into Future’s dark, massive breadth.
My eyes are wide
Open…but see
Shadows which merely show themselves to me
To shroud those things that truly hide inside.
I am locked in
War…perilous
Indeed, for I fight with deadly Nothingness
With gleaming sword, shield…this war-gear unseen.
The path for me from birth was laid…
It will not change…
By falls perfection will be made.
There is no solid ground for me,
For I am called
To walk upon the solid…sea.

__________________________________________________ _____________________________
Dawn had yet to break. The morning dew clung like a thousand tiny jewels to the twisted branches of a dogwood, decorating its tender white blossom in a royal splendor. He was awed by the simplistic majesty of the sight. It had once been a favorite wood of the Romans, but legend was that after being used to make The Cross of Christ, it was made blessed, and gnarled so that its wood could never again be used. Though he was not superstitious, it was still a pleasant thought. The surrounding expanse of scattered woods and fields added their own beauty to the scene. Thrushes were singing...they were always the first birds to sing in the morning. His eyes and ears, however, were not focused upon these sights and sounds.

They made him shiver. In his life, he had fought many opponents, and his years of undercover work had brought him into close contact with many people who could easily make his blood run cold. These, however, were different.

The things that stood before him were simply unnatural. One was a gargantuan alien beast, black as midnight and seamed with equally black mouths throughout. Another was a living mannequin, standing there as if snatched from some macabre storefront. And the third might have been human at some point, but the blades that protruded from his skin told a different story.

All three of them were there to kill him. He doubted if any of them truly possessed a heart that was capable of showing real tenderness. Most likely not by now, if they ever had. That fact was why he stood here, preparing to destroy them. He had found them and declared the injustice of their alliance. They had responded by asking him to meet them...to kill him.

He knew their names. Manny Ken, Zalgo, and Kai Havok. He knew their powers. Obtaining facts such as these had become a relatively easy process as Nehushtan had grown. Really, though, that told him little about who he would be fighting. He needed to know their minds. Understand who they were. He did not kill anyone whom he could reasonably win over to the right. Which was why he was currently putting his life on the line. His advantages over these powerful beings would be slight, and he needed to work them to his utmost benefit.

He pulled himself to his most regal posture, staring imperiously at those who stood before him. His voice was carefully measured for maximum impact: it is best described by the fact that Cicero would have been proud of this avid student of speech.

“Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin. Those words divinely hailed the fall of a corrupt empire ages ago, and they hail your fall. You have committed yourselfs to unrighteousness, and shall be punished accordingly.”

They blinked, and their leader -- Manny Ken -- stepped forward, laughing, his pickaxe swinging easily from his hand.

“My, what a nice little speech. A lot of high talk from a single man, though. You won’t have long to back that up.”

David smiled as he whipped out his Winchester ‘73 One-of-a-thousand and simultaneously materialized his Reflections. As his duplicates took aim at Kai and Zalgo, he pumped a round into Manny’s chest, sending him backflipping through the air as bits of torn fabric flew. Two other shots rang out at the same time from his Reflections. He tapped his earbud.

“Spread out and retreat slowly. Do not get near me or each other. Continue attacking.”

They obeyed silently as best they could. Kai launched himself towards one of the Reflections, deftly dodging a bullet as he attempted to drive his blades into the man. David normally would have loved to see his expression when they failed to do any damage, and the Reflection brought down the butt of the rifle on his arm, but the mannequin was already up and swinging...with the hole still there. David backpedaled out of the way, and glanced at the other two Night Creatures. They were following the Reflections.

Good…

He sheathed his rifle on his back and drew his knives, grinning as he ducked under the dogwood.
__________________________________________________ ______

Kai pummeled the Reflection as hard as he could with each hit. He had been prepared for battle, but this was insane. This man was not taking any damage, but was instead just moving and fighting as if nothing at all had happened to him. He was used to using his superior skill and abilities to destroy his targets, not having no effect whatsoever. He was unsure of how to handle this clone of the Doctor...or if it was actually the real Doctor. Either way, it seemed to be retreating through the forest, which he hoped meant he was making some level of progress. It also was a rather poor shot, and not particularly spry, so he really didn’t need to fear much in the way of damage. All he needed to do was corner the thing, and then he would make sure whatever it was would never move again…

__________________________________________________ ______

Clones were nothing knew to Zalgo. He was, in fact, rather used to this ability. For the time being, however, this clone had driven a clean hole in one of his arms, which raised his ire. He began by launching a quick wave of oil at it. The clone failed to dodge, but seemed immune, ignoring the sharpened hard oil and continuing to try to attack. Intrigued, Zalgo quickly analyzed its mind. There was precious little there, but at the same time there seemed to be some barrier preventing him from actually being able to get a full grasp on such a weak mind. Truthfully, though, it wasn’t really worth the effort.

It seemed to be moving away, so he followed it, testing the limits of its durability. The fact that nothing he did seemed harmful was interesting, although disappointing. He contented himself with using the oil to toss it around and into trees and lampposts. He had only gone a short distance, however, before he sensed some slight invasion of his mind. As if someone was watching him, tracking him. He could not place it, but he now noticed there seemed to be a specific direction the clone was leading him.

As he followed it, Zalgo soon found himself at the edge of town. It seemed that the local authorities had already been notified of the battle, and were clearing out civilians form the area. The skyscrapers around the business section provided a vast wall of mirrored surfaces, all reflecting the same image of himself. The quiet was eerie and he could sense the foreboding about which humans spoke. Silence had never bothered him, but now seemed different. The clone seemed to have lost interest in him entirely, instead moving away to round up what remained of the bystanders, who were frozen in awe at the sight of the black creature and its oil.

He liked the feeling of glory and power their astonishment gave him, but that was quickly destroyed by the crack of something far excelling the sonic barrier. He twisted his head just in time for a small scythe whirling on the end of a chain to smack him squarely in the center of his face. The force of the impact flung him backwards into a thin maple, which promptly snapped under his weight. It took him a moment to regain his feet and clear his vision.

A man’s voice called out from slightly above him, laden with sarcastic joy.

“Well hey there, Slick! Imagine meeting you again! It’s a small multi-dimensional universe after all, isn’t it?”

The cocky voice came from a man who was hanging onto the side of one of the business buildings. As he leapt to the ground deftly, Zalgo felt a momentary flash of fear.

This man was the only being to have ever defeated him. This man was the only thing that had ever given him the feeling of fear and shame and humiliation.

He quickly subdued the fear, and replaced it with an equally powerful emotion – hate.

Altaer, Lord of the Abyss, would pay for what he had done.

________________________

Dracustos sat in wait at the top of a building, a keen eye on the park’s treeline for his target. The townhomes in this area of town reflected the wealth of their inhabitants, having been crafted by award winning architects in varying styles, and bedecked with the most advanced greenspace gardening techniques. An annoyed snort escaped his nostrils; he didn’t exactly agree on Macbeth’s plan, more specifically the part where he lures their enemies into the city. No doubt there would be collateral damage, but it posed a threat to the civilians. He knew the doctor planned on helping them evacuate, but it still irked him. Why couldn’t they have met in a forest or some wasteland, somewhere unpopulated?

He is the boss, he sighed in his head. He suddenly found himself worrying for the doctor’s health. Draco thought it somewhat foolish to meet the opposing Clan alone, especially considering its members. He knew of all of them through the mission briefing, and considering their histories, they weren’t ones to be merciful.

He glanced at the people below. Most had already left, unsettled by the appearance of the Night Creatures, but many still remained. I suppose I’ll lend a hand in getting people to move{/I], he thought.

His ears twitched, a tingle running down his neck as Kai and David’s duplicate got near. He spotted them through the foliage and drew a sword. [I]Here we go… Looking back to the people below, he saw some had caught sight of the battle and were leaving, while others remained and watched. With a snort he frowned.

“You people need to leave,” he said sternly, the telepathic voice frightening a number of its receivers. But instead of listening, they began searching for the source of the voice. The halfbreed sighed. “Are you dense? Get out of here!” They obeyed this time, but not before the dueling duo entered the designated area. Luckily, Kai was too focused on the Reflection to bother with fleeing bystanders.

The tall blue figure crouched down, then hopped off the roof. By the time the young man noticed a shadow growing over him, Draustos was bringing his sword down.

CLANG!

A shockwave rattled windows and ruffled cloth as the blow was blocked, and for a split second, Dracustos locked eyes with Kai. In that second he saw many things: the eyes of a lone wolf, of someone who doesn’t much care anymore, a troubled teen who just takes out his frustrations on others. Someone who just wants to survive.

As for Kai… he saw a sort of fierceness in the halfbreed’s eyes he’d never seen before that seemed to pierce through him, like the eyes of a predator. Behind this was determination, and then… regret…?

Whatever he saw was soon covered up, and the halfbreed threw himself back. Kai stared at him for a moment, distracted by the being’s predatory glare.

_____________________________________

Kai’s speed only barely allowed him to dodge the huge blade that sunk into the asphalt where he had been standing, followed by the crushing weight of a large blue Draconian. Kai took a moment to evaluate the situation from what he thought was a safe distance, only to find himself engulfed in flames. Strangely, these burned. They should not have burned -- he was immune to fire. Unless this was not merely just fire. The confusion showed on his face for a moment, until school lessons flashed into his memory as he stopped, dropped, and rolled to extinguish them.

As soon as they were out, he literally erupted into his Wyvern form and teleported over behind the Draconian, trying to land a quick, decisive blow. The Draconian merely flew backwards, splitting his great-sword into two thinner blades, blocking Kai’s blow and making his own.

As the blade left a bloody trail along his shoulder, Kai teleported away and hissed.

“Fighting a fellow dragon, am I? Who the hell are you?”

The Draconian smiled as he took a fighting stance, dual blades at the ready. He was only slightly smaller than Kai’s Wyvern form, and he seemed not the least intimidated by his teleporting foe.

“I am Dracustos, and I am The Knight of Nehushtan.”

Kai distantly realized that the Doctor who had issued the challenge to The Night Creatures had said he was The Head of Nehushtan, and made the connection. This was a teammate. He felt certain he could gain the advantage with the right tactic, and resolved to take the only option he ever considered – leaving the battlefield the victor.

__________________________________

Manny was surprisingly energetic, for a mannequin, and proud of that fact. Dr. David MacBeth was parrying his blows accurately, but he was being beaten back steadily, and having to work quite hard to keep himself from being sliced open by Manny’s pickaxe.

This battle was proving to be quite easy, actually, and if his teammates faired equally well with the duplicates this Doctor had created, they should be rid of this arrogant scumbag before lunch. Granted, this judgemental dope was doing better than most, but still...he was only human. Endurance could only last so long.

The attractive and refreshing verdure of the park soon gave way to the concrete, brick, and asphalt of the city’s trendy downtown area, which was the renovated edge of the old town. None of the buildings here showed their age, however, having been heavily updated to modern tastes by the up-and-coming owners of various boutiques, salons, tailors, café’s, wine-cellars, and similarly eclectic stores.

Manny was just about to deliver a swift, spinning attack with his pickaxe when something smashed into him from the side. He attempted to regain his feet, but there was another lightning fast blow, this time with something sharp. He felt the arm that was holding his pick fall to the ground. His attacker paused long enough for him to recognize her as a girl. Albeit a girl that seemed to possess some supernatural powers, but a girl nonetheless. What intrigued him was that he sensed something about her that was demonic, yet simultaneously knew that she was not a demon. As if there was a duality about her nature. It was worth trying to exploit if possible.

As she came in for the next attack, he jerked his fallen arm up from the pavement, swinging his weapon in a wide arc. It missed her, barely, but left her clearly more confused and more wary of him. His fake mouth spread into a wide grin.

“What? Never fought someone who isn’t living before?”

She did not respond, but gave another feinting dash, testing his reflexes. Manny was a seasoned hand at fighting, however, and did not play into what she wanted. Rather, he shifted his attention to The Doctor, who appeared to be talking on some sort of slim earpiece while showing away anyone who did not belong to the battle.

As the girl launched more speedy attacks, Manny slowly recognized her as Zoe Thanatos. He did not know much about her, but as the current leader of the Night Creatures he had been looking for people who might be a good fit, and had taken notice of this girl after he saw a news report about a decimated village. For her to be working with this egotistical Doctor seemed…odd.

He also realized that this attack had been planned. David had deliberately lured him here to fight Zoe, and Manny Ken could only presume that his fellow clan members were in similar situations. They were all powerful in their own rights, however, and used to fighting on their own.

Besides, he had never planned on giving a fair fight.

_____________________________________

Fighting a member of his own kind brought unusual challenges for Dracustos. He was outclassed in speed, strength, and size. His only advantage lay in his swords and his multiple forms of fires, at this point. The primary problem that faced him was that he really was not trying to kill Kai. Despite the young man’s apparent mania for combat, Dracustos did not want to kill him. Killing was something he sincerely avoided, and with the excuse of David’s command to spare anyone who could be swayed to the side of Nehushtan, he had even more support for this belief.

As Kai flashed into a spot behind Dracustos, he whirled, bringing his dual swords up to meet the fearsome claws of his enemy. Both of them exchanged bursts of fire, before they backed off and began circling again. Time after time they met, clashed, and then withdrew. Although the match seemed even, Dracustos smiled grimly as he saw the cuts in Kai’s scales that oozed blood. After almost every encounter, he managed to land one more blow. He had not successfully performed any direct hits, however, which meant that achieving a non-lethal victory would be painfully slow going.
________________________________

To say that Altaer was pleased to be meeting Zalgo again in battle was a drastic understatement. He had allowed an uncharacteristic flash of emotion and was legitimately thrilled. With one sound victory from a position of disadvantage under his belt, he was fully and completely confident that this time would be no different. At the same time, though, he was not stupid. Zalgo would be fighting with a vengeance this time, and with the benefit of knowing all of his tricks. Altaer would, in some senses, be facing a far more dangerous foe.

Already Zalgo was flooding the whole area with literal tons of oil, launched in all methods of attacks upon Altaer. At this point in the battle, Altaer knew he needed to rely upon his human form’s vastly superior speed to keep himself out of harm’s way. His chain scythes never ceased to be in motion, acting like a dual set of grappling hooks to keep him swinging one move ahead of Zalgo and his oil. He noticed that Zalgo seemed slightly different in appearance this time – namely, stouter. He worried what other changes might happen.

Zalgo seemed to be slightly distracted this time, however. Altaer was well aware of his mental powers, and while he himself was immune now and all bystanders had been rushed far out of range by David’s Reflection, he realized that none of his companions were safe. He swung down to the ground and broke out in a full run around a city block, trying to keep himself ahead of Zalgo and his endless oil. He pressed the earpiece he was wearing.

“David! Damn it Mac, can you hear me?”

There was a momentary pause before he heard a response. “Yes, Fixer, what is it? And I have told you to use our titles on The Coils intercom in case it is highjacked. Over.”

“Cut the code-talk shit Mac. I’ve encoded this so that fifty teams of alien geniuses would take a decade to hack it. The important thing is that something seems off about Zalgo right now. I have the feeling one of our own is going to be victimized by his mental powers. If he goes for the one he senses is most unstable, you know damn well who he’ll be going for.”

“The Byronic – I mean, Zoe. There is no question about it. I already anticipated this once you told me about his capabilities. I’ll keep close to her. Make sure your recruit is ready to take over my position if I have to tend to her.”

“On it.”

Altaer took a moment off the intercom as he circled around the block, doubling back on Zalgo. He planted a rune slightly behind the alien, and sent forth the tendrils of Shadowlight. Zalgo noticed the trick, proving he had learned from his past experience. He raised a wall of oil between himself and the tendrils, but it was too little too late. They punctured straight through the material and wrapped around his right hand as they reached the limit of their reach. Altaer snapped them back towards the rune, slamming Zalgo’s body into the wall of his own making hard enough to shatter it to pieces. He let them vanish just before they reached the spot on the sidewalk where they had originated. Momentum sent the alien spinning through the air towards the mirrored facade of a bank’s headquarters. Oil spilled out of Zalgo’s mouths, however, catching him before the impact.

Having bought himself a few seconds, Altaer tapped the intercom again.

“Dante, we need you at the old-town shopping area. David and I think Zoe is going to be incapacitated, at least temporarily, and the Doc will have to tend to her, leaving both of them vulnerable. You’ll be fighting Manny Ken there, so you know what to expect. Got it?”

The voice that came back to him was clearly pumped for battle.

“I think I’ve got a couple of things up my sleeves that will take that over-stuffed psycho by surprise…hehe, pun intended.”
____________________________________________


Zoe had felt uneasy about going into battle just as her work with David towards more control was beginning, but he had assured her that everything would be alright. For her especially he had promised to take extra measures of crowd control around the battlefield, so that even if something did go wrong, not one civilian would be harmed.

So far she had been doing as he suggested, using only her Angelic form to fight. Against this mannequin speed was really all she needed, and it was not lost on her that Dr. MacBeth had deliberately planned things this way. The battle, at least as far as this part was concerned, was clearly moving towards her favor. Manny had failed to land a single hit on her, although the continued fighting of his freakishly dismembered body was a bit disturbing.

She had just withdrawn from making another successful attack on Manny when the world around her seemed to melt away. Instead, it was replaced with a vision that was permanently etched into her mind, despite her longing for it to be forgotten. She was back in her own home, watching her parents be slaughtered. She wanted to scream for help, to do something to stop it, but the vision continued with her as powerless as she had been then. Suddenly she could see herself, younger than she was now, transforming into the form she so deeply hated. Seeing it now, from the outside, was revolting. How she could turn into something so horrifically evil astounded her. It was the first time she had ever seen what she became, and the feeling stabbing into her like a knife. From that point, the vision blurred, cast into a frenzied array of images of herself in the act of slaying people, helpless people, for no other reason than her uncontrollable, blind, thoughtless rage. She dropped to her knees, tears pouring down her cheeks as she sobbed silently in the sheer soul-crushing shame that welled up at the sight of this.

She heard a pair of shots pierce through the dream, and suddenly felt herself being picked up and dragged backwards, but her sorrow deadened these feelings. A smooth, quiet voice tickled the back of her mind.

You’re nothing more than a hideous killer. Don’t let these supposed friends fool you. They just want to use your power to their good. Let yourself be who you really are, and destroy these hypocrites.

Almost in perfect response, she heard the soothing, urgent tones of Dr. MacBeth as his arms cradled her, stroking her hair gently.

“Whatever is going through your mind, Zoe, do not listen. Nothing in your past determines who you are in the present. Your future begins anew with each passing second. We need you. I need you. I want you to find the peace that you deserve.”

Don’t bother trying to resist the inevitable. Nothing ever really changes, does it? You’ve tried for years…you won’t ever change anything. If you just give into the darkness, the pain will stop.

“Do not let anyone ever bring up your past. It is dead, Zoe…DEAD! You have the opportunity now to become who you want to be, not who everyone – even you yourself – have convinced you that you are. Even if you fail, Zoe, I will not abandon you. I will always be here for you. I will always be here. Trust me Zoe. I promise you. I believe in you.”

The pop was so powerful she was certain it was audible. The disgust of the feeling of being invaded was as much a violation as if she had been raped. But now, her vision cleared, leaving nothing but David’s face, filled with concern – for her. The sheer purity of emotion that he wore pushed that feeling beyond concern…love, perhaps? Not romance, she knew, but the kind of love that had been stolen from her with the death of her parents. Her whole body was shaking like a reed caught in an overflowing stream, yet the feeling that everything would just – work out – stayed with her. David’s smile broke through what was left of the nightmarish experience.

“Just rest. Dante is fighting for us. When you are ready we shall return to the battle. But don’t push yourself right now. Let your mind and heart recover. Something tells me that’s the last time anyone is going to threaten your present with the past.”

______________________________________



Manny had taken the welcome reprieve from Zoe’s onslaught as an opportunity to stitch himself back together. With that done in a matter of minutes, his attention returned to the battle at hand. He knew about Zalgo’s power, and correctly assumed the cause of the young woman’s sudden struggle. His face broke into a smile.

“I hate to barge in, but I’m just going to bring a little reality to your nightmare. Call it special effects.”

As he spoke, he took several menacing steps towards the Doctor, who was glaring at him while still holding onto Zoe protectively. Really, he could not help but laugh derisively. These people took everything so seriously. It was almost enough to ruin his mood. Almost. Then again, when he had the opportunity to kick the shit out of a bunch of people who judged HIS clan up one side and down the other, very little could mess up his good humor. Very little, however, did not exclude the interjection of something unexpected, such as his stalk of the Doctor and the girl being interrupted by a pugnacious voice from behind him.

“Stop right there you... bag of... bag of- fucking, fuckshit- what the fuck was I saying? Hey yeah fuck you, you… bag.”

Manny frowned at the insult, and spun on his heel to face this newcomer. A young man in casual clothes stood opposite him, his right arm behind his back. Said young man arched his back of up like a tom-cat trying to intimidate an interloper. This self-same young man then assumed an expression that can only be described as clownish, dramatically making huge eyes and stretching his mouth into a giant “O” that he then slowly covered with his left hand in mock astonishment. Manny sneered and leaned his pickaxe against his shoulder.

“Bags, you know, are notoriously hard to kill. Particularly considering they aren’t even alive in the first place. Unlike humans, who can die from a little scratch by a dirty nail. Or a bloody pickaxe.”

The potentially deranged young man then began waving the arm behind his back spasmodically, while still holding his absurd stance and expression. Manny now noticed that something was being held by the hand. The maniac then spoke, still...jerking.

“Oh yeah?! Well guess what I’ve got?!”

The seemingly epileptic fellow whipped his arm around in front of him.

“I’ve got a… BOX.”
____________________________

Kai knew he was losing ground against Dracustos, but at the same time he could not even consider stopping the fight. He was becoming exhausted from teleporting repeatedly, and from throwing himself so wholeheartedly into the battle. Experience would have told him to hold out on this more powerful form against an opponent whom he could have defeated with speed. He realized now the mistake that he made in making himself a bigger and slower target. The question flashed across his mind – how long could he hold out? He shifted back into being a human, and tried to get a feel of the situation at hand now. Dracustos lunged in, swinging both blades, but now Kai was able to dodge easily. He formed a blade for himself and clutched it tightly. Compared to the Draconian’s swords, his blade was tiny. He also had the disadvantage of using only one, but right now he wanted to keep his other hand free, just in case.

He backpedaled, tried to put more room between himself and his opponent. Dracustos began to pursue him, then suddenly jerked, like a marionette with tangled strings. He dropped his swords, and reached around to his back, pulling out a spear from between his ribs. Kai smiled as he watched him brace himself on the spear, and spit out a mouthful of blood. He recognized the diminutive figure in the background that had thrown the spear, of course. Kizu often stayed around The Night Creatures’ headquarters because of her relationship with Manny. Obviously Manny had expected something to potentially go wrong, and had arranged for a surprise backup.

With Dracustos now severely injured and distracted, Kai flashed into close quarters, knocking the spear out from the blue dragon’s grasp and driving his blade between a set of belly scales in two quick motions before retreating to a safe distance. The spear was caught by Kizu, who stepped in and delivered a jab to his thigh, sending The Knight to his knees.

Both Kai and Kizu prepared to strike again. Their enemy had fallen from power easily, and was now one moment away from death. Dracustos was clearly feeling the effects of the wounds, then abruptly his face changed. The following instant, everything else about him changed as well.

___________________________

Nightshade did not like being left out of the fun part of his work. His peculiar genius was, indeed, perfectly suited to commanding his two most loyal workers in his devious designs, and he did enjoy the lurid level of luxurious living which carefully planning and strategic manipulation of connections and interests had afforded him. Yes, he knew that because of various factions that were far too aware of his existence and far too hostile about it, he was wise to keep his personal doings as concealed as possible. Still, nothing replaced getting into the middle of a good fight.

Before him sat a neat array of devices that served as his center of command. Two screens displayed independent pictures from drones over the battle. Two separate speakers played the voices of his own personal Night Creatures, Grey and Bastet. They both knew their directives well.

Nehushtan had been something Nightshade had watched with interest for decades, though with only limited success. Since most Serpents possessed no ties to any other Serpents, he had made extremely slow progress in understanding the organization itself. Patience, however, was something that he was well practiced in, if more from necessity than from actual preference. Thus, he had eventually learned of who the two leaders of Nehushtan, and their names were ones that had already been of interest to him.

Dr. David MacBeth was a name he had followed for years with interest. The man was remarkable on all counts, particularly for a human. More than that, however, there was a personal connection – it was distant, but not forgotten. And then there was his dubious companion, Altaer. He knew less about this one, but the last few battles he had been able to watch – particularly the encounter with Zalgo – told him that this man had lost his humanity somewhere along the way.

Both of them were certainly worth this extra effort.

______________________________________

It was Grey’s task to capture the Doctor. The information Nightshade had given him indicated that after Dante had engaged Manny Ken, David MacBeth had called for his nurse, and then taken the recovering Zoe inside of an empty store. He flexed his muscles as he skirted around to the rear of the store, readying his combat hardened body for another encounter. This one he doubted would be much trouble. Zoe was certainly far from being in any position to fight, the nurse was just another human, and David – while a worthy opponent – was still, again, just human.

He gripped the handle, and was surprised to find it unlocked. Slipping into the building, he paused a moment to let his eyes adjust. The interior of this section was dark, with the only source of light coming from two windows obscured by heavy drapes, and a glowing red “EXIT” sign. The only sound came from a creaking of the floor above his head, accompanied by hushed voices. In the corner of what he realized was the storage area there was a flight of narrow wooden stairs, dusty with disuse. With the trained step of a professional he ascended them silently, gingerly testing each one to know where to put his weight. At the top, he found himself in a long hallway that ran the length of the building, lined with a set of small rooms. He moved down the corridor until he was near the middle of the hall, and then froze. Again, the voices, and this time he could tell precisely from which room they proceeded. Approaching the door, his keen eye caught a convenient keyhole. Squatting, he peeked through it, and his face fell as he saw only Zoe and the nurse.

He straightened and pushed open the door. Valera whipped around to face him, her face a mix of emotions.

“Who are you?”

Grey hesitated for an instant, making sure his target was not hiding in some corner of the room he had not noticed. Without any furniture, boxes, closets, or windows, he knew this was not the case.

“I am Mr. Grey. I was…hiding…in this building. I heard voices, and saw the good Doctor come in here. I was wondering if you could help me, maybe.”

Valera seemed to consider this momentarily, then turned to Zoe.

“I’ll be back as soon as I help this man. You’re doing great…just let yourself relax, and remember what David told you, okay?”

The traumatized girl nodded, and then Valera walked over to the door and stepped out, shutting it behind her.

“Now, what is it you ne—”

Knowing that fear was a powerful weapon, Grey shifted into his full dragon form, one mighty clawed hand grasping her throat and pinning her against an opposite wall, feet dangling off the ground. His voice was reduced to a whispering, guttural growl.

“You will tell me where the Doctor has gone, and I will let you free. But I will do whatever necessary to learn all you know, and you will not lie. So speak. Now.”

Valera’s cool professional demeanor vanished. Her eyes were stretched wide, every muscle on her face was taunt, and her body stiffened. The utter horror of the abrupt threat seemed to have stunned her. He, of course, was pleased that he had calculated correctly. Once she came to her senses, there was no doubt that she would do want was necessary to preserve her own life, and that of her patient.

Except instead of coming to her senses, her face suddenly fell into a complete blank expression, and she seemed to be staring into some spot in the middle distance. Her body remained somewhat stiff, but at the same time eerily relaxed. For a moment, Grey worried that he had made her lose consciousness by gripping her neck too tightly, or perhaps made her faint.

Before he could act on that, however, she vanished. He stumbled slightly as his hand slipped through where her neck had been and slammed into the opposite wall, its impact muffled by the soft surface of old drywall. His dragon senses told him she was behind him, and he whirled, ready to fulfill his threat of punishment.

He never fulfilled that threat. Now it was his turn to be caught off guard by shock. The sight of her – or more aptly, the sight of it – was far from what he expected. Their information had told him that she was just a nurse who was a close associate of David. This…was no nurse.

And there was no room to run.

___________________________

Altaer had managed, so far, to hold his own against Zalgo. The fact that he was fighting something empowered by the taste of imminent revenge was not lost on him. He knew from experience now that his made advantage lay in the speed and runes of his human form. He could only use his Aetheron form in strategic spurts, and Zalgo certainly would not fall for the Shadyns of his Sphere form again.

Daylight also played into the hand of his enemy right now, because there was now no way to hide a surprise attack, except with the buildings around him. Flashing through one of the inner corridors in a half-demolished office building, he used his spiked bracers to smash through a wall of windows and send himself spiraling through the air. A scythe flashed out of his hand and hooked onto a bent steel girder, providing an anchor for swinging around the corner of the block. As Zalgo came into view, he materialized a set of runes on either side of the street, both of them launching tendrils at the alien. Zalgo noticed the threat a moment too late, and was caught by them from both sides, bound and yanked into mid-air.

With the advantage of being several stories up and behind Zalgo, Altaer shifted into his Aetheron form and hurled himself downwards toward his foe with all the force his own gliding, solid shadows, gravity, and momentum could muster. Bracing for the impact, he pulled his fist back, readying himself to smash Zalgo into the asphalt with a lethal headshot.

A split second before the attack, an EMP smashed into his side, blasting him off course. He recovered enough to hurl his spear – coated in Shadowlight – through Zalgo, but this was far from the finisher he had planned. He returned to his human form and hurled himself into the nearest set of doors, followed a moment later by a wave of Oil. The force of the Oil ripped out the main supports of the building, causing it to creak ominously, and urging Altaer out the other side. Now in the street, he stopped, eyeing the space around him. His instinct experience told him whoever had thrown the EMP would be coming soon, but his senses failed him in detecting the threat. Unable to do so, he morphed into the Sphere. Instantly twenty Shadyns were speeding through the surrounding areas.

To his astonishment, they encountered a number of civilians moving about in the vicinity and with some of the buildings. His puzzlement was quickly answered by the detached look in their eyes. Either Zalgo or this newcomer were in their minds. The fact that he had not seen them at all until this instant suggested that his new opponent was the one involved.

A few more seconds and one of the Shadyn’s spotted a masked woman who was clearly out of place. He rerouted all but one of Shadyns immediately into the shadows of that room, sending them erupting in a swarm upon the woman. The impact of nineteen chaotic bloodthirsty beings – however weak on their own – was more than enough to overwhelm her. Their force smashed her through the outside wall and into the air, where she tumbled to the ground in a swarm of writhing black bodies.

She gained her footing quickly, however, and soon lashed out with crimson blades deftly at Altaer’s minions, dispelling them quickly. While she was thus busied, he returned to human form, ready for battle. He couldn’t help but smirk at the pathetic tattered remains of her kimono. Under other circumstances she might have proved a bit fun, but this was war. She turned and charged him, her blades and oddly purple hair glinting in the light of the setting sun.

He met her blades with his own seax, flashing and spinning through a flip that would have made Hollywood proud. No sooner had he landed, however, then Zalgo appeared from around the building, his Oil already hurtling towards Altaer. On either side came a score of people wielding a variety of small arms, their dead faces indicating that one or the other of these beings had turned them into slaves.

In the midst of the chaos, he realized retreat was absolutely impossible. He had made the mistake of shifting his attention off of Zalgo for too long for such a powerful opponent, and this trap was the result. He had long since disposed of pain receptors, and any death of his was not permanent, so he had little to fear. A smile broke across his face as he quoted an old military commander’s words.

“The enemy is to the north of us; the enemy is to the south of us; the enemy is to the east of us; and the enemy is to the west of us. THEY CAN’T GET AWAY NOW!”

____________________

Zalgo sensed that whoever this intruder was, she did not intend to harm him, though she was not directly an ally, either. While she was stealing his pleasure of a purely unaided victory of Altaer, he could not help but acknowledge that he arrival was timely, and would certainly seal Altaer’s defeat. Her mind was extremely powerful – to powerful to conquer for his own means – but he was grateful for the fact that she had brought a group of lesser minds into the range of his power.
He could hear Altaer’s dramatic and arrogant little speech, and his fury rose even further. Defeat was tangible, yet this obstinate being met it with a grin and a joke. He was uncertain whether to place that as stupidity, or unbreakable courage, or perhaps a combination of both.

He gave the signal to his mind-controlled army to attack as the thousand spars of his Oil rushed in on Altaer from all angles, and the mysterious woman dove in for her own attack.

Suddenly there was a thick shell of Oil around Altaer. The huge ball wound itself thicker and thicker. Zalgo froze as the spars of Oil smashed themselves uselessly against the barricade and shattered. All of the other attackers stopped as he discarded their mental manipulation, focusing solely on this new problem.

He had not commanded the Oil to protect Altaer. For no reason whatsoever would he have done this. He spoke into the mind of the mysterious woman, and cold anger steeling his telepathic voice.

Who are you, and did you protect this man from my grasp?

She stepped to the side, watching him warily, and spoke.

“No. I am Bastet, and that is enough for you to know. And while I indeed needed Altaer alive, it was not I who did this.”

His eyes shifted to the people who were laying catatonic on the group from the sudden cessation of his Affliction now as they jumped to their feet – not at his command – and turned as one upon Bastet. She recognized the threat, and charged them, dodging the shots of those that had guns, and hacking her way into the others. On his part, Zalgo felt a massive stab in his side. He looked down to see Oil – his Oil – embedded in his body. He cast about, trying to sense another presence.

His search turned up two beings. Dr. David MacBeth was somewhere on the edge of his range, and so was vague and powerful being unlike any he had ever encountered. He broke free of the Oil, only to realize that all of the Oil he had been spilling into the city was now turning upon him. He exerted his will and fought it back, but was still forced to dodge many blows than he could not will out of existence. He began to retreat, Altaer now the farthest thought from his might.

As he passed by the side of one of the street corners, all four of his eyes and every mouth on his body stretched wide in astonishment.

He stood before himself. There was no other conclusion. This being that was now attacking him, and turning his Oil back upon him, was Zalgo. But it could not possibly be so – HE was Zalgo. There was no time for questioning, however. It was pumping out its own supply of Oil, adding to his own, and the whole vicinity was turning into a massive, lethal, warzone.

___________________________________

Bastet had little trouble hacking through the attacking humans, but was now facing attacks from the thick black Oil that coated the entire area. She opted to beat a hasty retreat, desperate to get out of the grasp of something so deadly. Altaer was out of her reach, though her mind told her that he was still alive. She and Grey were to rendezvous towards the center of the City Park, so she raced for that location. She passed Zalgo fighting a perfect duplicate of himself, and realized the problem at hand. Such chaos was well beyond what she wanted to involve herself with, urging her to meet with Grey even more quickly. Although fiercely independent, he had worked alongside her for years now, and was a valuable ally in their service to Nightshade.

When she reached the dogwood that they had specified beforehand, Bastet ground to a halt. What lay before her was barely identifiable as…anything. The only indication it was living was that it was bleeding, and it moved.

Grey’s face was little more than a hideously mutilated pulp. Only one eye was visible, and the fact that he was able to speak astounded her.

He apparently read the question on her face, and answered laboriously.

“The Doctor…was not…there. I threatened his nurse…”

“Valera Braginsky,” Bastet broke in.

“Yes…Valera…she is…not…human like we…thought. I am fortunate to have…survived, but not the…victor.”

His explanation ended, he hacked up a lump of half-clotted blood, groaning with the pain, and then collapsed back to the ground.

Bastet spoke into her earpiece. “Master, have you heard and seen all that has happened.”

The voice that drifted back to her was clearly irritated. “I have heard everything, although I was only able to track you with my drones since Grey fought indoors. It is useless for you to try to fight both Altaer and David alone, so for now wait for the arranged transport. The battle is not over – we must merely bide our time.”

___________________________________

Altaer took the spare time to wait until all was clear. The EMP the woman had thrown earlier had blown out his earpiece, so he was essentially working alone. Zalgo, he was certain, would not have protected him of his own volition, so something was certainly amiss. After nothing happened, he shifted into his Sphere again scanned the surrounding area with his Shadyns. He was stunned to find not one, but two Zalgos fighting just around the corner from him. He drifted through his Oil shell before returning to his human form.

Dashing around the building, he froze uncertain of what to do now. It had been his intention to finish Zalgo off, but now he did not know which one was his defender, and which his enemy. As a test, he moved as close as he dared to the two superpowers who were surrounded by a storm of surging and flying Oil. At his approach, one of the Zalgos shifted its gaze to him, and its eyes narrowed.

“Well that was subtle.”

He drew his seax and circled the fighting aliens, waiting for an opportunity to strike. At last the real Zalgo made a violent charge, bowling his foe over, and leaving himself open. Altaer made a brief dash before hurling his whole body and all the supernatural speed within him into throwing both of the blades. His aim was true, and with Zalgo’s focus entirely on eliminating his rival, there was no Oil to protect him. The dual blades sank deep into the base of his rounded head, protruding from the other side. Zalgo staggered for a moment before being engulfed by a monstrous wave of Oil from the friendly alien, who had resorted to using his Fraysan Engine.

Both Altaer and the Alien remained at the ready for a moment, in the midst of a deafening silence. Several minutes later, Zalgo still remained out of sight beneath the hardened Oil. The Alien seemed to lose focus. It turned around, looked off into the distance, bowed its head, and vanished.

Altaer followed the gaze, and far down on the other end of the business thoroughfare saw David. He sped down the stretch, and wrapped an arm around the Doctor.

“Mac! You’re one sassy son of a bitch! Damn, that was awesome. You, however, look terrible.”

Although no doctor, Altaer was smart enough to know what was healthy and what wasn’t. Every muscle in David’s body was quivering with tension. The blood vessels near the surface of his skin had all ruptured, leaving droplets of blood standing on his skin in many spots and pooling into purple bruises in the others. His eyes were severely bloodshot, and his legs were barely able to support his body. Still, Altaer had to be proud of the Doctor for keeping himself standing as ram-rod straight as ever. In his own time, David eventually spoke, his voice clear, but exhausted.

“I only recently discovered I can Reflect entities besides myself. This is my first time doing it deliberately, however. The stress such mental exertion causes is nearly lethal – I have already had to give myself two injections to keep my heart from succumbing to V-Tach.”

Altaer chuckled. “I have no clue what that means, but I’m guessing that whatever it was meant you got put through the ringer to save me. Best friend I’ve ever had, ole’ Doc.”

_________________________

After David checked with the rest of The Coils on the intercom, they agreed to meet at the dogwood where he had met The Night Creatures. It was now well into evening, and dusk added its pinkish glow to the immaculate white blossoms. They were, indeed a motley group – Zoe, the teenage girl, weary and accompanied by the always collected Valera; Dracustos bearing several wounds but with an odd Zen-like air around him; Altaer draped with his formidable weapons – minus two seax that he was still rematerializing – and Dr. MacBeth walking nobly but thoroughly coated with a sticky layer of his own blood.

David was the first to address the group. “Where’s Dante?”

There was a moment’s silence before he stepped through a clump of bushes.

“Damn, couldn’t we have met inside a café or something?”

The Doctor stared at him for a moment. He was clearly worn, and there were a couple of places where his shirt and pants had been sliced open, and stained with blood. David could tell none of the wounds were deep enough to pose an issue, though. What truly piqued his interest was the fabric that clung to Dante’s mechanical forearms, and the sealed box that he carried.

“Dante…would you mind…explaining?”

The handsome man grinned and reached around his back, tossing a pickaxe into the grass before dropping the box to the ground heavily.

“And THAT’s why I brought a box.”

They all were forced to laugh. David knew that his night was far from over, tending to the needs of those who trusted in him. Yet there was no reason for him to be sad. A victory had been achieved. There were questions to be answered – between the woman Altaer identified as Bastet and the man Valera had mentioned – but these would come later. For now, they were all here, alive, and reasonably healthy.

“Altaer, thank you for being willing to risk your life for this cause. Zoe, you fought valiantly, and never lost control, even under the fierce Affliction of Zalgo. Valera, you fended off an assassin meant for me without letting yourself or your patient be harmed. Dracustos, you fought off two foes, and successfully returned to a calm state after slipping into your Feral State. And Dante…you brought a box.”

David was well used to reading faces, and could see the feeling of accomplishment that was in all of them. Though he doubted anyone except Altaer and perhaps Dante genuinely liked to have to fight, they had all done so valiantly, and successfully. They had become a definable group – in a sense, they were the most family any of them had.

As they began to return to the Clinic, a thought occurred to him – dogwoods did not bloom now.

___________________________

Nightshade was severely disappointed in how the day had gone. Enslaved doctors worked diligently on Grey just to keep him alive each moment. Bastet remained deeply sullen about having failed her mission. Nevertheless, it was not entirely a waste. Valuable insight had been gained into the nature of those who formed The Coils of Nehushtan. He could wait. He could always wait.

The only thing that served to cheer him was what showed on the screen in front of him.

______________________________

The night had begun to fall. As evening had faded, a summer thunderstorm and rolled across the city. In a filthy alleyway in a distant corner of the downtown, the rain pooled into acrid puddles, tinted into multicolored swirls by oil and gasoline. People tramped by the end of the alley, huddled under umbrellas and coats, busily tending to both work and leisure. Occasionally one passerby would be caught saying something about the recent battle filmed by the RHG earlier today.

Halfway down the alley sat a cardboard box, sopping wet with rain, but made of thick enough material to remain standing and sealed. Beside it, leaning against a trashcan, was a pickaxe.

The box occasionally gave a little jerk or bump now and then, indicating that something alive was inside. Few people actually paid attention to it, although more than one had hesitated for a moment before dismissing it and moving on.

Across the front, scrawled in a neat but cheerful print with a permanent marker, were two words:

“FREE JUNK”
GDoc Version (https://docs.google.com/document/d/1MmA4sT7Q7YSkEI8cvCNkHNxRgc50_YnMywUC_ZtNCD4/edit?usp=sharing)

XDHunterNest
07-13-2016, 04:46 PM
This is going to be epic.

IgnusBurns
07-13-2016, 04:48 PM
This is going to be epic.

You got that right, already read the first one, really liking it...

DelorMaximus
07-14-2016, 08:22 AM
Well I'll be the first one. (@Chrome: took me like 2 hours to read both lel)

So to begin with, my vote goes to the Creatures!
Both were great, but you could see some differences in the styles.

I will review the pieces, but I will not CnC them, because of the gigantic size of both (then again, I saw no grammar mistakes and the reading was smooth in both, so we gucci)

The Creatures were a lot more complete. The chapter/paragraphs were detailed, well structured. Great use of language mechanism and a very smooth read. I particularily enjoyed the POV change, very a la Tarantino, where one thing is happening, then switch to another one happening at the same time. Big plus for that from me :)
The story was also very captivating, and definitely portrayed well the personality of all characters. I give 8/10 Teemos. No higher vote because of the overload of details in certain parts. Especially in certain descriptive sequences. It's ok to be detailed, but overdoing it ruins the read.

The Coils was a lot less heavy read. Written in a simpler way, more compact and somewhat shorter. Quite similar to the Creature's one content wise, it was a very balanced piece. Unfortunately the other piece was just more fancy, as in big words and particular expressions and imagery, which are my soft spot.
Nonetheless, don't get yourself down, lads. The story was great, and you should be proud of that. This gets 7/10 Teemos

969_DoomsDruid_969
07-15-2016, 04:03 PM
My gods, I've been waiting an eternity for this. But it was so. godsdamn. worth it. Sorry I don't have Cnc. I'll be back with it (for what its worth). But right now I'm busy *shrugs and disappears with an annoying grin on his face

XDHunterNest
07-15-2016, 04:07 PM
So, I've read both of the stories by now and they were both awesome. Good job to both of the clans! I'll be picking the Night Creatures' piece though. I enjoyed reading both, but the extra content and backstory of the Night Creatures' piece tipped the scales in their favor for me.

IgnusBurns
07-15-2016, 04:09 PM
Gotta agree with XD here. The Coils story was excellent, but the extra content and otherwise quality of the Night Creatures pushed me to vote for them. But still, very nice job to both of the clans!

Malacal
07-15-2016, 11:46 PM
So explain to me why the poll extends until next month? Like hot diggidy damn that's a long time.

Azure
07-15-2016, 11:52 PM
I gave it a longer period, because 2 weeks tends to be the norm for a battle, and with the length of these, I doubled it. I figured it would be necessary, but people are reading through faster than anticipated, so perhaps I was a bit too zealous in my thoughts.

Vern
07-16-2016, 03:00 PM
Downloaded both stories to read them in my absence. Since I have a brief moment of internet-access I'll come here and say that hands-down Night Creature's won this one for me. It's one thing to have me read 44 pages in one sitting, and another to have me enjoy them. Yes, I did thoroughly enjoy it, a job very well done. Both sides felt on point and the only possible qualms I'd have are with some moments in the battle itself, and even then that can easily be overlooked.

A job well done and a well-deserved victory. (I did not expect it to have so many votes already).

Now, it'd be rude and most of all undeserving to let the coils out of their praise too. It was definitely up to snuff and the only reason I didn't finish it in one go was because it was 4 AM and I had to catch some sleep. The battle had its moments, but all in all it felt a bit lackluster. There wasn't any sort of proper introduction, and while I dislike long-drawn out intros that just drone on and on, I moreso dislike people just starting to smash one another for little reason. Most of it felt more like David v Night Creatures and we did not exactly get any sort of conclusion to the battle. We are to assume that Dante and Dracustos won their fights off-screen and that leaves a gaping hole in my potential love to give y'all. The fight with Zalgo also sorta just died off on its own and the roles of Grey and Bastet felt very forced, unnatural and unnecessary.

Also I feel as if their win relied a bit too much on stuff just happening out of nowhere, such as Valeria suddenly being some kind of superpowered being, and the Doctor spawning a copy of Zalgo that the original one, despite being far more intelligent and, well, actually being beingness should definitely give him an astounding edge over an inferior version of himself. As I said before David and Altaer's roles just seemed to overshadow everyone else's, and while you definitely get a family-like from the coils like you do in the Night Creature's version of the battle, it is much less so and their opponents are really just degraded to street-goon level quality antagonists. I feel no reason at all to be rooting for Night Creatures in the Coils' version whereas I feel quite a bit for both sides on the Night Creature's part.

All in all both of you can be proud of your work (I don't know who wrote what and from what I heard most of it was really done by Azure and Alphaeus?), so kudos to you all.

(PS : I'm astounded as to how many votes it's already gotten so far. Nice reading job y'all.)

Azure
07-24-2016, 02:46 PM
Based on the results as well as the fact there aren't enough regular users here to create an upset, and after discussion with Alph, I've closed the poll early. It'd still be great if people gave CnC, however, so yeah.

Chromium7
07-25-2016, 06:55 AM
yay we lost

Azure
07-25-2016, 09:11 AM
No matter how you view it, Chrome, Dante won.