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The Heroes Act end up missing on Planet Scyria, which Icky immediately calls AUU ''Ark: Survival Evolved'', and the Lodgers have to find them. Though they've each been scattered, and each have been surviving their own way. They've tamed the native prehistoric wildlife, and they're trying to find each other again. But even the Lodgers get separated with each of them. Thus they have to find whoever separated them and escape this planet. Along the way, they learn about the reason why the HA were even in this planet to begin with: They were after the Tiiken mad sciencetist known as [[Dr. Sayus Mayus Dayus]], a bioweapons exbert that intents on unleashing a lost Teadr 1 super race refered to as the Scyrians, a biologically perfected raptor super-race that given themselves the traits of other dinosaurs and prehistoric reptiles to become marvels of perfection. Thing is, the Scyrians locked themselves away for a reason, and it's because they were succombing to mutantion madness that messed with their minds because of too many genectic features and basicly scaled back to mindless creatures. Sayus is dangering the planet and potaintionally the universes by releasing a race cursed by their own genectic hubrus he believes would help him seek revenge against the Skorner race. The Lougers and the HA are in for a Dino-Might of a challnage.
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The Heroes Act end up missing on Planet Scyria, which Icky immediately calls AUU ''Ark: Survival Evolved'' only without flying ARKs surrounding a post-apocalyptic planet, and the Lodgers have to find them. Though they've each been scattered, and each have been surviving their own way. They've tamed the native prehistoric wildlife, and they're trying to find each other again. But even the Lodgers get separated with each of them because of Ark Titan-like beasts called the Titoses. Thus they have to find each other again and escape this planet. Along the way, they learn about the reason why the HA were even in this planet to begin with: They were after the Tiikon mad scientist known as [[Dr. Sayus Mayus Dayus]], a bioweapons expert that intents on unleashing a lost Teadr 1 super race referred to as the Scyrians, a biologically-perfected raptor super-race that given themselves the traits of other dinosaurs and prehistoric reptiles to become marvels of perfection. But the Scyrians locked themselves away because these changes made them succumb to mutation madness that messed with their minds, as too many genetic features regress intelligence and basically scaled them back to mindless creatures. Sayus is thus endangering the planet, which is vulnerable to conquest because the only places of civilization are found in flying high-tech obelisks and the Beaconbeam Tower, both of Tiikon engineering, to protect from the inhospitable outer wastelands, and potentially the UUniverses by releasing a race cursed by their own genetic hubris as he believes it would help him seek revenge against the Skorner race for what they did to him. They eventually reunite in Ar Cretacion, the former capital of Scyria, and meet a Tiikon scientific adventurer named [[Heili Runner]], and help her rescue her friends, a Sauran female Zoian warrior with armies of tamed wildlife named [[Meya Liu]], an expert hacker Xuron-Aectoid hybrid turned synthetic biomechanical android named [[Santrago An Sanct]], and his Skorner scientific combat agent wife [[Dinia Altories]], from a survival simulation in the tech-city of Ererit Prime infected by enhancelement, an adaptive half-metal and half-genetics material created by Scyrians to help their technological and transsentience evolution, and the infection itself has a sentience of it's own that has been able to download and imprison everyone inside with some kind of malicious AI program. After rescuing them, they say that they all aim to re-terraform Scyria after a long accidental adventure got the four together. They too planned to stop Dr. Sayus as he actually ended up forming his base of operations on what used to be that of their own during their stay in the radioactive Lapse Wastes, where they defeated their traitorous Chredder chemist ex-colleague [[Edwyn Stonewell]], who is now a tentacled mutated monster imprisoned in an underground sarcophagus. They intended to stop him fearing Stonewell would be set free before learning of his true goals, as he actually made a deal with Stonewell that, in return for helping him awaken the Scyrians and their unimaginable secrets, he'd be set free and given everything he ever wanted including his revenge, but they all ended up imprisoned inside the EP simulation with the exception of the escaping Heili. With a threat on the horizon, and Heili being too valuable to go with them, instead giving them a flying comical AI of her named HL-1, the heroes are in for a dino-mite of a challenge.
   
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[[File:ARK Genesis Part 2 Teaser Trailer!|thumb|center|250 px|Introduction To Eriret Prime]]
(Well, I seen that game from time to time. I would've LONG had it to play, if money wasn't such a hazzle. I'm lucky I was able to get the Spyro Reignited Trilogy as an early Christmas Present.)
 
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==Scenes==
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(Since I'm now a hardcore fan of the series, I can't help but gush that there's a sequel game coming out starring Vin Diesel as Santiago, and an animated series with Vin Diesel as Santiago, David Tennant (2017 Scrooge McDuck and the Tenth Doctor Who) reprising his Genesis Part 2 role as Sir Edmund Rockwell, Michelle Yeoh ([[Soothsayer]]) as Mei-Yin, Gerard Butler ([[Stoick the Vast]] and the THIS IS SPARTA! Guy) as Nerva, and Russell Crowe (Jor-El in ''Man of Steel''), Malcolm McDowell (Scamboli in ''Pinocchio 3000'' and Shirong from ''Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness''), Cissy Jones ([[Lilith]]), and Jeffrey Wright (Poppa Henry in ''Good Dinosaur'' and McWinkle in the 2019 ''Green Eggs and Ham'' series) as original roles.)
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===='''Who Is Heili Runner?'''====
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Scyrian Island
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*Xandy:... Interesting. Hud, you need to see this.
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*Hudson: What is it, hon?
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*Xandy:... Okay, there's no one around to hear you call me that, so, whatever. I, found this journal. It depicts... A LOT of stuff. Something about a woman named... Heili Runner.
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*Hudson:... Oddly enough, that's the name of the lady people are gaga for here.
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*Xandy: Well... What do you think she's been up to?
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*Hudson: Maybe the journal has some ideas.
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*Xandy:... Oy, you really are so simplistic and direct Hudson, and I like you for it. (She did so)
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*(Heili): I've lost count how many sunrises I've seen since I arrived on this island. Hundreds, I'd imagine. Yet, each one seems more beautiful than the last. Sometimes I like to take Athea out just before dawn and watch it while flying through the morning sky. It's in these simple moments that I realize just how lucky I am. Not that I was unhappy exploring the reefs and rainforests back on Tik, even if I wasn't born there, but I wasn't going to spot a UIS-territorial sauropod stomping about my homeland, now was I? Since I came here to continue the research of my Ma, the great Johnna Runner, I've had the opportunity to study the living and the greatness of tech not like any other Teadr 1 race. The Scyrians left behind such fascinating secrets. I'll always be grateful for that.
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*Xandy:... She really DOES seem lucky.
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*Hudson: Huh. Didn't think Heili was a Tiikon.
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*Xandy: Well, what did you THINK she was?
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*Hudson: Maybe a sentient version of a native dino? I dunno, you tell me!
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*Xandy: (She giggles) Oh, Hud. (She continued reading)
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*(Heili): I've been holding out for a change in weather before studying the wildlife of this island's peculiar tundra region, given my natural cold-bloodedness, but I think it's safe to say that it's not forthcoming. Clearly this planet has no axial tilt, given the condition of the environment outside this island, and therefore, it has no seasons. That ice and snow isn't melting anytime soon. Can't say I'm happy about it. The cold and I are not the best of mates since, again in case anyone reading this is a MORON, I'm a reptiles and I don't take kindly to the cold. But I just have to suck it up. An environment for dinosaurs like these are fairly uniform, so an arctic climate is quite the oddity.
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*Xandy:... Well, if THAT doesn't indicate she's a Tiikon, I don't know what does. Tiikons are smart critters.
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*Hudson: She came off a bit aggressive with the 'moron' comment, though. Must've had to deal with a lot of them in her day. Maybe it was one of her brain sleep cycle phases.
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*Xandy: (Chuckles) Goes to show how much the cold sucks for reps and how much it sucks to be around morons... Though some are the best kind! (She giggles again and continues reading)
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*(Heili): The tribe that calls itself the Howling Rolves have made this expedition in the north a lot easier. Well, them and Athea. She's right at home here. She may be a pterosaur, but she's a pteroavian, so she's more bird than reptile. I don't think I'll ever repay Stonewell for just up and giving me a Pteriornis. He's said our conversations are payment enough, but I still feel guilty. I should remember to collect some floral samples for him while I'm here. Anyway, tagging along with the Rolves has been a good introduction to the region, but I think I'm ready to make my own way. To make real scientific conclusions, I need to observe these animals undisturbed in their natural habitat for long periods of time.
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*Hudson:... Yes, definitely a Tiikon. If there was even some minor doubt, that killed it faster then a fat kid on cake. (Xandy giggles)... Okay, Xans, your giggles are getting contagious now, are ya catching a laugh virus?
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*Xandy: Oh, stop it, cutie! (She continued reading)... Wow, she sounds excited on this page.
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*(Heili): What a day! There I am, putting the finishing touches on the Mammothericus Dossier, when all of a sudden, a Tyrannus starts attacking the herd. Strewth! A Tyrannus wading through the bloody snow! I asked The Howling Rolves at the nearest camp, and apparently, this is a common thing. They’re not new to the region. It just doesn’t make sense. How can a Tyrannus, a REPTILE, survive in this climate? And how can the introduction of an apex predator not shift the entire ecosystem?! I'e got to get into this as soon as I can!
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*Hudson:... I take it she didn't get the memo on this world yet.
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*Xandy: I'm sure she'll figure that out, let's just keep reading.
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*(Heili): Well, I've combed through more carnivore droppings than I care to calculate, and I can't say they provided many answers. All the predators in this region have very similar diets. With so many different predators hunting the same prey, the populations of all these species shouldn't be sustainable. Yet I've found nothing to indicate that any population shift is actually happening. It's just bizarre! The longer I'm here, the more I realize that this region shouldn't exist. Its climate is out of sync with the rest of the island, and the planet in general, many of the creatures here are equally dominant and therefore deadlocked or threatened, and the ecosystem is almost static! Something's off. I need to review my notes.
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*Xandy:... Well, let's hope she realizes it.
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*(Heili):... Heili, you're a dipstick. Going through my notes, I've realized that there are more predators than prey across this entire island by almost double. That's the OPPOSITE of how ANY ecosystem is supposed to work. It's like this world was meant to be a dino-fantasy video game and all the iconic carnivores are present en masse. Not the smartest analogy I made, but it's the best one I can think of. I can't believe it took a Tyrannus frolicking through the snow for me to see this. It's plain as day. What to make of it? Add in the sentient being factor, and it's impossible for this island to continue as it is by natural means. So, what, is this island's wildlife being monitored and curated somehow? Possibly from the Scyrians, or their technology, in some way? I should speak with Stonewell. Maybe he's come to a similar conclusion.
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*Xandy:... Ehh, at least she's catching on. Watching people as smart as this woman discover things is... Kinda engaging.
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*Hudson: I'm just glad she doesn't do too much sciencey talk. (They continue reading)
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*(Heili): I never thought this island was normal, exactly. I mean, there are three giant obelisks that are not of Tiikon origin floating in the sky, for Petan's sake. Not to mention that cave I found in the central volcano, which hid a platform similar to those found at the base of said obelisks. Well, similar except for those oddly-shaped holes that were carved into its podium. I guess I just didn't care about all that. So long as I had my beautiful, unique and untainted ecosystem to study, I was happy. But now... No, I shouldn't write it off just yet. Not before I arrive at Stonewell's. There's still a chance that my data is off, or that I missed something obvious. I won't give up on my paradise just yet.
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*Xandy:... Heh, "her paradise" she said.
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*(Heili): I really need to visit Stonewell more. It's so energizing to be around someone of his experience that still has so much excitement for his work, and talking to him always helps me gain perspective. As for the island's ecological abnormalities, Stonewell reassured me that I was jumping to conclusions. He made a great point: Just because this place doesn't follow the scientific or natural laws, let alone even the most basic sense of the natural world we're used to, doesn't mean it follows no scientific laws at all. After all, science is about discovery, and new discoveries can invalidate old principles, or reinvent them, whatever works with people like me and him. So before I latch onto my theory, I need to gather more empirical evidence. Otherwise, I'm no scientist.
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*Xandy: Hmm. I guess she's got someone who's optimistic in her circle.
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*(Heili): On Stonewell's recommendation, I've headed south to start an in-depth study of the island's marine life with the help of a tribe called the Dyesharks. Because the ecosystem of the ocean that surrounds the island is separate from the ecosystem on the mainland, correlating patterns between them might help me isolate and understand this island's scientific abnormalities. Also, after freezing my ass off for so long, I could really use an extended stay on a tropical island. Marine biology wasn't my uh, magnum opus of study, but I do love the ocean. A lot of people do these days. And why not? If nothing else, it should be beautiful there, as many oceans are.
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*Xandy: Puh-REECH!
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*Hudson:.... This seems to affect my inner Aquastar.
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*Xandy: Oh, Hud.
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*(Heili): The Dyesharks have treated me like I'm the bloody queen since I showed them Stonewell's letter of recommendation. I don't think I've eaten better in my entire time on the island. Not that it's a high bar, I'm a horrible cook. Oh, and they've been of tremendous help with my research, of course. So far, my estimates of the predator-prey balance are consistent with the ecosystems on the mainland. The water is simply teeming with shoals of Junjadons, and they are extremely aggressive. Perhaps that's a side effect of having limited prey? Sharks aren't known as territorial creatures. I'll have to study them further.
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*Hudson:... Heck's a Junjadon?
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*Xandy: Oh, I learned about them as Xasandra. They're an offset evolutionary cousin of the Junja Shark, and they're MUCH bigger, have armored spiked backs, and are night-black.
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*Hudson: Whoa, and this woman, was crazy enough to study them?
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*Xandy: Apparently. When you're a scientist, you take risks.
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*Hudson: It's amazing a lot of them are even alive.
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*(Heili): Still no answers as to why the Junjadons are so territorial, but I was privy to something even more extraordinary: Junjadon mating behavior! No one's ever witnessed Junjas rooting around back home, so that alone is monumental, but I got something even better. I know, what could possibly top watching Junjadons having a naughty, right? Tracking the female! I was able to observe her for almost the full gestation period, and get this, it only lasts one week. One, week! No wonder the population is so high. These are spitting out pups 44x the rate of the average Junja. I should compare how they behave in captivity.
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*Xandy: Captivity? Those things, can be TAMED?!
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*Hudson: Apparently. I guess ANYTHING can be tamed on this planet.
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*(Heili): So, in addition to all of the oddities I found with wild Junjadons, here's the real sherry on top: Taming them is a piece of piss. A bit of training and they're more obedient than the family rog. Now, I've heard of sharks getting very rudimentary training over a year or so, but not to this extent. Certainly not so easily. Sharks aren't mammals or even avians, they're fish. They rely more on instinct, I.E. they're not very smart. You shouldn't be able to ride one like a jet ski. I'm trying to keep an open mind like Stonewell suggested, but, I'm kinda back to square one where I question the realism of this planet.
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*Xandy: Well, true. When you become self-aware of your own paradise... It gets ruined. Though it's not exactly hard to see oddities like this. It's a crazy anomaly why nobody here has even NOTICED anything like them. Unless, the people here were born in captivity, as in being born here that they don't mind the oddities?
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*Hudson: Probably. I mean, she still has no idea that this is a controlled environment? Ugh, you would think that Tiikons would be smarter than that!
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*Xandy: I'm SURE we're getting to that and I'm sure SHE'S smart enough to figure it out and doesn't know the purpose of these contained environments yet. Just be patient, kay?
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*(Heili): Well, this seals it. Just when I thought I'd made some sense of the notes I took while visiting the Dyesharks, I spotted the nail in the proverbial coffin: Roos. A whole herd of giant Roos were just hopping about the countryside like they'd always been there. As much as I love Roos, they just shouldn't be here, period. They evolved away from dinosaurs. Large mammals and dinosaurs can't so easily share the same environment without some degree of environmental damage, and/or causing natural chaos. If I know any genus, it's this one, and Coptopodus should not exist here. This island isn't an ecosystem, its a zoo, or better yet, it may as well actually be like the previously claimed dinosaur-fantasy video game analogy I called it before. I remember playing games almost like it, but this would no doubt make a good one. But this is not a video game to me. It feels more like a VR game, or sorts.
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*Xandy:... Cute.
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*Hudson: Well took her long enough to get the picture.
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*(Heili): Not too long ago, I thought this place was a far-off utopia where I could study a lot of UIS wonders AND the secrets of yet another lost Teadr 1 race unlike many I've seen. Now that I'm certain it's not natural at all, I have to say, it's lost a lot of luster, that's to say, this world feels like a parody of what uneducated folks THINK prehistoric times were like. This shouldn't be a real world. But, would that mean that, It's Teadr 1 race was a lie too? Not helping that they disappeared mysteriously and even the Wondos can only guess what happened, so some part of me feels as if the Wondos do know what happened, but are motivated to play dumb on it as if to protect some secret. Interference from sentientkind hasn't helped either. Most tribes have learned to live in harmony with their slice of the island, but some aren't content with that. One is even trying to conquer all the others, and natural or not, this ecosystem won't be any better off if it's burned down in some great war. In some way, I know it involves the technology my mother studied. The sunrises are still beautiful, though. At least nothing can change that, not even the implication of a planet being faked, or at the least radically altered from its normal ways.
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*Xandy: They really are, sister. They, really, are.
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*Hudson: Glad you're together with someone who can fly huh?
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*Xandy: (Chuckles) Yeah.
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*(Heili): Of all the abnormalities that I've observed, the tamed Junjadons stick out to me. It was almost like they were stray rogs who were re-socialized, as though they had a genetic history of sentient obedience. Obviously, it's the Scyrians, but I can't know for certain yet. Most of my observations have been in the wild, but I think I may learn a thing or two if I observe domesticated creatures more closely. I need to study their diets, their mating patterns, how they socialize with other species, all this and that and what have you. Rumor has it that there's some woman that's tamed a whole mess of them all by herself, so many that they call her The Animal Queen. Maybe she'll have some useful insights.
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*Xandy:... I don't feel confident with that. That sounds like a feral being, and that ain't pretty.
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*Hudson: Nope... But let's keep reading just to be sure. Maybe this 'Animal Queen' is a different kind of feral person.
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*(Heili): I suppose it was a bit naive of me to think that someone with the moniker of 'Animal Queen' would roll out the red carpet. Should've figured that being the 'Animal Queen' requires being QUITE the piece of work. I guess I got used to all the friendly treatment that being an associate of Stonewell's earned me. She did let me stay at least, and she hasn't instructed her creatures to kill me yet, so that's a positive. Not that she'd really need them. If that glare of her's gets any more intense, I'll probably just burst into flames on the spot. Strewth, I hope she eases up. Sifting through raptor excrement with someone watching is harder than you might think.
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*Xandy:... Well she's got the scary look of an unsentient animal, for sure.
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*Hudson: Yeah, this queen's glare would certainly do something random like that... In a figurative sense.
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*(Heili): There's nothing special about the diet of these tamed creatures when compared to their wild counterparts. Part of that is the Animal Queen's doing, as she takes them on regular hunting excursions for training purposes. Curiously, they never have to range too far. There is an abundance of prey nearby, despite the size of her pack. That this has held true regardless of her domesticated creature's remarkable birth and growth rates makes it even more unusual. Oh, and I did finally get her name: Meya Liu. She never told me where she came from, though, because I feel she hasn't warmed up to me yet, if the fact that she's been glarey at me wasn't an earlier indication. She's gotten a little less so, though. In hindsight, maybe starting by studying her animals' feces just gave her the wrong impression.
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*Hudson: Yeah, I mean, why was she even do that?
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*Xandy:... I'm amazed you didn't know that, hon. That's how biologists study an animal's diet.
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*Hudson:... Still gross. Why not just observe the animals eating?
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*Xandy: Because SOME animals have too great a sense to be observed quietly. Science ain't always sanitary, Huddy, so you gotta get dirty and smelly once in a while.
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*(Heili): The most interesting thing that I've observed about Meya's animals has been what they don't do: they never fight. Among creatures that have been domesticated for generations like feloots or rogs, that's normal, but there's a reason zoos keep their animals in separate enclosures. Certain instincts are hard to curb, and there should definitely be more disputes among such a diverse group. Meya has even integrated a herd of herbivores into her army, as their thick hides have proven resistant to fire and explosives. Yet despite being surrounded by carnivores, they remain untouched. It doesn't make sense. That's not to take anything away from Meya. She works hard to treat and train her animals well. She's not bad company either, at least when she's not mute and I don't go full biologist. Sometimes it's felt like speaking a new language, but it's been kind of refreshing.
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*Hudson:... I don't know how to feel about this 'Meya' person.
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*Xandy: Me neither. But Heili sounds like she's got her charm, so that should change soon.
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*(Heili): After going over my notes from Meya's camp, I've concluded that the animals on this island are not only used to sentient beings, but used to captivity. Even with their accelerated growth rates, their behavior indicates that they have been regularly domesticated for decades at least. Otherwise, they'd never obey the whims of sentientkind so easily. With that in mind, I believe that my theory about this island being curated is back in play, again. In fact, it's possible that not only are animal populations being controlled, but that the animals themselves are genetically modified. Once again, I must guess, or theorize, that the Scyrians were living in a savage world of predators and decided to tame them into being used to them, or some other purpose like that, using their advanced technology. But it's still only a theory. I must bring this to Stonewell. However, before I do, there's one more rumor that I want to confirm.
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*Xandy: Hmm...
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*(Heili):... This is the smoking blaster. It has to be. I simply can't be convinced that this place is natural after finding an island populated entirely by carnivores. Even if they fed off of each other, which is awfully dubious given that carnivore meat is much more likely to carry harmful parasites than herbivore meat, the landmass is so small and their population is so dense that they could never maintain it. Yet there it is, hidden away off the northeast coast of the island. Someone could have to put them there on purpose. There's no way that Stonewell can deny my theory now.
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*Hudson:... Seriously?
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*Xandy: Actually, yeah, now that she brings it up, I HAVE seen that island before I met up with you. I saw a Tyrannus fighting it out with a group of Scoepons AND a pack of raptors.
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*Hudson: Wow. I'm surprised Heili was the ONLY one to realize that. The people on this island must've been dumb as bricks.
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*Xandy: Or maybe just blissfully ignorant. Like I said, they could've been bred here too.
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*Hudson: I'm still not so crazy about that idea, either, but, whatev, let's just keep reading.
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*(Heili): As I expected, Stonewell couldn't deny my theory, but I can't say that I have his endorsement either. He didn't seem terribly engrossed in the subject, frankly. Something else seems to have captured his attention as of late: the island's obelisks. Apparently, Stonewell stumbled upon a way to interact with the towering monuments while spelunking, of all things. I guess he felt the need to scratch that old intrepid explorer itch of his. It's pretty impressive considering his age, as he knew my Ma, who was roughly the same age. Now that I think about it, the obelisks could be linked to my own findings about Scyrian technological involvement on this island. Their nature has always been a mystery, and Stonewell made some intriguing observations. I should follow up.
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*Hudson:... Something tells me their story has just begun.
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*Xandy: No kidding.
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*(Heili): Though I've been received by the Steel Brotherhood, they didn't seem very pleased to see me, especially when I mentioned Stonewell. That's a first. Add that to the rather deserted, gloomy state of their compound, and I'm starting to feel a bit apprehensive. Their leader can't return from his hunting expedition soon enough. All I've confirmed so far is that yes, they gathered all of the artifacts Stonewell sought and yes, the artifacts were able to activate one of the obelisks. You'd think they'd be celebrating such a monumental discovery, but it's just killjoys as far as the eye can see. Go figure.
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*Hudson/Xandy: Well it IS a primitive tribe. JINX! DOUBLE JINX! (They both laughed)
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*(Heili): I keep glancing at the artifact. I understand why the Steel Brotherhood's leader didn't want it. Since it has no apparent use, all it does is remind him of the tribesman who died seizing it from that giant multi-fanged spider. Can it really be useless, though? They described the artifacts that activated the obelisk as looking similar to it, so I headed to the nearest obelisk to see if I could get a response. No luck. Maybe it activates something else? Of course! The platform in the volcanic cave! It's a long shot, but it's the only thing I can think of that's similar to the obelisks. Definitely worth a try.
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*Xandy:... Yeah, she's starting to solve a puzzle here.
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*Hudson: Let's see if it worked.
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*(Heili):... Unbelievable! The artifact perfectly fits one of the slots in the platform's pedestal. How did I not notice that right away? I really am a dipstick. So if this key, such as it is, was acquired by activating one of the obelisks, then it follows that the other two keys can be obtained by activating the other two obelisks. Then, with all three keys, maybe this platform will lead to whatever is controlling the island's ecosystem. If the other obelisks work the way that the first one did, that means I have to find a whole mess of artifacts first, and I don't think I can do that alone.
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*Hudson:... Meya?
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*Xandy: Meya.
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*(Heili): Well, the Howling Rolves are quickly tracking down the artifacts, but after hearing about what happened to the Steel Brotherhood, that's as far as they'll go. It's understandable, but it leaves me in a tight spot. If a giant spider and I get in a scrap, the spider's winning for sure. Even with Athea on my side, I prefer to avoid danger, not confront it. My aim's piss poor and I've got fists like soft pillows. If I want a fair go at actually surviving whatever happens when the obelisk activates, I'll need backup. Negotiation Notes: Don't mention feces. Don't look directly at the glare. Bring chili (UNBURNED).
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*Xandy: Definitely Meya.
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*Hudson: Yep, Meya.
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*(Heili): Now, I know you don't get a nickname like 'Animal Queen' without being one tough lady, but when I saw that giant ape, Giopithecus to be more specific, and a rare endangered species at that, I still thought we were buggered. Fortunately, Meya's got more intestinal fortitude than yours truly, and somehow, someway she was able to pull out a win. Glad I'm on her good side. I already found the second key, but I want to take a look around here before we head back through the portal. This ape either lived here, or was released when we activated the obelisk. Finding out how it survived in this isolated environment or how it got here could prove useful.
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*Hudson: Wow. I guess they look like they might win this quick.
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*Xandy:... Ummm... I think you spoke too soon, honey. Listen to this.
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*(Heili): So, these are the conquerors that I heard about way back when. Not a great first impression. Meya and I weren't quite mates, but watching her creatures get slaughtered like that certainly wasn't pleasant. I'm not a fan of the prisoner lifestyle, either. The leader introduced himself as Nervay Gai Artegerant, and he's not a complete bogan, I'll give him that. He let me keep my personal effects and our conversations have been civil so far. I get the feeling that'll change if I don't cooperate, though. Not that I have much choice. They already took the keys. The only way I'm seeing this through is as a 'guest' of the Artegerant Legion.
  +
*Hudson:... Wow.... That went downhill fast.
  +
*Xandy: A slaughter?! Damn.
  +
*(Heili): This Nervay bloke's FIGJAM incarnate. Seems that his entire family wants to leave the island and reclaim the world or some rubbish like that. I think his ego was actually tangible when the Legion returned from to the obelisk with the third key and the head of a Dracthonosaur in tow. Sadly, as much as I would enjoy seeing him fall flat on his face, I need him and I need the Artegerant Legion. So, when he 'asked' me to guide his forces to the hidden cave, I obliged without protest. What he'll do with me afterwards, I don't know.
  +
*Hudson: I'm genuinely scared right now.
  +
*Xandy: Me too.
  +
*(Heili): When Nervay and his band return from the cave, they'll decide my fate, so this may be my final chance to reflect. I may as well take advantage of it. I realize that had I just ignored the signs and accepted this paradise at face value for easier research on the Scyrians and the wildlife for Ma, I'd still be happy and free and be spared her fate. Would that have been better? I don't think so. After a lot of thought, I've decided that I'd rather die seeking the truth than living in an illusion or living in the past. That, as Stonewell would say, is the path of a true scientist. Not that I'm some historical scientist battling the church or anything, but hey, it's something to hold onto.
  +
*Hudson:... So... She's dead?
  +
*Xandy: Not quite. Look at this.
  +
*(Heili): Well, I'm not dead, and as it turns out, neither was Meya. In fact, it was her who freed me, and insisted we follow Nervay through the portal in the cave. A horrifying scene awaited us. All of Nervay's men lay dead amongst the shards of a mysterious metal, but Nervay's body was missing. Forgetting my present company, I suggested a peaceful approach if we encountered him. That earned me one hell of a knockout punch. After all, Meya's animals were all dead, and the one she cared for the most, a raptor named Suave, died saving her life. A sacrifice like that would have her understandably seeking revenge. But I at least tried to have a compromise. When I came to, I searched the whole station, but the only signs of Meya and Nervay were a few ounces of dried blood. No bodies, and no victor. Then suddenly, I found Meya and Nervay fighting, and followed them through the portal. They were gone, but I found something shocking yet stellar to see. There, floating outside the window and surrounded by machinery in some kind of holodome, was not just the very island that I had been living on, but the land and ocean around it. I never thought the rest of the planet as a whole was a wasteland. I never had the chance to see it when I arrived. Teleportation and all that. But the station I was on? It was orbiting high above the planet close to the Karman line. This station was doing some crazy work on the obelisks and domes they were in, including the island. And everything was revealed. The ecosystem on the island wasn't just curated, it was completely artificial from the ground up. In fact, it wasn't just a controlled and contained environment just like I knew it was... It was some kind of prison. What in the hell is all this? Why would the Scyrians construct it? And how could they have possibly kept it restricted from the world? I don't have the answers to any of these questions or the dozens of others that keep popping into my head, but somehow, I mean to find out. Somehow, I'll find the truth.
  +
*Xandy:... So, I guess she's starting to reveal everything needed to know about the Scyrians.
  +
*Hudson: Yeah.
  +
*Xandy: So it ends here... But she says here that she has another journal. One that she made because she suspected that it would be her last entry for now.... Clever forethought.
  +
*Hudson: Yeah, kinda comes from a race known for extra personas.
  +
*Xandy: Definitely.
  +
(Later...) Scorchar Desert
  +
*Xandy:... It can't be!
  +
*Hudson: What? What?
  +
*Xandy: This is the second journal of Heili!
  +
*Hudson:... Wow, isn't that a coincidence?
  +
*Xandy: And we didn't even have to do some proper journeying.
  +
*Hudson: Nope.
  +
*Xandy: Let's see what happened after she found that floating tower.
  +
*(Heili): I'm alive. Why the hell am I alive and how? Well, I suppose it is a rather strange question to ask. But I just learned how my mother died. She was killed by that station's Overwatcher AI or something because 'she was learning too much' or some hogwash like that. I’m still not entirely certain just how I got that console working before he came, but it suddenly started cycling through holographic images of different destinations far from the island that I’d been studying on. Of course, I couldn't think before pressing another button while it was showing off one that contained miles and miles of bloody desert, and here I am. Seems that the station teleported directly above the desert, which is actually inside a giant crater, and I had to jump from this massive altitude to avoid getting killed. That’s just typical of me, isn’t it? Always leaping, never looking. It's a bloody miracle I survived that fall somehow. Oh well, better make the best of it, and by that, I mean "better not die of heat exhaustion". Not that it was a possibility. Reptiles THRIVE in heat.
  +
*Xandy: (Giggles)
  +
*Hudson: Still sick of that laughing virus?
  +
*Xandy: Oh, come on, Hud, you like my laugh, don't you?
  +
*Hudson: Yeah, but we're on an important mission to stop Dr. SMD.
  +
*Xandy: I know, but... Maybe these people we've been reading about might have some clues to how we start.
  +
*(Heili): Okay, reptiles can't thrive in THIS kind of heat. It's burning hot out here. Too much for me. Worse, my hunting skills are seriously out of practice. Not that I was ever spectacular, but I feel like I’d graduated from smashing bugs with a rock at some point. At least I was thoroughly rewarded for my efforts. My hunch was spot on these big green bastards are carrying drinkable water on their backs, and thank goodness for that! I may have never known if I’d killed a red one first, since those carry oil instead. Far less useful when you’re dying of thirst, let me tell you. I may be fighting the inevitable, though. I’m still on foot and still alone. Definitely miss Athea.
  +
*Xandy: Well, glad that Isabellene got her and... She became a mother with Achitans.
  +
*Hudson: THERE'S a happy ending for you.
  +
*(Heili): I’m on a roll. By sheer coincidence, I stumbled into another group of survivors today, and they didn’t try to kill me or anything. If I didn’t know how probability actually worked, I’d say that this recent string of good luck is the universe making up for sending me to the bloody desert in the first place. The caravaners were welcoming, and the creatures they ride are fascinating. They seem like dinosaurs, but they also appear to share some biology with bamals. Bizarre! For all its oddities, the island never had anything like that. I’ll have to study them... After a nap. All this desert survival’s left me knackered.
  +
*Xandy:... Oh, she means these Limels.
  +
*Hudson: I guess.
  +
*(Heili): If I’d ended up in this place instead of on that island, I’d have never imagined the ecosystem was natural. Not for two seconds. Take these Nimels for example: they’re actually a new species that was generated a population by the Scyrian structures in the sky decades ago. They have a biology identical to bamals, and the strangest part? There are places in its humps where you can stick a spigot and get clean drinking water. Tastes like piss, but not only is it safe, it doesn’t even harm the Nimel. It’s crackers. Definitely a genetically-engineered modification, but I knew that, didn't I? Maybe studying the creatures here with my new perspective will yield some insight.
  +
*Xandy: Well we just got ourselves some info, and- HUDSON?!
  +
*Hudson: (He was seen taming one) What? She said they had water in them. And bonus, we got a ride.
  +
*Xandy:... Eh, why not? I'm tired of riding vehicles anyway, time to rent one of Mother Nature's rides... If you can call it that as more 'False Mother Nature's' rides given this is a genetically-engineered-
  +
*Hudson: Just get on, ya chatterbox. (As they rode on the Limel they kept reading)
  +
*(Heili): Today, I caught a glimpse of what the caravaners call the "Boundary Dunes". The desolate sea of sand that apparently surrounds the livable portion of the desert on all sides inside the giant crater we're standing in. Now those dunes are pretty inhospitable, what with the harsh sunlight baking the sands, the lack of much water, and even the predators that dwell there. But not only do they stretch on for a long time, but they're home to... Get this... giant sand 'worms' that will devour anything that sets foot in their domain. I laughed that off at first since it seemed unlikely a giant worm like that could survive such an environment with little water and food with such a great metabolism. Then I saw a creature the size of a train burst up from the sand and devour a wild Nimel that had wandered into its territory. I suppose I'll just have to learn to walk without rhythm.
  +
*Xandy: Wow. A giant worm.
  +
*Hudson: Just like the ones that attacked us when we got here.
  +
*Xandy: Damn.
  +
*(Heili): As absurd as the Sandons are, I see their purpose. They are a natural barrier. Since this whole crater is apparently another contained and controlled environment like the island, but not also serving as a prison site, then it needs to keep the wildlife and sentient animals inside it who have been a means of sentient animal control contained in a way that appears natural. Not that that is the case any longer since outside colonization has blown the cover they had anyway, but still. The island accomplished that cover by simply being an island, and the desert does it via the Sandons. Granted, a large population of predators with ludicrous kilocalorie needs would never last long in a place as devoid of prey as I said before, but as this is an artificially-crafted and curated environment meant to fix the wastelands outside, the station can feed or, replace the Sandons as needed. It's a little convoluted, but it makes sense.
  +
*Xandy: Wow.
  +
*Hudson: You said it.
  +
*(Heili): Time to go over the facts. Like the island, this crater desert is a contained surface environment posing as a natural environment until a future date regardless of outside changes. It is inhabited by a large population of dangerous, genetically-reshaped and controlled creatures, and a small population of sentient animals and immigrating sentient beings that are struggling to survive. This whole environment is then deliberately contained by a combination of a holographic horizon and natural barriers. Assuming the other places around the world are at all similar, then this whole thing is starting to look like some kind of bizarre experiment on a grand scale. Yes, each environment would represent an experimental group, and... I'll have to continue this later. One of the caravan's scouts just returned in a panic. Something about rocks being alive, which is of course ridic.
  +
*Xandy: Wow, she hadn't gotten out much, has she?
  +
*Hudson: Nope. Apparently not.
  +
*(Heili): I long for the days when I thought a tyrannus frolicking through the snow was the height of absurdity. Compared to yesterday, that seems commonplace. As the scout had so eloquently put, the rocks were indeed alive. Alive, in the shape of a massive, bipedal Rok and exceedingly angry. I was too shocked to scatter like the others when it charged, and for a moment, I was certain that I would die. Then something even more ludicrous happened. Lightning crashed into the Rok, but it didn't come from the sky. It came from the mouth of a bloody Dracthonosaur. I don't recall much else. Fear and instinct pretty much took over for the rest of the day, and while that helped me survive, I'm once again on my own.
  +
*Xandy:... Well that was lucky.
  +
*Hudson: I should say so, you don't have a savior riding a Dracthysaur saving your life unexpectedly every day.
  +
*(Heili): I remember now, the Dracthonosaur had a rider. Or really, a Dracthysaur. Two legs means it's a Dracthysaur. Strewth, listen to me, fighting to survive and still finding time for semantics. The rider was covered up too well to get a good look at them. Could it have been Meya? No, that's stupid. I don't know if she's even alive, much less in this desert with me. It would be just like her though, to have tamed the meanest thing here so quickly. It's nice to pretend that a friend might be looking out for me, at least. We were sort of mates, right? Sort of. I could really use one right now. A friend, I mean.
  +
*Xandy: Wehell then go find one already!
  +
*Hudson: Heh, I don't think she'd have to wait THAT long. Look at this.
  +
*(Heili): Well, I found a new best mate. This little fuzzball isn't exactly what I meant, but I'll take her. It's a little critter called an Earbitidium. They're small, cuddly little herbivores, and as far as I can tell, taming one has no practical use. I just couldn't let the her starve to death, though. I guess all this rubbish with Roks and Drachtysaurs has quenched what was left of my scientific instinct to leave nature to nature. At least we provide each other with a little warmth at night, and her antics have helped to keep my spirits up. I suppose I'll need to give her a name.
  +
*Hudson/Xandy: Nawwww!
  +
*(Heili): I may have been wrong about Earbitidium not having a practical use. Earlier today, my furry new companion started bouncing around so excitedly that I couldn't calm her down, and then soon enough it started raining. I brushed that off as a coincidence, but soon after filling my waterskins and setting off once more, she started acting skittish. I decided to find shelter just in case, and within minutes light rainfall had turned into an electrical storm. I'll need more evidence to draw any firm conclusions of course, but I wouldn't mind having a fuzzy little creature that can scan for weather with me. You know... It's a little on the nose, but Scanny's not a bad name.
  +
*Xandy: Impressive. A creature that can sense weather changes.
  +
*Hudson: I have GOT to get me one of THOSE! Could help me while I'm flying for sure.
  +
*Xandy: (She giggles)
  +
*(Heili): Thank goodness that I decided to find some high ground two days ago, or I'd have never spotted this settlement. That's twice now that I've stumbled into my own salvation. I can't count on that happening again. I'll need to stay here for a while and prepare before setting out once more. Fortunately, the villagers are willing to let me trade work for supplies and shelter. Another stroke of luck, and another factor I can't rely on. On the island, Stonewell's name got me far, but here I'm just another stranger. Not everyone will trust or help me. I need to be prepared to survive on my own.
  +
*Hudson: Well, she's DEFINITELY lucky.
  +
*(Heili): In some ways, surviving on my own was less work. At least then I wasn't conscripted into manual labor. Ugh, my whole body feels sore! I bet I wouldn't have to work if I were as adorable as Scanny. The whole village is in love with her. I swear, they spoil her like a furry little princess. Stonewell would be livid about this arrangement. I can just hear him ranting about treating scholars with propriety. I hope the old Chredder is doing well. Maybe when I've broken this mystery wide open, I'll figure out a way to get him off the island and we can discuss it all over tea like old times.
  +
*Hudson: He's a Chredder, huh?
  +
*Xandy: Apparently. But, let's see how she does without him.
  +
*(Heili): While my mind still can't recall the last time I fired a gun, my muscle memory is much better. According to my would-be instructor, I wasn't a complete disaster on the firing range. I'm no pacifist. Death and violence are a part of life, that's just nature. Yet a gun still makes me a little uncomfortable. The idea of shooting at another sentient being or animal, just seems instinctively wrong to me. I couldn't even fire at the Artegerent Legion back on the island. But I need to pull my weight. The villagers have been welcoming and patient with me. For their sake, I need to practice.
  +
*Hudson: Well, she got this far, so she might need to catch up with whatever surprises await her.
  +
*(Heili): I may have to put my freshly-polished marksmanship skills to the test sooner than I thought. A hunting party spotted a swarm of giant M-Lucuses heading in our direction. M-Lucus. I read a lot about them, but I never seen one with my own eyes. But I also didn't expect to see them this early given the villagers have spoken of them every now and again. It's a little-known fact that M-Lucus is an intelligent species. Not sentient intelligent, but intelligent enough to hunt as efficiently as any sentient being. They have strategy. Resourcefulness. These insects were no different. Their little hands can actually grip and wield weapons or tools. Sounds absolutely loony, but there's a lot of loony stuff in the UUniverses. No one seems keen on fighting them, but they're too close to outrun. Hopefully they'll just pass us by.
  +
*Hudson:... M-Lucus?
  +
*Xandy: It's a species of giant mangrid. Call them, insect raptors.
  +
*Hudson:... I see.
  +
*Xandy:... Ooh. Uh, Hudson, your comment about a savior from the sky riding a dracthonsaur... May not be accurate. Apparently the people get it all the time. Listen to this.
  +
*(Heili): My hopes that the M-Lucuses would ignore the village were unfounded, and I think we were all wondering if this morning's sunrise would be our last. Despite all my practice, my rifle felt heavy and foreign in my shaking hands as the swarm advanced. Fortunately, they weren't our only visitors. The villagers erupted in cheers as lightning and fire tore through the advancing insects from above. Some chanted a name: The Rayburn Skyrider. The rider, still hidden behind black robes, didn't acknowledge the ovation. With swift efficiency, their small flight of Dracthysaurs decimated the M-Lucus swarm and made for the horizon.... Now that I think about it, she must have been how I survived that fall here from the floating tower. The Rayburn Skyrider.... I need to meet this person, if only to thank them.
  +
*Xandy:... Well, I suppose she's gonna get a new friend.
  +
*Hudson: "I would imagine so."
  +
*(Heili): Just who or what the Skyrider is depends on who you ask. Some of the villagers have attached a religious connotation to the figure, believing it to be some sort of heavenly guardian who appears to worthy in their time of need. One villager is even convinced it's an extraterrestrial. I don't deal in beliefs. I deal in empirical evidence, and that means nothing about the Skyrider is certain until I can meet the figure. I won't forget this village's kindness, especially after granting me a Limel and supplies for my journey, but this is why I'm here: to find answers.
  +
*Hudson: Well then go find them!
  +
*Xandy: (She giggles) Are you trying to make me laugh because you like it?
  +
*Hudson: I don't know, am I? (Xandy laughed harder before she continues reading)
  +
*(Heili): I'm definitely more prepared for this desert than before, and better equipped. With my Limel offering a large, mobile supply of water and Scanny looking out for the weather, the only threat I really have to worry about is major predators. Also giant Roks. I'm actually impressed with the shape I'm in, if I do say so myself. I think I even saw some ab definition the other day. Took me long enough. I've been living without sweets for ages, after all, You'd think I'd get fit much quicker. Great, now I miss sweets. The things I'd to do taste chooclate again...
  +
*Xandy: Well, maybe that's a good thing.
  +
*(Heili): It took weeks of searching, but I finally caught a glimpse of the Rayburn Skyrider. I knew I was getting close when I found a series of fulgurite formations this morning, and sure enough, I spotted several Dracthysaurs later in the afternoon with a lone rider among them. The rider clearly saw me too, because soon enough the Dracthysaurs were circling overhead. I waved and yelled in greeting, even calling out Meya's name just in case. Yet without so much as a nod, the Dracthysaurs regrouped and flew off. Rayburn's not a social cosmofly it seems, but I'm not letting them off the hook that easily.
  +
*Xandy: Wow. She had to climb big terrain to get to creatures that would so OBVIOUSLY spend time at high altitudes because, you know, THEY CAN FLY!
  +
*Hudson: Okay, are you trying to give ME the laugh virus?
  +
*Xandy: I dunno, am I?... (The two laughed together before they continued reading)
  +
*(Heili): Of course Rayburn lives on a bloody mountain. Of course they do. I saw their Dracthysaurs land at the summit yesterday, and they haven't left. This has to be their home... Unfortunately.
  +
*Hudson: See?
  +
*(Heili): The paths were too narrow for my Limel, so I had to leave it behind. It should know to wander off if I don't return for it, not that I can really afford to worry about it. The climb's doing a fine job of kicking my ass even without distractions. I swear, if I don't have a six pack after climbing a mountain in the bloody desert, I'm going to be awfully cross.
  +
*Xandy: Oh, I bet this 'Rayburn' person's got a LOTTA wawa to go around.
  +
*(Heili): I don't know what kind of reception I expected when I reached the summit, but laughter wasn't one of them. Yet that was exactly what I heard when I finally let myself collapse and started flinging every obscenity I could think of at this damned mountain: the bemused laughter of an old woman. The Rayburn Skyrider is definitely no guardian angel. She was quick to dismiss those particular rumors with remarks about how the gods have abandoned this wretched place. As long I avoided that subject though, she's welcomed my questions with surprising warmth, though often enigmatically. I have a feeling that I'll need to be patient with her.
  +
*Hudson: Huh? The Skyrider's old?... Well, good on her for keeping herself fit and agile.
  +
*Xandy: Well she says that the Skyrider is an Invervasaur. They can stay physically fit even when on borrowed time.
  +
*Hudson: Lucky reptiles.
  +
*(Heili): It turns out that I didn't find the Skyrider. She found me. I was right. She WAS the one who saved me from that fall here. According to Rayburn, it was easy for her to spot me falling and screaming from atop her Dracthysaur, and she started tailing me soon afterwards and saved me the moment I fainted from fright. I guess her timely interventions were no coincidence. She didn't seem very surprised when I told her about the obelisks, their guardians or even that this desert is actually a controlled and contained environment. Either she knows more than she's saying, or experience has grinded the surprise right out of her.
  +
*Xandy:... Seems this Skyrider knows more than she lets on.
  +
*Hudson: Clearly.
  +
*(Heili): I really missed flying. There's no replicating the feeling, and no replacement for seeing a sunrise amongst the clouds. Rayburn probably started these Dracthysaur riding sessions just to give herself an escape hatch when our conversations get too personal, but I can't say I mind. Despite their appearance, riding a Dracthysaur is just as pleasant as riding a Pteriornis, even without a saddle. By design, perhaps? No matter. Genetically redesigned or not, they are magnificent creatures. It's a risky proposition, but I absolutely must observe them in the wild sometime. I can't pass up an opportunity like that.
  +
*Hudson: (Chuckles) Nerds these days and their addiction to science, am I right? (He and Sandy chuckled)
  +
*(Heili): Now that Rayburn has deemed my Dracthysaur riding skills acceptable, she's finally agreed to show me around the region. From what I can gather, she's been here for a very long time, maybe longer than Stonewell was on the island. She knows the history of every village and ruin. Apparently there was once a great city to the southeast, but it was wiped out at some point. She's still mum on a lot of details, but I'll just have to keep prying. Scanny's been helpful in that regard. Rayburn definitely seems to be in a better mood when the fuzzball's around. That little charmer's certainly earned her keep.
  +
*Xandy: Uh-huh.
  +
*(Heili): I'm grateful that Rayburn allows me time to study the local wildlife, but I suspect she only does so out of amusement. She always says something like, "Why do you spend so much time on these scribbles that no one will read?" I never have a good retort. It's true that no one else may ever read my dossiers, as I have no way to reproduce or distribute them as long as they're trapped in on one of these contained environments. When I started them, they were a passion project, created out of my love for nature and its creatures. Now? I guess they're just part of my identity. Writing them helps remind me who I am. I am Heili Runner, daughter of late renowned archaeologist Johnna Runner.
  +
*Xandy:... Well, lucky SOMEONE came across them, huh? (The two laughed)
  +
*(Heili): I can't believe it! Rayburn spotted someone wandering in the desert the other day, and it turned out to be none other than Edwyn Stonewell! I just about burst into tears when I recognized him. Apparently, he heard that Nervay was holding me captive and sought to negotiate my release. That lead him to the cave, and eventually he wound up here. Awfully sweet of him to go through all that trouble for my sake! Strangely, Rayburn claims that she saw a portal open up far away from her territory shortly before I fell into the desert. I guess that was Stonewell, though Rayburn arrived at the scene too late to track him. Stonewell theorized that the portals may have taken us through time as well as space. Considering my present company, I'm inclined to agree with him.
  +
*Hudson:... Hmm. I guess that's much of a coincidence.
  +
*Xandy: Yeah.... Maybe even... TOO coincidental?
  +
*(Heili): Rayburn has been much quieter since we found Stonewell. I guess she's just letting us catch up. However, she did say something interesting when we were recounting Nervay's ambitions for the island. "This place would never allow anyone to master it." she said, and when I asked her to explain, she told me that the great city to the southeast was destroyed by the obelisk itself. Now it's just conjecture, but it's interesting to think about. Could the curators of these stations be monitoring sentient behavior and clipping its wings should the survivors ever band together and fly too close to the sun? If each station represents a different group in a larger experiment, "resetting" sentient progress would make a lot of sense. It's a bit grim though, isn't it? Yikes.
  +
*Xandy:... Why would these environments do that?
  +
*Hudson: How should I know? Not much is known about why the Scyrians built these contained environments. Maybe it's to plan for their return? Or to reterraform the planet when they come back? I dunno.
  +
*(Heili): I don't think Stonewell's been sleeping much. I awoke last night to find him studying a strange piece of metal by firelight. I guess some tribe gave it to him as a gift, along with a very familiar looking artifact. I insisted that we show those items to Rayburn, and she recognized them as the property of this station's lone guardian. With all that she knows, I'm not surprised that she's activated the obelisks before. Hell, it sounds like the old battle axe has even slain the beast herself. She said it was a creature called a 'Mantilovia'. Since we have said guardian's artifact, Rayburn says that we can leave this station at any time. I suppose we may as well. Stonewell's eager to depart, and as much as I like Rayburn, I've had my fill of sand.
  +
*Xandy:... Well, I guess that was a good story, but there's a few pages left.
  +
*(Heili): The transporter that can take us back to the "control center" station is in the ruins of another city, south of the mountains. Rayburn believes that it was destroyed by the obelisks, just like the city in the southeast. I didn't press her for details, not that I'd have gotten any. Rayburn's more tight-lipped about those ruins than anything. I had to practically beg her to take me to the southeastern city, and while we were there, she spent most of her time just gazing out into the distance. No sense in bringing her mood down with that rubbish now. After all that she's done for me, I'd like give her a nice, proper farewell. But before we could go further, seems that the Mantilovia had followed us outside into the desert. Apparently, Stonewell had collected more of that strange metal he had before, and something about it is angering the giant beast. My answers to why Rayburn was so down about the southeastern city when a stranger came in and saved us. It was a subterranean wild-accented Mephean who tamed a plethora of subterranean lizards, and it was someone whom Rayburn knew and loved, and thought was dead. We were able to drive the creature back into it's home when Stonewell needed serious persuasion. The man was more stubborn than I remember. What happened, I don't know. Maybe it was the metal? Regardless, our lives were saved.
  +
*Xandy:... Yikes.
  +
*Hudson: I couldn't have said that better.
  +
*Xandy: Yes you could've.
  +
*Hudson: Eh, you're right.
  +
*Xandy: Kay, last page.
  +
*(Heili): Having seen us through the ruins after that Mantilovia attack, and safely to the platform, Rayburn and her Mephean subterranean lover had taken their leave. After doing so much for me, I was sad to see her and this new bloke I just met go, but at least I got her to smile before she left with him. Well, me and Scanny. I can't very well take the little critter with me, so I officially gave Rayburn and the Mephean ownership of her. They'll be good for each other, I think. Gah, I wrote "Rayburn" and "Mephean" up there. Twice! I suppose old habits die hard, but they're not really their name, are they? I always knew that was the case, but she'd never told me to call her anything else. At least not until now. Well at any rate... Cheers, Rav. And... Cheers, Johno. It was a pleasure to have known you... And you for a brief time after saving us.... What a strange history they shared.
  +
*Xandy:... Interesting.
  +
*Hudson: Well, who these 'Rav' and 'Johno' people are, I'm sure we'll find out soon enough.
  +
*Xandy: Yeah. And look, she says she has ANOTHER journal somewhere else.
  +
*Hudson:... I guess we have ourselves hunting for a story, huh?
  +
*Xandy: Looks like it.
  +
  +
(Later...) Lapse Wastes
  +
*Xandy: Oh, son of a gun, Hud, you won't believe this, but I FOUND ANOTHER JOURNAL FROM HEILI!!
  +
*Hudson: OH WOW WHO WOULD'VE GUESSED?!? (The two laughed hysterically)
  +
*Xandy: I think we both caught the laugh virus today.
  +
*Hudson: Maybe we have. You still have a beautiful laugh.
  +
*Xandy: Oh, stop it! Let's just read this sucker. (They opened the book and read)
  +
*(Heili): Bloody hell, this place is weird. Don't get me wrong, it's fascinating too. Such an abundance of underground flora is completely unheard of, and because so many of the plants here are bioluminescent, the whole forest has an eerie beauty to it. That's just it though. 'Eerie' is the operative word. I've been holding my rifle so tightly since we got here that I swear I've left dents in the grip. We should have gone back to the island first before coming here. People know us there, they might have preferred help and supplies as much as we did. Stonewell didn't want to hear it though, and I wasn't about to let him come here alone.
  +
*Xandy:... Hmm. Looks like they wasted no time coming here.
  +
*Hudson: I know. This place IS beautiful... Despite all the poisonous spores, gases, radiation, and other stuff.
  +
*(Heili): "You can't surprise me anymore, life," I said. "After all the hodgepodge of things I have seen, I'm ready for anything." "What about flying squid-battus-murder-monsters?" life replied. "Well, that is mildly surprising," I conceded. By which I mean, I shot and cursed at those things all afternoon. At least, when I wasn't running from them. Thankfully after thinning their numbers a little, they decided that Stonewell and I weren't worth the trouble. Let's hope they don't change their minds. I'm not sure I have enough ammunition left to fend them off again. And yes, I know that FSBMM isn't the most scientific of monikers, but I'm bloody upset with them right now so that's what I'm calling them... Along with some other names I'd rather not write down.
  +
*Hudson: (Chuckles) She seems to have an ounce of humor inside of her.
  +
*Xandy: (Chuckles) I know. Maybe she's the one infecting us with the laugh virus. (They both laughed before they continue reading)
  +
*(Heili): While I can't say I'm enamored with this station's wildlife, I'm certainly grateful for its abundance of natural resources, particularly water. The permeability of the rocks here is astounding. The cavern walls are wet with condensation, and the floor is littered with pools of water. After all that time in the desert, this is one change I can welcome with open arms! Thank Gods for hydration! I don't mean that just for my own sake, either. Stonewell seems... Distracted. The other day, I had to keep him from walking headlong into a poisonous mushroom. He wouldn't fare well in a harsher environment. Then again, at his age, I'm sure I'd lose a step too.
  +
*Hudson:... Well, at least she's taking this utopian hell with stride.
  +
*(Heili): There's no mistaking it. That was a giant, armored subterranean rodent. Thankfully it wasn't aggressive, so I was able to get a good look at it. It's appearance made me realize something that I'd taken for granted. Much of the creatures I've encountered has some basis on either a known species, or legend. Like the FSBMMs (still cross with them), as they appear to be a pastiche of known fauna. The Scyrians seemed like they weren't just genetically reshaping animals, but were genetic engineering in general. What does that mean? Am I grasping at straws here with how much the Scyrians knew or did? I can't say, but it's worth pondering. Especially since I heard Stonewell muttering something about an 'Adytum Project', whatever that is.
  +
*Hudson:... Clifton and Samantha were talking about Stonewell knowing what that is.
  +
*Xandy: They did. But, they seemed a little uneased 'bout how Stonewell did his things.
  +
*Hudson: Well, we would too after we heard them.
  +
*(Heili): The FSBMMs returned, and I was right. I didn't have the firepower to fight them. Luckily someone else did. It was incredible! I've never seen a sentient being move that fast... Or at least in my still-young days alive. One second, I'm a dead woman, and the next there's someone in glowing, silver armor tearing through those creatures like they were sodos. One got punched so hard it skipped off the cavern floor. As if a super savior wasn't shocking enough, when they lifted their visor, I found a familiar face. It was Meya! It took me a good minute to form a sentence after that. I must have looked like a complete dipstick, because I swear, she almost laughed. At least I'm a living dipstick, and with her around, I just might stay that way.
  +
*Xandy:... Well, I'm relieved Meya is still alive... But how? Oh wait, she explains it on this page.
  +
*(Heili): What's the saying? Absence makes the heart grow fonder? On the island, I wasn't sure where I stood with Meya, but now we've been catching up like best mates. She apologized for socking me in the face, I learned how she arrived here and that she got her new scar while battling Nervay to the death. You know. Best mate things. She said that Nervay died when being encroached on the surface above, as it seems that the sky above it has lost it's ozone layer, causing it to be scorched with radiation. She also introduced us to some of her new allies at her camp, and here's where it gets loony... At least to me... Most of them are UIS races. Particularly the head, Dinia, who is a Skorner, my race's most hated rival race, not saying I'm with that hate camp, but, I do know that the rivalry exists for a fair enough reason. Let's just say, Tiikons and Skorners are, not famous for getting along. Though I naturally kept my distance, it seemed she didn't have time for racial concerns. Thankfully, she was, also friendlier then the expected norm with a race usually known for a "Hit first and ask questions if it survives" mentality. In fact, she was, the most Un-Skorner-like person I've met. But what also perplexed me was her name: Dinia Altories. Skorners had a much more sparse name design. That means she was orphaned.... Either that or her parents wanted to branch off their races' traditional naming style. Whatever the case, it sure made me think.
  +
*Xandy:... Impressive. I guess Solus' endeavors were around before he even joined us.
  +
*Hudson: Well, this 'Dinia' person seems too concerned with something else to be concerned about such an immediate concern like their races' relations.
  +
*(Heili): The journey to the village was a bit tricky. Since Stonewell and I lack the high-tech armor the others wear, they had to help us along with rope ladders and zip-lines. We made it eventually though, and it's quite the sight. The technology this tribe uses is incredible, although Stonewell was far more intrigued by it than I was. Dinia gave us the grand tour and he pelted her with questions the whole time. Fortunately, Dinia just smiled and answered his questions patiently. Apparently she was a pilot in her prime. But I don't understand how I never knew that the UIS were establishing their own contained environments like the Tiikons were, and how I hardly met a single UIS-oriented race until now. It just gets curiouser and curiouser as I go, doesn't it?
  +
*Hudson:... I'm amazed by that, too.
  +
*Xandy: Yeah, you'd think she'd meet at least ONE UIS-loyal race.
  +
*(Heili): I have to convince them to stop! There's no way the station will allow this. "This place would never allow anyone to master it." If it weren't for Rav's warning, I'd be ecstatic about what they were creating. A gateway that can help them escape the environment that was not just contained by science, but by nature and the geological formations around us and reach some kind of strange signal location? It's brilliant, but the obelisks will kill everyone here before we can complete it, just like they destroyed the village Rav told me about. I'm sure of it. Bloody hell, I'm going to look like an absolute madwoman. I've barely settled in here and I'm already coming to them with doomsday prophecies. I'll need to convince Meya and Dinia first. They're my best bet.
  +
*Xandy:... Huh?... This place is THAT contained? I mean, granted, the way we got in almost killed us, but, wow.
  +
*(Heili): The tribe's leadership was surprisingly receptive to my ideas, but still a bit skeptical, and not just because I was a Tiikon, which I'm sure they've grown numb to at this point. Apparently they've already fiddled with one of the obelisks, and even damaged this station's control center. So while they believe my account of what happened in the desert, they think the threat is already contained. Thankfully Dinia convinced them to lend me a small team to inspect the obelisk, just in case. Better than nothing, at least. However, here, getting to an obelisk is something of a risky proposition. They rest on the irradiated surface above. That means before I go, I'll need to get a crash course on that armor.
  +
*Xandy:... She just cannot catch a break, huh?
  +
*Hudson: Not many can on this planet, Xandy.
  +
*(Heili): My time in the desert may have given me some skill with firearms and helped me get fit, despite failing to give me washboard abs much to my chagrin, but I'm still no soldier. That was evident to anyone who saw me flailing around in the training yard these past few days. If it weren't for Meya and Dinia, I'd still be crashing my high-tech armor into rocks or tripping over myself like a drunken sodo. Plus, I always feel less silly when there's someone to laugh at my mistakes along with me. Fortunately Meya will be accompanying me to the obelisks, so this whole thing won't rest in my unsteady, armored hands. Thank Gods!
  +
*Xandy:... But at least she's not catching no breaks alone.
  +
*Hudson: Nopesy do.
  +
*(Heili): Meya and I set out yesterday, alongside Dinia's boyfriend, a bespectacled computer expert named Santrago. He'll be the one to actually examine the obelisk. He claims that he can hack into its terminal. If it's preparing to unleash a surge of power, as I suspect, then he says that he might be able to reroute it. Stonewell, for his part, is staying behind. He's been aiding the village's scientists in their studies since we arrived and has become rather... Engrossed. Every other sentence with him is about that bloody metal he named after himself. It's a bit troubling, but thankfully Dinia said she'd look after him. I can't spend time worrying after Stonewell now, though. The fate of that whole village might depend on this expedition. Focus up, Heili! Let's do this!
  +
*Xandy:... I have a feeling-
  +
*Hudson: That this'll define who they really are? I'm with you, Xandy.... Oh, look at us, we're finishing each other's sentences. (They laughed, but then stopped).... Let's not turn into THOSE kinds of couples, it gets creepy and/or annoying after awhile.
  +
*Xandy: "Ditto."
  +
*(Heili): The structure of this environment must be vastly different from the others to allow for these massive caverns. Is that uncommon, or do many of the environments vary so radically from one another? I've only seen three. For all I know, they could come in all shapes and sizes. This one is contained naturally as well as scientifically. It's inside a closed cave system and the only exit is through complex aquifers filled with alien-looking marine worms. Speaking of different, Meya's been fairly talkative since we left, at least for her. She'll still grow quiet sometimes, but instead of trying to burn me to death with invisible eye lasers, she stares into the distance and idly fiddles with her necklace. I think it depicts a plane or spaceship of some kind. I wonder where she got it?
  +
*Hudson:... At least she knows what we had to go through. Those worms are MERCILESS!
  +
*(Heili): The surface is more radioactive than I thought. Then again, the sun is different than one I would see as normal. Direct exposure to THIS kind of sunlight during the day will quickly burn a sentient being to a crisp, even in this fancy armor. Nervay must've been through absolute HELL when he died here. That means we have to adjust our sleep schedules and wait just below the surface until night falls. When it does, we'll make a mad dash for the obelisk, let Santrago get in as much work as he dares, then run our asses back to safety. Strewth! I thought that bloody desert was diabolical, but this tops it for sure! Why couldn't we do something simple, like flee from a pack of ravenous tyrannuses or something? This life I lead, I swear...
  +
*Hudson: Oh that radioactive desert is as merciless as those worms for sure.
  +
*(Heili): Santrago's still going over his readings from last night, but even without them, it seems clear that the obelisk was behaving oddly. It was pulsing wildly and the ground beneath it received regular tremors, as if the whole place was on the verge of tearing itself apart. If this obelisk goes off, it could mean armageddon for every living thing inside those caverns. Despite this, Santrago is insisting on analyzing his readings. The scientist in me is proud of his dedication to hard evidence, but the part of me that would rather not be obliterated by a mysterious, high tech barrier really wishes he would hurry the hell up.
  +
*Xandy:... Heh. We would too, frankly.
  +
*(Heili): We shared our findings with the village by Holonet. Santrago's analysis confirmed what I suspected. The obelisks are highly unstable. They could be days away from reacting. However, Santrago raised a good point. Even if the Escape Project is shut down, we can't say for sure that it would stabilize the obelisks. It may be too late to dissuade the barricade from destroying the village. The only way to ensure our survival is to shut down the obelisks themselves. Johno DID say this place looked unstable, and he was really onto something. According to Santrago, we can't do that from the obelisk's platforms, but he may be able to manipulate said platforms into teleporting us somewhere we could. Specifically? Into the heart of the environment's master matrix itself. It's a huge risk, but it may be the only hope we have.
  +
*Xandy:... Let's hope she makes it.
  +
*Hudson: Yeah, let's.
  +
*(Heili): I can't believe it! We actually made it! We're inside the master control station of this wonderful and contained environment! There's a platform here that Santrago was able to lock onto. Perhaps it was used while the station was being built? The architecture here is similar to that of the control center I encountered before: a jagged cavern of metal, lit by an unearthly blue glow. There's a constant hum all around us, likely from the power being sent to all areas of the station. But what caught my attention was the words Adytum Station. As in, the Adytum Project that Stonewell mentioned before. I believe we've found what it is. But where to find what we need for the moment is problematic. This place is a maze. Hopefully Santrago is able to find a map on that console he's been messing with. Then all we have to do is find a control room and shut down the obelisks. Simple, right? Right...
  +
*Xandy:... Well, she's got guts.
  +
*Hudson: Kinda like yours.
  +
*Xandy: (Giggles) Stop making me laugh for your own pleasure, babe, we kinda got work to do here. Besides, you can't fight well with an erection.
  +
*Hudson: Hehe. No. I cannot.
  +
*(Heili): As we made our way deeper into the station, we passed through a massive chamber. It was so vast that I couldn't see the bottom of it from the bridge we were on. Yet it was packed full. From wall to wall, it was filled with specimen tubes, each containing creatures, fetuses or eggs. I knew from the holograms that I'd seen on the spire I met the Overwatcher that each contained environment created its own creatures, but I'd never seen where the process actually occurred. There were specimens for every creature that lived on the station, from dinosaurs to huge, alien-looking monsters. I would have loved to get more data from the room's consoles, but... You know, after reading that aloud, I think Meya was right. That idea really does sound stupid and dangerous. Good call.
  +
*Xandy: Hehe. She really thinks over her head, doesn't she?
  +
*(Heili): Ever since I saw those strange holograms in the spire of the Overwatcher, I'd considered this possibility in the back of mind, but I wasn't prepared to confront it. Not directly. My mother found out great secrets about this 'Adytum Project'. But what would the Overwatcher have against us doing it? I don't know, but when Santago said he found a way to not only stabilize the power of the obelisks, but also lock onto the signal of that weird beacon the Escape Project was for, I had to ignore that question for now.
  +
*Hudson: Well, we'll figure it out, soon.
  +
*(Heili): When I shared my questions with Meya, and when I asked what the Overwatcher would have against this Adytum Project, she said that they would likely find the answers when they got the Escape Project working. She also explained why she was on that island to begin with. When she left her homeland, she was attacked by something that sounded colossal and had the roar of a demon. All she could do was run and she ended up washed up on that island. She could not see the monster that chased her, but she said she'd know it by it's one roar. That alone proved that both her story and mine had a connection. But we must ask more questions later. It's time to go over Santrago's observations.
  +
*Xandy: Well then what'dya find?
  +
*(Heili): We finally found it! This has to be the obelisk's control room. Fortunately, the consoles here were similar to the ones in the control center that I've used before, so I was able to help Santrago get started. He's been working on it for a while now, muttering and cursing to himself the whole time. I can't blame him. This is some baffling s*** we've... Ha! No way! He just said he cracked it! It certainly sounded like he did, too. There was a loud hum and... Oh. Those are roars. Lots of roars. Time to run, then! I'll finish this later.
  +
*Hudson: PFFFT!
  +
*(Heili): Right as Santrago finished hijacking the obelisk and get what data we needed, the station unleashed a horde of creatures in self-defense, so we blasted the controls and ran like hell. Fortunately, Meya's battle instinct acted up just in time, and she led the charge through a throng of fangs and claws, while Santrago and I did what we could as we raced to keep up. Even though Santrago had prepared the platform for a quick getaway, it was a close call. I had to pull him through the portal just before it closed, but in the end, we made it. We're covered in guts and still a bit twitchy, but we made it! Strewth, what a day! I need a pint and the world's longest nap, stat.
  +
*Xandy: Yes, I guess we would too.
  +
*(Heili): You'd think I'd be more enthused. We saved the village, I confirmed the true nature of these environments, and when the gateway project is complete once the signal itself is locked on, we could actually escape this madness. It's all good news really, so why am I not thrilled? I tried sketching some of the wildlife we've spotted on the way back the village, but I stopped halfway through. What's the point? In the desert, I told myself it was a form of self-expression, but is it really? Is it really necessary when everyone should know that information and published it on the Holonet already? I really need that pint. Maybe several.
  +
*Hudson:... Yikes, that attack sure sucked the enthusiasm I like from her out.
  +
*(Heili): We contacted the village to tell them we succeeded. They were a lot more excited than we were. It was quite raucous actually. Cheering, applause, and all that. Enough that Santrago almost dropped the radio right out of his hands. Even Meya cracked a smile at that. She's coming around, if slowly. She just needed a bit of space, I think. I'm starting to come to terms with everything myself. Even if my journey should end the same way as my mother's, what I've done since I arrived on these environments were farther than she ever could get. What I do from now on is my destiny. That's who Heili Runner is. I think I'm okay with that.
  +
*Hudson: Oh, THERE she is.... Kinda.
  +
*(Heili): As we got the village on sight, we got another call from them. But this one wasn't celebratory. In fact, best we can tell, it was a distress call. Santrago couldn't quite clear up the signal, but it had that sort of tone. We heard Dinia's voice, panicked shouts, and someone mentioned Stonewell. Since then we've picked up the pace towards the village and hopefully we could make it back in time to help, and the situation isn't as dangerous as it sounded. If something were to happen to Stonewell, I can't help but feel like it would be my fault for neglecting him. Damn it all. We've got to hurry!
  +
*Xandy: Whoooo, boy, looks like she's finally gonna catch on to what makes Stonewell such a feared name.
  +
*(Heili): I'd feared we would be too late, but I never expected the village to suffer such complete devastation. We came across monstrous footsteps that shifted into more monstrous ones as they continued, and when we arrived at the village, there were bodies and debris everywhere. I nearly retched at the sight. In the distance, I could just make out the culprit and the one who made the tracks. A colossal, darkish-purple veiny figure disappearing into the cavern's depths. We raced to find Dinia, but by the time we arrived, there was nothing we could do. She died of her wounds in Meya's arms, somehow still smiling. However, before she passed, she was able to tell us the identity of the monster that had done this. His name was Edwyn Stonewell. She also told us that he had done that previously on Sho, and from there, something snapped inside of Meya. I had better stop this entry before talking to her.
  +
*Hudson:... Yikes.
  +
*Xandy: Yikes? THAT'S your best word?
  +
*Hudson: You got a better one, babe?
  +
*Xandy:... Nah.
  +
*(Heili): I can't let Meya go after Stonewell alone. It's my fault that he was here. He's my responsibility! So why am I huddled here, writing down my thoughts as though I'm too afraid to say them aloud? For weeks, we've been besieged by monsters that Rockwell either bent to his will or created himself, including that mutated childhood bully Dinia kept talking about who was revived after Meya slain him before, but since my last entry, Meya has refused to talk to me. She blamed me for the death of Sho, and that, if I had listened to her warnings about Stonewell, none of this would've happened. She was angry and ended her friendship with me with extreme hatred. But today Meya finally grew sick of hiding. She grabbed every weapon and able-bodied beast she could and left to hunt him down alone and denied me a chance to help her, still showing that hatred of me. I've never seen her like that. Even Nervay never made her eyes burn with such hatred. Damn it, she's going to get herself killed and it will be my fault! But how can I shoot him? He's my oldest friend. He helped me when I had no one else. But it's my fault, so I have to try. I have to!
  +
*Hudson:... Odd. Even after all he's done, she STILL considers Stonewell a friend?
  +
*Xandy: Yeah, that IS odd. Samantha said that Stonewell saw Runner as a traitor for just doing research without him, and that he viewed anyone around him as wishing to steal his research. Why would she still care about him?
  +
*Hudson: Maybe she felt sorry for him?
  +
*Xandy: Well, the enhancelement has a corruptive and addictive influence on people if yer stupid with it, so that's a pretty good possibility.
  +
*(Heili): I caught up with Meya and Stonewell among the flowing rivers of enhancelement in the deepest pits of the caverns, where they were already in the midst of battle. By then, Stonewell had grown into a hulking monstrosity, lashing out with flailing tentacles. I needed only one look at that hideous, misshapen face before I made up my mind. Though Meya yelled at me for defying her wishes and saying that she didn't need me, I fired at Stonewell anyway ignoring her senseless rage until my trigger finger went numb, and since she had no other choice now that I was there, we were able to divide his attention together. In his fury, Stonewell created a hole in the cavern floor, and with one final blow, Meya forced him through it. She nearly fell in herself, but I managed to catch her arm just in time. Thank Gods I did. If she'd fallen... Well, I'm just glad it's over. Meya, well.... In one hand, she stopped looking at me with hatred, but, she didn't acted ungrateful either. She only said, "I know turning on him was hard for you, but, at least you'd proven that, I mostly had misjudged you in rage.". She just walked off back to camp after that quote.
  +
*Xandy:... Guess that must've been intense.
  +
*Hudson: Ya think?
  +
*Xandy: Hahaha. Hudson, stop letting me rub off on you.
  +
*(Heili): To Sir Edwyn Stonewell, Know that I choose to remember you not as the monster you were in your final moments, nor as the secretive, obsessive man you became after I found you in the desert. I should have seen the signs then. If I had, perhaps I wouldn't have to mark this empty grave. This grave is for the man you were, and the man I will remember. He was the man who I'd talk and laugh with over tea long into the night, and the man who'd offer me supplies and a steed without a second thought. He was a scientist, a scholar and gentlemen. Wherever that man is, I hope he is at peace. Your friend always, Heili Runner.
  +
*Hudson:... Eh, at least she knows how to give a good eulogy.
  +
*(Heili): The effects of the monster's rampage still linger. Meya hasn't said a word since we returned, not even for an apology. Though her heart was tamed. She just stares at that starship necklace, turning it over in her hand again and again. It took an hour of coaxing just to get her to eat. At least the Escape Project survived, through one miracle or another. Santrago is organizing the survivors into teams to complete it. He thinks they can finish it within two weeks. The device itself is complete, but the signal itself has yet to be locked on. I suspect I won't be welcome to join them when it activates. Not that I blame them. I brought Stonewell here with me. The people he killed, the destruction he caused... It's on my head. How could I ever ask forgiveness for that if even Meya couldn't forgive it? Sure, she wasn't as aggressive with me as before in that rage she had, but, I think it's more like.... She doesn't know what to do with me, nor herself.
  +
*Hudson: "I hate ambiguity."
  +
*(Heili): The signal has finally been locked. The coordinates lead directly to the Scyrians' old capital city of Ar Cretacion. Everyone is set to leave tomorrow since the stuff we went though was in dire need of processing, so last night, I packed up my things and prepared to say my farewells. Santrago protested, but couldn't convince me otherwise. Meya, on the other hand... I've never seen her break down like that, not just in sadness, but anger. She was crying in rage. It was then she apologized and admitted she was acting completely unfairly with me for not knowing my connection to Stonewell before this madness. She was still a warrior by instinct. It caught me completely off-guard, as did the part where she wouldn't let go of my wrist. She kept saying that she'd already lost too much, and that she couldn't lose anything else, demanding that I stay. I couldn't just leave after that, even if I could break free of that iron grip, which I doubt I could. So that pretty much settled it. Tomorrow, the gateway will open, and we'll touch down on Ar Cretacion. We'll finally escape this mad experiment, and we'll do it together.
  +
*Xandy:... And that's the end of this book. Glad that there's another one coming up. But, something tells me it'll be the last. She's so close to finding the answers she needs.
  +
*Hudson: No kidding, babe.
  +
(Later...) Ar Cretacion
  +
*Xandy:... 3... 2... 1...
  +
*Hudson: FOUND IT!
  +
*Xandy: HAHA!
  +
*Hudson:... You were counting down for the cue, weren'tcha?
  +
*Xandy: Yep. Is this the final chapter?
  +
*Hudson:... Yes.
  +
*Xandy: FINALLY! No more cliffhangers.
  +
*Hudson: You're telling me. Now we can see how Heili ended her adventure.
  +
*Xandy: (Giggles) Alright, let's read.
  +
*(Heili): It's been a while since my last entry, hasn't it? Between all that happened with Stonewell back on the station and the shock of arriving in the capital of ancient Scyrian civilization, I've been in a bit of a rut. Even cataloging the new species I've found has done little to ease my mind. Things down here are so mental that some people are wondering if we were safer before. Honestly, they might be right. Maybe that was why we were trapped on those environments to begin with. Luckily, Santrago's plans have given us all something to do. I'm hardly an ace with technology, much less giant bloody robots, but after all that's happened, I owe it to these people to lend a hand in whatever way I can. Still. Nice to see the heart of Scyrian civilization. A technological marvel to say the very least, even if it's been dormant for who knows how long.
  +
*Xandy:... Yeah, this city is pretty cool to look at.
  +
*Hudson: Especially when you're flying with me. (The two giggled)
  +
*Sandy: Still being a giggly couple, I see.
  +
*Xandy: SANDY, GO BACK TO HELPING THE OTHERS!!! (They continue reading)
  +
*(Heili): It's hard to believe that this is actually the home planet of a race that perfected the perfect fusion of organic tissue and inorganic metal, but the proof Santrago provided is undeniable. If this was the setting the Scyrians lived in, I can see why they had such great technology. The lack of night is disconcerting though, unless you really enjoy apocalyptic events. Could the planet's rotation have slowed down, or worse, stopped entirely? No, that's rubbish. With the atmosphere out of control, all these abandoned buildings would have been decimated by wind and those giant creatures would never survive the shifting oceans, extreme temperatures and weakened magnetic field. Yet, if all these contained environments around us could somehow form a magnetic barrier in the sky and even repair the atmosphere... Well, anything's possible at this point. Maybe that's their real purpose, or maybe they're behind this mess in the first place. Whatever the truth is, I have to find it. There's no way I'm getting squashed by some monster before I do.
  +
*Xandy:... Sometimes her analytical mind is all over the place.
  +
*Hudson: Well, she IS a Tiikon. They have three personalities. That's how they sleep.
  +
*Xandy: I know that, but... I'm speaking even by Tiikon standards.
  +
*(Heili): These machines Santrago's building are brilliant! Somehow he's simplified the controls so that even a weirdo biologist like me can move these big blokes as if they're our own body. Me, piloting robots... I've completely lost control of my life, honestly. Even Meya was able to synchronize with one, and for a second I swear she cracked the tiniest of smiles, even when, after really crying for the first time in years, and the first time I seen her do it on THIS scale too, after feeling the pain of those corrupted animals in the wasteland and finally meeting the kind of monster that brought her to the island, the apex predator of Scyria known as a Titos, she has grown to hate the enhancelement, and wants to simply purge it. And her idea of these corrupted animals having a hive-mind seems logical, but where the hive-mind is coming from I'm not sure. She was even more peeved when she found that the already-present researchers knew and didn't tell her that it was also spreading through the world. Regardless, I think cheering her up with the mech brought me more relief than the mechs themselves. She's fought so hard to get here, and been through so much, especially that nightmare with Stonewell and Dinia. I hope that at the end of all this, I can help her find some shred of real happiness. She deserves it.
  +
*Xandy: Hopefully you will.
  +
*(Heili): I had a talk with Santrago today. A real one I mean, not the sarcastic banter that's his preferred method of communication. I was pretty surprised, I didn't think that had an off switch. He'd been thinking about the cloning chambers we found back on the station. And even the 'Adytum Project'. We have no doubt found the place where we might find the answers as to what the Project itself is, but it's all questions I'd asked myself as well, but rarely had a chance to discuss. I told him that I was afraid I'd end up like my mother, but instead I shrugged that off by saying that we can't control any of that, and that all we were really responsible for is how we lived from said paths our families have taken. I'm not sure that's the answer he wanted, but for now that's the best I have.
  +
*Hudson:... At least she's being motivational.
  +
*(Heili): Why does it always feel like everyone's making sacrifices for me? Stonewell, Meya, Rav, Dinia, and now Santrago. Just before we could finish powering on the mechs, a pair of corrupted Titoses and their gigantic babies attacked in force. But... These were different. They had the same corruption Meya had a severe distaste towards, but they were much bigger and that made them pretty damn durable. Only one of the machines was operational, so Santrago used it to lure them away. By the time Meya and I managed to power on our suits and fend them off, he was gone. There was no sign of him. Well it won't be for nothing, Santrago. With the tools you've given us, I'll find the truth behind all this. Then I'll have those better answers you were looking for, I promise.
  +
*Xandy:... Arbasus. He died?
  +
*Hudson: I guess?... At least he's with Dinia now.... Wait... Nano said that she was still alive.... Wow. Sucks. He died in vain. REALLY sucks.
  +
*(Heili): With Base Cretacion Alpha compromised, and much of the study group that were present there when we came dead, and after them all holding a funeral for Santrago, who was a good leader since their original also perished, we've decided to head for the wastes. There's not many of us left, and there's only three mechs remaining, piloted by Meya, myself and a fiery SGG bloke named Zuken. So we can't form that super weapon Santrago designed. That means if we run into anything too big or too nasty, it'll be trouble. Yet we don't have a choice. The answers are somewhere in this wasteland, and hopefully safety along with them. Gods, this whole piloting thing still feels bizarre, but I guess my nervous system just linked up with the machine really well. And it's what I wanted, isn't it? I'm finally something more than dead weight for other people to lug around, I can do my part. I just hope I don't let everyone down.
  +
*Xandy:... She seems to be adapting well. Good on her for being a great survivor, even in a wasteland like this.
  +
*(Heili): I never had much to write about the mutated creatures in this wasteland since the last time I saw them. Like I said before, they made Meya cry. These mutated creatures can be as vicious as they are grotesque, but so far we've been able to fend them off in the mechs. There've been a few close calls that have me worried though. The other day, Meya just sort of charged in without warning and nearly got herself blindsided. Not that I'm any sort of tactical expert or anything, but it just seemed reckless. That's not an isolated incident either, she's constantly trying to take on more enemies than Zuken and I. I don't think it's a matter of ego. She had a burning hate for the enhancelement she kept calling 'hell metal'. With Santrago gone, it's like she's put the burden of protecting the survivors on herself alone, too. Doesn't she realize that I'm right here, finally able to share the load? Somehow I need to make her see that.
  +
*Hudson:... Not that I blame the poor creature. This corruption is everywhere and, to an animal-lover like her, it could really scar her.
  +
*(Heili): Amazing. Dinia and Santrago are BOTH still alive! She just came in with his mech and carried him inside some kind of pod that he claimed would resurrect him as an android, a mere day after he seemingly died. Good on them for making it this far, I say. Unrelated note, it's funny how the one subject that managed to put Meya at ease still had to do with fighting. After a fashion, anyway. I'd said that I wanted to talk strategy before Santrago and Dinia showed back up, but mostly I just ended up showing her all the ridiculous tag team moves I'd been sketching out for our mechs. The Dossier Driver, The BioBeast Bomb, G'day Mey-T... This stuff was gold! I can't believe she didn't go for any of them, but at least she lightened up a bit. For a while it was almost like we were back on the island, failing to cook a decent meal and chatting about raptors. Bloody hell, you know your life's a mess when 'the good old days' has you stranded on an island full of genetically-new dinosaurs, don't you? Yet here we are...
  +
*Xandy:... WHOOOO, I guess it's a miracle that BOTH Dinia AND Santrago survived.
  +
*Hudson: Heh. Nano said they WERE a couple. I say they both deserved a reward for coming this far.
  +
*(Heili): I'm still amazed we actually tried that, and more incredibly, it actually worked! When Meya said she wanted to try the Mey-I Hel-P You Maneuver, I thought maybe she'd taken a knock to the head, but we really pulled it off. If only Santrago was here to see it in his current state. What an absolute ripper! To be honest though? I was terrified through the whole thing. I'm scared to death every time I get in that mech, but I'll keep doing it. I can't just rely on Meya all the time and even she can't fight all these battles alone. I think she's starting to see that too.
  +
*Hudson: Wow. These names for their moves are SO cheesy.
  +
*Xandy: TELL me about it.... (The two chuckled)
  +
*(Heili): I know it's likely that my memories are fuzzy, but they're so clear that I start to remember them more. I remember growing up in Cerwano. The sunsets on the coast, the splendor and fury of the storms in the wet season, and volunteering in Kaduk whenever I could. I was an obnoxious little bugger, chasing after my next great discovery but usually just finding trouble, much to my mom's disdain. Had no idea she was working on something like THIS when looking after a handful like me. I suppose that hasn't changed, has it? I'm still just hopping from one adventure to another. Now I hopped right into HER adventure. Isn't fate fickle? And yet, after this is over, if we find what we're looking for in this wasteland, what then? Will that be it, my last adventure? Somehow I doubt it.
  +
*Xandy:... I guess, I do too?
  +
*Hudson: This IS your last journal.... But, hey, I guess with what happens here, there won't exactly be much journaling to do anyway.
  +
*(Heili): Even though he's gone, for the moment, anyway, Santrago keeps coming through for us. We've finally managed to reverse-engineer his psychokinetic abilities, and that signal that brought us here, with his nifty psychokinetic scanner thingies, I think we've finally locked onto it. We reestablished a link to it a few hours ago with lower gadgets, but now that we have stronger scanners, it's only been getting stronger. With a bit of work, we should be able to triangulate its position. I'm not sure what exactly we'll find there, but if there's even the slightest chance that it's linked to this 'Adytum Project' and the environments, or what happened to the planet AND the Scyrians, then we've got to investigate. I think this is the spark we needed to lift everyone's spirits! We're one step closer!
  +
*Xandy: WELL THEN YOU BETTER GO GET IT!!!... (She scoffed and laughed)
  +
*Hudson: Are you TRYING to give me a boner, babe?
  +
*Xandy: I dunno, am I?
  +
*(Heili): Why is this a debate? We finally have a clue and everyone wants to go hide in a cave and what, just try not to die? Sure, we don't know what lies at the other end of that signal, but that's the point! You climb the mountain to find out what's at the peak! We vote on the matter tomorrow, and my stomach's passing the time by tying itself into knots. Could I really have come all this way just to be stopped dead by a few raised hands? Part of me thinks that even if I lose the vote, I should head off on my own, but well, there's a bit of a complication. Meya's voting for the other side. She said it's because she senses something off about this journey, but she's too tough for this. I swear, this wasteland is getting to us all.
  +
*Xandy:... It does for everyone, Heili. (Lefou was seen being chased by a Scyrian Upholder)
  +
*Lefou: GAAAH, THIS ROBOTIC JAGUAR IS TRYING TO KILL ME!!!
  +
*Xandy:... In more ways than one.
  +
*(Heili): Not everyone sees things the way I do, but that doesn't make them wrong. I owe Meya for reminding me of that fact. I can't remember exactly what it was I said to her, something about how the signal was the only thing in this bloody wasteland that mattered, but her reply stopped me cold. "Your voice just then, it sounded like Stonewell's." I didn't say much after that. For a change, Meya did most of the talking. Unlike me, she doesn't care about the mysteries of this place... For the most part. It feels like, no matter what land she's in, she lives only for survival and honoring her family. Or at least, that's what she claims. The space stations, the end of the world, none of it seems to give a concern for her. She just wants to keep us... And ME... Safe. I said that deep down, she's probably doing it for more than my safety. She DID say that she left her hometown for a greater purpose, but she argued this purpose is not one she wished for, even if she knew it was a Titos that drove her to the island. She even knew it when she saw it too. Impressive sixth sense of her's. I should be grateful for that. I mean, I am but... I need time to think.
  +
*Hudson:... Wow, she must be in one hell of an adventure if even Meya's in it for other things. It must be a nightmare if you work for people with little care in the world, or at least repressed cares.
  +
*(Heili): It's been a day of reversals, I guess. I'd slunk off to brood somewhere, and Meya tracked me down to talk, mostly about a subject we'd been avoiding: Dinia. Sure she was alive and tending to Santrago as he was being converted, but... Well... What if she WASN'T alive? What would've occurred then? I mean, if she wasn't alive, then neither would Santrago. Either way, they would've been together. Since she opened my wound, she'd open hers, she said. It didn't feel like a fair trade. The way she clutches that necklace, and how she smiles when she remembers the woman who gave it to her, there's a gentleness there that she offers to nothing else. To persevere with a wound so deep that it may never heal, her will must be extraordinary, but... Maybe it helps that we're limping onward together, and maybe as long as we're here to prop each other up, we'll see this through. In the end, Meya changed her vote, and the ayes had it. Something inside tells me that Meya had a soft-spot for Dinia, or dare I say, a crush. But it's a concern for another time. We're following the signal.
  +
*Xandy:... Heh, honesty is a good medicine sometimes.
  +
*(Heili): As the signal grew stronger, I'd been anticipating catching our first sight of the source. This afternoon, it finally happened.... And I was utterly shocked. It's a massive, monolithic structure that somehow looks ominous even on the horizon, and even more shocking that there's cloning chambers of... What I've got to guess is Scyrian bodies. But this was not just any spire. It's the spire where I met the Overwatcher! Unbelievable! No doubt he's still there. I'm shocked that I have to confront HIM again, but in all honestly, what was I expecting in a place of importance like this, a pub? The ruins we've seen aren't exactly brimming with hospitality... Or pints, for that matter. Sadly. That said, it does seem to stand apart from the other buildings, and it was a master control structure. That was obvious since an AI like the Overwatcher should be an important asset to this 'Adytum Project'. That would make sense if it's connected to the environments somehow, and also explain why it has the most functional power in the area. As to it's critical and paramount purpose, well, there's only one way to find out.... If I die, I better hope that I die like my mom did, being remembered.
  +
*Xandy:... Well, ain't this quite the turnaround?
  +
*Hudson: It iaian't?... Okay, I got no good retort.
  +
*Xandy: (Giggles) Good try, though.
  +
*(Heili): This place is even more gigantic and foreboding than I remember. If the architects were trying to instill an impending sense of dread in their visitors, then well done, they absolutely nailed it. Really, I campaigned for us to come here and now even I'm wary about going inside. That's a bit embarrassing, isn't it? I voted we keep going forward, only to find the home whose caretaker tried to kill me. Well no sense in putting it off. The entrance is too small for the mechs, which means we could be in for days of exploring it on foot. Of course, we could cover more ground if we split up, but given the building's aesthetic and my rudimentary knowledge of horror films, as well as the Overwatcher, obviously, I've expressly advised against it. All right, here we go. Let's see what we can find. Bring it on, OW.... Because that's what you'll be saying when I'm through with you.
  +
*Xandy: (Chuckles) Quite the jokester.
  +
*Hudson/Xandy: I like her. (They both paused and blushed)...
  +
*(Heili): There's a dark sort of beauty to this place. The technology we've found so far is beyond even our mechs or EN Armor, and there are rows upon rows of it, humming softly and pulsing with an eerie light. From the way it's organized, it almost looks like a library or a server room. In fact, that's exactly what I suspect it is: an archive. In other words, my instincts were right! This is the place where we're finally going to uncover all the answers we've been seeking, it has to be! Unfortunate I never noticed it before, albeit running for my life. If the Scyrians that built these environments stored their knowledge within this spire, the secrets behind everything we've been through must lie somewhere within. All we need to do now is find a way to access it...
  +
*Xandy:... Heh. If I were in that situation, I'd guess that the Overwatcher would just jump out on me somewhere.
  +
*(Heili): MY GOLLY HELL, THAT WAS CLOSE!!!
  +
*Xandy: YEP!
  +
*(Heili): I almost died back there... AGAIN. Though, I WAS able to copy all the data within those archives and make it back in one piece. Praise Arbasus!... Anyway, we finally managed to get a separate Scyrian terminal working, and well, this is it. I almost can't believe it, but we've finally found it! The mystery behind those environments and the truth behind the Adytum Project, the whole reason we're all even here, it's all right here! According to this, those environments are deliberately designed biodomes called Adytums. And they're exactly what the definition of the archaic word says they are: sanctuaries. Apparently, the enhancelement is also at play. According to the historical documents, the Scyrians invented enhancelement, and used it to evolve into a brand new race, and perfect their technology beyond even any other Teadr 1 race of their time as a hybrid of organic flesh and welded space-age metal. Unfortunately, they were also like gene drugs. Like Stonewell, they had an addictive effect. The more they genetically enhanced themselves, the more they went into some kind of 'genetic madness', which may be the result of their minds being mixed with primitive brain cells or overwhelming genetics, turning to primal instinct and making them literally eat each other. Whatever accelerated this madness, whatever happened to the planet, whether it was enhancelement-based warfare and technology like Santrago suspected or something else, these Adytums were built to preserve and cultivate life in all forms. Fauna, flora and of course, sentient beings, safely separated from the planet's poisoned surface. Not sure where those preserved Scyrian clones I saw before are, though, but it's clear they were hidden well enough away for them to remain undisturbed in this Adytum Project. Speaking of which, something's gone wrong with it. There's all sorts of errors here. Maybe that's why they turned into such death traps. There's something about a 'Seeding Protocol' too. I'll need time to look this over.
  +
*Xandy: Well, NOW she's getting somewhere!
  +
*Hudson: Hooray for Heili!
  +
*(Heili): Sorry if I'm a bit loopy, I've been deciphering the information we found for two days straight. Stuff sleep anyway, I run on data. So, that Seeding Protocol I mentioned? Apparently, that's the endgame for the Adytums. They're supposed to deactivate their barriers, and when they do, all the life they're cultivating inside will spread across the surface. In theory, this might make the planet habitable again. Then from there, some kind of atmospheric laser will purge every last bit of enhancelement from the soil and help the flora grow, while at the same time... Opening a vault of so many other cloning tubes filled with the preserved DNA of Scyrians. That means, they'll be able to repopulate the planet once it's habitable again. Amazing. So this was all their autonomous backup plan to save themselves. But that doesn't explain why the Overwatcher won't work with us nor even my mother. But then, there came another point, and that's where the errors come in. The Seeding Protocol never initialized. I can't quite figure out why though, it just says the 'conditions have not been met'. It says that they haven't been met for millennia. Damn it, that can't be it! All the answers are here, but much of the data has been locked by the Overwatcher. No access code. F***! I've got to find another way to access these locked files. Maybe that artifact Meya mentioned? She said it was pulsing with some sort of energy, so it probably has power. I'll ask her to show me where it is.
  +
*Xandy: Ah, don't beat yourself up about it, Heili, life wasn't meant to be easy. Otherwise, it wouldn't be so exciting.
  +
*(Heili): Before Meya even showed me what she'd found, I knew I was in for something bizarre, but I didn't think it would be quite like this. She found an artifact guarded by some kind of creature the researchers said was a Titositaur, a mutant of Titos. When I reached out to touch the artifact she found, it felt like my hand was caught in its gravitational pull. I couldn't stop myself from touching it. Some of the details are fuzzy after that, but the next thing I knew, the artifact was gone. Instead, I was staring at an enchanting, diamond shaped object. A prism of raw, cosmic energy. I didn't get the chance to examine it any further before Meya confiscated it for safety. I guess I can't blame her caution, but I'm fine! Really! Sure, my head feels like a cracked eggshell and there's still tingles running across my body, but I'm physically uninjured. Somehow I have to convince her to let me study it. It's just... When I touched it the artifact, I felt something. Saw something. I need to understand.
  +
*Xandy/Hudson: OoOOOOOoooohoho, mysterious.
  +
*Donkey: Still being weird, I see.
  +
*Xandy/Hudson: DONKEY!
  +
*Donkey: I KNOW, I KNOW, ALOOONE! I'm going, I'm going.
  +
*(Heili): Months passed since we found that data, and I found out the obvious answer about the Seeding Protocol. The enhancelement in the soil would've corrupted plant growth and only kept the environment... Well, like this, with it's self-awareness in mind. So, we had to cleanse it out first. But, in my many other fights with the Overwatcher to come, it seemed that his own data has been corrupted thanks to some kind of enhancelement. No wonder he's so mistrusting.... Well, that, and the sentient beings they cultivated in the beginning were at a Teadr 7 level at the time they made the Adytum Project. We even found four more artifacts guarded by four more Titositaurs, which each had their own tricks that Meya could handle all the same. When I said that things got 'fuzzy' when I touched the one artifact we had before, that's not really the whole truth. I remember bits and pieces of it. Images, flipping across my vision in rapid succession. At first they were hard to distinguish, but now that Meya has allowed me to study the prism at a distance, they're gradually becoming clearer. A figure made of light, monsters roaring, a sky on fire... They didn't seem like memories. At least not mine. If the prism put those images in my head, well that's a little frightening, honestly. Meya's right. I need to tread carefully here. As much as I want to know the prism's secrets, if I delve for them too deeply, I could lose myself to it. We both saw where that could lead, back in that violet pit. I should apologize for pushing the matter.
  +
*Hudson: Well, then don't get your hopes up. This 'artifact' sounds like it can do anything.
  +
*(Heili): By now, Meya and I can understand each other with only a handful of words. I just said I was sorry for being short with her, and that was that. She knows how much this means to me, and I know that she's just wants to protect me, even from myself. I even told her about the images I'm seeing. She dismissed them as nonsense, but I'm not so sure. They're growing clearer with every day I spend studying the prism, and one in particular keeps coming up. In it, I see a single room, in the depths of a cave. It is both a tomb and a throne, where a coffin like structure sits on a raised platform, surrounded by silvery metal and glowing crystals. The walls glimmer and a light shines down from above, or is it rising up from below? I can't tell. What does it mean? Anything at all? Or do I really just need to get more sleep?
  +
*Hudson: I'm leaning more for all of the above.
  +
*Xandy: Me too. Hehe, look at us, we're talking about this story like a movie commentary. (The two laughed together)
  +
*(Heili): Possible hallucinations aside, the prism itself is fascinating. It's similar to one of Santrago's hard light constructs, but it seems more solid. At first I suspected it was plasmal enhancelement, but I'm beginning to think that's unlikely. However, I do know one thing for certain: its shape. Somehow, the prism has the same size and profile as some of the prism shapes we keep seeing all over the Adytums or anything relating to them. Plus, they even look similar to dataports in Scyrian terminals and supercomputers. Yes, yes, that may seem obvious, but I was so distracted by everything else that I never noticed. So is that what it's for then? Am I meant to just pop it and the other artifacts in something like that tomb they keep showing me like a data drive? Oh Gods, what if that's all it is? Maybe these artifacts, and the ones we encountered in the Adytums, are supposed to be some kind of complex data drives containing keycodes. Maybe THESE in particular are pulsing their data with my head, somehow. Heh. Telepathic data drives. I joke, but if it really was just something mundane, if there were no answers... What would I do then?
  +
*Xandy:... Eh, that's the most logical answer I've heard about the artifacts so far.
  +
*Hudson: Yep.
  +
*(Heili): After studying the prisms for all this time, I'm starting to draw one conclusion. They all seem to carry what seems like 5 fragments of an entire collection of unknown data that the Scyrians may have hidden away on purpose, for whatever reason. Maybe as some kind of untested experiment or something to keep history from repeating itself? Regardless, if I insert them all into that tomb they all keep showing me, something will change forever. Myself, probably, but maybe not. Who's to say I'd even survive the experience? Whatever the case, I think that's what it wants from me, and it wants it urgently. And me? I still want answers, but I keep seeing Stonewell's mutated visage and hearing Meya's words. Is this how he felt, towards the end? Well I won't make his mistakes. Meya, Rav, Santrago and all the others who have helped me get here made sure of that. I'll only use the prisms if I'm sure it can't hurt the people I care about, and if that means never learning the ultimate truth of the Adytums? So be it.
  +
*Xandy:... Yikes, that's one HELLUVA burden on her little shoulders.
  +
*Hudson: No kidding. Hope she makes the right decision, and hopefully doesn't make the wrong one whatever she picks.
  +
*(Heili): Up until now, the images I've been seeing have been brief and disconnected, like a collage, but this last dream was different. It was a full, coherent vision - if it a bit abstract. In it, I saw violet fingers clawing at bedrock, knuckle deep in soil. They reached further, stretching, splitting and spreading like a web as stone crumbled beneath them, until at last they found a molten heart, its cadence soft and steady. Without pity, they grasped it in their twisting tendrils and squeezed. The heart's rhythm slowed, then stopped altogether, and at last it turned to cold, lifeless stone. As the heart died, strings of shadow shot from the violet fingers. I traced them across cracked and drying flesh, and when the strands ended I saw it: an army of monstrous shadows, hunting for even the smallest glimmer of light. And they were marching right towards me.... What does this even mean?... Not sure, but it's gonna be a lot to ponder about.
  +
*Hudson: Yeah, I don't get that either.
  +
*Xandy:... I think it may have something to do with THIS!
  +
*(Heili): Any thought of those images being hallucinations evaporated when Zuken came back from his scouting run this morning. An army of corrupted Titoses is headed our way, and I don't think it's a coincidence. Meya recognized one of them as the same Titos that stranded her on the island, and even realized from the behavior of the Titos army, it's that Titos' family. Not just that, either, they came with the biggest one I ever saw. It was what people called the Titos Rex, and had a giant purple core in it's chest, which must be what me and Meya can guess is the hive-mind core of the enhancelement all over the planet. But for me, it's a different coincidence, because there'd be no other explanation why the Titos Rex is here. They're after the prisms, that has to be it. So if I get rid of it... No, I don't think that will work. Those monsters won't stop with the prisms, they'll devour everyone who came into contact with it. Somehow I just get that feeling. Ugh, why am I only getting visions of how doomed we are? Show me something I can do to save my friends, you lambent little bludger! Damn it all. Maybe I'll think of something once we're on the move. For now, we've got to get the hell out of here.
  +
*Xandy:... Kay, I'm genuinely scared right now.
  +
*Hudson:... So am I, really.
  +
*(Heili): I've only slept once since escaping the archives alive from those Titoses, but in that brief moment of respite, another vision came to me. I saw a ladder, stretching from beneath the earth to high above the clouds. I was climbing it, ascending rung by rung, and carrying someone over my shoulder. Our pace was slow but patient. Somewhere beyond the sky, I was sure the ladder had an end, even if I couldn't see it. From below, monsters roared and raged. They couldn't climb the ladder, and they couldn't reach us. Even the tallest of them, a towering King of Death, could not harm us, and as I climbed, I could see a familiar light shining from within me. Is that it? Is that how I can help everyone, or was that me just seeing what I wanted to? I need to decide, and soon. We're running out of time.
  +
*Hudson: Okay, now it's starting to get cryptic. And I HATE cryptic. SERIOUSLY, WHAT DOES IT MEAN?!?
  +
*(Heili): I feel like my stomach has twisted itself into a knot that can't be untied. When Meya refused to give me the prisms, I well...I stole them. I know she wants to keep me safe, but our backs are against the wall here. If there's a chance this thing can save us, then I need to have it within reach. Still, I know the danger they pose, so I'll only use it as a last resort. Not to solve any ancient mystery or make a grand discovery, but to help her and everyone else. If things are dire and the prisms are the only chance I have to help, then it's worth the risk. I'm sorry, Meya, but we promised that we'd prop each other up, didn't we? Maybe this isn't how you envisioned it, but this is the only way I can hold up my end of the bargain. I hope you can forgive me.
  +
*Xandy: Yeh, the way she puts it, I'd do the same thing.
  +
*(Heili): It worked. The prisms, they worked. Their light drove off the Titoses, including their Titos Rex leader, which seemed more corrupted and ominous than the others. But I hesitated when using the prisms on them. Now we're only two. Only two. We ended up separated from our crew, including Dinia and Santrago, but I felt like they were dead. Am I dying too? I noticed myself being infected with enhancelement, but was it just another hallucination? Is this how it feels? Is that why I keep seeing the tomb? The tomb, again and again. The tomb, the throne and the ladder. The ladder. I see it once more. I'm climbing still, above the clouds and into the stars. I think I see the end, but when I try to grab the next rung, my hand turns to enhancelement dust. I try to scream, but I make no sound. I'm slipping away. I see their faces. Stonewell, Rav, Dinia, Santrago, Meya... I reach for them. I have to find' purchase. There must be something I can grasp. Something. The tomb. The tomb!
  +
*Xandy:... What's happening to her?
  +
*Hudson: Don't look at me, I have no idea!... Oh, boy. Last page.
  +
*(Heili): I'm sorry, Meya. I'm sorry. The weight's all on your shoulders now. There's no one else who can carry it. The tomb. The throne. You have to reach it. You have to take me there, to the Ascending Tomb. I can show you the path, but you have to walk it alone. I wish it weren't true. I wish I could give you wings. But I believe in your heart, so believe in mine. One last time. I need you to believe. Please. Ple...
  +
*Hudson:... That's it?!?...
  +
*Xandy: WHAT THE HELL?!? WE END ON A CLIFFHANGER?!? WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO HER?!?
  +
  +
===='''Who Is Edwyn Stonewell?'''====
  +
Jungle
  +
*Clifton:... Where'd you get this, Sam?
  +
*Samantha: Found it in some kind of fancy chest.... It's the journal of a man named... Sir Edwyn Stonewell.
  +
*Clifton:... I've heard that name a lot on this mission. Well... I guess it's about time we found out why, and even why people don't like hearing it.
  +
*Samantha:... (Sighs)... Well... Probably a good idea. (They read)
  +
*(Stonewell): Greetings and salutations dear reader!
  +
*Samantha: Okay, who other than themselves had expected people would read these things?!
  +
*Clifton: Well this just SCREAMS egotist.
  +
*(Stonewell): If these words are gracing your eyes, then you have had the good fortune to find the journal of Sir Edwyn Stonewell, stupendous scholar, gallant gentleman and explorer extraordinaire. It also means that it’s entirely possible that I’ve met some unseemly end on this fascinating but exceedingly dangerous planet that I call home. I suppose you could have also stolen it or I could have misplaced it in which case please proceed to either hang your head in shame or return it to me at once. Whichever is appropriate. Regards, Sir Edwyn Stonewell.
  +
*Clifton:... Dafuq?... Yeesh, this guy has an INTERESTING opinion on himself.
  +
*Samantha:... Totally-assured belief that he's an egotist.
  +
*(Stonewell): The wondrous properties of the flora on this island will never cease to amaze me. Glad I drugged my parents before they could take this golden opportunity of research first. Otherwise, if I’d told my colleagues back home that I could create a concoction capable of erasing someone’s memories, I’d be laughed out of the room and never invited to tea again for being such a ripoff of my own kin. Yet here it sits: my Mindfreshening Tonic. As usual, I’ve had tribal leaders groveling at the gates of Stonewell Manor just for the tiniest of samples, and for the recipe? Oh the bounties I’ve been offered! I’m not interested in their riches though. I have their protection, supplies for my studies and all the time in the world. What more could I ask for?
  +
*Samantha:... He seems really morally grey.
  +
*Clifton: That is debatable, cause I still get 'egotist' from this guy.
  +
*(Stonewell): These tribal negotiations give me a headache every time. The Blackhands are mad that the Dyesharks sunk two of their barges, but the Dyesharks say that the barges were too close to Southern Haven and they were perfectly within their rights to sink them as per The South Island Accords. Typically, neither side is willing to budge. What a bother. I’d just as soon mind-fresh the lot of them and return to my studies. Alas, such is the fate of the island’s most respected neutral entity. At least the Dyesharks brought some fresh fish. Perhaps I’ll side with them.
  +
*Samantha:... He also seems to have some... Hoity-toitiness to him.
  +
*Clifton: I would've gone for 'snobby asshole'.
  +
*(Stonewell): Any chemist worth his salt knows the irreplaceable value of testing. Until a tonic has been rigorously tested, it is less useful than water. If only I could persuade this island’s less intellectual inhabitants to see that tests on monkeys serve well for early trials, but they are no replacement for genuine sentient subjects at later, safer stages. By subjects, I of course mean willing participants that are prepared to risk mild headaches and much less mild nausea for the sake of science. The Rock Skulls offered rather less willing participants at one point, but I declined. With how difficult it is to find volunteers these days, I sometimes regret it.
  +
*Clifton:... He, tested his experiments, on his own guests?!
  +
*Samantha: There goes that 'morally grey' statement, I guess. It's a bit more darker than expected in some areas.
  +
*Clifton: All he had to do was ask!
  +
*Samantha: In all fairness Clifton, what do we know about how this world works? If it was nicer, we wouldn't even need to be here.
  +
*(Stonewell): Miss Runner's impromptu visits are always an unexpected pleasure. Especially since her mother was quite as smart as they come. Johnna Runner was studying the Scyrian precursors of this planet for decades. So after that headache with the Sharks and Blackhands, a lively tea-time discussion about the abnormalities of the island's ecosystem was precisely what I needed. Thank goodness I've managed to find an intellectual colleague that shares my love for the sciences. It saddens me to think that Miss Runner's charming colonial accent would keep her out of the more prestigious institutions and societies back home. Another of the Island's wonders, it is a true meritocracy unlike any in the modern world. If Miss Runner and I could find and cultivate more minds like ourselves, we could create a true scientific utopia.
  +
*Clifton: Ya know, I haven't even physically met the dude, but even just READING about him has that veil of me imagining his face being punchable!
  +
*Samantha: I would imagine that this man is a sort-of pariah in this world.
  +
*(Stonewell): This expedition to Whitewind Peak has been just splendid, top to bottom. The weather's been marvelous, I've found excellent floral samples and the local hunters had more Wooloceros horns than you could shake a stick at. I even managed to find volunteers for my latest experiment! It turns out that it was simply a matter of linguistics: those who are wary of experimental serums are much more receptive to experimental food. Once my Omnithermic Pastes were renamed Frosser Curry, people were clamoring to test it. It has moderate nutritional value, so it's not technically a deception. It's just favorable language in the name of progress, that's all. Perfectly moral.
  +
*Clifton: Ya might want a second opinion on that, doc!
  +
*Samantha: I believe it's obvious he's trying to comfort himself in his actions and delude himself into thinking these are necessary evils. This man is of troubled mind and soul.
  +
*Clifton: I'm thinking more along the lines of him being JACKS*** INSANE!!
  +
*Samantha: Well if you are to be vulgar about it, then yes.
  +
*Clifton: Oh don't act like ya don't agree other than because ya try to be polite due to Magelio-User policy and stuff. He even drugged his own parents to take credit for this research first? I don't think anybody is THAT egomaniacal.
  +
*Samantha: Pride can be a powerful and dangerous vice.
  +
*(Stonewell): Sadly my Frosser Curry trials cannot begin immediately as the volunteers have a much more difficult journey to Stonewell Manor than I. After all, I couldn't very well carry every one of them on Achitans. Yes, the Pteriornis could clutch one with his talons, but I've always found the practice to be barbaric. The rest of the island may be embroiled in feudal savagery, but a gentleman always maintains his class and dignity. At any rate, I must have my assistants renovate the guest compound. Naturally, I would never let strangers into the manor proper, but there's no reason there stay should not affect my civilized standards.
  +
*Clifton: Wow, he couldn't even get his victims to come to his place. Pfft, what a maroon.
  +
*Samantha: I don't believe this is a matter of him being intellectually inferior as more like the natives have proven, weary. Who could travel safely in a place like this?
  +
*Clifton: Meh, point taken.
  +
*(Stonewell): Having readily available subjects has helped my experiments tremendously even if their numbers dwindled over time. Not only was I able to curb the side effects of my Frosser Curry's endothermic properties, but I managed to bring out an additional benefit of the mixture. Now, it also lowers the subject's metabolism, letting them go longer without needing food. Marvelous! I hadn't even considered that as a possibility. Why, with all I've learned from these experiments, I imagine that I could reverse the effects of the Curry and create a concoction to aid survival in extreme heat as well. I must find more volunteers posthaste.
  +
*Clifton: JUST ASK, YOU BUMBLING MANIPULATOR!
  +
*Samantha: Clifton, you think he hasn't tried? He was clearly getting a bit of a reputation at this point.
  +
*Clifton: Hey, this is just wrong. Scientists have standards, you know.
  +
*Samantha:  Well perhaps being in this strange world compromised his better judgment.
  +
*Clifton: You're too gentle on this hack, Sam! I hope this guy's dead, or at least his acts got him in trouble.
  +
*Samantha: Ahem! I would've chosen to say "I hope karma made a desired judgment on him".
  +
*(Stonewell): I decided to seek out volunteers for my next experiment among the island's larger tribes. I thought that surely they would be willing to help after I patiently moderated so many of their frivolous disputes. How idealistic of me. Instead, they have yet another favor to ask. Apparently there's a new tribe that's behaving rather aggressively and no one can successfully negotiate with its leader. So naturally they have turned to me. It's rather bothersome, but I can't touch their logic. If Sir Edwyn Stonewell cannot reason with this Nervay fellow, then who can?
  +
*Clifton:... A conqueror tribe?
  +
*Samantha: Better keep reading to be safe.
  +
*Clifton: Good idea. (They kept reading)
  +
*(Stonewell): Well, I found the report on Mister Nervay to be rather exaggerated, and as any gentleman one might imagine that I'd view imperial leadership with some disdain. Yet in my experience, I found Mister Nervay to be both honest and intellectually engaging....Or at least Mr. Nervay TRIES. In fact, after a lengthy conversation, I daresay that Mister Nervay has the right of it when it comes to this island's politics. He argued that this island needed to be more civilized and he even wishes to escape the island and expand, especially since his family was stranded there for, get this, eons. That means they originated from the days of the Scyrians. He's even the last of his family still alive now. Sad, and it gives him good reason to be this way. I doubt his endeavors will harm my research, though, so I see no reason to interfere in this pointless squabble.
  +
*Clifton:... He's agreeing, with a conqueror?
  +
*Samantha: I'm guessing he was able to relate better with a fellow pariah.
  +
*Clifton: Not when the people who negotiate or use it are too dense to have a proper conscience.
  +
*Samantha: (Sighs and kept reading)
  +
*(Stonewell): How can these tribal leaders be so short-sighted? Yes, the members of their respective tribes who volunteered for my Combat Tartare and Strengthening Sauté experiments have been experiencing prolonged withdrawal episodes, but can't they see that the benefits outweigh the costs?
  +
*Clifton: Well MAYBE the costs were TOO UGLY to cope with for any legit plus-sides, Doctor Dorkinstein!
  +
*(Stonewell): I create mixtures that can bring out enhanced strength, speed and coordination in ordinary men and they can only focus on the negatives. Simple-minded, the lot of them!
  +
*Clifton: Well, AGAIN, maybe these were SOME REALLY BAD NEGATIVES for them to be all like "NOPE"!
  +
*Samantha: Sometimes scientists worry more about long-term good over short-term and intermediate inconveniences like what was happening with the people.
  +
*(Stonewell): They even banned their members from partaking in my experiments now. Ridiculous! I'll not let them stand in the way of sentient progress. They may not understand the importance of my work, but surely my assistants do.
  +
*Clifton: Well, it's about TIME they opened their eyes. I hope he got what he deserved.
  +
*Samantha:... Well, there's still more entries, so your dark desires are left unfulfilled at the moment.
  +
*(Stonewell): I've decided to take a brief vacation from the laboratory. Well, I say that I've decided to, but the whole thing was my assistant Isabellene's idea. She noticed that I'd been quite ruffled lately and suggested that I take a bit of time to myself before rushing headlong into my next experiment. Such an observant young woman, that Isabellene. She's somewhat lacking as a chemist, but she understands my moods almost better than I do. I daresay that an old fashioned adventure will do me some good. Nothing like some rigorous recreation to clear the mind. Perhaps I'll go spelunking. Yes, a splendid idea! I know just the place for it.
  +
*Samantha:... At least he still has some gentlemanly dignity.
  +
*Clifton: Sure, like THAT justifies his immoral scientific code.
  +
*Samantha: Clifton, by all means, I'm no fan of his motivations either, but continuous judging makes for the kind of people that Stonewell ended up being. I suspect his sanity was dwindling because of always being rejected, even if you had found them reasonable or not.
  +
*Clifton:... Okay, fair point.
  +
*(Stonewell): Remarkable. Absolutely remarkable! When I chose that remote northern cave as the site of my spectacular spelunking sojourn, I'd never imagined that I'd find such wonders within. Granted, I don't know what this specific wonder does exactly, but it's fascinating to examine. It's like nothing I've ever seen! I don't even recognize the materials that it's composed of, and it's constantly pulsing with some sort of latent energy. What is it? Is it unique or are there similar artifacts just waiting to be discovered beneath the island's surface? My, how invigorating! Isabellene was right, this was exactly what I needed. I feel like a young Chredder again!
  +
*Clifton:... Oh, so he's a Chredder.
  +
*Samantha: You were wondering that?
  +
*Clifton: Yeah, people all over the UUniverses are so mix-matched these days. It becomes an instinct you have to know what they are, because next thing you know, when you mock someone before seeing what they are, they'll be as big as a whule and kick your ass.
  +
*Samantha: Let us resume the book.
  +
*(Stonewell): Eureka! My theory was correct. The small podium at the base of the obelisk is definitely responding to the artifact's proximity and vice versa. Honestly I feel foolish for not attempting this sooner! The stylistic similarities between the artifacts and the obelisks floating above the island seems so obvious to me now. Clearly they were created within the same culture and era as the Scyrians. Even the modern Tiikon structures all over the planet aren't THIS advanced. Bizarrely, while both the artifact and obelisks are in exquisite condition, there are no other signs of the Scyrians' work anywhere. How could that be? What kind of mad society would gallivant about some remote island, building towering structures and stuffing knickknacks into caves before vanishing without a trace? I don't understand it, but it's certainly piqued my curiosity.
  +
*Clifton: Get in line, Ched-head, there's plenty who have done the same. That's the mystery of the Teadr 1 Era.
  +
*Samantha: (Sighs) Clifton, I can't say I'm a fan of this person myself, but can you get over it already? It's been years since this was written.
  +
*(Stonewell): Well, I think I've gotten as far in my studies of the obelisks as my archaeological expertise will take me. A shame, really. This has been such a joyous little diversion that I hate to see it end. Ah Stonewell, you old twit. You've forgotten the origins of this little excursion: spelunking. Did you yourself not hypothesize that there may be more artifacts hidden elsewhere on this island? Surely you can't give up before confirming that. No, certainly not, nor can I be expected to scour the island's caverns alone. Perhaps someone can spelunk in my stead? Better yet, perhaps someone has already spelunked!
  +
*Clifton:... Let's see where he goes with this, because I think we might get information on this Scyrian technology.
  +
*Samantha: Good thinking. Though I must caution that it may get darker from here.
  +
*(Stonewell): After many days of scouring the island upon Achitans and many more fruitless conversations with the witless, savage sods that seem to make up most of this island's population, I have finally found the spelunkers I need! A tribe to the northwest called the Steel Brotherhood has apparently found three artifacts themselves, and it's clear that said relics share an origin with my own. In exchange for my artifact, the Brotherhood agreed to report any findings to me straight away as they continue their search. What stupendously good fortune! Now I can return to my alchemical studies with renewed vigor, while they crawl through the island's caverns in my stead. Brilliant.
  +
*Clifton:... Okay, I'm trying to give him the benefit of the doubt, but using people for your own needs?... I mean, I don't think it's using them, but... Okay, you know what? I'm done arguing about his morals. They're still as gray as the sky right now.
  +
*Samantha: Thank you for keeping an open head, Cliff. I love you for it. And if it helps, as before, he's not my favorite person either. As a Magelian mage, I just make myself above anger and being offended by undesirable actions. Doesn't mean my dissatisfaction has to be unknown.
  +
*Clifton: You love me period.
  +
*Samantha: (Chuckles as they kept reading)
  +
*(Stonewell): The first round of trials for my new Lazereus Chowder have gone marvelously, but I have found it hard to maintain my enthusiasm. After all, I will never get truly definitive results with only primitive primate subjects. It is quite frustrating. Even so, I see now that Isabellene was right. Having my assistants take part in the trials would be asking too much of them, and they are too valuable to risk so frivolously. If I cannot find sentient subjects from the nearby tribes, then I shall have to make due with trials on greater apes that are a close second. Perhaps it is finally time to capture some Pithecuses...
  +
*Clifton:... Good for you, you're starting to get more moral. Why was I ever angry at this person?
  +
*Samantha: Be cautious though, he might have a turnaround later.
  +
*(Stonewell): I admit there are times when it is useful to live among simpletons. For example, I was able to trade several gallons of my Lazereus Chowder to a group of hunters in exchange for an entire contingent of tamed Pithecuses, and they never questioned whether it had been tested on sentient beings yet. Well, I suppose if they return with another batch of apes, then I'll know that Lazereus Chowder doesn't cause asphyxiation, won't I? It's not exactly a conclusive, scientific trial, but I suppose it will serve. Unfortunately all these bigger primates have given Stonewell Manor quite the pungent odor. Isabellene said she is working on some sort of air freshener, but I hope she makes haste.
  +
*Clifton: Well, keep trying, good sir. Failure is the best teacher.
  +
*(Stonewell): I am perplexed. Even with an expanded number of test subjects, I just cannot find the passion that I once had for my research. I truly thought that my recent adventure had lit a fire in my belly, but I constantly find myself losing focus. Confound it all! Perhaps said adventure itself is the problem. Thinking about it, I am always eager to discuss the obelisks and the artifacts I found with my assistants, even when I am not in the mood for research. There is a certain allure to them that I cannot describe, something that causes my thoughts to drift in their direction, like the pull of a strong tide. But it could simply be a passing fancy. I must give myself more time.
  +
*Clifton: Mmm, I wouldn't call researching this kind of tech 'boring', in an unrefined tongue.
  +
*Samantha: Neither would I. Studying precursor races that have shaped a backbone for the UUniverses are a scientist's pride and joy.
  +
*Clifton: I'm guessing he might not be the right kind of scientist for this then.
  +
*(Stonewell): I was ever so glad to see Miss Runner again. My assistants are clever in their own right, but dear Johnna Jr. is still the only person that I feel comfortable diving into my deeper theories with. I fear that I may have kept her from getting a word in edgewise, though. Once I got going on the obelisks, why I just couldn't contain my enthusiasm! My word, I really have become quite enamored with the subject, haven't I? Well, that settles it! After this next set of trials, I shall go check on the Steel Brotherhood's progress. Perhaps I can convince Miss Runner to join me. We could make a real scientific expedition out of it!
  +
*Samantha:... At least he has a friend of equal intellect to share words with.
  +
*Clifton: Glad for that myself. At least he grew on his own too.
  +
*(Stonewell): The latest Broth of Knowledge trials have concluded, and as expected, I am disappointed in the results. Thought the primates I tested it on showed increased aptitude for learning, I do not believe any of them have truly ascended to a higher level of intelligence. Well bugger the little blighters, I say! My assistants have almost finished preparing my supplies for my next expedition, and I have drafted a letter to send to the Steel Brotherhood ahead of my departure. Soon enough, I'll have forgotten all about the... Pardon the interruption, it seems that I have a guest. Now just what is Mister Nervay doing here? I suppose I'll find out.
  +
*Clifton: Oh, yeah, I forgot about this Nervay guy.
  +
*(Stonewell): I have always tried to maintain a strict neutrality when it comes to tribal matters and affairs, as with the rules of the grander community of the UUniverses, but then again, I have never had an offer this tempting from someone as respectable as Mister Nervay. Not only has he offered to provide me with test subjects, but he has also expressed a mutual interest in investigating the obelisks. All he asks from me is that I provide him with 'reliable council'. I would trust few tribes to be able to make good on such promises, but Mister Nervay's Artegerant Legion is perhaps the most powerful tribe on the island. Indeed, if they maintain their current trajectory, they may be the only powerful tribe on the island. His offer is worth considering, at the very least.
  +
*Clifton:... Okay, so much for having respect for him. Nervay had re-sparked his immoral practices by giving him test subjects.
  +
*Samantha: Well I did caution that the last few pages were a brief period. Look, Clifton, it's a cold cold world out here. War and suffering has been happening since the beginning of time, and often times for the most pettiest of reasons.
  +
*Clifton: Yes, but sometimes, I wish it wasn't.
  +
*Samantha: We all do.
  +
*(Stonewell): After much deliberation, I have decided to accept Mister Nervay's offer. True, the Artegerent Legion is not beloved by many other tribes, but what force interested to become the dominant force of anything ever gotten a kinder reputation? If my studies are to continue, I must be on the side of history most likely to be the one to make changes. As part of our agreement, I will need to travel with Mister Nervay for a time, and wait to study the obelisks until the Artegerant Legion have taken care of some smaller matters of foreign policy. A bit inconvenient to my researching endeavors, but clearly Nervay's Legion is nomadic in nature, so I have to respect that it's something convenient to them. As such, I have left Stonewell Manor in Isabellene's charge. She will take excellent care of it, I am sure. Well then, onto new frontiers! Excelsior!
  +
*Clifton:... Okay, um... I'll just... Keep going and hope he doesn't get any worse from here.
  +
*Samantha: I rather for us both to prepare for impact. I am regretful to say that this will only get darker.
  +
*(Stonewell): I admit, I have been rather coy with Mister Nervay when it comes to the true nature of the obelisks. As a military man, the obelisks would naturally be more useful to him if they were some sort of weapon, or if it had some kind of armory for Teadr-1-class weapons in them, especially since he stated this island serves as a prison and desires the obelisks destroyed so they can escape. So I have made sure to allude to that possibility from time to time. It is not as though I am selling my gracious host a falsehood. After all, I have neither any proof that the obelisks could be weaponized, nor any evidence to the contrary. Their purpose is entirely theoretical at this stage, like any Teadr 1 monument, and if twisting those theories will convince Mister Nervay to march on the obelisks any sooner, then so be it.
  +
*Clifton:... At least he proves that brains can dominate brawns. And good to know Nervay's a bit of a dumbass, tribalism aside
  +
*Samantha: I wouldn't underestimate Nervay just because of the planet's technological nature, Clifton. We may not know Nervay ourselves, but there could be more than meets the eye.
  +
*Clifton:... True.
  +
*(Stonewell): The Artegerant Legion is finally on the march, and not a moment too soon! Mister Nervay runs his tribe exceptionally well, but their compound is positively Spaetan. I don't think I saw a single piece of decor anywhere! It certainly made me miss the comforts of Stonewell Manor, I'll say that. At any rate, we are apparently in pursuit of a barbaric 'Animal Queen'. According to the men, she feasts on the flesh of her enemies alongside her army of monsters. Oy, the further criticisms to the ways of life of tribal society I got from that statement alone, it's simply dreadful. Mister Nervay is convinced that she is heading towards an obelisk, but I see no cause for alarm. No mere heathen could hope to uncover its secrets, and certainly not alone.
  +
*Samantha:... Animal... Queen... Sounds like they encountered a feral leader.
  +
*Clifton: Well, I just hope he keeps a level head and keeps thinking wise.
  +
*Samantha:... Looks like you spoke too soon, Clifton. Listen to this. He sounds jealous in this chapter.
  +
*Clifton: Oh, boy, here we go again!
  +
*(Stonewell): I am absolutely astonished! Shocked! Flabbergasted! Why in the world was Miss Runner investigating the obelisks at the side of such a savage woman, and without notifying me first? Was she intending to discover their secrets behind my back and keep them all to herself, just like my parents attempted to do? The nerve! The audacity! And after I treated her with such respect and civility!
  +
*Clifton:... I'm already getting the feeling this was an easily-avoidable misunderstanding through a simple conversation.
  +
*Samantha: Well I'm afraid what follows is that Stonewell wasn't able to be in a listening mood.
  +
*(Stonewell): Well, unfortunately for her, Sir Edwyn Stonewell is always one step ahead of his rivals. Thanks to my partnership with Mister Nervay, I can combine what scraps of knowledge she has on the obelisks with my own findings, and she'll be none the wiser. Why, since she is confined to a cage, I can keep my presence concealed from her altogether!
  +
*Clifton:... You've got to be kidding me. He actually accuses someone he respected, of stealing his research? I thought he was better than that.
  +
*Samantha: Dishonorable, I know, but fair's fair, I believe it's obvious at this point that Stonewell has already started to take a downward spiral thanks to Nervay.
  +
*Clifton: Doesn't make Ched-head less of a d*** though!
  +
*Samantha: Well, to be fair, his PARENTS tried to capitalize on research like this before he could. Seems like, ever since then, he became intent on being the best and most adulated person he can be with a field like this. Minds like his are ALWAYS susceptible to ambition, and ambition makes you do bad things and think less wisely.
  +
*Clifton:... Okay... Fair point there. But still... Not cool, man! Not, cool!
  +
*(Stonewell): Before arriving on this island, I would have dismissed the idea of a device instantly transporting a person from one location to another as complete and utter poppycock.... Or at least, one such at this godly degree. Teleportation is a commonplace application to the UUniverses, yes, but this is different. It's instantaneous. Such a feat would require too much power for ANY race to even collect in a lifetime, and yet, that appears exactly what the strange platforms beneath the obelisks are capable of doing. Astounding! Yes, yes, there was a Dracthonosaur on the other side. I'm sure Mister Nervay and his men fought quite the rigorous battle, but discovering another slobbering beast is trivial in comparison. Imagine! One could go from one side of the globe to the other in the blink of an eye, and also in using little commands and energy to do so spontaneously, and I'll wager that is just the start of the obelisk's capabilities! I must learn more! I must!
  +
*Clifton: And now he's competing for the research of this race? Come ON! They're not the only ones who did this! HEILI'S MOM DID IT, AND HE KNEW HER!! How could he betray her daughter and disrespect her mother's grave like that?
  +
*Samantha: Like I said, with intelligence comes ambition. But it also comes with pride. You know that. Many of the best scientists had pride themselves.
  +
*(Stonewell): I am starting to become quite cross with Mister Nervay's impatience. I had barely any time at all to study the obelisk before we set out again, this time to that cave Miss Runner mentioned. I wonder, does he believe that she knows more about the obelisks than I do? Nonsense! Any fool could see that I am the superior scientist. I swear, if only Nervay wasn't just some mindless savage playing conqueror, he'd be more perceptive! Besides, I am his official advisor while she is his prisoner. She isn't even privy to my presence. Nonetheless, I feel compelled to prove my scientific mettle. Whatever is in that cave, I shall be the one to discover its purpose. The mysteries of the obelisks and Scyrians are mine to uncover, not Miss Runner's or even Mister Nervay's. MINE!
  +
*Clifton: Oh for the love of Gods, are you serious?! You think this world revolves around you, you stuck-up moron?! HE EVEN WROTE THAT WORD IN CAPITAL LETTERS, FOR PETAN'S SAKE!!
  +
*Samantha: Clifton!
  +
*Clifton: Right. (Deep breath)... I'm still hoping he gets wise again like he did before. That said, I am getting the idea the honeymoon with Nervay is starting to turn south.
  +
*Samantha: Ahem, well, be cautious that him turning against Nervay may not necessarily be a good thing, and I suspect this book will only get darker.
  +
*(Stonewell): In all my life, I have never seen so magnificent a sight! Me and Mister Nervay got separated, and might as well be bemoaning the loss of his men since he'll surely be disappointed there are no weapons here, but I would sacrifice his men a thousand times over to witness such majesty! I have never seen a night sky so beautiful. Somehow, this place looks down upon the world from on high, as though it stands upon the peak of divine mountains themselves! And my word, the exquisite metal this place is made out of, not to mention that bizarre creature! It reminds me of the material that lines the obelisks, yet somehow more... Alive. The very walls of this place seem to hum with power and possibility. I must find more information on this material. Perhaps one of these consoles will have something I could use. I am not familiar with the technology, but I am sure a scientist of my caliber could get something out of them with a little educated fiddling.
  +
*Clifton: Pheh, sure, I can see where that goes, because it looks like this journal is done.
  +
*Samantha:... Not quite. What he's done according to this journal is not serious enough to garner such a notoriety. He had to have done something worse. MUCH worse.
  +
  +
(Later...) Scorchar Desert
  +
*Clifton: Huh? Another journal from Stonewell?
  +
*Samantha: I suppose in that case, I was correct. What he did on the island couldn't have given him such a brash reputation.
  +
*Clifton:... Well, what COULD have?
  +
*Samantha: Let's find out. (They read the journal)
  +
*(Stonewell): Confound those confused contraptions! Despite my best efforts, I could make neither heads nor tails of the mysterious machine that brought me here. If only I still had that jittery bespectacled assistant of mine from all those years ago. What was his name? Gera? Gerdel? The one that loved tinkering with the devices we’d salvage from the arms of the island’s less fortunate inhabitants. Good lad. The inscriptions he found on the inside of those little trinkets were where I first saw the word 'Adytum' as I recall. That and some word that I could make out as 'Project'. What this 'Adytum Project' was about, I won't know for sure. Still, I miss the lad. Shame about the incident with the Multisaurs. If I still had his services, perhaps I’d never be in this gods-forsaken crater desert. Ah well. Stiff upper lip, Stonewell. Make the best of it.... I just hope Isabellene is doing well without me.
  +
*Clifton: Oh, trust me, she is. She cleaned up the mess Nervay left on the island and reestablished peace on it after the Artegerent Legion's collapse.... Though she didn't ONCE feel like talking about you. I don't know why.
  +
*Samantha: I suppose it's best left for US to figure out what has become of him.
  +
*(Stonewell): Right then! Now that I have found a shady spot where I can enjoy a brief respite from this desert’s dreadful heat, it’s high time that I set some goals for this expedition. If I wander about aimlessly then I’m sure to meet the same fate as poor Gerdel. First, I shall find a local tribe if for no other reason than to obtain a proper mount and supplies. Second, I simply must learn more about that strange metal that lined the walls of the sanctuary. Even with a cursory study I could tell that it possesses wondrous properties. But where could I find more of it?
  +
*Clifton:... He's REALLY fixated on this 'metal'.
  +
*Samantha:... Perhaps, too fixated.
  +
*(Stonewell): I must say nothing reminds a man of his own mortality quite like a desolate wasteland, even though the ones in this crater pale in comparison to the mess outside of it. As a strapping young lad, I could have survived alone in this desert for years! Why on one occasion, I fought off a triger with naught but an empty flash and my favorite pipe. With this makeshift spear, the beasts of this land would never have a prayer! Yet in my old age, I can feel this damnable sun sapping my strength with every minute I spend under its unforgiving gaze. Each day I cover less ground than the day before. I must find civilization soon, no matter how primitive. Without the right tools and supplies, I fear that this expedition will be incredibly short lived.
  +
*Clifton:... Hmm. Guess he still survives this regardless, so, FESS UP!!
  +
*Samantha: (Softly chuckles)
  +
*(Stonewell): Eureka! At last, I have found signs of sentient life! Though they don't seem to be ones I like, not in a racist sense, but in a sense of misplacement in a fitting environment. It's like putting a pretty bird in space. It just seems wrong. Regardless. This afternoon, I came across a fresh series of footprints, some from sentient beings and some from what I assume are large beasts of burden. I cannot be sure who made them or how civilized they may be, but neither can I afford to be too particular in my choice of saviors. Whoever they are, I must track them down immediately. As soon as I gather my strength I shall pursue my quarry with the utmost haste and vigor. The tale of the brilliant and impeccably groomed Sir Edwyn Stonewell shall not end this day!
  +
*Clifton: (Sighs) This guy just cannot get over himself.
  +
*(Stonewell): Salvation, thy name is Prophecy Black. After a proper meal and some time out of the sun, the makeshift fortress doesn't look half as grand as its name might imply. Yet when I first sighted its walls from across the dunes, it may as well have been El Doritos itself, so grateful was I to find it. Thus far, I have seen little of the inhabitants, but they seem a hospitable sort. I've been given food, shelter, and even a wet cloth to clean myself with. Quite generous of them, considering how scarce water is in these lands. Their clothing is a curiosity, however. Those robes seem more ceremonial than functional.
  +
*Clifton:... Seems he's come across a religious colony.
  +
*Samantha: I believe so.
  +
*(Stonewell): It seems that Prophecy Black is less a fortress and more an enclave or monastery. I suppose that would explain the name, now wouldn't it? Yes as strange as it may sound, the natives have created a primitive religion centered around the contained environment's obelisks. They pray three times a day, each time facing a different obelisk, and their robes bear a unique symbol: a three pointed star colored red, green and blue. The blue obelisk appears to receive particular reverence due to is proximity. As charmingly ignorant as their superstitions may be, it's far from the most savage religion I've encountered. Besides, Prophecy Black is in need of a doctor, and I am in need of supplies.
  +
*Samantha:... And we were right.
  +
*(Stonewell): I have discovered why Prophecy Black is so generous with their water. The well at the edge of the compound is built directly on top of what the locals call a 'water vein'. An endless supply water bubbles up from beneath the ground. It's existence is a minor miracle, though compared to what I saw in the starlit sanctuary, minor is the operative word. I suppose this environment must be for the same purpose as the Island and under the same control. Possibly from this 'Adytum Project' thing. What an extraordinary thought. I cannot fathom how such a thing is possible, but that remarkable metal must be at the heart of it. I am certain.
  +
*Samantha:... Hmm. He must be onto something here.
  +
*Clifton: Oh, no doubt about it. Maybe if we keep reading, we can get some coverage on how to stop Dr. SMD.
  +
*(Stonewell): Most of my work at the monastery's doctor has been trivial. Every now and then one of the guards gets injured by the local wildlife, but I usually find myself treating heat stroke and common illnesses. As such, I have had plenty of time to learn all the priests know about the obelisks. All told, they are stunningly ill-informed about the literal pillars of their faith. They are unaware that the obelisks are actually devices that can be activated, and needless to say they have never activated one themselves. They showed a flicker of understanding when I described the artifacts I found on the island, however. I shall have to keep digging.
  +
*Clifton:... Hmm. Keep going, ched-head.
  +
*(Stonewell): Unbelievable. Have these idol-worshiping ninnies replaced all their common sense with blind devotion? Have years of oppressive heat completely addled their brains? I was finally allowed to see the monastery's inner sanctum, and lo and behold, there they were. Sitting upon an altar before a flock of protesting primitives were these glowing artifacts, just like the ones I had found in the caverns beneath the island. Yet instead of making use of them or even studying them, these halfwits are praying to them! The true value of those artifacts is completely lost on these simpletons. Sacred relics, indeed!
  +
*Clifton:... Okay, I'd hate to agree with someone of his caliber, but he's right. That's such a waste.
  +
*Samantha: Well, it's not their fault their knowledge of the artifacts is hardly understood.
  +
*(Stonewell): It took time, but I finally pilfered enough supplies and tools to survive on my own. Loading them onto these bamal-like beasts of burden was laborious, but the real trial was absconding with the artifacts. There is always someone watching the inner sanctum, so I carefully studied the guard's shifts until I identified whose drink I had to spoil with my knockout serum. Even then I acted with great haste and guile, for my heist will surely be discovered when the priests convene for their morning prayers. Alas, they will be too late! Sir Edwyn Stonewell is always ahead of his foes, but not by a mere step. No, I am miles and miles beyond their reach!
  +
*Clifton: Okay, thus guy's stroking his own penis so hard, it's gotten sore.
  +
*Samantha: (Chuckles) Clearly.
  +
*(Stonewell): It has been several days since I left Prophecy Black, and I have seen no sign of pursuit. I am unsurprised. They probably assumed that I would make for the blue obelisk, as it was nearest. By setting out for the green obelisk instead, I already outwitted those simple minded zealots. As I said, miles ahead! Miles! With those fools out of the way, I can slow my pace and take some time to properly study these so-called 'sacred' relics of theirs. I am curious to see if the materials they are made of bear any similarity to the metal in the starlit sanctuary.
  +
*Clifton:... As rotten as he is, he sure has some intelligence to survive on a planet like this.
  +
*Samantha: People have to have those kind of smarts here, Cliff.
  +
*(Stonewell): The obelisk is reacting to the presence of the artifacts with even more intensity than I expected. Each obelisk on the island required eight artifacts to generate that sort of response, not three. In other words, I may not need to do any spelunking before summoning whatever terrifying beast this ARK has in store for me. Ah, the beast. Now that poses an entirely different conundrum. Even with my youth and my favorite pipe, I doubt that I could slay a monster such as that dracthon Mister Nervay fought. Not alone, anyway. I shall need to find a partner for this venture, but who?
  +
*Clifton: Oh, I'm sure you'll find SOMETHING. This desert seems MERCILESS! (He saw animals eat each other in a comical fashion over and over)... Unnaturally merciless.
  +
*(Stonewell): I have turned back north in hope of making contact with some of the natives. It is a risk, as I cannot be sure how many bumbling savages are under the sway of that ludicrous, obelisk-worshiping cult, but it is also the only region that I definitively know is occupied. I do not have much to offer in exchange for their aid, but I am sure that I can negotiate an alliance with at least one of this crater desert's tribes. I was at the center of the island's diplomatic disputes for years, after all. Why I am a seasoned, silver-tongued negotiator! Surely I can coax a partnership out of these primitive desert dwellers.
  +
*Clifton:... Yeah, as we've seen, you do it, TOO well.
  +
*(Stonewell): What terrible misfortune! My keen sense of direction finally led me to a local settlement, but as it happened, I was not the first party to visit it that day. That honor belonged to the Burner Clan, a band of raiders that were plundering it's storehouses and enslaving its surviving residents as I arrived. Naturally, the hoodlums fell upon me and stripped me of my valuables within minutes of my arrival. Ruffians! I managed to keep hold of my journal, but little else. This won't do, not at all! Then again, I was seeking out a tribe skilled in the art of violence. Perhaps I can turn this to my advantage.
  +
*Clifton: Well, yeah, you gotta start getting help someway.
  +
*(Stonewell): Curse these stubborn brutes! Despite a litany of polite, gentlemanly requests, they refuse to allow me to parlay with their leader. Surely any leader of men is not half the imbecile that these barbarians are. I am positive that we could come to some sort of... Damn this noise! It is impossible to concentrate with all this insufferable whingeing! Half of these prisoners won't stop moaning about one injury or another and the other half are in constant hysterics. Very well. Perhaps if I tend to some of the wounded, it will dim this distracting cacophony.
  +
*Samantha:... Well, even if it's for personal goals, he still has some humility.
  +
*Clifton: That's as far as I'm willing to give him at the moment.
  +
*(Stonewell): At last, I can hear myself think! The guards have moved me to a private cell, and while they have not divulged the reason for my transfer, I suspect that they took notice of my medical expertise. I caught them staring in my direction on several occasions as I worked. It seems that doctors are in high demand in these lands. I suppose that's no great surprise. The island was no different. No matter. While my skills in the realm of medicine are more in line with a field medic than a true physician, I shall continue to play the role as long as it serves me.
  +
*Clifton:... Okay... Scratch that. He's become a survivor, so survivors can grow a sense of selfishness. That kinda comes with the territory. When you have to survive, you have to think for yourself.
  +
*Samantha: Indeed. It's sad, but it's true.
  +
*(Stonewell): After days of travel, we finally arrived at the Burner Clan's compound, and while my former peers were shuffled to the slave pens, I stood before the clan's leader. I'd heard tales of the once-great Kainic Empires, thought I had never traveled to their lands. By all appearances, Tempus is cut from the same cloth as their fabled Kaines. He was at once imperious and casual, questioning me with impatience from a throne of hide and bone. Naturally, he was impressed by my intellect and gentlemanly demeanor. Granted he did not say so aloud, but I was escorted to a small, private chamber instead of a cell. Surely that says as much.
  +
*Clifton:... Though, his intelligence is astounding, as is his silver tongue. Don't get me wrong, I still despise his acts. But he at least knows how to survive and sway others to do his bidding.
  +
*Samantha: It's still not prudent to admire his manipulative ways. I can see Miria doing something like that.
  +
*Clifton: (Chuckles) So true. But that's only because, as our leader, she wants us to learn from others' strategies.
  +
*Samantha: Indeed.
  +
*(Stonewell): I had been pondering why Tempus required the services of a doctor. He seemed to be in excellent health and I had seen no patients since I arrived. Well now I shall ponder no longer. Timur has a wife, and she's with child. I suppose that even bloodthirsty raiders can fall in love, or at the very least, desire a family. At least it's not incestuous like an ancient primitive times which was merely a biologically-damaging attempt to expand families, instead of, you know, parents just having more children as it should be. The whole affair would be rather quaint were I not expected to care for the woman and deliver the child. Should either the child or the woman die during the birth, I fear that I will follow them in short order.
  +
*Clifton:... Wow.
  +
*Samantha: Wow indeed.
  +
*(Stonewell): Nasiri is quite different from her husband. She is a timid little flower of a woman, or rather, she would be if she were not many months pregnant. I am still undecided as to whether my timing is impeccable or unfortunate. A few weeks from now, Tempus may have had no need of a doctor, but as it stands I have been thrust into an unfamiliar scenario with scant time to prepare. Despite my unpleasant circumstances, this whole affair is rather intriguing. I never considered the possibility of new generations being born on these contained environments for this 'Adytum Project', yet clearly it was inevitable. Like any common animal, sentient beings, especially Creijuds like Tempus and Nasiri have the urge to procreate. How else could the species endure?
  +
*Clifton: Eh, life finds ways. Especially alien life. (He and Samantha chuckled)
  +
*(Stonewell): Stonewell, old bean, you've done it again! Both mother and child made it through, Tempus is a proud father, and your head is still attached to its shoulders. Why I was even a guest of honor at Tempus's celebratory feast! I cannot say I enjoyed the blood sport that serves as the Burners' entertainment, but the food was delectable. I was also sure to seize upon Tempus's momentary goodwill by filling his ears with whispers of obelisks, artifacts and the untold power they grant to mortal men. It may take time for those thoughts to turn to action, but with constant care, I may yet turn him into my unwitting general.
  +
*Clifton:... Well, took a lot of placenta, but he got his ears at least. The things he had to do to get that far.
  +
*(Stonewell): The silver tongue of Sir Edwyn Stonewell has prevailed once again! After spending far too long watching the Burners enslave and decimate hapless caravans and villages, I have convinced Tempus to test his might against the guardian of the obelisk, which he had been anxious to do. I admit, I was somewhat anxious too. Tempus said that the guardian was a Mantilovia, a giant synapsid cauter creature that is rare on most worlds, with poisonous claws and teeth, small horns, and a lizard tail with poisonous spines that it can launch at it's prey. Tempus may not be the commander that Mister Nervay was, and should he fall, I shall fall with him. Yet I have little choice, and the rewards of success are worth the risk. The obelisks, the starlit sanctuary and that precious ore shall be the foundation of my legacy as a scientist, gentleman and explorer. I am sure of it.
  +
*Clifton:... A Mantilovia?... Wow.
  +
*Samantha: Indeed they are rare. I never thought I'd even see one myself.
  +
*Clifton: Not many do.
  +
*(Stonewell): I found it! I really found it! Raw, untainted samples of that same, mysterious ore from the sanctuary! That fearsome beast must have been guarding it. Thank the heavens for Tempus and his berserk savagery! When he leapt from the back of his Dracthysaur, I thought he was surely doomed, but the madman actually managed to grab hold of that monster's horns and turn its eyes into a bloody mess. I have never seen such brutally effective barbarism. Many of his band did not survive the encounter of course, but that was to be expected. Progress requires sacrifice, and whether those brutes knew it or not, their deaths have helped sentientkind leap into the future.
  +
*Clifton:... Oh boy. That was rough.
  +
*(Stonewell): This ore is simply extraordinary! It is as warm to the touch as skin, even during these cold desert nights, and it pulses as though it has its own heartbeat.... And when I touched it... It was like the metal itself was part of me. Extraordinary! It is at once light and more sturdy than any natural material I have encountered. The uses one could find for such a substance. I shall have to name it at some point. What would do? Edwynium? Stonewellium? A dilemma for another time. For now I have more pressing matters. Tempus and his Burner savages have played their part, and I cannot remain in their custody. It is time for the great warrior chief to receive his just reward.
  +
*Clifton:... He's not...
  +
*Samantha: Oh he definitely is.
  +
*(Stonewell): Alas, poor Tempus. He was so focused on celebrating his victory over one foe, that he never saw his greatest threat. Now he lies beneath the severed and stuffed head of the beast he vanquished, eyes bulging and blood seeping from his open mouth. At least, that is how I imagine him. I did not stay to admire my handiwork. As soon as the first group of Burner warriors succumbed to their poisoned feast, I stole away into the night, Stonewellium and artifacts in tow. All of them are dead... Curiously I couldn't find Tempus' wife and child. Not that they were truly a threat anyway.... Or at least not until they see what has become of their father/husband. But serves those ruffians right, I say! They never did treat me with the propriety that a gentleman and scholar of my caliber deserves. This desert is better off without them. I just hope I can get out of dodge before Nasiri finds me for her revenge.
  +
*Clifton:... Oh, oh, I thought this blowhard was a REAL piece of work before, BUT THIS?!
  +
*Samantha:... Well, those Burners looked like they'd be potentially as dangerous as Nervay, so, I suppose he did them some good. At least his wife and child are still alive. At this point, his son is grown up and likely doing great things. If you ask me, Stonewell did them a favor. His son deserved a better life than just being a rotten clan murderer.
  +
*Clifton:... Yeah, you're probably right, but still, that was heartless.
  +
*(Stonewell): As my withdrawal from the Burners' camp demanded haste, I did not have the time to double-check my supplies. It appears that I shall have to do some hunting. No matter! I may not be as spry as I was when felled a charging Monacosaur on the outside wastes of the planet, but with all the small armory I managed to abscond with, I can surely manage. I had planned on trading those weapons for information as soon as I encountered a peaceful tribe, but I can spare a few rounds of ammunition.
  +
*Clifton:... (Sighs) When does he even get to the point where he becomes as infamous as he is today, because what he did to the Burners shouldn't even come close to such.
  +
*Samantha: Be patient.
  +
*(Stonewell): Despite my limited equipment, I have managed to run some initial tests on the Stonewellium. Based on my observations, a typical forge may not be enough to smelt a sample of Stonewellium ore into any sort of usable ingot. I suspect that it has extremely strong metallic bonds and therefore a much higher melting point than any conventional metallic element. Also... Seemed to me like it had signs of feeling pain the moment I touched it. It wasn't just that the heat burned me... It was like it shared its pain with me. Even the worst-degree burns didn't offer such lasting pain. I must find a proper base of operations where I can run more extensive experiments. I mustn't be overeager, however. I have limited samples and... Drat! I shall have to ruminate on this later. A sandstorm may be brewing and I have no desire to be caught in it.
  +
*Clifton:... This man can't catch a break.
  +
*Samantha: Not many do on this planet, my love.
  +
*(Stonewell): Confounded weather! Not only did that sandstorm separate me from my steed, but when it cleared I was beset upon by none other than the traitorous Miss Runner herself! Oh, she put on quite the act, spouting all sorts of nonsense about how good it was to see me. Rubbish! I see right through her ruse. I am certain that she is after my Stonewellium. The only reason she has not simply looted it from my corpse is that she requires my superior intellect to understand it. Well two can play this game, Miss Runner! I can fill the role of the benign old scientist for a time, but I shall not be betrayed again!
  +
*Clifton:... He's STILL under the impression she plans to steal from him?!
  +
*Samantha: (Sighs) Clifton?
  +
*Clifton: Okay, just forget about it, at this point, he's never going to-
  +
*Samantha: "Look, I get it, you're annoyed by his accusations onto Heli. But to be fair, it's not like he known Heli for years and WELL beyond the planet. He literally met her in a rog-eat-rod planet where it's everyone for themselves."
  +
*Clifton: "Okay, I can get that he assumed that Heli's being an utter bitch here, but, A SIMPLE CONVERSATION WOULD CLEAR ALL THAT UP?!"
  +
*(Stonewell): I am glad that I possessed the foresight to hide my presence from Miss Runner after her capture on the island. She clearly believes that I never learned of her betrayal. By cunningly taking advantage of this fact, I have managed to completely deceive the deceiver! The grim old Invervisaur ghoul she travels with is another matter. I often catch her glaring in my direction, her eyes sharp and mistrusting. If I could, I would deal with her as I dealt with Tempus, but I fear she is far too observant. For now I must maintain my deception as best I can.
  +
*Clifton:... Looks like this time, he's got eyes all over him.... Not literally-
  +
*Samantha: I know figurative language when I hear it, Clifton, I'm not a fool.
  +
*(Stonewell): I may have given Miss Runner too much credit. Although I carelessly allowed her to catch sight of my Stonewellium ore samples, she was more interested in the artifact I possess. I should have realized this sooner. Miss Runner's specialty is biology. She would not recognize the unique properties of Stonewellium if they hit her square in the forehead... Unless she saw that it curiously shared the behavior of a living organism. Luckily, I was sure to keep her from learning that. That fact has eased some of my tension. Even if Miss Runner seeks to take advantage of my genius, she is focusing on the wrong discoveries. So long as I am careful in my studies of Stonewellium, I shall remain miles ahead of her.
  +
*Samantha:... Last page.
  +
*(Stonewell): I cannot wait to be rid of that glowering menace of a woman, this so-called 'Rayburn Skyrider'... And apparently her thought-to-be-dead caveman boyfriend. I suspect the feeling is mutual. She has offered little in the way of farewells while seeing us to the entrance to the starlit sanctuary. She has admonished me for keeping spoils of more Stonewellium from the monster that I thought was the one Tempus killed but was still alive, when it was actually its spawn. The young Mantilovia chased us into the crater desert. When Rav learns that it wants me and my Stonewellium, even at the behest of my insistence that it's mine, finders are keepers after all, she just stole ALL of it from me and returned it to the monster. But it still wanted us all after what I had done to its mother. If it wasn't for that caveman, we'd all be dead. She wasted my precious Stonewellium! I will NEVER forgive her for such a wasted effort. Things will be much easier once Miss Runner and I have parted ways with the desert witch and the eccentric caveman, I suspect. Miss Runner is thoroughly oblivious to both the wonders of Stonewellium and my knowledge of her underhanded scheming back on the island as she scolded me for my so-called 'arrogance' as she put it, and said that the metal must've 'gotten to my head'. Such folly accusations. I know what I am doing. But she can continue to fiddle with trinkets and relics. I may even assist her if it suits me. Meanwhile, I shall unlock the secrets of the most extraordinary metal in the UUniverses right under her nose!
  +
*Clifton:... My God!... He actually did ALL of that?!
  +
*Samantha: (Sighs) I can almost feel your anger for him, Cliff.
  +
*Clifton: Well, this doesn't seem to be his worst. He says he has another journal here.
  +
*Samantha:... I believe we may have the final nail in the coffin for how far he goes with this. What he just stated in his final note is a telltale sign that he'll go further than ever where he goes next.
  +
  +
(Later...) Lapse Wastes
  +
*Clifton:... Seems like SUCH a coincidence we keep finding Stonewell's journals.
  +
*Samantha: (She sees the back tainted with molten enhancelement)... And I was correct. We may have just found his final journal.
  +
*Clifton: Great. Now we can FINALLY find out what makes him so infamous. (They read)
  +
*(Stonewell): I fear that even with the unwitting aid of Miss Runner, I still cannot completely control the machines in the starlit sanctuary. I believe they sent us to the correct environment, but I was unable to control precisely where we arrived on it. Alas, that means the location I saw in the sanctuary is beyond my reach for the time being, along with the molten Stonewellium I saw there. Confound it all! Naturally, I cannot confirm that molten substance was indeed Stonewellium until I have inspected it with my own eyes, but it simply must be! It looked exactly like my samples did when I attempted to melt them down. But this time, it was not in pain. It was doing so naturally, which means it shares a hybrid behavior of both organic life and non-organic matter. Imagine! An entire cavern of the most potent metal ever conceived! The wonders I could create. I could just see the smug faces on my parents when I finally take credit for what THEY tried to steal from me.
  +
*Clifton:... Doing this to spite his own parents that he drugged. What a low point, even for him.
  +
*(Stonewell): While the molten Stonewellium remains elusive, this underground forest has proven quite illuminating, both figuratively and literally. Many of this cavern's species are bioluminescent, so out of curiosity, I dissected several of the glowing insects that are common here. After further study, I have concluded that the luminescent fluid found in their posteriors carries something akin to a bioelectric charge. However I cannot determine how it is generated, and with no place to store it, said charge fades quickly. Curious, curious indeed! What could be the cause of this? With no sunlight to provide the forest with energy, perhaps this charge comes from the soil?
  +
*Samantha: Well, I'm sure he'll figure by the end that it is the work of this 'Stonewellium'. Or as it's called, ENHANCELEMENT!... Oh wait, never mind, he figures that out on the next page. (Clifton chuckled)
  +
*(Stonewell): Yes, yes of course! The Stonewellium is the cause! If there are truly molten pools of Stonewellium somewhere in these caverns, then Stonewellium minerals would have spread throughout the soil over time, allowing its wondrous properties to affect nearby flora and fauna. Even if it is not the direct source of the charge found in this forest's bioluminescent wildlife, it may have incited incremental changes in those species over several generations, which then led to their development of an internal charge. How invigorating! I could be standing in the middle of an entire ecosystem that has been absorbing the effects of Stonewellium for generations, and all of its secrets are mine for the taking. Magnificent!
  +
*Samantha:... Someone like him certainly does not deserve such recognition. He does not realize that this substance drove the Scyrians themselves mad from mix-matched genetics.
  +
*Clifton: Well, this place DOES resemble the jungles of Permiana Major. THAT planet has become so infused with enhancelement, it has become its lifeforce. Its blood. It's very essence.
  +
*Samantha: I know, I know. That's because of the substance's organic behavior. Such a substance could give planets their own self-awareness and their own inner life.
  +
*Clifton: Exactly!
  +
*(Stonewell): I must admit, I am glad that I coerced Miss Runner into accompanying me. Her scientific mind may be far below my own, but she can fire a rifle proficiently enough. I suppose that is no surprise. She is a colonial, after all, and she never has been terribly ladylike. I hadn't noticed what a foul mouth she has, either. Dreadful! However, despite her past deceptions and uncouth vulgarity, I must tolerate her presence for now. The predators here are not to be trifled with. Of course, in my youth, I could have grappled them into submission. Why, I would simply pin their wings behind their backs and drive them to the ground. Yes, I'd give them a truly thorough thrashing! Ah, to be young again.
  +
*Clifton: (Sighs)
  +
*(Stonewell): Miss Runner I can tolerate for now, but I cannot abide by this barbarian! Meya, was she? I cannot fathom how she even lives, much less how she ended up here! A primitive mind like hers could never have operated the contraptions in the starlit sanctuary. Yet here she stands, and worst of all, she wears a suit of Stonewellium armor! The very thing I seek has already been claimed by some savage, sword-wielding tart! It's outrageous! Such a beautiful product of science should not be sullied by her bloodstained hands. No, Stonewell. You must be calm. If she senses hostility, she will surely kill you on the spot. Yes, for now I must bide my time and learn what I can. Whoever constructed this armor, I must find them.
  +
*Clifton: (Sighs harder)
  +
*(Stonewell): Astounding! That remarkable armor was but the tip of the iceberg. The barbarian woman Meya has escorted us to the home of her new masters, and I can take nary a step without finding some wondrous new piece of technology, much of it relying on the power of Stonewellium. Though I am upset that I could not find modern use of it myself, I could at least take it further in ways even they could not process. The casual manner in which they use and refer to these wonders leads me to believe that while they are deeply familiar with the marvelous metal, they may not grasp the depths of its potential. Yes, Stonewell, this was well worth tolerating Miss Runner and her savage companion. I shall learn what these beings know, and take it many steps further.
  +
*Clifton: (Shrugs hard)
  +
*Samantha: Cliff!
  +
*Clifton: I'M TRYING!!
  +
*(Stonewell): The village has a vast supply of Stonewellium, far more than the paltry samples that desert witch stole from me. In this quantity, I can almost hear it singing to me as I study it. It pulses with more nervous-system-like energy at such an entrancing rhythm that it's hard to tear my eyes away from it. The villagers here refer to it as "enhancelement." What a rubbish name. A pun on words is no name for this wondrous substance. I will still call it Stonewellium, as it deserves a better name. I have also been learning what they know of the "charge" that is common in this place, which I made note of earlier. Their own studies confirm my suspicions that it is the result of the Stonewellium that permeates the caverns, and they call it 'glowcharge'. That makes it worth researching.
  +
*Clifton:... I bet he won't last in his normal self by the end of this.
  +
*Samantha: Me too. His own ambition has driven him past lines he shouldn't cross.
  +
*(Stonewell): Obtaining detailed information from these villagers is like drawing blood from a stone! The Skorner, Dinia, which I'm surprised hasn't picked a fight with Heili, her race's rival race, has been pleasant enough in answering my queries, but she is no scientist. Her naivete makes that quite evident. I simply must convince these men to place me onto one of their research teams. That's where I'll really gain some ground. Unfortunately, they seem rather skeptical of my scientific prowess. Bah! Ridiculous! I don't care what space territory they hail from, I am Sir Edwyn Stonewell! A mind like my own only comes once a millennium. It should be their honor to have me amongst their ranks.
  +
*Clifton: Oy! Like I said, he won't last with his sanity intact.
  +
*(Stonewell): The nerve of these people! I have never seen such arrogance and disrespect directed towards a worthy colleague! I finally convinced Dinia to let me partake in the village's research and experiments, and I have been treated like an ignoramus. These so-called scientists dare to talk down to me? They dare to underestimate me? Fools, the lot of them! Well, I daresay I don't need them. Now that I have access to their facilities and supplies, I can research glowcharge and Stonewellium just fine without their aid. Soon enough, my knowledge shall surpass their own, then we shall see who is primitive.
  +
*Clifton:... I'm not even going to say anything anymore. It's pretty much tapped.
  +
*(Stonewell): Confound it all! Why am I progressing so slowly? These scientists are no more intelligent than I, yet they make continual progress while my own research continues to stagnate. It's just a matter of experience, that's all it is. They are more familiar with their tools and they have more information at their disposal. Were I in their shoes, I would have finished that ridiculous project of theirs months ago! I must work harder to account for my handicap. I shall eat and sleep in the lab, and allow for no distractions, not until my so-called peers have learned to respect the name of Sir Edwyn Stonewell.
  +
*Samantha:... I can see such arrogance in him that he is denying.
  +
*(Stonewell): At last, success! I have finally been able to convert this "glowcharge" into proper electricity thanks to the miracle of engineering that is my ingenious glow panels. Subsequently, I used it to create not only a glowcharge battery, but a lantern as well. It was a simple matter, really. It's baffling that these supposed scientists haven't managed it already. Based on their surprise when I showed them my new invention, my earlier supposition was correct: they've barely scratched the surface of glowcharge and Stonewellium's full potential. Soon enough, I'll have surpassed their understanding of both. Yet if they expect me to share the full fruits of my research with them, they are sadly mistaken. Those who doubt the genius of Sir Edwyn Stonewell shall never reap its rewards!
  +
*Samantha:... Such egomaniacal foolishness.
  +
*(Stonewell): I have at last persuaded Dinia to show me this grand project those bumbling scientists are working so hard on. I am hardly impressed. If I had to guess, I would say that this 'Escape Project' is merely aping the transporter platforms present at the base of every obelisk, and crudely at that. Everyone is quite excited about it, the small-minded simpletons. Why are they so eager to leave this place, where the impossible is within reach? They speak of 'escaping' as though this were some kind of prison, when in reality, it is a land full of unparalleled promise and possibility.
  +
*Samantha: Well, it's a prison in anyone's definition. The wildlife here is not very hospitable. Especially the marine worms we barely escaped getting here.
  +
*(Stonewell): Thank goodness this Dinia woman is so agreeable. She seems to view me as her personal responsibility, and as a result, she has served my whims rather well. All I need do is assume the guise of a kindly, curious old man and I can persuade her to see to my every need. I've nearly convinced her to escort me to the lower caverns, where molten Stonewellium is said to flow in abundance. Those caverns were the reason I came here in the first place, and I'm certain an excursion into their depths would yield invaluable insight. I need only push and prod just a bit more.
  +
*Samantha:... Clifton, at this point, I'm seeing that his manipulation isn't just for his survival anymore.
  +
*Clifton: Glad you finally said it.
  +
*(Stonewell): Once I upgraded my Glowcharge Lantern prototype to be vastly more portable and efficient, the village council could ignore my petitions no longer. I shall be accompanying an expedition to the lower caverns posthaste! At last, I shall be able to observe Stonewellium in its rawest, most natural state! Marvelous! I can hardly contain my excitement, though I must make an effort to. The barbarian woman has been glowering at me for days. I suspect if she could, she would watch my every move, and probably forbid Dinia from speaking to me. Fortunately, Miss Runner has been distracting her with trivialities, but I must still be cautious. That savage will turn to violence on a whim, and I must not provoke her.
  +
*Samantha:... At least someone doesn't trust him. Meya seems to have the right instinct.
  +
*(Stonewell): Thankfully, it seems I shall get a reprieve from all those nasty glares I've been receiving. Miss Runner has taken her pet barbarian with her on that fool's errand she's running to the obelisk. Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say! I didn't bother to learn all the details of Miss Runner's mission, but it seems clear to me that the obelisks are a waste to my endeavors now. It is the Stonewellium that matters now, so if she and her violent little lackey want to play explorer, so be it. In the meantime, I shall journey into the heart of these caverns to conduct real science, and make real progress. Excelsior!
  +
*Clifton: Good luck with that.
  +
*(Stonewell): I cannot say that I enjoy wearing this bulky, inelegant suit, but Dinia claims that its protection is necessary if we are to venture into the Stonewellium caverns, so I shall endure it as best I can. I suppose that means I shall have to find a way to think without stroking my beard. Regardless, I am glad to be off. The other scientists that are accompanying me are rather nervous about the whole affair, citing monster attacks that plagued previous expeditions. Worry-worts, the lot of them! Science is full of risks, and this is but one more, one that shall prove well worth it in the end.
  +
*Clifton: Uh-huuuuuuh...
  +
*(Stonewell): I have traveled Scyria and created countless scientific marvels, but never before have I seen a sight so beautiful. In its rawest form, the song of the Stonewellium is even more enchanting. Had I the time, I would simply gaze at it for days. Sadly, I must make haste, before the others realize what I already know, that within Stonewellium is the potential for a new dawn for sentient prosperity. I can see it, I can feel it! I must be the one to unlock its secrets. Our fates are intertwined, this majestic metal and I. More data, Stonewell! You need more data! You are so very close!
  +
*Clifton:... Yeah, ego, just ignore it and pray it doesn't get worse.
  +
*(Stonewell): I've done it! They didn't think I could contain it, but once again I've proven them to be a band of fools. At last, I have obtained samples of molten Stonewellium in its raw, undiluted form. I must be judicious with it. I could only create two containment pods for collecting samples, and I may not be able to convince the council to let me return to these caverns to gather a second batch. This will have to be enough. No matter. I have been making miracles with primitive supplies and dimwitted assistants for years. Any sample size at all is enough for Sir Edwyn Stonewell!
  +
*Clifton:... Like you said, Cliff... Ignore it.
  +
*(Stonewell): Now that I have returned to the village's laboratory, I have confirmed that raw, molten Stonewellium is far more potent than its solid, impure counterpart. Of course, I'm the only one that sees it. The close-minded lackwits here that dare to call themselves scientists refuse to get close to it. They claim it will make me sick. Rubbish! The Stonewellium would never harm me. I can feel its warmth and the greater life that flows inside of it. I can hear it calling to me. It speaks not of danger, but of infinite potential. They're all so painfully myopic. Their impure Stonewellium may make for fine armor, but that is a mere fraction of its true power. How else could the Scyrians in their day evolve into the grand race they used to be? It could potentially do the same for us. They will see soon enough.
  +
*Clifton:... (Deep cartoonishly large breath)...
  +
*(Stonewell): The villagers have been quite bothersome since I returned. It was interfering with my work. Dinia kept 'checking in' on me, claiming she was 'concerned' and convinced the council to cut much of my access to my important experiments. Foolish snitching woman. I saw through her lies. I see through them all. They simply want to benefit from my genius. Luckily, I was able to distract them with a side project of mine. I was studying the effects of glowcharge on various flora, and stumbled upon a way to engineer a new species that can act as a bioluminescent sentry and create buds that act like flashbang grenades. They seemed to believe that this was the center of my research, and so I happily let my samples pass into their incompetent hands. It's a paltry sum to pay for some much-needed peace and quiet. Now it is just me and my Stonewellium, as it should be.
  +
*Samantha:... I think that stuff is indeed affecting him.
  +
*Clifton: I had the same thought. I just hope his 'friends' which he refuses to call them, snap him to his senses.
  +
*Samantha: Don't count on it.
  +
*(Stonewell): I no longer need to worry about working with a limited sample size, thanks to my genius. The solution was right in front of me the whole time: I merely needed to transform the village's supply of solid Stonewellium into its liquid state, then rid it of impurities. It was easier said than done, of course, but I am Sir Edwyn Stonewell! No problem is too complex and no task is too great for me. Nothing can keep me from my goal. Nothing can keep me from ascending. That is the true power of Stonewellium. The Scyrians would have it no other way, and I saw that they shared some kind of link to their precursor creators. I see it now. This substance can not just amplify as armor or outside protection, but also change the body into the fittest of needs. It can take a living thing and change it. No, elevate it. Yes, yes, but I shall need to test it. Subjects, subjects, I shall need subjects...
  +
*Clifton:... No, you aren't!
  +
*Samantha: Yeah, he actually are. Look here.
  +
*(Stonewell): Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant! The test went more splendidly than I could have imagined! With no access to animal test subjects, I had to use the barbarian Sauran's pet cergline, Sho, was it, as my first subject. I didn't wish to force it on such a trusted creature and risk getting Heili suspicious like all the others, but everyone brought it upon themselves when they cut much of my access for my experiments. It's their fault. Regardless, it was a timid, fragile thing, that is until I injected a full dose of pure, molten Stonewellium into its veins. Then, as I predicted, it ascended! Within minutes it grew in size and power, until at last it was a mighty, fearsome beast. I had great uses for it. Particularly to end this 'bully' people in the village kept telling me about who roams the underground. Alas, that snitch meddler Dinia 'put it down' before I could study it more closely. Bah! That was no mercy. That was as close as that worthless creature would ever get to tasting godhood, and she ripped it away! She is the murderer, not I! One day, she shall be punished for it.
  +
*Clifton:... He tested it, on one of Meya's precious creatures?! Does he know about how much of a bond she shares with her own animal companions?!
  +
*Samantha: No, because he has always seen her as a barbarian.
  +
*Clifton: Wehell, no surprise he's gotten so infamous. Meya is going to be SO pissed!
  +
*(Stonewell): They dare to lecture me? Me? Imbeciles! They claim to be for the progress of this planet, but they fear progress itself! I performed a miracle of science and their reaction is to scold me like a child. Damn them, damn them all! They suspended me of all access to my experiments by cutting me clean of all my Stonewellium samples that I 'stole' and denied me any access to it. Luckily I was able to hide my original batch away from their meddling hands. But how am I to continue my experiments now? They may let their petty morality hold them back, but I won't let it bind me. Not when I'm this close. I know with certainty now that Stonewellium can unlock a species' potential, I just have to perfect the process. Even without subjects, I must find a way. I must!
  +
*Clifton:... Are you kidding? How is NOTHING people say getting through to him?! Does he have ANY conscious?!
  +
*Samantha: Well, it must indeed be the work of the 'Stonewellium' he oh so craves.... And I'm afraid it gets worse from there.
  +
*(Stonewell): I may not be allowed to collect more test subjects or Stonewellium, but I am not without resources. Rather than use living creatures, I have taken my experiments one step further, and begun testing the effects of the last of my Stonewellium fusion on sentient blood. My blood.
  +
*Clifton:... He's testing it on himself now?!
  +
*Samantha: Oh dear.
  +
*(Stomewell): Thus far, the results are promising. Yes, this is the proper way to do it. Injecting the Stonewellium into that creature was too crude. If I first fuse the Stonewellium with the subject's blood, and then inject the resulting concoction... Yes, that's it. I have it! The Stonewellium knows it, too. It hums its approval as I work. It knows that soon, we shall be one. Soon, I too shall ascend. I did not wish this on myself too soon, but those fools with no sense of progress left me no choice. A demonstration of the power of Stonewellium, is in order.
  +
*Clifton:... Well, that's it. This guy's an irredeemable asshole.
  +
*Samantha: Indeed so.
  +
*(Stonewell): Such power! Such beauty! I can feel it within me, growing stronger by the second. Never have I felt so alive! It was a risk, of course. My process is not yet perfected, but by cutting off the circulation in my left arm, I was able to contain my metamorphosis within it. Now I can study the results before I undergo my final ascension to godhood. I must hurry! Hurry! I cannot hide my arm from these lesser brainless creatures for long, nor can I resist its allure. It is taking all my discipline to not simply ascend right now. Yes, why don't I? I should do it! I deserve it, I... No, patience! Patience! You’ve waited so very long, just wait a little longer.
  +
*Clifton:... So, he's turning himself into a monster. Fitting. He was already one, even by his own standards.
  +
*(Stonewell): I've gathered as much Stonewellium as I dared, by stealing it right from under the council's blind eyes. The villagers are distracted with their inane celebrations, so thus far I have moved undetected. Imbeciles! What cause could they have for such joy? I've heard mention of Miss Runner, but whatever she has accomplished, it is nothing compared to what I've done. Nothing! She is nothing! I'm the true scientist here, the true genius, and soon I shall prove it! Yes, well done, Stonewell. Well done! This Stonewellium will be more than enough. With it you shall claim what is rightfully yours! At last, at long last!
  +
*Clifton: Oh, please, I'm not surprised that I was right about him. A mad scientist who refused to listen to reason. At this rate, he'll get what he deserves and be put down like a rabid animal.
  +
*(Stonewell): The last preparations have been made. When I set down this pen and begin my final experiment, I shall finally achieve my ultimate goal. I shall at last look down upon the bumblings of mortal men from high above on a Stonewellium throne. I, Sir Edwyn Stonewell, shall become a god! One what will reintroduce the glory of Stonewellium to the rest of Scyria, and be famous. More famous than my parents would ever be. So on this day, let everything tremble! Let the rivers of this blessed metal sing a song of triumph that echoes forever throughout the depths of these caverns! Let the unworthy drown in despair, for a great doom approaches them, and it shall swallow them whole alongside anyone who dared to mock my name and deny me my rightful destiny! On this day, on this glorious day, I ascend!
  +
*Clifton: Well, now we know why he's so infamous.
  +
*Samantha: Yes, but, let's just keep reading. There could be more to this.
  +
*Clifton: You're not wrong. Much of these pages are stained with enhancelement.
  +
*Samantha:... Wait... This is... A new kind of page. It's... made from smart paper. It's translating something.
  +
*(Stonewell):... ("Primitive! Savage! How dare you? You are nothing! I am a god! How dare you? Hate you! HATE YOU! I HATE YOU! Where have you banished me? What is this place? What is this feeling? Everything. Yes, everything. The earth and the sky. Every stone and every crevasse. I feel it all. What is this place? What am I?")
  +
*Clifton:... Okay, that sent shivers down my spine.
  +
*Samantha: Me too.
  +
*(Stonewell): ("I am beginning to understand. It was hard to comprehend, for my eyes are still newly opened. I did not used to see as I see now, nor did I speak as I speak now. When I speak, it is not to a man. They are lesser beings. When I speak, I speak to this hidden lifeform within this metal. I speak to the Stonewellium itself, and it speaks back to me. It tells me secrets, things that I never could have understood as I was before. It whispers to me of something greater, a plain ever higher than the one I walk now. We can reach it, the two of us. The Stonewellium and I. Together.")
  +
*Clifton:... Wow, I almost wet myself- (He saw a picture of Stonewell as he is now: A monster identical to ARK Rockwell now)
  +
*(Stonewell): THIS, IS THE IMAGE OF PERFECTION UPON MORTALS, AND A WARNING TO THOSE WHO DO NOT WISH TO SEE IT'S BEAUTY! THIS, IS, GENETIC PERFECTION!
  +
*Clifton:... Well, that did it.
  +
*Samantha: (She smelled it) UGH! It certainly did.
  +
*Clifton:... So... Stonewell, is THIS now! No WONDER everyone doesn't say his name.
  +
*Samantha: Indeed not. This... This man wanted recognition by capitalizing on enhancelement, but was kept from such by what it did to it's creators, morality, and his deep-rooted jealousy of people who do so without him, and in this obsession... He became just like the Scyrians. A monster doomed to genetic madness.
  +
  +
===='''Who Is Meya Liu?'''====
  +
Chinese-Esque Forest
  +
*Marcilene:... Hmmm... How interesting.
  +
*Cloakblade: What have you got, Marci?
  +
*Serpentos: Yeah, what's up?
  +
*Marcilene:... I found some... Peculiar scrolls in this chest that belongs to some... Animal Queen by the name of... Meya Liu. (Opens them and sees the poetic pinyin on them as well as the Chinese-themed pictures on them)... And she's written her adventures rather poetically.
  +
*Serpentos: A poet warrior? Rather conventional, but interesting.
  +
*Marcilene: Actually, it's got a poetic feel.
  +
*Cloakblade:... It's a Sauran language. My learning of that language is, still sparse.
  +
*Marcilene: Allow me. There are plenty of them on Zo. I believe I can translate.
  +
*(Meya): Where am I? How did I survive what occurred back there? I have asked these questions many times since I awoke on this foreign shore, but I must stop. They do not matter. Their answers will not save me, but only give context that neither aides nor hinders my situation, so I will focus on a different question: how can I survive now? This question always has an answer, though it is ever-changing, and it has helped me find resolve in moments of uncertainty or fear. Just days ago, I never thought I'd fear again. I thought my fear died with the things I have done for my hometown. Yet when I heard that giant roar of a monster and my retreat got me briefly drowned and washed onto the shores of this island, I know fear is exactly what I feel.
  +
*Cloakblade:... Interesting.
  +
*Serpentos: If kinda overly dramatic. Are we sure this is a real person's journal and that it's not a fictional read?
  +
*Marcilene: Well it lacks an author's name, so, this is someone's private journal, albeit, an artsy-fartsy one.
  +
*(Meya): I am armed and clothed now, though crudely. My stone spearhead makes me long for my village's weaponsmith, even wish for even the most low-level laser pistol in the weapon market, but it serves. I use it to hunt the slow, fat birds that wander the coast. I do not know how such creatures survive here at all, but I am grateful for the meat they provide. Also grateful that they happened to be in good health, and bore little understanding that I was a danger to them, but I suspect this may change soon given the reaction of my first kills' flock. I save my arrows for the more dangerous creatures, like the dinosaurs with ears like fans, whose spit burns the things it touches. No, not just the creatures. They are not the only danger. Yesterday, I found footprints in the sand that were not my own. I am not alone.
  +
*Marcilene:... Well, she's an experienced survivor and fighter, at least.
  +
*Serpentos: Yeah, I doubt this would even exist if she was incompetent with nature survival.
  +
*(Meya): Defending my hometown during criminal attacks taught me more in months than I learned in all the years before it. Among those lessons, men will always underestimate women in battle, which I would normally pertain to sexism or just immature false expectations like any other.
  +
*Serpentos: I would believe both, honestly.
  +
*(Meya): The other lesson: sentient beings, no matter what shape or size, can be crueler than any animal.
  +
*Serpentos: But, how can animals be cruel if they're unsentient?
  +
*Maricilene: It's mainly meant to be artistic, Serp. It's basically an artsy way of saying 'people suck'.
  +
*(Meya): Both of these lessons applied today. The footprints I found were not from one man, but three. All were a Haelic, an Augean, and a Simobe. Their eyes changed when they saw me, like rolves discovering a kneep. They were wrong. They were merely mutts desperate for an easy target but of poor judgment. I was the rolf. Two died to arrows after ignoring my warnings. The last to my spear. I felt besieged with myself as a monster for doing this like any in our society would, but I did not do this without second thought. I knew perhaps these men had families or loved ones wherever they came from and that any action they would've done to me was for survival's sake. But considering they failed to take a warning seriously and were also impudent with the words they spoke and the intentions they had, it was all for certain self-defense, and I would rather not repeat their intents in this book. Suffice to say, I felt no loss of conscience of what I assumed to be folks that have long embraced survival and deemed me a threat as I did them. A pity that I was forced to confirm it because of their own bad choice. I left their bodies out in the wild. After all that, I realize that I cannot stay here. The beaches are too open. To survive, I must brave the jungle.
  +
*Serpentos:... Brutal.
  +
*Marcilene: Unfortunately, that's the law of being out in the wild. It's eat or be eaten, and kill or be killed. As sentient animals, with the exception of Serpentos, we should know that.
  +
*(Meya): Today, I scored a great victory. As the sunsets, I happened upon a small village on a bluff. Unfortunately, it was besieged by a man who rode a raptor and wielded a laser rifle. I know not of his reasons. Perhaps the village leader did something malevolent and this rider decided personal vengeance. But even if so, the innocents being made to suffer this attack is too unbearable and too extreme a punishment, even for one ungrateful action. It would have been safer to retreat, but I could not ignore the bodies. Regardless of the rider's reasoning, this was still a slaughter. Surprise can be a warrior's most powerful weapon, and I wielded it effectively. My first arrow found the raptor's throat, and many more pierced the man's back once he tumbled from the saddle. He never saw his vanquisher. In hindsight, I should have spared the beast. A mount would be welcome.
  +
*Serpentos:... (Sighs)... She was starting out, I can't blame her for this murder.
  +
*Marcilene: When it comes to survival, murder laws are nonexistent.
  +
*Cloakblade: And to be fair, she did acknowledge that the rider may've had a reason for what he did, but we have to consider that his reasons were outweighed by the people he was hurting for what is merely the actions of one or two individuals.
  +
*Serpentos: True, that sounded way too extreme.
  +
*(Meya): The surviving villagers let me claim the raptor rider's armor and weapons, and gave me shelter for the night. To my surprise, I understood them. Their mouths moved strangely, but in my ears I heard the language of my home. They say it is the work of some strange devices internally wired into them. I do not understand, but they had no reason to lie, so, I'll humor this strange truth for now. That night, I dreamt of a fight between my old teacher Guoylu, lifting the siege on his village in a single, gallant charge. But I was Guoylu. Yet when I woke, I was just Meya Liu, and the villagers were gone. I am a stranger to them, but my heart feels heavier for their loss. I must carry on alone.
  +
*Marcilene:... She must have been through a lot back home.
  +
*(Meya): The villagers had made taming beasts sound simple, but my first attempt was nearly my last. My prey was a raptor just like the raider's steed, but this one was strong. Even as my toxin-laced arrows knocked him out, he was able to make one final lunge for my arm. He nearly took it. If it were not for my regenerative healing, that would have been serious or maybe even permanent. Carefully, I fed him scraps of meat as he rested, and when he finally woke, I kept my weapon trained on him. Only when I was sure that he was docile did I notice his appearance, all blackish-green, save his glittering shins and feet. Right then, I named him Suave, and while I do not believe in fate, I felt that this beast would carry me home.
  +
*Serpentos: Aww, she made a friend.
  +
*Cloakblade: A rather strong one at that, too. Also rather sour at first given the near loss of an arm.
  +
*Marcilene: Saurans can regenerate lost limbs, like she said, so it wouldn't have been too serious if he did.
  +
*(Meya): The raptors are improving. They know to follow Suave, and Suave knows to listen to me. These raptors were actually Suave's pack, and the alpha, which I have nicknamed Injured-Hand, had to take another beating when Suave being tamed by someone with my skill threatened his leadership. But they're still inexperienced. Beasts without riders cannot maintain a formation, but they at least run close together. In time, they have even learned how to attack and retreat at my signal during our hunts on the plains. Together, Suave and his five pack members, including Injured-Hand, are like a light cavalry unit, and I am their commander. Unfortunately, they are all I really have. I am not much of a craftsman, and have few possessions. Not everyone here is like me, though. There may be some who can craft but cannot fight. Perhaps we could trade.
  +
*Serpentos: And she even tamed his family.
  +
*Cloakblade: How intriguing. She's more experienced in survival than I thought.
  +
*Marcilene: Though how did those raptors know to find him?
  +
*Serpentos: I'm sure if we were paired with an animal expert, they say something like smells and scents and what-not.
  +
*(Meya): The defense went spectacularly. Like many tribes, The Red Claws relied entirely on brute force. They thought only of charging in with their beasts and their guns, with no regard for their surroundings. They never expected a sortie, much less one that came from their exposed flank. Our victory was so complete that my benefactors not only rewarded me with the weapons and supplies they promised, but extra pack animals to carry them. With each battle, my skills improve and my ranks swell, if only with beasts. I don't mind that. The people that I care about are back home. Until I return with the right stories to tell, Suave is enough company.
  +
*Cloakblade:... And she grew in animal companions.
  +
*Seprentos: Yeah I am starting to see where the 'Animal Queen' idea came from.
  +
*(Meya): I was told this escort mission would be dangerous, but I had not expected to fight a legitimate army. Fortunately, I was riding ahead of the main column and spotted them first. After signaling for the convoy to change course, I harassed the enemy from their flanks to draw their attention, then retreated in a different direction. Even that cost me. Many of Suave's brothers were injured and some were killed, though ironically, Injured-Hand, the one with a permanent injury, survived with little scratches. Not that he could avoid any scratch. Previously, my enemies here fought wildly or scattered when attacked, but these men had discipline. They would've done much worse. The leader of the convoy was very grateful. Apparently, few survive an encounter with this "Artegerent Legion". I should be wary of them in the future.
  +
*Serpentos: Even an ARMY is no match for her! Amazing.
  +
*(Meya): Am I a mercenary now? I had not given it much thought until I was actually called one. I don't like the title. Mercenaries fight for riches, but I'm just fighting for what I need to survive. That's different, isn't it? When I fought back home, I knew who and what I was fighting for. I knew who my enemies were. Here I cannot tell. I am trying to be honorable by defending people and not attacking them, but how can I be certain? I cannot dwell on it. To survive, I must fight on. To complete my crusade, I must fight on.
  +
*Serpentos:... Hmm. Crusade? I suppose she was on the island for a greater purpose.
  +
*Marcilene: Most likely. Though since she said something stranded her there... I question she's trying to escape and doing what she can to do it.
  +
*(Meya): I've started to tame larger creatures. The speed of my light cavalry was beneficial, but I realized that it was not enough. A hundred swift strikes mean nothing if there is no strength behind them. To survive enemies like the Artegerent Legion, I must be able to strike with power. I began with the ones that look like larger raptors, but with horns on their foreheads, or 'Taurotyrannus' as they're called. I was never one for dinosaur biology. But these tauros, they balance strength and speed well, and will serve well as the core of my forces. When I have enough tauros, I will add some of the giants. Maybe then I'll finally have the strength to find my place on this inhospitable planet.
  +
*Marcilene:... And she's growing further with the predators.
  +
*Serpentos: Hooray for her.
  +
*(Meya): When I tried to leave the island I was stranded on, I realized I am living on no ordinary island. It was a cursed island. I managed to tame a great spytorannus and a dominoraptor, I left to find a way off of this treacherous island to continue my outside journey, but I soon found myself traveling in circles. Worse still, I'm told that a magical barrier prevents ships from sailing too far from the shore, and birds from flying too high to leave the island. It seems that this barrier allows things in, but never out. It was never a matter of strength. There is no path home at all. Suave seems to sense my unease. These days, I often wake to find him nestled beside me. At least I am not trapped here alone.
  +
*Serpentos:... Aw.
  +
*Marcilene: Well someone's become a sweetheart all of a sudden.
  +
*Serpentos: Just keep translating.
  +
*(Meya): I laughed for the first time in weeks today. A man from a small tribe of fishermen sought to hire me, but he didn't call me by my name. He called me, the "Animal Queen". I could not keep a straight face. But I suppose I understand the title. Since my compromised expedition and failure to get off the island, I have staked out a small swath of land to live on more permanently, and the locals know it as my pack's hunting ground. Still, I'm hardly a queen. My "castle" is little more than a shack. But at the same time..... I'd rather be called a queen than a mercenary though, so I may as well embrace it.
  +
*Cloakblade:... At least she has a sense of humor.
  +
*(Meya): I wonder what my adopted father would think of me now. Would he be proud of me when I march off into a dangerous battle like this? This wasn't like the battles back home. A hero's battle. This was a bigger battle than he had seen his entire life, and he was concerned when I left. I know my original father, who died to Boss Iilong when I was just 2, wanted a son. That's why he sought to train me in secret before that awful tragedy. Luckily his friend, the great Master Guoylu, fulfilled that wish in his absence. Would either father accept an Animal Queen instead? Mother certainly wouldn't approve if she was alive either. The other villagers were too desperate to care about my gender when I joined the fight against Iilong's syndicate, but mother wanted different things from me. That's one of the things I remembered at such an early age. I bet she wouldn't even look at me now. Should I mind? Those were Meya Liu's parents, from Meya Liu's life. MY life. And sometimes I wonder if that life was even real. Maybe I was always a beast, and never a woman. Still, I had another role-model as a father. Even the great Master Guoylu feared for my safety when I left. He'd certainly be surprised I have a family of unsentient animals. After all, I had a pet who died in my final battle against Iilong. Five small multisaurs whom I adopted when I was living briefly as a street vrat in a time I thought Guoylu was dead. They died for me, and I'll always be grateful for their sacrifice. Now their legacy lives on in Suave and my army of animals. I am the Animal Queen, and I shall live up to that title.
  +
*Cloakblade:... And great spirit to boot.
  +
*(Meya): I have finally found a beast that I cannot command. No, to call him a beast is not enough. He is a demon. But I needed a more clever name than just 'Demon' or 'Demon King', or something. People have heard stories about this creature, but didn't have a name for it. It was called a Massosaurus, and it was a species hardly documented as it is extremely rare, and for good reason. They can camouflage themselves with limited color-change, they can mimic other animal sounds, and most importantly, their testosterone and adrenaline levels are through the roof. I met this mighty monster when I was stalking a pair of ceroraptors, waiting for an opportunity to bring them into my pack, when he tore through the treeline to steal their kill. He dwarfed even the tyrannuses in size, and in fury he surely has no equal in this world. When his foes bit at him, his eyes glowed with hatred and he struck with renewed vigor. I have never seen such terror. Even I dare not challenge this creature. Such fury was unnatural... Fury. That what I shall call him. Fury.
  +
*Cloakblade:... Just goes to show that not all creatures can be curbed.
  +
*Serpentos: Ya know, if Veta was here, she'd be diffidently wanting to publicize this book into an action story.
  +
*Marcilene: Well that's isn't particularly respectful to someone's private thoughts.
  +
*Serpentos: Tell that to her when she tried the same with all the HA's private diaries.
  +
*Marcilene: (Sighs) Then we better leave these out of her reach.
  +
*(Meya): A Tiikon named Heili arrived at my camp yesterday, though not to hire me. She said that she was a scholar studying the creatures on this island, and that she wanted to observe my beasts. I turned her away at first, not trusting her intentions. How could I? What mad fool would bother with scholarly pursuits in a place like this? Yet she persisted, and in time I was convinced of her honesty. I don't know if I made the right decision. Heili is constantly asking strange questions. Why does she need to know so much about my beasts' feces and mating behavior? What a bizarre person.
  +
*Marcilene:... She wasn't kidding about being a novice at biology. Analyzing feces is how you study an animal's diet.
  +
*Cloakblade: Indeed, but not all are jovial about an unsanitary act.
  +
*(Meya): When Heili arrived, I was constantly glancing in her direction, wondering just what she was scribbling in that thick book of hers. Now I hardly notice her unless we're speaking. The questions haven't stopped, but thankfully they aren't always about things like animal feces. Sometimes we just talk about something simple, like cooking. Neither of us are very good at it, but together we've managed to make a few things that tasted better than plain meat. Yet before long, my territory will be silent once more. Heili says she has to move on, and war is brewing in the south. Someone will need my sword very soon.
  +
*Cloakblade: Hmm... I suppose this is when she's going to prove her worth.
  +
*(Meya): The war in the south is not an ordinary one. According to the member of the Dyesharks that arrived to hire me, his tribe is fighting the Artegerent Legion. I admit, that gave me pause. They were formidable before, and they've grown even stronger since we last met. Yet I have grown stronger too, and the Sharks were clearly in desperate straights. I could not turn them away. As I readied for war, I recalled a dream I had many months ago. I still don't believe in fate, but maybe this is my nature. On this island, maybe I can actually be like my surrogate father.
  +
*Serpentos:... Alright, this oughtta be good.
  +
*(Meya): My beasts are precisely what the Sharks lacked. Most of their martial strength lies at sea. On land, they lacked a unit with the ferocity of a true vanguard. Without that, they could merely withstand the Legion's siege, not break it. That changed when my beasts crashed into the Legion's rear like a great wave. I can still hear the cheers as the Legion fled. I can feel the echo of the emotion that swelled in my chest. If I could return home, I imagine that is what I would feel like. I won't dare forget it.
  +
*Serpentos:... Huh. She did it. She was REALLY starting to scare this Legion, I bet.
  +
*(Meya): Sometimes I fear that I have grown fangs or horns without noticing. What else can explain the way others look at me? In battle the Sharks cheer me, but afterwards we rarely speak. I camp separately and only am summoned when it's time to discuss strategy. I do not understand. Trust is rare on this island. I know that. But have I not bled in their defense? Have my beasts not died fighting their battles? Perhaps it's just the strain of war. We're in Legion territory now, taking the battle to them. Soon the war will be won. Surely then the Sharks will not fear me.
  +
*Serpentos: Oh, it's about to go on. So, she wins, right?
  +
*Marcilene:... MY! These look like angry words. So, I'm guessing no.
  +
*(Meya): When anger rises, think of the consequences. I know this by heart, yet I cannot help but seethe with fury. Even Suave is keeping his distance. Last night, I awoke to the sound of thunder coming from the Shark's main camp. I rushed to their aid, but blinded by the night and consumed with panic, they attacked my pack. By the time order was restored, we'd both sustained losses. Clearly this was the work of the enemy, but those fools blame me for the confusion. Some even claim I torched their camp. How dare they question my honor after all I've done? Cowards! They have no right!
  +
*Cloakblade:... Shameful. Only a fool would do so.
  +
*Marcilene: Well, it's like she said, war tends to mess with people's minds. It was obviously a ploy for the enemy to turn them against their trump card.
  +
*Serpentos: Yeah, makes sense.
  +
*(Meya): I should have foreseen this. Though I put my pride aside, those audacious Sharks could not. At their behest, I began the long trek back to my own territory this morning. They say that they will finish the war without me. Doubtful. Without my pack at the van, the Artegerent Legion will surely smash them to pieces. But what can I do? I cannot protect them if they do not want my protection. Will the Legion come for me afterwards? I cannot say, but if they do, I know that I will receive no aid. I must rely on my own strength, and right now I fear it insufficient. I need to become stronger.... I need Fury.
  +
*Serpentos:...
  +
*Cloakblade:...
  +
*Marcilene:... Looks like she just decided to take a greater risk than ever before. After how she described this Fury creature before, I don't think she'd ever dare cross paths with it again.... Yet here she is, relying on it's power to fight against this Artegerent Legion.
  +
*Serpentos: Does she succeed?
  +
*Marcilene: Well, let's find out.
  +
*(Meya): He is mine. After a mighty struggle, the power of Fury is now mine to unleash. The cost was almost too great. I brought only my swiftest beasts on the hunt, hoping to run him in circles, but even still he managed to kill many of them. Were it not for Suave, and, perplexingly enough, Injured-Hand, even at the cost of his injured hand, he may have killed me as well, but my Suave is both swift and cunning. He knew exactly what distance to maintain, exactly when to retreat. No steed could prove more true. And an additional bonus was that afterward, Injured-Hand was treated as the beta of my raptors.... Well... Gamma if I count myself. Tomorrow I must begin acclimating Fury to life in my pack, but for tonight, I will allow myself to celebrate.
  +
*Marcilene:... Yep.
  +
*Serpentos: Well, that was amazing.
  +
*Cloakblade: Yet, as usual, blood could not remain unshed.
  +
*(Meya): I was wise to test Fury's hunting skills from atop one of my flying beasts. When he stumbled down a small rock formation, his eyes glowed with that familiar hatred and suddenly he proved deaf to my commands. In time, he calmed down and obeyed me once more, but it was a fearsome thing to witness. I think I will keep him apart from the other beasts. Not only will it keep them safe, but it will calm their nerves. They have been tense since his arrival. I cannot blame them. Fury's power could save or doom us. I must use him with extreme care.
  +
*Serpentos:... And already she's getting herself used to this giant Fury of hers. Impressive.
  +
*(Meya): Am I making a mistake? Maybe. The closer that great pillar of light gets on the horizon, the more my concern grows. It is a gamble, no question. Heili said that she did not know if this pillar of light will behave like the other one. Yet if it does, if we are transported to some other plain to battle a monster for a mysterious key, then there's a chance that this could be the first step on the path home. If not that, then at least a path away from this island and the Artegerent Legion. Technically Heili has hired me, but that small chance is payment enough. It's worth the risk. I hope I am prepared.
  +
*Serpentos:... Hmm.... And she's ALSO started a new adventure.
  +
*Marcilene: And it's one I have an itching feeling may be the most important one of her life. The one she was looking for.
  +
*(Meya): Had I let fear rule me and left Fury behind, then Heili and I would be dead. Only with his strength were we able to defeat the gigantic ape. His rage cost some of my pack their lives in the aftermath, but that was the price of victory. The price of hope. And again, spontaneously, Injured-Hand lived. But his other hand was gone. The key we were rewarded with matches the one Heili already had. The means the third pillar must lead to a third key. And when combined? What then? It's uncertain, but if each pillar takes us somewhere, then maybe their combined power can take us anywhere. Maybe it can take us off this prison of an island.
  +
*Serpentos:... Looks like she's going to go back on this journey of her's after all.
  +
*Marcilene:... Oh dear.... Looks like things got downhill fast. Listen to this.
  +
*(Meya): Damn those Artegerent Legion cowards! At full strength, I could have fended them off, but they attacked just as we returned to the pillar of light. What beasts I had were exhausted, and Fury flew into a rage before I could start a retreat. When that happened, all hope was lost. All my beasts were killed. Every single one. Fury fell off a cliff to his death as his rage got the better of him. Even Injured-Hand. With both his hands gone, he couldn't maintain balance and was eaten alive by one of the Artegerent's giants.... Well, all were gone... Except one. The last thing I remember is a sharp pain in my side. When I awoke, I was alone with Suave. Both of us were covered in blood, but Suave's wounds were deeper. I cannot fathom how he carried me to safety in such a state. I must find a place to hide. Suave and I are alone now, and barely clinging to hope.
  +
*Serpentos:... Oh dear.
  +
*Cloakblade: How unfortunate she lost all the family she had so easily.
  +
*Marcilene:... Oh... These are the words of sadness. Well, that, and the tear stains on this scroll. Seems like... She lost the last, and first, tame she ever had. Seems the wounds her favorite raptor had... Proved too fatal.
  +
*(Meya): My dearest friend is gone. To his last he was magnificent. The creatures that attacked us were larger and with his wounds they were even faster, but no beast could ever match Suave in spirit. I buried him where he fell, saving me one last time. I was unworthy of such a loyal friend, but I will avenge him. His true murderers will pay. Not the beasts, but the Artegerent Legion. They are responsible. I swear by the souls of my ancestors that I will find their leader and drive my blade into his heart! In Suave's name I will take his head!
  +
*Serpentos:... Spirit, all the way.
  +
*Cloakblade: Proud for her spirit.
  +
*(Meya): As I thought, the Legion was at the last pillar of light. I sighted them as they departed, and have been following them since. They are too many for me to fight head on. If they spot me, I will be killed, but I know how to hide from sight and mask my scent from their beasts. It did not take long to discern which one was the leader. No one else walks with his pride or gestures with his authority. I could probably have hit him with an arrow by now, but I want him to see my face. I want him to know that the Animal Queen vanquished him.
  +
*Cloakblade:... Well, looks like she's getting close.
  +
*(Meya): I soon regretted freeing Heili from her cage before following the Legion through the portal they opened. Though I was proud to have gotten into the portal and fighting the last of Nervay's forces. The two of us alone stood no chance, but I was astonished and overjoyed to find many of my animals survived their last battle at the obelisk, and came to our aid. Though they all didn't survive, they died killing the last of Nervay's forces. It was the best sacrifice I have ever seen, and it was a death they truly deserved. But as for Heili, as we entered the portal, she was too focused on the wonders around us. When she saw that most of the Legion was dead, she even tried to dissuade me from killing their leader. After I explicitly told her I wanted him to pay righteously for killing the closest I had to a family since Guoylu, I knocked her unconscious when she ignored my arguments. I wish her no harm but I cannot let her interfere. At least she told me his name: Nervay. That is the man I will kill here, on this most fitting stage. I admit, it is beautiful. The stars shine so clearly. I can think of no better place for my vengeance. Here, at the edge of heaven, let our battle finally be decided.
  +
*Marcilene:... Oh dear. This is the last scroll.
  +
*Serpentos: So, did she win or what?
  +
*Marcilene:... Let's find out. (Deep breath)...
  +
*(Meya): I suspect Nervay knew that he would not fare well in battle. After taking a couple blows from my sword, he dashed off into the darkness. However, I know he was deeply wounded. His blood cannot lie. I suspect this command center was created by something with technology far beyond most normal comprehension. In the distance I can see a perfect spatial view of the planet, and I had not known that most of it was the wasteland I saw before I was scared onto the island that was now below me. I am now sure that I could find another area to continue my journey now that I was free. But disturbing of all, I saw what looked like giant reptilian beings off on the ground. I couldn't see what they looked like from such a high altitude, but I would rather not go anywhere near until I know what they were. But first things first, I had a family to avenge. Though that scoundrel Nervay must have escaped before he could meet his death. Little does he know, I won't give up that easily, I will find him in whatever realm he travels to. There is a terminal that sits upon a platform near the end of the command center. Surely, through some combination of codes, that must unlock travel to other lands on this planet. But it does not. It only adds another foe to be slain by the Animal Queen. After Nervay is killed for his crimes... I must continue on my journey. Though in the event I should not survive... This will be my last scroll before I truly leave the island.
  +
*Serpentos:... Oh, great. A cliffhanger.
  +
*Cloakblade: I'm sure she's still alive. Her fame seemed to have reached the ears of many animals on this planet. In fact, if you were to say the name, many animals seem to have a response. Watch. (Clears throat)... MEYA LIU!!! (The words echoed as many animals had mixed reactions and mostly retreated)... So, she's likely still alive.
  +
*Serpentos: But where is she?
  +
*Cloakblade: That, is a good question.
  +
*Marcilene: "Then let us seek the answer of that riddle out."
  +
  +
(Later...) Lapse Wastes
  +
*Cloakblade:... It appears we have found more notes from Meya.
  +
*Serpentos: So she IS alive!
  +
*Marcilene:... Indeed. Let's see what she's been up to. (They read the scrolls)
  +
*(Meya): Where have I been taken? When I tried to pull my sword from that machine to free us from Nervay's merciless cold grip, there was a bright flash and suddenly I was in this desolate place without Heili. Whatever that device was, I must have broken it, and it must've sent me and Heili to different places. Nervay wasn't done, though. We fought and he scarred me. But then something happened. He was burning up and showing signs of radiation poisoning. He was burning. I felt it too and took cover in the shadows, and I watched, rather happily in an excessive manner, as Nervay was burned alive. Despite what he's done, part of me thinks that I should bury him. He was a tyrant, but he still died a warrior's death. For now, I will bandage the wound on my face and rest. It is becoming night as I write this, and it will be safe to explore at this time.
  +
*Serpentos:... Arbasus.
  +
*Cloakblade: That must've been absolute hell for Nervay to die like that.
  +
*Mercilene: I can imagine so. Radiation is very merciless when it kills.
  +
*(Meya): I was fortunate today. The sun was rising as I found some kind of cave underneath a boiling pool of water, and had I not found at it, I would never be writing this next chapter of my journey for my family. When the sun came, I ran for it as fast as I could. My legs ached and smoke was rising from my armor by the time I arrived, yet I was still alive. So now the sun was trying to kill me. Perhaps I was delirious, but I laughed at the notion. Monsters and armies have failed, so let the sun have its chance. I will defeat it too. But monsters? As a reptilian being, I could hold my breath underwater for a long time, but I still needed to get air. I figured I'd reach my destination by the time my lungs gave out, but I encountered these bizarre marine worms. They tried to consume me. I swam as fast as I could, and almost drowned by a second had I not reached my destination and decapitated five of those monstrous worms.
  +
*Cloakblade:... Impressive.
  +
*Serpentos: At this point, nothing can even kill her. Not even Nervay or someone worse than him.
  +
*(Meya): Yesterday, I realized that I could rest no longer. I had no more spare cloth for bandages and had eaten nearly all the moss nearby. Rather than risk the heat of the sun on the surface, I ventured deeper into the caverns. It was a treacherous descent, but I am glad I went. This cave is larger than I could have imagined. In fact, it is hardly a cave at all. A great forest flourishes down here. It is as if this whole land is backwards. However, there is one thing that is familiar to me. The air is thick with the sound and smell of wild beasts. I must remain on my guard.
  +
*Serpentos: Given how alien this place looks, I'd say so.
  +
*(Meya): The light down here does not burn like the light on the surface. Not even the light that comes from the ceiling. I do not understand why, but I am glad for it. I was attacked by a pack of small monsters with spines on their backs. In another life, they would have terrified me, but now I fear no beast. I slew many of them, but more kept appearing. Even after killing the largest of them, they did not hesitate. Only when I neared a strange, glowing pillar did they retreat. They seem to fear the unusual light it emits. I should use that weakness against them.
  +
*Cloakblade:... She seems to have encountered the Eerioses of these caves.
  +
*Marcilene: Indeed she has. She was fortunate, again.
  +
*(Meya): I finally removed the bandages from my face. While I avoided infection, the wound will surely scar. I do not mind, and neither does my new companion. In fact, I had just removed my bandages when I first saw him. From the branch of a great tree, he stared down at me with curious eyes. I stared back just as curiously. It looked almost like a young jeer, but its fur was colorful and it glowed like a fallen star. He reminded me of the paintings I'd seen of Zoian creatures, but he seemed too small. Whatever he is, he approached me so innocently that I could not leave him behind. So now he is Sho, my little light in the dark.
  +
*Serpentos: Aww, she found a new friend.
  +
*Marcilene: Yes. I hope she fought well for Suave in this new environment.
  +
*(Meya): Navigating the forest has been easier with Sho at my side. His light has both guided and protected me. The small, spined monsters that I fought before returned in numbers, but they cowered and fled before Sho's light, as they did from the glowing pillar. So long as Sho is with me, I need not fear them. Yet Sho's power is not an endless well. If he does not periodically extinguish his light to rest, it will fade with time on its own. I must be careful when wandering into the darkest parts of this glowing blue forest, lest Sho's light go out and we are both put at risk.
  +
*Serpentos:... Strategic instinct continues to serve her well.
  +
*(Meya): Even with Sho's help, I can only do so much on foot. I need a reliable steed that can carry me swiftly through the forest and help me gather resources like Suave did. Fortunately, I may have found such a beast. The other night, I heard many howls in the distance. When I investigated, I found a pack of strange beasts that looked like hairless rolves. They are ugly, vicious creatures but they are the perfect size for riding. For now, I shall stalk the pack. When one of the rolves is separated from the others, then I will knock it out with my arrows, and claim it for my own.
  +
*Serpentos:... Interesting. She found a pack of vulves. And now she'll be able to ride one.
  +
*(Meya): I have named my wolf Bleak. Though no beast can replace Suave, Bleak is swift and fierce, just as he was. Upon his back, I can travel across the forest with ease. Yet I know that Bleak alone is not enough. In these lands, the strong will dominate the weak, and they will try to destroy those who do not submit. I am reminded of this every time my scar aches. To survive I must grow stronger. It is time to rebuild my army, starting with Bleak's family. I feel that, just like Suave, I must bring Bleak's pack into my cause. It seems right.
  +
*Serpentos: Indeed it does. That's what I would've done, too.
  +
*Cloakblade: Precisely.
  +
*Marcilene: Amen.
  +
*(Meya): Yesterday, I stalked a giant shelled crustaceous beast that resembled a sleek tetrus, and also had with it four large claws that it could use like hands. Though slow, it seemed strong. I decided it would be a good addition to my army, but before I could attempt to bring it down, something swooped down from the sky to attack it. It was a great lizard, but not one like the ones I had seen before. No, this beast was a true dracthon, long of body with a feathery mane. It used the feathers on its arms to ride the wind and tore its prey's shell asunder with iron claws. When it was finished with its meal, it scaled the cavern wall and became one with the shadows, vanishing entirely from my sight. I have found my new prey. Soon, I shall command the might of a dracthon.
  +
*Marcilene:... A Rockour. Just like the ones Johno rode... Except with feathers.
  +
*Serpentos: Sounds like she'd fit right in with a wild place like this.
  +
*Marcilene: Looks like it.
  +
*(Meya): The dracthon was even more formidable than I expected. At first, Bleak and his pack was able to dance around the beast while I riddled it with arrows, but I underestimated how far its feathered arms could take it. Its sudden leap left, Bleak's leg was wounded and I was flung from the saddle. The crippled rolf could not fight after that, but thanks to his pack, I was able to survive myself by taking to the trees. By the time the dragon succumbed to my knockout poison, it's hide was full of arrows. Bleak needed some time for his leg to heal when I found it wasn't a serious injury. His first real challenge was one that I thanked with major gratitude. Thanks to him, I possess the strength of a dracthon. I am the Animal Queen once more.
  +
*Serpentos: WOOHOO! Way to go, Meya!
  +
*(Meya): Travelling through the cave is easy thanks to my dracthon, who I have named Dagon. I have discovered that the cave is even larger than I imagined. Beyond the forest, there are tunnels that lead further down into the ground, to a land of glistening water and plants that glow like Sho does. How far down does it go? If I keep going, will I find something akin to hell? I do not know, but I will press on. I cannot return home, or even to the island I came from. My enemy lies dead far behind me, and I have found no friends or allies. I have no aim beyond simply surviving. So for now, all I can do is move forward. My familial destiny awaits.
  +
*Serpentos: Good for her!
  +
*(Meya): The beasts of this land grow stranger the deeper I go. Yesterday I was attacked by a swarm of flying demons with writhing tentacles in place of heads. I think they were after Sho. Where some monsters feared his light, these ones hungered for it. However, they were no match for Dagon's fangs and my blade together. Still, I will keep Sho close and have him extinguish his light for now. I could not bear it if he came to harm. Of everyone I have met in these lands, only Sho has stayed by my side of his own will. Even Suave had to be laid low first. I suppose there was that woman from the island too, but she is gone. Besides, I struck her. I doubt we were friends.
  +
*(Meya): I have finally built an army I can call my own. The creatures here had many of their own specialties. Most were like the ones I encountered on the island, including more raptors. But they had their own glow like Sho did. But as I took a bath in the cascading soothing waters of the forests, I saw that I was not alone by sentience after all. I had found people peeping at me like naughty men, and the footprints I found in their place confirmed they belonged to no beast. Yet if sentient beings left those footprints, they move like no one I have ever seen. They are deep, as though their feet hit the ground with great force, and they often have huge gaps between them. No man can leap that far, yet there are no beast tracks that accompany them. Perhaps if I move carefully, I can track and observe them. Whether they are friend or foe, I should learn more about them before I act.
  +
*Cloakblade:... How rude of some people to see her as she bathes.
  +
*Marcilene: It's called the instinct to reproduce. It makes men disgusting and perverse.
  +
*(Meya): Where did I make my mistake? I moved in silence and never once left the shadows, but somehow they saw me. I mounted Dagon in an instant, but somehow they still caught up to me. Had we fought, the battle may have been difficult. There were only four of them and I had Dagon alone when I followed those sentient beings who were spying on me, but their weapons and armor glowed like moonlight and their movements were swift. I was about to strike first when one of them raised her hands and took off her helmet, revealing that she was a Skorner, one of the races of the UIS. She convinced her friends to lower their weapons, but even as I write, I keep one hand on mine. We may share a camp tonight, but I dare not sleep.
  +
*Marcilene:... She made a sentient friend quicker than I expected, even though she's not a friend at the very moment.
  +
*(Meya): The armored ones had many questions when they awoke. They were surprised that I had raised Dagon and my beasts that they escorted to their camps myself, and even more surprised that I came from a different land of monsters. That seemed important to them. I asked questions too. They say it is their armor that lets them see at night and move with such speed. I did not believe it until the Skorner let me wear her helmet. The metal it was made from could recognize a touch and digitally accommodate my head. With it I could see through darkness as though it were bathed in green light, or see the red shadows of distant creatures. It was like magic. Then again, everyone says technology and magic are indistinguishable from each other. Yet I prefer to see technology like magic. They asked if I wanted to stay in their village for a time. I told them that I would return to my camp and pick up my supplies before I return as it seems they missed it when they gathered my army. I doubt I will stay long... But I want to see more of this magic.
  +
*Marcilene:... Indeed, she just might be a friend after all.
  +
*(Meya): This village is as strange as the armor its residents wear. They use tools containing light and sleep in glowing metal cases. They offered one to me, but I refused. I have slept outside with Sho and Dagon instead. I have no desire to sleep in something that looks like a coffin. Though they claim that their tools are not magic, but machines, it feels like there's magic oozing inside of them. I do not understand how that is possible. On the island and my hometown, there were many weapons and tools that were new to me, but they were made of real things. How does one make something like this, if it is not magical? It is wondrous and beautiful, but I wish I understood it. I will have to try harder.
  +
*Cloakblade:... It appears her hometown wasn't much into Teadr 2 technology.
  +
*Marcilene: No kidding. But she clearly knows today that it's organic metal that feels like it has a mind of it's own.... But not according to the time this was written, clearly. Look.
  +
*(Meya): It is no use. These machines are beyond my comprehension. I cannot even make the simplest of their tools work properly. Compared to this, training with a spear or sword seems simple. I have tried to earn my keep by helping with chores and other tasks, but I usually get in the way or slow things down. Compared to the others, I am like a child, and they treat me as such. This was a mistake. I belong in the forest with the beasts, not among these people in their glowing metal halls. I will ask them for supplies and depart within the week.
  +
*Serpentos:... Poor creature. It must be hard to be a fish out of water.
  +
*(Meya): I asked the Skorner if I could take some supplies when I left, but she refused to do so for free. She said if I wanted the supplies, I had to try to use their armor first. It seemed like a trick, but I wanted to try the armor anyway, so I accepted. If I have been tricked, then I have never been so glad to be fooled. When I am in that armor, my blood dances in my veins and I can feel the world around me. It is as if I was asleep for my whole life, and I only awoke when I put the armor on. I cannot leave after feeling that. Not until I at least master the armor. Perhaps then, but not now.
  +
*Serpentos:... But, at least she's adapting.
  +
*(Meya): Discretion is the key to the armor. When I started, I would leap further than I intended, turn too sharply or grip objects too tightly. Now I am in complete control. I could scale a mountain while carrying an egg and never break it, but also smash stone or fight a beast bare handed. Once I got used to the armor, my experience as a warrior helped me learn quickly. I can already outpace Aser in a race and beat her in the sparring ring. I try to go easy on her now. She helped me a lot so I do not wish to shame her. I should call her by her proper name too, but 'Dinia' sounds too serious for a woman that laughs so much. Aser fits her better. She doesn't mind it, but I don't think she knows I've named her after a poisonous fruit.
  +
*Cloakblade:... Hmmm. She's getting more interesting to me.
  +
*Serpentos: Get in line.
  +
*(Meya): Three days ago, I was asked to help the villagers obtain a clutch of giant lizard eggs, which are apparently called Rokours, and the same species as Dagon. Only then did it occur to me that they did not have many creatures at their command. They relied far more on their tools. Perhaps this is why they were so impressed with Dagon. The hunt went well. I had to do much of the work and explain many things, but the others were grateful. It also let me test the limits of my armor. By now, using it is no different to me than wielding a sword, and I welcomed the challenge. After the hunt, no one treats me like a child anymore, even when their tools confuse me. I suppose we all have different things that we excel at. But perhaps... These people could use some time to reconnect with nature. And with me around, that may be possible. Perhaps I have a purpose here after all.
  +
*Marcilene:... Heh. Noble warrior. She brings honor to her family and friends.
  +
*(Meya): Aser has finally convinced me to start sleeping in the metal pods the others use. I must admit, I slept more soundly, though perhaps that was because I knew she could no longer pester me about it. I do many things like the other villagers now. I eat like them, I dress like them, and I work with them. I still struggle with their tools and I know that I can never truly be one of them, but that was true during my fight against Iilong too. Those who I fought beside were my comrades, but I could never be a true soldier like they were. If that is my place in this village, then I do not mind staying for a while longer. It is not so bad. Besides, I must stand to my word to train the villagers to ride the beasts around them. They would be strong with an army of animals, whatever shape and size.
  +
*Marcilene: Hmm... Good self-motivational thoughts.
  +
*(Meya): I must move quickly. The tribe sent a party into the depths of the caverns, where rivers of violet fire flow freely and nothing grows except hellish-looking land reefs and plants. They sought something important, something that could help the whole village, but they have not returned. There is no response when we call for them through our messenger boxes. The other villagers fear them lost to the terrible demons that lurk there. I refuse to believe that. Aser is with them. I have equipped Dagon with armor and weapons like my own, and donned armor that will protect me from the violet fire. Whatever beasts or demons lie in our path, we will destroy them utterly, and bring Aser's team back... Even if some of them are still smitten with me.
  +
*Serpentos: Now THAT'S the spirit.
  +
*(Meya): This is indeed a place of death. Like the darkest of tales in my hometown telling of the hellish realm of Fakulong. It even resembles it. The ground is scarred and barren, hellish plants and reefs thrive here, and there is no light or movement save that of the violet fire. Even Dagon does not seem to like it. The living should not tread here. Why would Aser come here? What was so important that she would risk this place, and why would she not tell me? Whatever the reason, it had nearly cost some of her teammates their lives. I found their near-dead bodies earlier today, mangled and beaten beside the remains of the beasts of my own pack that I gave them. Thankfully Aser was not among them and holding her own with Dagon's mate Aogyun. Great towers of crystal loom ahead, where the violet fire has frozen solid. Perhaps she has found shelter there.
  +
*Serpentos:... Yeah, nobody said that place was a paradise. Liquid enhancelement can kill you easily.
  +
*(Meya): I shall have to find whoever forged this gun and thank them with all my heart. Its strength saved the day. With my weapon's enhanced sight, I spotted the ones named Milidia and Qendru running from a huge monster which resembled something from a horror alien movie, or a demon as I would like to put it, but a crystal formation stood in my way. Rather than go around it, I sent Dagon ahead and fired through it. My aim was true, and the demon reeled. By the time it recovered, Dagon was upon it, and we finished it together. I knew one of the survivors was Aser when she ran up to hug me. I am unused to such gestures, but I think she understood how grateful I was for her safety. Her teammate is wounded, but alive. With rest, little Grants will survive.
  +
*Serpentos: Whew. Guess they-... Wait... Blood stains?... Oh boy.
  +
*(Meya): Even now, I cannot convince Aser to leave. I even tried using her real name, Dinia, to show her I was serious, but she will not hear it. She says the plans she was looking for are too important, and it was within that wasteland I saved her from. Apparently, a childhood bully of her's was mutated and resting down there, haven stole much of her project's plans and equipment which she needed. But was that worth what happened to her teammate? It was disgusting. Grants started spasming in the middle of the night, and then a smaller version of the monster that was attacking them, called a Reapasaur by the villagers, burst from his chest. He was alive, but a lot of blood sprayed everywhere, and I was too stunned to act until it leaped at me. Fortunately I was able to hold it off until Aser could shoot it. Grants lost a lot of blood and he needed a blood transplant. Whatever we are seeking, especially with this 'bully' of Aser's, I fear we will face even worse dangers to obtain it.
  +
*Serpentos:... Impregnated inside the chest?... That's gotta hurt.
  +
*(Meya): Aser said that the item she sought was in some ruins not far from where I saved them. However, when she called them ruins, I had not expected to see buildings like the ones in our own village. It was puzzling, to see buildings that looked at once ancient and new. I had little time to dwell on the ruins, for we were quickly set upon by more of the great demons, lead by the bully himself, who looked rather hideous and mutated. If there was a leader in this hell, it would be him. His pet Reapasaurs rushed us, slobbering and gnashing as Aser scrambled to find what the bully stole. I was able to hold them off with Dagon's cannons, but by the time Aser found her prize, we were being overrun. The bully said he took it because he wanted to kill them all for whatever petty grudge he had against Aser. To my shame, I had to leave Dagon behind to hold the demons and bully off while we escaped. It pained me to hear his roars as we fled, but his sacrifice saved our lives. Forgive me, my loyal friend. But to my surprise, when we came back, Dagon did as well, until his neck was snapped by the bully. He even killed Bleak when he tried to defend me. That was the last straw, and I drew my sword to kill him. Though Aser said she wanted to cure him of his mutation, I simply told her that not everyone can be saved. That's the law of survival. Fortunately, I still had Sho, who was wise enough to hide as she could not take on the bully.
  +
*Serpentos:... Well, she's not wrong.
  +
*Cloakblade: Still, it's hardly a good thing to say.
  +
*(Meya): I was frustrated today. The bully managed to hide all the other pieces for their Escape Project across the underworld. Without Dagon or Bleak, and with many of my animal family slain by the bully's onslaught, we had to prepare. Another battle with the demons could prove fatal. So I asserted we had to rebuild an animal army and train to use them and even treat them like family just like me. If they were to survive in this world, the best friend you could have is nature. It was bitter, but when it was time, we managed to avoid the Reapasaurs' sight. All that was left was the climb. With no adult Rokour mounts as the ones we hatched, including Dagon and Aogyun's babies, we had to use climbing picks to slowly make our way upwards. It was a long and treacherous ascent, and we both nearly fell several times. Fortunately, we were there to catch and support each other, and through our combined strength, we safely reached the caverns above. After the climb, we lay there for a long time. I cannot remember if we laughed or cried. Perhaps both. Aser says that the items we were finding could help the entire village, but I do not care. I am just so glad we are both still alive.
  +
*Serpentos:... Well, she cares about SOMETHING.
  +
*(Meya): We received a hero's welcome when we came back to the village. The others say that Aser's treasure will help complete a magic door that can take us out of this place. They speak of escape and of going to some kind of, mysterious signal. That should excite me more. I used to long for those things, yet what comforts me most is that when they speak of what their future holds, they include me in it. I am finally one of them, not as a mercenary or out of desperation, but because I am wanted. I owe it to Aser, I think. No, to Dinia. She trusted me before anyone else. I will not forget that.
  +
*Cloakblade:... You have done well, Meya. Very well.
  +
*(Meya): I have been thinking of home lately. It is so far away now. I think that perhaps, it is out of reach. Even if the others can complete their magic door to their precious signal, I do not think I will ever see it again. I can accept that now. I can move past it. I have a new home now, I think, and while I am still not used to its oddities, I feel as though it is mine. Each day I grow more adept with the tools here, and more used to my routine. It has become normal to me. And now that this place is the home I believe I should've had, I swear that no harm will come to it. I shall protect it with my life.
  +
*Cloakblade:... Okay, that's the end of her second set of scrolls. She claims she has another one.
  +
*Serpentos: Good. I'm already hooked on where this may go.
  +
  +
(Later...) Ar Cretacion Wastelands
  +
*Cloakblade:... Well. I guess Meya placed her own journal in the wastelands.
  +
*Serpentos: I... Is that fitting? I don't know if even she would feel at home outside the environments.
  +
*Ucasashi: Possibly not.
  +
*Marcilene: Well, it seems like the last one, so... Let's see how her journey ends.
  +
*(Meya): I have had no urge to record my thoughts since your loss, or rather I have been avoiding it. Before speaking with Heili today, how many times did I even dare to say your name, Dinia? You revealed facets of my heart and mind that had been hidden even to me, and in you I found something that I had always been missing but could never name. How does one carry on after losing something like that? Even now I cannot say. I only know that it was draining and painful, and would have been even worse had I done so alone. For those who yet live, I know I must endure, but I shall carry you with me every step, around my neck and in my heart to the very end. Always.
  +
*Ucasashi:... She really cared for Dinia, didn't she?
  +
*Marcilene: Indeed. The two even nearly became a couple, but... Someone like Meya preferred to see Dinia as a sister of sorts.
  +
*Serpentos: Certainly the first time shared with a sentient being since the island.
  +
*(Meya): I never cried so hard in years. I never thought my heart had the capability. But today, it happened. When me and Heili went out into the wastelands to collect some floral and soil samples and new mounts, I caught a glimpse at not only newfound animals, and the species of the giant that sent me to the island, which is called Titos, the planet's apex predator... But I came across, blackened animals with glowing violet internals. They were also extremely aggressive, and did not respond to me. They could not be tamed. Worse, I could feel the pain these mutated abominations suffered from the accursed substance that is enhancelement. They even had some kind of hive-mind controlling them. The pain inside of them, I felt it in their glares. It was pain unlike any I've experienced or felt. But it got worse. The people already present in this base knew, and they declined to tell me that it was also infecting the entire world. Such ignorance! All I could do was go back to my sky temple on 'Blackdiamond Tower' and cry for a whole hour. The only thing I could do, was put the poor creatures down. It was mercy, but it was a mercy I was not prepared for.
  +
*Seprentos:... Holy s***!
  +
*Ucasashi: Poor Meya.
  +
*Marcilene: Yeah, that must've been hard.
  +
*(Meya): When I could cry no longer, all I could feel was nothing but hatred for the enhancelement everywhere. I felt that it had to be purged from this planet. Thus I agreed completely to Santrago's experiments. Controlling this armored giant has grown easier, but it will never feel familiar. Though its limbs move as mine do, that is in itself disquieting, and sometimes I get lost in the flashing lights that surround me. But it's also the fact that, like all other technology everyone here used, it's composed of or powered by enhancelement, the very substance that caused this apocalypse. Though Heili is far more attuned to her giant's abilities than I am, as in all things, she underestimates herself. Ever since I cast that monstrous old man Stonewell into the depths, she's been there to pull me back. Not just from the fall, but the abyss itself, even when I made it clear how much I hated her for costing me Sho. I will still never understand why she was so interested in studying animal excrement when we first met, even when Dinia claimed it was for research. It's still best to analyze diet through observing them eat, and much more sanitary. But after walking this path with her, I can recognize the strength of her spirit. I will do all I can to protect it. I will never allow the enhancelement demon to get her.
  +
*Serpentos: Well... That's the spirit?
  +
*Cloakblade: I don't think she knows how to feel about what's around her at this point.
  +
*(Meya): We have arrived at the structure Heili wanted to investigate, and I fear if we do not enter soon that, given how she said she was there before and was nearly killed by it's Overwatcher, she will faint from anticipation and/or shock. I mean, since Dinia survived to my relief, and so did Santrago, even if he's in bad condition and being resurrected as an android, I have been hoping to get Heili's wish done quickly. She has been hopping to and fro like one of the hopping marsupials of the island while we set up camp, babbling excitedly about what might be inside. I have never shared her curiosity for such mysteries. Things are the way they are, the why of it does not matter, all except... This unnatural enhancelement that should be destroyed for how much it has done to this world. Unless it will help us survive, then I do not care who built the empty palaces of this land or what their purpose was. All I care about, is slaying the demons of this land. However, I trust Heili's wisdom. Hopefully whatever we find here will sate her, and perhaps grant me a moment of blissful silence at that.
  +
*Cloakblade:... Huh? I suppose the Overwatcher wanted her to come crawling back to it for some unfinished business.
  +
*Serpentos: Possibly.
  +
*(Meya): I dislike this place. Heili says it is an archive for lost knowledge, but it reminds me of the chambers we explored with Santrago, where beasts and men slept in countless glass coffins. If the halls where I battled Nervay were at the edge of heaven, then that place was surely one of the many Temples of Hell. These halls do not radiate with that same evil, but it still does not feel like a place where men are meant to tread. There is sign of neither earth nor sky here, it is all of the unnatural metal that tortures animals with hive-mindedness and machines so foreign that even Dinia nor her comrades cannot master them. I will speak with Zuken about tightening our patrols. We must remain vigilant.
  +
*Serpentos:... She makes her adventures about a high-tech apocalypse sound like a hellish fantasy.
  +
*Ucasashi: That's the talent of being a warrior poet. They like to look at things as a story.
  +
*(Meya): I had another angry spat earlier. After learning about the story of the Scyrians, I felt so much rage. No humility. No honor. No dignity. Only selfish progress. All I could do was go back to my sky temple and ponder if the Overwatcher was in the right this whole time, after the disrespect this planet was given. But in time, I shrugged off these nasty thoughts for the moment, and decided to patrol the spire with the group's permission. The halls did hide one marvel, I shall grant them that. Tucked away in a small chamber all its own, with the exception of this monster guarding it, was some kind of artifact, and while I do not know its purpose, its beauty is without question. It is shaped like a jewel, with a surface of polished stone and shimmering metal, glowing proudly with a magnificent golden light. Though it floats above the ground, it is too sturdy to move, and though its light is warm, it is cool to the touch. Heili will surely want to see this. However, until we fully understand it, I will be sure to supervise her study sessions. I cannot trust anything comprised of the hell metal any longer.
  +
*Serpentos:... Yeesh, if even SHE is horrified by the enhancelement's influence on this planet, then you can DEFINITELY call it hell.
  +
*(Meya): I do not understand what happened. When I had touched the artifact, it did not respond at all, but as soon as Heili made contact, its golden glow became a blinding flash. By the time my vision cleared, the artifact was shattered. All that remained was a small gemstone made of pure sunlight, floating in its place. Was the rest of it merely a shell? Thankfully, Heili was uninjured, but my carelessness was still inexcusable. I swore that I would protect her from the hell metal, and I have nearly failed already. I should have been more thorough. I am not one to repeat my mistakes. Before Heili could reach the gem, I snatched it from the air. I won't let her touch it unless I am certain it is safe, which I am sure it is not.
  +
*Serpentos:... Okay, yeah, this is DEFINITELY hell, at least to someone like her. Taking into account this setting, it's affecting her own judgement.
  +
*(Meya): I found four more artifacts guarded by the same kind of monsters as the one before as months passed by and I started to realize that the Scyrians were aiming to correct their mistakes, regardless if I still think they deserve the chance, and since Heili were getting too curious about them, I am now tempted to smash this gemstone to pieces. Though I am not certain how I would do so. When I hold any of them, I can feel their texture and weight, yet they casts no shadow and make no sound when I tap their sides. It's as though they are at once here and somewhere far away. But Heili insists they are the key to answering her many questions, so for now I let her study them from a safe distance. At first my precautions earned me her ire, though it lacked true venom, and in time, she admitted my judgement was prudent. She says the gems might be capable of great change. I couldn't follow everything she described, but she is more cautious around it now. That is enough for me. I will still refuse to give to the beauty of the hell metal. Unfortunately, the gem may soon be the least of our concerns.
  +
*Cloakblade: Yeah, I figured.
  +
*(Meya): A horde of corrupted Titoses grows on the horizon, larger than we have ever seen, and led by a demon who stands so tall that mountains bask in his shadow, which everyone called the Titos Rex. This Rex even had some kind of hive-mind growth inside it's chest, and I knew right then that it was the core of the hell metal's siege. I even had the misfortune of seeing the same Titos that stranded me on the island, for the fourth time, right by the Rex's side, and the pleasure of meeting it's entire family. I think it and it's family want me. Why I do not understand. But when we realized they and their master were headed our way, we picked up our camp and made for the wastes. Yet as we moved, the horde followed. This is not mere misfortune, it is a hunt, and we are the prey. Heili claimed the gemstones may be able to help us, but I still forbade her from touching them. When we fight back-to-back, I can watch over her, but I can't protect her from something I don't understand. No, should battle be joined, we shall meet them head on. No matter the size of our foes, I will fight with all that I am, and for the sake of everyone here, I will win. I must.
  +
*Marcilene: Well, it's official. S*** just got real.
  +
*(Meya): This is my failure. At first we forced the enemies back, so when their master finally set foot closer on the battlefield, I tried to slay him myself. That was our undoing. Even in my armored giant, I couldn't even scratch his hide, not even at the core itself. Such disgusting weakness. Were it not for my second blunder, surely I would have died, but Heili had stolen the sunlit gem and it's four counterparts from me before the battle. Before the demon could crush me, she opened the shell of her giant, merged all the gems and held them aloft. A terrible scream rang out in my mind, but it must have been worse for the monsters. They recoiled in confusion, and I knew that would be our only chance. Heili lacked the strength to stand, so I had to cradle her in my giant's hands, and ran. In shame and defeat, I ran, believing everyone I left behind were dead.
  +
*Serpentos:... That must've been pretty crazy.
  +
*Ucasashi: Indeed.
  +
*(Meya): I am a disgrace of a protector. Though Dinia, Santrago survived, confirming it through Santrago's powers, their people and the researchers that stuck on their side, and thus all things of value to them, have likely perished. She entrusted them to me, and I left them behind to fulfill my oath of protecting Heili. I failed them all, just as I failed Santrago, Suave, and Dinia. A true warrior should die defending what they love and care for, yet I have let it all turn to ash while I somehow escape the flames. Every time. And this attack, and the fact that the Titos Rex and the hell metal core within him were after the artifacts, confirms that the core is intending to take over the world with it's infection, while using every poor animal around it as a corrupted and tortured acolyte, including other Titoses. Even now, the only person I could save myself barely clings to life. Heili has become infected with the hell metal that creeps across her skin like a demonic transformation, and she only wakes for minutes at a time. When she does, she speaks in poems that make no sense. She says a distant tomb is calling her name, and that we must go there. I asked if the tomb would cure her, but she only answered in riddles. Every time she wakes, her voice sounds further away. Heili, you must stay with me and fight the infection. Your heartbeat and your shallow breath, they are all I have left.
  +
*Ucasashi:... Okay, NOW it's legitimately a warrior poet's story.
  +
*(Meya): Heili shakes and sweats in her sleep, and she no longer opens her eyes. Even her infected arm was numb. All I have left to guide me is the notes and maps that she scribbled out in a delirious frenzy, all while Santrago, with his powers, claims they'll know where we go and that they'll meet back up with us soon. Sometimes Heili mumbles nonsense or moans in pain and the infection itself tries to attack me. I have to crush bits of food into a fine powder and pour it down her throat with water. When we move, I strap her to a corner, her infected arm the most, in my giant's control chamber and stop frequently to make sure she is alright. It is only because of my mistakes that she is in this state, and I worry that she is fading. If I lose her too, then my failures will be complete. I do not know what I would do. Please, let her hold on. Please don't let the hell metal take her. Please.
  +
*Serpentos: Yeah, hell all the way. Only a hell would torment Meya so much her dried tears could be seen on this scroll.
  +
*Marcilene: I feel so horrible for her.
  +
*(Meya): I have little trust in prophets or visions, but I fear that the tomb Heili spoke of may be her only chance. She does not respond to my presence anymore, and the infection has spread to a quarter of her body. Nothing I do rouses her. I only hope her maps are accurate. Yet even if they are, we still have so far to go. Though we have left the poisoned wastes behind, before us lies a land of ice and snow, inside a miniature version of these 'Adytums' as the environments are now referred to as. A storm rages above, and even in the armored giant, progress is slow. Each step is a labor, and I feel the giant growing weaker. It will need to feed on the violet fire. The hell metal itself. I feel like a hypocrite, but if we hope to continue, this is the only way to survive. I will have to brave the cold alone. Hopefully, I will NEVER have to think of this hell metal again.
  +
*Marcilene:... This is just sad.
  +
*Serpentos: I, I don't think I can handle reading anymore.
  +
*Cloakblade: Pull yourselves together, everyone. Miria says this information MIGHT be useful later.
  +
*Serpentos: For what, making Dr. SMD cry from the tragedy?
  +
*Cloakblade: Probably, if that's the best it can offer.
  +
*(Meya): There is a shooting pain in my left arm. Have I been infected too? No. Thank the Gods. I think it may be broken after some kind of misuse with the metal giant. It happened when I was searching for traces of that horrid hell metal. Such dishonor I was forced to put myself into, using the hell metal as a fuel source. But I had no choice. The storm and the journey had sapped my strength, and the pack of beasts caught me off guard. After a fierce battle, those I failed to slay finally fled, but the fight had taken its toll. It took me half a day to get back to camp. I kept slipping and falling in the snow. Each time my body told me not to get up, and a few times I almost listened. I wanted to so desperately. The pain. The cold. The exhaustion. I just wanted it to end. Maybe that's what this is. My limit. My end.
  +
*Serpentos: OKAY, THAT'S ALL I CAN TAKE! Just... Finish it without me! (She left)
  +
*Ucasashi:... Poor Serpentos. We must do something about Sayus and this enhancelement plague soon.
  +
*(Meya): As I slept in the belly of the armored giant and the storm howled outside, I dreamed. I was home again, in my home village. It was during the rebellion against Iilong. Everyone was huddled together in an empty grainery, debating surrender. Arguments went back and forth until at last I stood, grabbed a spear, and made for the exit. "See? Even this girl would rather die for her parents than give in to that scum," one man declared. "You're wrong," I replied, turning to face him. "I have no intention of dying. I will survive." The others talked about our paths being our own, and though I was uncertain if this was my true path, the path I left my home for, but perhaps it is my path after all. This is not the end. This is not where I fall. I will survive!
  +
*Marcilene:... Then press on, Meya Liu! Your friend... And surviving friends, are counting on you.
  +
*(Meya): Those beasts that attacked me are mine. I retraced my steps to make sure that I found the same pack, and then I bent them to my will. They moved as though they could walk on air, leaping from one invisible stepping stone to another before pouncing at me. It made their movements hard to predict, but once I was able to snare them in a steel trap, their advantage was gone. Though they flung arrows of ice at me from afar, it was not enough to deter me. Once asleep, I coaxed them into obedience, and they accepted me as the leader of their pack. Their strength will help me on my journey, but I will need more still. This is just the beginning.
  +
*Cloakblade:... She has risen from near-death, for Heili and everyone else.
  +
*(Meya): My arm is nearly healed. I can control the armored giant without pain, and it no longer protests when I use it to carry weight or strike. The timing could not be better, for I have just brought more beasts into the fold. Great cowls with feathers as white as the snow they soar over swooped down at me from on high, but I avoided their talons and brought them down. Now their great vision helps me scout ahead with ease. With my pack growing in number and my strength returning, it's time to set out. Keep fighting for just a while longer, Heili. I will see you to that tomb, I swear it.
  +
*Marcilene:... The Animal Queen, is officially back.
  +
*(Meya): As we travel, I continue to bring more beasts to my side. Amongst the overgrown palaces, I tamed raptors that fire thorns from their fan-shaped ears like arrows, floating caterpillars that carry my supplies with ease, and a dozen more. They do not have the same bond or discipline as my last few packs, but their strength is formidable. Combined they are a force to be reckoned with, marching in the shadow of my armored giant, and ready to fight any monsters who would stand in my way. It's time that I remind this world just who I am. I shall etch it in the earth as I march on towards the tomb, so that it may never forget. I am still the Animal Queen, and I shall not be denied.
  +
*Ucasashi: My Gods. She's got persistence through the roof. NOTHING can stop her. Not even the corrupted animals of this wasteland. Heili could not be blessed with any other friend than her.
  +
*(Meya): According to the maps, we are nearing the tomb's location. I have made short work of the monsters and disfigured beasts under the hell metal's control that have stood in our way, and the path ahead seems clear. However something looms behind us, growing ever closer. It's another horde, and while it lacks the Titos Rex that attacked us before, there are other, lesser devils in its place. Though smaller than their master, they are still far larger than any normal beast, and their might will be considerable. Fortunately, my pack is outpacing them. We should arrive at the tomb well ahead of the horde, and if I can heal Heili quickly, we may be able to avoid it all together. And I have to hurry. The infection has coated all but her left arm and leg, and her head.
  +
*Marcilene: YOU CAN DO IT, MEYA! DO IT, DO IT, DO IT!! (The two look at her confused)... Hey, it's got me by the ovaries.
  +
*(Meya): It did not take long to find the entrance to the cave, and when we reached it, Heili stirred. Though she did not awake completely, I could hear her speaking to me. "The Ascending Tomb. Find the altar." There is no time to waste. Heili's head was the last that remained uninfected. I have left most of my beasts to guard the entrance while I bring a trusted few to clear the cave. There are pockets of malformed creatures here, and before I can see to Heili, I will need to rid the tomb of these these unnatural beasts and their blood poisoned by the hell metal. This close to my goal, there is an extra drop of fury flowing through my veins, and any enemies that block my path today will be quickly torn asunder.
  +
*Cloakblade: C'mon, c'mon, c'mon! (Ucasashi and Marcilene looked at her weird)... Yeah, it's got all of us by our unmentionables at this point.
  +
*(Meya): The last of the feral beasts have been wiped out, and I have found my way into the cavern's heart. It seems far too beautiful for a tomb, even an emperor's. Surely the name carries some different meaning. Crystals grow along the walls like flowers, sprouting from vines of gold. They bathe the room in a gentle glow, but in the center of the chamber, they are overpowered by a light from above that shines down on an ornate dais. Atop the altar, there is a device of some kind. It reminds me of the beds that Dinia's people used, but grander in scale and artistry. That must be where I am meant to place Heili, and once I do, that machine will heal her. It has to.
  +
*Ucasashi: THEN DO IT! (The other two looked at him weird)... (Sighs)...
  +
*(Meya): It's working, I am certain of it. When I placed Heili upon the central altar and stepped away, the machine hummed and sang in response once I followed Heili's suggestion to place the merged artifacts into the data port. The light of them burned brighter as well, and the once-stale cavern air became warm and soothing. Heili immediately improved. The infection seemed to slowly seep away. She has stopped sweating, and her breathing is stable. Blinking golden specks float about her like fireflies while she sleeps, as peaceful as I have seen her. The whole chamber has that effect. Even as I watch over her, I can feel my heart slow to a serene, steady beat. Unfortunately, the process is gradual, and with each moment the pursuing horde grows nearer. I need to buy time.
  +
*All Three: THEN BUY TIME! (They looked at each other weird)....
  +
*(Meya): I have sealed the chamber and left a pair of my beasts to guard it, just in case any of the smaller monsters slip past me. It will take time to open it again, but after this battle, I will be afforded some patience. When I was alerted to the sound of Santrago's mental link that they were getting close, an earthshaking tremor occurred, and I saw them both assailed by some giant tree demon with the power of plants it's own to command. I assembled the rest of my beasts and my armored giant in a defensive formation beyond the entrance to the cave and the two. In the distance, I can even see a horde of corrupted acolytes approaching. They outnumber my pack, and it will not be long before they are upon us. On this ground, I will make my stand with Dinia and Santrago, with whatever he had in his own state, with neither retreat nor mercy in my heart. In the end, every last one of those monsters will lie dead, or I will. Let them come. We'll be ready, Dinia.
  +
*Ucasashi:... (Deep breath)... Good way to perish. To die a hero.
  +
*(Meya): We have managed to beat back the first wave with help from our two Mechs, but not without cost. Though my own beasts fight with more ferocity than these acolytes, my ranks have begun to thin, and the towering demon has yet to enter the fray of collapse. That has made it easier for me to tear through the lesser creatures with my armored giant and Dinia's as well, but their patience, especially with their hive-mindedness with the hell metal core, makes me wary. Beneath me, I can feel something stirring from the tomb. The machine is continuing to work. If we can just hold the horde off for a while longer, Heili will awaken and we can leave this place together as a team. But first, we must hold.
  +
*(The three kept getting engaged comically)
  +
*(Meya): Again and again, the monsters come. It seems as though there is no end to their number, but I know that cannot be true. We must keep fighting. The hell metal core has some ounce of weakness and limited power. Yet as time passes, that grows far more difficult to do. One by one my beasts are falling, and I can only rest at times like these, in the gaps between assaults. My eyelids are heavy, my muscles sore and only writing like this is keeping my mind from growing hazy. Even Dinia is getting worn out, and having a hard enough time protecting Santrago. The tree demon still stand idle, letting it's lessers wear down my forces so they can strike me when I am at my weakest. Yet they cannot wait forever, for the tomb continues to rumble below. Eventually their patience will run out, and in that moment, this battle will be decided.
  +
*Cloakblade: Okay, at this point, she CANNOT catch a blasted break.
  +
*(Meya): At last, the time is at hand. The tree demon has begun to stir. Though my beasts lay dead and both our armored giants are damaged, we have slain the last of the minions. It is down to it, and it is down to us, just as it was always meant to end. Come then! I am Meya Liu of Yiditra, Animal Queen of the Jungle, Depths and Wastes! If you dare to challenge me, then come and let us duel to the death!
  +
*Ucasashi: Okay, this is it!
  +
*Cloakblade: This is it!
  +
*Marcilene: This is it...
  +
*(Meya): We are victorious. Though our armored giants groan and spark, and though blood stains my lips and drips down my armor, I am victorious. It was a long, grueling battle. I had no advantage in power, so I goaded my immense foe into striking with it's hulking branch arms with poisonous thorns, and then counterattacked it at it's joints. Once I had slowed it's movements even further, I picked at it's weakest points, wearing it down before we finally go for the kill. However it was far from easy, and there were moments where I was nearly cornered. But in the end, the great tree demon lies dead while I am still standing. Now as soon as I have the strength to not only stand, but move, I, Dinia, and Santrago should see to Heili.
  +
*Marcilene: WHOOOOA, WHAT A BATTLE!
  +
*Cloakblade:... Okay, I think that may be a little too soon, Marcilene. Look.
  +
*(Meya): The three of us arrived in the tomb to a chorus of light. The machines and crystals pulsed with a heavenly rhythm, and hundreds of those golden fireflies danced about Heili to the same melody. Her body itself glowed like the sun, floating untethered above the altar. We were so in awe that when the whole chamber flashed and Heili's flesh began to grow cyan-blue veins around the body and some of the hell metal was being inflicted upon her chest, and worse, some of the infection was swirling around in her body too, like it was going through some intense reactions internally. Fearful for her safety, I could not stop the procedure. I could only watch. It was not until Heili's radiance floated skyward that I could find my voice and call out her name. By then the light of the crystals had begun to dim, and there was no trace of her left. Somehow, I know that this is the end she was seeking, and that wherever her soul may be, it is safe and content. Yet I cannot help but mourn, and so did Dinia and Santrago.... Though after some talking with Dinia, I felt that I was perhaps wrong about the hell metal. Perhaps it has a heavenly side to it, that the Scyrians did indeed wish to redeem the metal itself, and the harm it brought upon this world.... Maybe it's not all bad.
  +
*Ucasashi:... Is Heili going to be okay?
  +
*Marcilene: Only time can tell.... And by that, I mean, three more scrolls left.
  +
*(Meya): I am certain that I succeeded, and yet my hands and heart are empty. For the first time in so long, I am devoid of purpose. There is nothing to fight or run from. Is this what peace feels like? I couldn't tell since the hell metal has some kind of moral grayness to it. When we all exited the cave, I simply entered my armored giant and left. I did not have a destination in mind, just some faint instinct that perhaps I should go the way Dinia and Santrago did. So here I wander, alone with the last of my comrades in a land of poison and empty palaces, to no end but the one I choose, which seems to be with the two I owed my life and my purpose to. It's unfortunate. The sky is so clear today. It would have been the perfect time to fulfill the promise around my neck.
  +
*Ucasashi:... What a way to leave after succeeding for THIS long.
  +
*(Meya): My armored giant has stopped moving, Dinia had to dismantle much of her own to fix it since I could not. I suppose I have been fortunate that it lasted as long as it did. Had it given out before we reached the tomb, I may not have been able to protect Heili or Dinia and Santrago. Though I had to wait for a while until the repairs were completed. If I want to carry on without it until we can move again, I will need to get to work soon. I am low on supplies, and when one is surviving on their own, there is always much to be done. Food. Shelter. Safety. Maybe I will even find time to clean the blood from my face. Yet for now, all I truly want to do is sleep. Perhaps I will dream of flying.
  +
*Marcilene: Well, hopefully, good luck will be on your-
  +
*Cloakblade: Wait... Good luck might not be there for her. Look.
  +
*(Meya): Something has just turned south. It is unfortunate that I didn't have much time to recover, but Santrago sensed another signal just like the one from the Overwatcher. It was warning us that the Titos Rex was headed this way, and we had to move as soon as possible. Unfortunate I never get a single ounce of rest in this wasteland when the hell metal core is too persistent for it. But that's how war works. So with no other option, we simply had to leave before the Titos Rex arrived. We headed out for the source of the second signal, unsure of what it was. But Dinia and Santrago gave me confidence that, perhaps, it would be something benevolent, as it did warn us about the Titos Rex. I am still very hesitant, however, but... I trust Dinia's word. As for Heili... I hope you are okay.
  +
*Serpentos:... OH, THAT WAS AMAZING!!!!
  +
*Ucasashi: Serpentos?! You were listening this whole time?!
  +
  +
===='''Who Is Rav?'''====
  +
Scorchar Desert
  +
*Radcliff:... Well this makes no dag nabit sense! These tablets are accounting the life of someone named... Rav RaSkyne, a self-proclaimed leader of some lost city.
  +
*Stephanie: Lost city?
  +
*Radcliff: Apparently these giant obelisks destroyed it and sunk it underground. I'll be damned if I knew why.
  +
*Stephenie:... Maybe reading these tablets can give us some info on how this Scyrian technology works.
  +
*Radcliff: "Not a bad idea, hun, but.... I don't think either of us can READ this gibberish! It's amazing I even got the name right!"
  +
*Qolma: Maybe I can help you with that. (She reads them)... Yeah, I can DEFINITELY do that.
  +
*Radcliff: Easy for you to say. You're a Magelian mage.
  +
*Qolma: Well, you're getting a translation, aren't you? Ahe-he-hem...
  +
*(Rav): Even at this distance the great obelisk is beautiful. It is like a pillar of Arta-Ra's light given solid form. I wish we could have made our camp right beside it, but the others thought that might draw unwanted attention. Some part of me wanted to call them cowards for that, but, a greater part acknowledges that I am not an invincible god or immortal, so, I'll humor the lack of bravery. At least we are close enough to be in its shadow and drink from the river that runs beneath it. I always face it when I pray to Plakmet, and though I can feel the skepticism in my companions' gazes, my faith is unshaken, for it was my faith that guided us here to this place rich with water and resources. All agree it is the ideal location for a settlement. Wherever we are, the gods are watching over us I know it.
  +
*Qolma:... It appears this Invervisaur was a philosophical priestess.
  +
*Radcliff: I kinda expected that from an Invervisaur.
  +
*Stephanie: Radcliff, please don't be assumptions!
  +
*Radcliff: "Hey, fair's fair, I've met alot of Invers that are like this one! So it's not being "Assumuious" if it's accurate!"
  +
*Stephanie: "Well I've met Athesist Invers, so it IS assumsuious!"
  +
*Radcliff: "Wait, atheist Invers are a thing?"
  +
*Qolma: "AHEM?! Can we get back to the story, lovebirds?"
  +
*(Rav): Construction has been going well. None of us are architects, but it wasn't a daunting task to adjust to such a rare role of our persons. Giru's broad shoulders and a booming laugh conceal a keen mind, and we started making better progress once I convinced him to stop hauling rocks and start drawing up plans that let Amiar focus on starting a garden where he is more at home. I have focused on trying to keep us organized and maintaining our spirits myself. I wish I could do more, sadly while a priestess has many gifts, manual labor is not one of them. I often find myself winded before midday. I pray that the others do not find me burdensome.
  +
*Qolma: Well, establishing a colony isn't very lucrative.
  +
*Radcliff: Still would've been nice if she did managed to pull her weight around. (Stephanie shoved him) Hey!
  +
*(Rav): Back in Luxem, I always tried to stay out of politics. I never aspired to be Divine Adoratrice as some priestesses did. I found that such selfish ambitions often led to suffering, both for oneself and for others. So when Giru referred to me as our leader today, I found myself surprised. I had tried to refused, but, Giru insisted the others won't accept a "Stand-in" in comparison to my guidance. I had never asked for such a position and the others had never bestowed it on me in any official manner. It just happened naturally. That same part of me that would call them cowards would've wanted me to keep true to my beliefs and be blunt in refusal, but, the same greater part kept true in that I bore no such luxuries in refusal, as the planet is one of an untamed nature where a group with no desired leader, or any at all, is doomed a failure. I am not sure what to make of it but if this is Plakmet's will then I will try to guide these people as best as I can.
  +
*Radcliff: Wow. Their leader, just like that? Where's the democracy here?!
  +
*Stephanie: I'm pretty sure they weren't in the position to have an election about this, all things considered about this planet dear.
  +
*Radcliff: She even admitted that politics weren't her thing! That means she had NO business to be a leader if you're not INTERESTED in being political!
  +
*Qolma: Well there's a lot of tablets, so odds are, she accommodated well.
  +
*(Rav): Our settlement has grown so quickly during these hectic months. So many wandering souls have found their way here seeking shelter and companionship, have done my best to welcome everyone I can. If treated with understanding most become productive loyal members of our community. But to any reader outside of myself, deem me not a "soft-hearted" fool, as it were. I nary forgotten the kind of natures a wild world can create. I know that hearts can have two natures. Plakmet had two hearts and two natures. One offers compassion while the other brings devastation. As we grow in size we become a riper target for those with malice in their hearts. Giru has tried to organize a militia but I fear it inadequate. For now I must be wary and pray that the gods send us a true warrior.
  +
*Stephanie:... Well, I may not be religious, but I too hope they do.
  +
*(Rav): It took longer than I'd hoped, but I believe the gods have heard my prayers. At least I believe so. When I imagined what a true warrior might be like, I cannot say that I imagined Captain Coopher. He speaks tersely, has no sense of decorum and in general is rather prickly. He was nigh unapproachable for a whole day when we decided his position should be called captain instead of the nonsense word he proposed. 'Sheriff' was it? Surely he forgotten he's in a world not yet of laws beyond the laws of nature. Yet he has been getting results, or so I am told. When I find time, I ought to observe him in action myself.
  +
*Radcliff: Sounds to me like she found herself a blowhard.
  +
*Stephanie: Oh definitely. Two dollars says they'll get together.
  +
*Radcliff: You're on.
  +
*(Rav): I am still not accustomed to the loud fiery weapons that our new captain is training his men to use. Their power is so destructive that it seems almost too much for any mortal being to possess. Yet Captain Coopher strolls up and down his line of trainees like they are wielding wooden swords, and twirls his own weapon almost absentmindedly. It is somewhat unnerving to find someone so calm around such potent instruments of death. But I suppose that is why he has had such success in securing our borders. I can only hope that we need but one Captain Coopher and that I never have to use those weapons myself.
  +
*Stephanie:... Well, glad to meet someone else who doesn't like guns. I mean, I know Rad, ya don't like it when I bring conflicting politics to this as typical of Keuca society, but they don't seem to have much popularity to everyone for their habit of killing with just one shot.
  +
*Radcliff: Eh, you just get over that and learn self-defense with it, and it's all good. That's how these UUniverses work.
  +
*Stephanie: "Well maybe to the beliefs of Keubrics, but Keucanics believe peacefuller approaches can resolve all conflicts."
  +
*Radcliff: "Well the crud load of wars and Iallog as a whole would have to say "Hold my beer" to that and go up to your face and say "Oh I'm sorry, am I nothing to you"?"
  +
*Stephanie: "(Sighs dejected), Okay, at least the dream is that peacefuller approaches should resolve things."
  +
*Qolma: "Not meaning to side with Flyboy here, but, to be fair in the case of this world, being civil is always thrown out the window when surviving is always a priority."
  +
*(Rav): It has been such a blessing to be able to spread Plakmet's joy and love to so many people, even at the face of mild skepticism of belief's supposed ill-placement in a wild world. At first, my daily prayers garnered but a few curious observers. Yet soon observations turned to questions, and questions turned to participation. Granted, there are the exceptions that questions just turned into more questions, and not always inviting ones and/or claims that belief is ill-placed here, but, I allow their beliefs. Being of faith does NOT always mean being a zealot. I would do Plakmet a dis-service if I harmed critics in his name, even in a world with little to hold such actions back. Now there are so many of us that we have even begun to construct a shrine. I truly wish that I could teach these eager new students all day long, but my duty to the village must come first. Perhaps when our future here is finally secured I shall be able to live the life of a priestess again, but for now I have too many people counting on me. I cannot abandon them.
  +
*Radcliff:... She's got dutiful instinct inside of her, AND she avoided the opportunity to go straight up zealot. I respect that.
  +
*(Rav): Names are a curious thing. We assign them great weight, yet they do not change the substance of the person, place, or thing they belong to. I suppose that line of thinking is why I never dwelled on the name of our humble village. Yet now that it has grown to become somewhat less humble our home can go nameless no longer. People must call it something. To that end, Krater Cention is as good a name as any. I am told that it means 'central core' in some old important language, and whatever our citizens intended that to symbolize when they chose it I know this: while we are here, we are under the protection of the gods.
  +
*Stephanie:... It's going to be one HELL of a shock when she finds out what those obelisks really are.
  +
*Radcliff: "That much can am gonna agree with."
  +
*(Rav): Lost souls from all across the desert continue to prostrate themselves before Krater Cention's gates. I adamantly refuse to turn away anyone that does not mean us any harm, even at mild dis-satisfaction of advisers, but, one thing I do take seriously from them is that my kind actions has left us with many mouths to feed. Truly the universes can be fickle to those of kind hearts. As a result, Krater Cention's fields are its most valuable asset. Fortunately, Giru's designs, and my organization of labor and resources have once again proven effective. Not only did we implement an efficient irrigation system, but we have encased our crops in a large protective structure made of the closest we could get to glass. Every morning it sparkles with a Arta-Ra's light, like a great gem, a beautiful reminder of what we can accomplish when we are united in purpose.
  +
*Radcliff: Glad to know that this 'Krater Cention' place was growing.
  +
*(Rav): Despite our best efforts and the blessing of the gods, tragedy is unavoidable in these strange lands. Yesterday it struck Krater Cention once more in the form of an M-Lucus attack, and while I could not undo what had been done, I hope that I was able to bring some small comfort to those who knew the victims best. Though we lack the resources to properly inter the dead in tombs, and mere burial without coffins leave the departed not completely devoured by the M-Lucus vulnerable to ground-borrowing scavengers to finish off at leisure, we still held a ceremony in their memory and I made time to speak privately with anyone who wished to. I would prefer my people to not bare ill-will for the creatures. They are products as intended of nature, what they did is not of malice, but of self-preservation, if admittingly, I suppose it's why we sentients have left behind nature. It's a harsh and fickle mistress, regardless of your awareness. Between that and my usual duties I am physically and emotionally exhausted, but when my people are suffering I can not afford to rest.
  +
*Stephanie:... M-Lucuses?
  +
*Qolma: Think of them as, raptor mangrises.
  +
*Stephanie:... Ohhh. Well, props for Rav for not encouraging hatred to animals.
  +
*(Rav): Early on I handled all of Krater Cention's trade negotiations, and I have had trouble growing out of the habit. I suppose that is why every caravan or hunter that passes through our gates knows my name. Some still insist on speaking with me personally. But I do not mind. I find these dealings rather engaging, if albeit samey after awhile. It is like playing a game of words. One such caravan arrived yesterday bearing a haul of metal ingots. Our venerable captain has suggested that I bring a contingent of guards to the negotiations, but I would rather not. If our guests are intimidated, they may back out and I would be remiss to waste such an opportunity.
  +
*Radcliff:... Mmm... My military instincts tell me this was no trade agreement.
  +
*Qolma:... You're right. It was a ransom attempt. But... Seems like she had a lot of problems with her captain's rescue.
  +
*(Rav): I shall gladly admit that I erred. I even admit that I owe Captain Coopher my life and offer him all the gratitude he is due. Yet that does not excuse such merciless behavior. Those so-called merchants may have stooped to viciousness and cruelty by trying to kidnap me for ransom, but that one had surrendered. The False Merchant decided to surrender the Ingots in returned of being spared, which of course, I'll grant him the mercy of the gods to allow. It's a fair enough trade, even if Coopher appeared deaf to this and wanted to execute him on the spot, but, the false merchant was lucky I kept the blood-hungry captain on a tight leash. But still.... I wished the now lone conman's friends did not had to die for a misguided venture. They were not evil, just desperate to try and bribed what they assumed to be a selfish well-off land to trade resources for my safety and perhaps assumed that gentler interactions would've been refused. It pains me they died with a false expectation while a survivor was left with painful memories. I do not want that kind of image to be representative of the belief I bring here. That would scare friendlier caravans or those too weak to survive on their own. It is so hard to see where light ends and darkness begins in this violent place of a planet. Perhaps if I could adequately protect myself we could have avoided needless bloodshed. Yes, I think it is time I shall master these explosive weapons, and Captain Coopher is going to help me.
  +
*Radcliff:... She was mad at her captain for protecting her the way one should in a place like this? I know that any keucanic would say killing may seem morally unacceptable, but that's the way it goes on many worlds.
  +
*Stephanie: Not that I want to be against Rav on her judgment, but, I can't entirely disagree here. Cloakblade had to learn that on her first mission as Invi.
  +
*(Rav): Step by step I am learning how to shoot. During my first few lessons the weapons almost jumped out of my hand when I fired them, but my arms have grown stronger and my aim truer. Captain Coopher’s presence has been helpful. The same calm that is found unnerving from afar has been steadying from up close. He does not waste his breath in exaggerated praise or criticism, he simply keeps me focused on what I need to do and everything else just falls away. Considering where I started, he has been very patient with me. Perhaps I should be more patient with him.
  +
*Radcliff:... Looks like they're warming up to each other.
  +
*(Rav): In ancient times, gentle Plakmet took the form of her monster side, and unleashed her wrath upon the Invervisaur world. Yet even during her relentless slaughter, her good side was within her bad side as much as her bad side was always within her good side, and when she was eventually calmed the peaceful goddess of joy and love returned. As it is with the goddess, so it is with mankind. The vicious can become kind, and the kindhearted can become violent for all his past transgressions. Captain Coopher is no different. He did not grasp Plakmet’s tale when I told it to him the other day, but if he keeps trying to better himself, then perhaps one day he will.
  +
*Radcliff:... They're DEFINITELY warming up with each other.
  +
*Stephanie: Hon, don't pressure me on that bet. Bets tend to get hectic when that happens, and that is technically a sabotage.
  +
*Radcliff: Sorry, I mean, that wasn't the intent, I-
  +
*Qolma: Both you lovers shut it, I'm trying to read and translate.... I'm trying to reaslate.... Or, transread? Uh, whatever, I'm doing them.
  +
*(Rav): In principle, I have turned into a competent marksman. Yet in practice how would I fare? When the time comes, could I end another sentient life? I am not so sure. My mouth grows dry with fear at the very thought. The warrior spirit of Plakmet's evil half surely resides somewhere within the recesses of my heart, but search as I may, I can not find it. As training I offered to put down some of our beasts that had grown deathly ill. It was a merciful act, but it still drew tears from my eyes and twisted my stomach into knots. I must learn to act in spite of these feelings. My life may depend on it one day.
  +
*Radcliff:... Wow.... I actually feel sorry for her now. And I feel like a dingus for criticizing.
  +
*Stephanie: "See what happens when you get to know someone different from you when you put aside the Keubric hot-blood?"
  +
*(Rav): Despite my best efforts, I know that I have strayed from the teachings and customs that I learned so meticulously back home. Out of necessity, I have adapted it to both the needs of Plakmet’s new followers and the circumstances we all face in this desert. For example, celebrating the gods with feasts and festivals in their name would be wasteful. This sacrifice is particularly unfortunate, for my students deserve some sort of reward for their diligence. Perhaps I can still organize a modest celebration of some sort. In fact, maybe the whole village should have one just to raise everyone’s spirits. Even our venerable Captain might enjoy that. Ah, but I ask for miracles.
  +
*Radcliff:... I think this Coopher guy would sound like the guy who'd hesitate on such parties.
  +
*Stephanie: Everyone's gotta have a break.
  +
*(Rav): I trust our Captain’s judgment on matters of defense, but I still feel ill at ease with his decision to rally against these M-Lucuses isn't going to leave the village unprotected. I bare no comfort of him bringing harm to creatures that are only of nature's design, yet, I couldn't bring myself to be contrarian to his argument that our home would not survive persistent visits by the creatures, espeically in a yet secured state. But I bare, a far more personal concern. I fear that his own contingent is too small. I know that I should not be concerned. He personally vouched for the caliber of his team, and I have more immediate priorities. Our walls and gates need repairs, our infirmary needs supplies and our morale needs bolstering. I have been scrambling to and fro with such constant urgency that rings have formed beneath my eyes. Yet when I finally earn a moments respite, I am restless with worry.
  +
*Radcliff:... I know love when I see or hear it. And this? Rav seems to grow fond of Coopher. She admits she worries for his safety... In a way that makes her care too much for him than just a friend.
  +
*Stephanie: Well, we can't know for sure yet.
  +
*(Rav): The people of Krater Cention come from so many different places, and they all have different ways of thinking. On occasion this incites conflict. Several weeks ago two newcomers came to blows over a long-standing feud between their home nations, and just the other day I had to harshly discipline one of my own disciples for harassing the villagers who worship some wooden symbol. One time a man even challenged me to a duel for Krater Cention’s leadership. I am not a boaster, but, I will admit the guilty pleasure of, having some enjoyment in teaching the challenger a strong lesson. I just hope sees his defeat as a sign that the gods had deemed leadership not his destiny. Yet those same two people who engaged in fisticuffs now work to repair our western gate, and it is stronger for their combined efforts. Perhaps that is why the gods have brought us all here. To help us understand each other.
  +
*Radcliff:... Seems confusing to see things philosophically in her eyes when we know what's around her.
  +
*Stephanie: Yeah.
  +
*(Rav): For days, I have prayed for both Plakmet's compassion and healing powers, and for days I have waited. I have faith that they heard me. When I first laid eyes on him, I thought for sure he was dead or dying, but the gods have not yet taken Johno Coopher away from me. My mind knows that I have other responsibilities to attend to, that I cannot afford to spend more time in this room. Yet I know that if I attempt to attend to my duties, my heart will interfere and I cannot neglect it. Not any longer.
  +
*Stephanie:... Okay, I don't know if I lose or not, but-
  +
*(Rav): Without question, it was Plakmet's divine will that sent me here, not only so I could spread her joy and compassion, but so I could understand her love. I thought I knew it before. I loved my family, I loved my fellow priestesses, and I love all those under my care here in Krater Cention. Yet only when I finally surrendered myself to it, when I let it rush over my body and carry me like the current of a great river did I truly understand it. Only now can I claim to embody Plakmet's teachings, thanks to Johno Coopher, this warrior from a distant time and place. And now, together, we can turn this desert into a paradise.
  +
*Stephanie: AAAAND that's a yes. (She gave Radcliff two bucks)
  +
*Qolma: (Chuckles) You two are starting to make me laugh.
  +
*(Rav): The mood in Krater Cention has been so jubilant lately that I think we may just hold a festival after all, and why not? We have plenty of cause to celebrate. With the M-Lucus diminished, (Though I still pity the creatures that had to die for our survival's sakes, I know those of personal wounds are, understandably less merciful for clear reasons, so, I'll be patient with the misguided hurrah of the death of creatures), our scouts were able to establish an outpost in the north, where they discovered a wealth of thick, black oil seeping through cracks in the ground. Thanks to this bounty, we have been able to create amazing new tools, and fill our storehouses to the brim. Granted, there were a select number of those that find discontent with certain resources cause of concerns of long-term effects on the environment. By all means their concerns had not fallen on deaf ears, but it was prudent that they are reminded that we are not in a luxurious state to worry about politics as if this is a civilized planet. I sensed their begrudgence, but, they complied.
  +
*Stephanie: "(Sighs), As much as my eco-care sensibilities really want me to hate her now, I understand that it was a tough call."
  +
*(Rav): A festival would hardly make a dent. I am sure my beloved Captain will disagree. Ever the dutiful worrier. Fortunately, I can be quite convincing where Johno Coopher is concerned, and for one day, we deserve to supplant worry and duty with song and dance.
  +
*Radcliff:... I have a feeling this won't be so 'jubilant' forever. Krater Cention isn't on the present-day maps.
  +
*(Rav): As I watched Giru's team construct the curious, bladed tower that is meant to harness the power of Shinda's winds, I could not help but marvel at how far we have come. In such a short time, Krater Cention has risen from nothing into a true city, with wonders that would make even the great Pharaohs envious. For all its storms and creatures, this desert grows less threatening to us each day, and fewer people are forced to suffer and die by its hand. Perhaps one day, no one will. If we can achieve that, then every hardship and every sacrifice we have endured will have been worth it.
  +
*Qolma:... And indeed, you're correct.... (Sighs in depression)... Krater Cention would meet an unexpected yet ironic end, according to these next few tablets.
  +
*(Rav): Over the last few days, the lights of the great obelisks have been pulsing with a rhythm and intensity that I have never seen before. It is a beautiful, soothing sight, particularly at night. It almost looks like they are singing a song to the stars above. Surely this is a sign of the gods' favor. Plakmet is offering us her blessing. Having another festival would be exorbitant, so I have organized a special round of ceremonies and prayers after dusk instead. Thus far they have gone wonderfully, and everyone has left with renewed faith and vigor. I wonder how long this display will last?
  +
*Radcliff:... I don't think that's the gods being happy.
  +
*(Rav): Sometimes, I wonder how Johno can carry on, with no faith in a higher purpose or power and eyes that see threats everywhere. Even when we are safe and secure, he insists on sleeping with a weapon at arms' length. It is no wonder that he suddenly believes the obelisks could be dangerous. Though yet, these great monuments have never done anything malicious, or at the least demonstrated any example-of-danger in the wrong hands. Fortunately I have enough faith for the both of us. I have faith that he will protect us from the flying lizards that have recently appeared, I have faith that the obelisks would never harm us, and I even have faith that I shall forgive his constant prodding on the latter. That final matter might require some additional effort on his part, however. He has been simply relentless about it.
  +
*Radcliff:... (Sighs) I don't know if I should be annoyed by this lack of skepticism from her, or pity her for her post-tragedy naiveté.
  +
*(Rav): What did I do wrong? Despite every trial and tribulation, I kept my faith in Plakmet, Arta-Ra and all the gods. No I did more than that. I gave them new followers, I built shrines for them, and held ceremonies for them. So why? Why did the obelisks light up the sky and call down such a terrible doom upon my new home? Why would the gods tear the very ground beneath us asunder and send all that I have built and cherished tumbling into the abyss? Where did I betray them? Were it not for Johno I would not even be able to ask such questions. I would just be some dead fool, whose last act would have been to beg for salvation from the very gods who have forsaken me.
  +
*Radcliff:... Yeah, I guess can I see why some folks think religiousness can be often detrimental in these UUniverses.
  +
*Stephanie: Look, Radcliff, I'm not fond of her being overly optimistic, but she had no way of knowing about the true nature of the obelisks.
  +
*Radcliff: But why would they even do this to Krater Cention?
  +
*Qolma: How should I know? They're still a mystery to us.
  +
*(Rav): My mind is filled with the dead. I see the smiling faces of my students, eager to learn. I hear Giru's laugh, deep and merry. I see the outstretched hand of Johno's trusted lieutenant as she fell into the darkness below. Johno tells me not to blame myself, that what happened was unpredictable. Yet how can I not feel guilty when I led so many to worship the instruments of our destruction, all the while promising to keep them safe? By all means, I don't deem the towering objects themselves as malevolent, nor the direct object of the gods nor speakers of their true will. But, it may be possible they are under the control of someone, or something, less kind. At the same time, am I even sure of that? Either way, even if I would have to ensure the destruction of these otherwise still beautiful obelisks, I'll seek to end any misuse of them again. Somehow, I must bury these emotions and focus on the present, as Johno does. If I cannot tear my mind away from what I have lost, I will lose all I have left. I cannot let that happen. I cannot let the gods take him too, assuming if this is even their actual doing.
  +
*Stephanie:... Okay, I'm starting to feel her emotion.
  +
*Radcliff:... Me too... But, only a little bit.
  +
*Qolma:... I'm afraid it gets worse from there.
  +
*(Rav): I understand now that it was not the act of the gods that took my home. Not even of the malevolent or cruel-humored ones. And that the obelisks were tainted by less than benevolent forces. It was the very flying lizards who did this. They claimed to have served some kind of machine that claimed my city was violating some kind of 'Adytum Project' design. By all means, I can understand if this was supposed to be for a greater purpose of rebuilding the wasted world outside the crater, BUT DID IT NOT KNOW OF WHAT MY PEOPLE DID AND WHAT THEY HAD TO ENDURE?! DID IT HAVE SOME MECHANICAL FACSIMILE OF A HEART?!? Or dare I say.... It did know, BUT IT WASN'T TO IT'S SATISFACTION!! I never trusted artificially-intelligent machines because they were not truly sentient. Much as I don't want to shame those flying lizards of only being victims of corruption, I, I embraced that there was no saving them from sin! They are doomed to be the playthings of the underworld, and.... Darkly, I made peace with it. ESPEICALLY WITH WHAT THEY HAD DO-...... You would have been proud of me. I controlled my breathing, just like you taught me, even with the tears streaming down my face. Even with all the hate and anger in my heart, I kept my aim steady, and I killed them. I killed every single one of those flying lizards that took you from me, Johno. So why have you abandoned me, too? You were the survivor, not I. These creatures should not have been enough to kill you. You were too strong. I need you too much. Please. Come back to me. I need to hear your voice. I need to see your smile. Please. Please.
  +
*Radcliff: ".... Awwww, shit, is, is that insinuating-....."
  +
*Stephanie:... (She softly sobbed)
  +
*Radcliff:..... Sweet freaking Arbasus!... Johno was killed?
  +
*Qolma:... Looks like it. Poor man died as he lived.... Though something feels off. Rav DID make a good point: He seemed too skilled to be killed by Dracthysaurs.
  +
*Radcliff:... You're right. My gut's telling me over and over like a broken record, that somehow, he's still alive.
  +
*Qolma:... Oh gosh!... I think, Rav lost her marbles in this.
  +
*(Rav): When I found them, I wanted to smash them to bits. Those eggs were the spawn of the monsters of the lizards that served the heartless SOULLESS machine that slew my beloved, and they did not deserve my pity. Yet I also knew they could help me. If I could raise these creatures as my own servants, then even the gods that just, failed me, could not strike me down. I no longer blame them for the actions of others.... But they also did NOTHING to halt this sin?! It may as well be like this was THEIR doing! I have constructed a great bonfire to mimic the warmth provided by their mother, and gathered milk from the mightiest of the fallen beasts so that I may feed them when they hatch. Hopefully it is enough. No, it will be. I will raise these creatures, I will master them and I will survive. I promise you, Johno. I will live for both of us.
  +
*Radcliff:... Amazing. Looks like there's some ounce of that animal-caring nature left in her after that hatred of Johno's... Apparent, death... Drove it all out of her.
  +
*Stephanie:... Perhaps she IS like Plakmet.
  +
*Qolma: Having conquering emotions is just nature. Even she's not immune to what they cause. But she has indeed found a conscience. These eggs she found belonged to the Dracthysaurs she killed.... She has a big heart.
  +
*(Rav): When the creatures first hatched, I dared not go near them without weapon in hand, but by now we have grown accustomed to each other. I once heard that a newborn creature may identify the first living thing it sees as its parent. I believe that has occurred here. I have become a mother to monsters. So be it. The gods have forsaken me and my love has been taken from me that they did not bother protecting me from a madman's design, so gone now is the Rav of old. Gone are the last vestiges of Plakmet's joy and tranquility. Let my heart fill with Plakmet's dark might and fury, and with monsters at my back and steel in my hands, let the desert know my wrath. Never shall anyone take from me again, be it god, beast or man.
  +
*Radcliff:... Badass!
  +
*Stephanie: "Buuuuuut also concerning."
  +
*Qolma:... Last tablet.
  +
*(Rav): I have seen so much since we last spoke, John. There are secrets in this desert that you would never believe, dangers that would have paralyzed me with fear when we first met, but I am a different woman now. Would you recognize me still, behind this black veil? I still find ways to help people, though not as I used to. I am no shepherd to the lost, no healer of wounded souls. Sometimes I simply defend the defenseless, or guide those few who seek the truth behind this cursed place. Perhaps one day, someone will find that truth, strike down the neglectent gods of this land, even the madman if they must, and at last grant me rest. Yet until that day comes, know that I will not falter. Know that I will carry on.
  +
*Stephanie:... (She started to cry again)
  +
*Radcliff:..... If Vet was here, I bet this story would sell like HOTCAKES?!
  +
*Qolma and Stephanie just stared at Radcliff like "Seriously"?
  +
*Radcliff: "...... Aw don't act like she wouldn't BE like that!"
  +
  +
===='''Who Is Johno?'''====
  +
*Warlene:... Hmm... This guy sounds like quite the eccentric type.
  +
*Traden: You know, aside from being an outlaw?
  +
*Warlene: Hey, even outlaws have some charm once in a while....
  +
*(Johno): Old habits die hard. I suppose I'm living proof. I woke up stark naked in the Scorchar Desert outside my home with little chance of climbing out after some freaky giant monster destroyed it, with Cehyha and Knoxie surviving with me, but just weeks later and I’m already back to robbing folks at gunpoint. This place may not be home, but I’m the same Johno Coopher. I don’t know why that makes me restless. I didn’t mind this life before, but then I didn’t exactly choose it. I just stumbled into it, or at least that’s what I told myself. So much for that. Maybe this is just who I am.
  +
*Warlene:... Wow. His home was destroyed by a Titos?... That's terrible.
  +
*(Johno): Sometimes the pennits a man won’t part with willingly are worth less than the words he’ll share with any stranger. Some of my partners don’t see that. Knoxie’s particularly blind to it. He’s always looking for an excuse to pull the trigger, and he’s stubborn as hell. He even still gets mad we call him 'Knoxie', as he still finds us less than friends undeserving and should instead just call him Knoxville. But if he were calling the shots, that hunter wouldn’t have told us about the group gathering to the southeast, and they’ll have a lot more for the taking than animal hides.
  +
*Traden:... Well, he sure got quite the team that survived that destruction along with him. (He and Warlene laughed)
  +
*(Johno): I can’t believe how easy this was. There weren’t many guards here to begin with, and the few they’ve got are more likely to shoot you a smile than a bolt. We just walked right in. The settlement is even bigger than we expected. It’s impressive, protection aside. Everyone working together to build their own little paradise, not that it’ll last. If you ask them, they’ll credit their leader, a woman called Rav. The others have spread out to find where the supplies are stored, but I’m feeling curious. Maybe I’ll go find this mystery woman. Might be interesting.
  +
*Traden:... Ohohohoh, someone's looking to get hard.
  +
*Warlene: Traden!
  +
*Traden: Hey, it's what we men do. To us, girls are practically the best treasure ever.
  +
*Warlene: Pfft. Men.
  +
*(Johno): I don’t know why fate brought that monster to destroy my home and bring me to this desert. My old man would say it was the spirits of our ancestors. Other folks might say it was the Gods. Whatever it was, after talking to that woman, I realize now that I’ve been wasting what it’s given to me. I have no real history here. There are no posters showing off my sneering face, no posses hunting me. I can be any man I choose. So today, I’m making a choice: the folks here don’t deserve to be robbed. What they deserve is protection, and I’m the man to protect them. Hell, maybe they’ll even call me Sheriff.
  +
*Warlene:... Wow. He turned over a new leaf quickly.
  +
*Traden: It's called the sweet-talk of a woman, my love.
  +
*Warlene: Really?
  +
*Traden: Hey, am I wrong?
  +
*Warlene:... Not exactly.
  +
*(Johno): Knoxie didn't approve of my decision. I've never been very good at persuasion, so I let my pistol make my case. The others saw it my way after that. Convincing Rav was a lot less trouble. She knew the settlement's guards weren't exactly the cream of the crop, and that if I'd wanted trouble, I'd have already made it. When Rav talks, people listen. I can tell that much from watching her, but in a lawless place like this, words aren't enough. It didn't take long for us to come to terms. Well, I suppose I'd better inspect the troops. They know what guns are, even with their Invervitraxian-style architecture, so maybe a few of them can shoot.
  +
*Warlene:... He REALLY went far, didn't he?
  +
*Traden: Again, the power of wo-
  +
*Warlene: Shut it!
  +
*(Johno): Now I know how dad felt while he was teaching me how to hunt. We stopped seeing eye-to-eye even before I left home, but I'll always thank him for the time he spent telling me the same damn things over and over again. Must have drove him wild inside, but he never showed it. Hasn't been easy to imitate that patience. Half of this sorry bunch is green as grass, and the half that isn't would rather hold a spear than a gun. At least they're improving, even if it's at the speed of molasses. Her highness stops by on occasion, but thankfully it's just for a gander. This'd be even harder with distractions.
  +
*Traden:... Distractions? Huh? Huh?
  +
*Warlene: I GET IT, DAMMIT!!!
  +
*(Johno): My patchwork posse had their first real test today. Some of our gatherers ran into those big spiny lizards that lived a few miles west of the village, and one of them managed to come call for help. Luckily the others had tucked themselves away in an outcropping and we got everyone back safe and sound. Well, except for the rookie. He forgot that when you shoot at those big bastards, they'll shoot right back. Took them hours to get those barbs out of his arm. When we got back, I think I heard the words 'thank you' more than any other day in my life. I didn't really know what to say in return.
  +
*Traden:... Meh, he lives with amateurs, but at least they're HIS amateurs.
  +
*(Johno): The townsfolk may be grateful for my protection, but that doesn't mean they like me. I don't mind. If they're looking for social graces, they ought to find her highness. Rav hates that nickname. She thinks I'm calling her stuck-up, and I suppose I am. Just a little. Can't imagine the woman's hands ever saw callus before she got here. That's not the whole of it, though. Take this business with that tower. She's got folks from all sorts of places praying to the damn thing, and she never really asked them to. They just want to follow her lead. It's like she's wearing an invisible crown. Can't decide whether that's comforting or concerning.
  +
*Traden: See, that's the beauty of woman. They can be anything.
  +
*Warlene: Are you seriously talking to him in the past?
  +
*Traden: NO!... Uh... Let's keep going.
  +
*(Johno): My band of misfit lawmen may finally be coming together. It's been a whole week since someone shot themselves in the leg or pissed their britches over a raptor. Maybe I'll finally be able to get some decent shut eye. Probably too much to hope for. Every day, Krater Cention grows a little bigger and I have a few more problems to solve. These giant bugs from the other day, for example. Found two of them playing around with a pickaxe a few miles north of the river. I've never heard of any animals using tools, not outside of the legends the elders used to tell about Big Cowl and Ajack. Doesn't seem natural.
  +
*Traden:... Looks like he came across M-Lucuses.
  +
*Warlene: Yep. Nasty and intelligent creatures.
  +
*(Johno): Something damaged a water pipe outside of town yesterday, and when a crew went to repair it, they were attacked by a whole mess of those bugs I saw the other day. My boys and I drove them off, but we were too late to save the engineers. I know it sounds crazy, but I think those bugs cut through that pipe on purpose to draw us out. If I'm right, then I'm more concerned about them than anything. In the stories about Big Cowl and Ajack, Big Cowl was the huge, scary one, but Ajack was more dangerous because he was clever. He'd trick man and monster alike, and everyone feared him. I never believed those stories, but I sure remember the lesson. Animals can be smarter than they look sometimes.
  +
*Warlene: Well, no question there since WE'RE smart animals.
  +
*Traden: Hehehe.
  +
*(Johno): I was worried that Rav would fight some of the new precautions my boys have been taking, but I guess I've earned a looser leash. I suppose I ought to lay off the "highness" talk then. Seems only fair. The other day we even shot the breeze a little. First time we've talked about something besides what needs doing. Seems we're both a little worn out. Unlike me, she's used to being respectable and responsible, but being in charge means everyone wants your time and attention. This place hasn't been easy on either of us or anyone else, but I'm still kicking so far. Come what may, I don't plan on stopping.
  +
*Traden:... Well at least he's got something, or some ONE, to fight for, am I right?
  +
*Warlene: Traden, stop it!
  +
*Traden: C'mon, they're totally going to get together. I bet they will.
  +
*Warlene: Not making that deal.
  +
*(Johno): Something like this was bound to happen one day. The bigger the town gets, the more value Rav has to it, and what happens to valuable things? People try to steal them. It wasn't a bad idea, holding her for ransom like that. Too bad for those raiders this is my town. I picked most of them off with a rifle as they tried to force her onto a pack animal, and my men finished a few others as they fled. One tried surrendering, but I had to send a message. If you pull a stunt like that in my goddamn town, you won't get any mercy. Not a single shred of it.
  +
*Warlene:... Arbasus! That was needless bloodshed.
  +
*Traden: I know.... Oh... And I think Rav agreed on that.
  +
*(Johno): That damn female's got some nerve. I save her hide and the next day, she's scolding me for putting down a "defenseless" kidnapper. Hardly even thanked me first. What did she expect me to do? Give him free room and board for the rest of his days? Let him go so he can tell every bandit in the crater how soft we are? I told her that if she didn't like the way I protected her then she can protect herself. Should have kept my damn mouth shut. Now I'm stuck teaching her how to shoot three times a week. Gonna be at it forever, too. She couldn't hit a bulath's ass from five paces.
  +
*Warlene:... Wow. Even a WOMAN'S telling her how to protect the town, and ordering him around.
  +
*Traden: Oh, how wonderful, she's one of THOSE types of woman.
  +
*Warlene: You mean like me? (She laughed as Traden kept reading)
  +
*(Johno): I do believe that my pupil is the first dead-eye Invervitraxian priestess the world's ever seen. It took a few months but Rav's too stubborn to quit. Sheesh, one of THOSE types of women.
  +
*Warlene: (She scoffed and laughed as Traden was embarrassed)
  +
*(Johno): I shouldn't have been so hard on her. Trying to keep your faith and traditions in a rog-eat-rog world isn't easy. Hell, I couldn't even do it myself, and that was before giant spiky lizards were looking to take a bite out of my backside. During one lesson, she told me this story about how her goddess had a nice side and a nasty one. I think she meant something else, but the way I see it, we're the goddess. She's nice, I'm nasty, and we keep each other in check.
  +
*Traden:... Well, she's at best a woman who DOES know how to lead well. (Warlene smirked with an amused expression)
  +
*Warlene: PFF-PFF-PFF, why does that sound familiar to YOU?! (She laughed harder)
  +
*(Johno): Even after all this time in Krater Cention, I-
  +
*Traden: (Warlene kept laughing) OKAY, CAN YOU STOP LAUGHING?!? (She stopped)... THANK you!... Don't worry, I still love you.
  +
*(Johno): I have trouble sleeping in the same bed every night.
  +
*Traden:... They slept in the same bed?! Wohow!
  +
*Warlene: Poor guy must've felt uncomfortable with his own crew.
  +
*Traden: Or something else if you know what I- (Warlene glared at him) AH! I'M READING, I'M READING!!!
  +
*(Johno): Sometimes I'll just toss and turn until I give up and go to sleep beneath the stars. Hell, I'm not sure I ever slept with Cehyha in the same spot twice back in the Russlehard Gang at home. Thought I'd live that way forever, wild and free like my boss Doc Russlehard. Probably die guns blazing like he did too. Sounded better to me than withering away with the rest of my gang as the world passed us by. I don't think Doc would recognize me now. I'm not the 'Apache nephew' he taught to read and shoot. Matter of fact, if he were here, I'd probably have to shoot him.
  +
*Traden:... This guy knows some classic free verse poetry, though.
  +
*(Johno): I expected those intelligent bugs, apparently called M-Lucuses by travelers, to come back, but not like this. They came at the village from two sides at the same time, and the way they moved... They were more coordinated than any Ajack pack. They worked together like men would. Took nearly half a day to fend them off, and they didn't leave us without scars. If attacks like this become common, we're going to be in a heap of trouble, so I've decided to round up my best men to track these monsters down. We've got to at least find out where they're coming from.
  +
*Traden: Hmm. Guess he's finally got a good challenge.
  +
*Warlene: Yeah, MAYBE to impress Rav.
  +
*Traden:... Wow. Sarcasm? Really?
  +
*Warlene: (Sighs) Just keep reading.
  +
*(Johno): We've been tracking these damn things for ages. I can't believe the traveled so far just to attack us. Something like that has to be deliberate. I already knew these bugs were smart, but if they're that determined to kill us, then we've got to wipe them out here and now. That's easier said than done. There's a whole mess of them here. Can't say I've heard of any M-Lucuses living in a group like this, but I'm no expert when it comes to animals. Certainly not in this crazy place. At any rate, I've got to come up with some kind of plan. Shooting them one by one won't do the trick.
  +
*Warlene: No kidding.
  +
*(Johno): I'm glad I decided to take Cehyha with me. She's been showing some new kind of skill she never showed me before less than a month ago, but she already knew her way around a hellish desert crater like this. Says she learned it in a city outside the crater called Gruven. Never heard of it, but apparently they teach you all sorts of tricks there like how to make bombs more powerful than TNT. The caves the M-Lucuses are holed up in are filled with sulfur, so if we set Cehyha's bombs in the right spot, we should be able to wipe them all out at once... Provided we can shoot our way in and out without becoming M-Lucus chow. Well, 'Captain', time to earn your title.
  +
*Traden:... Good luck in there, cowboy.
  +
*Warlene: Eh, I'd say it's at best half-bad luck. Look.
  +
*(Johno): I can't recall the journey back to town, but I remember the caverns. The M-Lucuses didn't take too kindly to our intrusion. Took half my men with them before we blew them to hell. Well, most of them. One came at us while we were celebrating and I pushed Cehyha out of the way like a damn fool. Nearly got myself skewered. Now Rav's got me all cooped up until I finish recovering. Threatened to tie me to the bed if I tried to leave. I'd probably drive myself nuts if she didn't keep me company so often. She was even here when I first woke up. I admit, I was glad to see the sight.
  +
*Traden:... Yikes. A woman like that would really scare me.
  +
*Warlene: Oh, you've already got one for a girlfriend. (She scoffed and laughed harder)
  +
*Traden:... (Sighs) At least nobody's here to laugh with her.... OH, LOOK HERE! I TOTALLY CALLED IT!!!
  +
*Warlene: A, what?
  +
*(Johno): How long have I wanted this? I can't place it exactly, but it feels like I always have. I suppose that's how I know it's right. It's not just that Rav's beautiful. I've known beautiful women before, but I never got the same feeling when I looked at them. I never felt this at home around them, or anyone for that matter. What happened between us when I was stuck in that room, it wasn't a heat of the moment decision. At least I don't think. All I know is that now, I don't mind sleeping in the same bed every night. Not anymore.
  +
*Traden:... Alright, pay up.
  +
*Warlene: I DIDN'T BET ON IT!
  +
*Traden: I don't give a f***, at least I- (She kissed him on the lips)...... Payment accepted. (She giggled as he kept reading)
  +
*(Johno): Maybe I should change my name again. Seems fitting. I started nicknaming myself Johno about a week after joining up with Doc Russelhard. The others never called me Coopher anyway, so I figured they may as well call me by a name I chose myself. That was part of it, but I think that deep down, I also knew that the boy who earned the name Coopher was gone for good. Now I think the outlaw named Johno Coopher is gone too, so it would make sense to call myself something else. Then again, that may just confuse folks. Probably not worth the hassle. Besides, I kind of like the way it sounds with an Invervitraxian accent.
  +
*Traden: Awwwwwwwwww boiiiiii!
  +
*Warlene: Don't do that.
  +
*(Johno): Things have been quiet for a while now. Downright pleasant, even. At least, that was the case until one of our hunting parties went missing about five days ago. Well they're not missing anymore, at least what's left of them. We scoured every inch of their camp and still can't figure out who attacked them. There aren't many prints from animals, and what ones we found aren't like any creature I've seen. There are scorch marks aplenty, though. Maybe it was a group of raiders with some of those new, flame spewing weapons that I've heard tell about? Whoever it was, I'll see it to it that they live just long enough to regret it.
  +
*Traden:... I think they came across one of those Dracthosaurs we keep seeing in the sky.
  +
*Warlene: Sounds like it.
  +
*(Johno): We finally tracked down our culprit this morning, and damn was he one big, mean son of a blaster. He had wings like a battus, a head like lizard, and spat fire from his mouth. I've never seen anything like it, not even here. Fortunately, anything will die if you put enough bolts in its head. One of my men called it a dracthon, but the others called it a species called a Dracthysaur. Though he'd never actually seen one before. Said it was just a legend. No one in town had seen one either. So where'd it come from? Did it just suddenly fly here from parts unknown? This whole affair doesn't sit right with me. Gives me a bad feeling.
  +
*Warlene: Heh. Dracthysaurs are pretty rare on many worlds nowadays, and are mainly restricted to prehistoric medieval-class worlds.
  +
*(Johno): Folks have been spotting a lot more of these dracthysaurs, and they're not just throwing fire every which way, either. Some spit lightning or acid. On top of that, those big pillars are acting funny. I checked with Cehyha, since she doesn't buy into that Plakmet business, and she sees it too. It's making me restless. Between this and the M-Lucuses, it's starting to feel like this place wants us gone. I know that can't be right. There were no spirits of the land to stop the frontiersman back home, and there are none here. Still, I should talk to Rav. If that tower's dangerous, she shouldn't be worshiping it.
  +
*Warlene:... Mmmmmm, with someone of misguided faith like her, I doubt that'll be easy.
  +
*(Johno): I shouldn't have expected her to listen. Rav's kept her faith this long, so there was no way a few dracthysaurs and a talking to were going to change that, even if that talking to came from me. Still, I'm not about to take any chances. Whether it's dracthysaurs, M-Lucuses, or giant towers, nothing's harming this town and it's especially not harming her. Her prayer groups are getting extra guards and I don't care if she likes it. I expect she won't. In fact, I'll probably have to sleep under the stars for the for the next few nights. Oh well. I suppose that's what you'd call a 'long-term investment'.
  +
*Warlene:... Called it. Pay up.
  +
*Traden:... (He kissed her) There's your payment. (The two laughed) Wahahow, who knew a story could curb us?
  +
*Warlene: Literally nobody.... Ohhhh, crap. I don't think this'll be a happily ever after. Look.
  +
*(Johno): For all my caution, I could have never prepared for this. Yesterday, the towers started flashing and glowing like a damn lightning storm. When I saw that, I saddled up one of our cats and went to find Rav as fast as I could. Within minutes, the ground was crumbling beneath us, like the land was trying to swallow Krater Cention whole. Once I swung Rav up onto the saddle, I had to ride like a man possessed, our cat leaping across broken buildings as they slipped into the ground. Even then we barely made it, but we're the only ones. I spotted Cehyha hanging onto a ledge as we escaped, but I couldn't get to her in time.... We're all that's left....
  +
*Traden:... Arbasus. That's awful.... Do they survive?
  +
*Warlene: Well, let's find out.
  +
*(Johno): I wish I were better with words. I just don't know what to tell Rav after all that's happened. A loss like that is always going to ache, but nothing I do or say seems to ease the hurt at all. You know things are ugly when I'm the optimistic one. For now, I've just got to keep us focused on staying alive, step by step. We're going back to the basics: finding water, finding food and finding shelter. This long-toothed cat and I are all she's got left, and that means I've got to be steady for her. Somehow, we'll make it through this.
  +
*Traden:... I don't know why, but my face is telling me to cry.
  +
*(Johno): So far so good. The cat has helped keep the critters away, so I've conserved ammunition, and we're all stocked up on supplies. For the immediate future, I'd say we're safe and secure. Further than 'immediate' though? I'm not so sure. Neither of us are builders, and there are bigger, tougher animals than long-toothed cats out there. Eventually we'll need to find some new friends. Krater Cention was the biggest settlement in the desert, but it couldn't have been the only one. I'd heard rumors that a hunting party had seen some buildings to the west. Sounds like as good a place to start as any.
  +
*Traden:... At least they're grasping for hope after a-AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHOOOOO, spoke too soon! These first few words don't equal good news!
  +
*(Johno): Damn it all to hell! I had everything under control. We were going to make it, but I just had to go searching for that town. What a stupid, bone-headed decision! It's not that the rumor was wrong. There are buildings, all right: crumbling, abandoned buildings that are half-buried in sand...and home to a group of damned dracthysaurs that attacked us on the way in. We managed to give them the slip by taking shelter in this big, circular building, but they've been circling it ever since. We've got enough supplies for nearly a week. Hopefully they'll lose interest before we start to run dry.
  +
*Warlene: I wouldn't count on it. Dracthysaurs look like the stubborn kind of predator.
  +
*Traden: You mean the one I call my girlfriend? (Rumshot as he laughed) I still love ya though. If anything, it's a compliment. (His chuckles turned to awkward chuckling and kept reading) Last page.
  +
*(Johno): The dracthysaurs haven't left. Not a single one since last night. They're fixated on us. Well if they want me so bad, they'll get it. I'm not foolhardy enough to fight them on my own, but I can at least insist that Rav take our mount. If things go south, then she'll have a chance to run. Rav, if that happens and you're reading this, don't go crying on my account. The time we've had is more than I could have hoped for. Besides, it'd be downright selfish of me to keep you to myself when you've got so much to offer the world. As for me, I've only got one true talent, and those ugly, overgrown lizards will find out just what that is when I drag them to hell.... Goodbye.
  +
*Traden:... There's dried blood on this page....
  +
*Warlene:... Damn. That must've been one hell of a way to die.
  +
*Traden:... Though... I feel, if he DID die, there would've been more blood. Plus, this guy sounds too hardy to die like that. I don't know about you, but my gut's telling me he's alive.... Somewhere.
  +
  +
===='''Who Is Dinia?'''====
  +
Lapse Wastes
  +
*Zosimo: Hey, guys? Come take a look at this. (Miami, Telthona, and Miami came up to him)... This appears to be an archive of some digital notes from a woman named...... Dinia Altories.
  +
*The group saw an accompanied holo image of the original writer of the notes.
  +
*Telthona:... She's a Skorner? Assuming this is her, I mean... Ya think she'd have more of a name pertaining to her race.
  +
*Miami: Maybe her parents wanted to mix it up or she was adopted?
  +
*Zosimo:... Let's check it out. Maybe it'll give us clues. (They turned it on and it displayed wild hologram screens around them)... Ooookay... It's one of THOSE kinds of hPads. (He accessed the archives)
  +
*(Dinia): I shouldn't be leading this group. Wow, that felt good to admit. If I'd kept that bottled up in my head any longer, my brain was going to explode.
  +
*Telthona: ".... Okay, did we ended up in another dimension, cause, I was NOT expecting this Skorner to talk so, nice."
  +
*Miami: "Hey, they can't all be medevil-speaking foul-tempered hissy hotheads."
  +
*(Dinia): I mean, I know why everyone's looking to me: I'm SGG Armed Forces. 'Fighting for a free and united Scyria', yadda yadda yadda, but I'm not one of the Spaethan-class types with supersoldier serums in them! Throw me in any squadron you want and I'll be your top stick, bet the house on it, just don't expect me to command the damned thing. All I can really do is try to keep everyone's spirits up, including the last of my own squad, Busty, Milidia, Joris, Qendru, and Grants. Sure we're in the ass-end of nowhere, but a smile and a few laughs can go a long way in even the worst of situations. Can't make rations out of it but hey, baby steps.
  +
*Miami:... A soldier. Okay, that's abit more expected from a Skorner. That should be interesting.
  +
*Telthona: Hard to say. She DID just say she's not one of the cool ones.
  +
*(Dinia): You know, this whole 'staving off the ever-looming spectre of despair' thing would be a lot easier without all the dinosaurs. Those raptor attacks aren't so great for morale. They seem smarter even by their intellectual levels. Maybe genetic engineering from the Scyrians or just a classic case of nature doing its thing in ways we can't comprehend? Not sure. At least the weather's holding up. We've had clear skies for three days now. It was a good idea to start giving people call-signs, too. Getting a new call-sign from my squadron always made me feel closer to them, whatever it was. Hopefully it works with this bunch. Grants, the newbie boy, suggested rubberneck for me, since I keep looking at the sky, but I can't help it. It really is gorgeous here. A perfect blue.
  +
*Telthona:... Well, she's not wrong. The skies are beautiful... But not here. They could melt your goddamn face off!
  +
*(Dinia): I feel so much lighter now! Sure, part of that might come from sleeping in an actual bed, but mostly I'm just relieved that my ragtag band of rascals is in better hands. Joris takes his job too seriously, Milidia is too smart for her own good, Busty gets himself into pickles for recognition, Qendru can be way too rough on us all, and Grants just wants to be appreciated as the rookie. This larger group we joined is way more organized. They've been setting up shelters, mining enhancelement and establishing a perimeter for weeks. Not surprising. One of the leaders is SGG Special Forces, after all. Weirdly, some of the people here are from the UIS, which should be half-in-half given me and their own reputation in-since we share the world with USRA-oriented races, but given our situation, even the Uissies are-being team players. Hope their momentary truce holds up when we get this fresh new gear up and running.
  +
*Nanobyte: UISSIES?!? (He laughed hysterically) This woman's got spunk! Let's TOTALLY make that a thing?!
  +
*Miami: "It might be a derogatory term though, so let's be sure to check with Solus first."
  +
*(Dinia): The more the camp's grown, the more tense things have become with the Uissies, so today I decided to break the ice. Whatever's happening between the USRA and UIS in the rest of the United Universe doesn’t matter, nor should it be relevant to the fact we're in a wild prehistoric world, unless nothing gets done here. We're all in this together, right? Of course, with my dumb luck, I didn't make nice with just any old Uissie. I unknowingly buddied up to Santrago. Yeah, as in the Santrago that's so famous he's only got one name, as in the guy who hacked into SGG Command one day and reverse-engineered our latest EN Armor the next. That Santrago. Turns out he's really into tech music. Super disappointed he's missing the new season of UUniversal Idol. Go figure.
  +
*Miami:... Hmm. Must've been quite the day for her.
  +
*Telthona: I don't see any clues here.
  +
*Zosimo: Well, be patient, and MAYBE we'll find some. If this file came from a big important-looking computer, we should get SOMETHING!
  +
*(Dinia): The top brass finally agreed on a plan today. According to our makeshift engineering corps, we've got the resources to cobble together an off-brand, flight-ready suit of EN Armor in a month or two. One person will then take that armor and leave in search of help: Me. I'm fully certified for EN Armor, as a girl who's been a useful scientist-soldier, so I've got a good shot at succeeding, and I'm pretty sure that my new buddy was the one who got the other Uissies on board. I was the only pick they could agree on. It's a lot of pressure, but this is the kind I like. No big group decisions, just a set of wings and an impossible mission. That's what Dinia Altories is all about.
  +
*Telthona: BOOOOOOORIIIIIIIII- (Nanobyte smacked her) OW! Did you just hit a cyborg, tiny?!
  +
*Nanobyte: "..... I just realised my mistake. (Nanobyte was later seen running and screaming as Telthona was chasing him and firing at him)!"
  +
*Telthona: "OH RELAX YOU BIG BABY, I'D SET THIS THING TO STUN?!"
  +
*Nanobyte: "YEAH BUT IT HURTS LIKE HELL?! (SCREAMS)?!"
  +
*Zosimo: "Ugggggh."
  +
One comedic chase later.
  +
*Zosimo: "You two got it out yer systems?"
  +
*Telthona/Nanobute: "Yes sir."
  +
*Zosimo: "Good."
  +
*(Dinia): Oh baby, did I miss real speed! And the sky! Missed you too, beautiful. That prototype jetpack might not compare to my trusty fighter, but the rush I got was way better than I'd hoped. Guess I've been stuck here for longer than I thought. Santrago's been joking about how much I owe him, but he's more right than he knows. I promised to bring him some music for the ride back to civilization. Least I can do for that little nerd. The full set of armor should be done by next week. Then it's finally showtime.
  +
*Zosimo:... I suppose this might've been her life before winding up here.
  +
*Telthona: Well, duh. Nobody cares about one's backstory like THAT.
  +
*Zosimo: Well, depending on if said backstory has anything useful. Every second learning counts.
  +
*(Dinia): So much for that. Less than a day after I set out, my mission hit a wall, or more specifically, an invisible energy barrier that extends around this entire area. Definitely in my bottom ten landings of all time, by the way. My shoulder's still feeling it. Once I reported back, I took Santrago to inspect the barrier. This barrier is supposed to keep this entire contained area which is labeled 'Adytum' for some reason and out of the wasted wasteland outside. He thinks it's also the culprit that's responsible for jamming our long-range signals. So basically, as long as this barrier exists, we have no way to reach outside this planet. We're completely isolated. And not in the UIS-prefered way. Maybe the obelisks are malfunctioning. Unless, of course, we find a way to fix it.
  +
*Zosimo:... Find it interesting now?
  +
*Telthona:... Well, it's, getting there.
  +
*(Dinia): We've finally found our target. Apparently the large obelisk overlooking Independence is attached to some crazy Scyrian teleportation tech, and each one is linked to a bigger signal high above us. But for some reason, it's sending a signal that's cutting us off. Whatever's up there is what we need to fix it. As a kinda 'governor' since I got that idea-stealing Reggus in his place, I feel it's my responsibility to do big things for Independence. Santrago says he can get us there by bypassing the security on one of the obelisk's platforms. Trouble is, we don't know what'll be waiting for us, and not everyone here's combat-ready. So we're going to take the diplomatic approach and make our mysterious hosts a present. The leaders don't want to risk spoiling the surprise, so we're discretely building it in pieces. The whole EMP bomb won't even be assembled until the minute the operation starts. Our hacker captor won't know what hit him. Once this bomb goes off, the obelisk should reset and we'll be free to leave to the outside again.
  +
*Telthona:... Tch, Reggus just triggered my predictable bad guy alert.
  +
*Nanobyte: Yeesh, Telthy, what got shoved up YOUR ass?
  +
*Telthona: Your mom.
  +
*Nanobyte: HEEEEEY?! IF IT WASN'T FOR YOUR GUN HANDS, I'D SMACKED YA AGAIN?!
  +
*Telthona: But seriously, I'm just a little flustered about this story moving too slow here.
  +
*Zosimo: Ugh, good grief, did you install a program into ya that makes ya like Vancer?! GIVE THE DANG THING SOME TIME?!
  +
*(Dinia): Months of planning, a squad of guys armed to the teeth and the biggest homemade EMP bomb you've ever seen... And yet, it was still like we ran into this like rookies. I don't think anyone could have been ready for that insane, shapeshifting whatever-it-was. If that wasn't bad enough, Reggus came and claimed he hacked the entire damn environment so that he could then use the Holonet to take over everything for turning him away. So much for that guy learning his lesson, and obviously he never would, so we had to.... '''''Discontinue''''' him.
  +
*Telthona: "Ain't that just like a Skorner to go for death."
  +
*(Dinia): He fell pretty quickly, but the AI attacked us as soon as we carted the package to the center of the platform and undo Reggus' little computer trick. We were getting taken out so fast that we just set the bomb on a short fuse and made a break for it. Less than half of us managed to dive off of the platform in time, and I could feel the heat of the electrical explosion as I fell. If I hadn't stabilized Santrago on the way down, he'd have been electric paste too. Of course with everything that's been happening since we blew up that platform, we all might be screwed anyway.
  +
*Telthona:... Well that was anti-climatic that the story's baddie went down like a bitch! Kinda disappointingly short too. Okay, granted, Skorners don't mess around, so-
  +
*Zosimo: There's more, and I don't think their home lived very long.
  +
*(Dinia): Things have gone sideways in a hurry, and I mean seriously FUBAR. Turns out Reggus thought WAAAAAYY ahead. Kinda one of his few useful traits. Just wished he wasn't such a prick about it! He had jettisoned all the power from the obelisk itself and concentrated it on the barrier itself. Detonating that EMP bomb didn't just weaken the barrier trapping us here, it malfunctioned it by overloading all the power in the damn barrier and it took out the whole freaking sky. Or at least the ozone layer above it. I'd give Reggus a lot more credit if it didn't feel like he was going to destroy more than he intended. Glad he's dead as mud. We're taking all we can carry and making a break for that cave system we discovered a while back. Without the ozone layer, the radiation is going to scorch Independence to a crisp. So we better make this quick.
  +
*Telthona:... Oookay, abit more like it then. I mean, sucks for the Skorner chick, but, more like it.
  +
*Zosimo: (Sighs) Geniuses these days. They had all the brilliance the cosmos can offer and they waste it wanting to put themselves into a platform to make people into peons?!
  +
*(Dinia): Looks like we made it just in time, despite the underwater caves full of crazy alien marine worm killers. I backtracked to take a peek at the surface, and it's now just one big fire. That's not a metaphor, I mean it's actually burning. I guess some combination of the radiation that's leaking through the barrier and reflected sunlight is turning it into our own private hellscape. That's not exactly the kind of thing you want in your backyard, so the plan is to keep delving into these caverns. The good news is that they're way bigger than we ever thought. We should be able to set up a pretty extensive base of operations, and after that... Better not think that far ahead. Chin up and eyes forward, soldier.
  +
*Nanobyte: Well, at least they're making the best of it. This place isn't that bad to look at either... If you ignore the predators and the poisonous shrooms.
  +
*(Dinia): Our base is looking pretty fancy these days. We even had enough spare enhancelement to whip up some genuine sleeping chambers. I'm feeling more rested than ever, yet somehow just as restless. There's no sky to lose myself in anymore, that's the problem. It's left me too much time to think.... It's been one hell of a time thinking, too. I was mostly a pilot in terms of my military experience, and in terms of being a governor, I messed up royal. Better take one of those gliders for a spin to clear my head. They're the only way to fly now that our jetpacks stopped working. Maybe I'll think of some dirtier jokes while I'm at it. Halister one-upped me on the last patrol and I can't let that stand.
  +
*Nanobyte:... That's sad that she messed up, overlooking a critical backup strategy... Good riddance Reggy is deader than dirt.
  +
*(Dinia): I always knew Santrago would come up with a new plan. His taste in pop idols might be questionable, but if anyone can figure this place out, it's him. After studying the obelisk in-depth, he's convinced that he can design an amped-up version of their teleportation tech that can connect to more distant contained environments. The radiation above was making signals all but impossible. We can't call for help. We're now more trapped than before. Figures. But Santrago said that, specifically, his new plan would be able to lock onto a signal we discovered a day after everything fell into s***. One that's on a slightly-different frequency than all the other obelisks we've detected. More importantly, it's far, far away from any of them, and it feels alien. The scale of this would be massive, we're talking years of work, but everyone agrees that it's our best move. Whatever's out there looks and feels like it'll change the world, and be the turning point of my career, and my chance to redeem my mistake. The Escape Project is officially underway. I was actually thankful of Santrago for being the only one to truly forgive me.
  +
*Miami:... Well, I admire her confidence.
  +
*(Dinia): I knew the Escape Project would be gigantic, but it's still amazing to see how it's grown. We're not even halfway done and it's already a sight to behold. The size is a product of how much power was needed to respond to this signal. The greater the distance, the greater the teleportation power to a Teadr 1 signal needed to be. Teadr-2 engineering of Teadr-1 technology has never been the easiest of scientific achievements, but it has been done many times before. Of course, that much power would be hard to find where we are, but we've got a solution for that too: the obelisk. That bad boy is still standing above the ruins of Independence, but they are tapped into this environment's main power supply, so in theory we can hijack that power for ourselves. The caveat is that we'd need a massive surge of it all at once, and we're not certain how to pull that off. We'll crack that code eventually, though. I'm sure of it. Santrago said it was a gutsy move, but he was gutsy enough to try it. I admire his own confidence. Somewhat like mine.
  +
*Miami:... Hmm... Looks like she's got a friend now.
  +
*(Dinia): Why do I always get picked to check on the obelisk? I really wish they'd send someone else for a change. Halister is the better candidate. He was the head of SGG Command after all. Every time I have to scale these stupid walls with climbing picks, I wish my armor's jetpack still worked, even though it hasn't for years. We never did figure out why they lost so much functionality after the catastrophe. Something new in the atmosphere maybe. or maybe cause of the obelisk being a technological shorce of all tech? If the second, well I just feel like an idiot for partially breaking the thing. It's still worth wearing when we brave the surface, but I just feel so slow in it. Oh! Speaking of armor, I found something weird on my last trip: a burnt-out chestplate and some even crispier remains of a Trawk. I don't know how, but I think we've got some new arrivals....
  +
*Telthona:... Okay, now it's truely getting my attention.
  +
*(Dinia): This woman, Meya Liu... she's not like anyone I've ever met, and not just because she's got some kind of warrior-poet instinct. It's those eyes. They're just so intense. It's like staring into a storm. She caused a real stir when we first brought her back to base with her pet monsters, especially since my team was apparently peeping on her when she was bathing. They have been feeling smitten with her ever since.... Especially Milidia. But anyway, everyone's used to her by now. Honestly, I think she trusts us way less than we trust her. She only seems to speak when she's doing chores, and she's always got one hand on that sword of hers. I guess that's what it takes to survive all alone like that, but hopefully she'll learn that it's okay to let her guard down. I mean, I understand this world is, not famous for community spirit, but, she can't always expect the worse. Maybe then I can really meet the person behind those eyes.
  +
*Telthona:... Given what she's been through on the island, I can imagine poor Meya's a little tense.
  +
*(Dinia): I don't think I really understood hard work until I met Meya. Whether she's learning how to operate holographic controls or working on her aim, she basically tries as hard as she can all the time, and she hates asking for help. Instead, she'll just scrunch her eyes and glare at whatever she's working on until she can think of a solution. It's kind of adorable, to be honest, though, I'm cautious to say it to her face... I don't know if that's some kind of gayness for her like Milidia, or platonic cute as her pet cergline Sho. The only time I think she takes it easy is when we're sparring. That really opened her up, by the way. She even gave me a call-sign, Aser, although she won't tell me what it means. Now, maybe it's because she doesn't know herself, but I'm not ruling out that it's cause of trust-issues and/or her reserved nature. I'd bet the answer on a match, but she'd kick my butt in a heartbeat if she got serious. Those muscles are cheat codes.
  +
*Nanobyte:... Sounds like she's been a gamer as a kid.... Either that or Santrago rubbing off on her.
  +
*Miami: "I won't rule out both being the case."
  +
*(Dinia): Well, looks like I'm off on another impossible mission. And it came from one HELL of a surprise. We found emissions from what could be hypercharged, crystallized enhancelement shards nearby, and we found it. We need those for the Escape Project's focusing lens, and we haven't been able to make them ourselves. Things seemed swell, until, of all people, REGGUS showed up out of nowhere, not only alive, but mutated beyond belief.
  +
*Nanobyte: "HAX?! I CALL HAX?!"
  +
*(Dinia): He said he fell in some purple stuff, and became this... Monstrosity. Regardless, he stole much of what we needed to get the Escape Project underway, killed Halister AND his squad, and took them in his hideout in some abandoned structures. Specifically, ones that a scout team spotted a while back. While we're still not sure who left them there, Santrago says that's where the emissions are. Thus, that's where Reggus is. The trouble is, we can't even survive down there without hazard suits, and half of that scout team got torn to pieces by the nastiest, ugliest creatures we've ever seen. This could get bumpy. It REALLY irks me on how much Reggus KEEPS making me hate him in-more levels then I was prepared to give! He blackmails me for that secret Scyrian map I was breaking curfew with for adventures in the orphanage, he steals all the work from a government science camp years later, and he even stole much of my ideas in the SGG Academy. Between this and his terrorist act, this is by far the worse he's ever gotten. Well, jokes on you, Reg. You screw around a Skorner too much, it's not gonna end pretty for you. Time for a showdown.
  +
*Telthona:... Yeah, I'm starting to get annoyed by that dingus too.
  +
*Nanobyte: "FREAKING, DITTO?!"
  +
*(Dinia): Mission Log: First Lieutenant Dinia Altories, SGG 89th Fighter Squadron. I'm leaving this for the record, in the event of mission failure. All except my favorite five in my squad are lost. We're the last remaining assets. I was able to confirm that Reggus is in the ruins, and I have encoded the coordinates within this message. I'm going to leave this behind, and then we'll make one last run at it. Oh, and if someone could read this to Meya: Sorry I'll never make good on that jet ride. You'd have loved it, I promise.
  +
*Telthona:... Now I'm IMMEDIATELY hooked!
  +
*(Dinia): I finally finished the necklace for Meya. I could have had someone else make it, but that wouldn't have felt right, not after all Meya went through to help me. At first I was worried she didn't like it, but it turns out that she just felt guilty for receiving a gift without giving one. Typical, right? So in exchange, I finally learned what Aser meant. Apparently, it's the Zoian name for some kind of poisonous fruit. This whole time, she's been calling me a poisonous fruit. Ugh, I feel like it's because of my race's allegiance to UIS and that she thinks being with me is bad publicity. In a planet not known for civilization status. Granted though.... Not the crudest call-sign I've had though, and totally worth it for that look on her face. She was so embarrassed. Though that's not the strangest thing that happened today. When me and Santrago were devising another plan to take out Reggus and get what he stole back, me and I were... Acting all weird. Seriously, I can't comprehend what happened in that lab. It was very spontaneous. We were laughing, finishing each other's nerdy sentences, saying them at the same time, and sharing similar knowledge. It was like we were the same person. It even seemed like we felt a spark. In that moment, I almost leaned in and... You know. But I don't think we both understand how we feel. Not completely. Not yet. That's okay. For once, I'm not in a rush. Once we step through that gateway, we'll have all the time in the world.... Seriously, though we might want to be separate for a while.
  +
*Telthona:... Huh. They're totally in love.
  +
*Nanobyte: Hehe. Nerd love. The craziest kinda love there is.
  +
*(Dinia): We finally got the parts we needed from Reggus... Or at least one of them. Though we killed Reggus (Hopely for GOOD this time) and lost much of our mounts, he seemed he survived and followed us back and killed much more of them. He enraged that animal of a woman Meya into a feral rage and she freaking impaled him.... Right in the heart.... I guess I should be grateful I have someone like her around. But this is where it gets frustrating. He hid the other pieces across the underworld, in the most treacherous of locations no less. Oy. Even in death, he never stops adding a new level of how much I lose reason to believe he has anything redeemable in him!
  +
*Telthona: Well, good for them, they got one part back....
  +
*(Dinia): Things have been recovering pretty well. We managed to get the parts back, and we've been sitting in well. I say well a lot, but there's little ACTUALLY well in a place like Lapse Wastes. It's hell and heaven down here. But that's kinda the joy of it, according to Santrago. Speaking of which... We talked about the other day, and... I guess we got way too honest. These past few days have really made our bodies go wild, because out of nowhere, we kissed. Now we're a couple. Gotta say, that Xuron-Aectoid hybrid must've had a lot of girls in his life. Though admittingly had he been a true Xurun, this would've been a more scandalous affair all things considered about current politics. Not to say this wasn't already crossing a line in terms of strict-professionalism. The scene the others would've made, espeically Halister. Never mind what traditionalist Skorners would say about this. But, it could've been worse. I could've been getting the hots for a Tiiken. Now, FYI to any stranger, I'm not apart of the "Hate Tiikens" group, but I'm not afraid to admit that the idea of our kind dating eachother, even if you put the UIS/USRA junk aside, all things considered in our history, is BEYOND out of the question. Too many personal baggages about that. Then again, so does getting the hots with someone who's only a hybrid of sorts of a USRA race. I get the whole we're supposed to have a professional relationship and that unwarranted bonds make you lose focus, but.... I feel like Santrago doesn't really care for rules. He kisses like a bachelor... Or someone else who had so many girlfriends in his life. But still... I had never expected to fall in love with a nerd like him. When I first met him, he was just a famous hackster. Now... I see a lot of me inside him.... Glad I've got someone to share this plan with when it's all over.
  +
*Telthona: Yep. Called it.
  +
*Zosimo: Telthona! This isn't a soap opera.
  +
*Nanobyte: "To be fair, the way it's going, it kinda would go perfectly for one."
  +
*Telthona: Also, you GOTTA make it one if you're going to get through a serious mission, to avoid going insane with PTSD or something.
  +
*Zosimo:... I'm starting to think you DID put in a Program that makes ya like Vancer?!
  +
*(Dinia): Seems that Meya has brought in some special friends. She claims they're people she met on this island she told me about.... Though one of them was quite the shocker. It was a Tiikon. Now, again, I'm not with the "Hate Tiikons" crowd, but... It was, awkward to ran into someone who's apart of a rival race that, shall we say, my people had ancient reasonings in believing that they were some cosmic insult. Granted, Heli was, polite as she can be with me, but, awkwardness kept both of us from, well just saying hi. Thankfully, she wasn't a Tiikon with a bone to pick with my people, but, she, understandably kept anxious and cautious around me. I, don't blame her. I can only imagined her first experience with Skorners, it might either be a traditionalist or a Skorner with a Tiikon hate-boner, heaven forbid both! It took me a while to trust the one called Heili Runner, especially since she had a Chredder with some odd look in his eye. But in time, I grew on them.... Well, I felt like I got along with Heli better. The Chredder, named Stonewell, has some strange ego to him, and knows about these 'Adytum' things we all live in. He was asking me so many questions. How could he not? This place is new to anyone. I told him about our enhancelement experiments and about our Escape Project, but he seemed too fixated on the enhancelement and glowcharge experiments.... I, have abit of caution of his eagerness, for much of a fellow science person I am. I told Heili I'd look after him when he requests to be part of the experiments.
  +
*Nanobyte:... And just when I was about to ask about Heili and Stonewell.
  +
*(Dinia): Heili is quite the... Eccentric character. Meya said she was always like this when they met on the island, as she liked to delve too much into animal feces, even when I told her that's how biologists analyze an animal's diet. Meya's opinion: She considers it easier to watch the animal actually eat the thing instead of messing with poop. Sometimes, I admire Meya's simplistic approach to life. She was getting a good crash course on our EN Armor, as she, Meya, and Santrago were supposed to go to the surface and fix some kind of malfunction on the obelisk that caught our attention when she told me and Meya about what apparently happened in some crater desert and how an obelisk destroyed it's strongest city, leaving its leader a dracthysaur-riding legendary vigilante for decades. Not sure why the obelisks do that, but Heili claimed it was to help curb each environment should it end up with a tyrant like this Nervay person Meya talked about.
  +
*Zosimo:... Well, I suppose if you're looking for some kind of story, Telthona, here it is.
  +
*Telthona: Meh. I don't even care anymore.
  +
*(Dinia): As I wished Santrago luck and they went to the obelisk to not only reroute the power to our Escape Project and finally get us to the source of the unknown signal, I continued to watch over Stonewell. He's become more... Well... Engrossed with the enhancelement, which he kept calling 'Stonewellium'. Kinda a needless rename since Enhancelement works fine, but when I brought that to him, he scoffed and quoted "Well if you want to speak in outdated lingo, be my guest.". I'm, concerned for Heli's taste in friends if she's hanging out with this guy.
  +
*Nanobyte: "From what I'm hearing so far, that's not an unreasonable assumption."
  +
*(Dinia): He's been providing us with the best weaponry and technology enhancelement and glowcharge can give us, but he's become obsessed with it. He went with a team of scientists to the molten enhancelement pits deep underground, and the two pods containing all the sample he could get were... Really starting to change him. Maybe it's paranoia, but... I might need to talk to the council about limiting his supplies and privileges for his own sake.
  +
*Miami: No argument here, that guy seemed a little too ambitious for his own good. Even Clifton says he sounds like bad news if he's infamous enough to have even his name spook people.
  +
*(Dinia): My teammates have actually went on their own wild and wacky adventure, and they almost died if not for Digisurrection. Unfortunate that I don't have insurance to be resurrected, but hey, I am a trained soldier. I can handle myself. They sure had a story to tell too. Though it made me hooked, I really couldn't be bothered to remember it. At least I listened to it. I swear, these five could make their own show if they could.
  +
*Miami: To be fair, they do SOUND like cartoon characters.
  +
*(Dinia): Things just went insane pretty quick. Though I cut off much of Stonewell's assets, he ended up testing his enhancelement subjects on poor little Sho. He said it could've helped with Reggus, but I was unable to tell him previously that Meya killed him already, though he argued he might not have been dead. (Please don't put that thought in my head). Still, me and the council had to forbid him any access to enhancelement after finding out he's been sneaking some samples and melting them down, and cut him from ANY animal trials. I kept telling him it was for his own good, but the man seems really stubborn. I swear, that stubbornness is going to get him in serious trouble someday. How is he even friends with Heili and Meya anyway?
  +
*Nanobyte: Eeeyeeeeeaaahhhhh, I wouldn't say 'friend', but Heili would.
  +
*Miami: "I feel like Heli is abit of, an over-friendly optimist."
  +
*(Dinia): The entire village is on red alert! As I record this, something has happened to Stonewell. I think he's been stashing enhancelement and, without any test subjects, he resorted to testing it on himself. He's slaughtering people in the village, but was cursing about Heili, claiming he was the rightful genius, not her. I'm getting the feeling he and Heli might not be in good terms anymore. I don't know what's swirling around in his head, but it has to stop. I might not make it out alive, so I must contact Heili, Meya, and Santrago if I can and call for help.... If Stonewell doesn't kill me fi-
  +
*Telthona:... Well, in that case, I guess he found her. Though... Wow. Injecting himself with enhancelement? Clifton was right.
  +
*Miami:... I suppose she didn't live-
  +
*Zosimo: Wait... There's two more logs here.
  +
*Telthona:... Play em.
  +
*(Dinia):... It's a miracle... My own squad had actually taken my body and put it into a healing tank. Now we're running like hell from Stonewell. Just as they were cleaning up and ready to join Heili, Meya, and Santrago through the Escape Portal, they noticed Stonewell surviving his fall, and headed this way while they were simultaneously healing me. They took my healing pod with them too while they were retreating. Seemed that in their own independent adventure, they found some kind of... Chamber. Whatever it was, it was meant to act like an enhancelement tank. They said that they had a plan to imprison Stonewell into it so we all could keep him out of our journey and he couldn't follow us through the portal. But he seemed to catch onto us quicker than expected. I hope those five could hurry the hell up with their plan so we can get the hell out of here.
  +
*Telthona:... Okay, okay, okay...
  +
*(Dinia):... My crew is gone.... They sacrificed themselves to save me. They managed to trap Stonewell in the tank, but he dragged them in with him. They said I didn't have time to save them and risk being caught with Stonewell. They urged me to run. With no other choice, and after having survived one death, my legs were telling me they were right. So I ran as fast as my little legs could carry me, and all I could hear behind me was my friends screaming and the tank being shut upon them and Stonewell.... For the world outside... I'll fight for them and the sacrifice they made to imprison a potentially-great threat like Stonewell.
  +
*Telthona:... Damn.
  +
*Zosimo: This file says this isn't the end for her. There's another archive of her. But it's not here.
  +
*Telthona "D'AWWWWWW, A FREAKING CLIFF-HANGER?! I HATE THOSE?!"
  +
*Miami: Everybody does, Telthona. Everybody does.
  +
  +
(Later...) Ar Cretacion
  +
*Telthona: Hey, guys? I found Dinia's second log.
  +
*Zosimo:... Why is it so easy to find these guys journal entries?
  +
*Nanobyte: I don't know. Maybe Heili and the others wanted someone to read them in this wasteland?
  +
*Zosimo: Well, like Miria said, we could use all the information we can get. (He activated the hPad)
  +
*(Dinia): I still can't believe I'm really alive. And even if I wasn't, this doesn't look like any hell I've ever heard of, and I feel like heaven would have better groundskeeping. But still, I made it through the Escape Project. I remember my teammates sacrificing themselves to keep Stonewell from following us here and potentially threatening the world.... But now I'm here, butt-ass naked and... Glad that Santrago isn't around to see me exposed like this. But yeah, I'm glad I'm alive regardless, and in some kind of... Teadr 1 city inside the biggest outside wasteland I've ever seen. So, before I head out, I'd better make myself some clothes, and maybe some kind of ointment.
  +
*Nanobyte:... Alright, she made it this far, at least. Good for her.
  +
*(Dinia): This wasteland... It feels so... Weird. The Scyrian inscriptions told me that this giant technologically-advanced city was the Scyrians' capital city during their days. I admit, it was beautiful. I always thought of Ar Cretacion as a silly scientist's tale. Yet here it is, in all it's splendor.... Well... What's left of it, anyway. Since this was by proxy the best kind of shelter I could afford in this wasteland, I kept telling myself to go in, so that I did.
  +
*Nanobyte:... Well, that's what I would've done too, honestly.
  +
*(Dinia): All right, time to pull the plug on all this soul-searching crap. I'm not entirely sure that I'm going the right way, even if I managed to take a quick picture of a large mapboard I found in the ruined streets. But this place does seem to give me all that I need to survive with whatever crazy gadgets I can pull out of my butt. I've got some basic equipment together now, and based on my surroundings, I'm definitely going where I should be going. That means if the Escape Project was indeed as successful as intended, then Santrago, Heili, Meya, and the others are somewhere out there. All I have to do is find them. They could really use my help, so I hope they can hang on for a little longer in this hellscape. I'm on my way!
  +
*Miami: Well, go get em, triger.
  +
*(Dinia): I have been going across Ar Cretacion in circles, and I have actually managed to memorize all of it... Except for this one area. Though there are pretty good excuses for that. When it comes to dealing with these security drones and general survival, I'm on my own, but that's nothing I can't handle. This city's got tons of cover if I need it and good vantage points for scouting ahead, so shaking off any bogeys shouldn't be a problem. I've got to say though, after all that work we put into escaping the Lapse Wastes, it's kind of a drag that the planet isn't any better off. Figures, right?
  +
*Telthona: Yeah... Figures...
  +
*(Dinia): I suppose in some twisted way, this city kinda serves as the ultimate fate of having too much of a good thing. A bunch of crumbling, overgrown big-scaled buildings, crawling with all the insects we left behind? I guess you can't say no one warned us. I suppose it's glad we didn't take enhancelement the same path as this planet, or we'd end up like them or Stonewell. But even knowing it could've gone down like this, I don't think anyone could even do anything different. Regrets aren't even my style. Besides, there's a few of us sentient beings still kicking, though some of us may be descended from Teadr 7-regressed beings cultivated in these environments. Who knows, someday these buildings could be full and spruced up again, but until then I get a spacious corner apartment rent free. Not too shabby.
  +
*Nanobyte: Yeah. Lucky Skorner, she sure is.
  +
*(Dinia): They were here, no doubt about that. There's scoring from high-tech weapons all over, and while I can't pin down exactly how old they are, the gaps they burned in the foliage mean they're not ancient. The caliber on some of these are huge though, way bigger than a rifle. Don't tell me Santrago built a freaking tank! Though that would be totally cool, it'd also mean he'd be compensating for his loss of me. But, guess I'll find out soon enough. I can just follow the carnage and I should find where it ultimately goes. Whatever it is, and whatever shenanigans that charming hackster got himself in, I'd better take a careful approach. I'm not exactly brimming with firepower, and I don't have Meya's gift for taming animals, so I'm all alone here. Can't afford any dumb mistakes.
  +
*Miami: Well, get going!
  +
*Zosimo: Are you seriously telling Dinia to do what this voice in her head is already doing?
  +
*Miami: Hey, let me have a laugh.
  +
*(Dinia): You really outdid yourself with this mech, Santrago. Even busted up and slumped against a building, it's one impressive machine, and it looks like you made sure it went down swinging. He carved his own name here as a grave of sorts, AND he killed what looks like Titos babies. The parents must've been pissed. Would've been a blast to put it through its paces together, like we did with that EN Armor when we first met. It's not right that you died here all alone, after everything you did. But I was fortunate you still had life signs, though some given those Titos got your wounds infected with enhancelement. I was able to built up some kind of tank to keep you in stasis until I can do something. I couldn't heal you with a healing tank since this enhancelement infection is too great. It's corrupted you to the genetic level. I might as well have to turn you into a robot. An android. Still, this was ballsy, even for you. The Escape Project gave us hope for the future, and you made it possible. But you don't deserve a death like this. Not without a proper lifetime of a goodbye. I'll bring back the man I love, and I'll make this all count. Bank on it.
  +
*Miami: Hey, she didn't lose her boyfriend. Good for her!
  +
*Nanobyte: Yeah, I thought for sure she was gonna be alone this entire journey... Well, at least until she met back up with her friends.
  +
*(Dinia): It was crazy, but Santrago started talking to me through his psychokinesis. He's still unconscious, but I believe it's him nonetheless. His brain's pretty damn nuts. He pressed me to fix his mech, and it certainly took a beating, but with a little more work, I think I can get this beauty running again. It won't take long to get used to the controls, either. They were clearly designed so that even someone without a single hour in a simulator could take the wheel on a more basic level, but there's a lot of advanced settings here too. I'll have it dancing like a fifty ton ballerina in no time. It's enough to make a girl giddy. Santrago, if you were standing awake right now, I'd kiss you longer than I have before. You certainly deserve more than this, so I'll just have to do what I can showing off what your latest brainchild can really do. Hope you watch me in your current condition.
  +
*Telthona:... This woman really DOES have spunk.
  +
*(Dinia): Systems online and engines purring. My Mech is go for launch, so whatever did this to him better watch its ass. Payback's coming. I'm competent enough with EN Armor and a rifle, but if you really want to see me make magic happen, put me inside a cockpit. I might specialize in fighters, but I've aced all the simulations with just about every vehicle in the SGG arsenal. It doesn't matter if it's got wheels, wings or legs, with a machine like this at my fingertips, there's no such thing as impossible. All right, Santrago, keep the location of your buddies locked for me. Reinforcements are en route, and you'd better believe we're bringing the thunder, as a couple. I'm going to be holding my love in his pod the entire way.
  +
*Telthona: WOWEE, I SURE KNOW SHE'S GONNA DIE LIKE A BADASS!
  +
*(Dinia): It took one hell of a hassle, but my timing couldn't have been better. I followed Santrago's telepathic guidance until I came across some of the corrupted animals having our entire crew against a wall. Given what Santrago caught me up on, it's gonna be a hell of a challenge to take on a hive-mind. I'm still not entirely sure what else it's capable of, but all it's forces are now is a big meat salad. As for the survivors, they cheered for the both of us when they were relieved we were both alive. Then I finally came across the hypnotic tempest in the eyes of Meya, and the rather curious eyes of Heili. Considering I came all the way back from the brink of death, I probably should have had a better line in my back pocket than, "Miss me, bitches" But hey, I sure didn't hear anybody complaining.
  +
*Miami: That's a pretty good greeting to follow up with after nearly dying.
  +
*Telthona: PBBBBBBBBT, I would've said it.
  +
*(Dinia): That Meya held out with her comrades for so long, it might be a bigger miracle than my second chance at life, since the monsters out here could kill them in an instant. Dumb luck, I say. But hey, they're alive, that's all I care about. When the elation wore off, they explained that they were looking for the source of the signal that brought us all here, and they were going in circles, which is why they were in that debacle with the corrupted animals when I found them. I can see the hell they dragged themselves through in the rings beneath their eyes and the bruises on their body, not to mention the shape of their entire crew, some of which I didn't recognize, so I was gonna say they were part of the Base that Santrago said he took leadership over when their original leader died of enhancelement poisoning. Just how many battles has they fought out here before I showed up and after Santrago's death? Well that ends today. After all they've done or been through, they've earned their rest. It's my turn to take point.
  +
*Miami: Yes, yes, your allies definitely need you. Going in circles and nearly dying from misdirection, could frustrate and kill them... And it almost did.
  +
*(Dinia): Meya's been getting me caught up with what happened after Santrago nearly died, while I got them caught up with how I was saved and my teammates sacrificed themselves to keep Stonewell from following us here. But Meya seems a little... Delirious lately. She's grown an unfettered hatred for enhancelement. Now she calls it 'hell metal'. If she's referring to the enhancelement that's infecting everything around us when she says that, then whatever circumstances made her start doing it must've been a pretty traumatizing one. Long story short, she seeks to destroy it all for what it did to the animals she could share an empathic connection to. Of course, I was recently saved from near-death and saved my boyfriend putting him through his own near-death. that was supposed to be FROM Heili. We really are meant to be together through s*** like that.
  +
*Miami:... Heh. Cheesy, but I guess that's all she could think to write.
  +
*Nanobyte: PBBT!
  +
*(Dinia): Well, after this odd choice of electing, it was time to move out, at least if this jury could even be trusted. If you ask Meya, it shouldn't be. After all she went through with the 'hell metal', I get why she'd be a little hesitant with the machines we taught her to use now. Seems that they just found the source of the signal, and Heili started to become hysterical. She said that the Overwatcher of that place almost killed her. What a sick circumstance to elect going there for her. Regardless, I could tell that many of the others didn't want to go in there either. But, we kinda had to. All our effort was for this, and we wouldn't want to waste it because of a bunch of bed-wetters.
  +
*Nanobyte: Yeah, that'd be a pretty big waste.
  +
*Miami: Well, at this point, even if they all wanted to go in it's clear that they knew nothing could really kill them, even if they tried.
  +
*Zosimo: No kidding, considering the cartooniness of these UUniverses.
  +
*(Dinia): Well, Heili got what she needed, and the story of the Scyrians... Kinda got Meya riled up. Not that I blamed her. I saw the effects of genetic madness from Stonewell alone. Since then, we've all been travelling together for a couple days now until we finally made a camp. Meya hasn't really been seen for a while, and even when Base Cretacion was wrecked, she still perched herself atop that Blackdiamond Tower place like a great bird of prey. I've been using the Mech many times to get more used to it, and I even met the head of the Base's security, a Brutan named Zuken. You could REALLY grind meat on his abs. Plus, I had to talk to Meya a bit about... Some feelings she's seemed to have for me. I mean, I'm flattered, but... Hey, she does scare me sometimes. Santrago's got some tough brains, and he's gotten us all this far, but so has she to be frank. But honestly, I favor Santrago more, and I see Meya more like a sister-in-arms the same way she does. Not helping that I met her because my teammates saw her naked in the water. A pretty awkward way to meet her, quite frankly. So while any good pilot has to watch their wingman's six, they also have to trust their ability to handle themselves when I was trying to use Santrago's Mech to do exactly what he seemed to theorize could unlock the unlocked potential strength of these Mechs. If she's constantly trying to save me, our Mechs are going to end up stomping on each other's toes and keep that from happening. I think she's starting to understand that.
  +
*Nanobyte:... Heh. Glad they actually got that all cleared up.
  +
*(Dinia): Over the past few months, Meya has been balancing out Heili's sudden obsession with these five artifacts she found with time training me. Now that we're fighting in sync, we've been able to handle any threat this place has thrown our way, preparing for the big boss. Piece of cake! Those big guys though, like the Titoses she said have been corrupted too, they might be trouble in a sustained fight. But based on what Meya and Santrago told me and the hidden systems I've discovered inside this puppy, Santrago has already built the perfect counter for them. He said before that originally, there were four of these Mechs, and they were designed to fuse together into one giant, badass superweapon. With firepower like that, we'd smoke those lumbering giants in an instant, but unfortunately two of the Mechs were abandoned in battle. Too bad, I'd have loved to take it for a spin.
  +
*Zosimo:... So why don't you? Maybe those Mechs are still preserved... Right?...
  +
*(Dinia): I went back to the remains of Base Cretacion Alpha with Santrago hitching a ride in my mind, and... Unfortunately, none of the remaining Mechs survived.
  +
*Zosimo: DAMMIT!
  +
*(Dinia): Though despite that, I think I can see where this could go. Meya claimed that perhaps the Titos Rex saw we were a threat and thwarted our progress with the Mega Mech before it could be fully completed. Even Santrago agreed to that since the corrupted animals seem to behave like an intelligent hive-mind. I even through a hissy fit when I found out I missed his birthday, even when Santrago said it was a day of hell to him and it interrupted his progress, saying that if that never happened, they would've completed the Mega Mech early. Where this could go, I have no idea. We just need to keep our wits about us, and do some more digging.
  +
*Zosimo:... Okay.
  +
*(Dinia): This was certainly one hell of a journey. The Titos Rex with the enhancelement awareness core in his chest attacked our camp, and I was blinded by Heili's last-ditch effort in using those artifacts to drive it and it's Titos army away. When the sights were clear, Meya and Heili disappeared. I immediately took to my Mech when I found that her's was gone too. Santrago even asserted that he could locate where they'll go, and we should find them. Luckily, we found them... Or rather, Meya found us being assailed by some freaky megahybrid plant giant. She hacked at as many corrupt animals as she could and we all did our part. Soon, the giant tree monster fell, and we saw Heili in her... Ascending Tomb, state... Vanish into nothing.... We spent a few days processing this, and... Now we have found some new identical signal to the one the Overwatcher had. It warned us of the Titos Rex's approach, so we were able to get out of dodge just in time. That alone convinced me that THIS signal could be trusted, regardless if Meya wasn't completely on board with it. But we had to check out something. Now, I can't make out all the details yet, but there's a bunch of communication arrays that stand out against the horizon. Could be military, like a command post or major communications relay. Whatever force is guiding us along with this second signal bought itself a lot of trust by warning us about Titos Rex, but now that our destination is within reach, I'm starting to get curious. What does it want us to do when we get there? Are there other survivors that we can contact with those arrays? For once, I'm not getting a response to my questions, even from Santrago. Maybe we're supposed to find out for ourselves... Or maybe we should go in there with safeties off.
  +
*Zosimo: Eeeh, I vote more on the latter.
  +
*(Dinia): At first I thought the source of the signal was a building structurally resembling a bunker. The walls look durable enough to withstand a few dozen megatons of force, and they're built to last. That alone told me it was important, but it was nothing compared to the sprawling, circular control center we found inside, that teleported us directly to ANOTHER spire like the Overwatcher's. Rows of consoles cascade out from middle of the halls, and the walls are lined with massive screens. While everything here's wearing a fine coat of dust, I see lights flashing and status reports flowing. This entire facility is still operational, and it's the heart of everything we've been through. The environments we were on are all being monitored right here. Guess I know what we're here for now. Better roll up my sleeves, this is going to be a ton of data to sort through.... Wait. Better hold this off, I think I heard something.
  +
*Telthona: Good she's making some real progress.
  +
*(Dinia): I was mysteriously met with not just the surviving Heili, who says she's now pure enhancelement AND data... But she's accompanied by ANOTHER AI. This one was nothing like the Overwatcher, and we were all in some kind of virtual chamber. Heili couldn't exist physically in her current state just yet, but in the meantime, this Overwatcher explains that the other Overwatcher we encountered is faulty and that they were both backup copies of the leader of the Scyrian race and the leader of the resistance against keeping, well, what just happened to the planet, from happening, all created without permission in case of malfunction. The original Overwatcher of Scyr was corrupted by the Titos Rex and she managed to save the Seeding Protocol from being deleted. Now she needed help. She and Heili. Heili calls the environments 'Adytums', and that they were meant to restore life to the planet. That's consistent with what I've found around this planet including what 'Adytum Project' meant, but there's a problem. The Seeding Protocol, the final step of the restoration process, is being blocked by what it calls 'Enhancelement Toxicity Rating'. Now that I think about it, there are a ton of enhancelement veins out there, way more than I remember in my previous times on the outside wastelands. It must have spread across the whole planet quicker than now. Probably the enhancelement core inside of Titos Rex. Based on these readings, it even infected the lower layers of its crust. After witnessing what raw enhancelement can do to a living thing first hand, I can see how that'd be a problem. It looks like the Adytums have some built-in tech to reduce the ETR around them once the conditions have been met and they open their barricades for the detoxified planet, but right now it's just too high for them to handle. Something's spreading it, and protecting it to boot. The Titos Rex, obviously. So, I know what has to be done.
  +
*Xandy: HEY! Is that the last part of this story?! (The other story readers appeared plowing upon each other comically)
  +
*Radcliff: Yeah, we want to see how this all ends if THIS is how it actually is.
  +
*Slade: Oh, uh, can you catch us up from the beginning?
  +
*Zosimo:... (Sighs)...
  +
French Narrator: One Rewind Later...
  +
*Zosimo:... Alright, here's where we left off.
  +
*Miria: Good.
  +
*(Dinia): I have managed to unlock the locked files on the data collected from the Overwatcher's spire, which is also called the Scyr Spire, and we have enough to stop the Titoses. The Overwatcher was close, but it clearly needs sentient aid since this enhancelement was now too smart for basic cleansing. These corrupted Titoses remind me of combat drones. This data shows that Overwatcher had analyzed and tracked the Titoses' general migration patterns, and to my eye, they're almost like troop movements. When they decide to swarm something, they come from all over, like something's commanding them. Titos Rex, obviously. Not to mention they spread enhancelement everywhere they go. So basically, before the Seeding Protocol can be triggered, the corrupted Titoses need to be eliminated. The friendly Overwatcher, Sydus, says that she hoped that Johnna Runner would help her handle this, before Scyr, the bad Overwatcher, had her killed. Normally I'd be all gung ho about an impossible mission like this, but the number of Titoses we'd have to take down is nuts. Meya, the spontaneously arriving and surviving Zuken, the now-fully-healed Santrago, and I might be a killer power group, if I do say so myself, but even we'd die of old age before we ever made a dent in the the corrupted population. There must be something we can do though. I did find lots of references to a place called 'Ererit Prime' off on the other side of the planet. Looks promising, but... But it seems too important, so we can't let the Titoses be lead there. We'll have to do this with just us right now.
  +
*Miria:... Hmmm. Eririt Prime, huh?
  +
*Xandy: Eririt? Isn't that the flying continent in that religious story about an apocalyptic flood and lifeboats and such? Heh. Clever naming.
  +
*Stephanie: Well... I believe we may have the location of these characters we're looking for.
  +
*Miria: I believe so, too.
  +
*(Dinia): Now that we know what Heili and the Overwatcher of this Sydus Spire actually want from us, Meya and I had a long talk about our next steps while Santrago secretly tested out his new android body by raiding the Scyr Spire for more clues the Overwatcher's been hiding from us. On the one hand, after going through the ringer, it's awfully tempting for all of us to settle down and just enjoy the apocalypse together. On the other hand, I've got a sacrifice to repay, and keeping Scyria from dying seems kind of important. I do live here, after all. Who am I kidding? I was always voting for the dangerous option. As for Meya, I guess she's actually been hearing her own inner conscious of honor these days, and amazingly that's all the convincing it took. She says she trusts the way her honor would want her to do, and this should no doubt be what her family in Yiditra would have wanted. We must be out of our freaking minds to do this, but hey, at least we're all going mad together.
  +
*Xandy: (She giggled) That's cute.
  +
*Iago: TOOTSIE ROOOOOOOLLLL- (He was blasted by a stun blast from Xandy) AAOW!!
  +
*(Dinia): Things have taken a bit of a turn, or rather we've taken one, in the exact opposite direction of that absurdly huge lizard we spotted that's supposed to be the Titos Rex itself, the tyrant of this enhancelement dictatorship. As big as those Titoses are, they're puny compared to this big guy, and according to Meya, he packs a punch to match. She would know, she fought it before, when it killed all my other friends except my new one Zuken, apparently. I was way too focused on not dying to notice, and it's core can't be impaled so easily. While that means I owe him some retribution, it also means we're seriously outgunned. Unfortunately, he keeps following us even when we change course, like he's got our scent. He's still a day or two behind us, but eventually he'll catch up. When he does, we need to have an escape plan, because barring a serious upgrade in firepower... Wait. Maybe we have that after all...
  +
*SpongeBob: WELL, GET IT OUT, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!!!
  +
*Xandy:... You totally took the words out of my mouth.
  +
*(Dinia): Well this is an all or nothing gamble. Sydus said that the two other Mechs back at Base Cretacion are actually easily preservable. What a miracle if I'm being perfectly honest. The Titoses that attacked the base were only a family after all, so there's a chance they can be saved after all. If we can get them up and running somehow, then we can fuse all four of them and form Santrago's super weapon. With the damage these Mechs have sustained and only two pilots, it won't be at full capacity, but lucky for us I'm the top ace in the whole damn SGG. As long as the engine's running and the guns are loaded, I can give us a chance. Okay, break's over. From here on, we're heading towards that battlefield at full burn, now that Santrago saying he has a surprise for us that he says he'll bring out once we get the Mechs back.
  +
*Miria:... Alright. Here it comes. Here's where we might understand what we're in for and what we're up against.
  +
*(Dinia): I'd been bracing myself for this ever since we set out, but the sight of decaying corpses and shattered equipment was still hard to take. I knew everyone here for years, they were basically my new family. Pulling a few of them out when looking around almost triggered the water works. I can't mourn just yet though. There's no time, and I don't want to give Meya any more reasons to blame herself. What happened wasn't her fault, she made the right call. If she'd thrown her life away instead of escaping when she had the chance, we wouldn't have a shot at payback at all. So for now, we've got to put the blinders on and keep each other focused. S***. It sounds so easy when I write it down.
  +
*Hudson: It does. It REEEALLY does.
  +
*(Dinia): Yes! Hell yeah! They actually started! They're still pretty banged up, even with the repairs, but both of the abandoned Mechs are operational. Now we've just got to fuse all four of them together. We've got time to spare too. Our guest of honor is still a ways off. The Titos Rex himself is coming, but he's as slow as a tank, like it's inevitable that we're going to roll over and die for him. Well guess what, asshole? The only thing that's gonna roll here is that nasty looking head of yours. Man, my blood is pumping just thinking about it, but I'd better rein it in. When that thing gets here, I'm going to need every ounce of adrenaline I've got. But... The problem here is that, according to Sydus' readings, Titos Rex is too powerful thanks to a billion years of adapting. We'd need a miracle to... Wait... I heard Santrago screaming in his lab. Better hold up.
  +
*Vancer: Wow. He must've screamed like a bitch.
  +
*Xandy: Really, Vance?
  +
*Clifton: Huh? She sounds rather jumpy on this next log. Look.
  +
*(Dinia): Santrago, you crazy little genius, I owe you another kiss. This baby's beautiful! I've never seen a weapon like it. The Mechs fused so completely that it's as if they were never separated at all, and the power this combined, the Mega-Mech is packing is off the charts. Even though it's only at 70% capacity, and Sydus says that it doesn't have the enhancelement fuel necessary for the job, as she said that the only way to keep the enhancelement from spreading intelligently, is to kill the core. But that gave me an idea. A brilliant idea. Enhancelement. It fuels our big-ass Mega-Mech... So... What if we used the enhancelement all around us as a fuel source. This idea had me mobbed by everyone for how genius it was. Sydus said that it should be more than enough to not only take the Titos Rex down, but also cleanse out most of the infection all over Scyria. That sword looks like it could cut a skyscraper in half, and its defensive systems can take a serious beating. Plus, Santrago said that someone like me could bring out the Mega-Mech's full potential. Well, he got me. Alright, looks like our plan is cut and dried. Let's get ready for action.
  +
*Clifton: Whohohohoa, they're lucky as f***.
  +
*Miria: There's no such thing as luck. Only good circumstance.
  +
*Clifton:... You really know how to ruin a great moment, don't you?
  +
*Miria: Guilty.
  +
*(Dinia): Okay, it's done. I've managed to slave the legs, head and left arm to my controls. Meya's better than me at hand-to-hand, so she'll still pilot the sword arm, but anything more than that would overwhelm her with information and technological complexity. I'll assume the main cockpit, Zuken will handle the legs, and Santrago can handle the plasma cannon-wielding arm. Though, I'm going to assume control of 75% of the Mega-Mech's systems as I feel it could still be a strain for them. It'll be a mental and physical strain on me for absolute sure, but I'm prepared to take it. Like I said, it's my turn to carry the load, and I'm in my wheelhouse here. If there's anyone who can handle this, it's me. Not like there's time for another plan anyway, the Titos Rex and the core of all corruption on the planet is almost here. All right, you ugly son of a bitch, let's go!
  +
*Magnum: Alright...
  +
*Chase: WHOOOOOOOOOOEE, THEY ARE GONNA SPILL SOME BLOOD NOW!!!
  +
*(Dinia): Seemed that the Titos Rex was more prepared than we thought. The Titos Rex we encountered was an organic puppet and it was meant to waste up our power supply. Luckily, we figured that out in time, and marched over to it's domain. A fortress of giant enhancelement spires. We knew exactly what to do. We absorbed all the enhancelement there was in the area while slaughtering the hell out of the acolytes under the Titos Rex's control. Now our motherf****r was on equal footing, and it was time for the final boss battle. Loom at us, Santrago, it's like we're playing a video game. Anyway, Titos Rex's initial assault was intense, but we fended it off by staying on the defensive. Something that powerful would be used to winning quickly, so we knew that if we could weather that first storm, it was sure to hesitate. When that moment came, we turned up the heat. From there on it was a high octane slug-fest. Our clashes felt like they might shatter the ground beneath us, until we finally landed a critical blow to its torso, right in the core. Based on the way it flailed and hissed when we struck, I don't think it had ever been wounded so badly. So in the end, that was enough to send it packing, while we tore out the core of all self-aware enhancelement, which was now stuck on our giant sword. It pumped in a hellish heartbeat. It spoke to us, and said that it would not lose to us. Luckily, we smushed it on a nearby giant rock. Take that, asshole! And don't come back!
  +
*Chase: WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHA!! THAT, WAS, AWESOME!!!
  +
*Xandy: HEEEELLLL YEAH!!!
  +
*Miria: AHEM!
  +
*Chase:... Sorry, Miria. We're both Carbungians, we always gotta have our enthusiasm. Maybe you should try having some enthusiasm in your life. Gods know you'll need it.
  +
*(Dinia): Hopefully that's the last we see of that Titos Rex and even the hell metal core, fitting name for it, really, because as sweet as some more permanent revenge would be, fighting it a second time might be pushing our luck. By the time I exited the cockpit, my nose was bleeding, and hours later I'm still wobbly on my feet. Controlling three Mechs at once in a sustained combat scenario when the other three pilots weren't enough to handle it should definitely be filed under 'don't try this at home', and trying to pilot all four is probably a fast track to an aneurysm. On top of that, our Mega-Mech is basically held together by paste and dreams at this point. At full power and with four pilots as skilled as me, it might be able to kill that big bastard, but we're lacking on both fronts. So all told, we did as well as we could have hoped. The real threat WAS the core after all. Once it died, we saw the enhancelement we didn't absorb in the area dissipate. Think I deserve a victory nap...
  +
*Cloakblade:... Well done, crew. Very well done.
  +
*(Dinia): We finished marking the last of the graves a few hours ago. It was hard to say goodbye, but having recently experienced near-death myself, I know that sitting here and crying my eyes out for a week straight won't help them. Hopefully they find peace within that void, or something better beyond it. We returned to the Sydus Spire which now seemed to replace Cretacion Hall and was seen a perfect distance from Cretacion Base Alpha. The core's destruction, according to Sydus, eliminated the global infection's integrity by 25%. It freed the Titoses from their pseudo-intelligence, withered away the crystals on the surface, cured most of the corrupted wildlife, and gave the Seeding Protocol a 75% initialization rating. The Seeding Protocol was almost ready. Heili was even able to obtain a physical form too. Though she was still a Tiikon by instinct, she still didn't need to sleep. She still had her personalities. But she now had control over enhancelement and data. She was a creature of living energy and information now. She could read machinery like Santrago, she could purify enhancelement, and she could teleport anywhere through the Omninet all across the planet. It was amazing, and when the Scyr Overwatcher finally died when it tried to kill Heili, like a dummybot, Sydus fused it and herself to Heili's body and both spires became part of Cretacion Hall, or should I say, Cretacion Spire. Gets better and better for her, huh? Now she was the new master intelligence, and by proxy our new leader. And yeah, it's just me, her, Santrago, who I have finally made a synthetic bioandroid to finally kiss as well as he was in his original body, and hopefully I can accept his, rather spontaneous, proposal at a later time, Meya, and the long road ahead. Zuken said he would improve the security of our new home and find people with enough pubes to guard this place with their lives. But... Heili suggested that I start to send Meya, herself, and Santrago to Eriret Prime. Not sure what's waiting for us there, but with Meya and Santrago by my side and a dangerous mission in front of us, I'm just going to relax and enjoy the ride. I can admit that I'm certifiable for saying so, but this kind of life? It's just my speed.
  +
*Miria:... Alright, one more log.
  +
*(Dinia): Mission Log: First Lieutenant Dinia Altories, SGG 89th Fighter Squadron, Meya Liu of Yiditra, Animal Queen of the Jungle, Depths and Wastes, and Santrago An Sanct, SGG Hacker And Special Operatives Field Agent. If you're reading this, then like us, then you managed to see what we must do about this wasteball of a planet. So welcome to hell, kids. Hope you like ravaged hellscapes, because the bad news is you’re late to the apocalypse, by over a lotta millennia. The good news is you can do something about it. We're all going to do what we can to help, but it won't be enough. You see those huge, ugly monsters out there? The ones with corruption all over them need to be cleared out, or Earth can't recover. Also, if you see one with an stab-mark in its chest, do me a favor and flip it off before you finish it. We'll do our part. The rest is up to you. Good luck. Dinia, O-U-T!
  +
*Miria:... (All except her cheered) THIS WAS NOT A GODDAMN CINEMATIC!!
  +
*Xandy: It might as well have been.
  +
*Miria: Well... Then we have it. We know where they are. Eriret Prime. So, that's where WE'RE going.
  +
  +
===='''Who Is Santrago?'''====
  +
Ar Cretacion, Base Cretacion Alpha
  +
*Slade: Guys, I found another hPad archive. It's... From Santrago.
  +
*Miria:... Dinia's love interest? Well, by all means, bring it here. We could use any information we can get.
  +
*Veta: Oh, sure, distract us with what COULD be boring stuff.
  +
*Miria: Learn to think like a professional once in a while, will you? (She pulled up the hPad)
  +
*Slade:... Whoa, someone sounds frustrated from these first few words.
  +
*(Santrago): I wish everyone would just shut up for five seconds. I already know this is bad, we all do. So keep your hyperventilating to yourself, all right? Arbasus! When we stepped through my gateway and teleported to the ruined capital city of Ar Cretacion, we thought we'd escaped the worst of it, but it turns out this land is the worst of a planet that's a burnt-out, post-apocalyptic nightmare. Some people feel like we're back to square one. But objectively, we're not. We've got high-tech equipment, supplies, some tamed animals thanks to Meya, and a decent number of sentient assets. That's plenty of tools at our disposal. All I need is for people to give me some space and let me think. This is just another code that needs cracking.
  +
*Veta: Well that's certainly a good way to start your logs.
  +
*(Santrago): Think we've found a decent spot to set up shop. That crater up ahead should have everything we need, at least according to the research team that have already built Base Cretacion Alpha, and after I became their new leader since their original died from enhancelement poisoning. Meya scouted it out with some of her pets, though she came back one time crying like I've never seen her cry before, and when she claimed she was attacked by a Titos, which she has apparently never seen or heard of before, but I told her they were the apex predators of this planet. She also seemed to believe that the 'hell metal' as she described it, has some kind of hive-mind that's controlling all the corrupted animals out there. I can't disbelieve that since I've seen them from a distance act that way, but where this hive-mind is coming from, is a mystery we'll figure out soon enough. But the people that were already at this base said they knew this as well, and... Well, Meya had a mental breakdown and went back to her post on that tower of her's, which is the tallest building in the city, Blackdiamond Tower, according to the research team. Regardless, she's at least one other person who isn't panicking. Not that I expected her to after she took the 'suicide' out of that suicide mission back in the Lapse Wastes. Dinia really knew how to pick a winner. Gods rest her good. While we travel, I've been putting together some equipment. Nothing too complicated, just some basic gear to help me take a few measurements of our new environment. Gravity, soil composition, atmosphere, etc. I've got a good idea of what they'll tell me, but it's worth confirming.
  +
*Slade:... Interesting how he went this far.
  +
*Miria: That's what comes with survival in this place. You never know when you'll end up being a leader.
  +
*(Santrago): Some of the readings were outside my estimates, but this is definitely the most corrupted I've seen of the soil on Scyria. That same old, self-absorbed ball of dirt surrounded outside the contained environments full of fungal-hybrid trees, dull plants, giant Titos skeletons, blood-colored algae and crazy alienated jungles, and of course, corrupted purplish and black rocks and spires as well as corrupted animals that made the Animal Queen's heart twist into tears with sorrow. I figured as much. According to Heili, people from my contained environment are by far the most advanced people in the area we came from. There's also more Scyrian ruins in this one area around their capital city. Obviously, the oversized doorways and windows mean that the Scyrians were of a bigger scale than us, but the ruins outside looked like outposts and forts for war. I could see a reason why they'd fight. Given the success they had, they could barely share one planet, much less space. People like to talk about having AI overlords as a nightmare scenario, but if we were ruled by machines, I might be looking at a flourishing alien landscape instead of this ravaged one on Scyria. Doesn't sound all that bad when you think about it. I mean, look what happened with certain races in charge that got them into post-apocalyptic settings like this....
  +
*Slade: Wow, this guy sure seems a little jokey when it comes to this wasteland.
  +
*Miria: Of course. Everyone had to live in these contained environments to get out of this wasteland. Who would even want to live out here?
  +
*Veta: I can think of a few answers to that question.
  +
*Miria: Whatever.
  +
*(Santrago): Reconstruction of the damages on Base Cretacion Alpha, and even refurbishing it a bit, are going well. Things usually do when I have a project to focus on. I'd prefer something more challenging than living quarters, stables and basic defenses, but this'll keep me busy for now. I'm the leader of this outfit now, I realize that. No one else still among the living is qualified, so fine, I'll do the job. I just can't stand being bothered with every little disagreement or emotional breakdown. I've got real work to do, solving real problems. That's why I made the SGG back in Independence set me up in that mountain villa as part of my contract... Well... When they got over my plagiarist design of the EM Armor, which admittedly impressed the hell out of them. My little hideaway, with just me and whatever puzzle they needed me to solve. It was perfect. Had a great sound system too.
  +
*Slade: Yeesh, someone's spoiled to the core.
  +
*Veta: Eh, when your line of work gets boring, you need some leisure or stimulus.
  +
*Slade: Eh, no argument here.
  +
*(Santrago): Tried chatting with Heili a little about this Ar Cretacion situation. Smart girl, probably smarter than anyone else I've met in the area, but I think she has a hard time telling when I'm messing with her and when I'm just a being jerk. Not her fault. There's a reason why the SGG suits only visited me when they absolutely had to. Didn't matter how high ranking they were, I'd never mince words with any of them. I knew they'd have to take it. They needed me. So yeah, I can be a pain to deal with, unless you're someone like Dinia. She may not have been an engineer or scientist, but she had a PhD in talking s***. Miss that cutey-poe lunatic.
  +
*Slade: We all would.... If we didn't know before you did that she's alive.
  +
*(Santrago): Base Cretacion Alpha's basically up and running at peak condition again, complete with a functioning infrastructure, and we've got resources to spare. Lots of them. The surface of the planet is brimming with enhancelement. Glad Meya is still in her tower since she obviously has a hate for enhancelement after her empathic abilities with nature or whatever. After just a couple expeditions to the edge of the wastes, we've practically filled our storehouses. I'm not sure what we're going to do with it all. I'm not sure how there's so much of it. From what I've been able to research on the nature of enhancelement, aside from Meya's logical point of it having a self-awareness and the ability to turn animals into an army of it's own, it wouldn't nearly be this common in a certain amount of time. Granted, all the enhancelement that those environments are made of had to come from somewhere, so theoretically this city could have been built on top of an undiscovered vein. This much of it would turn even the smallest village into a metropolis overnight. But if that was what happened here, then where's the mine? May need to take a few more readings.
  +
*Veta: WELL THEN GET ON WITH IT!
  +
*Miria:... That was right in my ear.
  +
*Veta:... Sorry.
  +
*(Santrago): I ran the numbers on how this could've happened, but we're living in a scientific impossibility. Enhancelement, even when it was newly made, simply couldn't expand fast enough to reach this level of density, to the point of evolving self-awareness with it's organic half, under natural conditions, even with millennia of uninterrupted growth. That means something accelerated it at an alarming rate, even if this area's readings are an outlier. Well I say 'something', but there's an obvious answer here: the Scyrians. Any tech that runs on Enhancelement emits a few molecules of it back into the atmosphere, which take root in the soil. It's kind of like pollination, but the scale's so small and it's consumed so fast that it's practically negligible. To spread it to any significant degree, you'd need a huge spike in Enhancelement proliferation. A spike you'd get from, say, a century of open warfare with enhancelement-based weaponry. And the best of that weaponry and everything we see? There's no doubt that the Scyrians wiped themselves out in some kind of war.
  +
*Slade: Yeah, we kinda figured.
  +
*Miria: Must you two always make cracks?
  +
*Veta: Hey, you gotta make the most fun out of a serious situation, Miria. Otherwise, we'd be as messed up as you.
  +
*Miria:... Scuse me?
  +
*Veta: UH, NEVER MIND!!!
  +
*Miria: That's what I thought.
  +
*(Santrago): Sure, there's a chance it wasn't weapons. Given how huge Ar Cretacion is, and how much most of the city's infrastructure was powered by it, the Scyrians' applications for enhancelement were spreading daily. And even without seeing this city, I would know, I took a few corporate espionage gigs under the table when I was with the SGG, just to see if I could. If they started cutting enough corners on filtration... No, I have to face the implications here. Not that I was ever a paragon of virtue, I knew that, when we were applying enhancelement for ourselves, I was engineering prepackaged death, but thankfully, unlike the Scyrians, however they messed it up besides said war, it should never have gone this far. Deal with this later. There's work to do.
  +
*Miria: Hmm.
  +
*Veta: Well, his analytical clairvoyance knows no bounds. Then again, he IS a Xuron-Aectoid hybrid, so his mind would be a pretty damn powerful powerhouse. He COULD use psychokinesis to read signals and machinery.
  +
*(Santrago): The situation's changed on us yet again. We saw a pack of corrupted Titoses in those caves, and Meya saw a few, one of them she said stranded her on the same island she met Heili and Stonewell, but those we spotted a few hours ago dwarf all of them. It's not even close. Add the mechanized drones we've been dealing with, and all of a sudden our firepower seems pretty underwhelming. I wonder if those behemoths' corruption, freaky exposed internal systems, and even those of the other creatures we see, specifically the ones Meya keeps weeping about, are the result of enhancelement mutation. Depending on how you look at it, that would make them my problem in more ways than one. Fine then. If they're a problem, I'll just make a solution same as always. Yeah, I've got just the thing. It's interesting how the worst circumstances are always the catalyst for my best ideas.
  +
*Veta: That's kinda how imagination and ingenuity works. You see a need, and you fill it.
  +
*Miria: Why must you treat this like a commentary?
  +
*Veta: Again, the most fun in a serious situation. Why don't you try it sometime? Maybe it'll make you less... Scary.
  +
*Miria: Whatever.
  +
*(Santrago): Giant bipedal battlemechs. When I told everyone that was my big idea, I'm not sure what I got more of, blank stares or nervous laughter. I think the ones that were laughing hoped I would join in. I didn't. Hey, I get it, I know how it sounds. It's just like I told them though, if I'm going to accept my title as leader, then I may as well lean into it. I have a need here, and I might as well use what we got to fill it. Some people may call that fighting fire with fire, but I call it fighting a small gun with a much bigger gun.
  +
*Slade: Odd way of putting it, but there's other odder metaphors.
  +
*(Santrago): Turns out no one else had a better plan, so the wheels are in motion. I've already got teams working on the hangars and gathering resources while I hammer out the schematics I managed to achieve from an old Scyrian terminal for reverse-engineering. Building these EN Mechs from those designs is going to be one of the hardest things I've ever done, maybe the hardest. That's always the case when it comes to reverse-engineering Teadr-1 technology into a more simplified version. Simplifying it means that it might not work the same way, and even malfunction. With the Escape Project, I could use the obelisk of Independence as a blueprint, but these are all me, and I had no founding basis on reverse-engineering a Scyrian battle-mech. Luckily, having an eidetic memory means I can call on everything I ever studied about robotics, especially Teadr-1 robotics, so I'm not starting from scratch. Besides, this is my true love... Aside from Dinia of course, but she's dead. They say constantly crunching away on a big project will make anyone burn out, but for me it feels like a dip in a healing pit. I live for the grind.
  +
*Miria:... He at least finds other ways for passion in his work.
  +
*(Santrago): The final mech designs are complete. Based on the skills and experience of our potential pilots, I decided to emphasize the energy sword as its primary weapon and divert a bit less power to the precision plasma cannon. That's just the base model though. Each mech has a modification slot where equipment can be swapped to suit the pilot's tendencies and mission parameters. There's a reactive shield dome to protect the team and force close quarters combat, an artillery cannon for back line support, and shoulder mounted missile launchers for when you just want to say "to hell with this thing in particular". That alone would make them worth the effort, but I haven't even gotten to the best part.
  +
*Slade:... And what's that?
  +
*Miria: It doesn't say here.
  +
*Slade: Oy. Surprises are annoying sometimes.
  +
*(Santrago): I designed these mechs to make the most of our resources, so while alone they're devastating fighting machines, together they're more than the sum of their parts. I mean that literally. We have the resources to make four of them, but when they're all in close proximity, they can fuse into an an even more powerful mech. A Mega-Mech if you will. The Scyrians really went far with this kind of tech. I got the idea on how to recerse-engineer THAT difficult part when I was messing with the teleportation tech we we found on those hunter/killer robots that roam the city, which seem to be Scyrian-engineered machines called Upholders. Instead of physically linking the Mechs together like puzzle pieces, I combine them on the atomic level via teleportation. It's my masterpiece, the ultimate fighting machine, with the most efficient enhancelement reactor and most powerful energy sword ever constructed since the design of it the Scyrians made. None of those monsters will stand a chance against it, no matter how big. As long as we find some pilots that can handle it, that is. But that's STILL the tip of the iceberg.
  +
*Slade: AW COME ON!!!
  +
*Miria:... Again, RIGHT in my ear.
  +
*Slade: Oy!
  +
*(Santrago): The number of assets we have with any piloting experience at all is practically nil, so I've focused on making the controls as accessible as possible. I landed on a combination of a neural link and gyroscopic, full body motion sensors for what I call Beta-Level piloting. Basically, once they're linked up, the Mech will mimic the pilot's movements and an automated system will handle the messy details. But because I just can't help myself, I also added an array of hard light consoles and a stronger connection to the nervous system for Alpha-Level piloting. That'll offer refined control over every bit of the Mech, but it would take a stud pilot like Dinia to utilize it. I can't possibly build a machine without leaving a way for it to reach its full potential though, even if no one here can unleash it.... But if Dinia was still around and could use it... I won't know what kind of weapon I just created, or how much farther it could go. I'm smarter than even I can anticipate.
  +
*Slade: Sheesh, this guy is really egging himself on.
  +
*Veta: That's the thing with inventors. They like to upgrade their gadgets as much as they can, even earlier than they should.
  +
*(Santrago): Mech Pilot Evaluation: Candidate #004 - Meya Liu. I admit, when I decided to go with simplified controls that mimicked the movements of the pilot, I had Meya in mind. This isn't about pity or nepotism either, she's objectively the best close quarters fighter we have, and based on our interview, no one's as battle-hardened. She answered both tactical and moral dilemmas quickly and decisively. The latter's a little scary, but we need a pilot like that, someone who won't hesitate when the safety of the group's on the line. The only question is her emotional state. I don't know what stage of grief she's supposed to be in, but when the fighting starts, there's a chance she loops right back to anger. Still, even with her blood running a little hot, she's clearly a top candidate.
  +
*Slade: Oh, yeah, the way Serpentos, Cloakblade, and Marcilene described her, she sounds SUPER scary.
  +
*(Santrago): Mech Pilot Evaluation: Candidate #013 - Heili Runner. This one caught me off guard. I knew from experience that Heili could handle herself in a crisis and improvise quickly, and she did well enough on the interview. Creative, level headed... Not much killer instinct but we don't need four Meyas. So she was solid, but not spectacular, at least until we hooked her up in the prototype and looked at her synchronization ratings. She had every gauge maxed out! It's as if her nervous system is more advanced than everyone else's, like it can just process information at a higher rate. I wonder, could she open a neural link with even more advanced technology? Maybe that's a question for another time, but for now, I think I've found my second pilot.
  +
*Slade:... Well, she's a TIIKON!
  +
*Miria: If you scream in my ear, ONE MORE TIME, I'm tearing out your voice box!
  +
*Slade: okay!
  +
*(Santrago): Mech Pilot Evaluation: Candidate #022 - Zuken Tavitshoma. This lughead is the head of the Base's defenses, and given he's a full-blooded Brutan with both muscles and brains, he was a wise choice, not just as a leader, but as a candidate for the Mechs. But, there's a problem. SGG lugheads like him are why I had no problem helping the UIS or the USRA. No true loyalty. Just loud, obnoxious, self-righteous and above all? Naive. He struggled making tough calls in the interview because he didn't think we should 'have to' make sacrifices. It's a cute sentiment, but we're trying to survive here. I've got to walk the talk though. He may be a little loopy and unsure of himself, but he's one of our few assets left with real military training, and more so than his own soldiers. Sync scores are solid too. Loud mouthed USRA-UIS zealot or not, he might be our best remaining option. My personal bias is irrelevant.
  +
*Veta: At least he's got a muscle-bound guy by his side. There's ALWAYS room for one of those.
  +
*(Santrago): Mech Pilot Evaluation: Final Candidate - Santrago An Sanct. Outside of testing, I rarely want to use anything I engineer. Part of it is that my ideas are never as exciting to me once they're realized, like I got it out of my system, but I also just think it ruins the purity of it. Great painters don't hang their own work on the wall, do they? Unfortunately, this time I don't have a choice. I know the Mechs better than anyone, and only Heili has a better sync rating. That's probably because I tested the synchronization system on myself. Stupid mistake. Looks like my workload just doubled.
  +
*Miria: Maybe it has. That's another problem with reverse-engineering Teadr-1 technology.
  +
*(Santrago): Now that construction has reached Phase III, I need to have a lot more face time with our top candidates. The Mechs will still be usable by anyone, but if we can get them specifically tuned to their primary pilots' preferences and behaviors, we can maximize their combat efficiency. Plus, they have to get used to actually controlling them. Not really looking forward to this part. I'm the kind of guy who can't help but take the wheel after thirty seconds of watching someone struggle with a computer console, and these are my greatest creations, not an Omninet browser. Could get painful...
  +
*Miria: It should be.
  +
*Slade: Yeah, no pain, no gain.
  +
*(Santrago): Meya's taking the longest to get used to her cockpit. Understandable, since she's had little experience in advanced technology even for her time with us. Luckily her endurance lets her practice for longer intervals, so she'll catch up eventually. Our sessions are also the quietest. You'd think we'd have more of a rapport by now, but Dinia was always our mutual connection. So with Meya it's all business, even if she's struggling or I start to get impatient. The only time she went off-topic was when she invited me to a workout, and since I'm a pilot now, I agreed. My legs regretted it afterwards, but our next session went far better. Not friendlier, not chattier, just smoother. It's like we've reached some strange, silent, anti-social understanding. I'm not sure I get it, but I guess I don't mind.
  +
*Veta: Well, so far, so good.
  +
*(Santrago): Heili's sessions have become an exercise in frustration. Her synchronization never drops a single grade, and when I explain what she's doing wrong she understands. But for some reason, she's just hit a wall when it comes to execution. She's working as hard as anyone, and she's so damned earnest about wanting to help out that I kind of regret being so short with her. I've even tried to hide just how far behind she's falling. Maybe she needs to focus on something external, like a carrot on a stick. She's always talking about how she wants to find the truth behind those environments, and I have sensed that the signal that brought us here has still been standing strong. I'm no one's idea of a life coach, but I think that may do the trick.
  +
*Veta: Hey, you can't win them all.
  +
*(Santrago): That carrot worked pretty well. As soon as I mentioned the signal, it was like a second reactor started up in Heili's brain... Which is complicated due to it's sleep cycles. The signal's not even a sure bet, just a vague chance at finding some answers, but she leapt at it. I got caught up in her enthusiasm and ended up saying more than I'd intended though. I hadn't meant to bring up what her mother had to go through, but maybe I needed to get it off my chest. Not sure it helped. Anyway, by our next Mech session, Heili was back on track. In hindsight, seems like it was a confidence issue, like she's convinced herself that her sync rating is a fluke. Better tone down the criticism for a bit.
  +
*Miria:... Well, sometimes hard truths are what you need. It's basic therapy.
  +
*(Santrago): If nothing else, my own sessions have been a moment of peace. I still don't want to pilot one of my own masterpieces in combat, but when it's just me and my Mech in the hangar, I feel like I can finally relax. It's not just that I've been working long hours. I did that plenty of times on the Escape Project, and our EMP bomb before then. It's that I'm working long hours and dealing with people at the same time, all the time. The pilot sessions have been getting better, but running everything else on top of that? "Santrago, a water pipe broke. Santrago, so and so is hogging all the ammo." Constant interruptions. Maybe I'll just hide in the cockpit and nap for a while. No one would know.
  +
*Veta:... Pssh. Miria, how do YOU make being our leader so easy?
  +
*Miria: I assure you, it's NOT, even for me. I'm looking at reasons why right now.
  +
*Slade:... Solid burn, Miria.
  +
*(Santrago): It should just work! The Mechs' power systems fuse perfectly during my teleportation sims, so why does the reactor keep sputtering? The errors I'm getting don't make any sense, but if I ignore them and they turn out to be right, the fusion process could end in a catastrophic reactor meltdown. Unbelievable! Here of all places is where I screw up? The most critical juncture of this entire damned enterprise? My calculations of Teadr 1-to-2 were adequate enough to work. I'd never make a mistake like this back home, but maybe that's because the old me was better and his brain was younger. Regardless, some degradation would... No, I'm fixing this. Just like I always have.
  +
*Veta:... Something tells me he's pushing himself a little too hard.
  +
*Miria: Indeed he is. It's all in his way of writing.
  +
*(Santrago): Simulation 157B was another failure. Error 612-A4, same as always. Almost no change in reactor coupling. I've had projects fail, but not like this. Not this spectacularly, just inches from the finish line. Why'd it have to be this one? This is the piece of resistance on my lifelong resume, it's the thing that will wipe my whole ledger clean. It needs to work, or my legacy is this dead hunk of rock orbiting around the sun. Thirty more simulations. I can get thirty more simulations in before I'll need to sleep. If I can just get a different error code, then I can start to isolate the variables involved. Just give me something to go on here, anything at all.
  +
*Slade:... He really IS working his ass off. Sheesh, man, doesn't he have ANY celebratory moments to relax, like a birthday or something?
  +
*Veta: Actually, yes. Take a look at this.
  +
*(Santrago): I can't believe those idiots did something so cheesy. I really want to hate them for it. Not sure what simulation I was on when I finally crashed, but I woke up to Heili and Zuken dragging me off to deal with some 'emergency'. If I wasn't still half-asleep, I'd probably have realized they were full of it, but as it was, I didn't catch on until I saw the cake. I seem to have forgotten that my birthday was just around the corner, but... How did they know it was today? Have they been... Stalking me or something? Well, according to them, that meant I couldn't work. I had to eat that crappy cake and 'have fun'. Ugh, kill me. Fine. The cake wasn't that bad, and maybe it was a little 'fun'. Can't ever tell them though, my reputation would be shot. These idiots.
  +
*Slade:... Wow. That alone proved he was overworked.
  +
*Veta: Glad Miria doesn't go through that pain.
  +
*Miria:... (Deep breath)... No, I do not!
  +
*(Santrago): I can't believe that the solution to the energy flow problem was so basic. After being held hostage by the birthday committee for a day, I figured it out within a few hours of getting back to work. Turns out all I really needed to do was step back and get a new perspective on it. Everything's been going better since then, actually. Pilot training is nearly complete, we've assembled most of the parts and the whole team is working at peak efficiency. Even Zuken didn't make me want to throttle him for a change. Don't get me wrong, these guys are still a bunch of corny idiots. They're just my corny idiots, that's all.
  +
*Veta: Hehe. Guess something can come from a little idiocy.
  +
*Miria: Pssh, it's not prudent to indulge in idiocy and just flat-out ignore what they do. He never specified it was their party that got him to see it.
  +
*Veta: Maybe we should throw YOU a birthday party. You really look like you'd need one-
  +
*Miria: SHUT YOUR MOUTH!!!
  +
*Veta:... okay!
  +
*(Santrago): With the Mechs entering their final phase of construction, I decided to give our pilot team a little reward and simulate the Mega-Mech fusion procedure. We won't be able to do it for real for another couple of weeks, but the sim is pretty accurate. It went a lot better than I expected. By our third try, we had it down pat. The only thing that held us up was a lot of joking about who would control which body part. Meya patently refused to switch off of the sword arm and Heili was convinced that she'd trip us if she took the legs. I know it goes against my principles as an engineer, but after that, I think I'm actually excited to pilot this thing. Purity be damned.
  +
*Miria:... Oh, boy. Well, unfortunately, your luck just ran out.
  +
*(Santrago): It's too soon. They found us too soon! Those Titoses, the things that prompted this Mech project in the first place? A pair of them, corrupted from the middle to the head, and their dozens of giant babies, are headed for the Base. We're moving as fast as we can, but even working around the clock we may have to face them down with just one active Mech. Two tops. The others will be close, but we can't skimp on the final boot-up procedure without endangering the pilot. I know those three would be willing to risk that, but I'm not. Why did it have to be now? Another half a day and we'd be able to link up. We were that close.
  +
*Veta:... Damn. Don't you hate bad circumstances?
  +
*Miria: Well, too bad, circumstance is what makes us grow via the gift of resourcefulness and improvisation. He should make it work-
  +
*(Santrago): One Mech, that's all we've got, and it's only because I'd been using my own machine for beta testing. There's no way I can take all of them, even with infantry support, but if I launch now and get their attention, I can lead them on a chase until the others are ready to go. It's a shame. We don't have the resources to replace my Mech, and without it my final masterpiece will never take shape. I'd have liked to see it, but more than that? I'd have liked to experience that moment where we all fused together for real, and our bizarre little squad became the most powerful team the world's ever seen. But if it means giving these idiots a chance to survive this, then I'll give it all up, because in the end? Those are my idiots.
  +
*Miria:......
  +
*Veta: Yo-
  +
*Miria: DON'T, SAY IT!
  +
*Slade:... Wow. Did... Did he survive?
  +
*Miria: Unfortunately, that was his last log. It's uncertain.
  +
  +
==Transcript==
  +
[[File:ARK Extinction Song Coming Home by NerdOut|thumb|right|250 px|Intro Song]]'''Intro Theme (NerdOut- Coming Home)'''
  +
==='''Chapter 1: Mission To Scyria'''===
  +
==='''Chapter 2: Finding The Heroes Act'''===
  +
==='''Chapter 3: Dr. Says Mayus Dayus and Stonewell's Plans'''===
  +
==='''Chapter 4: Knowing The Scyrian Heroes/The Adytum Project'''===
  +
==='''Chapter 5: Ar Cretacion/Eriret Prime/The Survival Simulation'''===
  +
==='''Chapter 6: Stonewell's Betrayal/Eriret's True Nature'''===
  +
==='''Chapter 7: Final Titanic Battle/The Scyrians' Resurrection'''===
  +
==='''Epilogue'''===
  +
  +
==Material==
  +
==='''Songs/Music/Videos'''===
  +
[[File:Ark - Extinction Theme OST|thumb|left|250 px|Intro Theme]]
  +
[[File:Ark Menu Theme|thumb|right|250 px|Climax Theme]]
  +
[[File:ARK - Scorched Earth Theme|thumb|left|250 px|Scorchar Desert Theme]]
  +
[[File:ARK - Aberration Theme|thumb|right|250 px|Lapse Wastes Theme]]
  +
[[File:ARK Genesis Final Boss OST Extened|thumb|left|250 px|EP Stonewell AI Fight Theme]]
  +
[[File:ARK - Boss Battle Theme - Rockwell|thumb|right|250 px|Stonewell's Freedom Theme]]
  +
[[File:ARK - Boss Battle Theme - King Titan (unused stinger)|thumb|left|250 px|Stonewell Final Battle Theme]]
  +
[[File:ARK Extinction Final Cutscene|thumb|right|250 px|Scyria Resurrected]]
  +
[[File:ARK Survival Evolved - Soundtrack - Death Theme|thumb|left|250 px|Tension Music]]
  +
[[File:ARK - Loading Screen|thumb|right|250 px|Travel Theme]]
  +
[[File:ARK - Credit Theme (The Island)|thumb|left|250 px|Final Victory Theme]][[File:ARK - Battle Theme - Bioluminiscens Region|thumb|right|250 px|Lapse Wastes Tension Theme]]
  +
[[File:ARK - Battle Theme - Element Region|thumb|left|250 px|Lapse Wastes Enhancelement Pools Theme]]
  +
[[File:ARK Aberration (Ending) - Ascension OST Extended, 320 kbps 48khz HQ|thumb|right|250 px|Sentia Deus Johnna Runner's Theme]]
  +
[[File:ARK Genesis Mission Horde Gauntlet OST Extened|thumb|left|250 px|EP Simulation Tension Theme]]
  +
[[File:ARK Survival Evolved Genesis Soundtrack - Escorting Mission|thumb|right|254 px]]
 
[[Category:Scroopfan3212311]]
 
[[Category:Scroopfan3212311]]
 
[[Category:Chronicles Movisodes]]
 
[[Category:Chronicles Movisodes]]

Latest revision as of 20:24, 4 January 2021

The Heroes Act end up missing on Planet Scyria, which Icky immediately calls AUU Ark: Survival Evolved only without flying ARKs surrounding a post-apocalyptic planet, and the Lodgers have to find them. Though they've each been scattered, and each have been surviving their own way. They've tamed the native prehistoric wildlife, and they're trying to find each other again. But even the Lodgers get separated with each of them because of Ark Titan-like beasts called the Titoses. Thus they have to find each other again and escape this planet. Along the way, they learn about the reason why the HA were even in this planet to begin with: They were after the Tiikon mad scientist known as Dr. Sayus Mayus Dayus, a bioweapons expert that intents on unleashing a lost Teadr 1 super race referred to as the Scyrians, a biologically-perfected raptor super-race that given themselves the traits of other dinosaurs and prehistoric reptiles to become marvels of perfection. But the Scyrians locked themselves away because these changes made them succumb to mutation madness that messed with their minds, as too many genetic features regress intelligence and basically scaled them back to mindless creatures. Sayus is thus endangering the planet, which is vulnerable to conquest because the only places of civilization are found in flying high-tech obelisks and the Beaconbeam Tower, both of Tiikon engineering, to protect from the inhospitable outer wastelands, and potentially the UUniverses by releasing a race cursed by their own genetic hubris as he believes it would help him seek revenge against the Skorner race for what they did to him. They eventually reunite in Ar Cretacion, the former capital of Scyria, and meet a Tiikon scientific adventurer named Heili Runner, and help her rescue her friends, a Sauran female Zoian warrior with armies of tamed wildlife named Meya Liu, an expert hacker Xuron-Aectoid hybrid turned synthetic biomechanical android named Santrago An Sanct, and his Skorner scientific combat agent wife Dinia Altories, from a survival simulation in the tech-city of Ererit Prime infected by enhancelement, an adaptive half-metal and half-genetics material created by Scyrians to help their technological and transsentience evolution, and the infection itself has a sentience of it's own that has been able to download and imprison everyone inside with some kind of malicious AI program. After rescuing them, they say that they all aim to re-terraform Scyria after a long accidental adventure got the four together. They too planned to stop Dr. Sayus as he actually ended up forming his base of operations on what used to be that of their own during their stay in the radioactive Lapse Wastes, where they defeated their traitorous Chredder chemist ex-colleague Edwyn Stonewell, who is now a tentacled mutated monster imprisoned in an underground sarcophagus. They intended to stop him fearing Stonewell would be set free before learning of his true goals, as he actually made a deal with Stonewell that, in return for helping him awaken the Scyrians and their unimaginable secrets, he'd be set free and given everything he ever wanted including his revenge, but they all ended up imprisoned inside the EP simulation with the exception of the escaping Heili. With a threat on the horizon, and Heili being too valuable to go with them, instead giving them a flying comical AI of her named HL-1, the heroes are in for a dino-mite of a challenge.

ARK_Genesis_Part_2_Teaser_Trailer!

ARK Genesis Part 2 Teaser Trailer!

Introduction To Eriret Prime

Scenes

(Since I'm now a hardcore fan of the series, I can't help but gush that there's a sequel game coming out starring Vin Diesel as Santiago, and an animated series with Vin Diesel as Santiago, David Tennant (2017 Scrooge McDuck and the Tenth Doctor Who) reprising his Genesis Part 2 role as Sir Edmund Rockwell, Michelle Yeoh (Soothsayer) as Mei-Yin, Gerard Butler (Stoick the Vast and the THIS IS SPARTA! Guy) as Nerva, and Russell Crowe (Jor-El in Man of Steel), Malcolm McDowell (Scamboli in Pinocchio 3000 and Shirong from Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness), Cissy Jones (Lilith), and Jeffrey Wright (Poppa Henry in Good Dinosaur and McWinkle in the 2019 Green Eggs and Ham series) as original roles.)

Who Is Heili Runner?

Scyrian Island

  • Xandy:... Interesting. Hud, you need to see this.
  • Hudson: What is it, hon?
  • Xandy:... Okay, there's no one around to hear you call me that, so, whatever. I, found this journal. It depicts... A LOT of stuff. Something about a woman named... Heili Runner.
  • Hudson:... Oddly enough, that's the name of the lady people are gaga for here.
  • Xandy: Well... What do you think she's been up to?
  • Hudson: Maybe the journal has some ideas.
  • Xandy:... Oy, you really are so simplistic and direct Hudson, and I like you for it. (She did so)
  • (Heili): I've lost count how many sunrises I've seen since I arrived on this island. Hundreds, I'd imagine. Yet, each one seems more beautiful than the last. Sometimes I like to take Athea out just before dawn and watch it while flying through the morning sky. It's in these simple moments that I realize just how lucky I am. Not that I was unhappy exploring the reefs and rainforests back on Tik, even if I wasn't born there, but I wasn't going to spot a UIS-territorial sauropod stomping about my homeland, now was I? Since I came here to continue the research of my Ma, the great Johnna Runner, I've had the opportunity to study the living and the greatness of tech not like any other Teadr 1 race. The Scyrians left behind such fascinating secrets. I'll always be grateful for that.
  • Xandy:... She really DOES seem lucky.
  • Hudson: Huh. Didn't think Heili was a Tiikon.
  • Xandy: Well, what did you THINK she was?
  • Hudson: Maybe a sentient version of a native dino? I dunno, you tell me!
  • Xandy: (She giggles) Oh, Hud. (She continued reading)
  • (Heili): I've been holding out for a change in weather before studying the wildlife of this island's peculiar tundra region, given my natural cold-bloodedness, but I think it's safe to say that it's not forthcoming. Clearly this planet has no axial tilt, given the condition of the environment outside this island, and therefore, it has no seasons. That ice and snow isn't melting anytime soon. Can't say I'm happy about it. The cold and I are not the best of mates since, again in case anyone reading this is a MORON, I'm a reptiles and I don't take kindly to the cold. But I just have to suck it up. An environment for dinosaurs like these are fairly uniform, so an arctic climate is quite the oddity.
  • Xandy:... Well, if THAT doesn't indicate she's a Tiikon, I don't know what does. Tiikons are smart critters.
  • Hudson: She came off a bit aggressive with the 'moron' comment, though. Must've had to deal with a lot of them in her day. Maybe it was one of her brain sleep cycle phases.
  • Xandy: (Chuckles) Goes to show how much the cold sucks for reps and how much it sucks to be around morons... Though some are the best kind! (She giggles again and continues reading)
  • (Heili): The tribe that calls itself the Howling Rolves have made this expedition in the north a lot easier. Well, them and Athea. She's right at home here. She may be a pterosaur, but she's a pteroavian, so she's more bird than reptile. I don't think I'll ever repay Stonewell for just up and giving me a Pteriornis. He's said our conversations are payment enough, but I still feel guilty. I should remember to collect some floral samples for him while I'm here. Anyway, tagging along with the Rolves has been a good introduction to the region, but I think I'm ready to make my own way. To make real scientific conclusions, I need to observe these animals undisturbed in their natural habitat for long periods of time.
  • Hudson:... Yes, definitely a Tiikon. If there was even some minor doubt, that killed it faster then a fat kid on cake. (Xandy giggles)... Okay, Xans, your giggles are getting contagious now, are ya catching a laugh virus?
  • Xandy: Oh, stop it, cutie! (She continued reading)... Wow, she sounds excited on this page.
  • (Heili): What a day! There I am, putting the finishing touches on the Mammothericus Dossier, when all of a sudden, a Tyrannus starts attacking the herd. Strewth! A Tyrannus wading through the bloody snow! I asked The Howling Rolves at the nearest camp, and apparently, this is a common thing. They’re not new to the region. It just doesn’t make sense. How can a Tyrannus, a REPTILE, survive in this climate? And how can the introduction of an apex predator not shift the entire ecosystem?! I'e got to get into this as soon as I can!
  • Hudson:... I take it she didn't get the memo on this world yet.
  • Xandy: I'm sure she'll figure that out, let's just keep reading.
  • (Heili): Well, I've combed through more carnivore droppings than I care to calculate, and I can't say they provided many answers. All the predators in this region have very similar diets. With so many different predators hunting the same prey, the populations of all these species shouldn't be sustainable. Yet I've found nothing to indicate that any population shift is actually happening. It's just bizarre! The longer I'm here, the more I realize that this region shouldn't exist. Its climate is out of sync with the rest of the island, and the planet in general, many of the creatures here are equally dominant and therefore deadlocked or threatened, and the ecosystem is almost static! Something's off. I need to review my notes.
  • Xandy:... Well, let's hope she realizes it.
  • (Heili):... Heili, you're a dipstick. Going through my notes, I've realized that there are more predators than prey across this entire island by almost double. That's the OPPOSITE of how ANY ecosystem is supposed to work. It's like this world was meant to be a dino-fantasy video game and all the iconic carnivores are present en masse. Not the smartest analogy I made, but it's the best one I can think of. I can't believe it took a Tyrannus frolicking through the snow for me to see this. It's plain as day. What to make of it? Add in the sentient being factor, and it's impossible for this island to continue as it is by natural means. So, what, is this island's wildlife being monitored and curated somehow? Possibly from the Scyrians, or their technology, in some way? I should speak with Stonewell. Maybe he's come to a similar conclusion.
  • Xandy:... Ehh, at least she's catching on. Watching people as smart as this woman discover things is... Kinda engaging.
  • Hudson: I'm just glad she doesn't do too much sciencey talk. (They continue reading)
  • (Heili): I never thought this island was normal, exactly. I mean, there are three giant obelisks that are not of Tiikon origin floating in the sky, for Petan's sake. Not to mention that cave I found in the central volcano, which hid a platform similar to those found at the base of said obelisks. Well, similar except for those oddly-shaped holes that were carved into its podium. I guess I just didn't care about all that. So long as I had my beautiful, unique and untainted ecosystem to study, I was happy. But now... No, I shouldn't write it off just yet. Not before I arrive at Stonewell's. There's still a chance that my data is off, or that I missed something obvious. I won't give up on my paradise just yet.
  • Xandy:... Heh, "her paradise" she said.
  • (Heili): I really need to visit Stonewell more. It's so energizing to be around someone of his experience that still has so much excitement for his work, and talking to him always helps me gain perspective. As for the island's ecological abnormalities, Stonewell reassured me that I was jumping to conclusions. He made a great point: Just because this place doesn't follow the scientific or natural laws, let alone even the most basic sense of the natural world we're used to, doesn't mean it follows no scientific laws at all. After all, science is about discovery, and new discoveries can invalidate old principles, or reinvent them, whatever works with people like me and him. So before I latch onto my theory, I need to gather more empirical evidence. Otherwise, I'm no scientist.
  • Xandy: Hmm. I guess she's got someone who's optimistic in her circle.
  • (Heili): On Stonewell's recommendation, I've headed south to start an in-depth study of the island's marine life with the help of a tribe called the Dyesharks. Because the ecosystem of the ocean that surrounds the island is separate from the ecosystem on the mainland, correlating patterns between them might help me isolate and understand this island's scientific abnormalities. Also, after freezing my ass off for so long, I could really use an extended stay on a tropical island. Marine biology wasn't my uh, magnum opus of study, but I do love the ocean. A lot of people do these days. And why not? If nothing else, it should be beautiful there, as many oceans are.
  • Xandy: Puh-REECH!
  • Hudson:.... This seems to affect my inner Aquastar.
  • Xandy: Oh, Hud.
  • (Heili): The Dyesharks have treated me like I'm the bloody queen since I showed them Stonewell's letter of recommendation. I don't think I've eaten better in my entire time on the island. Not that it's a high bar, I'm a horrible cook. Oh, and they've been of tremendous help with my research, of course. So far, my estimates of the predator-prey balance are consistent with the ecosystems on the mainland. The water is simply teeming with shoals of Junjadons, and they are extremely aggressive. Perhaps that's a side effect of having limited prey? Sharks aren't known as territorial creatures. I'll have to study them further.
  • Hudson:... Heck's a Junjadon?
  • Xandy: Oh, I learned about them as Xasandra. They're an offset evolutionary cousin of the Junja Shark, and they're MUCH bigger, have armored spiked backs, and are night-black.
  • Hudson: Whoa, and this woman, was crazy enough to study them?
  • Xandy: Apparently. When you're a scientist, you take risks.
  • Hudson: It's amazing a lot of them are even alive.
  • (Heili): Still no answers as to why the Junjadons are so territorial, but I was privy to something even more extraordinary: Junjadon mating behavior! No one's ever witnessed Junjas rooting around back home, so that alone is monumental, but I got something even better. I know, what could possibly top watching Junjadons having a naughty, right? Tracking the female! I was able to observe her for almost the full gestation period, and get this, it only lasts one week. One, week! No wonder the population is so high. These are spitting out pups 44x the rate of the average Junja. I should compare how they behave in captivity.
  • Xandy: Captivity? Those things, can be TAMED?!
  • Hudson: Apparently. I guess ANYTHING can be tamed on this planet.
  • (Heili): So, in addition to all of the oddities I found with wild Junjadons, here's the real sherry on top: Taming them is a piece of piss. A bit of training and they're more obedient than the family rog. Now, I've heard of sharks getting very rudimentary training over a year or so, but not to this extent. Certainly not so easily. Sharks aren't mammals or even avians, they're fish. They rely more on instinct, I.E. they're not very smart. You shouldn't be able to ride one like a jet ski. I'm trying to keep an open mind like Stonewell suggested, but, I'm kinda back to square one where I question the realism of this planet.
  • Xandy: Well, true. When you become self-aware of your own paradise... It gets ruined. Though it's not exactly hard to see oddities like this. It's a crazy anomaly why nobody here has even NOTICED anything like them. Unless, the people here were born in captivity, as in being born here that they don't mind the oddities?
  • Hudson: Probably. I mean, she still has no idea that this is a controlled environment? Ugh, you would think that Tiikons would be smarter than that!
  • Xandy: I'm SURE we're getting to that and I'm sure SHE'S smart enough to figure it out and doesn't know the purpose of these contained environments yet. Just be patient, kay?
  • (Heili): Well, this seals it. Just when I thought I'd made some sense of the notes I took while visiting the Dyesharks, I spotted the nail in the proverbial coffin: Roos. A whole herd of giant Roos were just hopping about the countryside like they'd always been there. As much as I love Roos, they just shouldn't be here, period. They evolved away from dinosaurs. Large mammals and dinosaurs can't so easily share the same environment without some degree of environmental damage, and/or causing natural chaos. If I know any genus, it's this one, and Coptopodus should not exist here. This island isn't an ecosystem, its a zoo, or better yet, it may as well actually be like the previously claimed dinosaur-fantasy video game analogy I called it before. I remember playing games almost like it, but this would no doubt make a good one. But this is not a video game to me. It feels more like a VR game, or sorts.
  • Xandy:... Cute.
  • Hudson: Well took her long enough to get the picture.
  • (Heili): Not too long ago, I thought this place was a far-off utopia where I could study a lot of UIS wonders AND the secrets of yet another lost Teadr 1 race unlike many I've seen. Now that I'm certain it's not natural at all, I have to say, it's lost a lot of luster, that's to say, this world feels like a parody of what uneducated folks THINK prehistoric times were like. This shouldn't be a real world. But, would that mean that, It's Teadr 1 race was a lie too? Not helping that they disappeared mysteriously and even the Wondos can only guess what happened, so some part of me feels as if the Wondos do know what happened, but are motivated to play dumb on it as if to protect some secret. Interference from sentientkind hasn't helped either. Most tribes have learned to live in harmony with their slice of the island, but some aren't content with that. One is even trying to conquer all the others, and natural or not, this ecosystem won't be any better off if it's burned down in some great war. In some way, I know it involves the technology my mother studied. The sunrises are still beautiful, though. At least nothing can change that, not even the implication of a planet being faked, or at the least radically altered from its normal ways.
  • Xandy: They really are, sister. They, really, are.
  • Hudson: Glad you're together with someone who can fly huh?
  • Xandy: (Chuckles) Yeah.
  • (Heili): Of all the abnormalities that I've observed, the tamed Junjadons stick out to me. It was almost like they were stray rogs who were re-socialized, as though they had a genetic history of sentient obedience. Obviously, it's the Scyrians, but I can't know for certain yet. Most of my observations have been in the wild, but I think I may learn a thing or two if I observe domesticated creatures more closely. I need to study their diets, their mating patterns, how they socialize with other species, all this and that and what have you. Rumor has it that there's some woman that's tamed a whole mess of them all by herself, so many that they call her The Animal Queen. Maybe she'll have some useful insights.
  • Xandy:... I don't feel confident with that. That sounds like a feral being, and that ain't pretty.
  • Hudson: Nope... But let's keep reading just to be sure. Maybe this 'Animal Queen' is a different kind of feral person.
  • (Heili): I suppose it was a bit naive of me to think that someone with the moniker of 'Animal Queen' would roll out the red carpet. Should've figured that being the 'Animal Queen' requires being QUITE the piece of work. I guess I got used to all the friendly treatment that being an associate of Stonewell's earned me. She did let me stay at least, and she hasn't instructed her creatures to kill me yet, so that's a positive. Not that she'd really need them. If that glare of her's gets any more intense, I'll probably just burst into flames on the spot. Strewth, I hope she eases up. Sifting through raptor excrement with someone watching is harder than you might think.
  • Xandy:... Well she's got the scary look of an unsentient animal, for sure.
  • Hudson: Yeah, this queen's glare would certainly do something random like that... In a figurative sense.
  • (Heili): There's nothing special about the diet of these tamed creatures when compared to their wild counterparts. Part of that is the Animal Queen's doing, as she takes them on regular hunting excursions for training purposes. Curiously, they never have to range too far. There is an abundance of prey nearby, despite the size of her pack. That this has held true regardless of her domesticated creature's remarkable birth and growth rates makes it even more unusual. Oh, and I did finally get her name: Meya Liu. She never told me where she came from, though, because I feel she hasn't warmed up to me yet, if the fact that she's been glarey at me wasn't an earlier indication. She's gotten a little less so, though. In hindsight, maybe starting by studying her animals' feces just gave her the wrong impression.
  • Hudson: Yeah, I mean, why was she even do that?
  • Xandy:... I'm amazed you didn't know that, hon. That's how biologists study an animal's diet.
  • Hudson:... Still gross. Why not just observe the animals eating?
  • Xandy: Because SOME animals have too great a sense to be observed quietly. Science ain't always sanitary, Huddy, so you gotta get dirty and smelly once in a while.
  • (Heili): The most interesting thing that I've observed about Meya's animals has been what they don't do: they never fight. Among creatures that have been domesticated for generations like feloots or rogs, that's normal, but there's a reason zoos keep their animals in separate enclosures. Certain instincts are hard to curb, and there should definitely be more disputes among such a diverse group. Meya has even integrated a herd of herbivores into her army, as their thick hides have proven resistant to fire and explosives. Yet despite being surrounded by carnivores, they remain untouched. It doesn't make sense. That's not to take anything away from Meya. She works hard to treat and train her animals well. She's not bad company either, at least when she's not mute and I don't go full biologist. Sometimes it's felt like speaking a new language, but it's been kind of refreshing.
  • Hudson:... I don't know how to feel about this 'Meya' person.
  • Xandy: Me neither. But Heili sounds like she's got her charm, so that should change soon.
  • (Heili): After going over my notes from Meya's camp, I've concluded that the animals on this island are not only used to sentient beings, but used to captivity. Even with their accelerated growth rates, their behavior indicates that they have been regularly domesticated for decades at least. Otherwise, they'd never obey the whims of sentientkind so easily. With that in mind, I believe that my theory about this island being curated is back in play, again. In fact, it's possible that not only are animal populations being controlled, but that the animals themselves are genetically modified. Once again, I must guess, or theorize, that the Scyrians were living in a savage world of predators and decided to tame them into being used to them, or some other purpose like that, using their advanced technology. But it's still only a theory. I must bring this to Stonewell. However, before I do, there's one more rumor that I want to confirm.
  • Xandy: Hmm...
  • (Heili):... This is the smoking blaster. It has to be. I simply can't be convinced that this place is natural after finding an island populated entirely by carnivores. Even if they fed off of each other, which is awfully dubious given that carnivore meat is much more likely to carry harmful parasites than herbivore meat, the landmass is so small and their population is so dense that they could never maintain it. Yet there it is, hidden away off the northeast coast of the island. Someone could have to put them there on purpose. There's no way that Stonewell can deny my theory now.
  • Hudson:... Seriously?
  • Xandy: Actually, yeah, now that she brings it up, I HAVE seen that island before I met up with you. I saw a Tyrannus fighting it out with a group of Scoepons AND a pack of raptors.
  • Hudson: Wow. I'm surprised Heili was the ONLY one to realize that. The people on this island must've been dumb as bricks.
  • Xandy: Or maybe just blissfully ignorant. Like I said, they could've been bred here too.
  • Hudson: I'm still not so crazy about that idea, either, but, whatev, let's just keep reading.
  • (Heili): As I expected, Stonewell couldn't deny my theory, but I can't say that I have his endorsement either. He didn't seem terribly engrossed in the subject, frankly. Something else seems to have captured his attention as of late: the island's obelisks. Apparently, Stonewell stumbled upon a way to interact with the towering monuments while spelunking, of all things. I guess he felt the need to scratch that old intrepid explorer itch of his. It's pretty impressive considering his age, as he knew my Ma, who was roughly the same age. Now that I think about it, the obelisks could be linked to my own findings about Scyrian technological involvement on this island. Their nature has always been a mystery, and Stonewell made some intriguing observations. I should follow up.
  • Hudson:... Something tells me their story has just begun.
  • Xandy: No kidding.
  • (Heili): Though I've been received by the Steel Brotherhood, they didn't seem very pleased to see me, especially when I mentioned Stonewell. That's a first. Add that to the rather deserted, gloomy state of their compound, and I'm starting to feel a bit apprehensive. Their leader can't return from his hunting expedition soon enough. All I've confirmed so far is that yes, they gathered all of the artifacts Stonewell sought and yes, the artifacts were able to activate one of the obelisks. You'd think they'd be celebrating such a monumental discovery, but it's just killjoys as far as the eye can see. Go figure.
  • Hudson/Xandy: Well it IS a primitive tribe. JINX! DOUBLE JINX! (They both laughed)
  • (Heili): I keep glancing at the artifact. I understand why the Steel Brotherhood's leader didn't want it. Since it has no apparent use, all it does is remind him of the tribesman who died seizing it from that giant multi-fanged spider. Can it really be useless, though? They described the artifacts that activated the obelisk as looking similar to it, so I headed to the nearest obelisk to see if I could get a response. No luck. Maybe it activates something else? Of course! The platform in the volcanic cave! It's a long shot, but it's the only thing I can think of that's similar to the obelisks. Definitely worth a try.
  • Xandy:... Yeah, she's starting to solve a puzzle here.
  • Hudson: Let's see if it worked.
  • (Heili):... Unbelievable! The artifact perfectly fits one of the slots in the platform's pedestal. How did I not notice that right away? I really am a dipstick. So if this key, such as it is, was acquired by activating one of the obelisks, then it follows that the other two keys can be obtained by activating the other two obelisks. Then, with all three keys, maybe this platform will lead to whatever is controlling the island's ecosystem. If the other obelisks work the way that the first one did, that means I have to find a whole mess of artifacts first, and I don't think I can do that alone.
  • Hudson:... Meya?
  • Xandy: Meya.
  • (Heili): Well, the Howling Rolves are quickly tracking down the artifacts, but after hearing about what happened to the Steel Brotherhood, that's as far as they'll go. It's understandable, but it leaves me in a tight spot. If a giant spider and I get in a scrap, the spider's winning for sure. Even with Athea on my side, I prefer to avoid danger, not confront it. My aim's piss poor and I've got fists like soft pillows. If I want a fair go at actually surviving whatever happens when the obelisk activates, I'll need backup. Negotiation Notes: Don't mention feces. Don't look directly at the glare. Bring chili (UNBURNED).
  • Xandy: Definitely Meya.
  • Hudson: Yep, Meya.
  • (Heili): Now, I know you don't get a nickname like 'Animal Queen' without being one tough lady, but when I saw that giant ape, Giopithecus to be more specific, and a rare endangered species at that, I still thought we were buggered. Fortunately, Meya's got more intestinal fortitude than yours truly, and somehow, someway she was able to pull out a win. Glad I'm on her good side. I already found the second key, but I want to take a look around here before we head back through the portal. This ape either lived here, or was released when we activated the obelisk. Finding out how it survived in this isolated environment or how it got here could prove useful.
  • Hudson: Wow. I guess they look like they might win this quick.
  • Xandy:... Ummm... I think you spoke too soon, honey. Listen to this.
  • (Heili): So, these are the conquerors that I heard about way back when. Not a great first impression. Meya and I weren't quite mates, but watching her creatures get slaughtered like that certainly wasn't pleasant. I'm not a fan of the prisoner lifestyle, either. The leader introduced himself as Nervay Gai Artegerant, and he's not a complete bogan, I'll give him that. He let me keep my personal effects and our conversations have been civil so far. I get the feeling that'll change if I don't cooperate, though. Not that I have much choice. They already took the keys. The only way I'm seeing this through is as a 'guest' of the Artegerant Legion.
  • Hudson:... Wow.... That went downhill fast.
  • Xandy: A slaughter?! Damn.
  • (Heili): This Nervay bloke's FIGJAM incarnate. Seems that his entire family wants to leave the island and reclaim the world or some rubbish like that. I think his ego was actually tangible when the Legion returned from to the obelisk with the third key and the head of a Dracthonosaur in tow. Sadly, as much as I would enjoy seeing him fall flat on his face, I need him and I need the Artegerant Legion. So, when he 'asked' me to guide his forces to the hidden cave, I obliged without protest. What he'll do with me afterwards, I don't know.
  • Hudson: I'm genuinely scared right now.
  • Xandy: Me too.
  • (Heili): When Nervay and his band return from the cave, they'll decide my fate, so this may be my final chance to reflect. I may as well take advantage of it. I realize that had I just ignored the signs and accepted this paradise at face value for easier research on the Scyrians and the wildlife for Ma, I'd still be happy and free and be spared her fate. Would that have been better? I don't think so. After a lot of thought, I've decided that I'd rather die seeking the truth than living in an illusion or living in the past. That, as Stonewell would say, is the path of a true scientist. Not that I'm some historical scientist battling the church or anything, but hey, it's something to hold onto.
  • Hudson:... So... She's dead?
  • Xandy: Not quite. Look at this.
  • (Heili): Well, I'm not dead, and as it turns out, neither was Meya. In fact, it was her who freed me, and insisted we follow Nervay through the portal in the cave. A horrifying scene awaited us. All of Nervay's men lay dead amongst the shards of a mysterious metal, but Nervay's body was missing. Forgetting my present company, I suggested a peaceful approach if we encountered him. That earned me one hell of a knockout punch. After all, Meya's animals were all dead, and the one she cared for the most, a raptor named Suave, died saving her life. A sacrifice like that would have her understandably seeking revenge. But I at least tried to have a compromise. When I came to, I searched the whole station, but the only signs of Meya and Nervay were a few ounces of dried blood. No bodies, and no victor. Then suddenly, I found Meya and Nervay fighting, and followed them through the portal. They were gone, but I found something shocking yet stellar to see. There, floating outside the window and surrounded by machinery in some kind of holodome, was not just the very island that I had been living on, but the land and ocean around it. I never thought the rest of the planet as a whole was a wasteland. I never had the chance to see it when I arrived. Teleportation and all that. But the station I was on? It was orbiting high above the planet close to the Karman line. This station was doing some crazy work on the obelisks and domes they were in, including the island. And everything was revealed. The ecosystem on the island wasn't just curated, it was completely artificial from the ground up. In fact, it wasn't just a controlled and contained environment just like I knew it was... It was some kind of prison. What in the hell is all this? Why would the Scyrians construct it? And how could they have possibly kept it restricted from the world? I don't have the answers to any of these questions or the dozens of others that keep popping into my head, but somehow, I mean to find out. Somehow, I'll find the truth.
  • Xandy:... So, I guess she's starting to reveal everything needed to know about the Scyrians.
  • Hudson: Yeah.
  • Xandy: So it ends here... But she says here that she has another journal. One that she made because she suspected that it would be her last entry for now.... Clever forethought.
  • Hudson: Yeah, kinda comes from a race known for extra personas.
  • Xandy: Definitely.

(Later...) Scorchar Desert

  • Xandy:... It can't be!
  • Hudson: What? What?
  • Xandy: This is the second journal of Heili!
  • Hudson:... Wow, isn't that a coincidence?
  • Xandy: And we didn't even have to do some proper journeying.
  • Hudson: Nope.
  • Xandy: Let's see what happened after she found that floating tower.
  • (Heili): I'm alive. Why the hell am I alive and how? Well, I suppose it is a rather strange question to ask. But I just learned how my mother died. She was killed by that station's Overwatcher AI or something because 'she was learning too much' or some hogwash like that. I’m still not entirely certain just how I got that console working before he came, but it suddenly started cycling through holographic images of different destinations far from the island that I’d been studying on. Of course, I couldn't think before pressing another button while it was showing off one that contained miles and miles of bloody desert, and here I am. Seems that the station teleported directly above the desert, which is actually inside a giant crater, and I had to jump from this massive altitude to avoid getting killed. That’s just typical of me, isn’t it? Always leaping, never looking. It's a bloody miracle I survived that fall somehow. Oh well, better make the best of it, and by that, I mean "better not die of heat exhaustion". Not that it was a possibility. Reptiles THRIVE in heat.
  • Xandy: (Giggles)
  • Hudson: Still sick of that laughing virus?
  • Xandy: Oh, come on, Hud, you like my laugh, don't you?
  • Hudson: Yeah, but we're on an important mission to stop Dr. SMD.
  • Xandy: I know, but... Maybe these people we've been reading about might have some clues to how we start.
  • (Heili): Okay, reptiles can't thrive in THIS kind of heat. It's burning hot out here. Too much for me. Worse, my hunting skills are seriously out of practice. Not that I was ever spectacular, but I feel like I’d graduated from smashing bugs with a rock at some point. At least I was thoroughly rewarded for my efforts. My hunch was spot on these big green bastards are carrying drinkable water on their backs, and thank goodness for that! I may have never known if I’d killed a red one first, since those carry oil instead. Far less useful when you’re dying of thirst, let me tell you. I may be fighting the inevitable, though. I’m still on foot and still alone. Definitely miss Athea.
  • Xandy: Well, glad that Isabellene got her and... She became a mother with Achitans.
  • Hudson: THERE'S a happy ending for you.
  • (Heili): I’m on a roll. By sheer coincidence, I stumbled into another group of survivors today, and they didn’t try to kill me or anything. If I didn’t know how probability actually worked, I’d say that this recent string of good luck is the universe making up for sending me to the bloody desert in the first place. The caravaners were welcoming, and the creatures they ride are fascinating. They seem like dinosaurs, but they also appear to share some biology with bamals. Bizarre! For all its oddities, the island never had anything like that. I’ll have to study them... After a nap. All this desert survival’s left me knackered.
  • Xandy:... Oh, she means these Limels.
  • Hudson: I guess.
  • (Heili): If I’d ended up in this place instead of on that island, I’d have never imagined the ecosystem was natural. Not for two seconds. Take these Nimels for example: they’re actually a new species that was generated a population by the Scyrian structures in the sky decades ago. They have a biology identical to bamals, and the strangest part? There are places in its humps where you can stick a spigot and get clean drinking water. Tastes like piss, but not only is it safe, it doesn’t even harm the Nimel. It’s crackers. Definitely a genetically-engineered modification, but I knew that, didn't I? Maybe studying the creatures here with my new perspective will yield some insight.
  • Xandy: Well we just got ourselves some info, and- HUDSON?!
  • Hudson: (He was seen taming one) What? She said they had water in them. And bonus, we got a ride.
  • Xandy:... Eh, why not? I'm tired of riding vehicles anyway, time to rent one of Mother Nature's rides... If you can call it that as more 'False Mother Nature's' rides given this is a genetically-engineered-
  • Hudson: Just get on, ya chatterbox. (As they rode on the Limel they kept reading)
  • (Heili): Today, I caught a glimpse of what the caravaners call the "Boundary Dunes". The desolate sea of sand that apparently surrounds the livable portion of the desert on all sides inside the giant crater we're standing in. Now those dunes are pretty inhospitable, what with the harsh sunlight baking the sands, the lack of much water, and even the predators that dwell there. But not only do they stretch on for a long time, but they're home to... Get this... giant sand 'worms' that will devour anything that sets foot in their domain. I laughed that off at first since it seemed unlikely a giant worm like that could survive such an environment with little water and food with such a great metabolism. Then I saw a creature the size of a train burst up from the sand and devour a wild Nimel that had wandered into its territory. I suppose I'll just have to learn to walk without rhythm.
  • Xandy: Wow. A giant worm.
  • Hudson: Just like the ones that attacked us when we got here.
  • Xandy: Damn.
  • (Heili): As absurd as the Sandons are, I see their purpose. They are a natural barrier. Since this whole crater is apparently another contained and controlled environment like the island, but not also serving as a prison site, then it needs to keep the wildlife and sentient animals inside it who have been a means of sentient animal control contained in a way that appears natural. Not that that is the case any longer since outside colonization has blown the cover they had anyway, but still. The island accomplished that cover by simply being an island, and the desert does it via the Sandons. Granted, a large population of predators with ludicrous kilocalorie needs would never last long in a place as devoid of prey as I said before, but as this is an artificially-crafted and curated environment meant to fix the wastelands outside, the station can feed or, replace the Sandons as needed. It's a little convoluted, but it makes sense.
  • Xandy: Wow.
  • Hudson: You said it.
  • (Heili): Time to go over the facts. Like the island, this crater desert is a contained surface environment posing as a natural environment until a future date regardless of outside changes. It is inhabited by a large population of dangerous, genetically-reshaped and controlled creatures, and a small population of sentient animals and immigrating sentient beings that are struggling to survive. This whole environment is then deliberately contained by a combination of a holographic horizon and natural barriers. Assuming the other places around the world are at all similar, then this whole thing is starting to look like some kind of bizarre experiment on a grand scale. Yes, each environment would represent an experimental group, and... I'll have to continue this later. One of the caravan's scouts just returned in a panic. Something about rocks being alive, which is of course ridic.
  • Xandy: Wow, she hadn't gotten out much, has she?
  • Hudson: Nope. Apparently not.
  • (Heili): I long for the days when I thought a tyrannus frolicking through the snow was the height of absurdity. Compared to yesterday, that seems commonplace. As the scout had so eloquently put, the rocks were indeed alive. Alive, in the shape of a massive, bipedal Rok and exceedingly angry. I was too shocked to scatter like the others when it charged, and for a moment, I was certain that I would die. Then something even more ludicrous happened. Lightning crashed into the Rok, but it didn't come from the sky. It came from the mouth of a bloody Dracthonosaur. I don't recall much else. Fear and instinct pretty much took over for the rest of the day, and while that helped me survive, I'm once again on my own.
  • Xandy:... Well that was lucky.
  • Hudson: I should say so, you don't have a savior riding a Dracthysaur saving your life unexpectedly every day.
  • (Heili): I remember now, the Dracthonosaur had a rider. Or really, a Dracthysaur. Two legs means it's a Dracthysaur. Strewth, listen to me, fighting to survive and still finding time for semantics. The rider was covered up too well to get a good look at them. Could it have been Meya? No, that's stupid. I don't know if she's even alive, much less in this desert with me. It would be just like her though, to have tamed the meanest thing here so quickly. It's nice to pretend that a friend might be looking out for me, at least. We were sort of mates, right? Sort of. I could really use one right now. A friend, I mean.
  • Xandy: Wehell then go find one already!
  • Hudson: Heh, I don't think she'd have to wait THAT long. Look at this.
  • (Heili): Well, I found a new best mate. This little fuzzball isn't exactly what I meant, but I'll take her. It's a little critter called an Earbitidium. They're small, cuddly little herbivores, and as far as I can tell, taming one has no practical use. I just couldn't let the her starve to death, though. I guess all this rubbish with Roks and Drachtysaurs has quenched what was left of my scientific instinct to leave nature to nature. At least we provide each other with a little warmth at night, and her antics have helped to keep my spirits up. I suppose I'll need to give her a name.
  • Hudson/Xandy: Nawwww!
  • (Heili): I may have been wrong about Earbitidium not having a practical use. Earlier today, my furry new companion started bouncing around so excitedly that I couldn't calm her down, and then soon enough it started raining. I brushed that off as a coincidence, but soon after filling my waterskins and setting off once more, she started acting skittish. I decided to find shelter just in case, and within minutes light rainfall had turned into an electrical storm. I'll need more evidence to draw any firm conclusions of course, but I wouldn't mind having a fuzzy little creature that can scan for weather with me. You know... It's a little on the nose, but Scanny's not a bad name.
  • Xandy: Impressive. A creature that can sense weather changes.
  • Hudson: I have GOT to get me one of THOSE! Could help me while I'm flying for sure.
  • Xandy: (She giggles)
  • (Heili): Thank goodness that I decided to find some high ground two days ago, or I'd have never spotted this settlement. That's twice now that I've stumbled into my own salvation. I can't count on that happening again. I'll need to stay here for a while and prepare before setting out once more. Fortunately, the villagers are willing to let me trade work for supplies and shelter. Another stroke of luck, and another factor I can't rely on. On the island, Stonewell's name got me far, but here I'm just another stranger. Not everyone will trust or help me. I need to be prepared to survive on my own.
  • Hudson: Well, she's DEFINITELY lucky.
  • (Heili): In some ways, surviving on my own was less work. At least then I wasn't conscripted into manual labor. Ugh, my whole body feels sore! I bet I wouldn't have to work if I were as adorable as Scanny. The whole village is in love with her. I swear, they spoil her like a furry little princess. Stonewell would be livid about this arrangement. I can just hear him ranting about treating scholars with propriety. I hope the old Chredder is doing well. Maybe when I've broken this mystery wide open, I'll figure out a way to get him off the island and we can discuss it all over tea like old times.
  • Hudson: He's a Chredder, huh?
  • Xandy: Apparently. But, let's see how she does without him.
  • (Heili): While my mind still can't recall the last time I fired a gun, my muscle memory is much better. According to my would-be instructor, I wasn't a complete disaster on the firing range. I'm no pacifist. Death and violence are a part of life, that's just nature. Yet a gun still makes me a little uncomfortable. The idea of shooting at another sentient being or animal, just seems instinctively wrong to me. I couldn't even fire at the Artegerent Legion back on the island. But I need to pull my weight. The villagers have been welcoming and patient with me. For their sake, I need to practice.
  • Hudson: Well, she got this far, so she might need to catch up with whatever surprises await her.
  • (Heili): I may have to put my freshly-polished marksmanship skills to the test sooner than I thought. A hunting party spotted a swarm of giant M-Lucuses heading in our direction. M-Lucus. I read a lot about them, but I never seen one with my own eyes. But I also didn't expect to see them this early given the villagers have spoken of them every now and again. It's a little-known fact that M-Lucus is an intelligent species. Not sentient intelligent, but intelligent enough to hunt as efficiently as any sentient being. They have strategy. Resourcefulness. These insects were no different. Their little hands can actually grip and wield weapons or tools. Sounds absolutely loony, but there's a lot of loony stuff in the UUniverses. No one seems keen on fighting them, but they're too close to outrun. Hopefully they'll just pass us by.
  • Hudson:... M-Lucus?
  • Xandy: It's a species of giant mangrid. Call them, insect raptors.
  • Hudson:... I see.
  • Xandy:... Ooh. Uh, Hudson, your comment about a savior from the sky riding a dracthonsaur... May not be accurate. Apparently the people get it all the time. Listen to this.
  • (Heili): My hopes that the M-Lucuses would ignore the village were unfounded, and I think we were all wondering if this morning's sunrise would be our last. Despite all my practice, my rifle felt heavy and foreign in my shaking hands as the swarm advanced. Fortunately, they weren't our only visitors. The villagers erupted in cheers as lightning and fire tore through the advancing insects from above. Some chanted a name: The Rayburn Skyrider. The rider, still hidden behind black robes, didn't acknowledge the ovation. With swift efficiency, their small flight of Dracthysaurs decimated the M-Lucus swarm and made for the horizon.... Now that I think about it, she must have been how I survived that fall here from the floating tower. The Rayburn Skyrider.... I need to meet this person, if only to thank them.
  • Xandy:... Well, I suppose she's gonna get a new friend.
  • Hudson: "I would imagine so."
  • (Heili): Just who or what the Skyrider is depends on who you ask. Some of the villagers have attached a religious connotation to the figure, believing it to be some sort of heavenly guardian who appears to worthy in their time of need. One villager is even convinced it's an extraterrestrial. I don't deal in beliefs. I deal in empirical evidence, and that means nothing about the Skyrider is certain until I can meet the figure. I won't forget this village's kindness, especially after granting me a Limel and supplies for my journey, but this is why I'm here: to find answers.
  • Hudson: Well then go find them!
  • Xandy: (She giggles) Are you trying to make me laugh because you like it?
  • Hudson: I don't know, am I? (Xandy laughed harder before she continues reading)
  • (Heili): I'm definitely more prepared for this desert than before, and better equipped. With my Limel offering a large, mobile supply of water and Scanny looking out for the weather, the only threat I really have to worry about is major predators. Also giant Roks. I'm actually impressed with the shape I'm in, if I do say so myself. I think I even saw some ab definition the other day. Took me long enough. I've been living without sweets for ages, after all, You'd think I'd get fit much quicker. Great, now I miss sweets. The things I'd to do taste chooclate again...
  • Xandy: Well, maybe that's a good thing.
  • (Heili): It took weeks of searching, but I finally caught a glimpse of the Rayburn Skyrider. I knew I was getting close when I found a series of fulgurite formations this morning, and sure enough, I spotted several Dracthysaurs later in the afternoon with a lone rider among them. The rider clearly saw me too, because soon enough the Dracthysaurs were circling overhead. I waved and yelled in greeting, even calling out Meya's name just in case. Yet without so much as a nod, the Dracthysaurs regrouped and flew off. Rayburn's not a social cosmofly it seems, but I'm not letting them off the hook that easily.
  • Xandy: Wow. She had to climb big terrain to get to creatures that would so OBVIOUSLY spend time at high altitudes because, you know, THEY CAN FLY!
  • Hudson: Okay, are you trying to give ME the laugh virus?
  • Xandy: I dunno, am I?... (The two laughed together before they continued reading)
  • (Heili): Of course Rayburn lives on a bloody mountain. Of course they do. I saw their Dracthysaurs land at the summit yesterday, and they haven't left. This has to be their home... Unfortunately.
  • Hudson: See?
  • (Heili): The paths were too narrow for my Limel, so I had to leave it behind. It should know to wander off if I don't return for it, not that I can really afford to worry about it. The climb's doing a fine job of kicking my ass even without distractions. I swear, if I don't have a six pack after climbing a mountain in the bloody desert, I'm going to be awfully cross.
  • Xandy: Oh, I bet this 'Rayburn' person's got a LOTTA wawa to go around.
  • (Heili): I don't know what kind of reception I expected when I reached the summit, but laughter wasn't one of them. Yet that was exactly what I heard when I finally let myself collapse and started flinging every obscenity I could think of at this damned mountain: the bemused laughter of an old woman. The Rayburn Skyrider is definitely no guardian angel. She was quick to dismiss those particular rumors with remarks about how the gods have abandoned this wretched place. As long I avoided that subject though, she's welcomed my questions with surprising warmth, though often enigmatically. I have a feeling that I'll need to be patient with her.
  • Hudson: Huh? The Skyrider's old?... Well, good on her for keeping herself fit and agile.
  • Xandy: Well she says that the Skyrider is an Invervasaur. They can stay physically fit even when on borrowed time.
  • Hudson: Lucky reptiles.
  • (Heili): It turns out that I didn't find the Skyrider. She found me. I was right. She WAS the one who saved me from that fall here. According to Rayburn, it was easy for her to spot me falling and screaming from atop her Dracthysaur, and she started tailing me soon afterwards and saved me the moment I fainted from fright. I guess her timely interventions were no coincidence. She didn't seem very surprised when I told her about the obelisks, their guardians or even that this desert is actually a controlled and contained environment. Either she knows more than she's saying, or experience has grinded the surprise right out of her.
  • Xandy:... Seems this Skyrider knows more than she lets on.
  • Hudson: Clearly.
  • (Heili): I really missed flying. There's no replicating the feeling, and no replacement for seeing a sunrise amongst the clouds. Rayburn probably started these Dracthysaur riding sessions just to give herself an escape hatch when our conversations get too personal, but I can't say I mind. Despite their appearance, riding a Dracthysaur is just as pleasant as riding a Pteriornis, even without a saddle. By design, perhaps? No matter. Genetically redesigned or not, they are magnificent creatures. It's a risky proposition, but I absolutely must observe them in the wild sometime. I can't pass up an opportunity like that.
  • Hudson: (Chuckles) Nerds these days and their addiction to science, am I right? (He and Sandy chuckled)
  • (Heili): Now that Rayburn has deemed my Dracthysaur riding skills acceptable, she's finally agreed to show me around the region. From what I can gather, she's been here for a very long time, maybe longer than Stonewell was on the island. She knows the history of every village and ruin. Apparently there was once a great city to the southeast, but it was wiped out at some point. She's still mum on a lot of details, but I'll just have to keep prying. Scanny's been helpful in that regard. Rayburn definitely seems to be in a better mood when the fuzzball's around. That little charmer's certainly earned her keep.
  • Xandy: Uh-huh.
  • (Heili): I'm grateful that Rayburn allows me time to study the local wildlife, but I suspect she only does so out of amusement. She always says something like, "Why do you spend so much time on these scribbles that no one will read?" I never have a good retort. It's true that no one else may ever read my dossiers, as I have no way to reproduce or distribute them as long as they're trapped in on one of these contained environments. When I started them, they were a passion project, created out of my love for nature and its creatures. Now? I guess they're just part of my identity. Writing them helps remind me who I am. I am Heili Runner, daughter of late renowned archaeologist Johnna Runner.
  • Xandy:... Well, lucky SOMEONE came across them, huh? (The two laughed)
  • (Heili): I can't believe it! Rayburn spotted someone wandering in the desert the other day, and it turned out to be none other than Edwyn Stonewell! I just about burst into tears when I recognized him. Apparently, he heard that Nervay was holding me captive and sought to negotiate my release. That lead him to the cave, and eventually he wound up here. Awfully sweet of him to go through all that trouble for my sake! Strangely, Rayburn claims that she saw a portal open up far away from her territory shortly before I fell into the desert. I guess that was Stonewell, though Rayburn arrived at the scene too late to track him. Stonewell theorized that the portals may have taken us through time as well as space. Considering my present company, I'm inclined to agree with him.
  • Hudson:... Hmm. I guess that's much of a coincidence.
  • Xandy: Yeah.... Maybe even... TOO coincidental?
  • (Heili): Rayburn has been much quieter since we found Stonewell. I guess she's just letting us catch up. However, she did say something interesting when we were recounting Nervay's ambitions for the island. "This place would never allow anyone to master it." she said, and when I asked her to explain, she told me that the great city to the southeast was destroyed by the obelisk itself. Now it's just conjecture, but it's interesting to think about. Could the curators of these stations be monitoring sentient behavior and clipping its wings should the survivors ever band together and fly too close to the sun? If each station represents a different group in a larger experiment, "resetting" sentient progress would make a lot of sense. It's a bit grim though, isn't it? Yikes.
  • Xandy:... Why would these environments do that?
  • Hudson: How should I know? Not much is known about why the Scyrians built these contained environments. Maybe it's to plan for their return? Or to reterraform the planet when they come back? I dunno.
  • (Heili): I don't think Stonewell's been sleeping much. I awoke last night to find him studying a strange piece of metal by firelight. I guess some tribe gave it to him as a gift, along with a very familiar looking artifact. I insisted that we show those items to Rayburn, and she recognized them as the property of this station's lone guardian. With all that she knows, I'm not surprised that she's activated the obelisks before. Hell, it sounds like the old battle axe has even slain the beast herself. She said it was a creature called a 'Mantilovia'. Since we have said guardian's artifact, Rayburn says that we can leave this station at any time. I suppose we may as well. Stonewell's eager to depart, and as much as I like Rayburn, I've had my fill of sand.
  • Xandy:... Well, I guess that was a good story, but there's a few pages left.
  • (Heili): The transporter that can take us back to the "control center" station is in the ruins of another city, south of the mountains. Rayburn believes that it was destroyed by the obelisks, just like the city in the southeast. I didn't press her for details, not that I'd have gotten any. Rayburn's more tight-lipped about those ruins than anything. I had to practically beg her to take me to the southeastern city, and while we were there, she spent most of her time just gazing out into the distance. No sense in bringing her mood down with that rubbish now. After all that she's done for me, I'd like give her a nice, proper farewell. But before we could go further, seems that the Mantilovia had followed us outside into the desert. Apparently, Stonewell had collected more of that strange metal he had before, and something about it is angering the giant beast. My answers to why Rayburn was so down about the southeastern city when a stranger came in and saved us. It was a subterranean wild-accented Mephean who tamed a plethora of subterranean lizards, and it was someone whom Rayburn knew and loved, and thought was dead. We were able to drive the creature back into it's home when Stonewell needed serious persuasion. The man was more stubborn than I remember. What happened, I don't know. Maybe it was the metal? Regardless, our lives were saved.
  • Xandy:... Yikes.
  • Hudson: I couldn't have said that better.
  • Xandy: Yes you could've.
  • Hudson: Eh, you're right.
  • Xandy: Kay, last page.
  • (Heili): Having seen us through the ruins after that Mantilovia attack, and safely to the platform, Rayburn and her Mephean subterranean lover had taken their leave. After doing so much for me, I was sad to see her and this new bloke I just met go, but at least I got her to smile before she left with him. Well, me and Scanny. I can't very well take the little critter with me, so I officially gave Rayburn and the Mephean ownership of her. They'll be good for each other, I think. Gah, I wrote "Rayburn" and "Mephean" up there. Twice! I suppose old habits die hard, but they're not really their name, are they? I always knew that was the case, but she'd never told me to call her anything else. At least not until now. Well at any rate... Cheers, Rav. And... Cheers, Johno. It was a pleasure to have known you... And you for a brief time after saving us.... What a strange history they shared.
  • Xandy:... Interesting.
  • Hudson: Well, who these 'Rav' and 'Johno' people are, I'm sure we'll find out soon enough.
  • Xandy: Yeah. And look, she says she has ANOTHER journal somewhere else.
  • Hudson:... I guess we have ourselves hunting for a story, huh?
  • Xandy: Looks like it.

(Later...) Lapse Wastes

  • Xandy: Oh, son of a gun, Hud, you won't believe this, but I FOUND ANOTHER JOURNAL FROM HEILI!!
  • Hudson: OH WOW WHO WOULD'VE GUESSED?!? (The two laughed hysterically)
  • Xandy: I think we both caught the laugh virus today.
  • Hudson: Maybe we have. You still have a beautiful laugh.
  • Xandy: Oh, stop it! Let's just read this sucker. (They opened the book and read)
  • (Heili): Bloody hell, this place is weird. Don't get me wrong, it's fascinating too. Such an abundance of underground flora is completely unheard of, and because so many of the plants here are bioluminescent, the whole forest has an eerie beauty to it. That's just it though. 'Eerie' is the operative word. I've been holding my rifle so tightly since we got here that I swear I've left dents in the grip. We should have gone back to the island first before coming here. People know us there, they might have preferred help and supplies as much as we did. Stonewell didn't want to hear it though, and I wasn't about to let him come here alone.
  • Xandy:... Hmm. Looks like they wasted no time coming here.
  • Hudson: I know. This place IS beautiful... Despite all the poisonous spores, gases, radiation, and other stuff.
  • (Heili): "You can't surprise me anymore, life," I said. "After all the hodgepodge of things I have seen, I'm ready for anything." "What about flying squid-battus-murder-monsters?" life replied. "Well, that is mildly surprising," I conceded. By which I mean, I shot and cursed at those things all afternoon. At least, when I wasn't running from them. Thankfully after thinning their numbers a little, they decided that Stonewell and I weren't worth the trouble. Let's hope they don't change their minds. I'm not sure I have enough ammunition left to fend them off again. And yes, I know that FSBMM isn't the most scientific of monikers, but I'm bloody upset with them right now so that's what I'm calling them... Along with some other names I'd rather not write down.
  • Hudson: (Chuckles) She seems to have an ounce of humor inside of her.
  • Xandy: (Chuckles) I know. Maybe she's the one infecting us with the laugh virus. (They both laughed before they continue reading)
  • (Heili): While I can't say I'm enamored with this station's wildlife, I'm certainly grateful for its abundance of natural resources, particularly water. The permeability of the rocks here is astounding. The cavern walls are wet with condensation, and the floor is littered with pools of water. After all that time in the desert, this is one change I can welcome with open arms! Thank Gods for hydration! I don't mean that just for my own sake, either. Stonewell seems... Distracted. The other day, I had to keep him from walking headlong into a poisonous mushroom. He wouldn't fare well in a harsher environment. Then again, at his age, I'm sure I'd lose a step too.
  • Hudson:... Well, at least she's taking this utopian hell with stride.
  • (Heili): There's no mistaking it. That was a giant, armored subterranean rodent. Thankfully it wasn't aggressive, so I was able to get a good look at it. It's appearance made me realize something that I'd taken for granted. Much of the creatures I've encountered has some basis on either a known species, or legend. Like the FSBMMs (still cross with them), as they appear to be a pastiche of known fauna. The Scyrians seemed like they weren't just genetically reshaping animals, but were genetic engineering in general. What does that mean? Am I grasping at straws here with how much the Scyrians knew or did? I can't say, but it's worth pondering. Especially since I heard Stonewell muttering something about an 'Adytum Project', whatever that is.
  • Hudson:... Clifton and Samantha were talking about Stonewell knowing what that is.
  • Xandy: They did. But, they seemed a little uneased 'bout how Stonewell did his things.
  • Hudson: Well, we would too after we heard them.
  • (Heili): The FSBMMs returned, and I was right. I didn't have the firepower to fight them. Luckily someone else did. It was incredible! I've never seen a sentient being move that fast... Or at least in my still-young days alive. One second, I'm a dead woman, and the next there's someone in glowing, silver armor tearing through those creatures like they were sodos. One got punched so hard it skipped off the cavern floor. As if a super savior wasn't shocking enough, when they lifted their visor, I found a familiar face. It was Meya! It took me a good minute to form a sentence after that. I must have looked like a complete dipstick, because I swear, she almost laughed. At least I'm a living dipstick, and with her around, I just might stay that way.
  • Xandy:... Well, I'm relieved Meya is still alive... But how? Oh wait, she explains it on this page.
  • (Heili): What's the saying? Absence makes the heart grow fonder? On the island, I wasn't sure where I stood with Meya, but now we've been catching up like best mates. She apologized for socking me in the face, I learned how she arrived here and that she got her new scar while battling Nervay to the death. You know. Best mate things. She said that Nervay died when being encroached on the surface above, as it seems that the sky above it has lost it's ozone layer, causing it to be scorched with radiation. She also introduced us to some of her new allies at her camp, and here's where it gets loony... At least to me... Most of them are UIS races. Particularly the head, Dinia, who is a Skorner, my race's most hated rival race, not saying I'm with that hate camp, but, I do know that the rivalry exists for a fair enough reason. Let's just say, Tiikons and Skorners are, not famous for getting along. Though I naturally kept my distance, it seemed she didn't have time for racial concerns. Thankfully, she was, also friendlier then the expected norm with a race usually known for a "Hit first and ask questions if it survives" mentality. In fact, she was, the most Un-Skorner-like person I've met. But what also perplexed me was her name: Dinia Altories. Skorners had a much more sparse name design. That means she was orphaned.... Either that or her parents wanted to branch off their races' traditional naming style. Whatever the case, it sure made me think.
  • Xandy:... Impressive. I guess Solus' endeavors were around before he even joined us.
  • Hudson: Well, this 'Dinia' person seems too concerned with something else to be concerned about such an immediate concern like their races' relations.
  • (Heili): The journey to the village was a bit tricky. Since Stonewell and I lack the high-tech armor the others wear, they had to help us along with rope ladders and zip-lines. We made it eventually though, and it's quite the sight. The technology this tribe uses is incredible, although Stonewell was far more intrigued by it than I was. Dinia gave us the grand tour and he pelted her with questions the whole time. Fortunately, Dinia just smiled and answered his questions patiently. Apparently she was a pilot in her prime. But I don't understand how I never knew that the UIS were establishing their own contained environments like the Tiikons were, and how I hardly met a single UIS-oriented race until now. It just gets curiouser and curiouser as I go, doesn't it?
  • Hudson:... I'm amazed by that, too.
  • Xandy: Yeah, you'd think she'd meet at least ONE UIS-loyal race.
  • (Heili): I have to convince them to stop! There's no way the station will allow this. "This place would never allow anyone to master it." If it weren't for Rav's warning, I'd be ecstatic about what they were creating. A gateway that can help them escape the environment that was not just contained by science, but by nature and the geological formations around us and reach some kind of strange signal location? It's brilliant, but the obelisks will kill everyone here before we can complete it, just like they destroyed the village Rav told me about. I'm sure of it. Bloody hell, I'm going to look like an absolute madwoman. I've barely settled in here and I'm already coming to them with doomsday prophecies. I'll need to convince Meya and Dinia first. They're my best bet.
  • Xandy:... Huh?... This place is THAT contained? I mean, granted, the way we got in almost killed us, but, wow.
  • (Heili): The tribe's leadership was surprisingly receptive to my ideas, but still a bit skeptical, and not just because I was a Tiikon, which I'm sure they've grown numb to at this point. Apparently they've already fiddled with one of the obelisks, and even damaged this station's control center. So while they believe my account of what happened in the desert, they think the threat is already contained. Thankfully Dinia convinced them to lend me a small team to inspect the obelisk, just in case. Better than nothing, at least. However, here, getting to an obelisk is something of a risky proposition. They rest on the irradiated surface above. That means before I go, I'll need to get a crash course on that armor.
  • Xandy:... She just cannot catch a break, huh?
  • Hudson: Not many can on this planet, Xandy.
  • (Heili): My time in the desert may have given me some skill with firearms and helped me get fit, despite failing to give me washboard abs much to my chagrin, but I'm still no soldier. That was evident to anyone who saw me flailing around in the training yard these past few days. If it weren't for Meya and Dinia, I'd still be crashing my high-tech armor into rocks or tripping over myself like a drunken sodo. Plus, I always feel less silly when there's someone to laugh at my mistakes along with me. Fortunately Meya will be accompanying me to the obelisks, so this whole thing won't rest in my unsteady, armored hands. Thank Gods!
  • Xandy:... But at least she's not catching no breaks alone.
  • Hudson: Nopesy do.
  • (Heili): Meya and I set out yesterday, alongside Dinia's boyfriend, a bespectacled computer expert named Santrago. He'll be the one to actually examine the obelisk. He claims that he can hack into its terminal. If it's preparing to unleash a surge of power, as I suspect, then he says that he might be able to reroute it. Stonewell, for his part, is staying behind. He's been aiding the village's scientists in their studies since we arrived and has become rather... Engrossed. Every other sentence with him is about that bloody metal he named after himself. It's a bit troubling, but thankfully Dinia said she'd look after him. I can't spend time worrying after Stonewell now, though. The fate of that whole village might depend on this expedition. Focus up, Heili! Let's do this!
  • Xandy:... I have a feeling-
  • Hudson: That this'll define who they really are? I'm with you, Xandy.... Oh, look at us, we're finishing each other's sentences. (They laughed, but then stopped).... Let's not turn into THOSE kinds of couples, it gets creepy and/or annoying after awhile.
  • Xandy: "Ditto."
  • (Heili): The structure of this environment must be vastly different from the others to allow for these massive caverns. Is that uncommon, or do many of the environments vary so radically from one another? I've only seen three. For all I know, they could come in all shapes and sizes. This one is contained naturally as well as scientifically. It's inside a closed cave system and the only exit is through complex aquifers filled with alien-looking marine worms. Speaking of different, Meya's been fairly talkative since we left, at least for her. She'll still grow quiet sometimes, but instead of trying to burn me to death with invisible eye lasers, she stares into the distance and idly fiddles with her necklace. I think it depicts a plane or spaceship of some kind. I wonder where she got it?
  • Hudson:... At least she knows what we had to go through. Those worms are MERCILESS!
  • (Heili): The surface is more radioactive than I thought. Then again, the sun is different than one I would see as normal. Direct exposure to THIS kind of sunlight during the day will quickly burn a sentient being to a crisp, even in this fancy armor. Nervay must've been through absolute HELL when he died here. That means we have to adjust our sleep schedules and wait just below the surface until night falls. When it does, we'll make a mad dash for the obelisk, let Santrago get in as much work as he dares, then run our asses back to safety. Strewth! I thought that bloody desert was diabolical, but this tops it for sure! Why couldn't we do something simple, like flee from a pack of ravenous tyrannuses or something? This life I lead, I swear...
  • Hudson: Oh that radioactive desert is as merciless as those worms for sure.
  • (Heili): Santrago's still going over his readings from last night, but even without them, it seems clear that the obelisk was behaving oddly. It was pulsing wildly and the ground beneath it received regular tremors, as if the whole place was on the verge of tearing itself apart. If this obelisk goes off, it could mean armageddon for every living thing inside those caverns. Despite this, Santrago is insisting on analyzing his readings. The scientist in me is proud of his dedication to hard evidence, but the part of me that would rather not be obliterated by a mysterious, high tech barrier really wishes he would hurry the hell up.
  • Xandy:... Heh. We would too, frankly.
  • (Heili): We shared our findings with the village by Holonet. Santrago's analysis confirmed what I suspected. The obelisks are highly unstable. They could be days away from reacting. However, Santrago raised a good point. Even if the Escape Project is shut down, we can't say for sure that it would stabilize the obelisks. It may be too late to dissuade the barricade from destroying the village. The only way to ensure our survival is to shut down the obelisks themselves. Johno DID say this place looked unstable, and he was really onto something. According to Santrago, we can't do that from the obelisk's platforms, but he may be able to manipulate said platforms into teleporting us somewhere we could. Specifically? Into the heart of the environment's master matrix itself. It's a huge risk, but it may be the only hope we have.
  • Xandy:... Let's hope she makes it.
  • Hudson: Yeah, let's.
  • (Heili): I can't believe it! We actually made it! We're inside the master control station of this wonderful and contained environment! There's a platform here that Santrago was able to lock onto. Perhaps it was used while the station was being built? The architecture here is similar to that of the control center I encountered before: a jagged cavern of metal, lit by an unearthly blue glow. There's a constant hum all around us, likely from the power being sent to all areas of the station. But what caught my attention was the words Adytum Station. As in, the Adytum Project that Stonewell mentioned before. I believe we've found what it is. But where to find what we need for the moment is problematic. This place is a maze. Hopefully Santrago is able to find a map on that console he's been messing with. Then all we have to do is find a control room and shut down the obelisks. Simple, right? Right...
  • Xandy:... Well, she's got guts.
  • Hudson: Kinda like yours.
  • Xandy: (Giggles) Stop making me laugh for your own pleasure, babe, we kinda got work to do here. Besides, you can't fight well with an erection.
  • Hudson: Hehe. No. I cannot.
  • (Heili): As we made our way deeper into the station, we passed through a massive chamber. It was so vast that I couldn't see the bottom of it from the bridge we were on. Yet it was packed full. From wall to wall, it was filled with specimen tubes, each containing creatures, fetuses or eggs. I knew from the holograms that I'd seen on the spire I met the Overwatcher that each contained environment created its own creatures, but I'd never seen where the process actually occurred. There were specimens for every creature that lived on the station, from dinosaurs to huge, alien-looking monsters. I would have loved to get more data from the room's consoles, but... You know, after reading that aloud, I think Meya was right. That idea really does sound stupid and dangerous. Good call.
  • Xandy: Hehe. She really thinks over her head, doesn't she?
  • (Heili): Ever since I saw those strange holograms in the spire of the Overwatcher, I'd considered this possibility in the back of mind, but I wasn't prepared to confront it. Not directly. My mother found out great secrets about this 'Adytum Project'. But what would the Overwatcher have against us doing it? I don't know, but when Santago said he found a way to not only stabilize the power of the obelisks, but also lock onto the signal of that weird beacon the Escape Project was for, I had to ignore that question for now.
  • Hudson: Well, we'll figure it out, soon.
  • (Heili): When I shared my questions with Meya, and when I asked what the Overwatcher would have against this Adytum Project, she said that they would likely find the answers when they got the Escape Project working. She also explained why she was on that island to begin with. When she left her homeland, she was attacked by something that sounded colossal and had the roar of a demon. All she could do was run and she ended up washed up on that island. She could not see the monster that chased her, but she said she'd know it by it's one roar. That alone proved that both her story and mine had a connection. But we must ask more questions later. It's time to go over Santrago's observations.
  • Xandy: Well then what'dya find?
  • (Heili): We finally found it! This has to be the obelisk's control room. Fortunately, the consoles here were similar to the ones in the control center that I've used before, so I was able to help Santrago get started. He's been working on it for a while now, muttering and cursing to himself the whole time. I can't blame him. This is some baffling s*** we've... Ha! No way! He just said he cracked it! It certainly sounded like he did, too. There was a loud hum and... Oh. Those are roars. Lots of roars. Time to run, then! I'll finish this later.
  • Hudson: PFFFT!
  • (Heili): Right as Santrago finished hijacking the obelisk and get what data we needed, the station unleashed a horde of creatures in self-defense, so we blasted the controls and ran like hell. Fortunately, Meya's battle instinct acted up just in time, and she led the charge through a throng of fangs and claws, while Santrago and I did what we could as we raced to keep up. Even though Santrago had prepared the platform for a quick getaway, it was a close call. I had to pull him through the portal just before it closed, but in the end, we made it. We're covered in guts and still a bit twitchy, but we made it! Strewth, what a day! I need a pint and the world's longest nap, stat.
  • Xandy: Yes, I guess we would too.
  • (Heili): You'd think I'd be more enthused. We saved the village, I confirmed the true nature of these environments, and when the gateway project is complete once the signal itself is locked on, we could actually escape this madness. It's all good news really, so why am I not thrilled? I tried sketching some of the wildlife we've spotted on the way back the village, but I stopped halfway through. What's the point? In the desert, I told myself it was a form of self-expression, but is it really? Is it really necessary when everyone should know that information and published it on the Holonet already? I really need that pint. Maybe several.
  • Hudson:... Yikes, that attack sure sucked the enthusiasm I like from her out.
  • (Heili): We contacted the village to tell them we succeeded. They were a lot more excited than we were. It was quite raucous actually. Cheering, applause, and all that. Enough that Santrago almost dropped the radio right out of his hands. Even Meya cracked a smile at that. She's coming around, if slowly. She just needed a bit of space, I think. I'm starting to come to terms with everything myself. Even if my journey should end the same way as my mother's, what I've done since I arrived on these environments were farther than she ever could get. What I do from now on is my destiny. That's who Heili Runner is. I think I'm okay with that.
  • Hudson: Oh, THERE she is.... Kinda.
  • (Heili): As we got the village on sight, we got another call from them. But this one wasn't celebratory. In fact, best we can tell, it was a distress call. Santrago couldn't quite clear up the signal, but it had that sort of tone. We heard Dinia's voice, panicked shouts, and someone mentioned Stonewell. Since then we've picked up the pace towards the village and hopefully we could make it back in time to help, and the situation isn't as dangerous as it sounded. If something were to happen to Stonewell, I can't help but feel like it would be my fault for neglecting him. Damn it all. We've got to hurry!
  • Xandy: Whoooo, boy, looks like she's finally gonna catch on to what makes Stonewell such a feared name.
  • (Heili): I'd feared we would be too late, but I never expected the village to suffer such complete devastation. We came across monstrous footsteps that shifted into more monstrous ones as they continued, and when we arrived at the village, there were bodies and debris everywhere. I nearly retched at the sight. In the distance, I could just make out the culprit and the one who made the tracks. A colossal, darkish-purple veiny figure disappearing into the cavern's depths. We raced to find Dinia, but by the time we arrived, there was nothing we could do. She died of her wounds in Meya's arms, somehow still smiling. However, before she passed, she was able to tell us the identity of the monster that had done this. His name was Edwyn Stonewell. She also told us that he had done that previously on Sho, and from there, something snapped inside of Meya. I had better stop this entry before talking to her.
  • Hudson:... Yikes.
  • Xandy: Yikes? THAT'S your best word?
  • Hudson: You got a better one, babe?
  • Xandy:... Nah.
  • (Heili): I can't let Meya go after Stonewell alone. It's my fault that he was here. He's my responsibility! So why am I huddled here, writing down my thoughts as though I'm too afraid to say them aloud? For weeks, we've been besieged by monsters that Rockwell either bent to his will or created himself, including that mutated childhood bully Dinia kept talking about who was revived after Meya slain him before, but since my last entry, Meya has refused to talk to me. She blamed me for the death of Sho, and that, if I had listened to her warnings about Stonewell, none of this would've happened. She was angry and ended her friendship with me with extreme hatred. But today Meya finally grew sick of hiding. She grabbed every weapon and able-bodied beast she could and left to hunt him down alone and denied me a chance to help her, still showing that hatred of me. I've never seen her like that. Even Nervay never made her eyes burn with such hatred. Damn it, she's going to get herself killed and it will be my fault! But how can I shoot him? He's my oldest friend. He helped me when I had no one else. But it's my fault, so I have to try. I have to!
  • Hudson:... Odd. Even after all he's done, she STILL considers Stonewell a friend?
  • Xandy: Yeah, that IS odd. Samantha said that Stonewell saw Runner as a traitor for just doing research without him, and that he viewed anyone around him as wishing to steal his research. Why would she still care about him?
  • Hudson: Maybe she felt sorry for him?
  • Xandy: Well, the enhancelement has a corruptive and addictive influence on people if yer stupid with it, so that's a pretty good possibility.
  • (Heili): I caught up with Meya and Stonewell among the flowing rivers of enhancelement in the deepest pits of the caverns, where they were already in the midst of battle. By then, Stonewell had grown into a hulking monstrosity, lashing out with flailing tentacles. I needed only one look at that hideous, misshapen face before I made up my mind. Though Meya yelled at me for defying her wishes and saying that she didn't need me, I fired at Stonewell anyway ignoring her senseless rage until my trigger finger went numb, and since she had no other choice now that I was there, we were able to divide his attention together. In his fury, Stonewell created a hole in the cavern floor, and with one final blow, Meya forced him through it. She nearly fell in herself, but I managed to catch her arm just in time. Thank Gods I did. If she'd fallen... Well, I'm just glad it's over. Meya, well.... In one hand, she stopped looking at me with hatred, but, she didn't acted ungrateful either. She only said, "I know turning on him was hard for you, but, at least you'd proven that, I mostly had misjudged you in rage.". She just walked off back to camp after that quote.
  • Xandy:... Guess that must've been intense.
  • Hudson: Ya think?
  • Xandy: Hahaha. Hudson, stop letting me rub off on you.
  • (Heili): To Sir Edwyn Stonewell, Know that I choose to remember you not as the monster you were in your final moments, nor as the secretive, obsessive man you became after I found you in the desert. I should have seen the signs then. If I had, perhaps I wouldn't have to mark this empty grave. This grave is for the man you were, and the man I will remember. He was the man who I'd talk and laugh with over tea long into the night, and the man who'd offer me supplies and a steed without a second thought. He was a scientist, a scholar and gentlemen. Wherever that man is, I hope he is at peace. Your friend always, Heili Runner.
  • Hudson:... Eh, at least she knows how to give a good eulogy.
  • (Heili): The effects of the monster's rampage still linger. Meya hasn't said a word since we returned, not even for an apology. Though her heart was tamed. She just stares at that starship necklace, turning it over in her hand again and again. It took an hour of coaxing just to get her to eat. At least the Escape Project survived, through one miracle or another. Santrago is organizing the survivors into teams to complete it. He thinks they can finish it within two weeks. The device itself is complete, but the signal itself has yet to be locked on. I suspect I won't be welcome to join them when it activates. Not that I blame them. I brought Stonewell here with me. The people he killed, the destruction he caused... It's on my head. How could I ever ask forgiveness for that if even Meya couldn't forgive it? Sure, she wasn't as aggressive with me as before in that rage she had, but, I think it's more like.... She doesn't know what to do with me, nor herself.
  • Hudson: "I hate ambiguity."
  • (Heili): The signal has finally been locked. The coordinates lead directly to the Scyrians' old capital city of Ar Cretacion. Everyone is set to leave tomorrow since the stuff we went though was in dire need of processing, so last night, I packed up my things and prepared to say my farewells. Santrago protested, but couldn't convince me otherwise. Meya, on the other hand... I've never seen her break down like that, not just in sadness, but anger. She was crying in rage. It was then she apologized and admitted she was acting completely unfairly with me for not knowing my connection to Stonewell before this madness. She was still a warrior by instinct. It caught me completely off-guard, as did the part where she wouldn't let go of my wrist. She kept saying that she'd already lost too much, and that she couldn't lose anything else, demanding that I stay. I couldn't just leave after that, even if I could break free of that iron grip, which I doubt I could. So that pretty much settled it. Tomorrow, the gateway will open, and we'll touch down on Ar Cretacion. We'll finally escape this mad experiment, and we'll do it together.
  • Xandy:... And that's the end of this book. Glad that there's another one coming up. But, something tells me it'll be the last. She's so close to finding the answers she needs.
  • Hudson: No kidding, babe.

(Later...) Ar Cretacion

  • Xandy:... 3... 2... 1...
  • Hudson: FOUND IT!
  • Xandy: HAHA!
  • Hudson:... You were counting down for the cue, weren'tcha?
  • Xandy: Yep. Is this the final chapter?
  • Hudson:... Yes.
  • Xandy: FINALLY! No more cliffhangers.
  • Hudson: You're telling me. Now we can see how Heili ended her adventure.
  • Xandy: (Giggles) Alright, let's read.
  • (Heili): It's been a while since my last entry, hasn't it? Between all that happened with Stonewell back on the station and the shock of arriving in the capital of ancient Scyrian civilization, I've been in a bit of a rut. Even cataloging the new species I've found has done little to ease my mind. Things down here are so mental that some people are wondering if we were safer before. Honestly, they might be right. Maybe that was why we were trapped on those environments to begin with. Luckily, Santrago's plans have given us all something to do. I'm hardly an ace with technology, much less giant bloody robots, but after all that's happened, I owe it to these people to lend a hand in whatever way I can. Still. Nice to see the heart of Scyrian civilization. A technological marvel to say the very least, even if it's been dormant for who knows how long.
  • Xandy:... Yeah, this city is pretty cool to look at.
  • Hudson: Especially when you're flying with me. (The two giggled)
  • Sandy: Still being a giggly couple, I see.
  • Xandy: SANDY, GO BACK TO HELPING THE OTHERS!!! (They continue reading)
  • (Heili): It's hard to believe that this is actually the home planet of a race that perfected the perfect fusion of organic tissue and inorganic metal, but the proof Santrago provided is undeniable. If this was the setting the Scyrians lived in, I can see why they had such great technology. The lack of night is disconcerting though, unless you really enjoy apocalyptic events. Could the planet's rotation have slowed down, or worse, stopped entirely? No, that's rubbish. With the atmosphere out of control, all these abandoned buildings would have been decimated by wind and those giant creatures would never survive the shifting oceans, extreme temperatures and weakened magnetic field. Yet, if all these contained environments around us could somehow form a magnetic barrier in the sky and even repair the atmosphere... Well, anything's possible at this point. Maybe that's their real purpose, or maybe they're behind this mess in the first place. Whatever the truth is, I have to find it. There's no way I'm getting squashed by some monster before I do.
  • Xandy:... Sometimes her analytical mind is all over the place.
  • Hudson: Well, she IS a Tiikon. They have three personalities. That's how they sleep.
  • Xandy: I know that, but... I'm speaking even by Tiikon standards.
  • (Heili): These machines Santrago's building are brilliant! Somehow he's simplified the controls so that even a weirdo biologist like me can move these big blokes as if they're our own body. Me, piloting robots... I've completely lost control of my life, honestly. Even Meya was able to synchronize with one, and for a second I swear she cracked the tiniest of smiles, even when, after really crying for the first time in years, and the first time I seen her do it on THIS scale too, after feeling the pain of those corrupted animals in the wasteland and finally meeting the kind of monster that brought her to the island, the apex predator of Scyria known as a Titos, she has grown to hate the enhancelement, and wants to simply purge it. And her idea of these corrupted animals having a hive-mind seems logical, but where the hive-mind is coming from I'm not sure. She was even more peeved when she found that the already-present researchers knew and didn't tell her that it was also spreading through the world. Regardless, I think cheering her up with the mech brought me more relief than the mechs themselves. She's fought so hard to get here, and been through so much, especially that nightmare with Stonewell and Dinia. I hope that at the end of all this, I can help her find some shred of real happiness. She deserves it.
  • Xandy: Hopefully you will.
  • (Heili): I had a talk with Santrago today. A real one I mean, not the sarcastic banter that's his preferred method of communication. I was pretty surprised, I didn't think that had an off switch. He'd been thinking about the cloning chambers we found back on the station. And even the 'Adytum Project'. We have no doubt found the place where we might find the answers as to what the Project itself is, but it's all questions I'd asked myself as well, but rarely had a chance to discuss. I told him that I was afraid I'd end up like my mother, but instead I shrugged that off by saying that we can't control any of that, and that all we were really responsible for is how we lived from said paths our families have taken. I'm not sure that's the answer he wanted, but for now that's the best I have.
  • Hudson:... At least she's being motivational.
  • (Heili): Why does it always feel like everyone's making sacrifices for me? Stonewell, Meya, Rav, Dinia, and now Santrago. Just before we could finish powering on the mechs, a pair of corrupted Titoses and their gigantic babies attacked in force. But... These were different. They had the same corruption Meya had a severe distaste towards, but they were much bigger and that made them pretty damn durable. Only one of the machines was operational, so Santrago used it to lure them away. By the time Meya and I managed to power on our suits and fend them off, he was gone. There was no sign of him. Well it won't be for nothing, Santrago. With the tools you've given us, I'll find the truth behind all this. Then I'll have those better answers you were looking for, I promise.
  • Xandy:... Arbasus. He died?
  • Hudson: I guess?... At least he's with Dinia now.... Wait... Nano said that she was still alive.... Wow. Sucks. He died in vain. REALLY sucks.
  • (Heili): With Base Cretacion Alpha compromised, and much of the study group that were present there when we came dead, and after them all holding a funeral for Santrago, who was a good leader since their original also perished, we've decided to head for the wastes. There's not many of us left, and there's only three mechs remaining, piloted by Meya, myself and a fiery SGG bloke named Zuken. So we can't form that super weapon Santrago designed. That means if we run into anything too big or too nasty, it'll be trouble. Yet we don't have a choice. The answers are somewhere in this wasteland, and hopefully safety along with them. Gods, this whole piloting thing still feels bizarre, but I guess my nervous system just linked up with the machine really well. And it's what I wanted, isn't it? I'm finally something more than dead weight for other people to lug around, I can do my part. I just hope I don't let everyone down.
  • Xandy:... She seems to be adapting well. Good on her for being a great survivor, even in a wasteland like this.
  • (Heili): I never had much to write about the mutated creatures in this wasteland since the last time I saw them. Like I said before, they made Meya cry. These mutated creatures can be as vicious as they are grotesque, but so far we've been able to fend them off in the mechs. There've been a few close calls that have me worried though. The other day, Meya just sort of charged in without warning and nearly got herself blindsided. Not that I'm any sort of tactical expert or anything, but it just seemed reckless. That's not an isolated incident either, she's constantly trying to take on more enemies than Zuken and I. I don't think it's a matter of ego. She had a burning hate for the enhancelement she kept calling 'hell metal'. With Santrago gone, it's like she's put the burden of protecting the survivors on herself alone, too. Doesn't she realize that I'm right here, finally able to share the load? Somehow I need to make her see that.
  • Hudson:... Not that I blame the poor creature. This corruption is everywhere and, to an animal-lover like her, it could really scar her.
  • (Heili): Amazing. Dinia and Santrago are BOTH still alive! She just came in with his mech and carried him inside some kind of pod that he claimed would resurrect him as an android, a mere day after he seemingly died. Good on them for making it this far, I say. Unrelated note, it's funny how the one subject that managed to put Meya at ease still had to do with fighting. After a fashion, anyway. I'd said that I wanted to talk strategy before Santrago and Dinia showed back up, but mostly I just ended up showing her all the ridiculous tag team moves I'd been sketching out for our mechs. The Dossier Driver, The BioBeast Bomb, G'day Mey-T... This stuff was gold! I can't believe she didn't go for any of them, but at least she lightened up a bit. For a while it was almost like we were back on the island, failing to cook a decent meal and chatting about raptors. Bloody hell, you know your life's a mess when 'the good old days' has you stranded on an island full of genetically-new dinosaurs, don't you? Yet here we are...
  • Xandy:... WHOOOO, I guess it's a miracle that BOTH Dinia AND Santrago survived.
  • Hudson: Heh. Nano said they WERE a couple. I say they both deserved a reward for coming this far.
  • (Heili): I'm still amazed we actually tried that, and more incredibly, it actually worked! When Meya said she wanted to try the Mey-I Hel-P You Maneuver, I thought maybe she'd taken a knock to the head, but we really pulled it off. If only Santrago was here to see it in his current state. What an absolute ripper! To be honest though? I was terrified through the whole thing. I'm scared to death every time I get in that mech, but I'll keep doing it. I can't just rely on Meya all the time and even she can't fight all these battles alone. I think she's starting to see that too.
  • Hudson: Wow. These names for their moves are SO cheesy.
  • Xandy: TELL me about it.... (The two chuckled)
  • (Heili): I know it's likely that my memories are fuzzy, but they're so clear that I start to remember them more. I remember growing up in Cerwano. The sunsets on the coast, the splendor and fury of the storms in the wet season, and volunteering in Kaduk whenever I could. I was an obnoxious little bugger, chasing after my next great discovery but usually just finding trouble, much to my mom's disdain. Had no idea she was working on something like THIS when looking after a handful like me. I suppose that hasn't changed, has it? I'm still just hopping from one adventure to another. Now I hopped right into HER adventure. Isn't fate fickle? And yet, after this is over, if we find what we're looking for in this wasteland, what then? Will that be it, my last adventure? Somehow I doubt it.
  • Xandy:... I guess, I do too?
  • Hudson: This IS your last journal.... But, hey, I guess with what happens here, there won't exactly be much journaling to do anyway.
  • (Heili): Even though he's gone, for the moment, anyway, Santrago keeps coming through for us. We've finally managed to reverse-engineer his psychokinetic abilities, and that signal that brought us here, with his nifty psychokinetic scanner thingies, I think we've finally locked onto it. We reestablished a link to it a few hours ago with lower gadgets, but now that we have stronger scanners, it's only been getting stronger. With a bit of work, we should be able to triangulate its position. I'm not sure what exactly we'll find there, but if there's even the slightest chance that it's linked to this 'Adytum Project' and the environments, or what happened to the planet AND the Scyrians, then we've got to investigate. I think this is the spark we needed to lift everyone's spirits! We're one step closer!
  • Xandy: WELL THEN YOU BETTER GO GET IT!!!... (She scoffed and laughed)
  • Hudson: Are you TRYING to give me a boner, babe?
  • Xandy: I dunno, am I?
  • (Heili): Why is this a debate? We finally have a clue and everyone wants to go hide in a cave and what, just try not to die? Sure, we don't know what lies at the other end of that signal, but that's the point! You climb the mountain to find out what's at the peak! We vote on the matter tomorrow, and my stomach's passing the time by tying itself into knots. Could I really have come all this way just to be stopped dead by a few raised hands? Part of me thinks that even if I lose the vote, I should head off on my own, but well, there's a bit of a complication. Meya's voting for the other side. She said it's because she senses something off about this journey, but she's too tough for this. I swear, this wasteland is getting to us all.
  • Xandy:... It does for everyone, Heili. (Lefou was seen being chased by a Scyrian Upholder)
  • Lefou: GAAAH, THIS ROBOTIC JAGUAR IS TRYING TO KILL ME!!!
  • Xandy:... In more ways than one.
  • (Heili): Not everyone sees things the way I do, but that doesn't make them wrong. I owe Meya for reminding me of that fact. I can't remember exactly what it was I said to her, something about how the signal was the only thing in this bloody wasteland that mattered, but her reply stopped me cold. "Your voice just then, it sounded like Stonewell's." I didn't say much after that. For a change, Meya did most of the talking. Unlike me, she doesn't care about the mysteries of this place... For the most part. It feels like, no matter what land she's in, she lives only for survival and honoring her family. Or at least, that's what she claims. The space stations, the end of the world, none of it seems to give a concern for her. She just wants to keep us... And ME... Safe. I said that deep down, she's probably doing it for more than my safety. She DID say that she left her hometown for a greater purpose, but she argued this purpose is not one she wished for, even if she knew it was a Titos that drove her to the island. She even knew it when she saw it too. Impressive sixth sense of her's. I should be grateful for that. I mean, I am but... I need time to think.
  • Hudson:... Wow, she must be in one hell of an adventure if even Meya's in it for other things. It must be a nightmare if you work for people with little care in the world, or at least repressed cares.
  • (Heili): It's been a day of reversals, I guess. I'd slunk off to brood somewhere, and Meya tracked me down to talk, mostly about a subject we'd been avoiding: Dinia. Sure she was alive and tending to Santrago as he was being converted, but... Well... What if she WASN'T alive? What would've occurred then? I mean, if she wasn't alive, then neither would Santrago. Either way, they would've been together. Since she opened my wound, she'd open hers, she said. It didn't feel like a fair trade. The way she clutches that necklace, and how she smiles when she remembers the woman who gave it to her, there's a gentleness there that she offers to nothing else. To persevere with a wound so deep that it may never heal, her will must be extraordinary, but... Maybe it helps that we're limping onward together, and maybe as long as we're here to prop each other up, we'll see this through. In the end, Meya changed her vote, and the ayes had it. Something inside tells me that Meya had a soft-spot for Dinia, or dare I say, a crush. But it's a concern for another time. We're following the signal.
  • Xandy:... Heh, honesty is a good medicine sometimes.
  • (Heili): As the signal grew stronger, I'd been anticipating catching our first sight of the source. This afternoon, it finally happened.... And I was utterly shocked. It's a massive, monolithic structure that somehow looks ominous even on the horizon, and even more shocking that there's cloning chambers of... What I've got to guess is Scyrian bodies. But this was not just any spire. It's the spire where I met the Overwatcher! Unbelievable! No doubt he's still there. I'm shocked that I have to confront HIM again, but in all honestly, what was I expecting in a place of importance like this, a pub? The ruins we've seen aren't exactly brimming with hospitality... Or pints, for that matter. Sadly. That said, it does seem to stand apart from the other buildings, and it was a master control structure. That was obvious since an AI like the Overwatcher should be an important asset to this 'Adytum Project'. That would make sense if it's connected to the environments somehow, and also explain why it has the most functional power in the area. As to it's critical and paramount purpose, well, there's only one way to find out.... If I die, I better hope that I die like my mom did, being remembered.
  • Xandy:... Well, ain't this quite the turnaround?
  • Hudson: It iaian't?... Okay, I got no good retort.
  • Xandy: (Giggles) Good try, though.
  • (Heili): This place is even more gigantic and foreboding than I remember. If the architects were trying to instill an impending sense of dread in their visitors, then well done, they absolutely nailed it. Really, I campaigned for us to come here and now even I'm wary about going inside. That's a bit embarrassing, isn't it? I voted we keep going forward, only to find the home whose caretaker tried to kill me. Well no sense in putting it off. The entrance is too small for the mechs, which means we could be in for days of exploring it on foot. Of course, we could cover more ground if we split up, but given the building's aesthetic and my rudimentary knowledge of horror films, as well as the Overwatcher, obviously, I've expressly advised against it. All right, here we go. Let's see what we can find. Bring it on, OW.... Because that's what you'll be saying when I'm through with you.
  • Xandy: (Chuckles) Quite the jokester.
  • Hudson/Xandy: I like her. (They both paused and blushed)...
  • (Heili): There's a dark sort of beauty to this place. The technology we've found so far is beyond even our mechs or EN Armor, and there are rows upon rows of it, humming softly and pulsing with an eerie light. From the way it's organized, it almost looks like a library or a server room. In fact, that's exactly what I suspect it is: an archive. In other words, my instincts were right! This is the place where we're finally going to uncover all the answers we've been seeking, it has to be! Unfortunate I never noticed it before, albeit running for my life. If the Scyrians that built these environments stored their knowledge within this spire, the secrets behind everything we've been through must lie somewhere within. All we need to do now is find a way to access it...
  • Xandy:... Heh. If I were in that situation, I'd guess that the Overwatcher would just jump out on me somewhere.
  • (Heili): MY GOLLY HELL, THAT WAS CLOSE!!!
  • Xandy: YEP!
  • (Heili): I almost died back there... AGAIN. Though, I WAS able to copy all the data within those archives and make it back in one piece. Praise Arbasus!... Anyway, we finally managed to get a separate Scyrian terminal working, and well, this is it. I almost can't believe it, but we've finally found it! The mystery behind those environments and the truth behind the Adytum Project, the whole reason we're all even here, it's all right here! According to this, those environments are deliberately designed biodomes called Adytums. And they're exactly what the definition of the archaic word says they are: sanctuaries. Apparently, the enhancelement is also at play. According to the historical documents, the Scyrians invented enhancelement, and used it to evolve into a brand new race, and perfect their technology beyond even any other Teadr 1 race of their time as a hybrid of organic flesh and welded space-age metal. Unfortunately, they were also like gene drugs. Like Stonewell, they had an addictive effect. The more they genetically enhanced themselves, the more they went into some kind of 'genetic madness', which may be the result of their minds being mixed with primitive brain cells or overwhelming genetics, turning to primal instinct and making them literally eat each other. Whatever accelerated this madness, whatever happened to the planet, whether it was enhancelement-based warfare and technology like Santrago suspected or something else, these Adytums were built to preserve and cultivate life in all forms. Fauna, flora and of course, sentient beings, safely separated from the planet's poisoned surface. Not sure where those preserved Scyrian clones I saw before are, though, but it's clear they were hidden well enough away for them to remain undisturbed in this Adytum Project. Speaking of which, something's gone wrong with it. There's all sorts of errors here. Maybe that's why they turned into such death traps. There's something about a 'Seeding Protocol' too. I'll need time to look this over.
  • Xandy: Well, NOW she's getting somewhere!
  • Hudson: Hooray for Heili!
  • (Heili): Sorry if I'm a bit loopy, I've been deciphering the information we found for two days straight. Stuff sleep anyway, I run on data. So, that Seeding Protocol I mentioned? Apparently, that's the endgame for the Adytums. They're supposed to deactivate their barriers, and when they do, all the life they're cultivating inside will spread across the surface. In theory, this might make the planet habitable again. Then from there, some kind of atmospheric laser will purge every last bit of enhancelement from the soil and help the flora grow, while at the same time... Opening a vault of so many other cloning tubes filled with the preserved DNA of Scyrians. That means, they'll be able to repopulate the planet once it's habitable again. Amazing. So this was all their autonomous backup plan to save themselves. But that doesn't explain why the Overwatcher won't work with us nor even my mother. But then, there came another point, and that's where the errors come in. The Seeding Protocol never initialized. I can't quite figure out why though, it just says the 'conditions have not been met'. It says that they haven't been met for millennia. Damn it, that can't be it! All the answers are here, but much of the data has been locked by the Overwatcher. No access code. F***! I've got to find another way to access these locked files. Maybe that artifact Meya mentioned? She said it was pulsing with some sort of energy, so it probably has power. I'll ask her to show me where it is.
  • Xandy: Ah, don't beat yourself up about it, Heili, life wasn't meant to be easy. Otherwise, it wouldn't be so exciting.
  • (Heili): Before Meya even showed me what she'd found, I knew I was in for something bizarre, but I didn't think it would be quite like this. She found an artifact guarded by some kind of creature the researchers said was a Titositaur, a mutant of Titos. When I reached out to touch the artifact she found, it felt like my hand was caught in its gravitational pull. I couldn't stop myself from touching it. Some of the details are fuzzy after that, but the next thing I knew, the artifact was gone. Instead, I was staring at an enchanting, diamond shaped object. A prism of raw, cosmic energy. I didn't get the chance to examine it any further before Meya confiscated it for safety. I guess I can't blame her caution, but I'm fine! Really! Sure, my head feels like a cracked eggshell and there's still tingles running across my body, but I'm physically uninjured. Somehow I have to convince her to let me study it. It's just... When I touched it the artifact, I felt something. Saw something. I need to understand.
  • Xandy/Hudson: OoOOOOOoooohoho, mysterious.
  • Donkey: Still being weird, I see.
  • Xandy/Hudson: DONKEY!
  • Donkey: I KNOW, I KNOW, ALOOONE! I'm going, I'm going.
  • (Heili): Months passed since we found that data, and I found out the obvious answer about the Seeding Protocol. The enhancelement in the soil would've corrupted plant growth and only kept the environment... Well, like this, with it's self-awareness in mind. So, we had to cleanse it out first. But, in my many other fights with the Overwatcher to come, it seemed that his own data has been corrupted thanks to some kind of enhancelement. No wonder he's so mistrusting.... Well, that, and the sentient beings they cultivated in the beginning were at a Teadr 7 level at the time they made the Adytum Project. We even found four more artifacts guarded by four more Titositaurs, which each had their own tricks that Meya could handle all the same. When I said that things got 'fuzzy' when I touched the one artifact we had before, that's not really the whole truth. I remember bits and pieces of it. Images, flipping across my vision in rapid succession. At first they were hard to distinguish, but now that Meya has allowed me to study the prism at a distance, they're gradually becoming clearer. A figure made of light, monsters roaring, a sky on fire... They didn't seem like memories. At least not mine. If the prism put those images in my head, well that's a little frightening, honestly. Meya's right. I need to tread carefully here. As much as I want to know the prism's secrets, if I delve for them too deeply, I could lose myself to it. We both saw where that could lead, back in that violet pit. I should apologize for pushing the matter.
  • Hudson: Well, then don't get your hopes up. This 'artifact' sounds like it can do anything.
  • (Heili): By now, Meya and I can understand each other with only a handful of words. I just said I was sorry for being short with her, and that was that. She knows how much this means to me, and I know that she's just wants to protect me, even from myself. I even told her about the images I'm seeing. She dismissed them as nonsense, but I'm not so sure. They're growing clearer with every day I spend studying the prism, and one in particular keeps coming up. In it, I see a single room, in the depths of a cave. It is both a tomb and a throne, where a coffin like structure sits on a raised platform, surrounded by silvery metal and glowing crystals. The walls glimmer and a light shines down from above, or is it rising up from below? I can't tell. What does it mean? Anything at all? Or do I really just need to get more sleep?
  • Hudson: I'm leaning more for all of the above.
  • Xandy: Me too. Hehe, look at us, we're talking about this story like a movie commentary. (The two laughed together)
  • (Heili): Possible hallucinations aside, the prism itself is fascinating. It's similar to one of Santrago's hard light constructs, but it seems more solid. At first I suspected it was plasmal enhancelement, but I'm beginning to think that's unlikely. However, I do know one thing for certain: its shape. Somehow, the prism has the same size and profile as some of the prism shapes we keep seeing all over the Adytums or anything relating to them. Plus, they even look similar to dataports in Scyrian terminals and supercomputers. Yes, yes, that may seem obvious, but I was so distracted by everything else that I never noticed. So is that what it's for then? Am I meant to just pop it and the other artifacts in something like that tomb they keep showing me like a data drive? Oh Gods, what if that's all it is? Maybe these artifacts, and the ones we encountered in the Adytums, are supposed to be some kind of complex data drives containing keycodes. Maybe THESE in particular are pulsing their data with my head, somehow. Heh. Telepathic data drives. I joke, but if it really was just something mundane, if there were no answers... What would I do then?
  • Xandy:... Eh, that's the most logical answer I've heard about the artifacts so far.
  • Hudson: Yep.
  • (Heili): After studying the prisms for all this time, I'm starting to draw one conclusion. They all seem to carry what seems like 5 fragments of an entire collection of unknown data that the Scyrians may have hidden away on purpose, for whatever reason. Maybe as some kind of untested experiment or something to keep history from repeating itself? Regardless, if I insert them all into that tomb they all keep showing me, something will change forever. Myself, probably, but maybe not. Who's to say I'd even survive the experience? Whatever the case, I think that's what it wants from me, and it wants it urgently. And me? I still want answers, but I keep seeing Stonewell's mutated visage and hearing Meya's words. Is this how he felt, towards the end? Well I won't make his mistakes. Meya, Rav, Santrago and all the others who have helped me get here made sure of that. I'll only use the prisms if I'm sure it can't hurt the people I care about, and if that means never learning the ultimate truth of the Adytums? So be it.
  • Xandy:... Yikes, that's one HELLUVA burden on her little shoulders.
  • Hudson: No kidding. Hope she makes the right decision, and hopefully doesn't make the wrong one whatever she picks.
  • (Heili): Up until now, the images I've been seeing have been brief and disconnected, like a collage, but this last dream was different. It was a full, coherent vision - if it a bit abstract. In it, I saw violet fingers clawing at bedrock, knuckle deep in soil. They reached further, stretching, splitting and spreading like a web as stone crumbled beneath them, until at last they found a molten heart, its cadence soft and steady. Without pity, they grasped it in their twisting tendrils and squeezed. The heart's rhythm slowed, then stopped altogether, and at last it turned to cold, lifeless stone. As the heart died, strings of shadow shot from the violet fingers. I traced them across cracked and drying flesh, and when the strands ended I saw it: an army of monstrous shadows, hunting for even the smallest glimmer of light. And they were marching right towards me.... What does this even mean?... Not sure, but it's gonna be a lot to ponder about.
  • Hudson: Yeah, I don't get that either.
  • Xandy:... I think it may have something to do with THIS!
  • (Heili): Any thought of those images being hallucinations evaporated when Zuken came back from his scouting run this morning. An army of corrupted Titoses is headed our way, and I don't think it's a coincidence. Meya recognized one of them as the same Titos that stranded her on the island, and even realized from the behavior of the Titos army, it's that Titos' family. Not just that, either, they came with the biggest one I ever saw. It was what people called the Titos Rex, and had a giant purple core in it's chest, which must be what me and Meya can guess is the hive-mind core of the enhancelement all over the planet. But for me, it's a different coincidence, because there'd be no other explanation why the Titos Rex is here. They're after the prisms, that has to be it. So if I get rid of it... No, I don't think that will work. Those monsters won't stop with the prisms, they'll devour everyone who came into contact with it. Somehow I just get that feeling. Ugh, why am I only getting visions of how doomed we are? Show me something I can do to save my friends, you lambent little bludger! Damn it all. Maybe I'll think of something once we're on the move. For now, we've got to get the hell out of here.
  • Xandy:... Kay, I'm genuinely scared right now.
  • Hudson:... So am I, really.
  • (Heili): I've only slept once since escaping the archives alive from those Titoses, but in that brief moment of respite, another vision came to me. I saw a ladder, stretching from beneath the earth to high above the clouds. I was climbing it, ascending rung by rung, and carrying someone over my shoulder. Our pace was slow but patient. Somewhere beyond the sky, I was sure the ladder had an end, even if I couldn't see it. From below, monsters roared and raged. They couldn't climb the ladder, and they couldn't reach us. Even the tallest of them, a towering King of Death, could not harm us, and as I climbed, I could see a familiar light shining from within me. Is that it? Is that how I can help everyone, or was that me just seeing what I wanted to? I need to decide, and soon. We're running out of time.
  • Hudson: Okay, now it's starting to get cryptic. And I HATE cryptic. SERIOUSLY, WHAT DOES IT MEAN?!?
  • (Heili): I feel like my stomach has twisted itself into a knot that can't be untied. When Meya refused to give me the prisms, I well...I stole them. I know she wants to keep me safe, but our backs are against the wall here. If there's a chance this thing can save us, then I need to have it within reach. Still, I know the danger they pose, so I'll only use it as a last resort. Not to solve any ancient mystery or make a grand discovery, but to help her and everyone else. If things are dire and the prisms are the only chance I have to help, then it's worth the risk. I'm sorry, Meya, but we promised that we'd prop each other up, didn't we? Maybe this isn't how you envisioned it, but this is the only way I can hold up my end of the bargain. I hope you can forgive me.
  • Xandy: Yeh, the way she puts it, I'd do the same thing.
  • (Heili): It worked. The prisms, they worked. Their light drove off the Titoses, including their Titos Rex leader, which seemed more corrupted and ominous than the others. But I hesitated when using the prisms on them. Now we're only two. Only two. We ended up separated from our crew, including Dinia and Santrago, but I felt like they were dead. Am I dying too? I noticed myself being infected with enhancelement, but was it just another hallucination? Is this how it feels? Is that why I keep seeing the tomb? The tomb, again and again. The tomb, the throne and the ladder. The ladder. I see it once more. I'm climbing still, above the clouds and into the stars. I think I see the end, but when I try to grab the next rung, my hand turns to enhancelement dust. I try to scream, but I make no sound. I'm slipping away. I see their faces. Stonewell, Rav, Dinia, Santrago, Meya... I reach for them. I have to find' purchase. There must be something I can grasp. Something. The tomb. The tomb!
  • Xandy:... What's happening to her?
  • Hudson: Don't look at me, I have no idea!... Oh, boy. Last page.
  • (Heili): I'm sorry, Meya. I'm sorry. The weight's all on your shoulders now. There's no one else who can carry it. The tomb. The throne. You have to reach it. You have to take me there, to the Ascending Tomb. I can show you the path, but you have to walk it alone. I wish it weren't true. I wish I could give you wings. But I believe in your heart, so believe in mine. One last time. I need you to believe. Please. Ple...
  • Hudson:... That's it?!?...
  • Xandy: WHAT THE HELL?!? WE END ON A CLIFFHANGER?!? WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO HER?!?

Who Is Edwyn Stonewell?

Jungle

  • Clifton:... Where'd you get this, Sam?
  • Samantha: Found it in some kind of fancy chest.... It's the journal of a man named... Sir Edwyn Stonewell.
  • Clifton:... I've heard that name a lot on this mission. Well... I guess it's about time we found out why, and even why people don't like hearing it.
  • Samantha:... (Sighs)... Well... Probably a good idea. (They read)
  • (Stonewell): Greetings and salutations dear reader!
  • Samantha: Okay, who other than themselves had expected people would read these things?!
  • Clifton: Well this just SCREAMS egotist.
  • (Stonewell): If these words are gracing your eyes, then you have had the good fortune to find the journal of Sir Edwyn Stonewell, stupendous scholar, gallant gentleman and explorer extraordinaire. It also means that it’s entirely possible that I’ve met some unseemly end on this fascinating but exceedingly dangerous planet that I call home. I suppose you could have also stolen it or I could have misplaced it in which case please proceed to either hang your head in shame or return it to me at once. Whichever is appropriate. Regards, Sir Edwyn Stonewell.
  • Clifton:... Dafuq?... Yeesh, this guy has an INTERESTING opinion on himself.
  • Samantha:... Totally-assured belief that he's an egotist.
  • (Stonewell): The wondrous properties of the flora on this island will never cease to amaze me. Glad I drugged my parents before they could take this golden opportunity of research first. Otherwise, if I’d told my colleagues back home that I could create a concoction capable of erasing someone’s memories, I’d be laughed out of the room and never invited to tea again for being such a ripoff of my own kin. Yet here it sits: my Mindfreshening Tonic. As usual, I’ve had tribal leaders groveling at the gates of Stonewell Manor just for the tiniest of samples, and for the recipe? Oh the bounties I’ve been offered! I’m not interested in their riches though. I have their protection, supplies for my studies and all the time in the world. What more could I ask for?
  • Samantha:... He seems really morally grey.
  • Clifton: That is debatable, cause I still get 'egotist' from this guy.
  • (Stonewell): These tribal negotiations give me a headache every time. The Blackhands are mad that the Dyesharks sunk two of their barges, but the Dyesharks say that the barges were too close to Southern Haven and they were perfectly within their rights to sink them as per The South Island Accords. Typically, neither side is willing to budge. What a bother. I’d just as soon mind-fresh the lot of them and return to my studies. Alas, such is the fate of the island’s most respected neutral entity. At least the Dyesharks brought some fresh fish. Perhaps I’ll side with them.
  • Samantha:... He also seems to have some... Hoity-toitiness to him.
  • Clifton: I would've gone for 'snobby asshole'.
  • (Stonewell): Any chemist worth his salt knows the irreplaceable value of testing. Until a tonic has been rigorously tested, it is less useful than water. If only I could persuade this island’s less intellectual inhabitants to see that tests on monkeys serve well for early trials, but they are no replacement for genuine sentient subjects at later, safer stages. By subjects, I of course mean willing participants that are prepared to risk mild headaches and much less mild nausea for the sake of science. The Rock Skulls offered rather less willing participants at one point, but I declined. With how difficult it is to find volunteers these days, I sometimes regret it.
  • Clifton:... He, tested his experiments, on his own guests?!
  • Samantha: There goes that 'morally grey' statement, I guess. It's a bit more darker than expected in some areas.
  • Clifton: All he had to do was ask!
  • Samantha: In all fairness Clifton, what do we know about how this world works? If it was nicer, we wouldn't even need to be here.
  • (Stonewell): Miss Runner's impromptu visits are always an unexpected pleasure. Especially since her mother was quite as smart as they come. Johnna Runner was studying the Scyrian precursors of this planet for decades. So after that headache with the Sharks and Blackhands, a lively tea-time discussion about the abnormalities of the island's ecosystem was precisely what I needed. Thank goodness I've managed to find an intellectual colleague that shares my love for the sciences. It saddens me to think that Miss Runner's charming colonial accent would keep her out of the more prestigious institutions and societies back home. Another of the Island's wonders, it is a true meritocracy unlike any in the modern world. If Miss Runner and I could find and cultivate more minds like ourselves, we could create a true scientific utopia.
  • Clifton: Ya know, I haven't even physically met the dude, but even just READING about him has that veil of me imagining his face being punchable!
  • Samantha: I would imagine that this man is a sort-of pariah in this world.
  • (Stonewell): This expedition to Whitewind Peak has been just splendid, top to bottom. The weather's been marvelous, I've found excellent floral samples and the local hunters had more Wooloceros horns than you could shake a stick at. I even managed to find volunteers for my latest experiment! It turns out that it was simply a matter of linguistics: those who are wary of experimental serums are much more receptive to experimental food. Once my Omnithermic Pastes were renamed Frosser Curry, people were clamoring to test it. It has moderate nutritional value, so it's not technically a deception. It's just favorable language in the name of progress, that's all. Perfectly moral.
  • Clifton: Ya might want a second opinion on that, doc!
  • Samantha: I believe it's obvious he's trying to comfort himself in his actions and delude himself into thinking these are necessary evils. This man is of troubled mind and soul.
  • Clifton: I'm thinking more along the lines of him being JACKS*** INSANE!!
  • Samantha: Well if you are to be vulgar about it, then yes.
  • Clifton: Oh don't act like ya don't agree other than because ya try to be polite due to Magelio-User policy and stuff. He even drugged his own parents to take credit for this research first? I don't think anybody is THAT egomaniacal.
  • Samantha: Pride can be a powerful and dangerous vice.
  • (Stonewell): Sadly my Frosser Curry trials cannot begin immediately as the volunteers have a much more difficult journey to Stonewell Manor than I. After all, I couldn't very well carry every one of them on Achitans. Yes, the Pteriornis could clutch one with his talons, but I've always found the practice to be barbaric. The rest of the island may be embroiled in feudal savagery, but a gentleman always maintains his class and dignity. At any rate, I must have my assistants renovate the guest compound. Naturally, I would never let strangers into the manor proper, but there's no reason there stay should not affect my civilized standards.
  • Clifton: Wow, he couldn't even get his victims to come to his place. Pfft, what a maroon.
  • Samantha: I don't believe this is a matter of him being intellectually inferior as more like the natives have proven, weary. Who could travel safely in a place like this?
  • Clifton: Meh, point taken.
  • (Stonewell): Having readily available subjects has helped my experiments tremendously even if their numbers dwindled over time. Not only was I able to curb the side effects of my Frosser Curry's endothermic properties, but I managed to bring out an additional benefit of the mixture. Now, it also lowers the subject's metabolism, letting them go longer without needing food. Marvelous! I hadn't even considered that as a possibility. Why, with all I've learned from these experiments, I imagine that I could reverse the effects of the Curry and create a concoction to aid survival in extreme heat as well. I must find more volunteers posthaste.
  • Clifton: JUST ASK, YOU BUMBLING MANIPULATOR!
  • Samantha: Clifton, you think he hasn't tried? He was clearly getting a bit of a reputation at this point.
  • Clifton: Hey, this is just wrong. Scientists have standards, you know.
  • Samantha:  Well perhaps being in this strange world compromised his better judgment.
  • Clifton: You're too gentle on this hack, Sam! I hope this guy's dead, or at least his acts got him in trouble.
  • Samantha: Ahem! I would've chosen to say "I hope karma made a desired judgment on him".
  • (Stonewell): I decided to seek out volunteers for my next experiment among the island's larger tribes. I thought that surely they would be willing to help after I patiently moderated so many of their frivolous disputes. How idealistic of me. Instead, they have yet another favor to ask. Apparently there's a new tribe that's behaving rather aggressively and no one can successfully negotiate with its leader. So naturally they have turned to me. It's rather bothersome, but I can't touch their logic. If Sir Edwyn Stonewell cannot reason with this Nervay fellow, then who can?
  • Clifton:... A conqueror tribe?
  • Samantha: Better keep reading to be safe.
  • Clifton: Good idea. (They kept reading)
  • (Stonewell): Well, I found the report on Mister Nervay to be rather exaggerated, and as any gentleman one might imagine that I'd view imperial leadership with some disdain. Yet in my experience, I found Mister Nervay to be both honest and intellectually engaging....Or at least Mr. Nervay TRIES. In fact, after a lengthy conversation, I daresay that Mister Nervay has the right of it when it comes to this island's politics. He argued that this island needed to be more civilized and he even wishes to escape the island and expand, especially since his family was stranded there for, get this, eons. That means they originated from the days of the Scyrians. He's even the last of his family still alive now. Sad, and it gives him good reason to be this way. I doubt his endeavors will harm my research, though, so I see no reason to interfere in this pointless squabble.
  • Clifton:... He's agreeing, with a conqueror?
  • Samantha: I'm guessing he was able to relate better with a fellow pariah.
  • Clifton: Not when the people who negotiate or use it are too dense to have a proper conscience.
  • Samantha: (Sighs and kept reading)
  • (Stonewell): How can these tribal leaders be so short-sighted? Yes, the members of their respective tribes who volunteered for my Combat Tartare and Strengthening Sauté experiments have been experiencing prolonged withdrawal episodes, but can't they see that the benefits outweigh the costs?
  • Clifton: Well MAYBE the costs were TOO UGLY to cope with for any legit plus-sides, Doctor Dorkinstein!
  • (Stonewell): I create mixtures that can bring out enhanced strength, speed and coordination in ordinary men and they can only focus on the negatives. Simple-minded, the lot of them!
  • Clifton: Well, AGAIN, maybe these were SOME REALLY BAD NEGATIVES for them to be all like "NOPE"!
  • Samantha: Sometimes scientists worry more about long-term good over short-term and intermediate inconveniences like what was happening with the people.
  • (Stonewell): They even banned their members from partaking in my experiments now. Ridiculous! I'll not let them stand in the way of sentient progress. They may not understand the importance of my work, but surely my assistants do.
  • Clifton: Well, it's about TIME they opened their eyes. I hope he got what he deserved.
  • Samantha:... Well, there's still more entries, so your dark desires are left unfulfilled at the moment.
  • (Stonewell): I've decided to take a brief vacation from the laboratory. Well, I say that I've decided to, but the whole thing was my assistant Isabellene's idea. She noticed that I'd been quite ruffled lately and suggested that I take a bit of time to myself before rushing headlong into my next experiment. Such an observant young woman, that Isabellene. She's somewhat lacking as a chemist, but she understands my moods almost better than I do. I daresay that an old fashioned adventure will do me some good. Nothing like some rigorous recreation to clear the mind. Perhaps I'll go spelunking. Yes, a splendid idea! I know just the place for it.
  • Samantha:... At least he still has some gentlemanly dignity.
  • Clifton: Sure, like THAT justifies his immoral scientific code.
  • Samantha: Clifton, by all means, I'm no fan of his motivations either, but continuous judging makes for the kind of people that Stonewell ended up being. I suspect his sanity was dwindling because of always being rejected, even if you had found them reasonable or not.
  • Clifton:... Okay, fair point.
  • (Stonewell): Remarkable. Absolutely remarkable! When I chose that remote northern cave as the site of my spectacular spelunking sojourn, I'd never imagined that I'd find such wonders within. Granted, I don't know what this specific wonder does exactly, but it's fascinating to examine. It's like nothing I've ever seen! I don't even recognize the materials that it's composed of, and it's constantly pulsing with some sort of latent energy. What is it? Is it unique or are there similar artifacts just waiting to be discovered beneath the island's surface? My, how invigorating! Isabellene was right, this was exactly what I needed. I feel like a young Chredder again!
  • Clifton:... Oh, so he's a Chredder.
  • Samantha: You were wondering that?
  • Clifton: Yeah, people all over the UUniverses are so mix-matched these days. It becomes an instinct you have to know what they are, because next thing you know, when you mock someone before seeing what they are, they'll be as big as a whule and kick your ass.
  • Samantha: Let us resume the book.
  • (Stonewell): Eureka! My theory was correct. The small podium at the base of the obelisk is definitely responding to the artifact's proximity and vice versa. Honestly I feel foolish for not attempting this sooner! The stylistic similarities between the artifacts and the obelisks floating above the island seems so obvious to me now. Clearly they were created within the same culture and era as the Scyrians. Even the modern Tiikon structures all over the planet aren't THIS advanced. Bizarrely, while both the artifact and obelisks are in exquisite condition, there are no other signs of the Scyrians' work anywhere. How could that be? What kind of mad society would gallivant about some remote island, building towering structures and stuffing knickknacks into caves before vanishing without a trace? I don't understand it, but it's certainly piqued my curiosity.
  • Clifton: Get in line, Ched-head, there's plenty who have done the same. That's the mystery of the Teadr 1 Era.
  • Samantha: (Sighs) Clifton, I can't say I'm a fan of this person myself, but can you get over it already? It's been years since this was written.
  • (Stonewell): Well, I think I've gotten as far in my studies of the obelisks as my archaeological expertise will take me. A shame, really. This has been such a joyous little diversion that I hate to see it end. Ah Stonewell, you old twit. You've forgotten the origins of this little excursion: spelunking. Did you yourself not hypothesize that there may be more artifacts hidden elsewhere on this island? Surely you can't give up before confirming that. No, certainly not, nor can I be expected to scour the island's caverns alone. Perhaps someone can spelunk in my stead? Better yet, perhaps someone has already spelunked!
  • Clifton:... Let's see where he goes with this, because I think we might get information on this Scyrian technology.
  • Samantha: Good thinking. Though I must caution that it may get darker from here.
  • (Stonewell): After many days of scouring the island upon Achitans and many more fruitless conversations with the witless, savage sods that seem to make up most of this island's population, I have finally found the spelunkers I need! A tribe to the northwest called the Steel Brotherhood has apparently found three artifacts themselves, and it's clear that said relics share an origin with my own. In exchange for my artifact, the Brotherhood agreed to report any findings to me straight away as they continue their search. What stupendously good fortune! Now I can return to my alchemical studies with renewed vigor, while they crawl through the island's caverns in my stead. Brilliant.
  • Clifton:... Okay, I'm trying to give him the benefit of the doubt, but using people for your own needs?... I mean, I don't think it's using them, but... Okay, you know what? I'm done arguing about his morals. They're still as gray as the sky right now.
  • Samantha: Thank you for keeping an open head, Cliff. I love you for it. And if it helps, as before, he's not my favorite person either. As a Magelian mage, I just make myself above anger and being offended by undesirable actions. Doesn't mean my dissatisfaction has to be unknown.
  • Clifton: You love me period.
  • Samantha: (Chuckles as they kept reading)
  • (Stonewell): The first round of trials for my new Lazereus Chowder have gone marvelously, but I have found it hard to maintain my enthusiasm. After all, I will never get truly definitive results with only primitive primate subjects. It is quite frustrating. Even so, I see now that Isabellene was right. Having my assistants take part in the trials would be asking too much of them, and they are too valuable to risk so frivolously. If I cannot find sentient subjects from the nearby tribes, then I shall have to make due with trials on greater apes that are a close second. Perhaps it is finally time to capture some Pithecuses...
  • Clifton:... Good for you, you're starting to get more moral. Why was I ever angry at this person?
  • Samantha: Be cautious though, he might have a turnaround later.
  • (Stonewell): I admit there are times when it is useful to live among simpletons. For example, I was able to trade several gallons of my Lazereus Chowder to a group of hunters in exchange for an entire contingent of tamed Pithecuses, and they never questioned whether it had been tested on sentient beings yet. Well, I suppose if they return with another batch of apes, then I'll know that Lazereus Chowder doesn't cause asphyxiation, won't I? It's not exactly a conclusive, scientific trial, but I suppose it will serve. Unfortunately all these bigger primates have given Stonewell Manor quite the pungent odor. Isabellene said she is working on some sort of air freshener, but I hope she makes haste.
  • Clifton: Well, keep trying, good sir. Failure is the best teacher.
  • (Stonewell): I am perplexed. Even with an expanded number of test subjects, I just cannot find the passion that I once had for my research. I truly thought that my recent adventure had lit a fire in my belly, but I constantly find myself losing focus. Confound it all! Perhaps said adventure itself is the problem. Thinking about it, I am always eager to discuss the obelisks and the artifacts I found with my assistants, even when I am not in the mood for research. There is a certain allure to them that I cannot describe, something that causes my thoughts to drift in their direction, like the pull of a strong tide. But it could simply be a passing fancy. I must give myself more time.
  • Clifton: Mmm, I wouldn't call researching this kind of tech 'boring', in an unrefined tongue.
  • Samantha: Neither would I. Studying precursor races that have shaped a backbone for the UUniverses are a scientist's pride and joy.
  • Clifton: I'm guessing he might not be the right kind of scientist for this then.
  • (Stonewell): I was ever so glad to see Miss Runner again. My assistants are clever in their own right, but dear Johnna Jr. is still the only person that I feel comfortable diving into my deeper theories with. I fear that I may have kept her from getting a word in edgewise, though. Once I got going on the obelisks, why I just couldn't contain my enthusiasm! My word, I really have become quite enamored with the subject, haven't I? Well, that settles it! After this next set of trials, I shall go check on the Steel Brotherhood's progress. Perhaps I can convince Miss Runner to join me. We could make a real scientific expedition out of it!
  • Samantha:... At least he has a friend of equal intellect to share words with.
  • Clifton: Glad for that myself. At least he grew on his own too.
  • (Stonewell): The latest Broth of Knowledge trials have concluded, and as expected, I am disappointed in the results. Thought the primates I tested it on showed increased aptitude for learning, I do not believe any of them have truly ascended to a higher level of intelligence. Well bugger the little blighters, I say! My assistants have almost finished preparing my supplies for my next expedition, and I have drafted a letter to send to the Steel Brotherhood ahead of my departure. Soon enough, I'll have forgotten all about the... Pardon the interruption, it seems that I have a guest. Now just what is Mister Nervay doing here? I suppose I'll find out.
  • Clifton: Oh, yeah, I forgot about this Nervay guy.
  • (Stonewell): I have always tried to maintain a strict neutrality when it comes to tribal matters and affairs, as with the rules of the grander community of the UUniverses, but then again, I have never had an offer this tempting from someone as respectable as Mister Nervay. Not only has he offered to provide me with test subjects, but he has also expressed a mutual interest in investigating the obelisks. All he asks from me is that I provide him with 'reliable council'. I would trust few tribes to be able to make good on such promises, but Mister Nervay's Artegerant Legion is perhaps the most powerful tribe on the island. Indeed, if they maintain their current trajectory, they may be the only powerful tribe on the island. His offer is worth considering, at the very least.
  • Clifton:... Okay, so much for having respect for him. Nervay had re-sparked his immoral practices by giving him test subjects.
  • Samantha: Well I did caution that the last few pages were a brief period. Look, Clifton, it's a cold cold world out here. War and suffering has been happening since the beginning of time, and often times for the most pettiest of reasons.
  • Clifton: Yes, but sometimes, I wish it wasn't.
  • Samantha: We all do.
  • (Stonewell): After much deliberation, I have decided to accept Mister Nervay's offer. True, the Artegerent Legion is not beloved by many other tribes, but what force interested to become the dominant force of anything ever gotten a kinder reputation? If my studies are to continue, I must be on the side of history most likely to be the one to make changes. As part of our agreement, I will need to travel with Mister Nervay for a time, and wait to study the obelisks until the Artegerant Legion have taken care of some smaller matters of foreign policy. A bit inconvenient to my researching endeavors, but clearly Nervay's Legion is nomadic in nature, so I have to respect that it's something convenient to them. As such, I have left Stonewell Manor in Isabellene's charge. She will take excellent care of it, I am sure. Well then, onto new frontiers! Excelsior!
  • Clifton:... Okay, um... I'll just... Keep going and hope he doesn't get any worse from here.
  • Samantha: I rather for us both to prepare for impact. I am regretful to say that this will only get darker.
  • (Stonewell): I admit, I have been rather coy with Mister Nervay when it comes to the true nature of the obelisks. As a military man, the obelisks would naturally be more useful to him if they were some sort of weapon, or if it had some kind of armory for Teadr-1-class weapons in them, especially since he stated this island serves as a prison and desires the obelisks destroyed so they can escape. So I have made sure to allude to that possibility from time to time. It is not as though I am selling my gracious host a falsehood. After all, I have neither any proof that the obelisks could be weaponized, nor any evidence to the contrary. Their purpose is entirely theoretical at this stage, like any Teadr 1 monument, and if twisting those theories will convince Mister Nervay to march on the obelisks any sooner, then so be it.
  • Clifton:... At least he proves that brains can dominate brawns. And good to know Nervay's a bit of a dumbass, tribalism aside
  • Samantha: I wouldn't underestimate Nervay just because of the planet's technological nature, Clifton. We may not know Nervay ourselves, but there could be more than meets the eye.
  • Clifton:... True.
  • (Stonewell): The Artegerant Legion is finally on the march, and not a moment too soon! Mister Nervay runs his tribe exceptionally well, but their compound is positively Spaetan. I don't think I saw a single piece of decor anywhere! It certainly made me miss the comforts of Stonewell Manor, I'll say that. At any rate, we are apparently in pursuit of a barbaric 'Animal Queen'. According to the men, she feasts on the flesh of her enemies alongside her army of monsters. Oy, the further criticisms to the ways of life of tribal society I got from that statement alone, it's simply dreadful. Mister Nervay is convinced that she is heading towards an obelisk, but I see no cause for alarm. No mere heathen could hope to uncover its secrets, and certainly not alone.
  • Samantha:... Animal... Queen... Sounds like they encountered a feral leader.
  • Clifton: Well, I just hope he keeps a level head and keeps thinking wise.
  • Samantha:... Looks like you spoke too soon, Clifton. Listen to this. He sounds jealous in this chapter.
  • Clifton: Oh, boy, here we go again!
  • (Stonewell): I am absolutely astonished! Shocked! Flabbergasted! Why in the world was Miss Runner investigating the obelisks at the side of such a savage woman, and without notifying me first? Was she intending to discover their secrets behind my back and keep them all to herself, just like my parents attempted to do? The nerve! The audacity! And after I treated her with such respect and civility!
  • Clifton:... I'm already getting the feeling this was an easily-avoidable misunderstanding through a simple conversation.
  • Samantha: Well I'm afraid what follows is that Stonewell wasn't able to be in a listening mood.
  • (Stonewell): Well, unfortunately for her, Sir Edwyn Stonewell is always one step ahead of his rivals. Thanks to my partnership with Mister Nervay, I can combine what scraps of knowledge she has on the obelisks with my own findings, and she'll be none the wiser. Why, since she is confined to a cage, I can keep my presence concealed from her altogether!
  • Clifton:... You've got to be kidding me. He actually accuses someone he respected, of stealing his research? I thought he was better than that.
  • Samantha: Dishonorable, I know, but fair's fair, I believe it's obvious at this point that Stonewell has already started to take a downward spiral thanks to Nervay.
  • Clifton: Doesn't make Ched-head less of a d*** though!
  • Samantha: Well, to be fair, his PARENTS tried to capitalize on research like this before he could. Seems like, ever since then, he became intent on being the best and most adulated person he can be with a field like this. Minds like his are ALWAYS susceptible to ambition, and ambition makes you do bad things and think less wisely.
  • Clifton:... Okay... Fair point there. But still... Not cool, man! Not, cool!
  • (Stonewell): Before arriving on this island, I would have dismissed the idea of a device instantly transporting a person from one location to another as complete and utter poppycock.... Or at least, one such at this godly degree. Teleportation is a commonplace application to the UUniverses, yes, but this is different. It's instantaneous. Such a feat would require too much power for ANY race to even collect in a lifetime, and yet, that appears exactly what the strange platforms beneath the obelisks are capable of doing. Astounding! Yes, yes, there was a Dracthonosaur on the other side. I'm sure Mister Nervay and his men fought quite the rigorous battle, but discovering another slobbering beast is trivial in comparison. Imagine! One could go from one side of the globe to the other in the blink of an eye, and also in using little commands and energy to do so spontaneously, and I'll wager that is just the start of the obelisk's capabilities! I must learn more! I must!
  • Clifton: And now he's competing for the research of this race? Come ON! They're not the only ones who did this! HEILI'S MOM DID IT, AND HE KNEW HER!! How could he betray her daughter and disrespect her mother's grave like that?
  • Samantha: Like I said, with intelligence comes ambition. But it also comes with pride. You know that. Many of the best scientists had pride themselves.
  • (Stonewell): I am starting to become quite cross with Mister Nervay's impatience. I had barely any time at all to study the obelisk before we set out again, this time to that cave Miss Runner mentioned. I wonder, does he believe that she knows more about the obelisks than I do? Nonsense! Any fool could see that I am the superior scientist. I swear, if only Nervay wasn't just some mindless savage playing conqueror, he'd be more perceptive! Besides, I am his official advisor while she is his prisoner. She isn't even privy to my presence. Nonetheless, I feel compelled to prove my scientific mettle. Whatever is in that cave, I shall be the one to discover its purpose. The mysteries of the obelisks and Scyrians are mine to uncover, not Miss Runner's or even Mister Nervay's. MINE!
  • Clifton: Oh for the love of Gods, are you serious?! You think this world revolves around you, you stuck-up moron?! HE EVEN WROTE THAT WORD IN CAPITAL LETTERS, FOR PETAN'S SAKE!!
  • Samantha: Clifton!
  • Clifton: Right. (Deep breath)... I'm still hoping he gets wise again like he did before. That said, I am getting the idea the honeymoon with Nervay is starting to turn south.
  • Samantha: Ahem, well, be cautious that him turning against Nervay may not necessarily be a good thing, and I suspect this book will only get darker.
  • (Stonewell): In all my life, I have never seen so magnificent a sight! Me and Mister Nervay got separated, and might as well be bemoaning the loss of his men since he'll surely be disappointed there are no weapons here, but I would sacrifice his men a thousand times over to witness such majesty! I have never seen a night sky so beautiful. Somehow, this place looks down upon the world from on high, as though it stands upon the peak of divine mountains themselves! And my word, the exquisite metal this place is made out of, not to mention that bizarre creature! It reminds me of the material that lines the obelisks, yet somehow more... Alive. The very walls of this place seem to hum with power and possibility. I must find more information on this material. Perhaps one of these consoles will have something I could use. I am not familiar with the technology, but I am sure a scientist of my caliber could get something out of them with a little educated fiddling.
  • Clifton: Pheh, sure, I can see where that goes, because it looks like this journal is done.
  • Samantha:... Not quite. What he's done according to this journal is not serious enough to garner such a notoriety. He had to have done something worse. MUCH worse.

(Later...) Scorchar Desert

  • Clifton: Huh? Another journal from Stonewell?
  • Samantha: I suppose in that case, I was correct. What he did on the island couldn't have given him such a brash reputation.
  • Clifton:... Well, what COULD have?
  • Samantha: Let's find out. (They read the journal)
  • (Stonewell): Confound those confused contraptions! Despite my best efforts, I could make neither heads nor tails of the mysterious machine that brought me here. If only I still had that jittery bespectacled assistant of mine from all those years ago. What was his name? Gera? Gerdel? The one that loved tinkering with the devices we’d salvage from the arms of the island’s less fortunate inhabitants. Good lad. The inscriptions he found on the inside of those little trinkets were where I first saw the word 'Adytum' as I recall. That and some word that I could make out as 'Project'. What this 'Adytum Project' was about, I won't know for sure. Still, I miss the lad. Shame about the incident with the Multisaurs. If I still had his services, perhaps I’d never be in this gods-forsaken crater desert. Ah well. Stiff upper lip, Stonewell. Make the best of it.... I just hope Isabellene is doing well without me.
  • Clifton: Oh, trust me, she is. She cleaned up the mess Nervay left on the island and reestablished peace on it after the Artegerent Legion's collapse.... Though she didn't ONCE feel like talking about you. I don't know why.
  • Samantha: I suppose it's best left for US to figure out what has become of him.
  • (Stonewell): Right then! Now that I have found a shady spot where I can enjoy a brief respite from this desert’s dreadful heat, it’s high time that I set some goals for this expedition. If I wander about aimlessly then I’m sure to meet the same fate as poor Gerdel. First, I shall find a local tribe if for no other reason than to obtain a proper mount and supplies. Second, I simply must learn more about that strange metal that lined the walls of the sanctuary. Even with a cursory study I could tell that it possesses wondrous properties. But where could I find more of it?
  • Clifton:... He's REALLY fixated on this 'metal'.
  • Samantha:... Perhaps, too fixated.
  • (Stonewell): I must say nothing reminds a man of his own mortality quite like a desolate wasteland, even though the ones in this crater pale in comparison to the mess outside of it. As a strapping young lad, I could have survived alone in this desert for years! Why on one occasion, I fought off a triger with naught but an empty flash and my favorite pipe. With this makeshift spear, the beasts of this land would never have a prayer! Yet in my old age, I can feel this damnable sun sapping my strength with every minute I spend under its unforgiving gaze. Each day I cover less ground than the day before. I must find civilization soon, no matter how primitive. Without the right tools and supplies, I fear that this expedition will be incredibly short lived.
  • Clifton:... Hmm. Guess he still survives this regardless, so, FESS UP!!
  • Samantha: (Softly chuckles)
  • (Stonewell): Eureka! At last, I have found signs of sentient life! Though they don't seem to be ones I like, not in a racist sense, but in a sense of misplacement in a fitting environment. It's like putting a pretty bird in space. It just seems wrong. Regardless. This afternoon, I came across a fresh series of footprints, some from sentient beings and some from what I assume are large beasts of burden. I cannot be sure who made them or how civilized they may be, but neither can I afford to be too particular in my choice of saviors. Whoever they are, I must track them down immediately. As soon as I gather my strength I shall pursue my quarry with the utmost haste and vigor. The tale of the brilliant and impeccably groomed Sir Edwyn Stonewell shall not end this day!
  • Clifton: (Sighs) This guy just cannot get over himself.
  • (Stonewell): Salvation, thy name is Prophecy Black. After a proper meal and some time out of the sun, the makeshift fortress doesn't look half as grand as its name might imply. Yet when I first sighted its walls from across the dunes, it may as well have been El Doritos itself, so grateful was I to find it. Thus far, I have seen little of the inhabitants, but they seem a hospitable sort. I've been given food, shelter, and even a wet cloth to clean myself with. Quite generous of them, considering how scarce water is in these lands. Their clothing is a curiosity, however. Those robes seem more ceremonial than functional.
  • Clifton:... Seems he's come across a religious colony.
  • Samantha: I believe so.
  • (Stonewell): It seems that Prophecy Black is less a fortress and more an enclave or monastery. I suppose that would explain the name, now wouldn't it? Yes as strange as it may sound, the natives have created a primitive religion centered around the contained environment's obelisks. They pray three times a day, each time facing a different obelisk, and their robes bear a unique symbol: a three pointed star colored red, green and blue. The blue obelisk appears to receive particular reverence due to is proximity. As charmingly ignorant as their superstitions may be, it's far from the most savage religion I've encountered. Besides, Prophecy Black is in need of a doctor, and I am in need of supplies.
  • Samantha:... And we were right.
  • (Stonewell): I have discovered why Prophecy Black is so generous with their water. The well at the edge of the compound is built directly on top of what the locals call a 'water vein'. An endless supply water bubbles up from beneath the ground. It's existence is a minor miracle, though compared to what I saw in the starlit sanctuary, minor is the operative word. I suppose this environment must be for the same purpose as the Island and under the same control. Possibly from this 'Adytum Project' thing. What an extraordinary thought. I cannot fathom how such a thing is possible, but that remarkable metal must be at the heart of it. I am certain.
  • Samantha:... Hmm. He must be onto something here.
  • Clifton: Oh, no doubt about it. Maybe if we keep reading, we can get some coverage on how to stop Dr. SMD.
  • (Stonewell): Most of my work at the monastery's doctor has been trivial. Every now and then one of the guards gets injured by the local wildlife, but I usually find myself treating heat stroke and common illnesses. As such, I have had plenty of time to learn all the priests know about the obelisks. All told, they are stunningly ill-informed about the literal pillars of their faith. They are unaware that the obelisks are actually devices that can be activated, and needless to say they have never activated one themselves. They showed a flicker of understanding when I described the artifacts I found on the island, however. I shall have to keep digging.
  • Clifton:... Hmm. Keep going, ched-head.
  • (Stonewell): Unbelievable. Have these idol-worshiping ninnies replaced all their common sense with blind devotion? Have years of oppressive heat completely addled their brains? I was finally allowed to see the monastery's inner sanctum, and lo and behold, there they were. Sitting upon an altar before a flock of protesting primitives were these glowing artifacts, just like the ones I had found in the caverns beneath the island. Yet instead of making use of them or even studying them, these halfwits are praying to them! The true value of those artifacts is completely lost on these simpletons. Sacred relics, indeed!
  • Clifton:... Okay, I'd hate to agree with someone of his caliber, but he's right. That's such a waste.
  • Samantha: Well, it's not their fault their knowledge of the artifacts is hardly understood.
  • (Stonewell): It took time, but I finally pilfered enough supplies and tools to survive on my own. Loading them onto these bamal-like beasts of burden was laborious, but the real trial was absconding with the artifacts. There is always someone watching the inner sanctum, so I carefully studied the guard's shifts until I identified whose drink I had to spoil with my knockout serum. Even then I acted with great haste and guile, for my heist will surely be discovered when the priests convene for their morning prayers. Alas, they will be too late! Sir Edwyn Stonewell is always ahead of his foes, but not by a mere step. No, I am miles and miles beyond their reach!
  • Clifton: Okay, thus guy's stroking his own penis so hard, it's gotten sore.
  • Samantha: (Chuckles) Clearly.
  • (Stonewell): It has been several days since I left Prophecy Black, and I have seen no sign of pursuit. I am unsurprised. They probably assumed that I would make for the blue obelisk, as it was nearest. By setting out for the green obelisk instead, I already outwitted those simple minded zealots. As I said, miles ahead! Miles! With those fools out of the way, I can slow my pace and take some time to properly study these so-called 'sacred' relics of theirs. I am curious to see if the materials they are made of bear any similarity to the metal in the starlit sanctuary.
  • Clifton:... As rotten as he is, he sure has some intelligence to survive on a planet like this.
  • Samantha: People have to have those kind of smarts here, Cliff.
  • (Stonewell): The obelisk is reacting to the presence of the artifacts with even more intensity than I expected. Each obelisk on the island required eight artifacts to generate that sort of response, not three. In other words, I may not need to do any spelunking before summoning whatever terrifying beast this ARK has in store for me. Ah, the beast. Now that poses an entirely different conundrum. Even with my youth and my favorite pipe, I doubt that I could slay a monster such as that dracthon Mister Nervay fought. Not alone, anyway. I shall need to find a partner for this venture, but who?
  • Clifton: Oh, I'm sure you'll find SOMETHING. This desert seems MERCILESS! (He saw animals eat each other in a comical fashion over and over)... Unnaturally merciless.
  • (Stonewell): I have turned back north in hope of making contact with some of the natives. It is a risk, as I cannot be sure how many bumbling savages are under the sway of that ludicrous, obelisk-worshiping cult, but it is also the only region that I definitively know is occupied. I do not have much to offer in exchange for their aid, but I am sure that I can negotiate an alliance with at least one of this crater desert's tribes. I was at the center of the island's diplomatic disputes for years, after all. Why I am a seasoned, silver-tongued negotiator! Surely I can coax a partnership out of these primitive desert dwellers.
  • Clifton:... Yeah, as we've seen, you do it, TOO well.
  • (Stonewell): What terrible misfortune! My keen sense of direction finally led me to a local settlement, but as it happened, I was not the first party to visit it that day. That honor belonged to the Burner Clan, a band of raiders that were plundering it's storehouses and enslaving its surviving residents as I arrived. Naturally, the hoodlums fell upon me and stripped me of my valuables within minutes of my arrival. Ruffians! I managed to keep hold of my journal, but little else. This won't do, not at all! Then again, I was seeking out a tribe skilled in the art of violence. Perhaps I can turn this to my advantage.
  • Clifton: Well, yeah, you gotta start getting help someway.
  • (Stonewell): Curse these stubborn brutes! Despite a litany of polite, gentlemanly requests, they refuse to allow me to parlay with their leader. Surely any leader of men is not half the imbecile that these barbarians are. I am positive that we could come to some sort of... Damn this noise! It is impossible to concentrate with all this insufferable whingeing! Half of these prisoners won't stop moaning about one injury or another and the other half are in constant hysterics. Very well. Perhaps if I tend to some of the wounded, it will dim this distracting cacophony.
  • Samantha:... Well, even if it's for personal goals, he still has some humility.
  • Clifton: That's as far as I'm willing to give him at the moment.
  • (Stonewell): At last, I can hear myself think! The guards have moved me to a private cell, and while they have not divulged the reason for my transfer, I suspect that they took notice of my medical expertise. I caught them staring in my direction on several occasions as I worked. It seems that doctors are in high demand in these lands. I suppose that's no great surprise. The island was no different. No matter. While my skills in the realm of medicine are more in line with a field medic than a true physician, I shall continue to play the role as long as it serves me.
  • Clifton:... Okay... Scratch that. He's become a survivor, so survivors can grow a sense of selfishness. That kinda comes with the territory. When you have to survive, you have to think for yourself.
  • Samantha: Indeed. It's sad, but it's true.
  • (Stonewell): After days of travel, we finally arrived at the Burner Clan's compound, and while my former peers were shuffled to the slave pens, I stood before the clan's leader. I'd heard tales of the once-great Kainic Empires, thought I had never traveled to their lands. By all appearances, Tempus is cut from the same cloth as their fabled Kaines. He was at once imperious and casual, questioning me with impatience from a throne of hide and bone. Naturally, he was impressed by my intellect and gentlemanly demeanor. Granted he did not say so aloud, but I was escorted to a small, private chamber instead of a cell. Surely that says as much.
  • Clifton:... Though, his intelligence is astounding, as is his silver tongue. Don't get me wrong, I still despise his acts. But he at least knows how to survive and sway others to do his bidding.
  • Samantha: It's still not prudent to admire his manipulative ways. I can see Miria doing something like that.
  • Clifton: (Chuckles) So true. But that's only because, as our leader, she wants us to learn from others' strategies.
  • Samantha: Indeed.
  • (Stonewell): I had been pondering why Tempus required the services of a doctor. He seemed to be in excellent health and I had seen no patients since I arrived. Well now I shall ponder no longer. Timur has a wife, and she's with child. I suppose that even bloodthirsty raiders can fall in love, or at the very least, desire a family. At least it's not incestuous like an ancient primitive times which was merely a biologically-damaging attempt to expand families, instead of, you know, parents just having more children as it should be. The whole affair would be rather quaint were I not expected to care for the woman and deliver the child. Should either the child or the woman die during the birth, I fear that I will follow them in short order.
  • Clifton:... Wow.
  • Samantha: Wow indeed.
  • (Stonewell): Nasiri is quite different from her husband. She is a timid little flower of a woman, or rather, she would be if she were not many months pregnant. I am still undecided as to whether my timing is impeccable or unfortunate. A few weeks from now, Tempus may have had no need of a doctor, but as it stands I have been thrust into an unfamiliar scenario with scant time to prepare. Despite my unpleasant circumstances, this whole affair is rather intriguing. I never considered the possibility of new generations being born on these contained environments for this 'Adytum Project', yet clearly it was inevitable. Like any common animal, sentient beings, especially Creijuds like Tempus and Nasiri have the urge to procreate. How else could the species endure?
  • Clifton: Eh, life finds ways. Especially alien life. (He and Samantha chuckled)
  • (Stonewell): Stonewell, old bean, you've done it again! Both mother and child made it through, Tempus is a proud father, and your head is still attached to its shoulders. Why I was even a guest of honor at Tempus's celebratory feast! I cannot say I enjoyed the blood sport that serves as the Burners' entertainment, but the food was delectable. I was also sure to seize upon Tempus's momentary goodwill by filling his ears with whispers of obelisks, artifacts and the untold power they grant to mortal men. It may take time for those thoughts to turn to action, but with constant care, I may yet turn him into my unwitting general.
  • Clifton:... Well, took a lot of placenta, but he got his ears at least. The things he had to do to get that far.
  • (Stonewell): The silver tongue of Sir Edwyn Stonewell has prevailed once again! After spending far too long watching the Burners enslave and decimate hapless caravans and villages, I have convinced Tempus to test his might against the guardian of the obelisk, which he had been anxious to do. I admit, I was somewhat anxious too. Tempus said that the guardian was a Mantilovia, a giant synapsid cauter creature that is rare on most worlds, with poisonous claws and teeth, small horns, and a lizard tail with poisonous spines that it can launch at it's prey. Tempus may not be the commander that Mister Nervay was, and should he fall, I shall fall with him. Yet I have little choice, and the rewards of success are worth the risk. The obelisks, the starlit sanctuary and that precious ore shall be the foundation of my legacy as a scientist, gentleman and explorer. I am sure of it.
  • Clifton:... A Mantilovia?... Wow.
  • Samantha: Indeed they are rare. I never thought I'd even see one myself.
  • Clifton: Not many do.
  • (Stonewell): I found it! I really found it! Raw, untainted samples of that same, mysterious ore from the sanctuary! That fearsome beast must have been guarding it. Thank the heavens for Tempus and his berserk savagery! When he leapt from the back of his Dracthysaur, I thought he was surely doomed, but the madman actually managed to grab hold of that monster's horns and turn its eyes into a bloody mess. I have never seen such brutally effective barbarism. Many of his band did not survive the encounter of course, but that was to be expected. Progress requires sacrifice, and whether those brutes knew it or not, their deaths have helped sentientkind leap into the future.
  • Clifton:... Oh boy. That was rough.
  • (Stonewell): This ore is simply extraordinary! It is as warm to the touch as skin, even during these cold desert nights, and it pulses as though it has its own heartbeat.... And when I touched it... It was like the metal itself was part of me. Extraordinary! It is at once light and more sturdy than any natural material I have encountered. The uses one could find for such a substance. I shall have to name it at some point. What would do? Edwynium? Stonewellium? A dilemma for another time. For now I have more pressing matters. Tempus and his Burner savages have played their part, and I cannot remain in their custody. It is time for the great warrior chief to receive his just reward.
  • Clifton:... He's not...
  • Samantha: Oh he definitely is.
  • (Stonewell): Alas, poor Tempus. He was so focused on celebrating his victory over one foe, that he never saw his greatest threat. Now he lies beneath the severed and stuffed head of the beast he vanquished, eyes bulging and blood seeping from his open mouth. At least, that is how I imagine him. I did not stay to admire my handiwork. As soon as the first group of Burner warriors succumbed to their poisoned feast, I stole away into the night, Stonewellium and artifacts in tow. All of them are dead... Curiously I couldn't find Tempus' wife and child. Not that they were truly a threat anyway.... Or at least not until they see what has become of their father/husband. But serves those ruffians right, I say! They never did treat me with the propriety that a gentleman and scholar of my caliber deserves. This desert is better off without them. I just hope I can get out of dodge before Nasiri finds me for her revenge.
  • Clifton:... Oh, oh, I thought this blowhard was a REAL piece of work before, BUT THIS?!
  • Samantha:... Well, those Burners looked like they'd be potentially as dangerous as Nervay, so, I suppose he did them some good. At least his wife and child are still alive. At this point, his son is grown up and likely doing great things. If you ask me, Stonewell did them a favor. His son deserved a better life than just being a rotten clan murderer.
  • Clifton:... Yeah, you're probably right, but still, that was heartless.
  • (Stonewell): As my withdrawal from the Burners' camp demanded haste, I did not have the time to double-check my supplies. It appears that I shall have to do some hunting. No matter! I may not be as spry as I was when felled a charging Monacosaur on the outside wastes of the planet, but with all the small armory I managed to abscond with, I can surely manage. I had planned on trading those weapons for information as soon as I encountered a peaceful tribe, but I can spare a few rounds of ammunition.
  • Clifton:... (Sighs) When does he even get to the point where he becomes as infamous as he is today, because what he did to the Burners shouldn't even come close to such.
  • Samantha: Be patient.
  • (Stonewell): Despite my limited equipment, I have managed to run some initial tests on the Stonewellium. Based on my observations, a typical forge may not be enough to smelt a sample of Stonewellium ore into any sort of usable ingot. I suspect that it has extremely strong metallic bonds and therefore a much higher melting point than any conventional metallic element. Also... Seemed to me like it had signs of feeling pain the moment I touched it. It wasn't just that the heat burned me... It was like it shared its pain with me. Even the worst-degree burns didn't offer such lasting pain. I must find a proper base of operations where I can run more extensive experiments. I mustn't be overeager, however. I have limited samples and... Drat! I shall have to ruminate on this later. A sandstorm may be brewing and I have no desire to be caught in it.
  • Clifton:... This man can't catch a break.
  • Samantha: Not many do on this planet, my love.
  • (Stonewell): Confounded weather! Not only did that sandstorm separate me from my steed, but when it cleared I was beset upon by none other than the traitorous Miss Runner herself! Oh, she put on quite the act, spouting all sorts of nonsense about how good it was to see me. Rubbish! I see right through her ruse. I am certain that she is after my Stonewellium. The only reason she has not simply looted it from my corpse is that she requires my superior intellect to understand it. Well two can play this game, Miss Runner! I can fill the role of the benign old scientist for a time, but I shall not be betrayed again!
  • Clifton:... He's STILL under the impression she plans to steal from him?!
  • Samantha: (Sighs) Clifton?
  • Clifton: Okay, just forget about it, at this point, he's never going to-
  • Samantha: "Look, I get it, you're annoyed by his accusations onto Heli. But to be fair, it's not like he known Heli for years and WELL beyond the planet. He literally met her in a rog-eat-rod planet where it's everyone for themselves."
  • Clifton: "Okay, I can get that he assumed that Heli's being an utter bitch here, but, A SIMPLE CONVERSATION WOULD CLEAR ALL THAT UP?!"
  • (Stonewell): I am glad that I possessed the foresight to hide my presence from Miss Runner after her capture on the island. She clearly believes that I never learned of her betrayal. By cunningly taking advantage of this fact, I have managed to completely deceive the deceiver! The grim old Invervisaur ghoul she travels with is another matter. I often catch her glaring in my direction, her eyes sharp and mistrusting. If I could, I would deal with her as I dealt with Tempus, but I fear she is far too observant. For now I must maintain my deception as best I can.
  • Clifton:... Looks like this time, he's got eyes all over him.... Not literally-
  • Samantha: I know figurative language when I hear it, Clifton, I'm not a fool.
  • (Stonewell): I may have given Miss Runner too much credit. Although I carelessly allowed her to catch sight of my Stonewellium ore samples, she was more interested in the artifact I possess. I should have realized this sooner. Miss Runner's specialty is biology. She would not recognize the unique properties of Stonewellium if they hit her square in the forehead... Unless she saw that it curiously shared the behavior of a living organism. Luckily, I was sure to keep her from learning that. That fact has eased some of my tension. Even if Miss Runner seeks to take advantage of my genius, she is focusing on the wrong discoveries. So long as I am careful in my studies of Stonewellium, I shall remain miles ahead of her.
  • Samantha:... Last page.
  • (Stonewell): I cannot wait to be rid of that glowering menace of a woman, this so-called 'Rayburn Skyrider'... And apparently her thought-to-be-dead caveman boyfriend. I suspect the feeling is mutual. She has offered little in the way of farewells while seeing us to the entrance to the starlit sanctuary. She has admonished me for keeping spoils of more Stonewellium from the monster that I thought was the one Tempus killed but was still alive, when it was actually its spawn. The young Mantilovia chased us into the crater desert. When Rav learns that it wants me and my Stonewellium, even at the behest of my insistence that it's mine, finders are keepers after all, she just stole ALL of it from me and returned it to the monster. But it still wanted us all after what I had done to its mother. If it wasn't for that caveman, we'd all be dead. She wasted my precious Stonewellium! I will NEVER forgive her for such a wasted effort. Things will be much easier once Miss Runner and I have parted ways with the desert witch and the eccentric caveman, I suspect. Miss Runner is thoroughly oblivious to both the wonders of Stonewellium and my knowledge of her underhanded scheming back on the island as she scolded me for my so-called 'arrogance' as she put it, and said that the metal must've 'gotten to my head'. Such folly accusations. I know what I am doing. But she can continue to fiddle with trinkets and relics. I may even assist her if it suits me. Meanwhile, I shall unlock the secrets of the most extraordinary metal in the UUniverses right under her nose!
  • Clifton:... My God!... He actually did ALL of that?!
  • Samantha: (Sighs) I can almost feel your anger for him, Cliff.
  • Clifton: Well, this doesn't seem to be his worst. He says he has another journal here.
  • Samantha:... I believe we may have the final nail in the coffin for how far he goes with this. What he just stated in his final note is a telltale sign that he'll go further than ever where he goes next.

(Later...) Lapse Wastes

  • Clifton:... Seems like SUCH a coincidence we keep finding Stonewell's journals.
  • Samantha: (She sees the back tainted with molten enhancelement)... And I was correct. We may have just found his final journal.
  • Clifton: Great. Now we can FINALLY find out what makes him so infamous. (They read)
  • (Stonewell): I fear that even with the unwitting aid of Miss Runner, I still cannot completely control the machines in the starlit sanctuary. I believe they sent us to the correct environment, but I was unable to control precisely where we arrived on it. Alas, that means the location I saw in the sanctuary is beyond my reach for the time being, along with the molten Stonewellium I saw there. Confound it all! Naturally, I cannot confirm that molten substance was indeed Stonewellium until I have inspected it with my own eyes, but it simply must be! It looked exactly like my samples did when I attempted to melt them down. But this time, it was not in pain. It was doing so naturally, which means it shares a hybrid behavior of both organic life and non-organic matter. Imagine! An entire cavern of the most potent metal ever conceived! The wonders I could create. I could just see the smug faces on my parents when I finally take credit for what THEY tried to steal from me.
  • Clifton:... Doing this to spite his own parents that he drugged. What a low point, even for him.
  • (Stonewell): While the molten Stonewellium remains elusive, this underground forest has proven quite illuminating, both figuratively and literally. Many of this cavern's species are bioluminescent, so out of curiosity, I dissected several of the glowing insects that are common here. After further study, I have concluded that the luminescent fluid found in their posteriors carries something akin to a bioelectric charge. However I cannot determine how it is generated, and with no place to store it, said charge fades quickly. Curious, curious indeed! What could be the cause of this? With no sunlight to provide the forest with energy, perhaps this charge comes from the soil?
  • Samantha: Well, I'm sure he'll figure by the end that it is the work of this 'Stonewellium'. Or as it's called, ENHANCELEMENT!... Oh wait, never mind, he figures that out on the next page. (Clifton chuckled)
  • (Stonewell): Yes, yes of course! The Stonewellium is the cause! If there are truly molten pools of Stonewellium somewhere in these caverns, then Stonewellium minerals would have spread throughout the soil over time, allowing its wondrous properties to affect nearby flora and fauna. Even if it is not the direct source of the charge found in this forest's bioluminescent wildlife, it may have incited incremental changes in those species over several generations, which then led to their development of an internal charge. How invigorating! I could be standing in the middle of an entire ecosystem that has been absorbing the effects of Stonewellium for generations, and all of its secrets are mine for the taking. Magnificent!
  • Samantha:... Someone like him certainly does not deserve such recognition. He does not realize that this substance drove the Scyrians themselves mad from mix-matched genetics.
  • Clifton: Well, this place DOES resemble the jungles of Permiana Major. THAT planet has become so infused with enhancelement, it has become its lifeforce. Its blood. It's very essence.
  • Samantha: I know, I know. That's because of the substance's organic behavior. Such a substance could give planets their own self-awareness and their own inner life.
  • Clifton: Exactly!
  • (Stonewell): I must admit, I am glad that I coerced Miss Runner into accompanying me. Her scientific mind may be far below my own, but she can fire a rifle proficiently enough. I suppose that is no surprise. She is a colonial, after all, and she never has been terribly ladylike. I hadn't noticed what a foul mouth she has, either. Dreadful! However, despite her past deceptions and uncouth vulgarity, I must tolerate her presence for now. The predators here are not to be trifled with. Of course, in my youth, I could have grappled them into submission. Why, I would simply pin their wings behind their backs and drive them to the ground. Yes, I'd give them a truly thorough thrashing! Ah, to be young again.
  • Clifton: (Sighs)
  • (Stonewell): Miss Runner I can tolerate for now, but I cannot abide by this barbarian! Meya, was she? I cannot fathom how she even lives, much less how she ended up here! A primitive mind like hers could never have operated the contraptions in the starlit sanctuary. Yet here she stands, and worst of all, she wears a suit of Stonewellium armor! The very thing I seek has already been claimed by some savage, sword-wielding tart! It's outrageous! Such a beautiful product of science should not be sullied by her bloodstained hands. No, Stonewell. You must be calm. If she senses hostility, she will surely kill you on the spot. Yes, for now I must bide my time and learn what I can. Whoever constructed this armor, I must find them.
  • Clifton: (Sighs harder)
  • (Stonewell): Astounding! That remarkable armor was but the tip of the iceberg. The barbarian woman Meya has escorted us to the home of her new masters, and I can take nary a step without finding some wondrous new piece of technology, much of it relying on the power of Stonewellium. Though I am upset that I could not find modern use of it myself, I could at least take it further in ways even they could not process. The casual manner in which they use and refer to these wonders leads me to believe that while they are deeply familiar with the marvelous metal, they may not grasp the depths of its potential. Yes, Stonewell, this was well worth tolerating Miss Runner and her savage companion. I shall learn what these beings know, and take it many steps further.
  • Clifton: (Shrugs hard)
  • Samantha: Cliff!
  • Clifton: I'M TRYING!!
  • (Stonewell): The village has a vast supply of Stonewellium, far more than the paltry samples that desert witch stole from me. In this quantity, I can almost hear it singing to me as I study it. It pulses with more nervous-system-like energy at such an entrancing rhythm that it's hard to tear my eyes away from it. The villagers here refer to it as "enhancelement." What a rubbish name. A pun on words is no name for this wondrous substance. I will still call it Stonewellium, as it deserves a better name. I have also been learning what they know of the "charge" that is common in this place, which I made note of earlier. Their own studies confirm my suspicions that it is the result of the Stonewellium that permeates the caverns, and they call it 'glowcharge'. That makes it worth researching.
  • Clifton:... I bet he won't last in his normal self by the end of this.
  • Samantha: Me too. His own ambition has driven him past lines he shouldn't cross.
  • (Stonewell): Obtaining detailed information from these villagers is like drawing blood from a stone! The Skorner, Dinia, which I'm surprised hasn't picked a fight with Heili, her race's rival race, has been pleasant enough in answering my queries, but she is no scientist. Her naivete makes that quite evident. I simply must convince these men to place me onto one of their research teams. That's where I'll really gain some ground. Unfortunately, they seem rather skeptical of my scientific prowess. Bah! Ridiculous! I don't care what space territory they hail from, I am Sir Edwyn Stonewell! A mind like my own only comes once a millennium. It should be their honor to have me amongst their ranks.
  • Clifton: Oy! Like I said, he won't last with his sanity intact.
  • (Stonewell): The nerve of these people! I have never seen such arrogance and disrespect directed towards a worthy colleague! I finally convinced Dinia to let me partake in the village's research and experiments, and I have been treated like an ignoramus. These so-called scientists dare to talk down to me? They dare to underestimate me? Fools, the lot of them! Well, I daresay I don't need them. Now that I have access to their facilities and supplies, I can research glowcharge and Stonewellium just fine without their aid. Soon enough, my knowledge shall surpass their own, then we shall see who is primitive.
  • Clifton:... I'm not even going to say anything anymore. It's pretty much tapped.
  • (Stonewell): Confound it all! Why am I progressing so slowly? These scientists are no more intelligent than I, yet they make continual progress while my own research continues to stagnate. It's just a matter of experience, that's all it is. They are more familiar with their tools and they have more information at their disposal. Were I in their shoes, I would have finished that ridiculous project of theirs months ago! I must work harder to account for my handicap. I shall eat and sleep in the lab, and allow for no distractions, not until my so-called peers have learned to respect the name of Sir Edwyn Stonewell.
  • Samantha:... I can see such arrogance in him that he is denying.
  • (Stonewell): At last, success! I have finally been able to convert this "glowcharge" into proper electricity thanks to the miracle of engineering that is my ingenious glow panels. Subsequently, I used it to create not only a glowcharge battery, but a lantern as well. It was a simple matter, really. It's baffling that these supposed scientists haven't managed it already. Based on their surprise when I showed them my new invention, my earlier supposition was correct: they've barely scratched the surface of glowcharge and Stonewellium's full potential. Soon enough, I'll have surpassed their understanding of both. Yet if they expect me to share the full fruits of my research with them, they are sadly mistaken. Those who doubt the genius of Sir Edwyn Stonewell shall never reap its rewards!
  • Samantha:... Such egomaniacal foolishness.
  • (Stonewell): I have at last persuaded Dinia to show me this grand project those bumbling scientists are working so hard on. I am hardly impressed. If I had to guess, I would say that this 'Escape Project' is merely aping the transporter platforms present at the base of every obelisk, and crudely at that. Everyone is quite excited about it, the small-minded simpletons. Why are they so eager to leave this place, where the impossible is within reach? They speak of 'escaping' as though this were some kind of prison, when in reality, it is a land full of unparalleled promise and possibility.
  • Samantha: Well, it's a prison in anyone's definition. The wildlife here is not very hospitable. Especially the marine worms we barely escaped getting here.
  • (Stonewell): Thank goodness this Dinia woman is so agreeable. She seems to view me as her personal responsibility, and as a result, she has served my whims rather well. All I need do is assume the guise of a kindly, curious old man and I can persuade her to see to my every need. I've nearly convinced her to escort me to the lower caverns, where molten Stonewellium is said to flow in abundance. Those caverns were the reason I came here in the first place, and I'm certain an excursion into their depths would yield invaluable insight. I need only push and prod just a bit more.
  • Samantha:... Clifton, at this point, I'm seeing that his manipulation isn't just for his survival anymore.
  • Clifton: Glad you finally said it.
  • (Stonewell): Once I upgraded my Glowcharge Lantern prototype to be vastly more portable and efficient, the village council could ignore my petitions no longer. I shall be accompanying an expedition to the lower caverns posthaste! At last, I shall be able to observe Stonewellium in its rawest, most natural state! Marvelous! I can hardly contain my excitement, though I must make an effort to. The barbarian woman has been glowering at me for days. I suspect if she could, she would watch my every move, and probably forbid Dinia from speaking to me. Fortunately, Miss Runner has been distracting her with trivialities, but I must still be cautious. That savage will turn to violence on a whim, and I must not provoke her.
  • Samantha:... At least someone doesn't trust him. Meya seems to have the right instinct.
  • (Stonewell): Thankfully, it seems I shall get a reprieve from all those nasty glares I've been receiving. Miss Runner has taken her pet barbarian with her on that fool's errand she's running to the obelisk. Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say! I didn't bother to learn all the details of Miss Runner's mission, but it seems clear to me that the obelisks are a waste to my endeavors now. It is the Stonewellium that matters now, so if she and her violent little lackey want to play explorer, so be it. In the meantime, I shall journey into the heart of these caverns to conduct real science, and make real progress. Excelsior!
  • Clifton: Good luck with that.
  • (Stonewell): I cannot say that I enjoy wearing this bulky, inelegant suit, but Dinia claims that its protection is necessary if we are to venture into the Stonewellium caverns, so I shall endure it as best I can. I suppose that means I shall have to find a way to think without stroking my beard. Regardless, I am glad to be off. The other scientists that are accompanying me are rather nervous about the whole affair, citing monster attacks that plagued previous expeditions. Worry-worts, the lot of them! Science is full of risks, and this is but one more, one that shall prove well worth it in the end.
  • Clifton: Uh-huuuuuuh...
  • (Stonewell): I have traveled Scyria and created countless scientific marvels, but never before have I seen a sight so beautiful. In its rawest form, the song of the Stonewellium is even more enchanting. Had I the time, I would simply gaze at it for days. Sadly, I must make haste, before the others realize what I already know, that within Stonewellium is the potential for a new dawn for sentient prosperity. I can see it, I can feel it! I must be the one to unlock its secrets. Our fates are intertwined, this majestic metal and I. More data, Stonewell! You need more data! You are so very close!
  • Clifton:... Yeah, ego, just ignore it and pray it doesn't get worse.
  • (Stonewell): I've done it! They didn't think I could contain it, but once again I've proven them to be a band of fools. At last, I have obtained samples of molten Stonewellium in its raw, undiluted form. I must be judicious with it. I could only create two containment pods for collecting samples, and I may not be able to convince the council to let me return to these caverns to gather a second batch. This will have to be enough. No matter. I have been making miracles with primitive supplies and dimwitted assistants for years. Any sample size at all is enough for Sir Edwyn Stonewell!
  • Clifton:... Like you said, Cliff... Ignore it.
  • (Stonewell): Now that I have returned to the village's laboratory, I have confirmed that raw, molten Stonewellium is far more potent than its solid, impure counterpart. Of course, I'm the only one that sees it. The close-minded lackwits here that dare to call themselves scientists refuse to get close to it. They claim it will make me sick. Rubbish! The Stonewellium would never harm me. I can feel its warmth and the greater life that flows inside of it. I can hear it calling to me. It speaks not of danger, but of infinite potential. They're all so painfully myopic. Their impure Stonewellium may make for fine armor, but that is a mere fraction of its true power. How else could the Scyrians in their day evolve into the grand race they used to be? It could potentially do the same for us. They will see soon enough.
  • Clifton:... (Deep cartoonishly large breath)...
  • (Stonewell): The villagers have been quite bothersome since I returned. It was interfering with my work. Dinia kept 'checking in' on me, claiming she was 'concerned' and convinced the council to cut much of my access to my important experiments. Foolish snitching woman. I saw through her lies. I see through them all. They simply want to benefit from my genius. Luckily, I was able to distract them with a side project of mine. I was studying the effects of glowcharge on various flora, and stumbled upon a way to engineer a new species that can act as a bioluminescent sentry and create buds that act like flashbang grenades. They seemed to believe that this was the center of my research, and so I happily let my samples pass into their incompetent hands. It's a paltry sum to pay for some much-needed peace and quiet. Now it is just me and my Stonewellium, as it should be.
  • Samantha:... I think that stuff is indeed affecting him.
  • Clifton: I had the same thought. I just hope his 'friends' which he refuses to call them, snap him to his senses.
  • Samantha: Don't count on it.
  • (Stonewell): I no longer need to worry about working with a limited sample size, thanks to my genius. The solution was right in front of me the whole time: I merely needed to transform the village's supply of solid Stonewellium into its liquid state, then rid it of impurities. It was easier said than done, of course, but I am Sir Edwyn Stonewell! No problem is too complex and no task is too great for me. Nothing can keep me from my goal. Nothing can keep me from ascending. That is the true power of Stonewellium. The Scyrians would have it no other way, and I saw that they shared some kind of link to their precursor creators. I see it now. This substance can not just amplify as armor or outside protection, but also change the body into the fittest of needs. It can take a living thing and change it. No, elevate it. Yes, yes, but I shall need to test it. Subjects, subjects, I shall need subjects...
  • Clifton:... No, you aren't!
  • Samantha: Yeah, he actually are. Look here.
  • (Stonewell): Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant! The test went more splendidly than I could have imagined! With no access to animal test subjects, I had to use the barbarian Sauran's pet cergline, Sho, was it, as my first subject. I didn't wish to force it on such a trusted creature and risk getting Heili suspicious like all the others, but everyone brought it upon themselves when they cut much of my access for my experiments. It's their fault. Regardless, it was a timid, fragile thing, that is until I injected a full dose of pure, molten Stonewellium into its veins. Then, as I predicted, it ascended! Within minutes it grew in size and power, until at last it was a mighty, fearsome beast. I had great uses for it. Particularly to end this 'bully' people in the village kept telling me about who roams the underground. Alas, that snitch meddler Dinia 'put it down' before I could study it more closely. Bah! That was no mercy. That was as close as that worthless creature would ever get to tasting godhood, and she ripped it away! She is the murderer, not I! One day, she shall be punished for it.
  • Clifton:... He tested it, on one of Meya's precious creatures?! Does he know about how much of a bond she shares with her own animal companions?!
  • Samantha: No, because he has always seen her as a barbarian.
  • Clifton: Wehell, no surprise he's gotten so infamous. Meya is going to be SO pissed!
  • (Stonewell): They dare to lecture me? Me? Imbeciles! They claim to be for the progress of this planet, but they fear progress itself! I performed a miracle of science and their reaction is to scold me like a child. Damn them, damn them all! They suspended me of all access to my experiments by cutting me clean of all my Stonewellium samples that I 'stole' and denied me any access to it. Luckily I was able to hide my original batch away from their meddling hands. But how am I to continue my experiments now? They may let their petty morality hold them back, but I won't let it bind me. Not when I'm this close. I know with certainty now that Stonewellium can unlock a species' potential, I just have to perfect the process. Even without subjects, I must find a way. I must!
  • Clifton:... Are you kidding? How is NOTHING people say getting through to him?! Does he have ANY conscious?!
  • Samantha: Well, it must indeed be the work of the 'Stonewellium' he oh so craves.... And I'm afraid it gets worse from there.
  • (Stonewell): I may not be allowed to collect more test subjects or Stonewellium, but I am not without resources. Rather than use living creatures, I have taken my experiments one step further, and begun testing the effects of the last of my Stonewellium fusion on sentient blood. My blood.
  • Clifton:... He's testing it on himself now?!
  • Samantha: Oh dear.
  • (Stomewell): Thus far, the results are promising. Yes, this is the proper way to do it. Injecting the Stonewellium into that creature was too crude. If I first fuse the Stonewellium with the subject's blood, and then inject the resulting concoction... Yes, that's it. I have it! The Stonewellium knows it, too. It hums its approval as I work. It knows that soon, we shall be one. Soon, I too shall ascend. I did not wish this on myself too soon, but those fools with no sense of progress left me no choice. A demonstration of the power of Stonewellium, is in order.
  • Clifton:... Well, that's it. This guy's an irredeemable asshole.
  • Samantha: Indeed so.
  • (Stonewell): Such power! Such beauty! I can feel it within me, growing stronger by the second. Never have I felt so alive! It was a risk, of course. My process is not yet perfected, but by cutting off the circulation in my left arm, I was able to contain my metamorphosis within it. Now I can study the results before I undergo my final ascension to godhood. I must hurry! Hurry! I cannot hide my arm from these lesser brainless creatures for long, nor can I resist its allure. It is taking all my discipline to not simply ascend right now. Yes, why don't I? I should do it! I deserve it, I... No, patience! Patience! You’ve waited so very long, just wait a little longer.
  • Clifton:... So, he's turning himself into a monster. Fitting. He was already one, even by his own standards.
  • (Stonewell): I've gathered as much Stonewellium as I dared, by stealing it right from under the council's blind eyes. The villagers are distracted with their inane celebrations, so thus far I have moved undetected. Imbeciles! What cause could they have for such joy? I've heard mention of Miss Runner, but whatever she has accomplished, it is nothing compared to what I've done. Nothing! She is nothing! I'm the true scientist here, the true genius, and soon I shall prove it! Yes, well done, Stonewell. Well done! This Stonewellium will be more than enough. With it you shall claim what is rightfully yours! At last, at long last!
  • Clifton: Oh, please, I'm not surprised that I was right about him. A mad scientist who refused to listen to reason. At this rate, he'll get what he deserves and be put down like a rabid animal.
  • (Stonewell): The last preparations have been made. When I set down this pen and begin my final experiment, I shall finally achieve my ultimate goal. I shall at last look down upon the bumblings of mortal men from high above on a Stonewellium throne. I, Sir Edwyn Stonewell, shall become a god! One what will reintroduce the glory of Stonewellium to the rest of Scyria, and be famous. More famous than my parents would ever be. So on this day, let everything tremble! Let the rivers of this blessed metal sing a song of triumph that echoes forever throughout the depths of these caverns! Let the unworthy drown in despair, for a great doom approaches them, and it shall swallow them whole alongside anyone who dared to mock my name and deny me my rightful destiny! On this day, on this glorious day, I ascend!
  • Clifton: Well, now we know why he's so infamous.
  • Samantha: Yes, but, let's just keep reading. There could be more to this.
  • Clifton: You're not wrong. Much of these pages are stained with enhancelement.
  • Samantha:... Wait... This is... A new kind of page. It's... made from smart paper. It's translating something.
  • (Stonewell):... ("Primitive! Savage! How dare you? You are nothing! I am a god! How dare you? Hate you! HATE YOU! I HATE YOU! Where have you banished me? What is this place? What is this feeling? Everything. Yes, everything. The earth and the sky. Every stone and every crevasse. I feel it all. What is this place? What am I?")
  • Clifton:... Okay, that sent shivers down my spine.
  • Samantha: Me too.
  • (Stonewell): ("I am beginning to understand. It was hard to comprehend, for my eyes are still newly opened. I did not used to see as I see now, nor did I speak as I speak now. When I speak, it is not to a man. They are lesser beings. When I speak, I speak to this hidden lifeform within this metal. I speak to the Stonewellium itself, and it speaks back to me. It tells me secrets, things that I never could have understood as I was before. It whispers to me of something greater, a plain ever higher than the one I walk now. We can reach it, the two of us. The Stonewellium and I. Together.")
  • Clifton:... Wow, I almost wet myself- (He saw a picture of Stonewell as he is now: A monster identical to ARK Rockwell now)
  • (Stonewell): THIS, IS THE IMAGE OF PERFECTION UPON MORTALS, AND A WARNING TO THOSE WHO DO NOT WISH TO SEE IT'S BEAUTY! THIS, IS, GENETIC PERFECTION!
  • Clifton:... Well, that did it.
  • Samantha: (She smelled it) UGH! It certainly did.
  • Clifton:... So... Stonewell, is THIS now! No WONDER everyone doesn't say his name.
  • Samantha: Indeed not. This... This man wanted recognition by capitalizing on enhancelement, but was kept from such by what it did to it's creators, morality, and his deep-rooted jealousy of people who do so without him, and in this obsession... He became just like the Scyrians. A monster doomed to genetic madness.

Who Is Meya Liu?

Chinese-Esque Forest

  • Marcilene:... Hmmm... How interesting.
  • Cloakblade: What have you got, Marci?
  • Serpentos: Yeah, what's up?
  • Marcilene:... I found some... Peculiar scrolls in this chest that belongs to some... Animal Queen by the name of... Meya Liu. (Opens them and sees the poetic pinyin on them as well as the Chinese-themed pictures on them)... And she's written her adventures rather poetically.
  • Serpentos: A poet warrior? Rather conventional, but interesting.
  • Marcilene: Actually, it's got a poetic feel.
  • Cloakblade:... It's a Sauran language. My learning of that language is, still sparse.
  • Marcilene: Allow me. There are plenty of them on Zo. I believe I can translate.
  • (Meya): Where am I? How did I survive what occurred back there? I have asked these questions many times since I awoke on this foreign shore, but I must stop. They do not matter. Their answers will not save me, but only give context that neither aides nor hinders my situation, so I will focus on a different question: how can I survive now? This question always has an answer, though it is ever-changing, and it has helped me find resolve in moments of uncertainty or fear. Just days ago, I never thought I'd fear again. I thought my fear died with the things I have done for my hometown. Yet when I heard that giant roar of a monster and my retreat got me briefly drowned and washed onto the shores of this island, I know fear is exactly what I feel.
  • Cloakblade:... Interesting.
  • Serpentos: If kinda overly dramatic. Are we sure this is a real person's journal and that it's not a fictional read?
  • Marcilene: Well it lacks an author's name, so, this is someone's private journal, albeit, an artsy-fartsy one.
  • (Meya): I am armed and clothed now, though crudely. My stone spearhead makes me long for my village's weaponsmith, even wish for even the most low-level laser pistol in the weapon market, but it serves. I use it to hunt the slow, fat birds that wander the coast. I do not know how such creatures survive here at all, but I am grateful for the meat they provide. Also grateful that they happened to be in good health, and bore little understanding that I was a danger to them, but I suspect this may change soon given the reaction of my first kills' flock. I save my arrows for the more dangerous creatures, like the dinosaurs with ears like fans, whose spit burns the things it touches. No, not just the creatures. They are not the only danger. Yesterday, I found footprints in the sand that were not my own. I am not alone.
  • Marcilene:... Well, she's an experienced survivor and fighter, at least.
  • Serpentos: Yeah, I doubt this would even exist if she was incompetent with nature survival.
  • (Meya): Defending my hometown during criminal attacks taught me more in months than I learned in all the years before it. Among those lessons, men will always underestimate women in battle, which I would normally pertain to sexism or just immature false expectations like any other.
  • Serpentos: I would believe both, honestly.
  • (Meya): The other lesson: sentient beings, no matter what shape or size, can be crueler than any animal.
  • Serpentos: But, how can animals be cruel if they're unsentient?
  • Maricilene: It's mainly meant to be artistic, Serp. It's basically an artsy way of saying 'people suck'.
  • (Meya): Both of these lessons applied today. The footprints I found were not from one man, but three. All were a Haelic, an Augean, and a Simobe. Their eyes changed when they saw me, like rolves discovering a kneep. They were wrong. They were merely mutts desperate for an easy target but of poor judgment. I was the rolf. Two died to arrows after ignoring my warnings. The last to my spear. I felt besieged with myself as a monster for doing this like any in our society would, but I did not do this without second thought. I knew perhaps these men had families or loved ones wherever they came from and that any action they would've done to me was for survival's sake. But considering they failed to take a warning seriously and were also impudent with the words they spoke and the intentions they had, it was all for certain self-defense, and I would rather not repeat their intents in this book. Suffice to say, I felt no loss of conscience of what I assumed to be folks that have long embraced survival and deemed me a threat as I did them. A pity that I was forced to confirm it because of their own bad choice. I left their bodies out in the wild. After all that, I realize that I cannot stay here. The beaches are too open. To survive, I must brave the jungle.
  • Serpentos:... Brutal.
  • Marcilene: Unfortunately, that's the law of being out in the wild. It's eat or be eaten, and kill or be killed. As sentient animals, with the exception of Serpentos, we should know that.
  • (Meya): Today, I scored a great victory. As the sunsets, I happened upon a small village on a bluff. Unfortunately, it was besieged by a man who rode a raptor and wielded a laser rifle. I know not of his reasons. Perhaps the village leader did something malevolent and this rider decided personal vengeance. But even if so, the innocents being made to suffer this attack is too unbearable and too extreme a punishment, even for one ungrateful action. It would have been safer to retreat, but I could not ignore the bodies. Regardless of the rider's reasoning, this was still a slaughter. Surprise can be a warrior's most powerful weapon, and I wielded it effectively. My first arrow found the raptor's throat, and many more pierced the man's back once he tumbled from the saddle. He never saw his vanquisher. In hindsight, I should have spared the beast. A mount would be welcome.
  • Serpentos:... (Sighs)... She was starting out, I can't blame her for this murder.
  • Marcilene: When it comes to survival, murder laws are nonexistent.
  • Cloakblade: And to be fair, she did acknowledge that the rider may've had a reason for what he did, but we have to consider that his reasons were outweighed by the people he was hurting for what is merely the actions of one or two individuals.
  • Serpentos: True, that sounded way too extreme.
  • (Meya): The surviving villagers let me claim the raptor rider's armor and weapons, and gave me shelter for the night. To my surprise, I understood them. Their mouths moved strangely, but in my ears I heard the language of my home. They say it is the work of some strange devices internally wired into them. I do not understand, but they had no reason to lie, so, I'll humor this strange truth for now. That night, I dreamt of a fight between my old teacher Guoylu, lifting the siege on his village in a single, gallant charge. But I was Guoylu. Yet when I woke, I was just Meya Liu, and the villagers were gone. I am a stranger to them, but my heart feels heavier for their loss. I must carry on alone.
  • Marcilene:... She must have been through a lot back home.
  • (Meya): The villagers had made taming beasts sound simple, but my first attempt was nearly my last. My prey was a raptor just like the raider's steed, but this one was strong. Even as my toxin-laced arrows knocked him out, he was able to make one final lunge for my arm. He nearly took it. If it were not for my regenerative healing, that would have been serious or maybe even permanent. Carefully, I fed him scraps of meat as he rested, and when he finally woke, I kept my weapon trained on him. Only when I was sure that he was docile did I notice his appearance, all blackish-green, save his glittering shins and feet. Right then, I named him Suave, and while I do not believe in fate, I felt that this beast would carry me home.
  • Serpentos: Aww, she made a friend.
  • Cloakblade: A rather strong one at that, too. Also rather sour at first given the near loss of an arm.
  • Marcilene: Saurans can regenerate lost limbs, like she said, so it wouldn't have been too serious if he did.
  • (Meya): The raptors are improving. They know to follow Suave, and Suave knows to listen to me. These raptors were actually Suave's pack, and the alpha, which I have nicknamed Injured-Hand, had to take another beating when Suave being tamed by someone with my skill threatened his leadership. But they're still inexperienced. Beasts without riders cannot maintain a formation, but they at least run close together. In time, they have even learned how to attack and retreat at my signal during our hunts on the plains. Together, Suave and his five pack members, including Injured-Hand, are like a light cavalry unit, and I am their commander. Unfortunately, they are all I really have. I am not much of a craftsman, and have few possessions. Not everyone here is like me, though. There may be some who can craft but cannot fight. Perhaps we could trade.
  • Serpentos: And she even tamed his family.
  • Cloakblade: How intriguing. She's more experienced in survival than I thought.
  • Marcilene: Though how did those raptors know to find him?
  • Serpentos: I'm sure if we were paired with an animal expert, they say something like smells and scents and what-not.
  • (Meya): The defense went spectacularly. Like many tribes, The Red Claws relied entirely on brute force. They thought only of charging in with their beasts and their guns, with no regard for their surroundings. They never expected a sortie, much less one that came from their exposed flank. Our victory was so complete that my benefactors not only rewarded me with the weapons and supplies they promised, but extra pack animals to carry them. With each battle, my skills improve and my ranks swell, if only with beasts. I don't mind that. The people that I care about are back home. Until I return with the right stories to tell, Suave is enough company.
  • Cloakblade:... And she grew in animal companions.
  • Seprentos: Yeah I am starting to see where the 'Animal Queen' idea came from.
  • (Meya): I was told this escort mission would be dangerous, but I had not expected to fight a legitimate army. Fortunately, I was riding ahead of the main column and spotted them first. After signaling for the convoy to change course, I harassed the enemy from their flanks to draw their attention, then retreated in a different direction. Even that cost me. Many of Suave's brothers were injured and some were killed, though ironically, Injured-Hand, the one with a permanent injury, survived with little scratches. Not that he could avoid any scratch. Previously, my enemies here fought wildly or scattered when attacked, but these men had discipline. They would've done much worse. The leader of the convoy was very grateful. Apparently, few survive an encounter with this "Artegerent Legion". I should be wary of them in the future.
  • Serpentos: Even an ARMY is no match for her! Amazing.
  • (Meya): Am I a mercenary now? I had not given it much thought until I was actually called one. I don't like the title. Mercenaries fight for riches, but I'm just fighting for what I need to survive. That's different, isn't it? When I fought back home, I knew who and what I was fighting for. I knew who my enemies were. Here I cannot tell. I am trying to be honorable by defending people and not attacking them, but how can I be certain? I cannot dwell on it. To survive, I must fight on. To complete my crusade, I must fight on.
  • Serpentos:... Hmm. Crusade? I suppose she was on the island for a greater purpose.
  • Marcilene: Most likely. Though since she said something stranded her there... I question she's trying to escape and doing what she can to do it.
  • (Meya): I've started to tame larger creatures. The speed of my light cavalry was beneficial, but I realized that it was not enough. A hundred swift strikes mean nothing if there is no strength behind them. To survive enemies like the Artegerent Legion, I must be able to strike with power. I began with the ones that look like larger raptors, but with horns on their foreheads, or 'Taurotyrannus' as they're called. I was never one for dinosaur biology. But these tauros, they balance strength and speed well, and will serve well as the core of my forces. When I have enough tauros, I will add some of the giants. Maybe then I'll finally have the strength to find my place on this inhospitable planet.
  • Marcilene:... And she's growing further with the predators.
  • Serpentos: Hooray for her.
  • (Meya): When I tried to leave the island I was stranded on, I realized I am living on no ordinary island. It was a cursed island. I managed to tame a great spytorannus and a dominoraptor, I left to find a way off of this treacherous island to continue my outside journey, but I soon found myself traveling in circles. Worse still, I'm told that a magical barrier prevents ships from sailing too far from the shore, and birds from flying too high to leave the island. It seems that this barrier allows things in, but never out. It was never a matter of strength. There is no path home at all. Suave seems to sense my unease. These days, I often wake to find him nestled beside me. At least I am not trapped here alone.
  • Serpentos:... Aw.
  • Marcilene: Well someone's become a sweetheart all of a sudden.
  • Serpentos: Just keep translating.
  • (Meya): I laughed for the first time in weeks today. A man from a small tribe of fishermen sought to hire me, but he didn't call me by my name. He called me, the "Animal Queen". I could not keep a straight face. But I suppose I understand the title. Since my compromised expedition and failure to get off the island, I have staked out a small swath of land to live on more permanently, and the locals know it as my pack's hunting ground. Still, I'm hardly a queen. My "castle" is little more than a shack. But at the same time..... I'd rather be called a queen than a mercenary though, so I may as well embrace it.
  • Cloakblade:... At least she has a sense of humor.
  • (Meya): I wonder what my adopted father would think of me now. Would he be proud of me when I march off into a dangerous battle like this? This wasn't like the battles back home. A hero's battle. This was a bigger battle than he had seen his entire life, and he was concerned when I left. I know my original father, who died to Boss Iilong when I was just 2, wanted a son. That's why he sought to train me in secret before that awful tragedy. Luckily his friend, the great Master Guoylu, fulfilled that wish in his absence. Would either father accept an Animal Queen instead? Mother certainly wouldn't approve if she was alive either. The other villagers were too desperate to care about my gender when I joined the fight against Iilong's syndicate, but mother wanted different things from me. That's one of the things I remembered at such an early age. I bet she wouldn't even look at me now. Should I mind? Those were Meya Liu's parents, from Meya Liu's life. MY life. And sometimes I wonder if that life was even real. Maybe I was always a beast, and never a woman. Still, I had another role-model as a father. Even the great Master Guoylu feared for my safety when I left. He'd certainly be surprised I have a family of unsentient animals. After all, I had a pet who died in my final battle against Iilong. Five small multisaurs whom I adopted when I was living briefly as a street vrat in a time I thought Guoylu was dead. They died for me, and I'll always be grateful for their sacrifice. Now their legacy lives on in Suave and my army of animals. I am the Animal Queen, and I shall live up to that title.
  • Cloakblade:... And great spirit to boot.
  • (Meya): I have finally found a beast that I cannot command. No, to call him a beast is not enough. He is a demon. But I needed a more clever name than just 'Demon' or 'Demon King', or something. People have heard stories about this creature, but didn't have a name for it. It was called a Massosaurus, and it was a species hardly documented as it is extremely rare, and for good reason. They can camouflage themselves with limited color-change, they can mimic other animal sounds, and most importantly, their testosterone and adrenaline levels are through the roof. I met this mighty monster when I was stalking a pair of ceroraptors, waiting for an opportunity to bring them into my pack, when he tore through the treeline to steal their kill. He dwarfed even the tyrannuses in size, and in fury he surely has no equal in this world. When his foes bit at him, his eyes glowed with hatred and he struck with renewed vigor. I have never seen such terror. Even I dare not challenge this creature. Such fury was unnatural... Fury. That what I shall call him. Fury.
  • Cloakblade:... Just goes to show that not all creatures can be curbed.
  • Serpentos: Ya know, if Veta was here, she'd be diffidently wanting to publicize this book into an action story.
  • Marcilene: Well that's isn't particularly respectful to someone's private thoughts.
  • Serpentos: Tell that to her when she tried the same with all the HA's private diaries.
  • Marcilene: (Sighs) Then we better leave these out of her reach.
  • (Meya): A Tiikon named Heili arrived at my camp yesterday, though not to hire me. She said that she was a scholar studying the creatures on this island, and that she wanted to observe my beasts. I turned her away at first, not trusting her intentions. How could I? What mad fool would bother with scholarly pursuits in a place like this? Yet she persisted, and in time I was convinced of her honesty. I don't know if I made the right decision. Heili is constantly asking strange questions. Why does she need to know so much about my beasts' feces and mating behavior? What a bizarre person.
  • Marcilene:... She wasn't kidding about being a novice at biology. Analyzing feces is how you study an animal's diet.
  • Cloakblade: Indeed, but not all are jovial about an unsanitary act.
  • (Meya): When Heili arrived, I was constantly glancing in her direction, wondering just what she was scribbling in that thick book of hers. Now I hardly notice her unless we're speaking. The questions haven't stopped, but thankfully they aren't always about things like animal feces. Sometimes we just talk about something simple, like cooking. Neither of us are very good at it, but together we've managed to make a few things that tasted better than plain meat. Yet before long, my territory will be silent once more. Heili says she has to move on, and war is brewing in the south. Someone will need my sword very soon.
  • Cloakblade: Hmm... I suppose this is when she's going to prove her worth.
  • (Meya): The war in the south is not an ordinary one. According to the member of the Dyesharks that arrived to hire me, his tribe is fighting the Artegerent Legion. I admit, that gave me pause. They were formidable before, and they've grown even stronger since we last met. Yet I have grown stronger too, and the Sharks were clearly in desperate straights. I could not turn them away. As I readied for war, I recalled a dream I had many months ago. I still don't believe in fate, but maybe this is my nature. On this island, maybe I can actually be like my surrogate father.
  • Serpentos:... Alright, this oughtta be good.
  • (Meya): My beasts are precisely what the Sharks lacked. Most of their martial strength lies at sea. On land, they lacked a unit with the ferocity of a true vanguard. Without that, they could merely withstand the Legion's siege, not break it. That changed when my beasts crashed into the Legion's rear like a great wave. I can still hear the cheers as the Legion fled. I can feel the echo of the emotion that swelled in my chest. If I could return home, I imagine that is what I would feel like. I won't dare forget it.
  • Serpentos:... Huh. She did it. She was REALLY starting to scare this Legion, I bet.
  • (Meya): Sometimes I fear that I have grown fangs or horns without noticing. What else can explain the way others look at me? In battle the Sharks cheer me, but afterwards we rarely speak. I camp separately and only am summoned when it's time to discuss strategy. I do not understand. Trust is rare on this island. I know that. But have I not bled in their defense? Have my beasts not died fighting their battles? Perhaps it's just the strain of war. We're in Legion territory now, taking the battle to them. Soon the war will be won. Surely then the Sharks will not fear me.
  • Serpentos: Oh, it's about to go on. So, she wins, right?
  • Marcilene:... MY! These look like angry words. So, I'm guessing no.
  • (Meya): When anger rises, think of the consequences. I know this by heart, yet I cannot help but seethe with fury. Even Suave is keeping his distance. Last night, I awoke to the sound of thunder coming from the Shark's main camp. I rushed to their aid, but blinded by the night and consumed with panic, they attacked my pack. By the time order was restored, we'd both sustained losses. Clearly this was the work of the enemy, but those fools blame me for the confusion. Some even claim I torched their camp. How dare they question my honor after all I've done? Cowards! They have no right!
  • Cloakblade:... Shameful. Only a fool would do so.
  • Marcilene: Well, it's like she said, war tends to mess with people's minds. It was obviously a ploy for the enemy to turn them against their trump card.
  • Serpentos: Yeah, makes sense.
  • (Meya): I should have foreseen this. Though I put my pride aside, those audacious Sharks could not. At their behest, I began the long trek back to my own territory this morning. They say that they will finish the war without me. Doubtful. Without my pack at the van, the Artegerent Legion will surely smash them to pieces. But what can I do? I cannot protect them if they do not want my protection. Will the Legion come for me afterwards? I cannot say, but if they do, I know that I will receive no aid. I must rely on my own strength, and right now I fear it insufficient. I need to become stronger.... I need Fury.
  • Serpentos:...
  • Cloakblade:...
  • Marcilene:... Looks like she just decided to take a greater risk than ever before. After how she described this Fury creature before, I don't think she'd ever dare cross paths with it again.... Yet here she is, relying on it's power to fight against this Artegerent Legion.
  • Serpentos: Does she succeed?
  • Marcilene: Well, let's find out.
  • (Meya): He is mine. After a mighty struggle, the power of Fury is now mine to unleash. The cost was almost too great. I brought only my swiftest beasts on the hunt, hoping to run him in circles, but even still he managed to kill many of them. Were it not for Suave, and, perplexingly enough, Injured-Hand, even at the cost of his injured hand, he may have killed me as well, but my Suave is both swift and cunning. He knew exactly what distance to maintain, exactly when to retreat. No steed could prove more true. And an additional bonus was that afterward, Injured-Hand was treated as the beta of my raptors.... Well... Gamma if I count myself. Tomorrow I must begin acclimating Fury to life in my pack, but for tonight, I will allow myself to celebrate.
  • Marcilene:... Yep.
  • Serpentos: Well, that was amazing.
  • Cloakblade: Yet, as usual, blood could not remain unshed.
  • (Meya): I was wise to test Fury's hunting skills from atop one of my flying beasts. When he stumbled down a small rock formation, his eyes glowed with that familiar hatred and suddenly he proved deaf to my commands. In time, he calmed down and obeyed me once more, but it was a fearsome thing to witness. I think I will keep him apart from the other beasts. Not only will it keep them safe, but it will calm their nerves. They have been tense since his arrival. I cannot blame them. Fury's power could save or doom us. I must use him with extreme care.
  • Serpentos:... And already she's getting herself used to this giant Fury of hers. Impressive.
  • (Meya): Am I making a mistake? Maybe. The closer that great pillar of light gets on the horizon, the more my concern grows. It is a gamble, no question. Heili said that she did not know if this pillar of light will behave like the other one. Yet if it does, if we are transported to some other plain to battle a monster for a mysterious key, then there's a chance that this could be the first step on the path home. If not that, then at least a path away from this island and the Artegerent Legion. Technically Heili has hired me, but that small chance is payment enough. It's worth the risk. I hope I am prepared.
  • Serpentos:... Hmm.... And she's ALSO started a new adventure.
  • Marcilene: And it's one I have an itching feeling may be the most important one of her life. The one she was looking for.
  • (Meya): Had I let fear rule me and left Fury behind, then Heili and I would be dead. Only with his strength were we able to defeat the gigantic ape. His rage cost some of my pack their lives in the aftermath, but that was the price of victory. The price of hope. And again, spontaneously, Injured-Hand lived. But his other hand was gone. The key we were rewarded with matches the one Heili already had. The means the third pillar must lead to a third key. And when combined? What then? It's uncertain, but if each pillar takes us somewhere, then maybe their combined power can take us anywhere. Maybe it can take us off this prison of an island.
  • Serpentos:... Looks like she's going to go back on this journey of her's after all.
  • Marcilene:... Oh dear.... Looks like things got downhill fast. Listen to this.
  • (Meya): Damn those Artegerent Legion cowards! At full strength, I could have fended them off, but they attacked just as we returned to the pillar of light. What beasts I had were exhausted, and Fury flew into a rage before I could start a retreat. When that happened, all hope was lost. All my beasts were killed. Every single one. Fury fell off a cliff to his death as his rage got the better of him. Even Injured-Hand. With both his hands gone, he couldn't maintain balance and was eaten alive by one of the Artegerent's giants.... Well, all were gone... Except one. The last thing I remember is a sharp pain in my side. When I awoke, I was alone with Suave. Both of us were covered in blood, but Suave's wounds were deeper. I cannot fathom how he carried me to safety in such a state. I must find a place to hide. Suave and I are alone now, and barely clinging to hope.
  • Serpentos:... Oh dear.
  • Cloakblade: How unfortunate she lost all the family she had so easily.
  • Marcilene:... Oh... These are the words of sadness. Well, that, and the tear stains on this scroll. Seems like... She lost the last, and first, tame she ever had. Seems the wounds her favorite raptor had... Proved too fatal.
  • (Meya): My dearest friend is gone. To his last he was magnificent. The creatures that attacked us were larger and with his wounds they were even faster, but no beast could ever match Suave in spirit. I buried him where he fell, saving me one last time. I was unworthy of such a loyal friend, but I will avenge him. His true murderers will pay. Not the beasts, but the Artegerent Legion. They are responsible. I swear by the souls of my ancestors that I will find their leader and drive my blade into his heart! In Suave's name I will take his head!
  • Serpentos:... Spirit, all the way.
  • Cloakblade: Proud for her spirit.
  • (Meya): As I thought, the Legion was at the last pillar of light. I sighted them as they departed, and have been following them since. They are too many for me to fight head on. If they spot me, I will be killed, but I know how to hide from sight and mask my scent from their beasts. It did not take long to discern which one was the leader. No one else walks with his pride or gestures with his authority. I could probably have hit him with an arrow by now, but I want him to see my face. I want him to know that the Animal Queen vanquished him.
  • Cloakblade:... Well, looks like she's getting close.
  • (Meya): I soon regretted freeing Heili from her cage before following the Legion through the portal they opened. Though I was proud to have gotten into the portal and fighting the last of Nervay's forces. The two of us alone stood no chance, but I was astonished and overjoyed to find many of my animals survived their last battle at the obelisk, and came to our aid. Though they all didn't survive, they died killing the last of Nervay's forces. It was the best sacrifice I have ever seen, and it was a death they truly deserved. But as for Heili, as we entered the portal, she was too focused on the wonders around us. When she saw that most of the Legion was dead, she even tried to dissuade me from killing their leader. After I explicitly told her I wanted him to pay righteously for killing the closest I had to a family since Guoylu, I knocked her unconscious when she ignored my arguments. I wish her no harm but I cannot let her interfere. At least she told me his name: Nervay. That is the man I will kill here, on this most fitting stage. I admit, it is beautiful. The stars shine so clearly. I can think of no better place for my vengeance. Here, at the edge of heaven, let our battle finally be decided.
  • Marcilene:... Oh dear. This is the last scroll.
  • Serpentos: So, did she win or what?
  • Marcilene:... Let's find out. (Deep breath)...
  • (Meya): I suspect Nervay knew that he would not fare well in battle. After taking a couple blows from my sword, he dashed off into the darkness. However, I know he was deeply wounded. His blood cannot lie. I suspect this command center was created by something with technology far beyond most normal comprehension. In the distance I can see a perfect spatial view of the planet, and I had not known that most of it was the wasteland I saw before I was scared onto the island that was now below me. I am now sure that I could find another area to continue my journey now that I was free. But disturbing of all, I saw what looked like giant reptilian beings off on the ground. I couldn't see what they looked like from such a high altitude, but I would rather not go anywhere near until I know what they were. But first things first, I had a family to avenge. Though that scoundrel Nervay must have escaped before he could meet his death. Little does he know, I won't give up that easily, I will find him in whatever realm he travels to. There is a terminal that sits upon a platform near the end of the command center. Surely, through some combination of codes, that must unlock travel to other lands on this planet. But it does not. It only adds another foe to be slain by the Animal Queen. After Nervay is killed for his crimes... I must continue on my journey. Though in the event I should not survive... This will be my last scroll before I truly leave the island.
  • Serpentos:... Oh, great. A cliffhanger.
  • Cloakblade: I'm sure she's still alive. Her fame seemed to have reached the ears of many animals on this planet. In fact, if you were to say the name, many animals seem to have a response. Watch. (Clears throat)... MEYA LIU!!! (The words echoed as many animals had mixed reactions and mostly retreated)... So, she's likely still alive.
  • Serpentos: But where is she?
  • Cloakblade: That, is a good question.
  • Marcilene: "Then let us seek the answer of that riddle out."

(Later...) Lapse Wastes

  • Cloakblade:... It appears we have found more notes from Meya.
  • Serpentos: So she IS alive!
  • Marcilene:... Indeed. Let's see what she's been up to. (They read the scrolls)
  • (Meya): Where have I been taken? When I tried to pull my sword from that machine to free us from Nervay's merciless cold grip, there was a bright flash and suddenly I was in this desolate place without Heili. Whatever that device was, I must have broken it, and it must've sent me and Heili to different places. Nervay wasn't done, though. We fought and he scarred me. But then something happened. He was burning up and showing signs of radiation poisoning. He was burning. I felt it too and took cover in the shadows, and I watched, rather happily in an excessive manner, as Nervay was burned alive. Despite what he's done, part of me thinks that I should bury him. He was a tyrant, but he still died a warrior's death. For now, I will bandage the wound on my face and rest. It is becoming night as I write this, and it will be safe to explore at this time.
  • Serpentos:... Arbasus.
  • Cloakblade: That must've been absolute hell for Nervay to die like that.
  • Mercilene: I can imagine so. Radiation is very merciless when it kills.
  • (Meya): I was fortunate today. The sun was rising as I found some kind of cave underneath a boiling pool of water, and had I not found at it, I would never be writing this next chapter of my journey for my family. When the sun came, I ran for it as fast as I could. My legs ached and smoke was rising from my armor by the time I arrived, yet I was still alive. So now the sun was trying to kill me. Perhaps I was delirious, but I laughed at the notion. Monsters and armies have failed, so let the sun have its chance. I will defeat it too. But monsters? As a reptilian being, I could hold my breath underwater for a long time, but I still needed to get air. I figured I'd reach my destination by the time my lungs gave out, but I encountered these bizarre marine worms. They tried to consume me. I swam as fast as I could, and almost drowned by a second had I not reached my destination and decapitated five of those monstrous worms.
  • Cloakblade:... Impressive.
  • Serpentos: At this point, nothing can even kill her. Not even Nervay or someone worse than him.
  • (Meya): Yesterday, I realized that I could rest no longer. I had no more spare cloth for bandages and had eaten nearly all the moss nearby. Rather than risk the heat of the sun on the surface, I ventured deeper into the caverns. It was a treacherous descent, but I am glad I went. This cave is larger than I could have imagined. In fact, it is hardly a cave at all. A great forest flourishes down here. It is as if this whole land is backwards. However, there is one thing that is familiar to me. The air is thick with the sound and smell of wild beasts. I must remain on my guard.
  • Serpentos: Given how alien this place looks, I'd say so.
  • (Meya): The light down here does not burn like the light on the surface. Not even the light that comes from the ceiling. I do not understand why, but I am glad for it. I was attacked by a pack of small monsters with spines on their backs. In another life, they would have terrified me, but now I fear no beast. I slew many of them, but more kept appearing. Even after killing the largest of them, they did not hesitate. Only when I neared a strange, glowing pillar did they retreat. They seem to fear the unusual light it emits. I should use that weakness against them.
  • Cloakblade:... She seems to have encountered the Eerioses of these caves.
  • Marcilene: Indeed she has. She was fortunate, again.
  • (Meya): I finally removed the bandages from my face. While I avoided infection, the wound will surely scar. I do not mind, and neither does my new companion. In fact, I had just removed my bandages when I first saw him. From the branch of a great tree, he stared down at me with curious eyes. I stared back just as curiously. It looked almost like a young jeer, but its fur was colorful and it glowed like a fallen star. He reminded me of the paintings I'd seen of Zoian creatures, but he seemed too small. Whatever he is, he approached me so innocently that I could not leave him behind. So now he is Sho, my little light in the dark.
  • Serpentos: Aww, she found a new friend.
  • Marcilene: Yes. I hope she fought well for Suave in this new environment.
  • (Meya): Navigating the forest has been easier with Sho at my side. His light has both guided and protected me. The small, spined monsters that I fought before returned in numbers, but they cowered and fled before Sho's light, as they did from the glowing pillar. So long as Sho is with me, I need not fear them. Yet Sho's power is not an endless well. If he does not periodically extinguish his light to rest, it will fade with time on its own. I must be careful when wandering into the darkest parts of this glowing blue forest, lest Sho's light go out and we are both put at risk.
  • Serpentos:... Strategic instinct continues to serve her well.
  • (Meya): Even with Sho's help, I can only do so much on foot. I need a reliable steed that can carry me swiftly through the forest and help me gather resources like Suave did. Fortunately, I may have found such a beast. The other night, I heard many howls in the distance. When I investigated, I found a pack of strange beasts that looked like hairless rolves. They are ugly, vicious creatures but they are the perfect size for riding. For now, I shall stalk the pack. When one of the rolves is separated from the others, then I will knock it out with my arrows, and claim it for my own.
  • Serpentos:... Interesting. She found a pack of vulves. And now she'll be able to ride one.
  • (Meya): I have named my wolf Bleak. Though no beast can replace Suave, Bleak is swift and fierce, just as he was. Upon his back, I can travel across the forest with ease. Yet I know that Bleak alone is not enough. In these lands, the strong will dominate the weak, and they will try to destroy those who do not submit. I am reminded of this every time my scar aches. To survive I must grow stronger. It is time to rebuild my army, starting with Bleak's family. I feel that, just like Suave, I must bring Bleak's pack into my cause. It seems right.
  • Serpentos: Indeed it does. That's what I would've done, too.
  • Cloakblade: Precisely.
  • Marcilene: Amen.
  • (Meya): Yesterday, I stalked a giant shelled crustaceous beast that resembled a sleek tetrus, and also had with it four large claws that it could use like hands. Though slow, it seemed strong. I decided it would be a good addition to my army, but before I could attempt to bring it down, something swooped down from the sky to attack it. It was a great lizard, but not one like the ones I had seen before. No, this beast was a true dracthon, long of body with a feathery mane. It used the feathers on its arms to ride the wind and tore its prey's shell asunder with iron claws. When it was finished with its meal, it scaled the cavern wall and became one with the shadows, vanishing entirely from my sight. I have found my new prey. Soon, I shall command the might of a dracthon.
  • Marcilene:... A Rockour. Just like the ones Johno rode... Except with feathers.
  • Serpentos: Sounds like she'd fit right in with a wild place like this.
  • Marcilene: Looks like it.
  • (Meya): The dracthon was even more formidable than I expected. At first, Bleak and his pack was able to dance around the beast while I riddled it with arrows, but I underestimated how far its feathered arms could take it. Its sudden leap left, Bleak's leg was wounded and I was flung from the saddle. The crippled rolf could not fight after that, but thanks to his pack, I was able to survive myself by taking to the trees. By the time the dragon succumbed to my knockout poison, it's hide was full of arrows. Bleak needed some time for his leg to heal when I found it wasn't a serious injury. His first real challenge was one that I thanked with major gratitude. Thanks to him, I possess the strength of a dracthon. I am the Animal Queen once more.
  • Serpentos: WOOHOO! Way to go, Meya!
  • (Meya): Travelling through the cave is easy thanks to my dracthon, who I have named Dagon. I have discovered that the cave is even larger than I imagined. Beyond the forest, there are tunnels that lead further down into the ground, to a land of glistening water and plants that glow like Sho does. How far down does it go? If I keep going, will I find something akin to hell? I do not know, but I will press on. I cannot return home, or even to the island I came from. My enemy lies dead far behind me, and I have found no friends or allies. I have no aim beyond simply surviving. So for now, all I can do is move forward. My familial destiny awaits.
  • Serpentos: Good for her!
  • (Meya): The beasts of this land grow stranger the deeper I go. Yesterday I was attacked by a swarm of flying demons with writhing tentacles in place of heads. I think they were after Sho. Where some monsters feared his light, these ones hungered for it. However, they were no match for Dagon's fangs and my blade together. Still, I will keep Sho close and have him extinguish his light for now. I could not bear it if he came to harm. Of everyone I have met in these lands, only Sho has stayed by my side of his own will. Even Suave had to be laid low first. I suppose there was that woman from the island too, but she is gone. Besides, I struck her. I doubt we were friends.
  • (Meya): I have finally built an army I can call my own. The creatures here had many of their own specialties. Most were like the ones I encountered on the island, including more raptors. But they had their own glow like Sho did. But as I took a bath in the cascading soothing waters of the forests, I saw that I was not alone by sentience after all. I had found people peeping at me like naughty men, and the footprints I found in their place confirmed they belonged to no beast. Yet if sentient beings left those footprints, they move like no one I have ever seen. They are deep, as though their feet hit the ground with great force, and they often have huge gaps between them. No man can leap that far, yet there are no beast tracks that accompany them. Perhaps if I move carefully, I can track and observe them. Whether they are friend or foe, I should learn more about them before I act.
  • Cloakblade:... How rude of some people to see her as she bathes.
  • Marcilene: It's called the instinct to reproduce. It makes men disgusting and perverse.
  • (Meya): Where did I make my mistake? I moved in silence and never once left the shadows, but somehow they saw me. I mounted Dagon in an instant, but somehow they still caught up to me. Had we fought, the battle may have been difficult. There were only four of them and I had Dagon alone when I followed those sentient beings who were spying on me, but their weapons and armor glowed like moonlight and their movements were swift. I was about to strike first when one of them raised her hands and took off her helmet, revealing that she was a Skorner, one of the races of the UIS. She convinced her friends to lower their weapons, but even as I write, I keep one hand on mine. We may share a camp tonight, but I dare not sleep.
  • Marcilene:... She made a sentient friend quicker than I expected, even though she's not a friend at the very moment.
  • (Meya): The armored ones had many questions when they awoke. They were surprised that I had raised Dagon and my beasts that they escorted to their camps myself, and even more surprised that I came from a different land of monsters. That seemed important to them. I asked questions too. They say it is their armor that lets them see at night and move with such speed. I did not believe it until the Skorner let me wear her helmet. The metal it was made from could recognize a touch and digitally accommodate my head. With it I could see through darkness as though it were bathed in green light, or see the red shadows of distant creatures. It was like magic. Then again, everyone says technology and magic are indistinguishable from each other. Yet I prefer to see technology like magic. They asked if I wanted to stay in their village for a time. I told them that I would return to my camp and pick up my supplies before I return as it seems they missed it when they gathered my army. I doubt I will stay long... But I want to see more of this magic.
  • Marcilene:... Indeed, she just might be a friend after all.
  • (Meya): This village is as strange as the armor its residents wear. They use tools containing light and sleep in glowing metal cases. They offered one to me, but I refused. I have slept outside with Sho and Dagon instead. I have no desire to sleep in something that looks like a coffin. Though they claim that their tools are not magic, but machines, it feels like there's magic oozing inside of them. I do not understand how that is possible. On the island and my hometown, there were many weapons and tools that were new to me, but they were made of real things. How does one make something like this, if it is not magical? It is wondrous and beautiful, but I wish I understood it. I will have to try harder.
  • Cloakblade:... It appears her hometown wasn't much into Teadr 2 technology.
  • Marcilene: No kidding. But she clearly knows today that it's organic metal that feels like it has a mind of it's own.... But not according to the time this was written, clearly. Look.
  • (Meya): It is no use. These machines are beyond my comprehension. I cannot even make the simplest of their tools work properly. Compared to this, training with a spear or sword seems simple. I have tried to earn my keep by helping with chores and other tasks, but I usually get in the way or slow things down. Compared to the others, I am like a child, and they treat me as such. This was a mistake. I belong in the forest with the beasts, not among these people in their glowing metal halls. I will ask them for supplies and depart within the week.
  • Serpentos:... Poor creature. It must be hard to be a fish out of water.
  • (Meya): I asked the Skorner if I could take some supplies when I left, but she refused to do so for free. She said if I wanted the supplies, I had to try to use their armor first. It seemed like a trick, but I wanted to try the armor anyway, so I accepted. If I have been tricked, then I have never been so glad to be fooled. When I am in that armor, my blood dances in my veins and I can feel the world around me. It is as if I was asleep for my whole life, and I only awoke when I put the armor on. I cannot leave after feeling that. Not until I at least master the armor. Perhaps then, but not now.
  • Serpentos:... But, at least she's adapting.
  • (Meya): Discretion is the key to the armor. When I started, I would leap further than I intended, turn too sharply or grip objects too tightly. Now I am in complete control. I could scale a mountain while carrying an egg and never break it, but also smash stone or fight a beast bare handed. Once I got used to the armor, my experience as a warrior helped me learn quickly. I can already outpace Aser in a race and beat her in the sparring ring. I try to go easy on her now. She helped me a lot so I do not wish to shame her. I should call her by her proper name too, but 'Dinia' sounds too serious for a woman that laughs so much. Aser fits her better. She doesn't mind it, but I don't think she knows I've named her after a poisonous fruit.
  • Cloakblade:... Hmmm. She's getting more interesting to me.
  • Serpentos: Get in line.
  • (Meya): Three days ago, I was asked to help the villagers obtain a clutch of giant lizard eggs, which are apparently called Rokours, and the same species as Dagon. Only then did it occur to me that they did not have many creatures at their command. They relied far more on their tools. Perhaps this is why they were so impressed with Dagon. The hunt went well. I had to do much of the work and explain many things, but the others were grateful. It also let me test the limits of my armor. By now, using it is no different to me than wielding a sword, and I welcomed the challenge. After the hunt, no one treats me like a child anymore, even when their tools confuse me. I suppose we all have different things that we excel at. But perhaps... These people could use some time to reconnect with nature. And with me around, that may be possible. Perhaps I have a purpose here after all.
  • Marcilene:... Heh. Noble warrior. She brings honor to her family and friends.
  • (Meya): Aser has finally convinced me to start sleeping in the metal pods the others use. I must admit, I slept more soundly, though perhaps that was because I knew she could no longer pester me about it. I do many things like the other villagers now. I eat like them, I dress like them, and I work with them. I still struggle with their tools and I know that I can never truly be one of them, but that was true during my fight against Iilong too. Those who I fought beside were my comrades, but I could never be a true soldier like they were. If that is my place in this village, then I do not mind staying for a while longer. It is not so bad. Besides, I must stand to my word to train the villagers to ride the beasts around them. They would be strong with an army of animals, whatever shape and size.
  • Marcilene: Hmm... Good self-motivational thoughts.
  • (Meya): I must move quickly. The tribe sent a party into the depths of the caverns, where rivers of violet fire flow freely and nothing grows except hellish-looking land reefs and plants. They sought something important, something that could help the whole village, but they have not returned. There is no response when we call for them through our messenger boxes. The other villagers fear them lost to the terrible demons that lurk there. I refuse to believe that. Aser is with them. I have equipped Dagon with armor and weapons like my own, and donned armor that will protect me from the violet fire. Whatever beasts or demons lie in our path, we will destroy them utterly, and bring Aser's team back... Even if some of them are still smitten with me.
  • Serpentos: Now THAT'S the spirit.
  • (Meya): This is indeed a place of death. Like the darkest of tales in my hometown telling of the hellish realm of Fakulong. It even resembles it. The ground is scarred and barren, hellish plants and reefs thrive here, and there is no light or movement save that of the violet fire. Even Dagon does not seem to like it. The living should not tread here. Why would Aser come here? What was so important that she would risk this place, and why would she not tell me? Whatever the reason, it had nearly cost some of her teammates their lives. I found their near-dead bodies earlier today, mangled and beaten beside the remains of the beasts of my own pack that I gave them. Thankfully Aser was not among them and holding her own with Dagon's mate Aogyun. Great towers of crystal loom ahead, where the violet fire has frozen solid. Perhaps she has found shelter there.
  • Serpentos:... Yeah, nobody said that place was a paradise. Liquid enhancelement can kill you easily.
  • (Meya): I shall have to find whoever forged this gun and thank them with all my heart. Its strength saved the day. With my weapon's enhanced sight, I spotted the ones named Milidia and Qendru running from a huge monster which resembled something from a horror alien movie, or a demon as I would like to put it, but a crystal formation stood in my way. Rather than go around it, I sent Dagon ahead and fired through it. My aim was true, and the demon reeled. By the time it recovered, Dagon was upon it, and we finished it together. I knew one of the survivors was Aser when she ran up to hug me. I am unused to such gestures, but I think she understood how grateful I was for her safety. Her teammate is wounded, but alive. With rest, little Grants will survive.
  • Serpentos: Whew. Guess they-... Wait... Blood stains?... Oh boy.
  • (Meya): Even now, I cannot convince Aser to leave. I even tried using her real name, Dinia, to show her I was serious, but she will not hear it. She says the plans she was looking for are too important, and it was within that wasteland I saved her from. Apparently, a childhood bully of her's was mutated and resting down there, haven stole much of her project's plans and equipment which she needed. But was that worth what happened to her teammate? It was disgusting. Grants started spasming in the middle of the night, and then a smaller version of the monster that was attacking them, called a Reapasaur by the villagers, burst from his chest. He was alive, but a lot of blood sprayed everywhere, and I was too stunned to act until it leaped at me. Fortunately I was able to hold it off until Aser could shoot it. Grants lost a lot of blood and he needed a blood transplant. Whatever we are seeking, especially with this 'bully' of Aser's, I fear we will face even worse dangers to obtain it.
  • Serpentos:... Impregnated inside the chest?... That's gotta hurt.
  • (Meya): Aser said that the item she sought was in some ruins not far from where I saved them. However, when she called them ruins, I had not expected to see buildings like the ones in our own village. It was puzzling, to see buildings that looked at once ancient and new. I had little time to dwell on the ruins, for we were quickly set upon by more of the great demons, lead by the bully himself, who looked rather hideous and mutated. If there was a leader in this hell, it would be him. His pet Reapasaurs rushed us, slobbering and gnashing as Aser scrambled to find what the bully stole. I was able to hold them off with Dagon's cannons, but by the time Aser found her prize, we were being overrun. The bully said he took it because he wanted to kill them all for whatever petty grudge he had against Aser. To my shame, I had to leave Dagon behind to hold the demons and bully off while we escaped. It pained me to hear his roars as we fled, but his sacrifice saved our lives. Forgive me, my loyal friend. But to my surprise, when we came back, Dagon did as well, until his neck was snapped by the bully. He even killed Bleak when he tried to defend me. That was the last straw, and I drew my sword to kill him. Though Aser said she wanted to cure him of his mutation, I simply told her that not everyone can be saved. That's the law of survival. Fortunately, I still had Sho, who was wise enough to hide as she could not take on the bully.
  • Serpentos:... Well, she's not wrong.
  • Cloakblade: Still, it's hardly a good thing to say.
  • (Meya): I was frustrated today. The bully managed to hide all the other pieces for their Escape Project across the underworld. Without Dagon or Bleak, and with many of my animal family slain by the bully's onslaught, we had to prepare. Another battle with the demons could prove fatal. So I asserted we had to rebuild an animal army and train to use them and even treat them like family just like me. If they were to survive in this world, the best friend you could have is nature. It was bitter, but when it was time, we managed to avoid the Reapasaurs' sight. All that was left was the climb. With no adult Rokour mounts as the ones we hatched, including Dagon and Aogyun's babies, we had to use climbing picks to slowly make our way upwards. It was a long and treacherous ascent, and we both nearly fell several times. Fortunately, we were there to catch and support each other, and through our combined strength, we safely reached the caverns above. After the climb, we lay there for a long time. I cannot remember if we laughed or cried. Perhaps both. Aser says that the items we were finding could help the entire village, but I do not care. I am just so glad we are both still alive.
  • Serpentos:... Well, she cares about SOMETHING.
  • (Meya): We received a hero's welcome when we came back to the village. The others say that Aser's treasure will help complete a magic door that can take us out of this place. They speak of escape and of going to some kind of, mysterious signal. That should excite me more. I used to long for those things, yet what comforts me most is that when they speak of what their future holds, they include me in it. I am finally one of them, not as a mercenary or out of desperation, but because I am wanted. I owe it to Aser, I think. No, to Dinia. She trusted me before anyone else. I will not forget that.
  • Cloakblade:... You have done well, Meya. Very well.
  • (Meya): I have been thinking of home lately. It is so far away now. I think that perhaps, it is out of reach. Even if the others can complete their magic door to their precious signal, I do not think I will ever see it again. I can accept that now. I can move past it. I have a new home now, I think, and while I am still not used to its oddities, I feel as though it is mine. Each day I grow more adept with the tools here, and more used to my routine. It has become normal to me. And now that this place is the home I believe I should've had, I swear that no harm will come to it. I shall protect it with my life.
  • Cloakblade:... Okay, that's the end of her second set of scrolls. She claims she has another one.
  • Serpentos: Good. I'm already hooked on where this may go.

(Later...) Ar Cretacion Wastelands

  • Cloakblade:... Well. I guess Meya placed her own journal in the wastelands.
  • Serpentos: I... Is that fitting? I don't know if even she would feel at home outside the environments.
  • Ucasashi: Possibly not.
  • Marcilene: Well, it seems like the last one, so... Let's see how her journey ends.
  • (Meya): I have had no urge to record my thoughts since your loss, or rather I have been avoiding it. Before speaking with Heili today, how many times did I even dare to say your name, Dinia? You revealed facets of my heart and mind that had been hidden even to me, and in you I found something that I had always been missing but could never name. How does one carry on after losing something like that? Even now I cannot say. I only know that it was draining and painful, and would have been even worse had I done so alone. For those who yet live, I know I must endure, but I shall carry you with me every step, around my neck and in my heart to the very end. Always.
  • Ucasashi:... She really cared for Dinia, didn't she?
  • Marcilene: Indeed. The two even nearly became a couple, but... Someone like Meya preferred to see Dinia as a sister of sorts.
  • Serpentos: Certainly the first time shared with a sentient being since the island.
  • (Meya): I never cried so hard in years. I never thought my heart had the capability. But today, it happened. When me and Heili went out into the wastelands to collect some floral and soil samples and new mounts, I caught a glimpse at not only newfound animals, and the species of the giant that sent me to the island, which is called Titos, the planet's apex predator... But I came across, blackened animals with glowing violet internals. They were also extremely aggressive, and did not respond to me. They could not be tamed. Worse, I could feel the pain these mutated abominations suffered from the accursed substance that is enhancelement. They even had some kind of hive-mind controlling them. The pain inside of them, I felt it in their glares. It was pain unlike any I've experienced or felt. But it got worse. The people already present in this base knew, and they declined to tell me that it was also infecting the entire world. Such ignorance! All I could do was go back to my sky temple on 'Blackdiamond Tower' and cry for a whole hour. The only thing I could do, was put the poor creatures down. It was mercy, but it was a mercy I was not prepared for.
  • Seprentos:... Holy s***!
  • Ucasashi: Poor Meya.
  • Marcilene: Yeah, that must've been hard.
  • (Meya): When I could cry no longer, all I could feel was nothing but hatred for the enhancelement everywhere. I felt that it had to be purged from this planet. Thus I agreed completely to Santrago's experiments. Controlling this armored giant has grown easier, but it will never feel familiar. Though its limbs move as mine do, that is in itself disquieting, and sometimes I get lost in the flashing lights that surround me. But it's also the fact that, like all other technology everyone here used, it's composed of or powered by enhancelement, the very substance that caused this apocalypse. Though Heili is far more attuned to her giant's abilities than I am, as in all things, she underestimates herself. Ever since I cast that monstrous old man Stonewell into the depths, she's been there to pull me back. Not just from the fall, but the abyss itself, even when I made it clear how much I hated her for costing me Sho. I will still never understand why she was so interested in studying animal excrement when we first met, even when Dinia claimed it was for research. It's still best to analyze diet through observing them eat, and much more sanitary. But after walking this path with her, I can recognize the strength of her spirit. I will do all I can to protect it. I will never allow the enhancelement demon to get her.
  • Serpentos: Well... That's the spirit?
  • Cloakblade: I don't think she knows how to feel about what's around her at this point.
  • (Meya): We have arrived at the structure Heili wanted to investigate, and I fear if we do not enter soon that, given how she said she was there before and was nearly killed by it's Overwatcher, she will faint from anticipation and/or shock. I mean, since Dinia survived to my relief, and so did Santrago, even if he's in bad condition and being resurrected as an android, I have been hoping to get Heili's wish done quickly. She has been hopping to and fro like one of the hopping marsupials of the island while we set up camp, babbling excitedly about what might be inside. I have never shared her curiosity for such mysteries. Things are the way they are, the why of it does not matter, all except... This unnatural enhancelement that should be destroyed for how much it has done to this world. Unless it will help us survive, then I do not care who built the empty palaces of this land or what their purpose was. All I care about, is slaying the demons of this land. However, I trust Heili's wisdom. Hopefully whatever we find here will sate her, and perhaps grant me a moment of blissful silence at that.
  • Cloakblade:... Huh? I suppose the Overwatcher wanted her to come crawling back to it for some unfinished business.
  • Serpentos: Possibly.
  • (Meya): I dislike this place. Heili says it is an archive for lost knowledge, but it reminds me of the chambers we explored with Santrago, where beasts and men slept in countless glass coffins. If the halls where I battled Nervay were at the edge of heaven, then that place was surely one of the many Temples of Hell. These halls do not radiate with that same evil, but it still does not feel like a place where men are meant to tread. There is sign of neither earth nor sky here, it is all of the unnatural metal that tortures animals with hive-mindedness and machines so foreign that even Dinia nor her comrades cannot master them. I will speak with Zuken about tightening our patrols. We must remain vigilant.
  • Serpentos:... She makes her adventures about a high-tech apocalypse sound like a hellish fantasy.
  • Ucasashi: That's the talent of being a warrior poet. They like to look at things as a story.
  • (Meya): I had another angry spat earlier. After learning about the story of the Scyrians, I felt so much rage. No humility. No honor. No dignity. Only selfish progress. All I could do was go back to my sky temple and ponder if the Overwatcher was in the right this whole time, after the disrespect this planet was given. But in time, I shrugged off these nasty thoughts for the moment, and decided to patrol the spire with the group's permission. The halls did hide one marvel, I shall grant them that. Tucked away in a small chamber all its own, with the exception of this monster guarding it, was some kind of artifact, and while I do not know its purpose, its beauty is without question. It is shaped like a jewel, with a surface of polished stone and shimmering metal, glowing proudly with a magnificent golden light. Though it floats above the ground, it is too sturdy to move, and though its light is warm, it is cool to the touch. Heili will surely want to see this. However, until we fully understand it, I will be sure to supervise her study sessions. I cannot trust anything comprised of the hell metal any longer.
  • Serpentos:... Yeesh, if even SHE is horrified by the enhancelement's influence on this planet, then you can DEFINITELY call it hell.
  • (Meya): I do not understand what happened. When I had touched the artifact, it did not respond at all, but as soon as Heili made contact, its golden glow became a blinding flash. By the time my vision cleared, the artifact was shattered. All that remained was a small gemstone made of pure sunlight, floating in its place. Was the rest of it merely a shell? Thankfully, Heili was uninjured, but my carelessness was still inexcusable. I swore that I would protect her from the hell metal, and I have nearly failed already. I should have been more thorough. I am not one to repeat my mistakes. Before Heili could reach the gem, I snatched it from the air. I won't let her touch it unless I am certain it is safe, which I am sure it is not.
  • Serpentos:... Okay, yeah, this is DEFINITELY hell, at least to someone like her. Taking into account this setting, it's affecting her own judgement.
  • (Meya): I found four more artifacts guarded by the same kind of monsters as the one before as months passed by and I started to realize that the Scyrians were aiming to correct their mistakes, regardless if I still think they deserve the chance, and since Heili were getting too curious about them, I am now tempted to smash this gemstone to pieces. Though I am not certain how I would do so. When I hold any of them, I can feel their texture and weight, yet they casts no shadow and make no sound when I tap their sides. It's as though they are at once here and somewhere far away. But Heili insists they are the key to answering her many questions, so for now I let her study them from a safe distance. At first my precautions earned me her ire, though it lacked true venom, and in time, she admitted my judgement was prudent. She says the gems might be capable of great change. I couldn't follow everything she described, but she is more cautious around it now. That is enough for me. I will still refuse to give to the beauty of the hell metal. Unfortunately, the gem may soon be the least of our concerns.
  • Cloakblade: Yeah, I figured.
  • (Meya): A horde of corrupted Titoses grows on the horizon, larger than we have ever seen, and led by a demon who stands so tall that mountains bask in his shadow, which everyone called the Titos Rex. This Rex even had some kind of hive-mind growth inside it's chest, and I knew right then that it was the core of the hell metal's siege. I even had the misfortune of seeing the same Titos that stranded me on the island, for the fourth time, right by the Rex's side, and the pleasure of meeting it's entire family. I think it and it's family want me. Why I do not understand. But when we realized they and their master were headed our way, we picked up our camp and made for the wastes. Yet as we moved, the horde followed. This is not mere misfortune, it is a hunt, and we are the prey. Heili claimed the gemstones may be able to help us, but I still forbade her from touching them. When we fight back-to-back, I can watch over her, but I can't protect her from something I don't understand. No, should battle be joined, we shall meet them head on. No matter the size of our foes, I will fight with all that I am, and for the sake of everyone here, I will win. I must.
  • Marcilene: Well, it's official. S*** just got real.
  • (Meya): This is my failure. At first we forced the enemies back, so when their master finally set foot closer on the battlefield, I tried to slay him myself. That was our undoing. Even in my armored giant, I couldn't even scratch his hide, not even at the core itself. Such disgusting weakness. Were it not for my second blunder, surely I would have died, but Heili had stolen the sunlit gem and it's four counterparts from me before the battle. Before the demon could crush me, she opened the shell of her giant, merged all the gems and held them aloft. A terrible scream rang out in my mind, but it must have been worse for the monsters. They recoiled in confusion, and I knew that would be our only chance. Heili lacked the strength to stand, so I had to cradle her in my giant's hands, and ran. In shame and defeat, I ran, believing everyone I left behind were dead.
  • Serpentos:... That must've been pretty crazy.
  • Ucasashi: Indeed.
  • (Meya): I am a disgrace of a protector. Though Dinia, Santrago survived, confirming it through Santrago's powers, their people and the researchers that stuck on their side, and thus all things of value to them, have likely perished. She entrusted them to me, and I left them behind to fulfill my oath of protecting Heili. I failed them all, just as I failed Santrago, Suave, and Dinia. A true warrior should die defending what they love and care for, yet I have let it all turn to ash while I somehow escape the flames. Every time. And this attack, and the fact that the Titos Rex and the hell metal core within him were after the artifacts, confirms that the core is intending to take over the world with it's infection, while using every poor animal around it as a corrupted and tortured acolyte, including other Titoses. Even now, the only person I could save myself barely clings to life. Heili has become infected with the hell metal that creeps across her skin like a demonic transformation, and she only wakes for minutes at a time. When she does, she speaks in poems that make no sense. She says a distant tomb is calling her name, and that we must go there. I asked if the tomb would cure her, but she only answered in riddles. Every time she wakes, her voice sounds further away. Heili, you must stay with me and fight the infection. Your heartbeat and your shallow breath, they are all I have left.
  • Ucasashi:... Okay, NOW it's legitimately a warrior poet's story.
  • (Meya): Heili shakes and sweats in her sleep, and she no longer opens her eyes. Even her infected arm was numb. All I have left to guide me is the notes and maps that she scribbled out in a delirious frenzy, all while Santrago, with his powers, claims they'll know where we go and that they'll meet back up with us soon. Sometimes Heili mumbles nonsense or moans in pain and the infection itself tries to attack me. I have to crush bits of food into a fine powder and pour it down her throat with water. When we move, I strap her to a corner, her infected arm the most, in my giant's control chamber and stop frequently to make sure she is alright. It is only because of my mistakes that she is in this state, and I worry that she is fading. If I lose her too, then my failures will be complete. I do not know what I would do. Please, let her hold on. Please don't let the hell metal take her. Please.
  • Serpentos: Yeah, hell all the way. Only a hell would torment Meya so much her dried tears could be seen on this scroll.
  • Marcilene: I feel so horrible for her.
  • (Meya): I have little trust in prophets or visions, but I fear that the tomb Heili spoke of may be her only chance. She does not respond to my presence anymore, and the infection has spread to a quarter of her body. Nothing I do rouses her. I only hope her maps are accurate. Yet even if they are, we still have so far to go. Though we have left the poisoned wastes behind, before us lies a land of ice and snow, inside a miniature version of these 'Adytums' as the environments are now referred to as. A storm rages above, and even in the armored giant, progress is slow. Each step is a labor, and I feel the giant growing weaker. It will need to feed on the violet fire. The hell metal itself. I feel like a hypocrite, but if we hope to continue, this is the only way to survive. I will have to brave the cold alone. Hopefully, I will NEVER have to think of this hell metal again.
  • Marcilene:... This is just sad.
  • Serpentos: I, I don't think I can handle reading anymore.
  • Cloakblade: Pull yourselves together, everyone. Miria says this information MIGHT be useful later.
  • Serpentos: For what, making Dr. SMD cry from the tragedy?
  • Cloakblade: Probably, if that's the best it can offer.
  • (Meya): There is a shooting pain in my left arm. Have I been infected too? No. Thank the Gods. I think it may be broken after some kind of misuse with the metal giant. It happened when I was searching for traces of that horrid hell metal. Such dishonor I was forced to put myself into, using the hell metal as a fuel source. But I had no choice. The storm and the journey had sapped my strength, and the pack of beasts caught me off guard. After a fierce battle, those I failed to slay finally fled, but the fight had taken its toll. It took me half a day to get back to camp. I kept slipping and falling in the snow. Each time my body told me not to get up, and a few times I almost listened. I wanted to so desperately. The pain. The cold. The exhaustion. I just wanted it to end. Maybe that's what this is. My limit. My end.
  • Serpentos: OKAY, THAT'S ALL I CAN TAKE! Just... Finish it without me! (She left)
  • Ucasashi:... Poor Serpentos. We must do something about Sayus and this enhancelement plague soon.
  • (Meya): As I slept in the belly of the armored giant and the storm howled outside, I dreamed. I was home again, in my home village. It was during the rebellion against Iilong. Everyone was huddled together in an empty grainery, debating surrender. Arguments went back and forth until at last I stood, grabbed a spear, and made for the exit. "See? Even this girl would rather die for her parents than give in to that scum," one man declared. "You're wrong," I replied, turning to face him. "I have no intention of dying. I will survive." The others talked about our paths being our own, and though I was uncertain if this was my true path, the path I left my home for, but perhaps it is my path after all. This is not the end. This is not where I fall. I will survive!
  • Marcilene:... Then press on, Meya Liu! Your friend... And surviving friends, are counting on you.
  • (Meya): Those beasts that attacked me are mine. I retraced my steps to make sure that I found the same pack, and then I bent them to my will. They moved as though they could walk on air, leaping from one invisible stepping stone to another before pouncing at me. It made their movements hard to predict, but once I was able to snare them in a steel trap, their advantage was gone. Though they flung arrows of ice at me from afar, it was not enough to deter me. Once asleep, I coaxed them into obedience, and they accepted me as the leader of their pack. Their strength will help me on my journey, but I will need more still. This is just the beginning.
  • Cloakblade:... She has risen from near-death, for Heili and everyone else.
  • (Meya): My arm is nearly healed. I can control the armored giant without pain, and it no longer protests when I use it to carry weight or strike. The timing could not be better, for I have just brought more beasts into the fold. Great cowls with feathers as white as the snow they soar over swooped down at me from on high, but I avoided their talons and brought them down. Now their great vision helps me scout ahead with ease. With my pack growing in number and my strength returning, it's time to set out. Keep fighting for just a while longer, Heili. I will see you to that tomb, I swear it.
  • Marcilene:... The Animal Queen, is officially back.
  • (Meya): As we travel, I continue to bring more beasts to my side. Amongst the overgrown palaces, I tamed raptors that fire thorns from their fan-shaped ears like arrows, floating caterpillars that carry my supplies with ease, and a dozen more. They do not have the same bond or discipline as my last few packs, but their strength is formidable. Combined they are a force to be reckoned with, marching in the shadow of my armored giant, and ready to fight any monsters who would stand in my way. It's time that I remind this world just who I am. I shall etch it in the earth as I march on towards the tomb, so that it may never forget. I am still the Animal Queen, and I shall not be denied.
  • Ucasashi: My Gods. She's got persistence through the roof. NOTHING can stop her. Not even the corrupted animals of this wasteland. Heili could not be blessed with any other friend than her.
  • (Meya): According to the maps, we are nearing the tomb's location. I have made short work of the monsters and disfigured beasts under the hell metal's control that have stood in our way, and the path ahead seems clear. However something looms behind us, growing ever closer. It's another horde, and while it lacks the Titos Rex that attacked us before, there are other, lesser devils in its place. Though smaller than their master, they are still far larger than any normal beast, and their might will be considerable. Fortunately, my pack is outpacing them. We should arrive at the tomb well ahead of the horde, and if I can heal Heili quickly, we may be able to avoid it all together. And I have to hurry. The infection has coated all but her left arm and leg, and her head.
  • Marcilene: YOU CAN DO IT, MEYA! DO IT, DO IT, DO IT!! (The two look at her confused)... Hey, it's got me by the ovaries.
  • (Meya): It did not take long to find the entrance to the cave, and when we reached it, Heili stirred. Though she did not awake completely, I could hear her speaking to me. "The Ascending Tomb. Find the altar." There is no time to waste. Heili's head was the last that remained uninfected. I have left most of my beasts to guard the entrance while I bring a trusted few to clear the cave. There are pockets of malformed creatures here, and before I can see to Heili, I will need to rid the tomb of these these unnatural beasts and their blood poisoned by the hell metal. This close to my goal, there is an extra drop of fury flowing through my veins, and any enemies that block my path today will be quickly torn asunder.
  • Cloakblade: C'mon, c'mon, c'mon! (Ucasashi and Marcilene looked at her weird)... Yeah, it's got all of us by our unmentionables at this point.
  • (Meya): The last of the feral beasts have been wiped out, and I have found my way into the cavern's heart. It seems far too beautiful for a tomb, even an emperor's. Surely the name carries some different meaning. Crystals grow along the walls like flowers, sprouting from vines of gold. They bathe the room in a gentle glow, but in the center of the chamber, they are overpowered by a light from above that shines down on an ornate dais. Atop the altar, there is a device of some kind. It reminds me of the beds that Dinia's people used, but grander in scale and artistry. That must be where I am meant to place Heili, and once I do, that machine will heal her. It has to.
  • Ucasashi: THEN DO IT! (The other two looked at him weird)... (Sighs)...
  • (Meya): It's working, I am certain of it. When I placed Heili upon the central altar and stepped away, the machine hummed and sang in response once I followed Heili's suggestion to place the merged artifacts into the data port. The light of them burned brighter as well, and the once-stale cavern air became warm and soothing. Heili immediately improved. The infection seemed to slowly seep away. She has stopped sweating, and her breathing is stable. Blinking golden specks float about her like fireflies while she sleeps, as peaceful as I have seen her. The whole chamber has that effect. Even as I watch over her, I can feel my heart slow to a serene, steady beat. Unfortunately, the process is gradual, and with each moment the pursuing horde grows nearer. I need to buy time.
  • All Three: THEN BUY TIME! (They looked at each other weird)....
  • (Meya): I have sealed the chamber and left a pair of my beasts to guard it, just in case any of the smaller monsters slip past me. It will take time to open it again, but after this battle, I will be afforded some patience. When I was alerted to the sound of Santrago's mental link that they were getting close, an earthshaking tremor occurred, and I saw them both assailed by some giant tree demon with the power of plants it's own to command. I assembled the rest of my beasts and my armored giant in a defensive formation beyond the entrance to the cave and the two. In the distance, I can even see a horde of corrupted acolytes approaching. They outnumber my pack, and it will not be long before they are upon us. On this ground, I will make my stand with Dinia and Santrago, with whatever he had in his own state, with neither retreat nor mercy in my heart. In the end, every last one of those monsters will lie dead, or I will. Let them come. We'll be ready, Dinia.
  • Ucasashi:... (Deep breath)... Good way to perish. To die a hero.
  • (Meya): We have managed to beat back the first wave with help from our two Mechs, but not without cost. Though my own beasts fight with more ferocity than these acolytes, my ranks have begun to thin, and the towering demon has yet to enter the fray of collapse. That has made it easier for me to tear through the lesser creatures with my armored giant and Dinia's as well, but their patience, especially with their hive-mindedness with the hell metal core, makes me wary. Beneath me, I can feel something stirring from the tomb. The machine is continuing to work. If we can just hold the horde off for a while longer, Heili will awaken and we can leave this place together as a team. But first, we must hold.
  • (The three kept getting engaged comically)
  • (Meya): Again and again, the monsters come. It seems as though there is no end to their number, but I know that cannot be true. We must keep fighting. The hell metal core has some ounce of weakness and limited power. Yet as time passes, that grows far more difficult to do. One by one my beasts are falling, and I can only rest at times like these, in the gaps between assaults. My eyelids are heavy, my muscles sore and only writing like this is keeping my mind from growing hazy. Even Dinia is getting worn out, and having a hard enough time protecting Santrago. The tree demon still stand idle, letting it's lessers wear down my forces so they can strike me when I am at my weakest. Yet they cannot wait forever, for the tomb continues to rumble below. Eventually their patience will run out, and in that moment, this battle will be decided.
  • Cloakblade: Okay, at this point, she CANNOT catch a blasted break.
  • (Meya): At last, the time is at hand. The tree demon has begun to stir. Though my beasts lay dead and both our armored giants are damaged, we have slain the last of the minions. It is down to it, and it is down to us, just as it was always meant to end. Come then! I am Meya Liu of Yiditra, Animal Queen of the Jungle, Depths and Wastes! If you dare to challenge me, then come and let us duel to the death!
  • Ucasashi: Okay, this is it!
  • Cloakblade: This is it!
  • Marcilene: This is it...
  • (Meya): We are victorious. Though our armored giants groan and spark, and though blood stains my lips and drips down my armor, I am victorious. It was a long, grueling battle. I had no advantage in power, so I goaded my immense foe into striking with it's hulking branch arms with poisonous thorns, and then counterattacked it at it's joints. Once I had slowed it's movements even further, I picked at it's weakest points, wearing it down before we finally go for the kill. However it was far from easy, and there were moments where I was nearly cornered. But in the end, the great tree demon lies dead while I am still standing. Now as soon as I have the strength to not only stand, but move, I, Dinia, and Santrago should see to Heili.
  • Marcilene: WHOOOOA, WHAT A BATTLE!
  • Cloakblade:... Okay, I think that may be a little too soon, Marcilene. Look.
  • (Meya): The three of us arrived in the tomb to a chorus of light. The machines and crystals pulsed with a heavenly rhythm, and hundreds of those golden fireflies danced about Heili to the same melody. Her body itself glowed like the sun, floating untethered above the altar. We were so in awe that when the whole chamber flashed and Heili's flesh began to grow cyan-blue veins around the body and some of the hell metal was being inflicted upon her chest, and worse, some of the infection was swirling around in her body too, like it was going through some intense reactions internally. Fearful for her safety, I could not stop the procedure. I could only watch. It was not until Heili's radiance floated skyward that I could find my voice and call out her name. By then the light of the crystals had begun to dim, and there was no trace of her left. Somehow, I know that this is the end she was seeking, and that wherever her soul may be, it is safe and content. Yet I cannot help but mourn, and so did Dinia and Santrago.... Though after some talking with Dinia, I felt that I was perhaps wrong about the hell metal. Perhaps it has a heavenly side to it, that the Scyrians did indeed wish to redeem the metal itself, and the harm it brought upon this world.... Maybe it's not all bad.
  • Ucasashi:... Is Heili going to be okay?
  • Marcilene: Only time can tell.... And by that, I mean, three more scrolls left.
  • (Meya): I am certain that I succeeded, and yet my hands and heart are empty. For the first time in so long, I am devoid of purpose. There is nothing to fight or run from. Is this what peace feels like? I couldn't tell since the hell metal has some kind of moral grayness to it. When we all exited the cave, I simply entered my armored giant and left. I did not have a destination in mind, just some faint instinct that perhaps I should go the way Dinia and Santrago did. So here I wander, alone with the last of my comrades in a land of poison and empty palaces, to no end but the one I choose, which seems to be with the two I owed my life and my purpose to. It's unfortunate. The sky is so clear today. It would have been the perfect time to fulfill the promise around my neck.
  • Ucasashi:... What a way to leave after succeeding for THIS long.
  • (Meya): My armored giant has stopped moving, Dinia had to dismantle much of her own to fix it since I could not. I suppose I have been fortunate that it lasted as long as it did. Had it given out before we reached the tomb, I may not have been able to protect Heili or Dinia and Santrago. Though I had to wait for a while until the repairs were completed. If I want to carry on without it until we can move again, I will need to get to work soon. I am low on supplies, and when one is surviving on their own, there is always much to be done. Food. Shelter. Safety. Maybe I will even find time to clean the blood from my face. Yet for now, all I truly want to do is sleep. Perhaps I will dream of flying.
  • Marcilene: Well, hopefully, good luck will be on your-
  • Cloakblade: Wait... Good luck might not be there for her. Look.
  • (Meya): Something has just turned south. It is unfortunate that I didn't have much time to recover, but Santrago sensed another signal just like the one from the Overwatcher. It was warning us that the Titos Rex was headed this way, and we had to move as soon as possible. Unfortunate I never get a single ounce of rest in this wasteland when the hell metal core is too persistent for it. But that's how war works. So with no other option, we simply had to leave before the Titos Rex arrived. We headed out for the source of the second signal, unsure of what it was. But Dinia and Santrago gave me confidence that, perhaps, it would be something benevolent, as it did warn us about the Titos Rex. I am still very hesitant, however, but... I trust Dinia's word. As for Heili... I hope you are okay.
  • Serpentos:... OH, THAT WAS AMAZING!!!!
  • Ucasashi: Serpentos?! You were listening this whole time?!

Who Is Rav?

Scorchar Desert

  • Radcliff:... Well this makes no dag nabit sense! These tablets are accounting the life of someone named... Rav RaSkyne, a self-proclaimed leader of some lost city.
  • Stephanie: Lost city?
  • Radcliff: Apparently these giant obelisks destroyed it and sunk it underground. I'll be damned if I knew why.
  • Stephenie:... Maybe reading these tablets can give us some info on how this Scyrian technology works.
  • Radcliff: "Not a bad idea, hun, but.... I don't think either of us can READ this gibberish! It's amazing I even got the name right!"
  • Qolma: Maybe I can help you with that. (She reads them)... Yeah, I can DEFINITELY do that.
  • Radcliff: Easy for you to say. You're a Magelian mage.
  • Qolma: Well, you're getting a translation, aren't you? Ahe-he-hem...
  • (Rav): Even at this distance the great obelisk is beautiful. It is like a pillar of Arta-Ra's light given solid form. I wish we could have made our camp right beside it, but the others thought that might draw unwanted attention. Some part of me wanted to call them cowards for that, but, a greater part acknowledges that I am not an invincible god or immortal, so, I'll humor the lack of bravery. At least we are close enough to be in its shadow and drink from the river that runs beneath it. I always face it when I pray to Plakmet, and though I can feel the skepticism in my companions' gazes, my faith is unshaken, for it was my faith that guided us here to this place rich with water and resources. All agree it is the ideal location for a settlement. Wherever we are, the gods are watching over us I know it.
  • Qolma:... It appears this Invervisaur was a philosophical priestess.
  • Radcliff: I kinda expected that from an Invervisaur.
  • Stephanie: Radcliff, please don't be assumptions!
  • Radcliff: "Hey, fair's fair, I've met alot of Invers that are like this one! So it's not being "Assumuious" if it's accurate!"
  • Stephanie: "Well I've met Athesist Invers, so it IS assumsuious!"
  • Radcliff: "Wait, atheist Invers are a thing?"
  • Qolma: "AHEM?! Can we get back to the story, lovebirds?"
  • (Rav): Construction has been going well. None of us are architects, but it wasn't a daunting task to adjust to such a rare role of our persons. Giru's broad shoulders and a booming laugh conceal a keen mind, and we started making better progress once I convinced him to stop hauling rocks and start drawing up plans that let Amiar focus on starting a garden where he is more at home. I have focused on trying to keep us organized and maintaining our spirits myself. I wish I could do more, sadly while a priestess has many gifts, manual labor is not one of them. I often find myself winded before midday. I pray that the others do not find me burdensome.
  • Qolma: Well, establishing a colony isn't very lucrative.
  • Radcliff: Still would've been nice if she did managed to pull her weight around. (Stephanie shoved him) Hey!
  • (Rav): Back in Luxem, I always tried to stay out of politics. I never aspired to be Divine Adoratrice as some priestesses did. I found that such selfish ambitions often led to suffering, both for oneself and for others. So when Giru referred to me as our leader today, I found myself surprised. I had tried to refused, but, Giru insisted the others won't accept a "Stand-in" in comparison to my guidance. I had never asked for such a position and the others had never bestowed it on me in any official manner. It just happened naturally. That same part of me that would call them cowards would've wanted me to keep true to my beliefs and be blunt in refusal, but, the same greater part kept true in that I bore no such luxuries in refusal, as the planet is one of an untamed nature where a group with no desired leader, or any at all, is doomed a failure. I am not sure what to make of it but if this is Plakmet's will then I will try to guide these people as best as I can.
  • Radcliff: Wow. Their leader, just like that? Where's the democracy here?!
  • Stephanie: I'm pretty sure they weren't in the position to have an election about this, all things considered about this planet dear.
  • Radcliff: She even admitted that politics weren't her thing! That means she had NO business to be a leader if you're not INTERESTED in being political!
  • Qolma: Well there's a lot of tablets, so odds are, she accommodated well.
  • (Rav): Our settlement has grown so quickly during these hectic months. So many wandering souls have found their way here seeking shelter and companionship, have done my best to welcome everyone I can. If treated with understanding most become productive loyal members of our community. But to any reader outside of myself, deem me not a "soft-hearted" fool, as it were. I nary forgotten the kind of natures a wild world can create. I know that hearts can have two natures. Plakmet had two hearts and two natures. One offers compassion while the other brings devastation. As we grow in size we become a riper target for those with malice in their hearts. Giru has tried to organize a militia but I fear it inadequate. For now I must be wary and pray that the gods send us a true warrior.
  • Stephanie:... Well, I may not be religious, but I too hope they do.
  • (Rav): It took longer than I'd hoped, but I believe the gods have heard my prayers. At least I believe so. When I imagined what a true warrior might be like, I cannot say that I imagined Captain Coopher. He speaks tersely, has no sense of decorum and in general is rather prickly. He was nigh unapproachable for a whole day when we decided his position should be called captain instead of the nonsense word he proposed. 'Sheriff' was it? Surely he forgotten he's in a world not yet of laws beyond the laws of nature. Yet he has been getting results, or so I am told. When I find time, I ought to observe him in action myself.
  • Radcliff: Sounds to me like she found herself a blowhard.
  • Stephanie: Oh definitely. Two dollars says they'll get together.
  • Radcliff: You're on.
  • (Rav): I am still not accustomed to the loud fiery weapons that our new captain is training his men to use. Their power is so destructive that it seems almost too much for any mortal being to possess. Yet Captain Coopher strolls up and down his line of trainees like they are wielding wooden swords, and twirls his own weapon almost absentmindedly. It is somewhat unnerving to find someone so calm around such potent instruments of death. But I suppose that is why he has had such success in securing our borders. I can only hope that we need but one Captain Coopher and that I never have to use those weapons myself.
  • Stephanie:... Well, glad to meet someone else who doesn't like guns. I mean, I know Rad, ya don't like it when I bring conflicting politics to this as typical of Keuca society, but they don't seem to have much popularity to everyone for their habit of killing with just one shot.
  • Radcliff: Eh, you just get over that and learn self-defense with it, and it's all good. That's how these UUniverses work.
  • Stephanie: "Well maybe to the beliefs of Keubrics, but Keucanics believe peacefuller approaches can resolve all conflicts."
  • Radcliff: "Well the crud load of wars and Iallog as a whole would have to say "Hold my beer" to that and go up to your face and say "Oh I'm sorry, am I nothing to you"?"
  • Stephanie: "(Sighs dejected), Okay, at least the dream is that peacefuller approaches should resolve things."
  • Qolma: "Not meaning to side with Flyboy here, but, to be fair in the case of this world, being civil is always thrown out the window when surviving is always a priority."
  • (Rav): It has been such a blessing to be able to spread Plakmet's joy and love to so many people, even at the face of mild skepticism of belief's supposed ill-placement in a wild world. At first, my daily prayers garnered but a few curious observers. Yet soon observations turned to questions, and questions turned to participation. Granted, there are the exceptions that questions just turned into more questions, and not always inviting ones and/or claims that belief is ill-placed here, but, I allow their beliefs. Being of faith does NOT always mean being a zealot. I would do Plakmet a dis-service if I harmed critics in his name, even in a world with little to hold such actions back. Now there are so many of us that we have even begun to construct a shrine. I truly wish that I could teach these eager new students all day long, but my duty to the village must come first. Perhaps when our future here is finally secured I shall be able to live the life of a priestess again, but for now I have too many people counting on me. I cannot abandon them.
  • Radcliff:... She's got dutiful instinct inside of her, AND she avoided the opportunity to go straight up zealot. I respect that.
  • (Rav): Names are a curious thing. We assign them great weight, yet they do not change the substance of the person, place, or thing they belong to. I suppose that line of thinking is why I never dwelled on the name of our humble village. Yet now that it has grown to become somewhat less humble our home can go nameless no longer. People must call it something. To that end, Krater Cention is as good a name as any. I am told that it means 'central core' in some old important language, and whatever our citizens intended that to symbolize when they chose it I know this: while we are here, we are under the protection of the gods.
  • Stephanie:... It's going to be one HELL of a shock when she finds out what those obelisks really are.
  • Radcliff: "That much can am gonna agree with."
  • (Rav): Lost souls from all across the desert continue to prostrate themselves before Krater Cention's gates. I adamantly refuse to turn away anyone that does not mean us any harm, even at mild dis-satisfaction of advisers, but, one thing I do take seriously from them is that my kind actions has left us with many mouths to feed. Truly the universes can be fickle to those of kind hearts. As a result, Krater Cention's fields are its most valuable asset. Fortunately, Giru's designs, and my organization of labor and resources have once again proven effective. Not only did we implement an efficient irrigation system, but we have encased our crops in a large protective structure made of the closest we could get to glass. Every morning it sparkles with a Arta-Ra's light, like a great gem, a beautiful reminder of what we can accomplish when we are united in purpose.
  • Radcliff: Glad to know that this 'Krater Cention' place was growing.
  • (Rav): Despite our best efforts and the blessing of the gods, tragedy is unavoidable in these strange lands. Yesterday it struck Krater Cention once more in the form of an M-Lucus attack, and while I could not undo what had been done, I hope that I was able to bring some small comfort to those who knew the victims best. Though we lack the resources to properly inter the dead in tombs, and mere burial without coffins leave the departed not completely devoured by the M-Lucus vulnerable to ground-borrowing scavengers to finish off at leisure, we still held a ceremony in their memory and I made time to speak privately with anyone who wished to. I would prefer my people to not bare ill-will for the creatures. They are products as intended of nature, what they did is not of malice, but of self-preservation, if admittingly, I suppose it's why we sentients have left behind nature. It's a harsh and fickle mistress, regardless of your awareness. Between that and my usual duties I am physically and emotionally exhausted, but when my people are suffering I can not afford to rest.
  • Stephanie:... M-Lucuses?
  • Qolma: Think of them as, raptor mangrises.
  • Stephanie:... Ohhh. Well, props for Rav for not encouraging hatred to animals.
  • (Rav): Early on I handled all of Krater Cention's trade negotiations, and I have had trouble growing out of the habit. I suppose that is why every caravan or hunter that passes through our gates knows my name. Some still insist on speaking with me personally. But I do not mind. I find these dealings rather engaging, if albeit samey after awhile. It is like playing a game of words. One such caravan arrived yesterday bearing a haul of metal ingots. Our venerable captain has suggested that I bring a contingent of guards to the negotiations, but I would rather not. If our guests are intimidated, they may back out and I would be remiss to waste such an opportunity.
  • Radcliff:... Mmm... My military instincts tell me this was no trade agreement.
  • Qolma:... You're right. It was a ransom attempt. But... Seems like she had a lot of problems with her captain's rescue.
  • (Rav): I shall gladly admit that I erred. I even admit that I owe Captain Coopher my life and offer him all the gratitude he is due. Yet that does not excuse such merciless behavior. Those so-called merchants may have stooped to viciousness and cruelty by trying to kidnap me for ransom, but that one had surrendered. The False Merchant decided to surrender the Ingots in returned of being spared, which of course, I'll grant him the mercy of the gods to allow. It's a fair enough trade, even if Coopher appeared deaf to this and wanted to execute him on the spot, but, the false merchant was lucky I kept the blood-hungry captain on a tight leash. But still.... I wished the now lone conman's friends did not had to die for a misguided venture. They were not evil, just desperate to try and bribed what they assumed to be a selfish well-off land to trade resources for my safety and perhaps assumed that gentler interactions would've been refused. It pains me they died with a false expectation while a survivor was left with painful memories. I do not want that kind of image to be representative of the belief I bring here. That would scare friendlier caravans or those too weak to survive on their own. It is so hard to see where light ends and darkness begins in this violent place of a planet. Perhaps if I could adequately protect myself we could have avoided needless bloodshed. Yes, I think it is time I shall master these explosive weapons, and Captain Coopher is going to help me.
  • Radcliff:... She was mad at her captain for protecting her the way one should in a place like this? I know that any keucanic would say killing may seem morally unacceptable, but that's the way it goes on many worlds.
  • Stephanie: Not that I want to be against Rav on her judgment, but, I can't entirely disagree here. Cloakblade had to learn that on her first mission as Invi.
  • (Rav): Step by step I am learning how to shoot. During my first few lessons the weapons almost jumped out of my hand when I fired them, but my arms have grown stronger and my aim truer. Captain Coopher’s presence has been helpful. The same calm that is found unnerving from afar has been steadying from up close. He does not waste his breath in exaggerated praise or criticism, he simply keeps me focused on what I need to do and everything else just falls away. Considering where I started, he has been very patient with me. Perhaps I should be more patient with him.
  • Radcliff:... Looks like they're warming up to each other.
  • (Rav): In ancient times, gentle Plakmet took the form of her monster side, and unleashed her wrath upon the Invervisaur world. Yet even during her relentless slaughter, her good side was within her bad side as much as her bad side was always within her good side, and when she was eventually calmed the peaceful goddess of joy and love returned. As it is with the goddess, so it is with mankind. The vicious can become kind, and the kindhearted can become violent for all his past transgressions. Captain Coopher is no different. He did not grasp Plakmet’s tale when I told it to him the other day, but if he keeps trying to better himself, then perhaps one day he will.
  • Radcliff:... They're DEFINITELY warming up with each other.
  • Stephanie: Hon, don't pressure me on that bet. Bets tend to get hectic when that happens, and that is technically a sabotage.
  • Radcliff: Sorry, I mean, that wasn't the intent, I-
  • Qolma: Both you lovers shut it, I'm trying to read and translate.... I'm trying to reaslate.... Or, transread? Uh, whatever, I'm doing them.
  • (Rav): In principle, I have turned into a competent marksman. Yet in practice how would I fare? When the time comes, could I end another sentient life? I am not so sure. My mouth grows dry with fear at the very thought. The warrior spirit of Plakmet's evil half surely resides somewhere within the recesses of my heart, but search as I may, I can not find it. As training I offered to put down some of our beasts that had grown deathly ill. It was a merciful act, but it still drew tears from my eyes and twisted my stomach into knots. I must learn to act in spite of these feelings. My life may depend on it one day.
  • Radcliff:... Wow.... I actually feel sorry for her now. And I feel like a dingus for criticizing.
  • Stephanie: "See what happens when you get to know someone different from you when you put aside the Keubric hot-blood?"
  • (Rav): Despite my best efforts, I know that I have strayed from the teachings and customs that I learned so meticulously back home. Out of necessity, I have adapted it to both the needs of Plakmet’s new followers and the circumstances we all face in this desert. For example, celebrating the gods with feasts and festivals in their name would be wasteful. This sacrifice is particularly unfortunate, for my students deserve some sort of reward for their diligence. Perhaps I can still organize a modest celebration of some sort. In fact, maybe the whole village should have one just to raise everyone’s spirits. Even our venerable Captain might enjoy that. Ah, but I ask for miracles.
  • Radcliff:... I think this Coopher guy would sound like the guy who'd hesitate on such parties.
  • Stephanie: Everyone's gotta have a break.
  • (Rav): I trust our Captain’s judgment on matters of defense, but I still feel ill at ease with his decision to rally against these M-Lucuses isn't going to leave the village unprotected. I bare no comfort of him bringing harm to creatures that are only of nature's design, yet, I couldn't bring myself to be contrarian to his argument that our home would not survive persistent visits by the creatures, espeically in a yet secured state. But I bare, a far more personal concern. I fear that his own contingent is too small. I know that I should not be concerned. He personally vouched for the caliber of his team, and I have more immediate priorities. Our walls and gates need repairs, our infirmary needs supplies and our morale needs bolstering. I have been scrambling to and fro with such constant urgency that rings have formed beneath my eyes. Yet when I finally earn a moments respite, I am restless with worry.
  • Radcliff:... I know love when I see or hear it. And this? Rav seems to grow fond of Coopher. She admits she worries for his safety... In a way that makes her care too much for him than just a friend.
  • Stephanie: Well, we can't know for sure yet.
  • (Rav): The people of Krater Cention come from so many different places, and they all have different ways of thinking. On occasion this incites conflict. Several weeks ago two newcomers came to blows over a long-standing feud between their home nations, and just the other day I had to harshly discipline one of my own disciples for harassing the villagers who worship some wooden symbol. One time a man even challenged me to a duel for Krater Cention’s leadership. I am not a boaster, but, I will admit the guilty pleasure of, having some enjoyment in teaching the challenger a strong lesson. I just hope sees his defeat as a sign that the gods had deemed leadership not his destiny. Yet those same two people who engaged in fisticuffs now work to repair our western gate, and it is stronger for their combined efforts. Perhaps that is why the gods have brought us all here. To help us understand each other.
  • Radcliff:... Seems confusing to see things philosophically in her eyes when we know what's around her.
  • Stephanie: Yeah.
  • (Rav): For days, I have prayed for both Plakmet's compassion and healing powers, and for days I have waited. I have faith that they heard me. When I first laid eyes on him, I thought for sure he was dead or dying, but the gods have not yet taken Johno Coopher away from me. My mind knows that I have other responsibilities to attend to, that I cannot afford to spend more time in this room. Yet I know that if I attempt to attend to my duties, my heart will interfere and I cannot neglect it. Not any longer.
  • Stephanie:... Okay, I don't know if I lose or not, but-
  • (Rav): Without question, it was Plakmet's divine will that sent me here, not only so I could spread her joy and compassion, but so I could understand her love. I thought I knew it before. I loved my family, I loved my fellow priestesses, and I love all those under my care here in Krater Cention. Yet only when I finally surrendered myself to it, when I let it rush over my body and carry me like the current of a great river did I truly understand it. Only now can I claim to embody Plakmet's teachings, thanks to Johno Coopher, this warrior from a distant time and place. And now, together, we can turn this desert into a paradise.
  • Stephanie: AAAAND that's a yes. (She gave Radcliff two bucks)
  • Qolma: (Chuckles) You two are starting to make me laugh.
  • (Rav): The mood in Krater Cention has been so jubilant lately that I think we may just hold a festival after all, and why not? We have plenty of cause to celebrate. With the M-Lucus diminished, (Though I still pity the creatures that had to die for our survival's sakes, I know those of personal wounds are, understandably less merciful for clear reasons, so, I'll be patient with the misguided hurrah of the death of creatures), our scouts were able to establish an outpost in the north, where they discovered a wealth of thick, black oil seeping through cracks in the ground. Thanks to this bounty, we have been able to create amazing new tools, and fill our storehouses to the brim. Granted, there were a select number of those that find discontent with certain resources cause of concerns of long-term effects on the environment. By all means their concerns had not fallen on deaf ears, but it was prudent that they are reminded that we are not in a luxurious state to worry about politics as if this is a civilized planet. I sensed their begrudgence, but, they complied.
  • Stephanie: "(Sighs), As much as my eco-care sensibilities really want me to hate her now, I understand that it was a tough call."
  • (Rav): A festival would hardly make a dent. I am sure my beloved Captain will disagree. Ever the dutiful worrier. Fortunately, I can be quite convincing where Johno Coopher is concerned, and for one day, we deserve to supplant worry and duty with song and dance.
  • Radcliff:... I have a feeling this won't be so 'jubilant' forever. Krater Cention isn't on the present-day maps.
  • (Rav): As I watched Giru's team construct the curious, bladed tower that is meant to harness the power of Shinda's winds, I could not help but marvel at how far we have come. In such a short time, Krater Cention has risen from nothing into a true city, with wonders that would make even the great Pharaohs envious. For all its storms and creatures, this desert grows less threatening to us each day, and fewer people are forced to suffer and die by its hand. Perhaps one day, no one will. If we can achieve that, then every hardship and every sacrifice we have endured will have been worth it.
  • Qolma:... And indeed, you're correct.... (Sighs in depression)... Krater Cention would meet an unexpected yet ironic end, according to these next few tablets.
  • (Rav): Over the last few days, the lights of the great obelisks have been pulsing with a rhythm and intensity that I have never seen before. It is a beautiful, soothing sight, particularly at night. It almost looks like they are singing a song to the stars above. Surely this is a sign of the gods' favor. Plakmet is offering us her blessing. Having another festival would be exorbitant, so I have organized a special round of ceremonies and prayers after dusk instead. Thus far they have gone wonderfully, and everyone has left with renewed faith and vigor. I wonder how long this display will last?
  • Radcliff:... I don't think that's the gods being happy.
  • (Rav): Sometimes, I wonder how Johno can carry on, with no faith in a higher purpose or power and eyes that see threats everywhere. Even when we are safe and secure, he insists on sleeping with a weapon at arms' length. It is no wonder that he suddenly believes the obelisks could be dangerous. Though yet, these great monuments have never done anything malicious, or at the least demonstrated any example-of-danger in the wrong hands. Fortunately I have enough faith for the both of us. I have faith that he will protect us from the flying lizards that have recently appeared, I have faith that the obelisks would never harm us, and I even have faith that I shall forgive his constant prodding on the latter. That final matter might require some additional effort on his part, however. He has been simply relentless about it.
  • Radcliff:... (Sighs) I don't know if I should be annoyed by this lack of skepticism from her, or pity her for her post-tragedy naiveté.
  • (Rav): What did I do wrong? Despite every trial and tribulation, I kept my faith in Plakmet, Arta-Ra and all the gods. No I did more than that. I gave them new followers, I built shrines for them, and held ceremonies for them. So why? Why did the obelisks light up the sky and call down such a terrible doom upon my new home? Why would the gods tear the very ground beneath us asunder and send all that I have built and cherished tumbling into the abyss? Where did I betray them? Were it not for Johno I would not even be able to ask such questions. I would just be some dead fool, whose last act would have been to beg for salvation from the very gods who have forsaken me.
  • Radcliff:... Yeah, I guess can I see why some folks think religiousness can be often detrimental in these UUniverses.
  • Stephanie: Look, Radcliff, I'm not fond of her being overly optimistic, but she had no way of knowing about the true nature of the obelisks.
  • Radcliff: But why would they even do this to Krater Cention?
  • Qolma: How should I know? They're still a mystery to us.
  • (Rav): My mind is filled with the dead. I see the smiling faces of my students, eager to learn. I hear Giru's laugh, deep and merry. I see the outstretched hand of Johno's trusted lieutenant as she fell into the darkness below. Johno tells me not to blame myself, that what happened was unpredictable. Yet how can I not feel guilty when I led so many to worship the instruments of our destruction, all the while promising to keep them safe? By all means, I don't deem the towering objects themselves as malevolent, nor the direct object of the gods nor speakers of their true will. But, it may be possible they are under the control of someone, or something, less kind. At the same time, am I even sure of that? Either way, even if I would have to ensure the destruction of these otherwise still beautiful obelisks, I'll seek to end any misuse of them again. Somehow, I must bury these emotions and focus on the present, as Johno does. If I cannot tear my mind away from what I have lost, I will lose all I have left. I cannot let that happen. I cannot let the gods take him too, assuming if this is even their actual doing.
  • Stephanie:... Okay, I'm starting to feel her emotion.
  • Radcliff:... Me too... But, only a little bit.
  • Qolma:... I'm afraid it gets worse from there.
  • (Rav): I understand now that it was not the act of the gods that took my home. Not even of the malevolent or cruel-humored ones. And that the obelisks were tainted by less than benevolent forces. It was the very flying lizards who did this. They claimed to have served some kind of machine that claimed my city was violating some kind of 'Adytum Project' design. By all means, I can understand if this was supposed to be for a greater purpose of rebuilding the wasted world outside the crater, BUT DID IT NOT KNOW OF WHAT MY PEOPLE DID AND WHAT THEY HAD TO ENDURE?! DID IT HAVE SOME MECHANICAL FACSIMILE OF A HEART?!? Or dare I say.... It did know, BUT IT WASN'T TO IT'S SATISFACTION!! I never trusted artificially-intelligent machines because they were not truly sentient. Much as I don't want to shame those flying lizards of only being victims of corruption, I, I embraced that there was no saving them from sin! They are doomed to be the playthings of the underworld, and.... Darkly, I made peace with it. ESPEICALLY WITH WHAT THEY HAD DO-...... You would have been proud of me. I controlled my breathing, just like you taught me, even with the tears streaming down my face. Even with all the hate and anger in my heart, I kept my aim steady, and I killed them. I killed every single one of those flying lizards that took you from me, Johno. So why have you abandoned me, too? You were the survivor, not I. These creatures should not have been enough to kill you. You were too strong. I need you too much. Please. Come back to me. I need to hear your voice. I need to see your smile. Please. Please.
  • Radcliff: ".... Awwww, shit, is, is that insinuating-....."
  • Stephanie:... (She softly sobbed)
  • Radcliff:..... Sweet freaking Arbasus!... Johno was killed?
  • Qolma:... Looks like it. Poor man died as he lived.... Though something feels off. Rav DID make a good point: He seemed too skilled to be killed by Dracthysaurs.
  • Radcliff:... You're right. My gut's telling me over and over like a broken record, that somehow, he's still alive.
  • Qolma:... Oh gosh!... I think, Rav lost her marbles in this.
  • (Rav): When I found them, I wanted to smash them to bits. Those eggs were the spawn of the monsters of the lizards that served the heartless SOULLESS machine that slew my beloved, and they did not deserve my pity. Yet I also knew they could help me. If I could raise these creatures as my own servants, then even the gods that just, failed me, could not strike me down. I no longer blame them for the actions of others.... But they also did NOTHING to halt this sin?! It may as well be like this was THEIR doing! I have constructed a great bonfire to mimic the warmth provided by their mother, and gathered milk from the mightiest of the fallen beasts so that I may feed them when they hatch. Hopefully it is enough. No, it