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Ribitta
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Terrel couldn't help but smile at that. Perhaps she'd been too cowed by his experience. "I guess that's a yes?" she asked, perhaps not sensitively enough. For the first time since meeting Rua, she felt like she actually knew what to do, and she wasn't about to pass up on that. Pulling up her inventory, Terrel pulled a crowbar out of it that she kept for situations such as these.

"Besides," she added, "going down is the easy part."

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Rua shook his head, clearly exasperated as she began her work. "That you'd consider such a drop through an elevator shaft as easy is what really bothers me," he told. He approached the doorway as the crowbar was inserted into it, placing his hands on it to add his own strength to Terrel's attempt to open it.


"Why do you care that I care that you care enough to care that I care for caring?" "Conversation isn't your strong point, is it?"
"I worship the supreme comrade Cossack!"
"OugharagarraaahhHHH: When 'Ow' just won't cut it."
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CAPCOM: We put the "No" in Innovation.

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He waited patiently for her to extricate herself. Realizing he quite liked her smile. It had a genuine warmth to it. Something he rarely ever saw, in his line of work.

"Eh, Call me Duff." He ducked his head once. "Me lads do."

There was a crunch of doorway out in the hall, followed by running feet, screams, gunfire and then more screams. "That's me lads right there." he added on a moment later.

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Her smile turned into a rugged grin as Rua came to her aid, and the two of them heaved on the heavy elevator doors. For a moment they struggled, but it didn't take long for them to gradually give way. Once there was a gap, Terrel moved between the doors and put her back into it, using her body as a lever to push them completely apart. Thankfully they didn't spring back closed the moment she released tension, giving them a clear shot into the elevator shaft.

Standing on the edge, she looked down the hole that, indeed, stretched for about a hundred feet straight down. Why was the eighth repository so far below the seventh? Well anyway, good for them the thing worked mechanically, so there was still a cable that went down.

"Want me to go first?" It was a mean question, but she couldn't help it.

---

"Okay, Duff," she responded warmly, "you can call me Luir." She looked to the exit, the place where Duff had come in from. She still stood straight, upright and ready to go, but inside she felt week. The last few months had not been kind to her, and the needle had only just been removed. It was difficult to say how things would go, but she was optimistic.

Luir nodded toward the way out, "Was this all your doing, then? You and your 'lads'?"

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he waggled his hand, "komplikasies." He paused a moment, rolling his eyes. "Complications," he rephrased. "These Gek---Crazy Stamarians didn't take too kindly to me asking questions. Apparently if you kill enough of them, they send you here."

Sounds of running feet outside and cries of "Boss, you down 'ere?"

Duff shrugged, grinning through his beard again. "Me lads came to get me. Right good bunch." Seconds later he finally took the time to look her over. Luir was a nice name, he thought. A very nice name. "You okay, miss Luir?" He asked. "Moenie so goed lyk----You don't look so good."

Edited by Ajax on January 10, 2014 at 8:27:18

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Questions. Her face fell a bit at that, but she recovered it meekly. They did like their questions. But he had killed enough to be sent here? Luir looked at the man, trying to hide her own apprehension--revulsion, even. She didn't hate him, of course she did not, but she couldn't help but see him in the light of bloodshed. Maybe he had been exaggerating. She would keep her own mind covered for now under the shade of uncertainty.

"As good as I can be," she responded honestly, though it was a truth she could share with good spirits. "I think I would be better, though, if this place were far, far behind me. Will you show me the way out, if you know it?"

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"I'll go first," Rua said with a shake of his head. "I might be better off if someone's waiting down there for us."

Perhaps arrogant to think of himself as the better fighter, but without seeing any definable weapon on Terrel, and her admitting to thievery, he felt correct in the belief. He made a quick jump from the edge of the doorway, snagging the elevator cable and using it to spin himself about.

"Hundred feet, huh?" he muttered, looking down the shaft. He started lowering himself. "Terrific."


"Why do you care that I care that you care enough to care that I care for caring?" "Conversation isn't your strong point, is it?"
"I worship the supreme comrade Cossack!"
"OugharagarraaahhHHH: When 'Ow' just won't cut it."
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Duff smiled manically. "Oi lads! In here!" He called out before nodding to Luir. "We got a mooi good gunship up top. We'll be out in a moment."

There was the sound of thumping feet and a short, bald man wielding a high-tech rifle, clad in black gear and ballistic armor, skidded to a halt at their door. His weathered face speckled with dirt and grime. "Boss. You're good. These whacko Staaama--Starmor--Stamarians ain't got nothing on the boss." the man said, clasping arms with Duff.

Duff for his own part hugged the man, gear and all, tight to him. "Lancy," He hissed, "Yer slow. My Da could have taken this place in half the time. And ee's dead!"

The shorter man stared up into Duff's face, a hint of worry there for just a second before he laughed. Duff's grey eyes twinkled merrily as he roared laughter, ignoring the cold and the pain. "Ere, this is my good prison friend Luir." He said with a wave to the youthful Luir. "She'll be coming with us. Treat 'er nice and proper. Got it? Tell the lads. Go go."

The shorter man spared a swift glance to Luir, ducking his head awkwardly before turning and jogging back out, calling out over a mic to someone else in the facility.

Duff turned and ducks his head as well, "I lead, you follow. Sound good?"

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Rua made an impressive jump toward the cable, catching it and beginning the process of lowering himself down. "Try not take all day, would you?" she chided him, glancing up the shaft for a moment, "no telling if the elevator might come back down." That would be a disaster, but the odds of someone visiting these repositories seemed low; it wasn't a concern, but she didn't mind egging him a bit. After he'd gotten some distance down the thing, she too joined him, and the two of them made their way to the bottom.

---

Good friend? He certainly had an interesting gauge for such things, but she wouldn't be a critic. He would lead her, then? She found that acceptable, so she nodded, following the man out into the hallway.

Immediately, though, the sight outside her room struck her and forced a quiver down her spine. A handful of dead men were outside her door, not but ten feet from the entrance to her throne room. She recognized three of them, and she knew that they were likely there to guard her, and now they were dead. Tears welled up in her eyes, but she blinked them away as quick as she could. They had been mean men, but seeing them lying there, lifeless and forgotten, gave her no satisfaction. Raising a hand to her mouth, she stopped any noise from escaping involuntarily, forcing her focus to Duff, the man who would take her to safety, or so he claimed.

Luir did so hope that it would be a quick escape.

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Even shivering in the cold, he still moved as though there was some dark energy driving him forward. His eyes took in the dead in a sweep. "Lancy!" He bellowed, "yer aim is horrible."

Up ahead, the shorter man barked raucous laughter, tossing Duff a pistol before heading up the stairs.

They passed more dead on the way up two more floors. Torturers made poor soldiers, though not all soldiers made poor torturers, in Duff's experience. Most of these had died as they lived, hiding in dark places. A few of the guards had actually tried to put up a fight. But his boys had made short work of them.

When they reached the fourth floor, a freezing burst of wind slammed into the trio, causing Duff to growl, squaring his bare shoulders and pushing into it. Rubble and debris lay strewn around, leftovers from what had once been a wall, a gaping hole torn into it as though by some angry god. A few dozen feet outside was a thrumming hulk of metal and rotor-blades. The machine that had caused the hole, and another just like it in the uppermost floor.

He turned, what hair he had blowing in the wind, holding out his hand to Luir. "See? What I tell you? Nice big gunship. Few more feet and we safe and dry." He called out over the howling wind.

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Not for the first time, Rua was grateful for the lack of physical limitations in-game. Climbing down a metal rope a hundred feet wasn't exactly something he could accomplish in the real world without being exhausted afterwards, even in light clothing and without a sword strapped to his back. Who knows what they were going to find down at the bottom of this shaft?

"How's the layout down there?" Rua asked up at Terrel as they descended.


"Why do you care that I care that you care enough to care that I care for caring?" "Conversation isn't your strong point, is it?"
"I worship the supreme comrade Cossack!"
"OugharagarraaahhHHH: When 'Ow' just won't cut it."
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CAPCOM: We put the "No" in Innovation.

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"Yeah hold on," Terrel grunted, pulling one hand off the cable precariously as she opened her menu. She could navigate most of it just in her head, but unfortunately she didn't know the names of all the buttons; she'd set them up to just look like pictures she could recognize. It was inconvenient, but it wasn't like she wasn't used to it. At this point, though, having to climb one handed was a royal pain, so she hurried up.

"I still had the map of the room saved from last time," she grunted, putting both hands back onto the cable. "Uploaded it to your codex." She glanced down, the floor in sight. Almost there.

---

Luir followed him swiftly, averting her eyes at the bodies that littered the floor. They were dead, all of them. No wounded, no man still holding on to the blessed gift of life--all dead. It was hard to distinguish her knees wobbling from just a natural shiver, hard to distinguish a lonesome tear from her eyes watering in the cold, so she pressed on through. Up they went, up to the fourth floor, and at last she saw the way out.

Duff offered her his hand, but she hesitated. Something had caught her eye, a movement to her left. It was a man, still somehow alive, though she could see easily why that life flickered. He wore a Stamarian uniform but carried no weapon anymore. There was simply nothing she could do but attend to him, and so Luir went.

Kneeling next to the man, she laid her hands on him without a second thought, calling up the energy that they had tried so desperately to steal from her. It was hard to get to, like fumbling for something in the dark with numb hands, but she knew what she was looking for well enough to persevere. Energy flooded her hands a few moments later, and they lit up with a warm glow, cascading from her fingertips and into his body. Before her eyes, the wounds closed, and in moments she could feel the life coming slowly back to his body, though his eyes were still closed in sleep.

Standing up, she faced Duff. Would he deny her now? Would he end the man's life again and then hers as well? She did not like murderers. She was increasing sure she did not like him, but let his actions, not her thoughts, justify his heart.

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He first watched in curosity, then something like amusement as the young girl knelt and did . . something. Magic. A bark of laughter escaped his lips as she brought the dying man back from the brink. "Lancy, 'ou missed one!" He chortled merrily to the short man.

For the shorter man's part, he stared in wonder. Brought out of his awe only by his presumed leader's words. "Aye, boss. Guess I did." He muttered darkly, waiting to see how Duff reacted. By the way the shorter man held his rifle, he fully expected to be firing it momentarily.

Duff however, extended his hand again to Luir. "Come on, Lass. We dun't 'ave all day!" He called out, the wind buffeting him. It really was freezing here. The adrenaline was keeping him going at the moment, but he was definitely in the mood to be inside a warm gunship as opposed to standing bare-foot, tired and half-naked on a frozen floor.

The pistol in his other hand remained steadfastly where it was, unraised. His manic smile gleaming, grey eyes sparked with amusement.

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Luir's eyes flicked to the men watching her. Would they murder this man the moment she left? They abstained for now, at least, but the comfort was small. Even still, there was nothing else she could do. Taking the man's hand he'd offered, she wasted no more time in this prison, hoping she wasn't leaving for a darker place.

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It wasn't too much longer before they had arrived at the door and had pried it open. Rua first noted that the chamber leading into the eighth repository was darker than the others; it looked like they kept the lights dim down here.

"Now we just need to find a light switch and a terminal," Rua said as he proceeded further in. Relayia poked her head out of a large coat pocket before she clawed her way out of it entirely, climbing his coat to his shoulder as he opened up the provided map.


"Why do you care that I care that you care enough to care that I care for caring?" "Conversation isn't your strong point, is it?"
"I worship the supreme comrade Cossack!"
"OugharagarraaahhHHH: When 'Ow' just won't cut it."
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CAPCOM: We put the "No" in Innovation.

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Swiftly he took her by the hand, his own weathered, gnarled fingers surprisingly gentle as he led her out into the snow a few short feet and then onto the gunship. Behind, Lancy followed and closed the door to the thrumming machine, one more armor-clad figure slipping in from the snow before the machine sealed.

Inside it was warmer, a spacious interior with seating on either side, gearbags and various items held against the wall by netting. A slim walkway led up a few steps to a raised deck-plate where a pair of pilot's seats were bolted down.

Duff clasped arms with the newcomer, "George." He hugged the armored figure close, ignoring the bite of metal as a piece of ballistic plating cut into his bare chest. "Waar is Rebekka?" He called out. "Rebekka? where you be, girl?" He turned and smiled to Luir again, tossing his pistol to Lancy to stow.

"George, this is Luir. Be very nice. She is a sweet girl." He said simply. "Luir, come on, got to introduce you to Rebekka." He spun, looking around. "Where is that gel?" Even here in the metal of the gunship, he seemed possessed of a fierce energy that kept his body moving. "Bekka!"

Edited by Ajax on January 11, 2014 at 3:46:31

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"Then good luck to you." Narhari replied. "Unfortunately, this is where we part ways. There are some things to which I must attend... Particularly finding some information on Madrigal, Oracle, and that other, uhm, addled man." he explained. "If I find anything important, I'll send it both your ways." With a curt bow, he excused himself and walked out of the store.

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Terrel followed him out of the elevator, looking around the repository uncomfortably. She hadn't told Rua that her last mission down here was an incredible disaster, nor did she intend to. Besides, they weren't traveling past the eighth repository, so she was sure they'd be just fine. Pulling up the map as well, she looked over it shortly before highlighting part of it for the whole party to see.

"Pretty sure we ran into some terminals over in that area," she said, perhaps a little more softly than usual. This place still gave her the creeps.

---

Luir nodded amicably at each member as they were introduced, finding a seat in the gunship and trying not to wince too much over the noise. Her mind still felt heavy after what she'd just seen, but she was glad she'd been able to at least save a single life, despite everything. She thought about asking Duff a question, but he seemed to be looking for someone, so she held her tongue for now.

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Rua nodded and went in the direction she pointed. "Just keep an eye out for trouble," he said as he went further in. Relayia chirped once, looking around curiously--if the dimness in the room bothered her, she showed no sign.

Neither did he, for that matter. Rua had been in his fair share of dark interiors in the game, both during the beta and in the finalized game. This was just a library, after all, no matter how prohibited their being here was.

It wasn't too much longer before Rua finally found a terminal. Just one of them, and it looked like it hadn't been used in a while. "Found it," he said, approaching it and turning it on. "Now let's see if it's still got the information we want..."


"Why do you care that I care that you care enough to care that I care for caring?" "Conversation isn't your strong point, is it?"
"I worship the supreme comrade Cossack!"
"OugharagarraaahhHHH: When 'Ow' just won't cut it."
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CAPCOM: We put the "No" in Innovation.

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Syn and Lace nodded politely to Ajax as they picked up the rest of their gear. The redhead glancing to her partner. "Well, we made a friend." She said with a smirk.

"Yes," Syn replied simply, checking her pocket to make sure the token Madrigal had given her was still there. "But now if he gets in trouble, we're going to have to try and help. Budapest all over again."

To that, Lace merely giggled. "Oh please, it was only like . .. three city blocks. Nothing they couldn't fix." Moments later, they were heading out for the ports, to find a ship to Kouchi.

___

"Bekka!" Duff bellowed again as Lancy trotted up and took the second pilot seat. A moment later a lanky, scruffy woman with straw-colored hair and mismatched eyes hopped down from the other pilot's seat, the machine beginning to rise. She trotted over to Duff, dressed in cargos and a simple tank-top, both black.

"Bekka, gel. This is---" He began, only to be interrupted a moment later by a sharp "Thwack" sound as the blond woman slapped him.

Seconds later she grabbed him by the neck and took him in a violent kiss that was mostly clashing of two faces. Her lanky form having to almost bend over to kiss him properly. "You." She whispered softly, smirking to him, hand running over the vicious red mark on his face from the slap. "Are more trouble than you are worth somedays, Duff."

Duff, for his part, seemed to take it all in stride, both slap and kiss. "As I was seying," he said, wrapping an arm around the woman and nodding to Luir. "This is my good prison friend Luir. She is very nice. So I want us all to be very nice to her. Got's it?"

The blond woman turned a pair of eyes, one ice-blue, the other a deep jade, to Luir. Staring solemnly as their machine lifted off into the skies and headed away from the smoking prison. She pursed her thin lips, not saying a word.





Edited by Ajax on January 11, 2014 at 6:58:21

Ribitta
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Terrel looked around apprehensively, trying not to be too jumpy around the shadows. She wanted to equip her weapon in her inventory, but to be honest she knew the kinds of things that haunted a place like this. Running was a far more promising alternative to fighting down here.

Rua found the terminal all the same, though, and got to work quickly, but after about half a minute passed, she asked somewhat impatiently, "Find anything, yet?"

---

Luir shifted uncomfortably as the woman named Rebekka proved to be exactly the type of woman Duff would call a lover. It did make him seem a bit more human, but she still felt incredibly anxious around the lot of them. The Stamarians had dark hearts indeed, but she understood them at least, and they were not all the same. This group though? She did not know, yet.

Gathering her courage, she decided to ask a question to the only one she knew. "Where are we going to?"

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Duff nodded simply, "Well. That's a good question. We're not exactly what you'd call . . .kundige on this place. Stamaria."

He stalked along the clanking, dirty deckplates of the gunship, rummaging through a pack and pulling out a shirt to pull over his wiry form.

Rebekka made a "clucking" sound. "Oi, you're still bleeding. Let me patch you up first at least." She snapped, grabbing hold of him mid-process of donning the shirt and tugging him towards one of the seats. "And yeah, the basic plan was to get him out of that place. Now . . .get away from these Stamarians I suppose."

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"Just a couple titles," Rua said, leaning back from the screen the terminal had produced. He gestured to Terrel to take a look. "Doesn't say where they're at in here though."


"Why do you care that I care that you care enough to care that I care for caring?" "Conversation isn't your strong point, is it?"
"I worship the supreme comrade Cossack!"
"OugharagarraaahhHHH: When 'Ow' just won't cut it."
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CAPCOM: We put the "No" in Innovation.

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"Hey Relish," Terrel called out to the dragonet, wondering if it would be smart enough to respond to something other than its given name. "Find these books," she instructed, selecting the verbal command from her interface and highlighting the two titles on the screen with it. A cool voice read aloud:

"Condemned NPCs"

And then:

"Tribal Authority in Cher Plek"

Terrel crossed her arms at that. She didn't like the sound of either of those books.

---

Luir couldn't help but look at them quizzically. Get away from the Stamarians? What else would they be doing? A hideous thought occurred to her, though, and she shuddered at it. What if going back to attack them again had been an alternative they had crossed their minds? She glanced at the men and women that now surrounded her cautiously, wondering if she had left the frying pan for the metaphorical fire. If these people had a plan beyond leaving, she was not going to be included in it for the time being.

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Relayia... completely ignored Terrel's given command. Instead, the creature preened under her wing for a little bit before looking back at the terminal that her master had been studying, blinking once as if trying to understand the text... or possibly just interested in the lights and flashes that emanated from the magical device.

Rua rolled his eyes and tapped the creature on her little head, causing her to chirp reproachfully before checking out the offending digit. "Relayia, go find these two books," he ordered, pointing them out to the dragonet. This time, she chirped and took wing, beginning another search routine.

"I don't think she's taken to your nickname yet," Rua commented as an aside to his partner. He glanced back at the terminal, and this time frowned. "This is not looking good for us, is it?"


"Why do you care that I care that you care enough to care that I care for caring?" "Conversation isn't your strong point, is it?"
"I worship the supreme comrade Cossack!"
"OugharagarraaahhHHH: When 'Ow' just won't cut it."
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CAPCOM: We put the "No" in Innovation.

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"Doesn't seem like it, yeah," Terrel agreed grumpily, not sure if she should be excited or dreadful at the names of those two titles. Of course, maybe Kasdim-Ur had been a big help in subduing rotten NPCs, and maybe he was a beneficial leader in the Cher Plek tribes who wanted to reform their politics to something more noble.

Yeah, probably not.

"If this is what it sounds like, what do you want to do?" she asked him, not certain at all what her own answer would be.

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"I... don't know," Rua admitted, hesitant. He ran a hand through his hair as he considered their findings. The first search item looked to potentially confirm one fear. "We don't really know enough to make a decision yet. Not until we find those books. All we know now is what continent we can start looking in, if we pursue this matter."

Finally, he reached over and cleared the search results before turning off the device. Instantly, the glow of the orb became muted, and the room was dark again. Still, Terrel could see that he looked troubled. The swordsman shook his head a bit and turned to leave. "Let's go find those books. The sooner we get them, the sooner we can get the hell out of here."


"Why do you care that I care that you care enough to care that I care for caring?" "Conversation isn't your strong point, is it?"
"I worship the supreme comrade Cossack!"
"OugharagarraaahhHHH: When 'Ow' just won't cut it."
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CAPCOM: We put the "No" in Innovation.

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"You go see what Relish can find," Terrel responded after a moment of thought, "there's something I want to check down here, while I have the chance." They'd still have the map and would be able to find each other without too much difficulty, even if they split up. Before she left, though, she also added, "Just so you know, there are automatons that patrol the bookcases and perimeter of this place. There's not many of them and they're not super quick, but just keep an eye out. They don't go down easy."

In truth, when she'd been down here with a party of five, they'd lost two people to the automatons because they thought they could win if they ganged up on them. It tended to go downhill from there.

Without another word, Terrel gave him a curt nod and slipped away, headed for the north-eastern corner of the room.

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Rua froze on the spot. This place had automated guard enemies protecting it? He whirled around, glaring at Terrel in disbelief. "And you only thought to tell me this now? After I sent her out on a search?" he demanded. Was this woman insane?

But she was already slipping off for her own unknown objective. He cursed and shook his head in irritation. He was just about ready to stab Oracle for this mess he put everyone in. Growling, he took off at a trot, reaching for his sword out of habit. Automatons. Terrific. And slashing damage isn't all that great on robots, either, he thought. He had a longsword, not a rapier or a spear!

"Better call Relayia back," he told himself as he began looking for his pet.


"Why do you care that I care that you care enough to care that I care for caring?" "Conversation isn't your strong point, is it?"
"I worship the supreme comrade Cossack!"
"OugharagarraaahhHHH: When 'Ow' just won't cut it."
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CAPCOM: We put the "No" in Innovation.

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Sitting a few feet away from Luir, the lanky Bekka tended to her comrade's wounds as the gunship sped through the air. Rotors and engines thrumming.

She glanced to Luir, then to Duff, the wiry man hunched over, staring at the wall opposite him as though he intended to burn a hole with his gaze.

With a soft chuckle she thumped her charge on the back, "Duff, you can put your shirt on again. Why don't you give me and the girl some privacy?" She cast her mismatched eyes to Luir again, curiosity dancing in her irises.

For his own part, Duff turned his dark gaze to Bekka, then to Luir. "Okey, okey. Going to talk to Lancy 'bout his half-shod aim."

A moment later he hopped up, sliding a ragged brown shirt on over his frame, stalking off up towards the pilot's deck.

Now relatively alone, Bekka turned in her seat to look sideways at Luir. "I probably ain't much better than Duff, in your eyes. But try to relax, girl. We ain't gonna hurt you. Are you hurt? Hungry? thirsty? You look like a deer caught in a tank's headlights."

Edited by Ajax on September 1, 2014 at 4:27:28