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RP XCOM: The Story of Defiance.

Discussion in 'X-COM Role Playing' started by MarineAvenger, Sep 20, 2014.

  1. Frostlich1228

    Frostlich1228 Well-Known Member

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    “He’s at the top of the tower… I’ve spoken to him. He says he can’t leave… He’s… Stuck…” The man explained, “Past that gate is a foreign place… It’s too… Real… It’s usually very faint… You used to be able to just pass through it without even knowing it was there… Now it’s solid… and his mind is struggling to fit it all in…”

    “I see. Well, I… I need to get him unstuck, then. I… I’m just not sure...” She smiled at the man. “You wouldn’t… want to help…” Her smile brightened. “Wait, Dorian was a soldier once, right? Maybe… a memory of him… You don’t know Dorian, do you? I mean… he should be around here somewhere, considering where ‘here’ is.”

    “I do know him. I’m his brother.” The man responded, “He is here, but he tries to avoid me. He’s scared he’ll hurt me again, and that I’ll bring back bad memories.”

    Eve’s eyes widened a bit. “Did… did something happen to you?”

    Dorian’s brother slowly nodded, “He didn’t want to do it… The people who he worked for told him he was doing something good… So they brought a man to him with a bag covering his head, the leader of the anarchists that he’d been dealing with for the past month… They said that he was the last problem… So Dorian dealt with him…” He took a longer pause and then continued, “I never was a criminal… I simply protested government actions with people I knew… Signs and flags… Never even touched a gun…”

    Eve held her mouth in shock. “Oh, my God. I… he must have been so…” She took a step back, looking away. She took a minute to compose herself, not sure if she was any time limit, but unable to leave without asking something. “When… when he found out… I mean, if you know this… then that means he does…” She looked back. “How did he react? What… did he do?”

    “He was angry… More angry than he’s ever been… He wanted to kill the people responsible, but the spirit, Rook, told him that it would only bring more pain… So they left… Left the army, government service, without saying a word to them… They looked for him, but thanks to a good friend he saved from an attack a few years back working some favors, he was able to leave the country and make sure the government didn’t look for him. He wanted to redeem himself… He hurt a lot of people… The spirit and I think he has, raising a wonderful little girl, protecting her and people, and now saving the world… But he doesn’t think anything will ever equal to my life…”

    Eve nodded. “That… that’s just a sign of how much he loves you, and how bad he feels.” Eve squeezed her fists, and turned around. “For now, though, he needs Rook. He’s an anchor, and he’s obviously doing Dorian nothing but good. So I need to find him, and free him from whatever is keeping him here.”

    “Good luck… It’s dangerous beyond the gate…” Dorians brother replied, “And when you go… Tell Dorian I forgive him… And… That he redeemed himself a long, long time ago…”

    “I will. I promise.” Eve charged forward, running to make up for time and take advantage of her astral muscles. As she neared the tower, she frowned a bit, and wondered out loud. “So… do I have to climb this? Damn…”

    As she said that, seemingly on queue, the surreal environment around her became something much more real. She found herself in the middle of a battlefield, Knights fighting against invading bandits surrounded her, but seemed to completely ignore her. Fallen warriors were strewn left and right in the chaos, while some of the knights carried their least injured to relative safety, but most were felled before they could even come close. A thick wooden door formed at the base of the watchtower, as two arrows slammed into it, missing Eve by a hair.

    “C-crap!” Eve rushed inside, dodging around people as she went, not wanting to find out if she could interact with them. She practically dived inside, and rushed out of the path of the door, muttering, “Unless Dorian is into some medieval times LARPing, I doubt these are his memories…”

    As she said that, voices could be heard upstairs, the language was clearly French, but for some reason, Eve found she could understand it. “That one! Watch out of those Archers!” “I know! Keep them from reaching the door!”

    Eve looked over to the door. Running up to it again, she dropped to the ground and pushed it with her legs, just barely able to move it despite it not really being there, the memory incredibly real, from the lights, to the sounds, to the smells. As soon as she got it shut, she rushed over to the stairs, running up as she yelled, “Rook! Rook, where are you!?”

    A large man, clad in a suit of metal armor rushed down the steps after the source of the voice, stopping when he saw the woman and speaking with a voice that sounded much like Rook’s, “What’re you doing here? You were all supposed to find safety!”

    “You… you spoke to me directly.” Eve took a deep breath. “Rook, is it you? We need to get you out of here. You’re the one who isn’t safe.”

    “This is where I belong, defending my kingdom.” He replied, “And how do you know my- Only one person has ever called me by that nickname, and she’s upstairs.”

    Another suited person peeked down the stairs at the two, “Rook, what’re you doing? Who is this woman?”

    “A civilian I think… She may have been forced to find refuge in here.” Rook replied.

    “No, I…” Eve ran a hand through her hair, not sure how to handle this. “Look, I… what’s your name? Your real name.”

    “Antony… Why do you ask?” The suited man replied.

    “In case you… don’t remember later.” Eve waved her hand around her. “This… this isn’t real. You’re trapped in your own memory. You have been for some time. And this doesn’t seem like the happiest memory to be trapped in. I’m here to get you out. Or… some part of you. I mean… I want you, but either you, or… or another… you… you know?”

    “Of course this is real, the Castle is under attack. We’ll be the one’s to get you out, we’ll take you back to the Castle where it’s safe.” He responded.

    “But… but what if you get me killed?” Eve sighed. “I can die in here, you know. You can’t, considering…”

    The knight stepped forward and placed a hand on her shoulder, “We’ll protect you… I’d die myself before letting you get injured.”

    “You have no idea.”
     
  2. ZombieSplitter53

    ZombieSplitter53 Game Master Staff Member

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    PART TWO

    Eve shook her head. “Fine. But… can I at least get a weapon to protect myself or something?”

    “Most peasants don’t have weapons training.” He spoke, pulling a longbow and a few arrows of a rack near the back of the tower and tossing it to her, “You know how to use this?”

    “Yeah, school training. Thought it was pointless at the time…” She looked up at Rook. “Alright, I’m ready. Mind if I ask you something before we go? You… you mentioned a woman. What is her name? And… who is she to you?”

    “Adrienne.” The woman answered, walking down the stairs, “I’m Rook’s closest friend.”

    Rook turned to look at her, “Why would you tell her that Bishop? If she informs the Lord they’ll have your head!”

    “This woman seems trustworthy, besides, if she is to trust us with her life she should at least know our real names.” Bishop answered.

    Eve looked at the in confusion, as she strung one of the arrows, testing out the bow. “I’m sorry, I… I’m new to these parts, I guess you could say. Why would the Lord… have your head?”

    “Adrienne has been posing as a man for many years. Women are forbidden to be knights, but her masculine look and features allowed her to hide what she is from the Lord. I doubt he would be pleased if he discovered he had been lied to.” Rook explained.

    “Ah, I see. A regular Jeanne d’Arc, huh?” Eve smiled. “Your secret is safe with me. So… do you two mind… leading the way? I’m… afraid to go first. Maybe I can watch your backs.”

    Rook readied his shield and sword as Adrienne pulled back her longbow. Antony slammed through the door, ready to block any incoming projectiles. A few of the barbarians who weren’t currently engaged in a fight took notice and went after them. A precise shot from Bishops bow slid into the closest one’s chest and between his ribs, killing him instantly as Rook blocked an arrow fired from the distance.

    Eve followed closely, and shook her head slightly. “I… I hope I’m right about this… and that you’ll forgive me,” she mumbled. She drew back an arrow, and shouted, “Both of you, look out ahead! Someone big is coming!”

    Rook looked around quickly, seemingly content on a large bandit wielding a two handed sword that was a decent distance from him as he raised his shield in that direction. Eve took aim at the vulnerable spot in the underside of Rook’s arm, and fired. The arrow hit it’s mark, embedding itself in his arm and forcing him to drop his shield just as the barbarian reached him.

    “I… I’m sorry, Rook.” Eve grabbed another arrow, and fired it at Bishop to keep her distracted.

    Bishop’s eyes widened as the arrow punctured her armor, the force and pain causing her to take a step back and watch helplessly as the barbarian brought his blade down through Rook’s shoulder, only stopping about 5-6 inches into his flesh. Adrienne quickly recovered and nocked an arrow, sending it through the bandit’s neck as she rushed to her friend’s side, but he was already unresponsive. “No… No no! Please! It’s not your time! No…”

    Eve dropped her bow, afraid she had made a mistake. “I… I’m sorry, Adrienne. But… he’s dead. He probably died during this battle. And… and if that other ghost he talked about is who I think it is… you probably did too.”

    “How… How could you… You’re working with them aren’t you!? You dressed yourself up like a innocent but you just wanted us to lower our guard! You barbarians truly are the most honorless of creatures!” Bishop screamed through her sobs, holding her friend close.

    “I… I’m so sorry. But… but he’s already gone. And he has a friend that needs him to come back with me.” Eve slowly approached the fallen man. “Come back with me, Rook.”

    “I… I wish I could’ve told him… I loved him so, so much…” Adrienne sobbed, putting a dagger out of a sheath attached to her belt, “I don’t want you to go… I want to be with you forever… The next time we meet… Will be in god’s garden my love…” Bishop pulled off the steel armor on her arm and let it fall in the dirt before running the dagger straight up her own arm, letting the blood drain onto the ground below as she embraced him.

    Eve sighed. She turned back, and headed back to the tower. She wanted to leave them in peace, and could only hope she had done the right thing. The was nothing else she could do. “I’m… sorry…”

    “You played that part perfectly…” Spoke a voice echoing towards her out of nowhere.

    Eve shook her head as she walked. “Killing the friend that I came here to save? Forcing him to relive his death? Yeah… perfect…”

    A spectre of the fallen Rook appeared beside her, “History isn’t always pleasant… I’ve been running through this scene over and over again for weeks… Giving it a different, happy ending each time… Reality is never so happy is it?”

    “No, it isn’t. But… but at least you had someone that loved you.” Eve smiled softly. “We… can’t change what happened. But… we know your name. We know her name. We’ve learned a lot about you. But Dorian needs your help now.” She held out her hand. “You… ready to get out of here?”

    “I believe so…” Rook said as he watched Adrienne finally bleed out, “If only I had saw that betrayal coming… We could’ve lived a good life together… She wouldn’t have had to die with me…”

    Eve shook her head. “Don’t blame yourself. There is too much of that nowadays. Things happened how they did, and you can’t change it. But… she might still be waiting for you, in that castle.” The blond woman’s body started to flicker and fade a bit, the strain of being in Dorian’s mind getting to her. “You can see her again… and Dorian. He misses you, and needs you by his side. To remind him that he shouldn’t be so hard on himself either.”

    The battlefield around them began to fade as Rook left Dorian’s subconscious. The fallen soldiers, weapons, bandits, and even the tower, slowly vanished along with the two star-crossed lovers, returning the two to reality.

    Eve quickly returned to her body, rising to her feet, then immediately collapsing to the ground, the strain much more then she realized. A few beads dripping from her brow, she smiled up at Dorian. “I… got him…”

    Dorian proceeded to help her up and sit her on a nearby bench, “Are you alright?”

    “I’m fine. Just… tired.” She ran a hand across his cheek. “Dorian, you… you need to move on, okay? He’s forgiven you. Please… forgive yourself.”

    Dorian’s eyes visibly widened, “He? He said that to you…”

    Eve nodded. “And you need to listen to them. Please. It is over. You’ve done so much to redeem yourself. Saved so many. If he can forgive you, you can forgive yourself.”

    Dorian slowly reached into his pocket and pulled out the watch, turning it around and slowly rubbing the engraving, two tiny tear droplets forming in his eyes. “I… Just miss him… So much…”

    Eve pushed herself up, and wrapped her arms around Dorian. “I know, Dorian. And I’m sure he misses you. But… until you can see him again, you should live for the both of you. Not to mention David and Ammelia.”

    Dorian kept quiet for a second before asking, “What happened with Rook?”

    Rook answered himself, echoing in both their minds, The Anti-psionic gas that Conquest used took away most of the power I need to manifest myself and made me weak, forcing me to hide inside your mind. However, when that blast of psionic energy hit you, it supercharged me, allowing me to finally see my memories, however, it effectively forced another mind along with it’s memories to grow inside of yours, putting great strain on your mind and dreamscape. Eve helped me escape from my memories and also revealed much about my past.

    “Glad I could help.” Eve stepped back. “Rook can help with that strain. And… and maybe help with your guilt. But… can you do something for him, Dorian?”

    “What is it?” The assault asked.

    “We… we know who the other spirit in that castle is now. Rook can fill you in on the details. But… just make sure you go back there soon. They’ve been apart for so long, and a reunion is in order.”

    “I can do that, maybe I could pay a visit to my Brother’s grave while I’m there… I haven’t seen it in a very long time…” Dorian responded.

    Eve nodded, and held her hand out. “You… you’re a good man, as is Rook. And it was a pleasure to meet you. I want you to remember that you always have an ally in me. And you can expect a regular visit from me.”

    “Thank you, Eve.” Dorian said as he brought her in for a hug, “I am so glad to have you as a friend…”

    “Same here.” Eve squeezed him back. “Good luck, Dorian. With everything.”
     
  3. MarineAvenger

    MarineAvenger Operator 21O Staff Member

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    The Lives That We Lead: Part One (MarineAvenger and Special Guest ZombieSplitter53)

    Malibu, California
    2:35 P.M.; February 5th, 2019
    Home of Desmond and Elizabeth Walker


    As the car came to a stop in the short driveway, Desmond put the car in park, just a rental until the married couple went out and got their own car. The grand total of the money left to Elizabeth by her uncle, the life insurance, Desmond and Ellie’s pay for XCOM, and even a small fortune left behind from Lusett; which surprised Desmond the most. He had always assumed if Lusett had died when he was still a test subject, he would just be left to rot, not given a small fortune and sent on his way. The amount of money they had available to them made Desmond’s head spin and none more so when he looked at the new, modern design beachhouse he and Elizabeth had purchased, being just finished constructed.

    Ellie bounced excitedly, pulling Desmond by the arm as they approached the door, Desmond putting in the key and turning it, opening the door to their first home together. The inside smelled of freshly laid paint, the walls matching the carpeting in a milky white that made the whole house glow in the sunlight.

    Running to the back of the house, Elizabeth looked out as their house was directly on the beach, the waves crashing on the shore in which seemed liked just inches away. Desmond looked at the kitchen and dining room, everything fresh and never being used before. There wasn’t even any furniture yet, another thing the couple would have to do.

    Proceeding upstairs, the ex-soldier looked at the master bedroom whistling at the amount of space there was and moving on to the bathroom, which luckily didn’t look hideous and finally the upper rooms, four in total excluding the master bedroom. It sure was big, and Desmond continued walking around until he made his way downstairs and saw Elizabeth standing by the sliding glass door, holding her hands together against her chest and beginning to sob to herself.

    Desmond rushed over and put his arms around his wife, holding her comfortingly. “I can’t believe it...it is really ours…” She said in between the sobs, rubbing her eyes and laughing to herself in joy. “I really can’t believe it…”

    Desmond put a kiss on his wife’s forehead as he continued to hold her, Ellie wrapping her arms around him in turn. “I will always love you Rin. Nothing will ever change that. Me and you are a team.”

    “And a damn kickass one at that.” She stated, the couple laughing with one another and Ellie put her head against Desmond’s chest. “Sometimes I fear of closing my eyes, and when I open them again this would have all been a dream. That I would have never joined XCOM, I would have never met Alex, or you, or Penny and everyone else who gave my life new meaning. That I was never that quirky doctor who made patient’s lives hell and the other doctors even more so...I am so afraid of that…”

    “I won’t be going anywhere for now on. This was all real, and you are really my wife, and you are going to be a mother. The best that ever lived.”

    Elizabeth sobbed harder but with tears of joy rather than sadness. “Jess and Alex might have to fight for that title.”

    Desmond smiled and kissed his wife’s forehead one more time. “If they have a problem with it, they can take it up with me.”

    Nodding, Elizabeth giggled and looked around the house. “So...what should we do first?”

    There was a sound of the sliding glass door opening and when Ellie whirled around, Desmond was already running towards the ocean, Elizabeth stomping her foot and chasing after her husband. “Meanie! You know I wanted to go to the beach!”

    Running into the water, Desmond turned as Ellie jumped onto him and the two fell over into the salty water, both popping up and looking at each other all wet, laughing at one another as Desmond stood up, lifting his wife into the air and twirling her around, both of them looking into each others eyes and kissing as if it was both their first, and their last with one another.

    Malibu, California
    9:27 P.M.; July 1st, 2019
    Malibu Central Hospital


    Desmond pushed the gas of his car as fast as he was willing to go, having to race away from a client as he had learned that his wife had finally gone into labor from the hospital. Still dressed in his work attire of a simple white shirt with a black vest pulled over, paint stained jeans and heavy work boots, a box of tools rattling around in the seat next to him.

    Pulling into the parking garage, he took the keys out of his Camaro and got out, jogging into the building and asking the room of his wife. Going to the elevator, he rode painfully slow up to the floor his wife had been on, running out and going to the room with metal numbers nailed to the front.

    Pushing the door open, he walked in, pulling the drawn curtain and stopping in his tracks, watching as Ellie sat in the bed wearing a pair of blue patient cover, holding the swaddled newborn in her arms as she rocked him gently and sang a soft lullaby.

    Looking up at her husband, Ellie smile grew wide as she put a finger to her mouth and waved him over, readjusting so Desmond could see the face of his son. Dropping to a knee, Desmond smiled as he put a hand behind his wife’s neck and the other on his son’s head. “Hey little Cayden...hey, it’s daddy…”

    There was a soft coo from the baby as it rubbed its pink face with a closed fist and fidgeting around a little as he moved to be comfortable, laying his hand against his dad’s.

    Desmond’s eyes watered, smiling as he stood up and put his head against his wife’s, letting the tears come freely as he couldn’t hold back his happiness. Soon Ellie got teary herself and she held the baby close, kissing his soft head and looking up at Desmond. “Do you want to hold him?”

    Nodding his head, Desmond took the baby from Ellie’s arms, causing the baby to cry a little as it was awoken from his nap, Desmond rocking Cayden until he calmed down. Sitting at the foot of the hospital bed, he held his son, looking down at him softly. “He is so...beautiful…”

    Ellie rubbed Desmond’s back and she rubbed her eyes, laying back down as Desmond handed little Cayden back to her and grabbing a chair, the happy family sitting together as if nothing else in the world even mattered.
     
  4. MarineAvenger

    MarineAvenger Operator 21O Staff Member

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    The Lives That We Lead: Part Two

    Washington D.C.
    1:34 P.M.; October 17th, 2019
    Washington Monument


    Desmond walked beside Elizabeth, who was pushing the stroller with little Cayden in it, the family having took a vacation away from the hot weather of California. The visited whatever they could, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the White House, and at that moment, the Washington Monument.

    Ellie looked at herself childishly in the reflecting pool, brushing her hair over her ear and fixing her glasses so they did not fall off and into the water. Desmond stood by the stroller, looking around at the U.S. capitol. Hard to imagine this used to be a war zone last year. Everything repaired and happy people everywhere. It almost seems funny. Cayden dropped his pacifier and the baby began to fuss, Desmond smiling and bending over, picking up the binky and brushing the dirt off of it, giving it back to his son.

    Scratching the back of his head, Desmond rolled up the sleeves of his long sleeved shirt, looking down at the metallic, gray appendage. He knew the stares he had gotten, especially when they had gone to the beach, none of the people him and Ellie have become somewhat friends with had known about his involvement with XCOM but it was hard to keep it a secret.

    In the distance, he heard a familiar pair of female voices.

    “Well, it isn’t my fault she’s not up for traveling. With my new plane, they can come here whenever.”

    “I know. But I wanted to see everything with her. It just isn’t the same.”

    “Are you saying you’re not having fun with me?”

    “Of course I am, Alice. You know I am.”

    Desmond turned around slowly, looking at where the close by voices were coming from and he slowly smirked, shaking his head in disbelief. “No kidding…” He said, finally spotting the pair of girls, walking behind the stroller and pushing it for a bit until he was getting close to the pair. “Sunny, Alice!” He called out over the crowd, hoping the girls heard him.

    Sunny swirled around, her face lighting up as she rushed over. She wore a simple yellow sundress, her hair down and longer than before. As she reached Desmond, she was only stopped from jumping into his arms by the sight of the stroller, the child within somehow making an even bigger smile spread across her face. Alice stepped up next to Sunny, and waved at Desmond. “Hey,” she said simply.

    Desmond walked around from behind the stroller and hugged the two girls, seeing the familiar faces more refreshing than he thought. “I never imagined I would see you guys here.” Desmond looked around with a raised eyebrow. “You guys here alone?”

    They both nodded. “Ayame is busy in Canada, helping Atka with something,” Alice said.

    “And, um… Emily is busy with… something.” Her eyes darted down to the baby. “Something… Ellie could probably relate to.”

    Desmond smiled, nodding his head. “I will be sure to send Emily a quick message for congratulations. I hope she can handle being a mother. Though she seemed to raise you guys right.” Desmond smiled at Sunny and looked to Alice. “Well...one of you.” He teased.

    Alice shrugged. “Well… to be fair, Sunny kind raised me. Though I don’t plan on calling Emily grandma. She might get… testy.”

    “Definitely.” Sunny leaned down in front of the stroller. “Hi. I’m Sunny. What’s your name, little guy?”

    Cayden looked at Sunny with big red eyes, bouncing a bit in his stroller. Desmond smiled and said, “His name is Cayden. He was born just this July.”

    “He’s adorable.” Sunny held Cayden’s small hand bouncing it a little.

    “Babies sure are delightful little beings,” Alice said, as amused by the baby as she was by how happy he made Sunny. “Where is his mother?”

    There was a tap on Alice’s shoulder, Ellie coming in between the two girls. “Right here. Nice to see you guys as usual.”

    “And you.” Alice looked Elizabeth up and down. “You look delightful. I see you’ve lost your baby weight and then some.”

    Sunny chuckled. “I… think she is trying to compliment you by saying you look skinny.”

    Elizabeth giggled. “Well, thank you Alice. It was surprisingly easy. There are a couple of gyms near us and the ocean is a really good workout as well.”

    “Yeah, we got this big beach house in Malibu. It was a steal since it was just built when we bought it. Plus Carter really helped us out since...you know...no life experience prior to XCOM. Five bedrooms, three baths, it is huge.”

    “Nice.” Sunny tickled Cayden a bit. “Ours is pretty big too, though it cost quite a bit. Luckily, I get payed a decent amount, and Emily and Dallas have settled in well.”

    “A beach house sounds nice, though…” Alice tapped her chin. “I’ve never been to a beach.”

    “You guys are free to visit you know.” Ellie stated, “All of you. We have more than enough room for all of you and to be honest, we miss our old friends. So used to being able to see everyone whenever we wanted. Now people have jobs and there never seems to be a right time with the different timezones…”

    Cutting off Elizabeth’s complaining, Desmond asked, “So how is the job by the way? I hope they are treating you fairly?”

    “Oh, yes.” Sunny nodded. “They are very understanding. They never treat me like a child, and Mr. Cross is very patient. I… I haven’t had a job so enjoyable since I worked for the FBI… and XCOM, of course.”

    “Wish I could share the sentiment.” Desmond said, running the back of his neck. “I took up a job as a private contractor. You know, home renovations, stuff like that. We have the money to support ourselves for a very long time but the work keeps me busy, even if it is really competitive.”

    Alice chuckled. “Well, you could always get a nine to five desk job, though somehow, I don’t see you in a cubicle with a suit and tie.”

    Sunny pounded a fist into her palm. “Then you should show them how strong… and intimidating you can be. Get some time off. And get a raise, while you’re at it. You’re probably the hardest worker there, anyway.”

    Desmond chuckled. “I am a private contractor Sunny. I work for myself, not a firm. So, I get to set my own hours and decide the price of the job. The problem is beating competition.” Desmond looked around and smirked, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a wallet, opening it up and taking a small picture out, holding it out to Sunny. “A souvenir of sorts. It is me, Elizabeth and Cayden at the beach, so you can look at that and always remember us.”

    “Though you are going to visit us, even if I have to drag you guys across the country!” Ellie warned, taking a sip of water.

    Sunny nodded as she took the picture. “I promise, we will. And soon. Alice only recently perfected her personal aircraft. Expect us to drop in the next time I have time off of work.”

    “Which will be soon.” Alice leaned close to Desmond. “I still have to make sure she doesn’t overwork herself. Some people never learn…”

    “Well...good thing she has you then.” He said thankfully, glancing at the girl with his son. “Though I do have a favor to ask. Next time you go back to Cross Tech, could you maybe do something for us? As you can see...Cayden is a psion and we don’t really want a repeat of Brigid all over again, especially in public.”

    “Oh… chip off the old block, huh?” Sunny pinched Cayden’s cheeks lightly. “What did you need? A nice little accessory to help keep him in check?”

    Desmond stopped for a second, glaring at Sunny. “Are you calling me old? If memory serves, I am younger than you.” He commented, grinning and saying, “And yes...maybe a necklace or something that acts like an inhibitor the Ethereals use. Something discreet that won’t make him suspect he is...like his old man.”

    “You got it. Just make sure he wears it until you tell him. And be sure to tell him when you feel he is old enough.”

    “Yeah, yeah. I will teach him when he is ready but I don’t need him blowing a hole in our kitchen.” Desmond looked at his wife and they both smiled at one another, seeming to have the same thought. “You guys want to go for some lunch? It is on us.”

    Alice and Sunny both nodded. “That would be lovely,” Sunny said. “And we have plenty more to catch up on before we have to head back.”
     
  5. MarineAvenger

    MarineAvenger Operator 21O Staff Member

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    The Lives That We Lead: Part Three

    Washington D.C.
    11:01 A.M.; October 19th, 2019
    XCOM Remembrance Site


    Desmond walked down the street of the U.S. capitol, looking around at the people all around him, all going different places and doing different things. Desmond almost instinctively reached behind his shoulder for a sword that was no longer there, hidden behind a glass case on display at his home, and a hand by his waist, for the gun that was no longer strapped there. He faked having an itch to not look like a fool and he shook his head.

    He was alone for the day, Desmond and his family having spent all the rest of the seventeenth and eighteenth with Sunny and Alice before the two groups had to reluctantly part ways with somber goodbyes and promises to see one another.

    Elizabeth and Cayden were back at their hotel room, sleeping the day away together, giving time for Desmond to take care of some business. Desmond stopped and looked up at the sign around the gated cemetery that had been made to commemorate all the lives lost during XCOM’s battle with the alien invaders. He had never visited it before, not having a lot of courage to go with his wife and son with the opportunity presenting itself, he took it.

    He took a step forward but stopped, making a reluctant face and wishing he could have just turned around and went back to the hotel room. A man walked next to Desmond, supporting himself with a cane and looking up at the sign that marked the cemetery as what it was.

    Desmond looked at the man, older than anyone he had ever seen before. On the top of his head signaled him has a veteran. The old man looked up slowly at Desmond and nodded his head, waving his hand forward. “It helps…” He said in a withered voice, giving the younger man a knowing smile before the old man raised his hand slowly in a salute.

    Hesitating, Desmond did the same and looked into the remembrance site, walking forward and not looking back at the kind old man. He looked at the graves, marked with names of people he had not known personally but names he had heard of. Every single one leaving a pang of guilt in Desmond. The ex-soldier stopped at one as his gaze came over it, Desmond walking up to it and placing a hand on it. “Uh...hey Pastel.” He said awkwardly, knowing he probably looked stupid but he felt surprisingly light. “I...never got the chance to know you the way I should have. You were with me on the first mission in Moscow...you were with me a lot and yet...we never hung out. I’m sorry. You almost made it buddy…” Nodding, Desmond moved on, looking for a specific grave.

    When Desmond finally reached the grave, a flood of emotion washed over him at a million hours a minute. Desmond collapsed at the foot of the gravestone, knowing that no actual bodies were buried at the remembrance sites. Shaking his head, Desmond composed himself.

    “Hey Ryan...I…” Trying to find the words, Desmond just said what came into his head. “Before you died, I never got to...properly thank you...for...everything you had done for me. You were always there, giving me that push when I needed it...never...giving up on me. I...thank you...Ryan...” Desmond completely lost it, falling over in front of the gravestone and sobbing loudly.

    After what felt like forever, Desmond finally composed himself, wiping his eyes and the grass off of his hands. Leaves swirled around in the autumn wind and Desmond finally closed his eyes, nodding. “I wish you could have been there for the wedding. You would have loved it.”

    Getting up, Desmond turned and took one final look at the grave, “And Ayame says hello.” He stated finally, walking out of the remembrance site and not looking back until he reached the hotel room.
     
  6. MarineAvenger

    MarineAvenger Operator 21O Staff Member

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    The Lives That We Lead: Grand Finale Part 1

    Malibu, California
    12:29 P.M.; April 24th, 2023
    Home of Desmond and Elizabeth Walker


    Elizabeth ran about the house, picking up any toy she could find and hiding them where she could, trying to neaten up the house for her arriving guest. Cayden sat on the couch, the three year old playing with a stuffed dog and keeping himself quiet as Desmond prepared lunch in the kitchen, a one year old Leo sitting in a high chair, trying to suck on a binky but throwing it back down on the tray and eating some baby snacks instead, giggling to himself.

    “When is Alexia supposed to be getting here?” Desmond asked, putting some dirtied dishes in the sink and wiping his wet hands.

    “I don’t know, soon? Her taxi should be here at anytime but you know...traffic and stuff.” Ellie said, looking at the house unsatisfied. “Is it clean enough?”

    “It is fine hun, just relax.” Desmond told his wife, trying to deal with a rebellious Leo.

    “I know...but it has been a while…what if-” Elizabeth pouted

    “It is fine! Just sit down...relax.” He told her, smiling in victory as he got Leo to calm down.

    When are you going to let them know you’re here?

    I don’t know. I… I’m enjoying the display.

    Oh, be nice. She misses you.

    Just five more…


    Alexia ducked back as a doll Sasha was holded started playing loud music, catching Desmond and Ellie’s attention. “Damn…” Alexia knocked on the door, giving the four year old a dirty look and getting a happy giggle in response.

    Elizabeth ran to the door and swung it open, looking at Alex and squealing a bit, wrapping her arms around her best friend. “You’re here!”

    “Yep! Just got here! Hope you weren’t worried or anything!”

    Mikhail pulled at Alexia’s leg. “Mommy, I’m tired of waiting outside. Can we go in now?”

    Ellie raised an eyebrow at the little boy and looked accusingly at Alex. Alexia laughed nervously. “Heh… kids say the… most incriminating… well, come on, that’s go inside!”

    Rolling her eyes, Elizabeth led the three inside and closed the door behind them. Ellie asked, “Sucks that Modya was stuck at his job. I would have really liked to see the big guy again.”

    “He ain’t so big.” Desmond mocked from the kitchen, walking up to Alex and giving her a quick hug. “Always nice to see you again Alex...and Jess, if you haven’t locked her deep in your subconscious or something like that.”

    “Nah, she’s here.” Alexia squeezed him extra hard for the two of them. “And don’t worry about Modya. His boss owes Jessie a favor, so he’ll be out here by tomorrow for a week off.” Alexia smiled at the two boys. “Ow… they are… so… cute!”

    Cayden squeezed Alexia’s legs as hard as he could, looking up at her with big eyes. “H-Hi Aunty ‘Lexia…”

    Alexia’s eyes lit up, and she lifted Cayden up. “You are so sweet! I love you already! Wanna come home with me?”

    Cayden’s face lit up and he looked at his mother who quickly said, “Nooooooo...if you take him, I have to...take one of yours!” She picked up Mikhail and hugged him.

    “M… mommy! Please don’t trade me!” Mikhail cried out. “Aunt Ellie hugs too hard!”

    Sasha walked over to Desmond. “I can stay with uncle Dessy?”

    “Seems Uncle Dessy beats both of you…” Getting a cold glare from both Ellie and Alexia, Desmond quickly took Leo back into the kitchen, “Lunch is almost ready by now…”

    Cayden watched as his father retreated and he giggled, looking at Alexia with wide eyes. “Oh! I-I got a...uh...mommy, what is it called?”

    Elizabeth giggled herself, putting down Mikhail. “Cayden finally got his inhibitor from Sunny and Alice. And it is called a necklace, sweetie.”

    Cayden reached in his shirt and pulled out the piece of jewelry, the little pendant on the end the symbol of the past disbanded XCOM. “Isn’t it...c..ca...cool?” Elizabeth nodded and smiled.

    “Its lovely, dear,” Alexia said. “And considering what happened when my two were born…” She gave Elizabeth a worried look. “So… has Leo shown any… powers?”
     
  7. MarineAvenger

    MarineAvenger Operator 21O Staff Member

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    The Lives That We Lead: Grand Finale Part 2

    Ellie shook her head, looking a little grateful. “Thankfully, no. Cayden seems to be the only one.”

    “What are you...two…” Cayden nodded to himself, getting the number right, “talking about? What…powers? Like a superhero!”

    Ellie shook her head, giving a pleasant smile. “When you are older sweetie.”

    Cayden crossed his arms. “Mommy and daddy always say that.”

    “Yours too?” Mikhail crossed his arms too. “They never tell us anything.”

    Sasha rushed past them into the kitchen, saying, “You ask too many questions…”

    Desmond smiled at the young Sasha as she rushed in, taking a couple of bowls and setting them down on the table with a couple of plates. In the bowls for the kids were some mac and cheese and on the plates a couple of ham sandwiches. For the adults, Desmond had made some clubs. “Took a while, but I finally got cooking down.” He said triumphantly.

    Alexia smiled and set next to Ellie. “Is… that true?” She whispered. “Am I safe eating this?”

    Elizabeth nodded, “He is not you Alex, I actually like his food.” Sticking her tongue out, Ellie took a bite of her sandwich with delight.

    “Besides, even I can’t screw up a sandwich.” Desmond said, taking a seat at the large table.

    “Hey… it takes a special talent to mess up a sandwich,” Alexia said, biting her own sandwich and smiling in satisfaction.

    “Yeah, mommy Alex is really good at making bad sandwiches!” Sasha said matter-of -factly.

    “Thank you, Sasha,” Alex said sarcastically.

    “You’re welcome, mommy.”

    “I also do barbeque, something I am sure you miss in Russia.” Desmond said, “But that is tomorrow’s dinner.”

    Elizabeth put down her lunch and scooted over to Alex, giving her friend a big hug. “It is so nice having you over. We so rarely get to do this.”

    Alexia squeezed her back. “Yeah… but it makes it all the more special.” She poked her friend lightly in the tummy. “So… you guys working on number three yet?”

    Ellie shook her head. “No, we are waiting for Cayden to at least start school and for Leo to grow a little. But... number three is definitely coming in the near future...I really hope it is a girl this time...I need a girl of my own.”

    “I’m sure you will this time.” Alexia turned towards the kids and poked Sasha in the nose. “Having a little girl… a little you… is so much fun.”

    Sasha giggled. “Thank you, mommy Alex.”

    Desmond walked into the kitchen, bringing out a bottle of wine and two glasses for Ellie and Alex. “You guys enjoy yourselves. I can handle the kids.” He gave the kids an evil look and chuckled.

    Mikhail slouched down, and Sasha nudged him. “Uncle Dessy can play Superman!” Mikail nodded, smiling.

    Alexia gladly took the wine, pouring both of her and Ellie a drink. “Haven’t had wine in a while. Modya and I are always sure to hold back, though we have our nights.”

    “Just keep it moderate you two. Ellie is fond of the stories from your early escapades.”

    Desmond went with the kids as they finished their lunches upstairs to give the two privacy, Ellie taking the glass of wine and twirling it around a bit. “To the best sister in the world!”

    “You know it!” Alexia tapped her glass against Ellie’s, and took a big gulp. “You know… I’ve made a lot of friends in Russia. Took a while… you know, because of the whole American thing. But… none of them are you. And I’m not just saying that to flatter you. No one compares to my best friend.”

    “Same here in a way. Everyone in Malibu is either young and dumb or just plain dumb in general. There are a few good people but none who can top the old days.” Pouring both girls another glass, Ellie sighed. “I’m not sure things will ever be the same without the old crew all together. The peace is nice though...gives us time to unwind. You just don’t look on life the same before the invasion as now.”

    “Yeah. Things sure have changed. What with the technology, the alien visas starting up, new people to deal with. But… it is for the best that things change, as long as we remember what… and who is important. We might not have it like we did before, but we’ve gained so much, right?”

    “Yeah...we got the kids, and our men, and our homes. Definitely an improvement from before at least. I just hope as our kids grow older, they have the same luck we did.”

    “Or more.” Alexia smiled at Elizabeth. “Do you remember how we first met?”

    “Oh lord...uh…” Ellie tried to remember back to her first days at XCOM and she finally nodded.

    “I don’t know what was funnier, how Jessica reacted when she first woke up next to you, or how awkward it was when you first talked.” Alexia laughed loudly, shaking her head.

    “Hush. I was a paragon of proper handling of myself. For you to even insinuate!” Elizabeth cracked up, shaking her head. “I can’t even keep it together giving the speech.”

    Alexia laughed along with her, sighing as she wiped away a tear. She looked down at her wine glass. “Growing up is strange. But… I’m happy right now. And I owe so much of that to the people I call friends. I… I’m glad that we met, Ellie. It was the first in the line of… happiness for me. I got two kids out of it, a loving husband, and the best friend in the world.”

    “And I owe everything I have to you. My relationship, my life. Seriously, you changed me for the better. Coming into XCOM I had lost the only person in the world who mattered to me, and you came in bringing light back to my life. It was because of your abrasiveness I managed to keep Desmond, and even Jess’s advice helped me from time to time.” Elizabeth got close to Alex’s head and stated, “You hear that you loveable braniac!”

    Love you too, Ellie!

    Alexia squeezed her eyes shut in pain. “She can’t hear you, genius.” She smiled at Ellie. “She said she loves you. And so do I.” Alexia grinned. She poured another glass, and said, “Come on. Let’s get plastered until Desmond has to explain to the kids where our pants went!”

    Ellie raised her own glass, saying, “Hurray for irresponsible wives and the husbands they can use to cover for them!” Downing her glass, Elizabeth looked at Alex and all she saw was the same awkward, green haired girl she had grown so attached to just a couple years prior.
     
  8. Taxor_the_First

    Taxor_the_First Well-Known Member

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    The Obligatory Balcony Scene

    January 25th, 7:23 PM
    Meriton Hotel, Sydney, Australia



    Penny had seated herself at the piano as soon as she’d discovered it, beginning a slow, almost jazzy tune while her father prepared refreshments in the small kitchen of the apartment. She’d obviously kept playing even after she’d left all those years ago – there was a practiced quality to it, and an expressiveness that comes with raw talent. Maybe it wasn’t concert material, but it was damn close. She gave him a smile when he came out, genuine. How far we’ve come.

    “What’ve you got there?” she asked, still playing.

    “Just beer,” Isaac answered, seating himself on a large chair on the balcony next to the piano. “Nothing too fancy.”

    “And yet you managed to secure the equivalent of a penthouse suite.”

    “I told you, a friend owns this. They were gracious enough to let me use it while they’re out of the country.” He took a swig from the bottle. Cold beer. Sunset view from the top of the city. Music. Family. No longer any risk of being nuked by an alien with a grudge. This was more like it.

    Penny stopped playing and joined him, laying her arms on the armrests. “So this is our father-daughter bonding session, is it?” she asked, smiling. “Save the world, watch the sun set, drink the beverage of our people?”

    “Would you prefer anything else?”

    She considered. “Not really.”

    “Exactly.”

    They gazed into the red and orange swirls of the sky, the streets below, the water running through the Harbour, the cars crossing the bridge. They gazed at everything that could so easily have been destroyed, or stolen. And they both appreciated that it was all still there.

    “I’m proud of you, you know,” Isaac said after a while. “If it weren’t for you, X-COM wouldn’t have had the firepower they did.”

    Penny waved a hand dismissively. “Someone else would have cracked it eventually.”

    “But they didn’t,” her father countered. “You did. Just because someone else might have been able to do the same thing in your place doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be complimented for doing a service.”

    “Oh, stop it, it’ll go to my head.”

    Isaac merely laughed and took another swig. “Mind you, we seem to be the only people within that project who came out without a significant other.”

    “Who needs dating sites when you have X-COM?”

    “I guess it isn’t too bad. We lost a sizable portion of our population during this war, after all. They’re just trying to replace what was lost.”

    Penny raised an eyebrow. “Little graphic there, dad.”

    “Actually, that reminds me, there was something I wanted to ask you.”

    “Talking about sex reminded you of something you wanted to ask me. Oh boy.”

    Her father frowned. “This is a serious question. Are you still…” he hesitated, trying to find the right words. “… intact?”

    “What.”

    He rubbed the back of his neck. “I mean, I don’t know exactly what those guys did to you when they nabbed you. I just want to know-“

    “You are not asking me what I think you’re asking me.”

    Isaac coughed. “Yeah. I am.”

    Penny’s cheeks flushed. “Why the hell would you-“

    “I told you, I don’t know what they did to you!”

    “Fine! I am!”

    Isaac raised his hands. “Alright, alright, that’s all I needed to know.” He immediately frowned. “Wait, you are? As in present tense?”

    Penny turned away and sipped from her bottle. She neglected to answer.

    “Penny, you’re older than I was when you were born! And you’ve never-“

    “Can we stop talking about this? Please?”

    “Alright, alright.” He shook his head. “Not exactly a wild child, are you?”

    “Dad!”

    “I mean, I wouldn’t exactly blame you if you were. I did kinda offload you after...”

    His daughter exhaled slightly, still trying to calm down. “I told you it was fine.”

    “Yeah, but like that version of me that was running around in your head said, you were hardly old enough to make the decision yourself.” Isaac shook his head. “I should never have left you by yourself. I should have stayed.”

    Penny snorted. “Alright then, Thane.”

    “What?”

    “Nothing.”

    They lapsed into silence again. Somewhere below, a horn honked. Life continued as if nothing had ever happened. Which meant the both of them would have to do that too.

    “What are you going to do now?” he asked. “Will you accept Elene’s offer?”

    His daughter was quiet for a moment. “Probably,” she said. “No bloody idea what else I’d do. And it’s not like I’d be alone or anything. Charles was saying he got an offer too, so…”

    “Good, that’s good.”

    “But…” She turned to him. “I know you’re still hunting mother’s killer. And I want to help. In any way I can.”

    Isaac smiled at her. “I appreciate the offer. But for now, at least, we deserve a break from that kind of stuff.”

    “Then you make sure you tell me if there’s something I can do for you, alright?”

    “Alright.”

    Penny shook her head. “Where’s a fat lady when you need one?”

    Her father grinned and rose, moving back into the apartment. “You know,” he yelled out, “we could take care of half that saying…”

    “Yeah?” Penny asked, turning around and seeing her father opening a long case. She watched as he pulled out a guitar, and indicated her to sit at the piano. A smile broke onto her face and she complied, placing her hands on the keys and waiting.

    Isaac’s hand hovered above the strings. “Same song as always?”

    Penny didn’t answer, and instead began playing the opening chords to a song some would have recognized as belonging to an old children’s show. Her father merely smiled and joined in, strumming the guitar in harmony with the notes of the piano, the two of them going through old motions they hadn’t for over a decade.

    Hey, this was really fun
    We hope you liked it too
    Seems like we've just begun
    When suddenly we're through
    Goodbye, goodbye, good friends, goodbye
    ‘Cause now it's time to go
    But, hey, I say, well, that's OK
    ‘Cause we'll see you very soon, I know



    The sounds of their voices echoed out over the city, heard only by those on the few floors below them. The last tints of orange disappeared from the sky, and the warm Australian night set in, accompanied by the honks of cars and the chirping of pedestrian crossings.
     
  9. Taxor_the_First

    Taxor_the_First Well-Known Member

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    Hereafter

    X-COM Remembrance Site, Washington D.C.
    11:32 AM, October 19th, 2019



    His first thought was that he shouldn’t be here. This was a place for war veterans. He wasn’t a veteran. He’d just helped at the end.

    Isaac had to force himself to remember why he was here to keep his nerve. Old friends – some better friends than others, but friends nonetheless – were commemorated here. He owed them to show up here, now that there was a proper memorial.

    Shaking his head and pushing past an elderly man with an apology, he entered, hands shoved into the pockets of his trenchcoat so as to escape the autumn cool. Inside the cemetery now, his pace slowed to a meander rather than a stride, fully aware of the sanctity of the place he was in. He brushed past another man, then snapped his head back around to stare at the man’s back. Was that Walker? After a moment, he shrugged inwardly and moved on, searching for a particular group of names.

    He found them, all clustered together. Even the ones who had perished in the base defense rather than the Temple Ship assault were there: Ice, Kandar, Gazer, Pillar. Everyone but Samantha, Noxious and Raider. Here lay their names, ghosts in and of themselves of the people who’d once held them. An intangible memory. Ethereal.

    Drawing his eyes along the gravestones, he came to another he recognized. Alicia. The soldier who helped me undo the damage in my daughter’s mind. The Judge bowed his head, pained by the knowledge that she had perished. There were too many, he decided. And this is just the names of the soldiers. What of the civilians involved? They’re represented by a general plaque. A group of the dead. A number, a statistic. He glanced up at the sky, wondering how the Ethereals were doing. What they were doing. Whether allowing them to go free was really the best course of action.

    Further along, he came to the one he had been seeking. In spite of himself, Isaac smiled. They’d seen fit to give Samuel one. “I wanted to give you a ceremony. I guess this is the best we’ll do, comrade,” he muttered. “A more loyal friend I could never have found.” Taking a shotgun shell from his pocket, he laid it on the ground in front of the gravestone. “Do svidaniya.” And he walked away.

    Glancing casually around and noting the various names on the stones, one caught his attention. He stopped, turned. Looked at it. For a moment, had trouble making sense of it. Was there something he didn’t know? Then memory took back over and reminded him that he’d asked for it.


    Isaac Anderson


    It was weird, seeing one’s own name on a gravestone. Caused one to re-evaluate one’s position, whether there was something they’d missed. Pessimists might consider it prophetic. To Isaac, it was another necessary measure. Disappear for a while. ‘Die’, again. Maybe retire.

    He shook his head, and continued walking out the gate. No, this wasn’t over.

    Not yet.
     
  10. BMPixy

    BMPixy Well-Known Member

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    “Epilogue: Arcadia”
    Noriaki’s Karaoke Bar & Grill, Liverpool
    England, United Kingdom
    10:31 PM; January 27, 2019
    Albert Foulke

    Now everyone can see~!” I belted out into the microphone, leaning my head back in the thrill of the moment.

    Secret secret, I’ve got a secret,” the karaoke machine followed, providing the back-up vocals. Can’t believe they talked me into singing this, but whatever, almost finished anyways.

    My true identity!” I roared, dropping my head forth for a beat before lifting it up again to finish off the song. “I’m Kilroy! Kilroy! Kilroy! Kil-roy.” I let the last few notes play out, before returning to a normal posture and setting down the mic, a handful of people applauding my relatively mediocre performance of Mr. Roboto. Taking that as my cue, I gave a short bow, and stepped off of the stage, rolling my shoulders as I made my way back to our table.

    Once I got back to our booth I was greeted by another round of applause from the trio of people seated there. I gave a short, mocking bow before sliding into the seat next to my wife, grabbing a brief sip of my drink.

    “Pretty good for your first time back, I’d say,” Jane said, reaching over and grabbing a few chips from the basket in the center of the table.

    “Hey, it’s not that difficult of a song,” I replied with a slight shrug. “Good to be back in the hotseat, though.”

    “Almost like you never left it,” Linda Ensslin added. Glancing over at her husband, she asked, “When do you think they’re going to call you up?”

    “Soon,” Leon answered. “I can sense it in my bones.”

    “Oh, our German friend has decided to steal the spotlight, eh?” I leaned back in my seat, wrapping an arm around my wife. “What’ll you be singing?”

    “A little something by Dschinghis K-” he began to reply, but was cut off by a booming voice from the center stage.

    “Good evening ladies and gentlemen!” the proprietor of the restaurant boomed, his cherry-colored hair bouncing around as he greeted the patrons of his restaurant. “If I could have Leon Ensslin come to the stage? Hope your German’s good, because ahead of you lies Moskau, by Dschinghis Khan!”

    “That is my cue,” Leon said, sliding out of his seat and making his way to the stage. Moskau, huh? Never knew he could sing that, hope he has the dance to match up with it. With that Leon’s arrival, the lights around the stage dimmed slightly, and a single light shone down on him as the music began to play, the steady beat drawing a couple of cheers from the crowd.

    His cue arriving, Leon began to sing. “Moskau~,” he began, his voice clear over the microphone. “Fremd und geheimnisvoll.” Huh, I gotta admit, his singing German is surprisingly superb. I took another sip as he launched into the rest of the song, turning briefly to face my wife, noting her odd expression.

    “Everything alright?” I asked, my voice barely above a whisper.

    “Yeah,” Jane replied, shaking her head briefly. “Your arm’s just a bit cold.” I grimaced as I glanced over at the prosthetic, quickly retracting the steel grey limb. Probably should have gotten the synth-ski- No Al, you need to remember the price this war exacted. There’ll be plenty of others who will try to forget the past, you can’t be one of them.

    “Sorry,” I offered meekly, dismissing my thoughts and glancing back over at- holy hell, Leon can do the Hopak!? Sure enough, there he was, microphone in one hand, the other on the floor, and his legs kicking out and back as he continued his routine. Jeez, and here I thought he hated Russians with enough passion to burn that frozen country.

    “Huh, so that’s what he’s been practicing out in the garage,” Linda observed, obviously in as much shock as the rest of us here.

    “That’s Leon for you, practicing for a spontaneous karaoke night,” Jane replied. “When does he even find the time to sleep?”

    “He takes naps between blinks.”

    That brought a small chuckle out of the three of us as Leon finished the song with a mighty, “Hey!” We were the first to lead off in applause, quite a few of the other patrons joining in with the clapping. A deep bow followed from the German, quickly exiting the stage as soon as the applause began to die down.

    “Well, look who’s suddenly the dancing queen,” I said as Leon took his seat at the table once more, the owner of the bar announcing the next person in the background. “You’re really tempting me to make this a competition.”

    “As entertaining as that would be,” he replied, the first few bars of either Under Pressure or Ice Ice Baby beginning to play in the background, “this was merely a one-time thing. After all, we’re both on the descending side of the hill, best not hurt ourselves.”

    “Yeah, I guess.” I shrugged noncommittally, running a brief hand through the growing patches of grey on my hair. Probably closer to over the hill in my case after what Desperatio did, I silently mused. Fifteen years I’ll never get back, though it might be mitigated a bit if those Exalts come through on their research. Shaking my head briefly, I grabbed some chips from the community basket, sliding them through some ketchup before scarfing them down. Happy thoughts Al, you’re at a karaoke bar with your lovely wife and two of your best friends, don’t need to worry about what you’ve lost.

    Many minutes passed between us as idle banter flowed freely, each of us working through the long catch-up process that eleven months can bring. Apparently Leon had saved numerous photos of Elicia’s many achievements over my absence, both great and small, which I learned quickly when I mentioned how her progress was coming. Two more aspiring musicians came and went following the Vanilla Ice fan, whom I was fairly disappointed in for not going with the source of the samples.

    “And for our next singer,” the owner bellowed out once more, “we bring you, singing Get Back by The Beatles, Albert! Foulke!” Caught off guard by the proclamation, I turned to face my three companions, who all looked at each other conspiratorially.

    “We, uh, signed you up for another song while you were singing Mr. Roboto,” Jane explained.

    “Best hurry, the stage awaits,” Leon said, waving a hand as if to shoo me off. Ah, these people. As much as I love ‘em, sometimes I want to strangle them. Shaking my head, I slid out of my seat, and made a slight jog towards the stage, grabbing the offered microphone on the way up.

    All was silent for a moment, before that familiar guitar line kicked in. Two seconds passed before the lyrics popped up on screen, and I was almost immediately upon them.

    Jojo was a man who thought he was a loner, but he knew it couldn’t last,” I sung, lifting a hand out to the audience. I’ll definitely have to get Jane back for this. I wonder if they have any Men Without Hats, that’ll be quite the surprise for her. “Jojo left his home in Tucson, Arizona for some California grass.
     
  11. BMPixy

    BMPixy Well-Known Member

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    "Epilogue: Arcadia (Part 2)"
    Liverpool Women’s Hospital, Liverpool
    England, United Kingdom
    9:56 AM; November 5th, 2019

    Shit shit shit shit shit! I’ve seen literally decades of combat, fought off monstrosities from the depths of space, I even shot the closest thing to a god I’ve ever seen, why is this panicking me so much!? I swear, with my pacing, I’m gonna end up digging a hole in this floor- why am I so nervous!? I’m not even the one in soul-wrenching pain as a meat worm is shoved out from between my thighs!

    “Albert, please, calm down!” Leon barked, halting me in my tracks.

    I shook my head in denial, replying, “Easy for you to say, you’re not the one who’s having a kid! I haven’t even had any coffee, and this is how jittery I am!” To demonstrate, I held up my right arm, the normally stable hand vibrating back and forth.

    “This is why my wife is in there and not you, Al,” the German replied, gently bouncing his daughter on his knee to keep her distracted from my stressing. “Just relax, Herr Volk, everything will turn out fine. Your wife is strong, and any child will likely be the same. There is nothing to worry for.”

    Shaking my head for what felt like the umpteenth time today, I decided to act on some of that advice and topk a seat in one of the uncomfortably small plastic chairs that scattered the lobby. With a sigh, I closed my eyes, trying to relax. Deep breathing Al, in, out. Activate that parasympathetic nervous system, kill the adrenaline flow, just… calm down.

    But what if something goes wrong? What if the kid has like three legs, or twelve eyes, or only half a brain? Vivid images of each possibility flashed before my eyes, and I hastily tried to dismiss them. What if the kid doesn’t make it, or Jane, or even both of them! Oh god, why does my brain torment me so!?

    I opened my eyes, hoping that the reminder of the reality outside would help drive off the visions that struck at me, but I was greeted to a much different sight than I had expected. The second hand on the clock ticked ever so slowly, people walked as if they were moving through molass- goddammit, my tachypsychia kicked in. Really should figure out a way to control when this activates, even with it being as useful as it is.

    Well, at least this gives me an excuse to really focus on calming down. In through the nose; hold for one, two, three; out through the mouth. Fill the lungs with air, until they can hold no more, then push slightly further before exhaling. And with a last reassuring sigh, time began to flow once more at its normal pace.

    “Feeling better?” Leon asked, noting my calmed expression.

    “For the mome-” I began to reply, but a shout from the reception desk interrupted me.

    “Albert Foulke! Would you please come here?” the receptionist called out, and without a word I was already out of my seat and halfway to the desk before I even realized I was moving.

    “That’s me,” I said, finishing my approach. “What is it?”

    “Word has been sent down from your wife’s room,” he said, giving a small smile and nudging his head towards the door. “Might want to go see her.” Panic seized my mind, and my feet instinctively began to move. Oh god, what’s happened!? Is everything alr-

    “And sir!” the receptionist added as I began to pick up my jog, prompting me to skid to a halt and turn back to him. “Congratulations.”

    The last word hit me like an uppercut to the gut from that one snobby Italian bloke - The Gyrating Giorno Giovanni was it? - nearly driving the wind from my diaphragm. Even so, I could feel a smile grow over my face, starting from a mere hint and turning into a full fledged grin as I turned and legged it towards my wife’s room, nearly bowling an orderly over in my mad dash. I could hear Leon shout from behind me something I couldn’t quite catch, but I paid it no mind. After all, I’m a father!

    A dim part in the back of my mind also noted that I finally had a reason to remember the Fifth of November, but I quickly hushed it as I began my dash up the stairs, ignoring the elevators entirely. After ascending a few flights, dashing down a couple of corridors, and adding additional appeal with alliteration, I finally slid to a stop before the door to my wife’s room, quickly catching my breath and straightening up my appearance. With that out of the way, I pushed open the door, and was greeted with probably the most beautiful sight of my life so far. Jane Foulke, bearing an infant boy in her arms, the child looking as healthy as can be. Our son, Frederick Ricardo Foulke, laid there, gently swaddled and staring up at his mother with otherworldly awe.

    Huh, I wonder why the floor’s rushing up towards m-
     
  12. ZombieSplitter53

    ZombieSplitter53 Game Master Staff Member

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    DarkGemini24601 and ZombieSplitter53: “The Guardian Spirit of the North, Part 1”

    Nunavut, Canada
    10:00 A.M., January 30th, 2019
    Inuit Village (Being rebuilt)


    A frozen wind blew across the tundra of one of the northernmost corners of the world, sending a sprinkling of dusty snow through the air. With the sun practically gone in the depth of winter, there was no light, save for faint ones coming from a small Inuit village and a landed aircraft nearby. Looking out over it all was a woman in a parka, about twenty-three years of age. A young man not far off her age approached her from the village.

    “How’s it coming, Kataktaq?” Atka asked her old friend, stepping down from the ramp of the XCOM dropship.

    “As well as can be expected, I guess…” Kataktaq sighed. “We lost a lot of our men in that attack… seems like so long ago. But thanks to your father getting everyone he could out, we can rebuild.”

    “I’ll do whatever I can to help,” Atka said resolutely. “You… sure you don’t just want to wait in Toronto? This might take awhile,” she added to the person behind her.

    Jake shrugged. “I’m… used to a change in location by now. You know… America, Japan, um… a-alien abductor, Siberia, space, and now here. Besides, what kind of man would I be if you accepted me in my life and I said, ‘Cool. Now… go work on that rebuilding thing while I sit back.’?”

    Atka chuckled lightly. “Alright, fair enough. You have the plan, mother?”

    The Interface stepped out as well, gazing over the village with a hint of sadness at the devastation the invaders had wrought on it. “I do,” Yaralria answered, consulting the map she had constructed in her head.

    “Should be a little easier with that new ability of yours, hm?” Ipiktok suggested to his daughter with a knowing smile, suppressing his own sadness at the scene before them.

    Atka held up her hand for a moment, the telltale mist of her conjured ice started to form around it. “Right. Instant igloo maker.”

    The older Inuit man rubbed his gloved hands together. “I prefer it the old fashioned way, even if yours is faster.”

    Jake smiled. “Gives it more substance. Though Atka’s getting pretty good at being concise and efficient.” He looked around. “I, uh… I’ll help anyway I can. I’m not going to pretend to know a whole lot about your people or the ways your villages are constructed, but I’m a fast study.”

    “Well, we appreciate any help we can get.” Nouja sat down on the ramp. “I’m just going to watch…”

    “Suit yourself.” Atka stepped over to one of the damaged structures, getting to work with ice wrapping over the hole in the igloo. With all the snow, she didn’t even need to conjure it.

    Jake stepped near her, moving some fallen and abandoned supplies out of the way, taking a moment to examine some plasma burns across it. “It… it’s strange. I’m sure, at the time, it was all logic for them. Target a group away from others, ones that wouldn’t draw too much attention and would provide healthy test subjects. I… I wonder if it even crossed their mind that they were ripping an entire community apart. Somehow, if they didn’t understand that… it makes it worse.”

    “Still, it’s not like we could have just done the same thing to them.” Atka finished moving her hand over the gap. One down, a few dozen to go. “It’s almost always the fault of the leaders, and we dealt with them.” The former scout shook her head. “Most of them, at least. Though I doubt we’ll be seeing those three Overseers anytime soon.”

    Jake wondered for a moment. “It… it makes me wonder where they’ll go, actually. I mean… I doubt they’ll come back here, but what if they lash out? And… what if the Ethereals struggle to get the rest of their army under control?” He sighed, and continued working. “Not our problem anymore, I guess. We have our own planet and people to worry about.”

    “And that’s what the XSDF is for. By the time the Ethereals have recovered enough to even consider hostile action, I’m sure we’ll be ready.” Atka smiled wistfully. “I might return to the military at some point, but probably not anytime soon. Too much to rebuild, too much I’d rather do right now. I have no idea what I’ll do for a job, though.”

    “I’m sure you’ll figure it out. With those abilities of yours? Your options are practically limitless.” Jake grinned towards her as he hefted a heavy pile, put it back down, and lifted the top half alone. “From psychic detective to entertainer. Just… I know it isn’t my place, but I think you need a break from any armies. And I’m sure your family would say the same.”

    Atka held her chin for a moment. “I do like the idea of detective work… though I doubt I’m going to have a trusty H.S.P.B. It’ll be weird going back to older weapon models.” Walking over to the next structure, she sighed at the collapsed building. “So much for my family’s house.” The former Colonel pulled out a blood pack she had filled on the flight, opening it and releasing the red fluid. “Xifeng.”

    The grinning manifestation of Atka’s psychic energy formed from the catalyst, and reached down, pulling frozen blocks away from the foundation. Beneath the crumbled ice, a small tunnel downward was only partially blocked, and quickly cleared. As Xifeng hovered back, crossing her arms again, Atka stepped over, brushing aside some snow. The Inuit woman pulled out a few bone carvings that her mother and sister had made. “Thankfully these are still intact.”

    “It’s the small things that really matter in the end.” Jake glanced over her shoulders, smiling lightly. “The house… kinda sucks, but as long as the sentiment makes it. I heard that they’re searching the ruins of the old base for anything they can find, but the few things we were able to get out are what matters. Though… I wouldn’t mind my little mask collection having survived.” He glanced to the side, notting the reflection and laughing nervously. “That… takes some getting used to.”

    Atka nodded. “Was a bit weird to be looking at part of myself and my brief ‘sister’ that I dueled to the death. But… in a way, it’s as if part of her survived.” Stretching her right hand out, the Reflection hovered behind her, becoming less visible and fading into the Inuit woman’s form. “As for your mask collection… last I heard from Aya, it sounded like your room might not be a complete crater.”

    Jake nodded. “Probably due to it being in the refugee area. I’d like to think, if we didn’t make it out, people could have at least evacuated to that section. Maybe enough would have survived to make a difference. Not that it matters any more.”

    The former Colonel paled for a moment. “I… think they did… I mean…” she said slowly, a bit evasively.

    Jake raised an eyebrow. “Everything alright?”

    Atka sighed. “Well, it was supposed to be confidential, but… what you’re talking about did happen. Jessica… saw a messenger from a different future where we didn’t make it out, and that’s the only reason we had advance warning that the battleships were on their way. And the night that it happened… in my dreams I… saw myself die to make it happen.”

    Jake paled. “Oh… man, that… I can’t even imagine seeing my own… I hope you at least went down with a fight.”

    Atka laughed grimly. “That smile on Xifeng’s face? It’s the one… I had in that future when I took down the majority of the enemy in the room. I guess… part of that other ‘me’ endured as well, as strange as it sounds.”

    Jake tapped his foot, the look on his face saying he was struggling to wrap his head around it. “Well… maybe a part of it did. I mean, keeping in mind concepts of time travel and paradoxes, if that timeline was completely gone, then no message could have been sent back. In order to… to deal with the possible paradox, some part of the present would need to have a kind of… temporal immunity, existing just out of phase… your memory, and Jessica’s memory could… if not Jessica in her entirety…” Jake held his head. “Damnit… temporal mechanics are confusing…”

    “Probably best not to think too hard about it… though I’m sure you could practically incapacitate the Exalts by posing that question,” Atka replied, starting to walk towards the next igloo. “Regardless, all the sacrifices they… or we… made paid off. And I’m grateful for that.”
     
  13. ZombieSplitter53

    ZombieSplitter53 Game Master Staff Member

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    10:00 P.M., January 30th, 2019

    The initial work was nearly finished by nightfall, though relocating those that wished to return to the village would take time, as would gathering enough supplies to last the winter. Ipiktok and his family did begin to say their farewells around a campfire, though, knowing that with Yaralria’s augmentation and Nouja’s psionics returning to a simple life simply wasn’t possible anymore.

    Atka joined them for awhile, promising the members of her tribe that she would visit more often than before, but still knowing she’d miss her original home after returning here. With her goodbyes said, however, the Inuit woman took Jake a ways out of the village, laying down in the soft snow as the aurora borealis started to make itself visible.

    Carefully laying next to her, he stared up and frowned a bit. “I… I know your family will be okay. But I’m still sorry they have to leave their people behind. It isn’t fair.”

    “If I could change it, I would… but Yaralria can’t return to how she used to live, and there’s no way we’d split the family in two over this.” Atka closed her eyes for a moment. “She sounded interested to be working with Emma, and Nouja the same for Lily. I think they’ll adapt, even if it is a shame that our family won’t return to our old way of life.”

    Jake nodded, still staring up. “I… want to help them anyway I can. It isn’t easy, changing your way of life so much. I’d like to help them as much as you, if that’s okay.”

    “Of course. Your family is pretty much my family now, anyway.” Atka smiled slightly. “It should be soon, legally I mean. The sooner I get a real last name the better, for both me and my father.”

    Jake chuckled. “You don’t mind being an Inuit woman taking a Polish last name, then? Weird enough for Rei and Keiko, I’m sure.”

    “I suppose there’s the question of whether Rei or Hitomi will take on the last name, but… we’ll get to that when we get home. For now… the northern lights beckon us to observe.”
     
  14. DarkGemini24601

    DarkGemini24601 Well-Known Member

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    DarkGemini24601 and ZombieSplitter53: “The Guardian Spirit of the North, Part 2”

    Ontario, Canada
    2:00 P.M., February 8th, 2019
    Helipad


    About a week later, the couple returned to Atka’s city of residence. The dropship touched down with that pneumatic hiss that the scout had become so accustomed to, and a landing pad extended. Stepping out of the plane with them to get out of range of the pilot’s music, Tom shook his head. “Funny that we’ll say goodbye in the same place that we first met.”

    Atka smiled warmly, shaking the former assistant manager of records’ hand. “Good luck with everything, Tom. Including Vee.”

    “Especially Vee.” The uniformed hispanic american produced two wooden spheres. “Didn’t craft much like I was planning to eight months ago, but I figured you could use these… for your helixes or something.”

    Atka chuckled. “I’m sure I’ll find a use for them. The gift is appreciated… might expect something in return in your mailbox once I replenish my supply of animal bones.” The two exchanging a nod, Tom returned to the plane.

    “Take us away, Dave.” Tom smirked. “I have a feeling I’ll be saying ‘Beam me up’ sooner or later.”

    “Keep dreaming,” the pilot muttered as he closed up the hatch, and the dropship left as promptly as it had come, disappearing into the winter Canadian sky.

    Atka watched it go until it was out of sight, and then turned back to Jake. “Suppose we should go see if the girls and Taqukaq have wrecked the apartments or not.”

    Jake nodded, and they headed towards the apartment complex. “I’m more worried about that friend of yours. I’m pretty sure the girls are more of a handful than Taq.”

    3:00 P.M., February 8th, 2019
    Apartment in Toronto


    Jake smiled as he unlocked the door, trying to hide his worry that the girls had literally tore the place apart while they were gone. It wasn’t like he was used to parenting, and he wasn’t sure how they handled themselves when alone. He opened the door, and immediately jumped back, eyes wide open at the sight of four Ethereal masks starring at him. His heart skipped a beat before he noticed the clean hole in one, and recognized it as Phobos’ mask. He clenched his teeth and shook his head. “I swear to God, you almost gave me…”

    The girl wearing Superbia’s mask turned to the Phobos girl, Rei’s voice echoing out. “I believe it succeeded in startling him.”

    The laugh below the Phobos mask indicated it was Hitomi, and Keiko, in Invidia’s mask, was already getting ready to point at Hitomi.

    Atka slowly took a deep breath, her telekinetic helixes faded into nothingness again. “You had to pick the two of them that I hated the most, didn’t you?” She raised an eyebrow at Keiko. And her, of all people, wearing Invidia’s mask…

    “Well… not all of them where in this good of shape.” Keiko pulled off her mask and looked at it. “Why? Which… one was this?”

    “I think you’d rather not know,” Atka responded, shaking her head at Taqukaq. “You too? And Greed’s mask, no less… at least that one suits you.” Taqukaq tilted his head, seeming a bit indignant about that.

    Hitomi pulled off her mask, and examined Taqukaq as if she was seeing him in the mask for the first time. “I… agree. You could… almost say it makes him look ethereal.”

    Rei quickly pulled off her mask so everyone could see her eyes roll. “Kanojo no inu no anata no chiryō wa anata ga oidasa renai baai wa, anata no hidoi jōku wa narimasu.” (If your treatment of her dog doesn't get you kicked out, your terrible jokes will.)

    Taqukaq managed to shake off the Ethereal helmet, giving Hitomi a flat look before hopping onto the couch. He gave Rei a look that seemed to say, Thank goodness someone cares.

    Atka leaned against the wall, letting her sister, mother, and father come inside as well. “I’m going to need more couches than the one… even if we have four rooms now.”

    Nouja nodded, glancing at Keiko. “I still find it a bit odd that I’m going to be rooming with a niece that’s nearly as old as I am,” the seventeen-year-old stated. “Not that it bothers me, just unusual is all. I’m too young to be an aunt…”

    “But it’s perfect that way!” Keiko rushed to Nouja’s side and grasped her hand. “We can be the best of friends! You’ll be that cool aunt that everyone always hears someone else say they have, and then they wish they had her, but you are her! It’ll be great!”

    Nouja grinned. “Fair enough. Just don’t make me mad, or I’ll brainwash you… or something.”

    “The scariest part is she probably could,” Ipiktok added helpfully.

    “Not that I would let her,” Yaralria reassured Keiko.

    Keiko nodded, and Hitomi nudged her shoulder. “Reassuring, considering someone is susceptible, huh?”

    Keiko stuck her tongue out at her, at Rei smiled lightly, sitting down and grabbing a book she had likely been reading before they set up their skill. “This is going to be an interesting family.”
     
  15. ZombieSplitter53

    ZombieSplitter53 Game Master Staff Member

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    DarkGemini24601 and ZombieSplitter53: “The Guardian Spirit of the North, Part 3”

    Ontario, Canada
    3:00 P.M., April 15th, 2019
    Chapel in Toronto


    “Stop… fidgeting.” One of the ushers sent Jake a look as they stood at the front of the procession, the clear sky bathing the guests with sunshine. “You look like you’re about to pass out.”

    “Sorry, sorry. I’m… nervous.” Jake looked down the aisle, every second without his soon to be bride making him ready to jump out of his skin. “I mean… what if she gets… cold feet?”

    The usher shook his head. “Just… relax.” Jake frowned at the incredibly unhelpful ‘advice’, and continued to watch, and silently pray.

    After what seemed like an eternity, the doors opened, and Atka stepped out in a white wedding dress. Although she had most assuredly had little practice with such attire, the Inuit woman managed to maintain her composure somehow as she walked up the center aisle with a calm smile on her face.

    Jake watch her with reverence, and Ayame leaned close to him. “Close your jar, man. Don’t need you saying I do with drool on your jar.”

    Jake nodded, and did as the bridesmaid said. As Atka reached his side, all he could mutter is, “You… y-you should… wear dresses more often. You… you look…”

    “Pretty damn hot,” Ayame mumbled, having to purposely divert her eyes.

    Atka shook her head. “I don’t get how people wear these all the time… so… unwieldy,” she mumbled, having to be careful to not step on the bottom of the dress.

    As the priest before them began his part, Ayame shook her head. “You get used to it, I guess. Though…” She looked down at herself. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little uncomfortable myself… hate these things…” Atka just smiled knowingly, looking between her bridesmaid and the groom.

    The priest smiled at the couple, and said, “Now, the bride and groom prepared their own vow. Jake?”

    Jake took a deep breath, and looked into Atka’s eyes. “Atka, I… when I first met you, you… seemed so unapproachable. And I’m not just talking about the fight we were in at the time. But you ended up approaching me, and… that simple act of kindness gave me more confidence than I had had in a long time. As we got to know each other, I fell in love with you time and time again, and I can not imagine my life, my world, without you. I will be by your side, through the ups and downs, through every possible obstacle we might encounter, in this life and beyond.” He reached down, taking a ring from the pillow held by a smiling Irish girl, and slipped it on Atka’s finger.

    “I knew you had that confidence in you, it just needed to be brought out,” Atka replied softly. “As for me, I can’t guarantee that I won’t get into danger at some future date. It’s my tendency to want to protect people, and I’ll continue to do that in whatever way I can. But I will promise that if there is a way, I’ll always come home, and never truly leave your side,” the former Colonel concluded, giving Jake his ring.

    The priest looked forward, and asked, “If there are any objections to these two being wed, please speak now, or forever hold your peace.” As the pair looked over the guest, Atka’s eyes wandered over to Ayame, while Jake gave Keiko a somewhat apprehensive look, but if they were going to say anything, they were too busy holding back tears to do so. The priest bowed his head. “Then, by the power vested in me, I now declare you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride.”

    Jake seemed to let out a breath he’d been holding in, and lifted Atka’s veil, quickly planting his lips on hers to seal the deal. Atka, of course, returned the affection in kind.

    Ontario, Canada
    4:15 P.M., May 21st, 2019
    Harrison Hair Salon


    Melissa frowned, running a hand through her now blue hair. “The usual as always for Atka, then. Perhaps I could get you to try some hairstyle more adventurous, miss Kasagi?” the owner asked hopefully.

    Ayame looked down at her slightly too long hair and grinned. “Yeah… why not. Atka trusts you. Hit me with your best shot.”

    Atka shook her head in amusement as Melissa began considering Ayame’s hair for a moment. “What about… a bit more spiky, and make...oh! Make the spikes red. I think that would suit you,” Melissa mused.

    “Red, huh?” Ayame glanced at Atka. “What do you think? Little fire to match my inner self?”

    Atka smirked. “Go for it. Who knows, maybe you’ll start conjuring fire because of it.”

    “Not in my shop she won’t…” Melissa mumbled quickly. “No ice either, please. Hairspray and intense temperatures don’t get along like you two.”

    “Good point.” Ayame sat in her chair, looking up at Atka. “So… still happy? I don’t have a would-be shrink that I need to have a word with, right?”

    Atka smiled, though it wavered a little. “I’m doing well… though I’d be lying if the nightmares hadn’t stuck around. Having to kill someone… something with your mother’s face, with your own… leaves a mark that doesn’t easily go away.”

    Ayame nodded. “I’m sorry to hear that. They say time heals all wounds. Though they conveniently forget to mention exactly how much time.” Ayame’s eyes darted away. “There are a few things that I’m… still getting over myself. But… we’re strong, right? I’m sure we’ll make it.”

    Atka nodded. “We fought and killed the God of Fear… I think we can handle a few mental scars and a little PTSD.”

    “Yeah, though… you know… there are stranger things that leave you a little… put off. A little…” Ayame bit her lip. “...embarrassed.” Melissa raised an eyebrow as she walked over and started working on Ayame’s hair, but a look from Atka made her keep her mouth shut.

    “I’d… rather not go through that again, no offense to you… I’m not a fan of being someone’s puppet,” Atka said cautiously.

    “Me either, believe it or not.” Ayame smiled. “Just as long as we are clear that… I was being controlled too.” She relaxed a bit. “And to be honest, I’ve talked with that hubby of yours, and gotta say, maybe I judged him a little too harshly. He even gave me some advice.”

    “Oh?” Atka smiled lightly. “Am I allowed to know what it was about?”

    Ayame scratched her chin. “Well, actually, I… I’ve started to come to terms with where some of my frustration comes from, and… well, I’m planning a trip to California. There is someone there I haven’t seen in quite a while, and… despite my belief that she didn’t want to see me anymore then I her, our phone conversations… imply otherwise.”

    The Inuit woman nodded slowly, having an idea of who Ayame was talking about. “I hope things work out, then… just… try to avoid being stabbed again. She knows which side is lethal now.”

    Ayame nodded. “I also… might look up my, um…” She hesitated. “My… mother… while I’m out there. I… I think we’ve been apart for too long as well, and… who knows. Things couldn’t get worse, and… I don’t know, just been too long.”

    “It doesn’t hurt to try. If you want, I could come with you,” Atka offered. “Whatever boosts your confidence.”

    Ayame nodded. “If you have time.” She chuckled. “Always looking out for me, huh?” Ayame glanced up at Melissa. “She been like this since you met her?”

    The owner of the shop smiled slightly. “Of course. Though she’s certainly happier than before, and it’s no mystery why.” Melissa glanced at the woman in question with a bit of a frown. “I still expect to hear whatever stories are declassified… especially the one regarding that hellish mask one of your daughters has.”

    “I’ll need a dedicated day for that one…” Atka replied at length.
     
  16. DarkGemini24601

    DarkGemini24601 Well-Known Member

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    DarkGemini24601 and ZombieSplitter53: “The Guardian Spirit of the North, Part 4”

    Ontario, Canada
    4:15 P.M., June 14th, 2020
    Apartment in Toronto, Roof


    “I know you can do it…” Atka said encouragingly to her sister, taking a readied stance. “You nearly had it yesterday.”

    “Manifesting your psyche isn’t as easy as you make it out to be…” Nouja protested,

    Atka rolled her eyes, holding up a specialized glove that Sunny had fashioned for her. “True, but you shouldn’t have to use your blood for it since you can use cryokinesis.”

    “Fine, fine…” Nouja closed her eyes for a moment, concentrating. “Ukiuq,” she muttered, and held up her hand. Ice wrapped around it, and then spread beyond her, forming into what seemed like a seagull made of ice. It flew to the younger Inuit’s shoulder, and she opened her eyes with a smile. “Finally!”

    Atka smiled approvingly. “I told you that you could do it. Suits you, considering the meaning of your name. Not sure that what you call it is very creative though…”

    “It’s the first thing that came to mind, okay?” Nouja responded indignantly. ‘Ukiuq’ squawked as if in agreement.

    Rei watched two carefully, though pretended to read a pamphlet as she did so. Finding it difficult to do so, however, she shook her head, and placed the packet to the side. Her usual neutral appearance was betrayed by a slightly worried look in her eyes.

    Atka noticed this, having Nouja wait for a moment. “Something wrong, Rei?”

    “Huh?” Rei quickly grabbed the pamphlet again. “No, no, I… I-I was… just looking up a, um… appropriate college, I…” She adjusted her glasses, and held the pamphlet in front of her face.

    “Where to?” the Inuit woman asked curiously.

    “Oh, um… I’m not sure. I… have a lot of options. To be honest, I was so… set on this early graduation, I didn’t… think about it.” Rei sighed, placing the pamphlet down again and taking off her glasses so she could rub her eyes. “Its… happening faster than I anticipated.”

    “You’ll do fine… you’re a lot more prepared for the world than I was, coming from a village in the middle of nowhere,” Atka offered gently, sitting by Rei while Nouja wisely went back downstairs to let the two talk.

    “I… suppose…” Rei slowly looked up at Atka, doubt in her eyes for the first time since they had met. “I have… ideas. Aspirations, if you will. But I am unsure if I have the drive. There are so many obstacles ahead of me, the biggest and most intimidating one setting up shop not far from here. I… am wondering if I am attempting more than I can ever hope to accomplish.”

    “I didn’t think I could ever hope to help end the war either.” Atka shook her head. “Things seemed hopeless, but we managed somehow. I didn’t think I could beat Phobos, yet here I stand, alive even if one of my lungs is new.” The Inuit woman met her adoptive daughter’s gaze. “You can do it. I have faith in you.”

    Rei blinked a few time. “Are you… do you really believe that? Or do you simply feel… obligated to reassure me? Because… I can handle the truth.”

    Atka frowned. “I have no reason to believe you can’t succeed. You can’t really know until you try.”

    Rei looked down for a few moments. When she looked up again, she smiled lightly. “Alright. You make a good point. I will… I will try, and I will not let myself get discouraged. Thank you… mother.”

    The former Colonel returned her smile. “I never really knew hearing myself called that would feel so...fulfilling. I wish you luck, but I know you’ll make it. There’s no doubt in my-” A buzz distracted her, and Atka lifted a phone to her ear. “Wiewora here. Yes. Alright, I’ll be there as soon as I can.” Putting the phone away, she smiled sheepishly. “Looks like they need me for my ‘test run’. Time to see if I’m cut out to be a detective or not.”

    Rei nodded. “ Good luck. I know you will make it as well.” Giving her daughter an honest nod, Atka put on a cap with her department’s symbol on it, grabbed her gauss pistol off the table she left it on, and ran down the stairs, glad to be needed in more ways than one.

    “Alright… what’s next?”