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Post Info TOPIC: Liandri Tournament

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RE: Liandri Tournament

The other members of the Returned saw the scoreboard switch a second before Marcus respawned and was almost instantly teleported back to the antechamber. None of them spoke at first. Gideon, taciturn as always, just stood back passively with his jaw clenched. Tajheri looked at Marcus with a kind of nervous sympathy, as if worrying about how he might react to his defeat. She did not expect him to jump down off the teleported pad with a tight smile on his face.

"Come on, let's go," he said as he led them back into the armoury and out of earshot of the Liandri compu-tech, who was now busy with the after-match procedures of siphoning off the nanowhite and detailing maintenance teams to clean up the arena and make it ready for the next game.

"Go where?" Luthienne asked.

Marcus grinned broadly, "You're not going to believe this..."

*   *   *

"No way," Luthienne breathed, looking at the man standing in front of her. His sandy hair was swept away from his face, revealing a long, uneven scar down one cheek that twisted his features slightly out of shape. But then he smiled and the scar disappeared, leaving no doubt as to who it was underneath.

"Tom!" Luthienne gasped, and Reynor laughed as she ran forward and threw her arms around him.

"Who is this guy?" Tajheri asked in confusion.

"He was with us on the Kran," Marcus explained, still smiling, "Tom, this is 'Heri and Gideon, our team-mates. Guys, this is Tom Reynor."

"We thought you died in the Ghost attack!" Luthienne broke in as Reynor exchanged nods with Gideon and Tajheri, "How did you escape?"

Reynor smiled wryly, "Well, like I told Marcus in the arena it's a long story..."

*   *   *

Reynor's yell of pain choked off into a strangled gasp as the Necris blademaiden twisted her knife and ripped it free from his abdomen, and he fell back against a crate of spare parts, clutching at the wound. He gaped up at the pale figure towering over him, whose flourescent white eyes had all the empathy of a shark's as she gazed down at him. He waited for the killing blow but it never came. Instead, the blademaiden slashed her arm in a signal to the two other Necris that had butchered the crewmen trying to fight their way out of the docking bay, and then crouching in preparation to jump she simply vanished from Reynor's vision. He looked up and saw the reason - Luthienne were coming pounding down the corridor from the deck 4 hub. He heard her scream his name.

No no no!

Panic gripped him as he realised that he was being used as bait to ambush his friend. Fighting the pain, he forced his voice to work.

"!" was all he managed to gasp before another jolt of agony wracked him into a painful spasm. No sooner had he spoken then the blademaiden who had stabbed him dropped down out of nowhere, right in front of Lu. Reynor tried to yell out but the pain was too great - and then he heard another shout and Marcus came sprinting down the corridor towards them, lunging for the door control. The blademaiden hurled her dagger just a second too late and it pinged off the door as it snapped closed. She darted forward in a black flash, but the touchpad on their side did not accept her hand print and she snarled angrily, slamming her fist against the unyielding metal. She gestured to the two other Necris who reappeared and prised open a maintenance shaft before darting into it. The blademaiden herself spun on her heel to face Reynor, her face unreadable, her blade back in her hand. Now that the trap had failed, she had no reason to keep him alive.

She had only taken a step towards Reynor when a huge explosion rocked the ship. Maybe in desperation the crew of the Kran had resorted to using heavy weapons. Maybe they had overloaded the engine cores in a final act of defiance. Maybe stray weapons fire had hit a power node exposed by the damage caused in the crash. It did not matter.

Light strips shattered, gantries tore free, and one of the bulkheads came crashing down on them from above. It only just missed Reynor. To her credit, the blademaiden's lightning reflexes allowed her to jump almost clear of the falling bulkhead. Almost.

The falling slab of metal smashed her to the floor in the middle of her full-length dive, crushing her legs and sending her knife spinning away across the deck. She grimaced in pain, but did not cry out. She was gasping something into her communicator in the Necris language while simultaneously scrabbling to free herself as Reynor dragged himself across the deck and pulled an automag pistol from the hands of a dead crewmate. He took aim as she clawed at the deck, her nails finding no purchase on the smooth steel. She never took those horrific white eyes off Reynor, staring him down even as he put a bullet through her forehead.

*   *   *


"I managed to open the bay doors and crawled as far as I could," Reynor went on, "But blood loss got the better of me and I passed out next to a stream. I don't know how long I was out but when I woke up it was night-time. The stream was in a deep gully, that must have concealed me from any Ghosts above. I was in agony and thirsty as hell. I was too weak to move; I barely managed to twist round and scoop up some water. I noticed a couple of orange fruit that were growing by the water's edge and remembered something Tami had said about them having a healing effect. I managed to force one down, then I passed out again. When I woke up I felt stronger, my wound hurt less and I found that I could move. There were no Ghosts about but I didnt want to hang around, so I followed the stream away from the ship. My wound healed up remarkably quickly, didn't even get infected. Whatever was in the fruit worked."

"Oh god, Tom," Luthienne said, hugging him tightly, "We didn't know...we should have come back for you..."

"It's alright," Reynor soothed her, his face neutral, "Like you said, you didn't know. How could you have?"

"The Nali sent out a number of scouting parties to look for more survivors," Marcus said, his own voice tinged with regret, "I can't believe we didn't find you. I'm sorry, Tom."

"It was a big planet," Tom shrugged, "But I made it, didn't I? Just like you two."

"But how did you survive on your own all that time?" Luthienne asked, "How did...Jesus, Tom, what happened to your face?"

"You're not going to believe me," said Reynor, "But I don't actually know."

Luthienne stepped back, confused. Marcus' brow creased.

"Inuit picked me up round about the same time as you," Reynor explained, "When they did I was...changed. The things I'd had to do to survive, the things I'd seen...I didn't want those memories. Inuit referred me to Liandri, who offered me a solution. They said they'd erase my memories of Gryphon IV if I agreed to fight for them in this year's Tournament."

"That's a strange condition," Marcus commented.

"I take it you two had to kill to survive? So did I. But it changed me. The first thing Liandri showed me after the operation was a video I'd recorded for myself just beforehand. I didn't recognise the Tom Reynor in that video; he terrified me. I knew I'd made the right choice."

Tom brushed the hair away from the back of his neck to reveal a tiny silver stud set into the skin.

"This inhibitor chip taps directly into my brain stem. I can remember everything I've just told you, but after that it's just blank. Everything that I did on Gryphon IV, or had done to me, it's gone."

"So you're just going to replace those nightmares with new ones from the Tournament?" Marcus growled, "Some offer Liandri gave you."

"The memories might be suppressed but they're not gone. I still instinctively know how to fire a gun and fight with a knife, I just can't remember where I learned it. And nothing in the Tournament seems to faze me. I don't know what happened to me, but this is a cakewalk by comparison. If that's the case then I don't want to know. At least this way I can sleep at night."

Reynor stood back and put his hands in his pockets, "I've made my choice and I stand by it. What I really wanted to talk to you about was joining your team. Mine's out of the Tourney now, and I hear you need at least one more player for the next round. You know I can fight. So what do you say?"

"Well you don't need to ask me and Marcus," Luthienne said with a smile, putting her arm around Marcus' waist, then turned her head towards Gideon and Tajheri to ask their opinion.

"Sure," said Tajheri.

Gideon stood with his arms crossed, holding Reynor's gaze.

"I've got no objections," he said at last.

"Then I'll go talk to Sutherland," said Marcus, squeezing Luthienne's hand before disengaging himself. As long as the bitch doesn't have any other problems with it, he thought, mentally rolling his eyes. In spite of it all, he couldnt stop himself from smiling.

"Glad to have you back, Tom."

Things were looking up.

<OOC - Okay, someone else's turn smile>


Captain Thule: We have yet to meet our betters, alien. All we have seen are deluded tyrants, heretics and alien scum.
Farseer Taldeer: You should have looked beyond your mirror then.

RP Expert

Status: Offline
Posts: 1565

Things were comparatively quiet on the Liandri campus in the week between the first and second heats of the tournament, and only a few glaring lights switched back and forth across the overcast sky as Tom Reynor looked out of the Returned hab-block window, watching the rain spatter against the glass.  Tajheri was out again, meeting up with Diego, while Marcus and Luthienne were in the hab's communal kitchen, making lunch and arguing about the best way of cooking braulki.

As Tom stood watching with his hands in his pockets, a black car with the Liandri logo emblazoned on the sides pulled up outside their hab.  The back passenger side door opened and out stepped their agent, bent slightly double against the rain as she talked into a portable communicator.  As usual, she didn't look like she was in a good mood.

"Oh great..." Tom muttered, and then called aloud in the direction of the kitchen, "Hey Marcus!  Someone's here to see you!"


*   *   *


"Youre still not satisfied with their performance?" the Battleclaw agent said over the phone, sounding exasperated, "They got through to the second round, what more do you want?"

"The second round's going to be a lot tougher," Sutherland reminded him tersely as she walked from her car to the hab, "And they lost their last game."

"No-one's going to win all their games.  Well, except maybe Xan Kriegor."

"I'm not convinced their singles performance is up to standard.  There's a lot more one-on-ones in the late tie-breakers and I'm not going to finance a team that'll crash out before the third round."

"They're not going to crash out.  Haven't you put them through enough tests already?"

"They haven't been tried in all of the match types yet, which is your fault for making me enter them late, I might add."

"Hey, now wait just a..."

"I need a team that's strong in all areas, in squad battles and tag-team.  And I need proof of it that I can show the boss."

"He seems to think that a team including all 3 of the Gryphon IV survivors will generate a lot of interest."

"Aye, which will quickly disappear if they lose half their matches.  I've booked Fantom in for a one-on-one against Blake to make sure he can handle the singles."

"I'm sure they can handle their own training."

"I want to see for myself."

"You've seen this Fantom guy.  He practically bleeds determination."

"Character's all well and good but I need skill.  I need ratings!"

Sutherland snapped her communicator shut angrily, and swiped her executive pass across the door control of the hab block.


*   *   *


Marcus tried not to grind his teeth as a Liandri agent in a plain suit drove him and Sutherland to an arena complex on the other side of the campus.  Sutherland liked to make it clear to him that he was at Liandri's beckon call, but to haul him away for a practice match with almost no warning was a new one.  Apparently she had found his performance in their last match less than satisfactory and taken it upon herself to test him in some of the standalone match-types they hadn't drawn yet in the main tournament.  Even if he hadn't played all the matches, it wasn't as if he hadn't looked over them in the datalinks, or set aside time to train in them with his team.  Why Sutherland felt she had to interfere rather than let them get on with their own practice matches he did not know.

"I'm pitting you against Blake of the Steel Cobras," Sutherland told him unnecessarily as he pored over the dataslate in his hand, "He's fairly representative of the competition you'll meet in the second round.  The game type is Seek and Destroy."

Marcus nodded.  Seek and Destroy was a one-on-one match where each player competed to take out the most targets within the time limit.  They could shoot each other, of course, which would set their opponent back valuable time while they respawned, but the real points game from eliminating the targets.  What the "targets" were varied - sometimes they were cheap Liandri droids programmed to zip around the arena and try and avoid hostile fire, other times they were gladiators from the security wing set loose in the arena.  Marcus grimaced in quiet disgust, and hoped that it would be droids.  Slaughtering the defenceless was something the Necris enjoyed, not him.

He suited up, retrieved his ASMD from the armoury and reported to the teleporter room without a word, while Sutherland headed up to the currently empty games-master's box to oversee the practice.

"Targets have spawned," the Liandri tech manning the teleporter controls informed Marcus, as the green lights below his feet began to pulse, "Match begins in"

Marcus raised his ASMD to his shoulder and spun quickly around as the white flash of the teleporter faded and let him see where he was.  Hugging the wall he started forward - might as well get this over with.  The tracker on his wrist was alive with red dots that showed him where the targets were, but not his opponent.  He headed for the closest target.

A holocam followed him at a distance as he started along a downward-sloping corridor towards the main level of the arena.  Somewhere up ahead he heard the distinctive bang of a flak cannon.  In front of him was a doorway, with a sound of rapid footsteps confirming what his tracker told him of a single target having just entered the room beyond from a second tunnel.  Marcus ducked low and darted through the open door, pivoting towards the target and firing to catch it in the narrow hallway.  The blue energy bolt missed by the smallest of margins, punching a smoking crater in metal and causing the target to flinch aside against the wall.  It would not have been enough to save it from Marcus' second shot, but the second shot never came as Marcus registered what the target was.  It wasn't a robot.  It wasn't even a human gladiator.

"Jesus Christ," said Marcus, because the target was a Nali.  Furthermore, it was a Nali Marcus recognized.

"By the fires of Ch'tharoth, Marcus," exclaimed Myscha, straightening and propping himself against the wall with two of his four arms as he registered who his attacker was.  He was breathing heavily with exertion, his bare and tattooed chest shiny with perspiration.

"What are you doing here?" cried Marcus in Nali, lowering his weapon and forgetting the nanowhite arena around him.  He pulled out his earpiece, not caring that Sutherland was probably screaming over the comm, demanding to know what the hell he thought he was doing.

Myscha looked almost exactly as Marcus remembered him; his wiry body seemed a bit scrawnier than before, but he still carried himself proudly upright.  His yellow eyes were slightly narrowed as if in a thoughtful frown, with the insightful look that had used to make Marcus think that Myscha could read his soul through his eyes.  Myscha's eyes were usually bright and full of conviction, but now they darted left and right in search of threats.  It was not panic, but wariness - Myscha was evidently still every bit the guerrilla fighter he had been on Na Pali.

"They took us," the Nali said quickly, "When they took you to their healers after you fell fighting the Necris, they rounded up me and the other warriors and asked us if there were other human survivors.  Forgive me Marcus, but I led them to our village.  I thought they were allies."

"They were supposed to be." Marcus growled.

"Luthienne was not well.  The demon poison was at work in her veins and we knew she needed the healing touch of the Soul-Bound.  But they thought we were holding her against her will.  I tried to tell them that we needed you, and that moving her could be dangerous.  Some of us resisted, mostly my fellow warriors of the Mountain Fighters.  But they were too powerful - some of us were killed and many more taken captive for interrogation.  When we had told them all we knew, we were sold to Liandri.  Those of us who can fight became gladiators, the rest are forced to work as labourers."

"How many of you are there?"

"Many of the Mountain Fighters, and our spirit is still strong.  The Nali will not be oppressed by the demons, and nor will we be slaves to Liandri.  But there are many villagers with us also, and we cannot act for fear of their safety.  I must confess, I did not dream our faith would be rewarded by seeing you again, Marcus."

Marcus gritted his teeth.  He couldn't have imagined what Liandri were hiding out of sight in the restricted areas of the campus.  He felt his anger rising.

"Me and Luthienne will help you," he said.

"Luthienne?  She is here?"


Myscha smiled, "The bond of the Soul-Bound is not easily broken.  Though they be separated by oceans, mountains or void they will seek each other out."

"I swear to you," Marcus said, searching his knowledge of the Nali for the strongest oath in their language, "By Vandora's sky, Chizra's seas and Ch'tharoth's earth, I swear that I'll get you all out of here."

In spite of their location in a bloodstained Liandri arena, Myscha bowed his head and made the sign of the Nali faith across his chest.  Then he stood up, and spread his arms.

"Kill me."


"If you do not obey the rules of the Tournament now, you will be disqualified and unable to help us later.  The rules demand that you kill me."


The holocam was darting back and forth behind Marcus but he ignored it - as far as he knew Liandri did not have any knowledge of the Nali language.  He looked at Myscha, who stared back.

"Death and rebirth.  All things worth fighting for require sacrifice.  The other Mountain Fighters and I are ready to make ours."

Marcus bit his lip and brought his shock rifle up.  He nodded slightly to Myscha, who returned the gesture without blinking.  Marcus' finger was tensing on the trigger when he saw Myscha's eyes suddenly open wide.  At the same moment, his tracker beeped a proximity warning.  He whipped his head round to follow Myscha's gaze, and saw a second Nali come running into the wide circular room at full sprint.  Marcus recognized the distinctive swirl pattern of the tattoos on his face and chest instantly - it was Katima, another one of the Nali Mountain Fighters.  He had only a split second to register this before there was a loud blast and Katima was thrown forwards, his four arms thrown wide.  He landed face down on the cold metal of the floor, his back torn ragged by jagged pieces of shrapnel.  As the Nali fell, he revealed Blake running up behind him with flak cannon raised.  Marcus spun round to bring his ASMD to bear, simultaneously trying to duck out of his opponent's line of fire, but Blake was too fast.  An impact like a hammerblow hit Marcus square in the chest and punched him backwards.  As he reeled and fell, Blake stepped over Katima's disintegrating body, spun on his heel and planted his right foot to brace his heavy weapon again.  There was another sharp blast and Myscha was thrown back against the wall in a welter of blood, his lower right arm severed at the elbow and his chest caved in by shrapnel.  Blake hefted his weapon easily and turned towards Marcus, who was struggling for a breath that would not come as he stared down at a piece of metal, the length of a human hand, jutting from his solar plexus.  Blake's face was red, from exertion Marcus supposed, and his expression was hidden behind his dark sunglasses.  Through the haze of shock, Marcus registered belatedly that the gaping barrel of Blake's flak cannon was pointed down towards his face.


*   *   *


Marcus snarled as he stepped off the respawn pad, picking up the ASMD that rematerialized at his feet.  He did as Myscha said, what he had to do.  He hated himself for it.  He followed his tracker to the Nali, and he gunned them down.  He tried to make their deaths as quick and painless as possible.  When he ran into Blake, he gave in completely to his rage.  Once or twice he killed his opponent, and once or twice Blake killed him in return, but when the wall-mounted speakers finally announced the end of the match it was Blake who had won by a fair margin.

"What the hell was that, Fantom!?" Sutherland demanded as soon as he was out of the arena complex.  Marcus brushed past the Liandri executive, ignoring her.  He was too angry to care.

"This is ridiculous!  Its a joke!  I'm suspending your team's funding until further notice!"

"**** off, Sutherland." Marcus snarled without turning round.


Captain Thule: We have yet to meet our betters, alien. All we have seen are deluded tyrants, heretics and alien scum.
Farseer Taldeer: You should have looked beyond your mirror then.


Status: Offline
Posts: 1086

Diego sat at the empty bar, it was still a few hours before opening time none the less Pops invited Diego in for a free drink and private conversation.

"Soooooo?" Diego said gratefully accepting his drink, a large foamed beer the first of the keg. "You wanting discuss on how you gonna try me, spars? or you just gonna have me run round the campus,"

"Diego, Mander didn't ask me to train you physically, you are current at peak physical condition of a human, no he asked me to make you a better leader, tell how did you actually become captain?"

"Well it was simple really, Gail didn't want to, Snowva didn't want to and Cleet didn't want to so that just left me to deal with all the captain crap,"

"You know there is more to being a leader than the dealings, paper work and tactics, you have to look after the crew, be able to read them and know when something is wrong with one and what to do about it, you need to know something is troubling them before they do,"

"I'll easy help them with problems if they ask for help,"

"But Diego they won't, they won't want to bother you or they may be too stubborn to ask for help,"

"Ok I can understand that, but how am I surposed to know if something is wrong, learn to read minds?"

"You'll understand one day Diego,"

Diego shrugged his shoulders and took a deep gulp of his cold drink. "Ok I've listened to what you have to say now, tell me about you're, one of the greatest captains ever says Mander,"

Pop sighed pouring himself a drink, "I guess you have to right to know, you ever heard of R3,"

"Ofcourse, every mecenary does they set the standards on what mercenary team should be, wait, don't tell me you were one of them,"

"Yep, real names Richard Heartleon former leader of R3,"

"No ****ing way!" Diego shout with an excited smile, "I can't beleive it, the man I've always wanted to be like, the team I've always aimed to surpass has been standing infront of me all this time! But what happened man? What really happened, there were rumors when you guys suddenly disappeared like you guys getting captured or killed and even lost,"

"None of the rumors where true Diego what happened to us was something far worse to me than death." Pop's paused for a moment his mind taken back to that day 25 years ago.

On a lonely barren planet a silver metal ship decorated with a large R3 on the side landed smoothly on the cracked ground red like rust, heavy winds swept up stinging particles of dirt and stone chippings. With a hiss a ramp desended to the ground walking out came three figures shrouded in brown robes the hoods up, they walked with there heads facing down against the dusty wind. After a short walk the trio stopped outside a large metal door casually the middle figure stepped forward banging hard on the door letting off a heavy glunk. a small hatch slid open and a man with a scarred eye peered out suspicously.

"State you're business," he demanded in a deep commanding voice.

Slowly the hooded man pulled back the hood of his robe. It was man in his 20s, his black hair which was being blown by the wind came down to just below his ears. His although gentle housed a keen pair of eyes which would make him look serious had it now been for the smile on his face. "Could it be? You're Richard Heartleon, well I be, havent seen you're face since this damned wound blinded my good eye making me quit the mercenary trade, what business could you have here? Of all places,"

"We have a job my friend," Richard said clearly not planning on saying anymore.

"Now don't tell me you're involved with this resistance group hiding out here?"

"Resistance group?" Richard asked sqinting his eyes.

"Yeh a resistance group calling themselves The Abandoned, have hid here, they are actually very good people, they take priority in looking after those effected badly by Liandri, I even heard they rescue unfairly trialed prisoners, slaves and even, now this is dark rumor ****, but human experiments."

"I heard they were a terrorist group, capturing people, generally killing innocents and the like because the oppose of Liandri,"

"Capturing people? They save lives Richard and they not much of a resistance group I'd say they more of a charity, don't think they have ever cause mass destruction, Oh god look at the weather, can't beleave I've left you 3 standing out in the storm, please come in, and do whatever you are here to do,"

The large metal gate slowly began to open with a metallic screech and the three figures entered the walled town. Immediatly the trio found their way to the Inn, upon entering the slidding metal door they were greated by a wall of heat which instantly calmed to body and soul, with a sigh of relief the three mercenaries removed there robes and laid them on the back of a seat revealing the other two figures to be a man and a young women. Under his robe Richard was wearing a pair of loose fitting jeans held on loosely by a brown silver studded belt, he wore a green short sleeved shirt only closed at the bottom on top a long sleeved black T-shirt, the sleeves rolled up, dangling from his neck was a silver cross.

"Thank god where out of that damn storm," the girl said, brushing back her long dark hair, she wore a blue tank top which matched the blue of her eyes, up her arm was a firery tatoo which came up to her shoulder, she wore a pair of black jeans the leg missing up to her knee on one of her legs.

The other figure the man standing taller than the other two, although still young looking had more of a hard face as opposed to Richard who had softer features, down his left cheek was a scar which looked out of place on a young man, his hair was shaved short at the back and sides and his short blonde hair was spiked up. He wore a pair of loose fighting blue jeans with a brown belt, along with a long sleeved white shirt which was kept open at the top revealing a black T-shirt underneith "Rick you sure this is place we meeting the contact?" said the man.

"Yep, I'm pretty damn sure Bob,"

"Well while we wait why don't we get a drink," the girl suggested slipping her hand into Richards. "First rounds yours baby," she teased.

The tall man laughed, "Now if I remember correctly, I think it's your round Rowena,"

"Oh yeh, now that you mention it, I remember now," Richard smiled.

"Robert," Rowena complained hoping to get away without buying a round, but before drinks could be bought the group where approached by a casual looking man.

"Hello R3," he said openly.

"Are you the contact,"

"Indeed I am, I am Martin, a pleasure to meet legends such as yourself,"

"I'm Richard, this is Robert and Rowena,"

"Yes I know you're names, we don't have time to stall, here take this," Martin handed over a small case.

"In here is a bomb, you're job is simple, plant it in the terrorists base of operations then leave quickly, the bomb will automatically go off in 4 hours, I suggest you be out of town by then, now don't worry about gaining access to the base, turns out the terrorists have requested the help of mercenarys for there next job, we have already accepted the job for you, you will be meeting you're contact here in 10 minutes, now my job is done and I'm out of here,"

"Wait I heard these guys aren't terrorists at all," Richard quickly put in, "I want more details on them,"

"It is not the mercenaries task to ask questions, here you have a large sum of money for an easy mission all you have to do is keep all involvment from yourselfs and Liandri seceret," With that the man hastely left.

"I don't like this," Richard said analizing the situation.

"But, he's right," Robert added, "This is work Richard, we don't ask questions, there is alot of money at stake here,"

"Yeh but there is also alot of lives," Richard said grimly.

"Stop questioning Rick, it annoys me when you do that and act too noble,"

Richard gave Robert a deep look, they had always been best friends and always had the same beliefs each being victims of war's trageties. But recently Richard noticed his friend was acting different, focusing more and more on money the more famous they became, he even took out a solo assassination job which he tried to keep seceret.

"What do you think we should do?" Rowena asked

"Lets meet with the other contact, and looks like he's on time," Richard said pointing to the door where a young man around 16 nervously entered the Inn. Looking around desperately before finally catching site of Richard and ran over with a gleaming smile.

"Wow, real mercenarys and R3 to boot, I can't beleave it you're helping us, a small time group like us, please come," the boy led the trio down the streets and eventually to a back alley where a light coming through an open door showed the way to go in the dark night. They entered a deserted bar where a single barman stood cleaning a glass, the boy and the barman nodded at eachother and after hearing a click a hidden wall slid open. "Our leader is down here along with the everyone else," While travelling from room to room, Richard nodded on how many where down here, there were old men and women weak and frail looking, along with men, women and babies, young children ran around playing without a care in the world, at every door men with guns guarded, yet they did not look like any soilders, terriorists or even fighter to Diego, just ordinary men perhaps with a hatered to Liandri. Finally they came before kindly looking man in his 30s carrying a baby.

"R3, I'm so grateful someone accepted our plea, I am Lewis and this is my baby boy Maphew, he and his mother are my heavy hearted reminders on why I must help all the people you see here,"

"It will be our pleasure to assit you sir, helping good people like yourself is my specialty,"

"You are as noble as they say Richard, unfortunatly we can't afford to pay you much,"

"Please no charge, now what would you have us do?"

"Its is simple really, before we were a non violent group who helped the homeless, those effected by these big companies and with war, we even helped those who had crossed companies like Liandri, and what I silly thing to do that was, and we soon found ourselves targets hence the hiding, eventuallt Liandri caught us they demanded we return those we were hiding from them accusing them of being criminals or be shot on sight, with a heavy heart I agreed but then they crossed the line, during the trauma my wife went into to labour and Liandri immediately seized her and refused to tell me why. I was then we took weapons in hand and fought back, attacking the ship my wife was on I discovered she had died during birth but my son was safe, we rescued my son and everyone on the ship,"

"Now that was both brave and stupid," Richard added shaking his head.

"I know and now I feel Liandri will do us for sure and everyone is in danger, me and those involved are willing to face the price of our actions everyone else here is innocent and so I ask this simple request, please take them all away, take them somewhere safe, look after them,"

"You are a good man Lewis, I'll gladly do this job for you but first I will have to discuss things with my crew I can already tell we have some conflict here, may we have a quiet room,"

"Ofcourse just through there," Lewis said pointing to a closed door.

Richard closed the door hard behind him and immediatly turned to Robert. "You don't want to help them do you?"

"How did you know that now?"

"I can read you like a book my friend,"

"Richard, its not the case of I don't want to help them, but if we betray Liandri we'll find ourselves in the **** and be targeted, also these guys don't have money, with Liandri this is a once in a lifetime opportunity we do this we'll be set for life,"

"Its not ****ing about money Robert, what the hell has happened to you recently, these people have suffered just like you and me have, have you forgotten you're vows to help people? Have you forgotten the pain you once felt, which these people are currently feeling,"

"Then what do you suggest?"

"We complete both missions, Lewis and the others are set to die and won't accept any other way, so we tell what Liandri asked us to do, but we still take everyone else out,"

"Hmm guys?" Rowena butted in who had been examing the bomb, "Have you seen this bomb?" she said picking up the open case, "This thing is huge, when it goes it'll not only take base but this entire town!"

"What!?" Richard said in shock, "What the hell is Liandri thinking?"

"Looks like they want everyone involved killed, the town is hiding these people, heh in order to kill everyone involved Liandri are even willing to kill of those who have no idea of the situation, how ruthless,"

"How can you say that so calmly!?" Richard shouted getting to his feet.

"There is no way I'm doing this mission, tell Liandri the deal is off, and lets get everyone here out,"

"Richard you're gonna get us killed!" Robert shouted in protest, this in an easy job, look just leave to case, say we have to return to our ship and leave the rest to the bomb,"

"Robert what has happened to you?" Richard said picking up the case, "Whether you agree or not I'm taking this case out of town,"

"You're a fool my friend," Robert said watching Richard leave.

After leaving town Richard walked quickly through the desert looking down at the timer on the bomb he noticed plenty time was still on the meter. "Liandri what the hell where you thinking, could anyone be this evil?" So deep in thought Richard failed to notice Rowena and Robert approach. Looking over his shoulder he gave Robert a disappointed look.

"You're right Richard," Robert said softly, "I don't know what I was thinking, come on, if we are gonna have to gather the people quickly and get out of here and make good distance if we are gonna get away,"

Richard smiled unconvinenly something still troubling him about his friend he was immediatly calmed when Rowena wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him tenderly on the lips, her soft lips soothing Richards soul and making him forget his troubles. "I'm proud of you my love," she said kissing him again, the moment was quickly taken to a sudden end when Richard opened his eyes to see Robert raise a baton to the sky and hit Rowena hard on the head knocking her out in one, after Rowena fell Richard jumped back to avoid a heavy swing from Robert, Robert went again for another attack but by far the better fighter Richard easily caught Robert's wrist mid swing.

"What the hell are you doing!?" Richard yelled when suddenly his body jerked violently, a terrible pain travelled all though his body as Robert kept his Tazer pressed hard against Richards chest, the pain built till Richard fell to the ground in a spasim, and eventually passed out.

"Sorry, friend, but it's for all our safety," Robert picked up the case and left his friends disappearing in the sand storm.

Richard was awoken suddenly with a mighty rumble travelling through the ground and great flash of fiery light. It didn't take long for Richard to fully come to his senses and immediatly knowing what was happening sprang to his feet and watched from the distance and a massive explosion took place in the distance.

"Robert, you didn't..." Richard thought to himself and instantly ran off towards where the explosion happened. However where the small town once stood was now only rubble, the great walls still stood barely but inside the buildings where tourn apart and some even vanishing completely in the explosion. Richard gazed upon the horrific sight in horror, most bodies had vanished completely in the blast but other lay on the ground pieces scattered everywhere with occasional body still in tact though smouldered.

"Anyone alive!" Richard called out in vain, he knew no one was alive and was merely kidding himself. "Hello?!" The sight was almost too much for Richard to bare and as he walked through the ruined down he caught site of the body of a child amazingly still intact the clothes had been burned off from his back. Unable to hold back any longer Richard burst into tears dropping to his knees slamming his fist to the ground in anger before scooping up the childs body and letting of an anguished scream to the skys. Rowena arrived at that moment and gasped in horror at the site, needing companionship and seeing Richard's anguish she ran towards him holding him in an embrace.

"I'm sorry," Robert said walking up behind Richard and Rowena. "I had to do it, you werent thinking straight you were going to get us all killed Richard,"

" sacrifviced all these people, for us three?" Richard's anger began to rise, "How? How do you now expect me to live my life knowing you did such a thing, and that because of it I can live a comfortable life?! Did you think about that Robert! Did you!?" Richard grabbed Robert by his shirt and pulled him in. Richard raised his fist but to upset and after staring his long time friend in the face he couldn't do it and released his grip. "Go Robert, Just ****ing leave, go, go live you're comfortable life, and remember this day, and remember what kind of monster you've become, you don't even have any remorse do you?"

Robert smiled, "Now that you mention it, no I don't, and now that I think about it, you're pathetic, weak, you'll get no where in life, and I hope you rot, and I thought we were friends,"

"Yeh I thought so to..." Those were the final word those two ever spoke and Robert vanished.

"Its all my fault isn't it Rowena?"

"What? Ofcourse not? You did not do any of this, it was Robert,"

"But I've noticed for along time he hasn't been the same and I knew he was gonna do something stupid yet I thought he was my friend and I didn't do anything, I let him do this, it is my fault, I could of stopped him!" Richard roared.

Rowena slowly approached Richard and wrapped her arms around him, however Richard merely shrugged her off. "No, R3 is finished, and so are we, after this I don't think I can ever look you in the eye again," With that Richard walked off in the opposite direction that Robert did leaving Rowena alone in the middle of the ruined town. Tears pouring down her face she broke down to her knees head in her hands.

"Richard, Robert...What the hell do I do now?!"

The Story over Diego sat back in his seat, breathing out. "Now thats something else, Liandri did well to cover that up, I've never heard of that incident before."

"It was before you were born, and yeh they did, they blamed it on an out of use power station which malfuntioned causing a massive explosion,"

"And I can't beleave you went out with Rowena, was she hot back then?"

"Aww Rowena was something else back then," entering a drawer Pop's took out data sheet which projected a still photo of the R3 next to there silver metal ship.

"Man you guys look so young and Rowena, ****ing hell, hard to belief she was that hot," Diego said impressed. "So did you do after that then?"

"I travelled to the nearest city and got a job on a ship under the name of Lewis. I tried to live a peaceful life forgetting all about that incident so I started up my first bar and soon became a travelling barman."

Diego then pointed to Robert on the picture. "And what happened to Robert?"

"You know very well what his final fate was, he became Liandri's dark agent Draulic," Diego nearly choked on his beer.

"No way Draulic!? Ah thats why you played a large roll in the riots of Metallic,"

"Yeh Robert sorry Draulic had to be stopped but I was too weak to do it myself, obviously after R3 I didn't exercise much while Draulic became far stronger,"

"Wow thanks for the talk Pop's looking at you now, I never would of guessed you were the famous Richard of R3," Diego downed the last of his pint.

(so Pop's history for ya, didn't check spelling so might b hard to ready at places)


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<OOC - Hooray for the end of design and research projects!>

The rain had cleared up, and although the bars had only just opened a number of competitors were already out about the campus, laughing and drinking.  The Liandri Angels kept watch, but mostly left them to their own devices nothing that had occurred yet was serious enough to warrant their attention.  The two teams who had met up outside the bar closest to the Returned's hab ignored the blue-armoured Angels as they talked, bottles in their hands, discussing the next round of matches that would branch out to some of the more exotic arenas outside the campus.  One of them had pulled already, and was busy away from the main group with one of the girls from the other team.

"See," Gideon said, catching a glimpse of them from the other side of the street as he stopped to cup his hands round a cigarette, "Why does that never happen to me?"

Tajheri, walking beside the much taller man, laughed.  Gideon didnt say a lot, but she liked him.  When Gideon did talk, what he had to say was usually worth listening to.  He didn't bull**** much.  On the other hand sometimes, like now, he would come out with the kind of wry comments that she couldn't help smiling at.

"Well don't look at me, Gid," she said with a grin, "Hey look, Marcus is back."

Gideon blew out cigarette smoke and looked up to see that Marcus was indeed coming down the street towards them.  He looked broken.

"Whats up?" Tajheri asked.

"We're ****ed, that's what," Marcus replied bitterly, "Sutherland's suspended our funding."

"What?  Why?"

"Hesitated.  They didn't tell me that they had a whole load of Nali in the security wing, much less that they'd turned some of them into gladiators so the other competitors could use them as target practice."

"****," Tajheri breathed.  Liandri had kept that one quiet.  But then, even the unrestricted areas of the Liandri campus were huge, and even without its swathes of classified information, their datalinks was similarly big enough to make it hard to come across something unless you were specifically looking for it.

"So what now?"

Marcus turned away, running one hand through his hair.

"I dont know," he sighed, and began walking away with his hands in his pockets.  Gideon frowned, his neglected cigarette smouldering gently between his index and third finger.  He looked up in surprise as Tajheri turned as well and headed off in the direction of the hangers on the edge of the campus.

"Where are you going?"

"I think I can help."


*   *   *


After Gideon had told her and Tom about what had happened, Luthienne immediately pulled on her jacket and went to look for Marcus.  He had left his Liandri-issue communicator in the hab when Sutherland had abruptly arrived and hauled him away for the surprise practice match, so it wasn't until some time later that she found him in a pub called Pops' Bar, turning one of several empty glasses morosely in his hand.

"Marcus, what the hell are you doing?" she said as she threaded her way through the already half-full bar and sat down next to him.  Marcus, who had been about to toss his Liandri ID card across the bartop to order another, aborted the gesture and looked round.

"Sorry, Lu.  I needed time to think."

Luthienne frowned in response, "Looks to me like you're trying to get wasted."

She didn't understand; this wasn't like Marcus at all.  For his part Marcus looked at Luthienne silently.  Her face was hard, and through the mist of alcohol Marcus could tell she was angry.

"What's so bad that you couldn't tell me about it?  I had to find out from Gideon that you said Sutherland had cut our funding for some reason."

"Just when I thought I couldnt survive running into any more old acquaintances in this Tourney," Marcus said, laughing humourlessly, "I met Myscha in the arena."

Luthienne paused, "No way."

"They've got a whole load of Nali POWs here.  You, me, Tom and the Nali, all together again," Marcus gave another half-drunken humourless snort of a laugh, "Only this time there really is **** all we can do.  I promised Myscha that we'd help him get out of here, but I haven't got the faintest bloody idea how I'm going to do it.  And now because I was too slow at gunning them down for her taste that bitch Sutherland's cut off our funding, knowing full well that we haven't played and won enough matches to afford the entrance fee for our first game next week.  On Na Pali I could do something, but here with Liandri calling all the shots I can't see a way out."

"Well getting yourself hammered won't help," Luthienne snapped.  His words gave her plenty to think about, but she was still angry at his uncharacteristic display of self-pity, "Come on, we'll think of something."

She pushed her stool and was about to get up when she heard a voice she recognized over the general background conversation.

"There they are."

It was Tajheri, and looking round she saw the younger girl pushing her way through the bar.  With her was a young man in a white shirt, unbuttoned to the breastbone.  His arms were criss-crossed with scars but he wore them openly, his sleeves rolled casually up to the elbows.  He had a sharp, intelligent face, softened by cool and expressive eyes.  Luthienne just looked at him but Marcus recognized him instantly he was the captain of Nature's Deadliest, the team Marcus had faced in his very first match of the Tournament when he was still a member of the Battleclaws.

"Diego Turner?"

-- Edited by [BOSS]Fenix on Monday 30th of March 2009 09:33:29 AM


Captain Thule: We have yet to meet our betters, alien. All we have seen are deluded tyrants, heretics and alien scum.
Farseer Taldeer: You should have looked beyond your mirror then.


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"Excellent!" Chiba shouted out watch from the distanced as Cleet trained hard on the hard surface of the ship, "Now again, and again," Chiba applauded as Cleet spun around the training area waving and spinning his swords, twisting his body, sweat dripped from all over his body his hair drench. "Ok you can stop now!" Chiba yelled out Cleet twirled his blades before sliding them into his sheath strapped to his bare back.

"You are progressing incredibly well Cleet my boy you've already mastered 5 of my 7 forms," Breathing heavily Cleet smiled picking up his discarded shirt and began to wipe the sweat from his brow.

"You must be a good teacher,"

"That may very well be true but even the best teacher could never teach this art to one un-talented, Cleet my boy you have an amazing talent,"

"heh, I'm just a fast learner, is that it for today?"

"Yeh go grab yourself a shower, that girls been waiting for you for some time now," Chiba said pointing to Heather standing at the cargo holds enterence. Cleet smiled and waved Heather repling with a whistle causing him to blush.


Elsewhere Snowva arrived on que as the slave drivers of the Nail slaves changed. With the other guard out of site Rene immediatly called a hault to the work and began stitching a horrid gash down the back of an elderly Nali. First Snowva peered his head round the corner seeing Rene, her face from the other was permenantly stuck in his head even from the rare glimps and despite the burn on the left side of her face leaving a disfigured scar Snowva could see she was beautiful her eyes alone were enough to captivate him her long dark hair silk and soft. Suddenly Rene looked up and locked eyes with Snowva causing him to come out of hiding. The Nali greeted him with warm smiles praising him for his musical talent the other day.

"That song you played for us does it have a name,"

"I don't name my songs, I, I've never really thought about it I just play,"

"Do you play any other instruments," another Nali asked

"umm, well," Snowva looked around the gathering Nali and noticed he had also got Rene's attention. "There is one but I'm still learning how to play it," Snowva laid down his case on a crate opening it up and producing a thin metal instrument shaped as a rod. "It's called a flute, I got it from a planet I visited,"

"Could you play it?" Snowva nodded to the Nali's question and once again found himself surronded by the peaceful race. Slowly he placed the mouth piece to his lips and after a look at Rene remembered well the queen of Ueropia had played for him when she gifted him with the flute, the memories swam back to him.

Snowva tossed and turned on the hard matress around him the sound of a hundred sleeping soliders snoring but thats not what was keeping him awake, tomorrow the queen of Ueropia was going to meet the king of Mercrun and encourage him to assist the resistance group to stand together against Anorkath and he had to stay behind while she embarked on a dangerous treck across the entire continent. Trying to force himself asleep Snowva cleared his mind blanking out the snores of the soliders, he could hear the dripping from the cave walls and then suddenly he heard a faint noise a tune from an instrument he had never heard before.

Listening carefully Snowva crept out the sleeping area tip toeing past the soliders. Out the sleeping area the song was clearer grabbing a nigh****ch soilder he asked about the noise.

"Oh that? That song has played every night since we got here, some say its a soilder others that its the spirit of the mountain easing our souls and helping the men sleep, it is a beautiful song,"

"yeh," Snowva agreed listening carefully, "Has no one tracked it before,"

"No one is brave enough to venture too deep into the mountain besides why disturb them, its doing no harm,"

"Thank you," Snowva said bowing to solider who saluted in return, curious Snowva followed the sound until eventually he came to a dark cave blocked off by a robe with a sigh, 'danger do not enter'. Ignoring the sign Snowva stepped over the robe and entered the dark tunnel, as the torches marking the resistance base faded Snowva found himself following the sound down a dark tunnel, treading carefully Snowva felt his way down the tunnel and eventually he felt a gust of wind and was breathing crisp fresh air and the song was getting louder. Eventually Snowva saw the silver light of moon shining through an enterence approaching it he peered out and saw a lone figure sitting on a cliff edge over looking the beautiful lands of Ueropua siloetted by the large bright moon, it was female her long black hair held back by a headband of gold Snowva immediatly reconised to red, white and gold decorated robes.

"Queen Lantha?" he said gingerly while stepping out of the cave. The young queen jumped before turning round with a smile.

"Lord Snowva, you startled me,"

"My apologises you're highness," he said bowing

"Please Lord Snowva just call me Lantha I would like to escape from being queen at the moment,"

"But why?"

"I was never ment to be queen my twin was she had all the potential, I didn't mind I didn't want to be queen, I wanted to be, normal,"

"Life can be crule your highness, some of us were never ment to be born with normal lives, tho I envy them,"

"Snowva stop calling me highness," Lantha replied showing slight irritaion in her voice,"Please come sit down next to me,"

Snowva swallowed hard and slowly approached the queen sitting on the cliff edge his feet dangling over the edge, he looked down at the scene which stretch out before them and marvelled that even at via the light of the moon Ueropia still help startling beauty.

"How did you get out here?" Snowva asked breaking the silence.

"I found a hidden pathway in my 'royal chamber' it leads me here where I can escape from Garland's over protection,"

"Hardly a royal chamber," Snowva added, "A dripping cave," Lantha smiled.

"Yeh, but you should see the Ueropia palace well before it was destroyed, flowing crystal clear water, the golds, silvers, reds, blues, white, everything it was glorius,"

"Do you miss it?"

"The palace? surprisingly no, I prefered sneaking out the palace walking amoung the normal people eating from a simple cafe, I do miss those inside the castle,"

"I'm sorry,"

"Oh Snowva this life isn't for me, I am no queen I could never be the ruler my parents where or my sister would of been,"

"And what makes you feel that?"

"Everything, look at it, Anorkath's has already crushed us and the Panja republic, they are too powerful, even Mercrun will fall and we have no clue on what this envoy can do I-I don't know what to do," Lantha put her hands to her head and began to cry, "I'm no leader, my family entrusted our future to me and theres nothing I can do, I haven't a clue!"

"That about Anorkath may be true but you're family put great faith in you, all you're people have faith in you if they didn't think you could do it then you wouldn't be queen!" Snowva grabbed Lantha by the shoulders and looked at her face to face Lantha held Snowva's gaze with wet blue eyes, "So what if things look bleak aslong as you have the support of all those around you, you can turn the tide they won't let you down, I won't let you down, don't you let them down,"

"You really won't let me down?"

"When we came here we promised to help you and I will I stick with my promises, now you should make a promise,"


"Promise me you won't doubt yourself anymore, tell yourself you can do it and promise everyone you will not let them down,"

Lantha smiled wiping the tears from her eyes, "You know Snowva I never knew you could talk so much and speak such meaningful words, and...I've never gotten a good look at your face before," Lantha placed her hand on Snowva's cheek causing him to blush and jump back. Lantha laughed, "ok Snowva I promise, and thank you, now sit down next to me again I'd enjoy your company a little longer,"

Snowva straightened himself up and sat down next to the queen, "That song you were playing what was it,"

Lantha produced a long golden flute decorated with red stirpes, "Oh this well this is a flute, this flute is a Ueropian treasure, I used to love listening to the flute players back in Ueropia and that song was the song my mother used to play for me when I was little,"

"Its was nice,"

"Yeh...would you like to learn? I heard you playing other instruments,"


"You hold it like this," Lantha brought the flute gently to her lips and blew softly into the mouth piece the flute letting out a single note, "here you try,"

"B-but its a treasure,"

"Oh don't be a wimp," Lantha placed the flute in Snowva's hands and brought it up to his lips, "now blow," Softly Snowva blew into the flute letting off a high pitched noise, "Ok good now for different notes you place you're fingers on these holes," Lantha guided Snowva's fingers along the holes eventually holding his fingers in hers and looking him in eye. Slowly they edged closer to eachother till eventually there lips touched but then instantly broke apart, Lantha stood up quickly.

"I'm sorry," Snowva said regrettibly

"No, no I'm sorry, I can't I'm I queen, but..."

"I understand," Snowva said dropping his head.

"But, this...could be the only chance, I know this is wrong and I shouldn't be doing this,"

"what are you talking about?" Snowva said rising to his feet. Lantha reached her hand forward seizing Snowva's hand.

"Come on," she said leading him down the secret passage without a word.

The morning sun began to rise from the horizon warming the land in an orange blanket on the cliff edge Snowva held Lantha in his arms. "I must go back before Garland realies I'm gone," Lantha said breaking the silence, "Thank you, I can make this trip now with no regrets,"

"I wish I was going with you, but I must stay, but don't worry Diego will look after you,"

"Snowva you mustn't tell anyone what happened tonight,"

"I won't," Snowva released Lantha.

"Guess I'll see when I get back,"


"Here," Lantha said handing Snowva the flute, "I want you to have it,"

"I can't its a treasure,"

"It was surposed to be lost with the castle don't worry I want you to have it, I'm the queen remember," Lantha standing on her toes leaned forward kissing Snowva on the cheek. "Good bye," she said before turning round and heading down the seceret passage.

Snowva took a deep breath before turning and gazing at the rising sun again.

"Snowva you sly dog," a familar voice mocked from behind. Snowva paniced and turned to the cave enterence seeing Diego and Cleet emerged from the cave.

"H-how did you guys know I was here?"

"I saw you heading through last night," Cleet said "I got Diego and we followed you,"

"You guys were here the whole time?"

"Well up till the queen lead you away to have her wicked way," Diego laughed, "Lucky man Snowva, you're a lucky man,"

"I hope so,"

"We returned back to the sleeping quarters after that and we just got here when the queen left,"

"Please don't tell anyone," Snowva pleaded

"ofcourse we won't not even the other crew members," Cleet reasured

"Hell dude you went with a queen I dread to think the punishment, come on lets back and don't worry Snowva, I'll return her safe to you,"

"Thanks guys..."

Snowva's memories faded with the song the Nali and Rene looked up to him in awe of tune then immediatly began to clap.

"A touching song," one commented

"One felt like they were being cradled," said another

"I feel so revitalised," said a third, "come on all I think I can continue the work with a smile," The Nali busily got back to work before the guards swapped again, Rene slowly approached Snowva.

"That was a beautiful song,"

"I didn't even know I could play it," Snowva smiled "A very special friend played it for me this reminds me of them,"

"Who was she?" Rene said slight disappointment in her voice.

"A queen," Snowva smiled, "My first love, but she married another man,"

"I'm sorry,"

"Don't be, it over a year ago." Snowva smiled at Rene

"What is it?"

"This is the most I've ever spoken to you, I never thought I could speak so openly to you, must be song, hey I'm not very good at this but um, after your shift you want to get a drink, umm, please?"

"Oh uh I-I don't know, I-I'm," Rene blushed with a smiled

"Y-your right, a silly idea, I um don't know what I was thinking," Snowva suddenly felt the gaze of the Nali who looked on smiling.

"Go," One encouraged

"Don't be shy of eachother," another smiled.

Rene shuffled her feet and swolled hard, "Ok,"

Snowva smiled then suddenly overtaken by fear, he had never taken a girl out before. "I better go, see you tonight Rene," Snowva said making for the alley, the Nali smiled getting back to there work. "Diego I'm gonna need advice," Snowva he said to himself, heading back.


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<OOC - Only a short piece I'm afraid; my brain's clearly still melted.  Ah well, once we get the ball rolling again I'm sure the inspiration will start coming back>

"Well if it isn't Mr **** Your Tournament." Diego said, grinning as he sat down and reclined easily on the barstool next to Marcus.

Luthienne frowned in confusion, "Do you know this guy?"

"Played him once when I was still with the Battleclaws." Marcus responded.

"He can help." Tajheri insisted.

Sobering up rather quickly Marcus turned to look at Diego, his brow also creasing into a frown.  The shroud of Liandri-imposed secrecy around Nature's Deadliest had aroused his curiosity, but it had also made him suspicious.  Why would Liandri cover up so much about Diego and his team?  What were they trying to hide?

"Are you with Liandri?" Luthienne asked.

Diego laughed, "About as far from it as it's possible to get.  'Heri says you're in some kind of trouble?"

"Our agent's suspended our sponsorship, which is as good as knocking us out of the Tournament." said Marcus bitterly.

"So you need a new sponsor," said Diego, "I think I can help you with that."

"Why would you do that?" Luthienne asked, still looking confused.

"'Heri's told me a lot about you guys.  I know exactly who you are and what you're fighting for."

"Well we can't say the same," countered Marcus.

"I know him," Tajheri said vehemently, "And I trust him."

Luthienne nodded.  As Marcus had so often observed, she always found it easier to be loyal to people than principles.  Well Tajheri was nobody's fool, and if she trusted Diego then that was good enough for her.  She and Marcus glanced at each other; her lover looked reserved but willing to listen.  But despite this new ray of hope, she could still see a problem.

"But the second round entrance fees are almost all the winnings from the last heat," she said, "How are you going to help us out and afford your own entry?"

Diego flashed a rougish smile, "I know a few people."

As Marcus looked at Diego, his fist pressed thoughtfully against his mouth, something suddenly jolted at the back of his mind and he remembered his unnerving journey through the plasma-gated security wing to rescue his future team.

"Diego, one of the Ghosts in the gladiator wing mentioned you.  Said to 'give you his regards'.  How do you know one of them?"

Diego frowned, "A Ghost mentioned me?"

Marcus nodded, "Captain of the Twilight Wraiths Azazeal."

Diego's eyes widened in shock.

"No," he murmured, almost to himself, "No way..."


Captain Thule: We have yet to meet our betters, alien. All we have seen are deluded tyrants, heretics and alien scum.
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<OOC - Urgh, you know I'm worried; I'm starting to get something dangerously similar to writer's block.  Sorry but just another short one.>

Luthienne stood at the window and watched the winking lights of the campus below.  Tajheri and Gideon had both retired, while Tom was still down at the shooting range, having said hed be back after a couple more rounds.  Of all their team, Tom had been the least happy with accepting Diego's help - he expected there to be some kind of catch, like when Liandri had erased his memory for him.

The bathroom door behind her opened and Marcus padded out with a towel wrapped round his waist, his hair wet from the shower.  The wounds from Na Pali were clearly visible across his torso - the long straight line across his left pectoral from a Necris knife, the smaller section of raised scar tissue lower down where a Phayder's glaive had pierced his abdomen and had taken all the Nali's healing skill to save his life, and the pink burn scar on his right flank where a plasma bolt had missed him by a hair's breadth.  Now they were joined by new ones from the Tournament - the healed bullet-wounds in his stomach, and the new section of ragged scarring on his right bicep where the Liandri muscle graft had replaced the flesh seared away by Azazeal's pistol. 

On a sudden impulse, she stepped forward and hugged him tightly.

"Hey," he said, hugging her back, "Sorry about earlier."

He had been saying that ever since he had sobered up.  Luthienne was pretty sure she understood though.  They had both bled a lot for their beliefs and for the people they cared about, and yet there was always another battle to be fought.  She always came across as willing to see the fight through whatever it took, but that didn't mean that she didn't have her own doubts as well.  He hadn't let her down; they both needed each other as their rock sometimes.  Perhaps she had been a bit hard on him earlier.

"Stop saying that," she smiled, "We're not out of this fight yet."

"It's the not knowing what's going to happen next that gets me," Marcus replied, drawing back but keeping her hands in his.

Luthienne smiled - she hated sitting idle herself, but she knew that waiting without being able to act really got to Marcus.

"Don't worry about it now," she shushed him quietly, "Come on, come to bed."

She smiled, leaned forward to wrap her arms round his neck and kissed him.


*   *   *


In spite of himself Marcus remained awake for some time after Luthienne had fallen asleep, his mind drifting back to Diego's plan, upon which everything hinged.

Beside him Luthienne shifted uneasily in her sleep, a soft moan escaping her lips.  The nanoblack was clearly starting to take hold again.  Marcus threaded his arm round her and took her scarred hand in his, and after a second the tension dissolved out of her muscles.

When the result of Diego's gamble determined the future of Lu, his three friends and the Nali he had promised to help, he didn't like being unable to do anything to affect the outcome.  On the other hand, he thought, thinking of how Myscha had appeared to rescue himself and Luthienne after they escaped the hulk of the ISV Kran, this wouldn't be the first time he'd put his trust in a total stranger.  He turned on his side, cuddling closer in to Luthienne as he did so.  It was up to Diego now.

-- Edited by [BOSS]Fenix on Tuesday 12th of May 2009 11:43:03 PM


Captain Thule: We have yet to meet our betters, alien. All we have seen are deluded tyrants, heretics and alien scum.
Farseer Taldeer: You should have looked beyond your mirror then.


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Diego stretched himself out on the lavish yellow chair sinking into the cusions as the large wall panel slid into position this time Diego was acompanied by Rene who sat in the opposite chair her head facing the ground her long black hair hanging down.

"So Rene, I heard about you and Snowva," he said with a cheeky grin, Rene gave no answer but jumped nervously. "So when you going out?" Rene paused for a moment before raising her head brushing one half of her silky hair behind her ear.

"After you're match tomorrow,"

"I hope you're not as nervous as Snowva or its gonna be a long night for you two," Diego chuckled to himself. "He's a good person Snowva good luck to you guys,"

Rene stuidied Diego, the sincerity in his voice the calm look on his face with a slight smile, Rene had never really met Diego and when she did see him he appeared to immature never taking anything seriously, everything was a joke to him, truthfully Rene doubted he could ever help anyone and didn't understand why Jerry was putting so much faith in him but now after meeting him face to face and talking to him she saw what everyone else did his aura the calming atmosphere that surronded him, even being in his preasence Rene could feel she could do anything and was full of confidence. And she also realised he wasn't just a joker he could be sincere and actually means well.

"Thank you," Rene said softly

"Have you guys got any beers?"

"Yeh," As Rene rose from her chair the large screen flickered on and the round headed face of Jerry appeared.

"Jerry hows it going my fat friend?" Diego said gratefully accepting the beer from Rene.

"Diego I understand you need a favour so you should be careful how you greet people," Jerry said with a wide smile sharing in Diego's humor.

"Yeh this may be a long shot but I need you to sponser a team so they can enter the second heat."

"What? why?"

"Could you just do it please?"

"Diego I'd love to help you out but I'm in deep enough as it is and I need every penny I got to arrange our uprising, taking over a company aint cheap,"

Diego sank his head, "Yeh I thought it was a long shot, ok on to plan B, Jerry is there anyway to rig the drawings for tomorrows matches,"

"Don't worry Diego they've already been rigged,"


"My father and Brother had planned from the get go to have the final battle of the first heat to be you guys vs the Twilight Wraiths, Azazeal's team,"

"So he actually is here..."

"You're telling me you just found out?" Jerry shook his head, "It's one of the main attractions of this years tournament, Azazeal the tyrant behind the Galland III incident and the ones responisible for his capture Nature's Deadilest, tomorrows fight is going to be live and set in an entirely new arena ancient castle to re-enact the battle on Galland III, and the rules are capture the flag to allow for maximum killing, time limit of 20 minutes,"

A broad smile crept on Diego's face, "This will be interesting..."


Cleet spin with the veroicity of a hurricane his sword slashing the dummy at a blurred speed stopping his spin his swords flashed at an incredible speed as Cleet danced around the dummy before finally ending the combo by spinning behind the dummy and stabbing his swords backwards. After a brief pause the dummy crumbled to the ground in pieces. Breathing heavily Cleet collapsed to his knees his level 2 fading from his skin, Chiba ran towards him offering the exhausted Cleet a canteen of water.

"That was amazing Cleet, you've now mastered all 9 techniques the 4 Treasures among them."

"That last one took alot out of me,"

"Yes but I could never master such a combo, if it wasn't for level 2 the speed needed would be impossible to achieve,"

"Then how the hell did you discover it?"

"On an empty planet I discovered these ruins while exploring I fell into an ancient chamber where I found this golden chest inside was a gleaming sword of gold encrusted with jewels and a scroll which had these 9 techniques it was an interesting piece and when I picked it up the scibbles morphed to english, it was as if whoever burried this scroll wanted it to be found and there ancient ways to be passed on, Cleet I haven't told anyone of my discovery, you should be privalliged you will be carrying on that forgotten warriors will,"

"I need to see this planet sounds good, what happened to the sword?"

Chiba smiled "Wait here," Chiba immediatly began to search through his belongs and returned to Cleet with a long object wrapped in a brown cloth, "Here I want you to have this Cleet, as the user nae new master of this nameless warriors nameless style you have the right to wield this sword,"

Carefully Cleet unwrapped the brown cloth and marvelled at the bright blade before him, the sword was indeed bright gold and encrusted with with jewels of 12, the grip was a clean black colour while the cross guard silver and thick. The Blade was long, double edged and gleaming up both sides of the blade were the 12 jewels the first a Garnet, a Amethyst, a Jade, diamond, Agate, and an Emerald all blessed one side while the other housed a further six jewels a Ruby, a Peridot, a sapphire, an aquamarine, a Topaz and a Turquoise, and below each jewel a sketch was engaved each depicting on of the ancient Zodiac sighs something Cleet has studied in the past.

"Does this sword have a name?"

"I could not master all 9 forms so I had no right to wield or name this sword, the name Cleet is up to you." Cleet examined the sword, it was perfectly balanced and began to swing it around before stopping and examing the jewels again.

"Hmm, Jeweled Stars,"


Diego entered the bookies office and was greetly happily by his friend Dave who handled all of Diego's bets.

"Ah Diego my friend, I haven't seen you in a while I was getting worried!"

"Yeah haven't had many matches recently so been doing other things,"

"Ah but you're match tomorrow is gonna be something else, Azazeal in an interview is as ready as ever to face you, the odds are actually against you 3/1."

"The match is capture the flag right?"


"Ok then what would be the odds if I declared that we would win without conceeding a single point,"

"What!?" Dave shouted almost falling out his chair.

"I've told the press the we are ready to face Azazeal anytime and are so confident we would not conceed a single point,"

"Well Diego against a team which has only lost once so far in this tournament you're odds would proberly be greater than 200/1, I'd have to see how many bet against you,"

"Excellent then I make a bet, Diego produced a cheque and wrote a 5 figure number on it and handed it to Dave. Dave's jaw dropped.

"Do you even have that amount of money?!"

"It's the reward money for the defeat of Draulic plus everything we have including a little lone from a friend,"

"If you win this bet Diego you'll be set for life, but I'm afraid my friend that you havent got a chance, I know you, this is an awful stupid thing for you to do and you aint stupid Diego does you're crew agree? Why are you doing this?"

"I've discussed this with them and we agree, and its to help out someone, and if we lose then I know we'll struggle for awhile but we'll bounce back, but those I'm helping they are counting on us so you see Dave, I'm not going to lose I will win this bet take my word for it,"


"Come on Snowva! Fight them like you mean it!" Chief roared into the intercom at Snowva currently fighting in a training match 5 on 1 for 10 minutes close quarters only.

"They are slaves! I can't just kill them!" Snowva yelled as a small man with muscles on his arm bigger than his head lunged at him with knife, expertly Snowva slapped aside his thrust and shoulder barged the man away.

"Snowva they aren't slaves their criminals, that man you just brushed aside is quilty for killing 20 people, 20 innocent people, you're other opponents are a terrorist who killed over 50 people, a traitor who was responible for killing his entire squad, a hired killer who has killed countless and a gang leader who's actions have brought pain, suffering and death to many, you think those men would think twice about killing you, Snowva what I'm trying to get you to understand is yes killing is bad and to do it needlessly is wrong but there is more evil in this universe than you can imagin, if you killed a murderer yes you killed one man but you may of saved a hundred, in this day and age Snowva someone with morals who can fight is needed to combat evil someone like you, lay aside you're nobility and end evil,"

Snowva roared in submission and slammed his fists together sparking up his knuckle dusters, the small man had recovered his knife and charged at Snowva who this time stepped inside of mans attack and punched heavily into his ribs shattering several, the man jerked as the electical currents passed through his body and he collapsed.

"End game,"  Chief said teleporting Snowva out the arena. "Are you starting to see what I'm getting at?"

"Yeh it's ok to kill aslong as the reason is just, but this tournament isn't just its entertainment,"

"Yes I know snowva but remember you never truely kill someone here so don't feel bad they don't when they kill you, and beside you're fighting for a greater cause, grit you're teeth and bare with it,"

"Ok I will..."


Mander and Heather sat in a darkened room legs cross in meditation taking in the fregrence of the insense burning around them.

"What are we doing Mander," Heather asked breaking the silence.

"We are commincating with the nature's spirit,"

"But we are thousands of miles from Geoearth and I'm only half Geo,"

"Heather did you know Snowva passed the path of man hood? The first person for over a hundred years,"


"Did you know he met the Natures spirit and its golden pet?"


"And he isn't even a Geo, unfortunatly we can not meet the spirit having failed the path but it will open our senses if we meditate long enough, trust me if we are successful you will be more prepared for tomorrows match than any amount of training can provide, now be quiet and concentrate and maybe we will be lucky,"


Diego was led deep into the prison compond escorted by two angels. "Boy Azazeal will love to see you," one remarked

"I look forward to seeing him too babe," Diego smiled

"Careful what you say Diego or we'll throw you in cell with him," The other barked. "Ok here we are, Azazeal you have a visitor,"

Diego gazed into the dark cage picking up the shape of several humans with long hair sitting on a long bench, slowly one of there heads raised up and turned to the bars, inbetweed strands of hair white eyes pierced the darkness a reminder that Necris were far from human. Diego stared back at the eyes controling the tension in air by keeping calm. Diego sensed Azazeal's smile although it was barely visible in the dark, then in unison the other figures in the Cell raised their heads and turned to Diego suddenly Diego found himself surronded by 5 pairs of white eyes yet Diego never lost his cool facing each eye indvidually staring down there murderous intent. The two angels stepped back nervously but Diego stepped forward closer to the bars promting Azazeal to rise from his seat with grace and move as if gliding towards Diego stepping clearly into the light.

"Long time no Azazeal, you look terrible,"

"Turner," Azazeal said irritation clearly in his voice. "Why are we...graced with your presence young hero,"

"Well I just heard you guys were here and thought I'd stop by and say hi, and that I am looking forward to our match tomorrow so I can kick you're ass again,"

"This time it will be differen't, I'm more than ready to face you're abilities,"

"You sure? You know I've only gotten stronger, while you've been rotting in a cell,"

"You think we've been rotting in here?"

"What else do the dead do?" Diego replied calmly.

"Careful with your words Diego you have no idea what you have gotten yourself stuck into, I am but a general, by now my lord would have found out about you and the Necris will hunt you down and mark my words this cell won't hold me, and I'm coming straight for you, I will make you suffer,"

"You can come as many times as you like Azazeal I'll keep knocking you back down I'm the one human you'll never be able to beat, and you Necris can come with as many numbers as you like I do not and will not fear you're kind."

"Tomorrow in the arena when my Nano Black poisoning enguffs you're body countless times you will know fear, you will know true pain!"

"Try me Azazeal I'll embarress you infront of thousands, again. See you tomorrow,"

"Looking forward to it," Azazeal replied watching Diego walk off before returning to his seat, what he would give to have strangled that man there and then. Azazeal sat bitterly irritation began to grow with anticipation, tomorrow couldn't come soon enough for the angry Necris.


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<Sorry for the epic wait - next chapter of L4D pending, but not tomorrow as it's my birthday :P >

This, everyone on the Liandri supervising team had agreed as they went through the final preparations for the day's highlight match, was going to be interesting.  Nature's Deadliest were fast becoming one of the most talked about teams in the Tournament, and this latest match against their former nemesis Azazeal had set both the Liandri bookies and the fans buzzing.  The Necris, especially a cold calculating bastard like Azazeal, rarely showed any emotion beyond a mild amusement or contempt when talking to humans, but in the run-up to this last match of the heat there was a definite undercurrent of anger running through the phayder's usually glacial persona.  The match commentator, along with several technicians and a pair of Angel bodyguards, stood in the safety of a plasma-gated antechamber where they could observe the two teams before heading up to the games-masters' box to control the match.  With them was compu-tech DuGrae, who had been pulled off her usual surveillance job at Ross Liandri's request to keep a closer eye on Nature's Deadliest in the run-up to the match.  Most unusually, Ross Liandri was also there personally, as if he suspected Nature's Deadliest of planning something and wanted to oversee the team first hand.  So far though nothing out of the ordinary had happened, and Nature's Deadliest were displaying their usual pre-match mixture of tension and high spirits; Diego had
even winked at DuGrae as he passed her on the way to the armoury.

Everyone except Ross Liandri seemed excited by the atmosphere of anticipation surrounding the match, but the arrival of the second team shattered the atmosphere like a bullet through an ice sculpture.  Ahead of the Liandri operators, several pale figures in black bodygloves glided into the armoury.  One of them glanced briefly at DuGrae with unfathomable glowing eyes, and she felt an instinctive urge to take a step backwards.  Even behind the haze of the plasma gate that separated them from the Necris team, she didn't feel safe.  Menace followed the Twilight Wraiths like a suffocating aura.  The only thing that gave her a scrap of comfort was the explosive collars glittering around the pale necks of the five phayders.  DuGrae forcibly reminded herself that each collar would neatly decapitate the Necris it was attached to if they attempted to leave the chamber, tamper with the collar, or simply annoyed the Liandri technician enough for him to press the manual detonator.  Feeling only slightly reassured, she watched as the Necris leader stepped up to the sliding panel in the armoury wall to choose his weapons.

After pulling out two of the metal strips from his waist armour and securing a pair of stilleto daggers in their place, Azazeal selected a jet-black plasma pistol, an organically-lined weapon whose sleek design did not conceal its clearly lethal intent, and paused over a row of segmented silver spears - hunter-seekers.  He slid one of the metal bands out of the chest of his bodyglove, a silver needle the length of a human hand and about a centimetre thick, and picked up a similarly-sized spear from the rack.  He twirled the two pieces of metal in his hand thoughtfully, gliding them across the tops of his fingers, before placing one of the smaller needles back in the rack and returning the other to its place at his chest, deciding on a far bigger hunter-seeker.  He picked it up and proceeded to spin the segmented weapon in one hand.  The Liandri overseers watched warily as the meter-long tube twirled a silver arc in the air.  DuGrae glanced at the technician whose finger hovered over the collar detonation key.  His expression made it clear that if Azazeal tried to activate the hunter-seeker, he could and would blow the bastard Ghosts head off.  But Azazeal merely caught the spear in his fist and slid it down the centre of his back where it locked into place, the jointed segments following the curve of his spine.

The phayder leader was completely dismissive of the human's attention.  The alien emotions of the Necris did not always translate into terms that a human could truly understand, but nevertheless Azazeal was definitely angry.  It was well-controlled anger, certainly, but it simmered just below the surface and if even the humans could pick up on his black mood then he burned like a beacon of rage to his fellow Necris.  They too had been on Gelland III where months of careful planning had been brought to ruin by Diego Turner and his crew, and as such they also felt a measure of the same cold, calm fury, but it was Azazeal who felt most responsible for the debacle and as such his rage eclipsed that of the other phayders.  He blinked, and his glowing white eyes flashed even in the well-lit armoury.  He did not say anything to his fellow Necris as they glided silently up either side of him; he didn't need to.  As one, they ghosted through the scanners at the armoury exit and forward towards the teleporter pads.


Captain Thule: We have yet to meet our betters, alien. All we have seen are deluded tyrants, heretics and alien scum.
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ND gathered round the armoury checking there weapons the room was deathly silent the teams mind focused on the battle ahead the silence was broken by the round of equipment being checked the click of guns Cleet delicately slid his swords into there sheaths at his hips satisfied with there sharpness. On the long metal bench Diego fixed his boot securing the straps tightly.

"Is everyone ready?" Diego said rising from the bench surrounding him was his carefully picked team consisting the best fighter in ND, Cleet his able second in command took a draw from his cigarette, the unnaturally strong Snowva stood at his back cracking his knuckles, the Geo warrior Mander folded his arms, looking forward as the door of the life slid open allowing the roar of the crowds to flood into the room and finally Heather the beautiful but deadly half Geo grinned allowing the battle hungry Geo blood of hers flow to the top suppressing her healing nature. "Remember the plan and stick to it and we should have no problems," The team nodded remembering clearly the briefing the night before as they walked onto the platform and rising to meet the roaring crowds.

In the ships briefing room the entire gathered round as Diego opened up the Liandri database on the brand new arena they would be fighting in.

"Liandri are trying to recreate the battle on Galland III so naturally they set it in a medieval castle surrounding," The blueprints of the arena opened up before the team. "The arena is split into 3 main parts first our starting point the palace gardens which is basically a giant garden complete with trees, bushes and giant rocks for some odd reason obviously thrown in for cover, this leads into the main door of the miniature castle which is real basic opens straight into a wide open area the throne room, pillers and the throne itself provide some cover, on the sides we have stairs leading to a second floor there may be lot of halls but most are closed off, but you can get to a balcony which surrounds the throne room behind the throne is a door the kings chamber which is the Necris starting point and where there flag will be. And finally there are stairs leading to the dungeon which is what seems to be a major pain in the ass labyrinth but there are many exits some leading back into the gardens some stairs to second floor, and finally the kings chamber. Heather you gotta study this place for you are the key to us winning the battle, in the last possible moments of the battle you enter the dungeons via the entrance in the gardens navigate through the dungeons emerge in the kings throne room and head back the way you came, the rest of us have gotta keep the Necris occupied during this time, try not to kill them or they'll respawn on Heather, before all that just do what you do best gotta make sure to piss the Necris off so they  forget completely about the match conditions, I don't think they care anyway so we shouldn't have any problems,"

ND marched down the screaming fans held back by the barriers and squads of Linadri Angels at the corner of his eye Diego caught sight of Tajheri and The Returned he smiled at her confidently and winked before facing Marcus and nodding. The team stepped onto the platforms ignoring the crowds and paparazzi as the Nano-white scanned there bodies and slowly one by one the vanished.

The bright light before the team faded and they immediately were welcomed by the castle gardens the match was set in night and an ominous purple moon pierced the violet night sky, just like on Galland III across the gardens bright lights shone through the castle windows.

"Ok they got the sky right but this looks nothing like Galland III and that castle is pathetic," Cleet said unimpressed with Liandri's efforts.

"You have to pay so much attention to detail don't you?" Heather complained slight amusement in her voice.

"I'm surprised they haven't charged out that door yet," Mander quickly put in getting the teams focus back on the mission, "I can feel there blood lust even from here," he added grimly.

"Azazeal wants one thing and one thing only terrible revenge he and his allies want nothing but to in flicked as much pain as possible on us, this fight will be terrible," Snowva said softly.

"You know how we roll Snowva we give as good as we get, I dont expect any of us to enjoy this fight, well maybe Mander, but we were bound to face these guys eventually, now come on lets go we only have 20minutes and guys keep level 2 on at all times," Diego took the lead jogging up the garden and stood before the wooden double door reinforced with metal bars, casually he placed his hand upon it and with a great shove swung the door open Diego walked in with a casual stride flanked on each side by his team before him Azazeal sat upon the golden throne decorated with sparkling jewels the chairs padding covered with red velvet, he smiled wickedly leaning forward placed his elbow on his leg and pale hand resting upon his chin his other hand was curled into a fist pushing down his over leg, at his flanks the team of all too familiar Necris gripped there weapons, the lights in the castle were dim and cast there long shadows along the marble floor and great red and gold carpet.

"Finally the time has arrived," Azazeal said rising from the throne and drawing his weapon, "My revenge has come,"

"Revenge? You know you can't actually kill me Azazeal it's only a game,"

"Oh no Diego Turner, this is even better, torture is an enjoyable pass time but the problem I find is people tend to die in agony before I'm finished and then its over," Azazeal walked towards the small set of steps before the throne, "But with this even when you die, you'll come back. And I can enjoy you're suffering," Slowly Azazeal walked down the steps, "Over...and over... and over...again. And, you'll still be alive at the end allowing me to do it all again, you can carry the memories of this pain Diego may they haunt you till we fight again,"

"Azazeal you're words are like the poison that drips from youre blades a normal person would succumb but you should already know," Diego threw off his jacket and flicked out his tonfas, around him the sound of blades hissed from there holders as Cleet draw his swords, Heather her daggers and Mander his long sword, Snowva slammed his fists together sparking up his knuckle dusters. Steadily Diego, Cleet and Snowvas skin began to redden. "I'm no normal person."

-- Edited by The Underdog on Saturday 27th of June 2009 12:35:13 PM


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<OOC - Postage due!>

A hint of a smile crossed Azazeal's face as he slowly rose from his seat. He gave a high-pitched whistle and the hunter-seeker locked against his back disengaged with a series of clicks, rising up to hover behind his shoulder. It rippled lazily in the air, like a black metallic eel treading water, its anti-grav motor emitting a low, sinister hum. Their blades in their hands, Natures Deadliest stayed warily in place, knowing the seeker could only home in on them if they moved.

Azazeal had been counting on it. He darted forward, straight at Heather, moving so fast he was almost a blur. Heather reacted instinctively, her blade coming up to intercept the Necris leader's strike. As soon as she moved Azazeals hunter-seeker sprang to life, its blade-tips extended as it corkscrewed through the air towards her. There was a clash and scrape of metal as Heather's blade met Azazeal's, turning the nanoblack-coated knife harmlessly aside. Then there was an awful ripping, tearing sound as the seeker jinked low under her exposed side, and a burst of blood.

Heather looked almost surprised as she gazed down at the gaping hole in her stomach, blood welling around her hands. She opened her mouth as if trying to speak, but he legs folded under her and she collapsed without a sound onto the tiled floor of the castle. Azazeal swept to a halt, crouched with one arm thrown out, the dagger that had served as a fatal distraction held back along his forearm. The red-stained seeker flew up behind him, spinning on its axis like a drill and showering flecks of blood as if shaking off the blood from its kill.

Mander was the first to let out a roar of anger, pistoning his powerful Geo legs to launch him clear across the room with his bastard sword held high, aimed straight for Azazeal. A black blur intercepted him in midair, and suddenly he was sprawling locked blade-to-blade with Freylis. All at once the other Necris leapt forward out of the darkness, bounding and somersaulting through the air. Baraquel planted the haft of his long glaive into the ground and launched upward, kicking of the wall to dive blade first and spinning towards Cleet. Karyss and Malakai threw their own hunter-seekers into the air and darted forward to engage Snowva together before Heather could respawn.

Within a heartbeat the arena was chaos, a maelstrom of shouts, screams and singing blades. Mander had survived Freylis' blindside strike, and had kick-flipped back onto his feet to face her on more even terms. The Geo was fast despite his size, but the Necris blademaiden ducked and weaved through his whirlwind of sword-strokes, looking for an opening for her metre-long razorblade.

As the other Twilight Wraiths leapt into action, Azazeal launched out of his crouch into a full sprint, straight towards Diego. It took him less than a second to cover the ten metre distance. No human could have reacted in time.

At least, no human who did not possess Level 2.

As the phayder lunged Diego's arm came up, the extended tonfa in his right hand twirling to cover the back of his arm as he raised it in a block that stopped Azazeal's blade dead.

"I told you Azazeal," he growled, "I'm the one human you'll never be able to beat."

And his other arm came swinging round. Azazeal blurred downwards and to the side to avoid the skull-splitting blow, but was forced to back away. He caught himself on his back foot and used it to spring forward, blade first. Holocams whirled around the two team leaders as they traded blows, exchanging over twenty strikes and counter-strikes in the space of the first five seconds. Outside the force-fielded arena, the crowd went wild.

* * *

Ross Liandri stood with arms folded, a wolfish smile playing across his face as he watched the stadiums main holoscreen, seeing Diego and his Ghost nemesis slash and parry and dodge in a lethal dance almost too fast for the eye to follow. The impressively savage match had done much to dispel his earlier tension.

"Now this is what people pay to see." he said in a satisfied voice. Beside him Releana, looking as stunning as ever in a low-cut black minidress, caressed her husband's arm and smiled. Sutherland and DuGrae looked on from behind them. From their vantage point in the games-master's box, they had a perfect angle on the central holoscreen, and an arcing view down onto the packed stadium surrounding them. Rather than stay in the games-master's box as was customary, Diego's non-playing team members had elected to stand in the stadium itself - separated from the civilian supporters by a shimmering force-field and guarded by two watchful Liandri Angels - perhaps to get a closer view of the holoscreens. They were up in their seats, gripping the railings tightly. Sutherland frowned when she recognised the five other figures standing next to Alex, Gail and Gina.

"What are THEYdoing here?"

DuGrae, who had been absorbed watching the holoscreen as it zoomed in for a close-up of Diego, followed the executive's gaze and registered the wiry, dark-haired girl standing between the striking Gina and the distinctive tattooed bulk of Gideon Flintlock. Tajheri, she recalled, gladiator 327.

"327's Diego's girlfriend," she shrugged, stroking a strand of hair back behind the radio receiver hooked around her left ear, "Well," she added, "His latest one anyway."

"And the others?" Sutherland asked pointedly, gesturing towards Marcus, Luthienne and Tom Reynor.

"Well, they're her team-mates..."

"I thought you put them out of the Tourney?" Ross interjected, leaning forward to frown down at the Returned who stood with their backs to him, oblivious to his scrutiny.

"They can't leave until the end..." DuGrae pointed out.

"And so they should be back in the main campus, in their hab!" Sutherland snapped, "There's enough pubs for them to watch the match from - why are they here personally?"

"Sutherland's right," said Ross in a low voice, "They've been hanging around with Nature's Deadliest too much for my liking."

"Don't worry babe," Releana said silkily, threading an arm around Ross' waist, "Jerry will take care of them."

Ross grunted, stroking Releana's hand distractedly, "Dad doesn't trust my brother. I think we should take out our own little insurance policy..."


Captain Thule: We have yet to meet our betters, alien. All we have seen are deluded tyrants, heretics and alien scum.
Farseer Taldeer: You should have looked beyond your mirror then.


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The battle between the two titanic teams erupted into a vicous fast paced melee as the teams exchanged blows all around the large throne room.

Karyss and Malakai's hunter seekers circled around the tall muscular Snowva there lightning quick strikes putting the large man on the defensive causing him to fall back till eventually his back met the cold stone wall.

"No where to run now!" Malakai taunted Snowva.

"Then I won't run!" Snowva yelled back his mighty voice echoing through out the arena. This sudden shout of deviance quickly attracted the attention of the holocams which quickly turned away from the 2 battling leaders and fixed on Snowva. Snowva slammed is fists together his knuckle dusters sparking into life and then once again he slammed them together a second, the two metal dusters resisted eachother at first like a pair of magnets but soon collided and a gentle hum soon echoed from the dusters and Snowva launched to attack meeting the hunter seekers with his fist and one by one they shattered into tiny pieces. His sparking hands by his side Snowva stood amoughst a shower of sparks and metal before the two Necris.

"Avoid those fists!" Malakai shouted jumping back as Snowva leaped at the pair, Karyss came to (who are boys and who are girls btw?) he/r senses not a moment too soon and narrowly missed Snowva's swing fist stepping back the sparking knuckleduster gliding past his/her face but before they could recover Snowvas other hand lanced forward grapping the Necris by there armor, Snowva spun Karyss round twice before throwing him/her towards the door, the mighty wooden door flung open with the impact. Snowva's eyes quickly turned to Malakai and he charged Malakai turned and ran up one of the pillers Snowva pulled his fist back and slammed it into the piller even the might of stone could not withstand the particle breaker and the stone piller explouded in a hail of stones and dust forcing Malakai to back flip off before he could reach the second floor.

(jst a start wrking on more)



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Cleet and Baraquel's blades clashing were the only sounds echoing from the pair of skilled warriors silently they watched eachothers blurred movements blocking, ducking and striking back through the class of blades and shouts around Cleet picked up the faint sound of Baraquel's hunter seeker disloging itself instinctivly Cleets spare blade swept through the air intercepting the seekers near undetectible strike. Cleets blade sank deep into the metallic snakes neck but not penetrate instead the hunter seeker fell to the ground squirming uncontrollably.

Out of the corner of his eye Cleet picked up Baraquels blade pierce through the air falling back on his hands the blade passed where Cleets head had been, Cleet lashed back with a powerful kick, Baraquel leaned his head back Cleet's boot merely touching his chin and back flipped away.

"You've improved," Baraquel commented

"So have you I see, quite surprising considering the fact all you've done is sit in cell,"

"I do not need to train to improve human, I learn from my mistakes, I was careless before but it will not happen again,"

Cleet smiled and in a blink dashed at Baraquel. "You're speed won't surprise me again human!" Baraquel yelled performing a series of back flips and with one mighty jump leaped to the second floor. "Let's see you th-!" Baraquel taunt but was quickly caught off when Cleet ran up one of the stone pillers and vaulted himself onto the second floor. The pair stared eachother down at opposite ends of the balcony and charged. Baraquel's bladed slashed forth at was once Cleet's neck but the blade merely passed a blurred imagin and immediatly he felt a blade strike at two places on his back followed by and immediate tingle all around his body and then suddenly he froze rooted on the spot, his body numb. Through the confusion Baraquel swore he heard Cleet say the words 'Forgotten skill 1 - Ida.'

"W-what have you done?" Baraquel said his voice slurred.

"You're paralized," Cleet said cooly flicking his golden zippo and sparking up the flame before bringing it to his face lighting his ciggarette. Coolly Cleet walked infront of Baraquel. "Forgotten Skill 1 - Ida, the paralizing blade, I hit you in two special places on you're back the shock had an instant paralizing effect although it doesn't last long," Baraguel's fingers twitched as they started to tingle.

"Why are you stalling then?" Baraquel said angry his speech less slurred by now his arms was tingling.

"Because I want you to feel this," Cleet said crouching holding both his swords at his held at his right side as if they were in the same scabbard. "Forgotten Skill 3 - Butterfly," in a blink Cleet's left sword flashed across Baraquels front spraying black blood followed instantly after by Cleets second sword which in the shadow of the first swept up into the air and cut down Baraquels chest leaving a deep cross shaped cut on his front. Helpless Baraquel fell back the image of Cleet and the spray of his own blood the last he saw before instandly he awoke in the kings chamber next to his flag, with Cleets face still frest in his mind Baraquel roared gripping his blade before immeditaly charging back into the battle.

(There u go, set you up for a nice revenge kill)
(Another note. the origin of Cleets tech. Ida was a sword used by the Yoruba people in west africa, it was often pepered and poisned to paralize anyone who was cut by the sword.
The Butter Fly sword is a short Dao or single edged blade origanally from south china they were usually wielded in pairs often carried side by side within the same scabbard so to give the apprance of a single weapon. Look out for the other 7 skills Cleet learns from Chiba)


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<OOC - Let's get dangerous, boys and girls! furious >

The Phayder blinked, and gritted his teeth silently as he took his first step forward off the teleporter pad. As he took his second step he got his toe under his slender Necris sword that the games-master had just teleported back to him, kicking it up into his hand. Closing his free hand round the blade and jerking it downwards to recoat the edge in his toxic nanoblack blood, he began to run. With Cleet's face still fresh in his mind, the usually-silent Baraquel roared, gripping his blade before immediately charging back into the battle. He covered the first 50 metres of the hallway in three seconds, the second 50 in one and a half. Taking a running jump he dived headfirst off the balcony overlooking the throne room, spinning as he came, his blade held out towards Cleet. Cleet, still glowing red with the power of Level 2, looked up at the last second. Outside in the stadium the crowd gasped and Alex's knuckles whitened on the railing she was holding, but then Cleet jinked aside faster than even the high resolution holocam could follow, and the ND supporters in the stadium roared. Cleet moved so fast that on the screen Baraquel seemed to actually fall through his afterimage. But the Phayder was fast too. He caught himself, rolled to his feet and lashed into a spin, his outstretched arm bringing his sword round in a silver arc as he turned. Cleet had already moved, Jewelled Stars rising to counterattack, but somehow the Necris wasn't there any more either as he sidestepped and rammed his sword down two-handed. It was a perfect stroke, a murderous stroke, down through the hollow of Cleet's throat, then the blade twisted and came free in a fountain of blood, stabbing down a second time into the back of Cleet's neck and severing his spine. Cleet dropped like a stone, dead even before his knees buckled under the pressure of Baraquel's sword. His body slid silently off the blade and faded to nothing as the nanowhite did its work, leaving just Baraquel standing with his head bowed and his bloody sword pointing at the floor as a holocam zipped back and forth in front of him. Slowly the Phayder raised his head, his eyes glowing white behind the mask of blood that had splashed his face. It dripped from his hair, and ran in thick rivulets down his angular cheeks. Even the spectators who were supporting the Necris team fell silent as Baraquel's stone-cold stare looked out at them from the stadium's main holoscreen. His silent menace was more than chilling. It was horrific.

Snowva hadn't seen Cleet fall. His attention was fixed on the stunned Malakai, and now he drew back his fist to finish the fallen Necris, who had landed at his feet when the pillar had collapsed. As he threw his fist forward with all his superhuman strength, something whistled through the air on his right. Having recovered from being thrown through the door, Karyss was returning to the fight. The armoured bodyglove was torn along her left flank and a thin trickle of nanoblack seeped out to stain the dark fabric, but she still held her blade steadily, and still wielded it with lightning speed. It wasn't so much a sword as a metre-long razor, about an inch wide and honed to a molecular sharpness along its forward edge. It sang as it swept down through the air towards Snowva's outstretched arm. He pivoted, moving impossibly fast for such a big man, and turned the spin into a left hook as the blademaiden's sword slashed by. Karyss turned the blade in her hand and parried with the thicker back edge as Snowva's fist impacted. Static crackled up and down the blade from Snowva's knuckle-dusters, and the discharge almost jolted the sword out of Karyss' grip but she held firm, stopping the attack dead. For a split second the two were frozen, Snowva glaring past the diagonal blade into Karyss' stark white eyes. Then Snowva felt a sudden, terrible pain in his right forearm, and looked down just in time to see his hand and wrist fall away. The knuckle-dusters, still attached to the severed hand, sparked as they hit the floor and went out. Karyss' blade was so sharp that Snowva hadn't even felt it sweep through his forearm as he spun to counter-attack. Blood spurted from the wound, Snowva's Level 2 metabolism suddenly working against him, and he felt too weak to move. Karyss turned a graceful pirouette, deftly disengaging her blade from Snowva's remaining hand, and made a single downward cut.

She offered her free hand to Malakai, who gave no outward show of emotion but held the blademaiden's eyes for a heartbeat as she helped him up. Then his predatory gaze resumed a quick scan of the throne room and spotted Mander, having won his fight with Freylis, come charging towards them, letting out an angry roar as he saw Snowva's previous body disintegrate back into the nanowhite matrix. The mighty Geo cleared the distance between him and the two Necris in a massive leap, his bastard sword glowing in the moonlight like the weapon of a god. Karyss did not attempt to parry it with her slender blade and flipped back, coming up with her arms vertical and her sword held high over her head. She slashed down.

Mander landed perfectly, but now there was only death above his skull, and he had a split second to act. His instinct was to step back, but he knew that the Blademaidens long weapon would just slice his chest open as he moved. So he stepped forward, into the blademaiden's guard as she darted forward. He caught her now overextended wrist with his free hand, and with no room to swing his sword, hammered the iron pommel into Karyss' side. He had aimed for the spot that was torn and bloody, and the blademaiden's already-bruised ribs simply splintered under the hit. Karyss coughed and fell, mortally wounded. Malakai, trying to blindside Mander from the right, met his sword instead as the Geo warrior spun round without breaking rhythm.

The spectators supporting both teams went wild as the scoreboards kill counter see-sawed back and forth, favouring first Nature's Deadliest, then the Twilight Wraiths, and then Nature's Deadliest again. Though the clock was rapidly counting down, neither side had scored a flag capture, and by the looks of it neither side cared. Two holocams orbited Diego and Azazeal as they continued to battle in the centre of the throne room, the games master constantly switching between the two to give the best possible angle on the high-speed duel. One of Diego's tonfas flicked out, cracking Azazeal across the side of the face and snapping his head round. Azazeal countered with a lunge from the dagger in his left hand, forcing Diego to leap back with arms spread wide for balance. The Phayder rose, his eyes blazing white at the centre of his gaunt face. He ignored the nanoblack spilling from his split cheek.

"Give it up, Phayder," Diego taunted Azazeal in his own language, "You can't win."

"There's no such thing as winning here," the Necris replied quietly.

"But we don't need to win," a soft voice said from above them, and Diego looked up to see Freylis jump down from the balcony, landing with feline grace beside Azazeal, "Just to kill you."

The ash-haired blademaiden carried a slender glaive in her right hand, held diagonally downwards behind her back. It was made of unreflective black metal and the blade on one side extended a good 12 inches beyond the tip of the shaft. Diego responded to his new predicament of being outnumbered with an indifferent grunt.

"You're a bigger coward than I thought," he said contemptuously. But his sharp, analytical mind was racing. Mander was already tied up again duelling with Baraquel and couldn't help him. Facing two to one odds was bad enough, but all other things being equal Freylis' glaive outranged his tonfas, putting him at an immediate disadvantage in the coming fight unless he could find a way to shift the initiative back to him. Still, he only had to hold out until Snowva and Cleet arrived to back him up, and every second he delayed the Necris in the throne room free-for-all bought more time for Heather to sneak through the labyrinth below the castle.

What he didn't know was that Karyss and Malakai had both just respawned in the catacombs, and were now training their beacon eyes on the labyrinth entrance suspiciously. They too were wondering what had happened to Heather after their leader had slain her at the start of the match. But the sounds of clashing blades upstairs caused Malakai's lip to twist in a brief sneer as he glanced back at the blue Liandri flag. He and Karyss looked at each other, then whistled up their hunter-seekers which sprang to life and glided into the pitch-black labyrinth, humming quietly. A holocam jerked crazily out of their way as it hovered round to follow the two Necris, who had turned and darted up the spiral staircase. Reaching the upper level, they looked down through an arched window and saw Cleet and Snowva sprinting through the garden to rejoin the fight. The first warning the two humans had was a sound of shattering glass, and they automatically glanced up as they ran to see a slender sword turning end over end as it fell clear of the storm of glass shards. A sinuous figure in a black bodyglove dived out of the now-open window, and snatched the sword out of midair before turning a crisp somersault and landing in front of Snowva. It was Karyss, with her long sword held out to one side like an extension of her arm. Malakai followed, but instead of his counterpart's graceful swan dive he hurled himself headlong through the opening, missing the broken window's razor-sharp edges by a hair's breadth as he came down on Cleet like a thunderbolt. Cleet registered a black blur, then something red spurted across his shirt and he stumbled, choking. Falling to his knees, he reached up instinctively and discovered to his horror that his throat had been cut. Malakai had already turned on his heel and begun sprinting in a black flash across the garden to support Karyss.

Karyss had lashed out at Snowva, who turned the sword aside with a carefully-angled blow of his knuckle dusters. The blademaiden weaved around his counterattack and lunged again, but this time Snowva's hand flicked out with the speed of a striking cobra and caught her wrist, pulling her around and pinning her in a choke-hold with her other arm trapped against his elbow.

"Not this time." Snowva growled. There was none of the usual softness in his deep voice now.

The Necris thrashed wildly, but could not break his vice-like grip. She even tried to bite his arm. In return, Snowva crushed hers. There was a grotesque grinding and popping noise as Karyss' wrist bones gave way, followed by a loud clatter as her sword fell from her nerveless fingers to the paved ground, but the blademaiden herself didn't make a sound. Snowva realised, as he kicked the female Necris in the back and ended her struggles by instantly snapping her spine, that he had never actually heard a Ghost scream.

<OOC - Sorry for reworking your last paragraph slightly Sean, but I wanted Baraquel to kick-flip his sword biggrin Anyway, cheers for the inspiration!>

-- Edited by [BOSS]Fenix on Friday 25th of September 2009 02:04:10 AM


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Azazeal's blade flashed in a murderous arc before Diego's eyes, quickly Diego ducked avoiding the deadly blade Azazeal's feet stood exposed before him but before he struck a terrible vision passed before his eyes of Freylis' glaive plunging into his back. Instinctivly he rolled to the side and the mighty Necris weapon struck the ground he had predicted right.

Diego leapt to his feet in response and stood before an endless barrage of slashes and stabs by the combined Necris attack, losing ground and tyering Diego's eyes averted to Mander just as the Geo warrior gripped Baraquel and threw him on his back, Diego smiled help was coming but then a harsh reality struck him, he wasn't the only one to notice, in the shadow of Azazeal Freylis after a series of back flips caught Mander unawares and her Glaives with ease sliced into Mander's side before he could make a kill blow, Mander roared in pain as Freylis pulled her weapon out spilling blood on the fallen Baraquel.

Diego faced Azazeal as there weapons locked together a triumphant smile on his face. "What will you do now Diego?" he taunted.

"Ever read my bounty poster?" Diego retored through barred teeth, "They call me a master of battle, let me show you why." Diego's head flashed forward crashing into Azazeal between the eyes forcing him to stagger back dazzed as Azazeal eyes came into focus Diego was gone.

Freylis was just helped Baraquel to his feet when suddenly Diego appeared between before they could register his pressance Diego's tonfas struck left then right the heavy metal colliding into the Necris throwing them harshly onto the hard stone ground. Diego spun his tonfas spikes sliding out at the top, dropping to his knee Diego plunged the spikes into the Necris' chest piercing the heart, Freylis and Baraquel opened there mouths to roar but sound escaped them as everything faded into black. Quickly Diego rose to his feet but was stopped dead as Azazeal's blade burst out his stomach and seering pain travelled throughout his body. Diego tried to shout but sound was beyond him.

"Do you feel that pain?" Azazeal whispered into Diego's ear causing his bones to shiver. Diego gritted his teeth.

"Do you?" he said cooly. Azazeal froze as he felt something warm run down his torso he looked down to see the tip of Diego's spike at the bottom of his tonfa sticking in his armor covered in a deep read stain. Azazeal slowly withdrew his blade causing pain to once again seer through Diego and he fell to the ground and curled up in anguish. Azazeal stepped back the shock and suddeness of the strike allowing him to not feel the pain his leg suddenly became weak and he collapsed to one knee, he glared at Diego curled on the floor in pain. Azazeal smiled sickenly at Diego as he watched the young man squirm on the ground in pain. Slowly he rose to his feet as Diego pathetically tried to crawl before once again being overcome by the terrible pain and hallutionations of the nano black poisoning and collapse curling round his heavily bleeding wound. The pain was unbarable and reminded Diego heavily of the pain inflicted upon him as an experiment of Liandri as the memories of those terrible years flooded back him.

Diego was 6 years old he sat upon a neatly made bed in a room he reconised littered with toys, tears where streaming down his face as angry voices and a babies roared from somewhere beyond his door he gripped the covers tight. He remember moments before the sound of cars stopping outside and man a muscular man with untidy spiky hair much like his own gazed out a window he turned to Diego and looked at him with stern brown eyes he looked paniced. "Go to you're room Diego!" he roared. Before Diego could say anything a soft hand took his, Diego looked up at a beautiful women with worried looking eyes of deep hazel and long dark silky hair she lead Diego through a house, Diego reconised it the wooden flooring, the panel walls, the furniture the white rug, it was warm, it was home. As she opened the door to the bedroom there was a heavy knock on the door and a baby began to cry leading Diego to the bed she sat him down and hugged him tight the smell of her soft hair was comforting and she kissed him on the cheek.

"Mum whats going?" Diego asked in a soft young voice

"Don't worry Diego everthing will be fine," she said a slight tremor in her voice.

"YOU ARE NOT GETTING MY CHILDREN STEINER!" a man roared through the house.

"whos dad yelling at?" Diego looked into his mothers hazel eyes tears where beginning to flood them.

"Just stay here," she told him kissing Diego again and leaving the room closing the door.

"YOU CAN'T CHANGE YOU'RE MIND NOW DEREK," another mans voice roared and the babies cries grew louder. "YOU SIGNED THEM UP FOR THIS!"

"I DIDN'T SIGN MY CHILDREN UP FOR ANYTHING!" the angry voices continued to roar, Diego rocked uncomfortable on his bed scared, confused he wanted his mother back with him and tears began to flow as the voices grew louder. Looking around Diego spotted a soft toy of a lion sitting on his bed he grabbed it and held it close to his stomach. Suddenly a mighty bang echoed followed by a scream overshadowed only by a babies terrified cry.

Diego heard heavy foot steps approach his door and it swung open and three scary looking men ran in and grabbed Diego, he struggled but was soon lifted from his bed still clutching the lion. The men carried Diego back through the house and into the lounge Diego gazed down to the floor and saw a man laying in a pool of blood on the floor gasping for breath he looked up at Diego with tear filled eyes.

"DADDY!" Diego roared intensifing his struggles but could not break free he was helpless.

"No leave my family alone," Diego's mother cried, Diego looked to the corner of the room where his mother stood conered by a tall dark man his dark hair shaved Diego could only see the back of his head. His mother was clutching the crying baby struggling as the man ripped it from her hands and knocked her down to the ground next to her dying husband still gasping for breath. "please not my daughter aswell," the women weeped. Diego was soon carried towards the front door where a man with balding hair and thick glasses looked down humorusly at the scene before him.

"Don't worry we'll take good care of you're children," he said before turning a leaving

"NO! MUM! DAD! I DON'T WANT TO GO! MUM!" Diego cried as he was thrown into a car the door shutting then everything faded to black.

Azazeal laughed at the pitfil sight of Diego before him, "You really are pathetic Diego, No, Mum, Dad!" Azazeal mocked as Diego lay curled on the floor, tears where pouring from his eyes, tears of the forgotten memory. Azazeal stopped laughing as a the blue bullet of a shock rifel hit Diego's head finishing him off, Azazeal angerly turned to the door where Cleet stood his rifel still aimed.

"I've had about enough of that," Cleet said lowering his weapon, "You Necris really are sick." Cleet said disgusted. Azazeal made to charge but soon collasped under a sharp pain in his stomach where Diego stabbed him, he looked up as Cleet charged his seperating his head from his body.

Diego respawned outside the castle and fell back. Memories had flooded into him, people, places a lump began to form in his throat. What was that? He thought were those memories a mere hallusionaltion caused by the nano black or did the pain trigger memories long forgotten in Diego, memories Liandri tried to block. Diego tried to think back but the memories where blurrs now, fading away. The lion he had seen it before on the ship.


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Karyss and Freylis saw the blue energy bolt from Cleet's shock rifle flash across the main hall, and the two blademaidens instinctively darted back into cover.

"I see..." Freylis mused quietly, flicking her beacon eyes over Karyss and Malakai, who had just joined them by leaping gracefully down from the upper level. The phayder's long hair had fallen over his left eye; his right burned with the closest thing to rage that a Necris could feel.

The phayder's gaze snapped round as the green light of a teleporter strobed at his feet. A hunter-seeker appeared, coiled and dormant, and a second later another one of the black metal snakes materialised in front of Karyss. The two Necris looked at each other. They had left their hunter-seekers guarding the catacombs - if the games masters had just teleported in a pair of new ones for them, then that could only mean that Heather had destroyed them and now had a clear run to the Twilight Wraiths' flag. Sure enough, a few seconds later an alarm chimed on all the Necris wrist locators and the LED display flashed a warning.

"So that's where she went." Karyss hissed.

In contrast, Freylis didn't even look down at her locator minimap and the dotted line pointing her to their stolen flag. Instead, she switched her glaive into her left hand and palmed a throwing knife. She wasn't going to play the humans' game. They would be getting out of here soon enough anyway. The reappearance of their old nemesis Diego had galvanised Azazeal, and their leader had made arrangements. An enigmatic smile flickered across Freylis' hauntingly beautiful face. The humans hadn't seen it in the armoury, but she had.

"Don't mind it." she whispered to her fellow Necris, before turning on her heel and running back towards the castle's lower level. Flag or no flag, she was going to have fun hunting down Heather when the Geo reappeared. She caught Azazeal's eye as she passed him on the stairs. The phayder leader was stalking purposefully back up to the main arena with Baraquel, the two Necris moving with a deadly graceful ease in the loose jumpsuits of their armoured bodygloves.

Back in the hall Malakai ground his teeth. Freylis' order was exactly what he had wanted to hear. He exchanged a significant glance with Karyss, and then the two Necris darted forward into the wide entrance hall. They leapt from wall to wall, sliding through Cleet's ASMD fire as they sought to simply close with Nature's Deadliest and kill them as many times over as possible.

Which, of course, was exactly what Diego had counted on.

The battle was horrific.

* * *

Marcus, dressed in a black collared shirt and dark jeans, couldn't help smiling as he walked down the brightly lit thoroughfare, his left hand in Luthienne's right with Tom on her other arm, and surrounded by both their teammates and their new friends from Nature's Deadliest. Somehow Diego had pulled it off, and they were back in business. The street was thronged with revellers and bright holographic signs strobed from every direction as they wound their way from Pops' Bar to Diego's favourite nightclub. A heavy, insistent beat assaulted their ears as they approached the club and flashed their tournament ID cards to the two Liandri Angels acting as bouncers.

"God, its been ages," Marcus said as they handed over their cards again, this time to a young woman sitting inside the club in a small booth, to debit the entrance fee from their team account. It was true - he hadn't been clubbing since before Na Pali.

"Oh come on Marcus," Luthienne laughed, smoothing the back of her amethyst dress with her free hand, "Don't make me feel old."

"Drinks are on me!" Diego shouted at the top of his voice as they entered. He was roaring drunk, with one arm around Tajheri and his other hand already clutching a bottle stamped with the Liandri star and chevron. Watching the two head down to the dance floor, Heather winked at Cleet as she handed him his drink. Cleet smiled and pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. Marcus and Lu were dancing, Luthienne with her hands in the air while Marcus held her waist from behind. The more reserved Snowva stood to one side sipping his drink. Tom was with them, a smile softening the prominent scar on his cheek, and dancing with Luthienne as she twirled between Marcus and him. Tajheri couldnt stop laughing as she danced with Diego. Diego himself seemed euphoric also; although he had been somewhat taciturn after the match, the alcohol had made him more upbeat as the night wore on. Diego had been downing drinks at a prodigious rate since the end of the match; possibly just to forget the hideous battle with the Necris, but that didnt quite add up in Cleet's mind - Diego had been unusually quiet ever since suffering the nanoblack poisoning from Azazeals blade. Even if it didn't kill nanoblack could cause terrible pain and hallucinations, which was why Cleet had felt compelled to shoot Diego as an act of mercy. Whatever Diego had seen in his delirium, he was drinking hard to forget it.

"Smile, Cleet," Heather pouted, and leaned forward to kiss him. Cleet caught himself; he had been over-analysing again. Grinning, he pulled out his lighter.

"Just going out for a bine," he said to Heather as they drew apart, "Smoke?" he added to the others who were within earshot. Gideon nodded and the two headed out the back door of the club to a small courtyard given over for smoking. They weaved their way past a muscular, shaven-headed tournament competitor who was too busy with the young woman grinding against him to notice them and get out of their way.

"See," Gideon grunted, echoing his words to Tajheri the day before, "Why does that never happen to me?"

Cleet laughed, and lit the big miner's cigarette for him, "Need to try harder, mate. But if all else fails there's always the brothel at the other end of the campus..."

A smile creased Gideon's broad features as Diego stumbled out of the club with his arm around Tajheri.

"Cleet!" he yelled brightly, and threw his free arm around the taller man. Behind them, Tom followed Diego and Tajheri out of the hot, smoky club for some fresh air, and took a long draught from the drink in his hand.

<OOC - Too tired to write any more tonight.  Sean, if you want to stick in the bit where Diego and Tom discuss memories then this would be a good place.>


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"Smoke?" Cleet offered Tom, disengaging himself from Diego's embrace.

"No, thanks." Tom replied, a little too abruptly.

"Hey, hey, hey," said Diego, turning to squint up into the man's dark eyes, "It's only a smoke..."

"What's up?" Gideon asked, letting his arm fall and blowing out a stream of acrid cigarette smoke.

"Nothing." Tom back-pedalled, waving his hand dismissively.

"You sure?" Tajheri pressed from beside Diego.

"My brilliant plan saved your guys' arses back there," Diego himself added, "You should be celebrating!"

Tom paused for a moment, as if debating whether this was the time and place to speak his mind. After a few seconds, he evidently decided to just come out with it.

"Yeah, you did." he said, "And I'm wondering when you were going to tell us what we have to do in return."

It took a second for the statement to filter through the alcohol in Diego's system. He frowned in confusion.

"You think there's a catch?"

"There's always a catch." Tom said grimly, tapping the back of his neck where the inhibitor chip lay embedded.

"No catch." Diego grinned, "That's Liandri tactics, and I'm against anything Liandri does on principle."

Despite the music, and the alcohol, and his previous good mood, a shadow suddenly seemed to descend over his face.

"Liandri used me, Cleet and Snowva as guinea pigs for one of their projects." he said, so low that only Cleet, Tom and Gideon could hear him. "They took away everything I cared about before, and now they're threatening everything I care about now to try and keep me in line. Well I'm not taking their ****. Not this time. I'm going to make them all pay - Liandri is going down."

Tom looked at Diego with wide eyes. His plan went further than Marcus and Luthienne's. He didn't just want to free the people who suffered for Liandri's tournament. He wanted to bring down the whole corporation and its tournment with it. But did he really believe he could pull such a plan off?

"And I know how I'm going to do it." Diego went on, as if he had read Tom's mind, "I've had a plan since the start, and I'm going to make them pay for what they did to me."

"Not here Diego." Cleet warned, his voice a low hiss.

Diego nodded, brightening up again just as suddenly, "Right you are, Cleet!" he said loudly, "Tomorrow for planning the future, tonight for drinking! 'Heri, you want to get us another round of shots?"

Tajheri - who had been firmly fending off the advances of another competitor while the others talked - nodded, stood on tip-toe to kiss Diego, then followed Cleet and Gideon as they stubbed out their cigarettes and headed back inside. Diego hesitated a second before following.

"To me..." he murmured, "And to my sister."

* * *

"I thought you formally disqualified them!" Sutherland snarled at her aide, slamming her data slate down on the table so hard that the screen cracked. She had not been happy to learn of the funds transfer between Nature's Deadliest and the Returned, which had amounted to Turner bailing out Fantom and his team and letting them continue in the Tournament in blatant defiance of her wishes. She knew it had looked suspicious, the two teams together before the last match. It wasn't the money that bothered her, it was the underhanded subversion of a company order.

"I..." her aide stammered, the colour draining from his face, "I suspended their match subsidies like you told me, ma'am. I thought as soon as the next round registration came round, they'd be forced to pull out."

"You idiot." Sutherland retorted, "You ****ing idiot!"

"They'll still have to pay for their own ammo, and all the other match entry fees..."

"Which they'll easily be able to afford if they keep winning! Or if Turner keeps pulling this little stunt!"

"We've never had teams pool resources before." the aide stuttered, searching for some way to salvage the situation, "It's a loophole, but we can ban it as game-rigging right now to stop it happening again. For that matter, we can disqualify them now."

"No." Sutherland said, rubbing her temples and making a conscious effort to calm down and think objectively about the situation, "I suppose we can still profit from this. Liandri still owns shares in the Returned, so we have a stake in any money they win, without having to make any further payouts. But still..."

"But still what?" came a voice from behind them. Sutherland turned to see Ross Liandri entering the office, with Releana hanging on his arm. She disengaged her arm from Ross' to stifle a cough as her husband dropped into one of the office bay's empty chairs, hooking one leg casually over the armrest.

"Well don't just stand there." Ross snapped to the aide, "Get my wife a drink!"

The aide nodded and hurried out, simultaneously anxious to obey the CEO's son and glad for an excuse to be away from his irate boss.

"Still what?" Ross asked Sutherland again, while Releana folded herself into her husband's lap and ****ed her head in the other womans direction.

"I don't like the idea of them owing favours to Turner." Sutherland admitted, "We have to deal with malcontent competitors every year, but Turner is far too smart for his own good. And I don't trust that Fantom either - I don't believe he bought all those security-level gladiators just because they were cheap..."

"Don't worry," Ross cut her off, "I've got our little insurance policy remember?"

"On ND or the Returned?"

Ross gave a wolfish smile, running a finger delicately up and down Releana's bare arm. "I believe I've found ways to cover them both."

<OOC - More to come soon, I've got the perfect lead-in to the Diego/Releana subplot>

-- Edited by [BOSS]Fenix on Thursday 23rd of December 2010 12:54:16 AM


Captain Thule: We have yet to meet our betters, alien. All we have seen are deluded tyrants, heretics and alien scum.
Farseer Taldeer: You should have looked beyond your mirror then.

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