Chae’Sol stood at the centre of a large command deck, meticulously peeling the protective film from his new captain’s chair. The sensation of the slow but steady yielding of the film, the sweeping line following the contours of the seat in flowing curves; it was incredibly satisfying. Finally, with one last gentle pull, the last of his chair was uncovered and he stood back to admire his throne. Aside from the freshness of the seating itself, there were shiny new holo displays, touch sensors, and comms relays that were within easy reach of his seated fingertips. This ship would be the jewel in any fleet, a prototype Dreadnought made by the infamous Bardul of Shi’an. The Gowe Military faction had run into financial problems, and it had been left unpaid and unclaimed. What sorcery Kadir had used to find it, and purchase it, he did not know. His comms unit beeped and Danyd’s voice came through. “Chae’S-” -He grumbled incoherently- “Captain, we’re ready to get underway.” The Niham turned and sat back on his pristine chair, swinging his long legs over the armrest. “That was quick, Chief Engineer Ef’Yto” Danyd grunted at the use of his title. “Aye, these Awakened are efficient bastards.” The Satryn looked around at the enormous engineering bay. The entirety of the Porkchop Express could comfortably sit inside, and two of them could likely squeeze in. “Plus, this thing has never been used; feels weird not having anything to work on. It’s state of the art, and I’m having to read the manuals on half the new systems.” Chae’Sol laughed, looking around at the Awakened as they were preparing their workstations. “Yeah, this command deck is a little intimidating. Even the Niham Armada didn’t have ships like this. There are fifteen weapons stations here, what in Tulseria’s name were the Gowe planning to do with this thing?” “No idea.” The chief engineer walked to the large seat in front of his new work terminal, and hopped up onto it. The protective covering squeaked. “This thing has more firepower than half their fleet, it must have been something big. We’re lucky Kadir found out about the graveyard of unclaimed ships from one of his contacts.” The newly-minted captain swung his legs down and sat up, straightening his black uniform and white collar. “That’s another thing: how does he have so many contacts? I was in the Tulseria-damned military, and I had no idea they would sell us fighters and weapons.” “I know the feeling.” Danyd watched a junior engineer – Lily, an Awakened who wore a headband in her silver hair that sported long Kittran ears on it – begin running diagnostics on the Hoban Field Generator. “I'm aware he got the automated weapons for the system port from my people, somehow. As for how he accomplishes all he does, I think his time working with that fancy Anatidae councillor opened more than a couple of doors for him.” Chae’Sol stood, running his fingers through his perfect hair. “Doors, windows, rear entrances and damned secret portals, all leading to a dark realm of shady deals and supplies. We have an Imperium Capital Ship for Tulseria’s sake! Nobody knows where he got it, or where he’s now hidden it.” He looked at his holo display, noting the specks springing blinking into existence as the other ships of Federation origin came to life. “Let’s just be glad he’s on our side.” The chief engineer tugged at the green collar to his uniform. “Our side used to be a damn sight smaller.” Lily had finished her diagnostic tests and sent the results to his console. Her report included an adjustment that would create a potential three percent increase in crystal efficiency, and a small drawing of a smiling leokit with a crim-bar. He groaned, then reported back with, “We’re ready to go when you are.” The Niham strode confidently across the command deck, stopping to stand in front of the huge vid screen at the front of the room. All around him were his crew, made up mostly from the Ashi, Awakened, and Kasurians. “Let’s get this show started.”
Jaym sat with a bowl of Tony the leokas cereal in front of her. It wasn't just a catchy advertising slogan - it really was great. She and Elizabeth had worked together so much in the engineering section of the Porkchop Express that they had become close, often spending their free time together. Indeed, Elizabeth currently sat opposite her, carefully rebuilding a power coupling and occasionally tapping at her datapad. Shortly after the results of her most recent tap played out, Elizabeth paused her work on the power coupling. Without speaking, she held up her datapad so that Jaym could see. On the screen was Tony and his mate Jolie, and Skeena’s voice could be heard excitedly talking about collecting urine samples from the female. Jaym screwed up her face at first until Skeena announced the pregnancy test was positive. Tony was going to be a father! She couldn't contain her joy and screamed loudly, grabbing the screen and running all the way to the bridge to show the others. Ranjaz was stretched out across the captain’s chair as Jaym burst in, and didn’t open his eyes until she began shaking his leg. Even then he didn’t pay much attention. “I told you not to let Elizabeth play with any more systems till after the mission.” She blushed slightly, as their last improvement had inverted their water treatment system and blown six power couplings. "It's not that!" she said, holding up the datapad and starting the video. "Look!" At the first syllable of Skeena's voice, Ranjaz sat bolt upright. The video held his full attention, and when Tony's impending fatherhood was announced the Kittran's whoops of delight could be heard all through the Porkchop Express. He reached underneath his seat and retrieved a small, fluffy bed, then picked up Aiov. Ranjaz led his unusual dance partner in a quick spin of joy before replaying the GalacTube video for her. “You’re going to be an Aunty!” Eruwenn leaned back in the large seat that had once been Embar’s. “I didn’t think they were related?” The Kittran nodded. “Aiov is Tony’s sister. Aaron adopted them both, and that’s how human families work. They just keep adding members, like a Dular adding shells to its burrow. Family is family.” Cygna pressed a few buttons on her Navigator terminal, moving the video to the main screen as well as starting it over. “I still can’t believe you keep one of these under your seat. I mean, it’s a leokas!” Ranjaz held Aiov up and they briefly rubbed noses. “Just a little one!” The Anatidae laughed. “I can see living with the human has had quite a profound effect on you.” With one of his trademark grins he held Aiov out towards Eruwenn. “Wanna nose rub?” "Ah," the councillor said, shrinking back from the offer, "despite her size she is still a predator, and I am not quite ready for such a close encounter.” From the pilot seat Ripley stood, taking Aiov from Ranjaz. “She is not a toy.” She briefly snuggled the tiny leokit to her chest, then passed her to Jaym. “Take her for food and exercise; she must grow up strong.” Jaym also cuddled the wriggling Aiov close, and not just because the little leokit was adorable. Aiov had tripled in size, and was becoming a bit of a handful. “Thor was preparing her food; I’ll take her down to him.” Once the junior engineer had left, and Ripley returned to the pilot seat, Ranjaz began tapping on the console in front of him. “Looks like we’ll be free to take the shuttle down to the surface with the next group.” Cygna drummed her fingers on the arms of her chair. “I didn’t realise it would be so busy.” Ranjaz shrugged. “There was a quake on the fourth planet, so mining colonies are shut down while the nerds poke around. Along with that, we got three big freighters waiting for resupply. That’s a lot of bored folks looking to kill time.” Ripley grunted, prompting a chuckle from the Kittran. “You don’t approve of their choice of leisure activity?” After their few cycles together Eruwenn was already learning a lot about her shipmates. Ripley, for instance, wasn’t one for talking. She decided to interject before the Captain irritated her too much, as they would need her focus soon enough. “Gambling and pleasure palaces are not to everyone's taste, of course, but these sorts of things are covered under local governance.” Without skipping a beat Ranjaz replied, “I know that’s the official line, but you sure as shit have tax codes for all of it. If you want to look down on folks, don’t pretend you aren’t profiting from it.” Cygna, ever defensive of her mentor, jumped in. “That’s a bold statement for someone who never paid a credit in tax until it was automatically deducted from his Galactic Federation pay.” Ranjaz laughed, then continued, keeping his voice care-free. “Taxed on what? I never owned anything.” Eruwenn could see the trap her junior was walking into but decided to let this be a learning experience. The Kittran was wily, and the Anatidae found him entertaining. Cygna, as she had predicted, scoffed at his claims. “I’ve read your file. When you were arrested you had a ship, five shuttles and thousands in valuable goods confiscated.” “Exactly!” His eyes lit up as he cornered her. “It was confiscated because it was stolen, so I didn’t own it. Imagine a world where you can keep stolen goods if you pay tax on them. Even I think that’s crazy.” The Fae’Dan paused, and the anger evaporated from her voice as she realized what he had said, replaced by a slightly impressed tone of surprise. “Well, maybe, but… Really? You stole all of it?” Ranjaz shrugged. “Or won it. I’m pretty good at Dalcho.” Cygna perked up. “I play Dalcho myself, we shou-” “No,” Eruwenn interrupted. Some lessons were too expensive. “Do not play Dalcho with someone who can get free priority entry permits to a casino.” The former operative shook her head. “I’m a great player, you’ve seen me in the council chambers. I took that Ley’Rulian trader for five hundred credits.” The Anatidae smiled kindly. “And he had five shuttles when he was arrested.” Cygna slowly turned from Eruwenn to Ranjaz, noticing his grin and the sparkle in his eye. It was most definitely the smile of a predator. He gave a little chuckle. “Don’t worry, it’s been a long time since I played. No gambling on Galactic Federation ships, you know.” He laughed again. “Oh wait, you read my file.” The Fae’Dan nodded. “Perhaps we should focus on the mission.” She gave a slight bow to Eruwenn before returning her attention to her console. Ranjaz looked at Eruwenn and stuck out his tongue. “Don’t ruin my fun!” The Ambassador smiled. “I don’t play Dalcho, but there is a human game called chess I quite enjoy. Perhaps we could play sometime?” The Kittran gave a nod. Keeping his voice neutral, he replied. “I don’t know that one, but there’s another human game we could try. Poker?” "We have permission to dock at the holding ring and send down a shuttle," Ripley abruptly called out. "Let’s get this whatever it is and make the rendez-vous.” Both of Ranjaz’s fangs showed as he grinned. “If we’re going to pull a job on Chisola Prime, first you’re going to need to look the part!”
Aaron walked down the corridor of the Hive ship, the strange spiderlike creature trailing behind him as he followed one of the corpse vines as it receded deeper into the ship. He turned and watched the creature, which shrank back from him and crouched low to the ground. “I’m sorry I kicked you. You simply startled me; you don’t have to hide.” The lighting never changed in the endless corridors of the ship, and only the most uninteresting of doors deigned open for him. At this point, he had lost track of time completely. Through perseverance he’d made several important discoveries. The bulbous shapes in the flower vase room were seats; he was fairly certain of that after finding another room with bodies sitting in them. The vines that came for them were the ones he was now following, and by now he must have seen hundreds of dead Hive. The second discovery was that the Hive came in a variety of shapes and sizes. There were two main ones, as far as he could tell, and the first were the four legged kind that had so kindly thrown him in the rejuvenating jelly bean. The second was bipedal, and looked a hell of a lot meaner. While the ones he deemed workers looked somewhat like ants to him, in shades of reds and browns, the second type looked much more commanding. Their carapace had thicker layers of armour in green, gold and red, and was spiked at the shoulders and joints. Even their legs had spines and to top the look off their heads were much more angular. Whether they were soldiers, commanders, or something else, he didn’t know. Through observation of the corpses he had discovered the most confusing feature yet: a strange section in the centre of their abdomen that was filled with what seemed to be a grey fluid. Ahead of him, not skittering away like the rest, was an aphid that no longer emitted a pale green glow. Something whooshed overhead towards the slow and sluggish aphid, and Aaron instinctively threw himself to the ground before he realized what it was. "That's how you get kicked!” He stood up, brushing himself off. “Fuck, that scares the ever-loving shit out of me every fucking time.” The huge creature looked up at him and whined as it munched on the sick aphid. He was probably imagining the apology in its eyes, but Aaron still shook his head. “I know, I know. It’s your job. They clean the floors, you keep their population healthy. Just stop leaping over me like that, fuck. I’m going to have a heart attack.” It whined and backed away from his angry words, and he tried to keep his voice to calmer tones. “Don’t be like that. I’ve told you enough times.” When he looked down the corridor again, the retreating corpse vines had disappeared around a corner. Aaron began to jog after them, and after he'd put some distance in he heard the pattering footsteps of his terrifying shadow. He tried to pay it no mind. Once the vines were back in sight he slowed and followed behind them, singing his direction song quietly to himself. “Left, right, straight. Left, left, right. Straight, straight, left, left. Right, right, straight, right, right.” The ship was massive and, other than some areas smelling funkier than others, there was no variation in lighting, decoration or layout. The song was his map back to the rejuvenation pod, which was his only safe source of hydration. His companion padded along behind him, a friendly nightmare to accompany him on his seemingly endless journey. “We really need to give you a name.” He wished he had his phone with him so he could channel all his nervous energy into making a video. “The audience demands a name. Plus, I won’t be able to sell merch without one.” He turned and looked at the creature. “I’ll probably have to create space-halloween first, or maybe I’ll get lucky and find that you’re cute to some species.” Aaron returned to following the corpse vine, waving a hand high as he spoke, gesticulating to the heavens. “The name is what matters: a good name makes all the difference.” He began seriously pondering the naming matter. “Aragog, Shelob; you know, lean into your size for a characterization. But then again, that's not really going to make people like you.” He looked back over his shoulder as the unnamed beast trotted happily behind him. He assumed happy, at least. It now tended to make an odd gurgling noise after eating, and it roamed closer to him than before. “You know, I never got to name Sassie – she’s my dog. I told you about her yesterday, or the day before.” He really was losing track of the days he’d been here. “I got her from a rescue. She was skinny, and so damn angry, with scars on her legs and under her fur. I had to have special visits before I could keep her. Prove I was worthy.” Talking helped take his mind from the gnawing emptiness in his stomach. Hydration and nutrients osmotically obtained from some weird pod were nowhere near as satisfying as a burger and a cold beer. “Her first visit, she had a rubber ball. It was her only possession, and she loved it.” There was a touch of pride in his voice. “Took me an hour before she gave it up to play. The lady from the rescue centre said I was the first.” He choked up, blinking back tears. “Anyway, couple more visits and she got to stay. Crazy dog was such a handful. She once tried to climb a tree to chase a squirrel. Got her legs over the first branch and just dangled, kicking her back legs.” He began chuckling to himself. “She once tried to jump through a car window; some guy was parked at the lights as we walked past.” He was just chatting now, lost in his memories as he walked. “You know the type, loud radio, windows rolled down on a sunny day, annoying the shit out of everyone in the town. He tossed some litter out of his window and she just launched herself at him. Scared the life out of me at the time - funny as fuck now, of course.” He laughed again. “Then there were the swans. Man, were they not ready. She loved to swim – I told you that before – swimming and splashing was her favourite release. Well, that and chasing rabbits which is, kinda, how I ended up here. Anyway, she would just swim up and down, right past the ducks and stuff, somehow never interested in them. Then one summer these swans came along...” He paused, realising his new friend didn’t know what a duck or a swan was, or even summer, probably. Before attempting to explain, he realised they also didn’t understand english, so it really didn’t matter. “Anyway, swans being belligerent bastards, I called her out of the water straight away. Those mean white fuckers chased her all the way to shore.” He turned around, now grinning broadly. “But, once her feet hit the ground in the shallow water and she was able to stand, did those sons of bitches turn and swim away as fast as they could.” He paused, trying to remember his original point. He really was very hungry. “Oh yeah, so trying to stop her fighting everything that moved meant I didn’t have time to teach her a new name. Figured it would be confusing to her. Sassie she was, and so Sassie she stayed.” There was a tightening in his chest as he thought of her missing him. “Took a lot of years and a lot of time for her to get where she is now. I know Alexa will take care of her, but still, it’s my job, and I need to get back to doing it. She won’t understand…” He choked up completely, taking a moment to compose himself before clearing his throat and returning his monologue to its original course. “Anyway, names. Names matter.” “Maybe you’re a girl monster. Charlotte?” He shook his head. That name just didn’t seem fitting. “We could call you Peter Parker? Although, you’re more of a man-sized spider than a spiderman... Parker Peter? Then again, big, scary spiders say one thing to me. Australia. You like to jump, we could call you Roo? Or, how about Ozzy? Or Bruce? Hmm, that’s a sharks name though… can you swim?” His train of thought derailed suddenly as he saw an open door ahead of them through which the vines were receding. The pair of them continued walking behind the vine until it disappeared into the doorway and Aaron ran forward, pulling something from his pocket. He’d been saving the foil wrapping from the ration bricks, folding them together to form a wedge. He jammed his makeshift door stop under the bottom corner of the door as it began to slide shut. It ground to a halt. “Boom! Told you it would work.” He stood and finally looked into the vastness beyond. Through the doors was, somehow, a rolling meadow, complete with trees, giant mushrooms and plants he had no name for. Vines were also everywhere, receding further across the great wilderness. “What the hell? I thought I was on a spaceship? Am I underground?” Staring intently at the sky, he stepped onto the deep moss beyond the door. He looked at the wall around the interior and saw it was rock, and more plant life clung to every crack and crevice. As he walked slowly forward his eyes followed the vine as it headed for a large, colourful, monolith. He approached and saw that its shape was similar to the vase flowers. He watched as the corpse vines deposited their cargo on top of the monolith. Not on, he corrected himself;they were dropping inside. He looked back to the door, nervous that it might close and lock him in. A large black shadow lurked just beyond the door, and he was torn. Should he explore this 'outside' world, or retreat to the place where he at least had the rejuvenation pods? He looked up at the sky, basking in the warm and invigorating embrace of the sunlight. He blinked at the brightness, being cautious to not look at the sun directly, and something else suddenly caught his eye. It was, incredibly, a door. A door that floated in the sky. The thing about human eyes is that they might be easily fooled, but a shift in perspective can easily change what you see to something entirely different. Aaron was looking up at a ceiling, like the one in the Atrium back on the Azrimad, but a hundred times more convincing. Once back inside the doorway he watched the spiderling he was beginning to think of it as a friend dancing back and forth a short distance away. It seemed… happy. “Ok buddy, I’m back.” Aaron’s stomach made a loud gurgling sound and he rubbed it, trying to squeeze the hunger away. Fingers found muscle easier than usual, and he knew he was definitely losing weight. “We should head back. I need sleep.” He thought for a moment and made a final decision, bending down to pull the foil wedge clear. “I doubt there’s a communicator or command deck in there. Let’s go home, Ozzy.” The trip back was uneventful, Aaron sang his direction song as they navigated the labyrinth. A few more aphids were snacked on by his leggy companion, but his own legs were heavy by the time he was almost back to the jelly beans. Despite being exhausted he had made two stops to create another pair of flower vases for the aphids, as well as scattering a ration brick as he passed by. The aphids waited, as they always did, till he and Ozzy were far enough away before enjoying his bounty. Still, the human derived satisfaction from their presence. Exhausted and weary, Aaron was glad to finally make it back to the room he was reluctantly calling his temporary home. As the door to the rejuvenation pod slid open he was met, forcefully, by the barrel of an energy rifle. Unfortunately for Aaron, due to a considerable height difference, the barrel had struck him squarely in the groin, and he instantly fell to his knees. He came face to face with his attacker with tears in his eyes, clutching his tenderness and coughing. From the other being came incomprehensible yelling, as well as a lot of gun waving. Also, there was coughing. Aaron, eventually mustering enough self-presence to do something other than deal with the after effects of the gun-to-groin encounter, wiped the moisture from his eyes and tried to butt in to the one-sided conversation. "Relax! I'm the one who just got snookered in the fucking balls, here! Why in the world are you so mad?"” The gun was pressed to his forehead by the tiny attacker, who shouted something unintelligible with their black eyes focused on him. They paused to cough, then stepped back, glaring at Aaron until they seemed to feel comfortable enough with the situation to take one hand off of their weapon and pull out a datapad. They held it up, and Aaron frowned at the familiar but still unintelligible colours that swirled on the screen. Then a small vent at the bottom of the device squirted out a puff of sickly sweet scent. Aaron pulled back from the odour. "What the fuck was that?" With some distance between them, the human finally got a good look at his opponent. They were barely waist-height, furry, with a long nose and dark banding across their brown fur. The banding was heaviest across their eyes and although that’s where the similarities ended, it was enough for the human’s brain to forge a connection. “Listen, Rocket, there’s a virus on this ship. You need to get in the jelly bean. Trust me.” The rifle was thrust at him shakily in one hand, the tablet again was raised and a swirl of colours and shapes greeted him. “I don’t speak fucking winamp plugin!” On the wall behind his captor Aaron spotted a dull orange aphid, struggling to climb the wall. He smiled as he slowly leaned to one side. “Have you met Ozzy?” The huge arachnid leapt over them both, causing the newcomer to blindfire at the wall. Aaron seized his chance and snatched away the weapon. He grabbed the newcomer by the front of their armoured uniform and slammed them to the ground. They cried out in pain and began their incomprehensible yelling once more. The accompanying coughing fit was bad, and Aaron dragged them to their feet. Realising that his solitude had caused him to revert to English, he switched back to galactic standard to offer a warning about the disease. “You’re going to die!” A shocked look crossed their face as the human effortlessly lifted them and slam dunked them into a blue jelly bean. Ozzy gurgled happily through his aphid crunching. Aaron snatched up the energy rifle, but found it was difficult to hold due to its small size. He leaned over the jelly bean, noting the occupant drifting off to sleep. Hunger and tiredness were forgotten as adrenaline flooded his system. There was no way the newcomer was alone. He left the pod room to begin searching, and Ozzy seemed to pick up on his intention and followed behind, keeping close to the human. “Good boy!” He had no idea what prompted it, likely some automated response, and it was as though he watched his movements from outside of his body as he reached back and gently scratched the arachnid's head. He was rewarded with happy gurgles, or at least that's what he hoped the noises were. “You did good back there.” He made his way along the corridor towards the same airlock he had once chosen as his final exit. His recent suspicion proved correct as he heard a strange sound up ahead, as if someone was running a wet finger around the rim of a glass. He carefully leaned around the curve and saw another figure, dressed in the same uniform as the first. No fur on this one, although they were equally small in size, and they somehow looked like they were made of glass which couldn’t decide on a colour. This time he remembered to use galactic standard. “Keep your hands where we can see you. We’ve got you surrounded!” The figure was clearly startled, as the ambient resonating noise began varying wildly in pitch at the same moment as their colour shifted to a solid blue. Aaron cursed. He didn’t have a translator, having instead opted for learning standard and winging everything else. The whole federation knew standard, so he hadn’t truly considered getting the implant. “Something is wrong with our translators,” he continued to bluff. “Do you speak galactic standard?” A datapad was hastily pulled from a pocket, and as buttons were pressed the resonating sound became more rhythmic. From the datapad sprung noises. No, it was a voice! “Why do you speak Procyon? Where is Commander Bertolannixostraphes? Aaron began relaxing at the situation he found himself in, but inside he was brimming with joy. Finally, he could talk with someone! “There is a virus on this ship, and many are dead. If your commander is the raccoon-looking guy, I got them into a healing pod. They’re going to be fine.” Under his breath he added, “probably.” The resonating began and shortly afterwards the voice translated, “Who are you? Why did you not answer our communications.” Opting for honesty in the hopes of leniency, Aaron stepped into view. “I’m a passenger. I don’t have access to the ship's systems.” The newcomer was looking at the tiny gun, so the human tossed it forward. “I didn’t know if you were friendly. I can take you to your friend, and you should probably get treatment as well.” The now-orange alien walked forward, their movement accompanied by the strange sound of ceramic plates rubbing together. “That won’t be a problem, we Tricinic do not catch meat diseases. I am Tsy'lo, take me to the commander.” They turned to look behind them. “Where are the others?” Aaron pointed to Ozzy. “It’s just us two.” Colours swirled and the small glass person thrummed. The datapad spoke, “You are the last human, the Ambassador. Correct?” Turning and gesturing to be followed, he began to lead the way to the rejuvenation room. “I am the first human, Ambassador Aaron Cooper, professional bounty hunter. Just call me Aaron. Are you the rescue party? Is Alexa here? Did she bring Sassie?” It took a moment for the translation to come back. “I don’t know those names. We are the Special Tactics and Rescue Squad and we responded to distress calls and found this ship. Adrift.” They had walked a little way when Tsy'lo stopped and regarded Ozzy, who was still faithfully following behind. “Why does the achalo follow you?” “Ozzy?” Aaron shrugged. “I think he was lonely. So, were you sent into Hive space to find me, or are you on some top secret mission? You aren’t with the Sentinels, are you?” “Lonely? But it is an achalo.” Tsy'lo was confused and their colour visibly swirled. “Why would a rescue mission be secret? And, we weren’t sent, we were already here.” Now it was the human who was confused. “Like spies behind enemy lines? Is that why you are in Hive space?” The Tricinic hummed at a higher frequency. “It is our space. We are the Hive!”
Admiral Pelar of the third fleet stood in the centre of the training mat. On the floor around her were four tough looking Ashi, while a fifth was now squaring off against her. She blocked the jab and the surprise knee strike that followed, turning effortlessly to bring her elbow to her opponents ribs. With another deft turn she was behind him and kicking his knees forward. He tried to roll clear but she had anticipated the move and, as he rose, her spinning boot struck the side of his head. “Nice try gentlemen.” She walked away and caught a towel thrown by the drill instructor. “That last one has potential,” she said, and the drill instructor nodded. “Next time, I expect at least one of them to land a hit. If not, I’ll have you in the ring instead, to make sure you still have what it takes.” She saw the fear in his eyes. “I accept nothing but the best from the Third Fleet.” The medics ran onto the mat as she dabbed at her forehead, and she spotted Jar’Bek sitting on a bench nearby. She walked over to him and he stood, straightening what was no doubt an extremely expensive suit. “From one disappointment to another.” The lawyer smiled. “Imagine only seeing your son when he is paid to be in your presence,” he countered. She smirked. “Your tongue is still your most deadly weapon.” He nodded. “Ah, but it must make you proud to see me make use of the things you taught me.” Her face twitched. “I taught you to be a true Ashi, a soldier. I taught you to respect-” Jar’Bek held up his hand. “I’m here on my client’s business, not yours. And, as I am paid a considerable sum per gal, let us not waste their money on matters that are concluded.” He enjoyed the irritation on her face. “I am here to finalise the amnesty treaties, and conclude your membership as citizens of Earth.” The Admiral held up her hands, looking down at her combat training clothing. “I must shower and change first. Please, wait for me in my private office.” She smiled politely. “No.” His smile seemed to hover as if it was a mask that could slip at any time. “You may have disowned me, but I still remember your tricks. You knew the time of our meeting; you had me brought here so you could intimidate me with this display of aggression. Then you ask me to wait in your office amongst your memorabilia and trophies.” He watched the anger behind her eyes. “You really think these tired old tricks will work on me?” She sneered. “At least you remember something.” “Oh, I had the scars removed, but I kept the lessons.” He walked away. “My client's time is valuable and I have scheduled a meeting with the other fleet Admiral’s for later this cycle. Since we have no time for your games, let us go to the briefing room. My team is already set up. If you wish to shower, know that it is more of your negotiating time you are wasting, and I do so hate waste.” He collected his briefcase and walked out of the room. Captain Loring hurried after Jar’Bek, catching him as he entered the elevator. “You sure you want to antagonise the Admiral like that?” He leaned back against the wall of the elevator and relaxed, letting out a small sigh. “A little negotiating trick a Kittran taught me. Anyway, she is no longer my Admiral.” Elora’Tan leaned back on the opposite wall. “She is your mother, Jar.” “Ha.” Jar’Bek laughed. “She disowned me. This is the first contact we’ve had in I forget how many celes. Her first thought is to try and intimidate me with that display. She likes to beat on cadets, she likes to cause pain, and she wanted me to watch.” Loring gave a weak smile. “It forges strong soldiers. We can’t afford weakness.” The elevator stopped and Jar’Bek took a step closer to Elora’Tan. “You think it was weakness that made me leave?” He didn’t let her answer, turning and exiting into the hallway. His voice now resonated with authority as he growled, “In case you people have forgotten, the Ashi will operate under the same rules as the rest of the colony. My mother is not the law... I am the law.”
COVID-19 has now infected more than 215,956 people. There have been 8,757 confirmed deaths and 84,080 confirmed recoveries attributed to the virus.
Recent Updates Note: These are the updates from the last 48-72 hours. MARCH 18 -
United States: President Trump signed into law a coronavirus relief package, which provides free coronavirus testing and ensures paid emergency leave for those who are infected or caring for a family member with the illness. The bill also provides additional Medicaid funding, food assistance and unemployment benefits. The "third phase" coronavirus response bill is expected to pass later this week. Read more here.
United States: President Trump announced that home foreclosures and evictions will be suspended “until the end of April.” Read more here. He also invoked the Defense Production Act, which gives the government the authority to control the production and distribution of scarce materials deemed "essential to the national defense." In his executive order, Trump specifically cites protective equipment (presumably face masks) and ventilators as meeting the criteria in this provision. Read more here.
United States: Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ben McAdams become first members of Congress to test positive for coronavirus. Read more here.
United States: King County in Washington State is building a 200-bed field hospital on Shoreline soccer field amid coronavirus outbreak. Read more here.
United States: The New York Stock Exchange said starting March 23, it will temporarily close its historic trading floor and move fully to electronic trading. This is the first time the physical trading floor of the Big Board has ever shut independently while electronic trading continues. Read more here.
United States and Canada: US President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have agreed to close the US-Canada border to all non-essential travel in an attempt to curb the spread of coronavirus. Trade will not be affected. Read more here.
Canada: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced a massive $82-billion aid package to help Canadians and businesses cope with the global COVID-19 pandemic, including income supports, wage subsidies and tax deferrals. The package includes $27 billion in direct supports and another $55 billion to help business liquidity through tax deferrals. Read more here.
Japan’s Hokkaido, the nation’s prefecture with the highest number of coronavirus infections, will end its state of emergency over the epidemic on Thursday. Read more here.
Europe: The European Central Bank launched an extra emergency bond-buying program worth 750 billion euros ($820 billion) in the latest attempt to calm markets and protect a euro-area economy struggling to cope with the coronavirus epidemic. Read more here.
France: French police handed out over 4,000 fines Wednesday to people found violating an order to stay at home, on the first full day of a lockdown aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus in the country. Read more here.
Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa declared a state of emergency to combat the coronavirus pandemic. The new measures allow Prime Minister António Costa's government to restrict movement of people, temporarily suspend the right of workers in vital sectors — such as health, civil protection, security and defense — to strike, and ban protests and social or religious meetings Read more here.
Brazil: Davi Alcolumbre, the head of Brazil's Senate, became the latest high-level political figure to test positive for coronavirus on Wednesday. Read more here.
Chilean president Sebastian Pinera declared a 90-day state of catastrophe Wednesday to address the spread of COVID-19 in the country, which has 238 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus. By law, a state of catastrophe puts the armed forces in charge of public order and security and enables military control of the movement of people and goods. Military officials will be able to issue direct instructions to public employees and local governments and establish measures deemed necessary to maintain public order, including curfews. Read more here.
Africa: Sub-Saharan Africa records first coronavirus death. Read more here.
Europe: This year's Eurovision Song Contest has been canceled in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, organizers confirmed on Wednesday, marking the first time that the much-loved competition has ever been scrapped. Read more here.
Australian airline Qantas and its subsidiary Jetstar will suspend scheduled international flights from late March until at least the end of May due to the coronavirus crisis. In a statement posted on its website Thursday, Qantas Group announced that 60% of its domestic flights would also be cut, and two-thirds of its 30,000 employees would be temporarily stood down. Read the announcement here.
RyanAir, Europe’s biggest low-cost carrier, said it expected “most if not all” flights to be grounded, apart from a small number to maintain connections between the UK and Ireland. Read more here.
MARCH 17 -
United States: A plan developed by the federal government to combat the coronavirus reportedly projects the pandemic will last 18 months or more and could feature multiple “waves.” Read more here.
United States: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin raised the possibility with Republican senators that U.S. unemployment could rise to 20% without government intervention because of the impact of the coronavirus. Mnuchin discussed the scenario with the lawmakers on Tuesday as he proposed an economic stimulus of $1 trillion or more. Read more here.
United States: Treasury and IRS to delay tax payment deadline by 90 days. Read more here.
United States: The U.S. military is preparing Naval hospital ships for deployment, and is looking to open its labs to help test civilians for coronavirus. The Pentagon also plans to distribute equipment. Read more here.
United States: White House requests and additional $45.8 billion in emergency funding due to coronavirus. The request comes on top of the $8.3 billion in emergency funding passed by Congress just two weeks ago and underscores just how dramatically financial demands at federal agencies have grown in a matter of days. Read more here.
United States: Schools are likely to be closed for the rest of this school year according to Governor Newsom of California. Ohio's governor has made similar statements. Read more here.
United States: Are Hospitals Near Me Ready for Coronavirus? Here Are Nine Different Scenarios. | There is a tool in the article that allows you to see your area's hospital capacity. See the interactive tool here.
EU: Leaders of European Union countries have agreed to close the EU’s external borders to most people from other countries for 30 days in a new effort to slow the coronavirus pandemic. Movement within European Union member nations will be still be allowed. Read more here.
Spain: Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced a package of measures worth a total 200 billion euros ($219 billion), between loans, credit guarantees, benefits and direct aid, to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus epidemic on the economy. The package represents about 20% of the country’s gross domestic product; 117 billion euros for the package will come from the government, with the rest to come from private companies. Read more here.
Scotland: No new jury trials will take place in Scotland for the foreseeable future due to coronavirus. Read more here.
Bolivia will close its borders to non-residents and suspend all international flights to combat the spread of coronavirus. The measure will remain in place until March 31. Read more here.
Australia declares emergency, warns coronavirus crisis could last six months. Read more here.
Euro 2020 has been postponed by one year until 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic. Read more here.
MARCH 16 -
A Phase 1 clinical trial evaluating an investigational vaccine designed to protect against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has begun at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute (KPWHRI) in Seattle. Read more here.
The European Union will ban all nonessential travel into the bloc for at least 30 days. Read more here.
France has instituted a lockdown and will deploy 100,000 police to enforce the lockdown and fixed checkpoints will be set up across the country. Under the new measures, soldiers would help transport the sick to hospitals with spare capacity and a military hospital with 30 intensive care beds would be set up in the eastern region of Alsace, where one of the largest infection clusters has broken out. Macron also announced he was postponing the second round of local elections on Sunday. Read more here.
United States: President Trump held a press conference today, where he said that the U.S. may be able to get the new coronavirus outbreak under control by July or August at the earliest. He also said his administration may look at lockdowns for “certain areas” or “hot spots” in the nation, but said he wasn’t considering a full national lockdown. Watch the press conference here and/or read about it here.
United States: The Department of Health and Human Services experienced suspicious cyberactivity Sunday night related to its coronavirus response. The suspicious activity HHS was not a hack but it may have been a distributed denial of service -- or DDOS -- attack. Read more here.
United States: Six Bay Area counties announced “shelter in place” orders for all residents on Monday — the strictest measure of its kind yet in the continental United States — directing everyone to stay inside their homes and away from others as much as possible for the next three weeks. The directive begins at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday and involves San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Marin, Contra Costa and Alameda counties — a combined population of more than 6.7 million. Read more here.
United States: New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut institute regional rules that ban gatherings of over 50, and close casinos, gyms, and theaters. Read more here.
United States: The Ohio primary has been postponed. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) announced late Monday that his administration will order that polls be closed on Tuesday due to a health emergency. Read more here.
United States: Dow Plummets Nearly 3,000 Points as Virus Fears Spread. Read more here.
Canada is closing its borders to noncitizens because of the coronavirus pandemic. U.S. citizens are exempt from the ban “for the moment." Read more here.
Israel is preparing to open four hotels across the country as quarantines sites for confirmed cases of coronavirus, Minister of Defense Naftali Bennett announced Monday night. The hotels will be used to treat people exhibiting mild symptoms of the virus. Read more here.
Finland closes schools, declares state of emergency over coronavirus. Daycare centres are to stay open but parents were asked to keep their kids home if possible. Read more here.
Sudan’s ruling sovereign council closed all airports, ports and land crossings and declared a public health emergency on Monday over fears about the spread of coronavirus. Read more here.
Amazon will hire 100,000 warehouse and delivery workers in the United States to deal with a surge in online orders, as many consumers have turned to the web to meet their needs during the coronavirus outbreak. Read more here.
The Peace Corps is telling its volunteers around the world that it is suspending all operations globally and evacuating all volunteers in light of the spread of the new coronavirus. Read more here.
United States: The College Board has cancelled the May SATs. Read more here.
JoJo's Bizarre OC Tournament #5 - Round 2 Match 10 - Bert and Emilie "Dread" Delacroix vs John "Jack" Aurel
The results are in for Match 8. Agnes and Arpeggi, in their shrunken states, continued to fight, surrounded by the rising flames of their lilliputian tower, fists flying and Stand blows being taken one after the other. “You… Callous mother fucker!” Arpeggi cursed, Agnes feeling the singe of a heat blast both from behind and from launched wood. “We’re not aiming for a massacre!” “You’re not,” Agnes spat out, then, pulling a tab on the table, a massive geyser erupting and launching his so-called ally away, “I don’t give a fuck about this place, and we’re in a Stand battle… And it’s all worthless, greedy scumbags watching! Let the fire spread! Let this place hit the ground so they see what someone with style can do!” “You heard it here, folks! Agnes talked you all down… C’mon, where’s your passion! Don’t run out and away, c’mon! And here I thought you cared y’had money ridin’ on this…” Conqueror Worm’s laughs reverberated as Glitch and William found themselves cooled by Ocean Eyes’ nectar, which found itself dissolving quickly but, for the moment, a functional barrier for the injured fighters, watching and listening to what happened. “Th… They’re fighting each other up there…” William remarked, physically looking as though he was straining to force Ocean Eyes not to hurry up there and tear them a new one. “Glitch, we don’t have time to keep the flames at bay and call up another KST, and if I let Ocean Eyes up there it’ll eviscerate them, and-” “What’s this? The kid is holdin’ back, afraid of his own Stand! Hey, kid, don’t hate this part of yourself! Ocean Eyes, it ain’t your enemy, that’s a part of you, what makes you special, so don’t be at odds with it! Embrace what it says, because it’s what YOU’RE sayin’!” William was speechless, there, but his companion was less inactive in that time. Tiger “Glitch” Ricky simply hissed, then, her and her Stand hopping up out of the flames in an effort to brutally, mercilessly pounce upon the self-styled villain and the ally he had come to blows with. If they moved fast, they could bite through that shitty little twink’s neck right now! Arpeggi grit his teeth, scrambling to find his footing as he witnessed the pouncing cat-stand, finding it hard to breathe among all the burning rubble, fading fast then. Is… Is this how it ends..? Crushed and mangled as some lowlife’s burnt-up game piece..? “And it looks like Glitch is about to take it! Shout-outs to Tigran, the only real one here, watchin’ through the fire and the flames!” “Heh… This is just a bit of a sweat,” Tigran Sins answered, stifling a cough, “I’ll see all seven of these bastards run through games until they’re all-” Arpeggi didn’t hear what was said next, only hearing his own defiant heartbeat. If he didn’t act fast, Agnes would die… Good riddance, right? But… Ugh, no, even scum like him, they don’t deserve… He clutched at NEXT LEVEL until his fingers bled, and Glitch and William, both looking at him past their Stands waiting to attack, made curious sounds as yet more crumbled away. “Mrr?!” And then, there was white. An overwhelming cascade of baking soda burst from NEXT LEVEL, smothering the flames rapidly as an obscured form zipped up the tower again, grabbing Agnes and hurrying away from the thrown-off Glitch. “You… Why did you…” Agnes rubbed baking soda out of his eyes, coughing and looking at the form of Arpeggi in this new Stand. “Motherfucker…” “I have responsibility over even a scumbag like you… You tailed me here, and I’m not gonna let you die and escape responsibility easy.” He turned, then, to William and Glitch, his new form revealed. “Now, actually help me, follow my lead, and I’ll kick your ass later. We need to survive this-” All four of the fighters, then, felt themselves grow rapidly, their combined weight so close together crushing the table they were on, much as a nearby tabletop wargame that had been setup found itself buckling under the weight of Metra, Oh No, the Black Angel, and their motorcycle. “Welp,” Worm said with a bemused laugh, holding up the slumped body of Tigran. “Your fire couldn’t hurt him, but smoke inhalation sure could! I guess that means…” “The winner is FIRE, with a score of 65!”
With no more reason to fight, it got really awkward and everyone just sort of ran out of Heartache Casino. William Eyelash, recalling his stand and lost in thoughts, was the last to leave, joining the others in leaping single-file out a window into a nearby alley. There, though everyone else seemed tensely uninvolved, the Black Angel’s motorcycle revved, and she stared down Worm as he safely stowed Tigran inside his Stand-body, leaning on his golden sword. “There’s still something I need, Jones… I’ll run you down to get it if it means saving the city.” Worm laughed, gesturing with his sword. “This thing? You’re huntin’ me down for this… Ah! I see! You’re tryin’ to do that.” Callously, he tossed it, so suddenly they fumbled with it in hand. “Here ya go, then! I don’t much want what Jack Aurel’s cookin’ up either!” The Angel, worn and exhausted, stammered. “I… You just… But…” “Lookin’ forward to killin’ me, huh? Get in line, kid… Or waste your time right now! See, nobody here is botherin’, they can all read that it’d be a waste when I’m in such good health! City’s countin’ on you, yeah, and you won’t get many opportunities for bein’ called a hero as an adult. Make it count!” Then, before anyone could say more, he darted through a nearby wall, waving William and the rest off with a, “Ah, we safely may trust to its gleaming and be sure it will lead us aright!” … … “Asshole.” The Angel turned away, strapping the sword to their back and driving away. “Thank you, all of you. I’ll take this from here… Get yourselves help.” There was silence as they drove into the sky, scarf billowing before them, and then Agnes started cackling. “You’re all fucking morons… If I didn’t burn that place down, we wouldn’t have gotten away, and some wannabe with no style would be going down as Los Fortuna’s worst villain! Fucking bow and grovel, Jack Aurel’s grave is gonna say ‘spat on by Agnes!’” Nobody had the energy to dignify that with a response. An anticlimax is leading into a super-climax, and meanwhile, an ant-loving little boy and an aid worker are racing through their dreamscapes, with a day left to vote there. Narration: What is, as of the 1990s, ‘Capital Island,’ was the epicenter of Los Fortuna’s founding several hundred years ago, in the midst of a bloody Stand User conflict, many militias clashing for superiority, in the 1680s, starting with the death of the era’s own Andrew Tiffany, the missionary William Mandolin, and towards its end, knocking people into their senses through the awakening of exactly what he had tried to warn them of. A grand T-Rex by the name of Megalomania had survived, dormant, underneath the land through the might of its Stand, coated in a goldlike substance, and awoken in a deep rage by the conflict of the locals. Megalomania was met in battle by a man out of place named Aaron Bruno, ‘Sir Aurel’ to most, and Memory Management, and when slain, crumbled where it stood into a pile of bones, feet firm in the ground. Los Fortuna’s natural history museum was built around this monster’s remains, and Sir Aurel would turn its golden coat into a ceremonial weapon. The power these symbols were imbued with, even with their old purposes lost, were of great importance to the city’s stability. Scenario: Outside Los Fortuna’s Natural History Museum, Early Evening In the blink of an eye, the attention of everyone within Los Fortuna had been turned to the natural history museum. That made sense, of course - considering the looming dark clouds containing the ghosts of the dead within them, the scuffles of the stand users outside of the building, and the vague knowledge that a ritual with the purpose of destroying fate itself was currently being performed within it, it would be out of the ordinary for people to not be paying it any attention. Even those who weren’t stand users that were up to date with the situation were drawn to it by the unusual level of activity surrounding it, from emergency services and VALKYRIE forces alike. And then there was Bert. They were invested in the whole situation, of course - keeping up with the latest reality-breaking ancient rituals was the least that a wannabe god like them could do. Their status as an observer did raise a few eyebrows - they’d had to shake off both emergency service workers and VALKYRIE forces, who’d both taken the time to try and encourage Bert to leave the area for their own safety, clearly underestimating Bert’s own prowess. Within the chaos, one could be excused for not failing to notice the drones Bert had been sending around to overhear and oversee it all. First, they paid attention to the chief of security at VALKYRIE, Ugo McBasie, who seemed to be getting interviewed by someone from the Fortuna Hermod, an ODIN-owned news publication (not their usual guy at scenes like this… Wonder what happened to him). Bert had heard that the man was a violent and irresponsible meathead who’d caused plenty of trouble in the past, but he seemed to be keeping a thin veil of professionalism for now. However, Bert couldn’t help but notice a young man in a blue aviator cap standing a few meters behind the reporter and staring daggers at him, perhaps keeping him in check somehow, occasionally piping in for comment about how it was all they could do to surround the place and wait for an opening if they didn’t want a meat grinder on their hands. Meanwhile, Los Fortuna’s own city council chairman, Raymond Delwin Shimizu was discussing something of note with someone else, who seemed to have just finished an interview of his own. Bert didn’t recognize him, but the interviewer had called him “Chief Prosecutor Cavallo”, and she seemed as if she knew what she was talking about, so Bert opted to believe her. The interviewer, Jillian Something-or-other, had been running all over the scene, trying to get interviews alongside her oversized cameraman Bert recognized as having been that really huge cop who used to hang around Aurelio a lot of the time not successfully doing his job. Not worth Bert’s time. Cavallo scratched his head in frustration. “Chairman, please tell me that you’ve made progress of some kind here...” Ray shook his head. “Not much. That stand user that’s working alongside Jack Aurel, Akiko Mizushima, is making it impossible to get in - anyone we do send in is as good as gone. We haven’t even been able to get Admiral Pineapples out. Judging by your demeanor, I assume that the board hasn’t made much progress either.” “No, doesn’t seem like it.” Cavallo let out a long sigh. “Every day, it’s just more and more work… Now we’re stuck having to deal with this. If nothing’s done, the board’s thinking it might very well cause a disaster unmatched by… Well, anything but the earthquake from thirty years ago. Something like this, bending the rules of the city, and breaking free from it… Los Fortuna’s probably not going to let that slide easily.” He shook his head. “Where the hell is the mayor through all this? Watching anime at home or something, probably.” Ray remained silent for a bit, thinking to himself. “Well, we’ve got emergency services ready to act for now, and we’re working on evacuating any susceptible areas, but it only works so much.” Before Cavallo could respond, another reporter came up to Raymond, ready with a batch of questions for him. “Well, Cavallo, our work isn’t done yet, so let’s get to it. Saving as many people as possible here should be our utmost priority.” And with that, the two men parted ways for the time being. Having listened enough, Bert began thinking to themselves. This was a tricky situation - they clearly couldn’t get in as is, but they certainly wanted to. Learning more about the situation at hand would improve their knowledge of the mechanisms holding Los Fortuna together, and gaining control over the ritual somehow would certainly be a feat befitting of a god such as them. Bert stood in front of the museum entrance, taking another look at the chaos in front of them and continuing to think about the next step they’d take. So many different possibilities, so little time. They thought, and thought, and then one of their drones’ eyes glanced upon someone familiar - a blue haired, red eyed woman wearing a mask, trying to blend in and clearly resenting it, skulking around the perimeter of the area as though she, too, wished to enter. Yet despite her efforts, Bert recognized her. “Emilie ‘Dread’ Delacroix!” They declared it loudly, thoughtlessly so, approaching her with a hand raised. “Are you perhaps looking to find a crevasse through which to enter that place as well? It’s quite fortified, isn’t it?” “Hm?” She wasn’t bothered by the way Bert drew attention to her, still wearing her same very extra outfit under the also quite extra hooded dark robe she was using to blend in. “Ah, pardon me dearly for having failed to notice you… You are Bert, from that incident where we fought on equal terms, yes?” “I am that same Bert, Emilie ‘Dread’ Delacroix, yes. Though I doubt I could be much mistaken for others…” “We are both quite conspicuous individuals, yes,” Dread said, taking the conversation into a nearby alley before VALKYRIE goons on the scene could prove it was her, “but no, I’m not terribly nonplussed about my abilities to infiltrate that place… Simply, I am attempting to assess the probability by which my approach itself, through the barricades erected, might occur. If your intentions happen to be helping me sneak through, then it is simply not necessary on any fronts… I have formulated a plan now.” Dread, now appearing alone, walked through that alley curiously, looking around her and beginning to see her opportunity of approach - there appeared to be a side door there, at which a certain fish-themed hero was sitting outside, looking, Dread knew from their DMs, at funny images of her wife atop the T-Rex skull in the museum. Yes, certainly, this would be- “Whoa, hey, it’s you!” Damnable. Had she been spotted, or..? No, no, wait. The one speaking, a man also in this alleyway who smelled of cannabis, holding what looked like a GAP bag, was speaking to someone on the opposite side of it, disembarking from a sportbike and handing it to the rider, who was wearing a very ornate-looking golden sword which Dread had sworn she’d seen somewhere before. “Thanks,” the Black Angel told this young man, accepting the bag and producing its contents - a Roman helmet and black bird-looking tokusatsu cosplay? “Green couldn’t make it himself, huh?” “I made it,” the guy said, pointing proudly to himself, before blinking. “Oh, you mean like… Showing up. Yeah, no, there was a thing with a mammoth coming down from the mountains, he’s helping East deal with that. Feel like lighting up before you go in? It’ll take the edge off..!” The rider removed their helmet, coincidentally perfectly timed for the strawberry-blonde with pale blue eyes to stare him down incredulously. “About a million people live on this island, Weedboy. Now is not the time…” The Angel ducked into the nearby building to change, finishing, “shit, yeah, it looks just like the Flying Men do… uh. you should get out of here now.” “You kidding?” He asked. “I don’t wanna bow out right before it gets good! That’s, like, saying I think you can’t do it!” Well, these two appeared distracted, so Dread would continue along her way, walking right past them and towards the blockade, towards where Jo was sitting casually, only to be interrupted by- “Holy shit, it really is her! Stop right there, Dread!” Oh boy, here we go. This had been happening more lately, since a somewhat frustrating individual went and opened his big mouth about her dangers on Bifrost. Turned out that the head of VALKYRIE was literally in the server, so now she had a bounty on her head after a modicum of investigation into her after that public statement, and her casual admittance thereof! Two armored guards were pointing guns at her as she stood there, unfazed. “Don’t come any closer!” One of them, an older woman, said, turning to her younger partner and quickly telling him, “if she approaches, open fire. She’ll eat you alive if not!” “This again, are you being serious?” Dread was less than pleased. “I am evil, and a murderer, unrepentantly so, yes, but I do not eat people. This rumor is being so blown out of proportion that I find it quite tiresome.” “F-fuck off and die!” The younger moved to fire his weapon, only to realize there was a knife through him, catching the gun by the trigger after running from his shoulderblade to his fingertip. Dread didn’t need the help, but like a true friend, Kimijo Kaneko offered it anyway “Wh-what the-” The older woman cursed as her partner was cut open and dropped. “Fucking useless moron! HEY, EVERYONE, KANEKO BROKE RANK AND DREAD IS HERE TO! NOW’S OUR CHANCE TO-” The distraction, then, was all it took for Dread to take her first kill of the day. Of course it was fine. She read the news, she knew how these VALKYRIE people were literally at war with poor people. “Sh-shit, those people just died! More VALKYRIE corpses, and Jo again..!” The stoner declared in the background, and the Black Angel, now dressed exactly like the birdmen many had seen before, paused in her efforts to run past the opening created by Jo breaking formation. Nobody could hear it or see her lips move, but she apologized under her breath, clenching her fist, but the disguise had worked. 32 Footsteps, the primary guard which would warp away anyone who tried to enter, apparently had instructions to allow in anybody dressed like this, yet none of the intended recipients of this deliberate loophole made their way in. “Dread, hello, friend!” Jo exclaimed in high spirits, sheathing her knife, but still speaking quietly as she hurried back into place, “good to see you!” “Yes, it is most certainly fortuitous for us to encounter one another…” Dread agreed, walking and talking with her as the pair were watched in horror. “By any chance, may I come into this museum? I am absolutely curiously intrigued by what is going on within here…” “Sure!” A VALKYRIE sniper was taking aim at Dread, then, as she entered, muttering under her breath, “got a shot lined up… I can take her out, and Jo a second later! Two bastards out of the way, at least, and-” “Wait,” the youth in a blue aviator hat and goggles, speaking as VALKYRIE’s tactician, instructed, “hold your fire.” “Sir, she just made one of our senior officers fall into rotten pieces! She’s chatting it up with this fish-bitch like it’s nothing!” “I know, and I’m appalled too, but I think…” The Blue Kid paused, contemplatively. “No, I know it. Dread is here to defeat John Aurel, just like the Black Angel.” Spinning and pivoting through the air, “Lou” Reed, dressed like a dark, sixth Flying Man, landed atop the skull of the t-rex, which had apparently been adorned in a cute little pirate hat. It made for a fine vantage point, then, to look all over the halls of the Natural History museum, noting one, two, three, four spots, grotesque and morbid statues Remix had apparently erected of ghostly abominations. She was exhausted, injured from the three-way skirmish she, Metra, and Oh No had been forced to undergo and riding like hell to get here, but she had made it this far, and others had managed to get in too. She couldn’t choke now. Seven minutes… I’ll just have to destroy those, and be back here in seven minutes. Easy enough… I don’t think I’ve been- “Green, Orange, and Purple… I don’t believe a ‘Flying Man Black’ was ever mentioned, nor that any of the brothers were into swords.” Shit. That voice, too… Lou turned around, then, seeing someone standing behind her, a man with long dark hair, brandishing a hammer and looking up at her. John “Jack” Aurel. “Even if you are what you appear to be and not in disguise, you should realize that you aren’t welcome here. There’s nothing to be done in this museum worth dying for, and no way to accomplish any more foolish goal if I were to raise attention now. Care to waste some of the time you have left and explain?” Of course this would happen. Lou removed her faux-beak, helmet, and goggles, staring down at him as her hair billowed in the ceiling fans’ wind. “Jack… I’ve come here to put a stop to this.” “You’re that kid who’s always running around, huh?” Jack frowned, twirling his hammer. “I hear what you talk about through the grapevine… About how we’re all victims of fate, forced against each other by Gravity. That Stand Users are always going to be molded by this… You understand it too. You understand that people like us prey upon the weak, that it’s in our natures and our place in the world. I want to remove myself from that… Remove these people from that, and atone for what I’ve done.” “By killing even more people! There’s no way they’ll get everyone away from your blast radius, and you haven’t even given them the chance to!” Lou protested. “It doesn’t have to be this way… Don’t say this is how it has to be! We can save this place, free everyone from gravity, without barreling towards its destruction! I don’t want to kill you, Jack. I want you to stop this crazy, self-indulgent crap and help me do something real!” “You think everyone deserves this? That Stand Users will simply reform without this? The cycle has started, and it will push to the end even if the wave guiding it fades away completely… Bastards, the lot of us, and I don’t intend to run from what I’ve done. I’ll give you one chance to run away, kid… the worst I can call you is naive.” Lou drew the golden blade, seeing Jack wince as he clearly recognized its significance, all as her Stand appeared behind her. “We both know I can’t do that, even if I can barely keep my balance up here. And hey, maybe I will die here… Maybe I am fated not to see this through. But then, someone is gonna finish this for me! Your security is already compromised!” “Fascinating… And you are utterly convinced that, should it work, those he’s slain to commence this ritual to begin with will return outside the city?” “Remix is full of himself,” Jo said, nodding quietly, “but he and Jack, they researched a lot… Akiko and I, for helping this finish, we can finally go home! Be done with the bad city…” “She has made this place remarkably impregnable,” Dread agreed, thinking aloud, “anyone who waltzes in waltzes into her backrooms…” “Unless they have a ‘pass!’” A voice from within Dread’s cloak spoke, and as Jo raised her knife at it in defense, the pure-white, terribly contorted form of Bert tumbled onto the ground, stretching and reshaping into their typical humanlike shape. “Don’t worry, don’t worry, they are fine, with me!” Dread assured Jo, frankly thankful to have that weight literally off her back. Bert was very light, but even then it was hard to walk carrying someone, let alone not give it away. “We have… Some history, and so I thought I might as well indulge Bert’s request to see this place as well. I apologize for not mentioning earlier, but it was quite dire getting in here past guards attacking us.” Jo didn’t seem to mind, continuing to lead the pair around, even passing Akiko who was casually, distractedly reading some manga while in a bit of a pirate mood. They also passed by another scene, slightly more concerning, of an injured old man in a Hawaiian Shirt, close by the frontmost entrance of the place and clutching himself as his fleet of four Stand-starships remaining fired at Remix, who guarded against it with ghost-objects while a Flying Man Red tried to find an opening to strike. “You’ve been at this for hours, old man, die already! You have no place in the world I mean to birth from your bloodied, pulped remains!” Pineapples stood, then, leaning against the wall, trying not to show weakness. “I think that guy is going to lose, at this rate… It’s a shame, too,” Bert, the loudmouth again, remarked. “He might have been a worthwhile pawn in wrestling control away from this operation.” Dread, Jo, Remix, and Red all gave Bert simultaneous incredulous looks, all in completely unique ways. Jo drew her knife again, about to transform, only to dodge out of the way of the injured ‘Lou’ Reed, blacked out, helmetless, being knocked away and into the floor, the shock of which made her rise quickly, feeling around. “Where’s the- Shit!” As she sat up, then, feeling around for the saber no longer in her possession, she noticed that she was smack in the middle of something else here. Hurriedly, she rolled away, standing herself up and looking to the injured Admiral. “You… You’re one of those MFAs, right? How did you-?” Weakly, he gestured to Remix. “He brought me here in a damned urn! I’ve been fending them off to buy others in the museum time to escape… Everyone in this hall here and Jack, those are the only ones left in the building, minus masses and masses of ghosts. They’re harmless, though… Don’t worry about them attacking unless that guy takes them.” “I see…” Lou, then, smiled sadly, clutching her bloodied suit. She looked to Bert and Dread, then, moving to get between them and Jack’s incredulous accomplices. “You said you wanted to take him out, right? I overheard…” “Well, Bert has let yet another cat out of the bag,” Dread admitted, “indeed, I came here with the intent of dethroning Jack Aurel before he had a chance to complete his little ritual. Few others would even be able to get in here.” “So that’s my role, then…” Lou smiled, then, sighing, ducking out of the way of the Flying Man sending a kick her way, a gauntlet-clad arm emerging from her body, grabbing his ankle hard, and swinging him into the Jo who was shocked to hear Dread say that. “I can’t do anything about Jack… Too fucked up from that ED match…” She grinned, then, mouth bleeding as she stared Remix down. “But this old man and I can at least keep these assholes from interfering!” Dread, then, watched passively as the five erupted into battle, she and Bert curious about what was to come as, from each hand, the Stand which emerged seemed to fire odd projectiles at their foes. “The ‘I’ll hold them off…’ You’re styling yourself as some sort of exceptional hero, aren’t you?” She seemed amused by that, the irony of their cooperation. “I’m evil, you know… And Bert, at least, is morally ambiguous. But if you’ve settled on putting the city in our hands, have you any advice?” Over the sounds of laser fire, Lou quickly found time to answer, “yeah, there’s… I brought this golden ‘saber’ with me, and it must’ve fallen somewhere by the T-Rex… In, in a bit over six minutes from now, this ritual of theirs is gonna go through and rip this island open. Before that… They have these ‘failsafe’ statue things, and…” She took a breath, retracting and wincing from a blow her Stand had taken. “Look, I don’t have time to explain it, but you need to smash those up first! They’re there, made up of spirits fused together, to keep these guys safe from the consequences of their own actions… To ensure their safety, and at the same time act as a ‘failsafe’ for the ritual. Gives you the ‘power’ over it, too, in the way that right now Jack himself does… That’s important to stopping it. So you need to smash them first, and then, right as the time passes for the ritual, when the skull of the T-Rex in the center starts to split open and glow and its mouth starts gushing water… Embed the sword into the opening in its forehead, right as it starts to shape. That’s the only way to prevent this at this stage!” “The forehead particularly, hmm?” Bert asked, pacing curiously and avoiding a cross split attack from Red, who barreled into Lou and was barely blocked. “Why there, per se? Why nowhere else on the thing?” “Ngh..!” Lou grunted, saved from a follow-up by Pineapples. “I dunno, that’s just where you have to do it!” “Black Angel… That’s what you’re called, yes?” Dread smiled, turning away. “You will be thanked for this victory… Try to live long enough to witness it firsthand, won’t you?” “I’d… I’d love to,” Lou answered, smiling sadly, “for five years now, when I first learned there was anything worth a damn in this world, I’ve wanted to protect that… The dark pit of despair that was the first thirteen years of my life, and even so much since, I’d love nothing more than a world where no person is fated beyond impossible odds to suffer that.” She grew serious, then, raising her voice. “Go, now! Leave this to us!” Bert and Dread approached the T-Rex, impressed at the amazing height and Akiko’s snazzy pirate duds upon the thing, the lab-grown being whistling with impression. “A T-Rex lived ‘til three-hundred years ago… Preserved whole, in this city. It’s astonishing, isn’t it, Emilie ‘Dread’ Delacroix?” “A curious anomaly,” Dread agreed, examining it from afar, even noticing that alleged sword in the distance. “I wonder why it survived that long, so far after its brethren…” “It’s because it was a ‘Stand User.’” Jack approached from the same room in which Dread spotted glints of the golden saber, announcing his presence with that. “That was its ‘fate…’ A savage, cunning animal, ripped from where it belonged. to be a problem to solve and squabble over, to found this city on its literal bones.” “John ‘Jack’ Aurel… You’d best stand down.” Bert, helpfully, started. “You cannot beat us… Even if we only had seconds to overcome you, I would be too much for you to handle!” “No, he’s going to fight, I know it.” Dread, meanwhile, prepared Joywave, staring him down with a pointed, grinning lethality. “I suppose introductions are not necessary, with how Bert here loves to say my full name… I am not one to make things curt or brief, John, but consider yourself toppled, usurped, bloodied and dead.” “The lab accident with a God complex and by far the worst, most grisly of Jo’s friends…” With no real amusement, no happiness in his eyes, Jack chuckled, looking them over. “Of course, right at the end, my final test isn’t some hero… It’s exactly the worst kind of Stand User! The apex predators that I’ve preyed upon, that stand in the way of saving everyone who’s died to reach this point! Of course it would be someone like me to gain entry, wouldn’t it?” “You speak with such confidence you’ll raise the dead…” Bert was curious. “Even if it costs more lives, such a thing is… That is the realm of gods, John ‘Jack’ Aurel.” “Not today it’s not,” Jack answered, twirling his hammer in his hand. “Both of you… You’ve been driven here, standing in my way, as agents of ‘fate’ itself. Isn’t that the reason you were ‘lucky’ enough to pass through our defenses… Because you were meant to stand here, and you were meant to watch as every horrible, cruel thing you’ve done amounts to nothing in the face of these circumstances.” He looks the two intruders over with sympathy for a moment, before steeling himself and clenching his weapon, Stand appearing behind him just as stone-faced. “You may be the puppet of something beyond your control, but you must understand that I can’t let you ruin the plan I’ve bet my life on. I bear you no anger as people, but your role here is something I can’t ignore. I’ll waste our time no longer in arguing ethics, let there be no apologies or restraint until this is settled.” The other conspirators had been instructed not to intervene if it came to this point, even if it risked the collapse of everything they had worked for. Not if it threatened lives. An enemy to make it this far was deserving of being dealt with reasonably. As the critical moment drew near, Jack readied all the fury that months of waiting had stored within him, and accepted that this may very well be his final true fight. “Five minutes on the dot now, until ‘that time…’ If what the Black Angel said is true.” Dread looked to Bert. “What do you say we demonstrate incontrovertibly to John exactly how confused he truly is?” OPEN THE GAME! (Image credit to CaptainSpooky27!) Location: A part of the Los Fortuna’s Natural History Museum. The area here is 75 by 75 meters with each tile being 5 by 5 meters. The ceilings here are 8 meters tall. The yellow tiles are the hallways and the green and purple tiles form the different rooms. The white tiles have ritual shrines built on those areas. There are 7 shrines total and will be explained in further detail in the additional information. The players start at the south of the map and Jack starts at the top of the map as represented by their tokens. The walls are represented by thicker borders and the dotted lines are the doorways. At the top of the map, in the pink tile and yellow symbols, is the Golden Sword. It is currently pinned under 2 meters of rubble. Each wing of the museum houses an exhibit, in the center is the main attraction a large T-Rex in display as denoted by the large grey circle. The other exhibits are denoted by the letter on them:
G: The geologic exhibit, displaying and teaching about different rock formations and types
O: The two Oceanic exhibits, displaying the marine life and seabed of Los Fortuna.
C: The climatography exhibit, displaying the different temperature maps and features across Los Fortuna.
A: The Agricultural exhibit, displaying the various fruits and crops grown around Los Fortuna.
T: The two Taxidermy exhibits, displaying a wide range of animals in roped off and glass displays.
E:The Entomology exhibit, displaying photos and models of various bugs.
Goal: For the players, desecrate all the shrines and, when time runs out, have at least one of you, living and conscious, at the T-Rex with the golden sword in hand! For Jack, make sure the players don’t stop your ritual before it goes off! The match will last exactly five minutes, unless of course players are dead before then. It doesn’t end just because players reach the goal. Additional Information: The shrines are 2 meter tall marked wood and metal structures, each having an strange carve effigy sitting in the center of them. In order to properly desecrate a shrine the players can do one of a few things, destroy the shrine outright, deface all the carvings made into the shrine, or destroy the effigy hidden within the shrine. After destroying or defacing a shrine, the ghosts of the dead will begin harassing the players - three ghosts will move towards the player responsible for destroying the shrine (even in a situation where the stands are responsible: the ghosts will target Bert if a Perfect Hair minion destroys a shrine, and same for if anything affected by Joywave does so). These aren't strong, having flat 222 physicals and being partially see-through, but will increase in numbers as more and more shrines are destroyed. Strong enough hits can phase them out of existence, but they'll respawn ten seconds after at the spot that they previously were. They will go directly towards the players and can phase through any walls or objects that may be in their paths (but not out of any attacks), grabbing onto the players and trying to gang up on them once they're close enough to do so, dealing minor damage.
"Wow! It's a hand drawn original color illustration!" You’re a cultured woman, and this museum might very well end up being wiped off of the face of the earth quite soon, so you need to make the most of it while you still can! Make sure to visit and appreciate the various exhibits on display here! (Character Specific)
"What a terrible person. If I wrote about someone like you, none of my readers would like it." So this man is playing at god, trying to control life, death, and fate themselves? What foolishness! Clearly, only you can do such things, and you do them best! Over the course of the strategy, prove your superiority to this “Jack Aurel“ and take him down a notch! (Character Specific)
"Where the hell did you go?! Come out, you fucker!" It's now or never. This is the culmination of all of your plans, and failing is absolutely not an option here. During the fight, hold nothing back, and make sure to thoroughly defeat your opponents so that no one and nothing will ever stand in your way again!
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure OC Tournament #5: Round 1 Match 14 Raymond Vs Cy
The results are in for Match 12. “Well, now, that was a treat, wasn’t it? Alright, everyone, get ready for the main event! Bursting into the lane, ready for her adoring fans, give it up loud and clear for…TD/MD!” The crowd went wild, then, as the star emerged, wearing a brightly-shining silver top dotted in acciaccatura symbols, blue shorts and long silver and black socks on her right and left legs accentuating the graceful form of TD/MD. Her eyes, already discolored so drastically from one another, were accentuated with asymmetric eyeshadow, gray and blue, blue dots of makeup underneath the latter left eye, and as she emerged, her left hand, clad in a blue glove with a black line through its center, stretched towards the crowd, her right in a silvery glistening glove moving towards the black headphones around her neck, blue acciaccatura symbols on either outside as other musical symbols, smaller, less prominent, dotted the rest of the thing. There was an obvious extravagance in the outfit made more impressive by its components being relatively simple: a t-shirt, shorts, socks, shoes, and gloves, really. “Whoa, talk about a tough act to follow… And that’s coming from me!” Metra Doria laughed lightly, having emerged to an immensely lively, astonished, applauding audience, applauding the avant-garde show which had led up to her. “Sound’s Garden, am I right? The people this place attracts are some of the most interesting performers I have ever known, and what we all just witnessed, I think, is a perfect preamble, a summation of everything we should aspire to be, of the power to move hearts and souls that music can have! I seriously feel like I need to give the best damn concert of my life now just to be worthy of headlining here… And of course, I can’t play everything alone. Before we start, let’s hear it for my backing band!” “My bassist, Stella Starlight, my drummer, Scott Sundquist, annnnd…” Melodically, that ‘and’ trailed until one of the stagehands from before, clad now in a totally new outfit, emerged. “Luna, on the synth!” With the band introduced to cheers, TD/MD, then, sat before a piano which the rest of the stagehands had moved onstage while the crowd’s eyes were on the star, and a cloud of smoke in their path. “So, Los Fortuna, are! You! Ready?!” The first of many songs that night began. In the chaos of these two disparate teams, both quite surprised by the realization of who they would be sharing their stages with, their independent plans, nonetheless, blended together seamlessly to tell classical comedies of ancient kings and heroes, of fighting and rejecting a tragic end, a bizarre prog rock gymnastic live weapons show tale of the human spirit at its finest. It was often that, thanks to the mishaps of the manager Thutmose, the acts before TD/MD went down in memetic legend, the stuff people spoke about often both on social media and in shady, smoky backrooms. Usually, however, they were spoken of as disasters saved by her star performance, to the point where some wondered if it was on purpose to hype her up more at some poor bastard’s extent. That night, however, a certain performance pierced the hearts of the crowd and brought about complete adoration, even matching the attention of the headliner. As her own show, grand, perfect, putting a tear in the eye of the man who sat beside Tigran Sins in a special box, drew to a close, and the crowd called for an encore, TD/MD spoke into the microphone. “Alright, Los Fortuna, I think I definitely have time for one more song, but… I haven’t forgotten who you were all cheering for earlier. In the time it’s taken, we’ve already seen to it… I’m going to welcome some people back on the stage to join me for this!” Directing her hand stage left, she declared, “‘Nureyev,’ Admiral Pineapples ‘Orpheus,’ ‘Hades,’ and all the best stagehands in the world, get back up here, the whole of you! Let’s close the night off in the best way possible!” The winner is Everyone, with a score of 79!
Masters of Funky Action
There were a record number of tie votes this match, but in the end, just barely, MFA pulled ahead in popularity by a singular vote.
After the show, Metra asked the quartet to wait for her outside her green room so they might speak in private as she dressed back down into more casual getup, the four of them and manager Thutmose conversing outside all throughout. “That was legendary,” Rudolf said first, “feel like we really moved hearts out here tonight!” “Even if only for a little while…” Admiral Pineapples agreed, looking over the Highrollers. “It was very nice to work with you, even under such strange circumstances.” “Tens of thousands… It’s still surreal,” Alexis added, “they were cheering for us almost as hard as they were for TD/MD… And I heard they usually end up laughing off the act right before the big headliner?” Cybil simply allowed a smug smile. “I was advocating for you, Alexis, so of course I knew you would defeat such superstitions…” And then, she offered the manager a frown. “Mr. Thutmose. I hope now you’ve learned a lesson about fooling around with people. It is only because we were so amazing that you still have your job right now.” “How humble…” Thutmose answered, chuckling nervously and running his hands through his hair. “Yeah, yeah, I’ll go straight now… I didn’t realize how much this was upsetting Metra, either-” “Thutmose, my boy,” a self-important voice said, announcing his presence an instant before his garish demeanor could assault the eyes of the hangers-around. Tigran Sins, in his gold-yellow checkered suit, approached, that muscular brunette right hand of his, Fox, close by, a sort of warmth on his still quite intimidating face, “you really do know how to pick ‘em. Miss Antoine, Mr. Pavlova, Admiral, and Alexis, you were… I must say, almost sort of in the league of our star.” “Not even close, really,” Fox answered, stepping forward then, a massive bouquet in his hands, a vinyl tucked neatly under his arm, “anyway, Thutmose, let us through. We need to speak with her now… That show was her greatest yet, and she needs to hear it personally from-” “TD/MD isn’t seeing anyone else tonight,” Thutmose answered, the young man standing firmer now, though all four of his companions noticed that he seemed to be shaking. “She’s exhausted after her show, and already needs to make time for others…” He moved to yoink the flowers out of his hands. “I’ll give these to her on your behalf, though, and tell her who it’s from… But she won’t be seeing you.” Like that, the warm demeanor on the intimidating-looking man’s face grew tenser again, and even Tigran seemed to grow frustrated as well, answering next, “are you certain she can’t make time? Fox really needs to speak with her in person.” “Hey, hey, you heard the twink,” Rudolf interjected, stepping in now (“Twink..?” “Yep!”), raising a bathrobe-covered arm, “let’s keep things excellent here and not freak the poor lady out. I hear she’s got a perfect pitch, ya know, so she’s gonna hear it if we’re ruinin’ her night!” Fox folded his arms, Tigran himself looking contemplative, almost stressed, before his accompaniment turned away, seemingly aware of the numbers on the meek man’s side. “Next time, then.” The pair left, and like that, Thutmose nearly collapsed into the wall, exhaling. “I just defied Tigran to his face… Hhehhhh…” He shook his head. “She should be ready by now. I’m gonna go burn these flowers… Maybe start online shopping for walking sticks, ‘cuz I feel like my kneecaps are gonna notice this…” A voice called from the inside, seemingly concurring with the manager’s point. “Coast clear? Alright, come in!” The four entered, seeing Metra sitting there casually in a black hoodie, more fit for the cool evening, with blue sweatpants covered in silver spirals, relaxing into her chair and nursing a bottle of some sports drink with the label peeled away idly. “You four have all shown me pretty definitely what you stand for tonight… You’re cool. I think I can trust you. Have a seat, alright? Let’s hang out, chat a bit. I don’t think I need to tell you there’s a lot in Sound’s Garden that needs talking-about.” For interested parties, as of this going up, there is still a day left to vote in a match between masters of lawful bastard and chaotic bastard energies, both vying to get the other thrown out of a resort. Scenario: A former speakeasy in Hotel Delmano - North Island, Downtown Los Fortuna. Late morning The Baker Street Rat Pack had a good few ideas to advance forward juggling in their heads, now that the city’s issues were rapidly beginning to juggle themselves more and more. North Island PD was still more aggressive under the galvanizing rhetoric of Council Chairman March, none of which seemed to be stopping the serial killer who ran rampant in the region, the districts west of the Wormwood seemed a hotbed of wars between gangs, unions, and the bulk of ODIN’s security forces, and that wasn’t even getting into issues which the BSRP had no relation to, but were indeed aware of. The matter most currently relevant to Cy Syntheta, however, was listening to the concerns and fleeting research of Peter “Treagon” Bequasimodo. “I just don’t get it,” Peter said to them, looking fleetingly at his laptop. “I can’t use my Stand to get out of the city, and now I try to use it to look into this ‘Institute’ here, and can't get into there either. It’s like… They have some sort of Stand User Firewall, in simple, un-hacker terms.” Cy had been sitting and chatting with the self-styled treasonous vegan, having been of the mind of late to actually do something useful, and remembering the hacktivist had been hot on somebody, something or another’s trail. “So you have a clue as to what that ‘from the Institute, Oh No,’ thing meant?” “Better than a clue,” Peter answered, “turns out it literally wasn’t even a riddle. Just a straightforward signoff.” Like that, he stylishly spun his laptop around on a nearby surface, stopping it as the screen faced Cy. “Look for yourself.”
Pezzetti di Cavallo (55, M) - Professor and Representative of School of Law, Chief Prosecutor
CaraMel Dansen (26, F) - Notable Alumnus and Representative of School of Culinary Arts, Acclaimed Confectioner
Million Dollars (37, F) - Professor of Economics, Representative of School of Business, Multimedia Producer
Willard Drankwater (108, M) - Professor of Chemistry, Representative of School of Medicine, Nobel Laureate, Oldest Man in Los Fortuna
Theodore Lloyd (35, M) - Dean and Representative of Arts College, Former Adjunct Professor
Oh No (Age Unknown, M) - Head and Representative of the Midnight Sun Parapsychological Research Institute
Venus York (47, Other) - Professor of Sociology at College of Social Sciences
“This is…” Cy was catching on quickly. “The ‘University Board’ of Midnight Sun? Hell, I knew they were kind of a big deal, but looking over these names back and forth…” “Yep,” Peter answered, “and these are the basics I could dig up on most of them… This No guy, though, other than existing? Practically a ghost. Apparently sometimes doesn’t even show for meetings in person.” “And we have definite signs this guy knows about people’s Stand abilities, and hangs out with that ‘Golden Sins’ guy you punched out? ‘Parapsychological Research,’ too… Sounds like Stands without outright saying Stands.” “Think I might have to go physical again,” Peter answered, “if an agent of Neoliberal Academia is on us, we gotta know their intention. With those types you never know if they’re with you or gonna sell you out. Think I was gonna start by checking out some Institute libraries.” “Wait,” Cy answered in turn, “you say they know about you and you’ve been trying to break in already… Then it might be too much heat on you to storm the castle. Let me take care of it.” “Oh, man, really? That’s super cool of you, Cy. If you find anything, I owe you one.” “Don’t think of it like I’m being nice to you for its own sake,” the assassin answered, “this is something that affects me, too, especially if we screw it up, and a physical infiltration is the kind of thing I’m more suited for than you… Though I will remember what you just offered.” Midnight Sun University Town - A Street Decked out for Pride Raymond “Ray” Delwyn Shimizu, meanwhile, had discovered similar information to Cy under what can be called vastly different circumstances: rather than suspicious, experience and perspective had taught him to have a cautiously optimistic approach to the clear power over the Metropolitan area the University Board held. To the Speedwagon Foundation, this Parapsychological Research Facility has always been an enigma, since it’s always been a risk to send many operatives to Los Fortuna, but I have a ‘feeling…’ A ‘feeling’ that tells me they are not going to be so dissimilar to us. I can’t help but wonder, then, like how my team is dealing with Cairo now, if SKADE can’t have its ‘talents’ assisted by some University grants and allianceship as well… Our ‘contact’ within ODIN didn’t have a bad word to say about them, so it likely won’t cause trouble with them, either. But first, Raymond knew, he could not simply walk blindly into such an alliance, much like his team had needed first to figure this Cairo out a bit more before adding their resources to their mission. A place worth starting to do such homework, then, would be in the records of their little research institute. As he walked along, Raymond soon passed by a frankly adorable-looking building, a sign out front of the place reading in bubbly letters: ‘CaraMel’s Confection & Bakery’ To that end, then, he thought, oh, tempting… Maybe I’ll stop by on the way back from the library, bring donuts or weird candies or something back to the gang. I have to imagine they’re delicious… Peering through the window, he saw the place absolutely bustling, loaded with the kind of crowd that speaks to waiting nearly an hour in line, and more going in. Urgh, and maybe there’ll be less of a line by then. After thinking that to himself, then, Raymond continued onwards, still making sure to eye every little oddity and incongruity of the area he could. Peaceful as the college town largely seemed, strange phenomena that could only amount to Stand usage also felt especially concentrated, even compared to the rest of this city. I’ve heard rumors of all number of notorious members of the Stand underworld in the region, and I’m sure I’m not the only one out here seeking this library out… or the one with the worst of intentions for it. Midnight Sun Parapsychological Institute Research Library - 1F Lobby Much to Raymond’s surprise, the place seemed… A pretty ordinary research library, all things considered. He hadn’t gotten terribly far in yet, of course, but then again, he didn’t really know what he was expecting. A receptionist with braided dark-red hair, round, spiraling glasses, and a blue vest over a short-sleeved black button-up sat at the front desk, guarding his way from a pair of doors behind him. Off to one side, gated from entry, sat a stairwell, visibly enticing, yet with a sign before it very overtly communicating: NO PUBLIC ENTRANCE. Ah, well, he could at least get an idea by looking around what sort of face they were willing to show anyone who entered. “Erm… S-sir?” The young woman at the entrance asked, seeming intimidated by his tall form. “Did you need to find something in particular? I’m, uh, I mean we… We’re not, uh.” She blinked. “What did you want again?” The sight practically made Ray roll his eyes, but he was able to let through a straightforward, “I didn’t say, actually…” Crap, he hadn’t thought this far, either. Of course a place like this would want to know why people were looking into it. Still, though, Ray was nothing if not smooth and even-faced, and in the span of the time between that ‘actually’ and opening his mouth again, he had thought convincingly of what wasn’t a lie, but didn’t actually say much of anything either. “I want to look into some cases this Institute has worked for this city. This is a pretty big place, and I know it’s a storied institution, so I thought I should get acquainted with some of them.” “R-right! Of course! So nothing in particular? Okay, cool..! I’m, uh… P-please, don’t hesitate at all if you need me…” The young woman pressed a button by her desk, and the doors clicked, unlocking from this side. As Ray began towards it, though, he was interrupted. “Oh, and one more thing!” He could practically see the ‘menacings’ emanating off of her, those adorable glasses practically shining as she spoke more clearly now. “There are two types of research library… Ones which only allow ‘reference,’ and ones which allow ‘lending’ to guests. We’re not a lending library, so don’t let us catch you taking anything out of here… Do you understand me, sir?” “…crystal clear.” This girl is a Stand User… For a moment, I almost let it slip my mind where I am. “Great!” She said, back to her somewhat nervous, bubbly demeanor. “Oh, and, uh… Don’t make too much noise either, ‘kay? I won’t be able to tell, because these walls are soundproofed, but we can’t be held accountable for what happens if you get other library patrons angry..!” There, she sounded more honest, even a touch exasperated to Raymond, as if exactly that had happened too many times to count, and she was resigned to it happening again. “I understand.” Curious as he stepped in, Raymond tested the door… Seemed it did, at least, open from the inside, so no fire hazard or Stand trap there even if it was locked externally. The library interior was hardly bustling, per se, but there were, regardless, a few faces about, all of whom struck Raymond as people it might or might not be a worthwhile idea to fuck with, including but not limited to a tall, balding, androgynous figure with an eyepatch over their forehead, a very average-looking young woman in a purple beret, a red-clad teenager in an aviator hat with a feather plume, round glasses, and long facial features, a tall twentysomething in too many coats with hair like a palm tree, a balding, dark-haired, bespectacled, bearded figure in a stupid black cap and loosely-worn red tie with simultaneously an utterly unhinged and utterly vacant look in his eye, and a blond, stubbly-haired twenty-something six-foot-something in sunglasses and a vest with shoulder sections that wriggled down his arms. Raymond thought little of the colorful characters around as he went to start picking out some reference material to sit at a desk with, but as he did, he happened to glance across the aisle, seeing there someone who he definitely knew was probably trouble: a short-haired, taller-than-him, androgynous blond with chin-length, face-covering bangs, which had an almost plastic sheen to them. They wore a form-fitting crop-top, shoulder-length cloak, jorts, leggings, and an armful of plastic bands. No way… I’ve heard of this person before! The foundation says that Cy Syntheta is a ruthless sellsword who’ll work any job. What could a person like that want in a place like this? Who are you doing research for? I smell trouble here… I’m going to need to apprehend them, dead or alive, before someone gets seriously hurt. I must say, as a swordsman myself, though, I’m almost excited… Almost. Cy Syntheta, minutes ago, had received a similar spiel for a similar non-explanation of their intentions, though theirs even vaguer, given the fact that the assassin was entering fully prepared to find information which led them to view the Institute as some sort of enemy. Their hunt for information about the hotel they occupied had led to a fascinatingly thorough history of its paranormal and criminal oddities, but nothing which referenced any of them. Nothing written about Heartache Casino where you’d expect, except a very brief mention of an assault from an ancient king when they tried to display some kind of ancient slab in the early 2010s… Nothing about us, either, when we know they definitely have something on us. Ugh. Is that on the more confidential floors..? Maybe I do need to start figuring out how to break in… And then, a moment later, their head perked up with a realization. There’s eyes on me… Someone is watching me right now, and close. Their head, then, darted across the aisles, and directly across from them stood a tall, broad-looking figure glancing their way with a clear, sneering suspicion. Everything about this guy screamed ‘fed,’ or at least something adjacent. Looks like my reputation has caught up to me again… Well, that’s just great. I’m gonna need to take this guy out then… How annoying. Hopefully, all these other guys stay out of it so I can get back to what I was doing. OPEN THE- Shhh! Open the game… Location: A public floor of the Midnight Sun Parapsychological Research Institute Library. The area here is 32 by 32 meters with each tile being 2 by 2 meters. Players are represented by their tokens with Raymond on the center left and Cy on the center right. The purple rectangles are bookshelves that are each around 2 meters tall. The brown rectangles are desks complete with chairs and lighting. The green circle is the help and resources desk. The plus signs are computer desks and the cone shapes on the bottom sides of the map are printers. Goal: RETIRE your opponent! Additional Information: They’re minding their own business, but the Institute Library is sparsely populated with a number of Stand Users among the general civilians. If you make too much noise or actively try to involve them in your fight, they’ll kick your ass, and you will be RETIRED. If you try to trick them into thinking your opponent is antagonizing them by using your own abilities to somehow try to make them look bad, they’ll kick your ass, and you will be RETIRED. On the other hand, though, as long as you’re not actively aiming for them, even the non-stand users in this area are pretty savvy people to be actively researching here in the middle of a fight; chumps, cowards, and charlatans will have already fled before they’re in any danger, leaving only people who know the score. They can generally reliably avoid being hurt, and as long as you aren’t too loud, will not under any circumstances besides aforementioned loss conditions use their various Stands to kick your ass.
“My name is ‘Kira Yoshikage.’ I can’t remember when or how I died… but one thing I can say is I feel certain I will not go to Heaven.” This parapsychological research library has some truly morbid, fascinating stories from which to draw inspiration. Take creative inspiration from paranormal knowledge in the basis and techniques of your strategy!
“I saw a book, seemingly unpopular, titled ‘The Elephant Who Lost His Nose.’ I thought to myself… Now why in the world would he lose his nose?” You’ve found your way to an absolutely fascinating source of unusual parapsychological knowledge, and as an agent of SKADE and of the Foundation alike, you aren’t going to take this opportunity for granted. Take creative inspiration from paranormal knowledge in the basis and techniques of your strategy!
Name of Run: Money Plane Run Link:Link to run on NeonAnarchy Date: 2020-10-13 Time: 23:59 Duration: 5h Threat: Semiprime Scheduling: 48h Scheduled GM:AztechnologyPR, AztechnologyPR#5546 Runners: Kaiken (ChromeFlesh), Nadia (FishStyxRP), Dozer (GamingHoople), Jetstream (WistfulWaterways) Johnson: Mr. Green, owner and operator of the Money Train (unnamed in run) Relevant NPCs: N/A Location: The Money Plane - Above the Trans-Polar Aleut Nation Opposition: Money plane guards (20) Money Plane rigger (circumvented), Money Plane Cyberpsychos (2) Casualties: Total - Plane Crash. Collateral: Money Plane. Synopsis: Runners steal the Money-containing matrix device of the Money Plane, and affect rapid egress. Run Rewards: ¥80000, 10 Karma, 2 Knowledge Karma, Option to purchase Daredevil from rewards if desired for baseline 6K cost, Kaiken 2 weeks of permanent 3P 3S because of glitched parachuting roll (decreased from a crit glitch) Background: Mr. Green, the owner of the Money Train, desires to end the competition for his own criminal casino operation - the Money Plane - by stealing all the money aboard it. Meet: Team met Mr. Green's representative, an elf face who would be accompanying them and providing access to the lower decks of the Money Plane. He was clear that the primary issue would be the lack of heavy armour or weaponry (suit-level at best). They accept (in the past) and set out to do the job. Run: Team spent a short while preparing weaponry that could be smuggled (breakdown SMGs/small shotguns, some B&E and a single flashbang just in case) - Dozer's heavier equipment was confiscated by security - and boarded the plane. Shortly after arrival within a bribed air corridor over the Trans-Polar Aleut Nation, the NPC face has a freakout when he crit glitches several cons in a row (run setup) and, freaking out, pulls an HE grenade he smuggled - which prompt goes off. The elf, about half of the people in the cabin the runners were located in, and the plane's primary hydraulic lines ceased to exist, and a gaping hole was torn out of the side. Runners initially fought their way through the lower deck of the plane without damage against scrambling guards (though with lots of edge loss), where they managed to, at the security substation, recover some of their gear - though time was lost (more on this later). They then headed upstairs to the middle deck. More edge was lost here as they fought through the bar, depleting Kaiken entirely, and with Dozer taking some stun. Reaching the casino, they were surprised by the covert-augmented bodyguards of a high-roller, who both had a cyberpsychotic break and massacred the casino patrons and guards. Here a fight was had, with more edge usage, and, after some terrible rolls on Kaiken's part, the near-complete filling of her physical track by a cyberspur to the gut. The team stabilized her and, reaching middle avionics, realized the plane was in very bad shape from the hydraulic damage. Jetstream, being a pilot and engineer, did some work to help this (getting 6 hits on 12 dice on both rolls, very nice), while also working to stabilize the plane from extreme maneouvers, which prevented the rigger from taking action to attempt to massively disrupt their movement in the future. Reaching the top floor, the time taken so far resulted in some of the guests taking emergency egress equipment and fleeing, however not all - as they encountered a Yakuza officer and his entourage in a secure meeting room. Kaiken, despite massive blood loss and negatives, managed to, using Japanese and Yakuza knowledge skills, get an 8-hit negotiation with them to avoid a fight as they went in their separate directions (and the Yakuza officers moved to the cargo hold where they used vehicles with egress systems to escape). Finally reaching the operations area, they saw the plane's operator and decker - carrying their node - attempting to jump as well. Rushing forward, Dozer managed to Disarm the box out of the decker's hands, and the team moved to clean up the last grouping, not disturbed by rigger maneouvers. With the plane initially secured, the team quickly subdued the rigger and took control of the cockpit, but found that, due to the damage, the plane had showed up on the TPA's radar, with demands for it to divert. Nadia used some great facing to buy time as Jetstream pushed the jet to its limit with great piloting to get as far south as possible (and not be ditching over the North Pole). Eventually the TPA scrambled interceptors, which fired a missile at this plane that was about to cross their borders and escape, and was refusing instructions from ground command. Jetstream took a few actions to keep as much control as possible, but with no rear at all the plane was doomed, and the runners then moved to jump out over Athabaska (where their J informed them he had resources to get them home). They do so, but Kaiken crit glitches her roll, using her last edge to downgrade it to a regular glitch, and shattering her legs upon landing. The J gets them home a few days later, with the critical node. Aftermath: The Money Plane is destroyed - totally - when it crashes at terminal velocity (and missing the rear half, which was annihilated by an air-to-air missle) within the Athabaskan Council. A number of underworld figures are reported missing, and are almost immediately replaced by ambitious subordinates, whose former positions are similarly immediately replaced, all the way down the chain. War never changes. The runners got paid. GM Note: This was my first run at this threat level on NA, and overall I think it went well. The players were clear that they did feel the tension/threat as well as the feeling of being 'on the edge' given the location, which I think was certainly part of the goal. It was, of course, more than a little dungeon-run like, so I don't think I'll be doing this all that frequently, but when I do, I do like the IMR setup in order to at least focus on the action. Expenses: None that exceeded the run frontal portion of reward.
The Heartache Casino had been trashed. A mixture of water and soda syrup seemed to leak out of most of the machinery, the vast majority of screens in the building had been slashed open, and the air was hazy with smoke. It was almost unbearably hot due to the air conditioning having been down for quite a while. Over all of the damage and chaos stood Peter Bequasimodo, Markus having been forcibly escorted out by security at what the hacktivist had thought to be the deadline for some horrible event. Treagon was pretty sure the fish guy wasn’t the one who had lured him here, but by all means, it seemed the only disaster that had come of this place had been what they did to it. As casino patrons continued to stream out of the front doors and employees frantically ran around, Peter noticed a garish gold mess in the shape of a thin, middle-aged white dude approaching him from the VIP stairs. He was sharp-faced and red-eyed, with neat but longish black hair, wearing a gold-yellow checker-patterned suit over white, and everything about the way he carried himself suggested that he was the kind of guy who wouldn’t go anywhere unless he were the constant center of attention. He looked like he wasn’t hot at all, despite what had happened to the air systems (maybe they had a separate one upstairs..?), and carried under his arm a sort of envelope, clapping as he did. “Well done, Treagon, well done… That was absolute chaos, and my premiums are probably gonna go up, but hell, my guests loved the show, and that’s what really matters, yeah?” He held out his hand. “Tigran Sins, ‘Golden’ to friends, owner of this place you trashed, and you, I think, could make a wonderful friend.” Peter raised an eye and looked over him, realizing what had come as a woman dressed like some kind of pirate was also forcibly escorted from the upstairs and tossed out on the streets, shouting all the while, “my best customer fucking ruined meeeeeeee!” For some reason, Peter presumed that may have been who that fish guy was trying to flush out, but paid it no mind. Tigran rolled his eyes, chuckling and brushing her off. “I swear, upstarts get a taste of the good life, and then they always do this as soon as it all comes crashing down. Never gets old…” He sighed with some amusement, then moved to pull free the envelope. “Anyway, I have something one of my clients has asked to give to the w-” A fist connected with the casino owner’s face, which quickly turned into a grasp at his hair, yanking him down to knee him into the dirtied floor, Peter following through by smoothly dusting off the new letter. “Endangering your customers and screwing with me to entertain a bunch of high-rollers while you sit in comfort and laugh at their misfortunes… You’re my least favorite kind of scumbag.” “My face! My faaace!” Covering it and panicking, the owner ran away in alarm, and now it was Peter’s turn to give security the slip. When he was somewhere safer, he carefully opened the unmarked, finely-sealed envelope’s contents, finding the quality of the writing to be the same as the last, but this time, rather than an unsigned threat, the handwritten note had been much stranger, most curiously reading at the bottom: For the Institute, Oh No Enjoy M2? Looking forward to M4 and beyond? In the meantime, when this goes live, you still have over a day to vote in M3, the bout featuring an Octopus-headed youth, a thief, a shapeshifter, and a child who controls ants, all duking it out over weird gross fish. Scenario: Downtown Los Fortuna - North Island: Within Sight of the Waterfront statues, Triskele and Cocytus. Not quite evening. The streets were busier than usual in the area for a variety of reasons. Roadwork was underway in more convenient places, for one thing. For another, people had been curious about a plane which performed a miracle landing just up North, and a local small-time reporter was trying yet again to cover some facets of the incident and reach another fleeting effort towards a big break, workers all the while meanwhile toiling to fish the plane out from between two art installations. Thirdly, and most significantly, an old man was delivering a speech before a canal dock, the campaign van he stood atop flanked by two large and unfurled Los Fortuna flags and a private security detail. This man was Wedding March, and despite being a somewhat overweight, balding, middle-height man whose well-tailored white suit was soaked in sweat from the day’s sun, any who paid local politics attention could identify him as the chairman of the Los Fortuna Metropolitan Council -- little more than a ceremonial upgrade over a standard councilor position on paper, but becoming the popularly-elected face of the city council had perks of its own nonetheless. “My fellow citizens of Los Fortuna,” March began, a certain commanding aura to the way he articulated, gestured, and generally carried himself, “we are living in interesting times once more, I am afraid to say. In recent months, all number of bizarre crimes have surged to a greater extent than ever before, and once again, it is only the efforts of the ordinary heroes of this city that have kept us from collapsing… This Metropolis’ wonderful police force, its defense forces, from the volunteer organizations of Aurelio to the men and women of Valkyrie, yes, but also, our rescue workers, doctors, the journalists who keep people like me honest, never letting me have a wink of sleep…” The crowd which had gathered around him laughed at that final point, March giving a self-deprecating smile. From there, he segued into further praise. “And too many other persons to possibly list! Yet in the strange incidents of this city, the danger these persons face is unique as well! A dear friend of mine, one who drew the very flags I stand for, who thirty years ago aided this city in its hour of tragedy even as he mourned his flesh and blood, said that in times like these, the people need more than ever to know that there is a place to simply be good, to be inspiring, to be forthright and demonstrate agency! You may be quiet, Los Fortuna, but I can hear you calling! I will work myself to an early grave if it means my fellow councilors and I can do right by the safety and comfort every last one of you deserves!” The man continued postulating about the safety of the city, and the crowd didn’t seem to be processing all of it, yet they cheered anyway when he paused or gestured to. It all felt so smotheringly fake to Jacob Brown, having gotten curious about the crowd while on a stroll through the city, having before then been idly people-watching. You use his name like a tool to make the people cheer… You say you were friends, but I sure never heard him talk about you! I think you might be lying and lying and peppering in platitudes, just like every other politician, Councilor! For a brief, flashing moment, Jacob called the semi-tangible form of ‘Megalo Strike Back,’ only to stop himself, remembering. “You all seem a good lot, creative, constructive, well of intent, so I must ask you all personally... Help me make this inevitable into something that is not a tragedy, when the time comes." That Andrew Tiffany had asked that of them all, and Jacob had promised his help with all the rest. He had seemed so happy, so relieved, to know that he had allies in this fool’s errand of his, and even though he was dead, Jacob Brown was never one to defy a promise. The speaker would live, and Megalo Strike Back would recede. Still, to calm his nerves, he walked away, trying to deftly make his way somewhere away from all the lies. Maybe he could find his fun for the day somewhere quieter. In an alleyway, South of the rally… Richard Stone was thinking to himself, having had much the same people-watching plans as a youth not half his age, though his walk was a shorter one, himself more winded by what had come, not to mention what had distracted him. This Downtown in particular, it had interested him… He remembered the words of that young woman who spoke of the place, how apparently it had once been devastated by an earthquake, and then from there rebuilt… A bit of a museum trek confirmed as such to him, too. Was this, then, the history of the city’s canals? It truly was amazing, the decades of stories that could be told by just walking around. There were a lot of police in the area, and earlier, a man had been trying to avoid them, but also looking quite nervous in his own right… He’d a feeling that he should paint the man, perhaps, but he had only seen him briefly enough to get a quick sketch, and had since become preoccupied by searching for that guy, whatever trouble he had gotten up to, instead of checking out that rally up by the water. It was a pretty damn nice drawing for a sketch of a man at a glance, by any standards bar Richard’s own. All this going around looking for some guy… I really need to do more cardio. At least it’s an absolutely lovely day, and being this far from that district locals call ‘The Earth,’ I’m bound to find some excitement just by walking around a bit! And if it’s the wrong kind, it’s nothing that my ‘Heavens’ can’t get me out of! Not long after expressing that, Richard did, in fact, find some company; a teenager, by the looks of things, had entered the alley, looking as though he were hurriedly shuffling away from something. “Good day!” Richard spoke, waving at the youth with a raised hand. Already, he could see dark energies from this young man, but this was hardly something to phase him, simply standing where he was, holding onto what he was. “You don’t happen to have seen a man who looks vaguely like this, have you?” As he held out his sketch, the newcomer gave him a curious look, then began to close the distance between them quickly. Stopping a few meters away, then, he looked at the thing, then at the man, shaking his head. “I’m afraid not… Would this be a friend of yours?” Richard shook his head, which seemed to satisfy the boy. “No, a complete stranger… He caught my eye, as people do sometimes. I’m not sure if you’re aware, but there’s many people with strange abilities in this place, and I’ve developed, I think, a knack for feeling out where they’re active. I was hoping to track him down and paint him.” “Most of our kind don’t speak so bluntly about Stands like that with total strangers,” this kid said, cutting through all the slight inclinations that he might be somewhat normal, then smiling, getting a little closer. “Someone with that layer of fearless honesty has some respect from me… You may not be so bad, Mister…” “Stone,” he answered, “Richard Stone. I just wasn’t sure if you were one as well, so I didn’t want to confuse you, but I can see that’s not necessary! Tell me, though, what’s your name, since you now have mine?” “Jacob Brown… I’m new here, you could say, and so I was people-watching… Happened to make my way here when the lies of that councilman became too much to bear.” The boy retracted a bit, then held his hands behind his back… Richard could tell he was up to something. “Tell me, though, Richard, do you think it’s dangerous to accost strangers in alleys?” “I’ve been told,” he answered, “but sometimes, that’s where you meet the most interesting people, and I won’t flinch from that… Not all of the best stories parade through the streets, yeah?” “I understand, and agree completely! That said, a fair warning, Richard, since you seem alright… you caught me in a really bad mood, and I just want to rip something open!” Like that, he leapt forward, a knife now in his hands, bringing it with alarming speed towards his conversational partner. Richard, to his end… Simply stood and watched, and then, just before the blade could contact skin, stopped itself, Jacob pulling back and tilting his head. “You really aren’t afraid at all, then… Didn’t try to get away, nor summon up your own Stand to stop me.” “You like to unnerve people and see how they react, is that it?” Richard asked, his answer implying the point of his inaction. “You’re honest, to a fault… If you were going through the trouble of announcing your bloodlust like that, I think you’d have told me you meant to gut me like a fish, or something else flavorful like that. Yet all you said was you wanted to do that to something. Not a lie, but a test. And lucky thing, too… If you’d actually meant to kill me, Jacob, right now you would certainly be dead.” Jacob Brown started cracking up, then, hand moving to his forehead as he laughed and laughed, in a better mood than he had been since hearing that infernal speech. “You’re good… You really are good, Richard Stone! If you had recoiled or tried to run, acted afraid, that wouldn’t have reflected very well on your claimed interests in all kinds of people, and then maybe you would have become the ‘something’ after all. Talking to you has put me in such a better mood already… Is there some way I can repay you?” “One,” Richard said, producing his art supplies once again with a nod, looking over his form. “Let me paint you?” Not much later, that same day, that same alley… The two fast acquaintances, not yet aware that they would soon come to blows, had a good time simply talking as the drawing ensued, and there was much to talk about… Both had quite dark, storied histories, and though both did value being forthright, some of what they got into utterly forbade it in function. It was nice, then, to frankly discuss matters such as the taking of lives and witnessing of violent, gruesome scenes. All good things were bound to come to an end, though, as not long after the drawing had been complete, the hand of fate tossed with all its might something which would surely come between their new bond. A violent crashing sound, followed by a mess of crimson liquid dancing in the air, surrounding the slumped, launching form of a man’s body, a flickering humanoid figure trying and failing to grasp at anything and everything before fading from existence, even Richard not quite able to make out what the mysterious person’s Stand was. Before either person could process anything, this anonymous Stand User had entered their eyesight by smashing headfirst against the brick wall of the alley directly between where they were standing. “That’s…” Richard raised an eyebrow, noting the outfit and hair of what was once a man before them, now cut to shit and crushed up to boot. “I’m sure of it, that’s the man I was trying to follow.” “Well,” Jacob said, moving to ineffectually, almost tongue-in-cheekily check the corpse’s pulse. “You’ve found him, I suppose. Might not be as easy to paint his face now, but…” He leaned in hard, squinting before pulling away. “The resemblance of your sketch seems to have been uncanny to what his face might have looked like unsmashed!” “I’ll have to remember him, then… When I see a Stand User die, you know, I can always paint them perfectly from memory.” Their conversation was interrupted by the chatter of a man on a radio, “yeah, got two men in an alleyway, right in front of a John Doe. Now approaching, over.” “Oh…” Jacob said, slightly disappointed, “the police are here.” “Looks like it,” Richard answered in a whisper, “play it cool, yeah? ” Of course, both Richard and Jacob knew how horrible this looked right away, what with the officer drawing closer with a cold look on his lips, brow tensed and hands on his hips as he walked over to the scene, what he would be saying clear before he even came close. Jacob, for a moment, was glanced at by the man, before he turned his head to Richard, getting closer to him. “Would either of you mind answering some questions for me?” “Certainly, officer,” Jacob said, already feeling exhausted, “what about? Social studies? Pre-calculus? Ooh, I was always graded well in physical education, would that help?” “You know that’s not what I meant…” That, then, earned an eyebrow raising from him, his tone growing concerned, rather than frustrated as he looked at Jacob and pointed at Richard. “Is he threatening you not to answer or something? You can trust me, young man, it’s like Councilor March said… It’s not just all these security companies, or those college boys in their ivory tower, or that fuckin’ Black Angel; police officers like me are doing our part too, and I say we’re doing the biggest part of all!” That put Jacob in a bad mood, and Richard, noticing his new friend stiffen up, opted wisely to take over, “if I may, officer, I assure you this body literally just flew in out of nowhere while my friend and I were just talking here. We’re as confused as you are about this whole-” “You expect me to believe that? Don’t make fun of me! North Island PD aren’t stupid, buddy!” Suddenly, the officer seized Richard’s hand, hard enough to actually make the weak older man wince, dropping the canvas upon which had been the sketch of the dead man - and immediately, the officer caught that. “If you’re not gonna cooperate, we’ll just have to bring you to the station and hear what you really know!” And then, he held up the sketch of this person, glancing at it and chuckling, looking at the corpse. “Not a bad resemblance at all… You’re a half-decent artist, but a damned shitty liar. That’s settled now, you’re coming with me.” The officer, then, dropped the canvas before reaching down for his handcuffs, occupied hand loosening in its grip on Richard without his notice, only for him to realize as he brought his arm back up that it wasn’t holding them… And that both of his wrists ended in grotesquely bleeding stumps, both of what they once connected to dropping uselessly to the floor. Turning, slowly, in too much shock as he held up his stumps, he looked towards the boy off to the side, grinning with his mouth but looking at him with utter malice, hand formed as if it was holding something, but nothing appearing visible in the officer’s eyes. “That’s not a term to toss around lightly, officer… I was in a wonderful mood until you went and ruined it, you know!” Jacob’s grin grew wider, then, and he stepped again and again on the lifeless fingers of the severed hand, the officer hearing them crack apart. There was almost a quality of laughter in his voice. “So run away now, little piggy, while I satisfy myself with this! This is one hundred percent your fault, you know, for trying to arrest an innocent man for telling the whole truth!” Finally, the pain registered, and as he turned and ran with a look of utter inelegance, the officer screamed pathetically and bolted away, his expensive blue pants moist with an absolute sign of his fear as he tried and failed, again and again, to radio for help. “I, uh… Appreciate the save.” Richard sighed, relieved on one hand, but otherwise, frowning with further thoughts as he picked up his canvases. “We need to get out of here, though… He’ll get help eventually, and then we are in serious trouble.” “I concur… This way!” The nearby streets, minutes later… Jacob and Richard ran off, but sirens wailed in the distance, and both could see it with utter certainty… The officers in the area had been looking for an excuse to flex on someone, they had been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and now, the situation had escalated even further. Panting to catch their breaths, Richard looked to the younger criminal, speaking quite frankly to him. “You know, Jacob… There’s no way the cops are gonna stop until they have someone to pin this crime on, and we just gave them all the reason to make it one of us on a silver platter. There’s no reason for both of us to go down.” “Yes I agree,” Jacob answered, bouncing from foot to foot, looking around, “much as I’ve enjoyed our chat, and don’t at all regret helping you back there, I don’t intend to actually go to jail for your sake. There’s far too much police could find if they looked into me, and I’ve made a promise to someone which would be in danger if I were ever in that hot water.” “So we’re on the same page, then… I have every intent of being the one of us who walks away from this, even if it means they take you in. No hard feelings, yeah?” Jacob, again, found the situation amusing, seeming to agree if only for the sheer honesty of saying that… It isn’t a deception or a betrayal if they totally understand where they are. “No hard feelings… If you survive this, though, I might save you a second time after all! I have connections at the Academy, yes, and I’m sure they won’t abide by an innocent Stand User facing charges, no! So try to live, and may the best man win!” Without another word, Jacob bolted off, then, leaving Richard standing there, stretching, and shaking his head with bemusement. “‘If I survive this…’ This a game to him?” A sigh, shaking his head, then followed. “What a kid… Alright, then! Not gonna let myself get shown up here! I’ve been through worse scrapes than this before he was even alive, so it’s time to show him how it’s done!” Open the Game! Location: The streets in Downtown Los Fortuna’s north island. Fleeing from the police has forced the players away from all the art and history towards one of its more… Commercial subsections. The area is shown here with each tile being 7.5 by 7.5 meters with a total length of 90 meters and width of 150 meters. The dark grey are each two lane roads, cars are parked and driving as normal here at around 30 miles per hour and the crosswalks are denoted by double white lines. The arrows show the direction of traffic. The players are represented by their respective tokens on the center crosswalks with Richard on the left and Jacob on the right side of the map. The yellow circles represent cops, which focus on the character to whom they are closer in proximity. Though not marked on the map, there is steady foot traffic through the area and a regular flow of motorists, miraculously not killing anybody. At the start of the match, the flow of motor traffic is cutting the police off from the players’ initial positions. The cream-colored tiles surrounding sets of buildings are sidewalks with general foot traffic, but not too busy. The inner light grey tiles are alleyways with the rectangles around them being various buildings or lots. The Orange rectangles (labeled “R”) are restaurants, the Blue rectangles are convenience stores (“C”), the Red rectangles (“F”) are fast food places, and the Grey rectangles are empty concrete lots that are fenced off by 2.5 meter tall fences (“L). The doors to each building are denoted by the yellow rectangles and the doors that lead to the alleyways are locked from the outside. All of the above are currently open, and the things one might expect to find within them are, indeed, generally all there. They’re a little bit crowded in all of their cases, minus the empty lots, but easy enough for anyone to navigate. The paths from the sidewalk to the alleyways are blocked by 2.5 meter fences that are denoted by the bolded lines. The top center area is a parking lot with the magenta being the entrance and the purple rectangles being the cars. The bottom center is a grassy park with trees denoted by the green circles. Goal: Do not get caught by the police! The player that gets caught by the police first will be charged with Resisting Arrest, with more charges to come as the officers think them up, getting Retired as a result. Until one of them is, the police will literally stop at nothing to make it happen. No tactic is outright off-limits, but every possible course of action will have immediate consequences on the behavior of NPCs towards both characters. See below for details. Additional Information: Though it’s possible to leave any side of the map, these city streets all look so similar in this unfamiliar place… You get turned around way too easily! The map will effectively loop, in short. If you leave from the left side, like in a game of ‘Pac Man,’ you will find yourself on the right side, and so on. No NPC is capable of understanding or exploiting this phenomenon. None of the police officers involved in this match are Stand Users, nor can they see Stand phenomena unless it’s a case where everyone can anyway. The cops have 333 physicals, 3 in Cop (a competent enough but not particularly great shot with a standard-issue handgun, reasonably physically acute, can generally press civilians into showing them where they want to go), 5 in Slighted; basically, these guys are tenacious to a fault and will chase after players, but are also somewhat overconfident in their ability to handle this. They are armed with a baton, taser and pistol, and have hand-cuffs and a radio on their belt. Police will chase the players they are following as best they can, and will not take their focus off their pursuit until someone they can arrest is sitting in police custody… In which case they will literally just sort of drop it instantly to focus on keeping him that way. Officers will start off completely clueless to how both of you operate, but gradually learn the tactics of the player characters as the match goes on, so mixing up methods is important for outlasting them on a long-term basis. The cops will not fire their guns on players unless they have a clear shot, and players have tried attacking them or committed any violent crimes during the match; that one dickhead in the writeup was a freebie. That said, the more aggressive players get with them, the more aggressive in turn the already disproportionate response will grow. The longer the match goes on, the more cops will be chasing after each player; with each 5 minutes, a new cop will be on each player’s trail. One will also appear immediately from the opposite side of the map from the player if an officer is ever slain. The civilians (222s with no relevant skills) will usually give you away to the cops if they know what direction you went or where you generally are, but being as indifferent as the average JoJo civilian, they need to be questioned for this to trigger. Once 30 minutes have passed, each player will have a police helicopter begin to focus on them, relaying the player’s location information to the other cops if they can find them. If a player seems to be moving too quickly for cops to pin down, they will start coming in cop cars to chase them.
“Go ahead, shoot me! But prepare yourself; the moment you pull that trigger, I’m going to break your finger like a matchstick!” These officers are really quite vexing, and you need to vent more. While completing your objective, find creative ways to antagonize your pursuers!
“Hm? You think I’m just running around not knowing where I’m going? I ran here so I can kill you!” These damned cops may have ruined your day and forced you out of one of the cooler parts of North Island, but you still have a day to seize. Make the most you can out of the places you visit on the map in your strategy!
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