What little information we were able to get combined with orbital imagery indicated that the destruction wrought by the constructs was roughly circular and centered on what looked to have once been a farm. From the orbital scans it seemed that a single shed of that Ithil wood material still remained standing while everything else had been thoroughly smashed into the dirt. The locals didn’t really seem to have a whole lot of information on the farm or its inhabitants despite it being the next farm over as best as I could tell.
Oh well, I prepared myself for the coming battle as best I could with the materials available. Since the constructs were made of psychic energy and the Ithil wood proved to be effective in the past, I had some shields and spears made of from the stuff. I could probably come up with something more elaborate given time and some creativity, but it was hard to go wrong with planks and pointy sticks given this was wood I was working with. Anything too elaborate was going to require quite a bit more metal and other components to really be effective.
Others made preparations of their own. Allandras had a number of pieces of junk he called charms and talismans that he was trying to sell to everyone. Looked to me like the fetishes some Force Users like to play with as a means to better focus their own powers. Probably utterly useless to anyone but the person who made them. Still, he handed me one that he claimed would act as a shield against psychic detections. Not really sure I trusted the effectiveness, despite his demonstrations, I pocketed the amulet. Allandras ultimately struck me as about as trustworthy as one of those used speeder salesmen in the commercials back home. They’d promise the galaxy to a potential customer and then hide all the protections from liability behind a smile and kilometers of fine print you’d need a intergalactic class telescope to read.
Nonetheless, once the assault began, the locals managed to lure away the constructs quite readily. Thus the way to the farm was open for a brief period of time. Once we arrived it was clear to see that the orbital scans didn’t quite do the damage justice. The whole place was quite thoroughly churned up and not a thing was left intact beyond the one shed. Jacob quickly confirmed that the Ithil wood making up the shed was carrying a massive charge.
(Jacob) I am scanning for life forms!
(Vanatica) It’s a farm in the midst of a damned forest. Yes, there are life forms!
(Jacob) I meant humanoid life signs!
Whatever, I should just give up on trying to understand how he simply grabs information out of the seeming ether with that device of his. He did inform us there was a lot of “static”, but he was detecting a low-level dimensional barrier on the shed based on the leakage. He figured the Ithil wood had reached its maximum charge – but was still inhibiting the energy flow. That weakened the construct but kept them around longer. Not too surprising there. What was surprising was his insistence that the inside of the shed was now halfway into another dimension.
How in the infinite….
(Vanatica) A pocket dimension to WHERE?
(Allandras) Most likely? I would say either Hyperborea or whatever the realm of the Urge Masque is.
(Vanatica) Well, if it isn’t a portal to Hell or something, it might be useful as nigh invulnerable cover.
(Jacob) Looks like a compromise reality. Primarily an ice world, but some sort of battle going on from the Wrath aspect as focused through the user’s mind. Evidently whoever was worried about something rather like Felix?
Great, that meant the path forward was into the tiny shed leading to who knows where instead of here out in the open where I at least had some knowledge of the terrain. Even worse, I was just dreaming about being on a massive glacier last night too.
The door was locked or otherwise barred. I was readying my lightsaber to simply try and cut through the locking mechanism, but Allandras pulled out one of his trinkets, tapped it on the door, and suddenly the door opened. As the door swung open, a blazing wall of energy erupted from the inside of the shed and first thing that struck me is that it has gotten a LOT colder, dimmer, and redder.
(THELOS) One moment, my lady, I am bringing the suit heater systems online. I fear there will be a few moments of discomfort before we return to steady state once again.
The cutting wind accented the twisted landscape of ice and snow. Massive constructs rather resembling Felix’s mech save for being constructed of wood were advancing on a fortress of ice. They were firing massive wooden spears, gouts of flame, and stones launched from steam cannons. Definitely related in basic form and function to general attack walkers.
(Allandras) Hey, made to order firewood. Excellent idea. Fuel delivery, I can make a lot on that.
I was really tempted to behead his greedy little ass right there and then. But it was as I was scanning the horizon in an effort to distract myself from such impulses that I saw a ghostly echo of what looked to be myself, great-grandfather, and someone I had never seen before drudging through the wind and snow.
(Vanatica will have a semi-vacant look on her face.) It was a landscape much like this. Someone else was here, instructing me in something. Guiding me to a spot. Whereupon I pulled out my lightsaber and stabbed into the ground, shattering the glacier for hundreds of meters in all directions. Something then erupted from the ice….
(Allandras) Attack the walkers? Are you sure they aren’t on our side? Are they piloted, or golems?
His question snapped me out of the vision right as the image of Great Grandfather turned to look at me (and not the image of me) and nodded before the whole vision vanished.
(Vanatica) Probably piloted attack walkers meant for assault as opposed to transport. They seem to resemble the reports of the constructs that were attacking cities to the “north”. If they were derived from the mind of the wearer of the Masque, the fact that they’re attacking a stronghold of sorts may be relevant. Zin felt this was a dying world with only geothermal activity keeping it going at all. He was of the opinion that if this was an accurate reflection of Hyperborea, any creatures here would also be looking for escape.
More pertinent to our situation though, the rasping sounds and noise of breaking ice indicated something was heading our way fast. Even worse, the horizon was also heading towards us indicating that this pocket realm may well be shrinking fast.
(Vanatica) Just great….
Which started a debate as to whether we tried to enter the fortress or work with the walkers assaulting it. I honestly had no clue what the correct course of action was and was beginning to suspect this whole place was more metaphorical than “real” anyway. Unfortunately, with no clue who was behind this or why, that limited the my ability to try and reason through the metaphors. A quick check of the radio confirmed that we hadn’t teleported to the region to the “North” this place seemed to be based on as I should still be able to contact the command ship if that was the case.
The group quickly decided on trying to enter the fortress through less than solid means of deduction and we were soon making a run across the icy battlefield. Cover was far too limited at times unfortunately and the walkers soon noticed our presence and took to making pot shots at us when line of sight permitted it.
This was something Mother and Father excelled at and I had no real method of duplicating their talents. Dodging was a lot easier when you could become intangible, move more than fifty times the speed of sound, could leap hundreds of meters in a single bound, and possessed precognitive knowledge of what to do when. And that wasn’t even getting into the stealthy assassin training. I had to settle for running as fast as muscles would carry me, the best armor and shielding money could buy, and trying to time my runs between bits of cover as best as I could to match the reloaded time of the walkers.
Even so, I was caught out in the open twice at precisely the wrong moment and could see the cannonballs heading for me. Luckily, Zin was far better at anticipating such things than I was as he easily knocked aside the cannonballs that would likely have ruined my day had they connected. My opinion of Zin definitely went up significantly as a result of those demonstrations. After what felt like an eternity of running and dodging though, we finally made it to the base of the walls of the fortress.
Here our possible paths forward took a number of routes: one drainage or sewer tunnel, two narrow stairs upwards, one apparently natural cave, and some doors that were being bombarded. Not really sure I had an opinion of which path was best, I left it to the others to decide which way to go. The vote came up for using the stairs, although that still left out us in the open where we were immensely vulnerable to weapons fire. I set the color-changing and holographic options on my suit to generate active camouflage, but knew the thing was limited in how well it would work against active scans or if I moved too quickly.
Allandras managed to actually help the situation by pulling out a bag of dust and basically puffed a “hologram” of an empty staircase into being over a considerable area. With that in place, the climb to the top of the walls of the fortress was fairly straightforward. Interestingly enough, the fortress itself from this vantage point was oddly reminiscent of the general layout of the destroyed village. The few people about were gaunthounds. The walls themselves were being defended by several dozen mostly-invisible psychic constructs. Although these were a lot smaller and less powerful than the full-scale ones outside. Probably far less destructive too. Only thing that seemed seriously out of place was the large central tower.
Since the parallels seemed obvious to me, I figured I’d broach the subject with the others for their thoughts.
(Vanatica) So is this a metaphorical reality with the fortress being the mind of the owner of the masque and the walkers being the constructs assaulting his sanity? Because this area doesn’t seem to be part of the reality that makes up the Anomaly since I can’t reach the command ship.
(Allandras) I’m thinking the tower is sticking out like a sore thumb, should probably check out the big obvious thing in the middle of the town.
(Jacob) The attackers are Constructs, but they are based on rumors of a conquering horde from the north. The entire pocket is mostly a construct, loosely based on the realm of Hyperborea (that the masques are associated with and presumably the user’s birthright) and the village. It looks like the defenders are more or less what the user wanted to summon: far weaker, but controllable. Unfortunately, whatever he/she was attempting to maintain control apparently overloaded, leading to this mess.
(Vanatica) I am torn. If this is all a psychic projection, then I could argue the way out of this is defeating the hostile attacking force. But then I could also argue that finding the one projecting it and making him end the projection is another possible route.
(Jacob) I think it might be best to find the one trying it and see if he/she has the Masque on here and try removing it. It might work from in here since it is a telepathic construct.
(Vanatica) Then I am with Allandras, let’s check the conspicuous tower.
While the walls defending the fortress was handling most of the minor missile fire from the walkers readily enough, our path was quickly halted by the presence of guards blocking the way forward. Looked to be more constructs and probably as formidable as the rest.
(Jacob) They are supposed to be controllable…. Take me to your leader?!
(Guards) The general is occupied!
Time for a more direct approach to dealing with low level flunkies. I simply started striding forth like I owned the place and loudly declared the usual line.
(Vanatica) If you are the new gardeners, then I suggest you quit leaning on those things AND GET TO WORK!
Before I managed to get past them though, the pair of guards barred my way with a crossing of spears.
(Guards) No one sees the general!
(Vanatica) Blast that frequently works.
Indeed, it was fun making storm troopers, diplomatic aides, droids, and receptionists start scrambling to do whatever task I started barking at them and neglecting their duties to keep me from moving forward. It was to the point where both the Republic and the Protectorate were instituting anti-“Vanatica Fire Drill” training measures simply to stop me from doing that. I suspect it was that incident with the Republic’s Supreme Chancellor that started that trend.
Oh well, I have other ways of dealing with obstinate psychic constructs.
(Vanatica) Right then…. hold still a moment. I have a message I wish to give.
I proceeded to poke them both with a pair of Ithil Wood spears that caused them to dissipate quite nicely. Annoyingly it looked like I had to keep the spears in them to keep them from reforming, but it was for situations like this that I brought several with me. Unfortunately, this did wind up attracting the rest of the constructs to us. I left Zin and Jacob to bar the way following us with a pair of spears and a shield while I lead the way up the tower.
At the top there is a situation map – although the little constructs on it keep trying to escape and attack the larger ones which are offering “advice”. The “General” herself is currently dumping more defending constructs onto the map – but seems to be bleeding from the eyes, ears, mouth, and nose, slowly but steadily. They are wearing the Masque, but you all get the impression that something is very backwards about that statement.
At the top there was a situation map – although the little constructs on it kept trying to escape and attack the larger ones which were offering “advice”. The “General” herself was currently dumping more defending constructs onto the map – but seemed to be bleeding from the eyes, ears, mouth, and nose, slowly but steadily. She was wearing the Masque, but I got the impression that something was very backwards about that statement. Since I was at the lead of the group, she turned to me first, reached forward, and telekinetically dragged me to stare into her eyes. Given that her eyes were totally dilated, that was more than a bit creepy.
(General) What news do you bring?
Alright, time to improvise on the fly then.
(Vanatica) The battle draws near its end. The front moves elsewhere and the need to defend this position is ending. Reinforcements have arrived to relieve the defenders and inform you of a job well done.
I was annoyed to see that Allandras was taking the moment as an opportunity to loot everything not nailed down. Jacob at least was running scans with that tricorder of his. Unfortunately, he was narrating everything he found out loud for everyone to hear.
(Jacob) It looks like this is her actual body. Blood pressure through the roof, minor physical breakdowns, adrenal exhaustion, thirst, lack of food. Really should be deeply unconscious, possibly dying, but it looks like the flood of power pouring through her is keeping her up. Mental readings are pretty well obscured by that same flood – but the pupil dilation alone says that something is very wrong.
For a few moments it looked like I might have been getting through to something, but then I was telekinetically shoved with considerable force off the tower like some sort of projectile weapon. Tumbling end over end, it took me several seconds to regain control of my spinning and then halt my descent. It definitely looked like simply trying to play along with the delusion (or metaphor, or whatever) was getting us nowhere. Time to take a more direct approach then. I pulled out another Ithil wood spear and shield and flew back into the top of the tower. Already I could see that Zin was working on trying to pin her down with another shield. Joining Zin in pinning the woman to the wall, I chose to express my opinion of her and the situation she had gotten herself into.
(Vanatica) Who is in control here? You, or that masque you created? Power comes not from great cosmic abilities, but from the power to control oneself and say NO MORE! My people know all about the power of anger and rage, but we also know all too well the danger such emotions can bring to not only others, but also to oneself and everything you care about! That village is GONE! The only survivors were a badly wounded woman and a bunch of children whimpering in a cave! I am Vanatica Nyla Soung, Firstborn of the Praetorian Soung Dynasty. I have undergone the Varen Sith trials and I would not allow myself to be controlled by such a tiny thing. So, are you weaker than I am?!
Based on the glow from the shields, it looked like they reached their storage capacity in mere seconds, but that did drain the power keeping her standing long enough to let her lose consciousness. For a moment it felt like every nerve in my body was firing at once – pain, pleasure, heat, cold, all at once – as the entire fortress and the territory outside collapsed through us – leaving us in a modest shed full of farming tools, with a deeply unconscious middle-aged woman and a wooden mask falling to the floor.
(Vanatica) Pathetic…. she didn’t even attempt to remove it in the last moments of awareness. Oh well, lets open the door and get out of this cramped shed.
(Jacob) To be fair, my scans showed she was suffering from several strokes.
Allandras took a pair of tongs and put the masque into a specially prepared box for containment. I administered several of those healing berries to her as well, but Jacob said his scans indicated she’d need more intensive treatment to make a full recovery. Not wanting to take any chances though, I pulled out a spare stasis belt, placed it on her, and activated it. I was rather annoyed to find out that the blasted thing needed me to maintain contact in order for it to work though.
Oh well, that should be easy enough to do for the few kilometer hike back to town. The locals should also be pleased with the relative ease we managed to pull off this victory as well. Jacob was already excitedly scanning the stasis belt and muttering to himself regarding the implications. I briefly pondered informing him that a larger version of my stasis belt and the blaster rifle I had was sufficient to destroy stars if you knew what you were doing, but decided against it. It was time to head back and hand in our prisoner to what counted as the local authorities anyway. Plus, I could use a nap from all this running around.
It was yet another charity party my cousin Katlyn had organized on behalf of refugees from former RDF territory. Katlyn was the center of attention giving speeches to an enthusiastic crowd of donors that had gathered around her. My sister Vatasha meanwhile was working over the more reluctant attendees to “encourage” them to donate. I was mainly here to lend further support through my own attendance. For some reason it seemed like having three of us present at these kinds of things was more successful than one or two.
At the moment I was listening to a businessman regaling me with his new startup to take one of the barren water worlds and construct massive hydroponics and aquaculture farms for export to rich clientel who have gotten onto that stupid “organic food” craze from the Codifier Galaxy. I had dim views of those who bought into that whole stupid fad, but I also recognized the opportunity in fleecing fools of their cash. Some mental calculations suggested that with a gate, the whole enterprise could actually turn a handsome profit in short order and be readily scaled up from there. I quickly concluded a deal to enter in as a secret partner as I made arrangements to double his starting capital and initiate construction of a gate.
Katlyn would probably be annoyed that I was spending money on catering to rich customers at a charity event, but the way I saw it the more money flowing into our coffers the more money we can spend on charity and public works. It wasn’t like I was planning to waste inordinate amounts of money eating the stuff myself. Plus it finally found a use for those giant water ball planets.
With the deal concluded I was attempting to show some level of interest in the zero-g water “art sculpture” that was timed to music when I heard a familiar voice amongst the crowd.
(Voice) My, my, Katlyn, you do throw some of the most dull parties!
I was already pushing my way through the crowd to get closer to the speaker, but Katlyn confirmed my suspicions before I got line of sight.
(Katlyn) Seras?! What are you doing here?!
(Seras) Oh me? I’m merely here to liven things up a bit and leave my mark on your little gathering!
Already the crowd was parting to give a clear area between Katlyn, Seras, and I. Her appearance had significantly changed since last time. Black tattoo lines criss-crossed her exposed face and upper arms. She wore a black leotard with a red silk scarf or ribbon wrapped around her torso and lower arms somewhat reminiscent of a shawl. She seemed to be wearing leggings and shoes with straps that came up to well past her knees. Incredibly gaudy white metallic jewelry dangled from her neck, ears, wrists, and fingers. Most disturbing of all was the black sclera of her eyes and how it contrasted with her snowy white irises and hair.
Vatasha quickly pushed her way to the front of the crowd as well and exchanged glances with me when she caught sight of Seras. Immediately THELOS opened up a party chat line between Katlyn, Vatasha and myself where we could discreetly send text to other.
[Vatasha] Katlyn, keep her talking. We need to clear this room before things get hostile and that would be a lot easier if we aren’t in the midst of a firefight.
[Katlyn] Understood, but how are we going to clear out this many people?
[Vanatica] I’ve got an idea.
I walked into the middle of the room where the various onlookers could get a good line of sight of me and spoke loudly so that everyone could hear me as I flung my arms up in the air and prominently displayed my champaigne glass.
(Vanatica) Our surprise guest is quite right! Perhaps it is time to liven things up a bit! Food and drinks are on me! So I say it is time we give the chefs and bartenders a workout! Everyone to Conference Room #3!
Free food and booze always seem to readily motivate people and I suspect my tab was going to be the least of my concerns in mere minutes. As people shuffled off, Seras glanced at the three of us with a bemused expression on her face that reeked of confidence.
[Vanatica] THELOS, once everyone is in Conference Room #3 I want you to trigger a fire alarm for the building. Do whatever you have to to get everyone out of the building.
[THELOS] Understood. Grenkay Corps and SHIELD units have been notified and are working to secure the area.
I briefly considered making a note to berate whoever let Seras past security later, but realized asking anyone to keep a Hybrid out was asking a bit much. Once the last person left Seras turned to look at me.
(Seras) Don’t want an audience for this little family reunion?
(Vanatica) I was trying to save you some public embarassment.
(Seras) I doubt that, but don’t worry; I brought some guests of my own to this party!
With that she suddenly started making some hand gestures and speaking words from a language I couldn’t recognize. Moments later what appeared to be four coffins erupted from the tile flooring around us. The lids promptly fell off to reveal a crystalline skeleton in each of them. They looked to be dressed in badly decayed Sith armor.
(Vatasha) I must say, Seras, that the dead are not particularly well known for their liveliness.
(Seras) True, but I think you might find my friends here rather exceptional in that regard! Have at them boys!
Immediately the skeletons burst into motion by leaping out of the coffins with lightsabers drawn. I caught a brief glimpse of the blue fire in the eye sockets of the first one’s skull as he swung a lightsaber at me. The shields in my suit instantly kicked up to lightsaber level to block that attack, but they were unable to stop the sheer force of momentum behind it as I was flung backwards with considerable power. When the time the shields dropped back to normal I could see that I had been flung through a table, a wall, and dug a smoldering trench in the floor. My attacker seemed to be at least mildly surprised that I was undamaged though.
(Seras) Oh and before you begin worrying about your soldiers getting bored, I left them some party favors as well!
Already two of the skeletons were charging me again. Having regained a crouching position, I engaged the flight systems and enabled the projectors in my wrists to generate kite shaped fields on each arm. Meeting the charge head on, I crossed the kite shields in front of me as I simply attempted to plow through the pair of them. Both saw my tactic in time to leap over me, but one failed to leap enough to the side to avoid me when I simply spun in the air with my arms outwards. The neatly sliced that one into a number of pieces that fell to the floor in a pile. The second one, probably recognizing the futility of engaging me in melee tried to telekinetically ram me into a stone column. All that ended up doing was simply pushing me through the column when the shields engaged again.
Despite the lack of a face, it was clear this one was getting quite frustrated. Disengaging one of the kite shields, I pulled out my own lightsaber and was quite delighted to see the look of pure shock it displayed. I wanted to simply pull out a Mark II rifle and it futilely dodge the blasts, but that was not so smart an idea in the midst of a city. Not that I was allowed to carry those into a city anyways.
Next came the attempt at using Force Lightning which harmlessly grounded out on the lightsaber grade shields. Not content to simply let the undead Sith (or whatever the hell this thing was) experiment until it found a weakness, I readied my lightsaber and shield and charged it. Clashing my shield against its lightsaber, I used the shield blocking line of sight to stab my lightsaber at it unseen. Precognition must have tipped it off as it started to do one of those annoyingly dramatic leans/falls backwards to avoid the blade. Unfortunately for it, this drove it horribly off-balance and a swift kick to the left foot sent it spinning to the ground. A simply slash of the lightsaber finished that one off.
Glancing around, it appeared that both Vatasha and Katlyn had each managed to “kill” their opponents without serious injuries. I was scanning the room to try and figure out where Seras went when a sudden explosion of blue-violet fire arced across the entire room and swept across the three of us. Or at least it would have had it not conspicuously ceased to exist when it came within a meter of any of us. Unfortunately, this still caused massive structural damage to much of the building around us. Much of the southern half the building behind us promptly collapsed as all structural supports were cut in two. The rest of the building wasn’t doing much better.
Katlyn was already bounding across debris in Hypertime with that extensible staff of hers while Vatasha and I were using flight systems to move to the top of collapsed piles as opposed to being under potentially collapsing material. We got together on top of what presumably used to be the auditorium in a position of mutual support.
(Seras) Damn it! How the hell does a gamma ray laser incinerate everything but you three?!
At a guess, I would wager it was those mystical Force talisman amulets my parents handed out to the entire family that supposedly protected us from radiation. Didn’t really care about how those worked other than being glad we had them. More concerning in my mind is where in the hell Seras got her hands on a functional gamma ray laser of that power output.
(Katlyn) You aren’t the only one with nifty tricks, Seras!
(Vatasha) Maybe you missed!
(Seras) How did I miss?!
(Vatasha) I don’t know. How did you?
At a guess, Vatasha was trying to provoke a holosith style tantrum and was seemingly succeeding. Can’t say it was a bad plan given that even Hybrids are prone to making mistakes when enraged, but I questioned the wisdom of doing so without some heavier weaponry on our side. Given the damage done to our surroundings so far, a Mark II rifle really couldn’t make the situation any worse.
(Seras) Well since I seem to be having difficulties hitting you, how about I increase my odds a bit?!
Again came the weird gestures and a word I couldn’t understand. When she was finished she slammed her hands against the ground and a series of five circular diagrams seemed to just suddenly appear around her before being engulfed in smoke. As the smoke dissipated, I saw five bipedal saurian creatures with long claws on the hands and feet and a mouth full of unwelcoming teeth. Definitely not herbivores in my opinion.
Before I had a chance to react, Seras had already crossed the fifty meters of distance and was swinging a lightsaber into the ground where Katlyn had been standing. Katlyn was no longer there and the next indication I got of something happening was when her extensible staff swung at Seras from behind. Seras leapt forward just barely out of the way between Vatasha and myself faster than either of us could react.
(Katlyn) I’m faster than you are Seras! You can’t win at this game!
This wasn’t a wise strategy to be playing here. Seras could still potentially overpower us with her powerset if she was motivated enough to stop toying with us. I could think of a number of ways to bypass our defenses if I wanted to given her powers and I suspect it wouldn’t take her long to work out those methods too. More thunderclaps of superheated air and smashing concrete shook around us. Neither Vatasha or I could follow what was going on so we simply stood back to back to properly cover each other as necessary as the five saurians began to circle us.
(Vatasha) I think they’re simple Force illusions since I can’t feel any resistance to my powers. In fact I can’t feel anything with these things. It’s like they’re not even there.
(THELOS) Lady Vatasha, I must inform you that they do in fact so up on my sensors. Although I must admit the readings are odd.
(Vanatica) Save the analysis for later unless you find a vulnerability.
(THELOS) Understood, I shall continue my efforts without bothering you.
One of the creatures leaped to attack Vatasha and was swiftly speared with her subspace lance. It then collided with the ground, shattered, and then evaporated like so much liquid nitrogen hitting the carpet. Not a trace of a corpse remained.
(Vatasha) That has to be an illusion! Nothing else does that!
(Vanatica) Illusions don’t show up on sensors! Maybe its a nanite cloud or something similar!
The four remaining creatures leapt at us in unison from all around us. One I hit with a plasma grenade and went up in a puff of smoke. Vatasha killed another one with the freezing lance and was keeping another at bay by waving the end of the lance at it. I unfortunately didn’t see that one had leapt over us to get me from an unexpected angle until its jaws grabbed onto my left arm and began wildly swinging around. I felt intense pain in my arm and being jerked around by a creature three times my mass wasn’t helping matters. Angling my feet away from the creature, I engaged the flight systems and prayed the armor held. My new vector flipped both myself and the creature over onto the ground where it landed on top of me. My left arm was in agony, but I powered through and shoved my fist into the mouth of the damned lizard whereupon I detonated another plasma grenade. Its head exploded and the body collapsed before evaporating. Looking at Vatasha, I saw she had finished off the last one and was now surveying the battlefield looking for Seras and Katlyn.
The sounds of thunderclaps indicating sonic booms going off kept increasing in frequency and seemed to be coming from all around us. Further adding to the mess was the fact that the ruins of the building had been smoldering and now were quite thoroughly on fire underneath the rubble. All of that smoke wasn’t helping to try and keep line of sight on anything. Finally, a particularly loud thunderclap shook the rubble pile we were standing on and I saw Katlyn take a sliding tumble before colliding with the remains of a column.
(Katlyn) Damn it! I can’t keep up with her teleporting like that!
Seras couldn’t possibly be repeatedly teleporting. Everything we knew said doing that more than once in rapid succession would result in a random multiversal jump. Even my parents didn’t dare try to do that except in extreme emergencies. I kept scanning the battlefield for signs of Seras, only to recoil in horror as her hand rammed through my chest from behind.
(Seras) Careful, one wrong move and I’ll materialize my hand inside your heart. I don’t think you’ll find that at all survivable.
(Vanatica) I might find it a fair trade for your hand.
(Seras) Poor Vanatica, no powers, nothing except some toys and sheer bravado. I’ll tell Mom and Dad you went down as a warrior at least. Might as well give them a little something to finally be proud about you for. I’ll let them know right before I use Victoria Soung’s legacy and take the Protectorate for myself.
Katlyn and Vatasha were already rushing forward, but weren’t going to make it in time. Still, I had a plan. A desperate plan, but as Father says, desperate times call for reckless tactics. I activated the lightsaber shielding effect with an eye-blink. There was a momentary tightness in my chest, but then the hand extended through me fell out of me and fell through the ground as it phased out of existence. Rapidly spinning in place, I saw Seras missing her right arm about halfway past the elbow. Katlyn’s foot then collided with Seras’s head at hypersonic speeds with a crack that I swore broke structural concrete.
(Katlyn) ARE YOU OK?!
Already THELOS was flashing up my vitals on the HUD and giving a prognosis.
(Vanatica) Yeah, it looks like my heart missed a couple beats, but otherwise I’m fine.
(Vatasha) Well, it looks like someone else had a bad day.
Glancing in the direction she was pointing, I saw Seras. Or at least what had once been acting as Seras. It looked like an ice statue made to look like her had collided with the wall and then promptly shattered into a number of pieces.
(Katlyn) I didn’t think I kicked her that hard. Besides don’t you need to be in Hypertime in order to freeze like that when you fall unconscious?
(Vatasha) Frozen corpses don’t just shatter, too much fibrous tissue simply makes it act like reinforced concrete. This is something different.
Kneeling over the remains, a quick test showed them to be simple water ice. The skeletal remains from the undead Sith were also simply a calcium-carbon crystalline mockup of bones.
(Katlyn) So what? Droids? Telekinetic puppets?
(Vatasha) No, whatever those skeletons were, they had minds. They seemed to be impossibly bound to her command though. I couldn’t manage to manipulate their hatred of Seras against her at all. But the dinosaurs were blatant illusions.
I held up my bitten forearm to display the still bleeding teeth marks.
(Vanatica) Illusions don’t actually bite though.
(Vatasha) Ok, that blows my theory out of the water then.
(Katlyn) So they’re real. How’d she plant the coffins here ahead of time and how’d she make the corpses of the dinosaurs evaporate? And spam that teleport technique! It took everything I had just to keep from getting stabbed in the back. She must have done it at least three dozen times when I fought her.
Digging through the remains of that ice statue, I found that the lightsabers were real and so was the gamma ray rifle that seemed to be functionally inert despite amply demonstrated that it had worked earlier. As was a camera that looked like it was implanted behind the right eye of the statue. So the whole thing was probably a test of some kind to see how the duplicate performed.
(Vatasha) I don’t get it. I thought Hybrids weren’t supposed to go insane like Sith or Faded.
(Katlyn) There is nothing that prevents them from suffering normal mental illnesses, just power induced ones. And even then, Aunt Valerie had fallen to the Dark Side at one point before getting better.
I suspected there was more to it than that. The reference to Victoria Soung was troubling given the less savory aspects of that legacy. And if Seras really was creating and/or controlling undead, who was to say that she didn’t have Victoria waiting somewhere to unleash upon us?
(Vanatica) I think the even more concerning realization of today is that there may well be more of these copies of her out there. All with these weird powers that don’t line up with anything we know the Force and Codex can do.
After collecting what evidence we could before the flames consumed everything, we all flew into the air to where the soldiers were trying to secure what remained of the building. We found out the soldiers had been busy dealing with non-euclidean geometries and a small horde of skeleton soldiers. That meant I didn’t have to start yelling at the commanders for sheer incompetence at least. One of the medics began treating my arm while technicians started repairs the armor.
(Katlyn) So is that the new fourth generation armor?
(Vanatica) Yeah, still experimental at this stage.
(Katlyn) The lightsaber level shielding is amazing.
(Vanatica) Unfortunately, the power demands are absurd for such a small form factor. Still have to have a star destroyer broadcasting ridiculous amounts of power to make it work effectively.
(Katlyn) Well, put me in for one of those when you get the bugs worked out.
(Vanatica) That was the plan.
One lesson from today: we couldn’t take Seras for granted. If we were to keep on top of things, we were going to have to go out there after her. That was the best option available to be able to leverage our immense resource advantage against her. Letting her pick the time and the place would only maximize her advantages against us.