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This is the IC thread for the SR4a / Earthdawn Campaign: Shadowsdawn

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[hh:mm:ss - 20 Jun 2072 Location] (bold and coor='#FFFF00')
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[Flashback - hh:mm:ss 20 Jun 2072 Location] (bold and coor='#FFFF00')
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[19:57 18 Jun 2070 – Helicoptor heading into Atzlan]
Background count: 0

It’s a long time since your last briefing from the council of princes, and it’s certainly the first one in a helicopter. Trying to listen to Lillain Oakheart is hard over the chop chop of the blades, and the Nape of the Earth flying is causing more than one of you to think about loosing your lunch.

“Right heads up” Lillian begins. “This may be the single biggest operation we will run this decade, and you lucky few have a key role to play in it. Thank you for volunteering”. You are almost certain that Lillian was sincere when he said that. “Here is a data chip for each of you containing what you need to know about the mission. Please read it and memorise it. It will self destruct in 10 minutes.”
[ Spoiler ]

“Briefly put: there are believed to be four major Aztec priests in the temple. We have managed to acquire tissue samples for three of them, which has allowed to recreate their astral signatures. Please assense me and I will demonstrate”

“This is Warder. A nasty piece of work. I feel ill just taking his aura”
. Lillian’s aura turns an unpleasant sickly yellow. “Personally I suspect he is a toxic mage, but that’s just my guess”.

“Here we have Spirit Bane”
Lillian’s aura is now showing a much more normal aura, though you don’t recognise the race. “I wouldn’t mess with him, Mandala”.

“Finally Snake Head”
Lillian’s aura goes gray, and to your surprise the background drops as astral hazing kicks in: you didn’t know that astral hazing could be turned on or off. “Another nasty piece of work: you probably don’t want to get into melee range with him”

“OK on to Matrix…oh my god”.
Lillian’s face goes white for a second. “Just one moment.” He mutters as he heads back into the cockpit. You look at your matrix briefing and see what caused him such consternation. Having your briefing notes hacked by the enemy probably isn’t the best start to a mission that you could hope for.

5 minutes later Lillian returns, he appears to have recovered his composure. “I have conferred with the Princes, and the consensus is that the operation is still on. There is nothing in the notes, or indeed on any matrix connection to indicate that we are running an operation, and these security notes were created prior to the knowledge that this run was on. With any luck you’ll find they aren’t expecting you”.

“So back to Matrix Security. I think it’s safe to say that they have a very capable matrix presence. We suspect that as long as you stay away from the second floor matrix system you should be able to stay away from this Zero.”

“Finally: physical security.”
Lillian pauses. “Most of their troops are high quality, but shouldn’t cause you too many problems. These named individuals are a more serious threat, but I am sure that you can cope”. Easy for him to say.

“Here is a best guess map of the pyramid” You peer at the badly drawn map, couldn’t they at least of hired an artist to do a better job?

“Serious warding extends around the pyramid everywhere except around the reactor room (the circular room in the basement). This means the target for the tunnelling is the reactor. The reactor is a 6MW fission reactor. The LD50 for being in the reactor room is around 5 minutes, so you should be ok if you are quick.” LD50 you remember is the time that half the people present die at.

“Another good thing about the reactor is that the radiation levels are so high that there is no video footage: delicate electronics have an LD50 of around 2 hours. We anticipate that your commlinks will survive this experience.”

“We wish you to break into the reactor no earlier than midnight on the 20th. From the reactor you will make your exit into the observation room (directly to the south of the reactor). You can expect wards between the reactor and the observation room. There are two engineers most of the time. They have their own kitchen and toilets, and have 8 hour shifts. The observation room has cameras in it.”

“You will split into two groups: Group Alpha and Group Beta. The composition of these groups is up to you.”

“From this place, Group Alpha will head to room 5 on the ground floor. Your job is to remove the primary ward around the temple. It is believed that the ward was created by Warder. As you are aware, the law of impermanence states that all magic created by a mage ceases when that mage is dead. The mages quarters are here. It is imperative that the Warder has been killed by quarter past midnight on the 20th”

“Group Beta is to proceed to room 27a in the basement, and prevent the occupants of the pyramid from accessing the contents of the room. You will need to be inside the room to ensure that this is the case. Be aware that the contents of the room may be fragile, and dangerous if broken.”

“I trust there are no questions… ”
[23:58:03 20 Jun 2070 - Underneath Aztechnology research pyramid code name Huitzilopochtli.]
Background count: Aztech 1 & Toxic 1

Whose crazy idea was it to arrange for us to be arrested and shipped out as prisoners to Tzetlan camp 23? Well the idea had worked, and both the prison camp and the pyramid were inside the extremely challenging security cordon.

No one was absolutely sure why Tzetlan camp 23 was so close to the Aztechnology research pyramid, but statistical analysis had shown that for the last three months over 10,000 prisoners had been moved into the camp, and satellite imagery suggested there was probably only space for a few hundred. Ehran’s “guess”, and he was rarely wrong, was that the prisoners were being fed to a horror. Well he probably had some other information, and wasn’t going to share it with us!

Being blackmailed by Queen Alachia was nothing new. You remember her saying “Just pose as prisoners, tunnel into the pyramid, and then you have three tasks. I trust you will be adequate for this simple job:
1> Kill the occupant of room 5
2> Deny any occupants access to storage room 27a”
3> Hold until we capture the place”

“Why us” you asked. “Whats in room 27a” you asked. “What is the source of your information” you asked. “Need to know…and you don’t” was the answer. You considered protesting, but you suspect it would be futile. The phrase “control freak” was invented just for her. You have to wonder where the council gets their information from. The only good thing about this mission is working with the group again. That doesn’t happen often enough. The last time this happened must have been over 120 years ago.

At least you have been promised good Matrix cover, and a hot backup if you ask for it. The Queen may be a bitch, but you’ve never known her go back on her word. The external matrix will be controlled by her, but you will have to deal with any disconnected systems. You will be very surprised if the internal security is not on a separate isolated system.

Fearghas's tunneling through earth powers have worked well. It took only 10 minutes to get you here. Above your head is the concrete floor of the reactor room, and you are ready to invoke the Queen's tunneling device to smash through that concrete. If Ehran is right, and there is a horror here, it will be the first time you have been near such a thing in over 5000 years. You hope you are ready.
[FLASHBACK - 04:30:23 18 Jun 2070 - Marduk's Bedroom, Moscow Russia.]

"Computer, turn off alarm" Marduk grumbled, it had been a long night.
"I'm sorry Mark, I can't do that." replied the Household system's Agent, what lunacy had caused Marduk to install a Hal-9000 personality on his household system. "You have an incoming message, priority one. Moniker 'That Thorny Bitch'"
That woke Marduk up in a hurry. "Patch it thru, Computer."

On the holographic display in his bedroom a message scrolled up, verified with appropriate signals. <<Marduk, get to Tir Na Nog. And don't be late, if I have to . You have 12 hours to get here.>>

Just Dreking Great. "Computer, purge message sequence code TZH9784HIY, and contact the University. Tell them I am taking an unscheduled leave."

Marduk had just enough time to shower, dress and make the Sub Orbital Flight from Moscow to Tir Na Nog.

Marduk had just settled into his seat when she sat down beside him. Admitedly, she was probably the most beautiful Elven Maiden he was likely to see for a while, but it's not like he was likely to ENJOY seeing her. "Ah, Professor Mark." She said with a glint in her eyes. "You're taking this flight as well? I would have thought you would have caught an earlier one, you're really cutting it close."

As if she didn't know the answer.

"Ah, Miss Jenna. What a surprise to see you here as well."
Prince Jenna Ni'Fairra here.. on this Sub Orbital, oh Glory Be.
"You are a droll droll Old Dwarf, Professor. I really do hope Mother doesn't find out about your nickname for her. She really does not have the sense of humor that I do."

"I think it's alright, Your Mother knows the esteem in which I hold her." Marduk answered with a smile. After a brief of completely unpleasant pleasant conversation Jenna got up to leave. She probably had First Class tickets, or better yet a much faster form of travel.

"Miss Jenna, you forgot your purse." Marduk bent down to hand it to her and a vision washed over him.

A door covered in carvings, a face. The face is familiar, and fills Marduk with dread. A man in a SS Nazi Uniform approaches the door, he traces some of the carvings and the letters and numbers upon the door transform into teeth. The door snaps out and the man dies. Marduk struggles to read the symbols on the door... 27A.

Gunshots go off in the distance, and he sees himself running.. running towards the door. Vision Marduk stops, before the door and saying something.. something undecipherable, causing the door to open.

Marduk comes back to himself as Jenna takes her handbag and walks away. "Good.. bye.. Miss Jenna."

[FLASHBACK - 05:00 18 Jun 2070 - Mandala's meditation room, L.A.]

The room chimed that particular tone. She wanted him. This was going to have to stop somehow. The detestable woman kept badgering him, threatening him. Too powerful for direct confrontation. The right time would come.

Mandala pressed a button on the floor beside the mat where he sat cross-legged. Her voice confirmed his suspicion. twelve hours. Bah.

He resumed his meditation after calming himself. Hours later he strolled through the garden, and tended the plants. Then he added to his current painting. But his soul wasn't in it. About half an hour before the appointed time, he dematerialized and swept astrally to the meeting place. He didn't need any gear to listen to her rants and taunts. Besides, he had a small stash of the basics in the Tir.
[Flashback - 19:23 18 Jun 2070 – The Queen's chambers]
Background count: Path of the Wheel 10

Mandala steps across time and space into the Buddhist heaven. Focusing his mind on a hilltop in the Tir capital he steps back into the real world. Eldritch energies corruscate around him, and a web forms. Fighting desperately but to no avail Mandala is pulled away from his distance and into a summoning circle.

Looking around, he sees that he is well and truely trapped. The energies of the Queen's summoning and binding ritual have him, and he feels so weak here.

"Ah there you are Mandala, I hope this didn't hurt you too much". Queen Alachia puts down the golden Buddha statue, it sits glistening on the table next to her."I need your help Mandala, I want you to do something very special for me. I hope this won't cause you too many problems.

Bending over to the trapped Mandala, the Queen whispers quietly into his ear.

"And if you do that, I'll even let you keep the statue"

"So while we are waiting for the others, if you could just give me a hand with these little magical tasks..."
[FLASHBACK - 04:45:12 18 Jun 2070 - Celedyr's Lair, UK.]

Ryl looked up as her matrix display turned a distressing shade of red, she was summoned, at last. There was work to be done and even though it was the elves that called she recognised the imperative behind the message. Time was of the essence, she would have to postpone her trip to Stillwater for now but at least it should be easy enough to get her ticket transferred...

As she rose to go she felt her master's presence and then the joy of his voice filled her mind aswell as her ears. She bowed to him as he appeared before her in his human guise...

"You are once again a pawn. I have tried to keep this from happening but have failed. Remember though that while pawns are weak, they can get to the far end of the board, and when that happens...".

"So your mission is important. All of our lives depend on it. And your path will be hard. When you are trapped and there is no way out. When the dark one has you in his power..."
the instruction continue. Your eyes grow wide.

"Good luck my friend, The fate of all of us is in you and your friends hands".

Ryl bowed once more and then shed her mortal form to glory in the power of flight as she swept out of the lair in order to reach the airport in time.

Big Fella
[FLASHBACK - 11:45:12 18 Jun 2070 - Black Forest, Germany]

Bjeorn sat on the rock. The sun glistening overhead, the water below glinting beautifully. In the distance the birdsong could be heard. A trout flicked it's tail, and shot past him heading up river back to its's birthing place. Everything was peaceful and in harmony.


Bjorn's paw flicked into the water, and threw the trout in the air where the waiting jaws snapped shut. Mmm tasty. Once more everying was peaceful and in harmony.

RING RING. Bjeorn grumbled If I ignore it, it will go away. RING RING. Go Away!

Sighing Bjeorn shifted into the unnatural human form, streched his arms and back, then picked up the phone.

"Aha" he mumbled through the trout. "Muhu. Aha. Ahum."

Right fun and games were over. Time to head into the concrete jungle. The council of princes were calling him, and even Bjeorn could not ignore the call. Bjeorn hit the rock and it broke into three separate pieces. If only the council could be dealt with like that. Bjeorn headed back into the cave that he used to share with Ambrose.

Then he smelt it. An old smell. A dangerous smell. A growl began in his throat. "Stop that" said a voice. A voice from the past. "Bjeorn, my creature, I need you again".

"No" Bjeorn cried and slashed out. The figure moved back, black blood dripping from its chest. "You have grown Bjeorn. Your mind is stronger. It is not strong enough. Soon you will be mine again". With that the figure vanished.
[Flashback - 19:23 18 Jun 2070 – The Queen's chambers]
Background count: Path of the Wheel 10

The swirling madness of the ambient mana threatened to swallow Mandala. He had no idea why it didn't drive him insane. Perhaps it was the focus of his disgust at the treatment he received from this creature, this woman. Not in millennia had he been twisted into service like this.

And now what she asked... the pain! He would not forget. But he could use it. It was his karma to endure. The pain was in him, but not of him. The degradation was around him, but not part of him. The anger... ah, well... not yet enlightened.
[Flashback - 09:01:12 Savoy Ritz, London]

Alyena looked up from her breakfast. "Yes?" she says. "Message for you Mam. Just arrived by special delivery". Alyena had never before seen roses so black. Reaching forward she was about to smell them when...

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you”. The beautiful trained voice of Ehran the Scribe sounded in her ears. Alyena looked up sharply as Ehran sat down opposite to her. “Nasty magics on that”, with a wave of his Ehran remove the masking, and Alyena shuddered as the dark controlling magic on the roses became visible. Eyes narrowing Alyena studied the aura of the spell... “no” she said weakly, not him.

“I’m afraid so” Ehran said. “He’s moving again, and you are needed”

“But after last time...I’m not sure I am ready”

“You will be fine my dear. The council will be summoning you soon. Oh and while we are at it, I wonder if you could do me a little favour.”
Ehran reached forward and whispered into Alyena’s ear.
Ol' Scratch
[FLASHBACK - 21:00ish, 16 Jun 2070 - A Converted Warehouse in Cardiff, Wales]

It was just another ordinary night for Ambrose. He had arrived home after a quiet meal at a local restaurant and was checking on some of his lab work before heading to bed. One of Rachmaninoff's concertos was playing softly in the background as the troll lifted up a flask to get a better look at its coloration. Then, quite suddenly, the music screeched to a halt. A moment later, I Put a Spell On You was crooning out of the loft's CHN system.

This certainly caught Ambrose's attention. Setting the flask down as he raised an inquisitive brow, he cautiously took a few steps back while scanning his home for any signs of an intruder. Seeing nothing out of the ordinary, he blinked and shifted his gaze into the astral. That was where Ambrose saw him. Or it. Or whatever this... thing was. It was a tall, dark humanoid wrapped in shadow, its face completely obscured by an inky umbra. Ambrose countered its movement step by step as it attempted to move closer, at least until he found himself backed against a wall. He could feel the creature contaminating his home with its foul presence, sapping away his own capabilities. There was little he could do; he was wholly unprepared for an invasion of this magnitude.

Finally the creature began to materialize. Ambrose could feel its unseen eyes boring into his very soul. "Forgive my intrusion," it whispered as it finally became whole. "You are Ambran, are you not? Ambran the Seeker?"

Ambrose, realizing it was in his best interest not to provoke such an obviously powerful entity after now seeing that there was no hostile intent in its aura, attempted to gather his composure. He nodded as politely as he could under the circumstances. "I haven't used that name in some time, but yes, I am he. May I be so bold as to ask who you are?"

The creature hissed a smile. "Of course, my apologies. I, too, have been known by many names, but you will perhaps recognize me best as Thais."

Ambrose's eyes grew wide at the revelation; he was at a loss for words. What was the bastard child of Ysrthgrathe doing in his home?!

Thais chuckled wickedly at the troll's reaction. "So you do recognize me. Wonderful, that will save us some time." There was a pause as the monster slithered closer still. Ambrose could feel its otherworldly breath billowing down his neck. "It has come to my attention that you will be 'seeking' my father in the very near future. I wish you well on this journey. It will take many twists and turns, as you might imagine, but I have foreseen that there will come a time when all will feel lost. When that moment arrives and all hope has abandoned you and your little friends, I want you to think of me and remember... THIS!"

In the blink of an eye, the demi-Horror was fully upon him; its hand grasping the alchemist's forehead, filling his mind with an overwhelming array of disjointed images and memories.

And then there was only darkness...
Ol' Scratch
[FLASHBACK -- Some Time the Next Morning - A Converted Warehouse in Cardiff, Wales]


That was the only sound Ambrose could muster as consciousness slowly returned to him courtesy of a BusyBuddy™ cleaning drone. It was repeatedly nudging his head in an attempt to waken the troll so that it could go about its duties. Struggling to his feet, Ambrose glanced down at the damanable device and gave it a bit of an uncharacteristic growl -- a growl he quickly regretted as it only proved to worsen the massive hangover he didn't even realize he was feeling until that very moment.

Squinting his eyes in a feeble attempt to lessen the brightness of the morning light, he half-walked half-stumbled to the wet bar. He poured himself a shot of whiskey, hoping it would take some of the sting off. He would soon discover that would not be the case. The hangover was so intense, in fact, that it took Ambrose a good five minutes to recall the actual cause of it. A panicked look appeared on his face when it did, rallying him into action. He quickly searched his home for one of his old sketchbooks. Sitting down, he grabbed a charcoal pencil and began sketching the face of a young woman he saw at dinner. When he finished, he held the sketchbook at arms length and gave it a critical eye. "Well, at least I'm not fragging possessed..."

Setting his sketchbook at his side, he stood up and began pacing back and forth. The alchemist was trying his damnedest to access the memories he knew that beast put inside his head, but for the life of him he couldn't. He loathed being manipulated like this; as if he were merely a pawn in some greater game... but there was nothing he could do. His frustration manifested itself in deep, rumbling roar -- a sound he hadn't made in a very, very long time.

It was only then that he finally noticed that his CMT Clip™ was throbing in his pocket.

Pulling the phone out, he flipped it open and manually accessed the single text message that was waiting for him. The first thing that appeared was a photograph of some old hammer that had seen better days. But Ambrose knew it was more than that, as made evident when all of the color drained from his face. Falling back into his chair, he just sat there for a moment before looking at the photograph again. He pushed the button to make the message scroll down, seeing Alachia's message which consisted of a time, a place, and not much else beyond her signature.

"Bloody hell," he muttered to himself. "First a horror just waltzes into my home, and now that slag reveals that she has my heartblade. It's the Old Days all over again, innit?"

After a moment, Ambrose finally found the energy to get up out of his chair so that he could pour himself another drink. He just stood there for a good long while, letting the alcohol work its special brand of magic. As his headache finally began to fade away, he went about preparing himself for the ferry ride from Pembroke in a few hours.
[Flashback - evening of 18 Jun 2070 – Draco Foundation HQ]

Maxim: Those without much power revel in exercising the little they have, especially over those they see as being in a position of superiority.

So true in the Draco Foundation offices. One secretary after another assistant after interminable reiterations of his request to receptionists with more makeup than paperwork on their desks. The female receptionists were even worse. Mandala whiled away the time by playing with their minds. When they were not looking, he would rematerialize with slightly different clothing or hair. The looks he got were priceless.

Finally, Mandala made it to Aina's Personal Assistant. This one had real power, and she exercised it efficiently without showing off how much she could make her supplicant suffer. "She will be free in about 15 minutes, sir, for a 10 minute break between meetings. She will receive you then. Please wait over there." He waited.

A corporate executive left her office shortly thereafter, a Shiawase pin discreetly adorning his immaculately tailored lapel. As he left, another man, less expensively dressed, presented himself, to the PA. "Martin St. Pierre, from the Berlin Summit committee." He got another seat to wait.

The PA received a message. "Mr. Mandala, you may go in."

He passed through the oak doors of Aina's office and entered a magnificent suite of rooms, with a view to kill for. Aina sat at her desk, her back to the Seattle skyline. Arcologies were arranged as if composed in a picture. Some Feng shui went into this one, he thought.

Right to the point, and with few pleasantries to waste time, "Mr. Mandala. So pleasant to see you. I understand that you are in a hurry, and that it's about a matter that only I can help you with, so what can I do for you?"

"The pleasure is mine, Ms. Dupree. I come to you for information about something from the long past. Something that I have been tasked, under duress, to find for our mutual friend, Queen Alachia." The stiffening in her body language was easy to detect.

"I am tasked to find a box associated with the one named Ysrthgrathe." No reaction. She's good. "It is a magical box roughly the size of three paperbacks, " He smiles at the archaic reference, but of course she would know what he meant, "and made of a wood similar to walnut. It is inscribed with arcane runes and symbols of serpent/human hybrids. I am to find this thing and bring it to her as soon as possible. Knowledge of this box hovers just outside my memory, and I hope that you can help me with any information you might have gained from your ... association with that being."

In an even voice, Aina answers, "I thought the problem had been resolved. The box is very old, very powerful. Don't go in it... you wouldn't like what would happen, and neither would anyone else within a few miles. The box was crafted by the Queen at the height of her power, when she was most besieged by our Enemies, and was the source of both the solution and our pain. I can say no more."

He'd heard that phrase before, and believed he would learn no more. "Thank you Ms. Dupree. Your caution will be taken to heart. I hope this matter resolves in a way that does not bring trouble to us all. A small hope, I'm afraid." He stands, nods appropriately, and leaves.
[Flashback - evening of 20 Jun 2070 – Commlink from Ambrose the troll in Tzetlan camp 23 to the Great Western Dragon Celedyr]
[Background: Aztech 1]

Celedyr peers at Ambrose "I didn't expect a comm call from you at this time. I trust your operational security is adequate.

I cannot help you very much without changing what is to come. What I can do I have already done. There is a golden path in which we all survive what is coming, but it is narrow, and I do not wish to make it narrower still. It was not my choice that you were chosen, and you can be sure that the Elfs in the Tirs are not happy that the fate depends on such as you. But the threads were woven a long time ago, and it would be hard to unpick them now.

you say? Thais has horror marked you? Thais is not his father, but I do not trust him. When this is over, go talk to Aina, she may be able to exert some influence over her son. Given time we can break the link. Of more interest is the fact that we can use the link to track Thais, so I do not think he will maintain it long. I suspect he has a very specific reason to mark you, and it not clear to me whether this is in your best interests.

Remember the enemy of my enemy may not be my friend."
[FLASHBACK - afternoon of 16 Jun 2070 - Portland, Tir Tairngire]

Fearghas whirled the qiang through the air, the leaf-shaped blade singing high-pitched notes as it flew in a blur of metal and horse hair. A faceless ARO figure stood several meters in front of him. Fearghas approached the figure and swung the spear in a series of wide strikes, carefully stopping each strike before it landed, as if his enemy was blocking every one. The elf made a swift jab outward, intended to knock his enemy backwards; then, in one swift motion, he jumped up with the qiang swinging around and behind his left side, and swung it powerfully into the figure's right carotid with all his downward momentum behind it. The ARO dissolved in a puff of pixels.

This training exercise continued for another half hour. Fearghas was in the middle of a strong overhead strike on another ARO target when his commlink started ringing where it lay on a table across the room. He sighed, mildly irritated, as he stopped what he was doing and went over to the table. "What is this tomfoolery now? Doesn't anyone have the manners not to interrupt me anymore?" He spoke with an unusual amount of vigor and energy for someone in such a mild emotional state.

It was a voice message, from someone on his contact list by the name of 'Blood Traitor Slitch.' He stood perfectly still as he listened to the message. When it was finished, he set the commlink back down, slowly. So the traitorous Blood Queen desired his services, did she? How revolting. But he was not strong enough to put an end to her traitorous manipulative existence right now. He would have to bide his time for now, swallow his pride, and submit to the Queen's summons. Again.

Oh, how I hate it when she does this.

Fearghas ended the training program and walked to the kitchen, in the hopes that a light meal would ease the revulsion and disgust that always accompanied any sort of communication from Queen Alachia. "Hey kitchen, make me some food, damn it! Something eclectic, you know how I like eclectic."

As he was strolling about the house waiting for the CHN to finish cooking his meal, there was a knock on the door. He smiled as he opened the door and layed eyes on the visitor. "Why, this is an interesting surprise! To what do I owe this honor, Har'lea'quinn?"

"Hello Fearghas. I have much to discuss with you. May I come in?" Fearghas hardly had time to open his mouth before his old superior was already inside. There was an expression of worry on the elf's currently-unpainted face. "The Enemy is moving, and time is short. The moon and sun are currently in perfect alignment, and unless we are careful, we will have only this week to counter them. I have looked long and hard though possible futures, and I cannot see a better way. I am worried though, the Council of Princes spends the lives of its pawns without care. This may be their undoing. They were always a self-centered lot anyway."

"Take this." He handed Fearghas a worn-looking spear, which Fearghas had not noticed he was carrying when he came in. It looked vaguely familiar somehow, like something that had held importance to the elf many, many lifetimes ago. "When the proper time comes, you must Awaken it, call to it with its True Name. It is important that you not awaken it too soon, for if you do the Enemy will flee and strike elsewhere. Only when the Enemy is unable to flee should you recall its Name." Harlequin went on to explain how to remember the Name of the spear.

"In the meantime, it is hardly powerless, but accessing that small amount of power will require that you attune to it. It might even conceal itself from the view of others if you talk to it nicely." Harlequin smiled and changed the subject. "You have any good wine here?"

Fearghas laughed at the question, twirling the spear between his fingers with complete smoothness of motion. "Ha! What kind of party-lover would I be if I did not have some top quality wine, eh? Come, my lord Harlequin, let us spice up this somber talk with some fine alchohol! Hey kitchen! Get me some wine, damn it! No, not that Taéngelé liquor, the good stuff!"
[FLASHBACK - afternoon of 16 Jun 2070 - Portland, Tir Tairngire]

For all its downside, at least at Tir, they know how to grow their nectar Arren's pleasant thoughts were interrupted by “Please come this way Mr Arren. Looking up from the flower, Arren is disturbed by the sight of three large elfs, so muscularly developed that they no longer had a discernible neck. He was even more disturbed by the sight of the discrete electric net guns at their belts.

Arren was politely but firmly escorted out of the Tir botanical gardens, into a large black stretch limousine.

"May I recommend this, its not as fresh as from the flower, but I think much improved for the processing". Arren recognized the handsome figure offering him a thimble full of champagne in the back of the limo: High Prince Lugh Surehand himself.

“I want you to consider two alternative paths into the future, Mr Arren. In the first future, you do as I say, are rewarded, alive and free to explore your innermost being. In the second, you ignore what I ask, or fail to accomplish the mission I am about to set you". There is a period of silence "I see you have considered those futures."

“Now you are tricksy Mr Arren, you are just going to say yes to this little task, so I think I need a little insurance”. The (magical and golden) birdcage forms out of the seat, surrounding Arren. The first Mr No-Neck approached a syringe held in his hand.

The Prince reaches over and whispered in Arren's ear, as the material sample is taken, and something, who knows what, is injected.
[00:00:00 21 Jun 2070 - Underneath Aztechnology research pyramid code name Huitzilopochtli.]
Background count: Aztech 1 & Toxic 1

You all watch the seconds turn. 58. 59. then they all turn 00:00:00. Its now midnight on the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year.

Nodding to the rest of you Ambrose concentrates on the jewel in the ring, and the concrete above your head begins to shower down. The flow of dust seems to be mostly under his control, but even so there is enough to make a couple of you sneeze. And when Bjorn sneezes...the room shakes.

[00:00:06 21 Jun 2070 - Underneath Aztechnology research pyramid code name Huitzilopochtli.]
Background count: Aztech 1 & Toxic 2

Ambrose has penetrated over a metre of the reinforced concrete, leaving a skeleton of iron work behind. The toxic haze is beginning to dominate your astral senses. At least the geiger counter hasn't started snarling at you yet. Bjorn reaches up and casually snaps the reinforced iron work. There is one pipe that he won't be snapping through: its 30 cm diameter, and to your thermal senses snarls white hot. "Main coolant: Hot Sodium feed" Anbrose states "We don't want to puncture that".

[00:00:12 21 Jun 2070 - Underneath Aztechnology research pyramid code name Huitzilopochtli.]
Background count: Aztech 2 & Toxic 3

"Through" Ambrose grunts, his face white, and covered in sweat and dust. The effort of drilling through the concrete appears to have taken it out of him. "I'll be OK." he waves at the 3m cube tunnel. "Go get them".

[00:00:15 21 Jun 2070 - The reactor room]
Background count: Aztech 2 & Toxic 4
You look at the ripped reinforcing bars, they make a superb ladder, although a little dusty. Even down in the hole the snarl of the turbines is impressive. Tortured machinery venting it's fury for one and all to hear. Swarming up through the floor, trying hard to ignore the pounding noise reverberating through your bone structure you peer around. The room is tidy and clean, apart from the hole and is illuminated by cancerous green blinking emergency lighting. Above your heads there is a maze of pipes crisscrossing the room. Many of them run from the metal walls of the reactor to your east through to the turbine room which is to your west. Hard though it is to believe, you suspect the noise will be loader in there.

To your south you can see a large metal "submarine" style door locked on the other side, which you think leads to the observation room: your first objective.

<<Gamma Alarm!. This is not a drill. Gamma Alarm!. RLF. Gamm Alarm! Get out of there!...>> The geiger counter connected to your comm link has entered its emergency protocols is constantly looping through its messages and is trying to tell you something.

The three nuclear fire spirits, dancing in the white hot after image of the reactor are throwing balls of balefire to each other: a malevolent game of catch. As you emerge through the floor, one of the mistimes the catch, obviously distracted by your arrival, and florescent ooze drips from the ulcerous wound caused. He points, and the largest spirit turns towards you. An astral ball of nuclear fire hisses your way. I looks as though they are going to include yourselves in their game of catch
[00:00:15 21 Jun 2070 - The reactor room]
Background count: Aztech 2 & Toxic 4 and dropping

This toxic background is making me itch, it has to go! thinks Alyena.
Sitting down in the tunnel, with the ease of long practice she makes herself as comfortable as possible and her astral form moves to assense the area.

Her spirit glows with an inner fire, a bright globe dancing within a smokey armour that moves around her, punctuated with sparks of lightning. The whole effect is designed to confuse the eye, just where in that swirling mass is she?

Flying up the tunnel she cautiously peeps over the edge of the floor (there are old horror hunters, there are bold horror hunters but there are precious few old and bold ones)

Tendrils of smoke flow out from her and fly around the room. They appear to grasp and twist, merging with the toxic haze, forming it into a ball and crushing it into oblivion . As it does so the background level falls, there is the smell of wood smoke, vaguely tainted with charred flesh.

As the spirits in the room throw their ball, Alyena assenses it. Hmm, that doesn't look at all nice: a ball of essence of radioactive fire held by spell like constructs. Definately not one to catch!

Unleashing a Slaughter Spirit spell Alyena ducks back down the tunnel dodging the fire ball as it flies over her head.

"Heads up Mandala" she shouts "You don't want to get in the way of this spell!"

[FLASHBACK-20:05 18 Jun 2070 – Helicopter heading into Atzlan]

Ryl settled back into the bench seat of the helo and tried to avoid being thrown sideways into Ambrose…not that she had anything against the fomori but he was a looming bulk beside her slight form and his elbows were sharp. In order to be heard over the thwop of the rotor blades overhead she reached out with her mind to touch those around her and they each felt the sibilant whisper of Dragonspeech

~It is good to see you all again, even in these circumstances, it has been too long since we worked together, over a century? Given that there is already a risk that this mission might be compromised, and despite Lillian’s and the Council’s assurances, I would ask that you allow me to take responsibility for our communications. I have gathered much knowledge of the matrix since its inception and I believe that of all of us I am most qualified to protect our digital assets and provide you with realtime intelligence. I give you my word that I will not compromise your digital secrets, although if you are still unsure then perhaps you can temporarily clear your commlinks to a secure server...I can provide you with details of a number of discrete shadow servers that provide such a service... If you will permit me I will test your firewalls and link you all in to my comms so that a hacker will need to come through my defences before they can touch you, and believe me, they have some competent hackers opposing us...meanwhile I will see if I can decrypt the information in our briefing and further us with additional intelligence, if you will excuse me? ~

And so saying, she dipped into the virtual forest of her commlink and began to strip away at the messages from Lillian.

[FLASHBACK-20:57 18 Jun 2070 – Helicopter heading into Atzlan]

~Well that was more difficult than I thought it would be...I have some worrying news to share with you all, I will send the data fragment to your comms...~
[ Spoiler ]

~She may be a significant cause for concern if this file is true, and the encryption on it wouldn’t have been wasted on a disinformation. I’m not yet sure how she fits into the mission briefing that we have been given but clearly we cannot allow her sacrifice to take place if there’s the slightest chance that it will herald Their coming…

Here is some additional data I have gleaned about the personnel who might be opposing us and some additional interesting titbits...~

[ Spoiler ]

~Now, onto the groups, Alpha and Beta...does anyone have any suggestions about who should be on each team? It seems to me that one is a task to attack and one to defend and, perhaps with Mandala’s aid I will maintain communications between both groups.~
[FlashBack 20:57 18 Jun 2070 – Helicopter heading into Atzlan]

"What I always liked about you Ryl. Direct, and to the point." The old dwarf grins and hands over a commlink and response upgrade package still wrapped in their packaging. "I leave it in your fine hands. Here are my configuration preferences." A small datachip that looks like it's seen many years of use is handed over as well. "This mission is going to be fubared enough as is. I think that Aren, Fearghas, Ryl and Myself would make a good team for taking out Warder. Ambrose, Mandala, Alyena and Bjorn can make their way towards Roon 27A and protect it. I worry that the Enemy is what is in that room. If I thought less of us could make it to room 5 and take out this Mage, I would recommend that."

Marduk looks worried about the briefing and most definitely hates splitting up when fighting a Horror. "Any thoughts my friends?"

[00:00:15 21 Jun 2070 - The reactor room]
Background count: Aztech 2 & Toxic 4

Marduk quickly steps to the door and places a hand on it, muttering to himself quickly in Throalic. He may have forgotten more Magic than most mages ever learn, but somethings he did not forget. Gathering his will, Marduk quickly analyzes the door and it's purpose. "Ryl! We got a problem, can you hack this door? Do you have wireless in here? Or does Mandala have to cross into the other room? They've been using this room as a Ceremonial Death Chamber. It's specially geared not to open from the inside." Marduk snarls, disgusted by what he sees. "Alyena, the Snakeheaded one is using Death Magic to boost his power. This is not going to be pleasant."
[FlashBack 20:57 18 Jun 2070 – Helicopter heading into Atzlan]

Mandala nods towards Marduk. "I am happy to be on the defense team. It is much more to my liking."

[00:00:15 21 Jun 2070 - The reactor room]
Background count: Aztech 2 & Toxic 4 and dropping

Mandala floats back and to the side from the hole in the floor, avoiding the path of the radioactive ball. Mentally he accounts for the powers he is maintaining in this restrictive background... We are hastened and protected from accident... all I can do as a spirit here. Now for something to deal with the radiation. The reactor may not burn us, but these balls may!

Mandala visualizes a dome of white light, dancing in swirls around each of his compatriots. Centered on him, it fills most of the reactor room right to the exit door Marduk is studying. The fluorescent green of the radiation is caught and bundled by the swirls of white light. At least, some of it.

"Marduk, do we need to bring down a ward at the door?" He drifts towards the door, eyeing and avoiding the gathering energies from Alyena's nasty, nasty spell.
[FLASHBACK-21:04 18 Jun 2070 – Virtual Space]

Ryl stepped into the virtual forest, her diaphanous gown swishing through the more than lifelike digital representations of prehistoric ferns and ultra highres alien flowers. She had set aside her usual etheric dragon icon for one that more closely resembled her human form...

<<Aria, are you there little one? I'm sorry I can't stay and talk but I have urgent tasks awaiting me... I have recently come across some intelligence that a child of the matrix is being abused by the Aztech scum in a research facility {MATIRX LOCATION} and I have a feeling that we may need the assistance of one such as yourself...if I can reach her, and that may not be possible, would you be willing to talk to her? Her mind may be damaged but I am hoping that it is not too late...?>>

The elphin form of Aria's child icon materialised beside Ryl, bypassing the firewalls and guard agents...
Big Fella
00:00:15 21 Jun 2070 - Reactor Room

Bjorn looks at the door, and looks at the wall. "Out of the way little ones" he says, the words sluring as he returns to his natural form "RRAGH!" he cries as his claws smash into the concrete wall. "RRRR!" he bellows as blow after blow after blow smashes into the wall.

Remembering the briefing Bjorn concentrates on his magic, and changes his aura to look like Warder. The astral barrier shimmers and allows him through, as he steps through the tunnel he has made into the reactor observation room.

Two technicians look up from their desk. One of them gibbering "Can I help you", clearly totally out of it. The other is more together, and starts reaching for the communicator. Bad move thinks Bjorn, as he steps forward to deal with the technician.
[00:00:21 21 Jun 2070 - Reactor Room]
Background count: clean

The nuclear fire spirits are no longer dancing. Badly hurt and repelled by the radiation barrier they are licking their wounds in the heart of the reactor. The Reactor room is now full of dust and concrete particles: the initial tunneling was very controlled but Bjorn's smashing through the wall has thrown huge amounts of concrete dust and debris all throughout the room, making it difficult to see anything other than with thermal vision.

The sound levels within this room are horrific. Clearly it is intended that if you come here you have safety equipment on. In fact before the wall exploded into concrete particles, you could see lots of health and safety signs on the walls.

The one thing that is easy to see with Astral senses is the hugely powerful malefic charged ward that acts as a barrier to spirits and other magical creatures, although not to mundanes or mages that suppress their spells and magical foci. This ward was clearly created by Warder, the blood magicain that the team were warned about in the briefing, as Bjorn was able to walk through the ward while making his aura emulate Warder's.

[00:00:21 21 Jun 2070 - Reactor Control Room]
Background count: Aztech 2 & Toxic 1

Like the reactor room, this observation room is full of dust. Thermally it is easy to see that there are two occupants sitting at some sort of desk. One of them is moving, the other is looking deeply confused and is babbling. It is difficult to see any other features of the room. Although slightly quieter than the reactor room, the noise levels are still uncomfortably high, and the extra sounds of multiple alarms isn't helping.
[00:00:21 21 Jun 2070 - Reactor Room]
Background count 0

Alyena looks at the radiation spirits as they cower behind Mandala's shield. A pair of narrowed, glowing eyes appear in the swirling smoke of her astral form and a finger forms to wag in their direction:

[00:00:21 21 Jun 2070 - Tunnel below the Reactor Room]
Almost quicker than the eye can see Alyena's astral form returns to her body and she begins to climb up out of the tunnel to join the others as they cross the reactor room. As she does so she automatically checks her comms, which just feeds static this close to the reactor. She then adjusts her respirator. This is not a good place to linger at the best of times and certainly not if the shield should go down.

[00:00:24 21 Jun 2070 - Reactor Room]
Alyena damps down her astral signature as she passes that really icky ward, entering the control room and shivers as a chill seems to run down her spine.
[00:00:21 21 Jun 2070 - Reactor Room]

"Bjorn, We were going for subtle." With a mental focus, Marduk suppressed his own magical aura and walked through the new 'door' Bjorn had opened up. Seeing the technician reaching for the communication system, Marduk quickly focused his Crushing Will on the man. A dribble of blood sliding out of his nose as the man's bones glowed brightly and then he fell to the ground.

Looking around the room, the cameras, the alarms going off. "Ril, we need you in here to take care of all this gadgetry. We're on a time limit, and we need to figure out how many guards are coming our way."

[00:00:21 21 Jun 2070 - Reactor Room]

Once the last of his teammates passes through the gap in the wall and across the ward, Mandala crosses to the gap. He drops the Radiation Barrier and attunes himself to the Warder's signature. Yuck. Bad taste. With a flashy sidestep he passes through the gap into the reactor control room.

[00:00:24 21 Jun 2070 - Reactor Control Room]

In the room, he studies the babbling technician and dematerializes. He returns as the spitting image of the technician, including his astral aura, complete with disheveled lab coat and bow tie. "Shall I run screaming into the hallway, looking for help from the... reactor disaster?"
[00:00:24 21 Jun 2070 - Reactor Control Room]

Ryl stepped through the impromptu door, frowning to herself, perhaps she should have recalled how Bjorn liked to deal with things, and immediately upon finding a wifi signal began to hack the Azzie defenses. Her fingers flew across the virtual keyboard projection in front of her, a weird, semi seen dance for those who could see through the swirling dust and the strobing of the emergency lighting...
[00:00:25 – Reactor Control Room]

Ryl reached out into the virtual realm and easily snagged the primitive node operating in this enclosed concrete box. Dismissing it as irrelevant she left the others to deal with the terrified techs and moved to the only obvious system links out of here, in this case the cameras. A quick flick with a multi-tool and the access port on the side of the camera is exposed to her touch. Running a seldom used fibreoptic lead from her commlink she prepares to hack the system, settling into the corner beside the techies desk, hopefully out of the way of any incoming hostiles.

<<Going virtual, back soon>>

Inside the camera node she winces at the graphic IC portrayal, a primitive Aztech warrior and at the top of the pyramid and an avatar of the flayed god Xipe Topec. The god is wearing a flayed human skin, which is bubbling under the surface and in one hand the god holds a container of seeds...ignorant fools to be playing with such things. Confident in her abilities she extends the ethereal tendrils of her icon into the system, overriding the security protocols to create an admin account for herself. As she did this she allowed her reality filters to try and change the matrix iconography to something less offensive to her sensibilities...

[00:00:25 – Reactor Control Room]

Ryl swept past the hidden spider and nimbly dodged the trace IC sniffing through the camera node. Stretching her icon to the point of invisibility she followed the route out of the control node, hunting for a security control node where she would be able to get an overview of the pyramid’s matrix network. Her reality filters pushed aside the grotesque iconography of the Azzies and replaced it with the surreal techno forest that she favoured. Tracing a flowing stream of light in the forest floor she began her hunt...

<<Ril, my old friend. It looks like the biomonitor on this technician triggered an alarm. If you think you could figure out how to deal with that. That would be great.>>

<<Let’s us hope then that Mandala’s ruse is effective, I can’t cancel the alarm from here but I am penetrating further into their system. I’ll keep you informed...we need to move quickly though if we are to secure this place, they have a spider in every node so far and there is only so long I can distract them...we are at the heart here so hard and fast might favour us more than stealth>>

So saying Ryl prepared to upload Garyn from her commlink to an active part of the node, she would need someone to watch her back even if it cost her some response time.
[00:00:25 21 Jun 2070 - Reactor Control Room]
Background count: Aztech 2 & Toxic 1

<<In the matrix a loud gong sounds, you hear a gong sound, then the obsidium mirrors spell out the following.

"This is not a drill, repeat this is not a drill. Enemy aircraft designated Bandit 1 approaching at hypersonic velocities. Astral forms are assaulting external wards. Initiating plan 'Blood Alpha One'. This is the big one people, the one we have trained for: stay frosty and remember Xipe Topec is here with us"

The guard who had been diagnosing the mirrors curses: the alarm had clearly interrupted his diagnostics. His dogs visibly grow bigger, and the room acquires a visible red tint

As you leave this node, and your reality filters kick in, a leaf blows in the wind and lands in Ryl's hand, written on it are the words ARE YOU HERE TO KILL US OR SAVE US?>>

[00:00:25 21 Jun 2070 - Reactor Control Room]
Background count: Aztech 2 & Toxic 1

Looking out of control room door Mandala in the form of a one of the reactor technicians can see that the corridor which matches the map from the security briefing. To his left the doorway to room 27a can be seen, opposite is the door to a more prosaic storeroom, which is just opening. To his right the corridor ends in a staircase going up.
[00:00:25 21 Jun 2070 - Reactor Control Room]
Background count: Aztech 2 & Toxic 1

Alyena winces as Fearghas is thrown across the room and lands in a crumpled heap. He always did like flying but his landings are usually a bit smoother she thinks.
As others go to his aid she turns to Mandala "Ready?" she asks and begins to weave another Slaughter Spirit as he nods in reply. She gauges the spell carefully, enough to give him a boost, not so much that he can't absorb it all. Just like old times.

Once the spell is coiling around him Alyena moves to the Control Room door and starts to cast again. This time the smokey tendrils of her Cleanse spell gather in and begin to crush the toxic aura of the corridor.

The familiar feel of the mindnet settles onto her, each mind fitting in place. Mandala has worked his magic again, just in time as she side steps Bjeorn as he barrels through the door and across the corridor.This is supposed to be a stealth miss.....Ah well, perhaps the time for stealth is past now that alarms have been triggered! she thinks as the door is ripped from it's hinges.
[00:00:25 21 Jun 2070 - Reactor Control Room]
Background count: Aztech 2 & Toxic 1

Alyena's spell struck at Mandala like a serpent, seeking, seeking his weaknesses. The wall of Mandala's will bowed and split before the onslaught, opening the way for the spell to burrow into him. Instead, it found the second line of defense. The serpent entwined in swirling blades of magic, deeper and harder than the simple spell could handle. Mandala bundled the damaging energies into packets, and stored them, churning and struggling, deep in his mind. He had little time to waste, though.

Concentrating his thoughts, Mandala drew fresh mana from the astral soup around him. He sucked the energy into his mind and re-wrapped the packets of restrained power in the fresh waves of mana, making seven smaller bundles. These he sent forth as messengers to his teammates with the imprint of his thoughts and senses, and as the messengers merged with their respective hosts, a flood of images and smells and sounds rushed back and forth among the teammates. Their minds melded into one hyper-aware network... eight pairs of eyes, eight sets of ears... wait!

In the control room, one mind swooned in darkness. Fearghas teetered on the edge of death. The damned ward took its victim! With the speed of thought, Mandala warned his teammates, Help Fearghas! Draw my energy and use it to help heal him!

The hallway before him, now seen by all, included a door opening right across from the control room. Mandala hunched and leaned against his partially open door. While his mind kept eight sets of senses open, his free hand reached out, supplicant for mercy, tears rolling down his face. How could anyone coming through that door not pity him?
[00:00:25 21 Jun 2070 - Reactor Control Room]
Background count: Aztech 2 & Toxic 1

Fearghas looked on in amusement as Bjorn slammed brutishly through the warded chamber door and everyone flew from the reactor chamber. He laughed as he twirled his fashionably old spear in the fingers of one hand nonchalantly. "Bjorn, I'm impressed! That was the quietest you've been since that ball game of yours in Siberia back in 1908." He winked jokingly as he approached the warded space that formerly held a door, with his aura masked, his body strengthened, and his step light and full of bounce.

It was therefore a bit of a surprise when he briefly found himself thrown forcefully backwards into the air, but he was regretfully unable to experience the pleasure of a spontaneous meeting with the floor; he was unconscious before he hit the ground. His unconscious body spun and tumbled a good 5 meters across the floor before he came to a stop, and his spear fell several meters farther still.

The first thing he felt upon returning to consciousness was the biggest headache he'd had in 300 years. It was extremely inconveniencing, to say the least. Nevermind his dislocated shoulder, bleeding tongue, and what might be a bruised rib; no, those were a paltry sum in comparison with this damned splitting headache. "Fuck... ow! I am going to personally throttle that morkhan the moment we find him. Versoniel-ha!" he said in, his mind too distracted - and irritated - to keep English and Sperethiel straight.

He looked up at his companions as they rushed in to heal him and administer painkillers. He let out a sigh of relief as most of the pain disappeared from his body. "All right boys, girls, and bears. Let's get moving soon, shall we? As wonderful as another exchange with a ward sounds right now, we have a job to complete." He got up and prepared to cross through the ward again.
[00:00:25 21 Jun 2070 - Reactor Control Room]

Ryl inspected the leaf in her hand, turning it over to admire the tracery of code whilst penning a message to the team

<<I picked up this in the matrix, it seems the council aren't hanging about, we had better move...!

"This is not a drill, repeat this is not a drill. Enemy aircraft designated Bandit 1 approaching at hypersonic velocities. Astral forms are assaulting external wards. Initiating plan 'Blood Alpha One'. This is the big one people, the one we have trained for: stay frosty and remember Xipe Topec is here with us"

There is some sort of blood ward on the outside of the pyramid, I'm not sure how long that will slow down the assault but we had better deal with Warder soon!>>
Big Fella
[00:00:25 21 Jun 2070 - Reactor Control Room]
Background count: Aztech 2

Bjeorn opens the door into the corridor and enters it. Opposite him the door to a storeroom starts to open. Bjeorn encourages the door to open faster, then drop the door on the floor...these doors are so fragile. Inside there is a young girl mouth open and cowering as Bjeorn's hulking (and in his view hideous) human form enters. The one security guard in the room who had been getting a requistion of paperclips or something, threw his cigarette to one side, and his hand lept to the sadly holstered gun. A rictus of fear upon his face as Bjeorn advances upon him

The guard frantically threw himself aside, but Bjeorn helped him on his with a gentle tap directing him towards the wall. Bjeorn glared at the girl "get on the ground, behind that desk, and you might live through this" he commanded.
[00:00:25 21 Jun 2070 - Reactor Control Room]

With one part of her mind focused on the security nodeRyl wrote herself into the network log so that she could return here once she had a true wireless connection, hopefully in the corridor outside this room. She made a quick scan of the node to look for door controls and camera overrides and wifi coverage zones and simultaneously reached out with a digital claw to the leaf before her...

turning it over she scored into the underside

<< Do you need saving? We only seek a confrontation with those who would wish us harm or would harm others...>>

She flipped the leaf into the digital wind, hoping that whoever was watching her would pick it the team

<< Someone has found me in the system, possibly Zero, although they've made no move against me yet...I'll keep you in the loop...>>

So saying she disconnected from the camera and followed the others into the corridor
[00:00:28 21 Jun 2070 - Outside Reactor Control Room]


Alright, lets split into our groups and go. Bjeorn, Alyena, Aren, you're with me. The others, get inside Room 27A, and be careful, I have a really bad feeling about that room. Lets keep communications to this, unless we get cut off, then we'll re-route everything through Ryl's commlinks.


Marduk's voice sounded in everyone's mind, as he stepped out into the main corridor looking around. He had memorized the floor plans, and started walking carefully forward.

~~Mandala, can you sustain a spell for me? Aren, scout ahead~~

[00:00:28 21 Jun 2070 - Outside Reactor Control Room]


I can keep something going for you for about half a minute, Marduk, but after that it starts to burn me out. I already have to keep the Mindlink going, too, so I don't want to get stretched too thin.


Mandala-as-nuclear-technician 'stumbles' out into the hallway, looking for cameras covering the hallway. to any camera he sees, he gesticulates: left hand on heart, right hand waving stay away; left hand points to reactor room, right hand draws thumb across throat; both hands wave run away. He staggers to the closet door across the hall, and looks in.
Big Fella
[ 00:00:28 21 Jun 2070 - Reactor Control Room]
Background count: Aztech 2

Bjeorn morphs back into his normal form, and begins to lope down the corridor towards the stairs. As he gets close to the stairs, he sees the feet of two guards coming down. Increasing his speed he charges them. His open claws grap their heads and smacks them together. KRACK! They both slump to the floor. RGGH! Bjeorn's roar can only just be heard over the sound of General Quarters.
[00:00:28 21 Jun 2070 - Reactor Control Room]
Background count: Aztech 2

Alyena steps through the Control room door into the corridor. At the rate Bjeorn is going there's not much point cleansing this area.


"I'll save cleansing 'til it looks like we're actually going to be in magic combat. If anyone thinks they need it sooner just yell"

Following Bjeorn towards the stairs, she sees the guards Ryl warned were incoming.
Nice to have such competent Matrix over-watch again she thinks as she readies a stun bolt, just in case Bjeorn needs help.

As the sound of heads connecting and a bear's roar are lost in the noise of the alarms, she moves forward.

The spell's energies fade Nope, doesn't look like any help is needed she thinks, stepping over the prone figures.


"Ok Team Alpha, looks like we're on our way!"
[00:00:28 21 Jun 2070 - Reactor Control Room]
Background count: Aztech 2

Marduk was already halfway down the hallway when Bjeorn ran past him and clobbered those two guards. Shaking his head, the old dwarf kept moving, the layout of the pyramid as familiar to him, as his own home. He was a little distracted from the effort of sustaining the spell he had cast.

Bjeorn let Aren scout ahead first.

Marduk caught up to Bjeorn and moved up the hallway, making his way quickly towards Warder's room, Bjeorn slightly ahead and Alyena running besides.

Aren how does it look ahead
[00:00:28 21 Jun 2070 - Outside the Reactor Control Room]

Logged back into the secure matrix node Ryl began to plot the locations of the guards onto the team's tactical feeds, watching as Aren, Marduk and Bjeorn forged ahead towards where hopefully Warder waited for them. She reached out tendrils of her icon, searching for door controls and anything else that might smooth their passage through the temple.

<<The child that I mentioned sent me this


I think we should do all in our power to assist her, provided it doesn't compromise our mission...and we have Bjeorn for any impromtu demo work...>>

[00:00:31 21 Jun 2070 - Outside Reactor Control Room]

Seeing nothing in the room ahead, Mandala makes his way to the room marked 27A and studies the door, both physically and astrally.
[00:00:31 21 Jun 2070 - Storeroom opposite 27a]

Ryl pondered the latest message from the illusive Zero, it seemed likely that they would find her soon as she had had to cancel the initial alarm when she first breached their system...


It seemed it was time to take off the kid gloves and ravage their system...with what was going on outside this should buy them the most time to enact their plan, and at least should would be able to turn the system's own defences against her attackers. She set about deleting the access log files, leaving only her own forged ID in place, and then ramped up the threat level, activating all the IC programs she could get her digital claws into.

<<Zero, can you help me to talk to Jonathan, warn him to stay away? I'm working on a way to free Her but it will be difficult if the spiders come for me...>>

Slamming all the internal doors to locked she simultaneously targetted all the Aztech troops as hostile on their tacnet system, let them come and find her now!

Her icon swelled in size as she ramped up the resolution, drawing on the node's own system processing, and roared her challenge to the winds...!

~They are coming, be ready!~
Big Fella
[00:00:25 21 Jun 2070 - Room 5 - Warder's room]
Background count: Aztech 4

Bjeorn studies the door. The door looks at Bjeorn. The door appears to be made of wood and metal and seems to be locked. As well as the door though there was hugely unpleasant looking ward: very similar to the one that guarded the reactor area. Concentrating hard on making aura look like Warders, Bjeorn shoulder barges the door and burst inside.

In the room, there are two very suprised looking guards, who are currently adjusting their headgear, and saying "hello...hello...".

Behind the guards is a tall dark figure, dressed in ritual robes of flayed human skin, with mummified hands dangling from his belt. He is currently performing a little ritual involving a baby skull and a hammer.

"You are early. You made better time than my master anticipated. Never mind, when I take him your flayed corpses he will reward me. This fully operational Battle Pyramid is more than a match for your pathetic skills."

Bjeorn winces at the bad pun, he'd didn't like that old film the first time round
[00:00:33 21 Jun 2070 - Outside Room 5]
Background count: Aztech 4

Alyena follows Bjeorn and Marduk up the stairs to door 5. So far the corridor ahead is clear but getting into the room and out of sight seems like a good idea. The rather nasty ward in the way is a bit of a problem. The door itself, however, is not, as Bjeorn follows through with his usual MO.

Alyena focuses her will and shudders as she forces her aura to mimic that of Warder. She moves into the room, it really does leave a bad taste in the mouth as she quickly drops the mask.

Not good, very not good! she thinks as Warder's words reach her.

<Bad news... It seems we're expected!>

With her astral sight active she can see the magic wall surrounding Warder. Dropping behind one of the comfortable chairs in the corner of the room Alyena's spirit breaks free of her body.

Time to get to work and figure out just what is going on here she thinks as she assences the area.

She then begins to weave a counter spell. The smokey tendrils of her armour swirl around her astral form and reach towards her foe.
[ 00:00:33 21 Jun 2070 - Second floor]
Background count: Aztech 4

Aren finally reports. <<The ground floor is as per the tactical map. I am heading for room 12...argghhh>> the sound of machine gun fire can be heard over the comms, then the comm link stops transmitting.
[00:00:33 21 Jun 2070 - Outside Room 27A]
Background count 0 -- Force 9: all Spirit Powers available

Mandala observes the horror construct, considering what action to take when the agonizing impression of Aren's injury tears him away from the ghastly sight.

Aren! I come!

He dematerializes, reforming his astral signature to be that of Warder. Who knows what barriers he will have to cross? At the speed of thought he rushes up the stairs, hoping to avoid having to waste time fooling a barrier in the floor itself.

[00:00:36 21 Jun 2070 - stairs to ground floor]
Background count Aztech 4 -- Force 6: lose Movement, Psychokinesis, Accident

As he rushes up the narrow passage, he sees six enemy coming the other way. One seems magic. He looks closely at that one.

Six coming down the stairs, one magic... more info to come in a moment...
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