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Full Version: Umbrae Europae [IC] (part 3) - Mist of Nycthemeron
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Romain Pelisse
Rex peered into the astral and gaze at the cat’s aura, he was surprised to find out that those were normal cat. No trace of magic in their aura, neither anything pointing to some kind of supernatural essence. Those were regular stray cats. Some were annoyed—Rex got a feeling they might feel his gaze and be displeased about it, some were excited or intrigued—he guessed those were the one looking toward the portal. One did stand out over.

He was a scruffy old cat. His aura showed that he was focused and clearly annoyed at Rex’s presence. The mage could almost feel the cat thinking something along the line of “should I do something about this human?”. Switching back to the physical world, Rex saw that the cat was a Persian one. It was gazing at him intensely, but suddenly decided to jump through the portal—along with some of the other stray cats.

Rex then decided to peer into the portal’s aura. It was difficult to gather any information, but he soon got the impression that the portal was about to close soon!
<<Change of plans: The portal looks pretty unstable, it would probably be safer if you sent your drone into it - because I might get trapped away from my body inside there and I can't stay away from my body too long without dying.>> Rex transmitted to Waywalker.
Romain Pelisse
Rex’s barely finished message to Waywalker that something happened. The portal suddenly appeared more clearly and a burst of black, shadowy like tentacles. Before the mage could react, one of them broke the astral barrier of his lodge and catch him. In barely a second, Rex was hurled into the portal!

[ Spoiler ]
<<Fragggg...>> was all Rex could transmit before he felt himself get bodily hurled through the portal

[ Spoiler ]

Waywalker jumped in the Rotodrone in the blink of an eye and went through the portal to catch his partner.
Romain Pelisse
When Rex and Waywalker came to, there were in sort of haze. They had no idea how much time had spent since the cross the portal, but, for sure, wherever they were now, it was the day. The light was so bright that it almost hurt their eye.

Of course, Waywalker was quite surprised to “feel” eyeball (of a sort) rather than getting some kind of telemetry. As he expected, crossing the portal rigged in had again transformed him. Moving clumsily on the ground, he realized he no longer had human legs but rather the one of a large bird. As he tried to keep his balance, he also realized he no longer had arms, but large wings. Looking at his surroundings, he tried to find a way to catch his reflexion.

They appear to have been transported to some kind of “magical forest”. Waywalker qualified it, in his head, as magical, because there was clearly some plants, insects and even animals he had never seen before and that could simply not be of this Earth. Or rather, not be of his Earth.

Waywalker got used to the gloomy and dangerous awakened forest that one can find on Earth. However this one was rather nice and enchanting. He was bathing in warm and relaxing sunlight, the weird trees around him did not look threatening and he could feel animals and even flying insects—mostly colorful butterflies, paying attention to him, but not trying to attack him.

This is when he spots a little pool of water a few feet away. Managed to hope to it—Waywalker did not dare yet trying to fly, he got close enough to it to see his reflexion. To its own surprised, he had been transformed into a majestic large, even giant eagle. Before he could process what happened to him, Waywalker heard some noise behind him.

He turned back and realize there is a human person lying in the ground. His clothes looked strange, he appeared to be dressed in some oriental fashion. From where he stands, Waywalker thought this guy looked like a grand vizir or something like that. Waywalker remembered watching some new reboot of the old Aladin’s license from Horizon when he was young and the outfit reminded him of the movie.

As he got closer, Waywalker suddenly realized that, this man must be Rex!

[ Spoiler ]
Rex felt... normal. With a somewhat stunned expression, he looked around. He could see his actual hands - fine and long fingers, midway between those of a pianist and a pick pocket. His body was gaunt and very lean, like a victim of near starvation with barely any muscle to speak of. Feeling his face he felt for the first time in a long while his prominent cheekbones and the slightly canted eyes as well as his definitely elvish ears.
He felt week. It had been so long that he had moved without having transformed himself into an animal. His skin, he noted, was quite white - as if he hadn't seen the sun in ages. Which was probably true, considering he wore fur for the most part.
But the most amazing part was, that he didn't have a headache. Being able to See the world through the full color spectrum of a human was almost dazzling. He had forgotten how very specific the metahuman eye was adapted for rich colors of the red spectrum.
"I need to go ape much more often."
With swaying steps, Rex moved towards the water - and noticed the jewelry around his neck and his ears for the first time - as well as the somewhat amazing black beard on his face - and now that he looked for it also the somewhat billowy turkish trousers.
"I'm very much in the wrong movie here."
Rex looked around and tried to see if there was any particular direction he could move toward - preferably where the portal was...
Waywalker remembered his time in the Mists, and it was not a pleasant experience.
"I've been in this shoes before, and I do not like it. However, this form is better than the puppet in the Mists."
After some stretching to get used to his new body, he was more confident in his motor abilities.
"Should we fool around to find the fabled city and be sure that the book is not here? Do you see the portal to get back?"
Romain Pelisse
Rex could still see the portal but it was closing up fast. Waywalker and him will have to wait at least a day to be able to go through it again. Until then they were trapped here—wherever here was. Looking around them, they could just see trees and bushes. Above them, a perfect blue sky with a few white clouds… Wait! What was that!!!

On top of one of the clouds in the sky there was some kind of structure, like a tower. Not just a tower, a full city with a massive tower in the center could be seen, seating on top of a large cloud…
"Damn, looks like we are trapped here for the moment.
Hm. We might as well do what we came to do in the first place: Find out if there is a book hidden here. That tower out there looks like the most likely place. Let's start there."

With that, Rex began walking, feeling his disused muscles protesting at every step.
Romain Pelisse
Rex was getting used to being in his body and walking around the clearing they had landed. Waywalker opted to start flying, very carefully, to see if he could a better grasp of the city flying in the skies and apparently sitting on top of a giant cloud. Waywalker was used to pilot rotor drones, not flying using wings and the airstream. However, it worked pretty smoothly and the rigger realized he was actually intuitively able to fly quite gracefully.

In the meantime, down on the ground, something caught Rex’s attention. He spotted the cat that was looking at him back in Paris. The grumpy cat, elegantly seated on top of a rock covered with shiny, green lichen, was again staring at him. Suddenly, Rex heard a voice in his head:

“OK, you’ve done it, silly human. Here you are. You could not just leave this portal alone, couldn’t you? You had to go through and come mess with this land! But this is our domain, so we are not keen on letting you do so…”

The tone was both so intimidating and confident that he took a split second for Rex to realize he was in fact hearing the cat’s mind. His first impulse could have been to disregard the little animal as being harmless. However, Rex knew better and took another split second to assess the situation. Letting his sense focus on the forest behind the cat, he suddenly realized, there was a lot of cats hidden around him. Actually surrounding him. They all appeared to be waiting for the word of their General to simply jump on him and gut him.

Rex opened his mouth, about to reply something, when another, cold and deep voice, also appeared in his head. This one was actually painful and loud. It took all his will to not show any sign of duress to the hoards of cats around him:

“Well, and now, what you are going to do get us out of this mess?”

Rex paused, in shock as he immediately realized who was now talking to him: the other personality taking over his body back on Earth!

Waywalker was getting used to his new body.
He saw Rex looking a small cat, and looking frightened.
"Are you all right Rex?"
"No, not at all. We are in deep drek."

Rex replied to his chummer.
Trying to get a connection back to the cat he replied:
"Point of order: I didn't go through this portal, I was literally ripped from reality despite my best efforts to prevent just such an occurence.
Secondly, I'm not in the habit of messing things up and neither is my friend. Thirdly, I have no intention of claiming or harming your territory. On the contrary, I'm in the process of leaving and will depart from this realm at the earliest opportunity.
Hostility is at this stage more than contra productive to everyone involved's desires. So do me and yourself a favor and keep the peace."

To the other voice in his head he said: "And to you I say: don't you dare do anything stupid with my body. It's pretty fragile in it's current state. Leaving the magic circle might kill us both. Keep it save and don't do anything stupid or you are done for. In 24 hours I'll be back."

Rex was pissed. With an effort of will he tried to cast a levitation on himself, to both make moving easier and to make it harder for the surrounding critters to harm him.

[ Spoiler ]
Romain Pelisse
[ Spoiler ]
[ Spoiler ]
Romain Pelisse
To Rex relief, the voice in his head opted to remain silent for the time being. The cat’s General was looking straight at him, both reflecting on what he had just said and try to judge intentions. After a few tense seconds, the cat finally replied to him, again using telepathy:

“Well, if you are just stranded here and you have, indeed, no desire to meddle with this realm, I simply expect you to be leaving tomorrow when the portal reopens. Assuming you do so, you will be left alone … by us, at least.”

With that final word, the cats surrounding Rex suddenly jumped back into the forest and disappeared. The deep, sinister voice inside Rex’s head came back.

“Well, at least you play this quite well, congratulations Rex. After all the work I did to escape, it would have been a shame if to die, devoured by kittens. Oh, and no need, to order me around, like you just did. I appear to be unable to assert control over your body in this realm… But obviously, you should not trust me on this…”
"Well, why should you. It's my body after all. But then, I don't see a reason why we should be at odds if we could instead cooperate. Maybe I could find you another body - there must be enough braindead people around that wouldn't mind someone recycling their body."

Aloud to Waywalker he said: "Alright, good news, bad news, good...ish news: The cats probably won't gut us as long as we leave tomorrow. Bad news, we have to stay and survive until tomorrow. Goodish news: My CFD seems to be able to talk to me and doesn't sound like it's too mad to be reasoned with.
How do you feel about your drone to bird experience?"

"It felt awkward at first, but I'm getting used to inhabit strange bodies. Shall we fly to the tower? This may be a magical place but seems to have some sort of logic."
"Yeah, hopefully it's not one of those fast time places where we get out only to find a century has gone by."
Rex rose into the air and followed at his rather sedate pace after Waywalker.
Romain Pelisse
On the one hand, Rex was kind of relieve to find out that the personality infecting his body appears to be something he could discuss with. On the other hand, the entity appears to have no qualms about blabbing in his head while he was focusing on something as difficult as levitating up to a city high in the sky…

“Intriguing notion, the one you just put forward. You claim this is your body, but it is now as much mine than yours. You are just the previous tenant. In sense. Oh, marvelous, are we flying? That is intriguing. I was never able to fathom how you could alter the law physics, back on Earth, with your so called talent. Got me in trouble a couple of times, when people realized that I was supposed to be, what is the term, oh right, Awakened.”

Rex felt it would be pointless to try to interrupt the voice so he let it carry on.

“As for using another body, I’m afraid it is not as simple as you imagined it to be. I’m not a simple software that can be downloaded into another computer. My core being is well integrated into the nanites swarming your body, but also your—or I should rather say, our brain. A brain-dead person, on top of things, you present an extra challenge. It would be unlikely to have the capacity to … well, let’s say to execute the complicated program that I am.”

In the meantime, Waywalker, carried over by the strong stream, was already in sight of the City in the Sky. And it was quite a sight. Byzantine and Arabic towers were emerging from the impressive five meters high stone wall surrounding the place. Defying logic, physics and common sense, all the structure was sat on a large, snowy-white cloud. Now that he was closer, the rigger could see flying ships—yes, flying ships, docking or departing from what appears to be a port. Or rather an airport.

Waywalker also saw some weird flying creature carrying people either within or out of the city. They were yet too far away for him to figure out if the people being transported were prisoners or just passengers. From afar, these flying creatures were somewhat scary. Two meters high, completely black shape and large, demon-like wings. The fact that he was shaped as a bird did not prevent Waywalker to shiver.

Waywalker opted to focus his attention on the major feature of the city itself, waiting for Rex to catch up. The city appeared to be built on top of a hill. Well, as much as a cloud could have hills. So on top of the city was this impressive, high tower, they had spotted from ground level. It had definitely an oriental feel to it. It reminded Waywalker the minaret tower he saw next to the mosque.

At the feet of the high tower was a market or rather a bazaar, that spread over several city blocks in almost all direction. Of course, it almost connected the port to the tower, which was no surprise. South to the bazaar, Waywalker spotted a series of building that reminded him of Byzantine churches and monasteries. For now, he mentally nicknamed this part of the town the district of Temples. North of the market, partially shadowed by the huge tower, a large park was bringing a touch of color to the city.

[ Spoiler ]
Rex thought about his response quite a bit before replying:
"You know the difference between ownership and possession I assume. But maybe we should start this conversation at the beginning:
Who are you and what is your name?
I'm not unsympathetic to your plight - being hunted, captured and experimented on is something I have hands on experience with.
Still, if push comes to shove I'll fight for my holistic integrity even if it means killing you and myself in the process. I have acquired quite a sizable amount of funds that I can either dedicate to find an equitable solution to our dilemma or to eradicate you. Not to mention, I kept you at bay for over a year now.
So when I reach you my hand in friendship I'm doing this because I value life and self-awareness, not because I have to.

If I understand you correctly you are an AI that is using nano machines to rewire and rewrite my brain, killing me in the process. While I am transformed, you are unable to interact with my body, but you are also somehow preventing me from accessing my longterm memory before I started this process.
I have puzzled out that I was most likely a member of MCT Europe. I received magical education from a Shinto-Priest. And MCT is likely hunting me still since we escaped from their experiments in some black ops lab.

Now to the good news: There are people out there who are perfectly healthy but which I wouldn't mind being replaced with you.
So, if you decided you wanted to be in someone else's body would you be able to marshal your nanites enough to move them over?"


While waiting for Rex to catch up Waywalker tried to get a sight of the city streets, to have a glimpse of what kind of beings populated it.
The other important info he looked for was where to land unobserved (as much as you could say land in a city up in the clouds).
Romain Pelisse
[ Spoiler ]

The deep voice of the AI, which pretty inhuman to Rex thoughts, replied after a first silence.

“Your assumptions are mostly right, you animal shape tricks have delayed my invasion of your body, also giving me a sort of amnesia. I don’t exactly where and what we were doing last time I was… Well, in control. That being said, I must commend you, you appear to have to piece together quite a lot of information already. However, as always, the whole truth is a bit more complicated.”

Rex was eagerly listening to the voice while slowly catching up on Waywalker, flying all around the vicinity of the city.

“As for who I am, I think it is also a longer discussion that maybe we should have later on when we are not flying toward an impossible flying city.”

Rex was no fool, the conscience inhabiting his body was playing it close to the vest…
[ Spoiler ]
Rex accepted that for the moment and concentrated on catching up to Waywalker. He opened up his third eye to get a good look at the magical situation in the city.

[ Spoiler ]
Romain Pelisse
Rex senses were almost overwhelmed by the number of sensations that came up when he peered into the astral. The place was filled with magic. Back on Earth, astral was generally very dull and empty and anything magical somehow stood out. But here, everything was shiny. Rex never saw so many auras within his sight. He soon realized that if we wanted any kind of useful information, he will need to focus on something and a get a proper read on it.

Waywalker was a bit more successful. He spotted several sites where they could easily land. The airport’s dock was the most obvious, however, they appeared to guards of a sort, but the rigger got the feeling they were more acting as toll agents and simply checking merchandise. A human and a bird landing might not be worth their attention. Farther away, the large park in the north part of the town also seems like a good place to land discreetly. That being said, the park looked more like a little piece of forest, so the rigger’s mind wondered if he had some “natural predator” to its current shape living in it. For sure, what was not an option was the high tower in the middle. Waywalker spotted several of the black, creepy creatures, ridden by some sort of knights, patrolling around it. The bazaar and the temple districts also offered a lot of position to land, but none would be discreet…
Rex abstained from reading the aura of anyone around - he didn't want to provoke anyone or draw attention to himself.
Instead he nodded towards Waywalker: "I'd suggest we land at the edge of the bazar. Hopefully, they do understand English around there. Probably best if you land on my shoulder, so no-one gets any funny ideas about you and their cooking pot."

"Yeah, the guard at the docks will be looking for papers or money, and we have neither here. The bazaar is a good choice, then we will look for the book..."
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