Ascension – A Community Development

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  • #622

    Iscarioto
    Participant

    I’m starting this thread inline with an idea floated and outlined here – http://www.heromachine.com/forum/heromachine-pub/community-effort-idea/

    Let’s kick it off.

    #20239

    Iscarioto
    Participant
    http://www.heromachine.com/wp-content/legacy/forum-image-uploads/iscarioto/2013/02/Anders.PNG

    Terrence Anders
    The New Zealand Consulate, Wan Chai, Hong Kong.

    11 Hours after the Invasion.

    I fucking killed someone. With my mind. Hong Kong has been invaded by god know who, and now I’m sitting in a broken down subway train, below ground with a only fire to light this scraggy notebook (a fire in a subway car, okay..) I’m not alone, I mean, that’s rare enough in HK, but I usually find myself in the company of suits. They’re still here, along with the tourists, the street vendors and some guy I’m pretty sure is Triad. None of it makes much sense. I just need to get this down on paper, I don’t know how it’ll help, but I need to get this out. So where to start?

    I used to feel at home in Hong Kong. There is a certain degree of familiarity woven into the anonymity of a bustling metropolis. Safety in numbers, or something like that. But all of that changed today. Well, the anonymous became known, at least. We all now have something in common. Fear.

    I used to crave being here, brief stints over the years filled me with a hunger for this bite sized, accessible little Oriental morsel. It had the food, the exotic people, the bustle of metropolitanism, the smell, and felt all the more alive for it. But the Hong Kong I returned to was not the same. It didn’t have her.

    Our travels here together have repaved these busy streets with memories, and everywhere I turn I am confronted with the realisation that I chose this over her. My work at the embassy, I told myself, would help to build our futures. But as I left, I knew I wouldn’t be back, I knew she shouldn’t be expected to wait. My career was so important that I avoided believing in the degree to which I’d miss her. I try to fill my days with paperwork and phone calls, my nights with hard liquor and cigarettes. None of these burdens dulls the pain, not when I lay there, late at night, on my stony mattress, in my shoe-box apartment, staring blankly at the ceiling (do they use asbestos here?) wondering what she’s up, where she’s been. New Zealand seems a life away. I love this place, but I hate that I love it. Am I homesick? I don’t want to leave, I just don’t want to be alone.

    But yeah, so that’s not an option after today. Not really even relevant. Work is now irrelevant, where I live is now irrelevant. Missing, longing, pining, crying, it’s all really background noise to the big, bat-shit crazy event that has turned the world on it’s head. And yet even that doesn’t dull the pain. What. Is. Going. On?

    Okay, so I’m trying to piece this together in my head. I don’t even know who I’m writing this to. Is it for you, dollface? I don’t really know. So I was out having my lunch with my friend Shada, from the Saudi Consulate. God, poor Shada. It was a regular Tuesday, she was having issues with her big-wig CEO husband, I was nodding politely, listening, but not really. Drinking problems, infidelity, the usual stuff. We were in our usual spot, out on the Expo Promenade, with the incredible view over Victoria Harbour. It was just a normal day. Suits drifting past, buses and taxis honking, panicked tourists sprinting after them, my cigarette heavy in my throat and going moist from the humidity. Regular. Unlike any other day. That’s how I’ll remember it. Separate from what came after.

    I suppose the strangeness started a few days before really, with this vivid dream I had, one of those dreams that you’re not quite sure is actually a dream. A shadow of a dishevelled man inside my little apartment, with, what, a syringe? I remember a stinging sensation as he stood over me, not unlike a mosquito, but I absent-mindedly fell straight back into a deep deep sleep. I’ve been scratching at the little square shaped groove on my elbow ever since. Given the circumstances, I’m beginning to doubt that it was actually a dream. Anyway…

    The rumbling came first, low at first, barely breaking above the constant drone of air conditioners, but it grew quickly, in seconds really, to overshadow everything else. Then followed the literal shadow. I don’t know what they were, giant triangles in the sky, blotting it all out. Ships, I guess, carriers. The noise was horrendous. Hong Kong moves quickly, but people were scrambling. It gets a bit blurry from here. I remember an explosion on the horizon. Some have said it was the airport, others say that the power cut out immediately after the bang. (God, how many people are trapped in elevators right now?) Then came the gunshots. Gun blasts? I’ve played a lot of video games, these weren’t your standard issue assault rifles. Similar speeds but, I don’t know, thuds. Thuds that got ever nearer.

    As these ships got closer to the surface, Shada and I bolted inland to escape the torrent of water being forced up from the harbour. I think that was probably a mistake, now. People were everywhere. Again normal, but these people weren’t vertical. In the distance we saw a group of people. At the time though, you’d be forgiven for wondering if they actually people at all. We turned and ran in the opposite direction, because, I mean, what do you do? We were actually getting a bit of distance on them, when I tripped over a policeman. A dead policeman.

    I recall yelling at Shada: “Don’t stop, keep running, run!” but she didn’t listen. In the end she was a better friend to me than I think I’d have been to her. Those many months, talking, offering advice, but being mentally elsewhere. As those glowing orange bullets (beams?) entered her chest, that’s what I thought about: why didn’t I care about her more? Why didn’t I go to a greater effort to support her? Why was I so caught up with my own shit that I couldn’t be a good friend? I am so selfish. Even as I watched my friend die, all I could selfishly think about was how selfish I was. I’d like to think what happened next came from a good place, out of sympathy and anguish for losing a friend, but I think, mostly, it came out of shame for myself.

    Whatever came from their weapons glowed like hot embers, an evil orange which I was sure should have cauterized her wounds. They didn’t, and I felt the warmth of her blood splatter upon me. I spun to the side, we had been flanked. I don’t think I really caught it at the time, but my mind is clinging to the image of some kind of trooper, a white, nonchalant fellow with a dense beard and a greasy ponytail, like Steven Segal in one of his terribly acted atrocities from the late 90s. His torso was covered by incredibly intricate armour, but he had these arms, black and metallic, inhuman. CNN and TVB Pearl had been all over the stories of nano-augmentation, of military grade prosthetics, but to see it in the flesh (..or not) was an entirely different story. He was armed to the teeth, teeth which wore a grin. You prick. You fucking prick. I wanted him dead, I wanted him gone. I so I made that happen.

    He rose into the air, the smile slipping from his face. My arm was in front of me, dripping at the elbow with Shada’s blood. I squeezed. He popped. End of story really. The next thing I remember I’m bolting down O’Brien Road, ages away, as the sky falls around me. Those ships were still over head, a layer on top of burning buildings and falling debris. I’m sure those soldiers were behind me, but I wasn’t looking back. Just panting, and wondering what I’d done.

    Out of nowhere a heavily tattooed Hong Konger tackled me, dragging me towards the Wan Chai MTR entrance. He was yelling in Cantonese what I assumed to mean “We have to get out of here, what are you doing, you stupid guilou?” I at least caught the guilou part. And now here we are. Dwellers below the surface of Hong Kong. At last count there were thirteen of us, but it’s hard to be sure. More come every day, from further along the tunnels, I’m not sure. The entrances have been boarded up but to be safe we all left the terminal itself this morning to hide in the subway cars, the assumption being if these things turn on, ours should start moving. Better than getting hit on the tracks I suppose.

    So, my apparent super powers. Did it actually happen? I don’t really know. I’ve tried to replicate it, move around some tins, you know, generally what you test it on. I mean, I don’t want to try and explode a person again. So is it triggered by rage? Yeah.

    One reason I don’t doubt it is, well, the Triad member, the one who tackled me. I’ve been watching him, (from a good safe distance) every time he lights a cigarette he lets the fire travel up and down his arm, like some sort of pet (Show off). So this super powers bit might be a thing. I guess I’m willing this, but he keeps scratching his elbow too. I mean, his arm is on fire once every couple of minutes, (chain smoking) so there is that, but I wonder if he has a mark too? I should really approach him, if only to thank him for saving my life. But those tattoos. I’m so prejudiced. You can take the boy out of the privileged West, but you can’t take the privileged West out of the boy, I guess. In any case, it was he who lighted the fire. Toxins, suffocation and immolation aside, we needed the light. My mobile needed charging before this happened, and nobody has been able to get reception since then either. The consensus is they have cut communications. Ugh, so much to think about. Who exactly are they? They were white, at least the one I saw (killed). There were no flags, nothing to identify them. One of the ‘survivors’ (I guess that’s what you’d call us) pinched a set of armour, the only thing that resembles an insignia is this strange stylised triangle, almost like the letter A. So hey, we have some armour, but not a clue who we’d be using it against.

    And despite all this, I just miss you. I’m laying here, trying to remember and articulate everything, but I keep staring up at the roof of the subway car, wishing you were here. What a horrible thing to wish for, given the circumstances.

    Okay, so apparently we’re moving in twenty minutes (your typical corporate PR guy keeps harping on about flooding if they bomb the subway, which makes sense, I just kind of wish someone else was harping on about it. I’ve got a lot of American friends, but this guy’s accent, ouch), so I better wrap this up. I don’t know what will happen here, but baby, if this is for you, I guess it is, I love you and miss you, if this reaches you back down there in New Zealand, I hope that it is under clearer skies.

    #20246

    prswirve
    Participant
    SHU JI
    Stanley Maximum Security Prison, Stanley, Hong Kong
    The Invasion

    Can you get my gun in the water, Daddy?
    Of course, baby.

    [Her mom is smiling, and I smiled back at her.]
    Idiot stupid smile. Never know what comes next?

    I dove into the cold water. Then I heard muffled screams in the dark.
    Deafening explosions.

    Wake. Wake up. Now.

    I’ve been dreaming again. My hands are trembling as I sit up, brushing aside hair on my face wet with sweat. I’ve been staying in this prison cell for God knows how long. My elbow’s itching badly. And it’s been months since that scrappy old fella stuck a needle on my arm. Since then I felt my senses got enhanced. I can see clearly in the dark. In the light of day I cover my eyes with cloth. The light often stings my eyes and I often broke into tears. Can distinguish a smell hundreds of yards away. I can even feel every grain of sand on the floor of my cell as I stand on my bare feet. And the sounds of whispers in the nights made my head ache over and over.

    Then the explosions came. Again. Screams of agony I heard. The alarm rang. The wall on the other side of my cell burst and exploded. Huge and smaller chunks of concrete flew from the explosion in all directions. I raised my arms for cover as the debris pierced my flesh. The wounds almost instantly healed and closed but I still can feel the agony. Even the pain of the slightest scratch is magnified a hundred times. I writhed as my bloodied arms trembled. All the wounds completely closed now.

    I scrambled out of the cell and made a rush onto the hallway. Bodies littered the floor. Other prisoners fumbled and stumbled, bloody puddles making the floor wet and slippery. Another blast, and the beams beyond crashed along with the rest of the building it has long supported. On my left is a stairway, cramped with prisoners fleeing certain death on the dungeons below, hoping to find salvation above. Dust made breathing difficult, and it has caked on sweat and blood on my half naked body.

    I pushed aside the waves of people and rushed up the stairs. Above, the lights were out. I can still see clearly in the dark due to my enhanced senses. Guards were all over the place, panicked, oblivious of the fleeing prisoners. The federal prison was a wreck. Flames were licking all over the place and the smoke was thick as if belched from the mouth of a volcano.

    I heard gunshots outside. Familiar ones. And not so familiar. They were more like thuds from a tank’s main gun. Only automatic. The prison guards were shooting at the source of those unfamiliar thuds. And when they returned fire, the guards were like melted into oblivion. Orange beams the size of cola cans destroyed completely the hapless jail guards of the HKPD, even searing and piercing their carbon steel armors.

    I ran outside fearing the conflagration in the building as well as the beam bullets from the unknown invaders.

    Then I bumped into him. Or rather it. He’s one of them. Fully armored and fully armed. I think he’s human. He was. His limbs are made of metal. Strapped on his waist were two pistols. And he carries a big ugly gun I’ve never seen before. Or I’ve seen before, rather.

    And then I recognized him. He’s one of them. Bastards who killed my family. That night by the pool. The source of my nightmares. The night my life was ruined. Suddenly rage rushed up and around and heated my whole body.

    The thing’s lips parted as if he was grinning. He raised the gun. Ready to obliterate me. Out of instinct I rolled onto him, spun, jumped and somersaulted meters behind him, pistols already in both of my hands. Before I land fire burst out of the barrels of the twin guns out my hand. The thing dropped. Lifeless.

    Then the walkers came. Huge robotic monsters. Too late for me as an orange blast tore through my body and everything was dark.

    Last thing I remember were the screams I heard in the dark. And deafening explosions.

    And the feeling I’m being carried by some big strong, tattoed arm. I had the feeling that arm was burning, except the flames act like a pet travelling up and down his arm.

    #20250
    JR19759
    JR19759
    Keymaster

    Kate Quinn
    Downtown Hong Kong
    The Invasion

    I was so excited when I first arrived in Hong Kong
    I couldn’t believe it, I was actually here. I’d been saving up for aaaages to afford to come over here. And I had to sit on that plane for hours and hours just to get here. I hate airline food.
    Yeah, so, plan was to hang around this part of the city for a few days, do some shopping, see the sights, then on Wednesday I’d move on to Beijing and do all of the touristy stuff in that part of China, the Forbidden City, Giant Pandas in Beijing Zoo, the Great Wall, all that sort of stuff. That worked out well.
    I’ll start at the top. I’d just got to my hotel and unpacked all my clothes and I wanted a coffee. Unfortunately, the hotel had supplied those horrible little packets of coffee that taste like cardboard and I hadn’t had a chance to go get some decent coffee yet. Luckily, I had noticed what looked like a Starbucks in the cab on the way here. It wasn’t that far, so I thought I’d walk. Good exercise. So I picked up my Cantonese to English phrase book (I’m rubbish at learning new languages) and went for a stroll.
    It didn’t take me long to find what I was looking for. It wasn’t exactly a Starbucks, but it was a coffee shop and it had a surprisingly similar logo. Must be one of those Chinese rip offs I thought to my self as I walked in.
    The shop wasn’t all that busy, there weren’t many people in there and there was only one guy behind the counter. He was around my age, dark hair and a small wispy beard. He smiled at me as I walked up to the counter.
    “[Cappuccino please,]” I said in my best (i.e. rubbish) Chinese.
    “Coming up,” he said (in English) with a smile, as he turned to the coffee machines.
    I smiled weakly back at him, embarrassed at my feeble attempt to speak another language, before turning around to look out of the window.
    It was very busy outside. Hong Kong had that same hustle and bustle that you got from big cities like New York, the feeling that everyone was busy. It reminded me of home. I allowed my mind to wander, thinking of what I was going to do over the next few weeks, not noticing the barista, as he slipped a small vial of something out of his pocket and poured it in my drink.
    “Your coffee Miss.”
    The baristas voice snapped me out of my daydream. I quickly turned around, almost knocking the coffee over in the process.
    “That is 56HK$” He said, again with a smile.
    I pulled out some money from my purse, I’m not sure how much 56HK$ would get me back home, but I’m sure it’d get me a bit more than one coffee. Once again he smiled at me as he put my money in the till and I took a sip of the coffee.
    Just then a tremor hit, causing me to choke as half of the hot coffee poured down my throat. I heard the tinkle of my change being dropped as the barista grabbed the counter. The lights above us were shaking and rattling, flickering on and off and the cups on the shelf being the counter clattered and clanked as they danced up and down the shelves.
    Then, just as suddenly as it had started, the tremor stopped. The barista sprang up and ran across to the door as I tried to steady my self, coughing from the forced ingestion of boiling coffee.
    “What was that, an earthquake?” I asked as the barista looked up and down the street from the doorway.
    “No,” he said seriously. “They are here.”
    “Who is…..”
    I didn’t get a chance to finish the question before a second tremor shook the shop. But this time it was different. Out of the windows I could see these huge triangular shapes appear in the sky, and people started running down the street, screaming, all coming from the direction of the huge sky triangles. Soon I saw why. In amongst the crowd there were these people, only they were not people. They looked like they had just appeared from a sci-fi movie. Bits of them were metal and they all walked in a very regimented fashion. They were shooting at people with these orange lasers, and random members of the crowd were just falling down as they were hit. I could move, I was so terrified. The next thing I know the barista had grabbed me and was dragging me bodily towards the staff area and the back exit.
    “Come on, we have to get out of here,” He said as we turned and ran.
    I could still hear the screaming ringing in my ears as we raced through the back door and into a small corridor in the back of the shop.
    “Wong Li An.” A grating metallic voice hit my ears and I felt shiver run down my spine. I looked over to my left, in the direction of the voice, and there they were. Cyborgs. They looked even scarier up close. The metal parts seemed to be bolted on, but the joins weren’t neat. There were twisted lumps of flesh all around the implants, as if they had had chunks taken off and replaced with the metal. The cyborg who had spoken stepped towards us and the barista pushed me behind him. I could hear the sound of the cyborgs breaking the window in the shop, we were surrounded. We were finished. We were going to die. I felt sick, my whole body was shaking and my hands felt numb.
    “Wong Li An” The cyborg spoke again. “You are in possession of MT-VS7. You are a threat to the Ascension and you must be eliminated.”
    The cyborgs raised their guns. The corridor was filled with an orange light. I screamed as the door burst open and the cyborgs swarmed in from the shop.
    Then, it happened.

    #20291

    Vampyrist
    Participant
    Adrian Wight
    Dowtown Hong Kong, the Higami-Bosch Building
    Invasion

    I scratched my elbow as the elevator rocketed forward. It had been itchy ever since I got that weird vaccine after Beijing. Apparently, some disease had been found in mainland China and another vaccine was in order. It was yet another to add to my hefty supply. About a dozen or so vaccines were already swirling through my blood and one more didn’t mean much of a difference. But this vaccine seemed different. The doctor looked shadier than usual and the syringe was weirdly square-shaped. That and the elbow injection point made the thing even weirder. The whole ordeal didn’t take that long, so I had forgotten about it, that is until this square mark on my arm wouldn’t stop itching.

    Ding, the elevator opens up on the tenth floor, having been only seconds since I entered the elevator. Higami-Bosch always got the best of the best. As I got out, I saw Takagi and did the standard salutations. Hello, how are the kids and all that jazz. I went to my office, checked with my secretary, and then I went to my 9:30 meeting, a standard get-together of the higherups to see how business was. Thankfully, business was good. Profits had finally risen for the first month since the recession and that means I’m good. My ass isn’t on the line and that means I get another year here in Hong Kong. First I was in London, then I was sent to Chicago, and finally I was here, assistant VP of production, Hong Kong. It felt good for hard work to pay off.

    I walked into the meeting room, a dozen of my colleagues around me, and I gazed out of the window. It was a clear day, with puffy clouds dancing on the azure sky. Finally, the meeting started. Business reports were passed around and profit margins and costs filled the air. Half of us began to doze off. While this was necessary, it didn’t mean that it was the most thrilling of meetings. It would soon become one they’d never forget.

    Then a roar began to engulf us. It started off as a dull hum and then it got louder and louder until it was the only thing left to hear. The room began to shake and then it all exploded. Glass flew everywhere as the things in the sky descended down upon the city. I was thrust upon the ground as the glass landed on top of me. A ring pervaded my ears as I lifted myself up, my body aching. I was on my feet when I saw what was outside the window. It nearly put me back down again. A triangular airship was floating outside of the window. It was something out of a science fiction flick. A horrible, horrible, flick. I gulped, whatever the hell was going on, it scared the shit of me. My senses regained themselves and I saw my colleagues also on the ground.

    “Takagi, Whitmore, anyone get up! We need to get out of here before it goes completely to shit.” I shout to anyone who will listen. They seem to groggily agree and we make our way out of the room. The whole floor was in chaos. People were screaming, papers were flying, and everything was in disarray. We made our way through this chaos and since the elevators were being clogged by my coworkers, so we made our way down ten flight of stairs. The fear made me forget that I was going down ten flights. I don’t think it bothered anyone else either. Finally, we burst out of the stairwell and into the lobby. Out of the Frying Pan and into the fire.

    The lobby, normally so clean, was charred and broken glass blanketed the floor. A man, or what I think was a man, stood, no, towered in the lobby. It was massively tall, its arms mechanically sleek and he was armored to the teeth. Its hand was gripping a massive gun which glowed orange. The orange glow illuminated its face, utterly human amongst the mountain of technology. A grin adorned the face, the wickedness seeping through his orange-white teeth. It raised its rifle and orange bursts flew out of it. The people they hit slumped down afterwards, looking like burned swiss cheese. We ran, as orange flew by us and everything went to hell. Explosions rocked our sides as I saw my friends go down, blood flying every which way. I ran out of the now open window and onto the street, which was even worse than the lobby.

    Fires were everywhere, people screamed and ran as they were being gunned down by more soldiers. I didn’t think about them or anyone else, I just needed to get somewhere safe. The soldiers fired every which way, their orange lasers killing everyone they touched. I ran and thought of home. Home, a place where I could be safe. Then I disappeared. I was suddenly in my apartment, twenty blocks away. I stumbled, my head whirring. My stomach was doing the tango and my head was hammering a nail. I stumbled forward a step, and I tasted blood coming from my nose. My legs turned to jelly and the ground said hello.

    #20294

    Herr D
    Participant
    Gina Lamprey
    subway tunnel, Hong Kong
    My Journey So Far

    Dear Diary [date redacted]: The new doctor said I have such a rare form of cancer that he got me on a special program. My chemo hasn’t gone well, and he says I can’t have anymore radiation. At least my hair’s growing back. The clinic gave me a special envelope, mailed all the way from Hong Kong to me! My friend Billy gave me eighty bucks so I can have plenty of food while I get set up there. The new doctor made sure my passport was okay, and gave me a taxi voucher to the airport. The experimental surgery will use robotic arms to point the lasers and is too expensive to do for everyone. My counselor says I should keep on keeping the diary even though I’m not so depressed now that I won’t die. He says it’s good for me.
    Dear Diary [date redacted]: The new doctor flew all the way with me and took me to the inoculation center near the charter plane. He gave me a funny-looking shot. I guess square needles are common in Hong Kong. I feel funny and am going to sleep now.
    Dear Diary [date redacted]: I woke. I looked at book to know how to speak. I spoke Chinese today. Just enough to find the hospital. I stole a suitcase from a hotel lobby. It was the right one. It had money for the cab. It had soft bulky clothes. It had a flashlight.
    I took the cab to the hospital. I waited until the right time. I walked in and re-con-fig-ured the rad-i-a-tion fre-quen-cies on the machine and broke the screen by hitting it on the counter. It broke just right. The doctor was never going to operate on me. I cured my cancer so my brain doesn’t have it anymore and never will again. I took the right pills from the cabinet there and went to the subway. I bought crackers and bottled water on the way. I faked coughing until everyone on my subway car got off and got under the seat. I put my head in the bulky soft clothes in the suitcase and waited for the accident. It wrecked and I was safe. I will finish writing this and take the pills I stole with some crackers and water. That means I will not be sick and will sleep until it is the right time. Then I will take the flashlight out and let the others know I am here. I do not think they are here yet.

    #20297

    Iscarioto
    Participant
    Released Communication Transcripts of Corporal Richard T. Henare, 5th Fleet Battalion, Ascension Legionnaire, 2nd Class.

    [Sections of this transcript have been redacted as per Transcendence Act 7, 2013, Section B. p32]

    New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction Team
    Bamyan Province, Afghanistan
    February – March, 2008

    From: LCPL Rick Henare [mailto:richard.henare@defence.govt.nz]
    Sent: Wednesday, 27 February 2008 6:29 p.m.
    To: Walter Henare
    Subject: Hey Dad

    Hey. How’s mum? I got the care package, thanks. Pineapple Lumps melted though, which is stink, because it’s negative 1 out. I mean, come on! Not your fault of course. Okay, So I have news, I’m leaving Bamyan. No, I’m not coming home, but I’ve been offered a promotion of sorts. One of those corporate contractor types, Stephens was his name, has gotten in touch to say he’s headhunted me. Nothing specific, just that I stood out. He’s offered me a role, just as an Ensign for now, in what he called the Ascension Project. Our CO doesn’t know much about it (is maybe a little skeptical, but I mean, it’s hard loosing team members) but believes it’s a weapons development project, UN sanctioned apparently. It could be a leg up. The pay is better, the opportunities. He said I could make Corporal in a year. No idea about deployment, but I may finally get off the field. A change of scene could do me good.

    Anyway, hope you guys are well, say hey to Brent and Lexi for me. http://www.heromachine.com/wp-content/legacy/forum-smileys/sf-smile.gif

    Cheers,
    Rick
    ________________________________________

    From: Walter Henare [mailto:henarewalt@yahoo.com]
    Sent: Thursday, 28 February 2008 5:49 a.m.
    To: Rick Henare
    Subject: Re: Hey Dad
    Son, are you sure about this one? I mean, it sounds like some kind of cheesy action movie plot line. And think about your career! My dad, myself, your siblings, we’ve all served the NZDF for all our lives. What country is this even for? A little bit of clarity would be nice, you can’t just accept it without reading the fine print! I brought you up a little smarter than that boy.

    From: Walter Henare
    Sent: Thursday, 28 February 2008 7:15 a.m.
    To: ‘Rick Henare’
    Subject: Re: Hey Dad

    Look, I know how excited you get about these things, but there is a bit to consider here. As your mum would like me to point out, you’re 28 next month, finish your tenure in Afghanistan and push the envelope upstairs, you wanted to get into intelligence, all your life you’ve talked about it, what changed? Money?

    Look, I don’t wanna come down on you. I’m just concerned.

    We all love you very much.

    From: LCPL Rick Henare [mailto:richard.henare@defence.govt.nz]
    Sent: Friday, 29 February 2008 11:24 a.m.
    To: Walter Henare
    Subject: Re: Re: Hey Dad

    I know, I know, but this role seems to be more R&D.

    Look, there was another raid on the Yankie camp last night, it’s just chaos here, no matter how much we rebuild, every relationship we repair, it just comes crumbling down. Our role here helps big time, I’m not doubting that. But I’m convinced the Ascension is going to help even more.

    I’ve gotten more details, nothing I can talk about, which is exciting in itself. All I know is I’m moving to a facility somewhere near Minsk which I had to look up myself anyway. So not warmer climates, but we’ll see what comes of it. I’m really excited about this dad, I’d like for you guys to be too.

    So I have another two weeks here before I have to say goodbye. I’m going to miss my squad, but they are all a little envious. Of what, well, we aren’t quite sure.

    ________________________________________________________________________________

    Ascension African Research Division
    Korhogo, Côte d’Ivoire
    December, 2008

    From: Rick [mailto: rickishere1138@gmail.com]
    Sent: Saturday, 6 December 2008 04:03 a.m.
    To: Walter Henare
    Subject: Updates

    Hey guys, how are you all? Give my love to the family. I’m at an undisclosed location doing some exciting work. I’ve spent a bit of time with the R&D department. Not sure how much I can tell you but we are doing some really interesting stuff with prosthesis and sensory augmentations, real cutting edge stuff which I think could actually make armed warfare a thing of the past. In saying that, I’ve volunteered to test them out on a field mission in the New Year. I’m pretty excited! Really revolutionary, I feel like I’m at the edge of this amazing new precipice. I’ve made friends with a scientist named Wolgast who is really ambitious and see’s so much potential for this in the medical world. Prosthetics are one thing, but some of the areas we are working on could really change the world. I mean, how do you get lung cancer if we just build you a new lung? Phenomenal.

    I think I can talk about our Commander and Chief Reischek, who’s a big deal in the media as far as I’m aware. What a guy, his vision for Ascension is inspiring. I really feel like my work here is making a difference. I’m a soldier first and foremost, and I’m craving getting back out there and doing what I’m best at, but right now, Reischek and this entity I work for are making the real difference.

    Not everything is so great now. So we are a multi-cultural bunch, but of course, typical aussies. My CO here is a man named Townsend, real meat head. And with the wrong ideals. I guess part of you was right in assuming the whole soldier-of-fortune merc thing. It’s uncommon, but there is always that one jerk-off that’s too trigger happy, that lives for the blood. One egg can’t spoil the whole dozen.

    Anyway, I’d better run, as you know communication has been sporadic, but if I can’t skype you before it, have an incredible Christmas! I hear Penny is coming up for it? Have a great time!

    All the best,
    Rick.

    ________________________________________________________________________________

    Message 11 of 15 sent to Henare through numerous channels.
    July – September, 2009

    From: Walter Henare [mailto:henarewalt@yahoo.com]
    Sent: Thursday, 2 July 2009 0:12 a.m.
    To: Rick Henare
    Subject: Son

    It’s been three months, for gods sake. We are worried. We haven’t had a call, an email, nothing. I don’t know how to contact you, DF gave no forwarding, you’ve given us nothing. You’ve said nothing since you were deployed to Somalia in April. Look, get in touch, your mother is very sick, and part of me places the blame on you. I’ve always maintained, family first, even before career, you know that.
    Just let me know you’re okay.
    ________________________________________

    Undeliverable:
    Mail Delivery System [MAILER-DAEMON@mail75-18.dmzglobal.net]
    To: Rick Henare
    Sent: Thursday, 2 July 2009 0:12 a.m.
    Delivery has failed to these recipients or distribution lists:
    rickishere1138@gmail.com
    An error occurred while trying to deliver this message to the recipient’s e-mail address. Microsoft Exchange will not try to redeliver this message for you. Please try resending this message, or provide the following diagnostic text to your system administrator.

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    [94.125.25.25] #< [94.125.25.25] #5.0.0 smtp; 5.1.0 - Unknown address error 550-"5.1.1 The email account that you tried to reach does not exist. Please tryn5.1.1 double-checking the recipient's email address for typos orn5.1.1 unnecessary spaces. ________________________________________________________________________________

    5th Fleet Battalion, Ascension Legionnaire African Research Division
    Mogadishu, Somalia
    October, 2011

    From: ASC E.11506 [mailto:11506.ACSF5.8@ASCINT.MU]
    Sent: Friday, 7 October 2011 9:10 p.m.
    To: Walter Henare
    Subject: I’m Sorry

    Dad, Mum, I hope you guys are okay. I’m sorry, ever since we arrived here we have had to go dark, I’m on an opp I can’t talk about, but some heavy shit has gone down. I don’t know. I’m worried you might have been right. This isn’t what I thought it would be. I hope you guys are okay, just know that I’m alright. I’m going to be fine. I love you both so much, give my love to Brent and Lexi, I hope they are doing well too. I’ll try to keep in touch. This channel is limited, if you reply within 36 hours it will still be viable.

    I love you

    ________________________________________

    From: Walter Henare [mailto:henarewalt@yahoo.com]
    Sent: Sunday, 9 October 2011 7:52 p.m.
    To: ASC E.11506
    Subject: Re: I’m Sorry

    Your mother died two months ago.

    Don’t come home.

    ________________________________________
    ________________________________________

    Neural Link Recording, Aural Excerpt Partition 7.15G
    Unit: Legionnaire CPL R. T. Henare ASC M.11506.EMK
    5th Fleet Battalion, Ascension Legionnaire, 2nd Class.
    Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
    November 12 2013, 1:52pm

    [Henare] Boss, we’ve taken the flank, they aren’t fighting back, where to?
    [weapons discharge]
    [Henare] Boss! Leave him, he’s dead, what’s our status?
    [Townsend] He can die when I fucking tell him to! Keep firing!
    [Henare] At what! Times Square has fallen, do we proceed to the MTR system?
    [Henare] Boss?
    [Malcolm] He’s spotted something.
    [Townsend] Boy, there really is something about these jippo girls.
    [Malcolm] Ah… That’s not only culturally innacu…
    [Townsend] That alley, forward.
    [Henare] We’re following? But we’ll compromi..
    [Townsend] Fuck up! Take the alley.
    [Henare] [muffled] what the fuck am I doing here.
    [Malcolm] [muffled] He’s got his rape face on again.
    [Henare] [muffled] This isn’t right. We’re sposed to contain the locals, not hunt them
    [Malcolm] [muffled] He’s a Version Six, what the hell are we supposed to do.
    [Henare] [muffled] This is getting out of hand.

    2:34pm

    [rustling noises]
    [Unknown Female] Wo bu yong! Qing Bang Wo!
    [screams]
    [Townsend] Shut the fuck up you sl…
    [Henare] [muffled] This isn’t fucking right.
    [Malcolm] [muffled] Quiet, he’ll kill us both, he’s unhinged.
    [more screams, seemedly muffled. A loud crack][Henare] He’s raping her, I didn’t sign up for this.
    [Unknown Female] [Help me, please help!]
    [a loud clatter, followed by the ignition of augmented melee blade]
    [a thud, followed by gurgling]

    [Henare] Go! Run!
    [Malcolm] You.. You fucking killed him.
    [Henare] We have to get out of here.
    [Malcolm] No, no no they monitor this, they know what you’ve done.
    [Henare] I’ve done what’s right.
    [Malcolm] You’ve murdered your Superior Officer.
    [Henare] Scott, you know me, you know this was right. I had to stop him.
    [Malcolm] Rick, I.. I have to take you in.
    [Henare] Think about it, The Ivory Coast, Somalia, Nome, Khandahar. Something is wrong with this, someth…
    [a firearm loads]
    [Henare] Scott.. Wait…
    [sprinting footsteps, followed by weapon fire]

    –End of Transmission–
    #20384

    prswirve
    Participant

    Well this one’s inspired by a recent read….. This may not be included but i like the theme though so i’ll post it anyway…



    New York
    YEARS after the WAR:

    Different colors streaked the skies as F-18 fighters showed off strike maneuvers, breaking the speed of sound a couple times over, roaring thunderclaps. “Daddy!”, the little girl screamed as she cringed from the explosions. “Please take me home!”.

    Orange and rainbow colors burst against the starless night sky as fireworks explode, eerily resembling the orange laser cannon discharges of the triangular Ascension warships. Remembering the battles of genocidal level he’s forced to watch as a boy, helpless…

    “We’re here to celebrate Heroes’ Day, Little Darling.. Not just yet..”

    His daughter calmed in his arms as he picked her up and held her tight.
    The F-22 Raptors dipped and whirl synchronously. Perfect unison.

    “Dad?”

    “Honey?”

    “Why do we celebrate this day, Daddy?”

    “Heroes day?” His little girl’s lips pouted and he couldn’t help but smile. Anything wrong she hated to get. But with his head he motioned to the flying fighters, prompting her to look above again. “Heroes give their lives to protect those they love. That’s how we won the war against the Machines.”

    A sudden lump of sadness rose in his throat, made him pause. “Protecting our people, your grandma died. We were losing the war. The Legionnaires were too strong. And we were outnumbered. Our petty weapons are no match for theirs. Couldn’t even get through their armor and shields. But your Grandma had a brave and generous idea. You know, she’s an “empty vessel”. As much as she was strong, her powers had their limits. Taking down two legionnaires with brute strength, she noticed that those triangular ships above were what actually controlled the legionnaire’s shields. But the ships were impenetrable with our missiles and guns. Unless….

    “She flew one of the F-22’s, along with the other pilots. She crashed her fighter into one of the Ascension ships, as she thought maybe a whole fighter plane could break through. It worked and it blew their ships. The rest followed through. It was a tearful sight, as F-22’s crashed onto the triangular ships. And the Legionnaires were unable to fight with those warriors, glad with dying to save everyone else.”

    The little girl’s eyes wide and shining watched the fighters showing off above them, in a military display. In his arms she sat tall. “And I am named after Grandma?”

    “Your name. You are named after a hero.”

    “I wanna be one, too.”

    “Like grandma?”

    “Yes, I wanna be a hero, too.”

    He smiled at her as his daughter looked at him with a serious expression on her face, a perfect mirror image of her grandma.

    But he blinked back tears when she looked away.

    He hoped that his little girl never got a chance to be a hero.

    #20395

    Alexander of Limbo
    Participant

    Mr. Reaper’s Situation Assessment

    So far things are moving accordingly. It was simply a matter of time until ascension began to move, and my pieces are already in place. Even so it will be quite some time until check mate. My pawns may be more easy to move, it’s the other pieces which may prove more difficult. I have chosen my pieces wisely, each individual will strengthen my cause without even knowing it.

    Terrance Anders was easy to infuse, no alarms in his apartment, a heavy sleeper. I picked a hunched and grotesque sewer rat of a man for this job. A word in his ear is all it took for him to administer the “Empty Vessel” into Mr Anders. His possition in the New Zealand Consulate may come in handy at a later date, and his ability… truly magnificent. It was however onset by guilt, he blamed himself for the death of that woman. I don’t want the man to become a “hero”. There’s a woman involved… i must remember to seize her.

    Shu Ji. Now i have great plans for him. He has nothing to lose and everything do give. Family killed by Ascension, imprisoned for life and now on a war path headed straight for Ascension. He should find no qualms joining me, i may even meet him face to face, recruit him myself. He is another with an amazing ability. Enhanced senses may have a downside though. Perhaps sun glasses and earmuffs should be prepared. Wouldn’t that be a terrifying sight.

    Kate Quinn was implanted, but that fool of a barista cut it too close. I must however wonder how Ascension got to him that fast. I smell a rat, maybe it’s time to replace my staff.

    I am hesitant about Adrian Wight. His ability reflects my opinion of him. He ran. Coward. but of coarse i do need my own little bishops, troops who attack from the side, who sneak. I can spare him a few more chances, after all i feel that as a Major shareholder of his employers i should be forgiving to staff. But he could become a liability. I could kill him, bu telliportation is a rare one, and the others who had it didn’t quite come out of the other side whole.

    Gina Lamprey… now she is a curious one. She took the suitcase so willingly, she is one of the most easily persuadable people i have ever met. I may just cut her loose to see if she can even survive without someone telling her what to do.

    And lastly: my personal curiosity, my pet project, that Triad. Pyrokenisis is very enjoyable for him and he a testament to the Triads alliance. He’s bringing everyone together quite nicely.

    (hope people don’t mind me tacking liberties with their stories, if they disrupt your plans for your characters we can just scrap some bits)

    #20506

    Alexander of Limbo
    Participant

    The light i the room is dim, it flickers every now and then. The steel seat in the middle of the room is occupied by a young man bent over, possibly unconscious, facing the two way mirror on the far wall. He is wearing a blue hoodie and tracksuit bottoms. Metallic clicks indicate the shiny metal door opening and a figure enters. She puts a trey down on the floor next to the man in the hoodie, and unlocks the cuffs keeping him attached to his chair.

    Suddenly the man grabs her exposed arm and a faint light transfers from his hand to hers. Her breathing becomes fast and her hands set ablaze. The man points her hand at the Mirror just as a jet of flame leaves it and the glass melts. There is no one present behind it, so he knocks the woman unconscious and leaves. As he gets outside an alarm goes off but he notices other doors much like his. Opening each one he finds others chained up, some are chained to such degrees that they could hardly move. He frees all of them. They run down corridors and up stairs until they reach what looks like the mouth of a subway exit. In front of them a dozen armed men, each one disfigured and armed with robotic limbs. As the soldiers surround the party the man in the blue hoodie notices some of his new comrades trying to do things, odd things. Be it throwing their hands out at the enemy or just concentrating so hard that their eyes screwed up.

    Suddenly a voice comes from the subway mouth “Kill them. Leave the Conduit”.

    Several men are now sitting around a large round chrome table, the monitor at one side of the room shows a man in a blue hoodie, chained to a wall. One grey haired man sits forwards and address a young blonde haired man with a sharp suit.
    “Eugen my boy this is your time to tell us why you left the one prisoner who escaped our facilities and also caused the escape of 39 Empty Vessel specimens. Make it Good”
    “You have all seen the tapes i presume?” He sounds quite British but their is no hiding the German undertones. After getting a general consensus of ‘yes’ he continues. “Well then you’d have noticed that his manifestation is-“
    “Is extremely dangerous” cut off by another board member, Eugen waits patiently, “A specimen who can endow others with the effects of empty vessel is in no way someone whom we should keep alive. Keeping this ‘Code-name: Conduit’ alive any longer is simply not a matter that should even be discussed” The man finished with a fist bang on the table.
    Eugen continues, “I was speaking of the other manifestation… Did no one find it odd that of the 39 escaped specimens not on managed to work their manifestation.” Eugen takes a remotes and shows playbacks of the Conduit releasing other prisoners. “whats the one thing you notice when he helps these people escape, hmmm?” he pauses for effect, making his cohorts appear unintelligent. “Skin contact” he answers for them. “It would appear to me that his ability works both ways… How long has it been now since we started this attack? Has it been the planned 2 day takeover that we wanted? No! 2 weeks and we are still struggling, and all because of these ‘Empty Vessels’ and their damned crusade. Now if my theory is correct then a specimen who can take away these manifestations would be a very powerful tool indeed.”
    “And what if you’re wrong?” interjects the previous troublemaker “And just exactly how permanent are the effects of his manifestation, we know that before we executed Ms. Fisher she could no longer produce fire. How long is it until the ’empty vessels’ regain their manifestations?”
    Eugen takes a sip from his glass of water and simply says “It doesn’t matter. Once they no longer posses the manifestations they are no match for our walkers. And once every one of them is dead we can then remove the Conduit from the equation as well”

    #20568

    Iscarioto
    Participant

    This passage was co-authored by myself and Herr D.

    As soon as Terrence Anders put away his pad and pen, it became apparent that they group wouldn’t be leaving quite so soon after all. Squabbles had broken out between this survivor and that, with no clear consensus. Should they stay or should they go? So, thinking this as good a time as any, he decided to light up one last cigarette for the road. If those abominations at the street level, or the threat of a wall of ocean drowning them out weren’t going to kill them, second hand smoking probably would. He decided to take his chances. I chill came across his shoulders as he surveyed the room from behind his veil of nicotine. It was getting cold down here. His blood-stained business shirt did little to warm him, physically or mentally. Never the less, he pulled it tighter. He had been trying to make assessments of each of those sharing his experience down here in the blood vessels of Hong Kong city. There was the street urchin who had arrived in the last hour, quite an entrance indeed, he had somehow managed to bring with him a detached arm of one of the soldiers, and his upper torso armour and helmet. How a boy of that size had managed to carry that here, who knows? But, Terrence thought to himself, knowing is half the battle, and if we’re able to analyse what exactly these things are, it could give us an edge. His last smoke had burned to its butt. It was going to be a long night.

    The entire night had passed before the decision came for them to move. Terrence had found little sleep, few else did, but he filled this time trying to actually talk to the others in the group. No more sitting in the corner alone, feeling glum. Thinking of the girl he left behind. Time to be social. His effort proved reasonably fruitful. Everyone had something to offer, and everyone seemed to be trustworthy, even the Triad. What’s more, nearly all of the survivors seemed to exhibit some form of special talent, like this was the official Party Trick Convention of 2013. They each dealt with this in their own way. He was still trying to come to terms with his own. Whatever the case, he felt comfortable, considering the circumstances.

    No more cigarettes, Terrence habitually twirled his pen between his fingers, as his attention turned that one woman, sitting across from him, who he just couldn’t sum up. The one named ‘Gina.’ As if she knew his thoughts, he noticed the mysterious woman was staring right back at him.
    “I need your help” she spoke suddenly, with perfect diction and controlled words, like she had been planning for this conversation her whole life. “I am making-a list. Someone here will die, soon, if you don’t prevent it. I can’t do it alone.”
    “A list?” He breathed. “I don’t, I don’t understand?”
    As if her very actions were whispers, she removed a small diary from her pocket, along a flashlight, which she then ignited, replacing the blue ballpoint pen in his hand with it. “Please, hold the light for me.”
    The Triad spoke next. “Ting, deng yixia. Wo xiang ta bu hao de yisi. (Wait a minute, I don’t think she’s quite all there.)”
    Terrence, realising the native Cantonese speaker was probably about as good at mandarin as he was, pieced together a response. “Mei guanxi, wo yao ting yi ting. (Give her a minute, I want to hear what she says.)” He took the light from her hands, doing his best to hold it steady above the paper as she wrote. Minutes passed, and his ‘smokers shake’ made the beam increasingly unsteady. “Who’s going to die?” he asked, wearily.
    “Most of us. This has to be done quickly and right.” She tore the page out and passed it quickly to Terrence. “Wait one moment,” she uttered as she pulled a well-worn and cracked digital watch off of her arm, fiddling with the alarm settings. “When this beeps, be on the left side of the tunnel.” She placed it on his wrist. “Please lead us that way, to the Causeway Bay Station.”
    “What happens in,” he paused to look at the dimly illuminated LCD display, “17 minutes?”
    “And thirty-one seconds.”
    He nods. “Yeah.”
    “Those of us who are unhurt and alive will be on the left side of the tunnel.”
    “Sounds legit.” It didn’t sound legitimate to him at all, but pushing logic aside, somehow he felt like he could trust her, like he needed to trust her. “Okay, but you lead,” he insisted as he raised the little torch to shine the way.

    The tunnel-dwellers decided safety in numbers was the way to go. Not without squabbles, a consensus was reached, and they were off on their way. Nobody had taken a proper head count, a task which Terrence reminded himself he should probably get to. The rumbles above reverberated along the walls of the tunnel, bringing dust and usually small debris down with them.

    Five minutes had passed when a large blast above the surface brought several large fragments of the ceiling down, blocking their path back. They were lucky, they knew. If they had not have left when they did, they would have been sealed in. The Triad whispered of a Rat colony back in Wan Chai, which no doubt would have been all over them given the commotion. Perhaps this mysterious woman knew what she was on about. Terrence glanced down at the watch. It had been seventeen minutes. Panic struck, how had he forgotten to pay closer attention? A moment before the beep, Gina casually stepped to the left, covering her nose and mouth.
    “Get to the left!” Terrence yelled, throwing himself against the damp tunnel wall. A single section of the tunnel ceiling thundered to the ground, centimeters from the group. In all it was less than a quarter ton, containing no other debris except for dust. The woman paused, momentarily before continuing on.
    “Rats are coming behind us.” She warned, increasing her pace. The group was dismayed, but followed suit. They each knew that this was not the first indescribable thing to happen since this ordeal began, and likely not the last.
    “Well,” Terrence thought, “guess there’s nowhere to go but forward.” He noticed the small urchin boy had not brought the armour with him. A pity, but one to be pondered over later. Terrence sped to a jog to reach the mysterious seer. “Um, Gina, right?”
    She nodded.
    “How is it you know these things?”
    “What things?”
    “It’s like you knew that the tunnel would collapse, you knew about the rats, I mean, the Tri..”
    “You know the tunnel collapsed,” she interjected, giving him a quizzical look.
    “Huh? Well yeah, I mean, it’s happened now.”
    “Uh huh.”
    Terrence looked back at the group, bemused. The one in the inmates fatigues, Shu Ji was his name, gave him a shrug, before waving at him to keep trying. “But how did you know before it happened?”
    “Know what?” She replied whimsically.
    “That the tunnel would collapse!”
    She suddenly looked alarmed, and spun around to investigate. “The tunnel’s going to collapse? It’s not time for that yet.”
    “No, the tunnel’s not going to..” He raised his eyebrows. “Wait, what, you mean it will later?”
    She nods, and returns to walking. ”We’re behind schedule,” she whispers, increasing her pace.

    Before long, they found themselves at Exit A of the Causeway Bay station. Terrence remembered this exit lead to one of the larger, more bustling malls on Hong Kong Island. It was where he’d found himself on his first day here, four years prior. “No time to dwell on the past now,” he thought to himself. As they crept slowly up the unpowered escalator to avoid detection, the horrors of the outside world became a reality.
    “Big mall, big morgue,” whispered one of the American tourists. This was not inaccurate. Bodies lined the promenade, littered around in an almost orderly fashion, as if they were being used to spell out macabre messages to the warship hovering miles above. Being temporarily in the open worked as a filter for the group’s perceptions; getting to cover took priority, forcing them to think objectively, and disregard the bloodshed before their eyes. They tried not to notice the innocent casualties which littered the atrium, but in doing so they too did not register the unusual amount of dead soldiers scattered between them.
    “We need to stay out of sight,” Shu Ji insisted, directing the followers to dart one by one up the second escalator into the mall itself.
    Second to last to make the run, Terrence noticed that the urchin boy was now wearing the helmet, several sizes to big. Strange, how had he not noticed him carrying it?

    Any hesitations on entering a closed off mall proved unnecessary. This once bustling shopping metropolis was a ghost town.
    Without a word, the mysterious woman lead them upwards to the ninth floor. Without giving a specific reason, as they passed the Giga-sports store she stopped. “We are here.” She turned to gaze at Terrence. “Terrence has a list of my instructions. You must remain here and follow them precisely. Questions rose from the group.
    “It is the only way you will survive. I must go, but I will return.”
    “Maybe I should come with you, it’s not smart to go out there alone,” Shu Ji suggested.
    “If you follow me now, you will die.” And with that, she spun on her heels and disappeared out the door.
    Terrence removed the scrap of paper from his pocket. It read:

    “Take all 18k gold and all silver from jewellery counter next door. You’ll find more around neck of the dead woman caught in the elevator between the 2nd and 3rd floor.
    In the basement food court you will find some vegetable oil.
    Next, go to level two and find:
    One large aluminium pot
    Wax paper
    A tablecloth
    Several potholders
    On level three:
    One case of masking tape from office supply
    The Tiffany chandelier off ceiling of design store
    Ladders, dustpans, hammers, tongs, and other tools can be found in a maintenance closet beside the restrooms on this floor.
    Next, you will need to melt the jewellery in the aluminium pot. Don’t melt the pot. The Triad will supply the fire.
    Lay out the wax paper. Crumble the broken colored glass from chandelier into the molten metal.
    Remove clusters of metal-coated glass with the tongs and place on wax paper. About the size of a grape.
    The paper and the floor will char, and the pot will scratch. This is okay.
    Wave smoke into vents. AC is not working. That is okay.
    Make balls of masking tape. Fist-sized. Wait until after dusk.
    Go to roof. Point the Westernmost satellite dish due east. Stick tape balls all over surface of the dish. Use tongs and pliers to stick cooled balls of metal and glass to tape balls. Coat the antenna on the dish with vegetable oil.
    Go to level 5 immediately upon completion. None must linger on any floor above.”

    “Well, who’s keen for a little shopping?” Terrence joked.

    From an electronics store a floor above, Rick Henare watched with his one good eye. His one human eye. Dried blood and the ooze of cooled solder coated the right of his face, where the ‘aug’ used to be, from where they used to see. He should have been in incredible pain, but he’d learned how to tune out, how to suppress. Somalia, yes, that was when he’d realised the pain suppressants were not only for physical anguish. But he no longer needed them, he didn’t need anything from Ascension. Not anymore. His new arms and his new legs still seemed to function, and his tracer beacon was safely soaking in the deep fryer at the KFC two blocks away. The stolen trench-coat from Zara a few floors down was merely for the aesthetic. He would be incognito, for now.

    Those whom he watched were clearly organised. They could be a threat, perhaps more so than the squads being sent after him. Those that lay jumbled ten floors below. Perhaps an introduction was in order.

    #20621

    Vampyrist
    Participant

    Knives seemed to jump upon my head, going deep into my brain before leaving as soon as they came. Finally, I opened my eyes and the pain seemed to dissipate into a very painful headache. Groggily, I got up, my body sore. I was still hazy, the pain and the throbbing increasing my confusion. How did I get here? Did I faint? And how long have I been out? Stumbling my way to the window, it came back all too suddenly. The memories flooded back, the airships, the cyborgs, and death all remained outside of his window. Mondas seemed to have descended upon Hong Kong.

    And I had missed most of it apparently. From the time, it appeared that I had been out for three hours. I had been running from the chaos, from the monsters of machine and flesh, and then I was just here at home. I had traversed miles in seconds and once I stepped into this time warp, nothing would ever be the same. Too much was going on at once. Outside the world was being invaded and inside, I can teleport. Yesterday, I was just an Englishman in Hong Kong for business and now I’m in Normandy on D-Day.

    Suddenly, there’s a booming outside in the hallway. An orange glow pervades through my keyhole. Oh shit! PHHH PHHH PHHH orange orbs cut into my room exploding everywhere. Time seems to slow down as I see one of the orange balls coming for me and then it isn’t. It happened again. I was in my apartment, about to become swiss cheese, and now I was in the mall. It was a place I went to feel closer to home. The mall was so western in an eastern land. Among the Cinnabon, Old Navy, and Gap, I felt like I was back at home. That was probably the reason why I showed up here when things got rough.

    I stumbled, that now familiar feeling of reassembly making it hard to stand. I made my way to a counter, nearly tripping on the fallen clothesracks and the blood. The stench of death hit all at once. Death was everywhere, bodies of young and old, men and women were everywhere, their blood coating the walls like a new coat of paint. My throat pulled up and I could feel my breakfast coming back up. Then again, I was so disoriented, anything would’ve caused me to throw up. I regained my grip, my headache intensifying and my nose still pouring. I walked out of the store carefully, avoiding bodies and cautious for those mechanized monsters. As I got out of the store, which appeared to be a Men’s Wearhouse, I saw other survivors, scrabbling together random crap like they were some sort of Macgyver. I knew I’d be better off watching them, but people were people and I figured I was better off with company then alone in this fight. So I called out a “Hello”.

    #20668
    JR19759
    JR19759
    Keymaster

    So, to recap, my life has become majorly weird since I arrived in Hong Kong for what was meant to be a nice relaxing holiday. First there is a mini earthquake and then there is an invasion of evil cyborgs. Right now I’m stuck around the back of a coffee shop with a complete stranger surrounded by gun wielding cyborgs and I think I’m going to be sick.
    My entire body is shaking. My hands feel really weird, as if the bones are being rearranged very slowly, but it doesn’t hurt. My stomach feels awful and there is a ringing in my ears so bad I can’t hear the cyborgs guns being set to kill or whatever (if they even have settings).
    Then it hits me, my stomach spasms, causing me to fall to my knees. Even over the ringing in my ears I hear the lasers shooting above my head, where my chest would have been a few seconds ago. My hands have started to hurt, my nails pulling at the skin of my fingers. I open my eyes and stare at them. To my horror, my nails are elongating and curving, becoming much thicker, almost claw like. My stomach spasms again and out of the corner of my eye I see the body of the barista slump to the ground beside me. My entire body starts to go numb and my mind becomes foggy. I can feel something else bubbling up from my subconscious.
    The cyborgs are advancing on me; I can see their shadows and their feet as the draw closer. Then my mind changes, as if some primal animal instinct takes over. It happens so swiftly I’m not really sure I know what is going on. I remember leaping up, slashing out at the nearest cyborgs with the claws on my hands. It all seems blurry, but I know that none of the cyborgs survived, because when I regained my mind they were all lying on the floor in various different pieces, with long claw marks covering what’s left of their armor. I look down at my hands. They have returned to normal. My t-shirt is covered in a mixture of blood, oil and coffee. I’ll definitely need to replace it after I get out of this mess, although I doubt many of the shops are open at the moment.
    Oh God, that guy, the barista. I rush over to him, but he is dead. His body is covered in scorch marks and dried blood from the lasers, but he looks so peaceful. Then I notice something, a piece of paper folded up in his hand. I carefully remove it and am taken aback when I see it has my name written on it. I open it up and begin to read.

    To Kate Quinn
    You do not know me but I know you, my name is Wong Li An and our meeting today was not a chance meeting. You have been dosed with an experimental drug known as Empty Vessel. If my plan has gone wrong and you are reading this note, then I am dead and you will know what the effects of Empty Vessel are. You are needed.
    In my right trouser pocket you will find a small earpiece. If you put this in your ear it will translate speech from Mandarin to English for you, and your speech to Mandarin. We were aware of your problems in learning the language so this precaution was a necessary one.
    You must find Ge Hong, the creator of Empty Vessel. He will help you. You must be brave. And you must run.

    I screw up the note and shove it in my pocket. I then look over the dead body in front of me. I didn’t really want to go into the pockets of a dead man, it felt wrong, but I guess I had to. If the guy I was meant to be finding didn’t speak English, it would be much easier using the earpiece than my rubbish Chinese. I quickly slipped my hand into his pocket and grabbed this small metallic earpiece. It looked kind of like a futuristic in-ear headphone. Luckily it wasn’t damaged (or dirty, that would have been nasty), so I stuck it into my right ear.
    As I got to my feet and waded my way through the bodies of the cyborgs my mind switched back to the note. What exactly this guy going to help me with exactly? Was he going to get rid of this Empty Vessel stuff from my body, or was it something to do with these cyborgs. I prayed that it wasn’t the later as I stepped out onto the street.
    The street was deserted, bar the corpses of the unfortunate people who weren’t quick enough to escape the cyborgs. Luckily there didn’t seem to be any of them around, so I ran across the street and down an alleyway and out of sight. Those triangle ships were still hovering above the streets, so I didn’t want to take the chance of being seen and attacked, especially as I’m not entirely sure how to get back those claws.
    I started to walk, starting my search for this Ge Hong, where ever and who-ever he is. As I walked I noticed a large mall off at the end of one of the streets. I smiled to myself. It would be nice to get a new t-shirt, but I have more important things to do at the moment. Anyway, those cyborgs are more likely to search for survivors in places where lots of people congregate. So I kept walking.

    A Number Of Hours Later

    I’m most definitely lost now. I’ve been walking for I don’t know how many hours and all I’ve managed to do is realize a map would have been a good idea. At least I’ve had something to eat. Luckily the shops are all abandoned. I grabbed myself some food and left the money by the till (it’s not like I’m a thief). The sun set as I sat down for my makeshift meal. I had reached the harbor by now and I had found myself a nice little spot to sit. It’s funny, but here you wouldn’t think there was anything going on at all, it just seems normal. I haven’t seen a single cyborg in hours.
    ‘Katherine Quinn. You are wanted by Ascension. You will come with us.’
    Just my luck. I looked over my shoulder to where the voice had come from and, of course, a whole squad of them, at least a dozen. Me and my big mouth.
    ‘You will comply or you will be eliminated.’
    I could feel the effects of that Empty Vessel stuff starting to happen again. My stomach tightened and my body felt numb, as if I was going to be sick. I looked down at my hands and I was surprised that they still looked normal.
    The cyborgs advanced on me, raising their guns. The leader spoke again.
    ‘You have three seconds to comply or you will be eliminated. This is your final warning.’
    As he spoke, sparks started to flicker between my fingers. I smiled to myself. Not exactly what I was expecting, but it’ll do. I stood up and smiled at the cyborgs.
    ‘Not this time boys.’
    I raise my hands and huge arcs of electricity shot from my hands, wrapping themselves around the cyborgs. Grating, metallic shrieks filled the air as the cyborgs twitched and spasmed, their flesh burning and their robotic parts short-circuiting and flashing. Soon they all dropped to the ground, dead, and the electricity faded away.
    I breathed a sigh of relief as the effects of Empty Vessel released their grip on my body and I turned back to the sunset.
    Then a sharp pain shot across the back of my head and I fell forwards, unconscious.

    Some Time Later

    When I woke up my head was pounding. I could feel a welt starting to rise on the back of my head. Someone must have hit me with something.
    I suddenly realized that I wasn’t in the same place anymore. I was in a building of some kind, possibly on of the warehouses on the harbor, judging by the large crates pilled up the walls. Then I noticed I wasn’t alone. I was surrounded by people, Chinese men, all dressed in black with red gloves on. One, I’d assume the leader, approached me. I shuffled backwards across the floor until my back was pressed against one of the crates. The man kneeled down until he was at eye level with me and he seemed to study me for a minute before he spoke.
    ‘”
    I was slightly taken aback. The translator thing worked. I cast around in my mind for an answer, but none presented its self, so I decided to go for the obvious question.
    ‘[Who are you?]’ I asked, hoping the translator would mean he could understand me.
    The man stood up and his compatriots moved forward until I was totally surrounded.
    ‘[My name is Yi Quantou,]’ he said proudly as he gestured to the other men, ‘[and we are the Crimson Hand.]’

    #20899

    Iscarioto
    Participant
    Status Report from Alpha Phase Supervision Unit 327-B.
    Hong Kong: 1300hrs, Day Two of Ground Assault
    To: Jonathon Reischek, CAC, Ascension Project.

    Commander, please find below the latest reports from the field, in plain English as advised.

    5th Battalion, Regiments 1, 3 and 5 – Hong Kong Island: The advance force has captured a foothold on Hong Kong Island. Defenses have been stabilized in:
    Admiralty
    Wan Chai
    Stanley
    Victoria Peak
    Wan Tsui
    Repulse Bay
    Chai Wan.
    We have also established a foothold at three points on Lantau Island, and have secured Chek Lap Kok International Airport. Alpha Phase Tactical Unit 3A are to desecrate Lantau Island’s Buddha Monument at 1730 hours as ordered.

    There remains only one fortification left to secure; unfortunately we lost a unit in Times Square, Causeway Bay. It appears one of our combat platforms, CPL Richard T. Henare – ASC M.11506.EMK, 5th Fleet Battalion, has gone rogue. Platform LCPL Scott E. J. Malcolm – ASC M.15529.DFS, also of 5th Fleet attempted to apprehend the rogue, however Henare’s feed was destroyed in the progress. His whereabouts and status are unknown. Any attempts to recover his beacon have thus far failed, however it is unlikely he would be able to shut it down himself. Units from Wan Chai are currently being diverted to investigate, and LCPL Malcolm has reported to Frigate Undaunted 17G for interrogation and debrief. Interrogation is in process, but recovered audio from CPL Henare’s feed before termination indicates that Squad Leader CPL Thomas F. Townsend ASC O.00955.HLM had been involved in a physical altercation with an unidentified female, to which CPL Henare intervened, resulting in CPL Townsend’s apparent death. A technical error has stalled the process of video retrieval from LCPL Malcolm’s EPL implant, but his testimony and the restored data content should provide further details in the coming hours.
    3rd Battalion are moving to retake Causeway Bay as we speak.

    Fifth Battalion, 7th Regiment – Kowloon: 7th Regiment have started their assault on Kowloon, but resistance is heavy and our casualties are growing. So far, reported engagements with MT-VS7 users appear to be lower than expected across the campaign, but, as reported previously there seem to be an unusually high concentration in Tsim Sha Tsui. 7th Regiment have sustained the loss of four full squads to two natives who appear to be father and daughter. They are currently entangled in a standoff at the Peninsula Hotel. The father seems to exhibit an alchemistic ability, as units have reported sighting strange manipulations of various materials. The daughter appears to move incredibly fast, which may imply advanced speed, teleportation or time manipulation. Walker Unit 847-L are en-route across Victoria Harbor, but if the pair here hold out against them we may need to look at more severe methods.

    Status Readout
    Total deployment as at Day Two, 1200hrs
    1,280 total Ground Troops
    16 Walker Units
    7 Capital-Class Battle Cruisers
    16 Frigates
    A further 8 Capital-Class Cruisers are awaiting confirmation for deployment off the coast of Manila. Intended travel time upon confirmation: 3 hours. Total 1,500 additional troops.

    Aside from cases mentioned, we have faced little resistance so far:
    Confirmed civilian casualties: 28,667
    Confirmed Military and Defense casualties: 3,433
    Total Ascension Forces casualties: 47, with two unconfirmed casualties and Grade 3 or higher damages to 188 troops.

    We have determined 61 instances of contact with MT-VS7 practitioners.
    48 confirmed captured, (40 of which were detained in the hours prior to the invasion transferred to the Overwatch Project.)
    6 confirmed kills
    7 evaded captivity.
    Naturally, these engagements are expected to increase.
    Facilities at Overwatch are currently on lock-down due to what I am only told is an anomaly, so any remaining captives are being assessed for malleability or scheduled for execution at respective Defense Barricades.

    While the engagement numbers remain low, 46 of the 47 casualties sustained have been at the hands of MT-VS7s. In one instance it is reported a young foreign female eliminated an entire squad single-handedly. Intelligence suggests sheer numbers may be the best solution until Advanced units are ready for deployment, but the humidity is continually interfering with our communications, leading to delays of up to a minute in transmissions, a window of time which presents too great an opportunity for hostiles to pick our units off before help can arrive.

    On a brighter note, Beta Phase Advance Class Unit AM12 in Monaco should be ready for deployment in 13 days, totaling 11,035 fully trained and upgraded units. Reports confirm Hong Kong, Kowloon, the New Territories and the Chinese Border are on track to be secured in three days. Project Overshadow will commence immediately following, to hold a state of martial law until Beta Phase arrives, in preparation for Mainland assault. European Research Division has confirmed your request to increase dosage of FF-94 to all Beta Phase units, and to sterilize all male units to ensure dependency. Comm upgrades should allow for swifter transfer of data, which should negate the backup issues we have been facing while encountering MT-VS7s.

    Always on the up,
    IDT F. M. Davros, Alpha Phase Supervision Unit 327-B

    #21117

    Iscarioto
    Participant

    In a blinding flash of light, another survivor appeared. The Triad was the only one who actually reacted, dropping into stance, hands aflame. Bewilderment still seemed to have a hold over the rest of their group.
    “I mean you no harm, I, I think I’m one of you,” Adrian spluttered.
    “And what makes you think that?” The Triad spoke, somehow suddenly capable of fluent English.
    “Well, partly the inferno in your hands,” Adrian replied, “partly the fact that they aren’t all robotic.”
    “Wait, so, so you can do things too?” Terrence inquired. There was another flash.
    “I.. I think I can teleport,” came a voice, this time from inside the sports store. “What can you guys do?
    The tourist was growing increasingly agitated, hair frazzled, his broken camera hanging limply from his lanyard. “What in the name of the Lord is all this?”
    “Well, I was kind of hoping you guys could tell me.”
    “This is insane, I’m trapped here with heathens. A girl who can see the future, a mobster with fire for hands, a dirty urchin who, who forgets items and then,” he paused, “then he brings them to himself!”
    Terrence remembered the armour and the severed arm that Xiao Tou had back at the subway. How uncanny, he hadn’t noticed the boy once again had all of the salvaged parts, disappearing himself inside them, his frame far too small to fit the chest plate of a grown man. A grown cyborg. A.. thing
    The tourist threw his hands up in the air, “And now a man that can vanish and reappear somewhere else, this is lunacy.”
    “My friend, stay calm,” Shu Ji offered.
    “Calm?! I’m in hell!” he shrieked, throwing his camera to the floor. If he himself had an ability, it certainly wasn’t triggered by rage.
    “Buddy, look, none of us know what’s going on here, but we have to deal with it,” Terrence softly suggested, moving to place a hand upon his shoulder.
    The man jolted. “Stay away from me,” he shuffled back “all of you, leave me alone!” He turned and bolted towards the escalator. In a flash of light, Adrian appeared in front of him.
    “You don’t want to do that, there are more of those things out there.” Adrian urged, emphatically, but also weakly, as he clutched his skull with one hand to dull that hum which increased every time he flashed.
    The tourist threw all of his weight into the young businessman, bursting through. “Stay out of my way!” Adrian was too pained to restrain him, watching him bolt off as he wiped a small speck of blood from below his nose.
    “Maybe super-speed is his power,” Terrence joked, watching the man clamber away at a ridiculous pace.
    “We can’t let him leave,” Shu Ji said sternly. “He’s going to get us all killed.”
    Terrence nodded, “Newbie, can you, like, teleport other people with you?”
    “I’ve never tried.”
    The Triad pointed to Terrence, Shu Ji and Adrian “You three, come with me!” He yelled, once again in perfect English. Why had he hidden it? Terrence wondered, as they bounded after the man.
    They had made it all the way to the ground floor atrium before they had almost caught up with the runaway. Terrence wondered why the new arrival hadn’t just teleported after him, but glancing over, he noticed he wasn’t looking the healthiest. His lower nose and top lip were coloured with a faint smudge of blood. He remembered how drained he had felt when he finally sat down after the incident with Shada. Then he remembered Shada. ”God, what a day. Has it really only been a day? “
    Everything was moving so fast. How did this all happen? Terrence’s thoughts engulfed him again, and he did not notice an entire squad of troopers coming into vision out in the forecourt.
    It was Xiao Tou this time, who pulled him out of the firing line; “Stay low, Xiansheng!(Mister).”
    “Oh god, he’s going to die.” Terrence whispered. The tourist froze in his tracks. There were at least a dozen armed cyborgs in an orderly formation.
    “Not if I can help it,” the Triad roared, fire literally in his eyes. There was a bright flash as he rose from his crouch, two thick beams of fire erupting from his palms, shooting out past the tourist and striking at least two troops with each torrent. So it was the gung ho approach, then. The front row of troops caught in the blast flew back off their feet, flung into the next row of their comrades like bowling pins. They had little time to react. Before they could return to their feet, indeed, before Terrence could even register it, there was Shu Ji. Or he was there. Or maybe he was over there. The man in the ripped convict jumpsuit flew through the air with such grace and speed, emanating a shower of bullets in every direction. Terrence counted eight separate handguns which the man had unloaded the clips of and whimsically discarded as he moved onto the next in his graceful dance of precision firepower. He dived under and flipped over them like a feather caught on the cusp of wind. But it was unfortunate that the number of guns to hit the floor was greater than the number of bodies. The group had yet to analyse the weaknesses of these metallic monsters. Headshots seemed to work, but the bullets of their own pistols merely dented their armour, and whatever it was they had for limbs.
    “If only,” Terrence thought in the longest of instances, “he tried their rifles.” But it seemed Shu Ji’s gift, if not only his preference, was for that particular Akimbo, John-Woo, Slowmo-Doves image. Why not?

    This flaming orgy bookended by a graceful bullet dance had been flowing for no more than ten seconds when the Triad fell to one knee, inhaling deeply. Terrence noticed that blood too ran from his nose. Five of the troops slumped to the ground, the little glowing lights in their right eyes going dim. Good, but not enough. Several others, the ones that should well have been writhing in agony from absorbing the full force of the Triad’s inferno, were merely patting themselves off. To the horror of the rest of the survivors, the one who appeared to be the squad leader had Shu Ju by the throat, lifted high above the ground.
    “Caught ya,” he smirked, before he tossed him effortlessly in the direction of the tourist, who had cowered on the floor of the mall. The remaining troops readied their rifles. In what seemed like an age, through what appeared to him to be no will of his own, Terrence was in motion. Time stretched out, and every very step forward seemed to be emphasised by the corresponding familiar thud of their terrible weapons. The glowing bolts shot through the air, spread wide and moving incredibly fast, but only to a point. Both arms outstretched, Terrence realised he was able to halt the movement of these projectiles. They hung in the air, each one slowly losing its glow, reforming from some molten element into a solid metal. ”Throw them back” he thought to himself. ”Come on.” More projectiles flew into the invisible field, stopping instantly. No matter how hard he willed it though, he couldn’t return them to their senders.
    This distraction proved enough. As the projectiles fell to the floor, the Triad rose to his feet. “Drop!”
    Terrence complied, throwing himself over the two downed survivors as a deluge of fire roared over his head, forcing the squad to retreat a few feet back. The window was now open for the others to prove their worth.
    Xiao Tou got on his tip-toes; “zai wu miao zhong, tingzhi (in five seconds, stop),” he whispered to the Triad, before bolting off up the side of the atrium. Adrian utilised this time too.
    ”So, public transport. Well here goes nothing.” he thought, bewildered by his sudden control over his ability, but wary of the pain it was starting to cause. In a flash he jumped to the spot where the three survivors were huddled, taking immense care not to wind up in the middle of a fireball. “This is how it should work in theory, grab a hold!” he yelled, spotting the little street kid from the corner of his eye. Xiao Tou had moved to flank the soldiers, and Adrian knew, as the boy raised his arm, that this was the time to move. If this ability was capable of what he thought it was, then they should be out of the way in time.

    The four disappeared in a flash of light right before the petrol tanker came down atop the soldiers. Xiao Tou was already on the move as Adrian yelled over a banister four stories up: “Now!”
    The Triad didn’t need the hint. He held both his hands together, channelling his energy into one last, mighty blast.
    “Shit shit shit!” Terrence yelled, bolting down the escalator that hung above the atrium, just above the tanker, knowing full well that his skill was required again. He got his hands up just in time, encapsulating the explosion to surround the soldiers, but forcing it away from the rest of the mall.

    The smoke cleared and the dust settled as they regrouped, exhausted, but not as much as they expected.
    “Giz a light, “Terrence asked the Triad from behind a somewhat dented cigarette. Flick[/f]
    “So that, that was something.” The tourist muttered.
    “I think, I think that got easier,” Adrian mused, “I mean, my head was pounding
    when I first got here, when I went after this guy. But in I moved people.”
    “I know right,” Terrence chimed in.
    “Maybe it’s like a muscle,” Shu Ji suggested, “You know, when you work it, it gets stronger.”
    “So I’m Adrian by the way.”
    “Hah, Terrence; this is Shu Ji, that’s Xiao Tou…” The handshakes distracted them from the burning hunk of flesh and wires that was crawling towards them, pistol clasped in hand.
    They spun around in time to see yet another cyborg, this one in a trench coat, with massive trauma to his face, land gracefully, drawing his own weapon, aimed squarely at the head of the charred husk. A single shot rung out as he turned to look at them.
    “G’day, I’m Rick,” he holstered his sidearm. “I’d like to join your little gang.”

    After the pleasantries were over with the group, and the new recruits had been properly introduced to the rest of the survivors, it was back to hunter-gatherer mode. Many, particularly those like the tourist, who had yet to exhibit any form strange ability, basically anyone not scratching at their elbows, were visibly uneasy about the man with the robotic arms. Adrian felt a pang of relief, as this took the heat off him. They had all worked together to stop the troopers, but nobody could be blamed for at least being sceptical that this man-thing could be some kind of cybernetic mole. Still, he had given them a lot of information. Ascension. At least they could put a name to the face. And Terrence seemed to trust him, it was apparent to the rest of the group that this was really his nature. Terrence: he trusts. That and Rick had revealed that he was also a New Zealander. “What are the chances?” they had said. ”Convenient” others had thought. Rather than continue uncomfortable conversations about motives, about super powers and transhumanism, they busied themselves with the list. Adrian and Xiao Tou combined their abilities to speed the process immensely, flitting about between floors so that the boy could touch the items that were needed. The plan being that once he’d made contact with all of the items they could all find a way onto the roof and the boy could bring the items to them. When asked how all the action was affecting him, Adrian remarked that the headache was constant, but the more he used his ability, the greater he felt he could push himself. Every second or third time, the strain was too strong, or the distance too great, so Xiao Tou offered to walk, but after a rest, Adrian would appear next to him, ready to take him to the next destination. The others pondered if they were capable of pushing themselves just as much. They followed the process to a T. The Triad indeed provided the fire, and once all was in place, the climbed to the roof a little after dark. Each took turns trying to rotate the Westernmost satellite dish, before Terrence decided to flex his telekinesis. It worked.
    “Okay, so, how quickly do we need to get to level five?” asked the food vendor lady, wary of the frigates hovering not too far above them.
    “It says ‘immediately.”

    The urgency seemed wasted. The mysterious woman was kind enough to put them on the floor with the furniture stores, which they needed, as nothing appeared to happen across the entire night. So they bunked up, and got lost in talking. A real chance to learn about each other, to map out their lives and share their fears. Bonding, in the middle of a war zone. By damn, most of them had managed to fall into at least a shallow sleep.

    Several kilometres away, a frigate, carrying 150 troops had finally zeroed in on the distress signal of the entire squad that had been lost the night previously. Times Square. Somewhere on that building. The squad had been sent in rather brashly, without scanning for resistance first. This team would not make that same mistake. Floating almost directly overhead, the sensors moved over the roof of the building. Everything checked out, no signs of life. The operator looked out his porthole at a strange flickering glow coming from the mall’s communications array. That will need closer inspection. It was over in an instant. The beam crossed paths with the dish, supercharging it and reflecting it back at its source.

    The group awoke to an incredible explosion as all but the floor above them rolled down into the atrium below.

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