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~:: A Darker Shade - Chapter III ::~
Returned from his errand, he gave her a sarcastic smirk.
"Guess where we are going?"
She shook her head with a puzzled look. "I have no idea."
"Dark Astoria," he groaned. She sighed softly and followed
him across the azure blue sky of the late summer afternoon towards the gate to
the eerie milieu.
Once inside, she found it hard to keep up with him. Moments
later she heard the muted sound of his breath being forcefully exhaled upon a
soft, thudding impact. "Ow, faceplant," he explained, as she approached him to
make sure he was all right. The place was called Dark Astoria with good reason.
The perennial fog that enshrouded it was so thick that one could barely see his
hands before his face.
They reached the door to the lab and slipped inside. It was
apparent that the angry drill team that was the Nemesis army was catching on to
them. A brightly clad Cuirasseur and three of his little mechanical lapdogs
were marching through the halls patrolling for invaders. Taking them by
surprise, he morphed into the hulking Dwarf form and teleported himself
directly in their midst. This produced an expression of unpleasant surprise
from the Cuirasseur and a melee of attacks from the little pot-bellied Jaegers.
The Warshade shrugged off their efforts easily while proceeding to give them
the beat down they had so obviously come looking for.
Morphing back to human form, he smiled wickedly at her as he
extracted the last dregs of the life essence from the limp form that had once
been the Cuirasseur. As the eerie ball of energy hovered above the still warm
body, she turned away and shuddered involuntarily.
"Some of your powers are just…a bit morbid," she blurted, softly.
He gave her a strange look but no verbal response, as he cloaked himself with
dark energy. They silently moved onward. She stared down at her feet as she
concentrated upon quieting her steps and fell into contemplative thought.
She tried to gently scan the upper thoughts in his mind. She
was not a mind reader, per se, but an empath could often read the emotions,
basic urges. and intentions of most other beings. A burst of jumbled energies
struck her mind, causing her to stumble as she shook off the link. Two minds, she
noted in surprise. One mind seemed very arcane, much like the mages she'd lived
with in the cave. The other presence was powerful and very dark. Both of them
were working as one. She had to take a closer look, she reasoned, as she gently
probed his consciousness once more.
For all the negative energies flowing through his synapses,
she found neither malice nor ill will within him. His feelings toward her
seemed to be openly protective. Just as she began to feel a little guilty for
sneaking around within his mind, she felt him answer: Don't be. I can feel
your thoughts at times too.
The link dropped instantly as the shock reverberated through
her neural fibers. The mental plane of a demoness could be a frightening place.
Even to one who lived there. But finding another being strolling through
unexpectedly was a startling experience.
He turned to face her, giving her a reassuring smile. As his eyes bored into
hers, she felt him very gently pressing for her to accept his mental energies.
For reasons she could not yet fathom, she willingly dropped her mental defenses.
In tune with each other, they moved silently through the
halls. Without the need for conversation, they were effortlessly dispatching
any foe that got in their way. She preferred this wordless cooperation. Since
his communication skills were quite challenged in two of his forms, he
appreciated it as well.
He broke the silence, as a surge of adrenalin fired his
synapses. "Save a squid…" was all she needed to hear. She used his mind to locate
the threat and her mind to quickly render it blinded and helpless.
They wound their way through corridor after corridor until
they finally arrived at the core of the lab. Wordlessly they worked in perfect
In the last chamber, the lab equipment exploded before she
could break clear. She stumbled out of the protective cubicle amid a haze of
noxious fumes. "I am woozy," she breathed, as the room began to spin.
Grabbing her gently, he steadied her as her knees buckled. He whispered softly,
"It'll be over soon." She swallowed hard as she tried to shake off the effects
of whatever chemical she had been exposed to. As soon as he was sure she could
maintain an upright position he released her, but remained close behind and ready
to catch her should she lose her balance again.
A quick trip around the lab showed that it was now
uninhabited, so they moved on to the next floor. They came upon a small group
pacing the length of a railing leading to a ramp that descended to a lower
level. He turned and looked into her eyes, wondering if she'd recovered enough
to resume their battles. She nodded silently. He rushed towards the mob,
blasting powerful dark energy in a spray that threw them all to the ground.
"Watch out for the one I blew over the edge," he warned her as she stepped into
Her armored books clinked against the cold metal of the floor as she deftly
leapt over the edge. She laughed softly as she saw the now disoriented
Lieutenant staggering around as he tried to figure out how he'd gotten to where
he was now from where he'd been. She bent down to meet his eyes forcing her
mind's power into his eyes in a blast of white light. He caught the slightest
glimpse of her face just inches from his own before his mind exploded in
searing pain. Clutching his head as he doubled over, he quickly succumbed to
the assault that she expertly played out within his own thoughts.
As they moved to the end of the corridor, it opened up into
an area the appeared to be some kind of power grid. Four pillars stood in the
center of the room, pulsing with blue energy. A quick visual inspection showed
a group of soldiers tucked in an alcove to the left. He morphed into the colossal
Dwarf form and materialized in their midst. Startled, they produced their
antiquated but effective firearms and turned all their attentions on him. She
targeted the closest one and quickly forced him to succumb to a flash of
blinding energy flooding his optical nerves. She had just incapacitated a
second one when she heard a deep voice from directly behind her.
"Fighting Lord Nemesis is as useless as battling the very
wind and tides, Dark Cenotaph!"
"Oh SHI….." Before she could think, she'd screamed. She had
not expected the towering metal monstrosity that was the Fake Nemesis who had
stepped from behind the nearest pillar to loom over her. His eyes narrowed as
he sought the source of the feminine shriek. He produced his massive staff, and
aimed it in the general direction from which the expletive had come. It exploded
with a torrent of powerful energy, striking her and knocking her against the
opposite wall. The impact stunned her and she reached down the front of her
armor for the small packet she kept tucked in the safest of spots for such an
event. Popping the tiny, pale purple pill, she felt its effects surge through
her mind, granting her sudden clarity. Now able to shake off the dizzying
effects of the stun, she leapt to her feet and did a few fast calculations. The
tin plated giant had knocked her senseless enough that her mind could no longer
maintain the illusion of invisibility. He could see her now and was bearing
down on her at a fast but lumbering pace. His huge stride quickly covered the
ground between where he'd blasted her point blank and where she'd slammed into
the far wall.
The Warshade was still occupied in the midst of the group of
soldiers. In a split second she closed her eyes and cast the illusion of three
spectral warriors at her side. She reached skyward, calling forth her phantasm.
He materialized instantly, putting himself between the oncoming metal
monstrosity, and the frightened demoness. A blast of blue-white energy knocked
her assailant back against the pillars. This gave her a brief second to collect
herself as she launched a counterattack on whatever kind of mind drove the
metallic beast. The first strike was not enough to incapacitate him. He merely
blinked and shook his head, rising to his feet to tower over them. With the
second pulse of mental energy he clutched his temples and doubled over in pain
as Leeroy blasted him once more.
At that point, the Warshade rushed to her side, having
already incapacitated the large group of goons he'd been battling. He launched
into their gleaming leader with a fury born from seeing the demoness being blasted
violently across the room. It took him mere seconds to reduce the monster to a
pile of crumpled tin.
She collapsed on the floor at his feet, panting wildly. "Say something?" he
quipped with a grin, obviously amused by her terrified expletive.
"I saw… him …run around the corner…" she began,
breathlessly, recalling the moment of blind terror that resulted in her
"What," he retorted with a gesture towards the crumpled form of the Fake
Nemesis, "the big tin wuss?"
He didn't seem like much of a wuss when he plastered me to
the far wall, she thought to herself. "I think I need clean panties… " she
murmured weakly. He laughed loudly at this admission. Maybe she wasn't the
uptight, humorless little prude he had previously assessed her to be.
Looking around the room, she realized her phantasm had
wandered off. "Where the hell is Leeroy?" she asked anxiously, knowing his
forays were usually followed by a hasty retreat to her side accompanied by a
horde of enemies she inevitably had to battle to defend them both.
"Running for clean panties," her partner chuckled, as he
stooped to offer a massive hand to help her to her feet.
Half a second later they heard the burst of Leeroy's energy
torrent nearby. Their eyes met in a knowing glance. They ran towards the sound
of combat. This time it was only one lone Cuirasseur. The Dwarf descended on
him before he could react and quickly demonstrated what it meant to receive due
recompense for his deeds, Warshade style.
She shook her head with a soft smile. She suddenly realized
how glad she was that he was on her side. Dismissing Leeroy, she followed the
Warshade back the way they'd come as they worked their way back to the door.
"Roger, Dallas, we are out of here," he quipped with a smile,
as he held the door for her. She nodded her gratitude as she stepped back out
into the foggy, eternal twilight that was Dark Astoria.
"Shall I escort you home?" he asked.
Her first instinct was a bristling urge to rebuff his offer. She was perfectly
capable of making her way home even if she were to be ambushed by Nemesis
soldiers for her part in helping him clean out those facilities. But for
reasons she could not yet fathom, she found her lips forming the words,
"Please. That would be kind of you."
They walked silently together through the darkened streets.
With the usual cursory greetings, they flashed their security IDs to the bored
looking sentries at the gate to Talos and passed from the gloomy surroundings
out into the waning sunlight of the cloudless afternoon.