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Similar Deviations
[Chapter 22]

* THUD *

A dull tremor gently shook the floor, halfway stirring Hal out of his slumber. He lay in that murky miasma of half-sleep: barely even aware that he was no longer unconscious. It was almost impossible to wake any further on his own, and he lacked the willpower or energy to open his eyes.

“Hal.” He felt Miri's hand on his shoulder, shaking him awake. “Did you hear that?”

“Mmmm?” He rolled over, slowly forcing his eyelids to open. The room was dark and blurry to him, but Miri soon reached over to shake a glo-orb, and the needle of new light poked sharp pain into his skull. Hal winced, hoping his eyes would adjust quickly.

The room was well sound-proofed by design, so Hal couldn't hear very much of what was going on outside. He thought he heard the muffled sounds of commotion, like a violent argument was happening down on the floor down below.

* CLACK – CLACK – CLACK *

The distinct sound of springer fire pierced through the heavy walls, sending a jolt of adrenaline into Hal's heart. They were under attack.

“Oh shit!” Hal rolled over and instinctively reached at the nightstand, grabbing for his pistol. His talons found nothing but empty air and polished wood, coming up entirely empty. The gun was nowhere in easy reach. It still lay among the pile of his bloody clothes that sat in a heap on the floor of the bathroom.

“Miri! The gun!” Hal was slow to move, half-tangled in the sheets of the bed, but Miri was faster. She rolled out onto her feet and started running for the bathroom door. She only made it two steps before the door to their suite exploded inward, blasting free of its hinges and slamming into the far wall. Miri screamed and fell to the ground, covering her face from the shower of timbers that blew just past her head.

There, standing in the doorway, was the last person Hal wanted to see. Marcus' eyes were alight with raw fury, and a swarm of his cronies filled in behind him as he strode into the room, violence giving speed to every step. The business end of mixed springer rifles and pistols trained onto Hal's chest, pinning him in place at the edge of the bed.

“HAL!” Marcus' face was twisted into the darkest hate filled scowl Hal had ever seen. In one hand he clenched the shaft of his cane with a white-knuckled grip. In the other, he held a compact, easily-concealable pistol. “I knew you would go crawling back to Jonny and the rest of these assholes! Did you really think you could get away after what you've DONE!?” In a burst of telekinetic rage, the fragments of the door scattered outwards to slam against every wall.

Despite the armed intruders, Miri scrambled to her feet and tried to run for the bathroom. One of the cronies grabbed her, yanking her back and holding her rudely in place. “Let go of me you bastard!” She didn't stop struggling despite being outnumbered and overpowered. For a moment, she actually squirmed free, elbowing her captor firmly in the face and spinning away. She started to reach for a weapon, but a swift strike of a rifle butt to the base of her skull knocked her out cold just as quickly as her struggle had begun. Two of Marcus' henchmen held her limp body up, preventing her from collapsing on the ground.

Marcus growled, pointing his gun at Hal as he walked closer. “Do you have any idea what you've done to me!?” Tears rolled down Marcus' cheeks, and he thrust the barrel of his gun at Hal's skull. “DO YOU HAVE ANY FUCKING IDEA WHAT YOU'VE DONE!?”

Hal's tail lashed out, biting Marcus in the forearm. “Gah!” His own tails flailed in response, slashing at Hal, slicing into his skin with their sharp bloodletting edges. The hilt of the pistol was quick to follow after, striking Hal in the temple and shooting a sharp flash of pain through his brain.

Hal tried to move out of bed and stand on his feet, but Marcus' fury was too relentless to withstand. The pistol slammed down against his face again, and then again, and again, smashing teeth, cutting scales and pulverizing cells into a pulpy ruptured mass. Marcus only relented when Hal collapsed helplessly onto the floor, coughing out crimson saliva with wheezed and labored breaths. Hal felt the barrel of the gun press against one swollen and blinded eye.

“It wasn't supposed to end like this, Hal! We could have been brothers again! We could have changed the world together! But now....” Marcus half-sobbed between furious breaths. “Now that's all over, you god damn bastard of a brother!”

With a surprisingly strong grip, Marcus grabbed Hal by the throat and dragged him back upright, pinning him against  the wall. “I should kill you for what you've done. But a man like you doesn't deserve that mercy.”

“Marcus...” Hal coughed, barely managing to utter the word. A sharp punch to the gut halted his protests, causing him to wretch violently.

“I don't care what you have to say Hal. You don't matter to me anymore. You don't matter at all.” Marcus' face was inches from his, breathing toxic clouds of hatred into the air between them. “I'm going to make you understand the new pain you've given me.” With his good eye, Hal looked past Marcus and saw Miri hanging naked and limp in the arms of her new captors. “You like learning new things right? Let me teach you what it feels like to forever lose the person you love.”

Marcus released Hal and took two steps back, letting him collapse onto the floor. He looked back at Miri, then back at Hal. “Mmmm, she is beautiful, isn't she?” A twisted smile crossed Marcus' lips. “My boys are about to go into battle against our oppressors soon. What better way to reward them than to give them the uninterrupted company of a beautiful young woman. I'm sure they'll enjoy her just as much as you did.”

Hal fought mightily to push himself upright, but barely had the energy to succeed at the task. “Marcus... don't...” His protests were far to feeble to even reach across the room.

“Look on the bright side, Hal.” Marcus smiled a pained and tragic smile. “I'm not going to kill you. I'm going to let you live on. You'll have the rest of your life to live in our new world... as a miserable little cripple, alone, abandoned by the people you once loved.” The smile disappeared. “It's the only fate you deserve.”

Marcus trained his gun on Hal. “But... just because I won't kill you doesn't mean I won't shoot you. After all, I can't have any last minute heroics spoiling our moment of glory.” Hal didn't have time to move or to protest before Marcus pulled the trigger. The bullet whizzed through the air in a millisecond, striking Hal in the thigh with a bloody, meaty, *thwack*.

Hal screamed, rolling over onto his side and clutching at his wound. It bled freely, bubbling thin rivulets between the fingers that attempted to hold the tide at bay. Marcus and his companions ran out of the room without another word, leaving Hal to scream and bleed deep into the carpet.

“Fuck!” Hal cursed out loud, blinking away the tears of pain that blurred the vision of his remaining good eye. He pulled himself up, half onto his feet, and pushed forward towards the door. He made it one step before his doubly-injured leg gave way beneath him, dumping him back down into a graceless heap. Hal barked another curse and crossed the remaining distance in an awkward crawl, pulling himself forward onto the top of the lobby staircase.

Through the posts of the railing he saw Marcus and company had already reached the base of the stairs, and they were about to reach the double doors of the front entrance. Miri was slung loosely over one cronie's shoulder, completely unconscious. One of the accomplices fired a few rounds blindly into the central chandelier, causing those scattered patrons brave enough to watch to duck their heads back down. The dark nighttime wind blew cold air in through the shattered front door.

“Attack!!!” Jonny's voice echoed in pursuit of the intruders, and he erupted from the back hallway with Marvin and Geno, each one of them holding a military grade springer rifle. They surged forward and fanned out, opening fire on Marcus' entourage. A quick flurry of bullets and shouts were traded between the two sides, but one of the cultists quickly activated his power, erecting a shimmering translucent shield of energy to stop the bullets launched their way. The shield bearer stood firm while the rest of his compatriots conducted an orderly retreat back through the entrance.

“Fuck you, Jonny!” Marcus offered a parting shot of words. “I always knew you'd never move up in the world!”

“And I always knew you were a special kind of asshole Marcus! Thanks for messing up my shit for no good reason!” Jonny fired a few more impotent shots into the energy shield that flashed brilliantly with each impact.    

“Hmph.” Marcus merely grunted and sneered in response, walking back out the door and out of sight. The last remaining Celestial reached into his pocket and produced a glass orb filled with blue liquid. He  lobbed it into the center of the room and ran back out the door.

“Sparker!” Jonny shouted out loud and ducked back behind cover, just in time to escape the blast. The grenade exploded in a brilliant blue-white flash of light and sound, sending a concussive, dazing blast through the entire lobby. Even at the top of the stairs, Hal was not fully protected, and he felt the pressure wave pass through his body. It scrambled all of his atoms in a split second, stirring and then rearranging them into a loose facsimile of their original state.  

Perhaps it was because of the sparker, but the entire building seemed to fall completely silent. Hal blinked, barely able to move, as he watched muted, delayed fragments of chandelier fall down onto the floor below.

One by one, like reluctant lemmings, Jonny, Marvin, and Geno poked their heads back out of cover. They were followed by other patrons and employees, and even Cassi emerged from the back office where she had been hunkering down. Everyone seemed to look lost, as if they were unsure of what they were supposed to do next. It was a good dozen heartbeats before Jonny looked up and spotted Hal lying helplessly on the ledge above. “Hal!” The word echoed faintly though overloaded eardrums, barely acknowledged.

Hal tried to pull himself up along the railing to get back onto his feet, but was having difficulty with the task. Jonny and Marvin rushed up to meet him, and were quick to grab and steady his balance before he tipped too far over the railing. “He's shot, boss.” Marvin rumbled in his usual stoic tones, prompting another cry of alarm from Jonny. “Holy shit, Hal! You're bleeding all over the place. Come on. We gotta staunch that before you pass out.”

Marvin's engulfing grasp was strong enough to lift Hal clean off his feet. He cried out in pain at the sudden movement, but soon enough he was being whisked down the stairs in the arms of his acquaintance. He was gently deposited down onto the narrow counter of the lobby, where Cassi normally welcomed new visitors and arranged their accommodations. Hal could barely fight to stay conscious though it all. The electric fire of pain stretched up through his leg, and down from his face, converging in the center of his being. Adrenaline and endorphin were all that kept his heart beating.

“Hang tough, Hal. You ain't dyin' on me now, of all times.” Jonny's voice offered encouragement from behind and out of sight, as he retrieved a medical kit from underneath the counter. “You're lucky your brother uses a pea shooter. If that had been a trooper round, it would have broken your whole damn leg.”

Hal cried in pain once again as Cassi applied pressure to his leg with a fresh pad of gauze. The white fabric quickly seeped through, flooding into a deep, soggy red. She didn't seem all that encouraged by the results.

Hal half screamed, half sobbed at the ceiling. Why was this happening to him? How could one forsaken night go from the worst one of his life, to the best one of his life, back to the worst again so quickly? “Damn it, Hal, stop squirming!” Jonny held him still with an unusually firm grip, giving Cassi a bit more space to work. The loop of a tourniquet started to constrict around his thigh, its pressure seeming to build like that of the night. Hal wasn't sure if it was tears or blood that was flowing freely from his eyes, chilling his face and drying in a small pool next to his skull. Whether it was his body or his heart, something inside Hal felt like it was about to give out.

Cassi worked quickly, fighting against the tide with practiced fingers and a strong touch. Somehow it seemed like this wasn't the first gunshot wound she'd dressed.

Hal had no more words left in him. To utter one would break the fragile wall of the dam that kept him on the high side of consciousness. With his one working eye, Hal glanced around the room, blinking through his tears. Everyone was watching him. Not just Cassi and Jonny.

Marvin.

Geno.

More faces he didn't recognize.

Here in the quiet eye of the storm, the reluctant glances of employees and customers also watched on in silence. They were too scared to leave, but not brave enough to return to hiding, and instead remained trapped here in the lobby, looking on as the owners of this sanctuary treated him: a naked, broken, and bleeding man. The cold air of the night continued to blow in through the broken front door, wrapping around Hal's body like a thin blanket. It wouldn't be hard to just close his eyes and surrender. Let the night finish on its own without him. He had already given it so much. How could he possibly give it any more?

Cassi finished wrapping his thigh, pulling the bandages tight with a strained sigh. Only after taking a breath and looking him over did she realize his glance. Their eyes made contact for only a second, and Hal saw her expression soften a bit. He couldn't bear to hold it, and looked away, blinking salt from his eye.

Her hand reached out to rest on his head. When she spoke, her voice was matronly and calm, despite the violence scattered about them. “Hey, sugar. You're going to be just fine.”

Hal didn't acknowledge her. Lying exposed on the counter, surrounded by friends and strangers alike, one emotion seemed to swell the most within his heart. It wasn't fear, and it wasn't anger.

It was shame.

Such an overwhelming feeling drowned out even the pain that consumed his body. Hal couldn't remember the last time he felt like this. Never before had failures hollowed him so deeply than those of tonight. He wasn't able to save his family. He wasn't able to save his brother. He wasn't able to save the woman he truly loved. They were all gone, whisked away like a gentle sound carried by a strong wind.

“Awww, hun.” Cassi seemed to understand his emotions through her touch. “You don't need to be ashamed.” He angled his eye back towards her face, and Cassi gave him an honest laugh and a smile. “Do you really think you're the first man I've found naked in this lobby? Trust me. You won't be the last one either.”

Jonny seemed to notice that things hadn't quite reached their proper conclusion, and looked around the room. “Why the hell ain't the cops here yet?” He started barking at Marvin and Geno, who must have been waiting somewhere just out of Hal's vision. “Don't just stand there, guys! Hide those weapons and get downstairs cleaned out! Do you wanna end up in jail for a night or ten years?”

Hal heard them scurry into action, moving further out of sight without complaint. Jonny looked back down at Hal, offering a forced smile. “You doin' ok, champ? It looks like Cassi was able to get the bleeding under control. We have plenty of time to get you to the hospital, now.”

Hal levered himself upright with Jonny's help. With a grimace he angled his feet over the floor, taking a deep breath to brace himself for the second flood of pain that was sure to come.

“You able to walk?”

“No.”

“It's alright. I gotcha.”

Hal shook his head, fending off Jonny's attempt to help him stand. “No.”

Jonny gave him a look of pure incomprehension, totally confused as to why he was being shrugged aside. Hal inhaled a deep breath and looked out at the front door to the empty streets beyond. The night seemed to beckon for him with the atonal siren song of hinges swaying in the wind. The evening was not yet concluded, and even now it was not going to give way to morning so easily.

Neither was Hal.

“I'm not going to the hospital.”

Jonny gave Hal a look like he was insane. “For fuck's sake Hal. Do you even know what you look like right now?” The voice was quiet, low, and grim in its tone. “You need a blood transfusion and about a hundred stitches.” The dark pool of blood waiting mere inches below Hal's feet offered silent agreement. “You're in no condition to even host a god damn tea party, let alone fight.”

Hal acted as if he didn't hear Jonny's protests. “I need help getting my clothes back on.”

“Hal. Just think about what you're doing for a second. You're not gonna-” The words were halted by Hal's silent, serious stare.

“Jonny.” Hal grabbed his shoulder with one free hand. “If you're truly my friend, you won't stop me. Please... just let me go.”

Something in Jonny's face changed.  Behind the mask of bravado, Hal could see something softer in his eyes. Was it empathy? Sadness? Or just the sobering realization of truth, laid bare?

Jonny blinked and exhaled a deep long breath, gently clapping Hal on the back. “Alright, Hal. Alright.” He nodded, as if convincing himself that it was the right call. He forced a sparkle back into the slim smirk that followed. “But after tonight, you're a big boy. So I won't be helping you with your underwear anymore.”

Hal grunted a pained laugh. “Duly noted.”

It was such a simple task: clothing oneself. Hal had done it countless times across countless days of countless years. And yet now it was the hardest possible action he had ever asked of himself. Moving his leg took every ounce of willpower in every fiber of his being. Hal had to fight hard to stop from howling out in pain at each touch, each twitch, each brush of cloth against skin.

Jonny and Cassi both helped him dress, neither one willing to offer any more words. Slowly, Hal armored himself with the clothing of the streets, like a broken old knight, readying for one last joust. Cracked leather, stained fabric and dried blood. These were his protectors now. If only the morning could ever come when Hal wouldn't need them anymore. He had wanted to be rid of them for so long now.

Hal slipped his arm through the last sleeve on his jacket and felt the leather groan a little as it settled along his back. The familiar feeling felt so alien in its starkness. Would it be able to keep him protected anymore, now that everyone had seen his soul exposed? Maybe it didn't matter. Maybe it wasn't supposed to be hidden. Maybe...

Hal chuckled to himself, shaking his head. Maybe this really was his destiny. Maybe Miri had been right about him, all along.

Jonny dusted off Hal's shoulders, holding him at arms length to give him a look over. “Alright Hal. All dressed in Sunday best. Just like old times.” He looked over Hal's pistol, making sure it was still in working order. “Since apparently I can't stop you, do you mind telling me the game plan?” The pistol was offered to Hal, grip first.

Hal closed his fingers around the handle, letting the weight settle into his palm. “I can't say I've thought that far ahead.”

“Huh. And people say I'm the reckless one.”

“I learned from the best.” Hal took a deep breath and slowly slid himself down off of the ledge onto his feet. That lungful of air was quick to get exhaled again in a sharp, pained hiss. Jonny allowed Hal to wrap one arm around him as he settled in to help support his weight. “Marcus is going back to his church. He'll probably have some stupid ceremony and dramatic speech while he's at it. I guess all I need to do is get over there somehow.”

“The telepads are closed, but that ain't ever stopped me before. Think you can walk a couple blocks?”

“That depends.” Hal winced, adjusting his weight. “Have you been working out?”

Cassi and Jonny both laughed a bit at that one. “If you still have the energy to be a smartass, I'm sure you'll be fine.” The two of them started to limp for the door, but Cassi halted them for just one more moment.

“Hey, sugar.” Cassi pulled his tail close for a soft hug. “You take care of yourself, ok?”

“I've never been very good at that, Cassi.”

“I know.” She nodded, and gave his tail a kiss on the head. “But it's never too late to learn. Just do be careful, ok?”

“I will.” Hal offered a slim smile. “Thanks Cassi.”

She took a step back, clearing the way once again. “Get along now. Go do your thrillin' heroics before I change my mind and stop you.”

And just like that, the goodbyes were over. Jonny dragged Hal out into the streets, marching him forward with each shuffling, lurching step. The telepad wasn't very far from the brothel, but it might has well been miles away for how difficult it was for Hal to move. Still, they never stopped walking, and Jonny kept him supported every step of the way.

“Hey Jonny.”

“Yeah?”

“I've been thinking a lot, and I have a confession to make.”

“Oh yeah? What's that?” Jonny glanced over with a curious half-smile.

“You know the number one rule?” Jonny nodded. “Well... I think I'm pretty bad at it.”

Jonny laughed, the sound echoing deep and hearty off of the walls of nearby buildings. “Hal. Sometimes you just don't know how smart you are.” The zebra smiled wistfully, tightening his grip on Hal as they marched along. “If it makes you feel any better, Hal, just remember.” The smile widened into a golden grin. “Rules are meant to be broken.”

They both laughed at that one, and it helped to take the edge off. Truth be told, Hal's heart was beating a mile a minute, and by this point 'running on fumes' was an overstatement. Exactly what he was running into, Hal had no idea, but here he was, running all the same.

Soon they reached the telepad plaza, finding it entirely abandoned. The lights were on but not a soul was around to be seen. Normally there would at least be a security guard or two loitering around to keep the riff-raff at bay. A section of low fencing around the pad was toppled over, and the door to the control vestibule was left open to sway and clatter in the wind.  

“Well, this certainly isn't foreboding at all.” Jonny quipped, frowning at the scene. “You sure you don't wanna just take a breather? Let the troopers sort everything out?”

Hal shook his head, even though Jonny already knew what the answer was going to be. “I can't just make a mess for others to clean up. One way or another, I'm going to see this through. I've spent an awful lot of time running, and I think I'm ready to finally stop and stand on my own two feet.”

“Oh, well, in that case...” Jonny released Hal and stepped to the side, leaving the raptor to support his own weight entirely on his own.

“Ah, fuck!” He grimaced and struggled to keep his balance without any extra support. “You're very funny.”

“Bad metaphors hurt, don't they?” Jonny laughed and made his way to the control room. “Stop being all profound and just get on the damn pad already. It's nearly four in the morning. See earlier comment marked 'this shit', comma, 'getting too old for'.”

“Prick.” Hal half laughed, half grunted in reply, limping his way past the gap in the fence to take his place at the center of the telepad. It felt so large and empty without a crowd of people crammed in alongside him. The cold wind stung his eyes, causing him to blink a bit to fend it off. From the booth ahead, Jonny made a sour face. “Hal, I think your brother and his merry men came through here recently.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Well, for one, there's a dead guy in here who looks like he was killed by some supernatural face melting laser beam. That, and there ain't any cops swarming the area. Some crazy shit is definitely going down. City central is going to have a field day when they get the coffee pot goin' in the morning.”

Hal frowned. “Do you know how to work that thing?”

“Hal.” Jonny looked over through the window, shouting a bit to make sure he was heard. “Haven't you learned by now that I know how to do everything?”

Hal smiled and nodded, fighting off the lightning arcs of pain that danced through his body. He couldn't hold back any longer. Even though all he had was a pair of threes, it was time to go all in. With a relieved sigh, Hal activated his power, and let the clamor of the world wash over him. The pain in his body bled away, replaced only with a tingling energy and the subtle bass of his own heartbeat.

Hal inhaled deeply and looked up at the clear night sky. Showering down on him was a silent display of brilliant light and nameless hues. The stars were still there, like they always had been, just waiting for him to look up. It was a sight he had almost forgotten in the past few weeks, but the heavens waited patiently for him. In the end, those colors had never left his sky.

An almost imperceptible glow from beneath the horizon heralded the day that would be coming soon. Here, in the opening seconds of astronomical dawn, Hal was the only man to know it.

“Are you ready, stargazer?” Jonny called out to him, his hands resting on controls unseen. The voice tried to sound brave, but Hal could sense its hesitation.

“Yeah.”

Jonny looked down and nodded. Only once at first, but he followed it with another, and then another, convincing himself once more that this was the right thing to do. A few hesitant breaths marked the passing of time.

“Hey Jonny.” Hal called out, causing Jonny to look up from his procrastination.

“I'll see you on the other side.”

Jonny smirked, letting out one last sigh. The two of them locked eyes for one more heartbeat. “Heh... I'll see you there, Hal.”

And with that last breath, Jonny flipped the switch, and the telepad winked to life.

[End Chapter 22]
I know it took a little while but Chapter 22 is complete! The next chapter is going to be an awesome climax. It's something that's lived in my head in one form or another for over 4 years now. It feels great to make it to the beginning of the end. 

This chapter took a lot of chipping away over many different nights, so I hope it feels cohesive to everyone. Trust me when I say that the next chapter should be well worth the wait you've endured so far.

Thanks as always for reading, and please let me know your comments in the comments section below. They help me immensely.

****

The Wayward Astronomer is original fiction set in the DreamKeepers universe created by David Lillie www.dreamkeeperscomic.com

Other chapters can be found here:

kafelnikov.deviantart.com/gall…

Thanks so much for reading!  
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[Chapter 19]

“What happened back there was murder, plain and simple! How the hell do you justify killing someone in cold blood like that!?” After a sorrowful and silent ride back, Hal now found himself in a heated argument with his brother in the cozy top-floor office of the cathedral. Despite the comfortable setting, it felt like the argument could boil over at any moment. Vanir, Dubs and Miri all played spectator to the unfolding fight.

Marcus sighed, uncorking a bottle of fermentae and taking a sip before responding to Hal. “Hal, you're angry. I get it. I really do. But what was I supposed to do? Capture him? Risk more people discovering us? Start a whole big collection of captives to keep you and Miri company? I can't afford that, Hal. One slip up when we're this close, and everything falls apart.”

“God damn it, Marcus! He was my friend!” Hal couldn't restrain his outrage. “You could at least pretend to show remorse for all you've done!”

Marcus threw his hands up in exasperation. “Words can't change anything Hal! What's done is done. If an apology will make you feel better, fine, I'm sorry. I'm sorry it had to come to that. I really am. But I don't have the luxury of mercy under these circumstances!” Marcus set his drink down and leaned forward, planting both hands on the top of his desk. “Do you have any idea how hard I've had to work to keep the meteor's power hidden from the government!? To establish my power base? To finally reach a point where we're ready to strike? Years of deliberate and methodical effort: collecting data, buying influence over important officers and politicians, building a network of agents in key positions.” He shook his head. “I can't risk any rogue elements disrupting this delicate web, now more than ever!”

Hal stomped his cane on the floor “That doesn't make it right, Marcus!”

“Maybe not, but that doesn't mean I'm wrong either. Things just aren't that simple, and you know it.”

Miri spoke up from Hal's side, joining in. “How many more people need to die before it is wrong, then? How many more people need to die before you're done killing in the name of this cause?”

“If we're smart about it, hopefully not too many.” Marcus stepped around the desk, walking closer to the two of them. “If we want to save lives, in the end, then we need to strike hard and end the revolution on the very same day it begins. Quick and clean.” Marcus punched one fist into his other open palm. “Just think about it Hal. The tower isn't just a symbol of our oppressors, it's the nerve center of all of their operations! If we destroy it all in one momentous strike, they won't be able to resist us, and the people will finally learn to trust in the power of their own hearts rather than the power of the troopers and the Viscount!”

“Hmph.” Hal grunted and shook his head, but that didn't seem to do anything but embolden Marcus and his little lecture.

“Just look at you. Look at us, Hal.” Marcus placed a hand over his heart. “We are MIGHTY. We have within us a beautiful and tremendous power. It wasn't given to us by the goddess so we could just sit back and merely exist as slaves. It was given so we could free ourselves. So we can remove our shackles and finally learn how to live again!” Marcus laughed a little. “Why do you think they make it illegal for anyone to use their power? It's because they KNOW that they cannot keep us contained once we've tasted the strength of our own souls!”

Passion dripped from each one of Marcus' words, feeding the fire that crackled happily in the fireplace. Dubs seemed to be nodding agreeably to the little speech. Vanir stood quietly in the corner, her attention hyper focused on Hal and Miri.  

“Marcus...” Hal shook his head, feeling his eyes water a little at the edges. “Do you really think you're a savior? Heroes don't murder innocent old men because they're inconvenient.” Hal settled his weight on his cane, letting it react as much exhaustion as he could bear. “Dr. Kincaid taught me how to study the stars. He introduced me to Miri. He gave me patience, helped me start my life over again... and now he's dead. Dead all because of you and your bloody aspirations of revolution.” Hal took a deep breath, the next words emerging with the weight of finality. “I don't think I can ever forgive you.”

“I don't need your forgiveness, Hal.” Marcus hefted the freshly-retrieved meteor fragment, staring at its  center. “If you truly valued his life, then we should work together to make his sacrifice worth the cost.”

“No.” Hal shook his head. “I'm done with this. All of it.” Marcus appeared to be disappointed by Hal's stubborn refusal, but Hal didn't let that dissuade him. “We had a deal. You've got another meteor. Now let us leave. We don't belong in this nightmare anymore.”

Marcus sighed, staring into the fireplace while he idly turned the meteor over in his hands. “Alright.” He hefted the black stone and tossed it between his hands. “Give me 24 hours, and then you're free to go. You won't ever have to talk to me again, if you so choose. We'll all be free to live the lives we want by this time tomorrow.”

“24 hours!?” Miri wasn't happy. “We deserve to go free right now!”

Marcus' lips twisted downward into a bitter scowl. “We all deserve it. But you can't leave until we've struck the first blow. No rogue elements.”

“Come on, Marcus!”

“Don't even start, Hal! Don't you even start that 'come on Marcus' bullshit with me.” Yellow eyes narrowed, cutting through the protest. “I just need enough time to organize my forces, distribute the meteor shards, and launch the operation. You can afford to wait just one day longer.”

Marcus tossed the meteor to Dubs, who caught it in his massive paws with a cry of surprise. “Make sure it stays safe. We begin the ceremony of distribution as soon as possible. Everyone earns their shard tonight.”

“Sure thing Arch.” Dubs eagerly marched his way out of the room, cradling the meteor like a fragile child as he disappeared down the hall.

Marcus nodded to Vanir, who drew her pistol and held it pointed in Hal and Miri's direction. “I'm sorry to have to do this to you, brother, but it will all pay off with just a little more patience. You need to trust me on this.” Marcus placed his hand on Hal's shoulder, leaning in close. “You look like you could use some rest. Just relax. Spend some quality time with your girlfriend. Get some sleep. When you're ready to open your eyes again, you'll be able to look out onto a better world. I know we've been walking different paths, but we both want the same things. We always have.”

Hal wasn't happy. Marcus' words did nothing to assuage him. In fact, a bubbling pool of frustration and anger continued to simmer beneath his surface, one notch warmer than before. He was done letting people dictate terms to him. He wanted to return fire, offer a witty one liner about Marcus' definition of quality time if Vanir always has to use a gun, but said nothing. Vanir had a pistol trained on him, and she looked to be in no joking mood.

“Get moving, you two. It's time to call it a night.” Vanir's commanding contralto urged them forward with the wave of the barrel.

“This will never end the way you want...” Miri muttered under her breath as she started walking, grabbing Hal's free arm and helping lead him onward.

The three of them walked out of the office and down the hall in silence, leaving Marcus alone to plot the coming hours. Hal and Miri shuffled along in front of Vanir's steady aim, saying nothing to each other, nor to Vanir. They descended the spiral staircase and proceeded down another dimly lit hall. The stained glass windows watched them march on with twisted and shadowy shapes. No light shone through from outside to give life to the momentous events they depicted.

Hal and Miri shared a glance as they started to approach their room. Her brilliantly beautiful eyes shone with a determined fire he never saw before. She gave him a subtle nod. They both knew what they had to do.

“Hold up.”

Vanir's footsteps stopped and they all paused just in front of the bedroom door that served as their cell. Hal turned, and found that she was aiming her springer straight at his head. “I think this is far enough.”

“Far enough for what?” Miri asked, her voice mockingly indignant.

Vanir shook her head. “I'm not an idiot. And neither are you.” Her expression was dead serious and pinpoint focused on her target. “You're going to betray Marcus.”

“I just want to get some sleep. I'm not in any shape to fight.” Hal lied. Vanir was buying none of it.

“Please.” Vanir sighted the pistol in on Hal, shifted it to Miri, and focused it again on Hal. “You expect me to believe that you're going to play nice? After everything that's happened? Watching your mentor murdered like that?” She took a deep breath and brought the hammer to full-cock. “You're Marcus' twin brother, which means you're far too brave, far too stubborn, and wholly incapable of letting an injustice  turn into water under the bridge. I'm afraid that your story ends here.”

Hal held his hands up slightly in a gesture of half-surrender. “So... what? You're just going to shoot me? Here, in this hallway? Kill the last family member he has left?” Hal narrowed his eyes. “Marcus and I may not agree, but I promise you.... he will never forgive you for this.”

“Maybe not.” Vanir agreed with a sober nod. “But at least he'll still be alive. At least we will still have a chance to build something new. I can't let you take the future from us.”

Her aim settled over Hal's face. “I'm sorry.”

“NO!!!” Miri leapt into action, diving at Vanir in a desperate attempt to stop her. This took Vanir by surprise, clearly thinking that Hal was the one who would move first. Her aim shifted in that twitching half-second as she pulled the trigger, and the bullet whizzed by the edge of Hal's skull, missing by mere hairs.

Miri tried to get her hands on the gun, but Vanir turned her body and batted Miri to the side with a sharp, skillful strike. Hal didn't hesitate and dropped his cane and letting his power come alight. He reached into his jacket and drew his own pistol, training it on Vanir just as she was training her's upon him. Time seemed to move so slow in that moment, once again. History could only be destined to repeat itself.

Hal fired first, his aim missing her chest, but instead clipping her revolver with a metallic *pang*. It was knocked free from her grasp and spun across the floor, ending out of reach down the hall. They both seemed to take a sharp inhale of breath as time sped back up, snapping them into an accelerated reality. Hal cocked the hammer for his second shot. Vanir dove to the side. Guided by adrenaline, the bullet missed its mark, ricocheting off the wall.

“Shit!” Hal thumbed the breech release, and the barrel of his pistol angled down sharply as the back end hinged up to allow reloading of two new rounds. The spent casings and uncoiled springs shot out the back of the gun, nearly hitting Hal in the eye before falling onto the floor with a hollow metal echo. He reached into his pocket, desperately groping for fresh ammunition with trembling fingers. Every one of them was drunk on the intoxicating promise of survival.

Vanir rose to one knee and held her palms together. A shimmering blue halo erupted to light over her head. As she separated her palms, a crackling, humming, throbbing sphere of black-purple energy grew into the space, filling it with tremendous and terrible singularity of doubtless destruction.

“Shit, shit, shit, shit...” That looked bad. Hal muttered his way through the panic, struggling to load new bullets into the breech. His unsteady hand failed him, and a small handful of bullets fell from his grasp and clattered to the floor below.

“Look out!” Miri propped herself up and kicked at Vanir just as the orb of energy was launched forward. Hal dove to the ground, hitting the deck as fast as he ever had before. Gravity was barely strong enough to drag him down and out of the way of the projectile.

The orb sailed down the hall, crashing into a corner where the wall met the ceiling. It expanded in an instant, swelling into a massive black hole ten times the original size. It ripped at the universe itself, tearing fragments of matter in a final and irresistible implosion.

Wind rushed though the hall, sucked past them into the event horizon. Hal dug his talons into the floor, resisting the pull with every ounce of strength and will. The only sound he could hear was the high-frequency scream of molecules ripped asunder. All light seemed to bend, be absorbed, and rush past his shoulder into the roiling angry sphere.

Seconds later, after an eternity had passed, the sphere collapsed in on itself, leaving behind nothing but the perfectly round imprint of nothingness where clean walls, floor, and ceiling once stood.  The air dropped in temperature a couple of degrees.

Miri wrestled with Vanir, disrupting her from summoning forth a new singularity, and buying Hal a precious few seconds to come to his feet. As much as it helped Hal, it was a losing proposition for Miri, and quickly Vanir emerged for the better, knocking the wind out of Miri with a sharp knee and knocking her down to hit her head on the side of the wall.

Vanir was fast in neutralizing Miri, but not quite fast enough to be ready for Hal. His tail lurched forward and nipped at her with its fangs, creating the one opening that he needed to unleash a devastating combination of raw fury. The first strike caught her in the gut, liberating the air from her lungs and jack-knifing her buckling body. The second strike snapped her head back in a dazing blow to the temple. His hands grabbed at her arm, twisted, rotated, and exposed her to the final third attack. Hal's palm slammed into her already extended joint, snapping it in the wrong direction with wet, sickening scream.

She rolled there on the floor, writhing and howling in pain, effectively incapacitated. Miri was slow to gather herself up. Hal smiled and stood triumphantly, exhaling a deep cloud of vapor from his nostrils. His fingers, steadied now, easily loaded his pistol with two fresh rounds. He snapped the breech back closed with a sharp flick of the wrist and the sweet metallic sound of imminent victory.

“How does it feel now, huh!?” Colors shimmered in Hal's eyes as he stood over his oppressor. “It hurts,  doesn't it? It hurts having your life changed in an instant, dragging you down from the place you thought you stood!”

He grabbed Vanir by the throat and lifted her up high until her feet were barely dangling over the floor. “I never wanted to be here!” He slammed her into the wall, ringing her skull against the stone as his fingers tightened their grip. “I never wanted to die!” His free hand pressed the barrel of his pistol against her chest, aimed straight into her heart. “I only wanted to find peace! I only wanted to be happy!!!!”

“Hal...” Miri's voice weakly objected somewhere behind him, but he could hardly hear her. The pressure of the moment was deafening. Overwhelming. Inevitable.

Tears rolled down Vanir's face as she struggled to breathe. Her lips twisted and fought, struggling to form words to speak. Hal's tail leaned in close, bearing fangs that dripped venom in front of her face. “Do you know what it feels like to lose everything you love!?” He hovered his face inches from hers and pulled the hammer back with a satisfying *click*.  “Do you know what it's like to be given no mercy!!?”

“N-n-no.” Vanir gasped, her voice only emerging as a weak whisper. She was in tremendous pain, gasping for air, and struggling to move her body. More than all of that, though, she was afraid. Completely and absolutely afraid. Her eyes said it all. “P-please...”

Hal locked his eyes onto hers, drinking in her fear. “Let me teach you.”

The gunshot wasn't loud. It heralded the end of her life with a faint, meaty slap of metal slipping through flesh. A small fan of blood emerged from the gap between the barrel and her heart, and the sanguine droplets fell like rain into the suddenly still and silent air.

Hal released his grip and took a step back, letting her body slide down onto the floor. A trail of blood followed her down along the wall, ending where her back lay doubled over at an awkward and uncomfortable angle.

“Spirits, Hal!” Miri's voice was audible now: surprised, disbelieving, and sad. “....you killed her.”

The warm and comforting glow of revenge faded quickly, cooling and condensing into the bitter pit of panic. Hal's lungs sucked in air with an ever growing greed, and soon he was hyperventilating, unable to escape the reality of an act that could never be undone. Vanir was dead.

“Oh gods.” Hal half-sobbed, unable to reign in the racing of his heart or slow the terrible forward progression of time. Alarmed shouts of others echoed through the halls, pursued by the sounds of hurried footsteps. There was no way to go back. The only course that remained, once again, was to go forward.

“We need to go, Miri.” Hal's panicked voice could not have echoed any truer in that hallway. “We need to go, now.”

[End Chapter 19]
I've had this chapter half finished since before Christmas, but haven't gotten around to it until now. Part of the reason is that real life was very busy, but I think part of it is I needed to work up the will to go through with it. This is officially the "shit just got real" segment of the story, for better or worse. The lead up and climax of this story should be quite the ride, especially for me. You don't know how many times I've lived through the last handful of chapters in my head. 

I hope you all enjoy the chapter, and I highly encourage any thoughts you may have or want to share. Thanks for reading and joining me on the rollercoaster.

****

Thanks so much for reading! 
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Found the rules of the internet. there's a lot of them.

-∞. This rule can/will not exist.
ƒƒƒƒƒ. ˙pɹɐʇǝɹ ɐ ǝɹɐ noʎ 'uʍop ǝpısdn sı ʇxǝʇ ɹnoʎ ɟI
ƒƒƒƒ. Uncyclopedia is never wrong, NO EXCEPTIONS, fuck it.
ƒƒƒ. None of these rules really matter, except for the ones that do.
ƒƒƒ.2. The ones that matter are 1, 2, 34, 63, 93, 406, and 899. But not 899.
ƒƒƒ.3. Actually, 899 is a good rule.
ƒƒƒ.4. No it isn't.
ƒƒƒ.5. Oh fuck
ƒƒ. forkheads and 4chan may be the last remaining places of freedom on the net. insert exceptions here
ƒ. AFH is still g0d of the internet
i². Welcome Back.
2i. The end is coming. We shall rule all.
i. You can't the square root of a negative integer.
-3. If you are srs, everyone is srs. No exceptions.
-2 1/2. Never cuss any Canadians.
-2. You won the game.
-1. /b/ is not your friend. No exceptions.
0. Negative Numbers are a Lie. No exceptions.
0.000000001. Percentage of clever comments in YouTube.
1/2. Everyone is masturbating with their other hand. No exceptions.
0.96. P30P13 WH0 U53 1337 5P34K 4R3 N07 1337.
1. Do not talk about /b/.
2. Remember 2nd place.
e. Roflcopter makes you look like a n00b.
3. We are Anonymous.
3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399573105.... Expect us.
4. Anonymous is legion.
5. Anonymous does not forgive, Anonymous does not forget.
6. Anonymous can be a horrible, senseless, uncaring monster.
7. Anonymous is still able to deliver.
8. There are no real rules about posting.
9. Always register with your local service provider.
⑨. There is a Touhou version, no exceptions.
10. If you enjoy any rival sites — DON'T.
11. All your carefully picked arguments can easily be ignored.
12. Anything you say can and will be used against you.
13. Anything you say can be turned into something else. - fixed
14. Do not argue with trolls — it means that they win.
15. The harder you try, the harder you will fail.
16. If you fail in epic proportions, it may just become a winning failure.
17. Every win fails eventually.
18. Everything that can be labeled, can be hated.
19. The more you hate it, the stronger it gets.
20. Nothing is to be taken seriously.
21. Original content is original only for a few seconds before getting old.
22. Copy 'n paste is made to ruin every last bit of originality.
23. Copy 'n paste is made to ruin every last bit of originality.
24. Every repost is always a repost of a repost.
25. Relation to the original topic decreases with every single post.
26. Any topic can be turned into something totally unrelated.
27. Always question a person's sexual preferences without any real reason.
28. Always question a person's gender - just in case it's really a man.
29. On the internet, all girls are men, and all kids are undercover FBI agents or Perverted Justice Decoys.
30. There are NO girls on the internet.
31. TITS or GTFO - the choice is yours.
32. You must have pictures to prove your statements.
33. Lurk moar — it's never enough.
34. There is porn of it, no exceptions.
34.2. There are ponies of it, no exceptions.
34.3. If it exists, there's an app for it.
35. If no porn is found of it, it will be made.
35.2. If no pony is found of it, it will be made.
35.3. If there is no app for it, it will be made.
36. There will always be more fucked up shit than what you just saw.
37. You can not divide by zero (just because the calculator says so).
37.2. Xero Chance can divide by Zero.
38. No real limits of any kind apply here — not even the sky.
39. CAPSLOCK IS CRUISE CONTROL FOR COOL.
40. EVEN WITH CRUISE CONTROL YOU STILL HAVE TO STEER.
41. Needs moar Desu. No exceptions.
41.2. Scroll down.
41.3. ALL THE WAY.
42. Nothing is Sacred.
43. The more beautiful and pure a thing is, the more satisfying it is to corrupt it.
44. Trying to edit the rules of the Internet with Japanese characters is like trying to make "2 girls, 1 cup" acceptable in society. It only works at A-con.
45. When one sees a lion, one must get into the car.
46. There is furry porn of it. No exceptions.
47. The pool is always closed due to AIDS (and stingrays, which also have AIDS).
47.2. YOU DUN GOOF'D!
47.3. THE CONSEQUENCES WILL NEVER BE THE SAME!
48. A cat is fine too.
49. One cat leads to another.
50. Another cat leads to Zippo Cat.
51. No matter what it is, it is somebody's fetish. No exceptions.
52. It is delicious cake. You must eat it.
53. It is delicious trap. You must hit it.
54. /b/ sucks today.
54.2. And today.
55. If you have time to make up new rules, you have no life.
55.2. Except for me.
56. They will not bring back Snacks.
57. You will never have sex.
58. Desu isn't funny. Seriously guys. It's worse than Chuck Norris jokes.
58.2. Scroll down dammit.
58.3. ALL THE WAY YOU FUCKER.
59. No one does it like Gaston. No exceptions.
60. It needs more pumpkin. No exceptions.
61. It needs moar cowbell. No exceptions.
62. It has been cracked and pirated. No exceptions.
63. For every male character there is a female version. No Exceptions.
63.2. For every female character there is a male version. No Exceptions.
63.3. For every asexual character there is a version for each sex. No Exceptions.
64. Don't copy that floppy.
65. Anonymous is not your personal army.
66. The cake is a lie.
66.2. The lie is a cake.
66.3. The cock is a lie.
66.4. The lie is a cock.
66.5. The cake is a liar.
66.6. THE NUMBER OF THE BEAST!
66.7. Iron Maiden is awesome. No exceptions.
67. Anonymous does not "buy", he downloads.
68. Milhouse will never be a meme. Ever. No matter what your post ends with. No exceptions. Ever. No.
69. LOL SIXTY NINE AMIRITE?
70. Do not talk about the 100M GET failure.
71. The internet is SERIOUS FUCKING BUSINESS.
72. Darth Vader is your father. No exceptions.
73. If there isn't enough just ask for Moar.
74. If you post it, they will cum.
75. Rule 75 is a lie. OH SHI-
76. Twinkies are the answers to life's problems.
77. The internet makes you stupid.
78. It will always need moar sauce.
79. Ceilingcat IS watching you masturbate.
80. Interwebz177 did it. No exceptions.
81. Anonymous is a virgin by default.
82. Nobody tells the truth on the Internet
83. Only clusterfucks start Edit Wars.
83.2. Only fusterclucks edit Star Wars.
84. All rules ARE true, including this one.
85. Retarded rules are forbidden.
86. The term "sage" does not refer to the spice.
87. If you get pepperoni ever again, I swear I'll blow this joint sky-high!
88. Anonymous rules the internet. No exceptions.
89. Bruce Lee was a hero to us all.
90. It's never lupus.
91. There is gay porn of it, no exceptions.
92. Chuck Norris is the exception to rule 91. No exceptions.
93.2. This is not rule 93. This is rule 93.2., and rule 93 is not here.
93.3. Rule 899 is rule 93. (This is not)
93.4. Fagicorn deleted the real rule 93. Crap to him.
94. This is rule 94.
95. Anonymous did NOT, under any circumstances, tk him 2da bar?
96. If you express astonishment at someone's claim, it is most likely just a clever ruse.
97. The government, The CIA, Everything is a lie.
98. Only Zippocat is truth.
99. All numbers are at least 100 but always OVER NINE THOUSAAAAAND.
100. Faggotry will not be tolerated.
101. You are never THE BEST at anything, deal with it.
102. You are made of fail and AIDS.
103. That's no such thing as safe sex
104. The internet is for porn.
105. Rule 71 is SERIOUS FUCKING BUSINESS.
106. Rule 109 is true.
107. "That's what she said" jokes are stupid. No Exceptions
108. THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID!!!!!
108.2. ABOUT HIM!!!!
108.3. OMG!!!!!!!!!!
108.4. I KNOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
108.5. You can never get too many exclamation marks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Omigod!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! No Exceptions!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
109. Rule 106 is false.
110. If your statement is preceded by "HAY GUYZ", then you're doing something wrong.
111. If you cannot understand it, it is machine code.
112. What you click isn't always what you get.
113. Gamestop does NOT have Battletoads (or N64 games). But ask anyway.
114. Secure tripcodes are for fags.
115. If someone herd u liek Mudkipz, deny it constantly for the lulz.
115.2. I herd you liek Mudkipz. No exceptions.
116. Combo breakers are inevitable. If the combo is completed successfully, it is gay.
117. Always go out of your way to make newbies feel uncomfortable.
118. Newfags must be tortured to death. No exceptions.
119. Only newfags like caturday, Bruce Lee, and Desu. Those who like any of those refer to rule 93.
120. Nobody likes you.
120.2. Except Pedobear (see also: rule 93)
121. Co$ is the sworn enemy of Anonymous. It must be stopped.
122. There is NO God here (Except Chuck Norris).
122.2. Celestia is greater than Chuck Norris.
122.3 Luna is greater than Celestia.
123. 456789
124. When Anonymous is surprised, bricks must be shat.
124.2. There is an error in rule 124.
125. If you have no bricks to shit, you are made of fail and AIDS.
126. shaMTV must give Rick his award. No exceptions.
127. No NewFaggots aloud.
127.2. ALLOWED, YOU FAGGOT, NOT ALOUD.
128. Everything you know is a lie, but all those lies are nothing. So by using the transitive property we can conclude that everything = nothing and if you add an integer (x) into the equation we can single anything out and turn it into a certain amount of nothing explained by this graph e = everything n = nothing
  |          _
  |      ___/ \
e | ____/      \
  |/            \
  |______________\________________
            
               n
As you can see, at a certain point of everything, nothing cannot exist. So in conclusion, I have no idea what I'm talking about. See Rule 93.
129. BOTS will be dismantled.
130. Internet = Very Scary
131. Whatever it is, pie is involved in some form. No exceptions.
132. If it can't be killed, it doesn't exist. (Except Chuck Norris) No other exceptions.
133. If you met your girlfriend/boyfriend online then you are dating a one armed lady hooker named Steve.(Unless there is webcam involved, then his name is John.)
134. If it talks, you must shut it up.
135. Myspace is for thirteen year old girls and people who fit the description of Rule # 133.
136. _uck _ou_self __ solve it.
137. Tuck yourself in. Is the answer.
138. Rule 139 does/will not exist.
139. Rule 138 is true.
140. XKCD can explain everything. explain it or it goes.
141. Godmodding is retarded. Seriously just accept your death.
142. Just ignore him he will think you're afk.
143. If you ignore her, she will bitch.
144. People can't understand sarcasm.
145. If you take it seriously gtfo.
146. Stop giving the mic a blowjob.
147. Regardless, if you get pissed on teamspeak there is someone that has muted themselves just so they can laugh at you.
148. You don't get any cookies. No exceptions. So don't even ask.
149. Brandon is God's son, making him Jesus. Chuck Norris has no son.
150. You are not going to get a handicap so don't even ask. They will just target you.
151. You will not get a free Xbox 360/Playstation 3/iPhone so don't even get your hopes up.
151.1. There are always more Pokemon. Always.
152. They didn't call you retarded but they were thinking it.
153. It's funny to pick on people's grammar no matter how good it is. No exceptions.
154. The louder you scream at people the harder someone else will laugh.
155. They don't have hacks, you just suck really bad.
156. If you want to know who Anonymous is then GTFO!
157. Someone already did it better. No exceptions.
158. It was in an episode of South Park. No exceptions.
159. The more you deny something the more they are going to say that you are "something".
160. Google ftw. No exceptions.
160.2. Lmgtfy ftw. No exceptions.
161. The guy next to you in the library is always looking at what you are saying.
162. The girl next to you in the library couldn't give a shit.
163. There's a reason- you know what? Fuck it. If you can't figure it out, you seriously need to LURK MOAR.
164. Refer to step 2 on Rule #165.
165. Refer to step 3 on Rule #93.
166. People who get depressed on the internet need a better use of time.
167. Fleshlights are the answers to life's problems. No exceptions.
168. If you pretend that you are drunk people will just think you're retarded because no one can act drunk on the internet.
169? Nah I'll have 2 69s.
170. None of us is as cruel as all of us.
171. At any given moment, more birds could join, leave, or peel off in another direction entirely.
172. Use inside jokes moar. It upsets users.
173. STFU! Before i go chris brown on you!
174. Only 4chan'rs unsuspecting victims hate Rick Astley.
175. The talk page is for spam. Don't go there.
176. Chuck Norris roundhouse kicks children with the last name of Edgerton.
177. Tropicana tastes like the rainbow. No exceptions
178. Shadow sticks are fun to play with in the dark. Unless there are more than 3.
179. Refer to all unwritten rules. No exceptions.
180. For every life the internet improves it destroys 10 others.
181. Anything that's good is a virus.
182. We better start helping the earth, otherwise Al Gore will take back the internets!!! NO MORE BROADBAND! NO DIALUP!
183. If i have 3 cakes and you have one cake, only here you have no cake and I have 3 ps3's.
184. The only potty training videos allowed are ones that feature tigers and are japanese in nature (english subtitles are acceptable)
185. The Internet and Golf are quite similar they both were invented for men to get away from woman, except the internet has porn.
186. Newfags must be shot in the balls on site. No exceptions
187. No matter how hard you try, you will never be as cool as ninjas playing guitars.
188. If none of these rules are followed/obliged to then Bruce Lee will donkey punch you to Uranus.
189. Bukkake is not cool. Never was. Never will be. EVER!!
190. The only good hentai is yuri, that's how the internet works.
191. You will always forget to add an attachment to your e-mails.
192. If you break rule 1 and 2. You will be rickroll'd in hell.
193. If you break rule 188. You will be spanked by Barack Obama.
194. If you break rule 2, Barack Obama will tickle your pubes.
194.2. If you break rule 899 or 899.2, Barack Obama will reveal his colossal dick and choke you to death with it.
195. People called Fred are just Fail. No Exceptions.
196. People named Tyler are just win. No Exceptions.
197. People named Matty are just sexy. No and I mean no Exceptions.
198. If it's not on Google, It does not exist. No Exceptions.
199. If it's not on Google, then you're searching with the wrong criteria, no exceptions
199.1. If SafeSearch is on, you are a fucking faggot, no exceptions.
200. Pictures or it didn't happen.
201. Maths in failing:
Win + Fail = Epicfail Fail + Fail = Win Win + Win = Fail Epicfail + Epicfail = Chuck Norris
202. Anontalk is a bunch of fags. No exceptions.
203. If you run out of cookies, give apples, If you run out of apples, Give Spam. No exceptions.
204. NEVER shoot anybody in the balls. No exceptions.
205. All Americans are fat. No exceptions.
206. Any breaking of pi will result in pi being broken. No one knows the consequences. You have been warned.
207. Rules 1 and 2 are false. From now on, all rules must be about /b/. Unless they aren't.
208. Rules 1, 2 and 206 are true.
209. See rule 208.
210. See rule 209.
211. srt8 must not marry MITB. No exceptions.
212. 4chan is funny. No exceptions.
213. Your mother is behind you. No exceptions, unless she isn't.
214. In case of an emergency, your emergency exit can be found in the top right corner of your screen. No, and i promise you, NO exceptions.
214.2. Except on a Mac. It's on the left.
214.3. Press Alt+F4 for an epic thing to happen.
215. Rule 213 is false. Do not click that button.
216. 3, is the magic number.... 3, is the magic number.... NO EXCEPTIONS!
216.2. 42
217. Creator of 4chan is mentally Disturbed. No exceptions.
218. Porn must only be looked at when porn is needed.
219. Google is not a calculator.
220. Longcat is LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG. No exceptions.
221. RETARDED NEWFAGS, should always be shot without warning NO EXCEPTIONS!
222. The game.
222.2. The game ended, wait a while before we start the next wave.
222.3. The second wave is started.
223. Only faggots add rules that don't go along with rule 93 no exceptions.
224. All rules above "PROFIT!" don't count. No Exceptions.
225. The Simpsons already did it. South Park already did it better. NO EXCEPTIONS
226. If a statement may be taken sexually in any way, then she already said it. No exceptions.
227. Asking Alexandria is the worst band in the world. No exceptions
228. None of these rules apply to this wiki. No exceptions.
228.2. Except the ones about newfags editing the rules
229. You never see the porn first, even if you made or drew it. No exceptions.
230. Hentai is you friend. No exceptions.
231. Except if it is on /d/. No exceptions.
232. You cannot control the person in charge. No exceptions.
233. The person in charge only wants to make your life miserable. No exceptions.
234. Rule 186 is the only exception to rule 204
235. PROFIT!
236. There is no more than 1 rule for 1 number. 234 is the only exception, all others can refer to rule 93.
236.1. No.
237. There will be placeholders. No exceptions.
238. Every night when you are sleeping, Interwebz177 gives you pills that give you a boner then he sucks you dry.
239. That naked picture you took whilst drunk has never been removed from the internet, and will remain on a 50yr old man's hard drive for as long as he lives.
240. Rule 301 is false, it is occasionally Alex.
241. Everything fun on the internet is either illegal, immoral or fattening.
242. See Rule 899.
243. TNA sucks, WWE rocks.
244. WWE sucks, TNA rocks.
245. Your all both fags ROH is better than anything.
246. Pro Wrestling is gay. No exceptions.
246.2. Also, it is SERIOUS BUSINESS. No exceptions.
247. King Kong's penis was 13" long. Which isn't that long for a 50' gorilla.
247.2. The above is not a rule.
248. There has been a flame war of it. No exceptions.
249. Euskal hizkuntza dela begiratuko du lelo bat bezala.
249.2. Google Translate is shit.
250. Additional Pylons are required. Always.
251. No one uses anything but Google. No exceptions.
252. Rule 52 is a lie. Thank you.
253. Yes, it is some chickens.
254. Steve Irwin's death is really, really funny.
255. Anonymous is an Internet Hate Machine. Wikipedia said so.
255.2. Wikipedia is never wrong. Your teachers were.
256. For every curse word, there is a town with that name. No exceptions.
257. CP is awwwright, but DSFARGEG will get you b&.
258. ASDFMOVIE is god. No exception.
259. Hal Turner definitely needs to gb2/hell/.
260. No matter how cute it is, it probably skullfucked your mother last night.
261. Bobba bobba is bobba.
262. Yes, it is still some chickens.
263. Disregard Bigmike, he sucks cocks.
264. Spengbab Sqarpaint is luv Padtwick Zhstar iz fwend.
265. Anonymous still owes Hal Turner one trillion U.S. dollars.
266. Pokémon yuri is awesome, especially Elesa/Skyla.
267. Why are so many rules not written yet?
268. BECAUSE RACE CAR.
269. Yeah, finally...2 69's!
269.1. To 69 or not to 69? Did she take a shower? That is the question.
270. If you do not believe it, then it must be habeebed for great justice.
271. 299 is a lie. This is sparta. No exceptions.
272. This is the end of the world, no exceptions.
273. 301 is a lie. The end is the beginning. No exceptions.
274. Not even Spider-Man knows how to shoot web.
275. By extension to rule 301, it is never a job offer.
276. One does not simply shoop da whoop into Mordor.
277. Newfags will rape you so hard that Micheal Jackson will feel it in hell. No exceptions.
278. If a song gets famous, there will be a slowed-down acoustic cover by a female singer-songwriter.
279. Mitchell Henderson was an hero to us all.
280. This is a showdown, a throwdown, hell no I can't slow down, it's gonna go.
281. I am copying directly from the UrbanDictionary definition of the Rules of the Internet.
282. If you express astonishment at someone's claim, it is most likely just a clever ruse.
283. That's not mud.
284. What has been seen cannot be unseen. Even the post clearance that's coming up.
285. 5pam
286. 5pam
287. 5pam
288. 5pam
289. Shit sucks and will never be stickied.
290. UrbanDictionary's entry is out of date.
291. 5pam 5ome MOAR
292. There are no real rules about moderation — enjoy your ban.
293. There should be a hand in it somehow.
294. Everything has been searched on the internet.
295. Box dividers are gay.
296. Twitter is pointless.
297. GentleMentleMen will never retain its original audio.
298. Any BEATMANIA song will be made into a meme.
299. This is madness. No exceptions.
300. No, This Is SPARTA!
301. No, this is Patrick.
302. Food has been made from any part from any animal. No exceptions.
303. If they exist, they have been shipped. No Exceptions.
304. Buy the extended warranty. No exceptions.
305. Fuck backups.
306. Even one positive comment on Japanese things makes you a weeaboo.
307. Chuck Norris is an exception to rule 63, no exceptions.
308. Always bring your towel, no exceptions.
309. Anal Cunt are the best band in the world. No Exceptions.
310. !?!?!?
311. A crossover, even an improbable one, will eventually happen in fanart, fanfic, or official release material. No exceptions.
312. Dubstep does not exist except Skrillex. No exceptions.
313. Mastication is not what you think.
314. The day that pi finally ends is the day that the world will end. No exceptions.
315. Blockatiel is out to get you. No Exceptions.
316. Your parents know where you keep your porn, no exceptions. Keeping it on a flash drive doesn't help.
317. Anonymous is not sorry.
318. Standing safely behind Rule 319.
319. This rule is transparent.
319.2. Rule 318 just shat itself.
320. There is no such thing as a lazah. OHSHI-
321. Rule 183 is a lie; The cake is also true.
322. Rule 321 is a lie; The cake is a pie.
323. Rule 322 is true, although Chuck Norris already ate the cake.
324. The placement of rule 333 was shit. No exceptions.
325. If you download but don't seed, Bruce Lee will rip your scrotum off.
326. There IS a torrent for it... you just aren't looking hard enough... Unless there isn't.
327: Kill it with fire!
328. There is an exception to all exceptions. No exceptions
329. I killed your mother.
330. Just kidding i did fuck her though.
330.2. LOL did i mention she likes oral?
331. G.I.R.L = Guy In Real Life... No Exceptions.
332. If it exists, someone is offended by it, no exceptions.
334. Your SPOON WILL ALWAYS BE TOO BIG.
335. Pokemon is serious bloody business, NO EXCEPTIONS, no exceptions.
335.2. Chuck Norris doesn't play Pokemon, he lives it.
336. There is not enough facepalms for this, introduced; The Facedesk. NO Exceptions.
337. Girls Can't Drive....Even on Video Games No Exceptions.
338. Big Brother is Always Watching You O_O.
339. Except when he's not.
340. Admins always suck more then Mods. No Exceptions.
341. Lobbywhores always get banned for Stupidity.
342. Two's company, three's a crowd.
343. Anonymous will update the rules every sunday night, no exceptions.
344. Anonymous keeps a copy of the unedited rules on his hard drive, along with all of your porn.
345. Perl will NEVER be the best language, no exceptions
346. Attempting to post anything on the internet which defines the rules of the internet will result in an UserIsAnNoobException.
347. Some rules just dont make sense... follow them anyways. No Exceptions
348. You and me could write a rad bromance.
349. One just does not "make a meme". No exceptions
350. Walk don't run.
351. Limit Yourself.
352. Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.
353. Bad artists copy. Good artists steal.
354. Many people think that the Internet is a complex series of tubes, some people think its made of cats and some think it's magic. BUT really the Internet was excreted from chuck Norris's ass, therefore it is the image of perfection. NO EXEPTIONS.
355. For every object, existing or imagined, there is a variant involving bacon.
356. No one knows what love is. No exceptions.
357. .snoitpecxe oN .ysae si klat drawkcaB
358. There is an exception, no exceptions.
359. Cock goes in here.
360. If you say Candlejack, you w
361. If it hadn't been for Cotton Eyed Joe, Anonymous would have been married a long time ago.
362. No one is married. No exceptions.
363. All furries are 35-year-old virgins. No exceptions.
364. The Simpsons stopped being funny in 1998. No exceptions.
365. No one cares whether it is a leap year or not, no exceptions.
366. Asians are the rulers of the universe, no exceptions.
367. Everyone's copyright will be broken. No exceptions.
368. The rules are ever-changing, no exceptions.
369. Whoa, this gets better and better.
370. A piece of porn has been made of every situation by following it with the words "They fuck". No exceptions.
371. Football is stupid. No exceptions.
372. The other kind of football is stupid. No exceptions.
373. Baseball is for faggots. No exceptions.
374. Australian Rules football is stupid. No exceptions.
375. Coldplay are gay. No exceptions.
376. There is a forum of it, no exceptions.
377. Everything is fake and gay. No exceptions.
378. Someone thinks it is awesome. No exceptions.
379. If a girl on the Internet actually shows their tits after being asked about rule 31, that's someone you want to establish a positive relationship with.
380. Everyone is a pedophile. No exceptions.
381. No one actually owned Action 52. No exceptions.
382. Lolicons are morally okay. No exceptions.
403. Sub Rules are forbidden.
403.2. And we mean it this time.
403.2.2. Really.
403.2.2.2. Really really.
404. This rule was not found.
405. Rule 404 WAS found, but then was lost.
406. The number of Facebook friends is inversely proportional to the number of real friends. No exceptions.
406.2. Also, add me, Chris James Sharples :)
418. I'm a teapot.
419. Falcon PUUUNCH!
420. Georgia is in Russia. Also, even though this is rule number 420, no marijuana is implied.
421. There are NO intelligent comments on music videos. No exceptions.
422. Any music or bands you like will happen to have a completely retarded fanbase. No exceptions.
423. All obvious statements shall require a smart ass remark. No exceptions.
469. Awesome.
501. There is a fat version, no exceptions.
513. There isn't much time, but there is always all of it.
523. The existence of God has been proven by a formula. Look it up.
529. Newfags can't triforce.
530. If a newfag can triforce, the internet eats itself.
555. No one expects anything. No exceptions.
569. AKA an orgy.
571. There is porn of every celebrity, no exceptions.
598. Anyone can censor a cartoon. No exceptions.
599. Anyone can uncensor a censored cartoon. No exceptions.
600. No one speaks Basque. No exceptions.
600.2. Or Telugu. No exceptions.
601. There is life out there.
609. Refer to rules 243-6.
647. Keldeo is a pony.
665. The chakra is not a toy.
666. Idle hands are Anonymous' playthings. No exceptions.
667. Only Chuck Norris can break a Nokia. No exceptions.
668. I am a huge faggot. Please rape my face.
669. Super orgy.
701. The rent is always too damn high.
706. No fat chicks.
753. Backward talk is easy. No exceptions.
768. /d/ is serious business. See Rule 36.
769. I just came.
769.2. But if you're wearing white it's okay.
770. If there isn't enough just ask for Moar.
777. There is no such thing as luck.
778. /u/ and /y/ are like /v/, but with more videogames, and less porn.
867. Jenny is not home, she will never be home. No Exceptions.
868. Making a Chuck Norris joke instantly turns you into a newfag. No exceptions.
869. More and more.
888. Subtitles are now available. No Exceptions.
898. This is the rule before Rule 899.
899. No one intentionally sees their first dickgirl. No exceptions.
899.2. You are a newfag if you have never seen a dickgirl. No exceptions.
899.3. If you see enough dickgirls, you become attracted to them and start fapping to them. No exceptions.
899.4. If you see too many dickgirls, you become a dickgirl. No exceptions.
900. Now you have experienced Rule 899, go back and read it again.
969. A guy's dream.
999. ?suoi?d??x? ou ??i?? no? 'si?? pu??s??pun ?,uop ??i?s no? ??? p??? ?no? di?? o? ??i? ??? ?oo? no? ?i
1000. Joe Is Awesome, No Exceptions.
1001. Amount of uses for duct tape for now. moar are being discovered!
1002. Oop, another one.
1069. SOS HELP ME I AM DROWNING IN MY OWN CUM
1111. The number for this rule is a sausage fest.
1111.1. The number for this rule is also a sausage fest.
1111.2. You don't get .1's you stupid shit. No exceptions.
1337. The last thing this should be is a rule. You failed by looking at this, newfag.
1666. London is never burning. No exceptions.
1966. ENGLAND clapclapclap ENGLAND clapclapclap
1967. Shut the fuck up. No Exceptions.
2006. Silver is awesome, No Exceptions
2006.2. Shadow is highly over rated and should be put to rest, no excpetions
2010. There is a ponified version of it. No exceptions.
2012. Science doesn't exist, God doesn't exist, only Chuck Norris exists!
2013. Rule 2012 is a lie. So are the Mayans.
2014. Science just proved that the Mayans couldn't find a bigger rock.
2101. War was beginning.
2111. ALL BASES OF C.A.T.S. WERE DESTROYED. IT SEEMS TO BE PEACEFUL. BUT IT IS INCORRECT. C.A.T.S. IS STILL ALIVE.
2552. Remember Reach, no exceptions.
2979. It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.
3333. HeadOn. Apply directly to the forehead. HeadOn. Apply directly to the forehead. HeadOn. Apply directly to the forehead. HeadOn. Available at Walgreens.
3334. Sausages are only eaten by gay men. No Exceptions.
3434. The only exception to rule 34 is the citation of rule 34.
4321. This rule was for homoes.
5150. Sammy Hagar sucked. No exceptions.
5225. Election years were meant for Congress so they may let their trolls out to feed.
5705. There is no reply. No exceptions.
7652. Tinker will never be Asian. Owning katanas is fail.
9000. You must be mathematically greater than 9000 to be over 9000.
9001. It's over 9000. No exceptions
9001.2. Vegeta is better than anyone, no exceptions
9001.3. Goku is over rated, no exceptions
9002. It's still over 9000, and always will be!
9004. If you're wondering where 9003 went, refer to rule 405, but think of "rule 9003" instead of "rule 404".
9005. If you have used the Internet you have procrastinated. No Exceptions.
12345. Hbrowse is awesome. No Exceptions.
59713. Do not use the Internet if over 50.
176982. If it is a word, it has a sexual meaning. No exceptions.
424242. Reading online forums may cause irreparable damage to your faith in humanity.
494949. Needs moar Nyo. No exceptions.
499499. If you try to hide a porn window, the pop-ups which remain will be even worse.
500001. Internet Explorer is for newfags and users of it should be dragon punched by Bruce Lee.
878787. Fap moar - it's never enough.
899899. Anything can be a meme.
899900. Including rule 899.
3756548. Your life depends on this.
3756550. You're floccinaucinihilipilification.
3799999. Rule 3756550 was supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
8072007. Rules 1 and 2 apply only to raids.
8675309. Go back to the top of the page, and read all the rules again.
69696969. See rule 469.
102938475. The Internet has a very cruel sense of humor.
362001984. THE EMOTICONES SHALL RULE THE UNIVERSE.
362001985. THOSE WHO DO NOT FOLLOW THE EMOTICONES MUST BE ELIMINATED.
362001986. THE END SHALL BE BROUGHT BY THE GRAND CONE.
1234567890. There are ten numbers. No exceptions.
2147483647. This is the end of the internet. No Exceptions.
2147483648. You've lost the game. No Exceptions.
55555555555. Virgins are people who have never had sex. AKA The Internet. No exceptions.
181354931118. /r/spacedicks should only be viewed by 4chan users.
926535897932. This rule applies to rule 93.
934023783021. OMGWTFBBQ?!?!?!?!?!? NO EXCEPTIONS.
1000000000000. Jesus can win the game. No Exceptions.
1000000000000.1. Chuck Norris is the only exception. No exceptions.
3846264338327. Rule 2147483647 is false.
6666666666666. All rules that use shitty grammar and/or who's identification values equate to undefined, infinity, or retardation do not count. No exceptions.
6666666666667. Except for the exceptions, no exceptions.
6666666666668. Except for the exceptions to that. No exceptions.
11123334555677789990. This rule has the numbers 233 and 899 in it.
6501293849635201682301371605287306824087549580566948509750739410237012973058476656567837562181. No one knows the difference between their, there, and they're. No exceptions.
10000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000. Google is god. No exceptions.
99999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999. Logan is a faggot, no exceptions.
99999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999.1. Jared is a badass, no exceptions.
#. There is a dubstep remix of it. No exceptions. Refer to rule 312.
X. This isn't a rule, refer to rule 93.
333. Told you.
k. How did you get down here?
...02425950695064738395657479136519351798334535362521430035401260267716226721604198106522631693551887803881448314065252616878509555264605107117200099709291249544378887496062882911725063001303622934916080254594614945788714278323508292421020918258967535604308699380168924988926809951016905591995119502788717830837018340236474548882222161573228010132974509273445945043433009010969280253527518332898844615089404248265018193851562535796399618993967905496638003222348723967018485186439059104575627262464195387. No fucking idea.
...02425950695064738395657479136519351798334535362521430035401260267716226721604198106522631693551887803881448314065252616878509555264605107117200099709291249544378887496062882911725063001303622934916080254594614945788714278323508292421020918258967535604308699380168924988926809951016905591995119502788717830837018340236474548882222161573228010132974509273445945043433009010969280253527518332898844615089404248265018193851562535796399618993967905496638003222348723967018485186439059104575627262464195388. Since you're down here... DESU
...02425950695064738395657479136519351798334535362521430035401260267716226721604198106522631693551887803881448314065252616878509555264605107117200099709291249544378887496062882911725063001303622934916080254594614945788714278323508292421020918258967535604308699380168924988926809951016905591995119502788717830837018340236474548882222161573228010132974509273445945043433009010969280253527518332898844615089404248265018193851562535796399618993967905496638003222348723967018485186439059104575627262464195389. No one knows how to type in superscript.
GOOGOLPLEX. See, if I'd just said, "1x10" then "10000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000" in superscript, it would have made a lot more sense.
∞. There is no limit to the amount of messed up shit that lurks on the internet.
∞ + 1. This shall go on forever.
∞ + 2. and ever
tan 90°. and ever
2/0. Go to rule 93.
P0N135. Ponies.
yeaahhhh, all of the rules of the internet

New rules:
9001.2
9001.3
2006
2006.2
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[Chapter 24]

Is this what dying really feels like?

That question was the last thought to flow through Hal's mind, and it seemed stuck there in mid-stream,  unable to move forward. There was never any pearly gate, no flash of light or recanting of his sins. There was just the question. The single question that waited an eternity for an answer.

*BEEP*

A sound broke through the haze of timelessness.

*BEEP*

There it was again, and suddenly Hal realized he was having thoughts. Why was he thinking about having thoughts?

*BEEP*

Hal tried to open his eyes, to wake up, but he only partially succeeded. There was nothing to see, but he was clearly awake. He was thinking about being awake and how odd this felt.

*BEEP*

Something was covering his eyes, and yet even so they felt fused shut somehow. Slowly the cold truth of realization condensed in his mind. His eyes were covered by bandages. He was lying down. He was alive.

*BEEP*

Why!?

Hal wanted to cry, but he couldn't. Why was he alive? Was the universe just playing some great cosmic game of chicken with him? He had given his world everything, and yet it demanded still more. The call of life always asked him for more.

The beeping accelerated as he felt his heartbeat speed up. He was in a hospital bed. The air felt still and cool to his half-working nerves. He tried shifting his weight a little, but halted himself when he felt the tug of tubes sticking into his body. There were tubes in his arm. There were tubes in his stomach. There were tubes in his nose.  

He heard a sound like a gasp of surprise. Wherever he was, he wasn't the only person in the room. Hal heard footsteps shuffle from his right to his left and then hastened to even further beyond, leaving the room entirely.

So much for pleasant introductions.

Hal felt his tail begin to stir, and it slowly opened its four blood-red eyes. It was a strange feeling in that with his own eyes blinded, Hal for the first time remembered that he still had these ones. Their sight didn't manifest in his mind with clear images or even as the sensation of vision at all, but he suddenly had an intuitive feeling for his surroundings. He somehow understood that this room was longer than it was wide, and he shared this space with other beds cradling other unconscious patients. This room felt dim. This room felt tired. But most of all, this room felt forgotten.

He lay there alone with his thoughts for some time before the sound of footsteps returned. These new ones were sharp, and each footfall echoed through the halls with the sense of purpose. Before long the echo became a direct sound and the footsteps approached all the way to the front of his bed.

“Mister Adhil. You're awake.”

The voice was stern, female, and confident in the way that only experience could provide. It seemed to be waiting for his response, and only after a fair amount of delay did Hal speak up himself, testing his vocal chords.

“Um, good... morning?”

“Good morning indeed. I'm surprised you can speak.” Hal heard the sound of metal brushing against plastic and the faint flutter of paper as charts and diagnostics were consulted. “I don't think we expected you to wake up today, if ever at all. Tell me, how do you feel?”

Right to business then.

“Tired. Like I'm trying to wake up from a dream that I can't remember.” Hal offered the statements that he felt were best. After a few moments without a response, he hazarded a question. “Are you my doctor? Am I really alive?”

“The answer is yes, to both.” The clipboard clattered back into place at the end of the bed. “Forgive my abruptness, but it's not often that I get the opportunity to have these sorts of conversations. I'm Doctor Richter, and this is room 13B of Bergmann Memorial Hospital. Long term care.”

The footsteps moved closer to him. Hal could sense the faint pressure of fingers poking at buttons on his monitors. “Your blood pressure is a little high for someone who's been in a coma, but everything else looks normal.”

Hal's heart froze.

“Wait, I've been in a coma?” He dreaded the answer that was to come. “For how long?”

A minor sigh escaped the doctor's lips. “I'm afraid you've been asleep for quite some time. Let's see... about a year and a half.” Her voice lowered a bit. “It's pretty rare to have anyone wake up like this. Most of the time, it's just a waiting game until the plug is pulled.”

Hal tried to find some words, but they were slow in coming. So many thoughts were racing through his mind, it was difficult to settle on any one, but eventually enough laps had been completed to allow the most pressing one to rise to the fore. “Why am I still alive?”

“Don't you mean 'how am I still alive'?”

“Sure.” Hal shrugged, or tried to at least. His nervous system felt like it had been rebuilt out of molasses. Arguing semantics could come later.

The doctor took a moment to formulate her explanation before speaking. “Statistically, you should have been dead on arrival. Everyone's physiology is different, but the brain can only survive without oxygen for so long before the damage is irreversible. That amount of time is usually measured in minutes not hours. Conveniently, its distribution is described by a nice normal bell curve.” Dr. Richter's voice actually sounded annoyed. “You're the edge of the curve. Your life is an anomaly.”

Anomaly. That word was an unwelcome one. A word the doctor hesitated to even speak. No one ever knew how to handle anomalies.

“I've been writing a paper on your condition, but even I don't really understand it. From all appearances, you have very late-stage cancer that's spread to every single part of your body. But, for some reason it doesn't seem to be hurting anything.” Richter grumbled in dissatisfaction at her apparent lack of understanding. “It's the most widespread and comprehensive cellular mutation I've seen in a living body, and somehow it's benign. This collage of old cells and new cells... it's just what you are now.”

“That's good, isn't it?” Hal didn't understand why she sounded so disappointed.

“I suppose.”

Hal heard the sound of a pen clicking to life and the sharp scribble of notes on a clipboard. “Your mutated cells appear to use a different respiration cycle than normal, allowing for greater anaerobic energy production. I've been trying to nail down the specific chemistry, but all the cell samples I take die quickly when removed from the host. It's remarkably infuriating.”

Hal managed to tilt his head ever so slightly in a nod of understanding. It kinda made sense. He wouldn't have been able to wake up from being drowned if his cells couldn't some how get by without oxygen, even if that meant going dormant for a long time. After his mind finished absorbing the information, he offered a wry smile. “Sorry to be so inconvenient to you.”

“It can't be helped.” The pen clicked again and the clipboard clattered into place at the foot of his bed. The doctor sighed again. “Now that you're awake, I have to make some calls and take care of some paperwork. I know it sounds cliché, but you should just take it easy. We have an awful lot of difficult physical therapy to look forward to.” It sounded like the doctor was starting to walk away.

“Wait.” The footsteps halted in reaction to Hal's word. “What happened to Miri?”

“Miri?” The doctor sounded like she was thinking who that name was attached to. “Oh. Yes. The purple fox? She'll probably be dropping by soon.” Hal heard the faintest of chuckles. “She visits you almost every weekend.” Without another word, the footsteps left him and eventually faded into distant echoes down the hallway.

The news was such a shock to Hal, that he simply lay there, stunned, for what felt like another year and a half.

Miri was alive?

No way.

This had to be a dream.

No person could ever get that lucky. No life could ever be so blessed.

Could his?

Hal felt a familiar constricting sensation in his throat. He struggled against the inevitable pressure before finally giving way to a singular emotion that spilled out from his lungs.

The emotion wasn't relief. Relief is too transient. Relief is a cold glass of water on a hot summer day. When the heat fades, it fades as well.  

The emotion wasn't happiness. Happiness is warm, soft, and intangible. This feeling was strong, massive, and overwhelming, like a cresting wave, reaching, peaking, and ready to crash onto shore.

The emotion Hal felt... was Joy.

Joy surged forth from his heart, flowed through his lips and poured into the room, carried forward by the current of laughter. He laughed longer and harder than ever before, feeling the purity of those echoes reflect back and wash over him. For the first time in his life, Hal understood what laughter was always meant to be. Laughter, is the celebration of joy.

Hal laughed until his body was exhausted, and simply could not continue any longer. Even though he was blinded, the world felt brighter than it ever had before. It wasn't long before his world had become a lot busier as well. No Miri yet, but instead an army of medical assistants, perhaps drawn by his honest and vocal expressions of joy. There wouldn't be any of that here. This was a hospital.

Tests were run, samples were taken, interviews conducted. A lot of medical jargon and stern, disbelieving voices. What's two plus two? What year were you born? Do you feel dizzy? Nausea? Is it difficult to think of words? Describe what a square looks like. Apparently he was supposed to be brain dead, and the experts had a hard time accepting that he was not.

Amid the flurry, Hal learned more about his physical health. His muscles were atrophied from being in a bed for a long time. Between that and the old gunshot wounds, learning to walk was going to be difficult. Good thing he had some experience under his belt.

Both of his eyes were blinded. One had been smashed and one had been sliced, and neither one would be able to show him the world again. The bandages that covered them weren't really necessary for anything other than keeping people from being shocked by his appearance.

The scarring on his body was extensive. Bullet wounds, lacerations, blunt force trauma. Pristine and low mileage he was no longer. One young resident probably described it best when he remarked that  Hal looked 'pretty hardcore'. It wasn't an adjective Hal was accustomed to people applying to him, but it would do.

Somehow, none of these facts particularly worried Hal. What else could he do, but laugh at it all? He was alive. It wasn't a perfect life, not even close, but it was something. Maybe something was enough.

Eventually the nurses and doctors and residents finished their poking and prodding. They would be back, they promised, with more questions and more tests, but for now, Hal could relax in peace. His energy level was hardly up to the task of sustaining such attention. Simply laughing had drained him a good deal. The sound of the heart monitor was soothing, almost entrancing, and he flirted with unconsciousness in and out as time passed without being measured.

Eventually, the unmeasured future came to pass, and Hal felt the presence of someone else in the room. A warm hand gently placed itself on his own, and even without words, Hal knew who it belonged to.

“Hey Hal.”

Miri's soft voice crossed the space between them, sounding calm, but perhaps a bit sad. The quiet of the room told Hal that they were completely alone. It didn't seem like she knew that he was awake.

“Today's a special day for both of us, isn't it?”

Hal forced himself to remain still. He wanted to hear what she had to say without interrupting her. Hal honestly didn't even know what day it was, other than it was a weekend.

“I finished my thesis. If all goes well, I'll be 'Doctor Rodgers' soon.” The normally great news was delivered with a wistful tone. “Heh. Doctor. I don't know if that title even means anything to me anymore.”

Hal stopped himself from frowning at Miri's words. Her voice had a quality to it that he could feel but not quite place. The faintest trembling in her fingers telegraphed the subtle wavering that was soon to follow in her words.  

“You know, Hal, it's strange. I thought I'd be happy about this, but for some reason, the more things go back to normal, the more it feels like everything is wrong.”

Lost. That was the word Hal had been searching for. Miri's voice sounded lost.

“I always imagined that when I got to today, that Dr. Kincaid would be here to congratulate me. To tell me that I did a good job. He'd smile and say something about how I have a bright future ahead of me, and I think I would actually believe him.”

She drew in a long, hesitant breath, taking a few precious seconds to gather more strength.

“And I thought that you would be there too. That we would cross this line together. I pictured Dr. Kincaid saying the same thing to you, but you'd just smirk and make some joke about how I did all the real work. We'd all laugh and smile and everything would feel right. Like I was actually meant to live that moment.”

Miri sniffled a bit. “But that's not what happened today, is it?” Her voice became more strained. “Spirits, Hal... How many times have we had this conversation? This is so stupid.”

Hal almost spoke up, to comfort Miri, to let her know that he was still here. But something stopped him before he could start. Why did he suddenly feel afraid?

“I know you can't hear me. But I just wish...” Hal felt the dull sensation of a droplet of water falling onto his forearm. “Sometimes I just wish that I could go back in time and remember that I was happy once. Back when we could just watch the stars together, and talk about the wind and mountains and snowflakes.” Miri sniffled again, fighting against the strain in her throat.  “Now that today has finally arrived... I honestly don't know what the hell I'm supposed to do with my life. Every day just feels like I'm going through the motions. Have you ever felt like that?”

Hal heard her laugh bitterly at her own words. “Of course you haven't. Every day you had a new sky to look up at. I always wanted to know what that would feel like, if only for a moment.” Her hand squeezed his. “Everyone says that I need to move on. But they don't know what we've been through. The small moments we shared. What they meant to me. Not one person in the world understands who I am.”

Hal finally broke his silence, and his tail bobbed to life, angling over towards her. “I do.”

“Holy-!” Miri screamed in surprise and Hal heard the sound of a chair clattering to the floor. The faint tremor he felt through the ground meant that Miri fell too. Hal frowned, wondering if he was a little too cruel in surprising her like that.

“Miri? Are you ok?”

A fist responded with a firm punch to his side. “HAL!? You ASSHOLE! You're awake!!? Were you listening this entire time!?” Another fist landed home, even stronger than the last, followed by another.

“Ow. Sorry.” One jab struck him in the gut, close to where some tubes were. “OW! Hey! Don't mess up my happy tubes!”

“YOU'RE SUCH A JERK!” She sobbed freely, striking with one last punch to his side. The attack soon turned into a hug, and Miri embraced Hal tightly, crying into his shoulder. If Hal could cry he would too, but he settled for gently wrapping his free arm around her to return the gesture. They stayed like that for a long time, allowing the gravity of their improbable reunion to fully sink in.

“Hal. Oh Hal.” She spoke his name over and over, as if repetition would prove that that he wasn't an illusion. Her voice was muffled a bit from being pressed so close. “I thought you were in a coma! The doctors told me every time that there wasn't much chance you would ever wake up!”

“Yeah, well, I'm an anomaly apparently.” Hal smirked a bit at his own humor. “I thought you were dead.”

Miri pulled her head away for a moment, presumably to wipe at her eyes, as she struggled and mostly failed to compose herself. “I very nearly was.”

“Then how?” Hal only got a few words into his question before her head was resting close again.

“You have terrible aim.”

“I'm being serious.”

“So am I!” Miri jabbed him, much more gently this time. “The bullet hit me in the stomach, a few inches below my ribs. Right here.” Her fingers guided his hand along her side to a place where a patch of her fur was missing. Hal's fingers felt the odd, soft flesh of raw scar tissue. “It missed my vital organs. That said, I nearly bled to death in that church, but the medics were on the scene super-quick. A *lot* of medics.”

Hal grimaced as he remembered the final minutes of that encounter. To him it just happened yesterday, but Miri had a lot more time to recover and come to grips with the traumatic events. Unpleasant as it was, this was his opportunity to learn about the aftermath. “So... what happened?”

Miri sighed, closing her fingers around his, just like they had back then. “The troopers won, but, I don't think even a dozen people made it out of that room alive. So many bodies that used to be people just... everywhere. All over.” She tightened her grip a little. “Trooper ops always have paramedics on standby, and practically every single unit in the city was there to triage the casualties. It was all over the news for weeks.”

Hal felt her face nuzzle into his shoulder some more. “All it took was a few emergency blood transfusions, two surgeries, and way too much time in the hospital to get me back on my feet again. You know. Easy stuff compared to what you're used to.”

“Sounds like.”

Miri's voice was harder to hear with how her face was buried. “I thought I lost you, Hal. Are you sure this is real?”

Hal snorted. “Not at all. I'm probably hallucinating.”

“Is that so?” A little edge of mischief worked its way into Miri's words. He felt her head shift, moving up towards his to plant a kiss on his cheek.

“Ehhhh... still not convinced.”

A finger poked the side of his face. “Hmph. Nice try, but that's all you get. We're hardly alone.”

“Awww.” Hal pretended to be disappointed. “Hospital wards don't turn you on?”

“Sadly, no.”

“Well, there's one date idea out the window.”

The two of them laughed a bit at the joke, still trying to come to grips with the new reality they both earned. Hal didn't have enough energy to keep up the banter, which seemed to suit Miri just fine. They lay together in silence, enjoying each others company all the same.

Unfortunately, they weren't able to savor the moment for too long before more footsteps came down the hall. These ones sounded heavy. Boots marching in lockstep. Hal didn't need to hear the word to understand who was coming.

“Troopers.” Miri's voice sank low, and she pulled away from Hal to sit back down in the chair beside him.  

The loud boots entered the room, breaking the calm silence they had enjoyed. Some of the boots stopped there, but another pair continued on approaching them with a sharp sense of purpose. “Ah, Miss Rodgers. I didn't know you were here.” The new voice sounded imperious and overbearing.

“Prosecutor Graham.”

Apparently these two knew each other, and from the iciness of Miri's tone, it was not exactly a pleasant relationship.

“I need to speak to Mister Adhil.”

“Go right on ahead, but I'm not leaving the room, so don't even try to make me.”

The prosecutor sighed as if weighing whether or not to force the issue. He must have decided to let it be, because his next sentence addressed Hal directly. It was very formal and to the point. “Halcyon Adhil, I am here to inform you that you are under arrest for crimes against the city of Anduruna. The list of charges is rather extensive, I'm afraid.”

Hal grumbled. “Last I checked, I'm lying in this bed because I tried to help the city. What the hell am I being charged with?”

“Murder. Aiding and abetting a domestic terrorist. Power use. Illegal possession of a firearm. Many more items along that vein. Any one of them alone could put you away for a long time.” The voice seemed to take immense satisfaction in reciting Hal's so-called crimes. “You're in an awful lot of trouble.”

“Gee, I've never been in trouble with the cops before.” Hal quipped dryly, unable to hold back the snark.

“You don't seem to be taking this very seriously.”

“And you don't seem like a very pleasant person.”

“Hal.”

Miri chastised his tone, but it was difficult for Hal to keep the edge out of his voice. He smiled a false smile towards the sound of the prosecutor. “Thanks for the friendly notice.  So, do I get to talk to a defense lawyer now?”

“Oh, no. Not at all.” The prosecutor laughed a little bit, and Hal decided that this gloating sound wasn't what laughter was supposed to be. “Your guilt was determined by the courts many months ago. Sentencing simply hasn't been carried out because of your medical condition.”

“What?” Despite his physical weakness, Hal felt a fire begin to burn inside of him. “That's not fair. A defendant is supposed to be able to confront his accusers. You can't just convict me while I'm in a coma.”

“Terrorists like you don't get the same rights afforded to normal citizens.”

“I'm not a terrorist!” Hal started coughing violently, and Miri's gentle but firm touch made sure he leaned back in bed, preventing him from overextending himself.

“It's true.” Miri spoke up for Hal. “Hal was the one who helped stop Marcus! He should be thanked for what he did, not condemned!”

“That's quite enough from you, Miriel. The only reason why we didn't banish you for powers violations is because you agreed to cooperate with the investigation and prosecution. But you've played that card already and it would only take one word from me to have you arrested as well.” Prosecutor Graham cleared his throat, clearly not afraid to throw his weight around as he pleased. “Just because the two of you may have done some admirable things does not erase the crimes committed. We are a city of law and order, and those who violate our laws will be punished accordingly.”

The sound of footsteps slowly paced in front of Hal, and he pictured the Prosecutor wearing a smug expression as he clasped his hands behind his back. “You have no idea how much of a shit-storm you created. How many good men lost their lives because of everything that happened. Our finest company of shock troopers was nearly obliterated in that confrontation, and we lost many more people in the weeks that followed as we hunted down the last remaining elements of your brother's little insurrection. Those soldiers will never be brought back to life, and someone has to answer for their deaths.”

Hal was not pleased with the way they were being treated. It was only due to exhaustion that he failed to raise his voice. “So I'm the last loose end, huh?”

“Indeed.” The prosecutor paused in his slow pacing. The directness of his voice seemed to address Hal directly, instead of reciting a monologue into the empty room. “Your brother is dead. Even if we had tried to save his life, it would have been too late. You stabbed him through the heart.” Hal frowned. “Every known associate of Marcus is either dead or in prison, and the meteor shards that we recovered are safely secured from the public and renegades like you. Rest assured, we won't allow any  more citizens to make the same mistakes you have.”

Mistake? Hal mentally shook his head. No. His life wasn't a mistake. The meteor wasn't a mistake. This petty man would never understand.

“So what are you going to do to him?” Miri asked the question she didn't want answered.

“Lucky for you it's an election year, and the Viscount is trying to project a softer image. Instead of execution, it will be easier for everyone if you merely disappear. Leave Anduruna and never return.”

“Banishment?” Hal struggled to untangle the knot of conflicting emotions that balled up inside his heart.

“Yes. It's the standard punishment for powers violations. Trust me, you're getting off a lot easier than I think you should. As soon as you're discharged from the hospital, your citizenship profile will be deleted, and all of your assets will be seized by the state. You will cease to exist. You will leave the city and you will not be permitted to return. If you do, the consequences will be... severe.”

“You can't do this to him!” Miri argued against the verdict. “After all he's sacrificed, you're just going to reject him?”

“Would you rather we shoot him instead?”

“This isn't right!”

“It doesn't matter. It's the law.” The prosecutor's voice had a finality to it that indicated the issue was no longer up for debate. “Now silence yourself, unless you want to suffer the same fate.”

“I won't!” Miri didn't relent. “If you're going to banish Hal, then you'll have to banish me too!”

“Calm yourself, Miss Rodgers.” Graham's voice became intensely cold and serious. “This isn't the sort of choice to be made lightly in the heat of passion. There is no undoing it once it's been done.”

“I told you my answer. I have nothing more to say to you, Mister Graham.”

“Miri, you don't have to-” Hal started to protest, but he was quickly cut short.

“Hal, shush.” Miri gave his hand a determined squeeze. “After all that we went through to find each other, I'm not letting you disappear again.”

“So be it.” The prosecutor grumbled to himself. “We don't need a dissenter like you causing trouble, anyways.”

“Wait.” Hal got the impression that the man was preparing to leave. “Before you go, I have one last question.”

“What?”

“What date is it today?”

“Excuse me?” The prosecutor sounded peeved by Hal's mundane question.

“The date. Today. What is it?” Repeating the question only seemed to irritate the man more.

“It's April 15th.”

“Heh.” Hal felt the beginnings of another laugh stir in his soul, and he was unable to hold it back. Soon he was laughing in earnest, filling the room again with the sound of joy.

“And why do you find tax day so funny?”

“Haha.” Hal managed to slow his laugh long enough to speak. “It's not that. I don't think you'd understand. I'm just happy to be alive.”

“You awakened are all the same.” Graham's voice sounded bitter and spiteful. “You have no respect. This city is better off without you. You might be happy now, but when you're alone in the wilderness, cold, hungry, and lost, you'll wish you could come back.”

“Whatever.” A smile emerged on Hal's lips, undaunted by the warning. “Believe whatever you like. It doesn't change the way I feel.”

That seemed to bring an end to the conversation, and the footsteps of Prosecutor Graham stomped out of the room. As silence returned, Hal felt his body relax. The smile didn't go away. Happiness was not the normal reaction to a situation like this, but Hal decided that he just wasn't meant to be a normal person. He certainly was pretty bad at it.

Miri remained with Hal, letting her guard back down now that they were left alone. She laid her head next to his and snuggled close. For a long while, the two of them merely enjoyed the sensation of being together. Being alive. The beeping of his heart monitor reminded him every second that yes, he was here. Life was here. Love was here. He had everything he needed. Everything else, well, those were just minor details.

After a time, Hal finally recovered enough energy to speak. He almost didn't want to break the silence, it was so comfortable, but the words on his mind had to be spoken. “Thank you, Miri.”

“Mmmm?” Her muffled voice sounded like she had fallen half-asleep. “For what?”  

“You know. For staying with me. For everything. I don't know how I ever got so lucky.”

Miri nodded sleepily, brushing her cheek against Hal's shoulder. “I think we're both lucky.”

“I suppose that's true.”

“Mmm.” Miri placed a hand on his chest, lifting her head slightly.

“Hey Hal?”

“Yes Miri?”

She gave him a light kiss on the cheek. “Happy Birthday.”

[End Chapter 24]
Man, it feels amazing to be this close to the end. Only one more chapter to go! My chapters are definitely longer than what they used to be, as this one clocks in again at around 5000 words.

I hope that everyone enjoys the penultimate chapter, and that it gives us all something to look forward to. Through all the struggles and injustices we endure, sometimes it's great to just remember that you're alive, and life is beautiful. I can't wait to finish this story.

*****

The Wayward Astronomer is original fiction set in the DreamKeepers universe created by David Lillie :icondreamkeepers: www.dreamkeeperscomic.com

Other chapters can be found here:

kafelnikov.deviantart.com/gall…
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The day after Halloween.  All the scary stuffed dolls were being put away, and the cute, calming dolls were being put in their place for the holidays to come.  Well, all except one that got stuck in the dark corner of the bottom shelf, hidden by the shadows of the shelves above, and left forgotten.

A couple of days passed by and no one noticed the forgotten stuffed doll.  Then, a group came, taking every stuffed toy off the shelves and putting them into a large box, including the forgotten doll which got tangled up with the one next to it.

The box was dark, and the only time there was light was when someone opened the box to take one of the cute stuffed dolls out of the box before closing the lid once again.

First they only took one at a time, then two, then three, then whole fistfuls, with the occasional voices;
"Think she will like this one?"
"Maybe she wants more then one."
"There has to be one that she likes!"
"These work with Lillith, why not the monster?!?"
"Are there any left?"
"Uh... just one, and it is rather disturbing..." the voice said as it reached in and finally removed the forgotten stuffed doll.
"It will have to do, and maybe it will scare her into obedience." another voice said while looking over the forgotten stuffed doll.

The doll was taken to a dimly lit, scarcely furnished room and placed upon the bed.  Scattered around the room were bits and pieces of the cute dolls that had been taken from the box previously.  Their remains were removed from the room, and the door closed, leaving the doll all alone.

Shortly there after, the door opens, and in comes a creature whose features are hidden by the shadow cast from the light in the hall, except for a pair of glowing eyes.  It sees the doll upon its bed, and begins circling around the doll, examining every nook and cranny, looking for something only its mind could comprehend.

Then it stopped, looking into the eyes of the doll, and says, "You are Gregori, my new door stop!  Only allow those I believe worthy into this domicile."

With that, Gregori was tossed, landing near the door just as the door opens, and in walks a tame and relaxed creature.  The tame one looks at Gregori, with a mildly perturbed expression.

Namah, "Great work Gregori!  You have done well for your first task!"
Lillith, "Uh... Who is Gregori?"
Namah, "He is right there on the floor.  You saw him when you came in.  He climbed the tower, slipped past the guards, snuck into my room, and sat waiting for me upon my bed.  Now, THAT is Devotion to a good cause!"
Lillith, "I think that it,"
Namah, "Gregori!"
Lillith, "I think Gregori is one of those stuffed toys that they got you and... where are all the other ones?"
Namah, "They didn't measure up."

And so began the time that Namah and Gregori spent together.  Gregori was Namah's almost constant companion during all her great adventures through the tower, as well as numerous escape attempts; being given all sorts of new titles, and creeping everyone out with the simple fact that Namah likes Gregori.
A little short story I wrote for the creators of Dreamkeepers, because my muse inspired me before vanishing.
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Mid-afternoon, waking up in a stupor
Brewing some coffee, get the mind moving.
Throw on some clothes after a good shower
Looks like you gotta be there in an hour.

Go out to the driveway, pull out the car keys
Give your dear Susie a kiss on the cheek.
Say you'll be back in an hour or two
Right after you're done at good ol' HQ!

Drive to the haven, oh woe was he
Greeted with the face of absolute glee.
"Arin, oh Arin," exclaimed him as he cried
"Wouldn't you like to give this game a try?"

They clicked in the cartridge in the ol Snes machine
"This game be dumb Jon, yes this game be!"
Jon stared at Arin with a look quite unclean
"no no, Arin; you're just being mean!"

Despite the game, their banter was clever
The two both noticed this unlikely endeavor.
"Please, oh please Arin; just an episode or two?"
"okay fine!" said Arin. "Three parts, and we're through!"

They played and played as they bickered and bantered
as Barry took footage, holding back laughter.
You most likely wonder who these two be.
You're probably quite trumped..

"Hey I'm Grump, and I'm not so Grump!
And we're the Game Grumps!"
A poem that I wrote as a tribute to the gaming duo Arin and John from Game Grumps. Enjoy :3
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A narration of the poem on Youtube: [link]
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Code is art! :#1: :iconcodeisart:


Sorry for the category, it doesn't quite fit. I wanted to put it in cyber poetry, but this is the only lit category that allows images, and no other category fits either :\

They should so allow images in lit. I get why they don't, it stops miscats, but come on! Let us pretty up our writing! :shakefish:


For those who don't program here's a translation:


Get a crush.

Crush doubles in strength every day for a year.

The person waits until their crush looks at them. Each time they check and their crush isn't looking they pine over their crush. When the crush finally looks, the person approaches the crush. (If the crush never looks, the person gets stuck in an infinite loop)

If their heart is broken the crush is deleted forever and an error is returned, likely to their friends who will clean up. Otherwise, they hold onto the crush forever and success is returned.




:icondonotuseplz::iconmyartplz:

IMPORTANT COPYRIGHT NOTICE
The work contained in my gallery is copyrighted 2004-present eldris, aka Gabrielle Longhurst. This piece is copyrighted 2009 eldris, aka Gabrielle Longhurst. All rights reserved. My work may not be reproduced, copied, edited, published, transmitted or uploaded in any way without my written permission. My work does not belong to the public domain. If you have doubts about this matter email me: eldris@gmail.com
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[Chapter 20]

Hal sucked air deep into his lungs, fighting off the clamor that seemed to be erupting from all around him. Though the walls, the floor, and the ceiling he could feel the pressure of the lives suddenly thrown into movement in reaction to the violence. No matter how hard he wished it, the bees' nest couldn't be unkicked.

The giant void ripped into the world by Vanir's singularity prevented Hal from continuing down the hallway, which was probably a good thing. The evil rec room was down that way. He could already begin to sense and see the IR heat shimmers of multiple people moving towards them from that direction. Miri ran to pick up Vanir's springer, but found the body of the weapon to be badly damaged from the deflected bullet. It wasn't useful as a gun anymore.

“No time for that Miri, let's go!” Hal grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her along with him as he scrambled back towards the stairwell leading upwards, to freedom. The sound of his own amplified and  adrenaline accelerated heartbeat made it difficult to hear her response.  

“Easy Hal! I'm right there with you.” While his power washed away the pain from his old wounds, Hal still couldn't move as fast or as quick as Miri, who was healthy and nimble on her own. “You're the one with crazy supervision. Lead the way!”

The heat from the bees was strongest down here. Hal needed to get up to the ground floor, and from there, out of the cathedral for good. A short sprint down the hallway led to the base of the spiral staircase. Its steps seemed to be hewn from alternating slabs of white marble and black granite, each one of them deeply cold to the touch of his feet. It was no matter, though. He consumed them all in his haste, skipping over one color as his long stride passed by every other step. The sounds of frantic pursuit chased them both towards the top. They had a head start, but that wouldn't last long if they hesitated.

Hal made it only a handful of steps past the top of the staircase and down the hall before he stopped all of a sudden, causing Miri to crash into him awkwardly. “Ow! Hey-” She started to protest his unexpected halt, but he silenced her without a word, dropping low to take careful aim with his springer. There was someone about to round the far corner up ahead. Even though Miri couldn't see it, he could.

The heat blur of a woman rounded the corner, but Hal was ready for her. He settled her shape in between the thin vee-notch sights of his pistol, and pulled the trigger. The bullet, launched forward by a coiled, high-power spring, spiraled through the air, shedding vortices that shimmered brilliantly in its wake. It traversed the distance of the hallway in a flash, intersecting his target as she came into full view.

There was a short surprised scream of pain, and the woman lost her footing, half-tumbling, half-crashing against the opposite wall. Hal rose from his crouch and thumbed the breech release, exhaling a long-held breath of billowing vapor. The spent casings and springs ejected out of the breech of his again-spent pistol. He looked down, reaching back into his pocket for fresh bullets.

“Um... Hal!?” Miri's worried voice caused him to look up. The woman was back on her feet, still alive. Blood dripped down her arm from where the bullet wounded her, but failed to put her out of commission. Her expression was one of pained fury, and with her good hand she drew a vicious looking blade. A halo materialized over her head, and she started to charge at them. Her heat signature shifted and changed, growing much fainter as it morphed away from the spectrum Hal was perceiving.

“Hal!” Miri's voice jumped from worried to alarmed. “She's invisible!”

He reached one arm back, handing the gun and the loose bullets to Miri. He barked a single word: “Load.”

“Wha-?” She accepted the weapon with surprise, nearly dropping the loose bullets onto the ground.

“Load the gun!” There was no more time to argue. Hal took a step forward, placing himself in the center of the hall between Miri and their attacker. His eyes flashed with all colors as he sequenced through every wavelength he could see, but at best all he could detect was a dim, indistinct cloud of color that rushed towards them at accelerated speed.    

Hal could sense Miri's fearful but focused determination as she fumbled with the ammunition, forcing her untrained fingers to complete the delicate task. He could also sense the murderous intent of their assailant, and that intent grew into an ever increasing pressure as the sound of static began to fill his mind. “Come on.” Hal muttered , balancing his weight between both legs, opening his stance. “COME ON!”

The faint shape was almost in reach. It jumped sideways, off the wall, and then up into the air. Its trajectory, in a few more tenths of a second, would fall directly onto Hal's chest. From behind, the sound of a breech clicking shut prompted delayed movement into action.

Hal leapt forward with all his might, up towards the falling field of color. As his feet left the ground, he punched out his right hand, sharp talons forwards towards the center of the pressure that shoved against his heart. He felt the momentary flicker of surprise, like a candle flame wavering in the wind before it was snuffed out. Talons slid effortlessly into flesh, and his forward movement was only stopped as fingers reached bone, wrapping around her spine. His momentum pivoted forward, and the jump ended by slamming her head down into the marble floor, fingers speared through and grip wrapped around her throat. In an instant, her form returned to normal, becoming visible. Miri gasped in surprise as she saw the results, and Hal could do nothing to stop the sudden flood of blood from spraying onto his face and wetting his hand with warm and violent flow.

“Oh, spirits!” Miri sobbed, holding the pistol loosely in one hand as her knees buckled, but failed to fully collapse. There was no hiding the raw results of the battle for survival in which there could be only one victor. Hal let loose a primal cry of triumph and pulled his talons free, releasing her neck to instead close around the handle of the curved machete-like weapon.

More alarmed shouts echoed upwards from the stairwell behind them. The night would not wait patiently for them to proceed. “Come on Miri! We need to keep moving.” Despite her shock, she was able to get her legs to obey, and the two of them stepped past the body of the would-be Celestial Assassin and rushed onwards, towards the front door.

It was a short sprint down the corridor and around the corner, to reach one of the doors that led forward into the main chamber of the cathedral. Hal paused at the door, taking a few precious seconds to scan the room beyond with his sharpened perception. In the chaos, the Celestials hadn't much time to secure the area, but two humanoid shapes roamed the space beyond, amidst the pews, each carrying a military grade springer rifle. The business end of those weapons scanned across where they were set to emerge.

“Ok Miri.” Hal breathed deep, sucking in every molecule of oxygen his lungs could hold. “We have maybe 60 seconds before we're caught. Two men in the other room. Both have rifles. I'm going left, you go right. Split their fire, make it easier to get close. Use the columns for cover and only shoot if you have a good shot. You have two bullets.”

Miri's eyes were wide, and her fingers gripped the handle of the springer as tight as she could. It was clear that the moment was threatening to completely overwhelm her. “Hal... I don't...” Hesitation and fear caused her words to falter.

“Miri.” Hal looked straight into her eyes, placing both hands on her shoulders. “Do you trust me?”

Her confusion wavered, and she ever so slightly nodded her head. “Yes...”

“Do you want to live?”

She nodded again. Her voice found its foundation, this time emerging more clear. “Yes.”

“We can make it through this, but only if we work together. I'm not going to let you die, and you're not going to let me die. Right?”

“Right.”

Hal allowed himself the luxury of two seconds to give Miri a strong hug and a kiss on the cheek. There were so many other things he wished he could say, but now was not the time. Despite his hopes, somehow it seemed it as if time was never on their side at all. The precious seconds continued to pass unabated, and neither one of them could stay the clock any longer. “Okay.” Hal swallowed, trying to wet a throat that was suddenly far too dry. His fingers wrapped around the handle of the door, gripping the metal with decisive finality. “I go left. You go right.”

Miri nodded, raising her pistol to rest at the ready, pointed upwards alongside her head. “Right.”

“Three, two, one.... GO!”

Hal pushed the door open and surged through, ducking low and diving to the left. He rolled forward towards the partial cover of the wooden pews as springer bullets whizzed through the air where his center of mass should have been. Miri didn't hesitate either, darting into the main chamber and angling to the right to take cover behind a sturdy pillar of white marble.

The two Celestials shouted out in alarm, and their large-bore rifles splintered wood and chipped stone with relentless ferocity as each one of them cycled round after round downrange. Miri screamed as she cowered behind cover. Hal screamed as he scrambled low behind the pews. The gunmen screamed as they traced differing targets, struggling to hold their weapons on track behind the massive recoil. The intensity of the moment overtook them all, like a storm overtakes a coastal village. Everyone knows what's coming, but not one can do a thing to stop it.

Fragments of wood splintered against Hal's face as he traversed sideways, narrowly avoiding a direct hit. Soon he reached the opposite row of marble columns, and was able to turn, heading deeper into the room, closer to his attackers. The Celestial targeting Hal did not relent, holding Hal in his sights as best he could. Every round springing forth from the barrel of his rifle hit hard, pulverizing stone into a fine white cloud as Hal weaved forward between the columns. The tricky landscape offered only fleeting windows of a clear shot. Miri cried out, letting loose a primal bark of emotion as she pressed her body tight against the first column, completely pinned down behind the flurry of oncoming fire.    

Hal stopped at the column closest to his gunman, hiding behind cover as the bullets meant for him found obstacles instead. He could sense the fear in his attacker, and that fear quickly turned to panic as the magazine of his rifle ran empty. One finger reached up to depress the magazine release, and that faint click triggered Hal's all-or-nothing charge. The gunman realized his dire situation as Hal turned the corner, just as the empty clip hit the ground with an echoing *clank*.

The second enemy seemed to realize the new trouble, however, and turned towards Hal. The barrel of his weapon angled towards Hal mid-charge, and started to stitch a trail of bullets across his axis. The first bullet hit the back of a pew, sending forth a spray of wooden splinters. The second bullet whizzed inches from Hal's body with a sharp, high-pitched whine. The third bullet... never came.

Miri took that moment to peel out from cover and fire a shot at bad guy #2. The bullet narrowly missed behind her novice aim, clipping the very top edge of a wooden bench to shower the man with stinging fragments of debris. It wasn't much, but it was just enough to buy Hal the time he needed.

Bad guy #1 was just slapping home a fresh magazine into the side of the rifle when Hal reached him. With a ferocious scream, Hal swung his machete diagonally in a chopping motion. The blade carved into the gunman with disturbing ease, and it passed straight through his collarbone to rend the center of his torso in a single terrible strike. The blade found more bone and finally caught, stopping the blade and awkwardly pinning Hal's weapon into the dying enemy, who lost his balance and fell forward.

The second gunman wasn't dissuaded for long. Rather than return fire at Miri, he continued to fire at Hal who was much closer. The next few bullets slammed into his dying comrade, whose body shielded Hal's from the attack, if only for that one moment. The metal slide of the springer rifle kicked forward a bit too fast between shots, and it jammed onto a spring that had yet to clear the firing mechanism.

After a brief struggle, Hal was able to free his blade, and he tossed the body of his now-dead enemy to the side before charging the remaining Celestial across the narrow aisle between pews. This one was well trained, however, and he cleared the stovepipe jam with a swift and forceful chop of one hand, allowing the bolt to finish cycling forward and load a new round. The barrel of the weapon quickly trained back towards Hal.

In desperation, Hal threw his machete at the gunner to disrupt his aim. His throw hit home, but the blade hit hilt first. The weapon, instead of delivering a swift and dramatic end to the engagement, merely clattered off to the side after rudely inconveniencing the enemy, but otherwise leaving him unharmed.

That momentary disruption was enough, however, as it afforded Hal the precious additional second to get into melee range. With one hand he batted away the rifle barrel that attempted to home in on his chest.  In that same step, Hal kicked out with his good leg, plunging his wickedly curved foretalon into the abdomen of his target before ripping sharply downward. The man screamed in pain, but was quick to fall. Within seconds, he had been reduced to a writhing bleeding mass on the floor of the cathedral.

Hal gasped, dragging in a ragged breath. The carnage of the brief but bloody battle was impossible to ignore, and already he felt his stomach begin to clench and revolt against him. He closed his eyes and tried to swallow down the bile that simmered underneath the surface. Miri hesitated for a moment before realizing that they were clear and quickly jogged forward to join Hal.  She tried her best to avoid looking down at the blood that slicked the floor and stained Hal's clothes. “Are you ok?”

Hal nodded absently, using his forearm to wipe blood away from his eyes. Whether it was his own or not, he wasn't sure, but the strong metallic taste of iron lingered in his mouth. “I'm alive. You?” His heartbeat was almost deafening inside his own skull.

“...I'm ok.” Miri was shaken by the entire ordeal, but she nodded with certainty.  

“Ok. Let's get out of here.” Hal started to run towards the final door: the exit to the streets beyond, but he was halted suddenly by an electric shock that gripped his whole body and sent him tumbling to the ground. Miri screamed and dove off to the side, out of his sight.

“Awwwww, YEAH! Get some, BITCH! Get some!” The booming voice of Dubs erupted from behind them, and a fresh arc of brutal electricity leapt forward to wrack Hal with spasms of pain. He lost the grip on his machete and convulsed helplessly on the cold stone floor of the cathedral. Every muscle in his being clenched involuntarily as he flailed in the aisle, powerless beneath the assault. Hal could barely hear anything, save the sounds of his own screaming.

“That's what you get!” Dubs' voice continued. “That's what you fucking ge-”

All of a sudden the electricity stopped, and the room fell oddly silent. Hal waited a few seconds to gather himself and make sure he was still alive before he managed to angle his head. As his eyes focused, he saw Miri, standing with both arms outstretched, still holding her pistol in firing position. Delicate arcs of smoke wafted from the friction heat of the barrel as tears streamed freely down her cheeks. Dubs was shot dead with a bullet placed clean through his skull. She sobbed slightly as she released a breath long held.

Miri wiped away her tears and ran to Hal's side, reaching down to help him stand. “Get up! Come on, get up!” Though they both struggled with the action, Hal eventually found his feet beneath him, and was able to finally limp towards the door. Miri kicked the entrance open with a decisive strike, and the two of them fled into the dark and empty city streets.

At this time of night, there was almost no one in sight. The grand and open streets of Theophanies were normally so awe inspiring during the day, but now, under the scattered halos of intermittent street lights, darkness seemed ready to engulf the whole city with shadowy tendrils. There was nowhere for them to run except deeper into the abyss.

The two of them fled the scene at a dead sprint, Miri leading the way ahead of Hal, who labored hard to keep up. They darted down alleyways and crossed boulevards, seemingly at random, and soon Hal lost track of where they were. Despite that, the sounds of pursuit never seemed to lag very far behind them. While neither of them could see the pursuers, Hal could feel their pressure urging him onward even as his body cried out for rest.

Miri dragged Hal around another turn and suddenly they were greeted with a view of the Eridan River, which flowed through the western core of the city. Ahead, a transport barge was steaming hard on its way upstream, pulling away from the riverside dock where it had just picked up cargo.  The open deck was littered with crates, ropes and tarps.

“Hal!” Miri pointed to the barge without breaking stride. “The boat!”

Hal felt his spirits both buoyed and sunk by the form of their salvation.  “Miri, I need to tell you something!” It looked like at least 15 feet of water between the shore and the ship.  “It's really important!”

“Make it quick!” She called back breathlessly, not slowing at all.

“I don't know how to swim!”

Hal heard a winded laugh from up ahead. “Then you better be good at jumping!” Miri put words into action, and scrambled up the stairs to the wooden dock with surprising grace. Three more light strides and she reached the end of the platform. Without hesitation she hurled herself out into empty air, uncoiling her body to get every last erg of energy into her forward movement. She landed onto the deck of the barge with a controlled shoulder roll, and finished up on her feet, no worse for wear.

Just do that, Hal.... no problem.... Hal muttered to himself under labored breaths. He clambered his clumsier and heavier body up to the dock, and ran as hard as he could towards the edge. Miri held her arms out at the narrow wall of the deck, ready to help catch him. His tail looked back behind him, towards the pursuers that had yet to round the final bend.

“Don't look back, Hal! Just jump!”

“Grrrraaaah!!” He felt his left foot curl around the final plank of wood, and he shoved forward with all of his might, letting out a feral cry. Hal's body floated out over the dark water, his arms stretched out in front of him, his feet trailing back far behind. Hal was strong, but he wasn't nearly as light as Miri. Only now that he had committed to the leap did Hal realize that he didn't have enough altitude to clear the wall of the deck of the barge.

There was barely enough time to brace himself before his body crashed into the side of the boat. He barely managed to get his arms above the ledge before the rest of his body hit, and he rocked his head against the metal hull, sending stunning shots of electricity into his skull. Dazed, he slipped downwards, barely managing to close one claw around the lip of the wall. His fingers quickly gave way, but the fast and firm hands of Miri quickly reached down to grab at his jacket.

“I got you. Come on!” She pulled with all her strength, and it was just enough boost to help Hal get his other arm up to pull himself over onto the cold and damp wooden deck. They didn't waste any time, retreating into the maze of crates and finally falling into an exhausted heap under a foul weather tarp stretched over some equipment. Soon enough, the dock was well behind them, as were the sounds of their pursuers. They were safe... for now.  

Hal deactivated his power and the world contracted back in around him with a sickening quickness. The shock was so severe, he couldn't do anything except gasp for air for the next several minutes. Miri watched him with worry, resting one hand gently on his shoulder. “Are you going to make it?”

Hal nodded, swallowing loudly between breaths. “I'm alive.”

“We lost them. But I don't think it's over yet.” Miri looked deeply concerned. “Marcus is still going to try to destroy the Sabbaton Tower tomorrow. We need to let the police know.”

Hal shook his head and coughed, wiping at his mouth. “That won't work. Marcus has the local authorities in his pocket. At best, the warning will be dismissed or delayed until it's too late. At worst, they'll arrest us.” His tail looked back towards the roiling wake that passed through the water behind them. “We can't just go to the police.”

“Well, we have to do something, Hal! Thousands of innocent lives are at stake!”

“I know, Miri.” He closed his eyes for a few heartbeats, taking a precious moment to think about the situation. The sound of the lapping water helped calm his nerves. “This barge is heading north, which means it's probably going to stop in Calypsa soon. We're moving at a good clip. I have an old friend there. He knows people. Hopefully we can use that to bypass the cronies and get the Troopers alerted.”

Miri's voice softened a bit, and she leaned closer to Hal, smoothing the frayed and blood spattered feathers on top of his head. “What about us, then?”

Hal opened one eye, looking her over, and then closing it again, leaning back with an exhausted sigh. “I don't have much fight left in me tonight, Miri. I'm sure Jonny will let us crash at his place until everything blows over. It might not be your cup of tea, but at least we'll be safe there.”

Her voice grew suspicious. “What do you mean by that, exactly?”

“Heh.” Hal let out a weak chuckle. “You'll understand when we get there.”

[End Chapter 20]
EDIT: After starting work on the next chapter, I decided it would be a better seque for the chapters to add the end of the escape to this chapter before proceeding into 21. There's about 1,000 words of new content at the end of this chapter. I hope you enjoy. 
~~~
Man, writing action is hard! I finally got through this, which is probably the first time I've written a chapter entirely devoted to action, as opposed to characters. It was a new challenge for me, but I'm happy to get through it finally. This next chapter is going to be one of my favorites I think, and I can't wait to share it with everyone. 

As always, if you read my work, please let me know what you think, good or bad. All feedback is helpful to me. I'm immensely thankful for all of the support people have given me. 

****

Thanks so much for reading! 
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A Banished Tale

The Viscounts Folly

Chapter 4

By Treyva

 

 

                The Dawn found Nina wake and ready to go, she had been awake for several hours before sunrise, she just couldn't get used to a bed that didn't roll around even a little bit. She had made good use of her time tweaking the prefabbed resume to be just a little more realistic. What had been provided was too perfect; someone with little work history studying engineering would be more a numbers rather than a words kind of person.

 

                Nina secured her contraband and checked to make sure nothing was out of place, before giving herself a once over in the mirror.  She had trendy blouse under a short waist hugging jacket and a pair of pants that squeezed just a bit in the rear.  A little bit of sex appeal has never hurt a girl’s chances. Satisfied with everything she headed out.

 

                Nina figured the best way to get a look would be to walk up and ask for a job. “Then if they catch me looking around a little later I can just play it off as still interested.”  Nina told herself in her mind.

 

                The dry dock was a 20 minute walk at a brisk pace, 30 minutes if she slowed it down a bit. The first thing she noticed was that no ship was visible; it was housed completely in the building. Nina knew from this it at least wouldn’t be a leviathan the size of a freighter. The next thing was the barred gates and guards. Their uniforms were neither local police nor shock troopers but they carried themselves like shock troopers. Nina saw no springer guns visible but Nina knew that troopers didn't need guns to be effective.

 

                It was a little after six and shift change was over but some graveyard crews were still milling about as Nina approached the gate.

 

                "Remember, talk, don't kill Nina." She told herself.

 

                The guards saw her approaching and took up that practiced stance of nonthreatening but ready.

 

                "Wow, they told me this was a big project but gates and guards. Seems a bit much don't it?" Nina asked.

 

                "Can we help you young lady?" A shaggy blue furred dog with floppy ears asked.

 

                Nina looked at his arm and name; "Yes. Sgt. Carol is that right? Those are sergeant stripes, right?"

 

                 “Not too many people get the rank right on the first try. What can I do for you and who are you?" Sgt. Carol said his shoulders loosening just a bit.

 

                "Well I did do a report on the modern civil service for history class a year back. As for help my engineering professor told me there might be an internship or other positions available for a tech minded person here and I'm Alma by the way." Nina replied

 

                "Who’s your professor?" Carol asked

 

                "Prof. Fukuda." Nina replied.

 

                "Well I don't know if any are still open, but l’ll get the supervisor and you can talk to him okay?"

 

                "I would appreciate that sergeant." Nina replied as she pulled open her satchel and rustled some papers as she retrieved her resume.

 

                Sgt. Carol walked over to a small data scroll in a box. A few seconds later he walked back to Nina." He'll be right out. Hang tight." He said.

 

                "Okay" Nina nodded. 30 seconds later it finally dressed feathered mail with a long curved neck can be compared.

 

                "This is Mr. Ronald Regal," Sgt. Carol began; "and this is Alma, sorry I didn't get your last name."

 

                "Nietche, Alma Nietche." Nina said offering her hand and shaking Mr. Regal's; "Nice to meet you Mr. Regal."

 

                "And you. I see you have your resume out already. Why don't you take this visitor's pass and follow me inside."  Mr. Regal responded.

 

                Nina took the pass and followed Mr. Regal.  Once inside she started scanning for any clue as to what was going on.  The offices were blocked from the construction itself, but Nina could hear the sounds of construction through the walls. Speaking of walls these were bare of any decoration. No pictures of the project and the progress being made, no shelves displaying little finely crafted products and tools, not even a motivational poster. Nina continued following Mr. Regal into a nicely furnished if not lavish office where Mr. Regal offered her a seat. Nina sat and Mr. Regal soon followed behind his desk.

 

                "May I have that please?" Mr. Regal asked holding out his hand. Nina gave him her resume and sat back as Mr. Regal read. "Well not the best resume I have received but it has all the particulars that would make you an excellent candidate. Unfortunately all the internships have been filled." Mr. Regal said as he put down the resume.

 

                "That's a bit of a disappointment sir. However I'll take any job for the experience. You'll note that I did mention I am on my school’s sailing team, so I know my way around a boat." Nina said

 

                "Who said this project was a boat?" Mr. Regal asked looking into Nina's eyes.

 

                "Well no one said it outright, but Prof. Fukuda knows that in addition to architectural engineering I have an interest in marine design. It is also painfully obvious you're not building a building and the dry dock gates are a dead giveaway." Nina replied maintaining eye contact and hoping her response was quick enough to avoid suspicion.

 

                Mr. Regal nodded before responding; "Very keen, I like that. However, the fact remains we don't have a position available, but I would like to keep your resume in my short list should something become available."

 

                Nina let some disappointment seep into her voice and posture as she thanked him for his time and was escorted out by a secretary. Sgt. Carol asked if she had any luck and Nina replied; "No job but I'm on the short list." She waved and smiled as she walked away and in her mind started going through ideas to get in the hard way.

 

               

                At her apartment she noticed a gray fox with the cage holding an air ryuu neko. He saw her at the same time and stood up and held out his arms. "Sis! Long time no see." He called.

 

                "Hey Frankie!" Nina replied feigning joy.

 

                As they embraced Frankie whispered in Nina's ear; "The super and a few tenants bugged me a bit about waiting in the hall for you, so let's keep this up till we’re inside."

 

                Nina nodded and said; "Let’s get inside and get you something to drink."

 

                Once inside Nina opened the cage and the air ryuu neko flew onto Nina shoulders. "I missed you too Buttons." She cooed as she stroked under his chin. "What can I get you?" Nina asked Frankie as she went to the fridge.

 

                "A fermentae, any flavor I ain't picky." Replied Frankie

 

                "I suppose I have you to thank for stocking the place?"

 

                "Aye." Said Frankie.

 

                "So why didn't you just let yourself then?" Asked Nina.

 

                "I gave Ann all the keys. Besides it would be kind of rude to just let myself in after you got settled."

 

                "Did Buttons give you any trouble?" Nina inquired.

 

                "Not once I figured out why you named Buttons." Said Frankie, before taking a sip of his fermentae. "I have a little keyboard lying around and let him play some music on that so he wouldn’t jump on my data scroll. So I'm guessing by your pacing about that you didn't get the job."

 

                Nina stopped and turned to face Frankie before leaning back on the counter. "I'm used to more room to roam, but no I didn't get the job." Nina said.

 

                "Got a plan B?" Asked Frankie.

 

                "Not yet."

 

                "Get out that file from wherever you hid it and I'll show you some points to get a good view of the area. Maybe if you go back tonight you might spot away in." Frankie said.

 

                "Did you see anything that looked like a way in?" Nina inquired as she retrieved the file.

 

                "No. But I didn’t have the time to loiter and I must admit I don't really have the experience." Responded Frankie.

 

                Nina spread out the map and stacked up the notes to one side. "So what do you do?" Nina asked as Frankie drew up a chair to the small table.

 

                "Play piano. Got a regular gig at the Big Bang Room. If you get bored come check it out on the weekends, it’s pretty happening. During the weekdays, well nights, I bounce around a bit. It's a living and I run into a lot of people, so when someone like you needs info on a routine for someone, nine times out of ten I'm the guy that has the answers."

 

                Nina nodded as she said; "That's good to know, might come in handy later."

 

                They spent the next hour and a half going over back alleys and side streets to get to and from the target location. Which rooftops that would have the best view and a low risk method of scaling took up the bulk of their time. In the end only three roofs had access like a fire escape or were a public building and could be reached without attracting attention. It was well past noon when Frankie suggested they both get some rest. Frankie left promising to come pick up Nina at seven for some dinner before he went to work. That would also give her the perfect opportunity to divert to the dock on her way home and scope the place out.

 

                Nina stretched out on the bed and buttons curled up on her stomach. "I'll take you to a park tomorrow and let you stretch those wings of yours." Nina said as she brushed her hand down the ryuu nekos back. "Between you and me Buttons I'm just not a city girl anymore." Nina said as she closed her eyes while Buttons sung a soft song.

 

 

 

                Several hours later Nina was invisible lying on the roof of a small public library with a full stomach. Frankie had delivered with an excellent and affordable restaurant and even though Nina had entered intending to control her calorie intake, she had lost that battle the moment she smelled the food.

 

                "Should've brought a chair." She mumbled to herself only half joking.

 

                She was at her first lookout point looking south at the shipyard. Her plan was to start here then hit all three observation points moving southwest till she was overlooking the employee entrance. Nina hoped that she could spot a way in or get a feel for the workers coming out and see if any would be an exploitable asset.

 

                Nina had spent time every day since she discovered her powers practicing and perfecting her control. At this moment it was paying the biggest dividends ever. As long as she remained focused she could remain invisible. This after much practice extended not just to the clothes she wore but also the things she held in her hands and sometimes to small objects that touched her.  Which made her wonder again why she didn't pack something to sit on. However she continued to concentrate on the task at hand looking through the small telescope and jotting notes in a notepad held down by her elbow. An observer might see nothing but Nina could see everything just fine, except for a slight haze that befell everything under her influence.

 

                Nina was paying close attention to the roof trying to piece to together its appearance and what it meant. It came to her that her father had used something similar for a Fallgaurd stadium. Eureka, thought Nina that roof has got to open up. Makes sense as flo-wood seeds would need sunlight to start growing and unless that ship is smaller than expected, the masts would poke holes in the ceiling. She began making a note when a clanking noise from the building made her look up. As if on cue the roof started opening in a segmented pattern each hemispherical section sliding neatly into its mate before that piece moved into the next. When it stopped the final peace was blocking her view into the interior of the building. The only thing Nina could see was the northeast corner and that did reveal a cat walk with an armed shock trooper patrolling back and forth scanning about both the interior and exterior.

 

                "Damn." Nina thought making another note "they're just as worried about the inside is what could be outside. If I get in I won't be able to relax for a second."

 

                Nina spent a few more minutes than slowly scooted back from the edge. She waited till she was inside before becoming visible and made her way outside. The library's door faced north so she made her way left before turning left again into a back alley.

 

                By this time most people were at home or heading there and the shops were closing. Her second target was an apartment with a fire escape so she would have to be more cautious and quiet. On the plus side it was a taller building.

 

                Nina looked about before activating her power, the halo coming alight briefly in a brilliant halogen white before she became invisible once again. As she moved the final hundred feet to the fire escape she pulled a grappling hook and rope from her satchel. Nina didn't want to risk the noise of the ladder coming down so she aimed for the handrail. Over four years as a pirate using grappling hooks and her aim was spot on. Nina climbed the twenty feet to the landing put the hook and rope back in her bag and started making her way up the stairs. She got hung up for a few minutes waiting for some kid to finish a stolen cigarette. Several minutes and a few more squeaky steps later she cleared the edge onto the roof and low stalked her way to a good vantage point.

 

                "Jackpot." Nina whispered to herself. From here she could see into the construction site and the stern portion of the ship. It wasn't much of the stern but judging from the types standing there it was just what she needed. As Nina watched a course furred boar with four tusks and the color of stale urine berated a worker. Nina could just hear the faint echoes of his yelling. The worker a big eyed, gray colored bug with short clear wings stood there and took the verbal abuse before being dismissed. Nina looked at the bugs face as he walked away and noted it was the same expression Nina and the other girls had worn in response to the old Capt. Keets version of leadership. Nina jotted down a few more things in her notepad and kept watching

 

                An hour later and a crane started lifting something that at first glance looked like a mast into the forward bow section of the ship. Nina eyed it carefully noting it was hollow. She could think of only one reason for this, the contraption was a flo-wood  form. When the sun came up the flo-wood  would be exposed to sunlight and start growing to fit the form. This was a big problem for Nina and the others. Flo-wood was tough as hell and would regrow any damage taken once fully set in its mold, that was if you could throw enough at them to damage it in the first place. This new ship would never need to carry spare masts.

 

                Nina could no longer see the boar but once again the faint echo of his yelling could be heard. Nina started getting the first itch of an idea and checked her watch. It was time to move into the final over watch position.

 

                Nina watched the night shift employees file out. A wicked smirk stuck on her face. She made a note then gathered her things.  She made her way off the roof and relaxed becoming visible before stepping into the street.

 

               

                 Back at her apartment she fired off an update to Pierre before pulling her personnel data scroll out and brought up the Message Pad. Nina composed two messages the first to Frankie, it read; “Hey Frankie, it's your sis. I want you to meet my friend Ann. Come by my place at noon.”

 

                The second was to Ann, it read; “Ann, it's Alma, I want you to meet my brother Frankie. Can you meet us at the park around one o'clock for picnic?”

 

                Nina sent them both before leaning back to let Buttons have his way punching the screen. "I got a plan boy. We'll get this done yet." Nina spoke to the ryuu neko patting his head.

 

               

 

 

               

 

On a roll here. I'll try to get chapter 5 up by monday. These are my characters but the world is Dave and Liz Lillie's Dreamworld. Check them out dreamkeepers.deviantart.com/
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He was an orphan.

He lived in the little building, bricks painted red so long ago, giving the walls a dusty, dulled colour. The lawn had a few flowers here and there; weeds were what dominated the garden, though. Grass poked out of the brown, unconcealed dirt like stray hairs, occasionally getting torn out by the hands of some of the other orphans bored from cooking up mud pies.

Oh, she had heard it was a dream for an orphan to get adopted, but she greatly doubted he would have a chance.It was true; it was sad to admit, but it was true. It didn’t help the fact that he was a little ugly. Pale blue skin, enormous eyes with tiny pupils, tiny freckles speckled on the bridge of his nose, lips that puckered out.

What stood out about him, however, was the fact that he always wore a smile. Constantly cheerful,constantly laughing, constantly looking at the bright side of things.

That’s what she noticed.

“Hey, you!”

The tadpole turned his head toward her, his face dirtied with mud. “Yeah?”

“What are you doing?” the girl cried out, resting her hands on her hips.

The light blue Keronian gazed up at the sky for a moment. “Playing,” he decided.

“Playing?” She wrinkled her nose. Her idea of playing was things like tea parties, or throwing parties with the girls from the boarding school, or even chess. This… dirt thing was not playing.

“Yeah!” the boy beamed.

“How can you play with… that?” The girl folded her arms.

He smiled mysteriously and tapped his mind. “It all has to do with imagination. You ever tried it?”

“Imagination?” She’s heard of it before, though in reality she never did exactly grasp the meaning to it. “What’s that?”

He let out a hearty laugh- a laugh, she decided, she liked.

“Imagination is being creative with your brain!” he said, his lips stretching to a grin.
That smile was contagious. She decided she liked that too.

“Creative… with my brain?” She hated to admit it, but she was actually interested.

“Yup!” The boy beamed. “I’m pretending I’m a soldier; this is my base.” He gestured toward the circle he had made around himself.

“A soldier? What rank?”

The tadpole tapped his chin. “…Oh! General!”

“General?” The green tadpole giggled. “It’ll take you ages to get to that rank! Maybe you should start small?”

“No way!” He pouted. “If I lower my standards, I won’t be able to go far!”

Ambitious, if not unrealistic.

She liked that.

“I’m Karara,” The girl said sweetly.

The boy clapped his hands of the dirt, and looked almost sheepish as he offered his hand. “Taruru.”

Despite the dirt-encrusted fingers, she accepted it, curling her own around his small hand and shaking it firmly.

It was to be the start of a dysfunctional, yet unconventionally beautiful friendship.

Karara liked to visit Taruru when she could. She’d often slip away from home to go and see him – her parents didn’t like her to leave the house alone. Not to mention she attended boarding school so she was stuck there a lot of the time, too. So it wasn’t a regular thing that happened often, but Taruru came to look forward to her visits. He was happy to have someone to play with who didn’t seem to judge him. The carers at the orphanage didn’t really mind. She was a local kid who they knew from seeing her family pass by several times, so they never stopped her from coming into the garden to play with the scruffy
tadpole. In fact, they were happy that the little boy finally had a friend.

They mostly played make believe games in the garden – Taruru liked playing out there most of the time, after all. Playing soldier was his favourite activity, but sometimes he let Karara chose a game to play, which was often playing house.

Unfortunately, when the rainy season came, Karara couldn’t really go and see Taruru, because he’d be holed up inside. She was never sure whether or not she was actually allowed in the building so she often had to wait the wet spells out. Despite this, they managed to maintain a pretty solid friendship.

Unfortunately, it didn’t take that long for her twin, Chiroro, to work out that Karara kept going missing. After a couple of months of this, she told one of the servants of her worries. Of course, when the servants finally realised she wasn’t in the house, everyone went into a panic, and Dobaba was alerted immediately. He had decided to search for her himself for a while, rather than ordering a large scale search party straight away. Since this disappearance had apparently happened on multiple occasions, he could only assume she wasn’t far. Nevertheless, she would receive a harsh scolding for leaving the house alone, without even a warning.

Asking a couple of neighbours if they had seen her, it didn’t take long to work out where she’d gone. Apparently she’d failed to keep her sneaking around outside a secret from everyone else in the neighbourhood.

When he finally reached the orphanage, his eyes widened at what he saw. His well-bred little girl playing around in the dirt with some common orphan boy? He wouldn’t be having any of it.

Marching onto the premises, he hoisted his daughter up by her shoulders and carried her away from the place, ignoring her shocked cries and whines about never having any sort of freedom. Taruru only looked on in confusion for a long while, wondering why the rich man from the big house at the end of the street was carrying his friend away, before realising he was likely her dad. They did share some vague similarities after all. He sulked, slumping over a bit – did this mean his buddy couldn’t come to play anymore?

Back at the house, Dobaba plonked his daughter down on the floor before him, and stared down at her angrily. She shrunk down a bit in preparation for the scolding she was about to receive.

“What on Keron do you think you’re doing, walking around outside ALONE; and playing with some scruffy little ruffian?”

“I’m sorry daddy” She said quietly, not defying him, though she really wanted too. She just didn’t like it when her dad got mad. He was scary. He glared at her for a few moments before deciding she was sufficiently punished and making his way back to his office, leaving her daughter to sulk in the foyer.

“Sorry Karara” came the voice of her sister as she approached from the other room “I was just worried about you”

“It’s okay, sis” she said, though she didn’t look at her. She didn’t blame her for being worried, but that worry just cost her playtime with her new friend.


The next day, Taruru did not feel like playing. Instead, he rested his head on the wall surrounding the orphanage and watched people walk by. Playing alone was no longer appealing, knowing his new friend wouldn’t be coming to see him again. The other orphans still paid him no attention, and he knew asking to play with them would amount to nothing except them awkwardly shifting away.

Suddenly, he had an idea. It was likely a terrible one, but it was better than sitting around, feeling sorry for himself. He looked around him to see if any of the carers could see him. The only two he could see were preoccupied with other things, so now was the perfect chance. He scaled the wall shakily, not wanting to make any noise encase the carers heard him, despite his fear of falling down and hurting himself. It took a bit of effort, but he managed it, and knelt down, creeping along the outside of the wall until he was sure he could make it across the street without any of the carers spotting him.

If the rich man, Dobaba, really was Karara’s dad, it wouldn’t be too hard to find where she lived. Unless you were blind, chances are most people would easily spot the huge, white house at the end of the road. It was like a mansion, but less like a museum-like building and more like a regular house at five times the normal scale. He wasn’t sure how he’d do it without getting caught, but he thought it was only fair her returned Karara’s favour and be the one to sneak around instead.

As he slowly approached the house, it was plain to see that sneaking in was not a possibility. There were a few guards dotted about outside, and a lot of servants fusing about inside the building, clearly visible through the huge windows. It was way too late to back out now, though – he’d rather see his friend and THEN get into trouble… not just getting into trouble alone. At least there was a sort of upside to soldiering on.

Noticing the large gates outside the building where wide open, Taruru simply walked in, though he was very wary of the guards around him. He knew a couple of them had noticed he was there… he could feel their gaze boring into the back of his head. They didn’t seem to be approaching him however – just observing. He reckoned it was likely they didn’t see him as a real threat, but why they didn’t throw him out just for trespassing, he had no clue.

When he got to the front door, he paused and huddled his arms against his chest. Now that he was there, he suddenly felt like this was a bad idea. Looking behind him, he saw three guards watching him with eagle eyes, awaiting his next move. This was all very intimidating to such a young boy, but he swallowed before standing on his tip toes to reach the door knocker and banging it three times.

Not long after he knocked, a pretty woman with her hair in a towel answered the door. She looked vaguely surprised to see him – he didn’t suppose many people just waltzed through the garden to knock on the door directly.

“H-hi miss… I was wondering i-if I could come and play with Karara?” He mumbled quietly.

The woman inspected him for a moment, before smiling gently.

“What’s your name?” She asked him. She seemed friendly, but she also didn’t appear to be a servant, which probably made her a member of the family. Maybe the mother? He couldn’t relax just yet.

“My name is T-Taruru”

“Hmm. It’s nice to meet you Taruru. My name is Kikuku. I’m Karara’s mummy”

He shrunk down a little and she laughed a little – a tuneful, tinkling chuckle.

“Don’t be shy darling. Come in” She said.

The boy nodded slightly, entering the building as the woman moved aside. Closing the door, she waved over one of the servants.

“Would you please fetch Karara? One of her friends has come to visit”

The servant curtsied before leaving the room to do Kikuku’s bidding. This was a completely different world from anything Taruru had ever known. He looked up to find Kikuku studying him.

“Am I gonna get into trouble?”

She shook her head.

“Of course not, dear. Though it was rather brave of you to walk right up to the door and knock – most guests press the buzzer by the gate. You’re lucky it was me who answered the door”

Despite her sweet smile, Taruru could easily sense the foreboding in that sentence.

Soon enough, the sound of someone descending the stair case could be heard, before Karara
appeared at the top of the visible set of stairs that obviously curved to connect with the other set. The little girl’s eyes widened when she saw the nervous blue tadpole.

“Taruru! What are you doing here? Daddy will be mad!” she cried, though she still came down stairs to actually face him properly.

“He’ll be fine sweetheart. I’ll have a word with daddy. Why don’t you two go and play in the garden?”

The two tadpoles beamed widely before scampering off into the garden, the sound of Chiroro
making a started noise at the sight of the new comer just audible from the distance.

As the children chased each other and played games in the enormous back garden, Dobaba kept a watchful eye over the trio. At first he had been angry that his wife had let the scruffy commoner into the house, but he decided to take her advice for once and simply watch over the children. He had to admit that he might have been a bit harsh with his initial judgement of the boy – the three of them looked no different to one another as they played in the garden. They might as well have all been from the same rung of the social ladder. Perhaps his wife was right… he should give the kids some slack. Nothing appeared to be wrong with them hanging around with a working class boy. It would be better for them to socialise, anyway.

As it approached tea time, Dobaba made a quick call to the orphanage to let the workers know where the boy was, before making his way to the garden to meet his daughters’ new friend.

“Boy”

The orphan boy stopped in his tracks, slowly peering around at the sound of the voice nervously. Such a booming voice of authority was perfectly suited to the intimidating entrepreneur. Obediently, he made his way over to the man of the house, seemingly unable to life his gaze from the floor.

“I apologise for acting so rash the day before. I will allow you to become friends with my daughters… but only on one condition”

Taruru, surprised at the man’s words, looked up at him finally with a questioning tilt of his head.

“You must gain permission from your carers to visit the two of them here. They will not be allowed to go to your… home. Do I make myself clear?”

Suppressing a goofy grin, Taruru snapping into an awkward salute.

“Yes sir”

The tiniest flicker of a smile appeared on Dobaba’s face, but it was gone as soon as it appeared.

“Well put, boy. However, I’m afraid I must return you to your home. Your carers are worried about you”

Taruru nodded sadly, but did not dare question it. He turned around and waved happily at the twins, who returned the gesture until Dobaba had guided him back through the building, and out of sight.

The two girls looked at each other before grinning widely – at long last, they had a real friend that wasn’t specially selected from a handful of fellow upper-class families. Karara was secretly happy that Chiroro had grassed on her. Now she could see her new friend whenever she wanted, without having to sneak around with the threat of her father’s wrath looming over her.
Working title :P

This is about seven months late XD

In December last year, I got a note with an introduction to a TaruKara fic from :iconmrdonjohnnycadetsir:, who suggested I add to it as a sort of collaboration, since they ran out of steam with it. I thought it was a cute idea, but I never had the motivation to continue it until now.

It should be obvious by the sudden lack of description that the line 'It was to be the start of a dysfunctional, yet unconventionally beautiful friendship' was the line I used to continue from Cadet's work. Sorry if the characterisations of some of the characters and stuff are vastly different to your initial thoughts |D

No idea if this will be continued/whether Cadet would like to collab still/whether it's actually any good, but I thought I'd post it anyway to see what peeps thought of it.

For now, toodles. Enjoy the Tarukara, there is absolutely nowhere near enough of it XD

((Took AGES to edit the text. I tried a thing when converting the word file to a text file and it screwed up all my paragraphs. I noticed my paragraphs seem to vanish when converted, so it just becomes a wall of text, I'm sorry XD I hope this is readable XP))
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