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Zeo Grey
Shanghaied
Sat Mar 27, 2010 8:21am
174.18.21.185

NRP: It's far from my best but I can't be bothered to fiddle with it more.

RP: Night stole over the island, setting it ablaze with vibrant red and orange hues. High above the white-hot gleam of lava shone like a halogen light. The smell of burning vegetation overwhelmed even the stench of death.

Zeo let out a slow breath and glanced over his shoulder.

The mercenaries’ beachhead camp was a beacon of warm yellow light. Trenches were being dug and lights set up, running off the tremendous power core of the Albatross.

He turned his eyes back to the jungle ahead. Though it was pitch black he saw everything. As though it were high-noon. Better even. One of side-effects of the Dark Energy at his core melding to the Ether Drive earned almost a year ago. Zeo would have preferred credits.

It took less than an hour of searching to find what he was looking for. A small clearing a half-mile from camp showed signs of heavy use. Crouching the veteran examined the lay of the land. He could see where the mercenaries Dan rescued had come to a stop. Across from them there was the faintest outline of boots. Curiously, the size of the prints indicated the wearer was large and heavily muscular yet there was only the scantest trace of a boot heel.

Beyond that there was a stagnant energy in the air, something indefinable that set the hairs on the back of his neck to standing. Magic had been used. An impressive amount.

Strangely, while he could make out the fact that the Freelancers had fallen there was no indication they’d been dragged away. Zeo snorted. If the attacker had enough magical prowess to down Dan and Maquestan Crasher at the same time it’d be child’s play to simply levitate them up off the ground… Or teleport. Frowning at the thought Zeo started in on his secondary objective. A more personal one.

Namely, discovering the fate of his student.

“It’s okay kid. She’s the one that rescued you.”

“Only temporarily.” Ouija’s elbow shot backwards smashing into Shade’s gut. The reploid assassin folded and crumpled to the ground wheezing for air, surprise and pain etched across his youthful features. The blow was stunningly fast. Before Cocker could react her fist cannoned forward, cannoning into his jaw with enough force to send him spinning around.

Say one thing for Cocker, say he was light on his feet. The ranger turned his fall into a tumbling roll and came to his feet on the very edge of the lip. Ouija’s full lips split in a grin that revealed horribly over-developed canines.

“Nicely done.”

“Thanks. I practice.” His mind whirled. This was no time to be flippant but he had to stall for time. Had to figure things out.

Ouija seemed to blink out of reality appearing directly in front of him. Wrapping her fingers around his neck she hoisted him effortlessly into the air. “Not enough it seems.” Cocker scrabbled frantically at her arm but it was like trying to dent iron with his bare fists. Impossible.

For the second time in under fifteen minutes the world faded to black.

Zeo crouched at the edge of a clearing, frowning. Something was wrong, niggling at the back of his mind. Something with the impromptu Mystic Squad. The clearing. He looked ahead, eyes narrow. Just ahead a mass of wooden wreckage stood in a small clearing. A mast stuck haphazardly through it, tattered remnants of sail still lazily swaying on a cool sea breeze.

He wanted to go forward. Hadn’t Shade said something about a pirate ship? But the clearing… Snarling under his breath the veteran slid back into the shadows, heading back towards the clearing.

Behind him Ouija peeked her head up over a large chunk of wreckage. At her feet lay Lina, Cocker and Shade. All comatose. “Close.” She hissed. “I swear he saw me…”

He did. Her master replied voicelessly. I convinced him he did not.

The simple statement of fact was a revelation in itself. Every time she began to think she was nearing the ultimate destination of the Serpent’s Path her master proved she still had leagues to go.

Biting back on her frustration the tattooed woman whispered sacrilegious words of power and started towards the volcano, her captives levitating behind her.

Icy coldness dumped down Zeo’s spine the second he reached the clearing. There on the ground before him were the tracks of Mystic Squad trampled deep in the jungle soil heading for the volcano at the island’s center.

They had not been there before.

Or had they?

Anger flared and with it came the Dark Energy sweeping his mind clear of all foreign magic. A man in archaic Japanese armor and a grotesque mask in the shape of a demon’s face materialized in the center of the clearing. Just where the mystery boot prints had been.

No. Not materialized.

He had been there the whole time.

The jungle’s shadows wrapped around the reploid like a lover’s arms refusing all light. Even the blade of the ancient sword he held was swathed utterly in shadows. Moving slowly Zeo sidled along the edge of the clearing working his way around the figure, heading towards his back.

“My eyes cannot see you.” Gorgon announced, his voice echoing hollowly from the innards of the mask. “But that does not mean you are outside my sight.”

“Then there’s no point goin’ about this quiet is there?” Zeo stepped out into the moonlight, sword held low and ready. “Where’re the Freelance Reploids?”

“They journey for the center of the island.”

“Why?”

“It is the will of Lord Malegaunt.” Even as Zeo thought to move bands of incredible power wrapped around his limbs. “You will join them there.”

Visions of the past began to steal across his eyes. Indistinct figures populating a phantom world. They spoke and gestured for Zeo to follow as the armored mage’s power supplanted reality for illusions.

Zeo’s lips peeled back from his teeth in a shark’s smile. At the core of his being the Dark Energy that fueled him writhed outward in waves of violent power. Slowly his sword-arm began to raise. His entire body quivered at the effort.

The mask showed no reaction but Gorgon’s cloak flared as waves of pressure pounded against his body. His arcane sixth sense, honed by centuries of travel along the Serpent’s Path, sang a song of power older than himself.

The reploid’s face went lax suddenly and for a moment his lean body sagged against the bonds holding him. Then consciousness returned but it was not Zeo Grey. For the first time in decades Gorgon felt the delicious tingle of true fear and he reacted instantly. Black words, old when the world was young, dribbled from his hidden lips burning his mouth and throat as he spoke them. The reploid grunted and his eyes rolled back in his head and were covered by pools of opaque blackness. For just a second a vast and alien presence brushed against Gorgon's mind. The entire island fell utterly silent, every animal utterly still, each sensing danger a thousand times greater than any predator.

Then the body went limp again and the presence was gone.

Gorgon released his breath, only then becoming aware he had been holding it and sent instructions to his apprentice.

Leaving Zeo’s body hanging in midair he turned towards the beach.

There were still more souls to be gathered.

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