5636/System Tower re:DEVIL

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System Tower re:DEVIL
Date of Scene: 13 January 2018
Location: The System <TS>
Synopsis: A group breaks into the sealed System Tower to confront Artifex
Cast of Characters: Lexicon, 1103, 1137, Eryl Fairfax, Yomi Isayama, Deelel, Xiaomu


Lexicon has posed:
    For two days, the sealed door of the System Tower has stubbornly resisted the Berserker, Asterios. It shuddered. It groaned. The hardened, compressed code strains at the hinges in response to the Servant's immense strength. It has not opened, but every effort gives the hint that progress is being made, if slowly.

    Just now, something suddenly pops like a gunshot. One of the black rivets holding the hinge to the Tower's doorframe shoots across the circuitboard styling of the Tower's surroundings. Seconds later, two more shoot off into the distance, and with a squeal of stressed metal, the door finally relents. With half of its support suddenly gone on one side, the lower hinge tears completely free, and the remainder of the door can then be easily torn aside.

    Veterans of the Tower might be expecting an empty void, the sort of 'portal' that takes one into the Tower's latest floor. That is not what is visible on the opposite side of the sundered entryway.

    A room is plainly visible, larger on the inside than the outside, the walls lined with the same black appearance as the exterior of the tower. A pillar of sickly blue light runs down the center, from the impossible-to-see top to the cavernous bottom, casting its light on the faintly glossy walls. Arranged around this pillar of light is ... boxes, for lack of a better definition. Rooms. Buildings. Huge rectangular structures that slowly rotate on the pillar as an axis, arranged in a spiral pattern like steps.

    Each one marked on its top with a glowing blue number. The Tower's floors, as seen from the outside.

    Welcome to the System Tower's true interior.

Theurgus (1103) has posed:
    Theurgus has been waiting, patiently, for the Berserker's strength to win out over the door. The rivets shooting out knock her hat from her head, though the bluenette doesn't flinch. As the door comes free, she stoops and retrieves her hat, placing it back on her head, with a neat little hole punched throught it. "So, now we see the Base Code, the true face of the Tower." she summons her staff, and steps forward. "Whatever comes, Artifex is my fight, the rest of you should find a way of stopping this thing while I keep her busy." she looks over her shoulder. "It is my oath as a DCC."

Asterios (1137) has posed:
For days, the minotaur strained against unyielding steel. Hours passed, days and nights cycled twice over, and still the giant didn't stop. Sustained by a constant pulse of power reverberating across the world-walls, Asterios had no need to cease in his work. Finally, with a deafening, bestial, triumphant roar, the minotaur seized the enormous slab of data and, with both hands, tore it from its hinges.

It would be unwise to doubt the raw physicality of the King of the Labyrinth.

Asterios steps across the threshold, turning his eyes into the true hollow of this massive, crystalline place. He chuffs, driving a burst of air out through his nose dismissively. "You want me to stop this?" Asterios asks to Theurgus.

His expression twists into a grin that can only be called 'shit eating.' "Asterios... Can do that."

Eryl Fairfax has posed:
    Eryl arrives just in time to weave his head around the first rivet that pops from the door. Finally, the seemingly indestructible tower is cracked open by the brute strength of one man. This bodes well for what is to come. The Tower can be circumvented, they are not obliged to play its games to make progress.

    He looks to Theurgus as she stakes her claim on Artifax's life. He crosses him arms and asks, "And you are confident that you can succeed on your own? I understand that what she has done is quite a blow, but don't let pride drive you to committing to foolish decisions. There is no dishonor in having backup."

    He then goes to the edge of the true floor, and peers down into the darkness below. "Artifax is likely at the top, that is how these things go. But the Tower will continue to siphon Resources, and the mechanics by which it does so would likely be at the bottom. A team should head below to break everything in sight."

Yomi Isayama has posed:
"We'll let you fight her, but..." Yomi comes up behind Theurgus and puts a hand on the DCC's shoulder. "Only if you promise to ask us for help if you need it." She tilts her head toward Eryl with a faint smile. "Let's leave it to her judgement." Another pat to the mad magician's shoulder, and she steps forward, letting one hand rest on the hilt of her sword.

As she walks in, Yomi takes note of the differences between this and the other times she's been inside. When she sees the floating boxes, she taps a finger on her sword's handle. "..huh. Those look pretty big... you think those are all the floors we've had to clear through until now? Some of them look big enough."

Deelel has posed:
Deelel had been making ready as best she could, she'd hit up Alpha another part of the restiance against Clu to figure out what she might do here. Given Alpha being a system monitor he'd offered Deelel some advice. This had help to center Deelel a bit better on the situation and she was ready. She was armed with the Dual Disk already out and in her hand as she was moving to form up with the rest of the group.

"Loaded up for action and you make a good point Eryl. ALso there is something thatr bothers me about why she's like this? I feel like there's part of the story we do not know yet."

Xiaomu has posed:
Whatever Xiaomu's been doing to while away the time while Asterios pitted his strength against that of the System Tower's door, she's ready enough to set it aside and come to see what's up when the minotaur finally succeeds at breaching the portal. (This may or may not relate to running the batteries down on the various handheld games she's had with her. If so, it's a stroke of lucky timing.)

She hasn't been here the *whole* time; she needed to go stock up on extra ammo, grenades, snacks, and similarly critical supplies. As such, she's as close to fully-loaded as she can get, and she takes a moment to look around the Tower's true interior. Her first comment is, "If this turns into a mini-game rush, I want to be paid in fried tofu for every one of them I clear. We went through what, about a hundred floors total getting here? If we have to clear all of those challenges *again* to get anywhere ..."

She trails off, looking displeased. "On the other hand, if it's a simple matter of 'find elevator, go down to basement or equivalent, wreck stuff as necessary,' not gonna worry as much as long as we don't get wrecked instead. Anyway,, count me in for the 'wreck stuff' team, Artifex seems like she's gonna be as horribly unfair as boss fights ever get."

She looks at Theurgus. "But like the boss said, you sure you're up to soloing her? 'Cause I somehow doubt it'll be pure one-on-one, didn't she have a friend?"

Lexicon has posed:
    Inside, it's easier to get a look at the Tower's interior. There appears to be no 'bottom', just as there appears to be no 'top'. However, once inside, something does stand out when looking up. The pale blue light that rises through the center, as it goes up, starts to exhibit rectangular patches of crimson, the edges fuzzy and undefined. The higher it goes, the more prevelent they are, until the light pillar itself is just completely red with unhealthy, crackling damaged data.

    As if to hammer the point home, one of the 'rooms' hanging off the light pillar at that level hangs at an off-kilter angle, as if it's begun to collapse and tear free.

    Somewhere up there, Artifex's voice can be heard, shouting indistinctly.

    At the back of the group, a pair of small girls in pink and blue just kind of...sidle up, making every effort to look like they've always been there.

Theurgus (1103) has posed:
    "I do not claim her life, Ser Fairfax. My goal is to keep her occupied and away from the rest of you so you may proceed unaccosted." replies Theurgus to Eryl. "The longer I can keep her busy, the more time the rest of you have to find a way of bringing this Tower down. We need not kill Artifex, her insanity can be cured and she could become a valuable asset."

    She looks to Asterios, and nods slightly, before looking upward toward the source of the shouting. "That is my cue. May the Source Code be with you all." she closes her eyes, then speaks. "ACCESS!" Her form is engulfed in a pillar white light and code fragments. When it fades, she is in her Digital Divinity form, Processors locking into place as she steps into the void and begins to ascend without a single word further.

Deelel has posed:
Deelel seems to be on edge as she has her key-blade out already there's trouble ahead and she darn well knows it. Her key-blade is not her only weapon as well. One might notice some hockey puck like things attached to her legs too. Those who have experience like Xiaomu would know those are demo charges and grenades from Deelel's home world. Little miss Deejay is armed today. She moved forward but seems to be a bit on edge as she did so. She also made a move to keep with Xiaomu as well given their history of working together it's not too shocking.

Xiaomu has posed:
Xiaomu takes a few moments to look around some more. Those patches of flickering red look REALLY unhealthy to her, and she wishes for a moment that she had a proper team here to seal them off ... not thatt it would likely do as much good as she's thinking is needed - the corruption seems liable to spread, and judging by the radio discussion, that's a real potential problem.

She can't quite hear what Artifex is shouting about, but the sage fox's ears prick up nonetheless. If nothing else, she's curious about Artifex's mood - whether she's just barking orders, gloating without necessarily having an audience, or berating minions (or reality itself) for failing her so hard.

A little more glancing around, partly looking back to make sure the door is still there if they need to de-ass the area with quickness - and she almost doesn't notice the two little girls. She flicks her hand briefly, waving to them, wondering if they're here to help or just to watch, then looks at Deelel. "So. Going down ... *is* there an elevator, or do we just go platforming, old-school style?"

Asterios (1137) has posed:
Well. Brute force IS frequently one of the simplest ways to solve a problem. Even if that problem is 'massive pillar of data that may or may not soon unfold into a whole host of problems.' The minotaur scales the light pillar in great, vaulting leaps. It surges from room-cube to room-cube up until...

Well. Up until things start to look distinctly less healthy.

"Hnnn?" the minotaur skids to an abrupt halt on one of the last few stable and uncorrupted blocks. It turns its face upwards, staring long at the great expanse of crimson data plaguing the primary data stream. His train of thought essentially goes as follows:

A) Things need to be smashed.

B) Things that are already weak are easier to smash than things that are not.

C) Red means 'corrupted' which means 'broken' which means 'weak.'

Ergo, the solution is natural.

"Aa!" Asterios smiles as the proverbial lightbulb lights up over his fluffy head. "Will save power, for later! For now... Smash!"

And so Asterios... leaps right up to the big, crimson scar and begins hitting it with his axes as hard as he possibly can.

Yomi Isayama has posed:
"Not sure I like the look of that..." Yomi nods toward the dangling room. "Or that I want to see what happens if it falls on someone, or if you're on it when it falls. Better be careful..." She sidesteps a bit, away from the group, and glances up and down along the column of light.

"The question is, do we try to climb upwards or downwards? Probably up, though." She pauses for a moment before quietly slipping around -behind- the two intruders, calmly placing a hand on each of their shoulders. "What do you two think, hm?" Oh yes, she has Big Sister sesnses despite not having any actual siblings.

Eryl Fairfax has posed:
    The beam reddens. Time is short. Eryl's eyes slide over towards the twins who sidle in, but he keeps his mouth shut. Theurgus seems insistent on handling Artifax alone so everyone else can disrupt the Tower. But he's not having that. It would be a phyrric victory if the backup was killed while they ruined what Artifax had planned.

    rBesides, Eryl wants to speak to her.

    He frowns as Theurgus takes on her Divinity form. Immediately, he's running to the wall and leaping upon the saved rooms of the Tower, climbing up after her. He's no free-runner, but his grip is firm and endurance enough that he can make the ascent at his own pace. But he will be much slower than her.

    "Head downward if you plan on disrupting the Tower!" he calls down at everyone as he slowly ascends.

Lexicon has posed:
THEURGUS
    As the Mad Magician ascends towards the source of Artifex's voice, the indistinct shouting becomes more clear, more understandable, and more...frustrated?

    "No! No! /NO!/" And some softer speech, likely from Graphice, before, "I don't underSTAND..! Why won't it..!"

    It turns out she's standing on that damaged floor fragment. An enormous hole has been blasted in the top, still smoldering in the red light of the beam supporting the floor itself. Some distance above the hole, clear of the smoke, Graphice floats on her book, resting her chin on her hands and her elbows on her knees, legs kicking slowly. The blue-haired Artifex stands on the platform itself, her brush-sword floating beside her as she stalks in circles around... Patty Cat.

    The battered animatronic cat staggers jerkily, slowly after Sapphire Soul, who keeps her distance rather easily with a scowl on her face. Reaching out, she gestures and her brush swipes, coating the robot with black ink. When this melts away, the robot comes to a stop-- no longer a robot, but a cat-eared girl in a red dress, lifting her hands to look them over. Crimson lines glow through her skin as the corrupted shell re-asserts itself and the program reverts, jerking back into motion.

    "No, /damnit/..!"

    "Give it a rest," Graphice mutters, "You said yourself it can't be fixed 'til the tower unpacks, right?"

    "Shut it," is the snapped response. Artifex pauses, head tilting. Floating upward, she whirls around to face Theurgus' approach, ignoring Patty Cat wandering the platform beneath her for the moment.

    Her eyes shoot from the approaching Diamond Soul to Asterios when his axes start crackling against the Tower's central light pillar. Eyes contracting to points, she thrusts out a hand, "/STOP THAT/!" Her brush reacts, tracing a jagged line above the minotaur, which becomes a bolt of lightning in short order.

Lexicon has posed:
ENTRYWAY
    When Yomi's hands rest on twin shoulders, both girls jump, then turn slowly to look up at Yomi's face. Index opens her mouth, but it's Codex who speaks up first while raising a hand to point upward.

    "She hurt..our big sister."

    Balling her hands into fists, Index bounces, "Yeah! You think we're gonna take that? Or let Theurgus fight her all alone?" Turning away, she squints up the Tower's interior with a tense little frown, "Even mister Asterios is working hard, so we can't just sit at home, doing nothing!"

    In response to Eryl's order, though, Codex leans over the side to look down. She doesn't seem to keen on...doing that, though. "...Is there anything down there..but more boxes?"

Theurgus (1103) has posed:
    Diamond Soul locks eyes with Artifex, her face an uncharacteristicly grim mask as she reaches the same level as the Sapphire DCC. With a flick of her staff, a bolt of electricity lances through the painted symbol, attempting to disrupt the attack before it can manifest. "I am your opponent, Sapphire Soul. Do not think you can take your attention off of me for even a moment." she states firmly, brandishing the geordian knot at the end of her staff at the other DCC. The marble shifts from yellow to blue, and a volley of ice lances form around the head of the staff, before surging out towards Artifex.

Yomi Isayama has posed:
"Hmm." Yomi glances upward, keeping her hands loosely on the twins' shoulders. "Well, I'm not surprised you two came, but your sister would kill me if anything happened to you. Why don't you both stick with me and let me help?" She smiles and crouches down, pulling the two of them into a brief hug. "Besides, I think those two have it in hand for now. If they call out for help, we'll head right back up."

The exorcist stands up, glancing downward along the pillar. "There's only one way to find out, right? We need to wreck this thing from the root, so if it's at the bottom, we should head that way." Yomi steps forward, waiting for Index and Codex, and any others who are going to join her, before she hops to the first block below ground level.

Xiaomu has posed:
"Looks like it's boxes all the way down," Xiaomu replies to Codex after one serious look down. "Think I can make the route a little more comfortable to traverse, though. Hope you don't mind sliding on ice!"

With those jovial words and a jaunty twirl of her staff, Xiaomu leaps towards the closest of the room-boxes, leaving most of a trail of ice along the way - part of a bridge, from the 'floor' just inside the entrance they used to near the edge of the closest room-block's ceiling. (Roof?) Then she starts jumping her way down - and each time, she leaves an ice-slide along the way, so that anyone in the group who's uncomfortable with the idea of jumping across those distances can at least slide down on something *relatively* stable. The downside is that those ice-slides aren't going to last very long; she doesn't have the energy to spare to make them terribly long-lived, not if she's going to have to take part in serious wrecking of stuff at the bottom.

... assuming of course that there is a definable 'bottom'. She starts keeping track of the numbers as she goes, for good measure; if they get all the way down to 'zero' or go into the negatives ...

Well. If that happens, either they screwed up along the way or they're pretty much doomed regardless. She's not going to worry until she gets to the low single digits without seeing some kind of concrete - or otherwise solid - conclusion to the architectural question.

Asterios (1137) has posed:
There's a flash of lightning as Asterios busily goes about his business of straight up wrecking through the mass of corrupt data. In the words of a certain video game character, HE'S GONNA WRECK IT. In a few seconds. Asterios looks up as Theurgus absorbs the attack into a ward. The remainder washes over him, sending weak convulsions through his limbs. His skin sizzles as he brings his axe again into the main trunk of corrupted data. But at least Sapphire Soul might be interested in the fact that the Minotaur is speaking at her.

"WHY?" Asterios shouts up the tower. "ALSO, WHY SO RED? YOU ARE BROKEN TOO?"

Deelel has posed:
Deelel says "Platforming I say. Given how someone could over ride a elevator. I'd like to avoid things like that as much as possible." She'll keep moving with Xiaomu she doe however peer at the boxes for a moment.

"Looks like it and ice? I should have brought a Light snowmobile."

She's not even joking as Xiaomu would know those things do exist. She gets moving after Xiaomu. The basic keeps moving along she'll use the slide at times, and others she'll just make use of the terrain that's here already.

"Mmm remind me a bit of some of the faculties in Argon!"

She keeps moving and will be on guard for attack as she makes her way down with everyone else. She'll trust those who have gone to confront the lady of the house. She's now got her job here to handle.

Eryl Fairfax has posed:
    Eryl's climb brings him close to the conflict, standing far below when Theurgus launches her volley of ice. He would like to slip in a shot among them, something more for her to deal with.

    But that's not his way. Instead, he calls out. "Artifex! I am Eryl Fairfax, Grandmaster of the Paladins, a Multiversal faction. Please, halt your plans for a single moment, and let us parley. I am not opposed to you reconstituting your Drive, but doing it in this manner will bring untold catastrophe. We are all reasonable people, we can work something out."

    This will probably not work, and he knows this. But he needs to prod her, get her talking, to make her spill more.

Lexicon has posed:
CORRUPTION ZONE (for lack of a better identifier)
    Artifex scowls when her spell is interrupted, a good portion of the sigil blasted away before the bolt can manifest and heavily reducing its effect. Her gaze returns to Theurgus, fixating on the Mad Magician, "So your intention is to occupy me? Distract me? While your friends destroy everything I swore to protect?!" Thrusting her arms to either side, Sapphire Soul takes the ice spell head on, pixellated light shedding off as she takes damage. "I'll delete you if you try to stop me! Think about what that meant for my Drive, what it will mean for YOURS!"

    Swinging her hand forward, her Brush reacts by tracing a line in a curl. When this manifests, it becomes a blast of wind, pushing downward towards the platform still occupied by Patty Cat. From the opening on the far side, a suit-clad arm reaches out, then Rodney Rat hauls himself into view-- half of his plastic face still missing, bare metal and teeth exposed.

    Artifex twists in midair, her brush repeating the same curled line-- drawing it near Asterios this time, in an effort to blow him away from the code he's currently beating on. Only then does she acknowledge Eryl, glowering down at the Grandmaster from her floating position.

    "If you wanted to 'parley' then why are your forces /already/ attacking me and what is precious to me?!" Leaning forward, her eyes contract to small points, presenting Eryl wiht an intense, almost crazed stare, "I've been lied to and betrayed enough already.." With a gesture, she brings her sword forward, then twirls it around to present the brush tip off the pommel, "..That won't work on me again!" This sigil the DCC paints is a spiral, but the result is still a blast of wind-- this time, directly forward from her rather than to the side from her own perspective.

Lexicon has posed:
DESCENT CREW
    Using ice to create slides is an excellent way to descend quickly in this particular environment. The initial platform was floor 75, and she's already paved the way past floor 50, coming up on 30.

    "Okay.." Codex surrenders immediately to Yomi. Index glowers up at the magic being thrown around several floors up, producing her wand, but she gives up after a moment as well. There's no way she'd get up there to begin with. As a result, both twins descend with the Exorcist.

    Floor 20. Floor 10. But no sign of a bottom. And then something curious happens. After the box representing floor 1, there's another one-- Floor 100. The central pillar of light quite suddenly turns red, here, just as it was when looking up from the 'entryway' way back at the perspective of 75. And, should Xiaomu, Deelel, and Yomi continue to descend... they'll be able to pick out the altercation taking place between Artifex, Theurgus, Eryl, and Asterios unfolding beneath them.

    There is no bottom. The interior of the Tower exists in a loop.

Theurgus (1103) has posed:
    Theurgus sweeps her staff aside, again intercepting the sigil directed at Asterios, the air surrounding the sigil erupting in a disruptive implosion. "I have already taken precautions against that. Everyone has evacuated from Locus to the Emerald Drive. Lady Emerald Soul was gracious enough to accept them." she states. "Whatever happens to me, Locus will live on in their memory circuits." She looks to the corrupted forms of Patty Cat and Rodney Rat. "Destroying the Silver Drive will not bring them back." she adds. "You underestimate the level of corruption in the base code here. It's rotten to the very core."

    Diamond Soul seems focussed on Artifex. "You swore an oath when you became a Drive Core Controller. You swore to protect your Drive and its residents no matter the cost. We can fix the damage, but only if you stop this insane plan. Unpacking the Sapphire Drive now will only make it crash again, and you will LOSE. EVERYTHING." She doesn't attack this time, merely bringing her staff into a defensive posture, the marble cycling rapidly through its modes.

Eryl Fairfax has posed:
    "They are not my forces," Eryl replies honestly. "Theurgus fights to protect her home from an attacker, the same way that you are. The others fight to assist their friend, to gain retribution for Lexicon. In your quest to save your home, you have betrayed and hurt many people. They put their trust in Bunnabelle, and they feel betrayed when she turned out to be you." He is trying hard to contextualize how she has been acting, open her eyes to the world beyond her goal. However, her wind blast blows him back, his feet sliding against the box. He comes precariously close to the edge, but does not go off, nor does he bear weapons.

    "They come bearing arms because you are dangerous, but your goal is a good one. Through collaboration, I'm sure we could figure out a way to restore Sapphire Drive in a way that does not put the whole System at risk. Please, calm down and speak with us."

Asterios (1137) has posed:
Artifex seems to have no interest in communicating! Well, it's not like she can be particularly blamed for that. She /did/ kind of have a point. They basically started trying to smash her tower to bits less than a minute after tearing its doors off their hinges.

The minotaur growls, releasing one axe to /dig/ his fingers into the tattered code. His arms strain against the raw force smashing into him. But is a wind stronger than a minotaur?

It really depends, doesn't it? How long is it going to try to push him? How long can the corrupt code hold up to the combined pull of a minotaur trying to cling to it and the wind trying to tear him from it.

But.

Fine.

She doesn't want to talk.

Asterios understands. It knows. It knows that, until your everything is put at risk, until the last mote of hope is found and clutched in the teeth of the stalking beast, the prey will fight. The prey will fight when that hope is snuffed out, with nothing left to lose. The prey will not fight when it knows that the predator has its jaws around the throat of what matters most to it.

And Asterios knows that this tower matters to her.

Corrupt data spreads. That's what Lexicon said. Asterios' eyes begin to glow with a baleful, purple light as like-colored lines begin cris-crossing out from under where his hands have gripped into the corrupt code. "YOU STILL WANT TO FIGHT!?" Asterios roars upwards, "OKAY. BUT THEN ASTERIOS WILL DO WHAT ASTERIOS DOES."

"Your tower. I will rearrange. Move parts where should not be. Shift. Destroy. Corrupt. You keep fighting, Asterios will do this."

"Or. You stop. You talk. Then we fight proper."

"Yes?"

Yomi Isayama has posed:
As the girls follow her, Yomi gives them a grateful smile. Once they wrap back around, though, she pauses in the upper 90s. "That's really weird, the way the light changes. Hang on, though." The exorcist fishes in her pocket for a moment and pulls out a 10-yen coin. She carefully leans over the side, squints a bit to take aim... and drops it. Her goal is to not hit anything, and see if it wraps back around when it's just an inanimate object following gravity.

With that done, she peers back at the pillar of light. "Think we can just attack that?" Focusing her chi into her hand, she quickly thrusts her arm forward in a palm strike. It doesn't have nearly the power of a certain minotaur down below (above?) but it's mostly a test to see what happens if the pillar is attacked. "What do you think, Index, Codex, Xaiomu? Any effect?"

Deelel has posed:
The tower seems to be some kind of mobius loop? this is confirmed by Lexicon explaining how strange things can be inside them. She doesn't think too much of it being fdrom a digital reality herself. she keeps moving with Xiaomu as they contiune to traverse the tower hoping to get where they were going someway ssomehow. She also sees they have the high ground for the moment. She will keep going down towards the fight and will make ready. She wtchds Yomi drop the coin getting the idea of what she's up to. She also looks to her for a moment. 5R
"I could try I brought some explosives with me but...or I could try the Duel Disk but I don't ever experiance like the Keyblade users I knew..."

Xiaomu has posed:
Ooooookay, THAT isn't how things are supposed to go, thinks Xiaomu as she realizes that instead of reaching the 'bottom' that Eryl said they should head for, they've looped right back to the TOP of the System Tower - and as if the numbering wasn't enough of a clue, the fact that the surroundings have gone from bright blue to vivid vermilion would be a pretty quick warning sign in its own right.

"Considering that 'pillar' is the central axis of the entire System Tower's architecture," the sage fox remarks to Yomi, "I'm not sure if that's a particularly good idea to attack or even try to disrupt it ..." She's staying alert for any effects Yomi's attempt might have, though. On the other hand, if going through the Tower *outside* these rooms isn't getting them anywhere -

Xiaomu does some more ice-creating with her staff's magic, making a quick path to the entrance face of Level 100. "Maybe we're looking in the wrong place?" she suggests, and tries to take a quick look inside the one-hundredth floor of the Tower. Hopefully she can just make it a QUICK look, rather than getting plunged right into yet another puzzling deathtrap like other floors have been.

Lexicon has posed:
    Artifex hisses when Theurgus interrupts her sigil again, lessening the wind trying to unseat Asterios from his perch at the Tower's core datastream. A furous expression is turned on the Mad Magician. A hand thrusts aside, "The code cannot be fixed so long as it is compressed. It /must/ be unpacked. It will not crash so long as I live! This isn't insanity..." She lifts her sword again, floating beside her, "It's PURPOSE!"

    When Eryl speaks up, she responds without taking her eyes off Theurgus, "Bunnabelle /is/ me! Becoming my true self took drastic measures... Only a Drive Core Controller has the code I needed to finish myself. I had no choice." Head tilting, her eyes flit finally to the Grandmaster, "What better source of that code than the one who took something far more precious from me?"

    Asterios. At last Sapphire Soul seems to react to the Minotaur's words. It's a look of fear and fury that's directed his way, her jaw set as firmly as stone. Head tilting forward, her bangs obscure her eyes, "You would make it /worse/...just to defeat me?" When her face tilts back up, her eyes are closed and she lets out a laugh. It starts out jovial, "You would destroy my home, my people, and everything I care about..!" The laughter continues, though it grows more and more unhinged, "Everyone I'm trying to save..! Everything..!" Eyes opening, she stares upward, pupils reduced to intense points as she laughs, "Everything..I'm trying to repair..! Gone..!"

Lexicon has posed:
    Yomi's coin drop experiment seems out of place and a bit odd. Until, a few minutes later, a nondescript 10-yen coin zips by the platform she's currently occupying. Index draws specific attention to it, pointing with a short laugh, "There it goes!" Codex, however, peers over the platform edge at the events unfolding below with a little frown. Huddling, the blue-clad twin murmurs, "She's really hurting..." Huddling down, "...Does she even know why?"

    Striking the central pillar causes a shower of sparks, pixellated motes of light. A 'stain' of blue appears but promptly shoots down out of sight, though it was roughly the same size as Yomi's hand. The noise gets Codex's attention and she glances back, over her shoulder. She bunches her hands up under her chin, staring at the red light in possibly-intense-thought.

    When Xiaomu jumps back up to check one of the upper floors, she finds no actual 'entrance' to the box. Even Artifex had to blast a hole in the top of one to get in, after all. It seems like entering floors is probably not in the cards for this adventure.

Theurgus (1103) has posed:
    "This is your path to walk, Artifex. We can destroy this place and end your attempts, or you can yield and let us help you in another way, a BETTER way." says Theurgus, keeping her guard up... that might be getting through, it's hard to tell.

    She takes a breath, "If you truly hate Pedia for what she did, why not rise above it, take the moral high ground. Don't destroy what she had in a spate of petty revenge. You're better than that." mismatched eyes lock on the Sapphire DCC. "I never knew you, neither did my predecessor MAGUS. but you're a Drive Core Controller. That speaks volumes for your character, even now..." she lowers her guard, and offers out a hand. "Let us help you... let us fix your Drive and save not just the Sapphire citizens, but the Silver too."

Asterios (1137) has posed:
That's the face he wanted to see. The terror of prey as it realizes how close it has come to losing everything. The fury of the one who hasn't yet given up. The two things that blend together and forces a soul to find a way to escape, no matter what...!

Asterios is the Minotaur; a Monster is bound to know the workings of the Hero's heart.

"Yes," Asterios answers her maddening laughter. "I will. Because you want to do... Same. To people who I care more about. Why do I care about your people? Why should I?" The minotaur growls as his Noble Phantasm continues to unfold, violet lines cris-crossing ever further across the great tower. "You are the only one who cares. So. If you care. Then talk."

"If fight, then I will do what I will do. Will destroy your world to save others. Will destroy you for them. Or. You can talk. You can stop. Your choice. In your heart, what do you want? Vengeance? Or your people?"

Her decision will make this easy on him either way.

Yomi Isayama has posed:
"Thanks, Index." Yomi smiles at the pink twin and leaves the coin be. Maybe it will keep falling forever! She glances aside to Codex, then back down over the side. "The other day she seemed out for revenge against someone who... I think is already dead."

The red turning to blue gets Yomi's attention, and she tries just... poking at the red light with a finger. "Sounds like you want to help her. Do you think doing something here might help out, or do you want to go down to talk?" Yomi considers for a moment and pokes the red light again. "I'm wondering if we shouldn't make this all blue, though. Red was the color of bad code energy here, right?"

Eryl Fairfax has posed:
    "But Lexicon is not Pedia, just in the same way that you are not Bunnabelle," Eryl says simply after Artifex completed her crazed cackle. "We do not entirely know what Pedia did to you, you have yet to elaborate as the only one who was there. But in my experience, Lexicon is not the type for underhanded tricks. She is an entirely different person, with her only connection to Pedia being code fragments. To say that she hurt you is untrue. All you have done is perpetuate a new hurt, rooted in grievances that only you are aware of. Pedia is gone, you remain. Is that not the best revenge you could ask for? "

    He lets that hang for a moment, before renewing his assault from a new angle. "Artifex. Look at your weapon. Really look at it." He gestures at the offensive artist brush. "A brush. A tool of creating beauty. You swing it here today to harm, to destroy, to rail against a world that was never aware of what was done to you. Where is the justice in that? The artistry? It is as Theurgus said, you are a DCC. That must mean that you have a sense of what is right and just. And I know that deep down, you know that all this is neither of those."

    "Please. Take a moment, and calm yourself. We can work this out."

Xiaomu has posed:
Well, she DOES have grenades ... but those are hardly demolition charges, and Xiaomu's not sure how solid the architecture here actually *is*. She gets back onto the top of a floor-room-box thingy and takes a look down at how things are going between Theurgus, Asterios, and Artifex; she overheard Theurgus offering a peaceful solution, and hopefully that'll work. If it doesn't - if Artifex is fixed on resurrecting her own Drive or getting terminally fragged in the attempt - then she can join the fray directly.

But if it comes down to applying violence .... hmmm. Yomi DID manage to punch a hole in the red data, maybe doing a lot more damage to it would accomplish something constructive. With that in mind, Xiaomu quietly draws her handguns - just the original pair of Silver and Platinum - and double-checks their clips. Anti-spirit rounds seem like the best approach to fighting data corruption, particularly if the corruption is equivalent here to a youkai's curse where Xiaomu is from ...

Deelel has posed:
When Xiaomu puts it in such terms Deelel pauses for a moment, okay that was a bad idea she'd been living in user space so long she'd been not thinking of things in a digital manner. She frowns and looks own down or is it up? Depending on how one sees the world. She ends up following after Xiaomu. She thinks "We may have to get involved with the lady of the house directly Xiaomu."

She also gives Yomi a look.

She will move to grab a photon charge off on her leg. Yomi did have an effect on the red dat and those fighting below seem to have a chance to talk Artifex down. So she will give them a chance there but she too is ready. She makes sure the charge is set.

"If that fails we need to go in and help but I think you may have the right ida Yomi. If we can remove the infected code the system might be able to self repair or at the very least we'll stop the spread."

Lexicon has posed:
    "Pedia..." Codex says the name, "Like...Our grandma." The blue-clad twin shakes her head, "We never met her. She's been gone a long time. Before we were born." When Xiaomu produces guns, though, Codex reachs up and tugs her hat down a little. Index, however, is immediately in the Sage Fox's personal space with stars in her eyes and a Stylus-shaped wand in her hand.

    "If you're gonna blow stuff up, let me help!" Index bounces on the balls of her feet, "I'm real good at it!"

    Codex wanders back to the edge, staring down at the altercation between Artifex and the rest with that tiny frown of hers. After some more thought, her own staff appears from her inventory in a flicker of code, and she lifts it.

    "Feel better," the blue-clad twin murmurs, closing her eyes and holding her staff out. A magic circle flips out around her feet.

Lexicon has posed:
    "Protect what matters to you," Artifex mutters, covering her face with one hand. After a moment, she withdraws her hand, staring at her own palm and quivering fingers. Her gaze shifts aside to the sword floating beside her. A brush, as Eryl says. A tool turned into a weapon, that turns art into a weapon. That intense glowing gaze shifts again, staring down at Asterios and the effect he's having on the data immediately around him. Her frown deepens. Eyes close and she takes a deep breath.

    A blue magic circle, which at least Theurgus should recognize immediately, expands around Artifex's feet, then gives off a soothing blue glow in a faint, swirling pillar. It's very distinctly Codex's healing spell. However, the healing blue-white light surrounding Sapphire Soul is suddenly soured by a sickening red glow just under her skin, following a vein-like pattern on her arms and body.

    What appears to be eyes open right before her actual eyes open, and the woman whirls around to shoot a glare up at the party on the higher platform.

Theurgus (1103) has posed:
    Diamond Soul feels like they're making progress, she can feel the conflict radiating off of Sapphire Soul.

    Before she can say anything more though, Codex's healing spell lights up, and the hidden infection beneath the surface shows itself. The reaction is immediate and would likely make Lexicon both proud and highly concerned.

    Processor wings expand, and she surges forward, interposing herself between the upper levels and Artifex, likely taking a body shot intended for those further up. "Stop now!"

Yomi Isayama has posed:
Oh. Artifex is looking this way. Reaching forward, Yomi takes hold of Codex and gently pulls the girl back from the edge. "I know you tried, but I don't think healing that way is going to help. At least... not help enough. Stick behind me, okay?" She glances back toward Xiaomu and nods. "Can you keep an eye on Index, then? If she makes it past Theurgus and gets up here, I won't let her touch them."

Asterios (1137) has posed:
Something terrible happens. It's kind of hard for Asterios to tell exactly /what/ kind of terrible that something is, but it's terrible none-the-less. Fortunately, through the magic of ~radio communication~ Asterios still gets the gist of what's going on, and it... doesn't sound good. It doesn't sound good at all. The minotaur produces a handful of noises that can only be described as 'contemplative.' He's arms-deep in the corrupt data, and as he stares ahead, all he can see is redness. The way that girl was talking, this whole thing is... Her world, kind of. Sort of? All packed in. Piled in. Nice and tight. Somewhere in there, there's a connection; a link between world and goddess, across which something truly foul has been slowly worming its way into the heart of this Drive.

But, that means there's a path. Asterios knows how those work. The minotaur makes another sound, this one of conviction. He reaches in deep, his will seizing around that river of power flowing into the well of his soul. "Okay," Asterios murmurs as those violet lines weave across the tower's core, a massive, externalized magic circuit etching itself across space itself. "Activating Noble Phantasm."

                     --ETERNALLY UNCHANGING LABYRINTH--                    
                         --==CHAOS LABYRINTHOS==--                          

The violet lines surge. Suddenly the tower begins to come apart, unravelling and blossoming outwards, unpacking in a way that it really should not be unpacking. But inexplicably the structure is sound, a vertical maze that expands to encompass the minotaur completely. The pattern is carved carefully; Asterios was careful to seperate the red and the blue as much as he possibly could have- to arrest the spread of the taint as much as he can. They will need time to do what they must do.

Somewhere in this maze, there is a path to Artifax's infected heart.

They would find it.

Eryl Fairfax has posed:
    The blue light makes visible the redness within Artifex. She is corrupted, likely the source of the Tower's own corruption. This is bad. This means they must strike at her, in hopes of purging the infection. Especially since she is now exhibiting behaviour that implies she is about to strike out at Lexicon's two sisters, two who might not be able to defend themselves.

    However, from his position below her, this means she has her back to him. He is in a position to make a clean strike, with as much firepower as he can muster. It might be dishonourable, it might mean going against his word. But to safeguard the System, and those within the Tower, he'll go to any lengths. His leg begins to jitter, the projectile loaded within spinning at massive speeds, the coils generating a stronger magnetic field.

    Upon full charge, he kicks up, pointing his heel right at Artifex's back. In a single moment, his shoe, sock, and most of his lower pant leg is shreded and burned by the emerging grenade, travelling at such speeds the air around it screams. At this speed, it would impact with such incredible force that the explosion is almost an afterthought.

    Broken diplomacy, and the biggest ranged blow Eryl can muster. Hopefully that draws enough aggro to keep the twins safe.

Deelel has posed:
A plan is worked out on the radio, with the added support from the twins down below she thinks she has enough cover to move as Asterios plan. She'll opt to join the data team going for Artifex's heart, hopefully they can clean this and it will not end up like with the Black King. With that she's going to drop iin she joins the bullman of myth in his quest to cut the infection out of Artifax's soul.

She looks to Xiaomu and Yomi then she leaps, making a three point landing shortly after and she'll be up on her feet racing to follow Asterios into Artifax.

"No time to delay."

She mutters she semes hard set on taking a chance to save an infected program. Memories of an outbreak on the Grid so long ago where nothing could be done save to de-rezze the infected play through her mind with perfect clarity.

Lexicon has posed:
    Artifex's glower up at her causes Codex to start, letting out a little gasp. After a pause, she pushes her staff out with both hands and sweeps the head down. The magic circle around her feet changes to a different pattern, resembling a snowflake, and a large snowflake-patterned barrier appears. Theurgus passes through this, being an ally, but the slash of black ink that appears does not-- It manifests as an ethereal slash like that of a sword, carving a divot across the shield's surface.

    Artifex whirls on the interlopers more directly, her brush-sword recovering from the maneuver, "Oh, now you've seen it, I can't let /any/ of you live, now." Her voice lowers, "To think I was going to act all nice for you--"

    The impact and explosion of a rail-gun grenade interrupts whatever Artifex was getting at. With a shriek, she tumbles out of the air, trailing smoke and slamming against the platform with enough force to shake it. With a growl, her wings straighten and she starts hauling herself up again.

    Chaos Labyrinthos

    The Tower's interior rearranges into a true maze, metallic black walls shot through with blue lines that turn at right angles-- like the surface of a circuit board. The infected Drive Core Controller is nowhere to be seen.

    At last, a chance to get to the heart of the matter...

Theurgus (1103) has posed:
    "This virus is a clever one..." muses Diamond Soul as the maze appears. "To think, it was just using Artifex as a puppet." a hand lifts, covering her face, and a low, slightly unhinged chuckle bubbles out of her throat. "Kukukuku~. The Organization truly does have its claw bitten deep in all places." The hand drops, and the mirthful semi-sanity washes away again. "Right then... let us find a Virus to delete." Her processors flare, the blue marbles set into each of them glowing faintly in the dimmer light within the labyrinth walls.

Eryl Fairfax has posed:
    Eryl lets out a small grunt of satisfaction as his shot drills into Artifex, right before the Noble Phantasm cloaks them within itself. A direct route to her metaphysical heart. Excellent, now they can purge the infection directly. He takes a step forward, on thhe leg he fired from.

    And immediately sinks to his knee.

WARNING

MODERATE DAMAGE THROUGHOUT LEFT LEG

KOAN CORE AT 15%


    The alerts that come up over Eryl's HUD causes him to let out a rattling sigh. "I'll be of little use to you from here," he says to everyone, before slumping against the maze wall. "Go on ahead. I trust you can all handle it from here."

Xiaomu has posed:
A lot of things happen in an awfully big hurry. Asterios deploys his labyrinth, a bunch of people start making with the violence, and Artifex makes noise like she's about to messily slaughter every last one of them.

That last thing is, objectively and subjectively, kind of the worst thing - so Xiaomu sorts out her priorities and simply leaps off the floorbox where she'd been lurking with the others, descending towards Artifex's perch even as the Chaos Labyrinthos reconfigures cyberspace all around them. She just needs a relatively straight line between herself and the virus-corrupted Drive Core Controller ...

Y'know. Straight enough for bullets to fly.

A lot of bullets.

Judging by how much she's pulling those triggers without either of her handguns clicking on empty, *literally* far more bullets than those clips should be physically capable of containing.

Oh yeah, and she does this without losing her staff. Somehow. She just has it again after she lands (which is when her paired handguns DO click empty, finally). Thankfully, Eryl's already done his Big Thing, so the coast is clear enough to land when she *does* land.

"Yeah, funny thing about that ... we were just talking about how people fight harder when they don't have anything left to lose. Saying you're going to kill everyone here so you don't leave any witnesses to a loss of face kinda trips *exactly* that flag," the sage fox comments acerbically, ejecting her clips and reloading in a swift, smooth, and clearly long-practiced series of movements. "Wanna see whose mistakes have been bigger?"