5942/ICoT - The Mancers Dilemma

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ICoT - The Mancers Dilemma
Date of Scene: 21 July 2018
Location: Caelondia
Synopsis: It all comes to a head.
Cast of Characters: The Kid, 1094, Kotone Yamakawa, Priscilla

The Kid has posed:
    Sitting atop the highest hill in Caelondia is a grand manor of tarnished brass and polished wood, the combined effect giving it a slight radiance in the setting sun. The stairs leading up to it are stately, but oddly barren, especially considering how bustling the streets below are. A few men and women walk along them, noses buries in books and sheaf of paper, not making eye contact with each other or the passers-by on their way to their appointment.

    For today, they have arranged to meet Rucks at The Pinnacle. Supposedly to discuss Mancer/Concord collaboration, but the true purpose is an attempt to convince their once-dead friend to join their efforts to save Caelondia from itself.

    As they cross the courtyard to the front doors, a massive shadow blots the sun. Floating high above is a familiar chunk of land, swaddled in canvases that hide the workings on the underside. The Kid did say that the Bastion was the gathering point in case of trouble, but now it's clear as to just how incomplete it was at the time of the Calamity.

    Little time to ruminate though. Through the handsome wooden doors and into the reception. A woman behind a stately desk pays a man clad in light armour who carries a shortbow and quiver. He takes a satchel and adds it to the pile that he has strapped across his chest before rushing past the Elites out the door. The receptionist notices the very un-Cael guests, and recognizes their intent immediately.

    "You are Mister Rucks' appointment, yes? Please, right this way, and don't stray. We take security very seriously here in The Pinnacle." With efficient strides, she guides the party deeper into the building. Through brightly lit corridors filled with heavy doors that prevent even a snatch of sound escaping the rooms they protect. The place, it seems, is totally soundproof.

    Soon, they reach a door the same as any other, save for the plaque upon it, bearing only Rucks' name and identifying him as the 'Mason Consultant.' The receptionist knocks on the door, a very precise series of taps that brings about a nearly inaudible series of clicks that mark the door unlocking. It swings inward, and she inclines her head before striding off. "Glad y'all could make it. Come on in," says Ruck's caramel gravel voice.

    The interior, as opposed to the corridor, are dimly lit with only an oil lamp on the old man's desk casting light on the shelves of scrolls and books that surround him, some scattered on the floor. "Sorry 'bout the state of this, too much work to clean up, and work's too important for janitors." He fiddles with the lamp's knob, brightening the flame. At the very least, some chairs have been pulled up before the desk, and gestures to them for everyone to sit.

    Sitting down, they get a good look at Rucks in the firelight. While Kid seemed less morose than he was post-Calamity, and Zulf was /much/ happier, Rucks actually looks worse. His wrinkles cast deep shadows on his face, his hair and moustache is in disarray and his clothes look slept in. He also smells like he hasn't had time to wash lately either.

    "So. What can I do ya for?"

Flamel Parsons (1094) has posed:
    Parsons regards the dangerous-looking man on the way in. Hmmm. Maybe just a quick little scan on the top of the brain...? Nothing too much further, surely. Anyway, he greets the receptionist. "Oh, don't worry! I recently had erroneous impulses of curiosity stripped out of my mind, it'll be fine." Parsons says to the receptionist, cheerfully. "Thank you, ma'am." And then it's time to head on in. "And glad we could make it as well! Wonderful to see you, Rucks. You don't at all have to apologize about the state of things, you seem like the kind of man who has a system." In many ways! "Oh! Sorry for the familiarity. I'm Flamel Parsons, psychonaut, and agent of the Concord. I've been especially wanting to speak with you, for a lot of reasons."

    He leans forward, immediately clasping his hands. Let's dig right into this. "We really need your help with something we're hard at work on, and you're a man whose time we shouldn't be wasting. What I'm about to say will sound like there's been a clearance violation! If it's possible, I'd like you to consider the more likely alternatives. We're wanting to try to head off explosively dangerous tensions before something terrible happens to Caelondia. Above all else, we're here to make sure that people don't die, and I know beyond any doubt that you're the kind of man who wants that too. There's a lot of reasons why I know I can count on you above all else."

    Parsons explains quickly. He tried to be subtle with enough other people around here, and it never worked, so he handles this with as soft but as firm of an impact as he can. "You're the man who built the Bastion, correct? So you know what it does and how it works? It's been activated at least once now, and we'd like to speak with you about making sure it doesn't need to be activated again in the future. When it was activated, it was to turn back the effects of a Cael superweapon that caused mass deaths."

    He gestures to himself. "I'm one of a number of people who was unaffected by the process, due to being off-world at the time! So are many of my colleagues." He's trying his best to avoid the issue of how exactly it got subverted, and by who, but that's as far as his lack of faith in Rucks is going to go. This is a man who sacrificed himself to save Parsons, and under no circumstances -- especially after finding out more about himself -- is Parsons going to let go of high respect for someone like that. So he's putting many of his cards on the table, and working from there. "So. We want to work with you to make sure this doesn't happen. And I know that with the others we've gathered, if we have your help, we can find a way."

Kotone Yamakawa has posed:
Kotone Yamakawa is the only non-Concord in the party, but honestly this goes back further than the new factions, she's not about to leave the Kid, Rucks, Zia, Zulf and their peoples snapping in the wind. There was a task to finish and by god, she was going to do so. She's dressed up a bit as she does not expect trouble. She's not in combat gear she's actually in something far more casual. Cargo pants, shoes a vest with detached sleeves, she's just keeping it causal right? No need to be threatening and she appears she could just be some sort of Aid to the Concord bigshots who are her, that worked well enough.

She bows slightly to the receptionist.

"Thank you!"

With that she heads on in after Flammel. She'll wait for someone who speaks which is Flamel and she pauses for a moment before she introduces herself.

"I am Kotone Yamakawa."

Then the Agent goes full-on unsubtle and whelp? She's going to run with it since being subtle has gone out the door.

"It's true I am one who was not affected by it as well."

The memory of Rucks death is something she can never unsee due to her cybernetic implants she will never have it fade, it will be clear down to the smallest detail. She does not want this to happen again nor to see this world burn.

Priscilla has posed:
    Truthfully, Priscilla had been hoping she'd have a little time to poke around in here in the believable timespan they have for Rucks' meeting, but even only the security visible on the bare surface on the way to his office is starting to make her reconsider that. Sure there's no spike pits and tripwires, but the soundproofing and door codes are so much more professional than those that it makes her slightly . . . not worried, per se, but concerned. The silent, hard, narrow stare she gives to the other routes in passing is one that considers 'what /else/ are they doing here if not just the Bastion and the Calamity weapon?'

    Actually in the office, Priscilla is immediately tempted to tell Parsons to pull it in this time, and actually raises her hand halfway to bid him so, but then immediately stops when he begins with the fact that Rucks knows exactly what the Bastion does. For once, she won't have to dodge around the topic of time travel. That could be called refreshing, if one were being generous. "It is as the Sir Parsons says." Priscilla says, apparently needing no introduction if she assumes Rucks has done the slightest bit of research on the Concord he's supposed to be meeting. "Given two choices between the Bastion's fledgeling functions, I insisted, and ultimately we elected, to side with that one which wouldst giveth us an opportunity to change the circumstances behind its activation."

    "The fact that it didst work at all indicates that thou art a brilliant, and highly valuable man. I imagine thou must also hath some idea of what else is being designed somewhere within these halls. If thou couldst imagine a disaster of such scale that the Bastion's ultimate function wouldst be needed, I am certain thou wouldst knoweth immediately what I referreth to." Priscilla is pretty glad the these doors are soundproofed, all things told. "The face thou wear suggests a man who is far from blissfully ignorant as to what comes shortly into the future."

The Kid has posed:
    Rucks had a pen in hand, prepared to take notes, but Flamel's words make it freeze in the air above his desk. His head shoots up to stare at the Psychonaut, his hand trembling. "It works?..." he asks, his eyes lighting up with delight. He starts to put the pen to paper again, but suddenly stops once more.

    "Used to undo the effects of a Cael weapon? Sorry, can't think of a thing in our arsenal that would do all that," he says stiffly. "You might be confused. But... gimme a sec." Finally, he puts the pen down proper and interlaces his fingers, thinking carefully. Behind his bushy brows, his eyes flick about, the old man clearly deep in thought. It's a few minutes before he snaps out of it and nods.

    "I'll believe ya, for now. Forgettin' was a factor we had in mind as we built the Bastion, so I reckon it could be the case. The fact that you approached so many... people says a lot. Other survivors I reckon." He rises from behind his desk and begins walking around it, approaching one of the shelves.

    "Pardon the sudden change in topic, but we had something curious happen. Some of the Gravers we sent to protect one of our most vital assets all had a 'loss of time' so to speak. None of them can remember what happened in the span of a few minutes. All the same minutes." He begins to fiddle with one of the scrolls on the shelves, rotating it until a metallic 'clunk' resounds from the shelf, the whole thing starting to slide aside. It reveals an elevator, currently bearing two Mancers holding up a third. His pale skin has been bruised all over, and his robes are stained in blood. One eye is swollen shut.

    "This is that asset. His name is Venn. Perhaps you've met him?"

    The Mancers drag Venn out of the elevator and dump him on the office floor. "I'll be honest. After that message, I thought y'all were up to somethin'. But if what you say is true, then the weapon worked. It just misfired. And Venn here is the only one who might let that happen." He limps back to his desk, opens a drawer, and produces a single pistol, loading a single round into it, before slamming it on the table. "So if that's the case, y'all just make him fix what he did, and we're good, yeah?"

Flamel Parsons (1094) has posed:
    Parsons' eyes go wide. He takes his sunglasses off with a start, and tenses up. This is where things go bad. Because he knows -- thinks, at least -- that he can't get Venn's sabotage undone. And he knows -- assumes, at least -- that even if they did something as unthinkable as disable Rucks here, that weapon will get fired one way or another. And as long as they don't have Rucks on their side and helping here, they won't be able to get this solved. But they can't do Parsons' natural tactic, astral projection, not with that gun and that backup in play, not in the middle of a hornet's nest of super-science high security. His mind races. Deep inside the elaborate complex of his mind, mental aspects are running and screaming, desperately trying to figure out a solution to his problems. Thoughts are in a war room, trying to find a tactic.

    He arrives on one.

    "Alright, Rucks. I actually owe you my life. You saved me before the Bastion's activation. I've done my best to make sure it got activated just to make sure that wasn't in vain, and to make sure that I could repay you dying to save me. So as much as it absolutely horrifies me to help you murder another nation, I'll do my best if that's what you want." Parsons says, brightly. "The reason that the Gravers lost those minutes is because I'm a Psychonaut -- a sort of a mentalist, you see. I can go into minds and change them around, or look to see what's in them! Now, obviously the stronger the mind, the deeper the secrets, the harder it is to go into, the further you have to go to find something out, so I doubt I'd be very good at getting into a Mancer brain and figuring out what he did, especially on my own. Very complicated! A real maze, probably." He smiles widely, and hopefully.

    "But, I don't think I can do it alone, or even with my allies here. And, well, I don't really think you'd trust me when I tell you what we find in there even if we do. And I know for sure we definitely, definitely wouldn't understand it once we found out. So," He gestures to Venn. "Would you like to accompany us inside his brain? That way, you can help us get through Mancer psychology, and you can get a chance to see and understand what he did!" He makes sure to move slowly when he retrieves a little... Door from his jacket. Really? A little door? Well, at least it has the self-serious look of a spy agency's door "Just put this on his forehead and we could get started finding things out. I'll get your problem sorted and everything fired up by the end of the day!"

    Then he looks directly at Venn, and "speaks" in soft telepathic tones. "Zia says, 'Keera yun parush'. Everything's going to be okay. I promise. Relax and don't fight us. Help us when we're in there." If Rucks goes along with this plan... Well, everyone will be diving into Venn's mind shortly. Is Parsons' plan really to go along with this? Not exactly, but he's gotta improvise the next section, if this first one works at all.

Priscilla has posed:
    Priscilla expresses only a flick of mild irritation across her face as Rucks denies that one, but it's only mild because she isn't much good at expressing moderate upwards. "Indeed, thou art correct to assumeth others didst surviveth. One of them in particular is capable of remembering the entire ordeal, whilst other chose to forget, and for good reason." To go with Rucks' stiff tone, Priscilla's becomes prim and businesslike. Do tell mineself if this wouldst sound familiar: a weapon to shatter the earth and bury the Ura in their tunnels, of such scale as to target an entire country in thine estimate, mired in stone and built of something Wrong."

    That discussion has to be tabled when Rucks abruptly changes the subject, and then the subject turns out to be pressingly and immediately critical. Priscilla would be a poor . . . well, absolutely nothing she's done so far would have made any senses if she had the type of nerves that'd be liable to betray her now. She had wholly anticipated that Rucks would share the Caelondian's hatred for the Ura. Just because man 'progressive heroes' had liked the man a great deal doesn't somehow mean that he'd share all of their values, and of course it'd be easy for him to put that aside after the world had already ended and he had nothing left but guilt. What she has on hand for such an eventuality is a small selection of items and records from her extensive time with the Bastion project, and one immediately becomes an obvious choice when Flamel starts talking.

    Unfolded from her sleeve is about half the message Rucks had left the Kid at the very end; not enough to name all the names and give all the details, but enough to be blatantly his own handwriting, go over the Bastion, and indicate that it was a posthumous letter. She gives that to Rucks for his perusal, wordlessly and seriously. "Unfortunately, Sir Rucks, we art not 'good'. Aside from the fact that Sir Venn is of the Concord's interest as an established contracted party, and not currently open to interrogation or corporal punishment as part of this diplomatic overture, the simple fact is that Sir Venn is not capable of undoing what it is that thou art about to do not very long from now. Thou art a brilliant man Rucks, but thou art perhaps too skilled for thine own good. A saboteur is not a necessity for what is about to go so very wrong."

Kotone Yamakawa has posed:
Kotone Yamakawa gets still as a Doll as Rucks puts things together and she starts to wonder with his reactions as things seem to be going south. Flamel seems to have a plan and she's going to run with it here. It's a dangerous plan but it's very much needed to keep two civilizations from ending up in utter ruin and the world in pieces. She's going to go out on a limb here, trust those she considers friends here and if it goes badly she could very well end up in a very bad place with the Paladins. The number of lives top be save though is more than worth the risk to her mind.

She looks to Flamel for a moment. She nods she trust in Priscilla on this. She also thinks the carnage of seeing the weapon actually used? Caused a Change in Rucks she suspects. She has an idea of where Flamels plan is going so she just plays along she's just the hired help right?

The Kid has posed:
    Rucks crosses his arms and stares at Flamel as he lays it all out. "I did huh?..." he says in response to Flamel's claim that Rucks saved his life. He adds, under his breath, "Don't sound like me..." He raises an eyebrow as the little door is procured, and the other Mancers titter a bit. "Well... not the oddest thing I've heard of other worlds. Sure."

    And then Priscilla hands him the letter. He takes it, frowning slightly. "This is only half. Who is this 'Kid?'"He looks at Priscilla, who only responds by telling him that having Venn fix the weapon won't undo the things that the Concord want undone. "Caelondia can't afford another war," Rucks says simply. "We can't truly be 'safe' until the possibility is wiped out. This is the only way.

    He starts affixing the door on Venn's head as Flamel's telepathic message reaches him. He twitches, reflexively outraged at the use of Ura tongue, but the promise that it was Zia who told him soothes him.

    Sure enough, the door flies open, and everyone is pulled inside alongside Flamel. Venn's mindscape, on first examination, looks just like his comfy, Ura-styled home. But a single glance out the window reveals a darkened, ruined land. Hunks of rock float against a black, stormy sky wrack with bolts of lighting. Far far below, the screams of the dead and damned almost drown out the thunder.

    Venn's mental representation sits at the table where everyone ate dinner, staring at the blood that constantly issues from his hands, pooling at his feet.

    "Well, this is a fine mess," Rucks mutters as he looks out the window. "So now what? Where would we find what we need?"

Flamel Parsons (1094) has posed:
    "Oh, this is what we need!" Parsons says, brightly, pointing outside. "I've seen this. This is what happens to the minds of survivors of the weapon. I actually saw this in an Ura diplomat once. It was absolutely awful. It's pretty likely that a sizeable portion of Cael population will need to have this purged out of their minds in order to keep your society stable if we pull the trigger on this. He's sort of like patient zero of the psychological disease, so to speak. The weapon's effects are like this, and I'd probably say it'll happen on a broad, social scale. It's likely that we'll find out what he did somewhere in either the ground zero of the blast, or at wherever the weapon may be in his mind, but either way, we got in close. Now, how do we do this..."

    He looks out the window, trying to find something. In fact, a big, comical "?" pops up out of his head. "Huuuhhhh... Okay, so if I look at that angle..." He mutters, reaching up to the thing... "And if we..." He mutters, glancing to Venn, hoping he'll provide mental support -- crucial down here. "I think... That should be our objective. What do you think, Rucks? Based on the blast patterns?" He tries to get Rucks to look out one of the windows, out into the landscape of the mind so he's distracted.

    And then he pops the top curl off the question mark like a grenade, dropping the resulting psychic construct and releasing a blast of CONFUSION ENERGY intending to stun Rucks! And he takes the second PSYCHOPORTAL out! "Watch out!" He calls out over telepathy. "He might have more strength on a mental plane! Get him still without hurting him!" Rucks is a man who is important to Flamel. And that's why he needs to dive into his mind. And there's nothing but Psychonaut warnings and regulations to keep someone from diving into someone's mind, /while/ diving into someone's mind. People will need to hold Rucks' still, hopefully while not stunned themselves, while Parsons tries to get the psychoportal onto his forehead and dive them -- Venn's self-image included -- into /Rucks'/ head, while they're diving into Venn's head!

Priscilla has posed:
    Priscilla's first words upon falling through a mindscape door for a third time and taking a look around at the bleak and horrifying scenery are the following:

    "It is more literal than I wouldst hath assumed."

    Clearly Venn is a man whose attention is extremely consumed with one very specific thing.

    Without the extra Mancers around, Priscilla continues her discussion with Rucks. "A young Caelondian man who didst survive a certain Calamity, alongside thineself. There art very few hands to help with the effort of completing the Bastion in such a future after a certain weapon hast been fired." She then gestures around herself, helped by the fluttering of her broad white sleeves. "Caelondia cannot afford to utilize such a trump card at all. A further war wouldst be untenable, yes, but soon enough, there shalt be no Caelondia /or/ Ura left. The question is only which of the two is worst off." She's not being /completely/ honest, but not dishonest either. Venn had, after all, aimed it at Caelondia, but in the end it'd obliterated most of the world. A second piece of evidence comes out: pictures of the petrified Caelondians in the shattered city square, taken from Staren's helmet cam. She just lets him have it, so he can be distracted and concerned at his own pace.

    That may be useful for Flamel's /batshit insane/ plan. Even Priscilla looks shocked, almost sputtering to say "Is this even meant to work? By what rules?" when he pulls out a door inside a door to do a mind dive inside a mind dive. Given, she is easily the physically strongest person here, and so she has the job of grabbing Rucks from behind, in a pretty simple under arm lock.

Kotone Yamakawa has posed:
Kotone seems mute, to Priscilla and Flamel? That might hint to just how worried she is, she tends to get more Doll like when she tries to reign in her emotions and given how her body responds to things. She does s Parsons has asked of her, she gets ready to mind dive, and away they go into the mind. She will trust them on this into the mind they go. She can't even afford Venn a look as she shifts into a whole other world.

When the call to action comes in, she moves she will move to hold him down, the good news is Kotone has some experience in this and she will heed the warning and be ready for a major fight. This is god damn crazy and she knows it if she'd not been with the Flotilla for so long? With the likes of Biteblade and George's antics? She might have frozen, nope here she is power bombing the tornado.

The Kid has posed:
    Priscilla finally gives a proper answer. "Hm. I'd like to meet 'em after this is over. Sounds like a true son of Caelondia." And then he sees the pictures of Caelondian citizens petrified into ashen statues. He trembles a little at the sight. "I know some of them. Chat with 'em on my walks in the Hanging Gardens... Nordy the bird boy, the Jawsons, Grady Senior and Junior..." He shakes his head and thrusts the pictures back, quickly going over to join Flamel at the window.

    "What am I lookin' at?" he asks, stunned by the nightmare going on outside. He doesn't even comment on the neon question mark above Flamel's head, leaving him wide open to take the blast of confusing psionic energy. He stands there, stunned, murmuring, "Secret to a good moustache is Scumbag juice, gives a real enchantin' aroma..."

    And now, the first ever attempt at the Cobb Technique! Through Rucks mental projection, they dive into the Mancer's mind, blasting through his mental defences weakened by the Confusion Grenade and the doubts they've instilled. It still feels like slamming through multiple sheets of corrugated iron though.

    His mind scape is much classier and a welcome respite from the storm and screaming. It's his office, but much much larger and well tended. Decorations have also been set up, like an Army Carbine above his chair, a mounted Cael Hammer above the door... actually, on closer inspection, there are weapons all over. Guns hidden in bookcases, a spear in the umbrella holder, grenades in the fruit bowls. Classic indication that something is going on at the subconscious level. The man himself is sitting in his chair, still out of it from the grenade. But the projection of Venn has also followed, still bleeding everywhere.

Flamel Parsons (1094) has posed:
    Parsons springs into action. He doesn't have the ammo or the focus for another confusion grenade right now, so he had better get this figured before the keen-minded Mancer gets his bearings. He doesn't know how much self-awareness this guy has to work with in this mental space, but he knows for sure that he doesn't want to be on the receiving end of any of those weapons. First, he tries to activate his invisibility, to give himself even a few seconds of extra wiggle room if Rucks goes active in a hostile way. How does he work this... How does he figure this...

    "Venn! I don't... I don't know what to do! Has Rucks told you about any reasons he wants the Ura dead specifically? The guy was old enough that he was probably part of the old war, maybe if I..." He mutters over telepathy, and then pushes as quick as he can towards the weapons! Maybe if he uses his Clairvoyance, he can get some clues. He's seen enough Ura, and Ura weapons, to know he needs to look around for one thing in particular: A War Machette, like the ones wielded in the Ura siege on the Bastion! Like the one Rucks died on...

    "Focus!" He mutters to himself, amid his search. If he can find one, and if he can draw some clues out of it with Clairvoyance, maybe he can get an idea of where to start navigating in Rucks' mind, to track down his feelings towards the Ura, and take them down once and for all! This is such a huge collection, if he can just trace the history and route of these weapons, maybe he can get to their source!

Priscilla has posed:
    Frankly, it is the weapons Priscilla notices before the office. That's just how she's been trained -no, that's just how she grew up. Flamel said something about a 'War-Hawk' hazard on the radio, but this doesn't seem quite to do with war. Not one hundred percent anyways. The closer she looks, the more she finds, far beyond simple wall directions. Picking up one of those grenades out alongside a pear, she hefts it into her hand, narrows her eyes, and says "I assumeth one of these men with the name 'Mancer' wouldst be afflicted with a certain layer of paranoia and violent readiness." Then she rubs her shoulder more on reflex than anything, from the rough trip that it had been getting into. She can't imagine what it'd be like under normal circumstances.

    "What is our objective, specifically, to appear as, Sir Parsons?" she asks. "Am I to expecteth another monster from this?" The Scythe, or rather her mental approximation of it, appears in her hand. Unlike the real world, it lacks a certain level of material form. In her mind's eye, it is some kind of murkily swirling smoke and ink abstraction, as if missing its quasi-metallic 'shell' and exposing its formless guts. Not being a psychic though, she has relatively little ability to search the office for something terribly meaningful, and so she begins at least with the effort of finding something to tie Rucks to the chair, however mediocre. "And Sir Venn. Knowest thee any particulars of Sir Rucks' direct involvement in the war? He is certainly old enough."

Kotone Yamakawa has posed:
Kotone Yamakawa hears Rucks bring up various names and at least one name she does know frowning she does not like to think of the people turned to ash, it brings up memories of the third world war to her. She ends up in Rucks min and now she's looking about she notices the place is like a trap-filled dungeon. She also looks to Ven and does what she can to stop the bleeding without thinking about it. She's not sure if it will help and she nods to Flamel.

"Old hates die hard, really hard."

She will try to help Flamel once she's done what she can for Venn.

"Maybe look for things related to that day Flammel, you know the one I mean."

The Kid has posed:
    The search begins. Flamel is convinced that Rucks feelings about the Ura are key to all this, all he needs is a representation of those feelings. He was a soldier, and mentioned fighting in the war... but all the weapons they can find are of Caelondia. Not a single War Machete or Fang Repeater in sight, and the spears are Brusher Pikes, rather than the naginata-esque spears that the Ura use.

    However, there is one thing to be found that directly relates to the war. Whomever deigns to search Ruck's desk, taking care to not jostle the stunned mental representation would notice the framed photo upon it. It existed in the real world too, but no one ever got on this side to look at it. It depicts several young men out in the bush, bearing weapons. One of them is clearly a younger Rucks, based on the moustache.

    Should Flamel apply Clairvoyance on this picture, the office dramatically changes. The walls fall away, and plantlife spreads from each weapon like a cancer, rapidly overtaking the stately office. The mindscape is now a warzone, with the sound of gunfire and screams of pain coming from the thick foilage. The distant glow of fire mingles with the scent of gunsmoke and the noxious plantlife of the Wild. Uran chanting echoes from the distance, harsh and menacing, mixing with a distant war chant.

                         I dig my hole you build a wall                        

                         I dig my hole you build a wall                        

                        One day that wall is gonna fall                        

    The Rucks mental construct has regressed in age, now a young man bearing a rifle. All around him are the bodies of the other men in the photo. "I remember..." Venn says horsely, in response to Priscilla. "The one time I saw Rucks drunk... he fell asleep, and began to weep, calling out their names. Folez, Gurn, Xander... I can't remember them all now. His unit got wiped out in an Ura ambush, I think." He gestures at the bodies, all of which exhibit wounds that ooze in the same way that Rucks fatal stab did. Poison.

Flamel Parsons (1094) has posed:
    Parsons does go through all that, Clairvoyancing everything he can until something works -- and boy does it work. "Aaaaaaaaauh!" He falls behind the desk, now probably a barricade or something like that. His eyes flick around, trying to figure how to approach this... "Um... Okay, okay, I'm... not sure, but I think if we can find the mental image of the Ura that killed his men, we can stop them and defuse this. I don't know for sure, but that's where we should start. Make sure he doesn't get hurt by any Ura if you can!" He peeks up at the signs of nearby Ura battles. "I think... Guh, I think we'll need Rucks for this!" He says, wincing and screwing his eyes closed. "I don't know. I don't know how this works, what this is going to be like... But if I'm right, he feels /unsafe/, like he can't deal with the potential threat any way but the biggest gun in the world. And if we make sure he feels capable of dealing with these problems on his own, maybe he'll be able to think of this in a healthy way! As long as he sees how strong he is, maybe he'll be able to use that strength without the Calamity!"

    Optimistic, Parsons. But it's the only plan you've got. The secret agent tries to jostle Rucks' mental self-image awake. "Hey!" He calls out, urgently. "We're here to help make sure nobody else dies, sir! Where are people in need? We'll make sure everyone remembers that a Caelondian Trigger won't get broken that easily!" As always, his voice is full of hope, optimism, and positivity overwhelming. He's planning on heading out towards whatever looks like it's in the most dire straits, and fighting for his life and Rucks' sanity against whatever looks like it might best represent Rucks' feelings of being imperiled or in need of such dangerous weapons! He's got no other options he can think of, and at least this is a way to seek out more hints.

Kotone Yamakawa has posed:
Kotone Yamakawa looks to Venn as he explains a bit about when Rucks got drunk and what he did things start to come together somewhat. She looks at the bodies leaves her feeling a sense of loss. She can't even guess what it would be like to be the one person to escape a fate like this, the crushing survivor guilt. The constant eating at you, that if something had happened differently? She looks to Flammel now as she thinks.

"Right we protect him then."

Kotone isn't unarmed and she's willing to fight there's a Hum as she powers up here internal taser systems to ready mode.

"We're here to help."

She moves to grab a weapon off the ground a hammer, kinda of fitting when she thinks about it. She is ready to defend young Rucks though and she might not be trained to use a melee weapon like this? Yet she's certainly got power to put into it.

Priscilla has posed:
    Funny where folk songs come from. Priscilla had thought those lyrics were ominous when first she had heard Zia singing them, out in the wilds of the frontier. Even from that girl, something about that beautiful song had tingled just the wrong way. This is the bloody reality of that little piece of lore -one she had thought likely to never be relevant.

    Of course, in the process of originally trying to tie Rucks up, Priscilla gets behind the desk. That's where the chair is at after all. The picture only briefly interests her, until it becomes the main subject, or rather, once it reveals it was the main subject after all, as if the weapons in the Mancer's office were the place where his mind truly is bubbling up through the veneer of his modern life, like grass through the cracks in pavement.

    "An intensely personal grudge, then." Priscilla says, unhappy by her tone. A simple patriotic hatred of an enemy nation would have been one thing. Even simply serving on the frontlines might have been another. This kind of grief and trauma as to having lost all his comrades however, Priscilla hasn't the foggiest of how to fix. It is in part because of the fact that Priscilla's own past has long ago encapsulated this kind of thing, time and time again, that she sees no way past it.

    Priscilla looks to the dead men and their seeping wounds. She looks to the fire and smoke in the distance. She looks to where she hears the Ura chanting and psyching themselves up for another charge. What can she even do here? This man needs to be persuaded /not/ to destroy these people, and what had she herself done. Her fingers sink deep into the murky blackness of her scythe-abstraction remembering the murderous fury with which she herself had charged into the Ura's lines, eager to wreak bloody vengeance on their race for the death of Rucks. How can she convince him to do anything else with any credibility? Just hearing those shrieks makes her want to do it all over again. Her rod stiff body radiates a literally visible aura of it, curling off her in monochrome wisps, frost spreading and crackling from where her feet press into the dirt. Doing so would probably be psychologically disastrous, but what else is she good at? She can't bring these men back to life.

    It's a very good thing she has people for this. Flamel's enthusiastic urging towards Rucks snaps her out of the increasingly dark brooding she had sunk into without noticing, finding herself staring at ice-covered ground instead of looking around herself. This is how it'd been for a while now. Having better qualified -no, more wholesome- people to fill in her blanks. There had always been these people, even before she'd lost them all and found them again. Hope. Reassurance. Guidance.

    Lowering the scythe in one hand, Priscilla draws the weapon she'd only obtained thanks to those people. Something that represents a mental block of fear and hatred she herself had once had. It too is something abstract, as she seems to regard these strange arms made of souls, but a sword of glittering, dancing blue lights, part firefly, part star, shines like a beacon from her left hand raised upwards.

    She turns the hilt towards Rucks.

The Kid has posed:
    The Ura get closer by the second, continuing their war chant.

                      Gon' build that wall until it's done                      

                      Gon' build that will until its done                      

                         But now you got nowhere to run                        

    The first emerges from the brush, and everyone can see how Rucks sees them. A being of smoke and shadow, moving in fast blurs like they stepped out of an overcranked film reel. They immediately make a beeline for Rucks, likely being put down by Kotone's borrowed hammer. But another joins it, then two more, all chanting until they are snuffed out and replaced. They're surrounding the area now, menacing with blades attached to their forarms, darts that erupt from their mouth.

    Flamel tries to shout some life into Rucks, reminding him of what he is. He looks up, with tears in his eyes as he struggles to hoist his friend's body. This is no Trigger right now, no soldier. This is a boy who has had his life yanked out from under him, one who would never recover. But Flamel's psionic optimism dries his eyes and starts inspiriring him enough to talk. "They're all over, there's no way out. They know these Wilds like their own hands!"

    But then Priscilla strides up, and offers him a shining, shimmering blade. With wide eyes he grasps the hilt and struggles to heft it. For a moment, a courageous light fills his eyes, and he looks around, only to see the sheer mass of Ura that start to materialize from the trees, chanting, braying for blood, blades oozing poison. His heart falters.

    And another pair of bloody hands grasp the blade.

    "Rucks," says Venn, the flow of blood starting to stem as he looks his colleague in the eyes. His expression is a complicated one, but his eyes shine with resolve. "You've been struggling a lot too, huh?" He offers a grim smile and says, "My parents died in this war too. We all lost someone here. I know you don't want another one to happen. But you'll be creating a lot more orphans if you go through with this. Let's go back, together, and fix this."

    The soldier says nothing. But in the guiding light of the sword, his appearance reverts to his elderly self. He offers only a nod, and the two men heft it, before swinging. It's light extends, cutting through the surrounding brush and the Ura, leaving a clear path towards the warm light of the office in the distance. Rucks returns the blade, and hoists up two of his comrade's bodies. "Let's get these boys home," he says, before heading towards the light.

    Once they all comply, they all begin to snap back, returning to Venn's mind, before returning to the real world. The psychic backlash is likely a bad one, but it seems like barely any time passed during their two-layer descent. The two Mancers seem confused as they keep their guns trained on Venn. "Well?" one asks.

Flamel Parsons (1094) has posed:
    Parsons is wide-eyed, amazed as Priscilla demonstrates the overwhelming mental power of her artifact. No doubt the Psychonauts would love to have their hands on something so wonderful. And this deep in the psychic space, it's nothing short of incredible in its power. As it cuts down the mental psychohazards in Rucks' own hands -- and even Venn's, thank goodness he brought him along too -- the whole fiasco is as put to rest as it seems he can. No, he can't get rid of Rucks' traumatic experiences in losing his men, but... Can he get rid of the feelings of threat and vulnerability? Well, it got rid of something that had Rucks threatened.

    Snapping back into the office practically puts Parsons straight off his feet. "Woah!!" He calls out, stumbling a little bit. They were ejected from the mental space so hard that the door itself flipped straight off of Venn's forehead, clattering weirdly to the ground. "What the-- Woah!" He says, sort of padding at his own head to assure himself that his brain sure is still in its skull. "Oh, uh... That's..." Parsons starts, anxiously. At least they're not holding the guns at him right now, as he so often has had happen, but now he's got a different matter to deal with. His whole body freezes up. Did they get enough that Rucks will feel sane enough to call off this effort? "I think we might have... Helped Rucks with what he needed to see?" He says, gritting teeth in a worried way and looking to Rucks hopefully. "Ummm."

    Please don't point a gun at me. Please don't point a gun at me. "What do you think, Rucks? Was that, uh, did that let you find out what you need to know?" He awkwardly fusses with his hands at Venn, hoping he doesn't begrudge Parsons the beaten state, and hoping that nobody gets a bullet in them. Right now, he doesn't know for sure whether or not he's managed to save many millions of people or not. The uncertainty is killing him almost as much as those guns could.

Kotone Yamakawa has posed:
Kotone Yamakawa will put her hammer to work as she brings one down, she will then keep moving to hit the next and the next, they still are attacking. Kotone keeps going, she does not have the insight for mental stuff as well as Flammel and Priscilla do on this. She does have the drive to keep going and desire to save not only this world but Rucks too. She swings that hammer for all she's worth she will take hits even it does horrible things to her, they will have to rip her apart to get past her.

When the attackers pull back she stops, lowers the hammer and will set down the hammer.

She will help with any of the remaining bodies and head towards the light with everyone else.

Kotone picks herself off the gfround looking to the two Mancers looking quite dazed from the experiance. She still a bit wide eye from what Priscilla did in there and she now look to the mancers for the moment she does not want to get shot, but she also prime her body to move if she needs to take a hit from someone...

Priscilla has posed:
    Never had Priscilla quite expected to use this particular weapon in this way. She had never expected it to even possess the properties it does, ill-understood as those in excess of its normal magic are. It'd come to mind as something that symbolized to her back when her own friends had given her the determination to continue forward and face something from her past head on, and the way it'd made her feel more confident and at ease, if not even at peace, is something she had ascribed to be partly sentimental. Seeing Rucks and Venn reunite here, she knows there must be something special about it, because even she watches wide-eyed as the two men show something very different than mistrust and secretly terrified scorn for each other.

    "It is as I had said. Some men art too brilliant for their own good. They becometh lost in themselves, maketh enemies of friends, and cease to see a way forward." Those words are for the mind divers only, and not the Mancer guards when they pop back out all of a sudden. Priscilla blinks against the light of the desk lamp, holding up her head near her eyes and looking vaguely disoriented and confused. How long had it actually been? She isn't certain on the relation of mindscape time to real time, never mind double mindscape time. Mindscape squared? Root mindscape? "I believeth the venture to be productive." she says to the Mancers, steadying herself where she stands while the vertigo wears off. "Sir Rucks shouldst be more well informed than wouldst be possible exchanging words here."

The Kid has posed:
    Rucks blinks blearily for a long moment, before exhaling hard through his nose. "Yeah, we got it..." The other Mancers exhale a sigh of relief and say, "Great! So, should we..." They aim the guns at Venn again, and Rucks quickly snaps "No!" They freeze, and look to him suspiciously. "We'll need his help to get the weapon functional. He's coming with us." Cool as a cucumber, that Rucks.

    The two look to each other and nod. "Right... just so you know, the Administrator said that if you get involved with them in any way, we're to consider you compromised." The other nods, and raises his gun to point at the old man. "Nothing personal Rucks. Just means you'll have us keeping an eye on you as you get it ready. He wants it fired today, if possible."

    His eyes go wide as everyone is ushered towards ths secret elevator. A lever is pulled, allowing them to descend into the depths...