((43 - Chloe))
May 31st, 802 AT
The four Talons stood in the corridor outside Research Marash's apartment. The corridor was near the edge of the Roost, and so much less crowded than the ones near the center. Occasionally someone would bustle past, often with a basket of supplies or a child in tow. The door to the apartment was rusted metal, with huge bolts on it, just like all the metal around them. A sign scratched into the center of the door read "127--Marash."
A message repeated through the intercoms, on the same loop it had been on for six hours. "This is a maximum danger emergency alert. Evacuate immediately to Sector One, in personal transports. If you are too old or young for a transport, or have sustained injury, report to the Concilium as soon as possible to inquire about other means of passage. Thank you."
Reno stood with her fingers pressed to her head next to her ears, looking VERY irritated. She wore her current outfit of choice--a skintight suit made of demonhide, that subtly changed colors to match her mood. It was currently slightly red, indicating annoyance. "I swear," she grunted "I...am going to kill...that announcer...in about three seconds...if he doesn't shut up."
Kiara sighed irritably, glancing over at Reno. "You do know it's recorded, right?" she asked.
Reno gave Kiara a look. "Do I LOOK like I care? Chun, PLEASE let us in so we can escape this horrid assault on our ears."
Chun was at the door, holding a key in her hand. ((Isabelle Louge)) Before she even attempted to open the door she put her goggles over her eyes and waited for the others to all be behind her. Chun gave a quick glance to Reno, nodded and then opened the door. "Sure."
Kiara smirked slightly, then turned, looking through the now-open door.
Seth tossed his cig' to the ground and crushed it under his boot. He knew better than to smoke in a lab. Especially this one.
The door opened onto a spacious apartment, which was in a state of perpetual disarray. Stacks of paper sketches and notes loomed on a table. A handful of utilitarian chairs were around a counter, which had a half-eaten plate of vegetables on it. A pair of doors on one side of the room opened onto the bedrooms. At the center of the room, a metal staircase spiralled down into the lab proper. The sound of welding came from below, accompanied by occasional flashes of light through the hole.
Chun entered and quickly went to the stairs with a certain confidence gained from working hours in the lab. "Hey Mom, how's it going?"
Devrah Marash looked up from a blowtorch and yelled back, "Well enough. I need better sealant!" ((Riva Morton)) Her long silver hair was tied back in a pony tail, and she wore thick black goggles over her eyes. She wore a simple tan lab coat, not bothering with protective gear beyond her goggles and heavy gloves.
Chun stood for a moment on the stairs and then shouted over the noise. "Do we need to make a run later?"
"Let me think about the design more first. I wouldn't want to trouble you, dear," Devrah answered.
Chun nodded and went into the lab, pausing at a table to examine some machinery.
A thought occurred to Devrah through the midst of plans of giant metal skins. "Shouldn't you be evacuating, dear? I have far too much to do here, but there's no reason for you to stay."
Chun shrugged. "I don't really see why I should, like you said, there is work to do!"
Upstairs, the other three Talons were listening quietly from the top of the stairs. "And why would we leave when things are finally getting interesting?" said Reno, her voice bathed in its usual sarcastic lather. "Besides, pray tell, what is this... design that you speak of?" Reno wiggled her fingers in mock-mysticism as she spoke.
Her voice echoed down through the stairwell, prompting a glare from Kiara. "We're trying to make a good impression, remember? Just because Devrah knows us already doesn't mean..."
"Dear," said Devrah to Chun, suddenly far less cheerful than she had previously seemed, "Did you invite friends home without telling me?" In a quieter voice she added, "You know that may not be strictly, well, safe."
"Sorry, mom, they were bent on knowing what you're working on." Chun frowned, she hadn't really thought of her friends as unsafe before. Chun flinched a bit, her mom had a ton of work to do, and she could see it. "Right, I'm sure I won't be back too late."
Chun went up the stairs, turning to her companions. "She wants to be left alone to work, no matter what that means." Chun went over to her room, paused at a cabinet and took out a wrench, tucking it into her cargo pants.
"So we're just going to leave? What about Cyc?" Kiara asked, a bit angrily.
Chun looked a bit annoyed at Kiara, raising an eyebrow. "Listen, my mom is working hard, she doesn't need distractions."
Seth nodded. "She's still at work. There's time."
Reno gave a hard sigh and put her hand to her forehead "Okay, look," she said. "This little thing called 'time'? We don't know how much of it we really have!"
"Yeah, and she doesn't either, slowing her down slows us down," Chun shot back.
"Okaaaaaaaaay, do you have any better ideas?" Reno crossed her arms. "'Cause I'm totally open to suggestions right now."
"All I can think of is staying here to work." Chun started to look into space a litte.
Seth sighed. "What can we do right now, but wait? It's not like we could help with the testing... could we?"
"Honestly, I don't know. My mom is in charge. I could ask, but she is very irritable."
Reno stopped and stared at Chun for a moment. Her suit had faded to its usual neutral tan color, but took on a mild tinge of blue amusement. "She's 'very irritable'? Chun...you do remember who I am, right?"
Seth shrugged, grinning wryly at Reno. "Hey, it's worth a try, anyway. One question couldn't hurt too much, neh?"
"I'll ask, but when it comes to my mother... well, you all know how she is when she's working. Relative to her normal moods..." Chun shrugged, and walked back towards the stairs. "Mom, do you want my friends' help?" She shouted down.
"Not until I get things more finalized at the very least," Devrah shouted back. "Please just let me work."
Chun nodded and then turned back to her friends. "I figured."
"So much for that, then," Seth said. "Fuck this. We'll come back later." He stormed out in frustration.
Kiara turned and walked quietly after him, sighing softly.
Chun stayed put. "I'm going to stay, she might need help soon."
Reno's head darted back and forth between the lab and the front door, seemingly debating whether to stay where it was boring or go back to where the PA would murder her sanity with its repetition. Finally making her descision, Reno shivered a little before placing her sleeves over her ears and striding towards the door. "Hey Chun!" she called "I wouldn't bother sticking around here at this point. You wanna stay bored longer?"
"I'll be fine bored." Chun cracked a smile.
Reno lowered her eyelids and raised her eyebrows simultaneously "...really, Chun? Really? You wouldn't rather join us and watch my hi-LAR-ious audio-suffering?"
"What? You don't like the, ah, music?" Chun grinned, pulled out the wrench, and began tapping out a rhythm of clinks against the railing of the stairs.
Reno frowned, giving up. "Fiiine," she grumbled, and lurched towards the door.
Once they were outside, Seth looked at his fellow Talons. "Just you two, then?" He asked softly. "Very well. Listen. That Devrah's old. She needs to sleep at some point. Us, though. We're young. ... Spritely."
Reno took her hands away from her ears to rub them together maniacally. "I sense impending sleep deprivation!"
Seth grinned wickedly and nodded. "Tonight. 2AM. We'll reconvene here to do some... research... of our own."
((44 - Ode to Power))
June 1st, 802 AT. 2:04 AM.
Seth, Kiara, and Reno stood outside the door again. The recording had stopped for the night, and all the lights were dimmed to night-time reds.
Chun groggily opened the door and in a hushed voice whispered, "Alright guys, she's asleep, but that doesn't mean she won't wake up."
Kiara nodded and stepped in quietly. She'd been the one to drop by earlier that afternoon with a message for Chun to be awake to open up for them.
Seth crushed another cigarette under his boot and walked inside. The room looked much the same as before, only much darker, obviously.
Chun looked nervous. "It also doesn't mean just us might not be quiet enough."
"Okay! We'll be quiet!" said Reno in a voice just barely audible, though she was gesticulating as though she was talking at a normal volume. The effect was quite comical.
Chun's expressions only got worse. She was in her most quiet attire, just wearing socks and simple clothing. Her goggles were on her head, nestled in among her untidy clumps of red hair. She lead them to the lab stairs, and down into her mother's workspace beneath the apartment.
The lab was dominated by six massive cages. They were latticeworks of iron and crystal, clearly experimental designs. In each slept a demon, with a purple crystal sticking out the back of its neck. A series of wires and electrical circuits connected various pieces of equipment throughout the room. A master control panel was set along one wall, connected to an array of other purple crystals. Alongside it sat a basket full of other unused crystals. At one end of the room was a considerably larger cage, with a seventh sleeping demon--a large centipede-like creature. Near the control panel was a ladder, presumably leading down to the docking bay for Re. Marash's ship. The whole room was very eerie, lit mainly by the soft purple glow from the crystals.
Chun very carefully went down the stairs, trying not to make a sound. She stopped close to a lab bench, waiting, clearly very paranoid that her mother would catch them.
Reno felt obligated to finger-wiggle again, as she saw the captive demons. "Oooooo," she said. "Puuuurple..."
Kiara smiled and walked around the room, careful not to touch anything. "Do you know how this stuff works, Chun?" She asked.
Chun spoke more slowly than usual, obviously trying to keep the demons asleep. "Yes, and no. We still have to work on it. Controlling something... is harder than it seems."
"Do continue," Seth whispered, softly but assertively.
"We're using crystals to control the demons, implanting them in their brain as well as routing them to a circut board. From basic control functions we attempt to make them do what we want, but honestly we still haven't found something solid. But I've been toying with an idea..."
Kiara listened intently, taking out a notebook and jotting a few things down.
"Oooooo," repeated Reno "An ideeeea..." It was clear that she had ingested a large ammount of caffeine in recent hours.
Chun looks a bit uneasy in saying this. "I've only just brought it up to my mom, and I honestly don't know what it might actually do. It might give demons control of people instead of the other way around, or even just kill the person."
Kiara looked up from her notes. "What is it?"
"I want to implant crystals into people's brains. Directly."
Reno's excitement seemed to dumb down a bit, replaced with slight disgust. "...ew," she said, tucking her arms in a bit.
Kiara blinked, eyes going wide with shock. "That... sounds a little sketchy."
Seth didn't react, having already heard the plan. He'd been there when Chun had the idea, a few days earlier, and had been the one to suggest using themselves as test subjects. "How were the crystals installed in those demons?" He mused, waving a hand towards the caged seven. "Surgically? Or otherwise?"
"Surgically, yes." Chun bit her lower lip, musing over what to do next.
On closer inspection, a bit of metal was around the base of where the crystals connect, plugged directly into the skin of the demons. Wires ran from the metal to connectors outside the cages.
"Very well then..." Seth's lips curled up into a smile. "Where's the equipment you used for installation?"
"Installation in what?" Chun asked. "Someone's brain?"
Reno shrugged "Well, yeah. Wasn't that what you were just talking about?"
"You can't be serio--" Chun stopped mid-word, remembering who she was talking to. "It isn't that simple."
"Yeah," Reno said. "I mean... we'd be putting solid magic into our brains. Or something."
I'm not a surgeon... I'd need my mom's help."
"Would she help?" Seth asked.
"She might. Test subjects would be appreciated..."
"Excellent." Seth's grin had not diminished. "It's not like she has time for other options, with the Swarm coming."
Chun shrugged. "She isn't about to do it tonight, though. She's asleep."
Kiara raised an eyebrow. "You could... wake her up."
Chun stared at the group. "Yes, wake her up and say 'oh yes, mom, I showed my friends what we are doing and they'd love to be guinea pigs!' She'd love that."
"Yeah!" said Reno "That's a GRAND idea! Let the woman who just woke up put crystals in our heads! It's genius! I don't know why I didn't think of that!"
Chun couldn't help but correct her. "The angry woman who just woke up."
"What other choice do we have? Who knows how long until the demons get here," Kiara replied. "I don't like the idea, but neither am I fond of being eaten."
Chun sighed. "Listen, if we want to do this then I might as well just ask her tomorrow if she would want to experiment with the idea. If she says yes, I go out for an hour, get you guys and say I found our guinea pigs."
"Guinea oink." Reno raised her hands to her chest in a mock approximation of hooves, despite having never seen a pig outside of books.
"Solid," Seth said. "Tomorrow afternoon it is."
"I suppose that works." Kiara didn't look too pleased. "It doesn't leave much time, though."
"If it works," Chun said. "We can leave quickly. And if it doesn't... well, we'll be dead anyways."
There was a pause, then Seth spoke up again. "A question, Chun. Do these crystals function in pairs? Or is it like implanting the circuit board of controls into your brain? Like... If I were to stick one in my head, would that work for just the demon with the paired crystal, or could I... Find one. To control."
"It basically works in pairs, like wireless internet." Chun thought for a moment, realizing not everyone would have read as much ancient tech history as she had, but then remembered that she'd subjected her friends to an excited rant on the subject a few weeks earlier. "Besides, you're not about to go find your own demon, there are enough here for all of us. I've been thinking about this. If I had to pick one, it'd be the one with the cloth covering its cage." Chun pointed.
"Okay," said Reno. "You take the mystery one, I'll take one I can actually see." She started walking along the cages, looking at the demons.
Chun walked over to the cage she had indicated, and carefully removed the cloth little by little. The demon was about twelve feet tall, and looked like a huge crow. Its wings were glossy, and despite apparently being asleep, its black eyes were open, one tinged with a red sheen. Its jagged beak was dead white, matching the bone ridges that protruded from its back. They weren't spikes, just slabs of bone segmented to create some sort of defense mechanism. Chun picked up a loose feather that had slipped out of the cage, and attached it to her hair with a small black rubber band she had been wearing like a ring.
Reno sidled over to a demon that appeared to be some sort of fusion of a giant rabbit and a six-legged gryphon. Its body was covered with fine feather-like hairs and its rounded-triangular head hosted long, pointy ears. Jutting from its back were strange insectoid wings. Three large talons lined each of its six claw-paws.
Kiara stepped toward another cage, this one holding something that appeared to be shaped like some sort of large cat. However, its body was surrounded by a shifting layer of almost-opaque shadows, making it difficult to determine its exact shape. "I like this one."
Seth said nothing. He was staring directly at the closed eyes of... something. He stared into a cage filled with a grayish mist, most dense at the center, sparser near the edges. At either side of its cage were jagged crystal shards, forming asymmetric 'hands.' In the center was a face. Almost a face. It was a massive hunk of semi-opaque crystal, at least ten feet in every dimension. It looked as if it had eyes etched into it, and a horizontal line messily scrawled below, resembling a closed mouth. The three pieces hovered statically, unmoving in the swirling mist. "Beautiful," he murmured.
"Uh... Seth? What is that?" Kiara asked tentatively.
"Fucking awesome, is what it is. Dibs."
Kiara shrugged, and walked back to the cage she was looking at before, looking in at the shadow-thing intently.
"Sweet," said Reno "You get your crystalized abstract concept, and I get my solid awesome-ride."
Seth shrugged. "Make of it what you will."
Chun nodded. "Alright, I know we all are drooling over our demons, but we shouldn't hang around here much longer. My mom might wake up if they decide to make any noise. We also all will need sleep. I know this surgery will not be easy to go through."
"Good point," Kiara responded. "We should get at least a little slep."
"Ah yes, the all-important slep." Reno snickered at their longstanding in-joke. "Oh, hey, can we name them?"
Chun shrugged. "Do what makes you happy. Right now they just have numbers."
"Sweet!" Reno held up her index and middle fingers in a pseudo-salute gesture. She was clearly still in the middle of a caffine high. Gesturing randomly with her outreaching fingers, she announced, "I shall dub thee: Caf."
Kiara suppressed a laugh, turning to the shadow-thing once more, contemplating. "I think... Umbra. Yes, Umbra sounds right."
"Torrential Black suits it." Chun smiled and said almost under her breath. "Red and Black make blood."
"What, we gotta name 'em all now?" Seth looked at his demon, then back at his expectantly waiting friends. "I'll pass. This fucker's too cool for any name I could come up with." He walked to the stairs. "I'm gonna crash now. Been fun, y'all. We'll meet here again tomorrow afternoon, get us some... new friends."
"Wait." Reno's hesitant statement caught Seth with a cigarette halfway to his mouth, and he paused, turning back. She bit her lip. "I... um, I heard something earlier today."
Kiara frowned at her friend's uncharacteristic hesitance. "What is it, Reno?"
Reno let out a sigh. "Cyclops is already gone."
"Shit!" Seth swore, then put the cigarette in his mouth and lit it, safety be damned. "What happened?"
"They loaded him on a heavily guarded transport as soon as the evacuation was announced, and sent him on ahead towards Sector One." Reno looked extremely worried.
Kiara and Seth exchanged a glance. Reno had been orphaned before any of the rest of them, and as such had always been even closer to Cyclops. After a moment of uncomfortable silence, Kiara spoke up. "Don't worry, Reno. We'll break him out."
Seth nodded, thinking for a moment, then announced sharply, "We're moving our plans up. We meet in my apartment first thing tomorrow morning." He turned to Chun. "You'll have to come up with something to tell your mom, because tomorrow afternoon's not soon enough."
Chun grimaced, but nodded. "Who knows what they'll do to him at Sector One."
"Yeah," Reno said quietly. "We might not be able to catch up to him on our demons, but the sooner we get to Sector One, the sooner we can rescue him. And the less likely something will..." Her voice trailed off, not wanting to state what was on everyone's minds.
"Hey," Seth said, coming back down to the bottom step, and putting a hand on Reno's shoulder. "Cyc's been doing this for longer than any of us have been alive. He'll be fine. Besides, he's never let us down. Time to make up our debt to him." He grinned at Reno, who smiled back, calmer. Seth looked at the rest of his gang, and nodded confidently. "Now it's time for some much-needed slep. I'll catch you all in a few hours."
Reno's wry smile was starting to return. "Maybe I shouldn't've had all that caffeine, huh?" Laughing quietly, she and Kiara followed Seth up the stairs out of the lab.