Friday, February 3, 2012



((94 — Broken Home))

July 4th, 802 AT.

The medical room was quiet, unmoving. A technician had come by the night before to clean up the blood.

Skunk glanced around silently as she guided the stretcher bearing Kasby's still form. Kasby lay on the stretcher, an IV drip running into his arm. He was unconscious but breathing. One of his arms was heavily swathed in bandages.

Goat was lying in one of the beds, staring at the window. He looked up when his friend entered. "Skunk!"

Skunk stopped dead. "Goat?"

"Yep!" He sat up eagerly. "I've been getting worried about you guys. Where've you been? Where are the others? What's up with Kasby?"

Skunk snorted. "His hand got lopped off."

Goat observed Kasby's injury as Skunk wheeled the stretcher into position near his bed. The bandages hid anything particularly vicious from sight, but they were soaked through with blood.

"Me," Skunk continued. "Well, I suppose I've been fine. Owl, I haven't seen her in a few days." She furrowed her brow, looking at Got. "How did you get here? And why are you in the hospital?"

"Escaped in the Quinn from Sector... Four... with Kasby, Giraffe, and..." His face fell. "Zebra," he said softly.

Picking up on his tone, Skunk prompted, "What happened to Zebra?"

"The thing that Jaz turned into... got her. In this very room."

"Shit." Skunk bit her lip. "She--it--got Kasby too. Nearly killed me in the process."

"Did you hear how it and its demon friends killed all the higher-ups here but Barret?"

Skunk shrugged. "I heard that some demons had come a-calling at the meeting-thing, but that's really the sum of my knowledge."

"Mm." Goat leaned back against his pillows. "Barret's a jerk."

"Who's she? Sounds fishy to me."

"She was the military leader of Sector One, before all the other five leaders got assassinated. So now she's basically the dictator." Goat lowered his voice. "I think she's a demon."

"What even is a demon?" Skunk asked in exasperation. "At first I thought they were just those things we fought at the start of all this. Then Jaz... well, you know. And now dictator-demons?"

"Apparently they can be humanoid. Doesn't seem like much of a stretch for them to look completely human." He paused. "After Kasby ran off to hunt down Jaz, Barret sent me, Giraffe, and Zebra to reclaim one of the gun towers from some rebels. We tried to reason with them, join them even, but they shot me in the arm." He used one hand to point at his shoulder, which was still bandaged from the fighting two days earlier. "I do not like them."

"Yeah... I don't think anyone does." Skunk sighed. "What about Spider?"

"I was going to ask you that," Goat said worriedly.

"Hmm..." Skunk gazed at the ceiling. "There was no one else, was there? Me, you, Owl, Spider, Zebra, Giraffe. And Kasby."

"Nope. Everyone's accounted for 'cept Spider," Goat said. "Face is running out of survivors..."

"She can take care of herself, I guess," Skunk said half-heartedly. She didn't seem convinced in the truth of her own words.

The hospital room was silent again for an uncomfortable minute.

"Ah, Face," Goat finally said. "Playing hookball with Aardvark and Platypus... Practicing the art of leaping with Master Jellyfish..."

Skunk kept silent. Her memories of Face were not the type of thing that most people found pleasant or cheery.

Goat was still talking. "Shame how he didn't leap far enough that last time..."

Skunk cracked a tiny smile. "All gone now, no doubt."

"Learning to make sandwiches, with Xylophone! 'Goat! You just something between two other things! It's fucking simple!' Xylophone was always yelling..." Goat's smile almost looked real, but his periodic glances at Kasby's unmoving form gave him away. "And Hippopotamus, that girl with curly hair! The times I almost asked her out..."

Skunk changed the topic with a half-roll of her red eyes. "So where's Giraffe?"

"Back in her room, resting."

"Mm. Good." Skunk's voice was flat. "You were saying about the possibly-demonic dictator. That sounds like trouble to me."

"Yeah!" Goat sat up slightly again. "I've got pretty much no evidence other than how all the other leaders got killed so conveniently, but I'm sure of it." Goat's eyes narrowed. "Something in my gut tells me."

"I don't know much about the situation, but it doesn't sound impossible." Skunk walked over to the windows and gazed out at the city below. "What are we going to do about it, then?"

"I'm gonna heal up, first," Goat said, flexing his shoulder and wincing slightly. "Not sure what to do after that."

"We can't exactly let the entire city to fall to bits, though." Skunk frowned, then sighed. "I wonder whether Owl is still at the library... She'd have an idea."


((91 — Darkness))

July 3rd, 802 AT.

As Spider neared the crystal where the Talons had left their demons, nothing seemed to be amiss. The four demons still sat there, mostly asleep and functionally in a daze. Caf idly picked at her feathers every now and again, but other than that the demons seemed to be in something of a holding pattern. There was something slightly odd about the gravity here, a gentle off-center tugging, but Spider ignored it.

Spider fell over to the demons casually, mostly ignoring the others in favor of keeping her eyes locked on Scorpia. The large insect was huddled over in a corner, not far from Seth's Noh.

"Okay, girl." Spider stepped down onto the crystal. "We're getting you off this rock, 'kay?"

It was the middle of the night, and the Void was dark around her. Far behind her was the distant glow of Sector One, barely visible in the thick fog. She had left Owl and the librarian--Delissa, Spider vaguely remembered--hard at work, still investigating the strange portal. The other side had proved far too vast to explore on foot, so Spider had returned to collect Scorpia.

Scorpia looked up at her indignantly. She scuttled over, and put herself under Spider's hand. The girl petted the demon's opaque shell awkwardly. The other demons watched for a moment, but quickly realized their own masters were still gone, and returned to their listlessness.

"So, er, I hope you don't mind the cold. We're going someplace freezing, and I bet you can help carry some supplies.... though I'm not sure how to get you in sneakily." Spider glanced over her shoulder, back towards Sector One. "Maybe you can make yourself... I don't know, not... energy-like?"

Scorpia's antennae quivered, and then she shook, growing smaller and paler until she was almost invisible, much smaller than normal.

Spider raised her eyebrow. "Well... alright. I've already got some supplies, so... I suppose we get going?" She hovered into the air.

Torrential Black let out a quiet little squawk. It sounded very lonely.

Spider looked over at Black nervously. "Um... I'm sure the rest of those guys will come back for you soon," she said vaguely.

She lifted off, Scorpia just behind her. She frowned, though, feeling again that strange tugging of gravity. It was like there was some huge source of gravity lurking nearby in the fog. She looked, though, staring into the fog on the far side of the crystal from Sector One.

There was nothing, just empty fog. It was thick fog, though, and the more she focused on it, the clearer the pull felt. She re-centered herself on it, and started to drop slowly towards it, moving away from the city.

She fell like that for a few minutes, getting closer to the source of the gravity. She was sure of it now, there had to be something there. Scorpia clicked quietly from her side, and Spider looked at her demon. "You feel it too?"

A glance over her shoulder confirmed that the crystal the demons had been sitting on was long out of sight, and now even the glow of Sector One had vanished into the fog. She let Scorpia drift a little closer.

She bumped into something.

The gravity ahead of her resolved suddenly, becoming not one vague wash of density but a thousand points of pull. There was nothing she could see, just more fog, but she could feel it.

A voice boomed out from behind her. "EXCUSE ME."

Spider jolted in midair at the sound, and spun in the air. She bumped into whatever invisible thing she had found. "What!?"

Before her loomed a massive being, easily three hundred meters tall. His skin glowed yellow, and she looked down to see that his feet trailed off into a vague yellow smoke. His face consisted only of nine glowing yellow eyes, but other than that, he looked... human. Humanoid, at least. Spider crossed her arms and pouted up at him.


She raised one pointed eyebrow. "What?" She said it quieter this time, more annoyed.

Its four muscular arms unfolded, and one of them reached out to her. Around each wrist was a manacle of glowing red writing.

Spider scrambled through the air, falling backwards away from the hand. The arm faded elongated, stretching out, following her. As massive fingers closed around her, she switched gravity suddenly, slipping out between them. "Who the hell do you think you are!?" She spun, then smacked straight into the palm of a second hand. The thick yellow fingers wrapped tight around her, pulling her up towards the being's face.


Spider beat her fists on the fingers uselessly, but didn't seem to take the thing too seriously. "What sort of name is that?"

Behind it, the air rippled, as if a curtain was being dropped. The Void suddenly glowed a horrible bloodthirsty red, the glow of a thousand larvae backed by a thousand thousand demons.


Spider stopped hitting his hands. She peered out into the redlit abyss. "Okay... General Soul-Eater. No need to shout." She tried not to be afraid, but was failing slowly.

With one of its three free hands, Magid flicked a finger, and a larva flew forward from its place in the swarm. Its four leathery wings flapped slowly, bringing it towards Spider.

"Okay, so what exactly do you want?" She turned back to the General, and squirmed a bit in his fingers, contorting. Scorpia was somewhere else, but so small and lifeless as to be nearly invisible.


Spider opened her mouth, then closed it. "God DAMMIT. I saw that coming." She sighed.

The all-too-familiar red portal split the air in front of the larva. Snaking red tentacles leapt from its gaping maw, reaching out for her.

It had been said before that Spider was flexible and agile, but even she had boundaries of where she could move. When her life was in danger, though, those limits no longer applied. She squirmed and squeezed and made herself as tiny as possible, folding against the curve of his fingers. At the same time, Scorpia grew again, stabbing the yellow General Soul-Eater in one of his unblinking eyes with both stingers.

Magid hissed angrily, drawing back, a great gout of yellow flame erupting from his wounded eye. In his distraction, he lost his grip on Spider. "THAT WAS A GRAVE MISTAKE, YOUNG HUMAN." His voice was no less deep, but now tinged with anger.

Spider zoomed off sideways, pulling all the gravity in the world with her. Scorpia fell alongside her, zipping away from the sprawling swarm. She looked back, tumbling in the air, just in time to see the yellow smoke at Magid's base swirl up around him. It dissipated into the fog, leaving nothing behind.

A massive hand closed around Spider from behind, yellow smoke blowing past her. "I SHOULD BE NOT SO SURPRISED," the demon boomed. "THE OTHER HUMAN I HAVE SO RECENTLY MET WOULD HAVE DONE SIMILARLY..."

Spider thrashed about, trying to squeeze out again, then paused. "What other human?"


Spider stared up at him with narrowed eyes, her face smug and disbelieving. "What? She's dead."


Spider paused herself, thinking over the man's words. "Uh. Soul Eater. You mean that big army thing?"

"THE SOUL-EATER IS HE WHO IS THE HEART OF THE SWARM. ALL-DEVOURER, ALL-CONSUMER." Magid opened his hand, but this time a ring of glowing yellow circles remained, pinning Spider's limbs to her side. Scorpia was similarly bound, floating a few feet to her side.

"I think I'm actually starting to get it," Spider said with a bitter smile.

A pair of larvae flew towards where they floated in the fog. "YOUR UNDERSTANDING IS NOT OF MY CONCERN, YOUNG HUMAN."

Spider stared at the larvae. The tentacles of energy snaked out, twining around her and her demon. "Bye," she said lamely. She thought briefly of Seth, and the Talons, and of Owl and her friends from Face. She thought of Kasby and Jaz.

Mostly she thought about how much it sucked, how unfair it was, and how unsatisfied she was with everything. She had gone into Face to find answers, and was about to die two months later just as confused as she had been when she started.

She took a deep breath, stared up at Magid, Soul-Eater General, and bellowed, "YOUR FACE IS--"

The red swallowed her, and she was gone.