CAST OF PLAYERS:
Debora Silkotch…………..Casey Gavin…………………………Human Psionic
Aron Head……………….Story/Setting/Everything Else…….Game Master
Casey sent a bolt of telekinetic force through the door into the belly of the Machine. The flames within the furnace flared in protest at the foreign element: it was apparent that the Machine didn’t care for the flavor of her power.
She nodded slowly, then changed her tactics, literally fighting fire with fire this time. With a mighty effort she sent a roaring wave of psionic flames into the door, attempting to consume the green storm within. She could feel the effect of her efforts as a storm of forces battled within the furnace. … but the Machine was too powerful. It overwhelmed her fire.
The engine ran on magic and did appear to be queered by Casey’s abilities. But she needed a more direct application of her power against the Machine’s.
Her thoughts turned to the night before, and a textbook Falco had given her in his study: “The Metrics of Telekinetics.” She’d tried to read it, but it might as well have been written in a foreign language for all the enlightenment she’d gleaned from its pages. She wished now that she’d had more time to learn, more preparation for this moment.
** Falco? Can you hear me? **
:: I am here. :: He answered at once, his voice calm in her head.
She drifted back away from the Machine, staring bemusedly at the towering hulk of dark iron. She knew what it ran on and what it was supposed to do, but how it worked was a complete mystery to her. And somehow she doubted that whoever was in the amulet would be forthcoming with helpful details at this point.
She slowly rose a few levels, attempting to send her perceptions deep inside the construct, searching for gears, pistons, anything that might be jammed or bent or hung up, anything that might give her some insight into its workings.
Her mind prowled easily over the construct’s exterior. She penetrated that black metal and that was where the problems began. The deeper she probed, the more chaotic and wild the environ. It was distasteful and truly more than she could bear; Casey’s mind recoiled from the struggle. ** Where is ‘here?’ Because right here would be grand just now…. **
There was a pause. Then, :: Concentrate on me. ::
She withdrew her efforts to “see” into the Machine, closed her eyes, and sought out out the familiar touch of her mentor’s presence. He was close. She opened her eyes and turned to sweep them across the direction he was approaching from. Close, but not there yet.
She sensed controlled pain. It was dull, though. Remote. Distant.
:: Casey. :: He sighed her name. As if the mere touch of her mind to his brought him a moment’s peace.
An involuntary smile softened her face, but it was tinged with concern. Was he badly injured…? She floated up a level, her gaze searching the catwalk, wanting to see him the moment he came into the chamber.
One of the doors on the seventh level exploded open, and a figure that she only marginally recognized as Falco stepped through. His shirt was torn to shreds and stained dark with blood; his left arm was scorched black. He walked with a limp. The most disturbing sight was his face, half of which had been torn off leaving a bloody mass of tortured tissues. His right eye was a glaring orb without benefit of an eyelid. :: Sorry. I was a bit delayed. ::
Her smile vanished. With a cry of dismay she flew over the catwalk rail and landed beside him. **Falco…what… ** No, never mind what had happened for now. Could she help? She slid her hand beneath his shredded shirt, palm flat against his blood-slicked skin as she sent all the healing power she could summon into his ravaged body. She couldn’t begin to imagine what could have done this to him; she only hoped she could somehow undo some of it.
His wounds rejected her ministrations, very much like her own shoulder had done for so long. He waved her off. :: I appreciate the effort, but you shouldn’t waste your time. Or the effort. Bloody sorcery. ::
Her shoulder had been agony, she could only imagine how painful all of Falco’s injuries must be; mental discipline had to be the only thing keeping him on his feet. Maybe she could heal him the same way she’d healed herself — if any of the others ever trusted her to try that again.
He looked on Mardmor’s construct. :: So that’s it? How do we kill it? ::
She sighed. ** I was hoping you might know. I don’t think we have much time left. ** She pointed down to the open door. ** That’s where they feed it Fae…. **
His eyes noted the feeding level.
** … And up there, ** she indicated the top of the chamber, ** are the aether cannons that are about to spew apocalypse into the sky. The rest of the group are up there trying to disable the cannons, or overload the system. **
Falco nodded at that.
** We have discovered, ** she added expressionlessly, ** that Fae glamour and psionics don’t mix well. I guess you probably already knew that. I’ve been trying to think of some way to use my psionics to shut this thing down, but I’m either not strong enough or I’m not doing it right. Maybe if we both tried together? **
:: Oil and water. :: Falco considered.
Above, steaming green fluid erupted from the hoses, spraying straight into the air. Casey looked up and gasped when she saw the cannons firing. “No…!”
:: As you say, :: Falco sent composedly, :: our power is incompatible with the magic of the kithain. You were on the right path, but I suspect a more direct application is required. :: His eyes returned to the Machine’s open hatch on the feeder level.
Over his shoulder, Casey observed a great deal of movement beyond the doorway he’d blasted open. Boiling forth from the corridor beyond, dozens of armed men and vampires and werewolves and some giant serpentine thing (a dragon?) raced towards them.
With a flick of his wrist, Falco slammed shut the heavy door.
:: …Sugar in the gas tank, so to speak. :: He continued his thought as he floated down toward the Machine’s feeder hatch.
She followed. ** I tried shooting some psi…. ** Then broke off, staring at him. ** Wait. Are you saying WE should go in there?? ** The magic storm roiled inside the door, casting sickly green light onto Casey’s appalled face.
His eyes were sad. :: I was actually thinking of going alone. ::
Casey struggled with her fear. The stakes were too high: if it had the slightest chance of stopping the Machine, it had to be attempted. She drew a shuddering breath. ** Alright, I’m in. **
:: Casey, you’ve done enough. There’s no need to… ::
** Screw that. If psionics can shut this thing down, two have a better chance than one. **
:: I agree. ::
** But I have this…** She fished the amulet out of her pocket. ** I took it from Mardmor, it contains a sentient presence of some kind. I think it’s pretty powerful. Should I leave it out here or take it in with me? **
He seemed genuinely at a loss. :: I do not know. ::
She tossed the amulet back onto the catwalk; it clattered on the metal deck. ** Glamour might just make it stronger. It doesn’t want the Machine stopped. ** Turning back to the feeder door, she took a moment to harden her resolve. ** Let’s do this. **
Settling at the edge of the doorway, Falco provided her a proud smile. :: Center yourself, Casey. Your strength is all you need. You are mightier than this wicked device. ::
She closed her eyes, trying to believe him. Strength.
This was going to be horrible, she had no doubt at all. The important thing was to remember what was at stake. She drew to mind images of home: not Austin, but the family ranch where she’d grown up. Miles of peaceful green pastures, fat cattle grazing in the shade of cottonwood trees down by the creek, sunlight gleaming on the bright slick coats of horses in their paddocks. Her parents, her brother. Home. Love. Peace. That was all going to be gone forever if her strength failed her today.
So it wouldn’t.
Falco stepped into the fire.
Casey stepped in right behind him, trying to breathe but holding her breath as instinctively as if she were plunging underwater.
It was every bit as awful as she’d thought it would be.
At first it was rather like having a 100,000 fire ants crawl on her after having been dipped in honey. She reflexively started to form a shield — but no. Cocooning herself would defeat the purpose. She tried to work past the pain, make her power felt…
But then knives began slicing through her.
They shredded her focus, diffused her ability to pull together any kind of offensive strike.
Next was the hot poker in her mind.
And then another.
Casey trembled. This was it. Too much. It was all too damn much. She could not …
“Baby girl… ” A voice from within her was cool water in this firestorm. It was her grandfather. “You can do this. You’re up to the challenge. Center.”
She wanted to run to him, leave this hell behind and seek refuge in the tranquil corridors of the ancestral plane.
But again, the point wasn’t to be safe and comfortable.
** Tell me how to fight it, Grandpa, ** she pleaded. ** It feels too strong for me … tell me what to do. **
“Shine your light. Be the torch that I know you to be. Show this thing your power, your heart. Shine your light, baby girl!”
Her chest hitched, insisted on drawing the foul green æther into her lungs.
It was going to consume her. She couldn’t fight it….
She couldn’t fight it.
But she might be able to beat it just the same.
She stopped struggling against the Machine’s merciless assault. Acknowledged the pain, let it flow through her without trying to fight it. It was only pain; she’d experienced all kinds of that over the course of this hellish night and none of it had broken her yet.
She reached deep within herself, found the hard, cool core of steel that had brought her through the night’s ordeals more-or-less intact.
Reason. Law. All the wild magic in the world couldn’t unmake a solid truth. And the truth was, Mardmor’s “Gateway Engine” was an abomination: a massive, towering outrage against Earth’s natural order and balance.
She straightened, standing tall and sure now amidst the raging green storm. To sharpen her focus she envisioned law and reason as pure sunlight, the most powerful form of natural energy on Earth. Summoning her power, drawing it up within her, she felt its clean glow beginning to drive the chaotic, agonizing glamour from her mind and body. She was the sun, casting wholesome light and heat to disperse the Machine’s alien fire. She belonged to this world, to the natural rhythms of all that was good and pure and true, in a way that the Machine and its misguided purpose never could.
Submerged in a roiling hell of toxic, hostile flames, an emerald firestorm swirled about and around the young woman. Whipping. Cutting. Burning. Just as it appeared that she herself would be consumed…
Her light — brilliant and white — beamed forth, forcing Mardmor’s magics back. She thrilled as her power pounded away at the Goblin King’s, carving a place for her within the hellish construct. She pushed.
… and pushed…
… When the realization hit her that she could not win.
She was strong. No question there. But her strength was not nearly great enough to abort the horror about to be born.
She gritted her teeth … pushing harder …
A hand reached out, taking hers in his. Falco’s strength flowed through her and hers through him.
The two, joined together, gathered their power. They held onto it, pressing it down … folding it … pouring on more … pressing …
folding … more … pressing … folding … more…
Mentor and apprentice.
Falco and Casey.
Man and woman.