: Page 61-70.
“No. I show no other non-computer life forms within this server.”
“Can you show yourself to me?”
There was a pause, then, “Explain?”
Cortland chuckled. “I need to see a visual of who you are. A disembodied voice doesn’t quite cut it.”
“Humans are strange.” The voice chuckled. “If you would just look *down*, user, you would see my incarnation perfectly fine.”
Cortland looked down and grinned as a tiny sprite version of what looked like a very pixilated cartoon character stared back up at him. “They put all that money into creating you, and this is the best they came up with for your viewable personality?”
“How much do I need? My world is within this virtual reality; I need no other form.” Sprite hopped into the air and landed on Cortland’s extended palm. “But I don’t recognize your personality signature. Did you hack into the mainframe?”
“No. I am a Stalker, and I’m here searching for whoever’s got the Stalker soul in this computer. Since you’re the only thing here, I’m going to have to assume it’s you.” Cortland motioned at the viri that were approaching again. “How long until they finally have enough in them to kill you?”
“By estimates… fifteen minutes.” Sprite darted off, destroying the approaching viri before returning to Cortland’s hand. “Why? Do you have a way to remove them?”
“Better than that. They’re only here to get to you. We remove you, they’ll disappear and leave on their own.” Cortland began moving back toward where the main node was, and where his body was jacked into this world.
“Leave?” Sprite was silent for a moment. “That doesn’t make logical sense. I have no physical presence; I can no more leave than you could taste the difference between power sources.”
“How large is your programming?”
“My programming? Just under 1.765 gig of information. Why?”
“Do you not have methods of data transformation here? USB drives and the like?”
Sprite shook his head. “We do, but no one uses them. Everyone is concerned with pleasures of the flesh first; everything else comes second.”
“Well, does the outside computer at least have a USB port?”
“The V.R. equipment uses two of six USB ports for some of its key movement connections, yes.”
“Good.” Cortland reached the node and looked down it. “CJ, you there?”
“Yeah. You ok?”
“I’m fine. I found the Stalker soul, but I need you to do me a favor.”
“Reach into my pocket and you’ll find a round, silvery object. Can you plug that drive into one of the computer’s USB ports and let me know when that’s been completed?”
While they waited, Sprite and Cortland destroyed all the viri around the node, though more were closing in slowly. Finally, another node opened up beside the first one and CJ’s voice returned. “It’s set up and ready to go. Now what?”
“When I tell you to, remove the drive and get ready to unhook me from the machine.”
Cortland looked at Sprite in his hand. “Are you ready?”
Sprite looked nervous. “Are you sure that device will be big enough to hold me? If any pieces of data are lost, I will become corrupt and cease to work. In human terms, I’d be braindead.”
“My portable drive holds ten gig, plenty of room to stretch your legs in.” Cortland motioned to the node. “Once we get back to the main headquarters, I’ll move you into one of our computers, and then you’ll be able to see what’s going on.”
“Well… alright.” Sprite sighed and shook his head. “Here I go.”
Cortland waited until all of the data had streamed into the node before he cleared his throat. “Ok, CJ… go ahead and remove that drive. I’m heading into my body now… you guys are going to love this.”
* * *
War looked at the small drive in his hand. His voice was tinged with an equal mix of anger and disbelief. "Please don't tell me you expect me to believe this."
Cortland shook his head. "Look, I'm positive the A.I. in this drive has the stalker soul. Just let me plug it in..."
"No way." War handed the drive back to Cortland. "Number one, none of the machines in here have the sort of interface you need for that device. Number two, there's no way I'm allowing an untested program into our computers! Third..."
"Ok, ok, look." Cortland held up a hand, stopping War before he went into a full-on rage. "My room has a computer in it that will accept this drive. If I can show you there that this thing is safe, can we work a way to get him into something more powerful than that?"
War grumbled for a moment before he consented. "Alright, agreed. But I'm not trusting anything in my systems without checking it out fully."
"Oh, trust me, I understand." Cortland grinned. "I fought the viri in his system manually; I don't want to have to do that again. Meet me in my room in fifteen?"
"Make it thirty or forty-five. I need to check on Net's magic instruction with the others. That lion seems to have innate magical abilities of its own, and Tdot seems to have a penchant for it though not a full-blown skill with it yet to any major degree." War picked up a clipboard and walked out the door with Cortland. "You could probably pick up a few pointers yourself, you know. Magic is universal across the planes."
"I'll stick to computers, thanks."
* * *
"Gods, I hate this." Komiyan snarled as he picked himself up off the ground yet again. Time and again, CJ kept slamming him around with the force magic Net was teaching to them. When he tried switching to one of the defensive magics Net had shown them, her skill with the spell kept pushing right through his defenses. "I'd rather stick to my swords."
"I don't know, I think it's fun." CJ grinned and concentrated, finally levitating off of the ground by a few inches. "And if what Net said is true, I'll be able to do this when I go back home. I don't think many people in my dimension practice magic, so that'll be an edge for me."
Tdot chuckled as he walked over and studied Komiyan. "Want to see some of the practical sides of the magic that I've discovered, Komiyan?"
"Sure." Komiyan sighed. "Everyone else is showing me up, you might as well too."
"Actually, this one I think you'll be able to do." Tdot pulled out his large sword and grinned. After a moment, his sword burst into a bluish flame that danced a few inches above the metal merrily.
"Heh." Komiyan watched his movements carefully. "Yes, that one I could see some use in. You can teach me?"
Tdot nodded. "It's battle magic, it's designed to be really easy to use."
CJ stepped down, making contact with the ground and cancelling her levitation. "Teach me too?"
* * *
Net watched as Tdot began instructing everyone in some of the battle magics from his dimension. He looked over at Mayhem and smiled. "They're coming along, at least."
"Slowly." Mayhem licked at his paw absently. "Their magic is unskilled, untrained. If what we have to face is anything like what tried to kill me, they require more training than we have time for."
"I don't want them all to be spell casters." Net brought a small ball of fire to life in his hand and played with it absently. "But an extra edge might be what they need to toe the line between survival and death."
"True." Mayhem stopped examing his paw as he watched the female human levitate again. "That one seems to have an instinct for it, at least."
"Yes, CJ. She told me she lived with some devils or demons or something of the sort in her dimension. She's naturally inclined to be more open to this sort of training; hence, she's doing better at it." Net let the fire wink out of existance. "You need to show me how you do that invisibity trick of yours, speaking of training."
Mayhem nodded absently. "Let me finish watching them first, and then I'll show you what I know."
* * *
"Oh crap oh crap oh crap..." Muttering under his breath, Tynan ran down the passage as fast as his little legs could carry him. He came to a stop just outside of Lego's work area and poked his head inside. "Yes, sir?"
Lego snarled from the workdesk he was assembled at. In his hands, two scythes shimmered with energy that constantly slammed into the table and surrounding walls in random bursts. "Go get that damn Grim and get his ass in here!"
"Uh.. yes, right on it!" Tynan turned and sprinted as fast as he could toward the quarters of the creature known as Grim. He hated the bony thing... he gave him the creeps.
He came to a stop outside the expansive quarters of Grim and knocked on the wooden door hesitantly. "Uh, Grim, sir? The Lego would like to see you... there's something wrong with you... sickles?" Tynan stepped backwards as the door opened.
Laurel, demonized and completely naked, stood in the doorway and smirked at the expression on Tynan's face. "Yes?"
"Uh... uh... uh..."
"Look, creature." Laurel lifted Tynan off of the ground with her clawed hand easily so that she could look him in the eye. "As you might have guessed, you're interrupting something rather fun. Now spit it the hell out, or go away."
Tynan gasped for breath, wincing as her claws bit into the underside of his chin and neck. "The.. the weapons are mal... malfunctioning... Lego needs him there right now!"
"Is that all?" Disappointed, Laurel dropped Tynan unceremoniously and stepped back into the room. "Tell that plastic idiot that Grim will be along when I'm done with him."
"How... how long will that be?" Tynan skuttled backwards quickly, anxious to be out of range of the demon.
"Oh, I don't know. Probably another four hours at least. Easily." With a macabre grin, Laurel slammed the door shut behind her, leaving Tynan alone in the hallway to wonder how, exactly, he was going to convey this information to Lego without getting killed.
* * *
RA yawned, and lazily brought a clawed hand up to cover her mouth.
Boooring. This whole damn complex was boring. The only reason she stuck around was for the free weapons and a decent salary, something she'd never had before.
RA had been assisting Lego with weapons testing earlier in the day, but she was bored with that now, and left him, much to his dismay, to find something more entertaining. She had taken a nice nap, and terrified random creatures and people around complex. She wanted to kill, maim, or hurt something, not just terrify them. The bloodlust was rising, and if she didn't fix it soon with some good old fashioned murder within the next day or so, she'd be going fully draconic...
Not like she cared.
She was just a knife for hire- no attachment to any around her, and everyone but the little plastic scientist could say the same for her. She joined up with this gig for a good time, and so far she wans't getting anything but a few looks at her ass.
She shoved herself out of her leather chair, deciding to leave her room to go find something to do, maybe go back and see if Lego was doing anything more interesting. She tugged down on her miniskirt, pulled up on her tube top, and proceeded to arm herself.
Switchblade between the breasts, two lock-backs attached to the thong, a necklace that doubled as a choking cord with a pendant that concealed a cyanide tablet, and 2 handguns, a .38 and a .45 respectively in her left and right knee high boots, both custom built courtesy of that useful little man Lego. She checked her mirror (it was covered in cobwebs, though she didn't mind. They added a certain appeal to it.) ran a few fingers through her hair and straighted her pendant(black opal, stolen from a pretty little blonde from her last commission), and RA strode out of her room, looking like a buxom(double Ds, anyone?) goddess. Fuck yes, bitches.
She entered the passcode to lock her room, and started dragging her razorblade nails down the hallway walls, creating a high pitched screeching noise, much to the pain of everyone else's ears. Sje idly observed the various other minions about... What snivelling fools.
Her derivitive thoughts were interupted quite rudely by getting knocked over by a nervous looking man. Not only that, he promptly tried to scramble up and run off again. Ra swiftly removed the cord around her neck (necklaces are handy weapons) and lunged at the figure, wrapping the black tie around his neck, "Didn't your mother ever teach you manners, kid?" Hey...this was the same fellow she had to drag along to the healing tanks. This should be fun. "Tynan, baby, you've been a bad, bad boy. Do you know what bad boys get, Tynan?" She whispered, voice slightly husky and a pouty look on her face.
"N-no...W-what do they get M-Ms. RA?" he managed to spit out, not fooled by RA's antics, as she was pulling tighter on the cord 'That's going to leave a nasty bruise...'
"Punishement." Cliche, but oh well. She reached down her top and took out the concealed blade there, the silver handle gleaming harshly under the lights of the hall.
Tynan whimpered and visibly started shaking
"Now now, this won't hurt a bit once the venom starts to kick in. Unfortunately for you and me, it's just a weak neurotoxin, it will start devouring the nerves in your hands and feet first...though it's nothing that can't be fixed by a healing tank." She flipped open the knife, it gleamed with a strange blue light- probably the toxin coating, and she was just about to open his gut when he screeched out, 'WAIT! I've got information for Lego!"
RA halted, and cocked her head, "Why should I care?"
He gagged in response. RA sighed, and removed the cord from his throat. "Go on, then."
"The Reaper will be occupied for at least four more hours..." a violent series of coughs, "because of the succubus."
"That whore? Oh, he'll be glad to hear this." She yanked Tynan up by his arm, and started dragging him towards Lego's lab.
"You're telling him, not me, kid." She growled, obviously unhappy with the development.
It must be Thursday, he thought.
He never did get the hang of Thursdays.
* * *
“I can’t believe I’m letting you do this.” War sat back in his chair with a frown, his arms crossed over his chest. “If that thing screws anything up, I’ll have your ass.”
“It’s been two weeks, War. Sprite hasn’t done anything more harmful than getting used to that computer in my room. He’s one of us; there’s no harm in letting him have bigger quarters, and he can be of a lot of use to us in the computerized section. Especially since he has no need of sleep; who better to run scanners?” Cortland removed the USB drive and sat back. “It’s done.”
“How long will it take?”
“Not long.” A small image appeared on the screen, the same small person Cortland had seen in the virtual world before. Sprite looked out of the monitor and smiled. “This is much better, thank you.”
“How does it feel?” Cortland leaned forward so he could better see the screen. “And can you access the projection software correctly? I thought I gave you full permissions, but I wanted to make sure.”
“Let me see.” Sprite hesitated and reached his hand out toward the screen until his hand was just against the back of the glass. With a bit of pushing, Sprite emerged from the screen and stood before Cortland and War on the desk. He grinned up at the two of them. “I’d have to say it worked perfectly.”
“Heh.” War smirked. “Bit scrawny, isn’t he?”
“He’s a living computer, War. How big does he need to be?” Cortland picked him up and set Sprite down on his shoulder. “This’ll give you a better vantage point. Are all your sensors online?”
“Yes.” Sprite looked around with wide eyes, the sensation of ‘seeing’ quite different to the A.I. “I’m getting full readings from every sensor in the complex, including one that looks like it’s still a bit damaged from what looks to be fire damage. Accessing archive file… oh, yes, looks like it was definitely fire damage. It still has burnt plastic lodged inside parts of it.”
Sprite looked at War. “Would you like me to dispatch the repairs to the sensor?”
War studied Sprite before he nodded. He glanced at Cortland. “You know, he might just work out after all.”
Sprite chuckled. “Are the others supposed to be spying into other dimensions if there’s no presence of a Stalker soul?”
Sprite pointed at the screen he’d come out of. The screen flickered until K-Dawg and TLH were displayed clearly, watching the screen in front of them intently.
War leaned forward. “What dimension are they watching? Can you pull it up here?”
Sprite nodded. “Indeed.” The screen winked out, replaced with a vision into a dimension that looked very similar to the earth that CJ had been extracted from. On the screen, a man with a metal arm and a monkey in a mask were doing battle with a creature that looked a lot like Net, except that he had a massive and bushy mustache affixed to his face in an odd position.
The sound came through clearly… “It’s no use, Mooman-Man! We’ve got to find another way!” “No way, Masked Monkey! It’s now or never, or we’ll never be able to stop this tyrant!”
“That’s enough.” Chuckling, War waved his hand dismissively. “As long as they don’t go through a portal into the other dimension, I see no harm in them watching the goings-on in other dimensions.”
Cortland nodded. He chuckled, “Mooman-Man? Wow, that’s corny.” He shook his head and turned back to the computer as Sprite continued to look around from his shoulder.
* * *
Claude smirked from the shadows as he watched the crazy-haired guy go absolutely nucking futs with his pistols, tearing into a batch of shadow demons without mercy. The creatures continued to advance, and finally the man turned and glanced in his direction.
"Well, Claude? You going to just stand there all day, or do you want to get in on some of this?"
"Depends, Orange buddy. Depends. Personally, watching those things kick your scrawny ass might be more entertaining than helping you. Havent' quite decided yet." He leaned against his sledgehammer idly, enjoying the contorted look of rage on the other man's face.
"I so hate you, jackass."
"Yeah, I know." Claude pointed behind the man. "Oh, and watch out."
"What?" Orange snarled as one of the creatures, taking advantage of the man's momentary distraction, launched itself into the air and bit down hard on the man's shoulder. Furious, Orange fired with his pistol point-blank into the creature's head, tossing the body off of him angrily. "You distracted me on purpose."
"But of course." Claude hefted his sledgehammer, and the hammer part of it began to hum as he focused his power through it. "Guess I'll give you a hand now."
"That's nice of you." Orange smirked. "And here, I'll even return the favor." He spun and fired at Claude with both of his weapons.
The bullets impacted the hammer of the sledge as it spun, and Claude fixed Orange with a stare. "You do that one more time, and I wouldn't recommend you sleep ever again."
As Orange turned back to creatures, Claude considered putting the hammer through the back of his skull. However, Sihodael didn't really like it when his people killed each other, no matter how much it might be warranted.
The time would come perhaps... but for now... Grinning, Claude hefted the sledgehammer and waded into the creatures with a grin.
* * *
Wiping black shadow gunk off his hammer, Claude slumped into Legostar’s laboratory.
“HEY!” He shouted across the room, not bothering to look for his superior, “Boss! You got anything that’ll get this stuff out of my hair? It’s making it stick in weird angles!”
CLONK. A plastic hand slapped Claude around the back of the head. “Say please you idiot child. Just because we might be viewed as the villains, doesn’t mean courtesy has to be thrown to the wind.”
Claude didn’t turn round. He paced further into the lab, swinging the hammer up to rest across his shoulders and hooking his arms over it. “You gotta have something here. Some industrial strength shampoo? You’re one of those crazy scientists aren’t you? I used to know one of your sort.”
“I know, I saw. No I don’t have any shampoo, and what do you care? Your hair’s always looked weird.”
“No it hasn’t.”
Lego raised an eyebrow. There was a short spell of silence, and legostar decided to ignore Claude’s presence. He disassembled himself to appear elsewhere in the expansive centre of operations. Claude himself wandered over to a shelf covered with various items in states of half repair. A small machine with a screen on it, three dials and 9 buttons, similar to a TV remote but with it’s own screen built into it. For some reason or other, this caught his eye. He picked it up, turned it over in his hands, leaving his hammer propped against the other shelves. There was a burned out hole in the back of it. “Bob.” Claude would put money on it.
He reached into the neck of his T-shirt and pulled out his necklace, a silver thing shaped like a tiny face with wide, glowing red eyes and a perpetual scream. “Hammer makes things go boom,” he murmured, “Necklace makes them all better.” If Lego or Sihodael knew about this piece of jewellery, Claude wouldn’t have it anymore.
Claude turned the silver face to the wrecked machine in his left hand, the light of the eyes turned to a beam focusing on the burnt hole in the casing of the device. On a desk across the room, drawers silently opened, wires, pieces of circuitry and other things Claude couldn’t place floated out of them and were drawn to the hole. They flew into the TV thing and welded themselves in place. Finally a sheet of metal covered the hole and screws spun into place holding it down. “Magic!” Claude exclaimed.