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1st January, 2018, 4.45PM

Emerald City, Oregon, United States of America, Earth-Prime

 

By the time everyone was where they had to be, night was already fallen. For those used to rising with the eastern Sun and seeing it vanish behind the distant western mountains, it was a faint shock to see that old stalwart's final moments, dragged slowly into the cold, grey mists of the Pacific. In its place a vibrant silver supermoon glared down, stark light reflected from the agless stone mirror. The world was light and shadow, the forbidding mass of the Elysian Forest brooding just beyond the flashing police lights and the searchlights of the near-noiseless choppers and drones hovering overhead.

 

By comparison, the horror show that had burst into being that morning was a comforting reminder of normalcy.

 

Never a very large building, or more than meekly grand, Bethlehem Heights Mental Hospital & Historical Society crouched atop its high and lonely hill like a forgotten child of the gleaming silver-green metropolis just a mile away. What remained of its classic Young Victorian design was covered in spiked and grisly chains that gleamed in the ruddy light spilling from the occluded windows. Only its front door was open, and then just a crack, revealing nothing.

 

If you listened, very hard, the sea breeze coming in off the bay sounded remarkably like you were shrieking in purest agony.

 

At 7.28AM, Pacific time, Mayor Amanda Talbot had made a general call for assistance on national television,  radio and internet channels. The directness and candor of it had been a surprise, referring to a "deadly paranormal entity" that "has already claimed the lives of twelve dear friends in the Emerald City Police Department." Usually, you couldn't even get a straight answer about where all the homeless people kept vanishing to.

 

Captain David Wrath, sweaty and wide-eyed, greeted them at the edge of the police cordon, stepping through the simple holographic "tape" to give them a fervent handshake. He was a big man, built like a bison with a mustache like a square bracket, but at that time under that cold cosmic stare, he looked as small as could be.

 

"Wrath, ECPD, do you know what this is?" He pointed one brawny arm covered in carbon fiber armor at the dismal thing silhouetting dozens of officers in the blue and green of Columbia's Keenest. The low brick wall that wouldn't keep out a determined cat was more than enough of a barrier for the people milling behind it. "That place took twenty of us before we pulled back at 5 this morning. They walked in, and...just vanished. Not even a scream over the radio. Gone."

 

Wiping his steaming forehead to spread the sweat more evenly, the police captain said "Tried to scan through the walls, blew out the truck. Tried to use echodrones to get a sonic picture, shot the waves back so hard they shattered the things. Please, if you can figure out anything..." he shook his head "I can't go tell Mitsy Shin's not coming back and I don't know why. Even if it's demons or something, I gotta know."

 

 

 

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Little green men. Government cover-ups of mind control test runs. Occultists partaking of fresh human blood in dark rituals to gain eternal life. Conspiracy theories one and all, and Nicole had not forgotten how she had quickly become entangled in their threads on her flight to Emerald City via American Airlines. There was little to do in the several hour journey and what seemed like a flight of fancy then consumed her free time.

 

She had come as an intern of ArcheTech, to help on a new initiative rerouting rarefied fields through artificial crystals in one the basement's of the ArcheTech West complex. It was a more 'press the button and see what happens' type of work, less demanding and so very suited for the holidays. Yet her personal readings have gone from the outlandish to the disturbing. She could imagine how to execute most of them if she put half a mind to it.

 

It was magic, paranormal rumors and there was some truth to them. Her time as Salvo and as a practicing magician allowed her to be privy to the machinations of hidden secrets and the half-lidded world under mundane existence. She knew better than to share these insights with Mr. Tulink, the closest person one might call her mentor in ArcheTech, but for all his self-wrought blindness Nicole's theories have been confirmed when she landed beside the police cordon in a rain of sparks and fire.

 

She shut down her jets and thudded on the thin snow, an officer coming to greet her soon after. She was the first costumed hero on the scene it seemed.

 

"Salvo," she said in way of greeting, leaning slightly forward as her occular senses zoomed in on the old hospital, now grotesque in the setting sun. "Honestly Officer Wrath, I can't tell right now, but I've heard stories about this building, ghost stories and things to make your skin crawl."

 

She had her suspicions of course, but she would not be caught dead in a half-baked guess. Not if this truly was paranormal. She did not know the how of this landscape gone wrong or, more importantly, the why.

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue

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Mr. Murk had rented a stretch limo complete with tinted windows to take him directly to the hospital. It had cost quite a bit, and a favour or two, but he had a very full bank of favours. 

 

He was clothed in the murk, appearing as a young gentleman of considerable wealth complete with sunglasses, turtleneck, and flash suit. 

 

He had struck up a friendship, of sorts, with the driver, a Miss Daisy Sanchez. 

 

"Tell me daisy, what do you see?" he asked politely. The limo was parked outside, motor off. 

 

He listened carefully to Daisy's description, nudging her a little, edging her towards poetry and instinct rather than mechanical detail. 

 

In his head, he had seen the heat, the ominous gloom that reminded him, a little, or the murk itself. Perhaps he should look at the horrible thing through the murk, although that was an unpleasant notion, even for him. He could almost taste the flies that circled this place. 

 

He was a patient man, as could be expected...he stretched his senses, feeling for souls inside. 

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Peri had finished her day and was swinging her way back towards her home when she saw the commotion up on the hill, the old place dominated the area when she'd been growing up. She'd always thought it loomed above the area like a promise of doom on Bethlehem Heights. She sighed as she swung over her home towards the heights, looked like she wouldn't get her quiet night in after all.

 

She perched on a lamp post and watched Salvo arrive waiting for a few minutes before lowering herself beside the two.

 

"I'm guessing things are a little more serious than this place feeling a little hinky?"

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Nicole blinked in confusion as Emerald Spider appeared. Her chipper voice clashing abruptly with the mood of the scene and it took a few moments to compose herself.

 

"I like this girl already!" Nicole ignored the voice inside her head.

 

"There is that thing." She waved an armored gauntlet at the rather obvious chains wrapping around the hospital. That wasn't just some punks with too much time in their hands and a score to settle. "And people missing too. So serious as serious can be," she finished with an apologetic shrug and she turned back to the edge of the police cordon and Officer Wrath, counting down the facts with her fingers.

 

"Officer Wrath doesn't know what's happening. I don't want to make wrong guesses. Twenty people went in at 5 this morning, none came back Any attempted scans inside only blow up the equipment, so I'm not in a hurry to try it out with my suit. It's a black zone in there." She looked at Wrath to affirm her assumptions then faced Spider.

 

"Salvo by the way."

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Mr. Murk

 

Mr. Murk, sensing the spirits of Salvo and Emerald Spider, stepped out of the shaded Limo, still wrapped in the murk, appearing as young wealthy man in sunglasses. 

 

"Good evening" he said, bowing moderately. 

 

The murk melted away, and there he stood. Bowler hat, tweed suit, blind eyes. Homo Nandethalensis!

 

"My name is Mr. Murk. Erasmus Murk. I have seen this hospital draped in ruin, despair, and flame. And you, my friends, have come to save it, I am thinking?" he asked politely with his broad jaw in a broad grin. 

 

"I would offer my humble assistance, if you would have it?" he asked. 

 

 

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GM

 

"...Uh, yeah, that's basically it." Cpt. Wrath blinked between the bizarre trio for a moment, his eyes squinting a little as he visibly tried to disbelieve what he was seeing.

 

That failed and left him no other options. Waving to the four officers in armor noticeably splashed with the red half-moon of MarsTech and the starry eye of Ming Xi Visions(their chestcams were already sweeping the nation, just a few weeks after being introduced), Wrath barked "Let them in! If they ask for anything, give it to them! Give a hand for our new best friends!"

 

For an eyeblink, as the loose and on-edge Munchkins tentatively applauded the force's salvation, a silhouette flickered in one of the windows over the foyer. They seemed to meet the heroes' eyes.

 

The trio blinked. It was only natural.

 

And with that, they were standing in the dark and lonely hospital. It was utterly silent save for a faint drip-dripping from the ceiling. 

 

It was just a room, nothing really wrong with it, besides the dead bodies in green and blue uniforms, that is.

 

And the utter lack of any doors or windows.

 

It was reasonably large for a hospital last remodled in 1907, nice mahogany desk running the right-hand wall stuffed with binders and racks of forms surrounding a computer and monitor that might be younger than the Amiga. There were some couches and chairs around a table generously decorated with books, hooks for coats, a basket for sticks and umbrellas, plaques and certificates running the oak walls in frames. 

 

Still no doors or windows, though. No smells, either.

Edited by Ari

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Mr. Murk

 

Mr Murk felt the hiss of magic, and the eldritch power woven into the architecture. Despite its overpowering presence, for once he could appreciate the architecture of the building. 

 

"Hold on to your hats, friends" he said, adjusting his own bowler (and checking it was still on). 

 

"Magic!" he proclaimed, a touch of drama in his voice. "A spell to move us here, and every wall dripping with it. This is some incredible power" he explained, gazing around with blind milky eyes. 

 

"What see you?" he asked the others. "Is there some clue to what has happened?"

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It took a moment for Nicole to take in her bearings. Inside, the hospital air ran cold through her armor, traces of magic from whatever forcibly relocated them. She raised her arms as her optics adjusted to the darkness and her eyes fell on the bodies on the floor.

 

She felt her stomach turn in reflex and turned from the grisly sight, grimacing under her helmet.

 

"Bodies," she half-whispered to Mr. Murk under the lone fluorescent lamp, its flickering light adding an eeriness to the already heavy scene. "On the floor, dead bodies."

 

She looked at the bodies again and bracing herself approached them, holding down her vomit as she bent down and turned one over. Her hands are steady more through her armor's balance system than anything.

 

Dead bodies-- dead people was not something she wished to see under any circumstances. She'd seen a few during police cordons but multiple out before the officials got to them, fresh and unknown to the all-revealing light of day, was new to her. Flying among the clouds did not lead to these circumstances, but somewhere in a hidden part of her psyche she wondered curiously what she could find. What mysteries did the newly deceased bring? What could she apply?

 

The cold, pale finger stiff from rigor mortis. Puncture wounds, entry points. Cause of death, time of death and a dozen other questions that needed asking.

 

Another part of her rebelled. It would be easier if she viewed them clinically, like lab frogs or stuffed cats instead of people but...

"We are inside a room. No windows or doors," she began both for Mr. Murk and her own sake. "Altered. No smell either. Furniture to the right. Documents and a computer. Coaches, chairs and other things - books and certificates."

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue

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Mr. Murk

 

"Bodies...without souls...dead...." whispered Mr. Murk sadly. 

 

And, it appeared, they were trapped. 

 

"I am afraid I am of little help with computers" he explained, calmly. "Although maybe with sufficient skill, there will be some information within, ready to be mined by the curious" he suggested. He tapped the floor infront ofhim. 

 

"What concerns me is that we are, it seems, imprisoned. Something is rewriting the architecture, maybe the entire reality, of the hospital, and it appears in a malign way" he explained. At least, that was his best guess. The magic here was very powerful. Seemingly, it had sucked them all in to the hospital and changed the interior according to...what? It was like a lizard catching flies on its tongue, and hauling them into its stomach. 

 

"Why? What would do this. The congealed misery of the souls in the walls, taken form? The madness and despair, a sign of the unspeakable one? A sorcerer intent on harnessing the psychic energies here? But...but why would it suck us in? To feed? To aid?"

 

There was little answer to be had, but...

 

"Whatever force is alive here, its intent and purpose are concealed. We must not lose sight of this, we must not only determine what his happening, and who is effecting this, but why...."

 

Mr. Murk touched the walls, intent on getting a feel of the place. "I prefer the subtle touch to brute force, but some knots need a sword. Can we break through, if need be?"

 

He turned his head, blind milky eyes staring. 

 

"Something is coming...thin and silent...be aware!"

Edited by Supercape

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Nicole raised her arms and stepped in between Mr. Murk and whatever was coming their way, cannons primed to fire, sweeping back and forth across an empty room. She could spot no movement among the furniture except for their own shadows cast by the hospital light. To think that meant nothing was there was just asking to be proved wrong in a place like this, following its own rules. Through the hole she punched through the wall, her own armor gleamed red, cape hanging limp over her shoulders.

 

She knew it was really her and if she just reached out, she could imagine touching the armor on her back.

 

"Where is it?" she asked the Neanderthal behind her. Without the use of her sensory suite, she was effectively blind.

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue

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Emerald Spider was quiet for a few minutes as she took in the whole scene, the childhood stories of the horrors within this place weren't far off the mark it seemed. She knew magic existed, she was friends with a sorcerer after all, but the engineer in her rebelled against the impossible architecture. Instead, she decided to focus on something she could get their head around and dropped down in front of the computer.

 

"Let me see if I can get this to tell me something about what's going on shall we."

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Mr. Murk

 

Mr Murk pointed out the approaching form to Salvo. "Like a waxwork, but stretched, thin bones, infused with Eldritch energies. I know not its intent, but beware. I would not fire first, lest you antagonise a friend, and yet I would shield yourself, should it be a foe..."

 

"If you can speak to yon electrical book, I would do so, and do it with speed" he suggested, fully realising the redundancy of his suggestion, to Emerald Spider. 

 

And now he turned his blind eyes to the approaching form, calling out to it..

 

"Lo, I would have words, thin spectre, for we mean no harm!" he asked, repeating his request in Latin, Greek, Spanish, and, on a hunch, Lemurian...

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GM

 

Emerald Spider found that the computer had been left in sleep mode while overlooking security footage. In almost every room she could see people were fighting, shooting, screaming or running....though the objects of these extreme emotions wasn't visible in any of them, and all the observable people were wearing the same uniforms as the corpses lying before her.

 

At Murk's words there was a surge of eldritch energy, Salvo's own systems blaring a warning as something exploded into being.

 

The shadow lifted from the floor, silent as a whisper, twisting and changing as it grew into three(well, four) hideous dimensions.

 

A monster towered above them, leaking from chitinous, oily plates, a serpentine and eyeless head twisting atop splindly shoulders anchoring two long arms terminated by claws. Claws thick around as a fist and studded with opening, leech-like mouths.

 

its lower body was lost in the shadows that bound it to the earth, the thing needing to struggle even to lift itself to its monstrous height. But it still charged, opening its claws, letting a chorus of squelching wails sing!

 

Raised above the ground, its charge smashed and splintered the boards under its feet, tearing open the floor to reveal utter blackness below. Without any pause in its momentum, it reared and stabbed downwards with both hands at Nicole, the esoteric engineer only able to see that something was coming before ten sword-long fingers collided with her armor!

Edited by Ari

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Her eyes and her logical brain told her that nothing was there, but she knew that magic was a thing and that whilst she couldn't comprehend it, it was still something that existed. And by that logic, magical thinks had to obey rules, even if she couldn't understand them, and she had tried once or twice. Hopefully, that included quantum mechanics.

 

Clambering up the wall, trying very hard not to touch something funky, she made the necessary hand gestures to set up a bonding quantum field in front of her allies, hopefully holding the enemies she couldn't see in their place.

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GM

 

Gravity, and with it reality itself, turned to a constricting net of invisible coils that held the creature fast! It reared and raked the air with its great talons, but locked to the ground as it was the thing was helpless to evade or escape Emerald Spider's fast-acting cosmic anchor.

 

The ground where the thing had trodden and torn up, a sheer blackness as suffocating as fog, was full of tiny points of light. Not stars, but...things. None of the party even had to look at them to know that in the darkness things were moving, coming closer and closer with terrifying speed.

 

Things that would make the creature before Murk, or, to the two women, an invisible threat, seem as harmless as a puppy.

Edited by Ari

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Mr. Murk

 

Mr. Murk reached out his hand, concentrating, and flowing his psychic senses outwards, rather than inwards. 

 

"This...is a creature of dreams...of soul....it is both real and unreal....born from strange times and stranger dimensions. Beware! For it comes from the deepest hearts of men!" he declared, boldly. With effort, he extended his senses outwards, encasing the creature in a shimmering haze, bringing its soul into the real world for all to see. 

 

"BEHOLD!" he said again, full of drama. 

 

And the concentration and effort required...

 

...made him neglect the mundane and pragmatic. For he did an excellent job of presenting his jaw to incumbent assault....

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Salvo was forced a step back as an invisible force knocked into her. Out of instinct, she raised her armored gauntlets and forced Saunder's stab away from her with a screech like nails on a blackboard. She was on her heels from surprise but trying not to give ground to something she couldn't see. Her mind raced for options and found one that would make whatever was attacking her an open book.

 

Now if only it could let up just enough for her to bring her weapon suite to bear.

 

Then the assault ended as abruptly as it began as Spider's quantum web consumed the ground in front of Salvo. Then the ground bled with things Salvo had no time to consider as they crawled and reached for her and the other two heroes with a ravenous haste.

 

Instead, she brought her arm-mounted flamethrowers to bear and sprayed at everything she could see.

 

"BEHOLD!" Murk said from behind, and for a brief moment she could make out a tall and lithe creature's silhoutte - that thing she was fighting - before it was doused in flames.

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue

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Emerald Spider

 

Peri was a woman of science and she relied mostly on what her senses could tell her, including the quantum probability field distortion analysis her suit provided her. This was all well outside her wheelhouse and she wasn't quite sure exactly what was happening, but at least she had given herself a target that she could use for an attack.

 

"If this is a Scooby-doo setup I'm going to be really disappointed."

 

Bouncing between the walls and ceiling she sent a twisting bolt of entwining quantum energy to where she hopes their enemy actually was.

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GM

 

Under the barrage, the spindly leech-fingered thing was smashed headlong into the wall, sending sprays of splinters across the front office.

 

The immediate problem was dealt with, but from the growing whispers and the deepening sense of irrational, groundless fear of the hole in the floor(and the world), things weren't quite stable yet.

 

Stubbornly the room refused to produce any obvious means of egress. On the desk the monitor hummed and buzzed, the old CRT technology making the room slowly go from uncomfortably....nothing to uncomfortably warm. The feeds from the hospital cameras remained. 

 

Including, if they looked, a new one...

 

Meanwhile, in Mr. Murk's mind...

 

Murk was strapped to a table. Salvo and Emerald Spider paced in a blank cell below him, visible through a floor grate into which something had flowed which was now a reddish brown stain. Standing over him was a wavering, shuddering thing that didn't stay still long enough to be identifiable. 

 

With a shaky finger, it touched his face. The touch was icy-cold and instantly brought back memories Murk had thought long-buried.

 

Him fumbling to his feet and taking his first step towards his mother and the blessed warmth of the fire.

 

His first kill, the doe screaming and thrashing around the spear pinning her to the earth.

 

The night he awoke to ice-cold fingers caressing his face, and saw a ring of cold golden eyes and snake-like heads.

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"Hey Murk, wake up."

 

Salvo knelt down hurriedly and sent a small, continuous jet of water from her finger to the Neanderthal's face. It was a mess of a room looking up, the dead bodies and the thing's crawling up from the hole making things worse alongside the fire she started and the water sprinklers that came on, drenching the room. She could tell where the monster was sent flying from the groaning of the table as it moved to get up. From her other hand, she sent a blast of water at it, enough to know something invisible but tangible was still there and not creeping up behind them. Then she redirected her water to put out her fires.

 

Salvo turned to Spider while she continued spraying Murk's face and the room. "I could keep fighting all day but I don't want to. You?"

Edited by Zeitgeist Blue

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Emerald Spider

Emerald Spider had been pacing out the room, on the ceiling so not to get in anyone else's way, the engineer in her trying to work out the architecture of the room. She knew magic had laws of it one and whilst she'd never studied the mystical arts she suspected that it used the similar quantum weirdness that made her own powers work.

 

"It's not high on my to-do list it's true, let's go for the get out of this room one instead!”

 

She tended to make wisecracks when nervous or frustrated, which summed up this situation perfectly.

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Mr. Murk

 

The memories of fire and spear and times distant were oozing through his mind, but then cold water ignited other memories. Some good, most bad. Icy water was like that. The fresh pangs of pain and the less palpable satisfaction of refreshment. 

 

And cold cold nights in London Town. 

 

Irrespective of his peculiar wandering through memory lane, he was back in the world of the living. He felt his jaw throb, and his nose crack. He had been through worse. But still....

 

He grunted upwards and pulled himself to his feet by pure will. He checked his bowler hat was on. 'Twas good that it was, else he would be most vexed. 

 

"What, friends, has transpired?" he grunted. He felt blood on his mouth. 

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Salvo breathed out a sigh of relief. Turns out entirely normal ice cold water was all one needed to shock someone awake, even if that someone could sleep through a fight and a half.

 

"We need to get out of here, Mister Murk," Salvo said, glancing back at the thing had smashed against the wall then back to the old-fashioned Murk. "Do you have any ideas? I'm blind and all out of luck here."

 

She scanned the room with normal eyes behind a glass case, her HUD fizzing around the edges of her vision. The room was cold, broken, but suddenly quiet with the absence of a fight. Shadows crawled from the hole on the ground and though she had a hunch they were an illusion, she still steered clear from it. Beyond the walls was nothing but the same room, somewhere which still had whatever invisible monster lurking within it.

 

It almost seemed to want to trap them inside, the room, with way out except dying. As careful a predatory cage as she had seen.

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Mr. Murk

 

"Out of here? Yes, indeed. No use in denying it. We have bitten off more than we can chew..."

 

He furrowed his brow. "Don't worry so about being blind. It means you cannot be deceived by your eyes, in any case" he muttered, drawing his own senses and insight into the situation. He did not look left, nor look right, nor down did he look, nor up either. 

 

But he sensed up. 

 

"Boxed in like rats in a trap. Like snakes in a pit" he concluded. "We need to go upwards, even if we grope dust and dirt and grime. There is something above us. To ascend, so often, is to escape. This is primal and true..." he concluded. He was not certain. But he never was. Instead, he was certain he was uncertain, and comfortable with it. 

 

"Freinds, prepare yourself for a journey..."

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