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The Gateway, the Nucleus, Goodman Building, 1961 40th. Avenue, Midtown, Freedom City, United States of America, North America, Earth, the Solar System, Milky Way Galaxy, Earth-Prime.

10.47 AM, March 17th, Monday, 2014.


The silence had grown almost unbearable as Maximus and Tesla Atom prepared the circular arch placed on raised steps in the center of the starkly-lit room. Hands tapped out short commands on the aged yet ruthlessly advanced control panels on either side as power thrummed through the portal, a kaleidoscopic miasma of shifting colors and shapes revolving in the center as dimensional energies were harnessed for a journey to the uttermost depth of the omniverse. While the the older siblings did their work, Victoria and Chase watched the bulky readout monitors beside them, once or twice calling out a word that touched faintly the edges of the visiting teen's scientific knowledge. Cosmo had a job as well, the blue primate flashing from shoulder to shoulder as he searched carefully for errant insects suck in unwieldy human hair.


The destination for the four young superheroines was felt long before it was seen. A prickling across the skin, a sense of rawness in the air and a growing sense of something horrible drawing nearer had gone on for agonizing minutes before-


"Got it," Tesla Atom's voice rang out suddenly, a hint of satisfaction behind the steely words as she swept her hand across a quartet of buttons, green energy flowing from her fingers to keep the triggers down, "incoming door locked." she looked up, ponytail bouncing against her neck as she quickly checked on her brother "Max?"


"Everything's fine, Tess. Outgoing door just locked, no problems." The older Atom answered with a momentary glance to her. Maximus briefly flickered and passed wraith-like through the panel, solidified enough to check an errant power cable, give it a cautious nudge, and then drifted back to his station with a a relieved smile. It soon vanished though, replaced by a deep frown. "Stand by, Terminus Tunnel opening...now!"


And with that, the mouth opened. Air rushed through the Gateway, a deep howling that had begun as the last word fell rose to a deep thunder, and the room trembled as a roiling whirlpool of red and white gaped before the four heroines and four Atoms. Cosmo screamed and vanished in a flash of light to reappear trembling on a rafter, and for a moment nobody said anything more, until Chase stepped over to the visitors. Regarding them with his earnest, penetrating eyes, he said in a quiet voice that cut through the howling wind "We'll shut the outgoing door the moment we know you're through, but like we said earlier, just trigger the Passport," a small metal box sheathed in a faint yellow aura slid out of his pocket and floated over to Blue Jay, "and Max and Tess will reposition the passage to Sanctuary. We will transport you and anyone you can save out of the Terminus. I guess you'll want a 'good luck'. I wish you success." he gave a stiff nod and retreated to Tesla's station.


Victoria gave the foursome an encouraging grin "Don't worry, Chase, it's not like they're racing in to beat up Shady Ironpants or anything, just a quick and quiet trip there, Tona grabs her people, they get back, yadda yadda, everything's gonna be fine." Reaching up to the ceiling with an elastic arm, she gently scratched the family Moon Monkey behind his ears "Sucks we're not coming with, I want to meet this 'Steam General' jerk and show him my new Atom Punch! But this is your gig, we'll stay put unless you need us." Miming a boxing motion she turned her legs into a stool and sat with Cosmo on her lap, stroking him gently from long practice.


Tesla smiled a little "What Vicky said. Keep in touch, and good luck. I'm sorry we can't go with you. Could be there's someone we know trapped in there too."


The maw of the Terminus Tunnel never ceased its seething, its flickering blood-bone colors giving the sere room an ugly feel.

Edited by Arichamus
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Blue Jay held the Passport in one hand, turning it over her fingers before she caught herself and forced herself to stop. Her heart was hammering in her chest, but she was determined to look calm and collected. This is what she had trained for and dreamed of for so long, and she was resolved not to show weakness in the face of it. Despite the fact that the Termnius had killed everyone she ever loved.

Almost. She looked at the other women in the room, people she could have never imagined before training at Claremont, people who were willing to walk into the most terrible place in all the universes to help her. It seemed insane, but she promised herself that they would all come home.

She stepped up to the portal, taking a deep breath as she felt it tug at her clothes. She turned her back on it, looking over the group one last time. "Last chance to do the smart thing and walk away from this, you know."

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Sam had heard the stories. She'd never been there, but... she's probably one of the few people on the planet with a reasonable standard for comparison.


Hailing from a hell-world, she knows how bad things can get. She knows what a dangerous world is. She knows this is a horrible, horrible idea.

And she knows how to survive. And hopefully how to keep her friends that way, too.

The outfit of the day is a custom gig, made for the job back when she was with Fox. The fact that it still fits after three years is depressing.

A soft, low-lint, olive-drab number, just baggy enough to obscure her silhouette but not so much as to be loose or get in the way, complete with hood, since red hair tends to be a giveaway. Usually not a necessary precaution, but for what's to come, she may have to rely on mundane tricks. But she's ready with the magic when it works; the outfit's back is vented, letting her air her brand without actually exposing her back to prying eyes more than necessary.

She slips her hand inside Tona's and holds on tight, offering that nervous half-smile of hers by way of reassurance.

It's all the answer she need give.

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Blodeuwedd gave one of her sly little smile.

“When have any of us be described as doing the right thing?â€

She didn’t quite know what to effect, being a simple girl from the Welsh Valleys she’d never seen the likes of Tona’s home. Well a simple upbringing apart from being trained as a warrior to fight evil...


“I can’t speak for the other, they wouldn’t let me if I tried, but I’m here for you right up to the end. And I don’t plan on this being the end in any way or form.†Blodeuwedd said this with absolute conviction.

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Mali nodded. "Yes, it's certifiably insane to do this, but so was putting on a red costume to punch thugs." She shrugged. "Gotta do what we gotta do. I don't know about you guys, but I fully plan on coming out of this intact, with the mission successful. This story is gonna have a happy ending. Because we're superheroes. Making happy endings is in our job description."

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Blue Jay swallowed past the sudden lump in her throat. "You're all mad," she said, "and I love you all for it." She fit her mask and turned back to the portal. Somehow it looked even meaner through infrared and UV, like seeing more of it just revealed more evil. "Remember, stealth. Once we're through, evade and avoid, don't engage. We will always be outnumbered."

She had turned in the Claremont yellow and blue for a dark blue windbreaker from the mall. Now she zipped it up and turned up the collar. "Allon-z, friends." With that, she stepped through.

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As each of the young heroes stepped into the spinning, distorting roil of coarse energies, they briefly glimpsed time flatten out and space collapse around them. The formless red and white flickered into something recognizable at the edge of understanding, and then it was like they had been shot out of a cannon, hurtling at impossible speeds through the Terminus Tunnel as it twisted and crackled around them, a vague smear of darker red filling their eyes and opening up into...


The Terminus


Exploding out of the Tunnel, the heroines nearly collided with each other, each feeling like they had been kicked out of the universe. With a low sigh, the Tunnel snapped shut.


As they took stock of their surroundings, Blue Jay's home world stood silently before them. A clearing in a coniferous forest with ancient pines encircling the red sky, a steep hillside behind them reaching up to Appalachian snow-capped mountains, air as clean as could be imagined, and total silence. No bird sang, no animal rustled or cried into the night wind. Only a faint thrumming in the ground could be felt, like the distant rumble of a highway.


Through the trees Tona could make out the faint, orangey lights of a nearby village, the dark lanterns unable to hide from her mask's lenses. Nothing else was in sight, and even the sky was free of the normally ever-present glare of the streaming Doom Coil and the dark world of Nihlor.

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Blue Jay freed her bow and gestured the rest of the team, moving towards the thermal glow of the village. The darkness was their ally, and even if there weren't any drones in sight she wasn't going to give up any advantage. Not in the Terminus.

She stopped just short of the village and crouched in the darkness. She raised one hand to her mouth and let out a trilling, high-pitched cry. She could only hope that the resistance's calls hadn't changed much in a year.

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Crimson Tiger was right behind. Her eyes were darting this way and that. She felt...well, she didn't know how she felt. This was the Terminus. It was a place of nightmares and enemies and the purest evil she could even comprehend. She felt off, she felt wrong. This was not a place she wanted to linger, she wanted to help, but this was beyond her weight class. She knew it in her heart that this place could destroy her effortlessly. Absolute alertness and extreme caution were her weapons, even more than her limbs.

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The whistle faded rapidly in the still air. Seconds crept by with no answer, the scentless breeze just slow enough to keep the treetops rustling at the edge of hearing.


Suddenly, two long calls like a woodpecker broke the silence, nervous but convincing to anyone who hadn't lived in forests most of their life. From behind a tree to their left a tall hooded man crept out, eyes glinting in the red night as they fixed on the strangers with a horrible mixture of dread and hope. A few steps from Blue Jay he paused to get a better look, throwing back his hood after a second . He was surprisingly large and strong for one of the mountain people, with a thick black beard and long curly hair streaked with grime framing a face that would have looked proud and commanding any time else. The deerskins he was dressed with showed a lot of wear and tear, and the quiver on his back was empty.


He spoke at last in a low voice trembling with emotion  "You've come...from outside?" Without waiting for a response he flung himself at Tona's feet, babbling out a stream of entreaties and sobbing helplessly as he begged for help. After a nearly indecipherable stream of pleas, he slowed down enough for a handful of clear words to get through.


"They're everywhere! Everywhere! Drones in the skies, the General's army behind every rock, we're trapped!"

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Blue Jay smiled at the bird call, and turned just as the ragged man stepped out of hiding. "Arnaud, I never thought I would see you again." Her expression turned serious when she took in his condition. "Arnaud, you need to calm down. The drones can't find us in the forests, the trees see to that. So what are you talking about?"

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Crimson Tiger said nothing, but kept her eyes on the man. She knew that if Tona recognized him, he probably wasn't an enemy. Still, there was a chance that he wouldn't see it that way. Plus, they were still in the Terminus. As far as she was concerned, there was no such thing as safe. Not in this place. So she kept her eyes peeled and kept quiet. She figured Tona would introduce her when it came to that.

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It took a few precious minutes, but after a while the once-mighty hunter's sobs slowed, growing deeper and fainter until only his trembling arms betrayed him. Wiping his face deftly with a scrap of hide he stood up, eyes still wet and gleaming in the dim red gloom.


"The trees are not enough anymore. They used to go so high, sometimes you would only hear the roar of their monstrous engines. Now they come close enough to rustle the treetops. Only their numbers keep us safe, they can't get closer than five leagues without sounding like a hurricane." Shaking his head, Arnaud beckoned to the young heroines and led the way to the village Blue Jay had grown up in, passing countless signs big and small that told anyone who knew to read them who they approached.


As he stalked noiselessly ahead, Arnaud went on with the grim news. "The Doombringers have a new weapon, like a shovel but vast enough to hold a thousand, it has some kind of engine in the base that lets it fly like the Drones, but even slower and clumsier. They use it to take our villages. I do not know how many are lost, but every day we hear it far off. And every month there are fewer at the meetings. I..." he stopped dead as they breasted a small hill, the village lying before them, a scattering of well-patched tents, formidable wagons like miniature houses, and countless lean-tos nearly invisible among the towering firs and oaks. In the dark a murmuring crowd of people could be seen going about the work needed to keep life going, moving with the quiet, speed and care of people who knew their enemies were never far away.


"I...have seen where they are taken. A black tower full of fire and smoke in the east, near the shore. I think...I think, Tona, they are being made into Omegadrones. The Steam General was there, talking with somebody in a long coat. Now his soldiers harrow us more than ever before, and more than ever are taken alive." The older man shuddered and turned to Blue Jay, his once-iron eyes threatening to well over again "If you know what can be done, then please, save us from this Enferné!"


Glancing at the others he added eagerly "Your comrades, what can they do? Do they have powers like your-" he bit his tongue and hesitated, then soldiered on "like your mother?"

Edited by Arichamus
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Blue Jay felt her stomach sinking as Arnuad brought her up to speed on the situation. Things had gotten worse than she ever could have imagined -- and so fast! Was it only two years ago that she was walking through these forests herself? "We'll save who we can," she said. "No one else is going to be taken by the Annhilists. There's a plan."

They crested the hill and Jay paused there, going to one knee so she wasn't such an obvious silhouette against the horizon. (Only back a few hours, and already the old evasion skills were coming back.) Looking at her home she felt a rush of emotion; relief that so many were still here, pain and grief that so many were gone, anger at the General for preying on them all.

She almost missed Arnuad's question, but she caught it."None of them can do what ma mere could do," she said, "but don't underestimate them. Crimson Tiger is the best hand-to-hand fighter I've ever seen. Blodeuwedd is quiet and fast. I would trust them both against a dozen drones. And Kit cheats." She moved next to her girlfriend, smiling and squeezing her hand briefly.

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It was difficult to be sure if her concealment will work against the Terminus drones, it wasn’t like you could just test these things even at a place like Claremont. So as much as possible she was relying on her natural stealth as much as possible. So mostly out of habit she was skulking around trying to stay out of people views, including Arnuad,  her instincts right now was to get some higher ground to see what was actually going on.

“We’re good, and not only Kit cheats.†she made sure to appear in front of Arnuad and not to quickly,that would have been a bad idea for someone who had been constantly at war.


“I’m going to gain some higher ground and see what we’re up against.â€

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Terminus. Of the three new to the world, Sam is probably the least phased. She survived Dis. She knows how to be careful.

The tiny, unarmed mouse of a girl simply smirks at the description, agreeing with it completely. "It's a gift," she appends. Surely, this will give the locals the impression that she is mighty, able, and to be respected for her might.

This village... it's Tona's home. So many stories, but seeing it is another matter. Was it always so... worn? In this world, probably.

These people need help, and looking at her friends, Sam knows every single one of them would try and give it in a heartbeat, and she loves them for it, but she knows full well, they can't liberate a planet.

As Tona grabs her hand, the little redhead pulls close, resting her head on her girlfriend's shoulder and reminding herself what she's here to protect.

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Starting a little at Blodeuwedd suddenly popping into view, Arnaud nodded slowly, eyeing the strangers dubiously despite Tona's word. "I am glad you have come" he said with a simple nod "and are willing to lend their might, skill and..." his eyes flicked over to Kit before gliding away "...gifts to our escape. But forgive me if I am not sure yet they'll be enough, so many of us have perished who had those and to spare." 


"Regardless, there is much to do. The village leaders will want to see you so we can make ready to leave this accursed place." Turning to the village, the hunter began his rapid, silent descent, halting for a moment to add over his shoulder to Blodeuwedd "There are some redwoods just to the west, on a little hill. They should let you see everything there is to see around here." Indeed, their top branches waved high above the pines in a large circle a quick run away. With that he beckoned to the other three and slid down the incline.


The village was relatively evenly-spaced, but there was a cluster in the rough center where most of the trade was done. The hunter led the trio that way unerringly

Almost as soon as they had come to the first ring of lean-tos, a voice that Tona hadn't heard in over a year called out hesitantly "Baudin? Is that...it's you!" and before they could could react a frizzy-headed little old woman with a mass of colored rope on one arm had burst from her leaning hut and flung her arms around Tona's shoulders, crying and laughing as she showered the teen heroine's forehead with kisses, soon drawing the attention of the rest of the village who quickly gathered in an eager circle around the new arrivals, giving the woman Tona had grown up calling 'Aunt Trip'(their unrivaled master of traps and an eager teacher) some space for her reunion.


Her people looked little the worse for wear, some a little more tired and bent than before, but in many the fire of defiance still burned for all to see. And they smiled openly and with obvious relief at both a familiar face and her companions. They were curious too.


"A splendid mask, Tona! I scarcely recognized the rest of you behind it!"

"Who's that in red, she from Nihlor? Looks like the Mandragora's kind..."

"That bow...who made it, and what did they want in return?"

"Hey, you with the hood, are you from another village?"

"Shut up. All of you"


The torrent was suddenly and sharply cut off. A little sheepishly, the gathered tribe turned to see who it was...and the crowd quickly parted to reveal a a tall woman with graying hair scraped back into a ponytail. Favoring the new faces with a silent once-over, Leda Canaille nodded sharply at Blue Jay "You've come back...I am...glad you are well. If you're here, you must have a way to transport us too, right? What needs to be done?"



The stand of redwoods was easy to find. A faint prickling on her skin had only grown stronger as she got closer to it, and at the base of the majestic circle of deep red and brown sentinels the air all but thrummed.


Climbing was easy too, the branches quite thick even as they got to the top, and in no time at all the whole world seemed before Blodeuwedd's eyes. The sweep of the small valley, the dull glitter of the far-off sea....but when she looked there, darting black specks seemed to cross her vision. Specks circling something high up and far off.

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Blue Jay managed to sty quiet as Blod went off on her own. She trusted her friends and she wouldn't have brought them if they weren't fierce fighters, but she worried about anyone being alone in the Terminus. Still, she knew that she couldn't keep her eyes on her friends all the time, so she contended herself with checking that their comms were still working and followed. Arnaud down to the village.


Blue Jay could hardly have prepared herself for what the experience. Stepping past the perimeter of the lean-tos and wagons was like stepping back two years in time; if it wasn't for her full stomach and warm clothes, she could have been returning from a hunting trip or a mission. The quit hum of activity, and silent guardians watching the sky as much as they were the horizon, was exactly as she remembered it. Then she was swept up in the crowd and broke into a huge smile as she tried to answer everyone at once. "I'll how you how to wear it some time! Don't let Crimson Tiger hear that or she'll knock you out. There are amazing crafstmen on their Earth, I have to show you what this does!" And then Lena pulled her into a hug and she was silenced.


"Um. Okay. We have to get everyone together -- and I mean everyone, all the villages and teams. We can only do this once, and I won't take any chances with 'drones or the General's soldiers soldiers getting through. But before that... Can I see me pere?"

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"He's been-"


Leda checked herself, her frown deepening, lips pursed and eyes flashing from one of the wagons back to the young archer. After a long moment, the village elder nodded once "Yes. He's in the green tent nearest the medicine wagon," 'medicine' was just one of the things it held, but the oak cart held nothing else as valuable "speak as long as you like". Turning her attention to the crowd, Leda barked "Make ready! Questions can wait, the hour of our freedom draws near! Once you've been to your pere, Tona, meet me and the other elders, you know where we'll be." With that she was off, signalling to Arnaud and speaking animatedly with him as they passed out of hearing.


The strange red sky of the Black Orbit meant the world was always in twilight, but without Nihlor and the Doom Coil to provide their Hell's lamp, things were cast even deeper into shadow. So it was a moment before Tona, as she walked through the familiar scents and sights of home, made out the huddled figure in the green tent.


Her father was kneeling on the patched blankets, head bowed and turning something over in his hands, something oval and glinting like gold. Suddenly, when she was only a few feet from the tent flap he started. "Non, it's futile. Nothing we have helps, ma chere, just leave me be, I can..." as he spoke, his head had gradually moved up, until at last he looked with grim resignation up at the intruder. Robert Baudin had always had a good face, sly and with a quirk to the mouth like he was planning something. Even then, haggard and weary and drawn, a bit of the old fun was still there.   


The expression changed slowly to shock, and then to warm relief "Tona...oh, my little bird!" he began to rise, and his smile transformed into a grimace of pain "Ah! I...forgive me, my side is...hurt. What has happened, and who are these? Your friends? Are you all from the same place? Is-are we about to be rescued?"

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Tona paused at the edge of the tent, struck by her father before her. No one on this world was ever hale and hearty, at least not how people on the Earth she had come to live on were, but her father had never looked quite so... old, as he did just at that moment. Still, she rushed forward as soon as he called her name, throwing herself into his arms and hugging him tightly. "Me pere." They stood there for a moment, quiet, as the young archer let the flood of emotions pass over and through her.

Eventually they moved apart, Tona wiping her eyes. "<Yes, father,>" she said, slipping into their first language. "<I found a place -- another Earth -- that's almost empty. There's forests and fields, just like you said this world used to be. Absolutely everyone could go there and be safe.>" She wiped her eyes again, almost overwhelmed just thinking about her father and her people on Sanctuary. "And yes, these are my friends. They're going to help us get everyone away. But... we have to do it all at the same time, me pere."

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Crimson Tiger, Mali Benjawan. She saw these people and their struggles. She saw the suffering on their faces in this hell of hells. Her knuckles tightened as she realized what she was facing and what could happen. But, this was pure heroics. This was helping those in need against evil. This is why she put on the costume. To help.


She was a bit nervous, of course, but she steeled herself. She was in a position to do some good, and damn if she wasn't going to do just that.

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Robert blinked for a few minutes, looking out at the dying world over Tona's shoulder with new, brighter eyes. Leaning back a little in his daughter's arms, the wounded Jail Bird regarded her for a moment, and then gave her a light peck on the nose. <"My little flier,"> he said, his face lighting up  with a grin <"I believe I am the most fortunate father in all this world. Who else can say they had a part in making you?">


The lithe man gave a curious, dart-like look at the other two "And these are your friends? Amazing...our only visitors, I'm sad to say, have been the mighty Furions. You two are the first new faces in too long a time. A shame we have to go so soon," he sighed, sinking back onto the ratty blanket, shaking his tired head "Be good to have another party. But if it's as good a place as you say...we'll be free, that's what matters. Thank you for coming to see your silly old pere, darling. I'm sorry it had to be like this. Sneaking into the General's lair is not as easy as it used to be, must be this mysterious 'age' thing the legends speak of."


Suddenly he frowned up at Tona, and muttered "I think he's...broken away. From those Doombringers. I heard him raving about wanting to 'rule this world alone'. Anyway," he brightened again "shouldn't keep you here, there's work to do and a planet to rescue! See you soon, Tona."


A chilly wind whistled through the trees, cutting into the very bones of the three girls.


Far off, the whirling specks and their object of adoration had grown clearer to Blodeuwedd's goggled vision. Like a dragon attended by flies. Whatever it was was heading their way, and fast.

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Sam answers the questions of her mysterious origins with an equally mysterious wink, and as the crowds thin, she draws closer to Tona again, enough to suggest a little more than just 'friend.'  These people are like Tona's family, and she can't help but keep wondering if she's ever going to be introduced.  Well, she was already introduced, but not introduced, as anything more than a friend.


And then, they're going to meet her father.  There's something unnerving.  She'd introduced Tona to Miss Vance, of course, but... that's not even the same level.  That relationship's hardly anything more than a legal technicality.  This is real family.  And given the mission, this is probably a very silly time to be worried about meeting her girlfriend's father.


Then, the moment comes, and she gets a tingling on the back of her neck at the man's manner.  Something not quite right... He broke.  She'd seen it enough on Dis.  People who crack under the stress end up unhinged.  She just knew enough to stay away, though Mister Baudin seems to be... less severe?  At least he can come back to his senses.  Still, she knows to stay out of that moment unless invited.

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Swearing softly to herself in her native tongue Blodeuwedd adjusted her goggles to provide some form of magnification, though she had a horrible feeling she knew who was on there way. Luckily they had suspected something like this and had arranged to stay in touch. She reluctantly thumbed the comms, she hadn’t wanted to disturb Toni’s reunion with her friends and family for as long as was humanly necessary.


“It looks like we have incoming drones on the way. Sorry to disturb your reunion but you better start evacuating people as quickly you can. I’ll try an run some interference, though some help wouldn't go amiss.â€

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Blue Jay blinked for a moment as she processed Blodeuwedd's warning. A cold feeling swept through her as she felt all her old fears rush back full-force; being buried under an avalanche of Omegadrones. Mixed up in there were images of her friends with implants that glowed red and black, or brass plates that hissed steam. She tapped at her ear, trying to get the silent warrior's attention. "No, Blod. Don't fight them, just get clear and get back to the camp!" She turned to her father, cinching her quiver tighter. "Papa, one of my friends says there are drones approaching. We must leave."

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