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December 25, 2014

 

In Shropshire, Daniel Frewer turned his head to the sky, wondering suddenly what lay in the heavens.

 

In Osaka, Homura Kato froze on the subway, feeling a sudden sense of calm and tranquility.

 

In Alexandria, Amir al-Khudari locked himself in his apartment and spent hours writing page after page about some coming revelation, the dawning of a new prophet.

 

Across the world, a whisper was falling into the minds of humanity. A thought launched like a needle, to grow and take hold for when the time was right.

 

But for some people, the whisper was more like a shout.

 

National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center

Arecibo, Puerto Rico

9:12 PM

 

The Scarab meditated above the structure hanging suspended over the gigantic radio telescope. She had felt the psychic broadcast raining down on humanity, and knew what it meant. If people were being guided towards a certain thought, it would likely come with a hard suggestion - and one of the best places for that to come through would be a site aimed towards receiving messages from the heavens.

 

Something had come through early, however. When she arrived at the telescope, she had found the scientists in a mad bacchanal, offering praise and worship to whatever lay beyond. She had tranquilized them and managed to undo the damage, but they were still recovering. Now was the best time to turn this force's tricks against it.

 

She just hoped the others would arrive to provide a full counter-offensive.

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High above the floor of the warehouse that Miss Grue called home the young alien hero floated in a lotus position which her main source of information, television, told her was what someone did when you needed to meditate. And right now she had a lot on her mind, could couldn’t even relax with her favourite past time.


A couple of months ago she wouldn’t have been able to do this using her mental powers her mental powers had definitely been growing since she arrived on Earth. Could this happen with any free Grue? Because right now there could be quite a few suddenly freed Grue. The Union  had actually sent out a message to any Grue informing all of them what had happened to their homeworld. It hadn't taken long for the advanced AI of Mother Unit to discover what was happening with the Communion.


So for what seemed to be the hundredth time she was trying to decide if she should go help her own people. She owed them nothing, and by all accounts some of them had done very bad things, but they were her own species and she should try to do something.


As normal her mind had began to drift, she really wasn’t good at meditation, and she started to pick up stray psychic signals. Someone or something was tapping into the humans psychic fields and effecting their minds, it reminded her of the “Despair Squid†she had beat this year though the effect tasted different. It only took a few minute to track it to a possible source, and she couldn’t help but smile at the location.

 

Mother Unit prepare Birthing Unit, it’s a little late I know but it looks like an alien is finally going to answer that call from SETI.

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Diane was sitting in her lab, in the home AEGIS had set up for her. As always, when she needed to think, she was fiddling with the large amount of electronics that laid scrapped around the place. It wasn't a conscious though, more of an automatic reaction to stress. She had a lot of them, lately.

Away from prying eyes, she could reap the benefits of her new anatomy fully. A tentacled woman was... disturbing for many people.

Who was she fooling? It was disturbing even for her, although she was quickly getting used to it.

 

In particular, she was using the tentacle-probes to hold whatever she neeed to have at hand, so her left hand was free for the very important task of stroking her cat Potato, who was sitting on her lap.

 

"Something's wrong, 'tato, you know? It's as if someone was... pushing against my mental defenses. Not as forceful as when they're trying to access me through technological channels, but it's still there, very subtle. I wish I understood my powers better, then I could understand this thing better. I hate it when I'm in the dark."

Edited by souffle_girl

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"Mama, I can't hear you! I can't hear the inside of my head! Where's my head?" 

 

"It's all right, baby," Paige crooned, taking hold of her daughter's flailing hands and gently folding them across her stomach. "Everything's going to be fine, I promise. The doctor turned on your suppressors and gave you a little bit of medicine to help you sleep." 

 

"I can't hear anything!" Holly wailed again. "It's like you're not even here... is this even real? Can we dance? Praise be to the... what?" 

 

Paige shot Richard one worried look over Holly's infirmary bed, then reapplied her best reassuring smile. "Just get some rest, okay cuddlebug? Daddy and I have to go do some hero work and stop the bad guys, but we'll be back very soon. Dr. Johannson is here to look after you, and Will is going to be nearby, all right? When we get back, we'll finish up all the Christmas stuff we didn't get to do today." 

 

Holly's voice was slurring from the light sedative, her eyes growing heavy. "Don't trust it," she whispered to her mother, patting the air with one hand. "It's so pretty, but it's baaaad." 

 

"I know, baby, I won't," Paige promised. She tucked the blanket around Holly's shoulders, then kissed her forehead and stepped back to let Richard do the same thing. She saved her long sigh for when they were safely away from the baffle-shrouded cubicle in the corner of the Claremont infirmary. "This is just getting worse. We've got to get that telepathy under control before something worse than an impromptu Cthonic church service breaks out in the living room." She forced another smile. "Wanna give me a ride to Puerto Rico?" 

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Some may consider it strange to winter in Canada instead of moving to a warmer climate, but to Eve Martel spending the winter holidays in Thunder Bay was not only the logical, but the right thing to do. The Frenchwoman tucked a strand of long white hair behind an ear and smiled at Becky Shuster, the junior member of the Canadian superteam True North and her girlfriend, the real reason why Eve found herself in Canada this winter.

Curled up against the much taller young woman, in a tangle of limbs and warm blankets, Eve considered her good fortune. Though both of the young women had severe commitments on their time, they still managed to make time for each other and despite some nervousness in the beginning things were actually working out.

Eve's thoughts drifted to a little box tucked away in her luggage.

"One moment," she murmured, flicking open a suitcase with a thought. Suddenly she froze and her eyes tracked southward. "Merde."

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It's 1500 miles from Freedom City to Puerto Rico. Fast-Forward and Hologram covered the distance in six minutes. In another minute, they were standing on the observation deck of the radio telescope - Richard not willing to put his wife (who did not fly, at all) on the rickety-looking steering mechanism which Scarab was flying over. Paige could feel where Richard's mind was; back in that hospital room with Holly, and with Will's team at Claremont, but after a moment's hesitation the speedster made himself live in the moment.

 

<Thank you,> thought the Scarab to them, <but there is one more service I need of you...> A set of images popped into their minds; Fast-Forward's in particular. 

 

"All right, I guess I'll go get the cavalry," said Richard with a nod, understanding the veteran hero's signal at lighting speed. "Be right back!" he called to the others before he disappeared. It was 1500 miles back to Freedom City - this time, running with thoughts of his daughter, his wife, and his son in his mind, Fast-Forward made it back to Freedom City in _three_ minutes. 

 

Keep me posted on the action, babe! he thought to Hologram along the way. 

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GM

Thanks in part to Fast-Forward's fast travel, the group of summoned psychics swiftly ended up on the walkways of the carriage hanging over the radio telescope. After a few seconds had passed and everyone had enough time to get used to the metal under their feet and the basin hundreds of feet below, a voice piped into their heads. "I'm glad you're here. Come to the central carriage, so I can talk this out while keeping my feed open."

Gathering at the central cradle, the heroes looked to see Scarab, floating at the side of the cradle. "I'm sure you've all felt that sensation in the back of your head," she said. "The one that seems to stroke the part of your brain that feels devotion and reverence. Something's trying to get before surrender before... I'd hate to say 'God,' but I've got a good feeling that's what it thinks it is. I've got a feeling that the closer it gets, the more people are going to start building shrines and singing hymns. And I don't know what it's going to do to reward the faithful."

She looked up to the sky, as if tracking the signal. "This thing... is vast. I have a feeling I can fend it off, but directly engaging anything with a psychic presence so large is going to draw the wrath of its subconscious. And I can only fight on so many fronts at once. I need you to try and harrow this thing's psychic antibody defense. Not only will that keep it from overwhelming the counteroffensive, but it will help weaken the main entity and make it more prone to attack."

The Scarab closed her eyes and sent to Fast-Forward a general message that the other telepaths caught as well. "Odds are the offensive isn't going to be entirely mental. When I got here, some of the field scientists attached to the radio telescope had been turned into raving zealots. I've got a feeling it's already managed to get its hooks into those who are sensitive to psychic emanations but don't have proper defensive training. This entity may be sending a physical offensive to go with the mental one - and if we're going to be focusing on our inner eyes, we're somewhat impaired for scanning the horizon. I've already called out some individuals capable of engaging the entity on the ground. Can you lead them?"

 

With his quick affirmative, that left the psychics to their task. 

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Daphne shuffled a little uncomfortably as Hologram and Fast-Forward, thankfully briefly, arrived. Last time they'd met she'd acted as a complete fan-girl and embarrassed herself immensely, though thankfully things had worked out once she'd settled down. As subtly as she could she put herself as far away from Hologram as she could and made sure her telepathy was kept under very careful control. She carefully listened to Scarab as she laid out her plan to defeat this entity, she didn't have the amount of knowledge about such things as anyone here, but she wanted to make sure she helped as best she could.

 

"Excuse me Ms Scarab but if going against this entity is so dangerous is there not another way to stop its influence? Could we not create some form of psychic interference to try and block it's signal?" she was unsure about her own idea but tried to sound confident.

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"Mmh? Eve, what's wrong?" Becky murmured, absently nuzzling her face into the crook of the telepath's neck and stretching a long pair of legs underneath the blankets. The rest of her body straightened with a start as the team communicator sitting on the chest of drawers on the other side of the room demanded immediate attention. "Oh, nutbunnies! Sorry, sorry, just a second..." Extricating herself from the tangle with some difficulty and taking one of the blankets to wrap around herself in a makeshift toga she hopped onto the floor and over the the chest, taking a moment to will the talons she'd sprouted when startled back into more human fingertips before inserting the earbud.

After a few moments of listening, the brunette's face fell and she made a beeline for the morphic molecule outfit hanging in her closet. "Eve, I'm so sorry, that was J'ou. There are some sort of alien ships attacking the International Space Station and the new Canadarms we installed last year can't hold them all off. All of True North needs to be ready to launch like yesterday and--" She turned around and got a better look at Eve's expression. "--and you've got your own thing, too, don't you?" With an exasperated sigh, she walked back over and leaned down to kiss the Frenchwoman on the forehead. "Just promise you'll be careful and you'll meet me back here afterward, okay? You still owe me a New Year's kiss, foxy."

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"I pity those that try to keep me away," Eve replied slipping out of bed and into her own costume. She paused, watching Becky for a moment before pulling the Canadian heroine in a short but fierce embrace. "You be careful too, my sweet." And with that La Renarde Bleue, or the Blue Fox as she is more commonly known as, slipped quietly out of the room and the home of her girlfriend's parents taking care to not disturb them.

In a surge of power the psychic was streaking toward the south on wings of cyan light and fire, crossing the vast distance in mere minutes. She touched down silently near the assembled, the telekinetic projection of her flight brushing against them lightly before dissolving into motes of light and then fading.

The masked and hooded heroine cocked her head slightly as she regarded The Scarab. "You called?"

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Paige concentrated on smoothing her hair as she listened to the Scarab's summation; getting her costume on in Richard-time always made her hair look like she'd been through a windstorm. "Of course we'll do whatever we can," she agreed, speaking aloud just as Scarab had. "If you can give us some idea of what to look for and how to take it down, that would be very helpful. I'm also wondering if this psychic signal might be immediately dangerous. I mean, obviously it's dangerous in the long term, whenever this worshiped thing arrives, but do you think there's any immediate threat to a psychic who is caught in its influence and can't get free?" Despite her careful shielding, she was in a roomful of trained psychics and her anxiety was obvious. 

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GM

The Scarab looked to Miss Grue. "We could form a barrier, yes," she said, "and that might work in the face of a probing psychic assault - like the Death Star laser, but for the mind. In this case, however, the force is... diffuse, not focused. It may be sending out slivers of sensation, but the thoughts primarily... radiate off of the entity, rather than being shot off. It's more like... the psychic equivalent of a falling moon. The gravity's starting to affect the tides, but soon, it might take the planet apart. In which case, a shield will help - but only on the psychic plane. I'm afraid that, if this is less of an assault and more of a tidal change, then whatever's attached to those thoughts may be coming in the flesh. In which case, it would be for the best to batter past its defenses and soften it up for when - or if - it makes planetfall. Maybe if we can probe deep enough, we can convince it we're not worth the trouble."

She turned to Hologram. "As for the entity's appearance - I wasn't kidding when I compared it to a falling moon. I did some scouting on the astral plane. This thing's thoughtform is... indistinct, for now, but I got a sense of something like a barrier, reaching across the sky. But, like with any barrier, there are going to be cracks. Maybe a few sentries, and a cannon or two, but definitely a few weak points. If we can pry them apart, maybe we can get some blows in on the core entity - and pry out a tidbit or two on what it is, and what it wants. As for psychics caught in its influence... so far, except for the rare salvo - like with the scientists - we've mainly had to deal with stray transmissions. But this thing does deploy some kind of psychic spike when it wants to plant a particular thought. If you're capable of psychic projection, then it's easier to visualize - a chain or tether with a spine of the end." A ripple of a thought passed through the psychics as The Scarab said it - a lighter version of the influence she was describing, enough to project an impression of what it might be like without actually affecting thought. "If you can visualize it, then you've got a better chance of breaking it directly. And if you can't break it directly, then there's a good chance someone else can locate the influence and break it."

The Scarab resumed the lotus position. "All right. I'm sure you've all got some form of centering exercise, something to help you divorce the flesh and gird yourself for astral travel. Start girding up. Once everyone's ready, I'm going to try to engage the main body. Keep the subconscious projections occupied, try finding weak points in this thing's psychic armor... and if you can, try to gather what intel comes piping up from this thing's ego."

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Now, even if you lived the past ten years under a rock in the desert, purposefully avoiding each and every human contact and piece of information you could come across, you'd still know who The Scarab was.

What one of, if not the most powerful psychic on Earth wanted from a newbie like Diane, she couldn't understand.

 

Her wings and her telekinesis carried her from Freedom all the way to Central America, following the directions Scarab had given her, and she finally set down next to the other heroes at the telescope site. Her wings folded back on her shoulders in a clack. Her new costume, what little she needed anyway, included a white cape and hood that stressed the whole "avenging angel" theme, but Diane was more nervous that she let appear. She threw back the hood, revealing her red hair and the fine pattern of circuitry running under her face's skin.

 

"Sorry for the delay, but whatever influence is affecting everyone made it hard for me to focus on my flight. I'm Nano Angel, pleased to meet you."

 

As she listened to the Scarab's speech, she couldn't help but feel more and more uncertain about her role. These people were clearly all big leagues. They were discussing an entity so powerful it could affect the minds of a whole planet... and they all looked ready to take it on. That's what heroes do, isn't it?

She finally had to ask.

 

"Excuse me... I don't want to bother anyone, but why am I here exactly? I mean... you're all important heroes while I just came into my powers a short time ago. If I join you in this mission, I might be more burden than help, I'm afraid."

 

And now you sound like a wimp, she thought. Way to make people proud of you.

Edited by souffle_girl

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The Scarab looked to Nano Angel with sympathy. "I know how that feels," she said. "To get thrown into this feet first. But you've got incredible talents, Nano Angel. You've got firepower that I haven't seen in many others attuned to the astral. And we're going to need all the firepower we can get." The powerful psychic looked to the group. "If anyone has any other concerns, clear them now. We're going to be making contact."

The psychic felt a tapping at the back of their heads. Not the harsh barrage of intrusion, but like a rapping at the door, a request to be let in. When it was granted, the jungle and the radio telescope bled away, giving way to a sky of neon blue. The psychics all stood on air, looking down at the ground below. Beneath them was a flat plane dotted with limitless points of light. Some burned dimmed and others bright, and the longer they look, the more they saw the details of an individual life. Stray thoughts, lost memories, and buried regrets.

And looking up, they saw an endless band of black, cut across the neon blue. And it seemed to be growing wider with each passing second.

"Follow my lead," thought The Scarab, taking off into the air at blinding speed.

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The black rushed down on the group like a weighted curtain, blotting the blue out of the sky. As it drew closer, flashes of red lightning lashed off of its shell, sending off shock waves that rippled down. In the back of their heads, the psychics felt tugs of reverence and devotion - visions of the lightning bolt coming down on Saul on the road to Damascus came to mind, drawn forth by the tide of propaganda. But that was all they were - visions, not revelations. Their barriers were holding.

"All right," said The Scarab. "Now to get its attention." She focused, drawing inwards. Golden light shimmered out of her astral body, ringing the various components of the thoughtform. The golden light built in brightness, turning hot and blinding, before striking out at terrible speed. It struck the titanic body above, washing out with a shockwave that sent ripples of force and determination back towards the group. Golden cracks formed on the black body, shards of the midnight shell breaking off and tumbling through the void, revealing a clash of golden and crimson light underneath.

From the curtain came bolts of light, streaming down towards the group. The bolts resolved into figures, some of which could be mistaken for human, others who were clearly not of this world. Some of the figures were clear, but others were practically outlines of light in the shape of an individual. But one thing remained clear, regardless of strength of pattern - elements of metal, clear and concrete, ran through their astral forms. From their skin to their bones, ending in a box that took the place of each figure's jaw. One voice emerged from the group, speaking repeatedly:

"YOU SHALL COMMUNE"

"That's nothing good," said The Scarab. "I'm gonna keep battering the boss until it gets the message. Keep the drones occupied."

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Some people thought forms were magnificent things to observe full of power and glory that shone with the power within, Miss Grue was well just Miss Grue she already had a strong sense of exactly who she was. Of cause it helped that she was a shapeshifter than could look exactly how she wanted.

 

Right now she grew to massive size and reached out to seize one of the drone, her thinking was simple if she looked big she should draw the attention of the the drones. it would give the others a chance to do a little damage.

 

“Come and show me what you can do against me you naughty, naughty little things.â€

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Hologram had done many things in her long and varied career on both sides of the heroic divide. She'd flown unpowered a time or two, she'd fought to save the world from evil. And she'd gotten a chance to get used to the fact that her mental form was forever eighteen with pink hair, no matter how her conscious mind might strive for a more adult look. She'd never dealt with all three things at once, however, so this was certainly a novel experience. 

 

Even so, she took off behind Scarab without question, leaving behind the imaginary ground and heading towards the swarm of figures. Fighting on the mental plane could be tricky, but with a little focus... She closed her eyes, concentrating on the enemy that seemed the most threatening, arbitrary distinction though it was. There was no flashy explosion, no bolt of energy shooting from her heroic skull. That would just draw attention! Instead, the metal-lined figure merely stopped fighting, stopped moving entirely, hanging in space like a pineapple suspended in jell-o. 

 

She felt another trying to attack her mind while she was distracted, and despite the circumstances, she had to smile. It was a pathetic attempt, really. She let it ricochet harmlessly off her shields and hoped it felt the headache from it. 

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Diane felt the world shift around her, and suddenly she had the distinct feeling she was no longer exactly there. She had projected her consciousness through wireless connections before; this vaguely reminded her of that, but without the the reassuring feeling of digital data flowing around her in perfectly ordained ones and zeroes. Instead, everything was vibrant and thrumming with the power of all the minds surrounding her.

 

But as powerful and vibrant their minds were, they paled before the thing that now loomed in the sky. Whatever it was, she had no doubts left that it wasn't of this world.

 

Diane swallowed her fear and shot upwards, following her companions, as the alien intellect's defenders flow down to meet them. As soon as she was in range, Diane focused all her telekinetic power in a single blast, aiming it at the closest attacker. However, it nimbly evaded her strike.

Edited by souffle_girl

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GM

The construct managed to weave around the force of Nano Angel's projection, shuddering back into position with the gait of a film missing a few frames. It locked eyes with the young psychic, opened its mouth wide, and issued a wave of white noise both electronic and mental --

-- and she was somewhere where the sky was red and the trees were purple, where the grass sang hymns with the wind. But it was all wrong. The grass's song was changing as the blades turned gray like steel, and the bark on the trees was taking on the pattern of circuitry. Before her was a great black tower, carving its significance into her soul. It was the temple, the monolith, the fist of the gods. The air crackled with a noise like prayer, and her nerves burned with agony and ecstasy as she felt herself going into forever --

And the vision was gone. And all that was left was the projection before her, the echo of pain, and the feeling that something majestic and terrible had passed over her.

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Ow! That hurt!


As much on instinct more than anything else Miss Grue  took the little (to her) thing and tried to project it with some force back towards their friends.


“Careful these things have a bit of a bite about them. Really hurts to.â€

 

For emphasis as she spoke she shook her wounded hand against the pain.

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Diane staggered before the psychic attack of the drones, completely unprepared to the sheer force of it, but when she was about to break she felt the willpower of her companions reinforcing her own, and she pulled herself out of the vision.

 

"My mind... Is mine!" she screamed in anger, and the hidden compartments in her forearms clacked open, techno-organic tentacles surging forward to bind the metallic monster in deadly spires.

 

"I'm OK... I'm tougher than I look," she told the huge Grue woman.

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The ether was filled with the exchange of barbed thoughts and weaponized memories. Some struck with the force of daggers, while others trailed off into the depths of the astral plane, to become slight apprehensions and feelings of deja vu. The entities beholden to the force in the sky seemed to have trauma to spare - if their appearance wasn't enough to signal their master's intentions, the visions certainly backed it up. Glimpses of drowning in a swarm of silver motes, the sensation of one's nerves turning to copper and silicon in flesh that hadn't quite made the same transformation, the sight of everything the host had known freezing in a steely tableau...

 

There were other glimpses, though, visible out of the corner of the psychics' eyes. Lurking deep within the astral bodies of their enemies were memories of families, cities, all their world had been. It was caged and it was buried deep, but it was there - beholden to an abomination.

 

Above them, the great black monolith loomed. But the golden energy of the Scarab's psychic onslaught was still tearing into it. From a distance, one could almost think rents were forming in that massive corpus...

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Miss Grue smiled at Nano Angel whilst these things might be tough she had no doubt that they’d win.

 

“I have no doubt on that matter, though it wouldn’t hurt to be a little careful.â€

 

As she spoke she gave a backhanded strike against one of the nearby antibodies sending it wheeling away at the force of the blow.

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The fight was not going well, Hologram realized as she looked around. It was time for a new tactic. She reached out to another of the strange monsters with her mind, but this time did not try to tear into it. Instead, black tendrils of thought energy curled around it, clouding its eyes, covering its ears as she whispered suggestions to it from a distance. With a sudden burst of movement, it lashed out against its nearest fellow, dealing a vicious blow! Paige had time for only a moment of satisfaction before the last monster took a swipe at her in turn, making her entire body shudder with the force of resisting its attack. ~We may need a new strategy,~ she projected to the others. 

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GM

 

I understand, said The Scarab. Withdraw for now. If we bring them all in together, we can amplify our power and --

 

The Scarab's telepathic communication cut out as a sound like scraping metal filled the astral plane. The folds of the great black barrier were shifting and tearing, revealing glimpses of an endless sea of red behind its bonds. The light pulsed with a sound like a hymn crossed with a death rattle, then washed out in a massive burst, passing over The Scarab.

 

Ohgodssuchbeautysuchlightinendlesslighthosannahosannacomecomeintothelightcomecomecommune--

 

The strange prayer cut off suddenly as golden light washed out from The Scarab's form, pushing back against the wave. The red light pushed past as the barrier held, diminished but still sweeping out rapidly. The nightmarish thoughtforms in the midst of the action paused, raising their voices in discordant, untranslatable prayer. Light and power seemed to wash off of their forms, shooting into the wave of light - which started pushing faster towards the earth. 

 

I think it's done with subtlety. It wants everyone to give in to the agony and the ecstasy. We need to break that wave before it hits Earth.

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