The City of Pyramids

Welcome to Act III. It will be short...

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Forge's picture

Furuma slashes with all his might while Krevin laughs -not unlike Kuro did- as the blue-glowing blade passes right through the devil's immaterial body.

"GOOD! GOOD!! [Krevin claps with his pale hands, bandaged in many strips of black leather, up to his sickly-gray fingers and whitish nails] about time! Do as you will! YOU! YOU the captain! [he points] Your will! Not that of THE... the... giant pp-pp-p-ppPUSSY!!"

Swing and a miss -the immaterial Krevin remains in place floating above the middle of the pool where the geyser had risen, but the momentum of the sword slash that finds nothing but air takes Furuma out of balance... (Taking Combat EY card and failing). Furuma falls into the pool... it is deep.

It is dark. Black. Cold.

He has flashbacks of his childhood... he has flashbacks of his college years. The blood around him is cold, like water. Furuma remembers how hard he struggled to gain rank in the Fujin's Blood... how much he suffered, stoically. His first assignment.

Liquid starts to fill in his lungs. He remembers the first time he met Emi. How raptured he was. Love at first sight, -like he had never experienced with any mortal girl. And how she adored him... how her big eyes lit up when he spoke to her... the endless sunsets in his dreams, where he would spend hours stroking her fur and watching an endless horizon together.

His limbs struggle for survival -it's physiological. All drown victims do it.

The first time he met Tachibana... the way the old Sensei chose him personally to lead the entire Carnival Dream -what a great honor! "It will be our fortress in the seas, Kaoru-san. Projecting our power deep into the fat belly of the Allies" -yes, the old Master still uses WWII terminology.

He feels coldness rising from his finger tips.. to his wrists, to his elbows, to his shoulders.

The salty air of the ocean, the first time he saw the beautiful pink sunrise over the Azores, the sound of the waves at the ships' Maiden Voyage. And it was all his. His ship. He was the Captain!

Gaoru's feasts. The protective shadow of Kuro standing behind him, making him feel re-assured that no one and nothing could ever get close to harm him. Closest thing to a friend.

Bubbles escape his lips and nostrils, but he still grips the haunted blade, as if in a rictus.

AIR!

Something golden shines above him. Is it the light at the end of the tunnel? Is this it? The afterlife? His body drowns. AIR.

He feels his body floating up towards the golden light. It waves and flutters, piercing the darkness of the waters. Closer and closer.

His eyes begin to close.

...

St. John peers down the side of the Lido Deck, and sees that indeed, he could probably rappel down the side of the ship, if he had a rope. Blood has been dripping down these walls all along. The lifeboats are six decks below, at the Atlantic Deck. The Vista deck, his own deck, is merely one level down. And the shooting and shouting and screaming from Empress seems to have died down.

St. John feels a light shining behind his back. He turns: it's the sun. It shines behind and through the transparent still-laughing visage of Krevin... it gets brighter and brighter -it's a beautiful, majestic pink sunrise over the sea.

And as the light gets brighter... the demons start to fade. The 38 demons and the devil... they all seem to grow more and more transparent... so does the blood that overflows the Lido deck... was it ever really there? The rats were. The rats do not become transparent...

The sun rises, shrouded in mauve clouds over the endless austral ocean.

The night has passed. And the horrors of the Hyperuraniium are fading away -quite literally, as if pierced by the brightness of the newly-born sun.

....

GAAAASSP!! Furuma's head surfaces above the clear waters of the Lido deck pool. Gone is all the blood -he was drowning in just plain water, but no more. The light he was seeing, at the end of that dark tunnel, was nothing but the sunrise. He draws breath still, and coughs, and holds the Haunted Blade of Taipei in his hands, but it no longer glows. Gone is Krevin, Gone are all the monsters and beasts that inhabitted the body of his blooded crew. Gone is his crew -all dead. And Emi is gone. He is truly alone.

And rising out of the ocean all around the ship... Furuma sees stone Pyramids... ancient and covered in lichen, just breaking the landscape all around the Carnival Dream. Dozens of them... all around. John sees them too -everyone does; they're real. They exist -as much as anything else can exist in this world.

Crashed upon one of them -ages ago it would seem like- are the remains of the Accelletrix ship "Akademik Lazarev" -its hull half charred and broken, its metal rusted and bent.

"W-what... what happened? [asks Lynn, groggily, as John gently sets her down on her own two feet] w-what's going on? Where's my dad?"

The two dozen passengers remain in various states of shock and confusion... is the nightmare over? John no longer sees the afterglow, nor hears the deep echoes of the dream world.

The ship's engines finally stop. Sunrise at the Pyramids.

Welcome to Act III.

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I AmAndo's picture

Rolled 1d12. Result: 9 = 9.

Kaoru "Ash" Furuma

Combat: 
SY
Magic: 
SY,HY,--
Influence: 
NA,--
Else: 
EYB,HY

[Kaoru gasps and splutters, sloshing his way out of the pool, his heavy Shogun clothes sodden and weighing him down. He sees no one else on this deck, nothing registers for him. He crawls on hands and knees a few feet away from the pool, his eyes wide, his breathing ragged. The sword clatters to the ground and he crawls away from it.]

{E.....E.......Emi?} [It's tentative, like a child gingerly prodding the body of an obviously-dead parent, hoping against all hope that what he can see plainly is not true, fearing the confirmation.] {Emi?}

[For the first time since he was a child, tears sting Kaoru's eyes. It's an unfamiliar sensation, and he shakes his head, confused and horrified, but now that they have begun and he truly feels the alone-ness of his situation, they won' stop.]

Emi! Douka modotte kite hoshii! Watashi ni kaette kudasai!
(Come back to me! Please come back to me!)

[Kaoru is sobbing now, head to the deck, palms flat. After years of serving Tachinbana and the Blood, he had become so focused, so serious, that he had forgotten he had a heart.]

[Until it broke.]

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DarkMoonINC's picture

John Saint John

Combat: 
--
Magic: 
--.--
Influence: 
--,--,--
Else: 
--,--

(I feel like we skipped Katsu.)

John stops, looking at the sun as if everything is different now. He turns slowly to look at her. His eyes are red and worn, he's been through a lot this night and this is the first moment he's had to stop and let the full effect of it hit him.

"I don't know. The crew-" John looks around. "We need to get to safety. Cloud 9 is compromised. Everyone on the ship was overwhelmed by base desire and they... they stormed in and killed everyone. The Japanese crew, the passengers, everyone on Cloud 9. I got you to safety."

He stops, looking back over the sea. "But I'm not sure now. As soon as that sun just arose, all of the madness disappeared and went silent. So I don't know what really happened. Choronzon is a master of hallucination. I just- I'm fearful to check Cloud 9 after that."

"The beasts wanted you, they came to... do terrible things to everyone. But I wouldn't let them have you." John shudders. "Do we have anywhere else safe to go? I was going to board the lifeboats and get you away from the ship but..."

John looks around at the quiet, empty, vacant wreck of a ship that had only moments earlier been a menagerie of visceral violence. He pauses and squats down, looking up at her. "I am still bound to you, my lady. Whatever it is you wish."

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Trapturtle's picture

Rolled 1d12. Result: 9 = 9.

Katsu Oshiro

Combat: 
N,SYA,HY
Magic: 
SY
Influence: 
SYB,SYB
Else: 
N,SYA

Wait.

[Katsu pulls Sims aside, he doesn't want the other security officers to hear this.]

You and your men can't go in there. You have to trust me when I say that if you do, You and every single one of your men will die. The ship is lost. The only thing left to do at this point is to get your men to the lifeboats, getting away from all this is the only way that you and your men get out of this alive. I have to do the rest alone, I'm going to search the ship for anyone left sane enough to leave and send them to the life boats.

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Forge's picture

Truth, brutal in its simplicity, can nevertheless be hard to accept. Everything Furuma was taught about the Blood Web indicated that once in companionship with a spirit, that bond could never again be broken. Once he had allowed Emi inside his heart -inside his soul- he would forever on hear her voice -even after his own death, at which point she would receive him in the Blood Web. There were no cases of this failing to happen, ever, for anyone. The loneliness he experiences now has no explanation nor precedent. Where did Emi go??

And would an explanation help, really, at consoling him in this the darkest moment of his life? Suddenly Furuma feels a hand on his shoulder. "C'mon Captain... we're not out of the woods yet... [it's young Commodore Jim Masters] whatever was happening has just stopped. Now it's the time to get it together, right? The engines stopped. I bet we could sail right out of here now..."

Only Jim and Dayanna, standing there, did not participate in the massacre at Cloud 9. They help Furuma stand. As for the other 10 officers? They begin to slowly emerge from the Spa, too, four decks up in the starboard tower, but visible from here in the Lido deck, now littered with countless rat corpses. The men look as if they were coming out of a daze, up there. Too far to hear what they're saying, but a few of them seem to be crying. Tim Garza in particular is covering his face with his hands, unable to cope with the memories of what he did. "It wasn't me... it wasn't .. it was the curse!" he shouts, to no one in particular. All 10 of them have stained clothes, and a few are missing their pants.

In a way, this daytime reprieve that forces the guilty to pick up the pieces they shattered in the last few nighttime hours is cruel in its own way, just like it would be cruel to suddenly give a zombie regrets. Wouldn't the zombie happily choose to become mindless again? Wouldn't the zombie want, voluntarily, to be rid of his restored mind and the pain that comes with it?

For the passengers the question of "what now" hangs like an anvil over their heads -we can see this from their eyes as they fix on Furuma and hope he will say something... as they nod to Jim Masters, as they look around for anything to hang their hopes on -but there's only Pyramids. Tall, and majestic, easily as big as the famous three in Egypt if not bigger, and featureless but for the fact that they seem made of stone -single massive pieces of stone. The passengers huddle together, fearful to say a word, but grateful for the sunlight that somehow saved all of their lives.

Not a single trace of blood remains -and interestingly the bottles on the shelves of both bars appear unharmed -they had burst into shards before, those with observant eyes notice. Furuma also notices he is back to wearing his regular uniform. The Shogun clothes, like the blood, was part of the nightmare the sun washed away.

Lynn hears the news from John, and John can see the tears forming in her eyes, but she quickly looks away and wipes them with the back of her hand before they can roll. She steels herself -this is not the time to cry, and something tells him that she knew this would happened. She almost expected this outcome.

"When I took the pills ... [she says to John]... dad was really torn. It's fucked up if you're in Thelema, John. [she walks slowly to the handrail and looks at the nearest Pyramid... up at the tip, at dawn] you're supposed to do as you will. So if I willed suicide, he's not supposed to interfere, get it? It's my will. He wasn't supposed to... to do anything to interfere with my freedom, you get it? [Lynn wipes her eyes again] but several days later he came back and told me he had found a way. A way for all of us to 'fill the graal of Babalon'... and I just had to wait. [She turns to look at St. John's eyes] 'fill the graal' -know what that means? A sacrifice. All of us. All because I took pills [she finally breaks down and covers her face with her hands. She is just a teenager who has lost her entire family] What are we gonna do, John? Even if we get on a lifeboat, then what? Dad's plan ended here! We were all meant to die once arriving here, even him and me! His plan went off without a fucking hitch!"

Suddenly, both Furuma and St. John, as well as everyone else on the Lido Deck, and on every deck, can hear a voice coming out of the loudspeakers:

"This is Chief of Security Bill Sims. Please pay attention to the following message: the danger is over. Repeat: the danger is over. It's safe to come out of your cabins. Bring your wounded to the Atrium; my men are setting up a Triage there. Leave your dead where they lay, but inform us and someone will go pick them up. We will give them all a burial at sea. The ship's engines have stopped. We will launch the lifeboats in exactly one hour. If you want to be on a lifeboat load a week's worth of food and water in a backpack or luggage, and come to the Atlantic Deck, orderly. There are enough lifeboats for everyone -remember we already evacced half the ship at Panama, so there's no need to worry about having a spot or not. Repeat: everyone will have a spot. There is also nowhere near for us to sail to, in our lifeboats, so there's that. We are, as far as I can tell, between South America and Australia, and there are not many shipping routes that pass through here. If we're lucky, currents will drag us near the coast of Chile, or maybe Argentina. You're free to stay in the ship if you wish. Make your prayers and make your choices. The lifeboats leave in an hour. Thank you for your attention."

...............................

Katsu found that convincing Sims to cancel his operation was not easy (Taking SYA card, please roll for refill), but having spent hours explaining the Shadowside to the Chief of Security made Katsu believable. Still, Sims didn't exactly radio to his men that the operation was cancelled -instead he radioed that there was new intel and everyone should gather at the Atrium. Sims was planning to ask Katsu for more details on how he knew what he knew, but two things happened -one is that Katsu walked away towards the Atlantic deck, insisting to be alone, and two is that the sun came up, and suddenly the madness died down.

Katsu is at the Atlantic deck right now... feeling the morning breeze of dawn below the equator, and he can't hear Alexis's voice anymore. He feels he has been disconnected from the Blood Web somehow -he could not levitate any more cutlery if he wanted to, and has no more supernatural hunches, nor any other spiritual ability. One thing is obvious: the ship was in the Blood Web before, either fully or partially, and now it is not. Now it is out in the real world, and only the laws of physics apply. It started when the sun came up. But why?

As he stands there by the lifeboats he hears Sims's announcement come out of the loudspeakers, and when he turns he starts to see some passengers, cautiously opening their cabin doors and slowly approaching the lifeboats, wielding shower-rods and baseball bats, and scared out of their wits still, but hopefull. There is hope once again, in their eyes. And soon, Vladimir, Second Security Officer, comes up through the staircase too, nods to Katsu from afar, and begins the work of readying the lifeboats one by one by pulling off their tarps and dropping them on the floor. What now? What now indeed. In front of Katsu's view: the Pyramids. If he were to count them, he'd count 49, all around the ship. But near the center is the Accelletrix wreck, the research ship Akademik Lazarev, that never came back home. And the antenna on top of the Lazarev is slowly spinning.

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I AmAndo's picture

Kaoru "Ash" Furuma

Combat: 
SY
Magic: 
SY,HY,--
Influence: 
NA,--
Else: 
EYB,HY

[Kaoru's tears finally dry as Jim gets his attention. Before tonight, he would have been horrified for any of the crew to see him in such a state, but it doesn't matter now. They saw a broken man mourn a horrible loss, and despite his very rigid, traditional, conservative ways, he can see that they don't eem to be judging him - indeed, the crew slowly stumbling out of the spa probably have similar feelings. It was a time of madness, and those who were less mad will hopefully be understanding of those went completely mad. Like him.]

[Seeing that he must still somehow hold a shard of authority, as people are looking to him, Kaoru draws on all the srength he has and draws himself to his full height and clears his throat. For the moment, it will have to do.]

You have heard Mr. Sims' announcement, and I encourage you to heed it. For the moment, it appears the strange occurrences are behind us. Please remain calm and tend to the wounded. If you are of a mind to help with the life boats, do so. [And now, though his words are clear for anyone on the deck to hear, he is looking at his bridge crew for the next part.] There will be no shame or dishonor in taking Sims' offer and leaving the ship. If you have any lingering doubts or fears about the strange things that have been happening since the Panama Canal, you should not feel bad about trying to return home.

[His announcement over, he reluctantly picks up the sword and approaches Jim and Dayanna.] Come with me. [He leads them up the bridge - by stairwell, regardless of the status of the elevator.]

[Dreading the sights and yet knowing there are no other options, Kaoru enters the bridge.] None of us were prepared for how our spirits reacted to the Blood Web. Many of them were still new to the experience of Hierogamy. Others...[he trails off, kneeling by Kuro's decapitated body and laying a hand on the man's shoulder.] We must carry the bodies down as Sims described, and then we should gather any of the crew who decide to stay and see if we can get the ship moving again.

{Emi...} [Kaoru catches himself, but after a moment, continues thinking as if to her; old habits die hard] {...what I have done is unforgivable. Did the Sensei know any of this? If so, then my only chance of redemption is to make sure his actions are repaid, regardless of the cost.}

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Forge's picture

Even though Furuma fully expected to find what he finds up at the bridge, the sight of dozens of dead bodies is still something to behold. Kuro's corpse, for what is worth, is one of the better preserved ones -he is clearly recognizable, and his severed head is mostly unharmed- others weren't so lucky. Some appear half burned, by either fire or acid. Some appear torn limb to limb, some appear half eaten, bitten. Jim covers his mouth to try not to vomit. Dayanna cries in silence -she doesn't want to become the focus of attention with her tears. Both Jim and Dayanna nod at the words Furuma had for them -just as the passengers did back at the Lido deck, and had started to disperse, when suddenly there's a whistle.

A jaunty little whistle, coming from somewhere in the back of the room, in the pile of corpses. Then there's a little bell. Then there's the T-Mobile's jingle. Ringtones. Ringtones everywhere start to go off -several days worth of email messages, text messages, voicemail, calendar events -they were all backed-up and now suddenly come unclogged all at the same time as the cellphones of the deceased all finally find satellite connection. The cacophony of ringtones lasts for a whole minute, and it's unnerving in its own way... but on the Dashboard Furuma sees the light for the communications satellite link suddenly go green. It had been red since Panama.

One screen after another the instruments of the dashboard all come back to life with various automated reports and statuses. Fuel: no fuel was spent since Panama, apparently. The ship still has enough in its tanks to make it to Chile, perhaps Valparaiso or Conception, or Port Montt -the artificial emergency Ryujin created to stop the engines clearly expired, or solved itself somehow. Everything is back online. Including the GPS-tracking -which indicates the ship is exactly at coordinates 50°S 100°W:

It is a bittersweet sight for the 10 men who destroyed Cloud 9, as they slowly make their way back into the bridge. On one hand, they can see all the horribly mutilated dead bodies, and can infer something happened here similar to what happened there -by their hand. But at the same time... they can see all the instruments back online. Even the Communications Center, with satellite access to... well, to anywhere in the world. Even the televisions in a corner of the room suddenly change from showing white-snow to displaying CNN and the Weather Channel respectively, as usual. Soon the phones will start to ring, too.

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DarkMoonINC's picture

John Saint John

Combat: 
--
Magic: 
--.--
Influence: 
--,--,--
Else: 
--,--

"San gréal is the holy grail. And Sang réal is holy blood. Your father filled the gréal with sang réal."

John stands slowly and looks at her. "So I wasn't suppose to save your life? Your father got such a deep heartfelt expression when I swore I wouldn't let them take you." He turns and moves towards where everyone else is. A few steps, he stops and looks back to her.

"So that's it. You don't want to live? And I screwed everything up by saving you? You think being raped and murdered in a drugged sleep was a better fate than returning to this world?" He is emotionless here. "I made an oath to you for this voyage. But I don't know what you really want from me. I like you too much to let you die."

He turns and moves to watch the people congregating. His arms crossed, his expression empty and blank. His head is filling with a thousand different ideas and scenarios and something about the whole prospect is a little too much for him.

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Forge's picture

Lynn doesn't know how to feel about the fact that John seems well-versed in the terminology his father used. But most of all, she certainly wasn't ready to hear details of how exactly her family died -and this is the moment when she finally recognizes the body of Adam, which had been thrown from above onto the Lido deck.

She turns away -it's all she can do not to break down.

"I don't want to die. I didn't want anyone to die... not even my father, not even if he thought that would gain him something.... [she says softly.. her voice trembling] thank you for saving me. But I don't know what to do with myself. Maybe I never knew... how could I know what to do with you?"

Despite her goth-rebel attire, she seems to be just a teenager after all, insecure, confused about the future and now smacked with loss after the terrible events.

The rest of the passengers, hearing first Sims' message, and then the reassurance from the Captain, are heading back to their cabins... cautiously. Some are still under the effects of adrenaline, but most are in a state of post-traumatic shock -dulled eyes with the thousand-yard stare, going through the motions while their minds struggle to make sense of what they've seen and experienced.

This is when the cellphones begin to ring.

The first cellphone almost goes to voicemail, so scared the man was of answering it. "L-laura?" All the eyes are on him, nearly holding their collective breath as they wait for, perhaps, some horrible revelation or twist in a long series of cruel supernatural happenings -didn't a man hear from the ghost of his wife back at the theater, the first day? But instead the man falls down on his knees and begins sobbing quietly... as he presses the cellphone close to his face.... and smiles. He starts speaking into it: "Laura... we're okay. We're still okay. Oh god, send help. Can you call somebody? How do I give you my GPS coordinates? Call 911! The coast guard -I don't know!"

And one after another, many other cellphones begin to ring, and those that don't ring are being used to dial-out as the weary passengers get an emotional reprieve by getting the chance of talking to their loved ones who are safe, safe and far away from the belly-button of the world in the middle of the ocean... There are tears of joy and release, and some laughter and lots of pleas for help, and someone using some sort of cartographic app is able to come up with the coordinates: 50 south 100 west, and the light of hope shines for the first time in many people's eyes.

Except Lynn.

"It's a trap, John. [she says, somber. Not only does she have no one to call... she wouldn't even if she did]. It's a trap. Choronzon is playing with us. Or maybe attracting more victims. Or... I don't know. I just know this will not end well."

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I AmAndo's picture

Kaoru "Ash" Furuma

Combat: 
SY
Magic: 
SY,HY,--
Influence: 
NA,--
Else: 
EYB,HY

[Kaoru was already next to Kuro's corpse, and when the phones started reconnecting, he gingerly searched Kuro's pockets for his - Kaoru's own is in his cabin, having never bothered to take it when he awoke in the middle of the night, crazed with thoughts of ruling the ship...and the world...]

[Not that he has anyone to call anyway. He has no friends - the closest he has to 'friends' are his Blooded crew, who are all now before him, dead - he is nor married, has no children, and he severed ties with his parents years ago. The only person he might possibly need to contact who is not either on this ship or dead is his Sensei, and that is not simply done via cell phone. And at this point, he has had enough seeds of doubt sown by - ironically enough - O'Morchoe, that he has indeed wondered if Sensei Tachibana is to be trusted anymore. That thought alone would earn him a spot on this killing floor, were it to be heard.]

[Standing, Kaoru's experience in maintaining calm in the most stressful situations is all that keeps him even and appearing level-headed right now.] Some of you, remove the bodies down to the deck and inform Sims and his men that they are there. We need the bridge cleared so that we can function again. [He again makes eye contact with several of the men who likely committed atrocities in Cloud 9 - his expression is, for once and only, partially sympathetic. Not only did he also lose his mind, he was the one who wound up their anger and turned them loose - he is just as much to blame as they are. It is the last time they can expect such a look.] We are ourselves again, and our responsibility is to the survivors.

Meanwhile, prepare the ship to move again. We should be able to make the Western coast of South America with the fuel we have, so let us attempt to do so. Be careful around these pyramids - I do not trust them, and I have no desire to explore them. Commodore Masters, re-establish communication with Carnival and explain as best you can where we are. Make sure they know about the other ship crashed here, but we have too few crew and too many concerns to worry about seeing it ourselves.

[Kaoru himself lifts Kuro's body - he will allow no one else to do so or help. He carries it solemnly, and is heard to be muttering a Japanese prayer for the dead as he carries the body down.]

[He also wants - needs - to speak to Sims...]

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Forge's picture

"Yes sir!" says Jim Masters, giving Furuma the military salute, and allowing himself a tiny bit of hope.

He and Dayanna stay in the bridge while the other 10 officers give themselves to the task of first loading the dead inside black plastic bags, and then carrying them down to the the Atrium -where Sims established the Triage nearby his security office.

Furuma can see some Sims' men's work as the elevator comes down -the elevator works again, and the glass walls give the Captain a good visual overview of the entire ship on his way to the Lobby deck. It looks like every deck has at least 3 or 4 of Sim's officers making the rounds, knocking on cabin doors, supplying black body bags to grieved passengers, directing people to the lifeboats, radioing whenever someone needs a stretcher, or urgent medical attention. In most decks the passengers are actively loading-up backpacks and luggage with canned food, bottled water, and other necessities. They have hope. Then there's the Empress deck. Even though it's been cleared out of all passengers, there's plenty of activity here as Sims' men load corpses into body bags... many of them. The way the blood is splattered on the walls and ceiling it really seems like the set of a gore B-movie. It's a freak show that mercifully ends quickly as the glass elevator passes by without incident.

Kuro's body feels heavy on Furuma's arms, and he has to remember now and then not to let the man's back slide too far off his left hand, lest the space above the shoulders becomes a little too telling -even for a body bag. Kuro didn't have many earthly possessions other than his treasured sword, and as far as Furuma knows, he had no relatives nor contacts outside of the Blood neither. He had been literally bought off chinese death row by Sensei Tachibana, and promptly assigned to Furuma and the Carnival Dream ship since day 1. Why did Kuro's cellphone ring? Who could be messaging him? Kuro's cellphone awaits, with its mysterious answers, inside Furuma's pocket.

Furuma finds Sims in the Atrium, giving orders to his men Vladimir and Gomez, patting their backs and sending them away. The old cop is finally in his element; making sense of chaos just like a busy day at the Newark precinct; working with the ship's doctor Mr. Cardozo, who in turn has a staff of six nurses. The Encore Theater where everything began, Furuma can see, is now in the process of being setup as a sort of field hospital, with seats being folded over to serve as beds, and some tables at the front with notebooks for logs to track who's in, for what, and at what time. Just like in war.

The 10 officers who rode the elevator with Furuma, each carrying a corpse in a black bag, are quickly intercepted by Hendrickson -one of Sims's men- and directed to go back to the Atlantic deck to dump the bodies there -as always in these crisis situations there are miscommunications, it would seem. Tim Garza looks at Furuma, and offers to take Kuro's body off the Captain's arms, before he leaves, with the other 9 officers, to Atlantic.

Sims catches sight of Furuma by the Atrium's elevator from a distance, hands his clipboard to Vladimir, and starts approaching. He too, it would seem, needs a few words with the Captain.

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DarkMoonINC's picture

John Saint John

Combat: 
--
Magic: 
--.--
Influence: 
--,--,--
Else: 
--,--

John takes Lynn by the hand and leads her away. "Come, this is no place for us right now."

He leads her towards his cabin. To check up on it, to gather things, and to put distance between them and the scene.

"If you know of any safe haven or secrets your father left, now's the time to let me know. Further, maybe you can explain what his end game was. Sacrifice? For who? Me? The demon? What was going on in your old man's head? None of this makes sense."

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I AmAndo's picture

Kaoru "Ash" Furuma

Combat: 
SY
Magic: 
SY,HY,--
Influence: 
NA,--
Else: 
EYB,HY

[Kaoru hesitates for a moment, but he does need to speak to Sims, and there's not much more that can be done for Kuro's body now. With one last Japanese blessing, he allows Garza to take the bag, then turns his attention to Sims.]

Mr. Sims. I realize that ever since the theater incident, things have been...strange. I know that I requested you to do things that were out of your comfort zone. I do not blame you for not doing them. [He doesn't point out the obvious - that if Sims had arrested the Kinsella, they might not be dead right now. But he has little doubt Sims knows it anyway. A catch-22. Good. Let Sims see how it feels to know your actions had dire consequences. Let him feel guilt like Kaoru feels now.]

We are attempting even now to get the ship moving again. I heard your announcement about the life boats. Do you think life boats will have a better chance? If so, I will not stop you, but I am going to take the ship away from these pyramids.

[The phone in Kaoru's pocket is burning a proverbial hole in it, but since he saw Sims obviously has something to say, he waits to hear it before leaving.]

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Forge's picture

Lynn follows John, meekly, to his cabin one deck below Lido, in the Vista deck.

Gone are the sigils and protections John remembers having drawn there. In fact, John is astute enough to notice that there are three bars of soap on the bathroom still -last he used the facilities he was down to one. Has the ship been restocked? Did a mysterious maid come in and not only refilled the soap bars, but scrubbed the walls too, taking off the red-paint pentagrams and runes?

But there's no doubt about it -this is his room; all his music equipment is still there. So is his laptop, opened still with one window to emails -last from the little Grendel boy, and one window to the music-composing software -with the unfinished skeleton structure of "A MILLION MILES OF MURDER". The journal entries by Echo John are all gone.

"Nothing in Thelema makes sense, John [says Lynn as she sits on the bed and tries to compose herself. It has been a rough awakening so far] ... they take poetry things too literally... well, except for the Pyramids, I guess. [she sighs] those seem real enough don't they. [she looks for a window inside John's cabin, but there is none]. The whole thing comes from a book called "The Vision and The Voice". Dad made me memorize the whole Aethyr, if it helps? Want me to recite it? It goes like this:"

"These adepts seem like Pyramids—their hoods and robes are like Pyramids.
And the Angel sayeth: Verily is the Pyramid a Temple of Initiation. Verily also is it a tomb [fn. It is also a phallus, which dies itself to communicate life to others]. Thinkest thou that there is life within the Masters of the Temple, that sit hooded, encamped upon the Sea? Verily, there is no life in them. [it is clear that Lynn knows these verses as a recitation, but has little comprehension of them if any]"

"Their sandals were the pure light, and they have taken them from their feet and cast them down through the abyss, for this Aethyr is holy ground."

"Herein no forms appear, and the vision of God face to face, that is transmuted in the Athanor called dissolution, or hammered into one forge of meditation, is in this place but a blasphemy and a mockery."

"And the Beatific Vision is no more, and the glory of the Most High is no more. There is no more knowledge. There is no more bliss. There is no more power. There is no more beauty. For this is the Palace of Understanding: for thou art one with the Primeval things."

"So there's that. [Lynn finally ends the recitation] There's also Crowley's own description of getting here, if that helps? He wrote it in "Confessions", but dad didn't have me memorize that. You have "Confessions" here? I could look it up. I mean, if those people up there where making phone calls, we could probably google stuff too, couldn't we?"

Without waiting, Lynn sits herself before St. John's laptop and googles. Quickly, she finds the relevant passage in "Thelemapedia", and shows it to John. It reads:

"I was instantly blotted in blackness. ["this is Crowley speaking" clarifies Lynn] Mine Angel whispered the secret words whereby one partakes of the Mysteries of the Masters of the Temple. Presently my eyes beheld (what first seemed shapes of rocks) the Masters, veiled in motionless majesty, shrouded in silence. Each one was exactly like the other. Then the Angel bade me understand whereto my aspiration led: all powers, all ecstasies, ended in this—I understood. He then told me that now my name was Nemo, seated among the other silent shapes in the City of the Pyramids under the Night of Pan; those other parts of me that I had left for ever below the Abyss must serve as a vehicle for the energies which had been created by my act. My mind and body, deprived of the ego which they had hitherto obeyed, were now free to manifest according to their nature in the world, to devote themselves to aid mankind in its evolution. In my case I was to be cast out into the Sphere of Jupiter. My mortal part was to help humanity by Jupiterian work, such a governing, teaching, creating, exhorting men to aspire to become nobler, holier, worthier, kinglier, kindlier and more generous."

"What the hell do you make out of all that, John? Sorry it isn't easier -I wish it was as simple as.. yeah, Dad had a hiding place all along, or something. I'm sorry [she shakes her head] but I do have this hunch, John, and it's a big one: we're in a trap right now. This whole.... 'everything is fine and the worst is over' thing... it's a trap. Things are about to go to hell again..."

.......................................

Sims comes in and looks down for a moment while Furuma speaks. He raises his eyebrows as the Captain mentions the deeds that 'were out of his comfort zone', then remembers and nods. He shrugs, then replies:

"Listen Capt'n -it's all water under the bridge, right? I heard the irish folk bit the big one up there in their Spa, to be honest it wasn't a picnic either down at the Empress deck. Shit was happening all over, and if it wasn't for the warning this young guy Katsu gave me, my men and I would've bought it too. That guy fucking saved our lives. He told me all about the Blood Web, by the way, so there's that. I know about Fujin's Blood and Chimamires and all that jazz. Listen: I don't judge. You have business, I respect that. All I care about is getting the people the hell out of this bathtub and back home, in that order. And yeah, I see the lights come on, and I hear you saying you can sail this thing back home, but you know what? I'm gonna take my chances in a lifeboat -thank you very much. Katsu said we had to get off this tin, and his advice did right by me once, you know what I'm sayin'? So here's the deal: if you reach the coast of Chile, just have a different ship come right back to pick us up skeptic folk in our little lifeboats, right? That's all. And hey, not everyone has to come to a lifeboat -perfectly okay with me if some passengers want to take their chances and throw in with you asian folks -like I said, I don't judge. We're gonna have the funeral ceremony in like 30 minutes tops, then we're off the boat right after lunch. Oh, and by the way... [Sims adds, looking at the Captain's eyes] you're free to jump in a lifeboat too, if you want. I don't believe in that 'goes down with his ship' crap. I mean, hell, whoever coined that phrase never found his boat going straight to hell know-what-I-mean?"

With a last nod to Furuma, Sims turns to return to dealing Dr. Cardozo setting up his theater-hospital -Sims himself re-opened the theater, after closing it the day before on Furuma's orders- and the stream of officers and passengers with lifeboat-related questions.

Furuma finally has the time to see Kuro's cellphone.

It is a plain-vanilla device, and Kuro never bothered to customize anything. When he looks at the SMS message history it becomes clear this was a disposable device -he probably got it no longer than a month ago. There are only a few messages, all in japanese. The oldest one reads:

"The son of the devil has boarded. He must live until the ship reaches its destination. The irish pig must live too until then. Make sure no blade pierces their fat-bellies until then. After that, they're forfeit. -T.S."

The next message, a few days later: "Furuma will betray you. Ominous Paths have showed me a vision of your severed head being served on a platter to him. It will be by his hand. It will be your own blade. Kill him now and prevent this Destiny. Make it seem a suicide. Anderson will take over. -T.S."

Next:

"Kill the interloper. Katsu has failed. -T.S."

Next:

"Play the music CD from the loudspeaker system at all times. You won't hear from me again until your return covered in crimson and glory! -T.S." -that was the day of the Panama locks.

The last message from this morning reads: "If you can read this, destroy the antenna of the Akademik Lazarev. We did not anticipate Accelletrix's intervention. There is no need to keep any pretense anymore. Do it by any means necessary before further indiscretions take place. -T.S."

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I AmAndo's picture

Kaoru "Ash" Furuma

Combat: 
SY
Magic: 
SY,HY,--
Influence: 
NA,--
Else: 
EYB,HY

[Kaoru doesn't reply to Sims - he knows that he will not leave this ship. Strange, even saying it that way, it feels right, as though he knows he will die here. That's foolish thinking, though. He has regained his wits, and he will not lose them again - at least, not so easily. He reboards the elevator and returns to his cabin. Considering the chaos that took place, nothing seems amiss here. Of course not. Nobody was here - all the action happened where people were. People with their panic and nightmares. But here, he could almost believe nothing went wrong.]

[He pulls Kuro's phone out here and looks at it.]

[He reads and re-reads the messages, his face showing rare signs of shock. "T.S.". It had to be... Sensei knew. Not only about John, about Katsu, and about...about...he had ordered Kuro to kill him. Why hadn't he? Sensei was not a man to cross or disobey. And there had been ample opportunity - Kuro was the man Kaoru trusted most on this ship - in the world! He had turned his back to Kuro countless times - Kuro even had access to his cabin. This morning when he awoke to the beginning of the madness, Kuro was here! He could have easily killed Kaoru in his sleep. All those chances, and he did nothing?]

[Suddenly remembering, Kaoru looks at his desk and sees the origami swan Kuro left there last night, after the supper with O'Morchoe where Kaoru tried to pretend to be his ally. Kuro had been folding a swan, which had struck Kaoru as odd, and slightly annoying at the time. But so much happened after that, he had literally forgotten it. The visions and madness that had consumed Kaoru had made him overlook the tiny piece of folded paper.]

[As though fearing a wounded, wild animal, Kaoru approaches the desk and with a trembling hand, picks up the swan. This was how he passed messages to Kaoru many times. Was there anything here, or was it the random fidgeting of a man becoming consumed with the desire to rebel and seize glory, the way Kaoru himself had?]

[He unfolds the swan...]

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Trapturtle's picture

Rolled 2d12. Result: 7, 7 = 14.

Katsu Oshiro

Combat: 
N,SYA,HY
Magic: 
SY
Influence: 
SYB,SYB
Else: 
N,SYA

[Katsu looks out at the pyramids, it seems that everything he was told about the City of Pyramids was true, though why would things return to normal when it was close? Was it some kind of protection circling the pyramids meant to ward off intruders that they had simply gotten past? Whatever the case, the best way to find out what was happening was to search the old Accelltrix boat. The antenna was still spinning, and according the Alexis the boat had been lost in 1997, so the boat is still functional after sixteen years? Something isn't right about that.]

[Katsu looks for an unused life boat he could use to paddle out to the wreckage of the Akademik Lazarev]

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"Grab the pommel firmly [reads the paper in Furuma's hands, as he unfolds it, in carefully drawn kanji glyphs] Don't squeeze it. Too tight a grip will limit your range; too loose and the weapon will fly out of your hands. [Are these training notes? They are hand-written. Is this a letter? Is this scrap paper, from Kuro's self-study perhaps?] You are the Master. The sword has no will of its own, but acts as an extension of yours. Its whole reason to be is to obey your commands. Nothing more. If the sword could move by itself, you would no longer be necessary. You would be a joke. A funny joke. Do not unsheathe unless you are willing to draw blood. Do not draw blood unless you are willing to kill. Do not kill unless you're willing to die. Do not die unwilling. [here Furuma notices slight telling strokes in the penmanship... did Kuro hesitate?] The sword does not move the swordsman's arm. The river does not follow the fish. I laugh at the chattering whispers. My blade dies before killing me. I die before killing you. You die before killing us. I am your blade. You are theirs."

...

Right outside Furuma's window stand those giant cyclopean stone pyramids. Massive. Waiting. There is silence in this, his office. There is peace. All the statues and works of art are in place, pristine. The table is clean -one last act of Garou after the fateful dinner. And the safe box is open. Stained with traces of rotten meat. But otherwise empty.

The desk phone begins to ring. It is Jim Masters, says the caller ID. There are 156 unread emails in the screen. 157 -one arrived just now from Carnival Corporate.

It is almost noon -and many will have one last meal before entering the lifeboats.

...................................

Getting a lifeboat on the water was not so easy, but Sanders -one of Sims' men who recognized Katsu from earlier- was willing to help Katsu in every step. (Taking your EE SYA card). Once in the lifeboat, Katsu finds it has a small engine and it's conveniently fueled up, so reaching the Lazarev presents no further obstacles. The challenge is mental.

As the lifeboat gets closer and closer to the derelict boat, he gets more and more the sense that this ship is big enough to hold many, many secrets of its own:

Time has not been gentle to the giant vessel. Everything is covered in rust and lichen, and the entire ship still sways gently with the waves -how many storms did it weather, stranded here as it is, with no one to look after it?

It's cold. Not south-pole-cold by any means, but much colder than the gentle Caribbean had been the previous days. Katsu is quite literally in the middle of nowhere, as far from civilization as anyone can be, short of landing on another planet. The cyclopean Pyramid looks even more imposing from this distance. It is made of stone -that much is clear- but not in blocks. Not in bricks, like the Pyramids of Egypt or Mexico -rather just one single slab of what seems like pale granite, brutal, massive, and growing wider and wider as far as Katsu can see, beneath the waves.

The Lazarev is anchored to it with harpoon-like devices tied to chains. Whoever sent the boat here, meant to do so long term.

Katsu throws a line of rope over to the tall, tall edge of the Lazarev's lowest deck. Thank goodness it is plain daylight. Doing this at night would probably be terrifying.

Once he gives the line a few tugs to make sure it will hold his weight, Katsu begins the slow process of ascending the external hull of the ship like a rock climber, a few steps at a time, resting with one foot tangled in the line of rope below him, then ascending a little bit more. It will take 20 minutes or so to reach the top, and it will be hard physical work. Luckily Katsu is at the prime of his physical faculties... but mentally he has to deal with the many sounds the old derelict vessel produces with the swaying of the waves. Deep echoes of metal being strained... creaking, sliding of chains. Plenty of time to think, in that grand austral solitude.

No one is there to witness Katsu's efforts. In fact, the Carnival Dream, somewhat distant at his back, may depart anytime for all he knows.

Finally Katsu reaches the top deck. It is vast, and empty, and covered in debris. He can explore the bowels of the ship, descending into the lower decks... or he can go up to the bridge, or perhaps around the deck? Who knows how much time he has. Abandoned.

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DarkMoonINC's picture

John Saint John

Combat: 
--
Magic: 
--.--
Influence: 
--,--,--
Else: 
--,--

John looks around at all his stuff as though it's no longer of interest to him. He sits on his bed and stares while she talks. When she finishes, he lifts to his feet.

"I think I've seen all I have to see, Lynn. Your father trusted in me to finish his work. He made it very obvious that I was a final tool to him. And I feel I have to uphold his work." He says softly to her, struggling to look into her eyes.

"If you stay on the ship or go with the others, I can't guarantee your safety away from you. If you come with me, I certainly won't be able to." He looks through his paperwork. "I remember writing this song for you. But I don't know where it went."

He jots down notes on paper. "This is yours." Then hands it to her. It's a more somber, regretful song about angelic imagery and a man stuck in hell unable to touch the angels that fly overhead.

"We're here for the pyramids. And all this blood is already on my hands. If I turn and flee with the others now, I'll be doing so in absolute shame. I was brought here for them, or they for I. So I must fulfill your father's wishes." John moves to the door, hesitant, but forcing himself ready for what he must do.

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Lynn's eyes well-up with tears. "John! He's DEAD! They're all dead! And what are you gonna do? Kill the passengers? That's what dad wanted! I think! [she pleads with him, as he heads for the door] this whole nonsense of filling the graal and killing the ego and being reborn.... it's just a suicide cult, John! Please don't do this to me.... don't... don't do this to me. Or else... I just might follow you."

She is standing there, with her arms by her sides, grasping the song John gave her, tears in her eyes.... and willing -somehow John knows this- willing to follow him into what Crowley euphemistically referred to as 'the end of all powers and ecstasies', ego-death, the silent Night of Pan N.O.X. Or what Lynn had attempted back at her home in Dublin years ago with a bottle of Ambien. All the same, in her mind. She will follow him... but she pleads... "don't do this. Don't do this, John..."

Outside John can hear the sounds of the passengers getting ready to ditch the vessel, having come this far and being this close to the Pyramids, to the threshold of the final destiny of man, they turn their backs to it and merely wish to go home. Humanity, at it's finest. Such simple creatures. There they go, stuffing their bags with canned foods and bottles, talking endlessly on their cellphones and promising many vapid tomorrows to their loves ones around the world. But the Alpha and the Omega is already here, and John knows it. But does he really know what needs to be done?

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Trapturtle's picture

Influence
Rolled 2d12. Result: 8, 8 = 16.

Katsu Oshiro

Combat: 
N,SYA,HY
Magic: 
SY
Influence: 
SYB,SYB
Else: 
N,SYA

{The bridge, that's probably where the antenna connects to. How is it possible that it's still functioning after all these years? Someone must still be here. The rest of the ship's trashed and the antenna's still spinning? No, there has to be a reason why, and I'll find it in the bridge.}

[Katsu takes a moment to collect himself after his taxing climb. He's aware that the ship could leave him any minute, stranding him here, but some part of him just has to get answers abut what's been going on. Why was he sent to kill Alexis? Why did the blood assign forty of their strongest operatives to a cruise ship, what is St. John's roll in all of this? After a minute or so, Katsu draws his knife and heads to the bridge, ready for whatever he finds.]

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I AmAndo's picture

Kaoru "Ash" Furuma

Combat: 
SY
Magic: 
SY,HY,--
Influence: 
NA,--
Else: 
EYB,HY

[None of this makes sense. This is not what he would have expected from Kuro. Kaoru re-reads the texts he assumes are from Sensei. The last one mentions the antenna. He almost forgot. Kuro was supposed to destroy the antenna. Why? If Sensei wanted it done, 3 days ago, Kaoru would've been giving the order already. Now, he's not so sure. Sensei ordered him dead. Of course, Kuro disobeyed that, but still...]

[Curious, Kaoru takes his binoculars from his desk and looks over at the crashed ship...]

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Katsu carefully makes his way towards the first door available. It is blocked -not locked, but rather something heavy at the other side is keeping it from opening fully. Not an issue: he can go through the window -the glass has been broken for over a decade, it would seem.

It is dark except for the beams of light that filter from outside. It smells of dust and mold. And there are many bones littered about. It's been too long since these corpses rotted -16 years- but Katsu can recognize brown-stained uniforms, decayed and filthy, with the bones.

His eyes slowly adjust to the low-light: this was a fight. This was a huge fight... he turns around and sees blood stains on the walls and the floor, he sees a severed skull in a corner and its corresponding body hanging upside down from a chain. There is a metal staircase leading up towards the bridge. Katsu follows it, careful not to step on the skeleton of an officer who still wields a fireman's axe.

Surfacing at the top level, Katsu finds an actual pile of corpses all around the bridge door. The door is open now -who knows which storm in the last decade finally did the rusty locks in, but at the time it is clear this group of people died while trying to gain access to the bridge.

Katsu walks in through the door. There are no journals. No conveniently placed diaries, or CCTVs. There is just one last corpse, this one wearing a captain's uniform. He is sitting, slumped with his back against the wall, facing the door. There is a peculiar blood stain -velocity sprayed, upwards- behind the man's head. Now that he notices it: the man's skull has a neat round hole exactly on top. And the gun? The corpse is still wielding it on the right hand -bony fingers still on the trigger. The other hand holds a box that looks like a detonator -who knows if it's still active after all these years?

No answers. So many questions and not a single goddamn answ- wait. Katsu can see the dashboard now, here in the bridge. There are lights on it... lights are on. It's a custom panel, not at all like that of any vessel he had seen before... and it is also in russian.

At the bottom-left corner there is a bar indicator: it reads "Solnechnyye Batarei" and it's at one percent. Then it jumps to two percent. Then it falls back to one percent again... then back to two. A line connects it to another status light, "Nulevoye Pole" which is lit, dim green. There is a switch right on this line -like that of a rail track that changes the rails a train is to follow. Right now, "Solnechnyye Batarei" is connected to "Nulevoye Pole" -whatever that means-, but if he were to flick the switch, then it would be connected to "Prostranstvenno-Vremennaya Peremeshcheniye" instead -whatever that is, in turn. And finally of course, is the detonator in the corpse's hand.

If only Alexis was here. She knows Russian.

Maybe there are journals to be found? Aren't captains supposed to keep a log at all times? There are many pieces of paper scattered about the floor... Katsu finds one that looks like a log of sorts, but it cuts in the middle. As it turns out, no one has time to write entries after shit has hit the fan.

.............................

The phone is ringing off the hook. The caller ID reads "Jim Masters - Local".

Using his binoculars Furuma sees Katsu inside the bridge of the Akademik Lazarev. Panning down, the Captain sees one of the lifeboats crudely tied to the derelict vessel. For all Furuma can deduce from this distance, Katsu is looking for something in the bridge -God knows what that is.

RRRIINGG. "Jim Masters - Local".

Above Katsu the massive antenna of the Lazarev slowly spins and the Accelletrix logo -an hyper-stylized letter "A"- is painted on it, and rusted.

Finally the phone stops ringing.

A window pops up in the screen of his laptop... it shows the old WWII flag of Japan, the rising sun with it's ever-extending beams. Uh-oh. Sensei Tachibana wants to talk?

RRRRINNNGGG! "Unknown - Moscow". RRRIINGG! "Unknown - Moscow".

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DarkMoonINC's picture

John Saint John

Combat: 
--
Magic: 
--.--
Influence: 
--,--,--
Else: 
--,--

John is stopped at the door, his hands on the fine silky svelt suit he donned earlier. Hands slide into pockets as he looks at the door. He clicks it shut, staring at the panel for that tense moment. "The Hindi believe in Godhead. You, I, the others, this ship, those demons and pyramids, all part of one God. They believe it's a great drama playing, we are all actors. If you were a Christian who believes man and God are separate, they would say you play your part very convincingly - to imagine you are separate." John slowly turns. "No good without evil, no light without dark. Hindu believes each actor is a part of a whole play, and our drama is what creates the universe. Whatever monsters were here, or are here, or will be here, are but our counterparts in this grand drama. Hindi who see the Japanese out there with spirit companions would smile at the symbolism - beneath their terror."

He turns and places his back against the wall, eyes closed. "Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting. The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star, hath had elsewhere its setting, and cometh from afar. Not in entire forgetfulness, and not in utter nakedness, but trailing clouds of glory do we come From God, who is our home." He glances at her. "Wordsworth, 1815."

His eyes open with a burning desire, nothing she's seen from him before. "Being a teenager is the worst part of living. It only gets better after. As a child, you cling comfortably to your prison with no responsibilities, an adult you have all the responsibility thrust on yourself but can create and abandon prisons as you wish - any adult can pack a bag and go on the road, with no man as his master."

John slowly steps towards her. "A teenager sees the illusion of the cage and cannot abandon his comfort of it for the fear that awaits true freedom. They are torn, between two worlds. Unable to be adults in freedom, and unable to cling to the cage of childhood." He places hands on her shoulders, looking into her eyes, and kisses her forehead.

"I meant for you to go with them to safety. Perhaps Katsu is still alive - I thought I saw him but it's hard to decipher reality lately - and perhaps he will be safe." John sighs. Here is voice is a whisper and his eyes are passionate as an artist inspired. "The graal is full for now, that's why the darkness has left- no, that was the key to the door, we're in the inner sanctum now. What I do from here is on me, not you or them."

His voice is barely audible here. "Here - I go alone into that abyss."

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Forge's picture

Lynn's voice is but a whisper... "You... sound just like my father..." Was it an accusation? An observation, a lament, a compliment, a cry? Hard to tell. Could be any and all at once, as the teenager closes her eyes... nods slowly, to herself... then stands up from the bed and heads for the door.

"I hope to see you again, John... [she says, holding the song he gave her tightly in her hand]... I.. [she hesitates. Whatever else she had to say, it stays bottled within, and she turns around and walks back out to the hallway]."

Soon she is lost to John's eyes between the crowds of people who are all heading towards the Atlantic deck.

"Attention all passengers! [comes a young voice on the loudspeaker system] we have restored the ship's systems- [then he interrupts himself, and adds] this is Acting Commodore James Masters. We have restored the ship's systems to full functionality and we will be sailing towards the coast of Chile momentarily. There is no need to use the lifeboats anymore. Repeat: the ship is fine. We have enough fuel to reach Valparaiso, and there's no need to risk your lives in a lifeboat anymore. Please return to your cabins. Thank you!"

That last "Thank you!" sounded a little too cheerful to John's ears... but it pales in comparison to the joy that spreads among the passengers! John literally hears cries of "Hurrah!" coming from several decks below!

Hope and joy are at their maximum levels. Ripe for the harvest, Krevin would say -John somehow knows this. Ripe indeed.

True to Jim's word, the ship begins moving again. Slowly at first... it starts to sail east. Slowly, it begins to move past the giant primeval pyramids, and will clear the area within 30 minutes at most.

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I AmAndo's picture

Kaoru "Ash" Furuma

Combat: 
SY
Magic: 
SY,HY,--
Influence: 
NA,--
Else: 
EYB,HY

[The damn phone...he's been ignoring it...not that he doesn't imagine Jim's matter is important, but this mystery with Kuro just felt more important. And now, Katsu is on the crashed ship...this doesn't make s- Wait, didn't Katsu end up with the spirit of Alexis, who had worked for Acc-]

[Kaoru's thoughts are cut as cleanly as if Kuro's sword had sliced through them when he sees the sign that Sensei wants to talk. "Kill him now...", the text to Kuro had said. Is Sensei expecting to see Kuro? Is Kaoru the "interloper" that needed to be killed? Why destroy the antenna? Too many questions. He vaguely registers the phone ringing again, but he still ignores it.]

[Calmly, Kaoru sets down his binoculars and carries his laptop into the clean room, shutting out the sound of the phone. He sends the signal that he is present, and kneels, bowing his head to the floor. For all the rebellious thoughts he's been having of late, now when faced with the old flag, he dare not show anything other than his usual subservient bow...at least, not yet. He waits for the sound of Sensei's voice.]

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In the middle of the clean room, white and antiseptic, with the door closed behind him, Furuma sits in the lotus position before the laptop screen that glows with an animation that slowly rotates the rays of the old WWII Japanese flag.

"Connecting" [reads a subtitle in Japanese].

Finally the screen comes on.

Sitting on the rim of a potted plant, is Sensei Tachibana. Which is wrong. Sensei Tachibana should be on the mat on the ground, in the Lotus position. Or standing, or walking. Or doing literally anything but sitting on the rim of a potted plant! His precious garden -he cares more for it than for his own children... if he had any.

"There you are, Furuma...."

A most uncharacteristic greeting -spoken in english, instead of Japanese.

"So you found it, eh? You finally made it, you old bastard, just like I told ye. What did I promise ye? Congratulations, laddie! And I'm gonna keep my word too so I will! [the lips of Tachibana move, his vocal chords producing the usual sound] To share it all with ye. There's just one last wee detail you need ta go through, ha. But first, I feel you have a bone ta' pick with the old man, don't ye? Here, go at it, never let be it said I keep a man from getting his closure, 'ave at 'im!"

Suddenly Tachibana falls down to the ground like a rag doll. He starts to hyperventilate... he blinks. He squeezes the carpet and looks around, horrified, to things that are just off-screen for Furuma's laptop to see at the moment. Then he looks at the camera, and glares.

"Furuma!! [he says, and now in Japanese:] Furuma what have you done?! What sort of Akuma have you unleashed to the world you fool!! You have doomed us all!!!"

Tachibana tries to stand up -run away, perhaps? but he clutches his chest and falls back on the ground, hyperventilating. He reaches with his clawed hand to the camera.... and says in Japanese... "please...."

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-=[Live Forever]=-

I AmAndo's picture

Kaoru "Ash" Furuma

Combat: 
SY
Magic: 
SY,HY,--
Influence: 
NA,--
Else: 
EYB,HY

[Kaoru has been staring wide-eyed at the screen. O'Morchoe is...not alive, but...somehow possessing Sensei? The old man is now breathing heavily. What's just on the other side of the webcam? Kaoru is about to speak..]

[Then he stops. His face becomes stony again. This is not the madness of the Blood Web nor Emi's increased hunger. This is Kaoru's righteous fury. He knows that Tachibana knew what was going to happen - he was communicating with Kuro directly. Slowly, Kaoru holds up Kuro's phone into view.]

Sensei...I know. Your prophecy came true. Kuro didn't kill me, and I did kill him, just as you said I would. You knew this was going to happen. Why were you communicating with him? Did you not trust me? Did I fail you? I have lived and breathed your will from the beginning. And now, the Blooded are dead, except for me, and Emi is silenced.

Sensei, for what purpose did I lose everything? And for what end goal should I save your life?

[He exhibits no anger. Though Emi's voice is gone, he still envisions her stalking Tachibana, fangs bared, ready to strike. Kaoru is calm. His questions are matter-of-fact. What has he left to gain or lose?]

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DarkMoonINC's picture

John Saint John

Combat: 
--
Magic: 
--.--
Influence: 
--,--,--
Else: 
--,--

John stands stunned. {Ye imagined it different, eh lad?} {Shut up and quit imitating his voice.} Internal laughter. {Oh you imagined you'd wrap your arms around her, and she'd cry on your chest and you'd hold her and comfort her grief. And there you'd drown her sorrows. You and her would hold one another and lay in bed and just comfort each other.} {Like a movie. She needs a strong comfort.} {What is this, a Nicholas Sparks novel? You let her just walk.}

{Why didn't that happen? She was right here. It was perfect, and I would have just held her in my arms. But she walked away and I let her go.} {Because. You know why. If you don't let her go... she won't survive. You did your part. To save her life from what happened. Your job with her is done for this moment. Now to the next job.}

John removes his clothes slowly one piece at a time. He checks under the bed for where he awoke not long ago. Then he slowly pulls the blankets and pillows under the bed and slides down there, sealing himself into that cubby hole. In only underwear, curled in blankets, he stares at the door.

{And now, you face that you know something is coming with no idea what.} John shudders as his eyes water. {All of this wasn't for naught. All the spilled blood. The shattered minds. The broken lives. All chaos, reasonless?} {We can't just go home. Just return to the regular world and move on with our lives.} {That would be maddening chaos. To just suffer and return to everyday life. Who could live without some dramatic climax?} The voice in his head just laughs.

John shudders and weeps. His eyes run wet and his body is consumed with grief. For all the death and suffering. For all the violence. The sociopathic front that's erected holds strong when everyone else is looking in. Now, like a ship releasing excess coolant buildup, John releases the small bits of humanity left in him. He cries and shakes below the bed, weeping. Tears for every inch of suffering, every lost life. Like he has every weekend for eight years. Like he did that first year he returned. Venting out the trauma when no one is looking, removing it now. So when he next faces people, he's cold and detached again.

A coping mechanism, psychologists told him at seventeen, to separate his humanity and his near autistic-psychopathy into two separate elements like a centrifuge. Keeping them apart is the only defense against Choronzon he's had. To allow them to remerge would give the demon access to his unbridled emotions with no control - only by separating control and emotions has he kept the game going all these years.

{And now we make things very interesting Johnny boy o. Now we see what happens. You've been awake an awful long while, Johnny Apple Seed.} John closes his eyes and lets himself succumb to sleep. Of all the things in the world, suddenly John remembers a Sandman comic book he read years ago.

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Forge's picture

Tachibana sees the cellphone, and the expression in his face changes -subtly but very visibly. Gone is some of the fear and the anger -they have to make room for new emotions now: sorrow and regret.

"Because I see the future, Kaoru... [says the old Fujin's Blood Sensei.] if you live.... if you live, all will die."

..................

John Saint John feels the coming sleep is like no sleep that's ever come before. His whole body trembles. Is it the magical Hibb's Roadhouse Coffee given to him by O'Morchoe? His mind exerts itself -this is no regular insomnia. There's something greater than nature pressing against him.

But he pushes through.

First he feels like he's falling upwards, like he's being yanked to crash right into the bottom of his own bed.... but he is able to control the knee-jerk reaction to put up his hands -that would have woken him up from this altered state. Instead... St. John's consciousness pushes right through.... like a ghost... until it emerges at the other side and faces now the ceiling. He is floating above his own mortal body, as a spirit, below the cabin's ceiling...

..................

Furuma knows Master Tachibana is one of the legendary First Officers -those who saw first hand the transformation of the Cult of Fujin into Fujin's Blood after the bombs fell. All his life -and it's been a supernaturally long life thanks to his sorcery- Tachibana proved he had a gift for premonition -a gift that served him well as he always seemed a step ahead of his enemies. A living prophet.

"I have seen where your road leads, Kaoru. Oh, Kaoru. My dear... dear Kaoru... [is Master Tachibana using the word "dear" the way it was meant to be used? A first.] Straight and narrow like fine steel, always you. Always you.. upright. Firm. But your road leads us all to ruin, and you can't change it and live. What great shame. What great guilt, to me. To me, Kaoru, because I placed you in this path. I was the one who sent you on your way, and in doing so, doomed us all."

Tachibana coughs, and Furuma can see the old Sensei has tears in his eyes, waiting to roll out. The old man tries to sit in the Lotus position one last time. "You have to understand.... at first the visions were of nothing but pure glory. Golden light embracing those of the Blood, those with a spirit, you see, making them strong! Purifying! The more the better! I wanted the whole ship full of them, but that wouldn't have been discreet. I had to settle for 40. The way the ship was built... with this company Carnival in between [he looks away] there were appearances to maintain. It had to serve it's apparent purpose... at least for a while-even for a few years-JUST.. a few years, before it could go to it's real destination... but I had you in place. I had you ready."

..................

St. John's awareness floats right through the ceiling... and into the Lido deck above. It is empty, covered in rat corpses. Then he keeps floating on... on and on towards the sky, past the Bridge windows, past the Cloud 9 windows -broken. Then higher. The entire Carnival Dream appears below him... -how tiny it seems as it chugs along, like a child's toy moving so very very slowly between these giant Pyramids that emerge from the ocean all around it. 49 Pyramids set to devour this tiny, tiny insect that it's trying to make its way back home. Out of its master's house.

St. John floats even higher. The sun is out and sky is blue. Crashed upon one of the Pyramids nearby is the Accelletrix research vessel, the Akademik Lazarev -even smaller than the Dream, much much smaller from this distance. It's little antenna slowly spinning.

........................

"-no, you could not have known this! [anticipates Tachibana, raising his voice] for it would have failed the honor test, it would have found you unworthy, and the Kinsella... cursed be their blood, the Kinsella would have stolen from you what I wanted you to steal from them! ... and now... and now... "

The image blinks and stutters as digital connections are sometimes prone to, for a whole five seconds.

"-they pleaded-they said... [continues Tachibana, from some unheard sentence] grant us. Grant us freedom. Grant us freedom... and we will deliver you... the world. [Furuma notices now that there are blood stains -small but visible- on the Sensei's clothes]. The deepest of the deep. The secrets that would make the Blood Web turn inside out, and who would be there to lead us, who but those already strong of the Blood, Kaoru? Strong! You! And your men! I wanted more Chimamires for your ship, more, more! [Tachibana looks away] I was deceived. I saw nothing but my own ambition. But then it was too late. You were the fourth candidate. The negotiations with Carnival were delayed by a month and your paperwork arrived April 4th -you took possession on New York -the fourth port after Milan after a storm cancelled Miami and Savannah, remember. [his index finger trembles] The tie, Kaoru, haha [says Tachibana in a tone of voice that is half-pleading and half sad-laughter] the tie you wore your first day had four shades of red, and you knocked the door four times. [Tachibana swallows] and how many men did I set aside for this... for this glorious destiny that had blinded me? .... forty! [The old man's shoulders tremble slightly, as if he was either laughing or weeping -it's hard to tell]."

.......................

Suddenly St. John goes through the bubble. He transcends -he phases through the membrane of reality just like an amoeba, and floats freely in the veins of the universe. He can now truly See.... from the outside in, truly See. The bubble.

There is a bubble surrounding the ship. No, not the Carnival Dream. The Lazarev ship. It surrounds it, and because he learned this skill from O'Morchoe himself he can identify it by name too: it's The Shield of Ozymandias, just a much, much bigger one than any a single wizard would be able to conjure. It's miles long. It extends up into the sky, and down beneath the waves, and in every direction... shielding the fragile contents... from the forces outside.

The forces of hell... which are amassed at the gates, so to speak. Waiting for their chance to break the bubble. Waiting for their chance to charge in.

.........................

"At least I had Kuro. My insurance from hell. If Evil were to arise, if you were to be seduced, or overcome by madness or weakness, if your ambition were to lead you astray, at least I had my Kuro. My emergency fire, to snuff it all out. And I couldn't tell you. Even now I can't. I just had to kill you to prevent this fate. If you live, we all die! Your actions are leading towards the utter destruction of Japan and you can't change them! It's too late already. Kuro HAD to kill you, but he failed. He chose to write his will and testament instead. Bequeathed you his sword. His weakness means... maybe the whole world... will be overrun now by the likes of-"

"Well then, that's enough chit-chat wouldn't ye say! [the way the old man switched from japanese to english... the way his expression simply blinked from mournful regret to casual satisfaction.... just as if a button had been pressed... is unnerving] No-no laddie, I didn't cut off the old man just before he was about ta say something terribly important -hell, I tell you myself, and clearer: Power. The power to show people freedom, my dear former landlord. To remove from the human race the needless shackles we have self-imposed on our old wee necks ever since Adam fancied taking a goddamn bite off Eve's Apple, eh, to be truly whom we are meant to be... who we are... in the other place. Whom we will allll be in the other place. Ever heard of the Godhead? What it feels like to be part of it? I promised you power, son! But power doesn't always mean strength. It means choice. And if you're free to choose... you are like the gods in the sky, so you are."

...............................

The sky boils with countless nightmares, demon spawn hordes, beasts born out of the fears of children and the disquiet of the adults -winged horses who breath fire and giants with glistening red skin, formless shadows with sharp teeth and tentacles that extend from depths unknown -they are all amassed outside the bubble, all waiting. All waiting for the time to resume a party that was interrupted.

And standing in a place of honor, surrounded by the legions of the abyss is Krevin, in his best skinny leather suit. He hasn't seen John just yet. He seems happy, as he contemplates from the outside, like a cat amusingly peering into the fish bowl. The tiny Carnival Dream ship, with its tiny engines, it's slowly approaching the edge of the fish bowl. It will soon come out of the Null Field bubble formed by the Lazarev. Then the feast will resume right where it left off.

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-=[Live Forever]=-

Trapturtle's picture

Katsu Oshiro

Combat: 
N,SYA,HY
Magic: 
SY
Influence: 
SYB,SYB
Else: 
N,SYA

{Damn, the Carnival Dream is leaving. There's not enough time to search anything, even if I did know what any of this means. Obviously the same thing that happened on the cruise ship happened here. The captain was the last one left and he took his own life. Now whatever that device in his hand is, it's a last resort. Maybe I could use it to... I don't know. Why couldn't Alexis be here? She would know how to work these things. Now I just need to get back to the other ship before I get stranded here.}

[Katsu grabs the device out of the corpses hand and quickly makes his way back to the lifeboat. He hurries to try and catch back up to the ship before it's out of range. He waits until he's a few minutes out from the crashed boat and presses the button the the detonator device. He's not really thinking at this point, he's desperate enough to try anything.]

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