Shades of Blue: Heroes of Roleplay Town



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Orion

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On the north-west corner of the intersection, the Roleplaying Academy was receiving a sudden spike in attendance. To elaborate, it was by no means the whole population of Roleplay Town, but it was all the citizens who regularly partook in their collaborative art.

Even as the denizens of the southern district filtered into the main hall, Orion felt dismay: he began to fear he had over-prepared, and even overestimated how few there still were that truly cared about the continued fate of the town.

It was more or less part of his last ditch effort to save the place, in a sort of metaphorical sense. The town would survive, its buildings maintained by the Lemmings, and there might be occasional visitors to the archives or the theatre - but Orion feared the downward tailspin of activity and creative daring in Roleplay Town would soon be too far gone to pull out of.

He was working with others across the town - as he usually did - to try and re-inject life into the place, but results only ever showed up months after the effort was made.
If this last push failed, he wasn't exactly sure what he might do next - activity might return on its own, but Orion could only attribute that to the mysterious manifestations of power becoming more and more common, rather than for any creative endeavour in and of itself.

When some twenty people had filled the room, and Orion made a bit of menial small talk, he strode over to the lone VRP booth standing at the back left of the hall in front of the stage. The black cocoon-like lid split in two horizontally, and Orion stepped up into it.

When it closed, he began making worlds.



=========================


Several minutes later, the hall was practically filled with VRP booths that had risen out of the floor - a development Orion had tasked the Lemmings with days earlier - about seventy in total, with sixty or so occupied.

As each person entered a public booth, a brief message flashed across the screen telling people to register a simple character-duplicate of themselves for the presentation. One booth received no such notification when activated.

As each person's avatar entered the virtual space, they stepped into a rainforest situated at the bottom of what appeared to be a ravine - one side of varying inclines, the other shrouded in dense fog, such that none could be certain it gave way to a wall or further depths. Orion stood apart from the group that steadily materialised in, next to a man about his own age, with slick brown hair and a goatee.

When Orion received a notification that no more people were entering the academy, he decided to begin. Stepping forward, he called for people's attention, and directed them to look up the visible side of the valley. Halfway up it, a figure popped into existence, flaring gold - "That's where I come along," narrated Orion, suddenly not among the group but actually on the side of the ravine, though he was heard as though he stood among them.

All the way up the valley ways - to the very top and out of sight - a bright flare exploded. Orion's goatee-d companion vanished from the forest floor. "That's where our newest old guest comes along - Blackest Night." One of the greatest figures in Roleplay Town, though you'd only know if it you looked far back into productions of the theatre, somewhere deep within the Archives, or even if you actually strolled down derelict, long-abandoned streets.

In rapid succession, the people present found themselves teleported to various points on the same hillside. A few sat between Blackest Night and Orion, most below. Some even found themselves simply shifted a little out of the way at the bottom of the ravine.

Orion resumed: "Those of you above where you first appeared - when you began in Roleplay Town, did you see the downward path that lay before you? In hindsight, do you see how - together, the town as a whole - we've all descended? Where we are now isn't entirely bad, but even then it's not something we want."


=========================


The scene shifted.

The gathered roleplayers found themselves all along the same point on the valley way, staring across at the wall of fog that stood vertical and unmoving. Figures swam within it, and hundreds of them emerged to stand side-by-side and level-upon-level. Hundreds, maybe even thousands - a few at first, then a massive explosion in numbers as faces familiar and unknown to Orion cropped up.

The ones that Orion had come to know as both his peers and superiors for a time flickered in and out every now and then, but on the whole many stayed solidly for a while, then flickered shortly, before disappearing permanently. As the wall of figures came more and more to resemble those standing opposite them, their numbers also shrank to only slightly larger - those attending the presentation plus the few who didn't care or want to attend.

"We've come a long way since the 'Golden Age', the 'Years of the Veterans', or whatever you wish to call it. The time when Roleplay Town was young and absolutely booming with life and creativity. It cannot be said that everything flourished - many projects were no doubt crowded out by virtue of sheer numbers, but now we don't face half of that problem: There are so few concurrent roleplays that there should be ample time to attend to each of them, yet we still see tales waiting to be lived dead in the water. Are we so cautious about diverting a story from its original path that we are frozen with indecision?"

"Nearly all those we might dub 'veterans' have moved on from roleplaying here, and the town is more egalitarian than ever, with recent developments like this refurbished academy and the opening of the tavern across the road. With more opportunities than ever for roleplayers new and old to interact and break down barriers of skill and reputation, the section is more equal than ever, but in spite of that we find ourselves less daring, unwilling to potentially upset any carefully laid plans of others."

"Speaking of plans and things carefully laid: Across my few years in Roleplay Town, I've never recalled constructed worlds more detailed and full than what I've seen in the last year." Orion suppressed a nod to the Vice Principal of the Academy's Conceptual department, "From outside these look like rigid worlds, well-established and prone to conservation. But that is a dangerous mindset for roleplaying - it enables a static world and disables a roleplayer's sense of worth and ability within a world."

"Codex upon dossier upon biography are not the nails sealing an impenetrable coffin of creative possibilities, they are the bricks in the innumerable paths that go out in all directions! The most well-developed roleplay does not construct guidelines, it gives context, and when you're maximally informed, you're in the best possible position to contribute, more so than in any other manner of constructed world."
 
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Orion

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"Look at what we have before us - you are all part of the greatest creative medium ever conceived!"

The forest floor fell away into blackness, and the wall of the valley upon which the group stood tilted until it stood vertical, and they tumbled into inky black nothingness, punctuated only by an infinitesimally small point of light that stood out only by virtue of being the only thing present.

"Authors and readers of novels; directors and viewers of film; developers and players of games - their creations and experiences fall by the wayside when we simply think of what we can achieve!"

The point of light blossomed to fill the void, leaving in its wake a bright and cloudy pocket of early existence. Dark and indistinct shapes flitted about within it, drawing swirling patterns in the otherwise uniform primordial mist they passed through.

"Even with worlds, people, items and history all well- and long-conceived in the author's head, they must nevertheless labour with pen or keyboard to see it enter properly into the world. When all that is complete, the novel is subjected to redaction after compromise after erasure at the hands of editor and publisher before it can reach its audience."

The dark shapes continued their dance, orbiting and chasing each other as they nudged around the coalescing and dimming fog that was drawn into corporeal shapes by their movement. As the clouds cleared, the dark figures into sharp relief - people cloaked in intricate armour and wielding divine weapons. Sparks of light ignited whenever two of them came close, and lingered even as their progenitors departed to battle elsewhere.

"The most immersed reader can never observe the tale with anything more than the most distant passiveness. As roleplayers, we observe the story unfolding from within and without, and am empowered to steer the journey aright when we see it trailing awry."

The brilliant clash of weapons, armour and shields formed the earliest stars, around which the fog concentrated itself, spinning into colossal spirals. Flesh and armour rent by withering blows drifted in with the spiraling clouds, and thus the first worlds were born. Blood let from godly wounds became the celestial clouds when the primordial fog was sucked away entirely by the youngest stars and planets.


=========================


"As the truest authority - both in management and knowledge of the tale as a whole - the roleplay creator has no studio to report to, no producer to butt heads with."

As the battle waged on and successively more primordial gods were slain, it became clear there was a division amongst them, and the most powerful of them posed a danger to all. Numbering only twenty, the remaining divine forces turned on the most powerful among them, secretly having agreed that with his defeat there would be peace among the survivors.

"The eager film-goer observes her medium from a padded chair, eyes solely forward and ears open for wherever sound might come from one of only a dozen places around her. She experiences only a pair of excited senses, while the quality of those sensations is severely limited by the technology of the day."

With his accursed dying breath, that dark god passed his essence unbeknownst onto another. Peace reined for a time, and the valiant among the dead gods were revived, who would oversee the work of the genesis-weavers the gods had spawned - vanguards who would go forth and seed stars with planets and worlds with life.

"The roleplay creator is free from the meddling that goes on in the development of even the most immersive games, and is similarly unburdened by restrictions of time, budget, hardware and coding - their ideas borne aloft on wings of imagination."

Inspired by their divine creators, the life-workers gave rise to civilizations of arcane magic and brilliant technology on every world. The variety and capabilities that emerged across the cosmos were beautiful and terrifying. War was inevitable, and when its first spark was ignited, the essence of the final slain god chose to reassert itself.

"The most engaged player is little better off than the viewer: Stuck on rails in even the most non-linear moments of interactivity, when not pitted against inelastic foes given character, they war against glorified algorithms feigning basic artificial intelligence."

The darkened god reached out to infect the life-workers, who both fought and internalised the corruption. Resisting the malevolent influences of the darkness, they instead drew upon it to act as a cleansing force: They made it their duty to act as the balance to the empowered life that was raging war across the galaxy. They became the the peacemakers.


=========================


"Drawn from and fed directly back into the roleplayer's mind, this medium functions with total immersion and without creative limits. We have all the tools at our disposal and an ease of application like no other storytelling method. Yet we've become reticent when it comes to our greatest stories, reluctant even when faced with the smallest obstacles to furthering a tale."

The rapid pace of creation and development slowed until the group was watching battles at the individual level. Worldships - long abandoned as places of habitation - were thrust through the frontlines of fleets that formed lines of defense between entire stars. Holes the size of continents were blasted into nothingness, but it mattered little: the cargo they held and trailed made it through the line. Snapped like a tensed cord, the hundred million ships sped to meet their enemy; stars winked out as ships too large and far too fast swept them aside by their bow wave spreading through spacetime.

"While not the story itself, you've had a brief glimpse of how the world of my longest-running project - Vanguard - came to be. Ever since I began roleplaying, it's something I've wanted to share and develop with all of you, but early on I lacked the skill. Later still, I lacked the confidence. By the time I was ready, it was too late - Roleplay Town has become a place of such slow-if-not-stagnant creative motivation that I no longer have the inclination to share this world I've built."

"I haven't invited you here so I can publicly toot my own horn: Vanguard is but one example of something rendered virtually impossible by the modern climate of Roleplay Town, and that along with other large projects is the greatest shame. What you've seen isn't even representative of what would actually be roleplayed - it's just a display of what can be done in such a world. Be we paralysed by the sheer multitude of options before us, or stunted for fear of stumbling in a world sculpted by someone else, we're grinding this town to a halt."

"But that shouldn't be. I've spoken aloud the thoughts we each hold in our minds, not out of egotism but out of fact have I shown the capabilities that lay at our fingertips, and how they outstrip other forms of fiction we might indulge in. I urge you all, think upon-"

A monotone voice that sounded almost female droned in all their ears, a message played across the eyes of everyone in the crowd: "Forced ejection: Blackest Night."
 

Orion

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Orion focused his perspective on Blackest Night's avatar in time to see it fizzle out.

With the equivalent of flicking a few neural switches, Orion forcibly ejected himself from the virtually constructed realm. It instantly made him feel nauseous and disoriented, but people only got forcibly ejected from roleplays when something external threatened the roleplayer's physical safety, or hardware and software issues risked compromising their mind.

Orion was paranoid about the gathering: It represented most of Roleplay Town's active citizenry, none of whom present were particularly aligned with any one of the mob-like factions that had been spawning up over the district in the last eighteen months. Some of the individuals present were even actively to the groups, so any potential attack on the venue presented an ideal opportunity to wipe out opposition.

Orion himself - with his moderator privileges - was probably the most enabled when it came to fighting them, and this was one of the few times in past months where he publicly advertised his specific location.

It had made him a sitting duck, and so he had hired guards to stand sentry at entrances. Provided Blackest Night had been attacked, it meant either one of his guards was already bought, or it was someone in the hall who had done it.

As the black, pearlescent shell of the roleplaying booth began to split open, Orion brought a hand to each thigh - from one he drew his mask from his pocket, from the other a unique firearm.

The mask was black, but swam with pinpricks of light that stirred into motion as the mask was slid over his face. The gun was an unusual hybrid, both large and sleek - dual-triggered, sporting a revolver chamber and a rounded magazine that curled around where Orion's thumb gripped the handle.

Orion dived out of his pod and to the right, taking cover behind it. He heard screaming, but through his enhanced hearing he could tell it didn't come from where Blackest Night's pod was, unless he had got up and left it. Orion ducked his head out to see Night's pod fully opened, but was unable to see if anyone was still in it from where he was crouched.

He was, however, wholly able to see an off-white spike protruding out of the open shell. An inch and a half wide and with a shattered end showing, a full foot of it stuck out beyond the shell of Night's pod. The screaming did, however, come from close to Night's pod - a few feet in front of it, in fact.

A male figure of average height, with a gask mask over his face and tight robes wrapping his body, with only dark-skinned bare feet showing. A splintered shard of bone extended from his forearm, that Orion could immediately tell matched up with the spike embedded in Night's pod.


=========================


Orion's worst fears came true.

It looked like someone had finally managed to crack the realisation problem. Rather than having just some attributes manifest themselves in the subject, this person seemed to have taken on the complete form of an empowered individual, one that looked vaguely familiar to Orion. The dark figure staggered back from Night's pod, cursing and repeatedly yelling 'no'.

Orion's eyes widened behind his mask, and the miniature stars that swarmed over his face pooled in orbiting rings around his eyes, bright red. He fired a single SMG round at the man's feet to get his attention as he commanded: "Who the hell are you?" The man turned ninety degrees in a split second, immediately extending a finger to point at his questioner. "You," he exclaimed as Orion witnessed a rippling of flesh and bone under the stranger's extended arm.

Ducking behind his booth pre-emptively, Orion avoided a spike of bone that shot through the space his neck previously occupied. Shit, he thought, that explains what happened to Blackest Night.

Even when considering what next to do, Orion's mind went to the future: he hoped that Blackest Night, with his long history and important place in Roleplay Town, would be a force for rejuvenation in the town. He guessed the news of powers somehow made its way to Night, prompting his return, but the truth of that hunch wouldn't have rendered him unable to help revive the borough. Now, that didn't seem like an option.

Orion blind-fired more SMG rounds at the killer, who lifted an arm that rapidly grew bony scales to his face. The rounds peppered his thigh and side, but pinged off his armoured arm. "I said, who the fűck are you?"

Muffled by the mask and through gritted teeth, the enemy spoke: "Just some kid who wasn't worth your consideration, but I'll bet I've got your attention now, don't I? Remember me, Dante? Well look who's worthless now!"

"Dante?" Orion's mind went back two and a half years, to a particularly useless battle a citizen had challenged him to, before he was a moderator, to settle some sort of score. How getting beaten in a battle would resolve Orion's issues with Dante was a mystery, but evidently he still felt badly wronged. Enough to kill, it seemed.

"You're here for me? Why the hell'd you kill Sean then?" Orion shifted his grip on the hybrid handgun, getting it into a two handed grip and inching toward the edge of the pod, waiting.

With a name attached to his victim, Dante now appeared to be reminded that he had taken an innocent life, and was snapped out of his megalomania."It was supposed to be you! Shit, he was secondary but I thought this was your pod. This was just a god-damned test"

Naming Blackest Night seemed to have the desired effect - it put Dante off his edge, if but for a few seconds. Orion tensed his back and legs, ready to leap out of his cover to the adjacent pod in the row in front of his. Poking his head and gun barrel out, Orion loosed a single bullet, this time from the upper barrel of the gun - the revolver portion. With what little space he had, the recoil punched him in the chest, but Orion's shot flew true, and embedded itself in the scaly armour of Dante's left arm.


=========================


The surprise assault re-galvanised him, because he immediately returned to taunting Orion, who was counting down in his head. 2... 1...

The gas expansion round activated, a mix of chemical and thermal reactions in the bullet causing immense pressure to build within the crumpled shell. When it became too much to be contained, the bullet ruptured and the mixture was released instantaneously. The resulting wave of scorching, expanding pressure blew Dante's arm right off.

As soon as he heard the characteristic fizzling of the reaction beginning, Orion was on his feet, both hands on the gun, advancing toward Dante. A carefully-aimed shot at the edge of the gas-mask embedded a bullet there - Orion was just trying to reveal his face, but Dante, despite missing an arm, looked to have quickly enough realised what the bullet would do. Reaching with his one good arm, he managed to tear the mask away and throw it behind him before it detonated. A dark-skinned face painted with fear let out a sigh when the mask sailed clear of his hand.

With one arm gone and the other pointed away, it gave Orion the exact brake he needed. He vaulted forward, bringing his gun under Dante's jaw, at the same time noticing the gas mask exploding on the top of someone's still-closed booth. He could attend to it in a second, but first-

"Who got full realisation to work? I don't give a shit if you're some clueless pawn, there's a name somewhere in that head. Give it to me before I consider a full-scale lobotomy and just read it straight from your brain."

Dante was scowling at Orion while his eyes were starting to water, torn between his anger at having the situation go so wrong, and his angst that his life would be ended shortly after having taken an innocent one. "You're not getting shit from me," Dante said, and spat at Orion.

Orion was grabbing Dante's lapel, ready to hoist him up and jam the gun further into his neck to make a point, when he noticed his cranium beginning to ripple. Orion pushed him away but held the gun pointed at his face. "Who?"

With a sickeningly quick series of crunching and squelching noises, the top half of Dante's head imploded. As he collapsed to his knees, it looked like his skin, hair and clothes were peeling and fading away. A fair-skinned young man hit the ground.

Orion swore as he whipped around to check on Blackest Night, certain of the worst. Sure enough, he was deathly pale, but breathing shallowly. He wasn't sure what exactly would ensue from what he would do next, but Orion nevertheless called out a name: Someone whose secret he had promised to protect, lest she be targeted. She had been among the audience to the presentation, and was probably getting out of a pod right now, and she had healing powers. It was worth a shot.

"EVA!"
 
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Ulti

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The blurry image of herself still gazed back at Ulti, even after the fifth drain of her glass. She became determined to finally see the bottom of it, despite the best efforts of the bartender. He had no other customers to attend to and knew this was it for the night. Anyone who was anyone was not at the local RP bar. Orion's little meeting gained the attention of many locals, both big and small. Ulti also heard word about the latest attempt to breathe life into this old town. But after many years and many attempts of returning RP Town to its former glory, she knew it would end with faint glimmers of hope that would fade out be the end of the month. She could not understand why Orion would have any hopes left to give out to the younger generation. They had control of the Town now. And they wasted that control.

Ulti was close to finally finishing off her glass when a large group of citizens entered the bar. Unfortunately for the bartender, no one came in for a drink. Ulti could sense the panic, hear the gasps of someone who had just run in fear. She turned her attention, though not her body, to the group. She recognized a few familiar faces in the group, mostly kids from the new generation of RPers. She could only catch every other word of their hushed conversation. "Fight". "Dead". "Orion". That was enough to piece together a story. Something had gone terrible wrong at Orion's meeting.

She caught the hand of the bartender, who was about to pour another shot into her glass. She shook her head, drained the glass to the bottom, and grabbed her belongings. Ulti was not sure if there would be trouble or if Orion had handled the whole deal. Either way, she loaded a bolt into her crossbow, ready to shatter someone's kneecaps if necessary. She tossed some money on the table, more than she owed but not cared to count. She took a step forward and nearly tripped herself. She felt a little buzzed from her drinking but still pressed on, tripping when the alcohol buzzed her brain. Usually, coming drunk to a crime scene would get her in trouble with the admins. But the elder mod had stopped caring about what the other mods and admins thought of her. She would get this job done, sober or drunk.
 

Wehrmacht

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In the seaway between the isles of KHI, a lone, modern-looking vessel was cruising the waters southward at a respectable speed. It resembled a small luxury yacht, slightly larger than 13 meters. It seemed to be pretty ordinary even with its unusual size(luxury yachts are generally much larger), except that there was no crew on the boat at all. Just a lone passenger, resting in one the compartments, a scarcely furnished but very comfortable-looking room, mulling over his state of affairs. He was a fellow who seemed to be too scruffy for the clothes he was wearing: dark circles under cocoa eyes, rectangular spectacles on the bridge of a roman nose, matted black hair. The haphazardness of his appearance contrasted with his pinstriped black suit and trenchcoat, which were both in remarkably good shape. He gave off the impression that he took better care of his clothes than himself. This was Wehrmacht, one of the administrators of KHI, and he was very grateful for his yacht's auto-pilot feature; he could steer the boat himself if need be, but preferred to spend his time in other ways.

The yacht itself was a privilege he allowed himself. A regular citizen would have to travel around the isles via ferry, and be subject to the schedules of one, in addition to a voyage that might not be that pleasant. Wehrmacht was not a man to flaunt around his status, but he didn't think much of false frugality either. If he had the resources he may as well treat himself to a boon or two. The yacht got around reasonably fast, had mini-fridges full of food, shelves full of books, and comfortable bedrooms. He tried to look out the window every now and then, check the signposts scattered about the oceans to see if he was on the right track, but the auto-pilot had never led him astray yet. It really was a cool perk.

He was headed for Creative Isle, which was an unusual destination for just about anyone these days. The place had become incredibly stagnant in the last few years, to the point where it wasn't very creative anymore. KHI as a whole had grown stagnant, but Creative Isle had gotten the worst of it. The height of activity there was washed up veterans displaying tags that looked like they were made years ago, wannabe poets posting their amateurish, pretentious poetry for their friends to circlejerk over. Roleplay Town was not QUITE there yet, but Werhmacht knew it would be there soon. In fact, visiting Roleplay Town for an extended period of time was the entire point of his present trip.

There had been vague rumors for months that something big was going to be happening in Roleplay Town. Something bad. There were no further specifics as to what exactly would be happening, but he certainly hoped he would find out before long. He had nothing to go on but intuition, but he had a feeling that whatever was going to happen down there would soon spread to the other isles and make a huge mess for him to clean up. Hopefully, he could contain the problem before it got out of hand.

His first order of business would be to meet with Orion and ask him what he knew. He would be very surprised if Orion, being such an invested veteran of the place, knew nothing of the dark whispers. He had heard that he would be hosting a meeting of sorts today, though he didn't know what it was about. He assumed he was probably addressing the toxic climate the section had created for itself. Though he had never considered himself a consummate roleplayer, Wehrmacht couldn't help but feel sad at what the place had become. He remembered a time where roleplays were larger, more ambitious, and actually...got finished. They had so many more resources now, but nobody could be bothered to invest in a roleplay and stick with it.

He felt the boat stopped. It seemed as if he had arrived at Fanfic Isle's port. It would only be a short drive there to Roleplay Town, and maybe then he could get some answers.
 

Prophet

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“Forced ejection: Orion.”

The female voice calmly narrated Orion’s departure as his virtual avatar fizzled out of the crowd. Murmurs began to rise and a few whispers crept from person to person.

“What happened?”

“Is this part of the simulation?”

“Are we supposed to continue the stor-“

Suddenly, there was a heavy screeching; a blistering static-like drone that filled the virtual world. The many players covered their ears in pain, the whole crowd reacting in shock as the world around them immediately shifted. The beautiful void of space seemed to fizzle, the visuals breaking slightly, like when air ripples in a wave of heat. The particles of light glimmered for a moment, shining various colors brightly, before breaking apart, shattering and dissipating until all that was left was a great whiteness. The screeching faded and the crowd slowly stood up, glancing around in confusion, gently toeing the white ground they stood on. They were merely surrounded by whiteness, a great abyss of pure, unadulterated, space.

“This is our real potential.”

The crowd hushed quickly as a deep voice boomed over the primordial abyss. The whiteness remained untouched, but out of the great space, the dark voice reached out to everyone standing there. It was quiet, controlled, and yet filled with dark authority that came from unquavering confidence.

“The white canvas of reality.”

What could be imagined as a few yards in front of the crowd, a single flower bloomed. It started as a tiny seed, a pinprick of brown light in the midst of this sea of blankness, before it quickly sprouted up, shooting up a green stem, putting out tiny leaves, and blossoming into a gorgeous rose.

“You may think the power of the imagination stops in this place.”

The crowd gasped as the rose, so beautiful and full of life, suddenly died. The petals withered and turned black, the stem broke at the half, and the leaves disintegrated into dead crumbs. The rose fell into itself, collapsing into a pile of blackened organic matter.

“But you have no idea what you are capable of…”

The ashes seemed to pick themselves up, as if carried by an unseen breeze, and like the gentle winding of a sleepy serpent, they wound themselves through the white void. The crowd retreated hesitantly as the ashes wound themselves around them, dispersing themselves in between the people, like a gentle hand pressing through the crowd, until every person had a tiny bit of ash floating in front of them.

“Everybody has the seed of creation inside them. Will you take it and unleash it? Or will you remain bound to this prison?”


The tiny bit of ash gently compressed together, molding itself into a tiny brown seed. Everyone in the crowd glanced at each other, but slowly reached out as the seed plopped unceremoniously into each hand. As soon as each took the seed, there was a gasp from each person as their avatar began to fizzle out. The monotonous female voice began to announce each person’s forced ejection from the system as the deep voice spoke boomed once more, ringing in everyone’s ears.

“Roleplay is over. Real power awaits.”


Every pod in the area split open, with somewhat nauseous occupants emerging. A few people seemed to notice Orion bending over a fallen figure, and even fewer seemed to notice the broken pod he stood next to. However, as the nausea began to fade and people became more accustomed to reality, one person shouted.

“Holy sh-“

He held up the tiny seed with two fingers, thrusting it into the air with yelps of excitement. All around him people began to gasp as they realized their own hands held the tiny seeds. Everyone burst from their pods, rushing around, showing each other the seeds, and very quickly, the floor descended into chaos. Orion would find himself swamped by people as every Roleplayers in the room rushed about, shouting about what had happened, tossing their seeds in the air, wondering about what the message had meant. A few would even clap Orion on the shoulder, joyfully showering him with compliments.

“Great show Orion, can’t believe it!”

“Don’t know how you did it, but that’s what I call imagination!”

“Jezza, don’t know exactly what you are talking about here, but if it’s anything as exciting as what just happened, I’m in.”

Only a few people moved slightly differently than the others. While everyone rushed about, full of excitement, a few people subtly made their way towards the doors. They would clap and hold their seeds in the air, with great smiles on their faces, but they would slowly make their way towards the door. As they each made their way toward the exit, each one slipped a small flash drive from their pockets. Each held the thin stick between their fingers and with a quick application of force, snapped it in half, tossing one half into the garbage and pocketing the other half. One of them, with blonde hair, straight, with bangs hanging above piercing blue eyes, then withdrew a tiny cellphone, opening it only to press SEND on the text message that was waiting there.

THE SEED HAS BEEN PLANTED
It was only a few seconds before the phone buzzed.

AND MAY IT GROW
 

OmniChaos

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“You may think the power of the imagination stops in this place.”

"Bullshit!" Omni cried, pushing his way through the crowd. Whatever this was--this madness--that was speaking down to the group, treating them as ignorant children, it most certainly was not apart of Jezza's design, having spoken with the moderator on the presentation beforehand. No, this was a different force at work, and it felt malignant. "Only a fool would believe imagination stops at the unreality!

"Imagination is the foundation of ideas, of change. It builds our cities, moves us through life, and takes us in directions previously unseen." Omni pointed a defiant finger at the dying flower before him, being the only object to connect to the voice. "Imagination allows people to grow, but without it, they won't grow. Not truly. Imagination is limitless! As such, possibility is limitless!"

“But you have no idea what you are capable of…”

"Bastard..." the businessman cursed, spitting the bad taste from his mouth. Among them were the most creative and capable people in all of Roleplay Town, so the insult placed upon them was no different from insulting imagination itself. "Don't listen to it, friends! It's not--"

Forced ejection: OmniChaos

In an instant, Omni found himself drawn from the white void, the dying flower, and the damned voice that the businessman hated so; he was drawn from unreality back into the true world. The booth's lid, cracked and shattered by some force, slid open and Omni, nauseous and bleeding from the shards that peppered his face, stumbled out just in time to see a man crumple to the floor. Behind him stood Jezza.

As Orion turned his attention to Blackest Night--who, from the look of it, was injured somehow in the confrontation prior to Omni's ejection--and the others began ejecting themselves, some sort of excitement spilling out of their mouths, Omni made his way to the body that lay on the floor. Using a pencil, Omni investigated the body and fished a piece of paper from the man's pocket. The businessman quickly scanned through the paper, narrowed his eyes, then, when he was sure no one was looking, pocketed it.

"Jezza!" Omni called, rising from the body and approaching his friend. He placed a hand on his shoulder and leaned in so that only the moderator could hear his voice. "I know you are concerned with his safety, but let Eva take care of Blackest Night. We have other issues to handle. After you ejected, something happened in there, and now--" Omni pointed to the excited crowd going on about seeds they had found "--something is happening out here."
 

Professor Ven

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They have embraced chaos, the poor fools. They refuse to understand what poison, sweetened with honey, tastes like. A pity I'm the one that is insane. Years ago, I heard the same mutterings, the same bittersweet promises. There is nothing but pity to be given here.

The Professor stood solemnly amongst the crowd of cheering cacophonies, their delusions of grandiose, sickening whispers of uprising running faster than the bullet trains which ran to the outskirts of the Metropolis. He cared little for the supposed awe-inspiring call to the idealistic fantasy of revolution. Only an idiot could claim reality to not be entirely influenced by the imagination. Omni's forced ejection from the extravaganza gives enough of an understanding of whoever is behind the curtain, pulling the strings from their anonymity. Cowards.

One of the many Voices tugged at his mind, whispering in his head. We must purge them of their corruption! Only then can the World be remade! The Door is the key! The Professor merely shrugged the persona of Quel'loyen off, striding back inside of the inviting, illustrious Roleplaying Academy's halls. As per tradition, he always took his hat off when entering inside any building, double so for the Academy. Though not a boastful as many who entered these hallowed halls, the Professor always held a tiny bubble of pride in this learning center.

It was only a minute or two until he came to OmniChaos and Jezza's little pickle of a predicament, cane clicking against the priceless marble floor. A grim smile broke the Professor's calm, collected thoughts, as he surveyed the body.

"Something indeed, Master Omni. Though a better term might be revolution. Unfortunately, their youthful, hoping cause will only be destroyed, one way or another. The only thing I fear, of course, is the fate of our peaceful, sleepy, little town."

Another of the Voices giggled incessantly in its own manner of joyfulness. A morbid morsel, and all for me? How delightful! Let's see how far we can stroll through the road paved with bodies, eh? String them up by their intestines!
 

Orion

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Orion's world quickly spun out of control - the whole crowd were emerging from their pods by now, and he had no time to move Dante's body. Roars of surprise and satisfaction erupted around parts of the hall as seemingly everyone found something grasped in their hands. Things they hadn't entered the pod with.

Eva jumped out of her pod in the second row when she heard the desperate call of her name. Sliding between her booth and that of her neighbour's, she quickly came in sight of the reason for her call. The long-gone but recently-returned Blackest Night was sat back in his booth, deathly pale, with a bony spike sticking right out of the middle of his chest. She knew immediately what to do, and counted herself lucky that most had departed the hall, and that the walls of Night's booth would grant the aura of her convalescence a bit of cover.

Orion placed his hand on her shoulder, giving a gentle squeeze and a nod as he said "Thank you," She wanted to reach out and ask him what the hell had happened, but she couldn't take her hands away from Night at this point. His prospects looked grim, and fading, but she kept at it. She contented herself for a moment with the possibility that, with just close associates present now, Orion would orate openly about what had happened.

He strode down the central aisle of the hall, steps powerful and long. Outside of immediate danger for now, his anger was overtaken by a cool determination - a shifting of gears in his mind from combat to analysis. The twin spiraling rings of red on his mask gave way to a more even pattern of stars swirling about in mirrored, random paths.

When he reached the main door, he walked to one of the hired bouncers, ripped the transceiver from the clip on his breast pocket. "Close all doors to the main hall, remain stationed outside. I hereby authorise you to use lethal force to deter entrants if necessary, but report all arrivals to me." He pushed the radio back into the guard's chest, then closed the double doors of the front entrance. As he walked back down the aisle, he was happy to see the two doors at the front close too.

"Professor's right," Orion said, responding to both him and Omni, "This could be just the very start. Whoever played a part in orchestrating the attack it's clear they have a sense of humour: Sewing the seeds of revolution. That they got seeds into the hands of everyone is bad enough, but they cracked full realisation."

Orion pointed to the body of Dante as he walked over to it. "Character had, among other things, skeletal manipulation." He crouched down near the corpse, looking it over. "That's where Night's spike came from. When I was close to getting something out of him he turned the power on himself and squashed his own brain into useless mush. He turned back into the kid before he hit the floor. Had a grudge against me from a couple of years ago, but he was never going to be the sort to head up anything like this."

Orion felt around in the pockets of Dante's jacket and trousers. "He was a convenient pawn. He had the promise of full realisation to look forward to, and a chance to get at me. Whoever used him, this was probably their test case." He found something in the breast pocket, withdrew it: A piece of card, with an illustration of Orion's masked face on one side, Blackest Night's on the other. While still looking on the body with one hand, he used the other to show those behind him the card, with his index finger tapping against night's side.

"The kid said Sean was secondary, I was the main hit. Whoever got this working either feared what Blackest Night might achieve with his long history and potential powers, or someone was upset when he rejected their invitation to join forces." He raised his voice as he put the card down next to the body, "How's he doing, Eva?" She said he was stable but critical, and that she was unsure how much longer she could keep it up.

Orion pulled out his phone to get an ambulance deployed, but he didn't like his chances of it getting here in time. With the Creative Isle as a whole running on so little activity, hospitals and all but the smallest clinics had closed down: Any help they would get would have to make its way from another part of the city, but they at least had the benefit of the x-shaped highway interchange that linked all the isles of the city together. At the very least, they had the pick of whoever could get there faster from any of other three islands.

"Keep at it, let him drop a little more if it means you can hold onto him longer. Help is on the way." Finding nothing else on Dante's body, Orion stood up from it and walked back to his own pod and reached inside to tap at a small display screen that would have been at head height and on his left. As the master booth, it could identify the occupants and status of all the other slaved ones. Virtually every booth pinged with identical anomalies. Some didn't, but one was unique, in the front right corner.

Running to it, he reached inside in a similar fashion to find its status screen. The display itself flashed with a warning message: Unexpected ejection. A tiny flash drive - just the plug and a small bud extending from it - was embedded in the side of the screen, and a smile flashed over Orion's face. Bingo. "I've got something," he yelled out to the rest of them, but he didn't want to test the device fully just yet. If it had caused Dante's realisation, he didn't want to run the risk of roleplaying with it plugged in, lest the same effect occur. He could, however, detect that it was a wireless device.

Remote access? Could something like also have caused the artefact realisation of the seeds? It was something Orion had known about for a while: That people were starting to manifest powers from their most synonymous characters, plus that some were even obtaining items that belonged to them - that was artefact realisation, and it was how Orion had got his mask and his gun:
The latter from Drake Ignis, the former purpose-made to inhibit pain receptors in the brain when worn. His body would react autonomously to pain - such as withdrawing a hand from a burning stove - but the sensation wouldn't reach him. It was a godsend in his current hyper-sensitive state, something he was still trying to rectify.

Orion knew of only one person who had established artefact realisation - the weaver of dreams, Morpheaus. You and he would go into a roleplay battle or mini-story, you'd put the item to use, and you'd wake up with it in your hands if Morpheaus chose to let you have it. And it wasn't just limited to his own personal booth where he resided, he could do it anywhere.

Were these little flash drives how he did it? It would at least explain how he alone could do it anywhere. Artefact realisation had presented a definite danger to the town, but Orion trusted Morpheaus' judgement and integrity when dealing with anyone who would want something imaginary made real, and he had owed him a favour for the mask's boon anyway.

But now things had gone remote, possibly without even requiring Morpheaus' intervention. Although Orion knew Morpheaus had drifted outside of regular roleplaying, he knew the dream-weaver still had an interest if the town were to return to the activity and quality of years past. Attacking Orion and Blackest Night, let alone posing such a risk to the rest present, wouldn't further such a goal. Nevertheless, Orion knew who to go to next, as soon as help came for Night.
 

Mistearea

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The flower was nice and all, but Mist was growing bored with what was around. He willed himself to stay long enough for Omni to finish what he was saying, but something didn't seem right about the way the man was forcefully ejected. That's why when the man that Mist knew mostly as his employer was cut short, Mist himself brings himself out of the simulation. Luckily for him that cuts back on the vertigo, but it's still there even as he slides out of the opened pod and onto the floor with his back against the machine. But before he lets his mind wander on the subject of what just happened he looks around his body for a single object. He smiles when he sees the nearly empty bottle of Diet Coke only to down the contents in two gulps.

Once the drink is finished he reaches into his back pocket to pull a small plastic can, one with no label or anything on it, and starts to tap it with his finger while holding it with his thumb and index finger. By now the pods start to open and the one next to his ejects the person just as Mist places a wad of the tobacco into his mouth. The young man's face scrunches at the sight of the display, but that's all that happens. After all, most people already know that Mist uses this instead of cigarettes. But that's not the issue in his mind right now. At the moment things are seeming to be a bit strange to Mist compared to some of the previous worlds that Orion, or Jezza as some people call him, created.

Sure the world was quite different and not something many of the others could do, but something felt rather off about it all. But instead of rushing over to the man in question, Mist just spits into the bottle and waits for things to die down. Luckily that happens rather quickly with the group. Mist just thinks about how it's been that way for as long as he cares to remember. But the briefness of the praise doesn't make it any less. It just means that people tends to be rather busy with the lives that they made for themselves. With that in his mind Jezza makes his way through the room and makes sure that the doors are all shut before going back to where he originated from. Surely checking things out after ejecting wouldn't take that long.

With that in his mind Mist pushes himself to his feet and sees three other people that he knows. One was Omni who doesn't need an introduction to the rest of the town, and the same could be said for the others. Mist tries to think about what could happen that would warrant some of the biggest names in the town to be hanging around after something like this, but then he sees the reason. Right in front of Eva was someone that brings about a sense of knowing. Mist could swear that he knows the man, but nothing seems to make itself clear in his mind at the moment. Instead of dwelling on this though, Mist just walks over to the group and spits in the bottle again.

"Judging by the body, I'm guessing that I was right in thinking that something went wrong."
 

Orion

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Orion hid his sudden start when Mist emerged from his little pod. The master console hadn't displayed any more occupants in the pods whatsoever. The injured Night occupied one, but Orion put down its failure to detect him as a result of it being damaged. Mist's booth, on the other hand, even when he remained half-sitting, half-lying in it, had registered as empty.

Orion's mind rapidly jumped to numerous conclusions, some unfounded, some downright silly. Everyone emerging from the booths had done so with a seed in their hand that hadn't been there before, and it was impossible that all the pods should be hardware-hacked to allow artefact realisation.

Orion connected some dots, and guessed that whatever device had been hooked up to the anomalous booths aside from Dante's could somehow affect either nearby systems, or ones involved in the same roleplay space. Orion didn't want to be too paranoid or suspect Mist unduly, but he felt he at least had some reason to dismiss hostile intent on his behalf.

He now responded, "Body? Don't get your hopes up. The spike's bad but he's still alive." Orion now lifted a hand to point with his thumb to a body a couple of metres to his right, that Mist hadn't yet seen. He craned his head to peer down the aisles of roleplay booths, saw the body with an arm missing and half a head. Swore.

"He mostly came for me, said so himself. Guessed my pod wrong but still got Blackest Night here. Called him secondary to me, so far as targets were concerned. We're waiting on an ambulance now, but it's got to come from another island."

A deep boom rumbled.
 

OmniChaos

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He resisted to smile. Oh, how he ever so resisted. An urging, driving force, to be sure. Aye, quite sure. Just let those little corners of the lips slowly and surely slide up and up and up and up. Let those quivering lips slowly part to reveal those dazzling, pearly whites. Aye, how he wanted and how he neared, but he held it, suppressed it. Not an easy task, to be sure.

Oh, but it wasn't Omni who stilled his lips, but the smiling bastard that lied just a scratch beneath the man's skin. Just a scratch. Aye, a single, irritating itch that tickled at the edge of the businessman's brain, taunting for a scratch. Just a single scratch beneath. So he was and so he had been and so he would be.

That distant rumble, which sounded from beyond the walls of the academy, told the man that lived within--just a scratch--that someone else had been a busy bee, not much unlike himself. Though he knew not who it was--though he imagined it might be connected to the one who spoke within the simulation, he knew, at least for the time being, that their goals would merge. A thought that rubbed the man wrong, but, nonetheless, he would not spurn the opportunity. 'Twas not chance of the laid timing.

Another rumble soon followed, this one louder and closer. Much closer, in fact, as it came from above the room in which they currently had gathered. The ceiling shifted and swayed, and clumps of the ceiling began to give way, dropping toward the citizens below.

"Watch out!" Omni cried, pushing Jezza aside as a slab of ceiling fell where he stood. Of course, the man would allow this. Not only would interjecting with Omni's natural reaction not be worth the man's effort or energy, he wanted Jezza to die by his hands, not a falling slab. No fun in the chase of the game if his playmate couldn't even live to play it. Nay, none at all.

"Jezza, I suggest we move everyone! Now!!"

In the chaos, the man let loose the piece of paper Omni had taken from the body. It fluttered slowly to the ground, small pieces of the falling ceiling dropping past it on each side. When it landed, a single message read: All hail the Smiling Man!
 

Orion

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Orion's mind and heart began racing when the first boom issued from somewhere outside. When another came from above their heads, his brain was in overdrive. Someone - or many someones - were making doubly certain to try and take him out. Potentially a good chunk of Roleplay Town's regular inhabitants and participants. Perhaps that was even the intention of people like the Realists: Kill off the normal roleplayers until all that remains are those that are seeking Realisation.

He and nearly all others present were fully capable of escaping in time, so Orion had no fear for them. He was, naturally, most concerned for the semi-crucified Blackest Night, who Eva still leaned over and kept her hands close to his chest, but at the same time looked to Orion and Omni. She could see both the former's hesitance, and the latter's eagerness to depart. "Omni, Mist - go, now. I'll see you out the front."

Whatever further objections or pleadings came from the two of them, they fell on deaf ears. Orion stood up from his position on the ground, ran over to Night and Eva. With hands on their shoulders, he spoke in turn to her then him: "Get in the third pod, we're leaving through the basement. I'm sorry for this, Sean, but without Eva healing you I need some other way to stem your bleeding."

With little time remaining, Orion stood up from the two of them and moved over to the master roleplay booth. Instead of pressing buttons on the little side-screen, he gripped his whole hand around it, external electrical impulses commanding the device to descend. It insisted immediately that he validate his identity - with ID, passcode, and more. He forced his mind upon it the little machine, his psychometry translating force of will into brutal security intrusions. The machine acquiesced, though it knew now who commanded it.

Settling into the booth, Orion continued speaking: "When we're going down, I'm going to knock you out with the booth's neural manipulation. I'm sorry you had to return to Roleplay Town in its current state, and that this had to happen." The half-shells closed fully on Orion and Eva's booths, most of the way on Night's - the spike protruding from his chest preventing complete closure. Their pods descended into the floor even as the roof began caving in on them in sections.

====================

Darkness enveloped them as the floor closed over them, then the ceiling. They entered an underground space composed of dull shades and few lights. Metal columns upheld the ceiling, and between each column sat a serious of pistons and coiling cables - the mechanisms by which the basement booths ascended to the first floor.

With such an innocuous name, the space betrayed its exclusivity: Part of KHI's functional underground, it was a space usually occupied only by Lemmings, and only very occasionally accessed by moderators and administrators with the right privileges. Currently, it was unoccupied save the three of them, and it was tough to see. As Orion climbed out of his booth, the stars on his mask coalesced into bright halos around his eyes, rings of brilliant white that cut through the darkness easily.

As he had descended, he puzzled over how they were to extract Night from his pod. Unconscious, perhaps even somewhat comatose - Orion had to execute the order in a hurry - he would at least be moved without much complaint. The biggest issue was the spike in his chest, for if it could be kept in place, it could stem some bleeding, but to move him with the protrusion would require it to be cut down, and Orion saw no such tools as he swung swathes of light around the underground space.

He jumped over to Night's pod as Eva did the same, and she seemed to have also acknowledge the inevitable - as they looked across Night's pod before peering into it, Orion saw her face hard set and determined. Within the cocoon, Night's face was calm but pale, and lined with sweat. His breathing was shallower, but the bleeding around the wound seemed to have slowed down a bit, but it was hard to tell with all the black blood staining around his shirt anyway.

"You take his shoulders, I'll lift below the spike." Together they hurriedly coordinated the delicate procedure. From the left of the pod, Eva reached in with a hand around each of Night's shoulders, while Orion was practically hugging him, at his back one arm above the spike, another below it. They had to lift as straightly as possible, lest they incur further injury for him. Thankfully, the frayed end of the spike had no pieces jutting out, and it even tapered a little, such that it would be easier going the further they lifted him.

Orion counted down, wincing as he did so, knowing a fatal error could only be a few millimeters away.

=========================

"HELP!"

A desperate, almighty roar issued from beneath the stormwater drain. A few doors down from the Academy, it was heard perfectly by Omni and Mist, who ran to investigate. From a distance, they could see fingers gripped around the bars of the grate that lay where road met gutter, and they were pushing it up.

As he heard footsteps running closer, Orion yelled to them: "Lift the concrete top!" Omni and Mist responded by stepping up onto the pavement, and digging their hands into the small, rectangular holes cut into a slab of concrete that lay in line with the grate, and heaved.

Orion pushed out the grate, and it clattered deep and loud on the street. He crawled up out of the tight space, tearing clothes and caking them in patches of mud. Without stopping, he turned to help Omni and Mist. They had the strength to lift it from its perch, but not clear of its enclosure. With his help, they hefted the slab out of its way to reveal Eva standing upright with Night in her embrace, he facing away with her glowing hands - now flickering intermittently - directly over his wound.

The three men lifted the healer and the victim together, so that Eva's body kept pressure on the rear of the wound, and the healing effect remained steady on the front. Stopping his gasping breaths, Orion listened out for the sound or sirens. Hearing none, he withdrew and unlocked his phone before putting it back into his pocket.

Physically unlocked, Orion's simple psychometric link reached out to it. He dialed instantly the emergency services number, forced the receiving phone system to bypass the ringing stage, and put him straight onto someone, broadcasting even before the phone was picked up.

He spoke as was natural habit, and the signals in the nervous system were relayed to the phone and beyond: "Orion here, now outside the Academy. We were forced to move the victim and his condition may have deteriorated. What's the ETA?" No one else heard what Orion was told, but they could guess from his reaction.

"What?"
 

Wehrmacht

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The trek through Fanfic Isle had taken even less time than he expected. He had parked the boat and took a car he prepared for the trip, and made the brunt of it in little over 10 minutes. There was very little traffic on the roads, and the only people he had even come across were Sabrina and Nyangoro, who were essentially the only ones besides a few roleplay vets who still had any interest in keeping the place alive. He had a short conversation with Nyan about the manga he was currently reading (Bokurano, it was called), and then he went on his way.

Arriving at Roleplay Town he couldn't help but feel that something was...off. The town seemed to be no different than it regularly was; the old buildings with the RP archives, dingy streets, wrecks of old VR booths in garbage cans, the impression that the town was only half-alive, all of it was nothing new to him. He normally tried not to put too much stock in feelings, but his intuition was demanding to be heard, and it didn't have pleasant things to say. His hunch would be validated only a few minutes later, as he was making his way to the academy, where Jezza's meeting was to take place. He saw two youths (who he assumed were one of the few regulars still present, or perhaps some newcomers who wouldn't stay for long) coming from the Academy's direction.

"Wow, that was something else! Who would have thought Jezza would have come up with something like THAT?", said a short young man with a baseball cap dressed in jean overalls.

"I don't even know exactly he has planned", said his rugged friend in the striped sweater. "But those seeds, man! They followed us here, who's even to say what's real and what isn't anymore if that's even possible?" He held up a small seed in the palm of his hand as he walked, gazing at it with great interest.

"Shame about Night though. I got a glimpse of him and it seemed like something real bad happened. Saw a bone poking out of his chest", replied the one in overalls, making a gesture with his hands at his own ribcage with a grim look on his face.

He had no time to take all this new information in, because then came the booms. It was almost enough to make him jump; it was certainly enough for the boys. One of the noises came from the direction of the academy. The academy's ceiling becan to crumble, pieces of it falling down like so many boulders. It appeared as if the looming shadow over Roleplay Town was a shadow no more; it had begun to strike, and he was barely just in time to witness it. He broke into a run, eager to find out what was going on, as the ceiling continued to crumble.

As he got closer and closer to the academy, he noticed there was a bit of a commotion. There were five people gathered around, one of them in torn, muddy clothes. It was Orion; the mask was unmistakable. He also recognized Omni, an old friend with whom he went way back to the KH sections. There were two others who he did not know, and an unconscious man with a shirt covered in blood. Upon further inspection, he appeared to have some protruding from his chest. He assumed it was Blackest Night, since the boy's description fit the bill.

Orion was holding a phone; Wehrmacht assumed he was calling emergency services. Apparently, whatever they had to say didn't please him, as he heard a loud "what" from him shortly thereafter. Having finally reached them, he cleared his throat and spoke up: "What indeed: what on EARTH happened here?"
 
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Ulti

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All the participants of the event were either dazed or mindlessly scared of the past ordeal. Most were still struggling to their feet when Ulti arrived at the Academy. She spied Orion off in one direction on a phone, most likely reporting the attack to others. Wehrmacht was already at the scene as well. Just as well, she thought. Let some higher up deal with the PR and mess while those who can get their hands dirty could get to real work. Nothing really seemed out of the ordinary out of the participants. All were RPers, nothing spotty on their record. No one seemed to be a mole, no one was on the inside to help the attacker. Only one was dead, but she was not concerned with the victim as of yet. A few newbies were all gazing at something in their hands.

Before any of them could say a word, Ulti snatched an object from one of the newbies. They began to protest but fell silent when they realized who approached them. She said not a word to them but kept on walking by as if she did nothing wrong. She turned the object over, inspected all sides, gave it the typical rundown. It was a small seed. She was no expert on plants so she could not identify its type. From what she saw, everyone else had a similar, if not the exact, seed. A symbol, no doubt, that the attacker wanted to spread. There did not seem to be much of a skirmish between Orion and the attacker. It did not seem like he tried to run and he must have known he would not be able to take down Orion on his own. It was a suicide mission. A symbol left behind and expected death. This was some kind of twisted message. But what was it?

For once in a long time, Ulti found genuine surprise as she saw the victim's face. Blackest Night, Sean to those close to him, laid before her, with a gaping hole in his chest like some chestburster had recently escaped. It was not that an old friend was dead that surprised her. After Tony's untimely demise, she lost the capability to react to such events. It was confusing that Sean was here at all. He left the entire city many years ago with no intent on ever returning. A few people say such things abut still return anyways. But not Sean, not this corpse.

Answers were needed. More information must be available before they would appear. And only one witness was calm enough to talk to, even if he was a bit busy on his cell. Ulti approached him from behind and tapped his head with her still cocked crossbow.

"Pretty sure the newbs already did that. Now, let's talk about why Sean is here and don't feed me that bullshit that he got bored."
 
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Mistearea

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Mist lets go of Eva and takes a step back as he watches Jezza call for emergency services, something that was most likely already done by one of the people that managed to see the crumbling. But instead of focusing on that he catches a few faces that he doesn't know very well from this location. The first he recognized from a few of his travelings to some other parts of the city while the other he only knows the face of, not the name. But instead of paying too much attention to the quite possible negative answer that was given to the man on the phone, he instead directs his attention to the one that asked what happened.

"Other than the fact that something really bad happened, some guy died back there and another is currently fighting for his life. And don't let the bone fool you either, he's alive."

The last part of his statement was mostly aimed at the woman that he doesn't recognize. Judging by the look that she was giving the one being held, she must have thought that he was dead just like he did at the first. But then that brings up another issue to mind, granted it's something that can be saved for later. Instead he looks over to Eva and places a hand on her shoulder. Out of everyone here he's more worried about her. She is the one that he's closest to after all. But even this doesn't last too long. He may be friends with her, but that's all it is. With that he finally looks to the rest of them and spits once more into the bottle, something slowly being filled with brown saliva.

"If there's nothing else that I'm needed for, I'm going home. Multiple role plays and then this little endeavor? I'm ready to pass out right now."
 

Prophet

come and go
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“Get the door open NOW!”

“What the hell is going on?”

The doors to the hospital garage slid open, barely allowing the ambulance to speed out, sirens blazing as it shot down the dark road. Tires squealed like crying babies against the asphalt and as the lights of Media City washed over the windshield, the faces of the desperate medics were lit up. One sat in the passenger seat, nervously tapping on the dashboard.

“What’s the situation?”

“Got in a call in from Creative Isle, they need transport now. Victim’s ID is Blackest Night. We’ve got dozens of people calling it in, direct line from Orion. Guy’s not gonna last long if we don’t get there.”

“Step on it, Adam.”

Adam wiped his brow, focused on the road, his eyes glinting like knives in the moonlight as the ambulance barreled forward, dodging lanes as they got on the main interway. The medic in the backseat jostled a bit as he quickly tried to put together the revival kit.

“They really had no one down there?”

“You know how dead it’s been across the bridge. The place is two months away from dropping off the face of the earth. Soon, the only thing left moving over there will be the Lemmings.”

“Jeez. You used to spend some time down there, right Adam?”

Adam nodded silently, his brow slick with perspiration and he jerked the wheel as the blaring horn of a truck sounded, heading the opposite direction. The two medics fell against the seats, swearing as Adam got back in the lane.

“Watch it man! We need to get there in one piece, right?” shouted one medic nervously, straightening himself up and patting the seatbelt. The siren drowned out most of their conversation, but Adam nodded once more, gripping the wheel tightly as the looming lights of Creative Isle came into view. The city was stunning from a distance, and as the bridge came into sight, the ambulance picked up speed, its sirens wailing into the night like a tortured soul. As the ambulance sped onto the bridge, flashing lights dancing around the shadowy rails, the in-car phone rang. The medic in the back picked up quickly as the ambulance rocked back and forth, bracing himself against the wall as he jostled up and down.

“WHAT?” he shouted over the siren’s increased volume. “WE KNOW, WE’RE ON THE BRIDGE. TRY TO STOP THE BLEEDING, DON’T REMOVE HIM FROM—JEEZ, SLOW DOWN!”

The ambulance was practically flying over the bridge. The medic in the passenger seat was gripping the dashboard in fear as Adam floored the gas pedal, sending the ambulance flying over the bridge like a red and blue comet.

“Adam, what the hell!” shouted the medic in the passenger seat, “What are you d-“

His voice faded out as he saw Adam’s look. His eyes started glistening, tears forming as he gripped the wheel hard with one pale white hand. His other hand was gripped tightly around something else, something the other medic couldn’t see. The medic’s eyes widened as he stared at Adam, and in one moment, Adam took his eyes off the road and stared at him. His eyes were wide, terrified, and fanatically determined. He opened his hand and the medic looked down to see two things. A small button detonator and a single brown seed. His mouth hung open and the siren drowned out his world for that single, frozen moment. Adam merely smiled, a single tear falling down his desperately confident face.

“I believe,” he said, voice quavering slightly, and pushed the button.



The bar had livened up a bit. When Sarah had left, the place was practically dead. Now, people had come pouring in after Orion’s demonstration, chatting talking about the strange seeds, talking in hushed tones about what had happened to Blackest Night, when all of a sudden, a boom shook the bar. Lights flickered and people screamed. Roleplayers, freshly spooked from the intense event, gathered together, clutching their drinks nervously, their imaginations running wild with the possibilities of what was happening.

“Quiet!” shouted the bartender, standing on a chair and turning on the TV, “Everybody stay inside! Get away from the windows, let’s see what’s happening.” Everyone in the bar nervously at a booth, whispering quietly to each other as an atmosphere of incredible tension suddenly filled the air. There was a slight gasp as another boom shook the bar, causing the TV’s picture to fuzz slightly before refocusing, bringing another sharp intake of breath to the huddled patrons of the bar.

“This just in, it appears as if some kind of explosion has rocked the Academy over in Roleplay Town. What you are looking at happened only minutes ago…”

There was a stunned silence as many of the patrons saw the building they had just been in crumble, the roof caving in with stunning ease. There was a collective breath of fear as they watched the brick and concrete of Academy explode in a flash of orange light before caving in on itself. Another boom sounded outside and dust shook from the bar ceiling. Every looked around in fear as the image on the television showed another part of the Academy crumbling down. There was another gasp as the image on the television switched, this time to the bridge… or what was left of it…

“There has been another explosion on the bridge into Creative Isle. Reports are flooding in from people on the bridge. It seems like the entire middle section has collapsed. Police are on their way to the Academy as we speak, but the collapse of the bridge has effectively shut off the main transport to Creative Isle. Unconfirmed reports from pedestrians on the bridge are claiming that an ambulanc-“

There was another large BOOM and the television cut off. A larger wave of dust fell from the ceiling and people began to shout and crowd in panic.

“EVERYBODY INTO THE CELLAR!” shouted the bartender, opening up the trapdoor and herding people down, “MOVE QUICKLY, THE CELLAR LEADS TO THE TUNNELS! KEEP CALM, FOLLOW THE LIGHT!”

Roleplayers quickly jostled their way down into the cellar. Many of them took out their cell phones, calling their loved ones or trying to figure out if anyone knew what was happening. As people rushed into the cellar, one figure moved differently. He rushed into the cellar along with the others. His face was twisted to look panicked, but his eyes held no trace of fear. His body moved quickly beneath an average, somewhat cheap suit, but a doctor would notice no elevated pulse.

If you looked at his features for too long, something would strike you as odd. Perhaps the nose was too… perfect. Perhaps the jawline was too… ideal. Not in the sense that they were incredibly attractive…. In the sense that they seemed oddly calculated, like what someone would imagine an average face to look like. But in the panic and darkness of the underground, nobody noticed this perfectly average face. Nobody noticed the pair of perfectly average eyes burn with the spark of gargantuan imagination. And nobody noticed the small regretful whisper that it uttered, so quietly that its perfectly average ears could barely hear it itself.

“Sorry, Sean…”
 
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Orion

Prepared To Die
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After his initial exclamation Orion remained in silence, even as his boss the administrator questioned him. He withdrew the phone from his ear as the other side disconnected suddenly, and stared at the screen. Icons and processes flashed briefly across the screen as he accessed a moderator-only piece of software: a system of running updates on the city as a whole drawn from keywords in people's phone calls, messages, and social media, in addition to information provided by the Lemmings as they made works on the less visible aspects of the city.

The bridge was out.

Some eyewitnesses could corroborate the bridge began its explosive collapse when an ambulance - Orion's ambulance - passed some critical point. Simultaneously, explosions erupted at either end of that section of road, taking out not just the elevated portion but its pylons as well, such that the adjacent sections, while not falling away completely, collapsed at angles too.

The central highway that fed inter-city activity had been shaped like a plus sign before, like each town sitting at the spoke of a wheel. Now it was an upside-down 'T'. Orion processed the ramifications as he began to answer the questions, to begin the explanation that was so desired. The exact ambulance that had been sent for Blackest Night was prepared, had been infiltrated.

Whoever had orchestrated the dangers in the Academy's main hall also had access to at least one person at an ambulance dispatch. Orion wondered if they could have organised that that very ambulance, with its very particular paramedic, be sent. It was unlikely, but it was preferable to them hedging their bets and having one person at any potential centre that might dispatch to the Creativle Isle.

Orion put his phone away, then turned to face everyone and spoke, before turning to Wehrmacht in turn: "Anyone take a boat here? Your yacht, boss?" Everyone seemed to do a double-take at Orion's nonchallant side-stepping of his responsibility of explanation, but Wehrmacht responded first, having been specifically addressed - "It's parked at Fan Fiction Ville's port. What of it? Also, I get that you're preoccupied but an explanation sometime soon would be welcomed"

Orion resumed, preparing himself to talk at length and answer many questions in one fell swoop. "It's a shame. That was a real nice boat. They'll hit it too, before the night is out - the same people who just took out the bridge to the Creative Isle. That was the first, big boom a couple of minutes back. Blackest Night's ambulance isn't coming." Orion was glad he was currently unconscious, so that Night didn't have to hear it.

"I don't yet know who they are, but they had someone infiltrate at least one of the dispatch centres. Someone in the ambulance pushed a big, red, shiny button and the bridge fell out from under them. I'm assuming they're tied to the attacks within and then on the Academy, because the timing's too convenient. Whoever planted the demo-paramedic knew there'd be casualties from the Academy, either from a precision or brute-force attack."

Orion ruminated on what exactly to say next - whether to tie Dante and the collapsing ceiling to the same person or group. It certainly would be effective - let Dante do whatever he wants, but whether he fails or not, they get to bury his body with the rest of the main hall, at least put off investigations in that department for a while. Orion remained open to the possibility that they were two unrelated attacks on him, keeping in mind that both the Realists and the Smiling Man wanted him out of the picture.

Orion worked on the fly to slightly alter his story - he didn't want the Realisation problem becoming something big. If it leaked or somehow went public, Roleplay Town would probably receive more attention than it had got in many years, but almost entirely from those who wanted some superpower or fantastical artefact. He hoped to talk privately with Wehrmacht about it later, to give at least him the full story.

"A kid holding a grudge against me from a few years ago was given a - weapon, probably from a man called Eman. When I was giving a presentation he hit Night, but as soon as he was ejected from the roleplay I got myself out of there too. Managed to get a gun on Dante and he blabbed that I was his primary target, Night his secondary. Then the ceiling started caving in and I lost my concentration for a second, Dante rounded on me but I fired a shot in time and killed him. Myself and Eva - she was closest - took Night underground so we could get him out.

"As for why Night is here in the first place, I can only guess he had heard the rumours of Realisation, and maybe wanted to try his hand at it. Why he was targeted, though? I think - think, I don't actually have evidence for this - that he was approached by the Realists. With his long history of masterful roleplaying, they may have seen good potential in him. He told me someone had come seeking him out, but he rejected the offer and pissed them off, and so they went after him. They probably saw an ideal opportunity with him and I in the same place, along with all the 'upstanding' citizens who might not want to get involved in or help the Realists with whatever they're doing."

Orion specifically left out mention of the only real piece of evidence he had - the tiny flash drive from Dante's console. There were probably other parts of the story that didn't match up with what people from the outside had seen. In his constructed scenario, people should have been leaving the venue terrified, but Ulti and/or Wehrmacht had probably seen most of them in a good mood, fingering the seeds they all seemed to mysteriously had. The thought struck Orion's mind that he could further correct his tale, even turn it more to his advantage.

"Dante's weapon was an oddity, something I didn't recognise as any sort of weapon we might have in the er - real, modern world. I found on his body before we fled a little flash drive that may hold information about the weapon, where it came from, or his mission. In tandem with the unusual weapon, many people left the presentation with seeds they didn't have when it begun."

"Some of the Realisation rumours are true - at least, that simple items can be constructed from the creative dreamscape. So far as I'm aware, there's only one person capable of doing that, and I was going to visit him after the ambulance for Night got here. But, it looks like things aren't going to pan out quite like that. As we descended in our booths, I had Night's one knock him out so he'd be in less pain and so that his heart rate could slow a bit, stabilise him."

Orion looked down on the body - it was cruel to think of it that way, given Night was still alive, but Orion knew none of them had the significant medical expertise or equipment to deal with his injury. Although the entry and exit wounds were black with dried blood, within there were tiny, fragile sinews and veins that spanned the gaps - arteries and nerves magically reconnected by Eva's efforts. But she was drained, and when Orion noticed people approaching them from the main street - Wehrmacht and Ulti - he told her to give up. It would spare her investigations based on her powers, and save her the emotional turmoil of utterly emptying herself of her healing energies but still having Night die.

"When Night told me vaguely that a strange man speaking of dreams made real had approached him, and that he rejected, it made me so happy. Even if Night were to pursue Realisation on his own terms, it meant there was a chance I could still work with him on normal roleplaying, put our creativity together to try and revive this town."

In the darkness behind the mask, Orion's eyes began watering unseen, and he blinked them away - sadness for the loss of someone who might have become a truly great friend, a fantastic collaborator, and one of the last great hopes he thought Roleplay Town had.
 

Professor Ven

The Tin Man
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The sun blazed its golden radiance upon the green, luscious landscape, the rolling hills and waterfall-gilded mountains gracing the serene landscape. The city below him could be seen through the Cathedral's grand window, the neo-gothic design highest of his architectural tastes.

The Professor strode down the spiral staircase, grey coat fluttering at the base edges, the light of the ever-burning torches guiding his footsteps, the land coming closer through the windows that were at every floor in the tower's stairwell which itself was part of the Cathedral. Figures shrouded in red and black shuffled by his presence, the white columns and floor of marble finely polished. The pews were carved in fanciful shapes of all manner of flora and fauna, each one unique from the others. Tapestries hung from the columns, all a manner of different colors and sigils.

He left through the front, the great doors of the Cathedral open to let in the cooling breeze. The city that sprawled around the Cathedral was contained by two circular walls, one containing the innermost, where all manner of important matters occurred - the outer containing homes, shops, and small manufacturing. Each street was clean of refuse, no person slept at the side of the road, nor begged for alms.

It was only here that the Voices never spoke, here, in this twisted realm. Would that I could simply remain here forever, in this realm of creation. But they must never know.

The Professor recalled well when he had first begun this great experiment, the Gateway. His investments had paid off, sending in the necessary gold and mercury needed, along with a set of specific tools. The modern aspect of the device had been the simplest, in utilizing the possibly dubbed "creative explosion" in Roleplay Town in combination with an electric current and a water clock. The frame had been built of a specific dark, heavy wood found only somewhere to the East.

Nevertheless, his ambition had been accomplished; he was content. This Realm was a byproduct of his imagination, containing a majority of building designs, characters, ideals - it was his perfect culture. Here he could remove himself from the equation of the politics and general dung of Roleplay Town, and cease to think entirely. Instinct guided him more so, in this place.

He walked to the Tower, its great bastion of crystal, glass, and intricately-carved stone looming over him, casting its shadow upon the city. The Tower operated much like a sundial, sitting in the central part of the city. Though the ding-donging of the bells signaled noon, one could always check the Tower's shadow.

He entered its depths, smiling briefly at the idea of those who had tried to enter here before. Those who entered from the Professor's Door - for it was the only way to this eclectic place - were given leave to remain in the Realm; those who attempted to leave were hunted down and slain by his most powerful, and cunning creations.
 

Ulti

hurr hurr hurr
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"One day you'll understand that you can't revive the dead, Jezza."

But Ulti did not look at Orion as she said these words. Her attention was on the body of Sean, of Blackest Night, who was more of a corpse than a man. His skin was pale and his breathes were short and quick. His eyes barely held a glow and were unfocused. He was not aware he was slowly dying. Ulti's eyes tightened, her hands clenched tightly. This was no way to die. Not Blackest Night. Not Sean. Even with all the healing powers that Eva held, she could only delay the inevitable. Ulti, rather unbecoming of her, slightly touched Orion's shoulder to get his attention.

"At least make it painless before the darkness claims him."

Orion stared at her for a moment, unclear of her request. Then, looking at Sean, he nodded slowly. He knelt before the once great Blackest Night and held his head up. A faint glow could be seen at the back of Sean's head. Ulti never understood what sort of powers Orion had. With all of his roleplay time, she assumed he might have at least one power that could numb a person completely. It worked rather well. Sean's pale skin looked slightly warm and his eyes regained focus. He was not able to speak and his breathing was still ragged. Time was getting shorter and shorter for Sean. Ulti found her seat besides Sean's head but faced the opposite direction. From his perspective, he could only see her back.

She said nothing for a few seconds. She retrieved a phone out of her pocket and started to fumble with it. She then placed it on the ground, close to Sean's head. A song started to play from the phone. No one else quite understood the importance of the song or if it even held importance. But one look at Sean's face, a warm smile that not even Death could stop, and bystanders knew it was for him.

"I memorized all the words for you..."

Invincible-Crossfade - YouTube

Not a single soul said a word, none even dared to breathe. Not many people suspected of Ulti ever having the ability to sing. She wasn't the next starlet, but she put her entire soul into this one last song to a dear old friend. The lyrics made others question the relationship between the two. Ulti did not seem to show any shame or embarrassment. After the song had ended and Ulti bowed her head, there was a stretch of silence. She slowly turned to Sean, bowed her head to him, and got up. It appeared that Sean had fell asleep during her performance. He fell into an endless sleep which there was no waking. Like a flip of a switch, Ulti had regained her composure and turned to Orion.

"Ready to head out?"
 
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