N E V E R N O R M A L
phase 2: b l o o d b a t h
phase 2: b l o o d b a t h
A lone figure arrived a moment before a loud clap of thunder. She donned the iconic four-pointed star of the prolific superhero group, Starteam, and wore a suit so white and bright it almost hurt to look at. Jupiter took to the air, her long gold-brown hair rising with the static energy that suddenly swelled around her, and spoke in a surprisingly soft voice. “Good work, boys.”
She said it neither unkindly nor mockingly and from behind her partial cowl, a soft, reassuring smile could be seen. However, she gestured towards the nearest alley, signaling without saying that it was now their time to leave. Without looking to see if they did so, Jupiter released a wave of energy straight towards the quickly approaching automatons. Bolts of white-blue lightning streaked and zigzagged their way across and throughout the plaza, though none made their way towards Miles or Willem.
Small claps of thunder sounded with each impact and although most hit their target, the wave of automatons kept coming. It didn’t seem to phase Jupiter, however, as a hungry smile stretched across her face. “Go,” Jupiter shouted, “It’s not going to be safe for much lo—”
Jupiter turned, eyes alight with confusion and worry as she witnessed a stark yellow-white portal open up behind both of the men. She didn’t have time to reach them or shout another warning before they were both swallowed and dropped into the unknown.
Suddenly, the pleading, desperate, nearly inhuman screech emanating from the industrial park became overbearing. Glass quivered and shattered all throughout the park and Jolene, caught in the middle of whatever was happening, would find herself dazed and confused within the commotion. Within seconds of the newly invigorated scream, Jolene would find herself growing woozy, as if something was assaulting her senses. She would notice, if just barely, a shoulder-width portal open up beneath her feet and slowly and then all at once, consume her.
THREE HOURS AND THIRTY MINUTES
Voltae’s odd reflection answered her call, appearing with a sudden yellow-white ring around her eyes. There was a curious expression in her face that hadn’t been there a moment before and the reflection continued to stare with a sense of contemplative judgement. After a moment or two, the reflection reached out to Voltaeiche, slowly placing her palm against the glass nearest Voltae’s own hand. It glanced between them, as if it expected her to mimik the gesture.
When it wasn’t reciporcated immediately, the odd reflection backed away, haughtily and almost angry, and disappeared a moment later.
ONE HOUR AND TEN MINUTES
As Louis traveressed the dimensional mall, he would realize that despite the fact that it was eerily empty, spookily silent, and otherwise unperturbed even by dust, the mall was like any other. The decorum was still a rather dull, lifeless grey, but it was well stocked with all kinds of goods and merchandise that was real and solid to the touch. Removing an item from a store or stand wouldn’t set off any alarms and from the wide range of stores listed on the map, it suggested there was quite the variety.
If Louis decided to look at the gifted map, he would now notice two dots, one the color of his glow in the exact spot he was in, and one he could only assume was Voltaeiche. No matter what he did-- walk forward, back, or side to side, the dot on the map would react in kind. Perhaps a little disconcerting, but also quite useful. For now, everything seemed to be calm and peaceful and nothing stood in his way of exploring and gathering supplies.
Once again, the building began to shake. It wasn’t as violent a shake as Voltaeiche would remember, but it was powerful enough to shake one from a slumber or catch one completely off guard. Noticed or not, the seconds ticked on, seemingly faster and faster as it did. And once the time was up…
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Everyone found themselves alone, in an opaque glass-like dome that was impossible to see out of. Whatever was on their person prior to being sucked into the dimension remained, however, no signal could be found and certain apps and gadgets simply refused to work. No matter how hard one tried to escape, they simply couldn’t. It was nigh impossible to tell just how long they’d been there or how much time had elapsed, but after a while, things finally began…
Julian tried not to frown as he rubbed away at a tension headache just above his temple. It had been much, much harder to gather all of them here. Much harder than he originally anticipated. But here they were, in separate glass-like domes that they couldn’t see out of— not yet, at least —which formed a crescent around the Cornicopia. This newest test was inspired by a twenty-first century book he’d read a long time ago, on the behest of his first and favorite student aide. Thinking back, he always knew he would try something similar, as something inside him just knew it would force the best (and maybe the worst) out of his students. If it weren’t for the pounding headache, he would’ve been giddy with excitement.
From within his master dimension, he allowed his voice to travel to the five occupied domes. “WELCOME,” Julian exclaimed. “TODAY, YOU WILL BEGIN THE LONG AND ARDUOUS JOURNEY IN UNLOCKING YOUR TRUE SELF.”
The glass-like domes suddenly became transparent, allowing them to see one another. Of the six that were placed, only five of the domes were occupied and curiously, above each, were yellow glowing symbols. The pawn — the only dome unoccupied — suddenly lost its brilliant glow, and Julian Armine continued his speech. “THE FIVE OF YOU WILL BEGIN WITH A SIMPLE, BUT TELLING EXAM.”
Each dome was perhaps ten feet apart and about fifty feet away from the Cornicopia— a large, metal building with three flat sides and a roof, lit up by yellow lights. There was no entryway, but instead, open and freely revealing the cache of goods that laid within. Even with the distance between them, armor, weapons, and supplies could be seen. Each dome had a walkway, leading towards the building with built in lights guiding the way.
Everything else was surrounded in darkness.
Everything else was made of the unknown.
“TO PASS THIS EXAM, YOU MUST FIGHT. WITH OR AGAINST EACH OTHER, AS WELL AS…”
Before he could finish his statement, an unearthly moaning and growling could be heard from behind the domes. It wasn’t unsimilar to a growling dog and yet there was something eerily distinct about it as well. It slowly grew in pitch, until finally Julian spoke once more.
“GET READY, YOUR EXAM BEGINS NOW.”
A timer, which displayed ninety seconds, suddenly appeared above the Cornicopia. Within moments, the dome disappeared from around the Fang and he was free to travel towards the building. The Barman was next, ten seconds later. And then the Doorway, ten seconds after that. And then the Zephyr... and then the Crown.
The timer continued to shrink away and the moaning and growling continued to swell. It wasn’t until the timer struck thirty seconds that the gathered “students” saw what was making the inhuman noises. Tall, vaguely humanoid shapes revealed themselves, slowly crawling, walking, and making their way towards the Cornicopia. They seemed to be made out of the dark of the dimension itself and the only thing separating them from one another and the very darkness itself was an odd yellow outline and haunting yellow eyes.
”KILL OR BE KILLED. THE CHOICE IS YOURS.”