The Elder Invasion: CHAPTER 1 - The Train to ShapeShifter's

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Jack sat by the window, staring out at the passing scenery, watching as the green trees around the south wall dissipated into great sprawling fields and plains, stretching off out to the west until the tiny horizon of the Anirune forest could be seen.

Without moving his gaze Jack spoke, his tone quite a bit more serious than it had previously been. "Right, so Grant.. what's the whole deal? what is all this about? Why do you guys need the sheathe and why cant I be trusted to hold on to it?"

"We need the absolute artifacts to be sure that the cycle is complete and that no anomalies will happen again" Grant replied, looking blankly across the cabin.

"Right yeah.. you said, and as I said, I am not going to remove the sheathe from Iwaku, I gave my word on that and I do not intend to break it. I know how the cycle works, having them all in Iwaku should solve the problem right?"

"Well yes this is true, but.. well.."

Jack turned to look at grant, his eyes quite cold looking, a hint of sadness tinting them. "Grant, what's really going on here? What is the Sheathe really for?"

[Jack quizzes Grant about the sheathe and his place in all this.]
Re: The Train to ShapeShifter's

The twins sat glued to the window, mesmerized by the sights by the sights of the badlands going past. This was their first trip out of the city and even the sight of open country was new to them. "See, I told you this would be fun, we even met new people before even getting on the train." Aya didn't answer, everything was going by so fast she didn't have time to take it all in. Her head was moving s much as she looked around at the sights it looked like she was trying to shake something from her nose. For the moment anyway they had forgotten their companions exept for the occasional glance Aki made at the old man.
Re: The Train to ShapeShifter's


"Grant, what's really going on here? What is the Sheathe really for?"

I stare out the window of the train cabin for a long moment, thinking carefully over what I should tell Jack. He deserves the truth, I know; after all he's gone through, it's only fair. But even if he does believe me, I don't want to put Jack in any more danger than he is already in as the current bearer of the Sheathe.

Finally, I sigh and look up at Jack.
"...It's not easy to explain, I'm afraid," I begin, giving him an apologetic smile, "And even if I did manage to condense it into words, you'd think I was crazy. And rightly so. Hell, by now I might well be..." The latter part I mutter to myself, staring out the window again for a moment. "Alright, here goes. My fellow knights and I... we're not from this Universe. We come from one parallel to this one, with an alternate Iwaku. One where... something went wrong.

"I'm not entirely certain of the details, but an Anomaly in the Cycle occurred, and as a result the Rift Storms came, ripping our universe apart. Some of us survived and found ourselves on the other Iwaku I mentioned. When the Rift Storms came for us again, we escaped on the Legacy. I believe this Iwaku had the three Angel ships, too? The Promise had left Iwaku long ago, heading for what we called Sanctuary. The Torment had fallen to the Rift Storms, and pursued us as we searched for the path of the Promise.

"Anyways, long story short, we reached this Sanctuary place... it wasn't easy, we lost a lot of good people..."
I sigh before continuing, and unwanted flood of faces lost flashing through my mind, "But when we reached Sanctuary, all of us were given three Choices. We could go back to our lives before the Rift Storms, but with the knowledge of everything that had happened. We could pass on to what essentially was Heaven. Or we could cross to this Iwaku and fight to protect the Cycle, to stop any other Anomalies from occuring again.

"Obviously, I took the third option."

Pausing for a moment, I continue. "You've been guarding that Sheathe for a long while, Jack, and you've done a good job. But... something's coming. I dunno if you can feel it, but something's coming; something bad. There's a reason Asmodeus does not want you to become a Knight like us; he doesn't want to see you hurt, or killed. And whatever's coming, it's going to go for the Sheathe. It's gonna come for you, Jack."

I look Jack straight in the eyes now. "Asmodeus doesn't want you to get hurt, and I don't either. You've already done so much; there's no reason for you to have to bear the brunt of what's coming. Let me do the job I swore myself to in Sanctuary, Jack. Give the Knights the Sheathe; we can protect it, keep it hidden and safe. I'm not saying don't help us at all, but a group of people dedicated to protecting the Sheathe is preferable to just one man."

There is, of course, the other possibility of an Anomaly occurring within Jack himself, or him falling to the point where he begins abusing the Sheathe's powers for his own ends. I'd like to believe that he has the integrity to resist such things, but it can happen to anyone; power corrupts. The Knights must watch each other constantly for signs of Anomalies beginning within our own number, and move to stamp it out, by any means necessary, if one does occur.

Grant gives Jack a brief summary of events in the parallel universe to this Iwaku, but remains cryptic. He hints at 'something' coming, which will go after the Sheathe and by an extension Jack.
Re: The Train to ShapeShifter's

Yes indeed... something was coming...

Asmodeus looked up, his fingers relaxing till finally the book dropped to the floor.

"What is it?" asked Uriel, looking over at him.

The angel made no answer, but rose, his hand reaching out and turning the dial on the TV set that hung over the aisle. There was a crackle of static and then the picture stabilized, showing only the simple logo of the Cbox News Channel. A voice was speaking, very faintly, but it filled the cabin nonetheless and drew the attention of the other passengers.

"... we're broadcasting from our smaller station in the Gosai Mountains, which at present seems to be the only region that hasn't been attacked...

...all contact has been lost with Iwaku City, and we are receiving unsubstantiated reports from the Cult Quarter and the state of Dystopia. One reliable eye-witness report states that Shapeshifter Town is under attack from... spider-like machines...

...unable to establish the motive for the attacks, but we do know that the machines are widespread, making coordinated strikes on Scrap Iron City, Temple Island and Anirune Forest...

"Spiders?" repeated Uriel, rising to stand with other frightened passengers.

Behind his mask, no one could see the colour drain from Asmodeus's face.

"Something has awoken..." he whispered...

Re: The Train to ShapeShifter's

Jack's fist swung round and impacted the window, the glass vibrating and cracking slightly. "I'd have thought that Asmo would have sent someone who has an idea of my past to sweet talk me." Jack's face was obscured as he talked, his hair hanging over it "You seem to think that i've done things, important things.. well Grant, you're wrong, just wrong." Jack sighed slightly and lowered hs hand from the cracked glass.

"Grant, I haven't done anything, I CAN'T do anything.. I'm not part of the cycle, all I can do is try and make a difference, knowing that at any moment I could just be written out of the plot and be completely powerless." Jack looked down at the sheathe, a tiny stone knife sheathe on his leg.

"You wanna know why I don't want to give the sheathe away?"

"Why?" Grant asked back, trying to keep his voice gentle.

"Cos I don't trust any of you with it, not even those I'd trust with my life. I'm not part of the cycle Grant, and I cannot use to sheathe. It still blocks thing, but I can't make it change size, and I can't control it. I can't be corrupted by it's power.. cos I don't have it's power!"

Jack sighed again "That.. and-"


Asmodeus didn't move as he worked through the histories he had learnt trying to recognise the giant creatures, trying to remember what they were. The carriage descended into a sort of chaos around him as the knight tried to calm and control the other passengers.

This loud noises and screams of panicking people did not cover up the loud bang off in the distance. Asmodeus heard it at least, and in one swift motion had grabbed the small security hammer and smashed the train window, before leaping out.


Down the other end of the train Mr Tea sat calmly sipping his coffee, which didn't seem to have run out yet. The conversation had been quiet and sporadic since they had got on the train, and currently they were all sitting in silence.

When the faint distant boom sounded Mr Tea simply stood up calmly, and appeared to flicker slightly, before walking through the window.


Jack saw the features on Grant's face drop, and he turned quickly to look out the window, there was a bright light, heading straight for them. Jack wasted no time jumping on the table between them and barreling himself out of the already weakened window.

As he left the train in a shower of broken glass he noticed out the corners of his eyes, Asmodeus to the left, making a similar dive, and to his right Coffee, who appeared to simply be strolling on air.

There were three of the huge beams, and they all hit at the same time. Jack brought hs SoulBlade upwards, and both him and the Beam stopped dead on impact, though the shockwave sent the train off it's tracks and sliding across the ground a few feet.

Asmodeus clapped his hands together and closed his eyes, the beam disapparating into nothing as it reached him, overwhelmed by the power of confluence. Asmodeus however then dropped, the reality of his own existence causing him to tumble as he hit the ground at tremendous speed, his mask shattering on impact and a horrible crunching sound accompanying the landing.

Coffee noticed Asmodeus' fall and waved his hand, calling to Jack as he did so. The beam diverted and headed straight for the young man, as Coffee seemed to fly to the fallen prince's side. Jack was struggling against the giant beam, his SoulBlade was holding it back, but it was taking a tremendous amount of effort. It was a good thing he only ad to deal with one.

Jack turned as he was called to, his expression of concentration suddenly replaced with one of panic as the other beam sped towards him. Instincts taking over he kicked up his leg, the beam colliding with the Sheathe strapped to it and stopping dead. Panting slightly Jack roared and forced his blade upwards, the first beam barreling off into the atmosphere harmlessly.

He then brought it around and down on the other beam, falling to the ground and pulling the beam with him. There was an explosion as the laser made impact with the ground and Jack was flung, smoking lightly, into the underside of the upturned train.

He groaned gently as he pulled himself, bleeding, from the machinery, only to look up and see, in the distance, something that resembled a giant stone crown.

[One of the elders fires upon the train, but the beams are stopped due to a joint effort from Jack Asmo and Coffee. The Elder is now in it's summoning stance a small way off.]
Re: The Train to ShapeShifter's

The numbness before pain... as if the body is just an illusion... warm and dead...

Then it comes... like a hundred reservoirs filling, little spots opening up all over the body and blossoming like roses.

He gasped, and his face fell away, two halves of it dropping to the ground.

No... not his face... just the mask...

Asmodeus opened his eyes, squinting at the midday sun high overhead. Then the light was blocked by an oriental hat and he focussed. The first wave of agony passed and the numbness returned.

"You came... I waited... all this time... and you came..."

Coffeecake reached down and pulled a piece of metal from Asmodeus's hair, his smile haunting and radiant.

"That's always been your trouble, Asmodeus," he answered. "You attach meaning to everything, even the games we play."

The sight of the old mentor brought a wave of grief, mixing with the pain. "Help me..." whispered the angel. "Please... I can't go on..."

"We had our Oscar moment," replied the mentor, shifting his position and adjusting the brim of his hat. "You'll have to make do with my hand for now."

There were spots in his vision, white noise in his ears. Dizzily, he gripped Coffeecake's hand and was pulled to his feet, stumbling on the ground, not noticing the pieces of hot metal and glass around him. He steadied himself on the robed sage and followed his gaze to the horizon.

The Stone Spider was resting on its belly, legs upturned like the points of a crown. At this distance it was hard to see, but capsules of amber crystal were appearing around it, placed down carefully by each leg.

"Do you know...?" Asmodeus shifted his weight, rubbing at his head. "Do you know... who... what...?"

"Elders, I believe," said Coffee, brushing a few specks of dirt from his robe. "Gabriel used to speak of them. Creatures buried beneath the earth when Iwaku was first united."

"What do they..." Asmodeus coughed dryly "What do they want...?"

"There you go again, looking for purpose."

The two men felt the tension in the air behind them. Asmodeus turned, looking in anguish at the overturned train. Survivors were climbing out of the cabins, forming up, standing in lines and staring at him.

There were tens, dozens of them... and the older ones among them were frozen in recognition. Ripples of horror and apprehension were running through the passengers, the smallest mutters building into outraged commotion.

They recognised him...

Asmodeus... the Dark Prince... the Butcher of the Towers... the monster who had filled the fairytales of children since the ending of the War.

Coffee stepped away and Asmodeus stumbled slightly towards the passengers.

"I'm..." He stuttered, seeing the fear, the disgust. "I'm sorry... I was just trying to help... please..."

Some of the mothers swept up their children, carrying them away from the angel, while other passengers reached instinctively for their weapons.

"Please..." He fell to his knees, begging the horde of strangers to understand. "... I'm not... I'm not going to hurt anyone... forgive me..."

His pleas became whispers, sobs. He hung his head, clutching at the pieces of his broken mask.

And then the crowd exhaled in terror, as something far more terrible arrived. One of the crystals in the distance shattered, and with a shimmer of transdimensional energy, the first of the Invader Warbands appeared. An advanced part of six barbarians materialised in an arc around Asmodeus.

The leader, a Hijacker, lifted his finger and pointed at the train. The Troll beside him released a feral roar and charged, wielding a savage club. Asmodeus turned, stumbling to his feet and holding out his hands.

"No," he whimpered, "Leave them alone!"

He stumbled in the way of the Troll, getting half-trampled as he tripped the lumbering creature to the ground. The two of them rolled and as Asmodeus tried to get up again, he found himself staring down the barrel of a Spam-cannon.

The Spammer pulled the trigger and Asmodeus cried out, flinging one half of his mask and knocking the bullet from the air. It richocheted, piercing the ankle of the Spammer, and as he fell another Invader charged in, daubed in garish paint. The Deviant screamed, causing the ground around Asmodeus to stretch and twist. The angel cringed as a headache assailed him, lashing out with the other half of his mask and slicing open the Deviant's face. The painted man crashed to the ground, tripping the Troll again moments before it could bash Asmodeus's head in.

"Please... stop this..." murmured Asmodeus, staggering blindly. He recolied as a PimpRat lashed at him with his chain-links, snaring his arms and legs. The PimpRat pulled the chains tight, stepping aside as a Flamer launched a fireball at the angel. But Asmodeus rolled, breaking free of the chains, and the fireball sailed past him and struck the Troll and Deviant. The pair were scorched, thrown back towards the train.

The PimpRat underestimated the angel's strength, and as Asmodeus rolled the Invader was wrenched into the air and flung against the side of the overturned train. The links dissipated as the man fell unconscious.

"We surrender!" shouted the angel, lifting his hands to the Flamer. But the surge of Confluence from his fingertips caused the wind to change, blowing the firey aura of the Flamer back upon himself. The man's clothes caught alight and he staggered away, thrashing in agony and dropping to the floor.

His warband defeated, the Hijacker glared and teleported back to the Elder in a flash of light.

Asmodeus remained on the floor, weeping, screaming at himself for the death he had caused.

The first assault had been repelled. But it would not be long before the Hijacker brought in more warbands.

[SUMMARY: Asmodeus is helped up by Coffee, but soon realises that his mask is broken and everyone on the train recognises him as the War Criminal Asmodeus. He tries to appeal to the crowd, but then a Hijacker teleports in with a band of Invaders. Through a mixture of blundering luck and accidents, Asmodeus defeats the Warband. But each death only adds to his anguish.]
Re: The Train to ShapeShifter's

Inside the train, shortly before the beams had hit, Turd had located a skinny human in a suit, wheeling a cart full of various beverages and foodstuffs around. Judging by the way he stopped outside every compartment and asked the occupants if they wished to purchase anything, one would assume that this man was the vendor who would provide the young summoner with the beer that he needed.

At about the same time as Turd took his pouch from his belt, a bright light flashed outside the window, and everything suddenly tumbled over. The young man could barely realize he was falling before his head slammed into the wall, and he fell unconscious.

Only a minute had passed before he came to again, lying next to his meager coins that had fallen out when the train had derailed itself. The trolley operator lay a short distance away, soaked in a number of different liquids dripping from his overturned cart. It took a second for Turd to realize it, but when he felt the smoothness of glass on his palm as he hoisted himself up, he discovered that the train had fallen over sideways.

Standing carefully, he saw that the vendor had also begun to rise, looking altogether more disgusted with the condition of his clothing than distressed in any way. Above him, he could see cabin doors opening as the occupants began slowly lowering themselves cautiously down through them, so as not to injure themselves accidentally.

Climbing out through the emergency exit doors with the other passengers, Turd noticed that in the front of the lines of people, there was some sort of a commotion. Apparently, the angel Asmodeus had broken his mask, and something about his face had sparked panic in the crowd.

Before the young summoner could even comprehend this, the first attack began. Drawing his knives, he was about to run forward and assist when, in a brilliant flurry of attacks, the angel dispatched every one of the strange invaders using nothing but his mask. "Amazing..." Turd muttered. "He truly is a hero."

From the line to his right, someone spoke, easily loud enough for every word to be heard clearly, "That's him! The Dark Prince!"

"Out of our way!" shouted someone behind Turd, and he turned just in time to get brushed aside by an advancing group of men in black, Asmodeus's guards.

"Those men are his cohorts! Get them!" cried the same man, and he stepped out of the line, leveling what appeared to be a semi-automatic handgun at the approaching soldiers. Gazing at other people in the line, Turd could see people reaching into their jackets or placing their hands on the handles of their weapons. Violence was going to break out, and he wouldn't be able to stop it.

Gritting his teeth, the young summoner reached up his sleeve and felt the steel of the throwing knives concealed therein. He knew that killing Asmodeus wouldn't solve whatever was going on, and if it came to that, he was prepared to attack whoever he needed to in order to make sure that the angel made it out of this confrontation intact. Whether Turd survived wouldn't matter.

(Summary: After the lasers hit, Turd walks outside with the other civilians, and finds himself stuck in the middle of a crowd that's about to become very hostile towards Asmodeus and his retinue. He prepares himself to fight against the crowd if the need arises.)
Re: The Train to ShapeShifter's

Pressed against the window the Aya screamed and shrunk back from the window as there was a defining sound from far away. "Aya whats wro........" he began also moving away from the window but Mr. Tea's sudden movement stopped him. "Mr. Tea wha..." he stared as the generic old man stepped through the window flickering as he did so. "Aki there is something, it wants to kill us but it doesn't know why." she hugged herself closing her eyes her face twisted in fear.

"Aya, nothing wants to kill us. We're just.....

The entire world moved.

Aya was thrown backwards across the cabin and Aki landed hard on top of her as the train was thrown off of the tracks and onto its side. People screamed and Aki was pummeled by falling luggage as he held his sister protectively. "Its here, its not here. Aya said quietly clinging to her brother.

Strange sounds where coming from outside as Aki carried Aya, joining the crowd exiting the train. There was a robed figure who was fighting off strange creatures. Many in the crowd showed fear but their fear was directed at the one fighting to save them instead of the attackers. The word "Asmodeus." was whispered though the crowd and many were holding weapons or clinging to children.

"He wants to be back, but hes forgotten how to be. He is two places at once, but not really. Look its Mr. Tea"

Aya had clearly been affected by the crash. Aki held her with one arm resting her feet on the ground while his other hand rested on the hilt of his sword.

"AYA WAIT!" Aki shouted, but it was too late as Aya ran from the crowd towards Mr. Tea. AYA! NO. Thats Asmodeus.

SUMMERY: The twins exit the train and Aya goes all River from firefly then begins running towards Coffee chased by Aki.
Re: The Train to ShapeShifter's

As the murmurs of the dissident crowd grew, Jack slowly pushed himself to his feet, small scraps of metal and machinery falling from him as he pulled himself out of the wreckage of the train. He brushed himself off casually as he stumbled forwards, numerous cuts trickling blood, and his leg made a painful sounding crunch as he stepped on it.

He walked towards the crouched Asmodeus, drawing his knife from the Sheathe as he did so, avoiding looking at the crowd. Upon reaching the angel he took a second to breathe and pull himself up, looking instantly a little better for the damage he had sustained. "Just a scratch" he said under his breathe to Asmodeus and Coffee, but without smiling.

"All of you!" His voice carried out, almost as if carried with some strange force, it was not especially loud, but those he wanted to hear it could with clarity. "How many of you would be happy if I killed this man right here!?" as the young man shouted this he held the knife to the back of Asmodeus' neck, point down, ready to punch it down.

The crowd shouted out, cries of "Kill him" and "Destroy the monster" being picked out from the appreciative roars. Coffee stood there in complete silence, as Asmodeus hung his head, whether in shame or as a precurser to an attack Jack did not know, or care.

"THEN SHUT THE HELL UP!! ALL OF YOU!!" This shout echoed across the plains, and forced the crowd silent in an instant. The knife was sheathed in a second and Jack grabbed Asmodeus up to his feet, though this was difficult due to the size difference. "This man has done so much for all of you, yeah sure he made soem mistakes, but he's funded just about everything that's happened in the last 18 years!

"And he's gonna lead us out of this fight, he's gonna make sure none of us get hurt! cos that's what he does!" Jack noticed the sound of an approaching group of enemies, but kept talking, trying not to waver. "If you don't want to fight with us, if you still don't trust him… Then.. then I guess me may not have a chance.."

Jack nodded silently to Asmodeus, and turned around, back tot he crowd, ready to intercept any who would interrupt them.

[Jack gets up and tells the train passengers to follow Asmodeus, before helping him up and standing guard against any more attacks.]
Re: The Train to ShapeShifter's

"HE?! HIM?!" screamed a young mother, startling her own children with her tearful cries. "That thing, that demon?! He's going to protect us?" She backed away, her head shaking as though it might drive away the Prince. "And you know this how? Where is this coming from?! Your trust? How can you? What has he ever done to help us?!"

"Don't be so naive!" A man in dark labcoat rested a prosthetic hand on the woman's shoulder as he glared at the exiled prince and the traveler who stood apart from the wreckage. "Asmodeus was dead until now--his survival was tabloid fodder until now. And we both know that technology was repurposed with his involvement nor consent, thank Engel." His cybernetic eye narrowed as he took aim with what was presumably some form of laser device. "And this performance? Pretend-reform is a textbook tactic--one he's already used on us once. Now move, son! Unlike Asmodeus, I'm not trying to kill innocents."

"We don't have time for this!" Jack shouted back.

Coffee lowered his head toward Asmodeus, whispering to Jack as he held his ground. "Considering all they've lost, the accompanying hatred won't be so easily cast aside. I've seen enough to know that."

"So, are you telling me it's hopeless?"

"Perhaps. If you provoke them further... and they decide to act on it... Their combined might and that of the Elders may be enough to kill us all."

The cyborg man resumed his taunting. "Can't you hear, boy? He might fool a child like you, but the rest of us have suffered too much! You don't have to join us. But you will step aside and give us justice so we can move on with out lives!"

"Move on with your lives while there's an invasion going on?! Listen to yourself!"

That gave some of them pause, but not all. In short order the crowd had broken into contested shouting, both at Jack and each other. Inside and around the wreckage were the tell-tale glints of weaponry and the sickening glow of magic conjured in malice and fear. But two children and a group of darkly cloaked passengers were the first to charge.

"Jack..."Coffee intoned, beginning to dispense a warning.

"I know. We've met."

"Actually, those two," Coffee explained as text began to bleed from the air around him struggling against Confluence. "Are in my charge."

As the passengers erupted in in-fighting, from the wreckage line a gunner fired at the advancing Knights. But for some reason his aim was off. Shots scattered all around and in between the small group, shredding little more than terrain and fabric. It was just enough to allow the Knights who didn't continue toward Asmodeus to return fire.

Ahead of them Aki and Aya nearly collided with Coffee as bullets and stray magic whizzed around them. He'd known them for less than a day, yet he pulled them close in a huddle. And as he peered past them, Jack had already begun batting away projectiles and the less forgiving, aided by the same Knights who had attacked him earlier.

In the confusion, someone in a brown cloack stumbled against Turd. He lifted a knife in defense, but she apologized quickly before wheeling back around to wave her hand over an advancing dwarf. "You don't want to do this."

But the dwarf charged without slowing and pinned the blue-skinned woman beneath the haft of his ax. "Listen to yourself. It makes no sense how quickly you forgive him. You talk like you've got some magic way to know whether he's sincere or not."

"Jedi," she gasped before thrusting both arms into the air and sending the small man flying...

Similar scenes were taking place all over.

Coffee listened to the twins, and pondered what had come of Faramond, but he could not shake an ill feeling. Had this been what he sense earlier? An omen of this small example of the sinister "cycle"--the pattern repeated of strange alliances and passionate civil strife as the world burned? Was there time for another iteration? Though it had proven cyclical as it's name indicated, each time he wondered if they'd been wrong, and if they weren't merely reaching the end of a coil.

Lost some ideas along the way, and I wish I could have reworked it, but I don't have that kind of time. It was so much cooler this morning right after I finished reading Porg's post. I was meaner and Asmodeus wasn't suspiciously mute. :(

Jack tries to reason with the passengers. They become split about whether or not Asmodeus can be trusted and start fighting each other while the guy Palonis mentioned and a few others try to advance on Asmo and the knights. The twins make it to Coffee and the Knights and Porg defend them and Asmo. I intended to end it with the NPCs convinced to use their abilities* to repair the train enough to make it to Shapeshifter town or a sudden Invader attack forcing the NPCs to reprioritize and unite.

Instead it looks like I've left you all with a big mess instead. :(

*(this is Iwaku, there should probably be a good few mages and telekinetics and maybe a "super scientist" or two who can rig something up with the aid of a little dragon fire and some superstrength :P)
Re: The Train to ShapeShifter's

The sun was yellow...but would that it be Burgundy...therein...therein lay the stuff of legends.

Cannon fire echoed out over the roars of violence, cacophonous retorts...nay...orders of silence cracking the sky and tearing momentary bickering asunder. Certainly their paltry parlor show of meager conjuration and the steel-edged bravado was not so important as their collective lives?

Well maybe yes and maybe no...people were so silly sometimes.

Slowly approaching the assembled came a sight that might be labeled strange, even to the citizins of Iwaku! Strange incarnate! The wagon was a modest model of cracked paint and splintered wood, a means of conveyance one might suspect and perhaps the hint of entrepreneurship stenciled in between the lines of wording emblazoned on the front and sides. Drawn by two horses rigidly marching with chorused stanzas of steel. Their eyes blazed embers and steam rose from their nostrils like an angry teakettle. Odd enough on their own, the greatest surprise lay within the nature of the wagon behind them. from thin air and terrifyingly faulty impossible cannon loomed over the cart. By it's slantward position, the survivors weren't in any danger...even in the case of a misfire...but it held palpable thread glimmering along its forged length.

For a moment, it seemed as though the cart had directed itself to the train...summoned by some unspoken wish...a desire for ceasefire at the very least.

But it was a short lasted delusion.

"GREEEEETINGS CITIZENS!" a voice cried over the dying thunder of the shot. "You appear to be having train trouble! How fortunate are you that I was passing by!"

From around the cannon, now neatly folding back into the cart, a man in a stained lab coat waved enthusiastically before dismounting in a dexterous leap...rolling across the ground and coming up on both feet a few yards from the somewhat dubious assemblage.

"Tsk tsk..." he began, shaking a finger as one might do to chastise a dog "This simply won't do...bickering over simple matters like droll."

Winking, not caring if anyone was listening, the man dipped into a bow...and then again.

"Have no fear flesh forms...My name is Dr. Nylock and I happen to know just the thing to get your derail into retail wholesale...get her shined up good as new and send you on your merry way...for a small fee of course."

By the look of them...they didn't have cash on them...unfortunate.

"How about the perfectly good corpses you still have...quite a bargain if I do say so myself."

Winking, Nylock indicated in no small means that he knew about the Pimprat and Co's corpses...although how was likely in question.

"Now now...jump to it...heave ho I say! We have much to do and so little people to do it..." Murmuring to himself, he began toward the doubt oblivious to what the passengers were doing...he had already accepted the price and begun the work in his mind...and that was all there was to it.

Summary: Weird man shoots a cannon from his steam horse drawn cart and rambles on about using corpses as currency and getting the train back on track. *looks at Coffee* You called for a super scientist?
Re: The Train to ShapeShifter's

"Asmodeus returns, and leads his war machines against us!"

A fireball launched from one of the train carriages, slamming into the side of Nylock's wagon. The whole vehicle rocked violently, its outside blistering and smoking. Then abyssal language tore through the crowd, and with a screech of tearing metal the purple dragon and the rhino-men broke free of their freight carriages, summoned to battle by their hysterical masters.

The dragon roared and released a gout of flame, scattering the Iwaku Knights and forcing Jack to roll under the jet. Coffee meanwhile found himself pestered by fairies and familiars, who pecked and clawed at his robes. He reeled slightly, leaving Asmodeus defenceless.

"STOP THIS!" cried the angel, still on his knees, his face streaming with desperate tears.


The bullet tore through his shoulder, ripping robes and flesh. He fell back, landing amidst the blood of the slain invaders. His body twisted in agony as the bullet wound glowed with Necromantic energy and little cuts opened up all over his body as capilliaries burst and joined up in a bloody latticework.

A cyborg accelerated at inhuman speed, bowling Coffee out of the way and looming over Asmodeus. He struck with both hands, bringing a iron pipe down upon the angel's thigh, pounding flesh and bone.

Asmodeus yelled out, and on the hills in the distance, Invaders continued their advance towards the maddened crowd.

[SUMMARY: As group hysteria seizes the train passengers, the heroes find themselves struggling against their own people while the Invaders close in unchecked. Asmodeus himself is shot by a Necromantic bullet and receives a beating from a cyborg.]
Re: The Train to ShapeShifter's

The cyborg knocked Mr.Tea over in its rush to get at Asmodeus sending the mentor into the twind and knocking then to the ground. Aya rolled away from the fight and lay on the ground while Aki got to his feet and looked around. Chaos reigned everywhere and the angel was being beaten and seemed to be bleeding from everywhere at once. Even Mr. Tea was fighting off attackers. He had just met the old man he rushed forward and pulled a particularly aggressive squirrel off of his back. "OW! he shouted as it bit into has hand. "Get off of me."

He threw the squirrel at the cyborg and started trying to swat faeries away with his sword. "Be careful." Mr. Tea exclaimed as he was hit with the flat edge and grabbed a faery that had latched onto the end of his nose. "Just help me with this one. Aki kicked an otter off of Mr.Tea's leg and then looked around for his sister.

Aya was standing, looking into the distance oblivious to the happenings around her. Her hand was pointed towards a large crown-like formation of stones. "Aki look! They're coming back." she looked at him with a soft smile. "The stones are brining them back"

Aki looked, coming towards them where a group of creatures, similar the the ones lying dead nearby. "Mr. Tea." Aki said grabbing the old man's arm and turning him to face the oncoming attack. "More are coming."
Re: The Train to ShapeShifter's

"Damn, what an idyllic day it has been..." Faramond sighed. "First, those monstrosities popped out of nowhere and started wreaking havoc, and then this train goes all loco."

Faramond moved away from the hysteric train crowd and sat on one of the empty train seats. So many things had happened, and he does not have the slightest idea as to how, and why they're happening. Faramond looked around and saw everyone in chaos, and his companions, that generic old man and the twins, has disappeared in the confusion.

"Great. Plot moves at lightspeed and I am now stuck at nowhere," Faramond sighed yet again as he looked out the window and saw the burning forest.

"I wonder how megane-kun is doing?" he wondered as an uncomfortable thought dawned on him. He knows that they are on the train to Shapeshifter Town, which is roughly south from Iwaku City. And from what he knew about this world's geography, Anirune forest lies west of both Iwaku City and Shapeshifter town.

Faramond looked around him. The chairs, lit by the afternoon sun, casted their shadows away from the firey forest. And then, it finally occured to him. It was Anirune forest that was on fire, and megane-kun was in grave danger.
Re: The Train to ShapeShifter's


And all of a sudden, all Hell is unleashed.

Hell, it's not like I ever get a quiet moment, anyway.

Initially blown off my feet and left stunned by the attack, I regain my sense and move next to Jack as he confronts the crowd of angry passengers, drawing my handguns and levelling them at the crowd. I have no intention of opening fire upon the people I swore to defend, but they don't know that.
"Now is not the time for this. Now all of you back the fuck up and let us do our job. We have more pressing--"

A fireball slammed into the wagon of the trader, and suddenly the dragon and the rhino-men were free as well. Jack and I threw ourselves to the side as the dragon unleashed a stream of flames upon the spot we stood a second before, and my fellow Knights came under attack as well.

The crowd was turning upon us, even as our true enemies closed in around us.

I watched as Asmodeus was hit by a bullet, and just as I rushed to help my leader a cybernetic man, his arms and legs switched with whirring gun-metal replacements, charged and knocked him to the floor, knocking an old man out of the way in the process. The cyborg had time to bring the pipe he held down upon Asmodeus's thigh once before I bowled into him. I threw myself into a drop kick, sending the man sprawling. Not waiting to give my opponent a chance to recover, I brought up my handguns and unloaded the clips into him before he could even get to his feet again.

"MURDERER!!" I heard someone howl, and then several of the passengers were rushing me at once. Drawing my submachine-gun, I kneecapped the closest one before the others closed in upon me. I kicked one back but the others dragged me down, kicking and punching me upon the floor.

As I reeled from the blows, one of the Rhino-men sent a man flying through the air, knocking my assailants over like bowling pins. Seizing the opportunity, I dragged myself to my feet and staggered away, searching desperately for Asmodeus.

The angel lay crumpled where the cyborg had left him, all but invisible in the melee the train wreck had degenerated into. I pulled the angel to his feet, and looked around for my fellow knights and Jack as I began to drag him away from the wreckage, hoping against hope we would remain unnoticed.

Grant moves to support Jack in protecting Asmodeus, just as the dragon breaks free and all hell breaks loose. Killing the cyborg that attacked the angel, Grant is dragged down by several of the passengers, but when his attackers are knocked aside by one of the Rhino-men, he begins to drag Asmodeus away from the wreckage, searching for Jack and his fellow Knights.
Re: The Train to ShapeShifter's

Hellgun rounds slammed into the oncoming crowd, sending civilians flying back screaming in pain.

The Five Stormtroopers kept up the withering hail of lasfire, the air heating up around them as they continued to fire
"Traitors and heretics all" the Squad leader swore, a cigar clenched between his lips and a hellpistol firing three round bursts into the crowd
"when Asmodeus was crushing you with armies, where then was your resistance? when my men and i foughyt and died on the feild of battle for you, where was your fury then? you hid and cowered until now, waiting until your former opressor was tormented and trying to make amends, NOW you come for his head? cowards" the sergeant grimaced, knowing that these were just tormented civilians/refugees, but in his heart he knew that Asmodeus, as ever, had a more important role in this than simply being mobbed by an angry mob.

OOC: Kohler intervenes on ASmodeus' behalf, his half squad of stormtroopers covering the retreat of the Knights and Asmodeus.

it is unsure as to whether the Stortroopers are acting on barship orders, or if they were even supposed to be on the train in the first place.
Re: The Train to ShapeShifter's - CHAPTER 1

"Well, this just won't do," said Coffee as he swatted away another fairy and turned back to the twins. "Getting the crowd slaughtered this early will wreak havoc with the arcs."

Aya drew closer, "Who are the arcs?"

"No time to explain - too mysterious. Let's go." The old man pushed the twins over to where the Iwaku Knights had finished slaying the purple dragon. "Very cliched. Right, would you mind keeping the others away for a moment?"

Uriel reloaded his carbine and glanced at the oriental gentleman. "You got us a way out of this?"

Jack vaulted over the body of the slain dragon, sliding down its tail and landing in a short roll beside them. "Just do what he says. Trust me, he knows what he's doing."

Uriel nodded, gesturing to the other knights and the odd band of stormtroopers who had opted to side with them. They formed up around Coffee, kneecapping and firing over the heads of any who got too close. For now it seemed that most of the civilians were fighting amongst themselves, battling imaginary A.R.C. sympathisers or looting the luggage carts.

Coffee turned as the last of the Knights arrived. He watched as Grant stumbled, a half-conscious Asmodeus sliding from his shoulder and landing inside the circle of gunmen.

"Ah, perfect. Good spicerack." He patted Grant on the shoulder then knelt beside Asmodeus, thrusting his fingers into the angel's gaping bullet-wound.


"That's the spirit!" replied Coffee, rubbing his hands together and smearing Asmodeus's blood all over his palms. "Right then..."

As another burst of gunfire drove back the crowd, Coffee held up his bloodstained hands and took a breath, like a conductor poised before his orchestra. The twins, who huddled near him, felt the hair on their skin rise and their blood tingle as strange magics weaved into the circle. Phantom winds rustled the cloaks of the Knights and some of the fireballs that Jack was launching seemed to sputter or warp as reality flickered. Then Asmodeus curled up, snarling in pain as his wounds bled afresh.

All these things were but preludes to Coffee's spell.

The mentor pointed at the sky, parting the clouds and ushering in the sunlight. It fell in golden beams, lighting up the plains where the Invader army was charging. And with his other hand he flicked towards the ground, rousing the sound of the army's footfalls, which seemed to echo much louder than before.

He carried on conducting, sweeping a hand from left to right and parting the mists that obscured the Elder Spider on the hillside. With his other hand he threaded sunlight towards it, causing glints of illumination on each of the spider's legs. Then he went to work with his fingers, pointing out individual warriors in the army so their blood-curdling shouts could be heard: the slurring roar of the Trolls, the curses of the Flamers, the whispering chants of the Spammers.

Then Coffee clapped his hands together and all at once dust began to rise from the advancing army, dirt kicked up by their charge, smoke billowing from their weapons. The cloud gathered, drawing the terrified stares of the train passengers.

They saw... they heard... and in a great wave the revelation seemed to dawn.

The crowd saw the approaching peril, and as one they ceased their infighting and recoiled in fear from the charging barbarians.

Taking his cue, Jack leapt out of the circle and shouted at the top of his voice. "We have to move! Get to Shapeshifter Town! Keep behind the train!"

The Knights joined in, galvanising the stricken crowd and shepherding them away from the advancing army. Uriel barked orders, and as he strode towards the train he grabbed hold of Nylock. "Can that thing still move?" he demanded, with a nod to the merchant's wagon.

"Why certainly, Sir. As the fair wind blows she speeds her way through..."

"Good," the Knight interrupted, "Get back in it and keep the civilians shielded from gunfire!" He released the merchant then carried on striding, yelling up at Faramond, who was still sitting in an overturned carriage. "HEY YOU! GET MOVING!"

Jack led the way, with a beacon-light of magic above him for the others to follow. He and the Knights herded the civilians behind the train, using it for cover as they hurried south.

Meanwhile, Coffee wiped his hands on Grant's cloak and smiled as he watched the Doctor carry Asmodeus away. "Now, that's much better."

Aki tugged urgently on his robe and pointed at the advancing horde, "Mr Tea!"

"Oh right," said Coffee, following the twins as they ran off after the others.

[SUMMARY: CoffeeCakeSadist uses his narrative powers to make everyone take notice of the Invader Army. As the crowd panics, Jack and the Knights get them organised and start moving them south towards Shapeshifter Town.]
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Re: The Train to ShapeShifter's - CHAPTER 1

As he lead the party forward Jack suddenly stopped, the Knights behind him doing the same and forcing the whole group to halt their advance, though they were now all shielded by the downed train. "This isn't gonna work" Jack said t himself more than anyone else as he turned to face the large group.

Jumping onto the train, amidst a small hail of projectiles from the charging force he addressed the group "Everyone! You've managed to stop fighting, but nows the hard one! I need you to all work together! And I need you to do it now, and I need you to do it fast!"

Staring at the puzzled crowd Jack begun to doubt his oratory abilities, he'd often been the one who'd get ignored in conversations, but this was no time to back down. "We need to get this train back on the tracks! it's our only way out! We can't run all the way to Shapeshifter's! You guys gonna help each other!? Or should I give up on Iwakiuns forever?"

The crowd was silent, the words not massively inspiring, but a man stood forward, and grabbed the train from underneath, staring at Jack. Smiling the warrior leapt off the train and continued down to the back of the vehicle.

The knights began ushering those who could not work away from the vehicle, as the huge man began to shift, two huge horns appearing on his forhead, like a rhino's and his muscles expanding in size. By the carriage a trio of men with antennae and two pairs of arms were getting ready to lift.

In front of the train stood a few people, a female witch was deflecting the projectiles being fired at the train, and an old monk was batting balls of flame out of the way. But they were slowly losing. the witch took a bullet to the side and the monk was slowing and missing some of the balls of flame.

A few carriages away from the engine Jack was watching, trying to help coordinate the efforts, The knights had their hands full with crowd control and Asmo was out of action, and Coffee seemed to have, disappeared.. Gritting his teeth Jack hoped what he was about to do wouldn't be a mistake. "You lot!" he shouted to those working with the later carriages of the train "Get up to the front, hep them!"

"B-but.." a lithe werewolf began to protest "Just do it!!" There was no more protest and the selection of shapeshifters and warriors moved their way up the train. "Further up! further up! we only need two carriages!" Jack shouted as he got to the coupling between the second and third carriages.

Taking a last look at the group of people at the train, some were lifting , some were getting underneath to push, some were casting enchantments of the vehicle, to make it lighter, to give it luck, to make it more resistent to damage. A single man leapt the train, puncturing the side with two spike tipped chains and began pulling from the other side.

Jack took a deep breathe and a short run, twirling and kicking at the coupling between the carriages. He paused after the action looking at his leg, and then his hands, which had all gone transparent. Stepping back in shock and horror he looked at himself again, he seemed to be solid again. "N-no… no! not now!!" He screamed to himself, a pair of tears beading in the corners of his eyes. Thrashing out madly at the coupling again he found his leg going straight through it without impact.

"NO!! Please!! Goddamit!!" he screamed to the sky, though noone could hear him, he'd been pulled out of the scene. Asmodeus, watched on while the doctor worked on him, making a bleary mental note of what he'd seen. Jack fell to his knees, almost in shock, as the sounds of the workers getting shot and the train getting pummeled filled the air.

He felt a hand on his shoulder. "I'm.. I'm really not a hero am I.." Jack said quietly. The hand did not move as the response came "They are not quite here yet, there's still time to stop them."

Those working on the train, had had to take cover, those on the firing side were crouched under a protective barrier put up by some spellcasters, most of them bleeding from wounds, and those on the other side were having a hard time holding the train as it was hit by flames, and rocks thrown by the trolls.

The hand pulled Jack up to his feet and patted him on the shoulder a little "You can do this, this isn't a major plot, you're just not being stubborn enough" Jack looked back up at Coffee, and gave a small smile "stubborn enough ey? You always said I was stubborn enough for two Englands?" Saying this he shouted out and kicked at the coupling the metal buckling and breaking, some shrapnel flying out and hitting a troll.

Jack turned around and darted out behind the disconnected carriages, Coffee was already gone. Jack stuck his foot under the middle car and kicked upwards, the line of train cars flying up through the air, and as they reached the peak of their journey, Jack leapt up and with a bicycle kick sent the whole arrangement of passenger carriages plowing into the oncoming force, scattering some but incapacitating most.

"You saw that, interesting isn't he?" Coffee said quietly to Asmodeus as he crouched beside the prince.

The force out of the way the group instantly sprung up, the chains in the train were pulled and the carriages were pulled back up, a trio of wizards seemed to move the tracks so they sat under the train, and the whole thing seemed to warp in space a little. The group cheered and began to celebrate, a Viking high fived a werewolf and a Dwarf hugged an elf.

But this was broken up by a cry as Jack landed in the dirt. "Everyone! get in the train!" The young man looked almost as if he was glowing.

[With combined efforts everyone gets the train back on the tracks, though Jack has a small mishap with being written out, solved thanks to Coffee.]
Re: The Train to ShapeShifter's - CHAPTER 1

With the thundering beat of the approaching army an impromptu drum to set the pace of work, Nylock quickly found he was no longer needed for the train's immediate revival.

"How silly," he muttered, turning back toward his wagon. "All they needed was a little motivation to save their skins and away they go!" As he slid into the driver's seat he pondered the words a bit more, his thoughtful frown jackknifing into a grin as the crack of reins rose above the frenzied shouts of the working fleshbags.

Next time he'd just kill a few...nothing ever seemed more important then when your life was on the line...he'd have to write that down.

With a start, his wagon shook and lifted toward the smoky sky. His horses bred of steal and steam pulled at the air like some parody of reindeer, the ponderous bulk of the actual wagon soaring in a direct defiance of gravity up and toward the approaching army.

The cannon slid out of the back again...a silly thing he'd held too much flash to be a useful harvesting device...but in times which called for excessive violence, perhaps a bit of Armageddon could be applied, if but lightly, to a situation such as this.

The big bang of cannon fire had a certain musical timbre to it...the leaping corpses...the gore...the frenzied screams all seemed musical...if but a little off key. Give him a scream in E minor and his day would be made.

But alas, no one got the notes right...and with the attention of the army on his little craft, Nylock could scarce afford to sit around and play target practice for those flame throwing novices.

Raising up one hand, he indicated the flamers with a flourish...the headache was at once lancing and short...but the resulting explosion of flames rivaled that of his cannon blast...a consuming roar of inferno throwing panic into the fools as they ran like ants.

And lo! There came the arachnid boss...the Sultan with spinnerets...the Tyrant with a Thorax...stony behemoth though he was, Nylock could not help but giggle in thought of experimenting on such a strange creature.

Lowering his cannon to the trajectory of the creature's leg...he began to fire. Cripple it for now...drag it in...and figure out what made it controlled the army easily, and such low-grade mind control could be useful in say...a glove or something.

The boom of detonation was yet another means to motivate the people of Iwaku to move faster...

The army would not focus on Nylock for long.

Summary: Nylock wreaks havok in the army and starts attacking big ole eight legs...
Re: The Train to ShapeShifter's - CHAPTER 1

The Spider withdrew the damaged leg, folding it beneath its thorax. Then its eye swivelled and retorted with a burst of lazer-fire. Nylock yanked the reins and swung his carriage away, diving beneath the 20ft wide ray and pulling up again. Ducking and swerving, he fired on the run, hounded at every moment by the arcing lazer-beam.

* * * * *

On the ground, the survivors made the most they could of the distraction. Inside the re-railed train, Grant was a figure of severity. The knight was storming down the aisles, allocating people to seats, setting up places for the wounded. His gravelly voice boomed out orders, and his toughened physique made up for the rest as he pushed and slung people into seats, bringing order to the chaos.

At the very front of the cabin, strangely calm amid the disorder, Coffee sat with Faramond, the twins and a half-conscious Asmodeus. Aki and Aya had done their best to make Asmodeus comfortable, but though his necromantic wounds had hardened into scars, he seemed to be running a fever. His face, pale from years beneath the mask, was now streaming with sweat.

"I knew it," muttered Faramond as he shuffled in his seat, glancing at the other civilians and the carnage beyond the windows. "I knew taking the train was a bad idea. Cut-scenes always happen on trains!"

"More of a quick-time event, in my opinion," answered Coffee as he settled into his seat. "I think the upcoming nuclear strike will be more of a dramatic set piece."

Faramond and the twins looked up at him. "What?"

"Just foreshadowing. How's Asmodeus doing?"

* * * * *

Outside, Uriel and Kohler covered the retreat with a salvo of fire, roaring orders above the screaming enemy advance. The Knights and stormtroopers shoved the last civilians onto the carriage then exhausted the last of their ammunition to fell the charging Trolls and Spammers who had not been hit by the rear carriages.

"Let's go!" shouted Jack, sweeping his Soulblade to parry the whipping chains of the Pimprats. He leapt as a Troll rushed towards him, vaulting up its legs and spinning with the blade, before landing again. The troll's head dropped beside him and its body slammed into the side of the train. "One hit from that Spider, and we're dead!"

Uriel fired a grenade, setting off a chain reaction of explosions amongst the rear carriages that Jack had kicked. The wall of fire drove back the enemy and the Sergeant turned, running with Jack and the rest of the Knights into the carriage. Once aboard, they made for the driver's compartment and brought the train online.

* * * * *

As the train set off again on the mended tracks, Nylock's carriage twisted unsteadily in the sky.

"Blast!" snapped the doctor as a Hijacker materialised on top of his carriage. He ducked out of his seat, seconds before a Spammer's knife skewered the backrest, and landed on the back of one of his steel horses. Standing again, he deflected a Flamer's fireball then leapt back towards the carriage, his rubber shoes granting him the extra distance. He landed back on the seat and brought his twin daggers from his sleeves to parry the Spammer's strikes. With a few deft moves he drove the blade home, slaying his foe, then striking out to hamstring the Flamer. His second opponent fell, but the Hijacker was still at large and was retreating to edge of the roof, summoning in more troops. Nylock was tackled onto his back by a duo of screamed Deviants. He wrestled and rolled, trying to keep a grip on the reins.

Down below, the limping Spider had ploughed through the discarded rear carriages and was now on the tracks, giving chase to the departing train. As the Deviant's arms wrapped around his throat, Nylock yanked on the reins and sent his carriage plummetting. It crashed into the top of the Spider, knocking its lazer-eye off target. The fiery beam went wide, scorching the top of the train.

"Ha! Take that ya bastards!" Nylock headbutted one of the Deviants and twisted the reins again. The carriage collided with the Spider a second time, denying it a clear shot at the train.

* * * * *

"It's gaining on us!" shouted Jack. He was at the front of the train, near Coffee and the others, standing in the doorway of the drive compartment. He looked back along the rows of frightened passengers to the rear window where the Spider gave chase, dogged at every step by Nylock's crazed assaults.

"That's as fast as we can go," answered Uriel, who was sat in the driver's compartment with the operator. "We can't outrun it."

"We're dead. We're fucking dead!" yelled a man in the aisle, before being punched out by Doctor Grant.

"One mile to Shifter Town," reported Uriel, bracing as another blast from the Spider charred the side of the train.

Jack started back down the aisle, the training rocking and screeching around him. "We have to take out that Spider. It'll tear the Town apart if we let it..."

He was cut short as a women rose from her seat in front of him, screaming as she pointed over his shoulder. Jack turned and saw what everyone else saw. Through the front window a broad expanse of grassland rolled towards the outskirts of Shapeshifter Town, and there between the buildings were more of them.... Spiders - five, six, maybe more. The stone creatures were laying the town to waste, toppling buildings and bombarding the military outpost at Firebase Sparta.

"Oh... hell."

As a fresh wave of panic rippled through the compartment, Asmodeus fell from his seat, hands buried in his hair, face contorted in pain.

"Death... a trap of fire, they're coming! Five stars fall. Can't get out, can't get out. Three heats become one!"

"What's he talking about?" stuttered Aya, "What's coming?"

It was one of the cyborgs who first became aware, his sensors picking up the five stars that Asmodeus was ranting about. And as the machine lifted its head, a silent understanding seemed to dawn on those around him. A few of the mages rose from their seats, while the hairs on the Neko passengers rose in apprehension. An elderly wizard took the aisle and raised his hand, creating a swirling transparency in the ceiling through which Jack and the others could see it...

The five missiles streaked overhead, cutting a trail of fire through the sky. The MIRVs were striped in white and black, glowing crimson as they began their final descent towards Shapeshifter Town. They were bound for Firebase Sparta, the final solution of the ISAF, the last promise of High Command to their belaguered soldiers. And now, a train-load of corpses was about to join them for the final symphony...

"You... have got... to be... FUCKING KIDDING ME!" shouted Jack, raging at the train walls as if they were the ears of God. He dropped to his knees in despair.

"My kind of luck," muttered Doctor Grant as he lit up a cigarette amidst the screaming passengers.

There was burst of gunfire at the rear of the cabin as Kohler gunned down a Hijacker who had teleported onto the train. Meanwhile, Uriel exited the driver's compartment, his brow furrowed in stoic acceptance. "There never was a way out. They've beaten us all..."

"No!" Asmodeus suddenly got to his feet, pushing past Uriel. He staggered down the aisle and grabbed Jack by the scruff of the neck, pulling him back to where Coffee was sitting. The three of them came together like fellow conspirers, Asmodeus holding Jack and Coffee's heads to his.

"We can make it... us.... everyone here, power enough. Enough, yes. Help me."

"You have a solution to this whole 'riding a spider-bait train into a nuclear holocaust' scene?" asked Coffee.

"Y... you," Asmodeus looked up at Coffee, trying to focus. "You have to teach me how to use it."

Coffee's eyes narrowed, and then he nodded slightly.

"Use it?" said Jack, looking between the other two. "Use what?"

The window fractured as Jack was thrown into it, knocked unconscious by the twin punch of Coffee and Asmodeus...

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