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The Buddy System

Discussion in 'Pandora, Year 1 - 7' started by Marcos Diaz, May 4, 2018.

  1. Marcos Diaz

    Marcos Diaz Guest


    May 25th, Y7.
    Currently DAY 2 of the Unbreaking Darkness.
    No post order.
    Participants:


    It was almost impossible to tell how long it had been since darkness had fallen over Misty Hollow. It was as if the day itself had dissipated as soon as the clocks struck noon, but unfortunately for all of its inhabitants, noon was all they struck. Electronics didn't work, time didn't pass... Misty Hollow was in a rather menacing stand-still for all one could tell, and its famous power plant was absolutely no exception.

    The plant was currently was in a fail-safe lock-down, and while its interior was normally brightly lit and well-maintained, there was now just dimly flashing red lights illuminating the corridors. As if that didn't contribute to the total creep-factor enough, Marcos swore everything was being cleaned on schedule, yet he had begun to notice strange rust and wear on objects and walls that were practically brand-new after the damage from a rogue lightning strike the previous November.

    Marcos elected to be one of the few guards to stay behind considering he had no family nearby he needed to go to, but beyond suspicious footsteps he swore he could occasionally hear in the corridors that he patrolled, it was as if he were entirely alone. Strangely enough, as time went on -- or didn't go on, as far as he knew -- he'd stopped passing his colleagues on their overlapping patrol routes. Their conversations on the standard-issued radios that worked against all odds had begun to get sparser and sparser, until there was nothing to accompany Marcos but a creeping sense of dread and the occasional burst of static.

    After a restless nap that had seemed to only last a second, he'd given up on keeping his radio on the private channel meant for security and started trying to reach anyone on any channel -- any message from the outside would be appreciated right about then.

    "I think it's been about 28 or so hours since the darkness first fell," Marcos murmured carefully into his radio as he crept down a staircase. Instead of a regular flash-light, it was his palm itself that was glowing as if he had a little sun in his hand that he held out to light his way. Was his mind beginning to play tricks on him, or were there more steps than usual to reach the door that led to the first level? "I've lost contact with the rest of the security team in the plant. There's supposed to always be technicians here to keep control, but I haven't seen a single workstation that's not empty. If I'm right, all of Misty Hollow may be without power right now. If anybody can hear me, there's something-- something strange going on in here."

     
    #1 Marcos Diaz, May 4, 2018
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2018
  2. Noctis Lucis Caelum

    Noctis Lucis Caelum Final Fantasy

    Posts:
    146
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Misty Hollow Defender
    Race:
    Human
    Age:
    20
    Alignment:
    Lawful Good
    Directory:
    link
    He didn't like leaving Prompto on his own, when his bff was clearly dealing. Dealing, in the loosest sense of the word, of course. Not that it was a rare thing to catch sight of his friend's anxieties, as much as he tried to mask them whenever they might flare up. But seeing him reach the point of locking himself in the bathroom? Yeah, Noct really didn't want to leave him behind.

    But darkness had fallen over Misty Hollow, and it was more than just the two of them trapped in there. He and the few others he'd managed to find so far still had no idea of how many had ended up in this weird alternate reality (because that's what it had to be, right? It's not like all those weird frozen ghostly statues of the town's residents were stuck like that forever, right?).

    And so, yeah, he hated leaving Prompto on his own. But duty called, and he couldn't just leave everyone else to fend for themselves. Especially since Noct could maybe kind of sort of help with stuff like this. At least when it came to fighting back the weird monsters.

    As for solving the whole mess? He was at an absolute loss of where to even start.

    Defenders HQ had given him no leads, but it had given him one thing -- a voice over the radio. An unfamiliar voice with both a cautious message and a cry for help. The power plant seemed like a good place to start anyway. The town was mostly dark, and the sun wasn't coming up, and night definitely should have passed by now. Might as well see if they could at least get electricity running to the town again.

    It had taken him a minute to figure out how to use the radio kept on hand at the Defenders HQ. But within a few minutes of Marcos' message, his own radio was buzzing again, picking up static and Noctis' voice.

    "Hold tight. Backup is on the way." He just hoped that maybe he'd find some extra backup along the way.

    Noct paused only to grab a portable radio on his way out, before heading straight to the power plant.


    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------​

    There was something ominous in the air of the power plant, something almost sticky and putrid, but not quite enough of anything to really figure out what it was he was feeling. But it was a distinct change in the air as the front doors to the power plant shut behind him. A pale white light cast over the quiet interior, chasing back the shadows, as he switched on the round light clipped to his jacket.

    It was quiet. Eerie. Something that made him shiver as he frowned, leaning up against what must have been the front desk. He pulled the radio from his jacket pocket, already set to the same channel he'd received that message from back at HQ.

    "Hey, uh, if you can hear me, I'm just inside the front door," he said, silently praying this one of those 'lure them in with a cry for help' sort of things. He still had bad dreams about the last creature he'd met who had pulled that cruel trick.
     
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  3. James Carstairs

    James Carstairs The Infernal Devices

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    Jem saw the older boy approaching the power plant a decent distance ahead of him. He did his best to rush to catch up but he knew better than to push himself this early in his little endeavor. Was it foolish, coming out here like this to see if there was anything he could do to help? Perhaps. But he felt better knowing he wasn't the only one.

    The wonderful nurses at the clinic who were so kind to him when he first arrived, doing everything they could to keep him going when he was so convinced he was going to die here, deserved to have someone looking out for them as well. There was no power at the clinic, none of the phones were working, and when he went in there it was obvious that whatever was happening to Misty Hollow was hurting them the most. So he promised he'd look into it - it was the least he could do for what he owed them.

    He reached the door a minute or two behind the person he saw enter before him, pulling it open to find him still standing near the front door, attention on some small box-shaped thing in his hand. Jem approached, a walking cane in his right hand though he wasn't leaning on it out of necessity - simply bringing it with him as a backup, as he always did when he knew he would be gone for any length of time more than an hour or two. The drug he got from Crowley was working well, but it was still new to his body, and still slightly unpredictable from batch to batch.

    "It's probably too much to ask to assume you work here and know exactly what's going on, isn't it?" Though doubtful, there was still a bit of optimism in his voice as he asked.
     
  4. Cloud Strife

    Cloud Strife Guest


    What a pain.

    It made Cloud feel a bit guilty to feel that way, sure, but he hadn’t had much time to build some semblance of a normal life before everything decided to go to hell--which was a sadly relative term. Darkness fell upon the town in a way that usually spelled doom and gloom, though most of his experience was a subtle sense of dread and not outright calamity. More to the point, he wanted to help, but had little way of knowing how to start. He didn’t know many people in Misty Hollow, and getting into contact with the ones he did know had proven difficult. What he had learned about the situation mostly came from secondhand information, after all.

    Thankfully, the soft crackle of static alerted him to a nearby radio that someone had left laying on a table. The voice that ensued led him to the power pant, or at least the path leading towards it. It was difficult to see in the dark, of course, but he could make out the form of someone just ahead, and another farther along. They seemed to be heading towards the same location, but Cloud decided to hang back just in case.

    Once there, the power plant looked more or less the same as he’d expected, albeit with a tense atmosphere that he couldn’t quite place. There was certainly something amiss--or maybe his mind was playing tricks on him. Sighing at the thought, Cloud followed the younger man inside, catching the door before it closed so that he could also enter. It was supposed to be a fluid motion, but it was punctuated with an awkward shimmy as he attempted to avoid running into anything or anyone.

    Once inside, his first thought was that he was glad someone thought to bring a light. Looking between the two he had followed, he pressed his lips together in a thin line.

    “Are you guys here to help, too?” he cocked his head slightly to one side. His expression was mostly neutral, though he allowed a hint of playfulness in his tone. “What a team.”

    Shortly after the words left his mouth, he was certain he heard the sounds of something approaching, though he had no way of knowing what it was. Hopefully, it was someone who actually did know what was happening, as the kid had alluded to.



     
  5. Marcos Diaz

    Marcos Diaz Guest



    "Hold tight. Backup is on the way."

    Marcos gripped the radio tightly and looked up to the leaking ceiling with a breath of relief. He'd been beginning to think he was gonna have to go it alone, and while his chances were better than a human's most likely, it was his sanity that was beginning to get thrown on the line too. He was about a bump in the night away from fishing his rosary out of his pocket and beginning his Hail Marys as he did whenever things went horribly, horribly wrong in his life.

    "Man, I'm glad to hear another person's voice," he spoke into the radio, but irritatingly enough, that was when another burst of static overtake the channel. "Hello?" He turned it on and off a few more times to only hear more of the same, and so he gave up on it rather quickly, clipping it back to his belt since it'd been doing that more and more as the long night had worn on. He'd just have to count on any help arriving without directions.

    Nonetheless, he continued making his way down to the main entrance where it was most likely for someone to find their way in. He thought that maybe he could hear the sound of the door opening once and then twice as he hurried down the stairs, his own steps echoing on the metal staircase. When he'd first looked down when making his original plea for help, he could've sworn he'd counted an extra three or four flights. It was like they'd just...stretched downwards. But it felt like he'd still reached the first level in the expected amount of time, and Marcos continued to wonder if there was something going on with the plant or if the stress of the situation was somehow getting to his head.

    He pushed the service door to enter into the lobby, the hand emanating the light beam held out in front of his face as he saw exactly who was waiting for him. The three young men didn't look like much at first glance, but he would take anyone who even just wanted to watch his back at this point after the other guards had all abandoned their posts one by one. Or at least that was what he wanted to think. If any of them knew anything about the plant operations itself, then they were all even more lucky.

    "You're from outside, right?" Marcos asked with a half-smile on his face, lowering his hand so that the beam of light was no longer obscuring his face. He probably looked a little sweaty and a lot tired, and maybe a day or two past needing a shave, but he also looked extremely pleased to see them. "I was beginning to think I was the only one who didn't run first thing. My name's Marcos Diaz -- I got hired for security here about two months ago, but this was something I wasn't exactly trained for." Then again, he doubted any of them really knew what was happening or it would've been fixed already.

    Before Marcos could say anything more, a chill went up his spine. The other guards on patrol had stopped checking in on their radios hours ago...and yet the same exact sound his bootsteps had made on the metal stairs were still echoing even moments after he'd reached the first level. He held a finger up to his lips as he backed away from the doorway, before raising both hands and projecting light towards the door. A heavier thud.


     
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  6. Noctis Lucis Caelum

    Noctis Lucis Caelum Final Fantasy

    Posts:
    146
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Misty Hollow Defender
    Race:
    Human
    Age:
    20
    Alignment:
    Lawful Good
    Directory:
    link
    No response. There'd been no response, no message, since that initial call for help, and Noctis tried not to let it bother him too much. It wasn't like he was going to change his mind about this. But the radio only gave him silence or static, and he had no way to know if his own response had even gotten through.

    He was still playing with the radio, a frown etched on his features as he tried to get something through when the very same door he'd just come in through swung open again. The young man looked up, eyes cautious. He'd already seen enough crazy stuff since the darkness had fallen (since the wall had fallen) to be on his toes, fingers unconsciously reaching for a blade that had not yet manifested in his hand. But seeing the young man who looked human, and not like some gross zombie/ghost/monster hybrid was such a relief, the tension in his shoulders immediately eased.

    "Sorry, I'm just as in the dark as you are," he said, and then immediately winced at that terrible and unintended pun.

    And it wasn't just the white-haired guy either. The door opened again and for one crazy moment, Noct thought that Prompto, of all people, had somehow found himself here. Cause nobody else sported the chocobo hair quite like Prompto did. And neither was this guy now that Noctis actually did more than a double take. Nope, definitely not Prompto.

    "Uh, yeah, we are," he said, trying to figure out if that last comment had a touch of sarcasm in it or not. But he assumed the white-haired guy was here to help. Hoped he was, because his radio was still just giving him static. But he could hear heavy footsteps on stairs now, and Noct swung around to look towards the door at the opposite end, only to squint, raising a hand up to his eyes with the sudden bright light of a flashlight shining over his face.

    Marcos Diaz. And it was hard to tell, but Noct was pretty sure that was the same voice he had heard over the radio. The young man nodded, stepping forward, tucking the radio back into his pocket. Only to freeze. Footsteps. More footsteps. He heard them too, and from the signal Marcos was giving them, it seemed they weren't expected.

    Marcos' light shone in the doorway and for a moment there was a shadow there. A darkness, swallowing that light. And then the shadow was gone as a sudden blast of wind gusted through that open doorway, an unearthly shriek that had Noctis clapping his hands over his ears, skin suddenly crawling.

    Behind them, the door that would lead them out of the power plant rattled, an ominous and hauntingly purple swirling of energy gathering around it before dispersing through the walls.

    That door would not open for them again.

    ooc; I figure we can just make up the spooks and monsters and what not as we go! I have a big bad in mind for a bit later, and I'll introduce that one at some point. But until then, we can all control whatever.

     
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  7. James Carstairs

    James Carstairs The Infernal Devices

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    Jem wished he had his witchlight here in Pandora. Instead he relied on the light that came from the sticks that the others held - they had a name that he couldn't remember at the moment, his mind focused on more important things than trying to remember that mundane word someone told him about a few days back.

    The light sticks illuminated something in front of them, a shadow that was there only a moment before a gust of wind and a loud, entirely foreign noise had him half-bent over, hands pressed hard against his ears, his cane dropped in front of him.

    And then it was over, and Jem quickly bent to retrieve his cane, looking with wide eyes at the other three as if they might have some sort of knowledge he didn't about what just happened. As he did his attention was drawn to the rattling door behind them, catching just the hint of a purple swirl that seemed to wash over the door and walls in an unsettling wave, sinking into it not unlike some of the warlock magic he'd seen in his own world. Like a ward, but instead of feeling the comfort such a spell normally provided, he only felt an instinctive sense of dread fill him at the sight.

    "Everyone else saw that too, correct?" It was there and gone so fast he was afraid he might have imagined it, but the footsteps, and the thud, and the shriek... there was no denying those.

    As much as he hated to confirm his suspicions, he needed to know. Several steps closed the gap between him and the door the three new arrivals entered through shortly before and set his cane against the wall to give the handle several strong tugs. It didn't budge. Jem took his stele out of his trouser pocket and ran it over his arm, creating a light glow through the fabric of his shirt as he activated his strength rune, trying the door again.

    Nothing.

    He turned back to face the others with a deep frown.

    "Well then, I suppose we figure out what's going on in here, then?" As if it were still a choice, and not a necessity now.
     
    #7 James Carstairs, May 23, 2018
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2018
  8. Cloud Strife

    Cloud Strife Guest



    Cloud had seen his fair share of spooky stuff since arriving in Pandora--and Misty Hollow, in particular--but there was a part of him that still didn’t quite believe the level of spook that the locals had hyped it up to be. Fine, so there was a dark power plant, and sure, there were missing security officers, and he supposed that the whole...absence of daylight was another reason for concern, but…

    Okay, that was a shadow. A gust of chilled wind pelted them, and suddenly the younger, white-haired boy was reaching back for the door they’d entered through and found that he couldn’t open it. Cloud considered trying it himself, but fought it off as quickly as it came; his plan was to investigate the place anyway, and second guessing his teammates in this situation would have been a waste of time.

    “Yeah,” he replied flatly to the suggestion, turning back to the rest of the group. The room was somewhat dimly lit by the shine of Marcos’ flashlight, but more details were obscured by shadow than he would have liked. Dangers could hide in the darkness, but Cloud couldn’t help but feel like he stood out--the mako he’d been infused with back home made his eyes glow a soft blue, so stealth for him was largely out of the question.

    With a sigh, he took another step forward, this time facing the door opposite them, apparently the most obvious, if not only pathway available to them. Something out there was beckoning them, or at least doing its damnedest to intimidate them.

    Cloud’s resting expression often gave away little, but he couldn’t help but feel as though that plan was working. His heart was beating faster, and the thought of swinging his sword at something he couldn’t see was less than comforting.

    “All that…” he paused, motioning broadly at the ceiling and walls around them with an index finger as he turned to face the team, “was coming from something, right? Do you think it’s drawing off the energy here?”

    He was looking at Marcos specifically, though the floor was open to anyone. As soon as the words left his mouth, however, he heard something like a whisper from behind. He spun around only to find nothing, but instead spotted an arrow pointing ahead drawn on the floor, black like oil and yet moving as though it was somehow alive.

    “Looks like we have a guide,” he spoke softly, eyes wide and fixed onto the floor.



     
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  9. Marcos Diaz

    Marcos Diaz Guest


    Marcos's first instinct was to fry the hell out of whatever that swirling blackness was since it definitely was nowhere near natural or supposed to be there. Thankfully, he didn't. He'd figured without even some kind of terrible learning experience that losing control of his powers in a giant power plant was about the last thing they needed, and that wasn't even taking into consideration whether or not he'd lose his job. It was more like...whether or not he'd accidentally melt his way through the walls. At this point, that was a decidedly more pressing issue.

    "I wish I hadn't," he answered Jem with a wry grimace as he kept his eyes open for any other kinds of strange happenings. Suddenly, all of the unsettling moments the last day or so where he'd sworn he was being watched or that there was something just behind him in an empty hallway didn't seem so unreasonable and caused by simple paranoia.

    At Cloud's question, he could just give a half shrug. Marcos hated feeling useless, but he wasn't any kind of a scientist. Hell, it was hard enough just trying to survive as a mutant, never mind get a solid education while he was at it. What he did know from understanding how his own powers worked, however, was that it wasn't unlikely. "If there is something in here that's siphoning off the energy," he started to warn them, an understandably tense look on his face, "I'm not excited to see it. Something that big would have to be powerful." He didn't even like entertaining that prospect in the first place.

    "Let's take a look first before we--" And then there were arrows. On the floor. Fantastic. His palms glowed brightly again as an instinctive defensive measure as if he were about to try and fry them right off the tile, but he stopped himself before he could cause any unwanted fires. Still, Marcos gave the trio of men with him an odd look before shaking his head. "After me, I guess."

    He kept his steps careful and one eye on the black mass at all times as he followed it deeper into the plant, hands held in front of him to light the way. Every so often, they'd hear some sort of creak echoing from somewhere else in the building that definitely didn't strike him as a particularly good sign. And if he looked closely, he could swear he could see some sort of faint, branching pattern on the walls sprouting out from small cracks and the ceiling. To him, they almost looked like veins or roots.

     
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  10. James Carstairs

    James Carstairs The Infernal Devices

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    Jem held his cane in his hand as he walked, not using it for support after the first few steps because the echo of it hitting the floor seemed impossibly loud in the otherwise quiet building. He didn't want the echoes of it to give away their position to anything they didn't want to encounter. But he kept it with him, held tight under his right arm as he followed behind Marcos.

    It made sense that he went first, lighting the way with a light that radiated from his very hands. That would be a convenient skill to have just then, Jem mused, but didn't say so out loud. Something told him Marcos didn't find it all that pleasant since it put him in the front, but there wasn't much else to be done. Without his witchlight Jem would just be stumbling forward in the dark helplessly if he were to go first. And they'd certainly lose track of the arrows.

    "This way," he said, watching the black marks on the ground shift their position and point down a much larger hallway to the left of where they were now, one that ended in a set of stairs that went both up and down. The faint cracks of glowing, branching light on the walls grew more prominent in the darkness down this particular hallway, and the echoes of another scream reached them from the open stairwell, though it was difficult to discern if it was coming from above or below them.
     
  11. Noctis Lucis Caelum

    Noctis Lucis Caelum Final Fantasy

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    The white-haired guy tugging uselessly on the exit door only confirmed his sinking suspicions. Yep, they were definitely trapped in here. Trapped in here with something, and he doubted it wanted them to stick around for their own health. None of the other guys seemed to have any clue what was happening here, and things just kept getting better and better. Arrows painted onto the floor. Arrows illuminated by the first guy's glowy hands (which was a pretty cool and convenient power), leading them deeper.

    And of course they were going to follow them. Noctis wasn't complaining though. The arrows would likely lead them to something gross that wanted to eat them. They'd kill it. Unlock the doors. Get out of here.

    Easy. Hopefully. Maybe.

    They followed the arrows all the way to a staircase, those cracks in the walls only growing brighter. And no, things were never all that easy. Noctis grimaced, clamping his hands over his ears again as that unearthly shriek ripped through the air. A moment later, a wet, sickening thud of something bouncing down the stairs.

    No, wait. Not down. Up. Because Noctis could only stare as something in filthy, blood-soaked rags somehow managed to drop and thud and bounce unnaturally up the stairs from the floor below. A man. His head twisted all the way around. Face twisted in horror, skin half-peeled away. His clothing was in tatters, but through it all Marcos might recognize the uniform of the power plant's engineers.

    A blood-soaked nametag identified the corpse as Ian.

    Then there was a noise worse that the shrieks. Something deep and eardrum-shattering and guttural, making noises no human tongue could ever hope to emulate. The noise swept over them like thunder, Noctis' hands once again over his ears. Around them, the cracks in the walls throbbed and twisted and seemed to come together before their very eyes.

    They connected into words.

    Four Remain. Cower in Terror For These Your Final Days.

    And then the noise died, the glowing cracks in the wall were merely cracks again. But all around them, there was the thrumming of unnatural energy. The power plant had come alive, and judging from the goosebumps rising starkly on his arms, Noctis didn't think it was with anything good.

    Now the real haunting had begun.

    ooc; I figure we can have generally ghostly shenanigans now until we toss in the confrontation with the big bad. :)
     
  12. James Carstairs

    James Carstairs The Infernal Devices

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    The corpse lunged at them. It was difficullt for Jem to know what he should be doing about it - could they kill it? Did they want to? What if this bloody remnant of a person had answers to the sorts of questions floating around all of their heads about the noises and the cracks in the walls and now the awful noises that continued nearly bring Jem to his knees before they stopped. Maybe he would know the way out of this place.

    Except there wasn't time to consider trying to get answers out of him, because he was coming at them, and fast. Jem pulled the dragonhead topper of his cane up, removing the hidden sword attached it from the base. The benefit of having a weapon hidden in his cane was that it was always on him... but the downside was that if it was on him, it was at a time when he thought he needed the extra assistance walking, which was generally never an amazing time to find oneself in the middle of a strenuous battle.

    He had some of the yin fen on him but he hoped this night wouldn't come to that. Instead he pushed those thoughts from his mind as the base of the cane dropped to the floor with a clatter, sword out in front of him as he took several steps forward that looked far more confident than he felt about all of this.

    Jem brought the sword up and slashed it sideways as the bloody person came towards him, drawn by his movement forward, the blade sliding cleanly across the base of it's twisted neck. The cut was deep and immediately added to the blood already present, but all he did was look down thoughtfully before grinning a horrible, twisted grin.

    "That did not have the effect I was hoping for," Jem commented, realizing that perhaps his mundane weapon wasn't going to be enough to do the trick here as it rounded on the rest of the group.
     
  13. Cloud Strife

    Cloud Strife Guest



    Cloud had felt a sense of dread before. The pull in his stomach, knowing that something powerful wanted him dead was an unmistakable black hole that seemed to consume everything. When he’d felt it before, there was a sense of calm that washed over him, like something else was controlling him. It was a moment of absolution in many ways.

    This...was not that. He couldn’t make sense of what was happening, from the glowing cracks in the wall to the bizarre, shambling near-corpse that had taken interest in the group. A loud piercing sound, accompanied by wording on the walls, staggered him a bit, but he was able to pull himself together quickly enough.

    The white-haired boy was hiding a sword in his cane, it seemed, and for a moment, Cloud was relieved that someone else seemed capable of combat, though he had no reason to think that at least Marcos could do something more effective than an improvised flashlight. The relief was short lived, though, as the cut--well-struck and effective on nearly anything else--seemed to do little to stop...whatever it was that had attacked.

    When it turned its attention to the group at large, Cloud clicked his tongue, cursing his own situation as he reached for his sword. Not only did he have access to the rest of his kit--five more pieces to complete his sword--he didn’t even have a single materia on him. If slashing didn’t work, he was certain that fire would. Probably. Nevertheless, he made a slash of his own, with similar results. The creature nearly squealed in delight, a crazed grin creasing its face nearly ear to ear.

    At that moment, a flash of pink caught his attention, and for a moment, he swore he heard...was it a giggle? In a single instant, he thought he saw something small--a child wearing a bow, maybe--and he swung his head to look fully, only to be greeted with another teammate and a whole lot of nothing behind him. Dividing his attention was a mistake, and the creature made a swipe at him with surprising power; he managed to raise his sword to block, but even a grazing blow staggered him backwards, just inches short of the wall.

    Gritting his teeth, Cloud lunged forward and swung his weapon downward this time, and it sank deep into its neck, through the collarbone. A killing blow by any other standard, but this monstrosity merely gargled, licked what remained of its lips, and slid backwards, clearing its body from his sword. It stood before him, two halves of the body swaying on either side in a Y-shape, but still alive.

    “You’ve gotta be joking,” he mumbled, just audible to those surrounding him.