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About Digital Art / Hobbyist Tanya SapienFemale/United States Group :iconphoenix-protocol: Phoenix-Protocol
Everyone deserves a chance.
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Once upon a time I laughed
Once upon a time I cheered
Once upon a time I crashed
now it's Once upon a time I fear

In another time I was perfect
I did what was right all day and night
the might of the light was bright, it felt right
to smite the blight in glorious fight

Accolades achieved were abundant
failure a thought most repugnant
if a friend was on fire then I'd douse them
if a friend was alone then I'd house them
if a friend became upset, assuriedly I'd help them

But time has a way
a way to make fools of all
and time has a way
of surprising you with the fall

nobody saw and nobody cared
nobody noticed when the fire flared
the weight of the accolades was a clever foe
it attacked in a way you'd never know

being adorned then admonished
being all knowing then astonished
it's a torque on the mind
a weapon best left unharnessed

being expected to be perfect, covered in brass
layers of medals so thick they never heard the crash
my suit stood alone, though inside I burned
the face they loved held, but the mind behind it churned

naught but a shell, melting metal of medals and accolades
a circle of badges, once wreathed in fire
becomes a new forged shackle
transformed in the pyre

They leaned on me still, thought I held up the world
as my incendiary accolades slowly unfurled
They still see me standing now
never knowing I crashed

Deep in my new prison, the fire slowly dies
Deep in my sorrow, my once great strength defied
I wish they could hear me, now that I finally learned to cry
I wish they knew the tenderness inside

They'll never know
They can't ever see
Because no light can shine
Through the incendiary accolades around me

Years will pass, it will become once upon a time
With nothing to hold them, my medals won't shine
one by one, I know they will fall
one by one, the shell will seem to crawl

people will wonder, will stop and ask
people will question why I dropped all my brass
They'll finally see that something is wrong
but it's been too late for far too long

Yes, it's once upon a time I fear
because it's now I need them, I need them near
because when today becomes once upon a time
they'll crack open the shell and find nothing in here.
 Akaila and Jagra searched the facility from top to bottom, but found no trace of the mysterious fourth man, and found that Michael was affected by the same memetic effect as Marcus. Tulpa hadn't been working there long enough to bother learning people's names or identities in the first place, and as a result they were able to explain the situation to him, coupled with a brief demonstration of its effects on Michael to convince him it wasn't a trick or some complex prank to play on the intern.

 They decided to remain vigilant, but beyond that they couldn't do anything about it. Two days passed uneventfully while they stayed at the research facility, waiting on the insurance claim to be processed. Helma never appeared like he said he would, but given his abilities he could have come and went without being noticed.

 At the dawn of the third day, Michael arrived with exciting news. Marcus's findings turned out to be accurate, and he'd prepared an experiment to put them to use. Everyone was asked to gather in the main laboratory, around a quite sizable array of magnets and crystals. The majority of the facility's power grid was entirely dumped into the machine, and by time they entered it was already humming with energy.

 Marcus sat proudly at the control panel, “There's a whole load of technobabble I could wow you with, but I'll save time and spare ego and put it in lamens, I'm going to attempt to do with a machine what Akaila did with her mind. We're going to attempt to push a batch of radioactive molecules into a parallel universe, then pull it back out again. By observing the radiation from the isotope, we'll be able to tell not only when it makes the jump, but how much time passes, in case it's a non-euclidean plane. In order to get accurate readings, we're using a very volatile isotope, so get behind the radiation barrier before we begin.”

 Jagra, Sapien, and Akaila got behind a foot-thick sheet of glass and Tulpa entered wearing a radiation suit, holding a small lead wafer on a pair of long tongs, a tiny pellet in the middle, glowing orange hot from its own radiation. He slowly moved it to the magnets and a large ring began spinning among them, mist wafting off of it as it was drenched in liquid nitrogen, turning it superconductive and lifting the pellet into the air.

 He made a hasty retreat to the radiation barrier and Marcus continued the startup sequence. Soon the ring was a blur and the pellet was spinning rapidly in the center. Neutron reflectors moved into position and the isotope began heating up further, soon becoming a white-hot glowing blob. The heat of the globule and the cold of the superconductor caused a steadily building air current, growing stronger and stronger and starting to distort the air around it.

 The current reached critical mass and a bank of capacitors began charging, ready to fire the pulse to send it through. As Marcus began the countdown, however, there was a sound of gunfire from the hallway outside. Marcus called over the whirring of the machinery, “I can't shut it down at this point, Tulpa, find out what that wa-”

 He was cut off before he could finish by Helma stumbling through the doorway, one wing torn to shreds by claw marks, and a bullet hole in the opposing shoulder, “You've all got to flee, now!”

 Tulpa pulled a shotgun from under a table, aiming it at him, “And why's that?”

 “There was a power shift in the syndicate, they're killing off the Edor family and all of our accounts, that includes you!”

 A half-feral jackal ran into the room, lunging at him, but was shot out of the air by a volley of buckshot, then reduced to a mangled, quivering mess by three more rounds from Tulpa. Right behind it was a man in full-body armor. Tulpa fired at him, but the buckshot just buried itself in Kevlar and ricocheted off steel.

 The man brought up an assault rifle and fired back, but Tulpa jumped out of the way, hiding behind the radiation shield. The volley of bullets hit the capacitor bank and they began violently shorting out, sending electricity arching across the entire room. Marcus's entire control booth was wreathed in unpenned energy and only his screams gave evidence he was still there. As the capacitors ran dry, the lightning subsided, and a charred corpse fell onto the control panel, dials and levers being spun and moved randomly, causing the machine to completely destabilize.

 The assassin brought his aim to Helma, but started struggling to keep his gun on target. A strong wind started pulling towards the magnetic array, and multiple metal objects across the room started lifting from their mounts, flying through the air and slamming into it, being reduced to a torus of churning shrapnel.

 Tulpa's shotgun and the assassin's rifle both flew into the grinder, being reduced to nothing but fragments in seconds. Tulpa braced himself against the wind, but the assassin's own armor was beginning to drag him across the floor.

 Both Akaila and Helma were crying out in agony, their amplifiers being drawn towards it, but their mere ounces of titanium and mythril weren't producing nearly as much pull as the fifty pounds of steel on the man's body armor.

 Without warning, the mysterious fourth member of the research team arrived, running through the door and ramming into him, knocking him off his feet before grabbing onto something himself. As the assassin was sent flying through the air, the fourth man pulled a necklace from under his clothes, a glowing pendant on it. He flipped a switch and it began emitting an ear-splitting beeping noise.

 Blood and bones were sent churning in every direction from the mangled assassin hitting the vortex like a blender with the lid off, and the sheer intake of mass expanded the torus until it touched the globule in the middle. In an instant, it was grounded out against the magnets and crystals, exploding and sending shrapnel in all directions.

 The grinder of debris was gone, but the magnets remained, and now there was a very distinct void hovering in the middle of them, a black disk, sucking air in with all the potency of space itself. The pull of wind was getting stronger and stronger, and eventually the very objects they were mooring themselves to were broken loose, sending several of them spinning into the abyss.

 Sapien hung on for dear life, but she was inevitably drawn through. She felt herself being pulled apart from all directions. The air was sucked out of her lungs, she'd have passed out if not for the searing pain of her blood boiling to keep her alert, though through her distorted and darkening vision, the things she saw made no sense at all, she could see flavors and smell space, taste thoughts and touch sounds, every sensation was shorted out and without meaning.

 Through the encroaching void, she could barely make out points of light in the distance, a starry night sky. It occurred to her she was looking at space, somehow suspended in nothingness. Her last waning vision was a large creature slithering among the lights before everything went black.

 As her senses started coming weakly back, she heard faint, distant voices. She struggled to make them out, but then suddenly heard Akaila's, clear and distinct, “Hello, is anyone there?”

 Sapien tried to reply, but her throat wouldn't respond, she couldn't even draw breath, so she replied in thought and hoped Akaila was able to hear it, “I'm here, I'm alive, I think.”

 “What the hell happened?”
 “I don't know. I can't move...I can't feel anything either.”
 “Neither can I.”
 “Are we dead?”
 “I...don't know.”
 “I think we are. If this is being dead, then being dead sucks.”
 “Wait, listen, the voices, I think I can make them out.”

 They both quieted their thoughts and strained to listen, and the two voices became clearer, one male, one female.

 “...Really, you're fine. Quit worrying about it.”
 “But I fired the beacon at max power, I know it was panic, but a committee won't see it that way.”
 “You're right, they won't, because it wasn't panic. The situation warranted it.”
 “The situation warranted a class four distress beacon? How?”
 “That gateway was unstable and expanding fast, if your beacon hadn't called my attention to it, that entire reality would have unraveled, and more agents than you would have been lost to the void.”
 “Speaking of lost people, what about the four that came through with me?”
 “The dwarf and the dragon endured the void with survivable injuries, but I had to use some drastic measures to save the wolf and the fox.”
 “What kind of drastic?”
 “Look for yourself, they've been listening to us for the last few seconds.”

 Sapien mustered a strong thought, “You can see us? How? Where are we? What's going on?”

 The female of the two voices came closer and spoke softly, “Don't strain yourself. You were exposed to the void without any shielding. It's a miracle I was able to keep so much as your souls intact, let alone any remains of your bodies.”

 “Remains?”

 Akaila spoke up, “So we are dead then.”

 The voice chuckled slightly, “Not quite, but you came very close. There was less than half of each of you that could be saved by time I got there. I was forced to merge your souls together to keep them from each breaking apart. I'll give you your senses back so you can see, but I need you both to promise me you won't flail about. The body I gave you will be durable enough to even handle the void when it's ready, but right now it's fragile, the glue hasn't dried yet, so to speak.”

 They both calmed themselves and responded as one, “Okay, do it.”

 Proper sound returned first, a crackling fireplace, then smell, burning hickory and incense, then touch, lips upon their own, and finally vision. A shapely human face was directly before Sapien's eyes, save for a pair of horns on the brow, and the oddity of her own eyes, swirling violet pools of energy.

 She found herself gazing directly into them hypnotically, unable to look away. The swirls seemed to be getting larger and closer, stronger, she started to feel like she'd actually be sucked into them until the woman blinked and the trance was broken.

 Akaila saw all of these images as well, but they felt somehow distant, like images in a dream, not seen with her own eyes, but no sooner than her focus shifted to perceiving the room around her, she suddenly became incredibly aware of every single sound and noise. She could hear them, yes, but she could also feel them. Every sound brought with it a vibration that might as well have been touch on her own skin.

 Skin. Not fur, skin. She moved to try examining her own body and found herself to be incredibly flexible. Her arms and legs seemed to not have any joints in them anymore, and the bulk of her body felt like it was nestled inside a very close, very warm bed.

 Sapien shivered as she felt cold air on her back, and Akaila was startled by her bed suddenly vibrating. The woman only chuckled again, “As I'm sure you're noticing, one of you is now living inside the other. I had to improvise to keep you both alive, but I think I did a decent enough job, what do you think of it?”

 She moved away and a body length mirror was brought before them, but Sapien's eyes didn't go to the mirror, they went to the woman. Her face was human enough, but the horns curved back around her hairline in a decidedly demonic way, and everything below the neck was anything but human. A dozen arms hung at her sides, and a dozen breasts adorned her chest. On her back, fuzed to the arms themselves, were several complex wings, still massive even in their folded state. Where her hips would be, her body instead flared out to twice as wide, becoming a massive snake's body, periodically adorned with massive purple gemstones, pulsing in a heartbeat. Looking at them was equally as calming and hypnotic as her eyes.

 Eventually, Sapien pulled her gaze away from the snake maiden to see her own reflection. She was still a vixen, for the most part, but she was far taller and more robust. Her petite vulpine traits now had a tint of wolven bulk to them, and her bright orange fur was now charcoal and black, and on several portions of her body were glowing red patterns, pulsing in heartbeat just like the snake woman's, even her eyes had a glow to them, but a piercing, almost glaring glow, even though it was her own gaze she was looking at, it made her blood run cold staring at the two slit-pupiled crimson orbs.

 She saw something slithering behind her and caught herself halfway through a reflexive jump, remembering the caution not to strain the body quite yet. As she looked at the objects more carefully, she realized they were part of her, though moving of their own accord. Four violet tentacles, adorned with three-jawed mouths on the ends.

 Akaila's words came to her faintly, sounding just as shocked as Sapien was, “That's me...that's why I feel so flexible...that's why I can't see right...”

 The woman responded, a little saddened, “Yes, it is you...I...I didn't have a lot of material to work with.”

 Sapien cautiously approached her, the caution born more out of the fact she was a full foot taller now than out of any actual fear, and embraced the woman, holding her tightly, “You don't need to apologize for saving our lives.”

 Akaila added in, “I'll just have to get used to it, I guess. I seem to have echolocation now, so that could be handy.”

 She smiled and hugged back with all twenty-plus arms, “I'm glad. You can call me Veronica, by the way.”

 Sapien took a look around and noted where they were. It was a very nicely decorated room with stone architecture, clearly ancient but well-maintained. There were windows, but no light came through them, there was only a saturated blackness outside, not even starlight came through, and simply looking at the inky blackness was somehow giving her motion sickness. Her focus went from the windows to the furnishings and she saw many bookshelves and framed works of art, and a large fireplace. Sitting there was the mysterious fourth man.

 It was still his face, but his skin was now red and there were a pair of bat's wings behind his back. She narrowed her now glowing eyes at him and she could smell the twinge of panic her new gaze sent shivering through him as she spoke, “So he worked for you then?”

 She looked back and forth between them and responded, “Keely is one of several agents the Abyss put in place to monitor the fractured planes. You should be thanking him, if he hadn't fired that distress beacon, you and everyone from that plane of reality would be scattered across a dozen dimensions and destroyed irrecoverably.”

 “You mean the whole universe, destroyed?”

 “Yes. Normally the fabric of spacetime is thick enough to handle a little tear hear and there, but that gateway opened on a spot that was already weak and cross-braced against other realms, and it was like pulling a seam out of a dress, the entire thing was starting to unravel. I put a quick patch on it, then grabbed everyone I could that had been pulled through.”
 “So we're not in our own reality right now?”
 “No, not in the slightest, you're inside me.”

 She blinked and Veronica smirked, “I'm a goddess. You're talking to my corporeal body, but my true form is all around you, and this castle is suspended inside it, I am my own self-contained plane of reality, so I have a place I can go to when I need privacy.”

 Sapien looked down at her feet for a moment, then glanced at one of Akaila's tentacle tips which was looking back at her, then sighed, “Is there any way to send us back to our own world?”

 “At the moment? no. That reality is being held together with glue, string, and wishful thinking right now. It's torn right at the fourth dimension. If I were to dump you back in from this side, I'd have to go forward or back by at least a century to avoid breaking it completely, and even then there'd be significant risk. The only way you could possibly get back there would be to go to a neighboring realm and come in from that side. And since all of my power is on this side, you'd be reliant on a local power-source. To put it bluntly, your reality can't handle me. If I so much as touch it outside of a mortal body, it'll be completely annihilated.”

 Sapien sighed and collapsed to her knees. Akaila coiled a tentacle on one arm, attempting to comfort her, and spoke mentally to them both, “Even in this demonic body, we need to get back. The syndicate was going through a restructuring, if somebody doesn't step in, a lot of innocents will get caught in the crossfire.”

 Sapien whimpered, “Assuming the island's even still there...they're probably all dead, my friends, my parents, Marcus...all dead.”

 Veronica wrapped her coils around Sapien, lifting her from the floor and carrying her into her many arms, wiping away the tears at the edges of her eyes, “It's still there. When I stopped the tear, it was no more than a few feet across. Anyone who wasn't in the immediate area should still be alive and well.”

 Akaila commented, “That's her parents at least, but we know Marcus is dead, it was his corpse falling on the control panel that caused the tear in the first place.”

 She grimaced at that, “At the very least, if he died before the gateway opened, his soul likely escaped in one piece.”

 “I don't think that's very comforting.”
 “I didn't say it was.”

 Veronica lifted Sapien's muzzle, kissing her on the nose, then gently stroked her mane back, “There's a fire in you, I sensed it while I was piecing you two back together. Keep that fire alive and you'll be fine.”

 She set her back down on the floor, then slithered over to a bookshelf, grabbing some scrolls from it, “Keely, watch the castle while I'm gone.”

 “Gone? Where?”
 “I'm going with Tanya to help her find her way home.”

 Sapien looked up, one ear back, confused, “Tanya?”

 “That's your true name, isn't it?”

 She blinked, “How did you-”

 “I'm a goddess, remember? You didn't desire that name just out of a passing fancy, it's your true name. Knowing it actually helped me in patching you up.”

 Akaila commented in, “What about mine?”

 “Fair-Weather. Ah, here it is.”

 She pulled a massive book from the back of the shelf, hidden by the many scrolls in front of it, carrying it to a table which already had Tanya's brass book on it. It was easily as large as a pizza box and three times as thick and bound in odd, darkly-tinted metals, with the leather of the cover suspiciously similar to human faces.

She laid them beside each other and began reading through one of the scrolls. After several minutes she tapped a finger on one passage.

 “I can take a more human-friendly form, and I can disguise you two as an ordinary grey fox, but hiding this will take something a little more potent.”

 “Like?”

 She picked up the massive book and set it on top of the brass book, the two fusing together. Leather bindings appeared and shrouded the dark alloys, then the faces, and finally the runic markings that covered all of the remaining surface. The pair shrank and reformed until they took on the appearance of an ordinary leather backpack.

 She picked it up and handed it to Tanya, “Here, you'll be carrying my grimoire.”

 “Grimoire, like, history of a bloodline grimoire?”

 “Yes. And if you don't want to spontaneously explode, only open the second pouch for storing things. Opening any of the others will break the illusion.”

 A cork popped and Veronica turned around to see Keely already pouring himself a glass of wine. She narrowed her eyes at him disdainfully, “That bottle is 300 years old.”

 “And I saw well over a thousand just like it in the cellar.”
 “It's from a planet that doesn't exist anymore.”
 “And you haven't read the second half of that passage yet.”

 She picked up the scroll and skimmed through it, “Helghen berries...how the hell...”

 “They used the same spell to put me in her dimension.”

 He grinned and handed her the glass, “I can keep the rest of the bottle, right?”

 “You're the reason I hate working with Incubi.”
 “And yet you're willing to trust me to keep up your castle while you're gone.”
 “Only because I know you know I'd erase you from existence if you broke anything.”

 She took the glass of wine and put it on the table along with several sprigs of dried herbs. With some minor preparation, she had three glasses prepared of a very strongly scented and thick liquid. She handed one to Tanya and took the other three each in one hand before slithering towards the door to the hallway, “Go ahead and drink it now.”

 “What is it?”
 “A stabilizer. It will make it easier for me to make sure we all arrive in the same location and at the same time. It might not surprise you to know that aiming in the fourth dimension is a lot harder than aiming in the third. To say you have to lead your target is an understatement.”
 “Do we both have to drink it or just me?”
 “Both, split it evenly with Akaila.”

 Tanya drank half of the thick liquid, nearly gagging on the overlapping mint flavors, then held it out for Akaila, who spent more time figuring out how to drink with a tentacle than actually consuming it. By time the glass was empty, they were in a trophy room, where Helma and Jagra were waiting.

 Tanya took a quick look around the room as Veronica was handing the potions to them and explaining their purpose. There were suits of armor made for species she'd never conceived, weapons who's use was alien, to say nothing of their names, and entire galleries dedicated to full indexes of ammunition variants. It wasn't so much a trophy room as a museum of the last millennium of warfare.

 Her attention finally went back to the others as they approached. Helma's wounds were patched, but his wing still looked unsuitable for flight, and Jagra appeared fine except for bruises on random spots over his entire body.

 She took note of them and asked, “How was it we were ripped to pieces, but you two are unscratched?”

 Jagra chugged down the liquid, apparently unaffected by the potent flavor, “Feeling like every piece of your body is being ripped apart, the dimmest lights like knives pressed to your eye sockets, air ripped from your lungs and blood on your lips as everything burns and freezes at once? That just describes a monday hangover for me.”

 Veronica chuckled to herself at that, “Apart from moderate bends syndrome, Jagra wasn't in too bad of a shape, Helma was a bit harder to save.”

 Helma set his empty glass down, “As it turns out, having open wounds in the vacuum of space is like leaving a valve open in a water line. Regardless, I'm ready to get back to my own reality and get a little revenge on the Laguna family any time you are.”

 He turned to Veronica and held a claw out, shaking her hand, “If we don't land in the same place, I want to thank you now for saving me. Once this affair is dealt with, the Edor family will owe you a huge debt. Speaking of debts...”

 He turned to Tanya, Akaila, and Jagra, “It seems we have a common enemy, if you stick with me until this is over, I'll consider your own debt paid in full.”

 Veronica began focusing, four of her hands pressed together, the rest in a large circle around them, light beginning to distort around her. As she was preparing the portal to send them back into the physical world, Tanya took one last look around and a thought flickered across Akaila's mind,

 “Shit! Where's Tulpa!?”

 Veronica glanced towards her, “Tulpa?”

 “A vulpren, he was in the room with us when the portal opened, a human, Michael too.”

 “I only saw you three when I arrived. The portal's ready, everyone exhale, and don't try breathing until you feel air around you again.”

 She parted her four central hands and everything went black and silent around them.
Averting Epsilon Chapter 5: Out Of the Loop
Sorry for this being so late, shit's been coming up and I was too busy to post.
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 Jagra looked over a rack of equipment curiously, “The hound at the mining camp said electrical gear resonates on the crystals, but I see a lot of electric motors on these digging supplies, how do you prevent interference?”

 Marcus looked up from a terminal and responded, “Farraday cages embedded into the housings, we duct it all into a cell on the hazmat suits that stores the static for safe discharge later.”
 “That strikes me as technology a mining company would value greatly, why do they not use it?”
 “The cells are made using silver and they're only good for two or three trips before needing to be scrapped and rebuilt. It's not worth the expense to use it for mining.”

 Akaila glanced over at them while sitting at a table. There was a coin on the table in front of her, balanced on one side. She was practicing her telekinesis by attempting to keep it slowly spinning, but her lack of experience showed every time it shot several feet across the table, sometimes falling to the floor and forcing her to retrieve it. After one such trip, she asked, “So what exactly do you guys do here, besides collecting data all day?”

 “We study the multidimensional manifestations of the psionic, temporal, and ethereal anomalies which proliferate the vicinities of the seven superior magicka majoris formations, with the end-goal of manipulating and potentially nullifying their detrimental effects while multiplying, magnifying, or otherwise amplifying their beneficial factors.”

 She stared blankly, “You lost me at multidimensional.”

 Sapien stifled a laugh, “They try to figure out what makes magic tick, so they can control it. You could have just read his mind to figure it out, you know.”

 “It doesn't work like that. If my mind can't readily grasp a concept, it comes across as equally confusing gibberish. I peeked at what he was thinking when he said it, and trying to pull that from his mind was like being shoved snout-first into a trigonometry book.”

 He just grinned at that and Jagra spoke for him, “Smart enough to stump a telepath, I must say that's a first for me.”

 Marcus went back to typing on his terminal and after typing in a few more numbers, leaned back with a slight yip, ears forward.

 Akaila looked over at him, “Something interesting?”

 “I just finished crunching that month's worth of survey data Sapien collected. First off, I'm going to assume whatever buried the needles on every single one of our scanners earlier today originated on your ship.”

 She whimpered, looking down at the coin, remembering the pain, actually thinking about the moment before she lost consciousness, hearing the thoughts of every single person on the planet, knowing absolute pain, pleasure, hunger, energy, exhaustion, and a dozen emotions so complex they lack a title, and the sheer, overwhelming, indescribable sensation of absolute godly omnipotence before her mind overloaded and couldn't contain it.

 “Hey! Hey! Akaila!”

 She blinked and looked up, seeing Marcus leaning over her with Jagra also looking down...and a ceiling fan in front of her, “How did I get on the floor?”

 “I mentioned that energy spike and you went glassy eyed for a good three minutes, you don't remember that?”

 She shook her head, slowly sitting up, her head spinning, then she noticed several overturned items on a nearby shelf, her chair on its side, and the coin she'd been practicing with folded neatly in half, “I get the feeling that's not all that happened.”

 “Hell no it's not, when we noticed something was up, Sapien tried to shake you out of it, you screamed like a banshee and fell to the floor, damn near broke everything in the room when you did it too, just what the fuck was that pulse you sent out?”

 “I honestly don't kn-wait, where's Sapien?”

 He grimaced and pointed towards the corner, where she was sitting pressed against the walls, ears back, hugging her tail and gently petting it, clearly traumatized. She glanced over at them, and nervously spoke, “I, I'll be okay, it's just...I saw it, it was second-hand, but I saw it, god, no wonder you blacked out, no mind should be able to handle that. It's too...it's just...that can't be right, my mind must have filled in the blanks, censored it, you know? Replaced the stuff I couldn't comprehend with something I could.”

 Marcus looked back and forth between them, then at Jagra, “One of them explodes when we mention it, and the other is shell-shocked, would you mind telling me what the ever loving fuck happened up there on that ship?”

 “It was mythril that syndicate rat was smuggling, a good three crates worth, and not an ounce of it shielded or grounded out, one of the crates busted when we went to throw it overboard, Akaila was standing in the middle when they stopped sliding across the deck.”

 He groaned, collapsing into a chair and burying his muzzle between his hands, “Yeah, that would do it. It's a miracle she's not dead, and anyone standing nearby for that matter. And I'm not even exaggerating, an overexposure to mythril is supposed to be fatal to a psycher, so what, she screamed and let out a pulse, like she did just now?”

 “Aye, but a good ten times stronger, we had to hit the deck to avoid being hit by shrapnel, and the storm reached right up and pulled us in right after, if I didn't know better, I'd say the clouds took on the shape of a hand just to grab at us.”

 “You probably wouldn't be too far off. I think what happened is her brainwaves got amplified so much she was able to see between planes, it's exactly what we've been trying to do here, but we're smart enough to let a computer handle the number crunching, and to keep all energy sources behind a shitload of shielding.”

 Sapien glanced up at him before going back to nervously stroking her tail, “You mentioned survey data?”

 “Yeah, yeah, the survey data, well Akaila plugging herself into the fabric of spacetime inadvertently gave us the final piece we needed to do something practical with it. That pulse was like a massive psionic sonar ping, and an order of magnitude more powerful than anything we've been able to make using machines. Since your ship was sitting at the epicenter, the sensors got perfect resolution when that ping came back. We now have a snapshot of the entire anomalous region, frozen at one instance. It's like a decryption key, I lined up each energy field reading to the exact second that range peaked, and all those random numbers started to come together into meaningful sums. To put it bluntly, she hacked God's computer and stole a copy of the map to the universe off it. I'll need to give Tulpa and Michael a chance to run some equations first, but I think we could prove multiverse theory with this.”

 Akaila blinked a couple times, “And the other guy?”

 “Who?”
 “The fourth guy who works here.”
 “Fourth?”

 Jagra shot him a look, “There were three of you that greeted us at the door, then Tulpa was inside, that makes four, there's a fourth member of your team, is there not?”

 He rubbed his head, wincing slightly, “Yeah, now that I think about it...but I can't for the life of me put a name to the face...Oh, if you guys are hungry, there's a fully stocked pantry here, just down-”

 “Fourth man.”
 “Huh? Oh, yeah, just thinking about that is making me nervous, Michael is supposed to run all new hires past me...oh, hires! Akaila, you're going to need to fill out some forms, I almost forgot all abou-”

 She growled and slapped him as hard as she could, then before he had a chance to react, grabbed his head with both hands, staring him in the eyes and focusing on him directly, exploiting the shock of the unexpected actions to look deep into his mind. He started whimpering and shaking slightly from the mental intrusion before she let go.

 She sighed, “He's using memetic cloaking. People see him, but he's not seen as important, and thoughts about him get redirected.”

 Jagra asked, “So then why isn't it affecting us?”

 “Because we haven't been exposed to it directly, and he's not present in the room right now. I don't know anyone who could pull off a cloaking job like that though.”

 Marcus tilted his head, “What kind of cloaking job? Who?”

 “Yeah, he's not gonna be any help here, it would take a couple hours of hypnosis to fix that.”

 Sapien looked up at them, “Anybody slipping a cloaked person into a research team can't be up to anything good.”

 “No, they can't. And I'd bet money they'll want the numbers Marcus just came up with.”

 Marcus grinned, leaning back in his chair, “Damn straight, the academy is gonna flip when they hear about this.”

 “I'm not going to keep explaining the situation every time his memory blanks.”

 Sapien got to her feet, still a little shaky, “I can stay here and keep Marcus and the computer safe, lets face it, I'm fried after that pulse hit me, a psycher could play me like a musical instrument right now.”

 Akaila nodded and the two of them headed towards the door. Marcus got up and spoke, “oh, hey, before you guys go, I found something amazing in the numbers Sapien collected.”

 “You might want to make it fast, I think it cuts deeper into his memory each time his focus is pulled towards the topic.”

 Marcus looked towards her, “What cuts deeper?”

 “Please hurry.”
 “No, seriously, what cuts deeper?”
 Kessler looked over the tools on the shelves skeptically, “Haven't you people ever heard of electricity?”

 The mining office manager just glared at him, “Haven't you ever heard of resonance? Electrical mining equipment is no good here. Just like with the storm around the island, it interferes with the crystal deposits too. Even the phone network has to be grounded out and insulated.”

 Jagra smirked, hefting a drill as long as he was tall, “Ah be easy on the crocodile, he knows as much about mining as I do flyin, it's his family pride that put him here.”

 “Ah, another one of those types, eh?”

 The aging dingo leaned back in his chair with a wide grin, “I'll give you three to one standing odds he's dead by the end of the month.”

 Sapien and Akaila both rushed in, Sapien calling out, “Fifty eagles that he lives.”

 Akaila ran to Kessler and Jagra, “We need to move, now!”

 Jagra furled his brow, “The little brat fingered us to his boss to save his own hide, didn't he?”

 “That's about the size of it.”

 Kessler sighed and shook his head, grabbing a pickax and tossing a fistful of coins to the dingo, “You can head off, I'm staying.”

 Jagra looked at him in confusion, “These are no regular hoods you're dealing with, they're organized criminals! They don't play around.”

 Sapien and the manager glanced at each other, then back to the others,

 “Is it too late to change my bet?”
 “All sales final.”
 “Sonofabitch.”

 Kessler shouldered the pickax and responded, “I've been running from one thing or another all my damned life, and this is the last place on this planet left to run to. If they want to take me out, then so be it, I'll make them work for it.”

 Sapien growled and pulled money from her bag, handing it over to the dingo, “If you make it five to one he's gone by the end of the week you might be able to squeeze more out of people.”

 “I just might. And whoever said it's bad luck to bet against a fox?”

 She went to the front door, gesturing for the others to follow, “If he's staying there's nothing to be done. I know a group of scientists who could give us shelter while we work on our next move.”

 Jagra put the drill back on the shelf with a sigh, “I'll be coming back for you, don't go ta rustin before we get to rend the earth together.”

 As they headed out, Sapien called to the manager, holding up a keychain, “Oh, Kyle, I'm borrowing your truck.”

 He checked and found his keys missing from his pocket. He ran to chase her, but tripped on his own shoelaces. He stared at the perfect knot in disbelief, “How the fuck?”

 Kessler smirked at him, “I guess maybe it is bad luck after all.”

 Jagra and Sapien climbed into one of the mining company trucks, with Akaila getting in the back. They took off quickly, and were relieved to see nobody giving chase.

 Akaila called over the wind, “You do know we just committed grand theft, right?”

 Sapien glanced towards her, “Your nose is bleeding. And no we didn't. Kyle's a good friend of mine, I just like fucking with him because he's got this chip on his shoulder that dingoes are better than vulprens. He calls me a drunken Irish, I call him a redneck Aussie, then we each pull a prank on each other, it's become something of a game.”

 Akaila wiped her muzzle, finding the blood, “That explains the headache. Speaking of Irish, Sapien is an odd name, isn't that Latin?”

 Jagra commented back, “Aye, Latin for wisdom.”

 “He's right. My parents noticed I was smarter than other kits my age, so when it came time for names, being catholic, they picked a Latin one, wisdom. I wanted Tanya, but nooo, no Russian names they said. The oil war's been over twenty three years, but dad still expects Russian troops to pop out of the bushes and start shooting at him again.”

 Akaila slipped the mythril ingot she'd been carrying with her back into Sapien's bag, giving a sigh of relief as her headache began fading, “So these scientists we're going to, do they ever do work with psychers? I might want t-”

 She was cut off mid sentence by a loud crash in the distance, followed by echoing alarms. They looked back to see a column of smoke rising from the mining camp. Sapien looked at it in the rear view mirror with a sigh, “Well there goes fifty bucks.”

 Jagra came back in from leaning out the window, pushing his windblown beard back down, “We'll be next if we don't come up with a plan.”

 “I've already got one. I wasn't going to say anything yet, but the scientists might be a little pissed when we get there.”

 “And why would that be?”

 “That ship was indeed a prototype. I lied on the insurance forms though. The most valuable part survived the wreck, my backpack, take a closer look at it.”

 Jagra picked it up and studied it, looking over the clasps and hatches before finding a way to open it, “by the gods, you built this thing out of a brass book!”

 “Camouflage so I could sneak it out if a competing company came after the ship. The entire hull was one big antenna, that book's been collecting survey data of the Bering storm on every trip I made. The ship was insured for three million Eagles in case I crashed.”

 “So that purge system that dumped half the ship into the ocean?”

 “We were dumping the sensor array. Honestly I could have cut the balloons and sailed us in that last couple knots, but I had orders to destroy all equipment and pull the data recorder if anything compromised the mission. I wrote the wreck up as a total loss on the insurance forms, though, so they don't know yet that I was able to save the data. That was partly to reduce the chance of a competing company trying to steal it from me while I'm moving it, and partly to squeeze some overhead out of the insurance claim. I'm hoping I'll be able to convince them to give me the value of the book out of the claim, which we can then use to pay off the syndicate, and hopefully get them off our backs.”

 Akaila nodded in reassurance, “So you're going to ransom the black box to them? That's the closest thing to a solid plan I've heard so far, sounds good to me.”

 Jagra was slightly less enthused, “Were my life not on the line, I wouldn't be willing to go along with you on such a criminal venture.”

 “And if mine weren't, I wouldn't be willing to execute it. There's the facility up ahead.”

 A complex of several buildings loomed up in front of them, most looked like prefabs that were hastily assembled into place, but a few half-built structures looked designed for a more long-term assignment. The most sizable and heavily built of them was a massive dome, appearing to be an observatory shroud, but it was hanging open and the device inside was no telescope; in fact it looked more like a high-energy sensor array, and it was pointed at the horizon, scanning left and right occasionally.

 As they crested the last hill between them and the facility, several dots emerged from the buildings in the distance. As they got closer, it was revealed to be three people; two humans and one whitewolf. The whitewolf and one of the humans were wearing typical button-up shirts and jeans, but the other was wearing a lab coat and holding a pair of binoculars. After looking through them towards the incoming visitors, his expression furled and he said something to the other two, which made them both change in expression as well.

 Sapien grabbed her bag as she exited the truck and was sure to hold it up in a visible place before making her way to them. Jagra followed closely behind, but Akaila was having trouble, one eye continually squinting and twitching, and completely unable to un-fold her right ear. She couldn't see or sense anything causing it, but her body was reacting as if she was looking straight at a bright light any time she tried to look towards the buildings in front of them.

 One of the men took the bag from Sapien and quickly examined it, “What the hell? I just got off the phone with the insurance company, they said you reported a total loss.”

 “The ship is a total loss. I managed to ditch the sensor array where nobody will ever find it, and the rest hit the beach hard enough there's nothing to salvage.”
 “I meant that you reported the brass book as lost too.”
 “Yeah, actually, there's a problem with that...”

 one of the other two quickly grabbed it and began looking over it, “Dammit, what did you break?”

 “Not that kind of problem, a--”

 She stopped mid-sentence, noticing Akaila's difficulties, “...a syndicate kind of problem, Akaila, are you alright?”

 She whimpered, nodding, “Yeah, there's just something hammering me right now, it's actually starting to hurt.”

 “You think it might be the syndicate trying to track us?”

 The man in the lab coat looked over to her, looking at her tiara, “Are you a psycher?”

 “Yeah.”
 “It's the scanner.” He gestured towards the massive device in the observatory dome, “It creates a lot of psionic interference while it's running, we should head inside.”

 They all headed indoors, and as soon as the heavy metal door sealed behind them, she finally had a respite, and not just a normal one, the thousands of whispering voices she constantly heard suddenly fell silent. The only voices he could still hear belonged to those present, and were much quieter than normal.

 He chuckled at the look of relief on her face, “First time standing in a shielded building?”

 She blinked and looked at him before he continued, “This entire facility is shielded from interference and grounded out. Electrical, psionic, tectonic. You name it, there's a dampener in place that cancels it out.”

 She looked directly at him, her voice suddenly steeled, “You can cancel out psyche fields? Is it something passive, like an alloy or composite, or do you have to create an active counter-field?”

 He grinned wide, “Sapien, I should hire you to find more test subjects in the future.”

 Sapien glanced at him, then at Akaila, “I don't know if that would be the right term for it, her motivation is a so-called 'cure' for her abilities.”

 “Is that so?”

 He rubbed his chin, “You know, we've been needing the help of a good telekineticist around here, you ever tried your hand at it?”

 Akaila shrugged, “I guess I could try it. I've always done everything I could to lessen things, it's maddening hearing whispers and sensing people's intents all the time, like a TV you can't turn off that keeps changing the channel all the time.”

 He grinned and nodded along, still holding his chin, “It's an alloy.”

 “Hmm?”
 “We came up with an alloy that doesn't insulate psionic energy, it absorbs it, kinda like solar panels on sunlight, and it likewise makes electricity as a byproduct. Our last psycher quit unexpectedly, now, I'm not promising anything, since the alloy's expensive as all hell to make, but if you're willing to replace him, I can put a crowbar into the wallets of the bosses to try to get you a helmet made from it. It's not a cure, so to spe-”
 “I'll take it.”
 “That was fast.”
 “Actually it just got boring waiting for you to finish saying what you already thought.”
 “Oh we're gonna get along just great.”
 “Yeah, and as cute as it is, please stop spamming me with images of rabbits.”
 “Sorry, it's a bit of a reflex.”

 Sapien smirked, “Just be glad it's not porn.”

 “Oh I get plenty of that from you. Your mind is one of the most perverted I've ever seen, it's a miracle you haven't flirted with Jagra yet.”

 She blushed brightly, glancing at Jagra and hastily replying, “heh, yeah, funny, but I don't think anyone would uhm...believe that.”

 The man in the lab coat nearly fell over laughing, “All of the busted.”

 The wolven man had been tinkering with the backpack during the entire conversation and finally looked up to enter the conversation, “The recorder is fully intact and functional, aside from some of Sapien's trinkets in here. Now would you mind explaining what you meant earlier when you mentioned a 'syndicate problem?”

 A voice came from the front door, “She meant she owes us quite the sizable amount of money.”

 They all looked to see a drakkani standing in the doorway, taking off a fedora to reveal a very ornate headband, woven directly into his horns. Instantly, Akaila's nosebleed came back, along with her headache. Her mind raced, and some images in her memory flickered, like TV static, before adding him to the background, including when they were at the skydock and Tristan was whisked away.

 She spoke telepathically, too shocked to use actual words, “That's the psycher that slipped away with Tristan, he's been blocking our perceptions and stalking us this whole time.”

 He nodded appreciatively, “It's a testament to my abilities, and yours too I should say. Usually when I cloak up, nearby psychs get splitting migranes and their defenses flare up, but you, you're barely even hurting from it.”

 Jagra pulled a dagger from his belt, pointing it at the half-dragon, “Get to the point already, if you're here to kill us, quit wasting time on words.”

 He walked around them, seating himself at a table and pulling a flask from a pouch on his hip, taking a sip from it, “You can relax, Akaila's right, I've been shadowing you, and from that I now know the full story and just how full of shit Tristan was when he tried to say this was all due to an angry captain's wrath. It's worth noting he directly asked I kill Sapien before giving her a chance to speak. Quite the vindictive prick, no?”

 Sapien lowered Jagra's hand, “Then you also know the plan I have to compensate the syndicate for their loss.”

 He nodded to her, “And that's the exact reason why your truck didn't crash into a ditch on the way here.”

 The man in the lab coat coughed indignantly, and spoke with a heavy sarcasm, “Hello, how are you? Oh me? I'm fine, the name's Michael, by the way, and may I say it's quite delightful that you not only knocked before entering, but announced your name at the door too, so respectful and dignified of you!”

 He just grinned back at him before taking another sip of alcohol, “Human wit never fails to entertain. Helma. Helma Edor. My orders are to balance the books, there's no prices on anyone's heads specifically, so you can tell your intern it's safe to put the gun away.”

 He craned his neck, looking around a corner behind him and grinning wider, “Hi there.”

 A vulpren walked into the room, holding a combat shotgun at his hip, keeping it aimed at the assassin, “I'll be the judge of that, and don't try any of that will pusher mind trick shit, or I'll specifically aim for your genitals.”

 He laughed, putting the flask away and standing up, “Sapien, I'm sure you can handle explaining the situation to them, I merely revealed myself to make your case more convincing. The shipment was valued at two hundred and fifty thousand Eagles, but moreover it was meant for building a sizable amplifier to give us full telepathic coverage over the island and ensure a continued foothold. You can compensate us financially, or you can find an alternative means to give the same results such a machine would have allowed, I'll leave it up to you. We'll contact you again in twenty four hours to hear your decision.”

 With that he gave a wink and Akaila yelped loudly. The instant the attentions of the people in the room were pulled towards her, he was gone. The intern fired a shot where he'd been standing and hit the wall behind, then he aimed at the front door and fired, the buckshot ricocheting off the door and thankfully not hitting anyone.

 Michael jumped towards him and pulled the shotgun out of his hands, “Goddammit, Tulpa! I ought to bitchslap the fur right off that crooked face of yours!”

 He whimpered, pulling away, ears back, “I panicked.”

 There was a muffled laugh from the exterior door right before it closed and Akaila gave a sigh of relief, “He's gone.”

 Jagra raised an eyebrow, “Can you be sure of that?”

 “I started tracking him as soon as he exposed himself, he's outside now, I lost him when the door closed.”

 The wolf sighed, carrying the backpack to a rack of gear and attaching some cables to it, then spoke over his shoulder, “I'm gonna go out on a limb here and stitch the story together from what I've heard. This Tristan guy is a syndicate lackey, and when the ship went down, it took some expensive syndicate gear with it to the bottom that he was carrying, and in order to not have her fur used as a carpet in some mob boss's sitting room, Sapien arranged some insurance fraud with the data recorder, and was hoping that we'd play along to keep our best field researcher from becoming a throw rug.”

 “That's about the size of it, yeah.”

 Jagra commented in as well, “And her head's not the only one on the line, mine and the wolf's are too. There was a dragon with us, but they got to him before that assassin heard our side of the story.”

 Michael groaned, taking off his glasses and pinching the bridge of his nose, “Marcus, what do you think?”

 The wolf scoffed, “Me? I think it's a clusterfuck. However we don't have any choices at this point except continuing with the fraud.”

 “And why's that?”

 Marcus turned around, leaning against the equipment rack, a sadistic grin on his muzzle, “Because, we're all witnesses now, and I know you're too much of a pussy to fight back against syndicate gunmen, and too much of a prude to share any research data with them either.”
 “Anybody but you, I'd have fired you on the spot for that language.”
 “All the more reason to get my fill. On the insurance forms, it's just listed as a data recorder, right?”
 “Of course, it would defeat the purpose of the backpack camouflage to list details.”
 “Then we'll justify the successful data recovery as an emergency transmission. That huge spike we got on our long-range scanners earlier happened just before the ship went down, we could write that up as a beacon firing an encrypted signal to us, and other monitoring stations on the island would confirm our story. The only angle that doesn't cover is Sapien suddenly losing her backpack after arriving, an observant investigator would notice such a decorative and expensive looking backpack going missing. Since we don't need it anymore, I say we retire the recorder and let her keep it to maintain the cover story. Corporate would see this as the same unavoidable loss as the insurance company does, and our budget would be adjusted to buy a new one, unless there's an angle I'm missing here.”
 “Yeah, witnesses, Tulpa's only been here what, a week? I don't trust him not to talk if we tried such a plan.”

 Tulpa growled, bearing his teeth slightly, “You could at least pretend like you care if I'm in the room, and besides, there's another vulpren's life on the line here, if I talked, they'd try to kill me before I could testify in court, then I'd be a head on a mantel right above that throw rug.”

 Sapien shrugged, “Tulpa's right, we're all implicated in this, but we should make sure it doesn't go beyond this room. Anybody else we tell about this situation is potentially in just as much danger as we are if it falls apart.”

 Michael groaned, his own human imitation of a growl, “Fine. I don't like a single bit of it, but...you did get it here in one piece, despite unforseen complications...so I guess...you...”

 Marcus rolled his eyes, “Good god, man, just spit it out already!”

 Michael glared at him for a second before looking back at Sapien, “You did good, you completed your assignment with satisfactory performance, but if you want hazard pay out of this, you can take a flying leap.”

 She grinned, responding coyly with her head and one ear to the side, “But I already took a flying leap today.”

 “Then take another!”

 Michael stormed out of the room with Tulpa and the third man following, and Jagra scoffed, “I hope not everyone hereabouts is as soft-spined as that runt, or trigger happy as his assistant. If they are, I think I'd be safer back at the mine with Kessler.”
 Tristan gathered his strength and started rummaging through the debris in a steadily growing panic. He managed to find three mythril ingots still embedded in the helm where Akaila's blast launched them. He collapsed to the ground, holding them, sobbing.

 “No, no, no, I can't, no, no, this isn't...no.”

 Sapien sighed and rolled her eyes, “It's just money. I lost a ship I built with my own paws, you don't see me crying over it.”

 “You just don't get it, do you!?”

 He threw one of the ingots at her in a rage before collapsing again, “Those belonged to the syndicate! When they find out...I'm dead...I'm already dead, and not just me, no!”

 He got to his feet and ran towards her, “You're dead too! You let it happen! All of you! They'll hang our corpses up in a town square as an example!”

 Sapien just smirked and poked his nose, “Boop!” and walked away, ears and tail both up, humming a tune to herself.

 All four of them were left staring in confusion until Akaila probed at Sapien's thoughts, then she started laughing uncontrollably before following behind. She took up step next to her and said quiet enough for the others not to hear, “I won't tell them if you won't.”

 “Aw, you spoiled the surprise! I'll have to wear a tinfoil hat next time.”
 “You know those actually amplify brainwave transmission, not block it, right?”
 “Exactly! I'd wear a foil hat and think about nothing but porn as loud as I can.”
 “...You never take anything seriously, do you?”
 “You've clearly never spent time around Vulprens.”

 Jagra, Kessler, and Tristain caught up after gathering their things and they continued walking along the beach towards Nikolskoye, the town they were originally headed to.

 The silence was growing steadily more uncomfortable until Kessler broke it, “So what are we going to do? I've dealt with those syndicate types before, they don't fuck around.”

 Sapien glanced up at him with a chuckle, “Trust me, it'll be fine. So since we're apparently all waist-deep in this, we might as well get to know each other. You already know I'm a courier and Tristain's a smuggler, so what brings a dwarf, a drakkani, and a wolf to this corner of hell?”

 Jagra spoke first, “Mining! What else would call a dwarf? I've mined in everything from limestone to obsidian, and I've never had an ore that bested me. I came here to try my pickaxe against Radeite crystal, and maybe gather some coin and women in the process!”

 Kessler commented next, “While I don't share the midget's enthusiasm, I also came here for profit. Everyone else in my bloodline made it big in one industry or another by time they hit my age. Psionic ores are the only way I could profit fast enough to make up for lost time, and if I die trying, I still uphold the family honor, because I risked my life to make my fortune.”

 Sapien glanced over at Akaila, “And you?”

 “Well...”

 She whimpered lightly under her breath, ears back, and rubbed at the amplifier on her head.

 “I came here for a cure.”

 All four of the others stopped mid-step. She sighed and continued with more strength in her voice, “I came here to find a cure for psyching. Lets just leave it at that.”

 She continued walking and Sapien hastily caught up, pressing for more, “Okay now you should know how those words are gonna hit a vixen. What do you mean cure? Since when is telepathy a disease?”

 She snarled and started walking faster, but Sapien kept up with her, “I'm not gonna just drop this, I've never heard of a psycher referring to their abilities like they're a disea-”

 She stopped and whipped around, her teeth snapping shut inches from Sapien's snout before growling at her, “You saw me on that deck, you saw the pain, what, you think that's the first time that's happened!? I never asked for this, I never wanted any of it, these abilities were forced on me!”

 She turned and continued walking, leaving Sapien standing there as the others caught up again. Kessler smirked as they all started walking and commented to her, “If I were you, I'd drop the topic before she eats you.”

 “Oh please, like anybody would eat me.”
 “I would.”

 She glared up at him and he suffixed the comment, “I do love my junk food, after all.”

 There was another period of uncomfortable silence before they spotted a group of small airships, painted bright orange, leaving the town and heading towards the wreck in the distance. Tristan fired a flare and one changed course, making a landing nearby them.

 A human man climbed down, heading over to them, and Sapien greeted him, “I take it you're the rescue team?”

 “If you're from that ship that just went down, yeah, we are.”

 “I'm the captain. It was just the five of us on board. The cause of the crash was our fuel running out, so you don't need to worry about explosion risks.”

 “Were you hauling anything hazardous?”

 “There was unshielded mythril on board, but as soon as I discovered it, I had all of it we could find tossed overboard, we might have missed a few ingots though.”

 “Unshielded mythril? Did you find out what dumb smuggler was sneaking it onboard your ship?”

 Sapien glanced at Tristan, “He got confrontational, we had to throw him overboard too.”

 The man noticed her glance and looked at Tristan, “Right...we can give you transport into town. If the ship or cargo was insured, I can drop you at the skydock so you can file the claim.”

 “That's exactly where I need to go.”

 She smirked and looked towards Tristan, “I had the ship insured for a sizable amount, it's an irreplaceable prototype, after all.”

 He furled his brow at her, but remained silent even as they boarded the rescue vessel. It wasn't until they were stepping from the ship onto the skydock that he spoke, “You knew the whole damn time and you were going to leave me thinking I'm good as dead.”

 “I'm a vulpren, it's kinda what we do. I am going to need you to keep quiet for now though.”
 “And why's that?”
 “If the insurance company hears I'm handing over part of the settlement to a third party right away, they'll believe it was insurance fraud.”
 “Fair point.”

 After several silent moments, he gave a sly remark, “So how much is my silence worth to you?”

 Jagra reached up and slapped him hard on the back of the head, “If they think it's fraud, she never sees a penny, and neither does your strawboss, so we're all dead. That includes you, ya greedy bastard.”

 They arrived at the shipping office to find several people already waiting. Two vulprens, one a fox and one a vixen, both advanced in years greeted Sapien with a worried hug and dozen questions, but as they all stood in the corridors outside the insurance office, Akaila's eyes kept twitching, and she couldn't seem to keep one ear from folding back. She kept trying to figure out the cause, and turned to ask Tristan if he brought any of the mythril with him, but when she did, he was gone, as was her twitch.

 Kessler and Jagra gave their testimonies and answered questions before being allowed to head off their own ways with Sapien's assurances she'd handle any Syndicate issues that may try to follow them. Akaila on the other hand stayed there, not giving an explanation as to why until after Sapien stepped back out of the insurance office, pulling her aside quickly,

 “They're coming for you.”

 She looked up at the wolf quizzically, “Come again?”

 “The Syndicate, they grabbed Tristan while we weren't looking, another psycher must have clouded our perceptions or something, he told them everything, and they decided it's easier to just eliminate witnesses than risk you going to the authorities.”
 “That would mean Jagra and Kessler are in danger too.”
 “Maybe, my clairvoyance is limited, I didn't get any foreboding from them.”
 “Well thanks, regardless. Did your crystal ball happen to say when or how they'd come after me?”
 “Not how, but it happens the second you leave this building, your life ends there if something doesn't change the course of events.”

 She looked around the building for a way out. It was a sizable complex, a large central room with several branching halls and offices, and a guard at every corner. High-end recording devices scanned over every passageway, and glints and glimmers of hidden amplifiers gave away that several of the guards were also psychers, nobody in their right mind would perform an assassination there. As she pondered an escape route, she questioned Akaila,

 “Isn't clairvoyance usually restricted to people the psycher has a close relationship to?”
 “Usually.”
 “So is that your way of saying we're friends now?”
 “Don't read too much into it, there's a reason I want to get rid of this...it's...unpredictable.”
 “I know you're the psychic here, but I can't help but get the impression there's something very important about those abilities you keep trying your damnedest to hide.”
 “Am I that obvious?”
 “More noticable than the wings on your back...bingo!”
 “What?”
 “How much weight can you carry in the air?”

 She blinked in confusion, ears back and head tilted. Sapien just giggled and pointed straight up at an open skylight.

 Before she had a chance to say anything, Akaila grabbed her by the brass backpack and lifted her into the air, flying up towards the skylight rapidly. She tossed the vixen through, then grabbed the frame and climbed through herself, getting the attention of several guards in the process. Akaila could feel the eyes of other psychers on her, their minds prying at hers, so she just broadcast a beacon back to them with two words, “Danger. Outside.”

 She grabbed Sapien and moved her behind a cooling unit, both of them seeking cover, and she waited, probing the situation around them. She growled in frustration as her senses couldn't reach out far enough, but was suddenly snapped out of it by her own thoughts reverberating off a nearby source. She looked down to see a small mythril ingot being shoved into her hands.

 Sapien just grinned, “I kept one for evidence, just in case we had to go to the police.”

 “But how...”
 “Brass backpack. It insulated it.”

 She smirked back, glancing sideways at her, then focused on it, using it as an antenna. The foggy area around them was suddenly much clearer and more vibrant. She was able to pick up the thoughts of everyone nearby with ease.

 She patiently and silently listened. Several guards were sent outside, and a twinge of alarm came from several spots outside, positioned at all the exits, hired guns. One stepped away to make a phone call to his boss, there was her window. She grabbed Sapien again and both of them took to the air, sailing right over his head as he was looking down to dial. By time his gaze went back to the skydock station, they were already gone.

 Sapien called above the wind to Akaila, “We need to head for the Eastgate mining office, that's where they said they'd be if I needed them, and odds are there's already somebody on their way to arrange an accident.”

 “Right!”

 Akaila banked sharply and took off towards the mining office as fast as her wings would carry her.
Averting Epsilon Chapter 2: A Minor Debt
After a decidedly rough landing, our protagonists realize just how much of a dick some people can be to save their own hides.
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☑ Home Internet
☑ Backup Computer
☑ Stable Relationship
☐ Inform any remaining fans
☐ Finish the Doomlaser
☐ World Domination

Well after two years of hardship, I think I'm finally ready to begin publishing again. My first work out of the gate is going to be something I hope goes for as long as the Dracano series did; Averting Epsilon.

The plot mostly revolves around parallel worlds and dimensional and time travel, with the protagonists trying to stitch together a shattered world. I'm personally proud of the work, and good or bad at least it's something I can present to start getting feedback on again.

If people want to see me doing more graphical art, I'm sad to say I lack a scanner or a tablet at the moment, so anything I produce would have to be done with mouse and keyboard.

It's not that I'm not up to the challenge, just don't expect them to be made overnight :P
  • Mood: Optimism
  • Listening to: Dat 16-bit music tho
  • Playing: Starbound

deviantID

warp2002
Tanya Sapien
Artist | Hobbyist | Digital Art
United States
People are not a thing, they are a complex and continually changing set of interlayed details, hundreds of facets, thousands of variables, a massive and intricate machine with a million uses. No matter how many individual parts may be broken, no matter how many worn out cogs, no matter how countless the snapped cables and twisted springs, so long as they walk and breathe at least one gear is still clicking and ticking away, and that's something I can find a simplistic beauty in, that one little gear, undaunted, still spinning despite the crumbling arcane wreckage of a fractured soul around it, and so long as at least one gear is still churning, there's still some good in a person, and through that I simply can not hate their entirety.
Interests

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:icontheportugueseplayer:
ThePortuguesePlayer Featured By Owner Jan 8, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
I'll be dammed! Half the Robocraft community is on DA! xD
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:iconstatess:
statess Featured By Owner Sep 10, 2014
The-Mind-Manifests part five please? :)
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:iconzack-steele:
zack-steele Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2014
How Dracano Came To Be TF is one if not the best TF story i have ever read on deviantart
Reply
:iconcombak:
Combak Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2013
Hey Warp!

Evidently, you made the front page of reddit!
... With something that was posted into /r/cringepics. Here's a link: www.reddit.com/r/cringepics/co…
When I checked, the comments were not too bad... But that could change.

By the way, the picture was posted to imgur, so if you want you can get it pulled down, I think. Give me a shout if you want / need help!
Reply
:iconwarp2002:
warp2002 Featured By Owner Oct 18, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks for letting me know. I'm annoyed somebody yoinked it, but meh, no point causing a fuss over it.
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:iconcombak:
Combak Featured By Owner Oct 18, 2013
Yeah... And it is a little late to do anything about it now...
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:iconheimovesa:
heimovesa Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2013
Rules 1&2
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:iconcombak:
Combak Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2013
?
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:iconerror-code-666:
Error-Code-666 Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
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:iconwarp2002:
warp2002 Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
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:iconerror-code-666:
Error-Code-666 Featured By Owner Sep 10, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
01110011 01100001 01101101 01100101 00100000 01101000 01100101 01110010 01100101 00101100 00100000 01100010 01110101 01110100 00100000 01101001 01110100 00100111 01110011 00100000 01110011 01110100 01101001 01101100 01101100 00100000 01100110 01110101 01101110 00100000 01110100 01101111 00100000 01110101 01110011 01100101 00100000 01100010 01101001 01101110 01100001 01110010 01111001 00100000 01110011 01101111 01101101 01100101 01110100 01101001 01101101 01100101 01110011 00100000
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:iconwolfbloodstudios:
WolfBloodStudios Featured By Owner Aug 26, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Hey thanks for the fave! long time no see!
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:iconcharizard1565:
Charizard1565 Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2013
michael jadson
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:iconneodragonoid:
NeoDragonoid Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Well Tanya we are in the same boat you are I got banned from Fedcom Or ,So I thought ,So We all went out in blaze of glory on Fedcom and moved to Phoenix-Protocol Where Everyone deserves a second chance.
Reply
:iconshadowhawk1997:
Shadowhawk1997 Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
<this tank would PWN your mutarevulpis.
155mm cannon and a mounted .50 caliber machine gun plus impregnable armour
Reply
:iconwarp2002:
warp2002 Featured By Owner Mar 31, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
On foot, sure, the tank would squish the tiny organic lifeform. What you should really be worried about is that blue light in the sky and why it's suddenly raining. And boom goes the ion cannon.
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:iconrazordraac:
Razordraac Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Hey, how you doing?
Reply
:iconwarp2002:
warp2002 Featured By Owner Mar 31, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
finally back on DA is how I'm doing
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:iconrazordraac:
Razordraac Featured By Owner Mar 31, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Talk about delayed reply lol. Welcome back.
Reply
:icontwokinds:
Twokinds Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you for the birthday point! :)
Reply
:iconwarp2002:
warp2002 Featured By Owner Jul 2, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
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:iconprimusomega:
PrimusOmega Featured By Owner Oct 18, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
OMG A CREEPER!!!!!!
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:iconclearfog:
ClearFog Featured By Owner Jul 1, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Gimme your Cookies!!!
deviantART muro drawing Comment Drawing
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:iconwarp2002:
warp2002 Featured By Owner Jul 1, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
NEIN
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:iconclearfog:
ClearFog Featured By Owner Jul 1, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
?
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