Jack-O' - Family

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Description: Fate has a funny way of throwing monkey wrenches into the most mundane of situations. What was meant to be nothing more than simple guard duty for a low-priority asset becomes something much more bizarre for NESTS experiment Eclipse Umbra. And a chance meeting with one Jack-O' Valentine sees fit to upend his entire world. For good cause! Probably!!


On the outskirts of Osaka, there is a relatively small manor hidden from a nearby highway by a brace of sakura trees. The manor is tucked near the base of a mountain, a path leading up behind it to a shrine to a local deity.

It's not an important place. The manor's master is a person of some minor interest to some piece-mover in NESTS. The shrine is suspected of holding a relatively petty artifact that could, maybe, in the future, be of convenience.

The watchman is curled in the crook of a sakura tree, a blot of grey and brown barely visible in the branches at this hour. He appears to be dressed in clothing freshly harvested from a dumpster - an oversized hoodie with 'I AM A SHITTING DIE' written on the back in english, greasy sweatpants with frayed cuffs, two different pairs of sneakers with loose soles.

His hood is pulled up over his head high enough to completely shadow his face. He has a matte black Gerber fighting knife in his hand, idly spinning it between his fingers and flipping it back and forth, the serration on the blade coming dangerously close to his flesh.

To someone with senses beyond the human, the figure isn't... whole. Like a person with half their soul locked away in a cage. It isn't strictly comfortable to perceive.

There is an attack under way on the most important minor treasure owned by the important minor master of this important minor manor. And it comes not stealthily, no. It does not even come directly.


Not behind or ahead or below --


--but above.



Jack-O': Hey I-No let's work together!
Jack-O': Hurray!

And so it was that Jack-O' Valentine, with her freedom earned (sort of (it's complicated)) immediately went back about her merry way in pursuit of her grand plan. Perched cross-legged upon the top of her familiar Dopoulos as it jets its pumpkin path across the heavens, the dual-state Gear is currently in the midst of ruminating on the specifics of her scheme --

"Awwwww dang, I completely forgot!"

-- and coming up empty.

"Ohhhh this is no -good-! It was right on the tip of my tongue...!! Hrmrmmrg!!" Cheeks puff with all the annoyance of an adorable forest creature; brows knot inward in clear vexation. A second passes... and the way her cheeks deflate, and her consternated crunch of brows becomes a more contemplative crease, is almost so seamless the transition can only really be noticed in how divergent it is from what came before.

"Mm. I suppose we can start with the basics, at least. You're still on track for that signature, yes, Dopoulos?" The pumpkin beneath makes some semblance of a saccharine sound. Her head tilts, hair flowing serenely in stark, abject opposition to the wind resistance buffeting at her cheeks. "... Good. I knew I could count on you. I need to take a bit more stock of this era. The arrival of Gears has fundamentally altered the flow of things... I need to take stock of how. So I suppose..."

A fist hammers into an open palm. Jack-O''s expression brightens like a light bulb made purely of glitter and sparkles, lips splitting in excitement.

"... it's time to play some more~! Quickly, Dopoulos! Collide with that mysterious shrine!"





So that's how that happened.

To the keen but mortal eye, it looks like a screaming green meteor has collided with the roof of the shrine with an impact that blows apart wood into an infinite work of splinters. The subsequent crash into the ground floor can be felt like a tremor that rolls through beneath the soles of the watchman's feet. But that might be it, for the mortal eye. For senses beyond that... for those with the cells to tell...

... there is an immediate sense of pressure that floods the more primitive part of the brain, like something that demands attention and consideration simply by merit of its existence in the proximity of the watchman. Magic fluctuates outward from that impact point, simmering its way through the air to indicate the presence of -something-. Something -important-. Something...

"wauhhh my sternummmmm"

... something currently half-embedded in the grounds of the shrine, covered in a tiny mountain of sharded wood such that only her be-bellbottomed lower half is visible, legs meekly twitching, Dopoulos swaying half-heartedly from his ankle chain.

Something important.

"i think my everything is broken"

Truly. Important.

The hooded figure's regard shifts upward as the meteor starts cutting through the sky. It tilts to the left. It seems to be having trouble processing the events right up until the impact. The knife buzzes as its grip slaps into his right hand, blurring into a disc until its held in a backwards grip.

He stands. Average height. Average build. He lifts his right wrist to his mouth to speak into it: "Unusual event at OSK-Site-59. Unknown object colliding with potential containment zone. Adv--"

He stops and looks at his arm. What's that?


The force presses into him and finds itself restricted by something... and pushes harder. "Ad--graaaagh!!" He cries out, arms jerking with sudden, unfamiliar agony as the pressure pushes its way through something and into his brain. He slips and falls off the tree, bouncing off one branch, snapping through another, crashing into the snow.


If there is any response from the manor, despite his pained state, he beats it. A faint, barely-coherent spike of darkness attached to a simulated string flicks up and jabs into the roof of the shrine and pulls up the man. His hood has fallen back, revealing a grubby-looking American man with a few days worth of beard growth and untidy hair a month past due for a trim. He carefully balances on the edge of the hole, glaring down intently.

One sleeve of his sweatshirt was ripped off in the fall. His right hand reaches over to grasp that arm, as though it could stave off the pain threading through, lessened but still present. Four metal bands are built directly into his flesh along his arm, twitching, the pale skin threading through with ripples of brown along the edges like something's trying to break loose. Misty black chi escapes from the bands, its presence on the other arm indicating that its condition is much the same.

"..." says Eclipse, tightening his grip on his knife. "...who."

Quiet little ripples of jade pulse from that impact point like the aftershocks of an earthquake made visible. Magic. Reaching. Searching. And then, as Eclipse peers within, knife at the ready...


... it stops.

Within a second of silence, all is (relatively) still. It prefaces the way the wood SNAPS like a toothpick introduced to a mildly stressful pressure as one foot flickers, sending Dopoulos SMASHING into the ground, the built up momentum yanking -someone- out of that field of debris.

White jumpsuit, decorated in a plethora of ankhs, is only slightly tarnished by the presence of wood fragments. Hair that is white on the outside, yet red on the inside, flows like ethereal tendrils of their own volition, the shimmering effect lent to their swaying strands courtesy of the great halo that floats over her head, bedecked with four glowing crosses.

And a mask of dark iron and glowing green eyes and mouth, staring straight up at Eclipse with what somehow looks like a knowing smile.

How a mask can have a knowing smile, well.


That's anyone's guess really.

The /point is/, that knowledgeable silence reigns for a solid ten seconds before Jack-O' Valentine reaches up with a black and red gloved hand, her presence almost /commanding/ --

-- and then enthusiastically proceeds to flail that arm about like it was made of wet noodle, her glowing mask slits literally, somehow, squinting into bright green slits of mirth.

"Hiiiiiiiiii~~iiiiiiiiiii, my comrade~!"

Yeah, so. That's who that is.

"You have a really unusual energy signature, don't you! Are you keeping yourself locked up, or is someone doing the locking for you, because I HATE when people do that! I was locked up once, long ago, I think, but also it was maybe a week ago sometimes, but then I -- oooo, what is /that/?"

And so it is that with a cheery "okay bye!!" Jack-O' Valentine starts skipping off.

In the direction of the shrine's treasure.

Dopoulos smashing holes in the ground with every time a completely skip whipcords him into the flooring.

Eclipse winces periodically. Whatever's happening to his arm seems to hurt profoundly - and what Jack-O' wouldn't know is that Eclipse is typically all but immune to pain as long as those bands are engaged. A normal person would likely be insensate (but then, a normal person wouldn't be worrying about this (and would be a person)). On the bright side, he doesn't seem too alarmed by the girl's eruption.

He lifts his right hand to his mouth again. "Located unsub in cont..." Eclipse trails off. Sparks and smoke are sputtering from the otherwise nearly-invisible bracelet at his wrist. "..." Welp. He looks back down at Jack-O', flicking his knife back and forth, still trying to catch up. His thoughts aren't working right.

C o m r a d e

That seems to set him off. Despite perching on narrow, damaged wood, he gets into a decent defensive stance, left hand held forward with the black knife refusing to reflect any light. "You're not family," he says immediately and with conviction.

Pain immediately jumps up his arms again. He bites down onto his lip against it, drawing blood as she continues... and leaves.

Locked up? No, it's... important. So that he doesn't...

Eclipse jumps in after her, kicking off his ruined shoes. Beneath he is wearing tight, low profile boots, the shoes oversized to make up for this. He lands quietly and starts following after - not fast enough to catch her yet, but trying to keep her in sight, stepping around the holes.

What does she want? She probably won't tell him. Let her go there. Deal with it then. He thumbs the metal of his blade, trying to relax.

There's something very surreal about the way Jack-O' just makes her merry way through the depths of that shrine -- it's confident, but not the type of confidence that would suggest she owns it, or might as well ought to. It's the confidence of someone blithely oblivious to the social mores of the world around them, as if she had no concept of what property, or boundaries, or breaking or entering are.

Or maybe she just doesn't care.

Regardless, it ultimately means that the strange woman is off barging into an area that ought to be completely and utterly off limits to her at a brisk and lively pace; one could say she's blissfully unaware of Eclipse in hot pursuit behind her, and yet there's subtle things to her movements the keenly observant might notice: how she always moves -just- fast enough to be outside the watchman's range and yet still in his sight. How she makes sure her movements and directions are just telegraphed enough so that he'll get an idea of where she's going.

How she declares, to no one in particular, "uh oh I hope no one's following meeeeeeeeeeeee~"

You know.


Regardless, once she breaches the artifact room, Jack-O' pauses, looks behind her, blows Eclipse a kiss - complete with a bubbly green heart that bursts into being with the flourish of her hand - and then ducks behind the wall, swiftly and securely. And if, when, Eclipse pursues after...

... he'll find no one.

"I dunnooooooo."

On the ground, anyway.

"I wouldn't say /family/, but I wouldn't /not/ say family??"

And there, hanging upside-down from her familiar, the jack-o'-lantern's thrusters engaged to a stable point in the air, is Jack-O' Valentine, mask eyes wide with wonder.

"It's more like -- distant relations? I think? Um ummm like like you're the weirdo cousin and I'm the creepy uncle leering over you at a Christmas party and no one knows how either of us got there and maybe they're not sure if we actually exist or we're hallucinations and we could just PWOP disappear in an instant! You know, like that! But there's something so //weird// about you! Oooo, it's making me so MAD--"

Whereupon Jack-O', mask eyes narrowed in frustration, just -snatches- forward with both hands (fingers wiggling creepily (don't think about it)) --

-- to try to ensnare Eclipse's bared, banded arm.

Of course, Eclipse isn't all that great on social mores either. At least that means he'll take Jack-O' as she is! It's likely going to be refreshing.

He /is/ observant and trained enough to know that Jack-O' knows he's following her, but he's not moving with much stealth aside from his naturally quiet footwear. It's more about making it seem like he might be able to break away if she rounds on him, wasting everyone's time and energy.

Too easy to follow. What's her plan? Can't contact home. Can't... think straight. Protocol... what's the protocol? Alone. Usually alone... but just this once, it would've been nice to...

He reacts immediately to the blown kiss, dodging to the side like he's been shot at and swinging his knife. A black phantom knife shoots forward as though thrown, flying toward the bubbly heart. Eclipse darts forward, ducking low to dodge the explosion from the obvious attack. His footwear is dual purpose, gripping at the front and smooth at the heels and edges, allowing him to just slide in through the door almost parallel to the ground.

Like a good operator, he spins around immediately, knife-first, ready for anything.

Except Jack-O'.

Eclipse is well-trained, but a field amateur. The pain is affecting him. Even aside from that he just... can't... THINK!

Jack-O' grabs at his exposed arm. She can feel the heat in his bands, the metal fluttering even as it flexes with his muscles. It keeps trying to disengage, but safety features are keeping it locked in. There's a catch on the inside of the band closest to his wrist.

"No!" he protests, but Jack-O' has his left arm, his knife arm, his dominant arm. He drops the blade and tries to get it with his right, but his angle is too off. Eclipse starts fighting. His strength is not too far beyond an ordinary human, but the black chi starts forming tiny hands, reaching to pry at Jack-O''s fingers. "We... are... NOT... family!"

His last word devolves into a ragged snarl as he clenches his right fist. That sleeve shreds apart, revealing his other banded arm, chi flickering around it, trying to form something. A weak black sphere forms in his palm. He fires it up at Jack-O''s mask - it's pathetic, already falling apart before it gets to her. "Mission. You're... not supposed to be..."

The heart, of course, explodes into shoujo sparkles.

As you do.

"Awww no, all my wuvvvvvvvv-!" Jack-O' cries distantly. It is important to note that the 'wuvvvvvvvv' is pronounced with diabetic preciousness.

Back in the present world, however, gloved hands find purchase around the bound arm of the NESTS enforcer known as Eclipse. The silver 'fingernails' of those gloves turn inward, gripping more firmly. And in that instant, something about her changes in a way that is almost felt as much as it can be observed even through body language. Where once was manic energy, there is now a smooth serenity, almost calming in its presence in a way that translates all the way down to the undaunted certainty of her grip as she feels the heat sweltering off those bands sear into her palms.

In those moments, she seems to pay only the barest attention to Eclipse's near act of aggression; as the knife hits ground, her grip - far stronger than her slight frame might suggest - tilts that limb in her grasp just so until she can feel the heat of those bands practically sear at her fingertips. Magic thrums, searching and analyzing.

"Something... locked? Your cellular connection with the Backyard feels sloppy, inconstant. Like a neurosurgeon decided he wanted to try an open heart transplant. The fundamentals are there, but... hm. It's incomplete." Somehow, that masked expression shifts towards something sadder, more pensive. "You really were locked away, weren't you -- eh?"

And that's when she feels those tiny hands grasping at her fingers, peeling them off one by one. Her head tilts, almost curiously, as they peel back those dexterous digits one by one until --

xX We... are... NOT... family! Xx

"... Oh."

And that soft, gentle sound of realization is prefaced by the burst of chi already dying before it can be fully realized; even if not as deadly as it could be, between the distraction of her realization and Eclipse's work to free himself, it does have an effect: dwindling chi bursts across that mask just as Jack-O' -yanks- herself backward on her chain in a swing, freeing Eclipse's arm in the process; Dopoulos' thrusters disengage the moment she does, the counterweight -snapping- her towards the ground in a flexibly downward-bent position, fingers splayed across the earth. The sound of her mask clattering becomes evermore distant the further away it skids across the flooring.

And when she looks up again, it is with a sad, pinkish-red stare and a knowing yet so sincerely apologetic smile.

"... I'm sorry. I'm hurting you, aren't I?"

Somehow, it doesn't seem like she means in ways purely physical.

"It wasn't my intention -- it's just an unfortunate byproduct of my nature, and yours. I'm not exactly myself, sometimes, and it can make it a little difficult to focus on staying stable between this point and every other possible permutation, and because of the metaphysical make up of your cellular structure I think it can't help but resonate, and..." White brows crease, just so. Sympathetic. Thoughtful.

"... do you not know what you are?"

The chi hands do nothing at first. As Jack-O' notes, it's like most of it is locked away. Reaching to its utmost behind a barrier. But when she shifts into that other persona, the serenity has its own effect. The pain lessens, like it's no longer pushing back at him. Eclipse stops struggling for a moment.

Her analysis makes no sense to him. Concepts he has no room for. Words that don't seem to match up with each other. Through the fog of confusion, he slowly inches one foot toward his knife.


Eclipse jerks back, scraping his foot on the ground and flipping his knife into the air. He deftly snatches it, spins it into position, and jumps far enough back to crash into a wooden pillar here. His stance is low. A dull sort of animal fear is in his face, an oddly muted form of an extreme expression. It's all muted - every energy signature he has, every mental ping. Shrouded. Eclipsed.

"I..." he says, through a dry throat. He hunches down lower like a cornered beast. "I am... Eclipse Umbra." Not supposed to do that, don't tell them your name, but... he puts his wrists together, his bands clicking. He's not supposed to do this without approval. Life in danger?

Proof that he knows what he is?

"...NESTS. My family. My father. My... my sister. I need to be able to protect them. I need to do..."

"...what I'm told."

He twists his wrists. The pain, building up too much. He needed to release it. His bracelets click and expand outward and the roiling brown color suffuses out into his skin, climbing up his arms and up his face in streaks. Now /everything/ hurts, which is better. It makes more sense. The color then leaches out of his hair from the roots, turning a silvery white, the unkempt mess smoothing out. Becoming... anime.

The limiters are off his arms. The limiters are off his signature. But the limiter may also be off in ways Eclipse has not anticipated, depending on what Jack-O' is capable of. He straightens as the black chi starts shrouding his arms, shadowy and transparent. Eclipse's eyes sharpen, lips parting, showing a little bit of teeth. His voice is more clear.

"Are you gonna get in the way of that? I don't like to involve people just because they made one mistake."

He knows what <they told him> he is. They wouldn't lie.

Eclipse Umbra.

"Is that who you are, or what they want you to be?"

Sadness filters into an expression largely dominated by a mature, reserved sort of intellectual curiosity. It's hard to place where it comes from, but it lingers in those pinkish red eyes as they observe Eclipse like they were seeing every little piece that makes him who he is, haunting that stare like a phantom's touch. NESTS, he talks of, and the mention of that name is enough to make white brows twitch upwards a fraction of a wondering inch. Something to be filed away for later. For now...

For now, the strange invader stands her ground at the threshold leading into that artifact room, not even making the attempt, or feigning the interest in, bypassing Eclipse to reach that would-be treasure beyond as he begins to shift -- begins to unlock what is within.

Begins to embrace ~The Anime~.

And there she stands, head canted to the right, strands of hair floating behind her, lips pursed into a faint expression of consideration as she watches the streaks of brown race across skin. Watches, and senses. She can feel it more acutely now. See the strands woven together. She just needs to find the right strand to tug--

"Limiters released," she breathes out, pensive, as magical circuitry weaves jade patterns around her fingertips. "So that's your lock, is it? Is it because of the instability...? It must hurt. Doesn't it?"

The warning comes. And when it does, Jack-O''s expression softens into the kind of gentled look most often reserved for sympathetic plights. She looks down, at the magic woven between her hands.

"You know, Mahatma Gandhi said that happiness comes from the things you think, say, and do being in perfect harmony."

And then she lifts those gloved hands upward, into the air.

"I'm not going to get in your way, Eclipse."

And something is created from nothing between the palms of her hand as magical formulae spawn a tremendous, pulsing furnace shaped like the most adorable, angriest face in the world between her palms.

"I'm just going to give you the choice to be happy."

And summarily -tosses- that pod through the air to let it land between them, like a roadblock. Like a shield. Its green eyes swell, its bulbous frame expands. Jack-O' dips down to the side, swiping up her mask to start affixing it once more to her face.

"But ummmm um um okay so it might take a little bit to do it, you know?? I'm rusty like a spoon someone left out in the imaginary between spaces too long! Soooooo--"

And calm is once more replaced with sugary insanity as that mask comes back on and Jack-O' sweeps her hands outward, creating a keyboard of magical, holographic keys from the ether JUST as the pod spews out one adorable, tiny, flying Gearling, brandishing the most sweet and simple of spears with cutely malicious intent.

"-- let's play a bit while I figure this out!! Jack-O''s super secret subversive strategy is a go~!"

And then another phantasmal Gear spawns as Jack-O' starts rapidly working on that keyboard in a way that Eclipse will /feel/ the magical tug of on some basic level, a response to a nascent command. And another spawns. And another.

He might be overrun by the dreaded 'kawaii' at this rate...!

"Pain's just proof of power," Unlimited Eclipse responds. He's loosening up. Unfolding. But it's hard to tell if this is the 'real' Eclipse or just the other extreme. "But you're not making any sense." More relaxed now, he's stepping to the side, angling toward where the artifact is supposed to be held (if it exists). He taps the point of his knife on the side of his nose. "What else can I be? Don't distract me with philosophy."

She's doing something. Don't like that. This stuff's too restricting. While Jack-O' is building it up, Eclipse flips his knife up into the behind his back, letting in spin in a forward arc past his shoulder, shadow chi gathering in his hand until his arm whips out and catches the knife again.

With the motion, a dozen false black knives spring out from his now pitch-black hand and whip around him attached to strings. It looks for a moment like he just fucked up and diced himself until the grungy clothes fall away in tatters.

Eclipse's version of the NESTS bodysuit is constructed for freedom of movement - his skin tight boots travel up to mid-calf, terminating in mesh up to leather bands around his knees. More mesh leads to black shorts that only come down partway on his thighs. There is a narrow band of bare skin at his adonis belt until we find a studded black corset to protect his vulnerable stomach, and then it's mesh all the way up aside from leather pads at the sides of his ribcage and the tops of his shoulders. The mesh terminates at the first bands in his arms right across the biceps.

My God.

He glances away for a moment, looking toward the containment zone. "Not the mission..." he mutters, displaying poor internal monologue. Just when his weight shifts like he's going to make a break for it... there's the furious pod.

"What is that," Eclipse demands, warily shifting back a step, eyes narrowed, right up until her declaration to 'not get in the way' results in some kind of trash mob being generated out at him. The agent growls, "You're talking in circles. This is why..." Energy billows around his arms. The shadows form into some kind of stubby cannon around his right hand, tubes leading back and connecting to his bands. "...I can only trust my family."

Family. Family. Always with the family.

He points the cannon, the letters NMS glowing on its side, and fires a blast at the closest Gearling that looks a lot like what he was trying to accomplish while Limited, a spiralling sphere with arcs of black whipping out around it.

What is she doing? Have to get through these. Eclipse's eyes dance about, going from wood pillar to wood pillar, lips moving slightly as he calculates.

Jack-O' looks up from her important activities. Spies Eclipse's work uniform. Maskholes squint. And then widen to cartoonish proportions.

"Oh no!" she proclaims, a hand coming to her jack-o'-lantern mouth as she coyly glances askance.

"My innocence~!"

What is that, demands Eclipse.

"Oh! It's so simple it's silly!" reassures Jack-O'. "It's like an easy bake oven except what it bakes is information from the Boundary into yummy yummer yippee cupcakes of minor tactical assault units that get BIGGER AND FLUFFIER with more delicious data donuts!"

All this, of course, helpfully pantomimed by Jack-O' double fisting what one can only assume is supposed to be imaginary data donuts into her big, masked mouth.

Dopoulos helpfully supplies Pac-Man noises, for effect.

See? Super simple.

Proof is in the pudding, however, and that furnace pod does seem to be spitting out the little Gearlings with all the relentless, finger-burning efficiency of a classic Hasbro product. Big cartoonish red eyebrows given them all identical expressions of indignant rage and furious resolve as they lunge for Eclipse. One glorious Gearling leads the charge for its fellows, letting out a shrill, high-pitched warcry as it points its spear forwards --

--and then is promptly unwound with a sudden and aggressive infusion of umbral chi, wild black contrails unraveling it at its magical seems until it just sort of... stops existing with a surreally poffy ~*pop!*~.

The other Gearlings pause as the blast scorches past them, dramatically making their teensy tiny cheeks flap about against the buffeting winds. They look amongst each other.

And then they -all- let out glorious battlecries as they lunge for Eclipse, one or two grabbing for his banded arms while the others jab at him with their spears -- aiming for sides, legs, all of them more annoyances than anything -- as if they were trying to keep him occupied, keep him distracted, keep him moving -back-, with every imperious thrust of a speartip that, despite all cutesy appearances, are more than capable of piercing even the most reinforced of materials.

They also make obnoxious 'poik! poik! POIKPOIKPOIKPOIK~~!' sounds with every thrust, so.

There's that, too.

Meanwhile, Jack-O' remains hard at work at the fringes of this fight, gloved fingertips dancing dexterously across that cascade of keys.

"I'm talking in tesseracts!!" she insistently interjects in the midst of the melee in progress, masked mouth downturning in a most severe frown. "Plus plus PLUS -- what's circular is all this programming! Ooo, you're like a mobius strip, every possibility leading down one uniform surface to the same exact point but on the other side... hmm. Could you tell me more about your family, Eclipse? Their names? What they do? Why you're here, and they're there? What the exact existential state of them is, right now, at this very moment? Your fondest memory of them?"

Magic runes start to forge themselves in the air around Eclipse and the Gearlings as Jack-O' works. Her head cants to the left.


Just a little bit more...

Eclipse is being overmatched. He has more raw power when Unlimited, but skill? Experience? That didn't magically improve. The N.M.S. Cannon suddenly increases in size and arcane complexity, making a chunky noise at it builds itself down to his elbow, more tubes connecting it to his side and neck.

"Damn it," he mutters, swiping at Gearlings with his knife. "That's not simple at all." He seems more irritated by that than the attack. The fighting knife leaves black arcs in the air as he tries to fight back. Blood drips down his body where the spears have landed, finally adding a little color to his body.

"What are you /talking about?/ What are you /doing?/" He bares his teeth. "What are you doing to my HEAD?" It's like he's operating through fog, like something is trying to keep him from making... decisions.

Eclipse lets out an animal snarl and suddenly gives ground, springing back from the Gearlings only to jump forward at them, flipping his knife into a forward grip and holding it over his head. Power floods out of the disengaged bands and wraps around the weapon, radically extending, a huge pitch black single-headed axe blade blooming out. He hammers the Hatchet.09 down as the runes start appearing around him.

He thinks back hard on his implanted memories, drawing strength from them. He and his sister, alone on the streets <collated DNA of natural conduits>. Running. Starving. Running from... and then picked up, <born by> rescued by the organization. The two of them trained, given the means to <serve> stand on their own <be properly wielded>. To save others li<implant the forbidden code install the generated protosoul>

<unstable result, day-one patch, test until system failure, postpone project>

The Hatchet smashes through a few of the Gearlings as it crashes through the floor, the haft bending unnaturally as Eclipse uses it as a fulcrum to fling himself up and directly for one of the wooden pillars. The N.M.S. Cannon dissolves as he smacks his right hand into it and braces the frictionless part of his boots, swinging around it and kicking off toward Jack-O' herself from above. The knife came free from the haft of the now-dissolving hatchet - he swipes it at the runes a few times before kicking off a disk of dark under one foot, plunging for the woman in a cross-arm dive with the blade of his knife leading.

"Stop it stop it stop it, I won't lead you to her, I've already, already-dy, go AWAY!"

Emerald magic spews from wounded Gearlings in little, sparkly gouts, each defeated creature making sounds like a rapidly deflating balloon when struck down. Yet the sproingy, cartoonish cacophony of their comrades seems to just grow doubly robust with each fallen Gearling -- as if their phantasmal numbers were just growing -that- fast from the seemingly endless hammerspace of that perpetually producing pod.

It's why, even as Ghostly Gearlings are flung free from Eclipse's arms with the extending expulsion of his shadowy chi fashioning a knife into something greater, there are yet more that cling to his ankles; why, as several are cleaved in twain upon his axe's edge, several more spiral past, gouging minor cuts at his shoulder and elbow joints with the jab of their spears - now slightly more complex, as if they were evolving - and the whip of jade magics to propel them through. Each attack seems coordinated, precise. Each attack seems to know how to -hurt- without -hurting- -- as if they knew how much Eclipse's body could take in order to simply slow him down. Distract him. Enough for...

xX What are you doing to my HEAD? Xx

Jack-O' does not look up from her work, and yet, the calm of her tone has all the assurance in the world:

"Trying to give you harmony."

A long index finger presses down on a lone, pale blue key amongst many as data and information streams past Jack-O''s masked vision. The jagged lantern teeth of her mask press together in approximation of a pensive line as she falls into the reverie of her work, deeper and deeper with every fractious, disjointed memory that flits past Eclipse's thoughts. Sympathy -- no, empathy -- is there, somehow, even with that mask to hide the Valentine's features. So many thoughts. So many memories. With no way of knowing which are fake, and which are real, and which ones make him who he is or something someone else wants him to be. It's...

"... I might not be able to find that kind of harmony for myself the way things are now," she murmurs, almost to herself, even as Eclipse -flings- himself into the air. Her voice pitches higher as he soars through the skies. "And who knows if the me I am today is going to be the me you know tomorrow~! But!! For now--" He descends, the tip of a knife's blade revealed through shedding darkness as it cleaves through emerald runes, creating warbles of magic static that seem to resonate down to the very core of him. She looks up, to see the gleaming tip of that blade. She smiles, genuinely, as the sugary sweetness bleeds away from her expression once more.

"-- I can at least give -you- the opportunity, can't I?"



Her blood is red. The 'normal' color. The human color. It's as warm as anyone else's as it pools down Eclipse's arm from the point at which his blade has found its home, at the point between collar and chest on her right side. It's off the mark from anything fatal, but as clean a stroke as can be.

Which might have something to do with the fact that Jack-O' Valentine elected to embrace danger, rather than try to run from it.

Despite the wound, her arms are tight where they are, wrapped around Eclipse. She's not especially tall, but there's a strength and warmth to the hug she seeks to catch him in regardless, the pink-reds of her eyes squeezed shut as she just holds on. The Gearlings around them all pause in unison, as if directed by a greater, unifying force.

"I'm sorry," she breathes. "For everything you've had to go through, or thought you've had to go through, or anything precious you may have lost without even knowing it... and I'm really very sorry at this immediate moment..." Her eyes crack open.

"... because I don't think this part will be pleasant for you."

And she chooses that exact moment to disengage, to -leap- backward, blade tearing from flesh in a crimson splatter --

--just in time for Eclipse to perhaps notice Dopoulos above. Descending upon him rapidly.

Reconfigured into something that looks like an iron lung conceived a baby with an iron maiden out of the sheerest, angriest sex.

And currently opened wide, with intent to -seal- itself around him, encase him in a vibrant, unseen world of green hues...

... while those runic seals assert themselves all over the familiar's chassis, to begin injecting an arcane counterformula throughout the layers of Eclipse's excruciating, fragmented programming.

The last thing Eclipse might see?

Jack-O' Valentine, waving enthusiastically, masked smile glowing. Literally.

"<3 Gan~
"te~! <3"

Eclipse lands the blow. Jack-O' is even stronger than he anticipated - this isn't a tackle. It's more like he crashes against her body despite being double her weight. Can't shake her stance. Didn't have a chance.

Her blood mixes with his, which is usually way less healthy when the two people aren't extremely weird. He immediately tries to twist the knife, showing lethal instincts, but his arms burn. Too long Unlimited. The odd effects are stacking with the steady degradation of his chakras. He feels too heavy. His hair already looks less cool.

Jack-O' embraces Eclipse. His body is tense and hard. He tries to pull back. "You don't know... anything..." He tries to shift the knife, to find bone with the serrated base of the blade, but it's all so slow. "I didn't..."

Suddenly gone before he could do anything else. The blade is not long. The wound is not as bad as it could be. "I didn't..."

He looks up, instants before Dopoulos drops around him, beginning to seal closed, the green glow enwrapping him, vanishing into a slowly sealing line---





The Iron Dopoulos springs back open, struggling to slam shut. Eclipse himself is clearly visible, a white glow marking his outline as something within becomes desperate, some measure of artificial potential within him. Black shadow chi surrounds him, forming into hands, knives, axes, organic muscular masses that struggle to rip him free of the device, arms erupting from the seal's assertion as new ones form. One arm, larger than the rest, deformed in its musculature, holds an enormous black knife that it stabs into the ground over and over, unable to reach Jack-O', tearing gouges from the floor.

"I-- DIDN'T ASK-- YOU-- TO--"

Fewer and fewer limbs. All of his chi burning itself out.


It finally slams shut, cutting off the last giant arm. It goes limp when disconnected in a disconcerting facsimile of an actual arm, the chi construct dissolving from the origin up until it leaves the giant knife.

The knife persists for another several heartbeats before collapsing all at once, the shadows fading.

Blood smears bright crimson on pure white as it winds its way down the bodysuit of one Jack-O' Valentine. A gloved hand finds the ugly, snarled gape of the parting wound that the agent of NESTS has inflicted upon her, agitated just so. She suppresses a wince as she squeezes down. It could have been worse, she realizes. So much worse.

But sometimes, things truly worthwhile require a gamble.

The Gearlings have all settled, several of them strewn across the floor still recovering themselves in the aftermath of Eclipse's flagging onslaught. One of them approaches the closing Dopoulos --

-- and is promptly impaled on the edge of an inky black knife. It lets out a terrified shriek like it was a horror movie victim, except the shriek is really more of a squeak like a chew toy being aggressively abused. It spits sparkles. The other Gearlings bring tiny stumphands to their faces, clearly horrified.

It's so precious it hurts.

G r i m.

Jack-O', however, is sedate in these moments, even as Eclipse rages in a way as calamitous as it is short-lived. Pain paints her expression, of a kind that cuts deeper than the knife wound that makes her nerves scream in protest. Red squeezing between the cracks of her finger as she applies pressure to that injury, she takes hold of that mask once more, loosing it off and risking the potential instability it may court so that she may watch directly. Watch the white glow that silhouettes Eclipse. Watch the weapons that spring forth from the slowly closing depths. Watch Dopoulos distend with every blow, every increasingly desperate attempt at freedom. Watch that desperation spark something else within him, something yet untapped.

Watches, as his words sting at her ears.

"I know," she murmurs, the lids of her eyes hooding just as the Iron Dopoulos seals itself completely. Her eyes fall to that knife in the seconds before its collapse.

"But you deserve the chance to make a decision of your own will, even if it means you hate me for it."

In the aftermath, as runes start to glow in sequence all along Dopoulos' morphed chassis to work their steady magics, Jack-O' walks, the chain connecting her to that busy familiar rattling across the ruined ground as she approaches. She lays her unburdened hand upon the cool metal surface, and considers the damage done to the surrounding area.

"... oopsies."

She looks, briefly, in the direction that artifact is supposedly sealed, if it truly is. But it was never her interest, not really. "Mm. I suppose I might have called too much attention to myself. And this is going to take a bit more time to finish... We should vacate somewhere safer. And if at the end of he wants to return... I suppose, at least, it'll be a decision he made."

So, instead of pursuing the MYSTERY BOX, as Dopoulos processes the programming she's directed it to unravel, Jack-O' hops atop the familiar, pointing --


South. She's pointing south. Look. Sometimes she just gets confused. The point is, she knows what she's doing.


And so does faithful Dopoulos ignite its thrusters with Eclipse within, blasting off southwards --

"Wheeeeeeee~~ JETS, FLY~!"

-- to adventure (??).

Log created on 21:07:54 11/18/2018 by Jack-O', and last modified on 02:15:42 11/20/2018.