Description: The commander of the Sacred Order summons his agents Alma, recently inducted into a team competing in the King of Fighters tournament, and Dr. Tran to pass on their marching orders: infiltrate Violet Systems, the tournament's sponsor, and investigate their suspicious connections with dire supernatural forces. With Alma and Walter participating openly and Tran working behind the scenes, a conspiracy is only beginning to make itself apparent, and nothing is what it seems. Except Dr. Tran. He seems normal.
For once, the sparkles aren't coming from Alma.
He stands by the worn wall of a castle courtyard flooded by the rosy hues of the rising sun. It is the morning after the scion of the Hayabusa clan has inducted Alma into his King of Fighters team. Their true goal, to investigate the disturbing supernatural phenomena that may lie behind the new chi-based technology involved in this year's tournament, is of course unknown. But having joined King of FIghters at the cusp of its deadline, the formal report of the young psychic's participation has been dutifully made public, and those who remember him from his spectacular debut duel against Athena or know him from the art world are chattering the internet over about this unexpected twist.
I mean, he doesn't really seem like a ninja.
"Are you well now, little one?"
Especially not when he's talking to flowers.
Motes of light glitter around Alma's fey features, but they are not of his making. From the rustic masonry grow delicate stems and blossoms, and from those arise ethereal glimmers. Illuminated by their steady pulse, like that of a gentle heartbeat, is Alma's kind smile.
"Yes!" It is the faintest of voices, heard only as a whisper in the psychic's ear. "Thank you for keeping us safe here for so long ... I don't know what we would have done without your help."
These are sprites, flower faeries. To metaphysicians, they are better categorized as spirits, fragments of stranded souls, rather than the fantastical humanoids they are known of in legend. But Alma cares little for such categorization and more for their well-being.
"All that matters is that you are secure from such predations, Buck," he says. "The Sacred Order keeps the balance between our world and yours. We would never tolerate those who exploit you."
Alma believes this sincerely, but it is not strictly speaking true. The Sacred Order's prime directive is to defend the mortal world and its status quo. Darkstalkers and other supernatural beings are expendable, if not necessarily foes. Because Alma does not violate the dictates of the Order and because he fights fiercely against those entities who do prey upon humanity, he remains more or less a favored member. But he is always on the margins, acting somewhat independently, never gaining in rank.
"Thank you! Those poachers almost had me and my friends!"
And hosting beings like Buck in an Order stronghold doesn't really help much with that. Still, Alma has obediently awaited the arrival of a superior, so that he may be informed how best to further the goals of the Order -- and seek mutual benefit -- while accompanying Hayabusa and Kasumi on their quest. As the sun creeps higher, he turns toward one flower that seems to be wilting.
"Is this one alright?" he asks Buck.
"Oh, that's just Puck. He's ... seen a lot."
SOME TIME AGO
Dr. Richard Tran putters down a winding dirt road in the Transyvlanian countryside on a bubblegum pink Vespa, en route to his clandestine meeting in a certain devil castle. Suddenly, a second, identical scooter merges onto the path out of the forest, pulling up alongside him, its rider clad in black leathers and a full-head helmet.
"Ha ha! Hey!" Tran calls, waving frantically at the other driver to get their attention. When their head turns to face him, he continues, "We are scooter brothers!!"
After a moment of no response, Tran pulls one hand from the handlebars of his Vespa and gestures frantically between the two vehicles. "Scooter brothers!" he repeats. "We are brothers on scooters!!"
The other driver says nothing for a moment, and then reaches up and flips up the visor of his helmet. What Tran sees causes his face to contort into a cartoonish mask of horror.
"Talking to flowers again?"
Dr. Richard Tran sweeps into the courtyard of aforementioned certain devil castle, his labcoat fluttering around his legs, the scene of Alma's reverie with the sprites reflected dramatically in his sunglasses.
"You should try talking to the spirits of something more masculine, for a change," he suggests, as he strides across the courtyard towards Alma. "Like... baby back ribs, or monster trucks. Monster trucks have spirits, right? It seems like they'd have to."
"Monster Trucks have no souls, Doctor Tran."
The gruff sounds of the head of the Sacred Order comes. Well, 'head.' In some regards, it was more of a ceremonial role than an official one. They wouldn't even let Kliff run around the grounds with his dragon slaying sword. He could just use it to pole vault around. Sure, the occasional new recruit would need to go to the medical ward. But accidents are the best form of experience. Kliff was only clad in his bulky leather armor, stroking his beard as he strides out from the other sid of the courtyard. His brow was furrowed.
Clearly, the doctor had touched on a nerve.
"I don't care what that movie implied. Truck monsters are not fun, they do not smell strong, and they do not have zany adventures, unless getting your entire head degloved is considered zany and adventuring." Kliff snorts. "I swear, if I had the power, I would do everything I could to stop this propaganda trying to normalize the worst monsters humanity has ever seen. Like that Monster High. Bleh! BLEGH!" Leaning over, he peers at the flowers that Alma was peeking at.
"You done smelling the roses, kid? We got a problem."
"Buck and Puck ... do all of you have similar names?"
"Yup!" Buck cheerily replies. "They all end the same way."
Alma nods thoughtfully. "And how many of you are there, again?"
The psychic is cut off by the arrival of a familiar presence. Turning quicker than his usual sedate speed, he reveals a smile widening into a grin and eyes lighting up with delight.
It has been some time since Alma has experienced a powerful vision of a past not his own, recollections of what seem to be a previous life yet one populated by those living here and now. But when he first met the good Doctor, he was struck by a barrage of memories in which they fought side by side against insurmountable odds. There is little that Alma understands about those visions, even today, but there is one thing from them he has come to know with absolute certainty.
"You were summoned as well!"
He and Tran are very good friends.
"I've never communed with the spirit of a monster truck," he reflects on his own shortcomings. "But vehicles often bear traces of the ones who have ridden them. No doubt," he adds, smile broadening again, "your scooter is endowed with the most masculine spirit of all--"
But he is contradicted by a wise and venerable voice. Alma straightens, his smile slipping away out of decorum, and turns away from the flowers, the sparkles quickly fading. Good thing Alma is living camouflage for anything emitting sparkles.
"Yes, Sir Kliff. Tell me, what would you have us do?"
As he awaits explanation, the psychic's eyes wander back to Tran, and for a moment, his gaze flickers. Anyone with a passing familiarity with Shadaloo's operations -- so, not Alma -- knows that there exist technologies capable of shaping Psycho Power. It is entirely possible, if very difficult and rare to attempt, to produce an artificial aura that matches the wavelengths of another for the purposes of subterfuge against psychics. But skilled empaths are difficult to deceive, and something has caught Alma's attention.
His ally regards him carefully, and espies what is out of place.
"You're particularly handsome today."
"Yeah, I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night," Tran asides to Alma, without missing a beat, or even turning his head away from Kliff. "So what's the problem?" he asks, his temper clearly inflamed by the old man's crass dismissal not only of his suggestion, but of the entire category of monster trucks, something obviously near and dear to the good doctor's heart.
"Is it a Dracula?" he blurts suddenly, his head whipping around to survey the courtyard. "Is that why we're in Transylvania? To hunt a Dracula? I knew it. Do we get sweet crossbows like in that Hugh Jackman movie?"
"Actually, you know what, even if it's not a Dracula, I want one of those crossbows. Let's do this; let's make this happen. Who's with me? Are you guys with me?" Tran thrusts an encouraging finger at the sprite-bearing flowers. "I bet they're with me. These guys, they know what's up."
"Yes, yes, Doctor Tran is curiously attractive today. It is probably that fresh new haircut."
Kliff snorts again, running his hand on the top of his head. "Anyways, never commune with the spirit of a truck, Alma. One time, I remember we did a medium on a AMC Gremlin. Now a little known fact on AMC Gremlins, is that they were actually made with the souls of dead non-union employees of various Detroit-based factories. It had to be Detroit, for some reason. It's not leylines, or anything, it just seemed that the universe hated Detroit. Anyways, when we had a medium try and commune with it, the spirit of the Gremlin went and possessed thing. One thing led to another, and you remember Fredrick Lightbringer? That's actually how he met his first husband, the one he rants about at all those parties when he gets really drunk. Anyways, where was I..." Kliff snaps his fingers.
"Oh, right, the end of the world."
"There is a lot of suspicious stuff with the King of Fighters. You know how last time, it was tied to that... that -island- tournament." Kliff snorts. "Not the one with all those beautiful women jumping around. Though I definitely had to investigate that one. There was definitely something supernatural there, after all. Mmm. Yes." Kliff clears his throat. "I think Doctor Tran investigated that one. That was where he teamed up with that robot, which was a complete and perfect splitting image of him."
"Where was I going with this?"
Kliff pauses a moment.
"Oh, right, the end of the world."
"Yes, that Lee Chaolan fellow has definitely been consorting with Darkstalkers. I have on good knowledge and intel he even employs them. Which is nothing wrong with that, of course, as long as they are the good ones. You know, with the right figures, and stuff, and even perfect for island volleyball..." Kliff trails off. "But there is something very sinister going on with that Combot 2.0 technology as well. I have some... intel that Violet Systems is engaged with the very darkstalkers we are fighting against. The likes of Lord Dohma, and even the Outworld. As for evidence, well, look at the guy." He reaches around his jacket, and slaps his forehead. "Oh, damn, I forgot the folder, I needed you to look at this man, or that man, or- whatever. Basically, Alma, you and Doctor Tran need to start investigating Violet System's supernatural links." Kliff nods suddenly.
"Also I am going to be quiet and unreactive for a little bit so you and Doctor Tran can discuss the impact of this statement."
"Not another crossbow," Puck whispers. "The gore ... the blood ... the grimdark ..."
"It's gonna be OK, bro," Zuck replies. "There's an app for that."
Alma crosses his arms, conveying a sagacious air as Kliff makes his way in the general direction of his point. "That's true," he murmurs. "That was the island where I met Tran and Amy first revelead to us the existence of the Sacred Order. I never myself laid eyes on that mechanical clone. But we never learned what came of it, did we?" He pauses contemplatively. "The last I heard of it, it had disappeared into the island's jungles with an attractive young woman."
Alma then furrows his brow.
"At least, I think that happened."
At the mention of Darkstalkers suited for volleyball, Alma's consternation visibly deepens. "Alas," he murmurs, "sometimes those are not the good ones." The vampire Eliza, upon whose tomb he had stumbled a year prior, has still not turned up in all his searching. Though Alma is motivated by a general sense of justice, his deepest passion for serving the Order derives from his sense of personal responsibility -- whatever magics were at play in that moment -- for Eliza's release onto an unsuspecting world. Any news of Darkstalkers with thralls under their control immediately calls Alma's attention, but he has not yet found any victims of vampiric blood-based hypnosis. The threat nevertheless remains, the thought of whom and what he has unleashed persistently and deeply troubling.
But she would be good at volleyball.
"Lee Chaolan? He was a sponsor of the tournament on that very same island, yes?" Alma nods slowly. "I'm unfamiliar with his company, but if his technology is developed with assistance from our foes, then it may be used to serve our foes against us and the innocents we protect."
He turns toward his friend and ally.
"Tran, you know more of espionage than myself. Do you have any advice?"
"So we're just going to table the crossbow?" Tran asks Alma, clearly disappointed. "Okay, we'll come back to that later."
"And, for the record," he adds after a beat, "That robot, like, fell in some lava or some shit, and his skin all came off, and he took this weird rock out of a stone guy's body and then escaped on a helicopter? So I feel like probably we don't need to worry about robot clones anymore? Or... or we SUPER need to be worried about robot duplicates..." He frowns, and stares off into the middle distance for a few moments.
"Sorry, what was the question? Oh, right, espionage. Okay, so..." Tran reaches up to scratch vigorously at his chin. "We could hack into their employee database and insert ourselves as high-level employees, or-- wait, we don't have anyone who knows how to use a computer here," he realizes suddenly, shoulders sagging. "Sometimes I miss parts of being with the Illuminati. You know, they actually gave really good benefits? 401k matching, health, vision, dental, paid vacation days..."
"But no, I mean, I'm glad I'm here now. We've got some good stuff going on too. Like... uh..."
Alma's eyes widen slightly as Buck's voice echoes from the flowers, a mote of light emerging from the stonework and floating suspended in the air before them. Had the spirits chosen to remain hidden from Kliff, the psychic would have said nothing: there is always a crucial distinction between lying and omitting truths. But then again, it doesn't seem like Kliff is paying very much attention right now while he searches for the missing folder, which may or may not contain photographs of Darkstalker volleyball team candidates.
"Knights of the Order," Buck's high-pitched voice, oddly reminiscent of a Southern drawl, continues, "in thanks for this one's kindness, we are prepared to offer you our assistance. Our fairy dust has great healing properties and when we gather our powers and perform our secret rituals, our sorcery has the power to make you invisible."
Alma's expression softens as he smiles at Buck. "You are brave and generous, Buck," he says. "We may lack the Illuminati's hacking prowess, but with the power to turn invisible, I am sure we would be able to infiltrate--"
"/Or/," Buck adds, "we could make for you a magic crossbow."
"Crossbow," Puck whispers, his mote of light seeming to rock back and forth atop his wilted flower. "Giant sword ... terrifying monsters ... manga just goes on forever ..."
"Puck knows a /lot/ about crossbows," Buck supplies. "Specifically."
Alma is awkwardly silently for a moment before glancing sidelong at Tran.
"I don't think we ... really ... /need/ a crossbow."
Tran gives Alma a long, contemplative look. "You know... you're probably right," he concedes, with a sigh. "We have to make do with the resources we have available, right? And if we could turn invisible we could easily breach Violet Systems and do some sneaking around, pull some files, that sort of thing. Honestly, that'd probably be even easier than getting ourselves 'legit' access the old-fashioned way."
"On the other hand THAT SHIT'S DOPE GIMME THAT CROSS BOW SON!" Tran roars, throwing his hands into the air and wheeling on the sprites, his expression twisting into one of almost erotic delight.
Glimmering lights arise from the ground as the twenty-six faeries gather, twenty-five motes ringing Puck in the center. From gathering twigs and grass emerge the outline of a shockingly brutal-looking instrument, its protruding magazine evidence of its violent capacity.
"Indestructible by mortal means," Buck may be heard intoning, "with infinite ammunition generated by the creative forces of the best of our flower magic. Designed to be affixed to one's hand if one happened to have a metal hand, not that anyone here would. The mightiest magical artifact ever crafted by our people--"
Suspended in air is the cruel, beautiful weapon.
"Known only as 'Guts'!"
Awed by this extraordinary display from his otherwise powerless wards, Alma, closest to the faeries, reaches out and plucks the crossbow from the air, its sadistic design an unsettling contrast to his tranquil appearance. Blinking, he points and aims the repeater crossbow at a wooden support beam along the length of the courtyard wall-- and pulls the trigger.
A flower shoots out, and bounces off.
A moment passes. Alma pulls the trigger again.
Three more flowers shoot out, and bounce off.
"Farewell!" Buck cries, as the faeries ascend into the sky and disappear.
There follows a brief silence.
Then, smiling, Alma turns and offers the crossbow to Tran.
As Tran pulls the offered crossbow into his arms, cradling it like a newborn, tears of joy stream down his face. "I'm just... I'm just so happy," he chokes out in a half sob. "This is the best day of my life. I don't even care that it shoots dumb ass fuckin' flowers. It's fine, we can-- we can fix that in post."
"I'm gonna kill so many Draculas with this thing," the doctor vows, shouldering the weapon and looking experimentally down the sights. "Hey, didn't you foolishly loose a terrifying Dracula on the world recently? We should take him out with this! Just be all like, POW POW POW POW POW POW POW!!"
To accentuate his mouth-made machine gun noises, Tran sprays fire from the crossbow into Alma's face and shoulders, buffeting him harmlessly with flowers.
Assailed by guilt at Tran's words, Alma flinches back. "I-- yes, that's true," he concedes sorrowfully, his eyes softening. "Due to my naivety, a vampire was loosed upon the world, as dangerous as she is beautiful." Flowers bounce off of his face as he sighs regretfully. "Now none may know when her wrath will be wreaked upon the flesh of mortals. No public appearances of her have been recorded since then, and I mphfah--"
He politely turns to cough a flower out.
"I know not if she will ever reveal herself."
Though if she did, that would be a great hook.
"Tran," Alma continues, rousing himself from his penitent reflections, "now that we have chosen our boon from the faeries, how will it assist us in our mission?" He furrows his brow again. "Perhaps, resembling as it does a chi-based technology, we may pique Violet Systems' interest in its construction and so find a way into their organization ..."
"You know," Kliff begins to add helpfully, as he stares ahead with a furrowed brow. "Before you guys go and save the world..."
"I might need one of you to help me with my email."
He glances to each side, nodding.
"It's not sending me myspace updates anymore"
"Huh?" Tran asks, without looking up from the crossbow. "Oh, are we still doing that? Uhhh, yeah, sure, let's do that. As long as, you know, we get to keep it. I'm not giving this baby up to anyone. At least not until I kill that Dracula."
When Kliff speaks up, he finally looks up from his new toy. "MySpace!" he barks. "Come on, boss man, everybody's on Friendster now, you gotta get with the times! Right, Alma?"
Alma thinks about this carefully. "I'm not sure," he replies judiciously. "I rarely involve myself in online social network. Once, upon encouragement, I attempted to, but I was disappointed to find myself taken in by false advertising. There were no fish whatsoever, to say nothing of 'plenty.'"
He politely inclines his head toward Kliff. "But, Sir, if you wish to know more about your MySpace account, I believe we should seek the one known as 'Tom.' I have heard tell that he is friend to all." His mild smile returns. "A role, I think, to which we should all aspire." So saying, Alma draws his smartphone from his jacket pocket. He has no access to Kliff's e-mail, and even Alma doesn't have time to try to work through with Kliff how to log onto his account, but he can at least look up Kliff's MySpace profile. "Let us see who else among your friends might be of service, if Jeeves here will assist us," he remarks, busying himself with the search on Ask.com.
"Ah, see, here you are, username DarkStalkerStalker. Very clever, sir. Let's see, among your friends, there is--" Suddenly, Alma freezes, his eyes widening. "No-- how could this be? It's her, the vampiress--"
He taps a couple times, then abruptly relaxes.
"Pardon me, false alarm. I thought the image of Sir Kliff's friend was zoomed in, but in fact, the entire image was just a large pair of breasts."
"Whoa, hold on, back up," Tran declares, throwing up his hands in the traditional 'time out' signal, which is rough because he's still holding the crossbow. "You never said this Dracula was a Rackula." He shoulders his way into the huddle so he can look at Kliff's phone, his expression growing entirely, completely serious.
"So like, hers are that big? Or...? Come on, my dude, how are we supposedm to devise a plan of attack without sufficient intel?!"
Alma sighs gravely.
"This is precisely part of what makes her such a threat, the vampire called Eliza," he says with a seriousness that belies his gentle expression as the two of them gaze at the boobs on the screen. "Her figure is inconstant. When I awoke her, she was slim. But once she feasts upon blood, she-- well, that is--"
Alma's eyes raise to look off into middle distance.
A moment's lingering pause, before he shakes his head slowly.
"No wonder she evades detection, with her changing physique."
"Huh," Tran muses, joining Alma in staring into the middle distance. "That sort of physiological morphology could provide fantastic research data. It's possible she simply absorbs the blood into internal sacs in her chest - possibly a mutation of the alveoli in her breasts - but it could also be the case that she instantly metabolizes the absorbed blood... though for fat deposition to only happen in one place..."
"How's her ass?" he asks, turning to look back at Alma. "She got a big ass?"
"It's all such a blur," Alma replies with evident frustration, shaking his head slowly. "I was under the spell of some strange sorcery which led me to her tomb. My memories are fragmented. Her teeth sinking into my neck, the sensation of her swelling breasts against me, the dig of her stiletto heel into my body once she had flung me too the ground ..." He frowns. "No, I cannot recall any relevant details, Tran."
Alma looks fairly torn up about it.
"You know," he then muses, "while it is more than probable our current mission and our lost vampire are unrelated ... if Violet Systems is working behind the scenes with Darkstalkers who bear malice toward humanity, could Eliza be among them? I concede there is no evidence to support such a claim, but if there is any chance at all that she is linked to King of Fighters ... perhaps I can search as a member of the tournament, and you can look behind the scenes."
He smiles firmly toward his dear friend.
"It's been some time since I've seen you so motivated for a mission!"
"Yeah, well, the whole Darkstalker thing, it can be pretty interesting, like, medically," Tran shrugs, waving Alma's smile off. "Plus I always wanted to bang a Dracula. Haha, right, old man?" he jeers, clapping Kliff on the back.
Then it's back to seriousness. "Well, she could be our in, though. If we can flip her - buy her off, coerce her, seduce her, whatever - and she goes to Violet Systems, I mean, that gives us a lot of potential plays. Then when we're done with her it's just, you know, boom, stake through the heart, shove a head of garlic up her ass, whatever all you do to kill a Dracula."
Kliff suddenly narrows his eyes.
"Gentlemen." He states, snorting.
And then, a spectre of clarity, as he is clapped on the back.
"There are three Darkstalker teams." He begins, drawing on wisdom and understanding. "One is very likely aligned with the very forces we have sworn to protect. But Eliza... Eliza is not affiliated with them. And the others... the others are good, independent of the darkness. I have a growing fear that the interest of the outsiders may not be simply to threaten the world... but to defend against their own. What use do they have for money and machines? No, there is something far more sinister happening under the surface." And then, he transfixes his gaze upon Doctor Tran. "You know, I swore I realized something wrong with you. Your inflections, your tone. I should have known..." And then, his eyes grow unfocused.
"... Where are we?"
Kliff looks around briefly. "Are we at the castle?" He says, eyes going wide.
"There could be vampires here!"
"What's all this about vampires?" Comes a voice from oh high! Is it an angel come to lend them aide? Is it the voice of the Almighty?
Nah, that's just the resident Dragon Priest. Flapping down from one of the castle's towers, he lands with a little slide to him. Here, there's no need to hide the tail or wings. He has a bit of sweat to him, looking as though he'd come from a brisk fly about the area.
"Sir Alma! Lord Kliff! Lord's blessings, gentlemen."
The Doctor gets a look, and a crossing of his chest. "And good day, Sir. Father Walter Bardsley. Resident man of the cloth, and horrible dragon thing." He buffs his wing scales a bit. Flap flap.
"'Defend against their own'?" Alma repeats. "Sir Kliff, do you mean to say there is a factional dispute among the Darkstalkers?" He does not know how the commander is so confident of Eliza's alignment, and in fact, the psychic has not yet thought to familiarize himself with whom his fellow competitors will be.
When he does, he will be in for a rude awakening.
Maybe not as rude as Tran, but Alma knows the Doctor's heart and has never paid the man's coarseness any mind. Such surface details rarely ruffle the psychic. "If turmoil threatens the realm of the supernatural itself, then it is all the more likely to flood our world. If that were to happen--"
Just as Kliff fears-- monsters could appear among us!
"Walter!" Alma smiles, blithely passing over their commander's alarmed cry. No supernatural creatures here, no sir, and definitely no flower fairies. "It's been too long, my friend." The psychic's mild manner has returned, his concerns over Eliza abated, and he raises his hand in greeting, forgetting that he still holds his smartphone displaying a close-up photograph of a spectacularly ample bosom, courtesy of Kliff's MySpace friends list. "Has the Order directed you to involve yourself with the King of FIghters tournament as well? My infiltration was incidental, but ... fortuitous."
"Uh," Tran greets Walter, looking askance at him. "Yeah, man, cool self-loathing. I'm Dick." He gives the priest a gesture of hello with the repeating crossbow he's still holding in his arms. "You can call me 'Doctor', or 'Big Papa.'"
"So hey, let's focus up. How are we going to find this titty monster? I mean, I can snag her myself, if we can get a lead on her."
He hesitates a beat, and then adds to Kliff, "And what about that pizza party you were just talking about? Are we still doing that?"
Technically, all of Kliff's myspace friends were ample bosoms.
That didn't quite explain why Zangief was a myspace friend, but you had to work with what you could. Kliff was beginning to sundown slightly, as his train of thought runs off the tracks and hits a cabbage cart. And yet, as Walter comes down, he manages to mutter aloud. "We, of the Sacred Order, fight to defend mankind. And amongst the supernatural threats, we must always consider the greatest enemy of all. Man-"
Kliff snorts, as his pupils dilate, as if a shark just smelled blood in the water. His gaze transfixes at Walter. "Dragons..." Kliff licks his lips, as his eyes dart around. And then, he breaks into a deft, combat roll away, right into the flowers. Immediately, he perks up, as he stomps through the flowers, looking around. "I need...
And his eyes transfixes on the crossbow.
"I will give you all the pizza parties if you give me that crossbow, Doctor Tran."
"You like Papa Johns, right?"
Alma gets a grin. "Quite! We should go bar hopping later. My dime." He does get more serious however. "Indeed. I have a team with an old friend of mine. We shall see what we can learn about whatever they have planned. I'm more than a touch worried. I would rather there not be any sort of war amongst Darkstalkers. For obvious reasons." Wingflap.
"...Charmed, 'Big Poppa'." Tran gets a squint briefly. And then more squinting. "A big ti...need I truly ask?"
And then, Kliff. "Sir Alma, less waving around of filth, please. Lord Kliff? Calm down! You know me! No crossbows to the chest, please. Those hurt!" Walter...well, he raises his cross protectively.
"No, Kliff," Tran insists, holding out a hand to stop the old man. "He's my dog, I'll do it." In one smooth motion, the doctor shoulders the weapon, pivots to fully face Walter, and squeezes the trigger.
A burst of freshly bloomed flowers erupt out of the tip of the weapon, harmlessly buffeting Walter in the chest.
"Well," Alma begins delicately, "our primary mission is to uncover what sinister supernatural forces may be at work behind the King of Fighters tournament. But, Tran," he diplomatically continues, "it is possible that the vampire I freed is involved in some capacity. My searches for months have turned up nothing of her whereabouts, but-- oh."
At Walter's outcry, the psychic glances up at the phone in his hand. "Excuse me." He's never quite understood what Walter sees to disapprove of in images such as these, but it is Alma's policy to respect others' boundaries, and so, somewhat masking his uncomprehension, he taps back to Ask.com. "I suppose I could check and see if there are any rumors afoot." Blissfully unaware of Tran's flowers flying right behind him, Alma carefully taps out a search request.
After a few moments--
He looks up blankly, expressionless.
"Eliza is officially participating in King of Fighters."
There's your missing link.
"Oh dear /Lord/ you madman, what the bloody hell are you doing!? And I am not some dog to be put down!"
Cue one very, very girly shriek from Walter.
And then, flowers. He looks down, looks back to Tran. There's a blush to his cheeks and then he's just falling to his knees.
"...I feel as though my dignity has just crumbled even more to dust than normal. Lord help me." Cue one rumbly dragon. Give him a minute folks.
"So then...participate in tournament, find abnormally beautiful vampire woman, investigate supernatural evil. All in a day's work. I shall bring the holy water and the holy whiskey. Perhaps if you two leverage your charisma, we might be able to find a few things out about this unholy Lady." That's right, Tran, a priest is ok'ing your 'seduce the vampire' plan.
Kliff suddenly stops tramping through the flowers. "Not only the supernatural." He trails off. "Investigate the Violet Systems as well; try and discover what sort of secrets they are hiding. We may be dealing with forces beyond both the supernatural and scientific... but the worst combinations of man, monster, and machine." He stares off ahead. "My god."
"You slayed the dragon Doctor Tran!"
Kliff throws an arm over Tran's shoulder. "Such power! That deserves a true pizza party! Everyone can get a pizza party! And I can tell you all about my own stories of slaying dragons, some different than others. You see, there was this dragon who was a maid..." Kliff begins to try and walk off... with or without Tran.
All while explaining the details of dragons which with what are maids.
"Nobody said anything about her being abnormally beautiful," Tran points out, after raising his hand as if he were trying to be called upon in class. "Just that her tits get bigger when she drinks blood. Nigga, you thirsty," he scoffs, waving the crossbow Guts at the dragon priest dismissively.
Then Kliff hooks him and starts to drag him off; the doctor plays along for about five seconds, and then carefully slips out of the small man's grasp, trotting back to Walter and Alma. "He didn't take his pills today," he explains. "Which, I mean, to be fair, I've got him on, just, a BUNCH." He shrugs helplessly.
"For real, though, if she's on the radar that big it'll be even easier to flip her. I've got clearance to acquire a bunch of blood to bribe her with, right? Do we do clearance here or can I just do whatever I want?"
Without skipping a beat, Tran shifts his voice into a comically bad imitation of Kliff, that sounds more like Kliff impersonating Mickey Mouse. "Yeah dogg you do whatever, it's all good."
"Cool, thanks boss man," Tran crows.
"We all thirst," Alma intones solemnly. "She for blood, and we for justice. Is that not so, Walter, my friend?"
"No doubt the hospitals affilitated with the Order would be able to supply you," the psychic replies helpfully to Tran, either ignoring the good doctor's imitiation of their fearless leader or genuinely not understanding it was an impression-- okay, definitely the latter. "I will leave the leads on Eliza to you for now, as long as there remain no reports that she is preying upon innocents." He turns to Walter and smiles again. "Then it's settled. Walter and I will participate in the King of Fighters openly on separate teams, maximizing our chances of learning about what lurks at the heart of the tournament, and Tran, you will work behind the scenes to understand the relationship between Violet Systems and its Darkstalker partners."
"It's good to be striving," he concludes, "with the same goals in mind."
Log created on 13:33:42 08/01/2017 by Alma, and last modified on 18:16:44 08/01/2017.