KOF 2017 - Act 2: Mission 9 - Clever Girl(s)

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Description: Riptor has come in search of Alma in his hotel, sent by Ultratech to avenge their lost specimen in Appalachia. But Alma has already been left for dead in a murky pool by Urien of the Illuminati, who came to neutralize an agent of the Sacred Order, their rival in the power struggle for influence over the United Nations. As vicious raptors close in, a spectacular savior arrives in the nick of time, having foretold this possible future. Now two students of Rose must fight as one to survive.

Silence reigns at last in the hotel pool room, but it has been bought for a visible price. The ceiling has caved in entirely, a second floor hallway exposed above, and wood and drywall have piled as debris in now blackened water. Everywhere the once pristine tile is shattered, the floor pockmarked with craters where it has been pulverized into dust. The lights flicker fitfully, and with them the shadows cast by the rubble dance.

The towering Illuminati leader has left the building, but awareness of the devastation is still spreading. Chaos has yet to take hold, but it surely will. When it does, it will be some time before anyone realizes that one VIP guest is absent: Alma Towazu, intended to participate in an upcoming King of Fighters match.

For not every occupant of this empty room has fled. The muddied and viscous waters of the largest pool stir, and momentarily a vague shape surfaces. The bronze spattered with dirt and blood does not immediately resemble skin. It would take an attentive eye to see that this is a body, still unmoving, having gradually risen to the surface. Urien has left him for dead, and not only due to hastiness born of lost composure. The psychic remains unconscious, badly beaten, and if he is not soon found amongst the devastation, his fate is sure to be dire. Given the circumstances, he would have to be very lucky for anything else to occur.

That, or someone would have to foresee his fate ...

The Illuminati weren't the only ones with their eye on Towazu, their sights set on the Holy Order's idealistic young champion-- they did, however, employ a far, far more reliable hitter. Ultratech, they wanted Alma dead or out of the picture too, and on paper, the solution they chose was sound; incredible, even: a telepathic, profoundly intelligent genetically-engineered cyborg dinosaur would do it. One with a taste for flesh, and a joy for hunting prey.

An ominous van rolled up to the hotel's delivery, sleekly modern with tinted windows and reinforced armor and equipment as much designed to keep its payload in as assailants out. It does little good.

As soon as she's freed, and herded towards the building, the alpha female Stalker, the one with the ever-so-wise cybernetic augmentations, rips the prod out of the first handler's grasp, breaking his arm, and then feasts on his face with bone-splintering glee. Powerful talons furthe gore the fallen man as his partner turns a powerful taser on the raptor, and she leaps at him with a blood curdling skreeee.

Both handlers freshly deceased, Riptor all too easily opens her backup's cell with the control pad and communicates adroitly in low hisses and growls, the large male falling in beside her as they rush out to fulfil their mission; sort of. In time.

First, the raptors bust into the first nice suite they come to, because they are classy, and devour its inhabitants and mini-fridge. When fire alarms go off deeper in the building evacuating people around the devastated pool, both predators cock their heads up in tandem, and leave their cozy nest behind, flitting impossibly quickly from cover to cover. Also left behind: a creche of unplanned eggs.

The sound of grinding stone and metal suddenly breaks the ominous silence of the blasted crater that once served as the recreational swimming facility of the luxurious hotel. At first there is little more than a few soft creaks and the clatter of small stones, bits of debris and flotsam dribbling down the angled incline of a large pile of rubble which has collapsed over the double doors that once provided access from the hallway. Then, with a sharp exhale of effort to puncuate it, one of the larger chunks of shattered masonry tumbles forward, rolling down into the room with a great ruckus and the splash of water.

There is another short bout of silence and then a face appears in the newly created opening, peering in with an almost innocent curiosity. The face, as it turns out, belongs to a young girl. Short purple hair terminates at her jawline in a neat bob-cut, her brow laden with a circlet of golden metal. Slender blue eyes scan the scene of destruction, apparently unsettled by the carnage that has been wrought, but rather seeking out something in particular. It takes only but a moment for her gaze to settle upon the half-submerged figure still face-down in the pool and it is only then that her expression changes to one of concern.

"Oh man, I am I too late? Master is gonna be really cross me with!"

Withdrawing from the small hole she has created, Menat reaches up and grips the frame of the door, using it as a lever to swing her legs up into the opening. She slithers through the tiny gap with ease, her body twisting and flowing in coiling motions reminiscent of a snake, and skates down the ramp of fallen stone on her feet. She does not waste the precious few seconds it might take to scamper through the debris and pull him out with her own power. Those are seconds the poor man might not have. Instead, she holds her hands out before her, making an odd gesture as she cups them together and an orb of shimmering purple light winks into existence between her palms.

"Don't worry, I've got you!"

A thrust of her hand sends the hovering sphere flying across the room and it vanishes into the water of the pool alongside Alma's body. There is a sudden upsurge of of motion, an almost geyser-like explosion, as she yanks back with that same hand, the orb responding to her command. The unconscious pyschic is lifted from his watery doom atop the shimmering ball, thin tendrils of psychic power binding him to its surface, and Menat quickly guides him back to the floor at her feet.

Her face goes red almost immediately upon noticing his state of undress, a solid blush creeping to visibility through even her darkly tanned skin. She clears her throat and looks around for a solution to this problem, finding little more than dirt and ruins. Finally, her eyes alight upon one of the many potted plants lying scattered about the place, surviving bits of decoration from the room's previous state. She skips over to one and snatches a single large leaf from its branches, placing it neatly over Alma's embarrassing situation with a satisfied smile.

"There! Perfect. Now then, I came here to do something... Oh, right!"

Kneeling down at the side of her fellow disciple, though she's never actually met the man before, Menat rummages through the interior of her dress, hands slipping into various openings and folds.

"I know it was in here som-aha!"

A small diamond is withdrawn, held daintily between her index finger and thumb, the gem shining with an inner purple light. She closes her eyes and concentrates, focusing her mind on the healing energies locked within, willing them into Alma's body. There is a long empty silence for several seconds as the gem hovers in the air without reaction. Menat opens one eye, giving the small crystal a sideways look.

"Did I... do it wrong?"

She leans forward, her head tilting back and forth like a cat that has spied something curious. Even when she reaches out to tap it with her finger, there is no response. The girl's cheeks flush again, this time with annoyance, and she puts her hands on her hips with a frown.

"Come on, work you stupid little..!"

A brilliant burst of light fills the room as the crystal simple explodes with psychic power, a shockwave of soothing purple energy exploding outwards from the shattered gemstone. Menat lets out a surprised squeak as she is momentarily blinded, flopping back onto her butt, one hand lifted to shield her eyes. Once the energy has cleared, she slowly peeks over the edge of her forearm, blinking widely.

"Uh, yeah, totally worked. Man, I'm a good!"

Crawling over to Alma's side on her hands and knees, Menat touches him on the shoulder and shakes him a few times.

"Hey. Hey! Get up, sleepy head!" She eyes his injuries and looks around the room one more time. "Wow, someone really did a number on you, huh? What is it that Master used to say?"

The Eypgtian girl narrows her eyes and purses her lips, her voice becoming deep and thick with accent as she makes airy gestures.

"True power is not entirely physical. But that probably hurt anyways."

Spared of imminent doom, Alma, cradled by violet light as he is borne from the waters, nevertheless remains in danger. His delicate features are tranquil in unconsciousness, belying the harsh fact that his internal injuries are extensive, his latent healing abilities are suppressed by profound mental exhaustion. He had channeled all of the psychic energies he could muster against a powerful opponent. Now his fate has changed only from certain to uncertain.

But his savior is not yet finished. When at last the mysterious diamond activates, the burst of light sends a pulse through Alma's body. His eyes snap open reflexively, at first unseeing. But soon he coughs violently, brackish water sputtering forth, turning on his side. Awareness returns to his blinking eyes with astonishing speed, even as the bruises fade from his dusky skin, leaving it unmarred. He moves haltingly at first, hands and feet flexing, arms and legs shifting almost hesitantly. Yet the sluggishness of his movements comes from confusion, not injury.


Alma, shaking his head, pieces together his most recent memory as he looks up at the earnest young woman. Urien's crushing final blow should have left him seriously damaged.

"Thank you for saving me."

He rises to his feet, moving naturally now, confident in his revitalized body. The leaf remains plastered to him somehow. If Alma notices it, he gives no indication. He does, however, pick up on her conspicuous impression, his eyebrows raising in bemusement.

"Do you ... know Rose-sensei?"

He begins to speculate on her identity, reflecting back on other students his teacher has mentioned in the past, but suddenly his mild expression turns serious.

"Pardon my abruptness," he says quietly, "but we should leave this place quickly, and save full introductions for later. I believe the United Nations is being undermined from within, and the fate of the world is at stake. My enemies must think me eliminated..."

He glances up at the gaping hole in the ceiling, left by Urien's overpowering gravity bomb.

"...and it is best they think that for as long as possible."

Well, *some* of Alma's enemies think so.

Some of Alma's enemies have been busy, alright? Then again, the raptors also think Alma deceased, momentarily, after mauling a svelte blonde lady in a klaxon-lit stairwell. Mistakes were made. They're not losing sleep over it. They pause to eat; waste not, want not.

Swiftly back on the scent, fresh blood on each maw, the pair of Stalkers move with impossible synergy up one corridor and around another, coming upon the pool by way of the darkened observation deck half-shattered above. Riptor just casts the male a /look/ and the grey-black hided hunter seemingly retreats, disappearing down another hallway to another set of stairs.

The cybernetic killer is stealthy, impossibly so, cloaked perfectly in the shadows above them, peering down with impressive acuity in her eyes, at once prehistoric and bleeding edge. To such psychics, however, her intelligence is unmistakable. At once familiar, profound, and alien-- far from bestial, and leagues away from human.

She's smarter than her cohort, but his mental imprint is little different. Calculating impossible, intuitive equations. Decrypting unimaginable, intricate scents and sounds. Unmistakably moving in on them, predator on prey....

"Oh, good! You're alright!"

Menat rocks back onto her knees as the water-logged psychic sputters and rouses in the wake of the healing pulse's assistance, giving him room to recover and get his bearings. She also doesn't want to him cough up lung water on her - ew. As he rises to his feet, her hands go to cover her mouth, the girl's gaze instinctively drawn down to the leaf she'd placed on him for modesty, fully expecting it to simply flutter away. Her cheeks turn red preemptively but by luck or due to the water, it adheres in place, saving both of them another moment of embarrasment.

Clearing her throat, the fortune-teller rises as well, offering a warm smile and a nod in response to his thanks and question. The shimmering orb of purple glass floats back up to rest atop her palm, hovering an inch or two away from her dusky skin.

"Ofcourse, I know the Master! She sent me to-"

Menat stops talking halfway through her sentence, mouth hanging open as Alma interrupts her quite suddenly. She blinks at him and snaps her jaw shut, not quite sure how to process that sudden revelation. Rose had told her there would be great danger here but that might be a little above her pay-grade!

"Hmm. W-well, the Master told me that I should do whatever I can to help you out. Oh! My name is Menat, by the way! You must be Alma. I've heard a lot about you!"

Her eyes sweep around the room then follow Alma's own pointed stare at the gaping hole in the roof. She frowns and shakes her head sadly.

"Wow, Master said you'd have a bad day. How did she put it?" Menat's face scruntches up again and she repeats her earlier impression of Rose's accent and serious expression. "Make sure you do not forget the creamer this time. No wait that wasn't it... Um, maybe... You must resist your wild instincts... or... something?"

The girl scratches the top of her head, deep in thought for several seconds, but the crystal orb in her hand begins to shine with a faint inner light. She gives a start and quickly brings it close to her face, peering into its depths with a look of concentration.

"Oh, I'm receiving a vision! I see... terrible claws... and bloody teeth... and... oh hey, I remember this movie!"

Alma's gaze remains drawn to the crumbling precipice above them. The incredible destructive power that caved in this ceiling arose from a man with an overweening ego, with a will resting upon shaky foundations, insecure for all his might. Alma, with his psychic training and particular talents, should have been able to sweep away Urien's fighting spirit. Yet, pushing himself beyond his limits, he still was not able to overcome his adversary's unearned power.

Rose anticipated that he would need saving. Silently, as Menat chatters on and attempts to remember their teacher's message, Alma vows that she will never have to do so again. He sought Rose's help to plumb the depths of his own mind, and in doing so awakened both martial and artistic abilities. But he never sought to learn fighting techniques for their own sake. He must have assumed, on some level, that he would never need more power than he already possessed -- or incidentally acquired -- to fight.

The time for such assumptions has passed.

"Wild instincts..."

Alma's brow furrows. For some reason, he has not looked away from the ceiling. What guides his eye to the shadows is not only psychic intuition, but the experience he has gained with the Sacred Order--

~ Menat! ~

Experience hunting monsters.

~ The enemy is already here! ~

There is nothing in the shadows above, nothing save a killer instinct and an alien intelligence. But Alma feels the overpowering violent intent and he trusts that feeling. Moreover, he is in no position to hesitate. He cannot afford to be defeated again, not with the knowledge he now possesses. This is no honorable clash of souls. There is no beauty blossoming here. This is just a battlefield.

Without another telepathically communicated word, eyes flashing with the light of his restored spiritual energies, Alma slices his hand sharply through the air, casting a swift dart of shimmering flame upward. It emits no heat but illuminates where it passes, and aims for the source of that sinister mind.

~ Let's use the debris to our advantage. How's your telekinesis? ~

It's rare to be able to engage in psychic shoptalk. Too bad the circumstances aren't a little more relaxed.

COMBATSYS: Alma has started a fight here on the left meter side.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Alma             0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Menat has joined the fight here on the left meter side.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Menat            0/-------/-======|
[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Alma             0/-------/-------|

Grimlock falls asleep.

Grimlock wakes up.

Grimlock falls asleep.

Grimlock wakes up.

Grimlock falls asleep.

Grimlock wakes up.

COMBATSYS: Grimlock has joined the fight here on the right meter side.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Menat            0/-------/-======|-------\-------\0         Grimlock
[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Alma             0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Riptor has joined the fight here on the right meter side.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Menat            0/-------/-======|-------\-------\0         Grimlock
[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Alma             0/-------/-------|======-\-------\0           Riptor

COMBATSYS: Riptor blocks Alma's Sacred Wave.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Menat            0/-------/-======|-------\-------\0         Grimlock
[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////////  ]
Alma             0/-------/-------|======-\-------\0           Riptor

Well now. If Riptor's intent weren't delicious snacktime to begin with, Alma's pre-emptive blast certainly cements his status as delectable prey. The Stalker weaves beneath an ill-fated lounger which eats up the bulk of the burst, the predator skirting the psychic flame as it licks her hide painfully-- but, notably, does nothing to slow her down.

The next instant sees the pack alpha launch from the second level on powerful hind legs, limbs that each bear not only a full set of claws but a razor-sharp, curved talon, and land no less than halfway to Alma already. She hurtles in full bore, straight on, head low, mouth wide showing rows of cruelly edged daggerlike teeth, hissing like some kind of irate screech owl borne of Hell.

It's classic, enraged predator behavior, fight or flight, go for the immediate kill on this obstinant assailant. It's also bullshit-- the too-clever not-a-dinosaur dinosaur weaves wide at the last possible moment, her perfectly poised tail -lashing- outwards with a whiplike stroke akin to being caned by Zangief, aligned to tear flesh to the bone at Alma's shins as she seeks to charge past him without breaking stride.

It's almost in tandem that a stairwell door is opened, not broken, and the smaller, but still formidable dark-hided male tears into the fray. His all but silent spring carries him across the pool area as he swiftly seeks to take a hearty hunk out of the psychic's rear flank at rump level as he enacts the more classic charge-and-chomp whilst Alma's attention is settled upon the alluring Riptor.

The young fortune teller's head snaps up in surprise at the sudden voice in her mind but she quickly realizes its source and turns to peer at Alma, tilting her head to the side quizzically. The enemy? What enemy? She glances around, seeing only bits of debris and rubble, frowning.

"Um, are you sure that..."

Once more she is cut off by the painter as he lashes out with his own power, striking at something above them with psychic fire. She lets out a squeak, but her surprise lasts only a moment, her fighter's instincts reacting to the situation more appropriately. The shimmering orb hovering above her hand swirls around in a blinding streak of blue light, carving a figure-eight between the two of them in a flashy display. Menat gives him a wink.

%~ I know a thing or two about it! What did you have in mind? ~

Unfortunately, neither of them get a chance to hash out the specifics of their plan. Alma has poked the hornet's nest, except instead of angry bugs, this one spat out...dinosaurs?! Menat's face goes slightly pale as the prehistoric monstrosity erupts from its hiding place, a creation of twisted science and primal brutality. She doesn't bother telling him to look out, not in small part because her voice seems to have vanished into her stomach, but also because the giant lizard running right at them is kind of obvious.

What isn't obvious, however, is the second raptor that emerges from his flank. A flash of premonition jolts through Menat's mind and she whirls around to face the pack leader's hunting partner, shimmering power flowing into her hands as she hurls the crystal orb into the space between the door and Alma in an effort to intercept the beast.

~ Watch out! There's another one! ~

COMBATSYS: Alma blocks Riptor's Tail Flip.

[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Menat            0/-------/-======|-------\-------\0         Grimlock
[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////   ]
Alma             0/-------/-----==|=======\-------\1           Riptor

COMBATSYS: Alma avoids Grimlock's Scent of Blood.

[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Menat            0/-------/-======|-------\-------\0         Grimlock
[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////   ]
Alma             0/-------/-----==|=======\-------\1           Riptor

Intuition saves him. Alma, his psychic powers energized by Menat's potent gem, is tactically outmaneuvered by the ferocious beast. He is preparing to guard against Riptor's nightmarish frontal assault when she abruptly weaves and cunningly lashes her thick tail at his lower legs. But before he consciously registers this fact, he is already moving in anticipation. He raises his knee so that he blocks with his shin rather than being toppled by the blow, and a brief flash of rose-pink light indicates that he has hastily reinforced his leg with a telekinetic, improvising a shield that distributes the damage between his body and his mind.

Immediately Menat's warning comes and Alma, already immersed in the flow of battle, incorporates this knowledge of a new foe into his actions unreflectively. With the remaining force of the Riptor's impact, Alma flips backward, leaf bravely adhering, and plants his hand on Grimlock's back as it lunges in, gracefully evading the coordinated attack.

~ Thanks. ~

In the brief moment that Alma is poised upside-down, catching Menat's wink, he smiles back.

~ They're clearly coordinated--"

As information passes between them swifter than sound, Alma unleashes a point-blank blast of Soul Power, a lance pink on its edges and violet at its core shearing toward Grimlock's reptilian form.

~ --so maybe we can move the rubble around us to isolate them, box them in, or keep them at bay. ~

Successful or not, Alma will attempt to flip away, buttocks pristine.

COMBATSYS: Alma successfully hits Grimlock with Self Expression.
- Power hit! -

[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////       ]
Menat            0/-------/-======|===----\-------\0         Grimlock
[    \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////   ]
Alma             0/-------/---====|=======\-------\1           Riptor

COMBATSYS: Menat successfully hits Grimlock with Soul Sphere.

[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////             ]
Menat            1/------=/=======|======-\-------\0         Grimlock
[    \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////   ]
Alma             0/-------/---====|=======\-------\1           Riptor

Intercepted mid-rush by the sphere of soul-fueled might, Grimlock is blasted to the side, staggered in his charge, Menat's attack contributing alongside Alma's intuition towards saving his ass, quite literally.

It also sets the poor fellow up quite well for a follow-up blast, the lance of beautiful energy reaving through him with sensation that is in no way beautiful; the Stalker screams, hurt... but also hostile.

The pair of psychic compatriots communicate largely from mind to mind, but in the moment both assailing abominations disappear amidst the rubble, one darting one direction, the other flanking in another, the sound of scenting snouts replacing visual acuity; though the predators have perhaps not fully realized the extent of that psionic echolocation.

It's enough to make it clear that neither raptor has been driven off-- a low series of almost fully ultrasonic clicks counts their reunion tour down, Riptor's partner answering in synch, crouched low to the crumbling floor. Superscienced dinosaurs lost amidst the shadows or no, the moment of quiet is, paradoxically, no signal of respite for either pair.

COMBATSYS: Riptor focuses on her next action.

[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////             ]
Menat            1/------=/=======|======-\-------\0         Grimlock
[    \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////   ]
Alma             0/-------/---====|=======\-------\1           Riptor

COMBATSYS: Grimlock focuses on his next action.

[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////             ]
Menat            1/------=/=======|======-\-------\0         Grimlock
[    \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////   ]
Alma             0/-------/---====|=======\-------\1           Riptor

Grimlock chitter1

The glowing crystal ball, having impacted its target successfully, comes to a screeching stop in mid-air and hovers there, silently pulsing with psionic power. Menat lets out a long exhale of relief as her efforts prove instrumental in preventing her fellow disciple from losing a chunk of his backside, lowering her guard for a moment or two. Rather than turn and strike again, their assailants use the brief window of opportunity to scamper off once more into the protective cover of the concrete jungle, hiding themselves from view.

~ Oh, man, oh, man! Not good! Master never said anything about dinosaurs! I don't have any training for this! ~

Menat's mental projection echoes the same inflection of anxiety that her voice might have carried were the words spoken aloud, the psychic tether giving Alma a surface glimpse at the emotions she isn't doing anything to hide. The expression on her face is one of uncertainty as well, but the girl remains alert and focused, controlling her fear with practiced discipline.

~ Maybe... oh right, the debris! ~

Turning to attention to one side of the room, the one where she thinks she feels the alien presence of the subordinate raptor lurking, Menat focuses her mental energy on one of the more managable pieces of fallen masonry, hefting it into the air much the same as she does her soul sphere. Engulfed in faint traces of purple light, it flies up into the air in a ballistic arc and then rains down in the general location where Grimlock prepares to pounce upon them again.

~ Take that you-! ~

"Oh, I mean, take that, you smelly lizard!"

~ Believe in what Sensei has taught us. ~

Alma's telepathic words are calm and steady.

~ She believes in us. So I believe-- ~

Amidst the anxious silence, though the traces of his bestial attackers fade into shadow, Alma's gaze is fearless as he surveys his surroundings.

~ Together, we can do this, Menat. ~

His eyebrows raise as he witnesses his fellow student's telekinesis in action, glancing sidelong at her, visibly impressed. This ability, he infers, must have been how she rescued him from what could have been his watery grave.

~ You're better than me at this. ~

Alma is limited by passion and proximity, physical and spiritual. He struggles to telepathically communicate with someone unless a personal connection exists or has been forged. His teleportation activates only when he is fully in a flow state. And his telekinesis, his manipulation of force, typically must extend from his own body. Thus he usually manifests it as shields about him or to propel his own limbs to strike harder or move faster.

But limitations have workarounds. Alma carefully repositions, without straying too far from Menat, next to a large pile of rubble from the fallen ceiling. Placing his hands on it, he summons his restored power, his eyes glowing. Half-lifting it, half-projecting it, he places it, then another, to form a kind of barricade behind them. While this might potentially corner them, psychics tend to have ways of getting around. More likely it makes it difficult for the raptors to encircle them: they can attack from head on or from the sides, but to attack from behind, they'll have to leap over the rubble and expose themselves to an anti-air counterattack.

COMBATSYS: Alma gathers his will.

[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////             ]
Menat            1/------=/=======|======-\-------\0         Grimlock
[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////   ]
Alma             1/------=/=======|=======\-------\1           Riptor

COMBATSYS: Grimlock blocks Menat's Thrown Weapon.

[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////              ]
Menat            1/------=/=======|=======\-------\0         Grimlock
[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////   ]
Alma             1/------=/=======|=======\-------\1           Riptor

The tension could be cut with a knife. The psychics focus their energies, the raptors dart hither-- or was it yon. A crashing mass of severed stonework breaks the silence, its shrapnel tearing into Grimlock's flank but drawing nary a hiss from the injured Stalker. Instead, they burst from the detritus in tandem, Riptor and her current mate triangulating on their lovely prey with some ferocity.

Alma channels impressive energies-- and it is easy to think the predators reckless, ignorant of that threat. The truth is somewhat more disturbing, evident perhaps to a veteran fighter.

A bestial intellect would be driven to attack Menat on pure instinct, but these two are cooperating to press their intended target. In perfect synergy, in a flash of leathery motion and flash of tooth and nail, the pair trip Towazu's guard together, with Grimlock rushing in crouched low across those last spans, his sawblade maw nipping out repeatedly for Alma's calves.

Riptor leaps in high, both curved talons leading as she seeks to bury the formidable psychic target beneath her alarming mass, stomping and tearing her way into the intended leap clear, her voice an ear-splitting skreeee as Grimlock attempts to tear off a hunk of meat and shake it, before swallowing it down.

COMBATSYS: Menat blocks Riptor's Talon Rake.

[    \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////               ]
Menat            1/------=/=======|=====--\-------\0         Grimlock
[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////    ]
Alma             1/------=/=======|=======\=------\1           Riptor

COMBATSYS: Menat deflects Frothing Combo from Grimlock with Soul Reflect - Kamal.

[     \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////                   ]
Menat            1/-----==/=======|=======\-------\1         Grimlock
[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////    ]
Alma             1/------=/=======|=======\=------\1           Riptor

There is no screech of pain or hiss of outrage to tell Menat whether or not her efforts came to any fruition, the bio-weapons showing a disturbing amount of control and intelligence. The lithe girl remains in place for a few moments, her arms held aloft from sending the psychically propelled catapult shot into the air, waiting for the response that never comes.


As anyone who has seen raptors on the big screen would expect, the attack comes in that awkward pause of uncertainty where neither she nor Alma are entirely on guard. Twin blurs of motion erupt from their hiding places in the detrius and, to her horror, make a dedicated blitz directly for the naked and exposed man as he attempts to create a hasty fortification.

~ Look out! ~

The warning fires off into a silent message at the speed of thought and the tiny fortune-teller is not far behind it. She rushes forward with a surprising burst of her own speed, practically gliding across the short distance between herself and the intended target of those gnashing teeth and raking claws. At the last moment, Menat drops low to the ground, her legs spliting apart in opposite directions until they form a horizontal line. She skids into Alma from the side, kicking his feet out from under him to send him toppling to one side just as the bigger and more nasty of the hunters leaps at him in a deadly arc.

A barrier of shimmering blue light engulfs the woman as she hurriedly spins her arms about in a wide protective circle. Riptor's deadly talons crash into the shield with an angry flash of color but Menat quickly twists to the side, shunting the attack away from herself even as she whirls to face the second threat. Rolling onto her side, the agile fighter repeats the motion she made with her hands only this time she uses her legs, swinging them about like a break-dancer to trace a large circle in the air between herself and the hungry maw of the Riptor's mate.

This time, the barrier has a lot more spice to it. Blue sparks erupt in a blaze of power as Grimlock's face crashes into the warding wall that flashes into place at the last second, his snout mere inches away from finding purchase in her tasty flesh. Instead, he gets a mouthful of psychic fire.

This time, the intuition that saves Alma is not his own.

He has barely settled their makeshift fortifications into place when the raptors strike with perfect synchronicity. As Alma turns to face them as quickly as he can yet not quickly enough, he finds to his bemusement the world turning lopsided. He is falling to the side courtesy of Menat's display of flexibility. Only then does he fully comprehend the situation.

~ Menat! ~

He catches himself smoothly as he falls, as though their impromptu interaction were a choreographed dance. Rolling out of harm's way as Grimlock is seared by his partner's shield, Alma sees that Riptor is for a split-second practically suspended in air, clawing against Menat's less forceful defenses. Called to her aid, inspired by her efforts, his spirit swells with righteous emotion.

"Over here!"

It's not a taunt, though from a different man and to a different enemy it might be, considering that the saurians obviously did their best to aim for him. It's simply an announcement of his will to fight, and a call for its recognition.


The very moment he untucks from his roll, Alma slams his palm to the shattered tile beneath him and sends his power surging into the ground. It immediately bursts forth in a geyser angled to blast Riptor away from Menat in the direction that his fellow student is attempting to redirect her, hoping to catch the more dominant of their adversaries before she can evade again.

COMBATSYS: Alma issues a challenge!!

[     \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////                   ]
Menat            1/-----==/=======|=======\-------\1         Grimlock
[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////    ]
Alma             1/------=/=======|=======\=------\1           Riptor

COMBATSYS: Alma successfully hits Riptor with Full Confession EX.
- Power hit! -

[     \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////                   ]
Menat            1/-----==/=======|=======\-------\1         Grimlock
[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////              ]
Alma             0/-------/-------|=======\=------\1           Riptor

In an instant, Menat makes the Stalkers regret their focus on taking Alma down. Inserting herself in Grimlock's path draws Riptor's ire, but the young psychic manages both threats with impressive acumen. This time, the male raptor does screech as he draws a mouthful of punishing psionic power, driven back from his intended assault and wildly whipping his head about to clear it.

Riptor, in this moment, is blasted off further onslaught by that geyser of Alma's amplified fervour, her hide lashed as she's launched skywards and skidding to a surprisingly stable landing several yards away, her own shriek one of pain, yes-- but also anger, surprise, perhaps even some alarm.

For the first time since engaging, the Stalkers realize exactly what level of threat they've uncovered-- and the risks to their own life and limb becomes as pronounced as the ever-driving hunger. Menat has proven herself dangerous, her attacks and skill punishing the predators, and despite Alma's attempts to draw the ire back to him... the point has been made.

A very different sort of point, the spearlike tip of the large female's tail, lashes outwards in a deceptively simple, singular stroke. It's sharp enough, resilient enough, to pierce directly, bloodily through Menat's midsection, and that's precisely what the wrathful cyborg dinosaur seeks to do.

She would stab, twist, and seek to hold Alma's backup in place as Grimlock /leaps/ back atop her and begins biting her face. Repeatedly, and with ample potential for disturbing spray of viscera. The male would cling to Menat, as Riptor whipped her clear, extricating her tail with further bloodletting.

COMBATSYS: Menat endures Riptor's Tail Stab.

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////                   ]
Menat            1/--=====/=======|-------\-------\0         Grimlock
[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////              ]
Alma             0/-------/----===|=====--\-------\0           Riptor

COMBATSYS: Menat fails to deflect Alpha's Rage from Grimlock with Soul Reflect - Knot of Isis.

[                       \\\\\\\  < >  ///////////                   ]
Menat            0/-------/=======|-------\-------\0         Grimlock
[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////              ]
Alma             0/-------/---====|=====--\-------\0           Riptor

Menat's eyes go as wide as dinner plates in the aftermath of her heroic intervention, staring at the terrible mouthful of teeth that almost took a hunk out of her shapely legs. She breathes hard, adrenaline and fear making her heart hammer away at the inside of her chest in a frantic stacatto drumbeat. She... did it!

Holy stars, what the hell was she thinking?!

The color drains from her face as the realization of just how bloody stupid that was sinks in. These things could have killed her! The girl scrambles to her feet as both of the predators, their noses bloodied in the exchange, decide that her little stunt is one they'd rather not have a repeat performance of. Riptor's cybernetically enhanced tail thrusts forward and there simply isn't anywhere for Menat to go fast enough, her gynmastic heroics having put her into a bad position.

The tail blade easily punches through the thin protection of the fortune-teller's fancy outfit, the skin-tight fabric offering no resistance to the horrific weapon as it plunges into her back. Menat staggers, her eyes going wide, a sharp airy gasp of sheer agongy escaping from her lips. She takes a step to keep from falling over, a hand reaching out to steady herself on the wall that Alma had built in an effort to shield them somewhat. Alas, this is but the first of the twin horrors that would assail her now. Seeing the second raptor preparing to lunge upon her, she lifts her arms, attempting to form another shield, flooding every ounce of power she can muster into the barrier to blast the foul creature away, but a sudden twist from the impaling spike in her guts sends a paralyzing bolt of lightning shooting up her spine to explode into a flash of hot white light in her brain.

Grimlock finds no resistance to his primal assault this time, able to bite and tear at the creature that has foiled his efforts thus far, and worse, made him look bad infront of his girlfriend!

He should have been there.

~ Menat! ~

Her name is torn from Alma's lips in his desperation, echoing his psychic cry. When he felt the direct impact of his psychic assault upon Riptor's frame, continuing his and his partner's natural teamwork, he was confident that he had made the right choice. Their opponents' coordination is based on Riptor's savage and cunning tactics. Alma and Menat's synchronicity has been immediate upon their acquaintance, drawing upon some ineffable commonality -- and, of course, their shared training.

But his geyser of Soul Power simply isn't forceful enough to keep all of Riptor's potential methods of attack at bay, and he cannot recover from his own technique swiftly enough to support Menat the way she did him. Alma shudders with the pain Menat feels as Riptor's tail pierces her. And when Grimlock leaps upon her--


Alma at last is there.

The blood has begun to fly, but only just, when Alma flickers into existence at Grimlock's side, trailing blurring afterimages. His fists and feet are wreathed in ethereal fire as he lashes out with rhythmic intensity, a staccato hammering of palm strikes and kicks imbued with explosive force and aims to force the reptile away and, ideally, send it crashing stunningly into Alma's own makeshift wall.

COMBATSYS: Alma successfully hits Grimlock with Trial by Fire.

[                       \\\\\\\  < >  ///                           ]
Menat            0/-------/=======|====---\-------\0         Grimlock
[    \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////              ]
Alma             0/-------/------=|=====--\-------\0           Riptor

The raptors feast. At least, for a moment. They taste of flesh, they drink of blood, and as Riptor's tail rends clear of Menat, she cleans the gore from it with preening pleasure-- even as Towazu collides with Grimlock. The male Stalker is driven off his meal, hammered back in a furious flurry of hand and heart, bouncing off the endpoint with the crack off bone and cartilage.

It's instinct, not intellect, that drives the predator in -that- moment, launching back in a last-ditch effort to lock his jaws about Alma's lithe neck and clamp, and shake, and shake, and chew. In that order. The effort would leave the battered dinosaur winded, drained, muscle fatigue and injury sapping his desire to engage.

Riptor, meanwhile, pays almost no heed to Grimlock's obvious fate, maw clashing as she snicker-snacks with alarming bite pressure for -Menat's- shoulder, for her neck, for her midsection in quick, tearing chomps. The display of perhistory and superscience may have come up against a fearsome duo in the psychics standing against them-- but Riptor clearly means to have her pound of flesh nonetheless.

One reptilian eye tracks Alma from a sidelong cant of the alpha female's cybernetically-augmented head, whilst the other, quite independently, focuses on directing her tearing toothyness towards the meaty chunks of Menat, intent on denying Alma's savior the chance to be saved, herself.

COMBATSYS: Grimlock can no longer fight.

[                       \\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////              ]
Menat            0/-------/=======|=====--\-------\0           Riptor
[    \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Alma             0/-------/------=|

COMBATSYS: Riptor successfully hits Menat with Fierce Bite.

[                                < >  /////////////////             ]
Menat            1/------=/=======|======-\-------\0           Riptor
[    \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Alma             0/-------/------=|

Menat drops to her knees as the pair of raptors withdraw, one bludgeoned into submission by the furious vengence of her fellow disciple while the other merely takes a moment to enjoy its success, licking her blood from its deadly tail. The girl wretches as she topples, fresh red splotches spattering the ruined stone floor from the now gaping wound and her open mouth.

The room goes fuzy as Menat attempts to regain her footing, her senses a whirling mass of distorted input through the haze of pain. She can feel the warm pressure of Alma's presence and the power he unleashes nearby. That gives her a slight bit of comfort. But she can just as easily feel the rasping hunger and deadly intelligence of the alpha beast on the other side of her, which is a lot less comforting. Particularly when that presence lunges forward and sinks its teeth into her.

Menat screams this time, her voice having found new strength in the surge of fresh agony that accompanies Riptor's teeth. Her shoulder smoulders as if on fire, the pain no doubt exacerbated by whatever prehistoric poisons might lurk within the creature's saliva. She reaches up to push the snout away only for it to withdraw and clamp down on her mid-section, ripping cloth and muscle with disturbing ease. She makes another choking sound as her diaphram is pierced, eyes squeezing shut in an instinctual reaction to the injury.

"N-no... I... my fate does not end here!"

A flare of shimmering blue light erupts from the beleagured girl, a wave of raw power pushing out in all directions to hammer the terrible beast away from her. That power coagulates into six glowing spheres, miniature replicas of the larger soul sphere she was wielding before. They hover about her in a dispersed pattern, but with a thrust of her arms, she sends them all hurtling forward in a swirling mass like angry bees to buffet the assassin reptile with the last of her strength.

COMBATSYS: Menat can no longer fight.

[    \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////             ]
Alma             0/-------/------=|======-\-------\0           Riptor

COMBATSYS: Alma blocks Grimlock's Unmatched Dominance.

[     \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////             ]
Alma             0/-------/----===|======-\-------\0           Riptor

Their perfect teamwork has been cut short. Alma moves with all the speed he can muster, but even phasing immaterial, it is all he can do to keep up with these unnatural predators. By the time he has slammed Grimlock away and rounded on Riptor, the beast is already delightedly feasting on his unfortunate ally. Menat is counterattacking bravely, but her vigor cannot hold.

"Get back!"

An uncharacteristic grimace twisting his fey features, Alma leaps for Riptor even as Grimlock attempts one last instinctive assault. The psychic raises his forearm to protect his neck, the male's fangs sinking into his flesh, and heedlessly Alma twists to hurl his weakened opponent away, blood spraying. But the weight of his adversary magnifies the torque of his rotation, and he approaches Riptor spinning swiftly in midair.

"Your target--"

Lashing out with long legs, Alma aims three flame-imbued kicks at the remaining raptor, trailing sparkles of cherry-blossom pink and royal indigo.

"--is me!"

As he spins and strikes, a single leaf flutters to the ground.

COMBATSYS: Menat successfully hits Riptor with Wisdom of Thoth.
- Power hit! -

[      \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////                     ]
Alma             0/-------/-----==|======-\-------\0           Riptor

COMBATSYS: Riptor dodges Alma's Rising Fury.

[      \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////                     ]
Alma             0/-------/----===|======-\-------\0           Riptor

Even before Alma can ride to the rescue on his proverbial white steed in his metaphorically shining armor, Menat has made her survival instinct clear. Before Riptor can truly feast on the flesh off the fallen, the poor, starving Stalker is blasted clear by a veritable tumult of psychic shockwaves, blasted back a half-dozen times and shorn bloody and battered herself.

Scorched by fires that do not burn, pierced by edges that do not cut, her brain and spirit fried by the onslaught, the cybernetic alpha screeches protest even as Towazu arcs in to finish her off. In stark contrast to her alarming mass, the large raptor is under the swinging foot, around the next, and circling Alma as the last lashes out, launching herself bodily at the artist's flank. The intent is simple: shoulder-check Alma to the ground as only a dinosaur weighing hundreds of pounds can.

She would then merrily slash at him with her fore-talons repeatedly as she takes a large chomp out of Alma's midsection, shaking the flesh about violently in a renewed spray of lifeblood that's, really, just Riptor's attempt to make this pool posh again by applying fresh paint to what Alma and Urien -ruined-. It's urban renewal; she's an activist. An angry, injured, tricksy activist.

COMBATSYS: Alma fails to interrupt Combo Mauling from Riptor with Leap of Faith.

[            \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////                    ]
Alma             0/-------/----===|=======\=====--\1           Riptor

Alma relied on Menat more than he knew.

His fellow student's courageous final strike has severely injured the remaining raptor, he can tell even as he passes overhead, his kicks missing their mark. He twists midair to keep an eye on his vicious adversary, neither physical nor psychic senses alone sufficient to track her.

But he has benefited from more than Menat's healing. Her foresight has guided them in this battle, and his intimate mental connection with her has honed his aim and reflexes. Suddenly lacking his partner, his reactions are slightly off, and any weakness, Riptor is prepared to exploit.

As the cybernetic killer closes in, Alma's form blurs. It is impossible for him to reposition normally before he touches ground, and he will never make it in time. Spirit surging, he intends to teleport behind Riptor and finish her with a final blast. Yet the creature is surpassingly swift.


Crimson blossoms from his torso as Alma falls, his enemy atop him. Fresh blood spatters across the floor and upon Alma's lips as he glares up at Riptor, eyes still bright despite his failed expenditure of mental effort, his hands gripping at the beast's powerful claws in a trembling attempt to keep them at bay.


He said it before, to Urien.

"I won't--"

But this time--


There is someone else he must protect!

Let's just be fair about one thing up front: Alma is delicious. Riptor savors that violent chomp, but she doesn't linger. Well, she doesn't linger -long-. She lingers plenty of time to get a good hold on the bite she bites off, and enthusiastically cut Alma with those deadly razor claws a few times.

Then, she leaps clear, and chews what she's bitten off in Towazu's moments of defiant near-delerium. Even with this turn, the alpha predator is at a disadvantage-- and she knows it. The eyes and snout sensing Alma now are not simply hungry, not simply angry, but calculating. Wary. Almost analytical. The scenario was scarcely what she expected-- and that Riptor expected anything at all is, perhaps, unsettling on its own.

That she's adapting, learning, testing her unusual quarry, however-- THAT is the true cause for alarm. Rather without fanfare or warning, the cyborg lizard rears back, cocks her head, cants her gaze the opposite direction at Alma for perhaps the fourth time in short order, and spits a voluminous stream of blackish-green goo across the distance seperating them.

It's a garden hose of horror trained squarely on Alma's stalwart eyes, his supple mouth, a spit of acrid terribleness that burns flesh, sears the senses, tenderizes things for their proper eatings by pre-digesting them just a little. It's also exceedingly painful, and very, very difficult to wash out, that scent of a Riptor.

... And the bloody necrosis said perfume is wont to leave in its wake. Sadly for the artist, there is no warning label.

COMBATSYS: Alma guards against Riptor's Deadly Venom.

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////                     ]
Alma             0/-------/=======|======-\-------\0           Riptor

Those eyes are stalwart still. Alma has internalized the fact that he cannot keep up with Riptor's agility. He must trust his intuition at every moment and act instantaneously upon it. The moment that Riptor's putrid bile is spewed at him, that is precisely what he does.

With his wounded arm, Alma decisively slaps the acidic blast to the side with the sound of a thunderclap, not even blinking as his skin hisses and bubbles with the contact, the stench unacknowledged.

He could attack from afar. But Riptor has seen him do so before, and Alma's gut tells him, despite its injuries, that it would be profoundly unwise to become in any way predictable to this foe. Thus instead, tiles erupting beneath his feet, he propels himself into a lunge, his fingertip aglow with a deceptively subtle spark. If he can just make contact, the shocking impulse may be enough to stun his enemy's reptilian brain.

If he can just make contact ...

COMBATSYS: Riptor dodges Alma's Glimmer of Hope.

[                \\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////                     ]
Alma             0/-------/--=====|======-\-------\0           Riptor

Grimlock falls asleep.

Grimlock wakes up.

Grimlock falls asleep.

COMBATSYS: Alma has left the fight here.

                                  >  /////////                     ]
                                  |======-\-------\0           Riptor

If he can just make contact, indeed. This proves the rub with his cagey adversary, the cybernetically-augmented dinosaur taking her cue from Alma's soaring lunge to enact her own.

Powerful hind legs flex and Riptor leaps, clearing the impact zone entirely in the blink of an eye, with an unusual lack of concern for her follow-up placement. For a clever beast such as her, it's an unusual choice, seemingly disregarding an opportunity to punish Alma post-assault in favor of all-out evasion. It is not, however, Towazu that the primal assassin seeks to follow up on.

She leaps adjacent to where her ever-so-useful mate lays breathing with some difficulty, trundles over in three swift strides, and tears out Grimlock's throat, swallowing the mass of flesh without hesitation.

She follows this eager cannibalism by taking another hearty bite out of the other stalker's flank, the male's screams a garbled, shrieking hiss of burble-bubbling blood and severed trachea as he thrashes, only half of it voluntary. Riptor lets out a satisfied chitter between chomps, watching Alma sidelong through one alien, cruelly intelligent reptilian orb.

COMBATSYS: Riptor gains composure.

[                \\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////                 ]
Alma             0/-------/-======|=====--\-------\0           Riptor

Alma's gaze is unflinching as Riptor leaps free of his attack, his grim expression unchanging at the horrific display she now shows him. He already knows that he faces here a predator crueler and more ravenous than any demon or darkling. What concerns him is not the gore but dueling imperatives: first, that he must pace himself or fall into a cunning trap; second, that he must race against time to salve Menat's wounds. She saved his life. It is unquestionable that he will do the same.

The question is how he'll do it.


He goes all in. Beads of sweat flying from his brow, muscles tensing beneath blood-spattered skin, Alma flickers through the air as he lunges, infinitesimal teleports stuttering his approach with minimal mental expenditure to throw off his adversary's reflexes. Within kicking reach, his body blurs for a moment, looking as though it might vanish. But the phase is a feint and he does not reposition.

He kicks, leg bursting with flame, identical to his previous rising triple-kick, which the saurian evaded. Yet this too is intended as a feint. Alma's fire-imbued leg suddenly dips like a swallow in flight as he twists his body to the side, kicking up in an attempt not to strike but to wrap his leg up around Riptor's flexible neck as she feeds, holding her jaws at bay. If he can just get a grip on her--


He will continue his twist to the side and flip, using the weight of his entire body to hurl his fearsome foe onto the twitching body of her erstwhile ally with explosive force, silhouetting them both in a psychic pyre.

COMBATSYS: Riptor interrupts Sea of Flame from Alma with Clever Girl.
- Power hit! -

[                       \\\\\\\  < >  ////////////                  ]
Alma             1/-----==/=======|=======\-------\0           Riptor

The Stalker's singular serpentine pupil remain fixed on Alma with remarkable acuity as he flickers from place to place in unerringly rapid succession. The approach seems to do little to confuse the instinctive raptor, and she even uses the interposing time to take another sound chomp out of her squirming compatriot.

Throughout those sparse moments she watches. She waits. She lets the psychic display his remarkable gift.... all the while familiarizing herself with, acclimating herself to another repository of dangerous arts wielded by these silly, hairless apes.

Alma wheels in, Riptor whirls around, reacting as if defensive to his incursion. Energy suffusing him, Towazu's lithe limbs close about a too-tough reptilian neck, clenching around hardened scale and punishing spikes.

As if that resistance to the technique weren't enough, Riptor's sidelong momentum had a more nefarious purpose: her lashing, barbed tail whips about in line with /Alma's/ neck, its flexible, punishing length twining tightly about the artist's throat as he indeed rushes headlong into the Stalker's trap. It's a thing that requires perfect timing, that risks herself more than the outcome suggests... it's also a thing that leaves Alma restrained as she takes another meaty chomp out of his side.

The alpha Stalker then whips her body back the other way, hurtling Towazu free as skin is lashed from his throat as though he had been repeatedly caned for spraying his hideous art somewhere illegal. Riptor opens her mouth, blood dripping from her fangs, both eyes now fixed in Alma's direction and lets out an ear-piercing skree, which punctuates with a long, threatening hiss.

A chill is setting in. It is not the chill of the tile floor that Alma crashes into, flung by Riptor's prehensile tail. Nor is it the chill of his bared skin in the cool pool room air, still save for the forgotten distant ringing of the fire alarm. It is not even due to the dangerous blood loss he is suffering, his abdomen a mess of crimson fangmarks (viewer discretion advised), though that is surely the cause of his disturbing and increasing pallor. No, this is the chill of the spine of a species that was once prey.

Alma observes this inner chill dispassionately as he rises, indefatigable, to his feet again. Psychic intuition aside, he possesses the instincts of any human. But this sense of mortal danger, this deeply ingrained understanding that he confronts a true predator, is merely worthy of cursory note. It catches his attention the way an unusually bright color briefly catches the eye. For Alma, this sensation does not translate to anything like fear. Because compared to his passion to protect--


It is simply, obviously, immediately irrelevant.

He plunges towards the hissing beast. Alma does not attempt to teleport again. This time, concentrating his Soul Power until it suffuses his limbs with a tight and subtle glow, he trails afterimages behind him as he rushes in. He stops just within kicking reach and, wounds forgotten, adopts a poised stance, kicking rapidly at Riptor's head and body. As he continues to leave afterimages, those kicks appear to pile atop each other confoundingly, in a mesmerizing dance. And all the while Alma never breaks his stance, never even blinks, meeting Riptor's menacing eyes.

COMBATSYS: Riptor dodges Alma's Stream of Consciousness.

[                     \\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////                  ]
Alma             0/-------/-----==|=======\-------\0           Riptor

Under, over, back. The raptor is a blur of instinctual motion as she weaves away from Alma's onslaught with primal grace and once more, overwhelming celerity. Riptor is a hair's breadth ahead of the brutal soul-infused flurry, her razor talons clacking in an off staccato of the rhythm the artist sets as he drives her into calculated, dangerous retreat.

This time, the reptilian murder machine makes no attempt to take time away from Alma. Her head-bobbing, talon-scraping egress has brought them just where she wanted them to be. Amidst those piles of detritus that were once furniture, once walls and ceilings and fine tile, Towazu indeed finds himself every bit eye to eye with the serpentine Stalker. Perhaps more than he wishes to be.

With little easy escape in turn, Riptor borrows a page from the psychics' playbook and uses the terrain against him, even as she readily, intently, intensely holds his gaze in one slitted golden eye... then the other.

All the better to distract the soul-powered prey from the wicked, barbed tail that now whips around for his ankles. Seeking a repeat performance of the flesh-lashing dealt Alma's neck, the bioweapon aims to rips Towazu soundly, suddenly, painfully off his feet.

She would then leap atop him, a flurry of kicking razors culminating in a spout of red-hot flame breathed from the beast's maw in a plume downward, intent on cooking her food soundly and suddenly. Who knew she could do that? So smart; so civilized.

COMBATSYS: Alma fails to interrupt Ultra Predator from Riptor with Divine Intervention EX.

                                  >  /////////////                 ]
                                  |=------\-------\0           Riptor

COMBATSYS: Alma can no longer fight.

                                  >  /////////////                 ]
                                  |=------\-------\0           Riptor

Swept off his stance by the darting of a tail he cannot match in speed, Alma is flung to the ground again, the glow fading from his legs as he falls. His spirit is concentrating in his fingertips, unhesitatingly preparing for a counterattack even as his body trembles, unwilling to meet his own demands. And as Riptor leaps atop him, he cannot aim properly amidst her tearing talons, his weakened arm knocked away.

Yet even as red-hot flames engulf him, all too real compared to his psychic luminesence, Alma seems to refuse to surrender. The beam of light bursts from his hand as intended, but instead of hitting Riptor, he strikes the ground beneath him. The force of the impact rips him away from the predator, his own blood flying as he does so, emerging from the flames to tumble away. He half-rises mid-roll only to stumble and fall again, legs caving out from under him.

Yet still, as he raises his head, his face is blank of any emotion save a raw, unnamable intensity. He crawls toward Menat's fallen form, dragging himself with failing fingers digging into the furrows of the broken tiles, and reaches out to touch her. He is silent, features frozen in a mask of effort. His form blurs and coalesces. Again, and again, and again. With only sparks of Soul Power left to him, he attempts monotonously, persistently, heedlessly, to teleport them to safety. It's impossible, of course.

But again, and again, and again, he tries.

Menat has been silent since her vicious impalement and subsequent mauling, lying quietly on the floor while Alma carried on the battle alone. Her breathing is shallow and ragged, blood drooling from an open sucking wound in her abdomen onto the cracked tiles of the ruined pool, but she's still alive and conscious. Her eyes slide open slowly upon feeling the hand upon her body, her hagard gaze shifting laboriously towards Alma as he attempts to draw on his failing power to whisk them away to safety.

Apparently, that skill isn't one he possesses or the fight has left him without enough juice to fuel the technique. Whatever the case, Menat had been waiting for this moment, storing up her own power for a final surge which she had foreseen would be the thing that saved their lives.

Reaching out with her hand, she grits her teeth against the pain of moving, but manages to twist sideways enough to wrap her fingers around Alma's shoulder. "Now," she whispers, and the shimmering orb of energy she'd been wielding earlier zips from its resting place, tearing across the room in a streak of blue light to rest atop her other hand. The pair of them suddenly shift and blur, seeming to twist inwards towards the orb as if it has become a miniature black hole. It absorbs the two psychics in a brief swirl of distortion and then it too vanishes from sight with a final pulse of energy leaving nothing but a small pool of sticky blood and shredded bits of clothing behind.

It's a time for the impossible. An impossible moment. A super-predator that sprints immediaately after Alma as he launches himself in that semi-controlled skid to Menat's side, and prepares to spend his last moments in prayer to a power that he cannot conjure in his state.

Riptor crosses the span in seconds, but there is no urgency to her gait. Her char-roasted, bloodied prey can only plead with a deity deaf to him as she clacks teeth together in anticipation.

Urgency is instead found in Menat's last gasp of power, the fuel to the pair's egress. Towazu can't see it coming, but the teleport is timed almost in tandem with the sudden snap of the Stalker's powerful jaws, a bite that would have crushed his skull, torn his spine from its upper socket in one wrenching shake.

Instead, Riptor gets a mouthful of cloth. Cloth that's abruptly torn asunder, shaken out in a disappointed rage. Huffs and sighs mark the process of scenting the area for traces of her prey, and finding none, Riptor roars protest to the unfeeling heavens.

Then, moving on just as quickly and moodily, the clever girl paces steadily back to the now-dead male and devours him in his entirety, crunching on the bones as easily as a dog might snap twigs and swallowing large chunks of her ill-fated companion whole. Maybe then she'll see the hotel staff about a manicure.

COMBATSYS: Riptor has ended the fight here.

Log created on 22:36:49 10/13/2017 by Alma, and last modified on 02:53:46 10/27/2017.