Description: "Tragic, isn't it? To be forced into an unbreakable cycle of life. To witness the same mistakes, made over and over again. So tiring..."
Zepp's capital district. Somewhere.
A sprawling military base, one of many no doubt, spreads out across a large bleak, cold and hardened landscape with the capital city in the distance. Its towers shrouded in a combo of fog and atmospheric diffusion. Gunmetal greys, greens and contrasting reds and yellows of combat mech suits, haulers and warnings of danger and hazard zones all add to an almost oppressive feeling of weight by the lingering shadow of the industiral military complex that built this land and yet remains part of its culture even if its intentions are more benevolant then they once were in the past.
But old habits die hard and the routine here is comfortable for the soldiers present which makes things all the more ironic and interesting when Potemkin - the Zepp Juggernaut - emerges from the cargo hold of his recently returned VTOL...carrying a case of drawing pencils and an oversized sketchbook in a massive gauntlet.
The ground shakes with each step he takes, his muscles move and slide about like tectonic plates, soldiers salute as he passes...and yet the simple self reflection of a self-portrait of his broad un-helmed features, sketched out in his sketchbook, says more about him then his gargantuan size and overwhelming strength.
"I have returned from the west. Have these sent to my offices." he says, handing the sketchpad and pencilcase to a waiting attendant. "I must contact President Gabriel regarding my mission report."
Even for a man who has ceased to feel anything more than a vague disapproval towards what passes for 'mankind' in this modern era, recent months have been intriguing - to say the least. The re-emergence of Castle Alucard into this physical plane of existence. A new Secretary of Defense in the United States, reaching out to all kinds of potential allies. A recent assault on Illyria by one of the original Valentines. Pieces moving along the grand chessboard called 'Earth', the outcome known to none - but predicted by many who observe such events.
Raven is one. The man he works for also shares an interest in such things. It is what brought the two together, after all - and inspired the thousand-year old pariah to once again involve himself in the goings-on of this world.
High above the capital district of Zepp, there is a sight that is unusual for this season and time of day: a conspiracy of ravens, beating their wings in the sky, circling above the recently-landed VTOL... perhaps if they were observant, the pilot or other individuals on board might have noticed that the birds were following them for an /awfully/ long time.
The massive bulk of President Gabriel's most loyal man, Potemkin, stomps a path away from the aircraft. He might feel like he is being watched, a feeling that would only grow once he hands his sketchpad and pencil set to the waiting attendant - who no doubt hurries off to deliver them to the behemoth's office.
A few minutes pass, and then suddenly a voice - low, quiet, barely above a whisper. Like the effort of talking any louder would simply be too much to bear for the speaker.
"So, how was the trip?"
Those words come from behind Potemkin, the voice a lifeless thing like the droning speech of a man who has not slept in weeks. The tone and pitch neither rises nor falls, an unmoving flat line that betrays zero emotion - and not the slightest interest in the answer to his question. A formality, or some vague platitude paid by a thing that has ceased identifying as human a long time ago.
If he turns around to face the source of the sound, he will find a bizarre looking individual standing some feet behind him. Wearing a hooded cloak - black on the outside and a dark, bluish-green on the inside - this man slouches, as though standing up straight is more effort than it is worth. Messy, white hair falls over his face from within the hood, obscuring his forehead and eyes... underneath that is a mouth that is set in an almost straight line, the very picture of apathy and boredom. One hand is held up in front of his chest, flashing a 'V' sign with his seperated index and middle fingers... attached to the knuckles of these two fingers, are a pair vicious-looking thin spikes - which seem to glow constantly with a vague, red energy that pulses around the metallic material.
And perhaps strangest of all, it appears as though a massive, steel spike has been impaled /through/ his head - sticking out at least a foot from the front of his brow and the back of the skull. He doesn't even seem to be /looking/ at Potemkin, hidden eyes apparently fixed on the ground at some point between himself and the hulking juggernaut of a man.
The VTOL itself trembles from the rumbling of the earth as Potemkin slowly turns and looks upon the newcomer with eyes that are narrowed behind the glowering gaze caused by his faceplate. The nearby soldiers react with shock and surprise and the call of alarms at the sudden appearence of this bizarre stranger. Potemkin, for his part, remains fairly calm although there is a slight grinding of the ground as he takes on a mildly more defensive posture. Not quite the agression of his combat stance but clearly ready for something. Twice now, has Zepp's facilities been invaded by an unwanted visitor in recent mmemory and this time..it is far to close to the capital for his liking.
He will have to have a word with someone about this, lest Gabriel step in and use more the mere words.
"I have to inform you that visiting hours to this military base are not only over but restricted to an area far from the one you are presently in."
The giant lifts a hand to ward and wave off any incoming security. He knows enough through both common sense and just a simple glance at the intruder that such an effort would be futile at best and possibly life threatening for them to engage him.
"..However I can hazard a guess that are not here for the tour. Even so I would have to ask you to prepare to be taken into custody and to answer some questions regarding this intrusion."
A more careful individual might have waited for Potemkin to be alone, somewhere deeper within the base; but though he does not lack patience, regard for his own safety is something Raven does not quite possess... nor is such a thing needed, given his unusual abilities.
In fact, the sudden reaction of the assembled soldiers hardly seems to be noticed by this hooded figure. He doesn't so much as lift his gaze from the ground, even as he hears the shouts of alert... and the ominous grinding which sounds out as Potemkin shifts his stance ever-so-slightly.
A deep sigh is blown out of his mouth, aimed slightly upwards so that it lifts the messy white hair - briefly - from its place in front of his eyes. If he is watching carefully, the behemoth might notice the man's mismatched irises... one is a light green, the other...
...how strange. It looks like the center of the eye, pupil and iris both, have been replaced with an ancient gold coin that has somehow been set /within/ the sclera. It even moves as his gaze slowly shifts up to fall upon the imposing frame of Zepp's mightiest warrior.
"Oh. I'll make an appointment next time."
The tone might leave one questioning exactly how much this individual really cared about matters of decorum and decency - or, really, how much they cared about /anything/ at all. He certainly doesn't sound bothered by the fact he is surrounded by Zepp soldiers - or the lumbering former slave who he addresses.
"Tour? I'm not sure there's anything here I haven't seen before."
He lets the 'V' sign disappear as he brings his index and middle finger back together, letting his hand drop lazily to his side - joining his other arm, which seems to sway limply in response to slightest motion of air within this mighty hangar.
"No. I'm here to talk."
Both hands come up, palms held open and facing the sky as he shrugs his shoulders in a manner that exudes an overwhelming weariness. His head tilts back slightly, both eyes peering out from underneath his hair as he arches his back in a rather uncomfortable looking fashion... almost like his body were more flexible than is humanly possible.
"Interrogation sounds fun, though. Depending how rough you are. But I'm not here for that - duty calls. You ought to understand."
Sauntering forward, his arms swaying back and forth with each overexaggerated, swaggering step, he finally comes to a halt within grabbing distance of Potemkin's massive, meaty paws. Almost as if he were /inviting/ something.
"Unless... oh... unless you had other plans?"
For the first time, a hint of something other than bottomless apathy from the bizarre man... almost like... hmm... almost like he /hoped/ Potemkin had something more than conversation in mind.
The behemoth seems unmoved. He's seen strange things before after all. This world has seemingly decided to begin sliding head long into some sort of nightmarish action-show normally the stuff of a twelve year old boys wishlist as far as he can tell. Daily some sort of new bizarre occurance rises up to shake the heavens.
Yes..a twelve year old boys imagination can't actually nuke a city. Some out there in the world apparently can.
Even so, Raven -is- bizarre and in the end its only the fact that you -can't- see Potemkin's face that he seems impassive and monolithic at it all. Behind the mask his mouth quirks a little bit and his eyes hood as he gets a closer look at the..being..infront of him.
"If you are attempting to provoke me, I should warn you that my duty is to my country and I will not hesitate to do what I must to protect this base and the people here. However if you are truly here to talk.." he pauses and steps back, folding his gigantic arms in a huge sweeping gesture. The arms themselves practically the size of small vechicles as they loom up and bulge with sounds that strain his pressure suit to its limits.. "..I will give you that chance. My duty is to my comrades and I will not needlessly endanger them. If you betray this trust..."
Potemkin lets his voice fade off. Need he say more? Still there is something bothering him and he voices this by noting, "..Although it seems as if you -do- want to see what might happen. I have to admit..that's a first."
That must be nice, to witness something - some behaviour or event or conversation - that one has never experienced before.
How long had it been since Raven had experienced a 'first' anything?
So long that he doesn't even remember what it could have been. So long that he no longer feels wistful about such a thing. So long - in fact - that he doesn't feel /anything/, like a man who has long ago resigned himself to death... only to find that death was entirely unwilling to take him.
Little encounters like this do help, however... though he does not seem the least bit intimidated by the very real danger of revealing himself in the middle of this base, the sense of risk is present all the same... and such a feeling is the only time he gets within the vicinity of any genuine emotion.
It's not enough to bring any life to his speech, or his eyes, or his expression - but it never is. Not without a bit /more/ than simply the threat of harm.
His gaze seems to zero in on those thickly muscled, impossibly-large arms of the soldier as he moves them up and around to fold in front of his barrel chest. There is, for a second, a look that almost approaches longing in his eyes; as though he were imagining the sheer strength that such limbs were capable of.
"Mm. Do what you will. I can't say I'm not interested in seeing what those muscles could accomplish... but nevermind that. For now."
His body, previously arched backwards in a sickeningly inhuman fashion, slumps ahead suddenly - Raven now hunched forward, though his eyes remain visible... peering up through the wisps of hair that fall in front of his face.
"Normally I wouldn't have to ask; I would simply observe such events myself. But the American Government is more paranoid - or prepared - than most. Goldlewis Dickinson, in particular. An odd fellow, he is. But vigilant."
He stares at the helmet that covers Potemkin's face, as though his mismatched eyes were trying to see what lay underneath. Though it is impossible to read the juggernaut's reaction through the metal that hides his expression, it does not stop Raven from gazing blankly at it.
"Why did you go speak to him? I hope your country, held aloft as it is by former slaves such as yourself, would not think to ally themselves with... America... of all places."
His right hand comes up, the tip of one needle - still burning bright with crimson chi - idly scratching at his cheek as he considers his next words. His entire posture, his every action and word, seems to point towards an ambivalence that is at odds with the fact he came all this way just to discuss matters. As though he had some greater goal that kept him moving forward, even though he would sooner lie down and die than put any effort towards uncovering the meaning of Potemkin's visit stateside.
"That would be a mistake. I'd hate to see President Gabriel's fascinating experiment in governance end, before it truly began."
There is no threat to be heard in his voice, beyond the words themselves - it is spoken as a fact, an inescapable fate that /will/ come to pass... should Zepp's glorious leader choose to throw in his lot with the modern-day Roman Empire called the United States.
"Do we live in a time now where we don't even want to hear what the other side has to say for itself?" asks Potemkin, matter of factly, "Zepp's hand can't remain ever closed as a fist. We have to be willin to open our hand up and by doing so be willing to accept hands extended and open as well even if it is from those that may have once been dire enemies else we remain a fist."
Potemkin considers things and then adds, "After all..I listen to you now, don't I? You who have intruded upon our ground, uninvited, with a thirst for the thrill and feeling of battle in your voice and demeanor."
It would seem the giant perceives..something. He is not wholly oblivious even if Raven seems to be placing 'duty over pleasure' so to speak.
"As to the particulars of our conversation, I am not at liberty to give you those details. It would betray trust, just as I do not betray your trust right now. I will say this though. Matters are not so clear cut in the world at large that the alliances and rivalries of decades past need guide our every movement. There are powers and factions out there that heed no single nation and yet wield the power of one. They threaten the world in ways that go beyond the ambitions of a single nation.."
Ah, the ignorance and hopefulness of youth.
It is almost enough to bring Raven back to his own years as a young man, merely a vague memory deep inside his mind - past the fog of centuries, to where it all began. But now is not the time to reminisce; for he had done so countless times in the past, trying to find some portent or event in his youth which had set him upon the immortal path he now walks. He was never able to find one, but it hasn't stopped him from trying in his quieter moments.
Anyway, he has a mission now. One that has given him a renewed purpose in this waking slumber he calls life. He has a master to serve, just as Potemkin does, and this master wants... no... /needs/ answers. Too much is happening now, beyond his gaze - the perfect time for Raven, The Watcher, to go where the one he has sworn himself to cannot. To pose the questions, which that man does not wish to reveal himself to ask.
He listens to Potemkin's explanation, and though he finds it naive - it is a refreshing sort of optimism, one which he has not personally felt in generations. It is fascinating to see a man wish for a brighter future, but remain entirely unaware of the realities of this world.
"To sleepwalk ones' nation into a potential catastrophe, in service of diplomacy for its own sake. How beautifully tragic."
His skinny, narrow chest rises up as a deep breath is inhaled through his slack, expressionless mouth. Seemingly puffing himself up in a rather comical fashion, he steps groggily towards Potemkin - his body swaying in some non-existent breeze, as he comes within grabbing distance of the behemoth... and then even /closer/, only stopping when his own chest is practically pressed up against the man's own body - unless, of course, Potemkin takes a step backwards.
"So strong. A titan. A living mountain. A miracle."
His head is tilted baaaaack, as he stares upwards - eyes moving up the sizeable distance between himself as Potemkin's own gaze. There is a flash behind his white hair, as the eye containing the golden coin seems to wink at the behemoth towering over him.
"And so foolish. You think allies will save you from the wars to come? I have seen the world torn apart with conflict, more than once."
He speaks matter-of-factly, which might lead Potemkin to wonder what the hell this young man - who appears to be no older than his late 20s - is talking about. What conflict could he possibly have been witness to, other than the recent Justice Gear incident in Japan? Yet there is a wisdom and calmness in his speech which seems to point towards a level of experience that is greater than his apparent age.
"The survivors? Those who stand back, and observe. War is hardly as poetic as men often seem to think. The smell of death. The sight of ruined, burning cities. The corpses, littering the ground like wonderful little flowers. Dickinson would have such a fate befall your beloved Zepp, though he may not know it. Do you wish to see your country fall, as well?"
Potemkin is ..not fast by any stretch of the word. Abigail? Hugo? Zangief? Iron Tager? Other titans of the fighting world? They're the flash compared to him when it comes to casual movement.
But he is big. Very, very big. More then two Iron Tagers compacted into his immensity so much so that most have mistaken him for being a robot or wearing armor but that's really not it. Those gauntlets are big, yes, and his pressure suit has some technology ..it's just.. Potemkin is a freakish monstrous anomaly and this should be clear as a huge shadow falls over Raven in the form of his hand reaching around to grab for him before he gets to close. It's like a semi truck rig bearing down on you. Apt because his hand is big enough to palm the front of a rig...
Look but don't touch. His enormous fingers attempt to curl around Raven's frail frame and if successful push him down towards the ground roughly.
"You presume much, stranger. I'm not allowing this for you to belittle our efforts and honor. You think I haven't seen war? If you know so much you know the pain, blood and death we've only just come from. To choose to make steps towards a positive future is not foolish. Yielding to lethargy and pessimism, on the other hand, is the height of foolishness!"
He will probably miss but even the sweeping gesture of his hand is enough to kick off a forceful wave and blast of air that staggers nearby onlookers.
COMBATSYS: Raven has started a fight here.
COMBATSYS: Potemkin has joined the fight here.
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Potemkin 0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0 Raven
COMBATSYS: Raven endures Potemkin's Quick Smash.
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Potemkin 0/-------/-------|==-----\-------\0 Raven
Oh, there's little doubt that Raven could make himself scarce in the face of Potemkin's mighty, albeit sluggish, movements.
If he wanted to.
Given his lack of reaction as that massive hand reaches out to grab his seemingly frail body back, it might appear as though he wanted nothing more than exactly what the juggernaut seems about to give him. A theory that is given credence by the faint, hopeful glimmer in his eyes as he keeps them fixed on Potemkin's metallic helmet. Like he were anticipating what is to come...
...and when it does, his mouth twitches and displays the first actual expression on his previously blank, emotionally deadened face since he first revealed himself here. The faintest hint of a smile, as the hand practically swats him to the ground - the gust of wind that follows the sweeping arc of such a massive limb leaves his cloak billowing in its wake.
And he finally hits the ground - the impact jarring the back of that spike which he has driven through his head, in a way that seems to bring a fresh gleam of enjoyment to his previously sad eyes.
But as soon as it appears, it is gone once more. It's not enough. It never is.
Laying on his back for a moment, his eyes stare up as whatever sheen was momentarily present is once again swallowed up, replaced with the all-consuming boredom which has defined entire centuries of his life.
An audible sigh, as the man sits back up with a casual ease that might lead to a disturbing conclusion: he doesn't seem the least bit hurt by the massive force which slammed him to the floor. Rocking back slightly, he uses the momentum to springboard himself off the ground - lifting up several feet in the air, and seemingly hanging there for at the peak of his jump, before his feet slowly come back down to rest upon the hard ground beneath him.
"I don't doubt that you think you've seen war. Young soldiers tend to think they've seen it all. What is coming promises to be far greater than any conflict you have been witness to. The world will wage war upon the world, tearing itself to pieces as your leaders pay empty homage to some noble sense of sacrifice. Same as it ever was. The head eats the tail, we are born in death..."
How cryptic; maybe that impact against his spike has rattled his brains a little... or maybe 1,000-some years of life have taken their toll on his sanity, as one might expect such a lifespan might.
Nevertheless, he holds both arms at his sides, lifting his head back to gaze upwards once again - not even paying Potemkin the respect of keeping him in his sight lines. Fingers curl and uncurl, as he moves his hips back and forth, almost dancing in place.
"Are. You. Finished?!"
COMBATSYS: Raven takes no action.
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Potemkin 0/-------/-------|==-----\-------\0 Raven
It's hard to make Potemkin truly angry.
Oh, he has his hot button topics. Defense of the innocent. Truly evil actions. All that. But normally he's pretty level headed, even when facing great odds and in the heat of battle.
Raven is really gunning for the reward here.. The behemoth begins to exhibit an aura of true menace as his irritation drifts over towards simmering boiling anger which itself has the potential to become that feeling Potemkin swears to not yield to. Rage.
"My comrades bled and died for our freedom while we suffered with the yoke of slavery and collars that would blow our heads off if we resisted! We suffered the atrocities of a regime that saw people as little more then assets to be disposed off and you dare sit here and tell me I haven't seen war??"
The anger finishes boiling over and an instant later, Potemkin explodes into movement..erupting forward towards Raven in a half leap that carries him across the distance towards the inscrutable stranger with his gigantic arm drawn back..and then lunging forward in such a blur of movement his arm seems to extend further then it should. A rumble of "Mega Fist!" resounds as Potemkin's punch blasts forward with an earth shaking shockwave rolling around it and following behind the force of the blow.
COMBATSYS: Raven endures Potemkin's Mega Fist Shift.
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Potemkin 0/-------/-----==|====---\-------\0 Raven
The aura is not missed by the man whose eyes have seen almost everything this earth has to show. For a creature so massive, even the slightest hint of menace would be enough to strike terror into any sane, rational individual.
For Raven? Well, it is almost enough to excite him... but not quite. Everything that he's been through, all the battlefields he'd slogged across over centuries, have left him deadened to anything but the most thrilling of sensations. At most, the threatening aura pouring off this behemoth whets his appetite for something greater to come.
The hulking thing rushes into action, his fist drawing back as he leaps towards Raven. And the hooded figure doesn't even flinch, keeping his arms open, inviting, pleading for precisely what Potemkin seems set on giving him.
Gabriel's most loyal subject does not disappoint; the massive fist springs forward like a wrecking ball, slamming into Raven's chest with a crunch that would make anyone thing he had caved in his target's ribcage.
He is thrown back, no effort made to slow his momentum or try and soften the landing. Even after striking the ground, the limp, accepting body of Raven continues to roll before finally slowing to a stop.
There is silence, as the soldiers around the pair perhaps wonder if their juggernaut had killed the man with a single, overwhelming blow.
That thought is answered, though, when there is a the slightest motion coming from the brutalized form laying in a heap... the rising and falling of his chest, far quicker and more frantic than its previous, anemic pace.
And then, Raven executes another spring back to his feet - this time, though, he looks... not great. Specifically, his neck is tilted at an angle that seems to scream 'broken'... but his lips twitch with the first hints of a smile, his eyes continue to stare at Potemkin - now wetter than before, as though some new life is springing up behind them. He walks forward, head limply hanging atop that shattered, wrenched neck.
"Yes. Your friends died."
His neck begins to shift, twisting to one side as it almost begins to extend further than should be possible. A series of deep, stomach-churning cracks and pops come pouring out from Raven's joints as he moves his body in a way that is almost cartoonishly inhuman. It should give Potemkin a sign that the bizarre figure who had materialized here, in the middle of the capital district, was more than he might first appear.
Certainly, it can be safely said he is /not/ strictly human... whether by training or nature alone, he has transcended what a normal body ought to be capable of.
"And more will die, if your President continues on his course. You would let their sacrifice be in vain? You think this country is strong enough to stand up alongside America, against their enemies, without collapsing? What reckless optimism."
His neck now back to somewhere approaching its original place, the cloaked figure - his hood knocked off by the shockwave of Potemkin's fist - lifts one hand to hold in front of his face. Impassive eyes regard the glowing needles tied to the knuckles of his index and middle fingers, as if considering the items briefly...
...before his hand flashes towards Potemkin. But he's too far, surely, to hit the gargantuan soldier several feet away.
One might think that, until his arm reaches its limit... and there is another popping sound that fills the hangar, the limb dislocating itself along each of its joints - giving it an added length to make it resemble a striking serpent.
More than enough reach, then, to aim those two, chi-infused needles up at Potemkin's helmet, attempting to rake them across the metal which covers the man's face. A wake-up call of sorts, perhaps.
"Don't be a fool."
COMBATSYS: Raven successfully hits Potemkin with Medium Punch.
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Potemkin 0/-------/--=====|===----\-------\0 Raven
"Hn..wait.." rumbles Potemkin..more to himself. He is letting his anger get the better of him but this is turning into something that needs to be seen through to its end. Not for his honor or sense of pride and battle lust..but because of the onlookers. It's turning into a debate that is shaking the resolve of the soldiers who are looking on. Who fought in the revolution and who also had comrades who fought and died and will never be seen again.
He must calm himself and become more steadfast and more determined. Not simply to win physically but to win by virtue of creed and determination.
Not that Raven assists in the giant attempting to calm himself down. Those claws - strange and chi infused, rake forward and slash violently across the giants upper torso and helm. It's more then a simple wake up call but a powerful blow that surges disruptive force into the giants core. From that single strike the behemoth immeidately knows that this visitors ease at recovering from his own blows is not merely for show. Some strange power stands before them.
"Wait." he repeats, recoiling and recovering from the attack while reaching up to try and push away the arm as it falls back. He drops into a ready combat stance now, back hulking up and huge arms raised at his sides, hands open.
"You have no idea what was discussed in detail with Secretary Dickinson and what the nature of our plans may be. President is Gabriel is wise and cunning. He will not negotiate anything that will leave our country in danger..but we will be in more danger if we do nothing to join the rest of the world against its enemies."
Potemkin focuses his attention on Raven, not disengaging but not attacking yet as he asks, "What is it you are so afraid of and are concerned about regarding the United States? They are hardly alone in carrying sins. The NOL, The United Nations, Illyria. The list goes on. Should we do nothing?"
COMBATSYS: Potemkin focuses on his next action.
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Potemkin 0/-------/---====|===----\-------\0 Raven
Though some might look upon the titanic frame of Potemkin and assume him to be little more than a walking wall of muscle, the soldier is anything but. There is a rationality and thoughtfulness that sets him apart from a simple, dumb brute - possessing an intelligence that might seem unusual or out-of-place in a man his size.
The mysterious hooded figure speaks his insidious words in that bored, flat tone - and though they have had an effect on Gabriel's loyal subject, it appears as though the behemoth is beginning to reason his way out of the rage which Raven had managed to invoke in him.
As those impossibly sharp and superheated needles slash across the living mountain's thick armour, Raven's dead, listless eyes remain fixed on him. Seeing that gargantuan frame fall into a more traditional combat stance gives the Watcher some hope, that he might find himself on the receiving end of the juggernaut's full power...
And then, as Raven's dislocated and extended arm pops back into its socket, retracting to its natural length, he wathes the man with some curiosity. Waiting for the counter attack that is surely to come - feet planted firmly on the hangar floor, an anticipatory gleam in his eyes.
Unfortunately for the masochist, the slash seems to have knocked some sense into Potemkin - rather the opposite of his intentions. Rather than assault Raven as he might have hoped, the gigantic soldier instead begins to work out some troubling details...
He is right, of course: Raven has no idea of the specifics discussed between Potemkin and Dickinson - he could only draw assumptions based upon a few pieces of information. The Zepp warrior's earlier words about diplomacy and threats that cannot be handled by any single nation, the Secretary's lapdog Major Nash being tracked approaching Heidern and Ryu Hayabusa, and whispers from some of That Man's informants within the United States Government. It was enough to paint a picture of a growing alliance between nations and vigilante factions - one being built to do battle against the myriad forces of evil spreading across the globe. A war that Raven and his master have little interest in seeing Zepp involve itself in, although their specific reason in wanting Gabriel's republic to sit this one out remains a mystery.
The thought would be enough to bring a smile to Raven's face, if he were able to claw above the overwhelming ennui that he feels every waking moment. Instead, he merely shakes his head back and forth, slowly and deliberately, as if completely dismissing Potemkin's read on the situation.
"What is there to be afraid of? Call it concern. The story of Zepp is one of hope, a triumph of the human spirit. It would be a tragedy, to see President Gabriel's judgement falter at such a crucial crossroads."
Though his voice is utterly devoid of passion or emotion, so much so that Potemkin may doubt his words, Raven is not lying. For all his apathy, he does wish to see humanity ascend to something greater - to cast aside their warlike nature and lust for power, to live as simple tribes in isolation, dedicated to improving themselves without involvement in the affairs of others.
"I understand there are other factions who take issue with the President's rule. Perhaps one of them might be better suited to navigate Zepp through the troubles to come?"
A vague threat, but an obvious one all the same. If Potemkin's President cannot be reasoned with, perhaps a change of governance is called for? Although Gabriel's loyal soldiers might be secure in his leadership, they are also no doubt aware of his tenuous grasp on the rival groups within this republic. It has been embroiled in a civil war once already, after all...
"Yes, you should do nothing. Allow the outside world to tear itself apart. What does it concern your brave, new Republic?"
COMBATSYS: Raven takes no action.
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Potemkin 0/-------/---====|===----\-------\0 Raven
"Foolishness. We have no interest in the burden of your apathy." counters Potemkin. Raven may be a being of mystery and mysterious origins and powers but some elements of him are an open book. The combat aura that desires the behemoth to unleash upon him contrasted against the lethargy of his speaking manner and very posture. His very words and philosphy and outlook. Potemkin is no genius and he considers himself a fool who knows very little - but he knows and has seen enough, both in his past and right here and now.
"We are part of the world, as are you, if you choose to wish it or not. Shall we let an apocalypse befall our nearest neighbors only to have that ultimately effect our ability to grow, to expand, to mature and support our people? Let the world fall into ruin while we struggle with the scraps that are left? What nonsense! Survival requires wise manuevering within the world but rest assured we are -in- this world. And so are you."
The implied threat against Gabriel via other factions is noted but Potemkin wonders if it is but a bluff given the mans words. An attempt to incite anger out of the giant. He's not some raged prone monster. There are other giants out there if Raven desires that..
And yet - a soldier and a warrior he is and Raven is wearing out his welcome. The man wants something from the giant so he will give it to him if for no other reasons to punctuate his desire to for the intruder to prepare to take his leave.
"You want this - so I will give it to you! Now begone!"
His deep voice rumbles like a rising earthquake, accented by the literal earthquake that begins as Potemkin comes charging forward, sliding across the ground with both of his huge arms pulling back. An incoming semi-truck from the perspective of Raven. Both of his massive fists then swing forward as he draws near, attempting to crash them into each other with Raven between them - or simply collide with the dark figure in a full on collison that would surely send military vechicles tumbling away. Either or would be more then satisfying to the giant -- and perhaps Raven as well.
COMBATSYS: Raven endures Potemkin's Hammer Fall EX!
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Potemkin 0/-------/--=====|======-\-------\0 Raven
A story as old as time - the wisdom of centuries versus the righteousness of youth.
For hundreds of years, Raven had attempted to lift up humanity by breaking apart the ties that bind nations and tribes in a cycle of reciprocal violence. Sadly, he realized that humanity would never help itself, even with the guiding hand of one who had seen the downfall of civilizations happen time and time again.
Eventually, he had stopped trying to save the fools who could not see beyond their own reckless pride. It had taken a long time before he decided to give mankind another chance at salvation... and only when he had met a mysterious individual who was able to convince Raven that the species was not beyond hope /yet/.
That Man - and his loyal shadow, Raven - were both willing to enforce their own vision upon the world... to make the hard decisions that these men of power seemed unwilling - or unable - to do themselves. Whatever the cost in human life, they would make the species stronger in the end.
A lasting peace brought about by way of an iron fist - if it came to that.
Even though his mannerisms might come across as lethargic and uncaring while Potemkin speaks, the man does cock his head slightly - and he listens to the words intently, even if he doesn't seem to react to any of it. The behemoth had his heart in the right place, that much is certain... but then, so many mistakes in man's history were caused by 'good intentions'. It was - perhaps - the most tragic, defining characteristic of humanity. The 'right thing' was seldom the /right thing/, and the more difficult a decision was to make the more necessary it was to do so.
"I know... Tragic, isn't it? To be forced into an unbreakable cycle of life. To witness the same mistakes, made over and over again. So tiring..."
Truly, to be stuck in a loop of death and rebirth were the greatest tragedy that Raven could imagine - lifetimes spent trying to be the saviour of civilizations, only to be scorned and demonized for the effort.
But now is hardly the time for inner monologues; as the ground underneath Raven's feet begins to shake with the juggernaut's every step forward. His mismatched eyes, previously flat and dead - like the eyes of a fish kept out of water for too long - once again glimmer with a life that springs up from some deep place within the cloaked individual.
He whispers, almost to himself, as the localized tremors caused by Potemkin's charge grow closer and closer - his eyes practically wet with excitement as he stares.
"That's it... Give it to me...!"
For the first time, his flat and bored tone is replaced with something else - the first hint Potemkin is given that there is actual emotion hidden deep within Raven. He sounds /thrilled/, the apathy of the past several minutes being washed away in a masochistic anticipation. His lips even part, ever-so-slightly, to allow his tongue to droop out between them... it dangles limply out of his mouth, as his body sways back and forth - awaiting the attack to come.
He makes no attempt to evade, or brace himself... he just waits, as the charging behemoth approaches. Those oversized fists fly through the air, aiming to pin Raven between two gigantic sets of iron knuckles...
...they strike him cleanly, the small frame of the strange man almost disappearing between the fists as they smash together. The air is filled with a metallic *CLANG* as the knuckles actually strike each other, with the unfortunate individual stuck in the middle - a series of disgusting cracks and smooshing noises fill the air, as his fate is surely sealed.
And yet, when Potemkin finally pulls his hands apart... the creature is still there - his chest flattened in on itself, broken arms hanging limply at his sides, body slumped forward onto its knees as the tongue continues to hang out of his mouth.
The low groan comes oozing out of his mouth, dripping with pleasure and enjoyment as his eyelids twitch rapidly and out-of-synch with each other. His head rolls limply atop his neck, falling forward then snapping back as his every nerve ending is alight with agony that finally seems to imbue him with some life.
And then, in the span of seconds, his entire torso seems to inflate - joints and ribs popping back into place as his flat midsection once again returns to its original shape. His eyes are practically rolling back in his head as he cranes his neck towards Potemkin once more.
"Fine. If you won't listen to reason, perhaps I'll just leave you all to your fate..! But first..! HIT ME HARDER!!!"
Once again, one arm snaps through the air - the limb dislocating itself at will to stretch across the short distance, aiming to thrust into Potemkin's chest in a vain attempt to pierce the man's armour.
After his wicked slash stab through the air - whether Potemkin is able to avoid it or not - he arches his body back, spreading his arms once more as he invited the juggernaut to make one more assault upon his scrawny frame.
COMBATSYS: Potemkin fails to interrupt Aggressive Strike from Raven with Heat Knuckle EX.
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Potemkin 0/-------/--=====|=======\==-----\1 Raven
Stoic. Immovable. Seemingly all knowing. President Gabriel observes this strange duel of ideals and physical blows from a high tower elsewhere in the military base. Monitors and read outs show him every angle, every burst of chi, every movement of his protege and his strange opponent. His hands remain behind his back, folded, and his strange white eyes are locked sharply onto the screens while his ears ponder the words of both combatants via speakers and transmitters that deliver their messages and statements of determination to him and the aides nearby. A powerful man in his own right, the urge to enter the fray burns within him - but he also knows that some teaching moments can be harsh for both teacher and student. Raven has much to teach.. Time will tell if he truly has somethings yet to learn.
Potemkin, however, truly is understanding the reality of a harsh teaching moment as he lunges in for a follow up to his initial attack. His gigantic arm lunges out, chi-tek gauntlet hissing open and a shell popping forth as it charges up to try and grab for Raven as the bizarre assailant comes surging in for him.
"If that is what it takes to put you down..." he begins in earnest as his hand grasps out...
And misses completely as Ravens attack comes ripping in to rake violently across his torso. It's less 'armor' he wears though one can be forgiven for mistaking it for that given his gauntlets and helm, but a true uniform albiet with Chi-Tek involved in its construction. A special suit that works to compress and control his unimaginable strength. But it is not without vulnerabilties and Raven's claws rip into it and rake fury across Potemkin's hardened muscled flesh beneath, damaging the suit and exposing the giants belly and chest. "Urrrghh!" he rumbles as his arm swings overhead, grasping at nothing and his body staggers, teetering over Raven like a building threatening to collapse on him.
Seemingly consumed in his hunger for pain, Raven appears oblivious to any observers - including the men who stand in this very hangar, mouths agape at the titanic strength on display from their fellow soldier... and yet, perhaps Gabriel is able to catch some brief flashes of the cloaked figure's eyes, as they occasionally seem to fall and rest upon the security cameras which broadcast his image to the observation tower.
Is he putting on a show for the President, perhaps? Showing him that - for all the strength which Zepp was capable of bringing to bear against its enemies - it was ultimately a futile gesture?
Some things cannot be held back, no matter the willpower or might involved in such an effort. The tide always rolls in to wash away our empires of sand, no matter how much one rages against the inevitable.
Potemkin's attempt to grasp Raven fails, not owing to lack of accuracy or speed on behalf of the titan - the cloaked figure is simply too elusive, even when he doesn't wish to be. The ultimate curse for one who only feels alive when in the depths of agony: to be too swift and durable to easily feel the sensation he craves.
The burning red energy of his needles do their job in tearing a gouge into the massive man's uniform, the damage they inflict clearly playing some small part in his foe's inability to grip him with that gigantic hand.
"Aww. Did I interrupt you...? Sometimes I get... mm... ahead of myself."
Tongue slithering back into his mouth as he seems to rob himself of the pain which he so desperately seeks, a disapproving frown forms on Raven's face as he passively eyes Potemkin's staggering reaction to the attack. Looming high above the immortal, the Zepp soldier teeters mere feet in front of Raven - looking like he might be in danger of tipping over and crushing the much smaller man at any second.
Of course, by this point Potemkin will likely not be surprised by the fact that this intruder seems in no hurry to get out of his path.
Quite the contrary: the lusty hunger in Raven's bizarre eyes only seems to grow, with the potential promise of being squashed under the juggernaut's weighty bulk. As if matching the burning within his soul, the red energy which covers the stranger's metallic finger-spikes begins to grow brighter, hotter, appearing to sizzle the air around them with an almost audible hisssss.
"Is this the true strength of this 'mighty' Republic? Have I come all this way to be disappointed? Perhaps I ought to have dealt with the American first..."
COMBATSYS: Raven focuses on his next action.
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Potemkin 0/-------/--=====|=======\===----\1 Raven
The behemoth is not without his weaknesses of body or of mind. He is the consumate soldier but he still has a long road ahead of him to obtain his true potential and the depths of control and power that his mentor forsees is in his reach.
In short, even Potemkin's fuse, long though it may be, has its limits. His first bit of fury is with himself. Frustration at his ongoing inadequacies, a dark gloom settles over him..threatening to frustrate his efforts here and derail his momentum. His very ambition in jeapordy of being quenched.
But the words of his mentor surge in him, almost as if transmitted from afar. 'Potemkin: A warrior who loses a match is second rate but one who loses to himself is third. But a first rate soldier has experienced both of these..' He must overcome this cloud.
Transferring his rage from himself to Raven... That helps.
"I will show you what Zepp is capable of!" he declares firmly. THe ground cracks under him from the sudden pressure as his strength billows and his muscles enlarge - threatening to rip asunder his already damaged suit. His gigantic hands lunge forward, reaching for Raven with a burst of sudden speed.
COMBATSYS: Raven counters Heavenly Potemkin Buster from Potemkin with Give It To Me HERE!.
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Potemkin 0/-------/----===|==-----\-------\0 Raven
'Go to Zepp, my friend, and show them the meaning of futility.'
Those words, spoken to Raven before he was dispatched to the republic, echo in his head as he leers at Potemkin. It is almost as if he can sense the fury growing inside the titan, the man slowly allow himself to feel the anger which Raven had been trying to draw out of him.
He so desperately wants to let it happen... to let the walking, breathing mountain showcase his true, unbridled strength. To allow himself to be a willing target for the behemoth's ultimate display of power. To soak up that rage, and let the waves of pain crash upon the shore of his own body.
But no. He's not here to enjoy himself, although Potemkin has managed to breath a bit of life into the emotionally deadened creature already. He is here to prove a point of sorts.
Everything fails, given time. For all the technological wonders which this small republic has shown itself capable of harnessing, it will never be enough to prevent the inevitable.
The only winning move is to not play.
That Man likely hopes that the actions of his right-hand man are sufficient to impress this point upon the wise and cunning President Gabriel. Though whether the message is heeded, or not, remains to be seen.
The soldier lunges forward with a speed that is almost miraculous considering his size and weight, and once again the cloaked figure simply stares - each eye unblinking as it watches the approach.
The hands reach out through the air, set to punish Raven for his arrogance... and at the last second, there is a flash of light within the man's eyes - not unlike the sun reflected off the edge of a razor. Taking one single step /forward/, the Watcher strides into the gap between the titan's hands - so close to the walking weapon's body, that Potemkin would find himself unable to pull his limbs back quickly enough to grip him.
One word, as Raven's right arm extends out in that inhuman, snake-like fashion to grab hold of the soldier's uniform... his left hand is lifted up to his face, lips parting as the weirdo actually /licks/ the edge of his own, chi-infused needles.
And then, that pair of metal spikes is thrust towards Potemkin's midsection... he draws them back again, then thrusts forward once more, then again, building speed with each successive blow until his arm is almost a blur of motion.
Several dozen stabs in, he seems to stop suddenly - releasing his grip on Potemkin with his right hand, and aiming a sudden kick at the man's towering frame to try and knock him back.
One single utterance, as Raven's gaze falls upon his own hands - held palm-up in front of him - for a moment. It is as if he were just now realizing what he had done, acting out of an unthinking dedication to carrying out his given mission - even if doing so robbed him of what he so desperately wanted, in the process.
Wearing an expression that is equal parts sadness and disappointment, he turns his attention back to the titan - whatever condition he might be in after Raven's counterattack. The intruder shrugs his shoulders lazily, as if apologizing for his actions; as if none of this was personal, merely a lesson which needed to be taught.
"I suppose I'm all done..."
One needle, attached to his right index finger, is lifted up to scratch thoughtfully at the underside of his chin - super-heated metal piercing skin and cauterizing it immediately... there is no scar, the flesh healing over as soon as it is torn.
"Please pass along my message to your President. I'd think it was your duty as a loyal subject to warn him... tell Gabriel the Wise to tend to his own garden, and think nothing of the world beyond these borders."
Removing the burning red needle from his chin, Raven's lips actually twitch upwards into the slightest hint of a smirk. His right hand waves back and forth at Potemkin, seemingly bidding the titan adieu - like he had done what he came here to do, and now was planning on taking his leave... unless, of course, someone had other plans...
Anyone else would have been shredded apart by that assault. The burning heat. The ravaging chi. The deadly sharpness of those blades.
Fortunantey, Potemkin is not merely 'anyone else'. Unfortunantely it does still hurt and it disrupts his assault. An assault which...ironically enough..still would not have been the behemoths unbridled strength. Potemkin's potential having been measured and compared to a force able to demolish mountains. The strength of an entire battalion of a military compacted into one walking fortress sized behemoth.
But that is all pointless and neither here nor now. -Now- Raven disrupts the giants assault and sends the behemoth tumbling backwards, uniform shredded and super-hardened flesh scored and burned. The giant slides, pushing upward and using a propped fist to arrest his movements. He breathes..heavily. Must he suffer another humiliation? He barely hears Raven's comments and instead presses up, ready to attack again--
"Potemkin. Halt." speaks Gabriel, firmly into his helmets communication gear. Potemkin freezes. Has he disappointed The President? Perhaps again?
"Mr. President. I.."
"Look around you." says Gabriel and Potemkin pauses and gives a quick glance to the observing soldiers. Technicians. Onlookers. They stand, not dismayed, not frustrated, not confused or dissuaded from their course but instead poised, ready and proud. Inspired. It was a simple display but Potemkin's refusal to back down has bolstered some hearts. Not all. But some. Enough.
"Your mission has been accomplished. It is a waste to continue this assault. Let him take his leave and be stuck in whatever past torments obviously grip him. We have the footage we need. We will find him again and give him a proper answer to his unanswered questions."
Potemkin straightens up and with a hissing and clanking collision of metal, his gauntlets lock back into an idle state, the noise accompanied by the rumbling flex of his physique as he settles down to a more neutral stance. "Very well." he rumbles, answering both Gabriel and Raven, "Be assured your message has been heard."
COMBATSYS: Potemkin takes no action.
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Potemkin 0/-------/----===|==-----\-------\0 Raven
Raven has faced countless enemies in his centuries of life... and very few of them have been able to hold up to a focused assault from his signature weapons. He has seen men who fancied themselves Gods torn apart by the tips of those deadly needles; but Potemkin survives.
It is enough to bring a brief flash of respect to the face of this bizarre intruder, as if he were pleased to meet another being who was capable of withstanding a serious attack from his hands.
A quirk of an eyebrow, as the behemoth seems ready to launch a fresh offensive - even after the rapid-fire series of vicious stabs he had just received.
There's no mistaking it, Raven sounds almost surprised - and considering all he has seen and lived through, surprise is rare enough indeed. Even rarer for him to express such a thing vocally.
Then, the titan ceases its movements - and the right-hand of That Man simply waits, licking his lips once more while he allows Potemkin the courtesy of a moment to discuss matters. Finally, the gigantic warrior acknowledges that the immortal's message will be passed along to the man in charge...
...hopefully, the wisdom of President Gabriel has not been overstated. Raven and the man he has agreed to work for have little interest in conflict where it is not necessary. Better to convince others with reason and logic, rather than violence. After all, it was not their goal to destroy humanity - but to improve it... in their own fashion.
"What wonders this age has brought mankind. And horrors in equal measure. I'm certain our paths will cross again."
His left eye - the one with a golden coin in place of a proper iris - winks towards Potemkin, as he makes a sweeping gesture with one arm that sets his tattered black cloak in motion. A final show of respect to the marvelous creature whose sheer strength was utterly beyond human.
And then, Raven lifts his hood back over his scraggly, messy white hair - obscuring his eyes once more. Spinning quickly, the mysterious intruder twirls faster and faster until his entire body is little more than a blur - and at the peak of his velocity, the black shape suddenly flies straight up into the air...
...in the distance, if one squints their eyes just right, they might catch sight of a single, solitary raven - beating its wings to join the still-circling group of its kin flying overhead.
In the ground where that stranger once stood, imbedded deep within the metal floor of the hangar, is one of his spare needles - the red glow of energy which surrounded it dying out as its owner gets further and further away. Call it a parting gift... or perhaps, a reminder...
If Raven can appear here once, this deep within the capital district... he can do so again.
COMBATSYS: Raven has left the fight here.
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Log created on 19:12:38 09/04/2021 by Raven, and last modified on 09:50:43 09/07/2021.