Shadaloo - Beast in the Shadows

Description: Two agents of Einherjar hunt down a mysterious Shadaloo facility to investigate and shut it down. What they find inside is the stuff of nightmares.

The winter air is filled with the steady squall of snowfall, a high wind coming out of the north, carrying colder air in a bitter windchill that whips crystalline precipitation through the darkness, the clouds obscuring the light of the full moon, leaving only a grey sheen to reflect off the snow, glittering darkly in the shadows. The winds course down the streets of Winnipeg, surge through the alleyways and hidden alcoves, leaving few outside spared their bitter wrath. Power substations throughout the city work overtime to fuel heat and light as the night drags on, including one that is prominent for what is missing, as much as what is there.

The city's grid has no record of this station, it simply appeared as if overnight, constructed with little regard to city permits or infrastructure, and yet no interference from administration. So it has stood now, for many months. Seemingly generating its own power, tucked away near, but not too near, the downtown area itself. The problem is, this route is not on the grid. It doesn't seem to be tied into anything else. Yet the information received notice in the intelligence documents of another notable international cartel - not entirely worth notice, but seemingly small enough to not undergo extreme scrutiny. Just what is inside remains a mystery, but it is clear to the members of some groups that it does not belong.

A fortress of electrical towers and wiring, steel and concrete, barely manned by all appearances. It doesn't look particularly forboding, but the closer one gets, the stronger it seems to be. Power in the structure itself. An overwhelming sense of horrible, unearthly wrongness.

"The place looks quiet..." Ichiro Oe remarks to his compatriot as he gazes into a pair of night-vision binoculars. If this were a movie his next line would be '...too quiet.' "...but I see some security guards patrolling. Not out of the ordinary for a normal power station, but these guys don't seem like your normal rent-a-cops," he adds as he lowers the night-vision device from his face and flips down the eyepatch over his empty left eye socket. "They're too diligent. Their patrols are like clockwork and their movements are fluid and precise. These guys have some serious training. Not to mention the fact that they're wearing bullet proof vests and are carrying pistols instead of the usual taser. I'd say that's a little excessive for Winnipeg Manitoba, wouldn't you?" Stashing the binoculars in a pocket on his tactical belt, Oe rises from his laying position on the snow and wipes some of the fluffy frozen water off of the brown fleece vest that he is wearing over a white version of the standard black Einherjar Initiative tactical uniform. "Still, we shouldn't have any problem getting by security. Let's move in and get eyes-on and figure out our infil route."

Not waiting for a response from the older and more experienced member of the Einherjar Initiate, Ichiro takes off through the snow, loping toward the disconcerning power station at crouching gallop. He seems a little more amped up and short tempered than usual tonight. Ever since his leads in Mexico went south the young warrior has been antsy, digging through any scraps of intel that might lead to more information on the whereabouts of his parents. This inexplicable power station sure seems like it might fit that bill.

Ten four, good buddy. Over and out.

Words that are on Frei's lips but in perhaps the most impressive exertion of self-control he's had in some time, Frei specifically DOES NOT say them to Ichiro. Instead, he stands behind him with his hands in his fur-collared bomber jacket and nods once or twice. To be honest, the Taiyo student's transformation from Burning! Spirit! lacrosse champ to Batman-style spear-gilante really drives home the point Frei made to Alma not that long ago: that this all seems too big and scary for Frei, who is at heart a country boy who likes ice cream and G-Gundam. He doesn't have an answer if pistols are overkill for Manitoba, since his answer would be '...I guess? I always thought Canadians were nice' which, while perhaps accurate, isn't exactly helpful. Instead, he just nods. He knows why he's here: because he feels responsible for Ichiro, and because he offered his help to Adel's organization. In the end, that's what's important.

If only he didn't have that... unsettling feeling in the pit of his stomach about all this.

Setting off at a low run after Ichiro, he ducks toward the building Metal Gear-style, actually sort of enjoying the silly thrill of it all in a stupid way. Apparently the guards are counting on nobody in their right mind being out in a frozen polar wasteland north of the border as a security issue, and for the most part they're right. *Unfortunately*, Frei manages to round a corner of the building just as one of the Genome Soldiers^W^W^Wguards does. Both men look at each other in surprise for the briefest of moments, before Frei says, in a quiet but chipper voice, "...hi!"

Then he reaches out and grips the man's face with his hand, discharging chi-formed electricity through his body. Said guard slumps down to the snow, thoroughly unconscious. "I carry my own taser, sir," he says, then sighs and shakes his head. "Need to work on my Bond-style one liners..."

Ah, interlopers. To the too-similar squad armed with small arms and dressed in all-black winter gear, Frei and Ichiro are either an unpleasant surprise, or completely unnoticed. As if by magic, the patrols that might have crossed their paths divert with a smooth, unhurried calm. No, they weren't noticed. They were just... lucky? The pulses from within the facility seem to draw energy, more than emit it, a hollow, unearthly void centered within the substation. One set of footprints leads to the main building's entrance. One set of large, booted footprints, for those drawn to forensic observations. The door itself is unlocked, the padlock tossed aside and being slowly covered in falling snow. The wind whistles, sends snow spiralling, cries out in bitter discord.

Somewhere, as if in the distance, yet all around the pair of operatives, the wind.... laughs? It is not a humoured tone, not a whisper of clever and mischievous wintery sprites, but a low, momentary rumble of mockery coupled with perverse contentment, enjoyment. Gone as quickly as it came, a phantom on the breeze. Ichiro hears it first, and Frei does not. Then Frei hears it moments later, and Ichiro does not. A tickle in the back of one's mind, an illusion of the weather and the adrenaline. Right?

The door itself opens to a darkened corridor, the only illumination flickering phantasms of light nearly as dark as the shadow, down past a small lounge, and into the main generator walkway. This surrounds the heart of the facility, a heavy metal catwalk encompassing a massive machine in a half-circle, its high railings eventually descending in a stairway on the far end, leading down to the base of what can only be described as a cold heart of steel, a towering column of metal and slowly turning conduits, crackling with an unnatural black and purple lightning. Arcs which leap from the construct itself to course along a towering mass of a man wrapped completely in a cape of black, a general's hat on his head. One gauntletted arm is flexed before him, hand open as energy dances between his fingertips. It's not what one might expect from a man struck by the power of an electrical station: he is unphased, unmoved, the arcs almost languid. The entire setup of the room is centered around this device, styled like it. The religious minded might witness a dark altar, and its darker communion.

A grim frown slowly grows across Ichiro's face as the pair of Einherjar Initiates make their way through the power station; their serpentine route taking them deeper and deeper into the belly of the building that almost seems to pulse with life. "It looks like someone beat us here..." Oe muttered darkly to Frei as they passed the discarded padlock and unlocked doors. " ready..." he adds, perhaps unnecessarily, but it is good advice all the same, for Ichiro himself as well as his friend.

The footprints, the invitingly unguarded and unlocked doors, the relative unfettered ease with which they made it through the crack security staff... the haunting sights and sounds of the eerie building, they would all suggest that this is all some sort of elaborate trap, that is, if every nerve in Ichiro's young body wasn't screaming at him to leave and leave quickly.

"I'm glad you came with me Frei," Ichiro remarks to his friend in hush tones that are nearly drowned out by the pulsing energy of the darkened building. "This place is starting to make me glad that I have someone I can trust watching my back," he adds with a slight grin as they pass through the lounge that leads to the heart of the station.

"Well, this looks like the place..." Ichiro remarks wryly as the two make their way onto the main generator walkway, his white combat boots resounding against the metal catwalk floor loudly as he steps forward and attempts to take in the diabolic technical wonders of the infernal machine that the power station holds within. "No...," Oe suddenly whispers as his eye falls on the darkly clad figure within the tempest of power below. "It's him!" Ichiro gasps, his voice thick with excitement and fear as he gazes on the terrible foe he once called Master. Sliding the spear slung its harness under the frosty metal shield worn across his back, Ichiro's knuckles grow white as he raises the weapon and visibly considers throwing it at the dictator from where he stands. "This is our chance Frei! I don't know what this machine is for, but I know that it can't be anything good. We need to stop this!" Oe pleads to his friend in hushed tones, a decidedly wild look in his one good eye.

It's when they enter the room that the feeling in the pit of Frei's stomach finally has a name. Ichiro and Frei both have a score to settle with this individual, in a manner of speaking... though the sword-sage isn't a vengeance type on the average. Even entering the room and seeing him makes the recently-recolored-redhead suddenly go pale, his head leaning forward and a hand coming up to grip his own countenance, palm pressed against his features and looking out from between splayed fingers. Images play through his mind in a dark, twisted way... memories of hurting people he cares about, of a terrible feeling of being adrift in a sea of sensory overload where he couldn't even remember who he was anymore. If it weren't for the reassuringly eager and solid presence of Ichiro in the room, suddenly deciding to break things, to take action, Frei might sit there for longer than is healthy, lost in reverie.

As it is, he thankfully is a little more practical (though less driven) than Ichiro. "I, uh... yeah..." he says carefully, looking about for a terminal that's not about to be smashed in with the haft of a spear. It's not like this is a spy movie, where some idiot left a file called 'SECRET_PLANS.TXT' on the desktop or something, but perhaps LOOKING at some of the equipment, doing a little judicious double-clicking, might provide some insight as to exactly what's going on in this out of the way location.

Plus, it's busywork... busywork to give him physical things to focus on, and mental things to take away his irritating and unsettling need to keep looking at the body lying in pseudo-state at the center of the room.

For it to be a trap, Vega would indeed need great foresight. That, and to care about Ichiro Oe, or the sword-monk that accompanies him. While one might be true, one is almost certainly.... not. For a moment, the Shadaloo overlord merely stands before the terminal, though he seems not to be using it, so much as effecting his will on the great conduit within the room itself. His hand closes, a crackle of power glimmering up his arm and beneath his cloak as the connection is instinctively severed, and the towering madman speaks without turning, a too-even, low intonation of impeccable enunciated malice, "Ah, the weapons test." It's a musing accompanied by an onslaught from deep within Ichiro's mind, as images likely long-buried through brainwashing and self-repression struggle for the surface. Laboratories of unspeakable cruelty, numbers that became names, a searing venom that once obliterated his ability for rational thought. A veritable overwhelming montage of suffering and abuse.

"A failed toy and his man-boy, stumbling blindly in the dark, to see things never for their eyes..." Vega turns, sweeping one arm to cast a shoulder of his midnight cloak behind him, blood red uniform perfectly pressed beneath, drawn across an almost impossibly broad frame, one which only seems to grow with time. Is he larger, or is it part of the power of the illusions creeping through Ichiro's mind? Pupiless voids of white shift from Oe to Frei, a sinister, white-toothed gleam of predatory glee spreading across the dictator's face, "... who says the cosmos is without a sense of humour. Do not..." Frei's plans are either guessed, or /seen/, a hand thrusting out, as the console nearest the monk locks down, a reinforced cover sliding in place over it, "/Touch/."

Still, Vega doesn't seem concerned or threatened by their presence, a step taken away from the center of the walkway as similar guards slide down all around the pillar in the center, beckoned forth by an unseen hand. "Mooonk..." a singsong from Vega comes across about as discordant and unnatural as can be anticipated, the grin unabated as he takes a few steps towards Ichiro and Frei, "You think to.... protect your friends? By coming -here-? With that which is already broken, no less." The disdain with which Vega then regards the spear-wielder is, well... obvious, to say the least. It's as if he just tasted something extremely sour, given the twisting of his face.

COMBATSYS: Vega has started a fight here on the right meter side.

                                  >  //////////////////////////////]
                                  |-------\-------\0             Vega

No.... NO!" Ichiro cries out as nightmarish images that he has thought he was long-since cured of begin to flash through his head. "NOT AGAIN!" Oe screams as a flash of golden chi bleeds out from under his eye-patch, an unwelcome vestige of the ghostly golden flame that inhabited his empty eye-socket while under the control of the BLECE Project.

Tears stream down the right side of his face, the ducts of his left long since gone, Ichiro is faced with two options. Curl up into a ball and hope the episode passes... or fight and be certain that it does, one way or another. It is a painful yet easy choice. Pushing the horrors from his mind with willpower that he hadn't possessed while under SIN's control, Oe draws the metal round shield from his back and slips the straps over his left forearm. "Broken yet forged anew..." Oe replies quietly for his own benefit, his mind free from the scars of the past, if only for a moment.

Leaping over the catwalk railing and landing on the ground below, a dark sneer grows over Oe's visage as he gathers the golden chi that flows through his burning spirit and diverts it through his spear-arm and into the weapon itself, imbuing the spear with fiery energy before hurling it straight toward the Shadaloo dictator like Zeus hurling a mighty bolt of lightning from Mount Olympus. Sadly, if there is anyone resembling a god in this forsaken building it is not he. As the spear flies toward its target a thin yet surprisingly strong cable trails from its haft, a cable that is connected to Ichiro's wrist with which, in theory, he will be able to retrieve the weapon once its job is done.

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

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Ichiro           0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0             Vega

Just enough time to snap his fingers back. Just enough time to see Ichiro... well, the words 'flip out' are not amiss. He knew that the former lacrosse player had a natural talent for chi, but the sudden violent responses surprises even Frei... though, as he stops to think about it in a weirdly detached moment, it shouldn't. Chi and Psycho Power aren't so different in at least one respect: both respond to strong emotions, as manifestations of the individual will. That Ichiro would explode with power at the sudden burst of conflicting emotions in this state isn't surprising.

It is, however, a problem.

If anything, now more than ever Frei needs to be Ichiro's bulwark. Although not a child, Ichiro is young, and Frei, while not exactly old, is an adult... carefree though he is, he feels the weight of adult responsibilities lately. Things he takes on not because he is 'supposed' to but because he wants to. Thus he steps out from behind the console and tries to engage Vega as best he can. Trying to squelch his feelings of fear or nervousness, he muses, are pointless, and so he does not try. Instead he focuses on things that are real, and solid, and does his best to do what he can. Green eyes dart to Ichiro, blink once or twice to see the young man... arming himself. Oh, the talking to he's going to get from Adelheid if he survives thiiiiiiiiis. I'm telling Dad. Frei turns back to Vega, and tries to keep his voice level, if not calm. "Actually I should thank you, maybe," he says quietly. "If it weren't for... whatever, I might not have had a chance to have my eyes opened." Inwardly, he grimaces at that wording, flashing to images of Ichiro's eye pulling a Cable, but he moves past it anyway.

His hands come up. He can't let Ichiro get tussling with Vega... it's not that he considers himself vastly stronger than the spear-wielding Einherjar, nor that he thinks he'll do much good against Vega on the average, but rather that he has to be the bulwark. If someone's to be hurt, let it be me. If someone is to suffer, let it be me, are the words running through his head. I can handle it.

He knows he has to do something stupid to move forward.

"Ichiro..." he says, before darting in toward Vega and attempting to grip the dictator's arm, attempting to slam him into the ground and then, opening his closed fist to an open palm, blast him across the room in a burst of wind. "Get ahold of relief and then go!"

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

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Ichiro           0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0             Vega
[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Frei             0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Vega dodges Frei's Medium Throw.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Ichiro           0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0             Vega
[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Frei             0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Vega reflects Auric Lancer EX from Ichiro with Psycho Vanish.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Ichiro           0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0             Vega
[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Frei             0/-------/-------|

The chuckle that follows is no lighter, but no less entertained. Amusement, distorted as it may be, replaces the displeasure on Vega's face as Ichiro wrestles with himself, and overpowers his fear and suffering with vengeance and will, "Predictable. .... and /DELICIOUS/!" the enthralled overlord exclaims, shifting only the scarcest amount to slide one plated boot forward, facing Ichiro sidelong as he leaps into the fray. The sound of riotous, manic laughter resounds as Ichiro looses his chi, releases his spear, and yes, it does return to him: far faster and more violently than he might have wished. It's a matter of a wave of his hand, almost literally.

Vega's left palm opens, dark energy flares to life all around it, and with a sweeping motion from high to low, he intersects the very fore of the attack, as if batting away the spearhead itself. The reaction is instant, violent, as those ravaging, unnatural flames that burn icy cold, that set fire to the very soul rush outwards, surrounding the weapon, distorting the brilliant energy surrounding it, repelling the assault with sudden, brutal efficiency. The Einherjar's weapon suddenly hurtles /away/ from the dictator, a spiral of Psycho Power surrounding it in a corrupting vortex. It's likely little comfort that it's the reinforced butt returning first to Oe, in an almost perfect parallel to the floor. The spear wavers, even bends, but the energy holds it true... at least until it attempts to drive the blunt end of the spear /through/ the warrior, if inhumanly possible.

Frei is on him in a flash, to the sword-monk's credit... but Vega is, for lack of a better phrase, no longer there. It's a blur of motion that seems to transmit his mass from point to point in the blink of an eye, a flickering afterimage crossed by Frei's grasping hand, even as the overlord appears, hovering several feet off the ground, near the point where the monk might have hurled him. Arms cross over his chest, feet press together, a statuesque stance that never touches ground, merely shifts subtly in midair, as the megalomaniac.... continues to laugh. And laugh. And laugh. << Yes, /run/, I do so love the taste of your fear. >> It's not spoken, it's not clear /when/ it echoes, but it touches each mind, rumbles deafeningly in waves that never reach the ear.

COMBATSYS: Vega successfully hits Ichiro with Reflected Auric Lancer EX.

[        \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Ichiro           0/-------/--=====|==-----\-------\0             Vega
[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Frei             0/-------/-------|

Ichiro's eye grows wide with surprise as his spear is swatted away as casually as a fly by Shadaloo's supreme leader. Even with his naturally stellar instincts and reflexes there is almost nothing that the ex-lacrosse star can do to avoid the traitorous missile as the haft flies like an arrow toward his midsection. It is quite possible that it is only the nearly perfect development of Ichiro's finely sculpted abs that keep the blunted end of the spear's haft from impaling the poor young warrior as it flies into his chest with rib-shattering force. It is not the brutal strength of the blow which sends him flying backwards that Oe is focused on as he writhes on the floor, nor is it the pain of multiple fractured ribs. Rather, it is the searing agony of what feels like his soul being turned inside out that has the Einherjar Initiate retching in pain as every muscle in his body convulses and tightens involuntarily as the dark psycho energies course through his being.

"Grryaaaaah!" Oe howls as he struggles to his feet, the horrible pain of Vega's power finally fading enough to regain control of his motor functions. Stooping to regain his spear, Oe gives it a reflexive tap against the face of his shield. "This is the second time you've told me that Frei," the first being right before the pair were captured by Shadaloo during the invasion. Perhaps he would be a lot better off now had he listened. "I guess I'm not any smarter now than I was then," he adds wryly as he sets his monocular gaze on Vega to try to find some sort of opening that he can strike at. Most likely a futile act. "We leave together."

COMBATSYS: Ichiro focuses on his next action.

[        \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Ichiro           0/-------/--=====|==-----\-------\0             Vega
[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Frei             0/-------/-------|

Grimacing a bit as he turns to watch the flight of the spear -- having precious little else to do after Vega all but vanishes out of his grip pretty much literally -- Frei observes Ichiro taking a hit far nastier than the one he'd intended to deal out. That's Psycho Power for you, though Frei still does not, after all this time, know that name for it. In spite of himself, though, Ichiro's response... and his determination to get up and keep fighting... are enough to bring a weary smile to his face. "I dunno who that makes more stupid," he says, turning to face Vega. "You for not listening or me for expecting you to listen." Instinctively, his right hand reaches down to the sculpted grip of Ichiro's abs^W^W^Wthe wooden sword slipped into his belt loops. Closing around it, the sage feels in a weird way, a sort of reassurance. Just as that lance is Ichiro's proof that he could move on, so too is this nameless but sturdy piece of wood a reminder that Frei has grown and moved on, too.

Ignore the fact that Vega just sent said spear hurtling into Ichiro's chest.

Keep up the pressure. Keep Vega away from Ichiro. Well, the only way to do that is to make himself a nuisance or hindrance. So he does. Hand staying on the grip of the sword, the entire length of the wooden blade starts to hum with energy, an aura of red-gold fire surrounding it. Crouching down, Frei assumes a battoujutsu stance, ready to pounce, and looks at Vega. "Don't see what's so big about being able to predict people," he mutters. "Means we're consistent." Dashing forward at Vega, Frei's body is preceded by a living spirit of flame that erupts outwards, looking to engulf Vega in fire, before the red-haired fighter suddenly performs a drawing slash, slicing through it to strike the conqueror with the bokken as well.

COMBATSYS: Vega interrupts Kagerou from Frei with Psycho Wave.

[        \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////   ]
Ichiro           0/-------/--=====|=====--\-------\0             Vega
[           \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Frei             1/------=/=======|

"Touching." The mocking note is clearly dominant in Vega's observation of the camaraderie between Frei and Ichiro, his blankly malevolent eyes not carrying the predatory smirk, but it's well projected nonetheless, "It is marvellous indeed to see what beautiful changes I have created in your lives. When failed experiments connect... it warms my heart." Does the sarcastic note /really/ need to be explained, here? Vega drops to a steady footing with an uncanny ease, projecting himself inward as surely as he wields his power outwardly, "You must remember, as well, my deluded little test..." Frei is charging, and Vega heaves into the assault, dropping low as an arm reaves an arc through the air, slamming into the ground.

Flames wash over Vega, burning, drawing an angry grimace for all of a half-second out of the ire-fueled madman..... as the very ground beneath and the air before Frei erupts in a ragged line of pure Psycho Power, the dark fire washing over, coursing /through/ the sword-monk, blasting him back the way he came in one swift motion, as the dictator rights himself.

"Stagnant, yet malleable. You act now as if it overcomes your severe shortcomings. As if it was not /I/ who made you, even still!" The assault is accompanied by a partner of Ichiro's previous trial, only this time... it is Frei in the shackles, Frei pumped with the drugs, Frei staring into the lifeless eyes of Vega as his very mind is flayed piece by piece, reconstructed as a servant of the Shadaloo overlord. ".... it was not so very long ago that you served my cause, even in your failure." Ah, the first BLECE trial. So many errors. All beautiful.

It is at this moment, as Vega begins to subject Frei to the horror of reliving his moments in the dark SIN laboratory, that Ichiro determines that he may have found the only opening that he will be afforded in a fight against Vega. While the dictator's attention is focused on reaming out his friend's mind, Oe quickly springs forward, his legs pumping powerfully as he eats up the distance between Shadaloo's master and himself.

Gripping his spear in both hands, the secret inner workings of the curiously crafted weapon causes its haft to extend a few feet longer in the young warrior's hands. It is the butt of this extended spear that Ichiro suddenly jams into a crack in the power station floor and uses his well-muscled shoulders to fling himself toward Vega, sending himself careening through the air like a pole vaulter as he aims to clobber the Dictator in the back of the head with the full force of his body weight behind his outstretched legs.

In his lifetime, Frei's had the opportunity to experience two kinds of Psycho Power. One is wielded by people like Alma, who perhaps refers to his as 'Soul Power', and while it has the same capability to do damage to someone, it does so in a... less ravenous way, for lack of better terminology. It burns but in the same way that fire can be a cleansing experience, burning away the old to make room for the new. Unlike chi -- a force which knows no master, which does not resonate with good nor evil -- psychic energy takes on a 'form' depending on who calls it into being. What, then, might something like the purple-black fire of Vega's Psycho Power be like?

It's a darkness that threatens to overwhelm Frei right then and there; physically, he stumbles back a few steps until he *clang!*s against a sealed workstation, the support of it the only thing keeping him upright. Inside, though, rages a battle that feels like it's taking an eterenity, that curious way that thought is so much faster than reality. Only now, only JUST now, has he crawled his way back to something approaching normalcy after what was done to him. But the memories come flooding back in a vicious, disjointed way, all the worse for their dissasociated ordering. It's as if his negative emotions are a physical thing destroying him from the inside out, which perhaps is the most terrible aspect of Psycho Power, in the end. Blood trickles down from Frei's nose, between his splayed fingers, as he grips his face.

But somewhere in the darkness of his vision shine lights. He doesn't hear their voices, not anymore; they were never 'real', they were something he made to reassure himself. They're part of him again.

They are the light he can't let go of.

"Regret is a natural part of life," Frei growls, slumping forward, letting his hand drop to his side. He stares up at Vega, raggedly, noticing Ichiro's vault out of the corner of his eye. He doesn't have the energy to attack with him, not yet... but he's got an idea, for now. The wooden sword goes back in the belt loops, and the redhead struggles into a defensive stance, the air around him whipping up as he centers himself. "Of course I regret... being your tool. But I can't be swallowed by that regret. I have to... move forward. Tomorrow's never coming back. Today... something can be done."

In one last defiant push, the light comes back into Frei's green eyes, which he fixes on Vega with the tenacity of someone who knows he is facing death, and has chosen to walk to it unafraid. "I'll show you the power that comes from that. We both will!"

COMBATSYS: Frei gathers his will.

[         \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////    ]
Ichiro           0/-------/----===|====---\-------\0             Vega
[          \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Frei             1/--=====/=======|

COMBATSYS: Vega blocks Ichiro's Gungnir Vault.

[         \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////////     ]
Ichiro           0/-------/---====|====---\-------\0             Vega
[          \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Frei             1/--=====/=======|

'Soul Power' indeed. What then is left when one burns away the last vestiges of his soul; casts them out, severs that part of humanity entirely in favour of greater power; unyielding power; /Unstoppable/ power? It is a void of ripping force so great that it threatens to consume the very souls of those touched by it. A force of pure, inhuman will, focused towards only one purpose, only one goal: total domination. Utter and unquenchable dominion. Immortal control. "Regret..." Vega echoes, as though thoughtful. A plated gauntlet rises, colliding with Ichiro's leading foot as he throws his whole self, in figurative and literal sense, behind the onslaught.

It's turned aside with a resounding clang, the force of it reverberating through the armoured overlord's forearm, "That you are /still/ tools of my ascension, unwitting /pawns/!" The last is punctuated by a realignment of that same metallic guard, flaring with dark, icy fire, squarely angled for the landing Oe's skull in a brutal backhand. "Move forward, fueled by the emotions, the motivations, that /I/ have seeded. Move forward... come to me! I will mold you.... the raw material for a greater future, the destiny of your entire race, your entire creed.... Weakness, perfected, your salvation by /MY HAND/."

COMBATSYS: Ichiro Toughs Out Vega's Medium Punch!

[                \\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////////     ]
Ichiro           1/----===/=======|=====--\-------\0             Vega
[          \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Frei             1/--=====/=======|

And move forward Ichiro does. "WE WILL /NEVER/ HELP YOU AGAIN!" the determined young warrior bellows even as the dark lord's gauntlet flies toward his head as he touches down. A brilliant golden light flashes from behind Ichiro's eye-patch once more he surges forward as the strike connects and miraculously the young spear fighter head barely flinches even as the powerful Shadaloo master's dark energy wisps and curls around his head; he simply presses onward emptying his mind and refusing to let the dark energy corrupt his soul.

"NOW FREI, NOOOW! GYAAAAAAH!" Oe howls as his form burst forth with his own glowing golden energy, the chi that he is able to manifest from within, the physical manifestation of his pure fighting spirit. Crashing forward with his fiery shield held betwixt himself and the Shadaloo Lord, Oe attempts to slam the larger man backwards even as the tip of his blazing spear surges forward from behind the guard over and over again, furiously seeking out the immensely powerful fighter's vital areas, should he prove to have any. If the brutal onslaught is allowed to continue, Oe will quickly follow up his spear strikes with quick and powerful combination of strikes as he spins like a top toward Vega, lashing out with both shield and spear as the attack winds down to finish with one final powerful shield bash.


Frei's hand comes up, index and middle fingers extended, suddenly twisting into a series of complicated gestures and forms before finishing in front of him, hand perpendicular to his torso. In the wake of those movements, the air around him becomes alive with a prismatic aura of lights; bursts of red, gold, green, blue, and even a purple-ish black swirl in a chaotic pattern. Through the haze of chi he locks eyes with Vega, suddenly thrown back to his encounter with Alma and Igniz in the Strolheim tournament. The God of NESTS was another man like Vega, another individual who had taken so much from Frei and those he knows. A man obsessed with power. Yet in the end the sword-sage came to see just how small and petty an individual he could be. Someone closed off to the world, living only in his head.

"A pawn cannot see. He can only move where he's told. It could be that you've influenced a lot, that I won't argue. But I make the decisions that are in front of me, and do my best. You can't take that away from me by saying you 'forced' me to." Apparently, staring death in the face makes one bold. Of course Frei feels fear, now, and nervousness; the body's involuntary reactions give it away. Swallowing, sweating. Feelings of feverishness, and a near inability to stand after that last assault.

But feeling fear and giving in to it are two different things.

He doesn't attack because he doesn't have to. Ichiro's decided to take the vanguard... but it's Frei job to support him. So what does he do? He... closes his eyes. "Ancient gods who watch over us... spirits that make up heaven and earth..." At this point his eyes open, wide. He'll watch all of this, for better or for worse. He was given this power to help others. "Honor our pact and appear before us!"

All that moves is Frei's hand, and Ichiro's spear... but with each thrust and swing of Ichiro's weapon, the spear is surrounded by explosive bursts of elemental chi. Flames wash over it, ice pierces with it, lightning crackles in the air. Concussive force washes behind some strokes, while others slice with a silver-gold light that makes the very air hum like a struck tuning fork. Over, and over, and over again.

COMBATSYS: Vega just-defends Ichiro and Frei's Godai Rangeki Sou!

[                \\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////   ]
Ichiro           0/-------/-------|=====--\-------\0             Vega
[          \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Frei             0/-------/-----==|

It's the last thing one would expect to help Vega, to be sure. A brilliant attack, perfectly executed, backed up by the power wielded by both Frei and Ichiro at its absolute Apex. Vega witnesses it, Vega feels it, Vega smiles. Broadly. The shield rushes, and it meets Vega's palm, a shockwave coursing outwards in all directions, setting the dictator's cloak fluttering out behind him, leaving... a handprint in the reinforced metal of the Einherjar's offensive defense. Time and again that spear rushes inward, time and again it hits a nigh-invisible barrier before each of the Shadaloo overlord's armoured gauntlets. With each thrust of elementally empowered arms, there's a crackling impact of black and purple lightning. It surges up each of the dictator's massive arms, courses where his heart used to be. He doesn't backstep, so much as glide backwards, as if his feet were not actually touching the ground, "Yes, YES!" the tyrant exclaims, as if each potent thrust of Ichiro's spear were the greatest experience possible in a moment that only he finds magical.

"/COME TO ME/!" the exclamation comes with the detonation of the last attack outwards, and Vega floats swiftly backwards as Oe erupts into the spinning blender of energy and blades and shield. Once more he floats in the air, his cloak settling around him, drawn about his shoulders with a smooth motion, arms hidden within it, "Ah, but what does a pawn do, but move forward? Attacking any 'enemy' that happens to be in the proper location in its blind path. Mindlessly hoping not to be destroyed before it happens upon its purpose, upon real power... upon meaning to its motion. You said you would show me the power of your way, man-boy..." Vega touches down for only a moment, before he is airborne... in quite a different fashion. Psycho Power suffuses his entire form, it crackles around him in bolting arcs of black that form a sheathe of rending, ragged flame.

It carries him forward like a missile, filling the air between himself and Ichiro with reaving, raw power, threatening to barrel into him, through him, the madman spiralling in a perfect, straight course across the distance by pure force of will: will that might consume Oe himself, reaching out with a terrible hunger in its attempt to devour him in that same sheathe... a womb not nearly so pleasant for its intended target, "I AM THE ONLY GOD WATCHING OVER THIS EARTH, ALREADY HERE BEFORE YOU!!"

COMBATSYS: Vega knocks away Ichiro with Psycho Torpedo!

[                                < >  //////////////////////////    ]
Ichiro           1/---====/=======|=======\-------\0             Vega
[          \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Frei             0/-------/-----==|

Panting with exhaustion as his final ultimate onslaught is delivered, made all the more potent by Frei's expert weaving of the elements, there is a very brief moment where Ichiro's face becomes supremely crestfallen; where any sign of hope or determination or will just simply do not exist. For what may be the first time in Ichiro Oe's life, there isn't a single sign of his burning spirit and confidence reflected in his eye. Then Vega spirals toward him, the full brunt of the mad man's terrible power following in his wake and bringing a swift and merciful end to Ichiro's hopelessness. Vega's dark energies swirl and course through Ichiro's body tearing at his soul and feeding upon his despair. "We failed Frei," is all Ichiro can whisper as he slumps to the ground motionless. "...we failed."

The group watches out for each other. Missions are monitored. Members are kept track of. These were Adelheid's directives. The world that the Initiative tries to thrive in is rather hostile to such organizations as the one the Bernstein youth has worked so hard to establish. Finding capable, willing, and worthy recruits for Einherjar is a comprehensively complicated process. Each one of them is treated like a valued member of the team - not a resource to be squandered.

Perhaps, then, it is no surprise that there exist backup measures for horrific surprises such as this; measures put into place the moment it became clear that the simple infiltration mission had encountered /him/.

Help does come - definitely later than would have been preferred but before it's too late - shortly after the Empowered Dictator subjects Ichiro to a potent quantity of Psycho Power, feeding on the despair of those he has chosen to crush.

"Okay." The girl's voice is a mixture of calm and barely contained urgency. Venturing into any territory where the Lord of Shadaloo is brings only nightmares to the surface of the mind of the fast operative. Few could have breeched the compound perimeter as quickly. Perhaps only the enigmatic Ryouhara could match her speed. "We have evac waiting at the inner fence."

In the control room, a shimmering wall crackles into being, seperating Vega off from Frei and Ichiro. At the door, their blue-haired ally is positioned, both of her gloved hands extended, fingers stretched, as she focuses on maintaining the crystalline barrier. While the ice wall is over six solid inches thick, she knows from experience the monster on the other side easily possesses the power to smash through it with the corrupt energy of his demented will. But it will take a few seconds. Seconds preciously needed to escape. "Hurry!"

Kula will be there just long enough to hopefully let them make a run for it. She didn't bring an /army/ after all. Crimson eyes focus on the icewall while trying not to see the maniac behind it. The day she ever has to face him again will be too soon.

Don't give in to despair. Don't give in to despair. Don't give in to despair.

Don't focus on Ichiro's body flying past you at the speed of WTF.

It didn't work. That it didn't work should surprise nobody, least of all Frei, who hedges his bets more than he'd let on. But he'd at least thought they'd maybe have enough to facilitate a getaway. Instead what he gets is Ichiro at his feet, claiming failure... and to turn and face Vega by himself. How can you even define all the things he's feeling at that very moment? Facing mortality -- not just his, but Ichiro's -- is only factor in that equation. Does he go to the very end in a valiant last stand? Does he turn tail and run? Is ANY answer the right one?

He turns from Ichiro's body to Vega, fingers clenching and unclenching. Don't get swept away with how big the scenario is. Focus on what's in front of you. Do what you can now.

"The world will keep on turning, without us and without you," he says quietly. A burst of light, maybe... not enough to hurt, but perhaps enough to daze, or give an opening to run. Maybe enough to get Ichiro to the surface and away. One hand comes up, glowing, ready to make a final desperate strike...

...and then the world is ice.

The redhead looks back, blinking in surprise at Kula's entrance, but he has precious little time to think things over. Reaching down, he snatches up Ichiro as gently as time allows, and makes a break for the door, randomly reaching behind him to fire off bursts of chi to wreck the place. Might as well make it that much harder for Vega to follow them. Green eyes turn to Kula, and just... try their best to bore 'thank you' and 'sorry' across through gaze alone, but he doesn't waste time otherwise, heading up to the surface and, hopefully, respite from this nightmare.

Vega stalks forward, the ice forges into being, a sturdy barrier closing off all routes to the interlopers on the other side. Vega.... laughs. Rather than hammer at the barrier, rather than rant and protest the lack of chance to impose more pain and doubt on the duo that made it here, a palm is simply pressed to the frigid ice, cold that the overlord barely seems to notice, with the bare fingertips pressed to the wall.

<< I can taste your dread. >> It's a nigh-thrilled, self-satisfied echo that reverberates from the near-contact with the ice maiden, << You could be.... far more useful than the others. Soon... soon. >> By the time the trio flees, the chi barrier will begin to dissipate. By the time they make it back to their transport... the timers will already be set. << Your actions here have doomed many. Many indeed. >> By the time Vega's black helicopter carries him into the night sky, the view below will be of a flaming explosion, as the experimental site erupts to consume civilian and infrastructure alike with its passing. ... one of many, many more.

COMBATSYS: Frei has left the fight here.

[                                < >  //////////////////////////    ]
Ichiro           1/---====/=======|=======\-------\0             Vega

Log created on 01:03:57 02/28/2010 by Vega, and last modified on 16:59:05 02/28/2010.