2018-01-21: Your Eyes Are Our Eyes

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===========================<* Great Aveh Desert *>============================

The heart of the Republic of Aveh is its great desert. The rolling dones and blistering heat here are infamous, and all but the most foolhardy would ever dare to cross it on foot. Most do so via the great rail lines running north to south, east to west, leading as far as Krosse and Adlehyde. The ones who do cross it on foot will find the heat isn't the only danger. Mirages can lead men astray, oases are few, and great and terrible beasts sink beneath the sands until they find their prey.

DC: Emma Hetfield switches forms to Hetfield Industries Novel Unit!
DC: Shalune Amira switches forms to Girl of Blue Skies!
<Pose Tracker> Asteroid the Kid has posed.

After assisting in Riesenlied's peace talks with the Baskar, and uh--and checking on Kaguya which ... could have gone better ... it's time to seal the Statue of Time...Dan Dairam's statue and for some, more importantly, take down Professor Alexander Castle before he gets away! Caravan Kinship, newly joined by Guest Party Member (still??) Asteroid the Kid, leads the way towards where Alexander Castle was last seen, a small server room that has been particularly exploded.

Shalune...

The path back is uneventful for the most part. As the team approaches the hole, Schrodinger the Carakin Kitty, leaps out from Asteroid and hops down the hole! "Guess something's there...In fact, I think I sense it...It's there!" Asteroid admits before leaping down after the cat. Schrodinger leads the group through a small maze of interior corridors that ultimately drop the party into another area.

Or maybe...it's an old area? It looks just like the area from before, right before Wilkerton and Holly Dayes, where you found yourself in the darkness of space, stars lining the sky, and somehow you being able to breathe. Unlike the former room, however, the entire floor is a stable if see-through structure leaving you free rein of the area. A large statue is in the rear of this room as the glass fades into a metal platform that leads into a large set of doorways that are about two of Emma's fancy automotive constructs wide.

Asteroid the Kid makes her way forwards with the sealing rod as you hear Wilkerton and Holly's voices speak, as if from another world.

"!srat of edam lla er'ew!" Holly shrieks. "!ygnuh os, ygnuh os s'ti tub, llams os er'ew dna, egarl si diov ehT!"

But there is no interference as Asteroid walks up to the statue and taps the statue of Dan Dairam with the sealing rod and seals it.

                               MISSION COMPLETE

"Huh. Guess this was pretty easy." Asteroid says as she turns to face the party. "How 'bout that?"

<Pose Tracker> Asteroid the Kid has posed.

Of course it's not that easy. It's never that easy. The loudspeaker discussion between Holly and Wilkerton is suddenly interrupted by Professor Castle's voice.

"Thank you for sealing the statue for us. Unfortunately for you, we're not just going to be taking it back with us, we'll be ending your lives in this ruin as well and your bodies will never be found and you will be forgotten." It seems that Castle also wants to 'erase your history' as it were.

Asteroid the Kid suddenly sinks to a knee, grabbing at her head, digging her fingers into her skull.

"It was my mistake for acting as if I was still teaching at the academy, trying to lure the answers out of your primitive minds, instead I will just tell you. When I said I knew what you were capable of, I was not being cute. We had a spy in your midst this whole time, even if you didn't know it."

Asteroid the Kid screamd and writhes along the platform, dropping the Sealing Rod.

"Everything she saw was reported to us. Everything she did was reported to us. Her eyes are our eyes. And now... you will see what we made of her. Summon Weapon Prototype. Eliminate them. All of them. Person of Interest Ethius Hesiod, you know what I want from you."

Asteroid the Kid pants for breath for several moments before slowly standing back up to her feet, her head lowered. She draws out her stone medium. She'll be upon you any second. She keeps screaming but her body isn't responding to her. It's responding to someone else.

                                 MISSION START

OBJECTIVE: Defeat Asteroid the Kid in 5 rounds or less!

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-nXNfBTznE

DC: Emma Hetfield switches forms to Older ?Sister?!
<Pose Tracker> Virginia Maxwell has posed.

        Virginia is... here. How could she not be? She promised that she would stand by Asteroid's side this entire time. To the end, no matter what. She's learnt a lesson from their best pal... Skeleton, who never gave up. And to that end... she's not gonna give up either.

        Virginia's back where they originally fought Castle, shivering a little and following Asteroid as they go into the tunnel and wind up... back in space, stars lining the sky. She sucks in a breath as she peers at the statue--

        "W-wait, I hear something-- I hear them--"

        But then Asteroid seals the statue.

        She blinks. "... is that really--"

        Of course it's not that easy.

        She frowns deeply as she glances around, exclaiming, "Show yourself, Castle! You coward! I won't let you hurt Astie any more!" But her eyes widen as Asteroid screams, writhing, as she hurries to her side to hold her, frantically. "Astie?!"

        Everything she saw was reported to us.

        She steps back as Asteroid rises slowly... drawing her medium...

        "Astie... no, don't do this..." her expression creases into a frown, as she looks up-- and around. "You're not a weapon! You're our -friend-! And you always will be!"

        She doesn't draw her ARMs quite yet... she's busy scanning the area to see if she can find something out of the ordinary. She looks particularly pumped up, and furious at Castle. "Hey, Ethius, don't you have some kind of doodad to scan for weird things?!"

GS: Virginia Maxwell has attacked Virginia Maxwell with Ready! Lady Gunner!!
GS: Virginia Maxwell has completed her action.
GS: Virginia Maxwell heals Virginia Maxwell! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

Cyre is also here, and is very much expecting to finally be able to rip a certain phony professor's face from his skull and shove it all the way down his throat. He needs the catharsis. It's just, that guy is so very, very punchable like you don't even understand man...!

Unfortunately, it's not meant to be.

Fortunately, it's not meant to be because they've already found the statue! "Huh," Cyre says with a huff and a quirked brow. "That's weird. Well, I'm not going to complain. Wonder why everything's backwards, though...?"

Obviously, it was meant to be a bit of foreshadowing.

After all, in normal circumstances, you fight a boss first, and THEN you seal away the statue. Today, though... They sealed the statue, and now... A boss fight.

But it's... Anything but the kind of boss fight he was ever hoping to see.

"You--" The shaman snarls, his ears twitching under his hood at That Man's voice. "You bastard; what have you done to Lydia!?" The answer is not a pleasant one. Her body is... moving on its own...! "Come on Asteroid. I don't want to have to hurt you. Snap out of it...!"

She won't. It's never that easy.

But at the very least... At the very least, Cyre can prepare himself.

The wind is blowing...!

GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has attacked Cyre H. Lorentz with Natural Infusion - Fengalon!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has completed his action.
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz takes a solid hit from Cyre H. Lorentz's Natural Infusion - Fengalon for 0 hit points!
GS: Hyper! Statuses applied to Cyre H. Lorentz!
<Pose Tracker> Carina Wynne has posed.

Metal Digger Locus, everybody's favorite bug-masked vigilante, is along for the ride this time too! She watches, arms crossed, looking around at the pretty stars as Asteroid performs the ritual. Space, man.

...And well. That was a bit of an anticlimax. Still:

"Wow! Yeah! Good job saving the day!" she loudly declares with one of her usual thumbs-up, perfectly earnest.

Oh, wait, there was still a boss to contend with, wasn't there? And he has a very nasty ace up his sleeve. Locus staggers in surprise as Asteroid starts to writhe in pain, and the truth is revealed over the intercom.

"That's a REAL CHEAP TRICK, Castle!" Carina grits her teeth behind her mask. "People aren't your freakin' toys!"

Then, for Asteroid and the others' benefit:

"OKAY NOW, so I guess I have to do this, nothin' personal, okay? I'm gonna stun you now!"

She puts her hands together, electricity crackling between her antennae as she forms ball lightning in the widening space between her palms, and projects it towards the group's asteroid-headed friend.

It is, frankly, much more liable to hurt than stun her. Carina isn't very good at controlling the dosage of her powers yet! Maybe they don't even come with a stun setting.

GS: Carina Wynne has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Admirable Elemental Blast!
GS: Carina Wynne has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Shalune Amira has posed.

        Shalune's-- not doing great, not that she'd ever really admit that out loud. The Carakin as she knows it was supposed to be a happy merchant caravan, not a vigilante Statue Sealing group - and certainly not a vigilante Statue Destroying group. She can't help but feel that their trust has been somewhat abused by the Veruni, and more importantly that Jay's trust has been somewhat abused. She didn't sign onto this to see one of her closest friends get repeatedly ground down into the dirt.

        It's not a pleasant feeling, itching under her skin, and it means she enters the ruins kind of already spoiling for a fight; her shotstaff isn't the best weapon ever, but she's getting better at using it and making her own fighting style out of it, bit by bit by bit. While her coat's still damaged and torn from recent battles she's wearing it anyway; it's missing one arm and part of the back has been hastily patched, but she's always treated it as her thing. Besides, this way she can carry more explosives.

        Normally, she might spare a glance towards the remnants of the consoles; she might, any other time, look to try to harvest some of the components for later, add to her burgeoning collection of relics. But this time she's focusing straight forward, and lets out a deep-seated heave of relief when they manage to tap the statue and seal it.

        It sticks in her throat a moment later, as Asteroid is forced down to her knees; the mechanic nearly blurts out some words of support, automatically wanting to go and comfort the girl, but-- this isn't exactly her first time around a situation like this, and instead she forces herself to look upwards, trying to discern where the Professor's voice might be coming from aside from the loudspeaker. "... you're a really terrible scientist," she mutters without any trace of her usual humour, and the glum, solemn voice seems more than a little weird coming from the bobblehatted blob.

        She sucks in an uncertain breath, swallows for a moment, and then brings her shotstaff up to her hip, pointed straight at Asteroid. The canister she'd already locked in to the end of her weapon is marked with an almost "... Astie. I'm-- I'm gonna shoot you, okay? It's a stun round. I'm hoping it'll stop him." A beat, and her voice edges with anxious worry. "... I'm really hoping it won't hurt. If it does I'll-- I'll buy you some cake next time, okay?"

        She sets her feet, and squeezes on the trigger, a sudden sharp bolt of lightning arcing across the intervening space.

GS: Shalune Amira has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Probably Ineffective Stun Round!
GS: Shalune Amira has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

"This feels entirely too easy," a still-tired Catenna murmurs as Asteroid the Kid just walks straight up to the statue of Dan Dairam and seals it like there's nothing in the world that's going to stop her.

Except for That Asshole.

As Asteroid drops to her knees, Catenna gasps. "Don't hurt her," she shouts as a sudden surge of anger takes over her, laced with fear. She darts forward to try and get into range of Asteroid, perhaps hoping to help the girl. Somehow.

Until Asteroid is tugged to her feet by some force beyond her ability to control, still screaming.

'Summon Weapon Prototype'

Catenna clenches her teeth, unable to force down the anger - just as unable to hold it back as she is unable to raise a hand against Asteroid the Kid right now. "How dare you do this," she snarls with utterly impotent rage. All the more impotent because, as she reaches back towards her medium, Catenna is forced to stop herself. Mostly because her Mediums are simply not there.

Catenna almost died two days ago. The healing helped, but...

        MP: 0 / 205

She does about the only thing she can think of in this situation.

"...I would not raise my hand against Kaguya. Neither will I raise my hand against you, Lydia," she says quietly, then takes a few quick steps forward. She holds out her right hand.

Then attempts to just casually take the Medium out of Asteroid's hand. She's not even trying to hit her, or even applying any actual force. She's just trying to take the Medium as if Asteroid were a kid who had stolen a cookie.

Of course, then Carina starts throwing lightning bolts and so does Shalune. This probably bodes poorly for Catenna.

GS: Catenna has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Astie Stole the Cookie From the Cookie Jar!
GS: Catenna has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

Lily Keil was quiet, on the journey over. A hint of melancholy lurked in her eyes, a little brooding as they travelled; she is keeping an extra-close eye on Asteroid with her injuries, but was invited along for purposes beyond her medical expertise. ...She has her own interest in the Statue of the Time Guardian, in the ruins of the Seven Sages... But she does take jobs, and for this one she requested payment. She gave no explanation as to why, though she didn't charge much for a mercenary of her caliber. She just looked into Jay's eyes for a long few moments and then came along with the group.

Explosions don't especially bother her. Uneventful as the path is, Lily stays on guard, laconic but alert. ...The way that the Statue's sealing goes so well is something of a surprise; Lily keeps an eye on Wilkerton and Holly Dayes, Dayes who said strange things to her before. They speak... But... backwards?

"..." Lily watches Asteroid--and the Professor's voice comes on. Lily eyes narrow immediately. She does not look to Virginia Maxwell, first introduced to her as the Puppy Thief all those months ago. But she can hear her voice. But more to the point...

"Castle," Lily speaks, looking to Asteroid sinking and back to the Professor. "...I can show you plenty primitive." Her voice is flat, dangerous. Her fingers curl, at the talk of the Summon Weapon Prototype. Asteroid is screaming...

"Castle," Lily says. "Enjoy what life you have left."

Reported... to them. But Lily can't fault Asteroid for it. She turns to her. She takes in a breath, and makes her choice. "...She can't help it," Lily says. "The best thing you can do is strike quickly enough that we can overpower her without killing her. ...And then deal with him."

Her golden eyes set on Asteroid. "...Sorry, kid. I'll try to make this quick." She lifts her hands--and mist erupts around her, blue circles of magic erupting in runes before she flicks her wrist and sends a spray of icy lances towards Asteroid, seeking to harm--but also to trip up. ...And then she sees--

"Catenna! Get back!"

GS: Lily Keil has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Mistflash!
GS: Lily Keil has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Maya Schrodinger has posed.

When weaponized empathic shock deployed in the battle of Adelhyde robbed Maya Schrodinger of her strange transformative abilities, for a time, she gave up on everything. This is one of the most immediate differences between her, and the strange girl named Lydia who introduced herself as the unforgettable Asteroid the Kid.

But when it became evident that Virginia Maxwell as Astie knew her would not remain the same person forever, Astie did not (entirely) give up.

When the first of the statues cracked and hope seemed dim, perhaps dimmer than usual, Astie did not give up.

Perhaps she wouldn't always agree with Maya's assessment, but from where she stands, it's simple: Astie never gave up on them, and to give up on her would be, in short, a grave and terrible misjustice.

"We're down one friend we couldn't get through to, this week." the dynamic drifter grimly informs Virginia, speeding alongside her the whole way. It's easy to make this look dramatic when you can actually fly for short distances through the power of cheating, and sorcery. She's tugging on one of her gloves, and has ditched the daylight-coloured jacket and dress for her seldom-worn copyright-infringing sorcerer's getup. "You get through to her, I'll smash everything in here to bits until we fix the problem."

What a simple plan.

Cloak billowing, the sapphires in her enormous black pauldrons glimmering with the light of nearby stars, Maya Schrodinger screeches to a halt midair with an arm thrust dramatically forward, while Virginia charges. "Heh~, nobody's long-winded plan is taking my pal Astie away from me, or her family. I'm giving you to the count of ten, pal, before we all come in there and wring an apology out of you!"

The melancholy of the two days past is nowhere to be found on the devil-may-care grin that lights the young heriess's face, strange magics crackling around her fingertips. "One. . . two. . ."

DC: Maya Schrodinger switches forms to Shrewd Sorceress!
GS: Maya Schrodinger has attacked Maya Schrodinger with Vas Gurudo!
GS: Maya Schrodinger has completed her action.
GS: Maya Schrodinger heals Maya Schrodinger! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Asteroid the Kid takes a solid hit from Catenna's Astie Stole the Cookie From the Cookie Jar for 0 hit points!
GS: Asteroid the Kid takes a solid hit from Shalune Amira's Probably Ineffective Stun Round for 0 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Emma Hetfield has posed.

 
Emma Hetfield IS

Not about to take any of your SHIT, Professor Alexander Castle. That's right, the S-WORD. And the S-WORD is a SWORD that lets you CUT THROUGH THE BARRIERS OF CHILDISH THINGS.

Down they go after Emma snaffs down a spare and only slightly squished Heal Berry. As they reach the ground, someone speaks in shrieking inverse language. Emma cocks her head like a curious dog. Then Asteroid steps forwards... touches the statue...

Emma gives a thumbs up to Asteroid the Kid.

Then the Castle speaks and the Asteroid falls.

"Tch!" Emma says. The Emulator comes out with a synthetic chime. "MISTER Castle I am going to shoot you out of the cannon of my GEAR if you do not stop this nonsense THIS MOMENT and get out here and TAKE YOUR MEDICINE!" A streak of green light, curiously vegetative, streaks out towards Asteroid - clinging, tugging, perhaps kinda thorn-y, but not super kill-y.

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        Ethius has had some strong feelings about the entire experience prior. He wasn't present for the initial organizations or discussions about returning to Seven Sages - for good reason. He's wounded, and not expected to be in perfect adventuring health. That, and... what he has had to say about a specific someone encountered here.
        The general consensus may have been, at the time, that it was best Ethius not be along for the journey to go seal the statue. The moment he knows that a certain someone will be accompanying them, it's too late.
        His neck and shoulder are, even after exquisite care and attention from some of the best one could hope to attain in the Badlands, sore. Let's leave out all the extra adjectives on this one. 'Sore' is succinct. It is so sore that this may be on the periodic table, somewhere, as the purest element of 'sore.'
        This doesn't stop him. He will catch up. He will see the matter done, and make sure that this place, its people, and everything about it will never cross the mind of Lydia again - or anyone else, for that matter.
        Ethius' appearance will come as a surprise to the rest of the CaraKin, as he touches down into the chamber where the statue is located (and sealed).
        "Lydia." Comes Ethius' voice. He doesn't shout it, but his choice to announce himself by saying her name should be a clear precursor to why he's here in spite of his health. His arrival just precludes the communication of Professor Castle's voice. He shoots his free hand out, grunting at the sudden movement of adopting a proper fighting stance as the voice of his true target lays out the happenings, the matters... he takes several steps forward as the young rock-headed girl spasms.
        'A spy in your midst this whole time.' Ethius draws that arm back inwards--
        The arm points back out when it is further defined. 'Everything she did was reported to us. Her eyes are our eyes.' His eyes narrow. He is soon addressed, directly by name. 'You know what I want from you.'
        The severity of the situation amps up hundredfold, as Virginia - Lydia's closest friend - addresses him directly. That weird thing he has? He pulls it out. "Before we begin... there is one matter I must make clear."
        "I will not permit this as a reason to extinguish her." This, from the man who has shown zero qualms in the past about killing bandits, destroying unrecoverable history, and all sorts of other nasty things he has done for the sake of... what, exactly? Why would he be keen on trying to spare this young woman, a plaything of amoral powers whom remains a threat just by existing, when the situation itself demands an immediate response to stop her from using the power of Rigdobrite from annihilating all of them?
        With a quick chant and a set of gestures with the less-occupied hand, he zaps a little bit of electricity into the lens to cast a glow.
        "Resolving this issue will be as simple as #-1 FUNCTION () NOT FOUND." Which is to say... "If you are to help Miss Lydia. Professor Castle must not draw further breath."
        That is as far as he's going to argue. For now, he brings that eyeglass up to the writhing, panicking, pained, scared young woman. He blinks and holds that eye closed just looking at her for a moment... but opens it back up, to see if she's connected to any of the nearby devices that might yet govern her present predicament.
        If it's connected to something to do awful things to, he'll point it out.

GS: Emma Hetfield has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Blowing a GCD On Some Unmemorable Energy Blast!
GS: Emma Hetfield has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        Ethius has had some strong feelings about the entire experience prior. He wasn't present for the initial organizations or discussions about returning to Seven Sages - for good reason. He's wounded, and not expected to be in perfect adventuring health. That, and... what he has had to say about a specific someone encountered here.
        The general consensus may have been, at the time, that it was best Ethius not be along for the journey to go seal the statue. The moment he knows that a certain someone will be accompanying them, it's too late.
        His neck and shoulder are, even after exquisite care and attention from some of the best one could hope to attain in the Badlands, sore. Let's leave out all the extra adjectives on this one. 'Sore' is succinct. It is so sore that this may be on the periodic table, somewhere, as the purest element of 'sore.'
        This doesn't stop him. He will catch up. He will see the matter done, and make sure that this place, its people, and everything about it will never cross the mind of Lydia again - or anyone else, for that matter.
        Ethius' appearance will come as a surprise to the rest of the CaraKin, as he touches down into the chamber where the statue is located (and sealed).
        "Lydia." Comes Ethius' voice. He doesn't shout it, but his choice to announce himself by saying her name should be a clear precursor to why he's here in spite of his health. His arrival just precludes the communication of Professor Castle's voice. He shoots his free hand out, grunting at the sudden movement of adopting a proper fighting stance as the voice of his true target lays out the happenings, the matters... he takes several steps forward as the young rock-headed girl spasms.
        'A spy in your midst this whole time.' Ethius draws that arm back inwards--
        The arm points back out when it is further defined. 'Everything she did was reported to us. Her eyes are our eyes.' His eyes narrow. He is soon addressed, directly by name. 'You know what I want from you.'
        The severity of the situation amps up hundredfold, as Virginia - Lydia's closest friend - addresses him directly. That weird thing he has? He pulls it out. "Before we begin... there is one matter I must make clear."
        "I will not permit this as a reason to extinguish her." This, from the man who has shown zero qualms in the past about killing bandits, destroying unrecoverable history, and all sorts of other nasty things he has done for the sake of... what, exactly? Why would he be keen on trying to spare this young woman, a plaything of amoral powers whom remains a threat just by existing, when the situation itself demands an immediate response to stop her from using the power of Rigdobrite from annihilating all of them?
        With a quick chant and a set of gestures with the less-occupied hand, he zaps a little bit of electricity into the lens to cast a glow.
        "Resolving this issue will be as simple as ensuring there is no longer a place for the information to go." Which is to say... "If you are to help Miss Lydia. Professor Castle must not draw further breath."
        That is as far as he's going to argue. For now, he brings that eyeglass up to the writhing, panicking, pained, scared young woman. He blinks and holds that eye closed just looking at her for a moment... but opens it back up, to see if she's connected to any of the nearby devices that might yet govern her present predicament.
        If it's connected to something to do awful things to, he'll point it out.

GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Spectral Lens!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
GS: Asteroid the Kid takes a solid hit from Ethius Hesiod's Spectral Lens for 0 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline was still exhausted from the events of the past few days. Unfortunately, there were still things that needed to be done. The Time Statue needed to be sealed, and Professor Alexander Castle needed to be dealt with. The latter was a matter of argument among the Caravan Kinship. How should they deal with him?

Jacqueline had said her piece on that. But now it was the moment of truth - the time had come to face him...or so she had thought.

But...

They make their way into the statue chamber. It's...worryingly empty. A part of her had figured that Professor Castle would have made it to it before them. And yet...he isn't here. Careful and worried that this may be a trap, Jacqueline paces forward with a Crest Graph drawn as Asteroid approaches the statue...and seals it?

No...this couldn't be nearly that simple...

Jacqueline feels a pit in her stomach as she hears Professor Castle's voice, proving her fears justified.

"A spy...Asteroid..." Jacqueline murmurs. She should have known...she should have realized the meaning behind Castle's words sooner. And now she'd walked everyone right into a trap.

"Asteroid-" Jacqueline starts to speak, but then Asteroid screams and writhes. "Asteroid!"

Jacqueline glances momentarily toward Ethius when Castle mentions him, but soon returns her attention to Asteroid. No, she...she couldn't let him get into her head. She had to trust her friends...had to...

She couldn't lose anyone else...

"Asteroid...Lydia...please...come back to us. You're stronger than this...stronger than him. I know you can do it...! Everyone's here for you...!" Jacqueline urges, a hint of desperation in her voice. Even as she does this, Jacqueline invokes her Crest. Stone tendrils emerge from the ground and shoot toward Asteroid, with the intent of restraining her.

As she does this, Ethius speaks.

"E-Ethius, I...I don't..."

She doesn't want to kill anyone. She doesn't want the Caravan Kinship to kill anyone.

There has to be a better way...

GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Earthen Grasp!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
GS: Asteroid the Kid guards a hit from Lily Keil's Mistflash for 46 hit points!
GS: Asteroid the Kid guards a hit from Carina Wynne's Admirable Elemental Blast for 56 hit points!
GS: Asteroid the Kid takes a solid hit from Emma Hetfield's Blowing a GCD On Some Unmemorable Energy Blast for 46 hit points!
GS: Asteroid the Kid critically Guards a hit from Jacqueline Barber's Earthen Grasp for 20 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Asteroid the Kid has posed.

"Ginny..." Asteroid says. "I can't...It hurts so much...! It won't listen...!"

"Don't struggle." Castle suggests. "You might save some of your neural pathways."

Asteroid's head grows larger on her body, thick tendrils pull out of her shoulders to support her skull even as her mechanical limb is rapidly dismantled by her body and reformed into a silver metal limb that rapidly grows in size. They're out of control.

"Sorry," Professor Castle says to the demands he face them personally. "But I'm still wounded."

Asteroid the Kid snaps her limb to the right which alters itself into the form of a sharp edged bled. "Catenna!" She shouts as Catenna reaches for the medium. "Raise your hand against me!! I'll be--agghh!! OKAY!"

The arm stabs for Catenna unfortunately.

Shalune electrocutes Asteroid but it doesn't seem to hurt her all that much. Instead Asteroid sends a flurry of space rocks flying out at her even as she summons a green radioactive field to come down upon Virginia and Maya--and even Cyre. "Counter...ghuhh...!"

She pants for breath as she sees Lily. "Please...stop it..."

Ice slams into Asteroid's body, sending out a spray of that strange metallic mist that seems to seal the wound shut even as it's formed. "Why...they want to... they want you...Lily..."

"Ah," Castle says. "If that's the case. Your priorities. Take out Lily and Ethius as your primary targets. Last chance Ethius."

Asteroid the Kid sends a slew of space rocks flying out at Lily and Ethius even as Carina unleashes an electrical blast at her. It shorts out several of the 'starlights' but Asteroid walks through it before picking up Carina and throwing a headbutt for her face.

Emma's own blast rips into Asteroid's legs and supported by earth pillars pushing Emma's blast further in so that it's even tighter to her body. It clings to her and she stops for a moment, forced to cut free of them before she summons up one more asteroid into her hands. "No, no no no no... not them...!" Asteroid cries out as she throws the rock into the air, leaping into the sky as she kicks the rock for Jay, the rock threatening to rebound off of her and into Emma.

Her face is starting to look a bit flaky again. It's been having that issue for a while... And it's getting worse. Her skin ripples and bubbles.

GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Cyre H. Lorentz with Rad Riser!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Virginia Maxwell with Rad Riser!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Maya Schrodinger with Rad Riser!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Catenna with Metallurgy Arm Slice!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Emma Hetfield with Space Rock Soccer!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Space Rock Soccer!
GS: Jacqueline Barber guards a hit from Asteroid the Kid's Space Rock Soccer for 78 hit points!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Shalune Amira with Asteroid Ball!
GS: CRITICAL! Cyre H. Lorentz takes a glancing hit from Asteroid the Kid's Rad Riser for 78 hit points!
GS: Poison, Disease, Cripple, Jam, and Mute! Statuses applied to Cyre H. Lorentz!
GS: Catenna takes a solid hit from Asteroid the Kid's Metallurgy Arm Slice for 123 hit points!
GS: Shalune Amira takes a solid hit from Asteroid the Kid's Asteroid Ball for 101 hit points!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Asteroid Ball!
GS: Virginia Maxwell takes a glancing hit from Asteroid the Kid's Rad Riser for 61 hit points!
GS: Disease! Statuses applied to Virginia Maxwell!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Lily Keil with Asteroid Ball!
GS: CRITICAL! Ethius Hesiod guards a hit from Asteroid the Kid's Asteroid Ball for 65 hit points!
GS: Poison, Cripple, Jam, and Mute! Statuses applied to Ethius Hesiod!
GS: Maya Schrodinger takes a solid hit from Asteroid the Kid's Rad Riser for 121 hit points!
GS: Disease! Statuses applied to Maya Schrodinger!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Carina Wynne with Head Butts!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has completed her action.
GS: Lily Keil guards a hit from Asteroid the Kid's Asteroid Ball for 60 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Emma Hetfield critically Guards a hit from Asteroid the Kid's Space Rock Soccer for 34 hit points!
GS: Poison, Cripple, Jam, and Mute! Statuses applied to Emma Hetfield!
GS: Carina Wynne takes a glancing hit from Asteroid the Kid's Head Butts for 43 hit points!
GS: Virginia Maxwell has attacked Virginia Maxwell with Ready! Lady Gunner!!
GS: Virginia Maxwell has completed her action.
GS: Virginia Maxwell heals Virginia Maxwell! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Virginia Maxwell with Rad Riser!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has completed her action.
GS: Virginia Maxwell takes a glancing hit from Asteroid the Kid's Rad Riser for 62 hit points!
GS: Disease! Statuses applied to Virginia Maxwell!
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Of all people here, Xantia would seem to have the least at stake in this equation. Lily asked to tag along with the Carakin. Xantia asked to tag along with Lily. Not for any good reason, so it seemed. She babbled a little about leaving a cake behind last time she was there, and was just all cheer about the upcoming adventure otherwise. Typical Xantia.

She didn't mention her own return trip to the Seven Sages ruins to anybody. She got there late, finding nothing but the remains of a big fight. An exploded room, dried blood, other things that she couldn't make sense of so much... no sign of the man that was there before. What a shame. She had questions. It didn't look like she'd get a chance to ask those anymore.

Until today. It's purely coincidental that she caught wind of Lily's plans, and talked her way into coming along. Making herself hard to say no to, as usual. No payment for her, obviously, but that's fine by her. She just seems happy to be here.

Right up until something seems wrong with the woman in the strange mask - that's what it is, right? - and the voice on the speaker changes. "...It's him," she remarks to nobody in particular, listening intently. Up until that point, she wouldn't have been able to entirely explain her own interest in this matter. Nobody who knows her probably expects her to even understand what all is being said.

But, somehow... this time, Xantia understands the situation perfectly. The one they call Asteroid the Kid is being used, in the worst possible way. It doesn't matter that she doesn't know them very well. It still makes her extremely angry. for the moment, her own questions regarding what was being done here, not to mention that strangely familiar language she heard, are put on hold. This is about something more important now.

"You... you took away her free will, didn't you? What did you have to do that for? I won't forgive you for that!"

For the moment, however, they're stuck having to deal with Asteroid the Kid. Fighting is all she knows, and it rarely fails to solve a problem, so despite the situation, she's perfectly ready to do just that. Hearing other people's thoughts, she decides, "Okay... so we just have to hold her down, or knock her out, right?" Makes perfect sense to her.

Except... she doesn't really have very effective tools to hold someone down, and she isn't great at holding back. So she lets the others make their attempts first. When this goes poorly, only then does she get involved, suddenly dashing into the fray and throwing a punch at the air with enough force to blow the average person off their feet. Possibly into the nearest wall. That was her best shot at holding back.

"Stop it! Stop hurting everyone!" Those words weren't meant for Asteroid, not really, as evidenced by her looking around as if she could find the source of that voice taunting them. "What's this about Lily? You think I'm just going to let you get away with doing whatever you want?"

GS: Xantia has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Massive Shockwave!
GS: Xantia has completed her action.
GS: Asteroid the Kid guards a hit from Xantia's Massive Shockwave for 63 hit points!
GS: Disrupt! Statuses applied to Asteroid the Kid!
<Pose Tracker> Virginia Maxwell has posed.

        Virginia looks a little relieved that Asteroid at least has a bit of her sense back-- growling just for a moment at Castle again as she exclaims, "Shut up, just shut up!"

        Her eyes widen as Asteroid's head enlarges, staring as silver limbs pull out of her. "Ahh-- hwa--" that radioactive field smashes against her, and she gasps as she rolls to one side with a wince, a thin sheen of that power irradiating her.

        "Ensuring there is no longer a place for the information to go... ..." Virginia frowns as she picks herself back up to her feet, grinning as she turns towards Maya. "Okay! Then-- let's smash everything in here to bits like we're dum-dums who don't know how technology works!!"

        She flashes her ARMs out and exclaims, "This is -my- specialty! Rapier Ex Bantorain... random indiscriminate shooting!!"

        Spinning both revolvers at her fingers, she flails her arms around wildly -- launching bullets to every corner of the room and somehow managing to hit random walls and stars and wherever she thinks machinery might be hiding. It's a strategy devised entirely from dumb luck.

        But you haven't seen dumb luck until you've met Virginia 'Dumbest Luck' Maxwell.

GS: Virginia Maxwell has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Rapier ex Bantorain!
GS: Virginia Maxwell has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Lily's shouting at her to get back; Catenna just closes her eyes, having a fairly good idea that she's about to be killed.

When she opens them, it's with a shake of her head, the reluctance in her eyes more than obvious. Then Asteroid warps her arm into a big blade and jams it towards her and a thousand thoughts flicker through Catenna's mind in that second or two she has to make a move.

She makes no move at all save to tilt her head back and move her arm - to open her guard.

The blade arm punches through her just above the top edge of her breastplate. Only luck saves it from being instantly fatal. Catenna lurches forward and her eyes go blank as she coughs wetly in the back of her throat, barely managing to hold back a surge of blood.

The thud of electricity and ice, at least, ensure Asteroid doesn't follow it up. Catenna slides off of the blade arm and hits the ground on her knees, then slumps the rest of the way forward, landing on her side. Blood runs from the stab wound below her collarbone, and from a corner of her mouth.

You idiot, a corner of her mind screams at her through the pain. You absolute fucking idiot. Asteroid's mind is fine. You cannot snap her out of anything through sacrifice! All I can do is... is murder her! Fight her and hurt her! Give Castle exactly what he wants!

Lifting her head towards Asteroid, Catenna draws in a few wet, pained breaths. She watches her friend move on to anything but her. More formidable threats than she.

Lydia....

The priestess pulls herself across the floor. It takes a lot of effort given that she's slowly bleeding out. Pushing herself back up to her knee, she shakes out her bad arm in the hopes of getting it to work.

And then, with a sudden surge of energy, she moves. She jumps at Asteroid's back --

And attempts to hook her arms beneath Asteroid's, then link her own hands behind the Rigdobrite-headed girl's neck. If she can get it, she'll struggle as hard as she can to lock the full nelson in - not to try and harm Asteroid, but to restrain her.

"You are my friend!" she manages, her voice thin but with a heat to it. "You are not the one who deserves to be hurt!"

GS: Catenna has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Damn You Kakarot!
GS: Catenna has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Carina Wynne has posed.

"Whoa!" Locus exclaims, taking a step back as Asteroid starts to transform in unfortunate-looking ways and walks right through her electric projectile. She was worried about having overdone it, but no, on the contrary.

And then she is grabbed, and there is a rocky CLONK against her bug mask, sending her staggering over backwards, a little shaken but not much worse for wear.

"Ha... ha... Hey, you DOOFO SCIENTIST! Nice job havin' her headbutt someone WEARING A HELMET!"

More quietly: "Aw, jeez." She rubs her forehead before springing back into action.

"Okay! How about THIS, then?" This time, she launches her attack BEFORE announcing it. And what is this attack, you ask? A volley of palm strikes!

"ATATATATATATATA! PRESSURE POINT PUNISHER!"

Does Asteroid having pressure points? This seems increasingly unlikely. As much as staying close to her seems increasingly hazardous. But she has to try, right? If anything, she can be a loud distraction while the others figure out another way to stop Castle's sick plan.

"I'm super sorry!" she announces between palm strikes, "We've barely met! And I'm already punching! Your pressure points! Jeez! Ice cream later??"

GS: Carina Wynne has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Absurd Martial Arts Maneuver!
GS: Carina Wynne has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Shalune Amira has posed.

        Shalune watches as her shot more or less rebounds harmlessly off of Asteroid, and as the others try to pin the girl down; she wasn't expecting a great deal from her attempt to lock things down, but it was still worth a try. Anything was worth a try at least once; she keeps telling herself that, glancing across at Jacqueline for a moment in uncertainty as she keeps tabs on the Carakin Leader's situation, and slowly draws in a breath. She doesn't really want to say it out loud - but the crack in Jay's voice gives her reason to push forwards anyways.

        "We're already gonna tear this place up," she declares quietly - in opposition to Ethius, in agreement with Maya, to the air at large. "Destroy all that and it's not like Castle can do anything anyways. ... we're s'psed to be merchants, not murderers. If you kill him just like that, we're leaving you behind," the pink-haired girl adds with a flash of actual anger in her eyes. ... it might be an empty threat, mean nothing as far as Ethius is concerned, she knows that much. It feels wrong to even say it, like she's pulling rank or something - but the world's been full of situations she didn't ask for recently, and she's fairly sure that for Jay the ultimatum might be the bandaid that needs ripping off to get the Carakin back to something like 'normal'.

        Besides... "... besides..." she voices it instead, watching as Asteroid begins to rise. "If anyone's going to choose what to do with him, it's Asteroid herself. Or the Baskars. We don't have the right to make that call--"

        The surprisingly well-thought-out argument is cut short when an asteroid (no capital letter) rockets towards her; she yelps as she jukes backwards in tiny hops, bringing up the staff to try to block the worst of the impact. It still drives her backwards regardless, sending her feet skidding across the smooth surface of the glassy metallic platform; for a disorienting moment she ends up on the glassed section, the image of space underneath her, and her arms pinwheel briefly as if she's expecting to fall.

        Thankfully, the fall never comes, largely due to the bizarre physics of their setting - and Shalune realizes she's been knocked back to the rear of the group, as everyone else moves in on the attack. For a brief moment, she bites at her lip - and then 'cocks' her staff by stabbing it towards the ground, the motion cutting loose the canister attached to it as she pulls another, this time black, from a deep pocket of her coat.

        She never really expected to think of herself as a gunner - but she's picked up a few things from watching people along the way. The battery slams home with an extremely satisfying 'k-thunk' (engineered that way by Shalune, because it felt right at the time), and then she brings the shotstaff up in both hands, hefting its light weight. It's an odd sniper that shoots from the hip, but she doesn't need to aim when the trigger suddenly sends four spiralling plumes of red light forward, arcing up before crashing down.

        Asteroid said she'll be fine. Shalune's prepared to trust that.

GS: Shalune Amira has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Rusty Sky!
GS: Shalune Amira has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

Cyre thought he couldn't hate a man more than he hates Professor Alexander Castle.

He was wrong.

"You-- You monster--!" the shaman hisses, animus dripping from every syllable. He's not talking to Asteroid, in spite of the horrifying transformation her body is being forced to undertake. This is more than anger at being forced to fight a friend, more than fury at watching somebody puppet her body around like a grotesque marionette. 'Summon Weapon Prototype.' Attempting to summon a god. The shape of Asteroid's head...!

Did they try to imbue a Guardian into a human body? To control that body with their foul technology...!?

TO HURT THE PEOPLE HE CARES ABOUT, WITH THE PEOPLE HE CARES ABOUT!?

Enough.

Cyre roars. It's a primal, angry scream. Even as that wave of terrible, green light eats away at his body, penetrating his flesh to do untold damage to the biology beneath, he roars. He roars loud enough to activate that small, primitive bundle of nervous tissue at the base of every human brain. The medium of Solais Emsu blazes, shattering the green field with a wash of prismatic light.

Cyre levels a hand at his friend, at his fellow Baskar. The wind answers, gathering, swirling together into a spear of high-pressure air so dense as to glow with power. "Alexander Castle. You profane our gods. You turn our friend into little more than a puppet. Talk all you like. I will dismantle you soon enough. But now..."

Cyre lunges. He moves with animal grace to plunge his spear into Asteroid's faux arm. "I'm sorry, Lydia. This is going to hurt...! Catenna..."

"Catenna... I'm sorry, too. We need to knock her out before this mutation gets any worse and we lose her for good!"

GS: Cyre H. Lorentz used Mystic on Cyre H. Lorentz! 0 Temporary HP gained! All statuses cleared!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has activated a Force Action!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Wind Lance!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

Lily recalls her objections to Ethius. ...She considered, when she saw him along, what best to do. ...And in the end decided it was best to do nothing. To watch, but that's all. Now that he's speaking however...

She glances to him once, and nods, in something like approval or solidarity. But then Asteroid is dominating her attention--Asteroid, and Castle, and the dangers of this room. ...Along with an ally from the Alliance; she sure remembers when Xantia was here before. She...

...Provided some ration bars to keep her ally a bit better-behaved.

Asteroid is panting for breath when she sees Lily, and Lily looks back to her--there is no malice, no cruelty in her eyes, just resolution. "I can't." But--They? They want...? "Who wants me?" Lily says, guardedly. "...Them? I know. I'll crush all of them."

She's a target, now. "...Make me a target," she suggests, and the rock crashes towards her--Lily throws up her arms and a sheen of heat erupts before her, the rock hitting her brace and exploding before her before it can break anything--but close enough to hurt.

"Target me," she continues. "I can take it."

Shalune speaks up about killing--about what the Caravan Kinship is. ...She considers them for a moment. "...You're the boss today, Jay," Lily says, as she starts to sprint sideways, to get another firing angle. "If you want me to try to take him alive... No guarantees, but I'll try it."

She abrubtly stops, holds out her hand, and is holding a rent in the air itself; violet energy crackles about her hands as she summons her weapon, a greatsword easily her own height that she wields lunging towards Asteroid. She hacks down--

But she's aiming for arms, legs, not to rend her in two. Painful--but disabling. The blade is antithetical to life. She keeps it, for a continued guard.

GS: Lily Keil has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Black Wolf's Claw!
GS: Lily Keil has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

Lily recalls her objections to Ethius. ...She considered, when she saw him along, what best to do. ...And in the end decided it was best to do nothing. To watch, but that's all. Now that he's speaking however...

She glances to him once, and nods, in something like approval or solidarity. But then Asteroid is dominating her attention--Asteroid, and Castle, and the dangers of this room. ...Along with an ally from the Alliance; she sure remembers when Xantia was here before. She...

...Provided some ration bars to keep her ally a bit better-behaved.

Asteroid is panting for breath when she sees Lily, and Lily looks back to her--there is no malice, no cruelty in her eyes, just resolution. "I can't." But--They? They want...? "Who wants me?" Lily says, guardedly. "...Them? I know. I'll crush all of them."

She's a target, now. "...Make me a target," she suggests, and the rock crashes towards her--Lily throws up her arms and a sheen of heat erupts before her, the rock hitting her brace and exploding before her before it can break anything--but close enough to hurt.

"Target me," she continues. "I can take it."

Shalune speaks up about killing--about what the Caravan Kinship is. ...She considers them for a moment. "...You're the boss today, Jay," Lily says, as she starts to sprint sideways, to get another firing angle. "If you want me to try to take him alive... No guarantees, but I'll try it."

She abrubtly stops, holds out her hand, and is holding a rent in the air itself; violet energy crackles about her hands as she summons her weapon, a greatsword easily her own height that she wields lunging towards Asteroid. She hacks down--

But she's aiming for arms, legs, not to rend her in two. Painful--but disabling. The blade is antithetical to life. She keeps it, for a continued guard.

"Catenna, careful--you don't have to strike her... But don't throw away your life either. Take wounds I can heal."

GS: CRITICAL! Asteroid the Kid critically Guards a hit from Cyre H. Lorentz's Wind Lance for 26 hit points!
GS: Mute! Statuses applied to Asteroid the Kid!
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        Ethius' eyes narrow again as he observes the 'connection' between Lydia and whatever's got a hold of her. He's not certain it's something that can be severed. Wherever it's coming from, it doesn't seem like they'll be able to get to the Professor in time. That would be far too easy an answer, indeed. He watches as Asteroid protests the reticence to violence, and encourages that she'll be okay even as she struggles to regain her physical faculties.
        Ethius responds to the oncoming space rocks by stashing away the lens and getting both hands on the quarterstaff. The previously dislocated shoulder twinges in pain. He chooses not to heed it as he lunges the tip into the oncoming rocks. His timing and technique are nearly without flaw. They explode into smaller rocks that spray around and about him, rather than slam into him full-on with the intended mass and velocity.
        He's too hurt to move so suddenly. The shock that goes through his arms rattles him as so much pain runs through him at once just from tapping the space rocks. He falls to a kneel as he has to use the quarterstaff, now held in the arm less injured, as something for balance to keep himself up.
        'Last chance, Ethius.' Something about those words stick out to him. He feels it's not... right... hearing his name, at all, from someone he is dead-set on erasing. Why would the Professor offer him an out, or simply dangle one in hopes he'll extract something useful before he is disposed of?
        He takes in another breath as the violence rages all around him. Asteroids, bullets, lights of space radiation, ice, electricity, boulders. He takes another look at the young, troubled girl whose very flesh warps and bubbles and fights. There is almost no way anyone like that will ever have an ordinary life after the fact, transformed and warped as they are.
        Shalune eyes him, speaking her words in a pointed tone unlike almost anything heard of her before - a threat that he'll be left behind if he up and murders Castle.
        Struggle as he may to work up the strength, he lifts the quarterstaff up again... and slams the butt of it into the ground, a loud 'WHUMP' that might disorient or surprise people for someone not at his best.
        "...Who gives him the right?" That's all he can manage, hardening his gaze. He's not here to argue. He knows he's not used to arguing his feelings with much of anyone, or anything. He just acted on them. That feels natural. To whatever end this involves, it feels more than just.
        It feels like him. However...
        "I do not believe there is a way as of this time in which to sever the signal from the Professor's side." Ethius speaks. "In lieu of this... I elect to trust in Miss Lydia's wishes and judgment." That is the way of it. He staggers about, maneuvering and watching to see how others are moving. He is eerily calm walking through Virginia's wild shooting, as though he has an excellent measure of the intervals in which she fires and which angles are safe to traverse in spite of having very rarely been with her in combat situations. He notes how Catenna is moving to put her in a full nelson, necessitating him to adjust and move back to the left.
        Alexander Castle has chosen to take away the unspoiled life of a young woman for his own ends. She has never had a choice.
        Lydia is entrusting all of them to move to put a stop to this. He knows he must be careful. A choice conversation with Gwen recently is a stark reminder of what he almost did to her at Wehaca. What he could do to Lydia...
        ...
        For now, he entrusts the work already being set up by Catenna to restrain her, lunging forward with both hands as he tries to fight past his wounds - the sting of his neck and shoulder that just don't want to flex - into that exacting staff stab, aimed for the abdomen.
        "FAR POINT!"

GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Far Point!
GS: Ethius Hesiod takes 7 damage from Poison!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
GS: Asteroid the Kid guards a hit from Shalune Amira's Rusty Sky for 58 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline watches in horror as Asteroid's body shifts and distorts. The human body shouldn't be able to move like this... She recalls the words of Professors Wilkerton and Dayes.

"Y-you monsters... What have you done to her...!?" Jacqueline asks, horrified. How could Professor Castle and his people even be capable of such a thing... She's momentarily distracted, and she pays for it with a rock to the gut. It knocks the air of out her and sends her backpedaling, doubled-over.

This was a terrible situation... To be forced to fight her friend... This wasn't the first time this week that she'd been faced with this awful last time she had a convenient punching bag in the form of Janus Cascade, but this time...

...This time she had only her grief to contend with.

Shalune speaks and Jacqueline nods, still a little shaken.

"Y-yes...even...even a monster like him..." Jacqueline decides with a nod. "I'm sorry, Lily. I...I...know this must make things more difficult for you..."

But what could they do...?

Her thoughts are interrupted by the sound of Ethius's staff hitting the ground. It's a familiar sound, but it was no less jarring for the familiarity.

...This was their only choice, then.

"Asteroid...I'm so sorry...!" Jacqueline says, drawing out a Crest. She shuts her eyes tightly and invokes it, causing an earth pillar to shoot out of the ground toward Asteroid...

GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Pillar Crash!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Maya Schrodinger has posed.

The enigmatic Ethius Hesiod speaks rarely, but when he does (or at least, when Maya hears it) there is always a bizarre gravity to his words. As if the man can only utter them so often, picking and choosing the most important things to relay at the most important times. He may be strange, she may not know what he might be thinking when he skulks like a ghost at the fringes of Filgaia's most paranormal happenings, but he's bled for the statues and bats for Team Asteroid.

More than good enough for the transforming young scion.

"Couldn't have put it better myself," Maya wears a not-unpleasant smirk, her outstretched hand continuing to count where her verbal march left off. III, IV, V. She hovers a foot above the ground, feet pointed downwards daintily. Regardless of her actual strength, it's the very storybook picture of a hothead with too much arcane might for their own good. "Astie, sweetie, I know you can hear us in there. Struggle really hard, okay? We'll have you out of there in a jiffy!"

Bold words, but Castle's foul technologies are clearly working faster than the Drifters are. The young girl's body is rapidly mutating at an unimaginable rate, and her control is clearly on the wane. Maya has mere moments to raise both hands and squint, a shimmering bubble of hexagonal panels searing to life as a sickly wave of radiation splashes against her magical defenses. "Not even a lethal dose," she grins, eyes full of fire.

A blinking symbol, a dot surrounded by three equalateral wedges; a trefoil; stares a young girl in the face. Caution.

"Hey, wiseass! I don't care if you've seen spying through our pal Astie this whole time, but you made one big mistake with your snide assessment!" Maya crows, as her freshly-rescued galpal Virginia Maxwell hurls herself headlong into danger once more, guns blazing. She has a very prominent fang visible, her voice reaching dangerous levels of confidence, as the ionizing radiation crackles and arcs across her shield. "*I* don't even know what I'm capable of!"

The young sorceress(?) twirls midair and hovers backwards, even as her magical shield sloughs towards the ground in a sparkling shower of magical sand. It did its job. She raises one hand for the ceiling, a whorl of phosphorecent light coalescing at her fingertips. "Flare Bit!" it's really something how she can pronounce the colours with that spell cry. Maybe it's the echo.

A hailstorm of miniature glowing fireballs erupt from at point of light. When you don't know what to target: hit everything in sight. Tiny comets shriek like artillery shells as they careen into servomotors, monitors, speakers, diodes. As much as it fills Maya with regret, she trusts in Ethius and Astie--no, Lydia's judgement. This means that the tortured young girl's swelling form is subject to fireballs, before Catenna tries to grapple her into submission.

Indeed, Maya swipes a hand swiftly to divert her magical assault once people are tangled in melee range. Just think of those animated background explosions in G*nd*m, or something.

GS: Maya Schrodinger has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Flare Bit!!
GS: Maya Schrodinger has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Emma Hetfield has posed.

 
A stone ricochets and smashes Emma upside the face. "Ghhnh!" she cries out.

That's all though.

Well, almost. Her glasses dangle, brokenly, in front of her eyes, and she squints into the blur of chaos afterwards. She reaches up with one hand to collect the broken frames, putting them aside: It would not do to get glass in her eye, not right now.

What can I do here? And then Virginia Maxwell shows her the way.

r
"Hmf," Emma says. "Castle, you ignoramus... Were you raised in a barn or was it more of a breech birth?" The Emulator is tapped vigorously, held closer to Emma's face as she raises her own voice, notably not moving. Is that a bar of light forming above her head? Expanding, even...

"If you're hiding yourself in here somewhere," she says, tapping out individuals to avoid on the ground tracker interface, hoping desperately that she's getting all the little swimming dots that the Emulator is picking up, "then I hope for your sake that you've properly grounded yourself. COME FORTH ONCE MORE, SWORDS OF THE MIND!"

*beep*

*SLAM* Down come the quartet of simulated swords, trailing barbed wire of shocking electrical force towards Emma as they embed themselves in the ground. Every designated target is isolated from the effect and will have the 'wire' drag harmlessly over them as Emma starts to rotate slowly in a clockwise direction. Every two seconds a pulse of power runs from her through Reason, Industry, Imagination and Hope, Emma herself shouting over the electrical surges, "YOUR WEAPON IS MINE NOW! I DRINK YOUR GIN FIZZ, CASTLE! I DRINK IT UP!"

It is a heartfelt if eccentric battlecry.

GS: Emma Hetfield has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Pulsar Field!
GS: Emma Hetfield takes 6 damage from Poison!
GS: Emma Hetfield has completed her action.
GS: Asteroid the Kid guards a hit from Lily Keil's Black Wolf's Claw for 76 hit points!
GS: Asteroid the Kid critically Guards a hit from Virginia Maxwell's Rapier ex Bantorain for 25 hit points!
GS: Asteroid the Kid guards a hit from Maya Schrodinger's Flare Bit! for 59 hit points!
GS: Asteroid the Kid guards a hit from Emma Hetfield's Pulsar Field for 83 hit points!
GS: Disrupt and Jam! Statuses applied to Asteroid the Kid!
GS: Asteroid the Kid takes a glancing hit from Catenna's Damn You Kakarot for 0 hit points!
GS: Break! Statuses applied to Asteroid the Kid!
GS: Asteroid the Kid guards a hit from Carina Wynne's Absurd Martial Arts Maneuver for 58 hit points!
GS: Slow! Statuses applied to Asteroid the Kid!
GS: Asteroid the Kid critically Guards a hit from Jacqueline Barber's Pillar Crash for 29 hit points!
GS: Asteroid the Kid takes a solid hit from Ethius Hesiod's Far Point for 115 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Asteroid the Kid has posed.

And then... DYNAMIC ENTRY! Xantia has joined the Brawl! She also punches hella hard, sending Asteroid flying off her feet. She crashes against the back wall with enough force to dent the door.

Cyre speculates as to what they were trying to do with Asteroid in the first place. Ye Shall Be As Guardians, Cyre, Ye Shall Be As Guardians.

Cyre blasts Asteroid front and center with the wind blast. She coughs out and swings a hand to the side to steady her body. The one that's still her own. She pants for breath, trying to hold back. Shalune argues with Ethius in the meanwhile and Asteroid flinches as if struck by that. She doesn't want him left behind. She doesn't want to leave Carakin but...

...but maybe it'd be better if she just gave up. Not giving up hasn't worked for her yet, has it? Has she gotten even one step closer to her dream?

Still, every time her body tries to move forward, Shalune slams into her body with the red light, ripping open her outfit and subduing the strange bubbling phenomena in her skin for moments before it stops again. She just keeps going. Going longer than she would ever before. Lily even swipes off her arm with a swipe of that greatsword! Luckily, it's the metallic one. Unfortunately, it's already surging back out to repair itself. Just what is this technology really? "Take it then, take it, take it...! What are they saying to you??"

Meanwhile Maya, Ginny, and Emma destroy the facility around them. Bullets fly everywhere, electricity shorts out stars, Emma is literally destroying 'stars', and fireballs overpower galaxies and engulf them like supernovas. Some of those fireballs even slam into Asteroid. What kind of pain must she be feeling now.

She raises her medium up once again before Catenna leaps onto her back. The control of the machines over Asteroid's body doesn't seem to be able to quite reach at her just yet. "Life's...ghnkk...not that easy...! That attitude's gonna get our people...killed!"

She is blasted by an earth pillar which knocks Catenna free which lets Carina get several more punches along Asteroid's body. Her body goes limp as she slinks back against the back wall, unable to move against the onslaught before her.

As Ethius goes in for the stomach, she drops down partly and gets slammed hard right in the face rather than in the abdomen as he originally aimed for.

The rock head cracks. The cracks travel all around Asteroid's head before ultimately--it shatters revealing...

Curly green hair that goes down to the bottom of her neck, horns curling back before twisting back forward, and silver eyes. And skin.

This must have been what Lydia looked like before she got captured. Or close to it. Lydia pants for breath as she reaches her flesh-hand to her face and feels at it. And her horns. They're the horns of a lamb, perhaps, or maybe a goat.

Or maybe a a kid

"Nuh..." Her eyes widen in terror. "No!!!"

"Don't...don't look at me!!" She screams. "Don't look at me!!!" She raises her medium into the air, firing a portal into the metal doorway. "Don't look at me!!!" She is terrified.

She kicks back Ethius in a panic onto the glass walkway as Rigdobrite appears into the galaxy-sky.

It opens its eyes and throws itself at the glass, shattering the walkway and sending you all tumbling below. Asteroid leaps afterwards, still screaming 'Don't look at me' as she falls after you.

But hey, this is just like in Hadal Temple. You'll probably fall into something nice and wet and--

--wait, you can't see the bottom.

And Lily Keil gets a personal nasty surprise as, in midair, even as everybody's falling, 'Asteroid' throws herself into Lily. "Just..just let me have them..!" And she opens her mouth still full of very sharp teeth and BITES down.

                                   PHASE TWO

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GMIdGdm3HGs

"I SAID STOP LOOKING AT ME!"

Looks like she's no longer capable of holding back.

GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Lily Keil with BITE!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has activated a Force Action!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Emma Hetfield with Material - Rigdobrite!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Maya Schrodinger with Material - Rigdobrite!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Material - Rigdobrite!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Cyre H. Lorentz with Material - Rigdobrite!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Shalune Amira with Material - Rigdobrite!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Carina Wynne with Material - Rigdobrite!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Catenna with Material - Rigdobrite!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Virginia Maxwell with Material - Rigdobrite!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Xantia with Material - Rigdobrite!
GS: Virginia Maxwell takes a glancing hit from Asteroid the Kid's Material - Rigdobrite for 135 hit points!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has completed her action.
DC: Asteroid the Kid switches forms to Freefall Shaman Lydia!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz takes a glancing hit from Asteroid the Kid's Material - Rigdobrite for 90 hit points!
GS: Jacqueline Barber critically Guards a hit from Asteroid the Kid's Material - Rigdobrite for 33 hit points!
GS: Catenna takes a glancing hit from Asteroid the Kid's Material - Rigdobrite for 84 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Emma Hetfield guards a hit from Asteroid the Kid's Material - Rigdobrite for 130 hit points!
GS: Poison, Cripple, Jam, and Mute! Statuses applied to Emma Hetfield!
GS: Lily Keil takes a solid hit from Asteroid the Kid's BITE for 95 hit points!
GS: Xantia takes a glancing hit from Asteroid the Kid's Material - Rigdobrite for 85 hit points!
GS: Carina Wynne critically Guards a hit from Asteroid the Kid's Material - Rigdobrite for 37 hit points!
GS: Maya Schrodinger takes a solid hit from Asteroid the Kid's Material - Rigdobrite for 249 hit points!
GS: Shalune Amira guards a hit from Asteroid the Kid's Material - Rigdobrite for 185 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

There is palpable despair in Catenna's expression as Lily and Cyre urge her to do something she does not want to do.

Add to Lydia Seren's torture. Beat her and hurt her and smash her into the ground. Brutalize her the way Alexander Castle brutalized her.

Kill her over and over again, like a good little weapon.

She's thrown off before she can think of much more - and then Asteroid the Kid is, suddenly, Lydia the literal kid. From her spot on the walkway, Catenna looks on in both wonder and horror.

Until Lydia goes absolutely ballistic and calls down the stars.

Struggling against her injury, Catenna throws herself against the nearest wall with a gasp, clutching a piece of dangling machinery sticking out of the wall. It doesn't do her much good. The walkway shatters, and fragments of glass spray across her like a million tiny knives. Enough of them hit her in the arms that her fingers are cut in places; her grip slips, and she gasps as she begins to plummet down the open pit with the rest of the group. She's a ways behind them.

Through the pain and utter helplessness, it occurs to her: If I had my Mediums, I could solve this. I could stop us from falling to our deaths. We are in the grip of gravity...

...but I am too weak! I should never have come here! And now I can do nothing to help Lydia....

Something moves beside her. And then, there's a soft sound:

*mew*

With surprise, a plummeting Catenna gasps and looks to one side of her - and stares at the fact that Schrodinger the CaraKin Cat is falling down the hole with her.

Holding a small bag containing two stone tablets and a Melange Gel.

"Cat," Catenna murmurs with wonder. The feline just wiggles its ears.








Approximately thirty seconds later, Lydia will feel the grip of something twisting around her.

Gravity ripples and distorts. The air groans - and then, all of a sudden, her world seems to want to jerk violently to the left. The pull of gravity, for her alone, diverts to the wall of the pit as some immense force attempts to slam her violently into the wall.

Gravity goes the other way. It pulls at Lydia again; it's trying to ping-pong her back into the other wall now.

Medium in hand, a bloodied Catenna plunges headfirst down the pit, like a descending missile. Red droplets stream in the air behind her - but so do tears. "Lydia," she calls down. "I am sorry... I never wanted to add to your suffering!"

GS: Catenna has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Heavy Crush!
GS: Catenna has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Virginia Maxwell has posed.

        Virginia lets out a tired breath as her ARMs click; she reaches for a spare pack of ammo from her baby-blue, Twitter-stamped pouch as she looks to Maya and Emma, nodding faintly as she goes, "It-- I hope it's working. I hope. Cutting the flow of--"

        A pause, as she stares at Ethius.

        "Dangit. Now you're tellin' me, Killey!"

        She sighs as she faces Asteroid again, wincing as she says, "Is there really no other way? I don't... uuugh-- uuugh--"

        And then the choice's made for her, as the rock head cracks... and she sees a form of Asteroid she hasn't seen before. "H-hey-- Astie--"

        Her eyes widen as she comes down on Lily, stepping back. "There's nothing wrong! You don't have to be ashamed! I--" she swallows. "You looked at me and treated me normally even when I was a Hellion... I'd accept you no matter what you looked like...!"

        But then Ethius is bounced back, and Rigdobrite appears in the sky... and they're falling, falling...

        "Oh... oh gosh--"

        Virginia starts falling, falling... and a meteor just crashes into her. Or perhaps it'd be better to say, Virginia finds herself a meteor to start riding on, her feet on fire and her dress singed as she climbs up to the top with a pant.

        "Uugh, if you want to play it this way...! Maybe the Guardians can help out! COME!"

        She holds up-- the Tindercrest--

        "--wrong one--"

        She rummages through her pack as she hucks out a heal berry, a peppy acorn, a spicy cake (ew, throw that out Ginny), and then--

        "COME, Moor Gault!"

        She holds the stone medium of Moor Gault out, and... a small, fat bird the size of a cucco flies out of it to careen, trail ablaze unlike the meteors that shower onto them, towards Asteroid.

        "..."

        She looks to Maya.

        "How do you use one of these things again?"

GS: Virginia Maxwell has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Medium - Cuccoflare!
GS: Virginia Maxwell has been weakened by Disease! They take 3 hit points of damage, and burn off their temporary hit points!
GS: Virginia Maxwell has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

"Don't apologize," Lily says to Jay, only a slim touch of gentleness in her voice. "This is the job." Ethius's assessment registers for Lily, and she nods, pressing her assault as best she can, towards this warping flesh. ...She takes the arm off. This one, they can repair, and the sorceress's expression is grim as she stares at her foe--at her target, at the girl she has to rescue. ...But the way it repairs itself makes her eyes widen. "I don't--"

"I don't know what you mean," Lily answers, and suddenly has to leap backwards in order to get out of the way of coming fireballs, of attacks, of--a cracking rock head--"No--"

...Lily sees Lydia, and she does look, despite herself. The silver all around her is strange on its own. Lily still doesn't understand what she meant. ...What she means. "Asteroid--"

Asteroid is still screaming, and the walkway shatters under the force of the Guardian. Lily begins to fall, losing hold of her weapon that winks out of existence despite herself. She casts her gaze around, trying to get a sense of where they are, what this is--

She doesn't get that time. Her arms are bent, her knees bent, the free fall whipping her hair upward as--

'Just let me have them'

Lily screams louder than anyone here is likely to have heard, and as she shoves Asteroid off of her the reason why is clear; Lydia takes in her sharp teeth a giant chunk of flesh from her shoulder, exposing something white and ugly before blood pours from the wound, soaks her scarf and whips into her hair. "Ahk--" It's a noise of obvious pain, but there is something... Else...

Lily's skin pales. Brilliant colors erupt into the air between them for an instant, and Lily's left arm hangs uselessly at her side, her sleeve in tatters, her upper arm a mess. But the paling happens too quickly to be from blood loss. "Y-you..." She feels faint for an instant. Is it shock?

Lily's eyes flash for an instant before red-orange runes flicker before her--and a column of flame erupts between her and Lydia, larger by far than either of them, rushing Lydia, roaring strangely, erratically.

Lily reaches with a gloved hand and clamps it over her wound, gasping in obvious pain and some less-obvious signs of uncharacteristic approach.

GS: Lily Keil has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Conflagration!
GS: Lily Keil has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Shalune Amira has posed.

        A response from Ethius was not something that Shalune honestly expected - a question, seemingly delivered at the height of the man's anger, doubly so. Automatically she winces, drawing back a step as she brings her staff up as if to protect herself from the taciturn Caravan Kinship member's piercing gaze.

        And yet...

        And yet, beyond that single step, she manages to keep her footing - manages to keep her gaze steady on Ethius' face as she bites at her lip, furrowing her brow as she does her best to read the Symbologist's expression. "I know," she whispers roughly in return, trying to keep it soft and sympathetic. "... it-- really sucks. Maybe it's not fair of me to ask, either. But-- but that's not a line I want us to cross. It's not a line I want anyone to drag Jay over."

        She pauses, and swallows. Common ground, she thinks. That's how you get through this sort of thing. "... if he's just some kinda computer projection or somethin' like that, he's all yours," she offers afterwards, forcing her voice to come out bright. "Not even gonna think of touching a memory bank he's been in--"

        Asteroid's head cracks apart; what is inside is much different than what she expected, and for a moment Shalune has to wonder if that's it - if that's some kind of signal that perhaps Castle's done, that his only goal was to show them this in hopes they'd somehow give up on Asteroid right then and there. That hope starts to fail rapidly as the girl begins to scream, and Shalune sucks in a sudden and fearful breath before trying to speak: "Astie! It's-- it's okay, it's--"

        It's not enough, and she senses more than spots the power of the Guardian above them, feels the cracks race along the platform they're standing on. Instinctively, she curls into a ball, protecting her face with her arms; she's thankful for the heavy clothes she wears, the glassy material cutting past her without much injury. But the ball of light sears, and she grits her teeth as she realizes they're plummeting downwards, downwards, downwards into what might be neverending space.

        The straps of her backpack whip at her; for a moment, she wonders if she should pull the Little Dipper beneath her to begin flying, but it doesn't seem like she's liable to get much in the way of leverage with which to actually grab her craft. Instead, she sucks in a breath, forcing her mind to ground itself, letting the more practical part of her take over. It's not like they can actually be falling through space. They're in a lab, she tells herself. A very strange lab, but a lab nonetheless. She's not prepared to take anything here at face value.

        "--aah, jeez!" she forces herself to grouse past the wind. "We didn't think any less of you for havin' a rock head, why would we think less of you for anything else you look like?!" Not the most empathic she's ever been, but-- this isn't quite the time.

        It takes an effort against the fall, but she grunts as she wrenches one pocket of her coat open, simply letting several small spheres tumble away above her; rather than bother to aim in this sort of situation, she simply swings her staff around and up towards them, squeezing the trigger to fire a short-range blast of power that sends them rocketing away in a wide-ranged bloom of explosions.

GS: Shalune Amira has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Handball!
GS: Shalune Amira has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

Cyre is already the Guardians, Asty. This is in fact his entire schtick. Or at least, a significant portion of it. The shaman vaults back, his wind-lance dispersing back into lingering air currents that seem so foreign here in the void of space. "Damnit. This isn't working. Whatever that... That stuff is, it's keeping her in the fight. It's pushing her too far...! Ethius--"

Ethius... hits her.

Ethius cracks her head open, and reveals...

A kid

"Lydia--" Cyre starts, his eyes widening. "Lydia, you're... The same as me...?" The asteroid-head, that was the nanomachines, wasn't it? Did she go willingly to Alexander to find a... A 'cure' for her natural state? "Wait, no--" Cyre cuts himself off as he notices something amiss. Something terribly amiss. Gravity is briefly going the wrong way. He looks up and finds...

Oh.

Oh no.

"Damnit. Asty!" Rigdobrite smashes into the glass walkway, turning it into so many cutting shards. The shaman raises his arms with a yell. Raw concussive force smashes into him, fragments of shattered glass cutting deep gashes across his arms and legs. He's blasted back, sent flying into the abyss of stars...!

"Asty--" Cyre murmurs, his hand seizing around the Medium of the Gale Claw. "You... You're just like me. I should have seen it. Damnit...!"

There's a flash of green light.

And suddenly, the out-of-control freefall becomes just a little bit more... controlled. Or rather, a tremendous rise of wind gushes out from below, buoying everyone's fall with raw gale-force. A new, green star flickers in the distance... And grows larger, and larger, and--

Schroedinger is not the only miracle cat here today, it seems.

A humanoid white tiger, wreathed in brilliant green energy surges in from the darkness between the distant stars. A tremendous cutting wind precedes the claw that goes to seize around Asteroid's terrible bulbous growth. "Lydia, I'm a beastman too, you know!? Come on, snap out of it! I'm sure there are people out there who think horns are cute!"

DC: Cyre H. Lorentz switches forms to Nahual - Fengalon!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Gale Claw!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

well, just because cyre took on the form of a god-- it doesn't mean he's going to be any less terrible

DC: MISS! Asteroid the Kid completely evades Conflagration from Lily Keil!
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

This is a confusing fight. After her initial charge, Xantia looks to others to base her follow-up action on, but can't figure out what the plan is that way. If there is one, but probably there is, she's just missing it.

In the process, she spots the other masked person yelling about striking pressure points, and-- gets distracted. Not because masked people are at all unusual of course, she just saw Carina's technique and felt compelled to comment, "No, no, that's not how you do it! It works better if you only hit one point just right! Here, let me..."

She doesn't get any further than that before Asteroid's 'mask' begins to crack. Perceiving things in such a way, it's not a particularly huge shock to her to see it happening, nor to find there's a Beastman hidden behind it. She completely fails to see any problem here, and so innocently reacts to the ensuing panicked request to not look, "Why not? You look fine, right?" That's probably not making matters any better.

The next thing she knows, a Guardian is summoned, and she loses a solid foothold, starting to fall. There's an obvious moment of panic, wishing more strongly than ever that she could fly, before she manages to get her faculties in order enough to refocus on the situation.

It's Lily's scream that does it. That causes obvious alarm, and a shout of "Lily!", before she stops trying to fight her descent with flailing arm movements, and dives down more rapidly of her own accord, to get closer to where Asteroid just got forcibly removed from Lily. She hasn't decided what to do just yet, and so tries to put herself in Asteroid's shoes. If it was her being forced to fight against her friends, how would she want her friends to respond?

When Xantia reaches Asteroid, it is fist-first, using her momentum to deliver a single powerful strike. Fight how you would fight any threat to your life. Looks like that's her answer.

Almost immediately after, she casts a concern gaze towards Lily. She'd go over if she could, but it's not exactly easy, given the freefall. So instead she merely shouts, "Hang in there! I won't let her get close again!" Not that she has any idea how she's going to do that, either.

<Pose Tracker> Emma Hetfield has posed.

 
Emma has no idea what she's doing! She's blind as a bat with LASIK, which is to say that she can mostly make out the screen of the Emulator right now. The lights are no doubt beautiful and Emma is going to be sore she missed them, if she doesn't die.

Then Asteroid - Lydia - cries out. Emma raises her head. She can, vaguely, see a hint of green. "?? As-- Lydia! Do you mind if I call you Lydia?! Same hair color, sister! There's nothing -"

The floor shatters and Emma falls down. She tightens herself for long enough that it feels kind of absurd, but after ten or twelve seconds she relaxes, if for no other reason than that the only thing that has hit her was a deep gouging gash in her arm, which is presently trailing red droplets of glistening ruby science-blood behind her.

The Guardians are called upon in rapid succession. Emma's hair trails behind her. She squints. She continues to not be able to see shit nor dick, and this is really bothering her. She looks back down to her computer screen, a far better use of her time.

More files come up. There is a loading of data. Soon enough a shuttlecock of invisible force, keeping its pace perfectly with the Emulator for it is OF the Emulator, produces a thick cocoon (cuccoon?) of yellow fluffy material. Emma leans downwards and lands on it, hitting execute and, frankly, aiming at two random targets.

One of them is Lily Keil, who is also probably full of blood. The other is attracted to the gravitational pull of Catenna, possibly snuggling her by force.

GS: Emma Hetfield has attacked Emma Hetfield with Silhouette Emit!
GS: Emma Hetfield has attacked Catenna with Silhouette Emit!
GS: Emma Hetfield has attacked Lily Keil with Silhouette Emit!
GS: Emma Hetfield takes 8 damage from Poison!
GS: Emma Hetfield has completed her action.
GS: Catenna takes a solid hit from Emma Hetfield's Silhouette Emit for 0 hit points!
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Catenna!
GS: Xantia has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Focus Punch!
GS: Xantia has completed her action.
GS: Lily Keil takes a solid hit from Emma Hetfield's Silhouette Emit for 0 hit points!
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Lily Keil!
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

There's a look of alarm on Jacqueline's face as Asteroid's asteroid begins to crack. She had always thought it was her head, but...it cracks, and shatters away... But beneath it, she sees a face. Jacqueline's momentarily taken aback...

Surprised, not fearful. But Asteroid - Lydia - screams in terror.

"N-no, it's-" Jacqueline starts...then looks up as she sees the form of Rigdobrite appear. The Guardian crashes itself into the floor...and Jacqueline feels the floor give way beneath her.

As far as shrapnel from the shattered floor and the shockwave from the Material itself, Jacqueline manages to avoid significant damage easily. But there is a problem here.

She sees no floor below them. They're all falling. Falling into the abyss. Jacqueline pales. Is this how they were going to die? Her body feels wholly useless for a moment.

Lily's loud scream gets her attention, shocking her back to reality. She looks her way in horror. It is at this time that she feels a strong wind beneath her, slowing her fall.

That'd be Cyre, then. With the immediate fear of a terrible death by falling from a high distance subdued, Jacqueline looks back to her friend and draws a Crest.

"Sh-Shalune's right...you're still our friend...we won't think any differently of you! We welcome everyone...no matter who or what they are, or where they come from! That's always been the Caravan Kinship's way!" Jacqueline says. ...Cyre does have a good point, too, but she isn't sure she should really acknowledge it... "A-and that's why...we have to bring you back to us!"

Falling as they are and with the winds raging around them, she has to really keep a tight grip on her Crest to prevent it from being blown away and lost to her. She manages to invoke it, causing the air to crackle and spark before bringing lightning down in her direction.

GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Lightning Strike!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Carina Wynne has posed.

Dang, Carina thinks, Shalune is sounding kind of cool right now. But at least Ethius is focused on something else than doing a murder right now. That's good.

She hops back, panting, once Ethius moves in for-- Well, not the kill, at least. And then the mask cracks and falls apart, revealing...

Huh.

"Hey. Hey, it's okay!" She waves her hands, putting on her best reassuring big sister voice. "Nobody here's gonna jud-- WHOA!!"

She staggers back as Rigdobrite makes a personal appearance. This is her first time witnessing a Guardian summon, you see. And then it CRASHES into the floor, sending them tumbling, tumbling, tumbling...

Locus shields herself, the metallic armor doing a good job deflecting the glass shards, while the rest of her body rolls with the crash. Of course, then she has to worry about, well... Falling.

Her ponytail hangs high up in the air as she falls and falls along with everyone else. She screams for a moment, but soon realizes that this fall is much longer than she anticipated. Well. Let's roll with it, she thinks. She's been doing a lot of that lately.

"All right, time for a very special attack!" She maneuvers herself with surprising ease for someone who's never been in infinite freefall, reducing the air resistance in order to gain falling speed. Does that even make any sense? Who cares. She sure doesn't.

"The PAIN TRAIN'S not stoppin' just yet, but it stops TONIGHT for someone who's already been hurt WAY TOO MUCH! TAKE THIS! INFINIIIIITE ELBOW DROP!"

And she does exactly as announced, elbow-dropping the asteroid-less 'Asteroid' from an incalculable distance.

GS: Carina Wynne has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Infinite Elbow Drop!
GS: Carina Wynne has completed her action.
GS: Asteroid the Kid takes a glancing hit from Carina Wynne's Infinite Elbow Drop for 47 hit points!
GS: Asteroid the Kid takes a solid hit from Virginia Maxwell's Medium - Cuccoflare for 88 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Maya Schrodinger has posed.

The walkway doesn't just shatter, it explodes. It's hard to plan for, especially when you're not sure what awaits at the bottom of the long fall. In essence, the tormented Lydia contributes (perhaps even finishes) what Maya intended to start: how is Castle's machinery going to stand up to the might of a falling star?

The patterned field of light around the young sorceress may serve as a hint: not terribly well! The magical field cracks, splits, and then shatters explosively as the shockwave from Rigdobrite's impact carries Maya into the wall, first, and then deposits her tumbling into the infinite blackness. Ablative magical shielding is all well and good, but a devastating blow to the head remains something that's hard to come back from. "Guh--!" is the eloquent noise of surprise as Maya's breath departs her lungs against her will.

Projected sound pulse amplitude from impact: 171 Db, energy yield: 772 kilotons.

Consciousness is quick to return to the spellslinger, as Virginia seeks her input on how to use crest sorcery. She falls alongside the meteor, eyes blinking open to see a mildly erroneous use of the Medium. "I have no idea," she groggily reports, righting herself with a tumble. "You're the crest expert!"

Maya grabs her pal Virginia by the shoulder quite briefly, using her as a point to pivot off of in this madcap freefll. The image of the rock shattering, and the true form of poor Lydia in the silhouette of a meteor's impact, sucks the fang-grin wind out of her sails. "She's way too strong to be losing control like this, I'm gonna try to tie her up before someone gets killed. Tch, if we could just calm her down...!"

No sense blaming yourself, Schrodinger. (The girl, not the cat.) Maya releases Ginny and floats upwards, cape billowing as they plummet towards the stars. "Astie, listen up! That was you that did that," where 'that' means 'meteor', "not the guy pretending he's all that! And that's fine! You're winning, so come back to us and I swear, it's fine!"

While Maya is saying this, of course, she's drawing an invisible bow with her fingers. An arrow of elongated, scarlet flame swirls into form--and is then loosed, soaring for the green-haired shaman's extremities. It twists and turns like a missile, ribbons of coiling flame in its wake, and tries to wrap around poor Astie's arms or legs rather than pierce her. Which is still kind of painful, but it's the thought that counts.

GS: Asteroid the Kid takes a solid hit from Catenna's Heavy Crush for 143 hit points!
GS: Maya Schrodinger has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Flare Arrow!
GS: Maya Schrodinger has been weakened by Disease! They take 0 hit points of damage, and burn off their temporary hit points!
GS: Maya Schrodinger has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        Ethius stumbles forward after the lunging strike finds its purchase against Asteroid's head. He catches himself in a kneel again up close, as Shalune returns her piece of the argument. He should not be fighting in his current state, but some greater cause compels him to risk further aggravated harm to his person. When it cracks, his upper body leans back. His eyes widen. His right hand parts from the grip of his weapon to go up to not his forehead, but his bandanna.
        He lowers it as the rock head parts into two, revealing her head. Her hair. Her face. Her horns. The way she starts to grasp at it.
        "Miss Lyd--" He is cut off by her screaming. He tries to reach out with that hand, but that is just the opening she needs to stick her foot into his gut. He slides on his back against the glass floor - this action is what saves him from Rigdobrite's visage, appearing and going into a rampage from the galaxy-sky above.
        The end result is the same - he plunges, caught into the abyss. It takes some finangling to get the Hot Air Sack around the arm with the bad shoulder. He doesn't activate it yet. It's a risk, but he needs his healthier shoulder to keep acting, keep fighting.
        Lydia's panic and terror at being seen strikes him. Is she afraid of him seeing her like this? That... that meant something befor-- no. He's falling, he doesn't see the bottom, there's no time to be lost in thought even if he is working through that earlier Kaguya-granted concussion.
        He sees Lily scream and struggle with grievous injury. Someone he felt he had to kill for sake of... something important soon rendered moot, long ago. He shakes his head. The visage of a great firebird appears... his eyes struggle to follow Lydia's movements when gravity starts to shift. If Lydia's descent is arrested as such the group will separate in free-fall, he'll chant the needed incantations for the burst of hot air to slow his descent in spurts until he can get level with her again.
        "There are misgivings about my methods." Ethius speaks. He caught Virginia's nickname for him. Shalune's desire not to drag Jay and the rest down a dark, bloody path. He's pretty sure Lily might have a contingency plan to try and dispose of him anywhere within this crazy place when the job's done. All the times Jay sat him down to tell him how much she disapproves of what he did, though never seeming to quite cross that final line.
        Ethius maneuvers himself around Cyre with the help of the deafening wind that whips about, as the Nahual tries to speak to her heart about being a beastman themselves.
        "My priority is that she live without fear of that man ever again." Is he saying this for them to hear, or does he need to say this for himself when cast about by so much fear, despair, and distrust before something he seems to feel so very strongly about, swaying past the electricity and the flying elbow drop of METAL DIGGER LOCUS whom he spares a glare at. He tries to find that opening, reaching out with his one unoccupied hand to go for the neck, favoring the flesh side, attempting to position himself so she can't so easily bring an arm up to shield her true face away.
        He stares into her - but these words aren't for her, specifically, as he tries to turn the grip into a squeeze - a choke! To weaken her ability to inflict involuntary harm through oxygen deprivation, as Maya nearby is trying to grap at some of her other limbs.
        "Nothing else matters." This message, though he may be yet face to face with Asteroid, is specifically to Castle -
        This man will stop at nothing until he fulfills that aforementioned priority. Not even grievous injury and the latest inflicted concussion from the Sunken City.

GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Don't Choke Now!
GS: Ethius Hesiod takes 5 damage from Poison!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
GS: CRITICAL! Asteroid the Kid takes a solid hit from Ethius Hesiod's Don't Choke Now for 117 hit points!
GS: Jam! Statuses applied to Asteroid the Kid!
GS: Asteroid the Kid takes a solid hit from Xantia's Focus Punch for 137 hit points!
GS: Asteroid the Kid takes a solid hit from Maya Schrodinger's Flare Arrow for 161 hit points!
GS: Asteroid the Kid takes a solid hit from Shalune Amira's Handball for 131 hit points!
GS: Asteroid the Kid takes a solid hit from Jacqueline Barber's Lightning Strike for 135 hit points!
GS: Asteroid the Kid takes a solid hit from Cyre H. Lorentz's Gale Claw for 136 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Asteroid the Kid has posed.

Lydia's body starts glowing with circuitry patterns. It's in small portions of her body before it starts to expand. She looks confused. "What..." She says. "You have them too?" Lily's wave of flame manages to push Asteroid off of Lily but it doesn't actually hit her. She pushes back and away from them, revealing another troubling fact. The OTHER Medium she has is helping her maneuver this fall. This place was chosen well as a trap. Carina tackles helps push her below the group with an elbow drop, though this also means that Carina is probably going to be the first time to hit the ground first.

...You know, if we ever actually see the ground. It's still not within view. Just how deep is this place? Does it even have a bottom?

"Don't...don't look at me..." Lydia says, but Virginia reminds her of what she had said before. She'd accept how she looked, no matter what. Her brief freakout slows down in that moment but she's still set upon by a flaming chicken who swoops around, dynamically pecking at her from all directions before Lydia pushes up against the wall and summons a portal and chucks the bird through it before closing it.

The cucco reappears on the surface and starts chasing after Solarian agents who arrived to secure the statue. You can't hear their screaming.

The fire cucco can but it knows not mercy.

Ethius slams his hand into Asteroid's neck and she tries to turn away so he can't look into his face. She slides against the wall, ripping open her back, leaving silver trails against it. "Ethius..." She says, remembering his words about her future. She doesn't think it's going to happen. "Get...away!" A bright light erupts from her body and impacts against Ethius, forcing him back. "Just give up on me already...!"

Emma asks if she can call her Lydia. She is perplexed and opens her mouth to answer but her reponse is too hoarse to hear. She pushes off only for Xantia to slam Asteroid back against the far wall once more with enough force that it cracks. She spits silver fluid onto Xantia but again--no vocal answer just yet.

But Maya does get an answer as she sends searing hot fire into her arms, holding her still for what's about to come. "It was me...?" Was it her? "But how can I...they're not me? They're something...they're something he put in me."

Shalune and Jay also reassure her they'll still be her friend. Why did she react like that, Asteroid thinks, why did she think they'd be anything like the people who tormented her in the past? She's not giving them enough credit.

Electrical blasts slam into her. They don't seem too effective compared to everything else, but it's hard to tell for sure considering what they might be doing to the machines inside. The orbs slam into her and as we know, orbs are the most dangerous weapon of all in Nier. She is batted about between them before she finally manages to push off back into the center of the freefall area.

Cyre talks to her. "Mom and dad..." Asteroid says. "They told me I had to hide them... They wanted to file them down but it hurt too much..." The wind bats her about through the air but Asteroid uses it to push herself back up through the sky as she gazes down. "But if I can control it I'll... I'll try!"

And then Catenna picks up with the power of gravity, something that is very useful in this situation, and starts slamming Lydia around from wall to wall with her powers. Asteroid literally has no defense against this situation as meteors are not known for their resillience to gravitational pulls. She is bashed between wall and wall over and over again with no real defense against it. Asteroid doesn't retaliate immediately as she squints her eyes tight before she cries out in agony again and summons a slew of portals below the group right as they're about to pass through them.

A barrage of lasers erupt through them, threatening to slam into them over and over if they can't carefully navigate through them!

"Hold on...!!" Asteroid shouts. "I'm still trying...!! Okay Emma?? That's...science!!"

GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Solar Burst!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Lily Keil with Solar Slicer!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has activated a Force Action!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has activated a Force Action!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Maya Schrodinger with Freefall!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Carina Wynne with Freefall!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Freefall!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Emma Hetfield with Freefall!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Cyre H. Lorentz with Freefall!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Catenna with Freefall!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Virginia Maxwell with Freefall!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Shalune Amira with Freefall!
GS: Virginia Maxwell takes a solid hit from Asteroid the Kid's Freefall for 142 hit points!
GS: Maya Schrodinger has activated a Force Action!
GS: CRITICAL! Maya Schrodinger critically Guards a hit from Asteroid the Kid's Freefall for 31 hit points!
GS: Poison, Cripple, Jam, and Mute! Statuses applied to Maya Schrodinger!
GS: Emma Hetfield takes a solid hit from Emma Hetfield's Silhouette Emit for 0 hit points!
GS: Shield! Statuses applied to Emma Hetfield!
GS: Catenna takes a glancing hit from Asteroid the Kid's Freefall for 58 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Emma Hetfield takes a solid hit from Asteroid the Kid's Freefall for 144 hit points!
GS: Poison, Cripple, Jam, and Mute! Statuses applied to Emma Hetfield!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has completed her action.
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz takes a glancing hit from Asteroid the Kid's Freefall for 57 hit points!
GS: Lily Keil guards a hit from Asteroid the Kid's Solar Slicer for 61 hit points!
GS: Disrupt! Statuses applied to Lily Keil!
GS: CRITICAL! Carina Wynne takes a solid hit from Asteroid the Kid's Freefall for 125 hit points!
GS: Poison, Cripple, Jam, and Mute! Statuses applied to Carina Wynne!
GS: Asteroid the Kid has attacked Catenna with Kitty Power!
GS: Catenna takes a glancing hit from Asteroid the Kid's Kitty Power for 0 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Shalune Amira critically Guards a hit from Asteroid the Kid's Freefall for 31 hit points!
GS: Poison, Cripple, Jam, and Mute! Statuses applied to Shalune Amira!
GS: Jacqueline Barber guards a hit from Asteroid the Kid's Freefall for 67 hit points!
GS: Ethius Hesiod takes a solid hit from Asteroid the Kid's Solar Burst for 68 hit points!
GS: Break! Statuses applied to Ethius Hesiod!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has activated a Force Action!
GS: You have activated the Force Action Extend!
GS: You do not have enough Force to pay that attack's cost.
GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Lily Keil with Boosting Brew!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Xantia with Boosting Brew!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Carina Wynne with Boosting Brew!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
GS: Carina Wynne takes a solid hit from Jacqueline Barber's Boosting Brew for 0 hit points!
GS: Hyper! Statuses applied to Carina Wynne!
GS: Reload! Carina Wynne gains 15 extra FP from Jacqueline Barber!
GS: Xantia takes a solid hit from Jacqueline Barber's Boosting Brew for 0 hit points!
GS: Hyper! Statuses applied to Xantia!
GS: Reload! Xantia gains 15 extra FP from Jacqueline Barber!
<Pose Tracker> Virginia Maxwell has posed.

        Virginia is *still* descending on a burning meteor that, by all rights, should be cooking her.

        Maybe it's the warmth of Moor Gault's Medium upon her, having finally received some semblance of acceptance between summoner and Guardian... or maybe it's just Virginia's crest-dress helping guard against ambient powers. Aunt Sheila knows how to make a combat gown, okay?

        "That's doo-doo and you know it!" Virginia balks at Asteroid. "You should be proud of how you look! Big or small, fat or slim... I mean you just got fixed by a dog-shaped Dogtor for Guardians' sake! You think anyone in that village gives a hoot about how the world perceives them??"

        Virginia doubles down on her meteor ride and-- gets pierced by a laser coming through her way, flung through the portal and getting cooked by it--

        "Hey... uh--"

        She stares towards the portal.

        "This has to lead somewhere, right? Lasers... where do lasers come from? Maya, I'm gonna give something crazy a shot!"

        Maya Schrodinger would know this is something Virginia Maxwell says every other day. Every day, if she's unlucky. She sucks in a breath, powers up with the Galecrest and exclaims--

        "Geronimooooo--!!"

        Virginia hucks herself into one of the open portals and uses a barrier of wind to barely, barely not get disintegrated by laser to enter into...

        ... into...

        worlds unknown??

GS: Virginia Maxwell has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Galecrest!
GS: Virginia Maxwell has completed her action.
GS: Lily Keil takes a solid hit from Jacqueline Barber's Boosting Brew for 0 hit points!
GS: Hyper! Statuses applied to Lily Keil!
GS: Reload! Lily Keil gains 15 extra FP from Jacqueline Barber!
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

The fluffy shield Catenna gets from Emma helps. It helps more than Emma might immediately realize. The moon shaman curls into it a little as she watches the rest of the people in the shaft unload on poor Lydia.

She can hear the girl crying. Sobbing out her grievances. The things she wanted to hide. A quiet ache throbs in the Ellurian priestess's heart that has nothing to do with the stab wound Asteroid the Kid inflicted earlier.

"You should never be ashamed of the things you are born with," she calls down to Lydia. There's a softness in Catenna's voice. Small tears stream behind her, little liquid drops of moonlight even as she descends into the laser barrage. Screaming beams of light race towards her. Fabric and flesh burn away as a few lance past her.

She closes her eyes and trusts in gravity to see her through. The world falls around her.

No. The world pulls us in.

"Lydia, please," she says. "It does not matter to us what you look like.

"We love you," Catenna says as she reaches for her Medium. "As our friend."

Delicate fingertips trace over the weather-worn stone. The priestess murmurs a few words in a tongue not of this continent. Familiar yet unknowable but to those who have learned them. But the call is the same.

There is a sudden spark of light in the middle of the freefall. It shines in a brilliant, serene blue.

And the momentum of every last person in the shaft begins to change.

There is no freefall anymore - not for a brief moment. Downward momentum smoothly shifts, curves... evens out. Tumbling bodies settle until they begin to trace circular arcs around that spark of light. From within it, a pair of blue butterfly wings flick apart, briefly revealing a slender figure enthroned upon a crescent moon. Her serene smile is gone a second later... but that spark remains.

Catenna has pulled everyone into a sedate orbit around the power of the Guardian of the Moon.

"We love you no matter how you were born," Catenna murmurs as she orbits that blue star, circling past Lydia.

"When I think of my friend, Lydia Seren... I think of someone who came to help me when I needed her. Someone who saved my life when I was willing to throw it away. A kind person who has suffered too much.

"I care about you," Catenna beseeches as gravity carries her away from Asteroid on a quickening orbit, "regardless of the shape of the body that carries your soul within it, Lydia!"

GS: Catenna has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Material - Merciless Queen!
GS: Catenna has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Asteroid the Kid takes a solid hit from Catenna's Material - Merciless Queen for 231 hit points!
GS: Poison! Statuses applied to Asteroid the Kid!
GS: Maya Schrodinger has attacked Cyre H. Lorentz with Laphas Seed!
GS: Maya Schrodinger takes 9 damage from Poison!
GS: Maya Schrodinger has completed her action.
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz takes a solid hit from Maya Schrodinger's Laphas Seed for 0 hit points!
GS: Reload! Cyre H. Lorentz gains 15 extra FP from Maya Schrodinger!
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        A bright, burning light strikes against Ethius. His former-Lydia-grabbing hand swings wildly at the air as distance is forced between the two. His sight leaves him for a time as he is incapable of looking away - nor does he wish to. His clothes, already dusty, worn, and blackened from frequent exposure to high levels of heat, seem to smolder just that much more.
        He swings that arm outward against the thin air, as it takes time for his vision to return to him. He will not let her get away. As his eyes flush out the discolration imprinted by this bright light, it seems utterly improbable that he can keep track of anything and everything going on at all.
        It's an easy thing to miss, just how well Ethius can sometimes just track a technological thing's presence and movement. What sort of life did this man live that would see him so obsessed - so attuned - that he could doggedly chase even the very slightest change in ambient noise? Electrical hums, the click of an ARM. To what end did he learn to notice these things? Through all distractions present by being surrounded by other technological things, he manages to track her elevation relative to the rest - weaving and diving along past lasers.
        With Catenna's help, everyone's momentum slows. Their violent descent softens into an orbit. His present orbit keeps him at an angle going away from Lydia.
        He will not have it. Flittering his fingers underneath the Hot Air Sack wrapped around that designated (wounded) arm, he starts trying to direct his drift against it. If he was willing to wait, the orbit would take her to him.
        He elects not to wait, struggling through that injured shoulder. He just charges forward through it all, even as the colorful imprints on his eyes have yet to fade. Despite her cries, he will not be giving up so easily.
        "Miss Lydia." Ethius speaks as he approaches. He has a feel for what's going to come next. With the free hand not inside the Hot Air Sack, he flitters his fingers in preparation. "Please look my way."
        He quietly chants under his breath the verbal component for the proper spell. A bright, blinding shell of light surrounds him - like a photosphere. It is only mildly mean-spirited that this will wreak havoc with Lydia's eyesight, but that is, in this moment, the point.
        He seeks to temporarily blind Castle's view of the action as to not be able to discern what action to yank Lydia's body into doing next. All the better to give an opening for someone, anyone, to find the means to disable whatever governs her body's ability to communicate its findings back to them.

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

"Your... They did what to you!?" It's a rare and strange experience to see a divinely aspected tiger man wear an expression resembling a mixture of 'horror' and 'disgust' and 'sympathy' but there it is. It's something that really doesn't belong on a beast's face, being something wholly in the province of man to articulate properly, but somehow the Nahual of Fengalon manages it. "Khhhh. What the hell did they do that for!? Just because their daughter's different...! What a load of crap! I'll tell them off myself if I have to!"

It seems like 'discrimination against beastfolk' is not something Cyre appreciates.

There are obvious reasons for this.

But then...

There's gravity...!

AND LASERS...!!

"Ghh-" The tiger disengages-- or rather, he's forced to disengage. The tiger has an easier time dealing with it than the others, however. Being capable of flight is a great help when you're being pulled into orbit around...

Celes...due?

Catenna has her mediums back!? Cyre's head snaps to and fro trying to find her in the chaos of the Merciless Queen's manifestation. He can't, but only because there's too much momentum at play. The wind howls, suddenly pushing the tiger into a different trajectory. He circles, orbiting around the brilliant planetoid at breakneck speeds until finally he finds what he's looking for.

"Come on, Asty!" Cyre shouts, pushing himself to smash right into her at breakneck speeds. But what comes of it isn't Kessler Syndrome in miniature, but... A big, tiger hug*...! "We'll help you fight this. One way or another. We just need to burn through these nanomachines, right? If anyone can figure out how to do it, it's... Well. Not me. But you! And Emma, and Shallune. Nanomachines or not, we'll figure out a way to help! Even IF that's just punching out anyone who tries to say those horns are weird or wrong!"

(*Like a bear hug, except stronger and, in this particular circumstance, accompanied by a tremendous rush of wind.**)

(**Hey. If sand can get blown away by a stiff breeze, then why not a cloud of active nanomachines...!?)

GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Coronal Shell!
GS: Ethius Hesiod takes 5 damage from Poison!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Awakening Air!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

They're still falling. Portals start opening beneath them, unleashing a seemingly endless barrage of lasers. Jacqueline draws out a Crest and flourishes it downward. Lasers are met with a flurry of icy needles. They disintegrate on impact, but each laser that is intercepted is one less she has to take herself.

And some do manage to get through - by the end of it, there's burn marks all over from where they had collided with her...

But she's still moving. She can't stop. For the sake of her friend...she has to keep going.

Jacqueline reaches into her bags, drawing out three bright-red potions. She casts her gaze about, trying to get a good idea of where everyone is. Unfortunately, in an environment like this, aiming is...difficult. Even if she were to throw them, she couldn't help that they would reach anyone.

...But soon, this stops. She feels a familiar pull. She feels the power of Celesdue, invoked by Catenna, stabilizing everyone.

It's enough. In that moment, she fixates on three targets - three friends. People who are situated in such a way as to be more effective than anything she could do here...

"Xantia, Lily, Miss Locus...! Please, take these!" Jacqueline shouts, hurling the three bottles out into space...out toward her friends. The liquid inside is invigorating, filling the embiber with energy and strength.

Catenna gives a speech, and Jacqueline adds in her own.

"That's right! You've been there for us many times...you're our friend! A treasured member of the Caravan Kinship... Please...don't forget that! We still have a world to see together...don't you still want to make a name for yourself...?" Jacqueline urges.

<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

"I--" Lily gasps, and looks... Really, really bad, staring at Lydia's confusion, staring at the way she glows with the patterns Lily has come to recognize. "H-how...?" Them? "I don't--"

Xantia calls encouragement, and Lily, still reeling, shakes her head. She breathes, "I'm.. f-fine..." As the tiger and the whirlwind appear; as people call out to Lydia. To Asteroid. ...As a barrier of strange yellow material becomes Lily's shield, immobilizing her badly injured arm which is likely for the best. "Don't know what's that..."

The pain train keeps going. ...Ethius looks to her. Ethius, who she's decided she had to kill for a time, even if she does not yet. ...It's true that she has a contingency plan, for if it becomes necessary. But it is far from her mind. She looks to him, for a moment. HIs methods...

"...There are," she agrees with him. Looks closer. He reaches to grip--

"...Good...Goal..." A cough, "Guess you can... live..."

Lily starts leaning forward, attempting to push herself somewhere, but she just rotates in the air and regrets it, feeling nauseous. Asteroid talks about 'them' again, them that she has, that--

"Sometimes parents..." Lily manages, calls out louder, "Do awful things." She thinks, dully, of her own father. ...And the gravity starts to take effect. Agony, Lily can see. The portals--

Lily takes a beam at the barrier, which blunts the impact as she is knocked to the side regardless, burned further with her teeth gritted. The crackling power returns around her for an instant, aimless, before the stabilizing influence starts to... slow her. She looks up. She hears Jay's voice. A... 'friend', she's called here.

"Thanks," Lily says, and reaches out to grab the bottle with her good arm. The cork disintegrates, along with... part of the bottle's top, before she downs the liquid all at once.

Lily's eyes set. "...Kid..." She eyes Ethius. She thinks she sees his logic. "I'm..." She breathes, "Gonna try and overload the... connection... This is gonna hurt."

Lily lifts her good hand, letting the bottle drop, and starts to channel her power. Violet runes crackle about her, and there's an ugly sound of sparking--it looks as if something is painful, shorting out. "Haah..." The shadows around her grow too sharp, the void of the pit seeming to come alive for an instant. ...the first explosion bursts near Lydia, 'Asteroid', with the sort of strange colors one might see in the depths of space that she seeks, black and gray and white and purple, a foot across--and another, and another, growing larger, and larger, as Lily's eyes go completely black--and she keeps casting despite the cost. An equal and opposite reaction to the light... and interference enough if she can manage it. Just enough--

Lily hovers, unsteadily.

GS: Lily Keil has activated a Force Action!
GS: Lily Keil has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Gloomhammer!
GS: Lily Keil has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Carina Wynne has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=muKrX7jpM-E

Ethius finds an opening after Locus' elbow drop, and starts to... choke her?!

"Hey! WATCH IT!" Punching and throwing lightning at someone is one thing. Choking them is another. But no, his intention seems the same as theirs.

It's all made moot a second later, besides.

A barrage of portal lasers erupts, and Locus does her best to weave through them, but her dumb luck (and her armor's very selective guidance) finally runs out. Lasers blast through her armor, frying skin and drawing blood. Carina screams. She isn't used to this sort of pain yet.

But Catenna calls upon her own Guardian's power, pulling her and others out of the way of those deadly beams. "Whoa," Carina mutters, as soothing power envelops them all, putting them into a gentle orbit. She's not a planet, but she WAS named after a constellation. She catches a flung bottle from Jacqueline, fumbling with it until it breaks, soaking into her armor... And it doesn't heal her, but at least gives her more energy to go on with this. "Thanks, Miss Jay!"

She looks at Catenna, then the others. Well, this is a good opportunity to finish this.

"HEY! Asteroid," she calls out, "or whatever you want us to call you!"

Carina hesitates to call her 'Lydia'. Maybe it's her own inner masked weirdo talking, but it feels wrong doing so with someone she barely even knows, whether she's wearing the asteroid right now or not.

"I couldn't stop lookin' even if I wanted, because these eyes are stupid big! But there ain't no need for masks with us! Really, the only reason I'm wearin' one is 'cause it comes with the armor!"

She draws a small, glowing red marble out of nowhere in particular, swapping it with the yellow one already in her belt.

                                ELEMENT: FIRE_

Crackling electricity turns to embers.

"An' tell you what! It turns out you're real tough so we need to bring out the big guns-- Sorry 'bout that -- to knock you out. But once that's done? Tell you what. You're gonna wake up in a cozy bed and it'll be like this--" She gestures, flailingly, bobbing in her gentle orbit, "--THIS, everything, was all just one big nightmare."

She snaps her fingers. Small ROCKET BOOSTERS pop out of the boot on her right foot. Those attentive to her body language may notice that this seems as surprising to Carina as to anyone else. A very motivating insert song must be playing somewhere right now.

"So how 'bout this, Asteroid the Kid!" Locus points, dramatically foreshortened as her orbit picks up speed, swooping and swooping as an imaginary camera fails to keep up with her circular motion. Flames engulf her, as if she were reentering atmosphere at last.

"SHOW ME YOUR COSMIC MIND*! SHOOTING STAR KIIIIIICK!"

                            NEW ATTACK REGISTERED_

* Carina doesn't know either. She's just shouting something cool-sounding in the moment.

GS: Carina Wynne has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Finisher Kick!
GS: Carina Wynne takes 7 damage from Poison!
GS: Carina Wynne has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Emma Hetfield has posed.

 
Emma does that to people.

She keeps falling. I wish I'd brought the HINU, she thinks. At least then I could have a seat while falling to my death. The chaos whirls around her and she reflects to herself on the cruelty of the world. A parent that was ashamed of something about Asteroid. What would need filing down and also hurt?

She reasons it out: She must be a beastman of some kind, Emma thinks. A simple cuticle corn of some kind could be excised with relatively little pain, even if it was disfiguring. From there, surgical redress would be straightforward; she would be blemished, but not... well, she thinks, not like that.

Her printed-out protective cuccoon begins burning in the flames of lasers. Emma cannot see them well enough to dodge. The material burns around her and she curls up to fall faster, and she cradles... Something.

Emma is biting the cover off the Punchy Gun's top.

One might fairly ask, why is it that she puts them on the gun anyway if she's just going to do this so often? The answer is branding. One might also ask 'is she going to fire it blindly'? The answer is in your heart.

(it is 'yes'.)

"Lydia--! As long as you learn from your mistakes, and keep moving forwards...!!" Emma calls, to try and be encouraging.

GS: Emma Hetfield has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Inspirational Words - Maybe?!
GS: Emma Hetfield takes 8 damage from Poison!
GS: Emma Hetfield has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Asteroid the Kid takes a solid hit from Lily Keil's Gloomhammer for 325 hit points!
GS: Asteroid the Kid takes a solid hit from Carina Wynne's Finisher Kick for 171 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Maya Schrodinger has posed.

Quoth Lydia, the Kid: '... They're not me? They're something he put in me.' as she single-handedly holds Filgaia's finest at bay, tenuous control over her faculties possibly strained to the limit. Maya can't quite tell. But she's worried. Yet, there is hope. She's sounding more coherent.

"He doesn't hold a candle to the damn Astie who looked after Virginia Maxwell!" Maya roars back at the green-haired girl, yet, this is not a cry of anger. No, it's exultant. Triumphant. It's not a desperate plea, it's something she's realized is a damn fact. "And we've almost got him, now! So grab my hand--grab anyone's hand! We're going home!"

Impassioned stuff, to be sure. Maya looks behind her, pirouetting midair, to find--

--Virginia Maxwell, fretting this way and that as she slides between lasers, before sliding into the portal and disappearing. The young sorceress's mouth gapes open briefly, and she decides this one time not to trust in Virginia's supernatural levels of good luck. She grabs her by the scruff of the dress and brings her along for what will soon be a supersonic, Itano Circus-style flight.

The first beam scythes across the blonde's form, but a rainbow film of light an inch out from her face catches it in a shower of sparks. "I know what it's like to feel ashamed of yourself! Scared, even!" Maya hollers on back, twisting between the Lunatic Difficulty barrage with arms by her sides, picking up speed. She weaves between Catenna, shrieking behind Jay with fighter-jet speed and cadence. She performs a totally bodacious aileron roll, shots innumerable pinging off of her magical shields.

"But you're in good company! When you can't get up, we'll carry you! When you feel scared, we're right there for you! When people try to take advantage of you, we'll be there to blast them!" Her voice is but one of many, a chorus of support that drowns out the shrill scream of laser-fire and spellflare.

She's had practice at this kind of thing. Moreso than hunting for actual treasure, lately.

                         Gravity gently takes hold.
                   The rush of freefall slows to a trickle.

A cloaked sorceress drifts slowly around the Guardian of the Moon, her long blonde hair waving gently in zero-gravity. In this diorama of the solar system formed by floating people, she is located somewhere approximately 35,786km away from whatever represents Filgaia in this imagery. "Huh." she seems surprised to have come to a relative halt, but not upset or alarmed. In the gentle well of graviity, Virginia Maxwell now sits in a professional-grade princess carry in her arms, which beats being dragged around at 9.81 m/s^2.

Depsite this coy setup, Maya thinks briefly on what Ethius said earlier. A word pings around her skull from other shouted fragments, too.

Nanomachine colony transmitting on 180 THz with no abnormalities.

A knowing smile creeps onto Maya's face and she clicks her fingers, her cloak briefly shimmering with a starfield pattern as she marries knowledge with imagination and aims her hand upwards, fingers pointed like a gun. "I think we should hang out with Astie a lot again after this, Ginny, don't you?"

The question is asked casually as the young sorceress cocks her thumb like a hammer and fires a blanketing web of flickering, dizzying static into the air. Like a magical chaff grenade, it hogs the upper wavelengths. What a peculiar thing to be familiar with.

<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Xantia is no stranger to getting blood on her. The silver fluid she gets spat back at her may be colored differently from the norm, but it still parses as 'this must be blood', leading to it getting wiped off her face rather nonchalantly. Perhaps later she'll wonder about its peculiar nature, though equal odds on her assuming that it's normal for that particular kind of Beastman.

Things threaten to rapidly go south as laser-portals are opened. In response, lightning bursts forth from Xantia's body as if shielding her. Does lightning even protect from lasers? Who knows! It was an instinctual reaction more than anything else. And the result is never discovered, because she happens to luck out, getting nabbed by the counter-force created by Catenna just before she's forced to undergo that particular ordeal. Having absolutely no idea what she's doing somehow pays off, once again!

As a bonus, she even manages to catch a potion thrown by Jay. There's no hesitation in downing it - there's never any doubt that whatever Jay gives her will be helpful. Sure enough, it provides a surge of energy, which may not be something anybody would ever say Xantia needs any more of, but she at least is grateful for it. "Thanks, Jay!"

What to do now, though? She just sorts of floats there for a moment, looking on at various expressions of friendship. She can't help but feel like there may be similarities with her own situation, which could have been vastly different if it wasn't for all the friends she made. She's not very good at putting these things into words, but... well, it feels like she should say something.

"Hey... I don't really know what's going on too well, but... you have all these friends who care about you. And friends accept you for who you are, it's what friends do. Let's be friends too! Then we can all make things better again together!" And after those kinds of words, what can you do but forcibly break free from stable orbit in order to give your new friend a big hug?

Xantia has completely forgotten that her body is still freely emitting lightning, which has only grown in intensity ever since downing Jay's potion. Whoops. Well, maybe lightning hugs can still be helpful...?

GS: Xantia has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Thunderstruck!
GS: Xantia has completed her action.
GS: Asteroid the Kid takes a solid hit from Xantia's Thunderstruck for 170 hit points!
GS: Asteroid the Kid takes a solid hit from Emma Hetfield's Inspirational Words - Maybe? for 0 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Shalune Amira has posed.

        Buffeted downwards, Shalune takes it upon herself to withdraw back into her coat, roughly tugging the collar of it up and her hat downwards in an attempt to keep herself away from serious harm; it helps to some extent as she's sent tumbling past asteroids and meteors that whirl around her as if they were stars, though the alchemist has to sheepishly wonder if it's just her experience in tumbling from the Little Dipper that's saving her here.

        Part of her is still trying to desperately cling to the act that they surely can't actually be freefalling through space; it has to be a projection of the Guardian, reckons the least magically-sensitive person in the entire complex right now, or perhaps something that the systems of the lab are generating around them as an illusion. Still, she can't really deny her body's senses, nor the lurching sense of vertigo that refuses to go away.

        Speaking of lurches - mass suddenly reasserts itself in a dizzying moment, and Shalune makes an unfocused 'ulp' of noise as she just about manages to keep her dinner down; the world swings around her uncertainly, and it takes her a long moment to realize that 'the world' is actually the shape of a Guardian, not exactly reasserting reality but at least asserting some kind of presence in the midst of this strange battle.

        The sudden lack of pressure on her arms would be freeing if it weren't sending her right off balance the other way; she pinwheels for 'balance', and only manages to end up spinning slightly less than she would otherwise. A panicked look around her tries to take in the battle, for all that perspective around them is extremely weird right now, and she dimly manages to figure out that she's actually on the other side of the Guardian to everyone else.

        Still, it's a moment she can use, and as she hears Jay's entreaty from afar, she finds herself gritting her teeth. This time, without the pull of momentum, she can swing her arms out and pull out the thick plate of the Little Dipper, throwing it below her; it stops dead in a way that absolutely shouldn't happen in this space, bound in place by the same gravity that's trapped the rest of them, and Shalune finds herself grinning manically as she plants her feet down onto it, immediately feeling more confident with the craft deployed.

        Hunkering down upon it, she guns its engines - and with the lack of air resistance suddenly sweeps forwards around the edge of the Guardian's field, an orbiting blob of pink that's picking up speed. One cycle around the Guardian and she's picked out Locus suddenly bursting into flame; she catches Emma's words, though they doppler away behind her as she makes another pass, draws in a breath, and-- suddenly lurches to one side as she throws her weight in that direction, yanking the Little Dipper abruptly out of the stable orbit to collide with Asteroid's back at the same time as the Locus collides with the girl's front.

        She's not terrifically smart, she knows, so all she can do is keep going. "--we ain't him!" she yells mid-impact. "And nor are you! Tear the thought of him outta your head!"

GS: Shalune Amira used Mystic on Shalune Amira! 100 Temporary HP gained! All statuses cleared!
GS: Shalune Amira has activated a Force Action!
GS: Shalune Amira has attacked Asteroid the Kid with Soaring Clouds!
GS: Shalune Amira has completed her action.
GS: Asteroid the Kid takes a solid hit from Cyre H. Lorentz's Awakening Air for 166 hit points!
GS: Asteroid the Kid takes a solid hit from Shalune Amira's Soaring Clouds for 171 hit points!
GS: Asteroid the Kid takes a solid hit from Ethius Hesiod's Coronal Shell for 121 hit points!
GS: Disrupt! Statuses applied to Asteroid the Kid!
GS: Asteroid the Kid takes a solid hit from Virginia Maxwell's Galecrest for 125 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Asteroid the Kid has posed.

"All I'm good at is hurting my friends," Lydia tries to tell Catenna desperately. "That's why they let me go...! So I could hurt you! Kaguya... All I could do was make her bleed! All I could do was make her leave!" Catenna does mention, however, something she did to help someone else. Someone she could help in that moment and she sputters incoherently, unable to come with a response. Everybody's pulled into an orbit, their freefall arrested. It makes it difficult to turn one's face away.

Jay keeps the reassurance up as well. It's hard to argue against such numbers, really. "Jay... I'm just...I'm just tired...But..."

But?

Lydia complains to Carina. "You're trying to make me laugh...gahhh you're such a weirdo...! What are you talking about??" Carina doesn't know either but hey, kicking her in the gut to slam her against the back wall works. Thin silver tendrils burst out from her back and stab into the wall to slow her descent and stabilize her. Practically like some kind of insane double cape. Geeze, at this rate Lydia might turn into a weirdo like Carina. You must stop her before that happens! More importantly, Carina changes the BGM to something peppy which tells everybody that their efforts are having an effect and they should keep it up!

Xantia hugs Lydia but she's electrified so Lydia shrieks and headbutts her away. Well it turns out Xantia's head is a lot stronger than Lydia's especially since the latter's head isn't a rock anymore but a wind burst blows her free after. Maybe..maybe hug her without electricity.

Cyre blasts away nano-clouds before they can settle on her. This is a viable offense that quickens Asteroid's weakening. Her body starts flashing that circuitry more and more as it tries to boost power output but is disrupted from her attempts by Shalune slamming into her the Locus from one side and Little Dipper from the other. Little Dipper in this area. Makes you think.

'It's just words, Asteroid.' Castle's voice rings in her ears. 'Pay them not mind and attack.'

Shutup, Asteroid thinks at that voice and slams her head back against the wall.

Ethius asks her to look at him. She twists her head to see and--

BLINDING! LIGHT! AGHH!! The cameras shut down as Asteroid squints her eyes tightly. This time without the cameras, this time without them, she thinks.

She drifts back into Catenna's orbit as she keeps her eyes tightly shut. She is reminded again and again of what science is by Emma and she's right. That's ultimately what science is isn't it? It's not giving up? In this moment of distraction, aided by Ethius's blindening assault, Lily does...something. Something only really she can do in this moment and she disrupts it. She snaps the connection off. She shuts it down. Castle's presence vanishes from Asteroid's body but now she has to move it on her own. The tech isn't managing her pain for her anymore and it's agony. She's oozing, dripping, bleeding, and shaking. It all hurts. Nobody could really understand it all. She just wants to fall over. Maybe she wasn't cut out to be a scientist, because all she wants to do is fall forward and give up. But the weight of words, the gentle gravity guiding her along the many orbits arrayed around the others. The circuit patterns flicker once and then fade. Whether they're gone or in remission is hard to tell, but they're stopped for now. When Asteroid gestures with her hand, it's her own hand.

She cant see what Ginny is doing, but she can imagine it. She can hear Maya loud and clear.

They'll carry her when she can't get up. And she'll do the same for them. Her eyes, watering, open up again as she stares at Maya Schrodinger in understanding. She says the words as she remembers them.

Castle can't hear her, but she says words to Castle anyway. "No matter how hard, or how painful...they...they never gave up. They kept fighting..."

She draws out her portal gun and fires it downward to the floor that you can now see rapidly approaching.

"They kept fighting because they believed they could overcome someday!" And she can do it too. That's science.

She looks at Virginia Maxwell and says, "Isn't...isn't that right, Ginny?" She laughs, shaking. "I'm sorry, for being such a slow learner but... but I won't forget it. I'll never forget that again."

She takes in a deep breath. "Even if it's pointless... I still have to do. Because Filgaia is the world that my friends are trying to save!"

She leaps through the portal and emerges on the other side.

The Solarians are still running from a rampaging chicken which has somehow multiplied into many chickens and the statue, well, it's right where you left it. Plenty of time to spare.

<Pose Tracker> Virginia Maxwell has posed.

        ITT: Virginia Maxwell learns that lasers are in fact insanely hot and--

        "OW OW OW OW OH GUARDIANS THIS WAS A BAD IDEA--"

        Fortunately, her smarter half is there to pluck her out from an insanely bad idea to another, sweeping her up and scooping her into the most dramatic of princess carries; there's-- a cheesy little grin as she turns towards her to go, "Uh-- hi, handsome?" She's pretty smitten, she won't lie.

        That peppy BGM starts playing, which is a cue for her to turn around as she-- reaches out with a tired, exhausted grin. She gives her a htumbs up, sniffling softly.

        "... no matter how hard. No matter how hopeless it looks. 'cause..."

        She shakes her head. "You could look through me and be there for me at my lowest point, like I said. And I don't care if you have doubts about whether you were a real friend or not... you're a true friend to me, and that's a Virginia Maxwell guarantee."

        She looks to Maya to go, "You're darn right we will! Rowdy Three they called us -- and you know, Astie, Lydia, that we've got our Third to convince, don't you?!"

        She's not sure what just happened... but it feels like Asteroid is back, and there's a hollered laughter as she just jumps straight through the portal after her friend.

        --and goes 'thunk' as she realises that she's suddenly gone sideways against the ground. She pulls up and stares at the chickens. "Holy smokes!"

        She stares at the stone Medium in her hand, then back again at the chicken massacre.

        "Guardians rock!"

<Pose Tracker> Shalune Amira has posed.

        Somehow, Shalune manages to stay on the Little Dipper, and even manages to pull the craft around in such a fashion that she can reenter the temporarily orbit of the Guardian's pull; it's not the greatest of ideas ever, really, not with the ground fast approaching - but then Asteroid summons an enormous portal below them just as the Guardian's power pops away, and Shalune again finds herself with a foolish, brilliant grin as she braces herself and swoops downwards and into it.

        Unfortunately, she's not very good at working with portals, and never stopped to wonder what angle she might emerge at; the sudden vertigo and the fact she's bracing herself against completely the wrong direction of gravity pitch her in a downwards angle towards the floor.

        Fortunately, she looks-- mostly okay. Perhaps there's some truth to her always saying that she bounces. It isn't a pretty dismount, though, as she pitches into a scattered tumble and contributes a statement roughly along the lines of 'egdfhhghghh--' before she careens to a halt as a messy pink-haired blob.

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Let's be real: Catenna has no idea how to handle technology. She has no idea what nanomachines even are. She literally lived in a tent in the woods until Jay gave her a room on the CaraKin.

She leaves the medical science to Ethius, Lily, Emma and Maya, and settles for giving speeches. And doing her best to keep Asteroid in orbit as those more enlightened than she do their work to sever the link between Asteroid the Kid -- no, Lydia -- and her tormentors.

As those circuit patterns fade away, Catenna rakes her arm across her face to brush away tears. Her smile is wide and genuine. Like the full moon rising over a calm night.

"You cannot do everything." Catenna closes her eyes and lets gravity take her again, orienting her towards the portal. "Sometimes you will be helpless in your life. And sometimes things are hard. But sometimes there are moments when you can do something. And you have done it. It is easy to see that as just small things."

Catenna smiles as the light of the portal begins to radiate across her. She sinks into it. Gravity draws her through. "But that is life," she murmurs.

"And you have so, so much of it ahead of you...."

There is a simple, sharp *click* as Catenna's heels touch the ground.

The priestess sags forward, bringing her hand up to the stab wound still bleeding just below her collarbone. She presses her lips together and inhales through her nose, then lets it out in a slow, serene rush that seems to carry the physical pain along with it.

"Only Grudiev and Dinoginos rock, Virginia," she murmurs with a smile. "But your point is well-taken."

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        The mysterious Symbologist sees himself through the portal on the other end as the combined forces of friendship and power come to a head to try and put an end to Castle's influence upon the long-ailing Beastwoman.
        With the help of the Hot Air Sack slowing his descent, he comes out the other side on his feet. With the harm of having to bend his injured shoulder as far back as he can, there is a hiss and yelp of pain he can't restrain even under the bandanna around his face. His other hand clutches at it for a time.
        ...The sstatue, it is still there. He takes a look about the rest. Yes. They don't know yet. It is best if he can keep up appearances on this front. The situation is dire. Everything will ride on thi--
        He grunts loudly again. First things first. He takes his hand off his worse shoulder, flicking that forearm up to have the sack slide away from covering his hand. The non-sack-harnessed hand gets out the lens again. To double check to make sure the connection has been properly severed, he goes through the incantations and gestures to activate the Spectral Lens once more, sweeping the aided gaze over Lydia's body to check to see if that signal is still there.
        The statue, already sealed, can wait.

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

There is a giant tiger looming over the opposite end of the portal, staring at a bunch of Solarian jackholes running around like a bunch of chickens with their heads cut off. This is double hilarious, since they're being chased by basically devil chickens.

Hm.

Virginia then gets to experience the strange sensation of a giant tiger hand patting her head approvingly. "I am a giant wind tiger and I agree that the Guardians are pretty awesome."

Yep.

More importantly, though...

The form of Fengalon fades, resolving back into a very tired-looking Cyre Lorentz. He sags, fatigued, against an invisible wall and... Lightly reaches over and bops Asty on the noggin. "Althena's corset, what were you even worried about? Horns are great! You can probably beat most walls with just your head! That's pretty amazing, you know?"

There's a long moment as the shaman takes a few well-needed breaths. "Hey. If you ever need someone to talk to about being a beastman... Well. I've got a lot of experience, so... Don't be a stranger?"

<Pose Tracker> Virginia Maxwell has posed.

        Virginia cranes her head up to comment, "Rigdobrite's a rock too. A space rock. Astie would know."

<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

Lily can hear the heartfelt talk between them all, between Lydia and her friends. ...She doesn't repeat her statement about parents. She just puts through all she can in the moment, and she does not know how it is that she is able to do this uniquely, to cut off this connection; she tried it intuitively. ...But it seems to work. She assumes it's her mgic. The magic of the others. She sees the circuit patterns flicker, fade...

And is there, in the gravity. The floor is there. Lily looks down at it, hears them laughing, hears this heartwarming thing. ...And...

The ground meets them, and Lily meets it, crumpling easily without her balance. She stares for an instant at the... cuccos...

"Yeah, Guardians are..." She looks to the others. Looks to each here, each that she should try to keep safe. She watches Ethius, for a long few moments. Glances to the Solarians.

Lily stretches out her hand, fingers grasping at something, and a wisp of fire comes from her palm in the direction of the harried Solarians before she loses the strength to lift that much. Her head hits the ground, and she stares into nothing in particular.

...She's bleeding rather a lot, frankly. But she's had worse, right?

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

"Rigdobrite is a very special kind of rock, yes," Catenna concedes with a small bow of her head before closing her eyes and pressing her hand a little more firmly to her stab wound.

Catenna makes a mental note to a) never leave home without her Mediums again, and b) give Schrodinger the Cat a saucer of milk.

<Pose Tracker> Carina Wynne has posed.

Carina had never noticed that she has BGM-changing powers. She performs an impromptu combination attack with Shalune, and Asteroid seemingly manages to regain control. Good.

But the ground is finally in view! There was one? To tell the truth, Carina thought they were falling between two portals the whole time. She was being too optimistic! NOT SO GOOD.

But Asteroid has them covered. Locus bwoops through and flies out on the other side, tumbling gracelessly. "Ow! Ow! Ow. Jeez. Ow!"

But she's all for not giving up, especially after what their friend just said. She pulls herself back up, wincing all the while, and...

"Whoa, since when is this a chicken party? Who are these guys?" she points to the fleeting Solarians. "AND SINCE WHEN ARE YOU A GIANT TIGER," she adds, pointing at Cyre, until he no longer is. Yes, it took her THIS LONG to notice. Even with GIANT BUG EYES.

"Space rocks," Locus concludes, returning to the most important matter.

<Pose Tracker> Maya Schrodinger has posed.

Virginia, bless her her heart, floats from Maya's hands to laugh and lunge for her dear friend Lydia, ne Asteroid the Kid, who has returned to her senses. Through force of might, they conquered Castle's machines. Through force of spirit, they did not falter. Through force of heart, they outshone all the stars in the sky and drowned out that which should have rung loudest.

    Let not the cynics convince you that Filgaia is a world without hope.

There is much that Maya wants to chime in with--this shining sliver of pathos is welcome, especially in the wake of the last couple of days. But more than ever, the young spellslinger has come to appreciate that her work is never done. Not if she wants to be more than some glitzy has-been, fossicking in the ruins of greater civilizations in search of lucre.

Thus, rolling her still-steaming gloves off, Maya Schrodinger glides out of the shining portal and gently sets down next to the statue. That it isn't blown to peices gives her comfort.

Her gaze is on the clearly-agonized Ethius Hesiod. She's never managed to hold a conversation with him, but there's clearly no time like the present.

"So, the talkative clown. Castle." Maya spares Ethius the potential awkwardness of holding his gaze, as she sizes up the fatigued members of the away team for triage. The Guardians' feathered fury is taking care of the enemy troops, anyway. "Did we jam his control enough? What's the next step?"

Maybe he won't answer her. That's fine, too. He's proved himself a dozen times over, the last few days.

<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Xantia's rapid-fire apologies after the hug mishap quickly stop as the notices the ground rapidly approaching. There is a momentaru panic, before...

...a portal deposits her elsewhere, safe an sound, though it takes many a roll across the newfound surface before she finally comes to a stop. Dizzily, she laments, "If only I could fly..." Well, at least this whole falling ordeal hasn't diminished that desire. That's how you know she's just fine.

After getting back to her feet and waiting a moment for the world to stop spinning, she notices how far she ended up rolling away from the group at large. Well, that's alright. She's fine with smiling at the rest of the scene from afar, feeling like she'd be intruding there.

Besides, someone else needs her attention right now. "Lily!" The shout comes from afar, but Xantia bridges the distance in no time flat, moving to kneel beside her fellow Alliance member. "Take it easy now... Jay's here, it's gonna be alright!"

She looks over towards the panicking Solarians, feeling... something that she can't identify. She didn't miss Lily's seemingly intended action there, either. That might be something to talk about later, but obviously not now, not under these conditions.

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Slowly but surely...it seems like they're getting through to her. And that their friend is managing to shake off the control Professor Castle held over her... And finally, with one declaration, a portal opens, which everyone falls through.

Jacqueline falls through, rolling to a stop in a...rather inelegant fashion. With a wince she picks herself up to her feet and looks around. Weird individuals are running around in a panic from...flaming cuccos...?

Well...that was fine. Everyone was alright. Everyone was alive.

"Shalune, are you alright...?" Jacqueline asks, glancing over to her friend who lies in a pink-haired heap. She knew that she probably didn't have to worry about Shalune, though.

With a frown she looks around. Asteroid was in bad shape, and Lily...

"Ah!" She says, a startled gasp. Quickly she draws some bottles and medical supplies from her bags and rushes over to Lily and Xantia, kneeling by the former's side.

"L-Lily, are you alright...? Hang on..." She murmurs, and begins to try and treat the wound as best she could. It was a testament to Lily's tenacity that she was able to hang on this long with a wound like that...

"Xantia, if you could apply some pressure here, please...but not too much." Jacqueline asks.

<Pose Tracker> Emma Hetfield has posed.

 
Emma lays in the ruins of her 3D Printed fluff cuccoon. It is bright yellow, unlike cuccos.

She feels very much like a much older sister for a few linger moments.

She raises her voice. "Excuse me! Don't mind me but can someone near Lydia sing out? Did anybody die? I didn't want to say anything but I've been mostly blind this entire time!"

"Is that my blood I smell?" she adds a moment later as she rolls onto her side.

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

There's a beat.

"Technically," Cyre says, staring vaguely into the infinite darkness of space. "A lot of castles are made of rocks. I wonder if Zeldukes counts sometimes too...?"

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Catenna gives Cyre a look.

"Pedantry will cost you ear-scritches, Cyre," she murmurs with the faintest hint of a smile.

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

"Does that mean I have to pay in ear-scritches, or that I don't get them?"

<Pose Tracker> Shalune Amira has posed.

        With a groan, Shalune picks herself up just a little from the floor. "My me hurts," she whines towards the alchemist, but that's probably as good an indication as any that she's mmmmmmostly doing okay. Bits of the Little Dipper are strewn around her, which makes the sight more nostalgic than anything else.

        --and, of course, the next moment - even dinged and bruised as she is - she levers herself upwards. "Wah! We're back!-- we need to trash this place super hard," she blurts immediately, blue eyes wide as her mouth continues to natter. "Statue excepted, I guess? Maybe we should bury it if it's undamagable now. That's the best way to cope with it, if you ask me?"

<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

Lydia's transformation seems to stabilize upon getting outside, but she's exhausted. Her face and head are normal. The tendrils haven't gone away, however, and her arm remains that off-color silver. For now.

The Solarians see a whole lot more living individuals then they were hoping for to come out of that pit and abscond post haste, chased away by that horde of flaming cuccos. Of course, Castle is long gone and you didn't get to erase him from history but it seems, somehow, that you erased his connection to Asteroid the Kid.

However Lily ended up doing that with a timely Ethius assist, it's a mystery. Lily doesn't even seem to know.

Asteroid rushes over to Emma first because that's the power to green hair nepotism. It's also less 'hurrying' and more hobbling. She channels some nifty MYSTIC grade healing magic into Emma.

"You can call me Lydia." She says. "I'm sorry..." She feels especially bad because Emma is her hero and inspiration since before she met any of y'all so it sucks even more even if she's hardly the closest with Emma as she is with some of y'all. It's called meeting your heroes! And sometimes it sucks!

But not this time. Well, not for Lydia anyway.

Ethius can confirm. The connection between her and Alexander Castle is shut down. He might want to check a few more times with that Lens of his later to MAKE sure, but for the moment it seems like he isn't seeing any of this. Which is a shame because it's very adorable and sweet and kind of funny when the cuccos are involved.

"Don't forget that either, okay Catenna? Or I'll have to repeat your own words back at you and we'll be super embarrassed." Lydia says. She is still a sassbutt.

But barring any other interruptions she's going to rush over and give Maya and Ginny a big giant careful (horns) hug. This is her jam.

<Pose Tracker> Virginia Maxwell has posed.

        Despite everything else that makes up her personage, whether it be mysterious butterflies, inescapable nightmares, the theft of puppies, or fanciful crimes in Crest Sorcery...

        There's a grin on Virginia as she rubs at her head for a moment, saying, "Aw, they're all great's all I'm saying!" to Cyre, before turning to Jay and the others to say, "I'm glad everyone's still standin'... I'm sure you can heal all their woes away, Jay! You're great!"

        She gives them a thumbs up, just-- she's just feeling too happy right now! She turns towards Lydia as she comes and rushes at her, throwing her arms around her and pulling Maya in as well as she sniffles loudly.

        "Lydia it is! Welcome home...!"

        But... but someone's missing.

        Not just Kaguya, who is off on her lonesome at present, and Virginia knows in her heart they'll work together to make them be the Rowdy Three again. No...

        bobble bobble, bobble bobble

        A skeletal figure fatiguedly runs in from the background, having taken the very, very long way and having dodged all kinds of nefarious Solarian traps. It spreads its bony arms out and--

        --trips, scattering itself all over the hugging three.

        Well... at least Skeleton never gave up.

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

The change is made, and Asteroid the Kid but a name now. Catenna opens her eyes and smiles. "We will see," she murmurs to Cyre, her gaze on...

Lydia Seren. Our friend.

The moon priestess smiles; there's fondness to it despite the fact that she's in a great deal of pain, bleeding out and beginning to lean more and more on Cyre, since he's handy, handsome and her go-to option for leaning on when she'd rather not fall over. "I will count on you to chastise me if I ever forget," she assures, a little twinkle of mirth in her eyes.

Catenna looks on with a gentle blush as Lydia rushes off to hug the hell out of Maya and Ginny. She looks up at Cyre, then, before her gaze drifts towards Jacqueline.

<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

Lily is accustomed to giving the medical attention, frankly. She can see the wounds on others that she wants to try to treat, but even moving feels difficult. "No one... died," Lily manages. She does seem pretty tough generally, though at the moment she's too pale, too barely-moving. SHe lifts her eyes--still solid black--to Xantia as she approaches her. "...Right..." She may meet eyes with her, know that she saw what she tried to do. But Jay is here an instant later, kneeling beside her.

"T-thanks..." She breathes out, "I can't seem... to heal..."

She looks up to the group of friends, to an... actual skeleton. TO the Solarians running away. To Shalune mentioning trashing the place. "Smash..." She closes her eyes again, and says, maybe not loud enough for her intended target to hear her...

"Good work, Lydia. Step one... on the battlefield. Don't get killed."

She goes a little quiet after that, and lets herself be treated.

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        Ethius looks upon Lydia for some time, as Maya attempts to address him. It is true, he doesn't seem to talk all that much - but the question she asks is important. There is no point in keeping the matter silent.
        "I can confirm that there is no active connection." He says this matter-of-factly. He was grunting and hissing in pain not long before... that he can return to that style of speaking so easily after the fact is maybe a little eerie. "For the time being, I am inclined to believe Miss Lydia is safe."
        That last part is a lie. He does not believe she is safe for as long as Professor Alexander Castle draws breath. But he can read the room. She is out of his clutches. For everyone's sake, they should know that much.
        He steps away, choosing not to worry too much about the sound of boots. He can tell they're retreating. While the Spectral Lens light still shines, he points it vaguely in the direction of the statue - not at it, as evidenced by how he squints, sealed statues must be super crazy bright! - and wrestles with his injured shoulder to pull out something that...
        He stops, lowering the lens from his gaze, and down into the thing he's holding.
        "...In a place like this," he murmurs, pocketing it. He sounds displeased about something, but why...?
        "Miss Shalune." He says. His tone of voice doesn't raise any, but it's hard to shake off the idea he may be saying her name pointedly...! "You did excellent work in our previous excursion."
        Ethius lets the injured shoulder's arm droop, deciding he's not going to lift it any more than necessary. He's riding on adrenaline. His neck's pain stops him from making eye contact with her. "I am in favor of eradicating the facility, if such... is within our means."

<Pose Tracker> Emma Hetfield has posed.

 
Asteroid - no, Lydia - approaches her. Emma smiles in her general direction, her eyes kind of squinty without the glasses. Her arm feels better, and she rises upwards, wobbling a little. Emma says, "Lydia. What a lovely name."

Lydia can probably guess exactly what Emma's prescription for her glasses are, because there is a point where her features enter enough relief for Emma to see. She squints a little more, and then smiles.

"I do not accept your apology, because you have nothing to apologize for," Emma tells her. "I should be thanking you, for supporting my work so much. I wish I could have done more to help you, but in the end, we all survived, and we'll see the future."

Emma looks off, awayf rom Lydia, perhaps giving her room to get clear. "And the future," Emma half-sighs, "is where we shall all spend the rest of our lives...!"

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

Cyre is as ever the ultimate in Cat-leaning upon. There is in fact a copy of Schrodinger doing exactly that on the shoulder opposite to the one Catenna is using. He does, however, have to shift a little to peer over at Ethius. "I'm not in favor, myself," Cyre says with a frown. "Castle seemed to imply that there were other Pillars. This place might have clues on where to find them in case there's anything worse there than a couple of deeply sealed space ghosts."

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

As Jacqueline works on treating Lily, she looks up to Shalune.

"Hm...while a part of me would hate to see history destroyed, maybe it would be for the best. As for the Statue, though...I think it would be a shame to just bury it. It's possible we may need it in the future...though I have no idea how to bring it out with us." She says, then resumes the medical treatment.

Her brow furrows somewhat...but she doesn't comment on why. It's something she stows away for later.

"Don't worry. I'll see to the rest of them after you." Jacqueline says with a smile.

Asteroid - Lydia - was safe.

Jacqueline herself still wasn't feeling entirely fine...but this certainly helped provide her with some reassurance.

<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Pressure? Xantia is the BEST at pressure - oh, not too much. Thankfully, she's capable of this also, having enough sense to realize that first aid isn't improved by inflicting further injury. And it's not like this is the first time she's done this. With a nod to Jay, she asserts, "Then we'll make you heal!" That's her way of offering encouragement to Lily. It's just a shame that this is all she can do.

Then again, maybe not... her fervent wish to make things better is causing her hands to glow with a faint white light as she applies pressure, which does in fact help to lessen the pain. Not something that she understands any better than just about anything else she can do, but that probably doesn't make it any less welcome.

"Good advice!" She approves of Lily's 'step one' to Lydia with her usual cheer, pretty sure that everything's going to be okay now. "I'll uh... I'll give that hug another try later," she adds sheepishly.

<Pose Tracker> Shalune Amira has posed.

        Shalune picks the worst time to remember things, so this is when she perks up. "--oh, oh! Miss Hetfield," exclaims the blob as she hops back up to her feet as if she weren't just put through the wringer. If anything, the thing getting her down the most is the state of the Little Dipper, and even that seems somewhat expected as she drags one half of the ruined craft towards the other, plucking some twine out of a pocket. "As-- Lydia wanted to talk to you about tutoring, I think!"

        It's not the time for it, but she never misses a chance to embarrass people by accident.

        She hesitates when Ethius speaks, for a moment wondering if she's going to get a lecture - but the man makes his request, and for a moment the mechanic's face falls as if she's seriously contemplating it. "... Astie's call... I think," she allows after a moment to give Cyre the chance to speak, and plants a hand in her hair as she scratches underneath her hat. "Uhh. And to be honest, for somethin' that hefty, you probably want Gears."

        She checks that Lydia is safe and apparently happy, and can't help but smile gently to herself - even if it fades just a little as she scratches gently at her cheek. "E-eheh... um, let's just say I'm kinda off on the idea of people towing Statues, after this week..."

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Xantia gets a thankful nod and a smile from Jacqueline. Having a helping hand certainly made things a bit easier!

As for Shalune's comment.

"Oh, right...hm..." She doesn't say any more than that.

<Pose Tracker> Maya Schrodinger has posed.

Regardless of any conversation that may or may not take place around Maya 'Hemorrhaging Secrets' Schrodinger, there is something important to take care of. The self-styled noblesse oblige type is reflecting on her next move when a bundle of renewed energy, the Lydia Seren who has taken that big first step to self-acceptance, hits her like a hurricane.

"Good." she answers Ethius, sounding relieved. That's some geniune good news to get. "That guy made it perso--HUFFF"

That is the elegant sound of one being friendship-embraced without realizing what's on the way until it hits. At least he can tell his message is received, even as the sorceress starts laughing as the anxiety bleeds out of her system and she is hauled into the growing bonfire of emotional warmth by both the green-haired girl and Ms. Maxwell.

"You did it." is the simple commendation uttered to Lydia, proudly. Unspoken but implicit is the praise for every soul which reached out to help, of course. "Just like we knew you would."

Maya was totally going to ruffle her hair proudly but then an animated bag of bones spills itself across all three of them and she instead just looks profoundly weirded out.

<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

Lydia Seren blushes because senpai (Emma) noticed her. "O..okay." She doesn't insist on apologies. "You're why I wanted to become an astronaut someday."

But she glances towards Cyre for a moment, who said they were similar. If that's true, is it the same method? Or is it a different method? Did someone experiment on HIM? She isn't sure, but maybe she'll ask him about it later. She's too tired right now.

"U..um. You too." She tells Lily. "I..uh..." She looks at Lily. "Thanks. For whatever you did." She doesn't get it either. "We should--we should get Lily outta here." She might be in serious danger from the looks of it. What happened between the two of them?

She agrees with Ethius. "Let's burn this motherfucker to the ground."

Yeah this sounds like her alright.

But perhaps most importantly, Skeleton arrives from outta nowhere and he doesn't give up. He never gives up. That's science.

It's also Filgaia.

                               MISSION COMPLETE

NEW PARTY MEMBER: LYDIA SEREN
Lydia Seren is a shaman with access to the Rigdobrite and Solais Emsu mediums. She was turned into some kind of summon weapon by Solaris but thanks to your efforts, she has gained some semblance of control of the nanites in her body, though it's nowhere near complete. She plans to stick to her credo of never giving up and may prove to be a valuable ally going forth as she is a capable, if self taught, engineer and the alterations made to her body make her ideal in the art of metallurgy.
CRAFTING SKILLS: METALLURGY, ENGINEERING
SHOP SKILLS: BLACK MARKET