2017-12-09: Become as Eternal as the Stars

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  • Log: Become as Eternal as the Stars
  • Cast: Loren Voss, Jean, Gwen Whitlock, Xantia, Fei Fong Wong (NPCing, as ???)
  • Where: Seven Sages
  • Date: December 9th 2017
  • Summary: A group ventures forth to explore the newly-found ruin Seven Sages and find more than they bargained for. The stars shine brightly. Gwen talks heroes. Xantia finds a treasure beyond measure. Jean hits them where it hurts. Loren experiences the worst pun of his life.

DG: A party led by Loren Voss is now entering Seven Sages.
DG: Party formation is now over. An Entry Challenge will now be drawn and displayed to the party.
===============================<* Seven Sages *>================================
=========<* CHALLENGE - A Friendly Welcome Before A Dangerous Place *>==========
|Type: Entry       |Dungeon Ability: Brute     |Challenge Rating: 2          |
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 The Seven Sages Ruins lies largely submerged in the Aveh desert except for
 its entrance. Stepping inside, there is a small sandy incline on the way
 heading downwards before you emergy in a lobby with potted plant that are
 clearly fake and carpeting that has rotted considerably. The lights are
 still powered on and fill the room with fluorescent light. As you enter, a
 speaker crackles and a recorded message plays.

 "Welcome to the Seven Sages *crackling*." A voice belonging to an older man
 says. It isn't your language but it's a language you somehow instinctively
 understand. He sounds bored, tired, and maybe even a little queasy. "Please
 proceed through the lift and into the first testing area."

 Indeed, there are two elevator doors off to the side but pushing the button
 doesn't seem to call any elevator. You may have to pry it open and find
 another way down.

 "Hiiiii! I am Holly! I will be helping Professor Wickerton with your tour!
 Please be sure to stay with your group! Professor Wickerton is very busy and
 we still can't locate our custodial staff so we don't have time to clean up
 if you suffer an accident! Heehee!" A second recorded voice pipes in.

 "Mnnn....yes... I remember the last group... I had to mop them up myself...
 So unsanitary..." Professor Wickerton says. "Please proceed with caution
 through the lift and into the first testing area."

 Probably not worth worrying about.

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwfICqwtC2w
=Dungeon Conditions: Madness==================================================
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

As if they didn't have enough problems to tackle.

In the midst of the ongoing situation out in Wayside Village with the statue under observation -- at least, 'under observation' per Loren's last check-in with people on-site there (he's going to learn something... interesting about that once the reports come in) -- a rumor had come in about a professed Zeboim-era site that had just been discovered out in the desert.

Normally, standard protocol would apply: hire a group, set them on it, review their reports, assess the situation and decide appropriately. But things being what they are, it seemed too neat, too convenient.

Equally convenient (if for him, this time): the presence of a certain amnesiac young woman, Xantia, the Major had been tracking, accompanying 'Thomas Blackwell, former medical student turned Drifter and associate of a certain Mr. Rider, now looking into ruins' since of course numbers were optimal when looking into abandoned places like this one.
In this case, it kills two birds with one stone and possibly helps redeem past failures. Assuming this doesn't get him killed instead, that is.

It just happens that they're not the only ones doing so.

Something's off, runs his thoughts as he heads inside the apparent lobby. It seems to match what he's read about Zeboim-era ruins, but something is fundamentally setting off a sense of alarm deep in his gut. He gets time enough to glance this way and that, in search of what's bugging him, before a voice speaks over the intercom.

"...What?"
It's a recording, he thinks. A well-preserved one at that.
Before he squints.

"An accident," he comments flatly, an array of mental images he didn't want or need playing out in his mind's eye. Then, he shakes his head, more to rattle those loose than in actual disagreement. It's just a recording, he reminds himself.

"...Just forget about it," he comments to the others. "Whatever that was." Actual poking and prodding at the elevator -- and the buttons -- reveals it is in fact stuck as heck. As if already resigning himself, he sighs.

"I suppose we'll need to force it," he comments, resting his hand on the door a moment... and subtly attempting to introduce a few flaws into the door's structure with a minute vibrational pulse of ether.

DG: Loren Voss has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward his party's challenge, A Friendly Welcome Before A Dangerous Place.
<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

Jean, dark-skinned and green-haired, is here when the recording goes off, looking around with a raised eyebrow at the strange things being said, the strange language. But how'd she get here? Well...

There's a lot to do, day by day, if you can just look around and find what it is. Jean the dancer has been focused on just that; she's been training, trying new recipes at the Fiends' camp, and working on new dances, filling the days more than usual, even. It's not a frenetic energy--just focused. It's not all distraction--it's getting herself ready. But... The truth is that she hasn't been sleeping that well, though she covers over it well; her friends probably notice, but her good cheer sticks around anyway. And today, today her way of filling the day is...

...Spending it with Gwen. Out on an expedition into the desert proper to get to know the girl a little better and work on her training, Jean is dressed as per usual these days. A yellow dress, a white-and-blue overdress atop it; a bit of fur-like trim on the edges of the yellow, her green hair back under a bandana with a long ponytail resting about her shoulder and hanging lower. She's got boots on. ...And she has fur-trimmed fans hanging at her hips, along with her other travel gear.

 "Little weird, huh?" she comments, a little dry, the sort of tone you get when you're dubious about something but going with it. "Nice and cheerful anyway..." This is sarcasm. But she's good-natured about it. Loren suggests they forget about it and Jean laughs. "Not a bad approach, huh?" She grows more serious, "...But let's not forget it too much."

She steps forward, as Loren presses his hand to the elevator door, and stretches, rolling her shoulders a little. --In this dress, she looks like a Drifter, but not very strong. Just an ordinary woman with fans, graceful and agile but that's about it. However...

She focuses, and moves forward. "Cheer up a little, Thomas. Smile." She grins, and sets her fingers to work digging into the divide between the doors--and pulls at one side, deftly, her foot anchoring her in place. There's room for others to try though.

DG: Jean has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward her party's challenge, A Friendly Welcome Before A Dangerous Place.
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

No, Loren's party of two isn't the only party of two there.

"How's your horse, Mr. Blackwell? Did you come up with a good name for it?"

And when he's done, he may wish it was just him alone, facing the extreme obstacles of the ruins.

"I really am missin' Gulliver. I mean, I'd complain 'bout him, but now that he's away for a bit, it's like I don't know what to do with myself, y'know? I bet your horse'll feel like that, after a while." That's Gwen Whitlock, none the worse for wear despite being put through the wringer just a day or so ago. It's one of the advantages of keeping constantly covered up: those bruises, cuts, and bandages get covered up as well.

Being here is a sort of bandage as well, being she's feeling like she's being proactive (a positive thing) in training with Jean, rather than crying or drinking someplace. It was a sort of 'balm' that 'Auntie' Frea had offered in her correspondence to Gwen last night, in the form of 'stop pitying yourself and go investigate these ruins at some point, which just so happen to be completely unrelated to the ones you are currently sad over'.

So that's why Gwen is dragging Jean here, under the reason of 'training'. Nothing like a bit of denial and displacement of energy to get your usual spirited self back!

"This is something Xantia n' I can definitely handle." Gwen stands in front of the elevator, hand on each hip. "I think I remember readin' about stuff like this in one of my auntie's books. It ain't too different from the sorts of lifts you see in Plant cities, right? Just covered up instead of open." Maneuvering around the others and Xantia as needed, Gwen grits her teeth and attempts to pull apart the elevator doors with her hands, her actions favoring her right ARM. Her left, while strong enough for usual tasks, is left to help bolster her hold on one of the doors.

DG: Gwen Whitlock has used her Tool ARM-ored Fist toward her party's challenge, A Friendly Welcome Before A Dangerous Place.
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Xantia was all too happy to accompany 'Thomas' along to investigate this rumored ancient ruin. Though she doesn't know the man particularly well, they did fight through the Guardian Temple together. Nothing like making it through a shared ordeal to make it feel like you can trust somebody. Not that it takes a whole lot to win Xantia's trust to begin with.

In short, as usual, she has no idea what she's getting into.

Even so, there is another reason why she's excited about this opportunity, one that she freely shared with Thomas during her incessant babbling along the way: she's trying to find out more about herself. Thomas would understand - since he knows Marcus Rider, he would know about her amnesia. One detail, however, he may not have known about yet.

"It's in the same desert as where I was found! Maybe I've been there before!"

Most people would consider this a long shot, but to Xantia, this makes it feel like a more promising lead than most. Even though there's absolutely no evidence of these things having anything to do with each other. Whatever happens, she's expecting this to be fun, at least! Jean and Gwen happening upon them and deciding to join in along only improved her mood further. Why wouldn't she be happy about more friends coming along to help out?

What she wasn't expecting is to be addressed by voices as soon as they step inside. "Hello?", she questions, not even considering that this could be recorded, or coming from elsewhere than the room they're in, for that matter. "...should we just do what they're saying?" Not like she has any better ideas. The bits about an accident don't seem to bother her in the slightest, probably to no one's surprise.

As the others start to try and get the elevator open, Xantia lingers behind a little, taking her time to look at the surroundings. Strange... though there isn't any direct familiarity, she suddenly feels ill at ease about this. That rarely happens unless the danger is particularly obvious.

She snaps out of her reverie when she hears Gwen speak her name. "...hm? Oh, you need to get that door open? Yeah, I can do that!"

If it was just her, Xantia would've probably just used that giant hammer she usually carries with her when she goes out on a dig to try and smash the thing. But since everyone else is already there using their hands, she decides to follow suit.

Without hesitation, she slams her right fist into the doors, leaving an imprint and a small opening between them as she crumples the metal with all too much ease. She proceeds to wedge her fingers into the newly created crack, and pulls back on both doors simultaneously. Brute force, yeah, that's something she can do.

DG: Xantia has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward her party's challenge, A Friendly Welcome Before A Dangerous Place.
===============================<* Seven Sages *>================================
=========<* CHALLENGE - A Friendly Welcome Before A Dangerous Place *>==========
|Type: Entry       |Dungeon Ability: Brute     |Challenge Rating: 2          |
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 The Seven Sages Ruins lies largely submerged in the Aveh desert except for
 its entrance. Stepping inside, there is a small sandy incline on the way
 heading downwards before you emergy in a lobby with potted plant that are
 clearly fake and carpeting that has rotted considerably. The lights are
 still powered on and fill the room with fluorescent light. As you enter, a
 speaker crackles and a recorded message plays.

 "Welcome to the Seven Sages *crackling*." A voice belonging to an older man
 says. It isn't your language but it's a language you somehow instinctively
 understand. He sounds bored, tired, and maybe even a little queasy. "Please
 proceed through the lift and into the first testing area."

 Indeed, there are two elevator doors off to the side but pushing the button
 doesn't seem to call any elevator. You may have to pry it open and find
 another way down.

 "Hiiiii! I am Holly! I will be helping Professor Wickerton with your tour!
 Please be sure to stay with your group! Professor Wickerton is very busy and
 we still can't locate our custodial staff so we don't have time to clean up
 if you suffer an accident! Heehee!" A second recorded voice pipes in.

 "Mnnn....yes... I remember the last group... I had to mop them up myself...
 So unsanitary..." Professor Wickerton says. "Please proceed with caution
 through the lift and into the first testing area."

 Probably not worth worrying about.

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwfICqwtC2w
=Dungeon Conditions: Madness==================================================
==========================<* Seven Sages - Round 1 *>===========================
===========< Results - A Friendly Welcome Before A Dangerous Place >============
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Gwen Whitlock                       0 --(5)--> 5                   Pass
ARM-ored Fist                       2   Brute   Effects: Strengthen
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Xantia                              0 --(5)--> 5                   Pass
Force                               0   Brute   Effects: BASIC
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Loren Voss                          0 --(10)--> 10                 Fail
Force                               0   Brute   Effects: BASIC
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jean                                0 --(10)--> 10                 Fail
Force                               0   Brute   Effects: BASIC
-----------------------------------< Party >------------------------------------
Leader: Loren Voss                  0 --(20)--> 20                 Pass
Conditions: Madness
Effects: Strengthen(1)
===============================< Dream Chasers >================================
DG: The party led by Loren Voss has passed this challenge! The party gained 20 exploration! If anyone needs to use party
management commands, do so now. Otherwise, the next round's GM may begin the next round with +dungeon/draw.
DG: Gwen Whitlock has drawn a new Challenge.
===============================<* Seven Sages *>================================
=====================<* CHALLENGE - Multiple Choice Exam *>=====================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 2          |
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 You find a slew of computer stations. There's enough for your party to sit
 down at each and the door ahead is firmly closed.

 "Hello, hello, in this area we would like to judge your basic competency in
 mathematics. Please fill out this multiple choice test of basic mathematics.
 Please tap the correct solution at the terminal. Please definitely do not
 try to skip this process by finding another way past the door or to open it.
 What lies beyond here can be particularly dangerous to those without a good
 head on their shoulders so finding another way past the door is particularly
 prohibited." Wilkerton says.
=Dungeon Conditions: Stupify==================================================
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

It's already been a long, long journey here with Xantia. Loren feels like he has a mild headache already. How does Kahm handle people like this?

Still. That's interesting. He doesn't think that was mentioned in any of the reports on Xantia. "Around here, is it? Well, I guess we'll see." It's probably unrelated, but the Major reported she had some unusual etheric talents. Maybe there could be some reaction, but more than likely, he'll be able to make observations. Which is good enough.

The answer -- to Gwen -- comes swiftly. "He's fine." Unfortunately.

"...No, I haven't." It's a rather flatly-stated response, what with the recollection of a very embarrassing and unfortunate horse-related incident coming to mind. He's already regretting this immensely. Fine, he thinks, just go on and talk about your horse. Fine.
Meanwhile, he's imagining a scenario where the horse just vanishes and, inconvenience aside, it's a nice scenario. He's pretty sure the horse is plotting murder.

Which probably figures, somewhat, in the reason why the comment from Jean -- the woman who tagged along with them after hearing what they were doing, her and Gwen -- that he should 'smile' will earn her a rather withering look.

"I'll pass," he says, taking a step back as the three woman, to varying degrees, dig in and apply their strength to the stuck elevator door.

One thing becomes apparent (to Loren, that is), and that's that the door is made of sturdy stuff, enough that his attempt to weaken the structure of the door hasn't worked as planned.

Jean will find the door a little a difficult to move. Thankfully, some percussive maintenance works, especially in tandem with Gwen's use of her arm and Xantia's show of strength. The last gets a lingering stare from 'Thomas'. Did she just...

The doors spring open, as if to say 'enough already!'. The elevator awaits.

Loren readjusts his glasses, then steps inside. "Don't linger. Let's go."

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

"Nicceee!" Gwen whistles, as Xantia parts the doors. "You're probably stronger than me! Bein' you got two arms instead of one. Well, two arms that are the same strength." She tilts her head. "Y'get what I mean."

The strange metallic monoliths gleam with an unnaturally bluish light, displaying lettes in a grim monospaced font. Bright green on a black background. Not exactly the most inspiring for those who may need some prodding to display their mathematical prowess. The voice over the thing called an 'intercom' isn't any more invigorating to listen to either.

At least the prompts start easily enough, starting with what should be basic math, starting with things like addition and subtraction, then going onto multiplication, division, and finally, basic algebra. Multiple choice makes it easier, even if the choices are things that are similar enough that a quick glance won't narrow down one's choices.

"Aw, you should name your horse! Something inspiring! Like, uh, some... hero you might have. Or uh. A character from a story, or just somethin' that *sounds* good." Gwen glances at the numbers and frowns. "32. Or wait, I always forget to carry that number- damn, I need a piece of paper." Gwen is decent at math. Not terrible, not great. Good enough to run a business and keep on top of fees and charges. Or whatever passes for those in the Badlands.

Taking out a slip of paper from a package from her medical kit, Gwen flips it over to the blank side and gets out a pencil. "Anyway, I get whatcha mean. I mean, I'm tryin' to name this one thing, n' I can't think of anythin' that fits it. I mean, it'd be awkward if I name it after a hero that's still alive, because then it's like, 'hey, Mr. Hero, here's a thing I named Mr. Hero'. I think they can even get after you law-wise if y'do that."

She's trying to name a Gear. This is context she does not supply.

DG: Gwen Whitlock has used her Tool Medical Kit toward her party's challenge, Multiple Choice Exam.
<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

With just the two of them, Jean didn't plan to go much farther than the entrance, but with more... Gwen wanted to come here, so why not?

Jean's going to keep an eye on her anyway, though.

"...Nice," Jean admits, as she shakes out her hand from her own efforts not working out so well. She looks at Xantia again--but can't find herself all that surprised at the girl being this strong, considering that she's felt it this hand. "You ever think about a career as a door opener?" She grins next at Loren. "Fine, fine." She's really not going to try to force it, though it's clear that his demeanor doesn't particularly trouble the woman. She does glance to Gwen and Xantia for a moment, but doesn't chime in about the matter of horses. Instead she walks into this area and... Uh... WEll... The intercom is talking about displaying math. Jean looks at the computer station before her. She peers at the screen. It...

It is sure a number of symbols that have no meaning to her. She glances to the side, rubbing at her neck with a self-deprecating laugh. "...Ah, I don't have the patience for this kind of thing. I'm just going to look around the room." Prohibited? Who caaares/?

"...It's fine to name something after someone. Just go for it."

DG: Jean has contributed a Wits Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Multiple Choice Exam.
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

"What? No, that's ridiculous. That's not how this works," the ex-medical student (allegedly anyway) states with a shake of his head after the intercom states that this is a test, that leaving the room is prohibited.

Loren...

Glances at the consoles, then strides ahead towards the door, lifting a hand to his glasses as if adjusting them as he approaches. 'Don't try and go through the door', was it. As if a pre-recorded message would be able to affect in any way--

He tries the door. It refuses to budge. He rests a hand on the door, leaning into it briefly. ...It's definitely not budging.

He takes a step back a moment later, glancing up at the little screen above the portal reading 'LOCK ENGAGED' in red.

Perhaps it might be possible to force it, but...

"Fine," he says at last, resigning himself to this. "I suppose it's possible that it might just be an absolutely ridiculous lock. Why not."

He seats himself at the console, eyeing the math problems on the screen. Damn, how does he explain to these people that it's not some ancient spirit haunting the ruins and it's just a voice from a long time ago? That they should break the door down if this fails? Twisting his mouth in frustration, he starts answering some questions.

At least, until Gwen opines that he should name that horse. "...What?" he says irritatedly, glancing up from the screen. "I don't have any heroes."
Well, almost true. It's probably blasphemy to name a fell beast of the land for Emperor Cain, though.

Readjusting his glasses with a little more force than is technically needed, the rattled officer returns his attention to the screen. Wait a minute. The math on this one doesn't check out. Who wrote this thing--?!

DG: Loren Voss has used his Tool Etheric Lenses toward his party's challenge, Multiple Choice Exam.
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Xantia has yet to fail at door opening. Solely because whenever she's handling door opening, it involves brute force. That's always plan A, and she doesn't have a plan B. Luckily, plan A works as well as it usually does, the protesting creaks of metal giving way to a satisfying 'ding' as the doors slide open. Who knows how long this elevator has been stuck here, waiting for a 'ding' that never came?

Certainly not a question Xantia will be asking herself, she's just happy that she could help. "There, open!" Gwen's compliment doesn't really parse as one to her, since, well... "I know, I'm stronger than most people!" That's just facts. To Jean's suggestion, she replies, "It'd be boring to do nothing but open doors, though. Smashing things is fun, too!" It can pass for a joke, but she's being perfectly serious. She's not always this happy about her abnormal strength, but when she can put it to good use, of course she will be. As such, Thomas's staring only gets a beaming smile in response. "Kaaaay," she cheerfully agrees to moving on.

This level of cheer lasts about as long as it takes for the party to encounter a math test. That makes Xantia fall quiet. Must be because of being forced entirely out of her element. She probably doesn't even know what a computer is, or math for that matter.

Or so one might think. Yet there's equally little hesitation from her as she sits behind a computer terminal, and starts answering questions. Possibly even correctly. She just doesn't complete more than a handful of questions before letting out a deep sigh. Like Jean, she lacks patience. "Do we really have to do this?"

Bored, she takes out her trusty compendium of questionably useful knowledge, the Guide to Dungeoneering, looking for a section on math. Who knows, maybe she'll stumble onto something that'll help this go faster.

"Hey, Jean? Shouldn't you be really good at this? It says here dancers are good at math, because they have algorithm."

Or she could just stumble upon a bunch of lame math jokes.

DG: Xantia has used her Tool Guide to Dungeoneering toward her party's challenge, Multiple Choice Exam.
===============================<* Seven Sages *>================================
=====================<* CHALLENGE - Multiple Choice Exam *>=====================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Wits      |Challenge Rating: 2          |
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 You find a slew of computer stations. There's enough for your party to sit
 down at each and the door ahead is firmly closed.

 "Hello, hello, in this area we would like to judge your basic competency in
 mathematics. Please fill out this multiple choice test of basic mathematics.
 Please tap the correct solution at the terminal. Please definitely do not
 try to skip this process by finding another way past the door or to open it.
 What lies beyond here can be particularly dangerous to those without a good
 head on their shoulders so finding another way past the door is particularly
 prohibited." Wilkerton says.
=Dungeon Conditions: Stupify==================================================
==========================<* Seven Sages - Round 2 *>===========================
=======================< Results - Multiple Choice Exam >=======================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Gwen Whitlock                       5 --(15)--> 20                 Fail
Medical Kit                         1   Wits    Effects: Cleanse
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Xantia                              5 --(15)--> 20                 Fail
Guide to Dungeoneering              1   Wits    Effects: Rally and Stalwart
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Loren Voss                          10 --(10)--> 20                Pass
Etheric Lenses                      2   Wits    Effects: Enlighten
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jean                                10 --(15)--> 25                Fail
Investigate                         0   Wits    Effects: BASIC
-----------------------------------< Party >------------------------------------
Leader: Loren Voss                  20 --(10)--> 30                Fail
Conditions: Madness|Stupify(2)
Effects: Cleanse|Enlighten(1)
===============================< Dream Chasers >================================
DG: The party led by Loren Voss has failed this challenge! The party gained 10 exploration! If anyone needs to use party
management commands, do so now. Otherwise, the next round's GM may begin the next round with +dungeon/draw.
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

Little do they know, the door was open this entire time. Loren's efforts (possibly combined with Jean's own) only succeed in jamming what was a perfectly good door. Well, a perfectly good *ancient* door. It probably didn't need that much convincing to get jammed shut temporarily.

Gwen is joined by Xantia, and the two begin their second collaboration, though with not as much success. "Yeah, yeah, that seems like a good answer," Gwen helpfully says as Xantia enters in an answer. "Or maybe we should've- oh wait, maybe we should've checked that number again. Maybe there's a way to go back?" She starts trying to experiment, her fingers pressing random keys as Xantia looks through her guide. "Oh! Nonono, that ain't my answer at all! What the heck? This ain't like the Memory Cube at all!" More frustrating single button pressing. "Nono, I wanna go back, not answer that question! Can't you read what I'm sending to you?! 'G O B A C K', go back!"

*RTTT* The door finally slides open under what may be Loren returning to try to open the door again, or Jean trying the door herself. "Oh good! It heard us. I guess it was feelin' sorry for us." Gwen grins widely.

Wait.

"What'd'ya mean, you don't got any heroes? Nobody you looked up to as a kid?"

TIME TO MOVE ON

DG: Jean has drawn a new Challenge.
===============================<* Seven Sages *>================================
==================<* CHALLENGE - Would You Die For A Coke? *>===================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 2          |
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 You come upon a vending machine with snacks inside of it. It's still full!
 You could try breaking it open to get the snacks inside which are, somehow,
 still good to eat. They may prove refreshing! The problem, however, is that
 this vending machine FIGHTS BACK!

 "When I was a young boy," Wilkerton says. "I remember shaking a vending
 machine very vigorously because I had neglected to bring spare change. As
 luck would have it, the vending machine started to topple over towards me
 but my brother saw this and knocked me out of the way in time and was
 crushed in my stead. He never walked again but I learned a valuable lesson
 about patience. This vending machine represents my feelings towards this
 event." He clears his throat. "I like to think it poses an interesting
 question: Would you die for a snack?"

 The vending machine stirs to life and comes after you!
=Dungeon Conditions: Treasure, Fright=========================================
<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

While Jean might be on the lookout to see more about Loren--he's the one she doesn't know here--she finds herself largely in agreement about the lock... Except for one thing. No heroes, huh? Well...

"...Sometimes you don't," she acknowledges, trying the door again as she lets the others work. "Yeah, smashing things..." Xantia asks if they have to do it. Jean, well, isn't doing it. But that statement--Well. If Jean actually knew what an algorithm was, that would be something. But she totally, totally doesn't. She just blinks and turns her way. "...Huh?" A frown. "I dunno, mayube. I didn't see any rhythm there though."

Gwen, of course, is having trouble. ...But the door opens. Frankly Jean chalks it up to Loren doing something right. Regardless, they start going through to the next room, a hallway that Jean looks around in to see... a box full of stuff wrapped up. Some of it even looks like food. "...Seriously?" she asks. "Isn't this place supposed to be old...?"

Vending machine? She doesn't know about a vending machine. "What a weird place to put it--" The monster strikes. It turns out to be a monster. Jean steps back. Jean stares, weaving out of the way of attack and says, "I'm being attacked by old food. ...This is..."

She pulls something from her things, hidden, that glints because it is definitely a flask. "Hang on." She takes a nice, big swig of it, holding out her hand in the meantime, and then puts it away, seemingly refreshed. "...All right then."

Then she proceeds to go fan attack karate on a vending machine.

DG: Jean has used her Tool Emergency Liquor toward her party's challenge, Would You Die For A Coke?.
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

Making a few quick adjustments in his head, Loren submits his answers. Hopefully this thing is keyed to real answers rather than fake. It's interesting, though -- as with the expedition into the Temple of Rejection, something must be powering the consoles here. That means a generator's still running... thousands of years later. If they can find that, that alone would be immensely valuable.

Xantia quotes something from her book. Dancers are good at math because they have...

Loren straightens in his seat, visibily pausing for a second. And then he just. Looks over at Xantia, the most judgement of judging looks thus delivered. "Why?" he asks, quite simply.

The door, as if on cue, then beeps and slides open. He pauses for a moment, then shrugs smally and rises to his feet. Well, he's not going to question it.

"What'd'ya mean, you don't got any heroes? Nobody you looked up to as a kid?"

'Thomas' rises to his feet, heading for the door. "No."
It's probably just displaced irritation, right...?

The next room has a vending machine. These, he's familiar with, though none so old. The intercom -- triggered by their passage in here? -- relates a story, one that prompts his expression to darken. "It's probably inedible," he says after a moment... while making an approach towards it nontheless. The lab might want one, he considers--

Before the thing animates outright and launches an attack. Loren twists to one side, stepping out of the way as it trundles forth.

"--Fall back!" he shouts, reaching into his kit for a set of medical bottles, which he flings in a neat overhead arc towards the other three. Narrowing his eyes, he regards the animate machine for a moment. A stealth combat robot? But why, and why here? What was this place?

DG: Loren Voss has used his Tool Solarian Medical Kit toward his party's challenge, Would You Die For A Coke?.
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Xantia doesn't understand that look 'Thomas' is giving her. It's not like Xantia even understood her own pun. Or that she was reading a joke page to begin with. So she just shrugs. "It's what the guide says. And the guide is always right!" Why? Because the guide said it's always right. Isn't life simple when you take everything at face value?

Either way, neither what she read or what she did at the computer seemed to have made any difference. And unlike Gwen, she's not very animated about the whole thing at all. Tests she can't pass by punching them are stupid!

Xantia's book snaps shut as soon as the door makes a noise. "Is it open? Can we leave?" No effort at all to hide her relief that she doesn't have to keep sitting here doing boring things. She quickly gets to her feet, more than ready to move on. The conversation about heroes briefly piques her interest, enough to spark the comment, "Heroes are great! But how do you 'have' heroes? Heroes just... are heroes, right?" She always thought of it more as a job.

The next encounter however, is far more interesting. "Oh! Oh! There's food in there!" Xantia points and shouts before the intercom even crackles to life. Does she actually recognize a vending machine when she sees one, or is her Food Sense just that powerful? Whatever the case may be, she isn't even considering how old the food must be, and wouldn't worry about it even she did. Food is food! So she's already halfway over there by the time it becomes apparent there's more going on than meets the eye.

She just stops and stares when the machine seems to be coming towards her. Obviously she wasn't expecting that to happen. But it doesn't start to register that this is an attack until Loren shouts to fall back. "Huh?"

Her reaction is more of a reflex than anything else. The bracer on her right arm activates, the ARM generating a large red energy blade at the same time Xantia throws an instinctual punch. You know it has to be instinct because if she were really thinking about what she's doing, there's no way she'd risk destroying any of that delicious food inside the machine.

DG: Xantia has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Would You Die For A Coke?.
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

Something breaks in Gwen's grin, a modicum of sympathy at seeing a man her own age (she assumes) declaring that he, even as a kid, had no heroes. 'Sometimes you don't," Jean offers, but the notion seems... alien, even if another part of Gwen could understand it.

Every child in Little Twister seemed to have at least one hero, after all. It was a lucky star to call out to when life was rough, or a role model for when the world seemed to display further depths of depravity. Even on the days Gwen displayed those more negative and grimmer traits as a child, she would still look back to stories of NIghtburn and think, just maybe, there was another sort of person she could be. They were all glimmers of hope in that there were brighter facets of the world, to balance out the darker ones.

Gwen finally lets it go with a chuckle. "I gotcha, I gotcha. Then name your horse somethin' it can respond to. That'll make it easier on you." Xantia then bursts in with the other side of the coin. How can someone 'have' a hero? Aren't heroes just heroes? "W-well..." The pale redhead coughs, trying to think of how to put things. "W-well, sometimes... uh... oh, look!"

It's food.

In the next area, Gwen peers from over Jean's shoulder. "Weellll, there's been reports from digs of findin' food that's so well-preserved it looks like food," she offers. "Though usually the only stuff that's actually edible is the pickled stuff. Ever had pickled Kislev Shark? It's..." Her face twists. "Somethin'."

Then the food machine attacks.

"Whoah, whoah, whoah! This ain't pickled at all!" Gwen, startled, fires at the thing. "What sort of dolt built a place like this to remember a thing like that?!"

DG: Gwen Whitlock has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Would You Die For A Coke?.
===============================<* Seven Sages *>================================
==================<* CHALLENGE - Would You Die For A Coke? *>===================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 2          |
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 You come upon a vending machine with snacks inside of it. It's still full!
 You could try breaking it open to get the snacks inside which are, somehow,
 still good to eat. They may prove refreshing! The problem, however, is that
 this vending machine FIGHTS BACK!

 "When I was a young boy," Wilkerton says. "I remember shaking a vending
 machine very vigorously because I had neglected to bring spare change. As
 luck would have it, the vending machine started to topple over towards me
 but my brother saw this and knocked me out of the way in time and was
 crushed in my stead. He never walked again but I learned a valuable lesson
 about patience. This vending machine represents my feelings towards this
 event." He clears his throat. "I like to think it poses an interesting
 question: Would you die for a snack?"

 The vending machine stirs to life and comes after you!
=Dungeon Conditions: Treasure, Fright=========================================
==========================<* Seven Sages - Round 3 *>===========================
====================< Results - Would You Die For A Coke? >=====================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Gwen Whitlock                       20 --(5)--> 25                 Pass
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Xantia                              20 --(10)--> 30                Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Loren Voss                          20 --(5)--> 25                 Pass
Solarian Medical Kit                1   Combat  Effects: Cleanse
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jean                                25 --(5)--> 30                 Pass
Emergency Liquor                    3   Combat  Effects: Rally
-----------------------------------< Party >------------------------------------
Leader: Loren Voss                  30 --(25)--> 55                Pass
Conditions: Fright(2)|Treasure(1)
Effects: Cleanse
===============================< Dream Chasers >================================
DG: The party led by Loren Voss has passed this challenge! The party gained 25 exploration! If anyone needs to use party
management commands, do so now. Otherwise, the next round's GM may begin the next round with +dungeon/draw.
<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

There was no room for heroes in Jean's childhood, such as it was. She knows that for her; she doesn't think to judge it in others. ...Especially because 'Thomas' seems very sure about that.

She's the last to needle being about when they were a kid.

The food might be inedible--Jean is... pretty vague on Filgaian ancient history, though even she's heard of Zeboim by now. It's a little strange, overall. But at least the medical supplies help--when Jean gets hit back by the machine, she takes a bottle and downs it before getting back to the fight.

Xantia works well, but she just doesn't have good luck with the machine this time; she hits into it but the chunk she takes off of it doesn't slow down. Gwen, who is just the sweetest person ever, talks of preeserved food and joins the fight, her style able to keep it pinned down while together, they all do it.

...In the end, Xantia's strikes after the first one do the trick. However... Her fist utterly smashes to crumbs a potentially delicious candy bar.

...There's more though. Jean still looks down at it. "Weird place to keep food... But I guess everybody gets hungry." She uh... Doesn't eat it.

DG: Xantia has drawn a new Challenge.
==============================<* Seven Sages *>===============================
===================<* CHALLENGE - The Cake Is Not A Lie *>====================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Brute     |Challenge Rating: 2          |
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 You come upon a giant gear sized cake. Despite being incredibly old, it
 somehow is still good! It appears to be red velvet and chocolate. It is in
 your way.

 "I feel I should explain the cake." Wilkerton says.
 "There are six other labs like this one. Well, five now." Holly says.
 "Ah yes, Holly, we may never find out what happened to Lab 4." Wilkerton
 says wearily. "But as for the cakes..."

 "Sometimes our interns get into a prank war with the interns from other
 labs." Holly supplies.

 "We transport our garbage into their labs, they hyper-enlarge a cake, place
 it in chronostasis, and sneak it on the premises. It's an old tradition."
 Wilkerton continues gravely.
=Dungeon Conditions: Weaken===================================================
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Xantia's question regarding heroes goes unanswered, but it hardly matters after she spies food. That supercedes everything, including common sense. She never even considered there might be a trap, though even if she had, 'the vending machine is a monster' wouldn't have occured to her. Having to fight before she can have food is nothing new, though.

The fight itself could've gone better for her, but Loren's foresight in providing medpacks helps to take care of the bruises from when the machine crashed into her. Besides, it's not like she can complain about the outcome: one broken vending machine, and access to all the delicious food inside. Minus what was destroyed in the process, but she doesn't let that get her down. "You want some?", she offers - barely audibly, because her mouth is already full - to everyone else in general. She doesn't mind sharing. If nobody else wants any, she doesn't mind that either. It tastes plenty good to her!

When the party moves on, Xantia sets up the segue by commenting, "Ahh, that was great! I hope we run into more food!" And so they do. So they do indeed. Just around the corner is... a cake. A cake larger than any cake Xantia has ever seen. She stops and stares. She doesn't even really hear the announcement about it. She is just... overwhelmed by this beautiful sight.

"...this is real, right? I'm not the only one seeing the giant cake, right?" You can't blame her for wondering. It's like something that was pulled right out of her most wonderful dreams.

It would've been difficult to stop her from approaching the vending machine. Nothing at all will keep her away from this cake. It's big, though. Really, really big. How is she even going to begin to eat all that? It'll need to be broken into smaller chunks...

Starry-eyed, Xantia approaches the cake, slowly reaching for the hammer on her back. You know what she's going to do. This is going to get messy.

DG: Xantia has used her Tool Megaton Hammer toward her party's challenge, The Cake Is Not A Lie.
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

Loren had a personal hero once (as contrasted to the hero every native of Solaris holds first in their hearts).
But the thing about putting someone on a pedestal is, it's a long fall down.

Furrowing his brow in irritation, he shakes his head slightly as Gwen wonders on this in private. "Some people don't need one," he says, shortly after Jean speaks up, pushing on ahead.

He doesn't even mention the horse-name issue. Maybe 'foul beast' will end up being the thing's name at this rate.

Loren hesitates for a moment. It's not as judgemental as his previous look, but it's still up there. Then, finally, he extends a hand towards Xantia. "Sure, I'll take one." He does not eat it,though.
He instead slips it into his bag.

No, he's not saving it for 'later', though it may certainly seem that way. Maybe the labs can do some sort of analysis, work out how old this place is.

He had thought the lobby was strange. He'd thought the math test was strange. The vending machine (now with combat options!) was pretty strange.

He still stops and stares at the sight of an enormous, apparently still edible cake, looming large before them. Then he glances at the others, as if to silently ask, 'am I really seeing this'.

He is, in fact, really seeing this.

...It smells reasonably fresh. Chronostasis? Did people of that era really...

He's reminded that the only thing he's eaten today has been trail rations, of the rather flavorless variety. Which isn't really a problem, usually, but...

"There's no telling what's in that, or even if it can be eaten," 'Thomas' the killjoy says, shaking his head. "I wouldn't--"

Too late. Xantia is approaching it with an enormous hammer. That's not how you cut a cake, a part of him thinks irrationally. "Wait, don't--"

He at least has the presence of mind to fake casting a spell. A shimmering wall springs up, as if to shield any... backsplash as it were. Or any other terrors that might be hiding under the frosting.

DG: Loren Voss has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward his party's challenge, The Cake Is Not A Lie.
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

There were things Gwen said about food, preservation, and pickling. Looking down at the ancient snack food, Gwen shrugs, takes it, and begins to eat. "Can't be worse than my auntie's cookin'." The context is that her auntie is a secret space alien. It's context Gwen doesn't give, because she doesn't even know it's a thing.

Rolling the taste around in her mouth, Gwen wrinkles her nose. "Kinda stale n' bland, but maybe they liked their food that way?" Or maybe it's the ancient strain of botuwhateverism kicking in?

Which makes the cake they see next particularly suspect.

"Y-yeah." Gwen blinks and raises her hands to rub at her unbelieving eyes. "It's real. Real real." Chrono means time, while stasis means stop, right?

It's time-stopped cake. Would time stop for her if she ate it?

Whatever, it's cake. She's eating it.

"Don't hog it all to yerself, Xantia!"

DG: Gwen Whitlock has used her Tool ARM-ored Fist toward her party's challenge, The Cake Is Not A Lie.
<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

Jean finds herself focused on checking for danger too, amidst the hero conversation. She doesn't have a lot to say to it, so she lets the alcohol in her blood loosen her up a little and keeps to work. ...She's... She's not so much about hoping they run into more food, and yet, it happens. Somehow. Somehow, for some reason. Jean, for her part, just stops and stares. There's... a giant... Cake.

"What," she says, and stares more. She seems to be staring with Loren for a moment, and actually meets his eyes briefly while asking herself the same question. "Pranks," she repeats, dubiously. "...This planet is weird."

Xantia gets to work with the hammer, and Jean doesn't have a barrier like Loren's but she is pretty quick to step back out of the way. She glanes at Gwen who--moves in for... Jean sighs, facepalming. "Well, there's only one way through I guess..."

Jean steps up and starts forcing her way across--but she doens't eat it. That's weird.

DG: Jean has contributed a Brute Basic Action toward her party's challenge, The Cake Is Not A Lie.
==============================<* Seven Sages *>===============================
===================<* CHALLENGE - The Cake Is Not A Lie *>====================
|Type: Exploration |Dungeon Ability: Brute     |Challenge Rating: 2          |
--------------------------< Challenge Information: >--------------------------
 You come upon a giant gear sized cake. Despite being incredibly old, it
 somehow is still good! It appears to be red velvet and chocolate. It is in
 your way.

 "I feel I should explain the cake." Wilkerton says.
 "There are six other labs like this one. Well, five now." Holly says.
 "Ah yes, Holly, we may never find out what happened to Lab 4." Wilkerton
 says wearily. "But as for the cakes..."

 "Sometimes our interns get into a prank war with the interns from other
 labs." Holly supplies.

 "We transport our garbage into their labs, they hyper-enlarge a cake, place
 it in chronostasis, and sneak it on the premises. It's an old tradition."
 Wilkerton continues gravely.
=Dungeon Conditions: Weaken===================================================
=========================<* Seven Sages - Round 4 *>==========================
=====================< Results - The Cake Is Not A Lie >======================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Gwen Whitlock                       25 --(5)--> 30                 Pass
ARM-ored Fist                       2   Brute   Effects: Strengthen
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Xantia                              30 --(5)--> 35                 Pass
Megaton Hammer                      3   Brute   Effects: Fanfare
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Loren Voss                          25 --(5)--> 30                 Pass
Force                               0   Brute   Effects: BASIC
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jean                                30 --(10)--> 40                Fail
Force                               0   Brute   Effects: BASIC
----------------------------------< Party >-----------------------------------
Leader: Loren Voss                  55 --(20)--> 75                Pass
Conditions: Fright(1)|Weaken(2)
Effects: Strengthen(1)
==============================< Dream Chasers >===============================
DG: The party led by Loren Voss has passed this challenge! The party gained 20 exploration! If anyone needs to use party
management commands, do so now. Otherwise, the next round's GM may begin the next round with +dungeon/draw.
DG: Loren Voss has drawn a new Challenge.
===============================<* Seven Sages *>================================
=========================<* CHALLENGE - Little Stars *>=========================
|Type: Climax      |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 3          |
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 You're close to the end of this facility when you come upon a room that
 seems impossible to navigate across. What was once the ruins of a research
 facility fade away as you find yourself somewhere beyond. The walls crumble
 away revealing the darkness of space, only illuminated by stars. Somehow you
 can breathe here and you see an exit doorway.

 Sometimes the light of the stars shines down, illuminating portions of a
 path before winking out again. Testing the path will prove that the paths
 only exist when the light beams down upon them.

 There's a crackle of words from loudspeakers you don't see.

 "I see it now, yes... I see it now....! We're all made of stars!" Holly's
 voice shrieks. "The void is so large, and we're so small, but it's so
 hungry, so hungry!"

 "I'm so glad that you've decided to join us," Wilkerton's voice adds. "The
 universe could use a few more stars. Twinkle twinkle little star, how I've
 wondered what we are..."

 "When the blazing sun is gone," Holly laughs. "When the nothing shines
 upon!"
=Dungeon Conditions: Suffer, Madness==========================================
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Hammers and metal arms are indeed, typically, not how you cut a cake. Xantia and Gwen aren't letting that stop them. To no one's surprise, the end result is that the cake, while effectively removed from the path forward, goes everywhere. Loren's quick thinking shields him from the worst of it. Jean isn't quite so lucky. There's no avoiding the flying chunks of confectionery when you're in the thick of it, not when there's two people VERY ENTHUSIASTICALLY mashing away at the cake.

Xantia, at least, stops as soon as she's satisfied that there's enough smaller pieces to put the hammer away and start using her mouth instead. Not a care in the world for the mess she's made, of the room and of herself. She just eats. And eats, and eats... is she ever going to stop eating? Perhaps the real challenge is going to be figuring out how to get Xantia to leave this room and move on...

<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

This planet? He can't entirely keep it in check; he lifts an eyebrow when Jean makes that particular comment.
And then he decides to just go with it, play the part of the novice Drifter. "What do you mean by that?"

As expected, there is cake everywhere. Some of it, where his shielding doesn't quite cover, spatters across his coat. Unconsciously, Loren brushes off the crumbs, his attention nowhere else but the sight of Xantia, eating the cake.

He's silent for a long, long moment.

"If I were you, I would also hope they didn't poison the cake as a prank," he finally says.

A few moments more pass.

Then finally, unceremoniously, he stalks over towards her and grabs for her wrist. "Come on. We can't stay here."
He'll try to haul her to her feet next, and if that works, pull her along. He can see a door, and as far as he can tell, she could be eating this cake for hours.

Of course, it's entirely possible the next section of the ruin they set foot into is going to make waiting around seem like the better option.

Or maybe, it might be more accurate to say the rest of the ruin isn't. The walls seem to disintegrate before they even cross the threshold, and the total destruction of everything visible as they set foot inside might only exacerbate the feeling that everything has gone completely wrong.

Lights wink on, distantly. Dimly.

A hideous message squawks over the loudspeaker. Loren can feel the hairs at the back of his neck standing on end, and slowly, he turns, as if to attempt to see... anything else at all.

There's nothing.

What is this? An hologram? It reminds him of an observatory show, but it's all wrong. Were the stars ever in that alignment?

He tentatively tests the path immediately in front of him, wreathed in darkness, pulling out a bottle from the depths of his back and tossing it. There's no sound. It vanishes from sight. "...There's nothing there," he comments, roughly 30 seconds of waiting and listening later. Which is followed by him tossing another small vial of nothing at one of the illuminated stretches. It clinks, rolls a short distance. Glitters in the light.

And vanishes without a sound the moment the pathway goes dark. There's the faint impression of glass reflecting light from a nearby path for an instant, but after that...

Nothing.

"...And the paths only exist as long as the light's shining on them. The door's over there..." And as a glance back shows, there's no door leading back.

He takes a moment.
He takes a breath.

"Guess there's no choice," he mutters, before racing for one of the illuminated sections the instant it appears close by. This is going to end badly, he can already tell--

DG: Loren Voss has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward his party's challenge, Little Stars.
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Is anyone surprised that Loren's notion of possible poison does nothing to dissuade Xantia from stuffing her face with cake? Anyone?

And grabbing her wrist and trying to forcibly pull her away? With Xantia's level of physical strength? Surely that's going to accomplish equally little.

Make no mistake, Xantia does struggle. It's just... not the kind of struggle you might expect.

"Wait, wait, no, I'm not done eating yet, let me have a little more!"

She whines. Yet even though she should be able to easily break free, she doesn't physically fight the effort to get her to come along. Perhaps the most effective way to handle someone who's acting like a child is to treat them like one.

"But why? Why can't we stay there, with the cake?" Loren will have to put up with further such complaints, right up until everything comes apart. Then the complaints turn into panic, if perhaps not for the right reason. Because Xantia's focus is behind her, where there's no longer a way to go where they came from. "Nooo! Now we can't go back to the cake!"

When the loudspeakers flare to life once more, and the two figures who had been speaking to them throughout the dungeon seem to grow more unhinged, her eyes go wide. At that moment, Xantia has figured out what's really going on.

"The void is... hungry? Oh no, this was all a trap! They wanted us to eat all that food, so that they could then eat us!"

Xantia has not figured out what's really going on.

Even so, her panic is not unwarranted. As Loren's testing proves, the path, such as it is, would be difficult enough to navigate normally. But she's still trailing cake everywhere. Now she has to navigate it AND somehow avoid slipping on extra-slippery boots. "Really? That's really what we have to do?"

Xantia tests the light bridge with her foot, only to let out a yelp and then a noise of dismay when the light immediately winks off and she almost loses her footing right there. It takes her a moment longer to try it again, and then persist with the effort. It's true, there is no choice. She definitely wouldn't be doing this if there was a choice. Running is going to be a problem. She's gonna have to slide at times. This will take some luck with where the path appears, and how long it lingers...

DG: Xantia has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Little Stars.
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

Gwen finally has her fill of cake, leaning back with a satisfied sigh. Sure, calories are calories in the end, translating into ready source of backup fuel for the sorts of stunts her ARM calls for, but sugar and fat and salt make them all better.

Xantia, meanwhile, is eating onwards, not bound to any sort of limitation like 'calories' or 'stomach capacity'. Once again, Gwen is impressed. "C'mon, Xantia, maybe there's more stuff like this further in. And if there ain't, we can come back, havin' worked up our appetite." Loren's preferring the more direct route, thankfully, physically hauling Xantia onwards. He's so thoughtful, thinking of everyone as a team like that.

For Loren, it makes no sense. It's beyond sense. For Gwen, it makes plenty of sense, falling into that weird nexus of 'unexplainable science things' and 'straight up magic', where nothing needs a complete explanation.

All you need is enough information to either appreciate it, understand it, or, in this case, survive it.

So. First order of business is to observe. And observe Gwen does, staring at the star field with open wonder. "Now *this* is somethin' that deserves bein' built about. Look at all this... It's not a void, it's a horizon!"

Emptiness can only mean possibilities, not despair over the space between one object to the next. One only needs to cross that space...

"Maybe if we had some rope..." Gwen finds herself wishing she felt comfortable wearing something akin to Zed or Hiro's line of scarves; the handkerchief around her neck, while large enough to be knotted around securely, is not the sort to be able to stretch across a void. Wearing something like that seemed like a disaster waiting to happen, though. She's not the type that can pull it off.

Or light. Just apply some magical thinking, and then of course it makes sense. Gwen takes off her glove as Loren takes off, stuffing it into her pocket. Metallic fingers flex in the flickering starlight, coaxing lightning light to spark, a miniature sun of cool light against the backdrop of similar distant suns. The depiction of them, anyway. Possibly.

  Confidence and not much else to further light her way, Gwen runs, hoping that she can at least clear the path before becoming a star herself.

DG: Gwen Whitlock has contributed a Agility Basic Action toward her party's challenge, Little Stars.
<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

Loren's lifted eyebrow gets Jean to look back at him; she does study his expression for a moment, but the decision is easy to make. "I'm from Lunar," she explains, glancing upward as if to gesture above the ceiling. "Not here. We call this place the Blue Star."

It's a pretty straightforward answer, really. She lets it go, and when Loren handles Xantia and the cake... Well. Jean is covered in cake residue and doesn't like it much, so she sure, sure doesn't argue. She continues not to eat any of the cake. She walks along instead, and when the room of spectacle comes, Jean stares at it, listening to the strange voices. The darkness... The hungry void. They've cracked; she recognizes that now, and grows very serious. "...Everyone," she says. "Let's be ready." Loren works with experimentation; Jean has alread stopped to adopt a ready stance, a dangerous look in her eyes. The hairs on the back of her neck, too, are standing. Xantia's thought about eating them is... Well, it's not unwarranted. But the three of them all have their own approaches. Gwen has so much wonder. ...It's amazing, the way Gwen is. But Jean stays quiet, in focus; she's learning the pattern. Eventually, as the others start, she draws her fans. She knows what she can do.

With the use of her fans, with her speed, with her energies--she shifts forward, launching with incredible grace from lit path to lit path. But that's not all she does; shifting as if in a dance, she turns her fans jsut so, throws as she has to, to reflect light, to try to spread the solid ground around as best she can. And when she can't...

Well, she's fast enough to catch people if she has to.

DG: Jean has used her Tool Twin Fans toward her party's challenge, Little Stars.
===============================<* Seven Sages *>================================
=========================<* CHALLENGE - Little Stars *>=========================
|Type: Climax      |Dungeon Ability: Agility   |Challenge Rating: 3          |
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 You're close to the end of this facility when you come upon a room that
 seems impossible to navigate across. What was once the ruins of a research
 facility fade away as you find yourself somewhere beyond. The walls crumble
 away revealing the darkness of space, only illuminated by stars. Somehow you
 can breathe here and you see an exit doorway.

 Sometimes the light of the stars shines down, illuminating portions of a
 path before winking out again. Testing the path will prove that the paths
 only exist when the light beams down upon them.

 There's a crackle of words from loudspeakers you don't see.

 "I see it now, yes... I see it now....! We're all made of stars!" Holly's
 voice shrieks. "The void is so large, and we're so small, but it's so
 hungry, so hungry!"

 "I'm so glad that you've decided to join us," Wilkerton's voice adds. "The
 universe could use a few more stars. Twinkle twinkle little star, how I've
 wondered what we are..."

 "When the blazing sun is gone," Holly laughs. "When the nothing shines
 upon!"
=Dungeon Conditions: Suffer, Madness==========================================
==========================<* Seven Sages - Round 5 *>===========================
===========================< Results - Little Stars >===========================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Gwen Whitlock                       30 --(15)--> 45                Pass
Rush                                0   Agility Effects: BASIC
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Xantia                              35 --(20)--> 55                Fail
Rush                                0   Agility Effects: BASIC
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Loren Voss                          30 --(20)--> 50                Fail
Rush                                0   Agility Effects: BASIC
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jean                                40 --(15)--> 55                Pass
Twin Fans                           2   Agility Effects: Quicken
-----------------------------------< Party >------------------------------------
Leader: Loren Voss                  75 --(0)--> 75                 Pass
Conditions: Madness|Suffer(1)|Weaken(1)
Effects: Quicken(1)
===============================< Dream Chasers >================================
DG: The party led by Loren Voss has passed this challenge! The party gained 0 exploration! If anyone needs to use party management
commands, do so now. Otherwise, the next round's GM may begin the next round with +dungeon/draw.
DG: Gwen Whitlock has drawn a new Challenge.
===============================<* Seven Sages *>================================
==========================<* CHALLENGE - The Unsent *>==========================
|Type: Final       |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 3          |
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 You enter a simulation room of star maps lining the floor sky and walls. On
 the ground, you also find a pair of corpses. Their nametags identify them as
 Professor Wilkertonand Professor Holly Dayes.

 After examining the bodies, they reach for you and stand up on their own
 power, looking ashen but stable and mobile.

 "We have shed our heart's pulse." Holly says. "Join us and never rest."

 "Why do you hesitate?" Wilkerton says. "You have been excellent subjects.
 Let us help you shed your gravity."

 Then they attack with darkness-type symbology and ether techniques that
 periodically speed them up and slow you down! Periodically, constellations
 light up along the floor walls and ceilings and send bright death lasers
 crashing around!

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=68wk6m05ojw
=Dungeon Conditions: Suffer===================================================
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

Xantia isn't even the only one eating cake. Perhaps there's more than one reason why he shares a glance with Jean.
"Lunar, is it... The 'Old Moon', or so it's called. Hmm." He affects a mildly skeptical look but still punctuates it with a nod. "Quite a long way you've traveled. All the way to the Blue Star."
But truth be told, he's heard a thing or two about the people who come from the moon...

Yeah, Loren doesn't have any reasonable chance of moving Xantia. But he tries it anyway.

Which, honestly, is the story of his life at this point.

"We came here for a reason," Loren says sharply, punctuating the statement with a tug on her wrist. "Do you want to sit here and wait for more of whatever this place has to offer? This isn't some corner cafe."

At length, she does come along, against all odds, though perhaps it's not entirely willingly.
He's reminded, if fleetingly, of the Fire Element, and hopes that she's never assigned to assess Xantia -- or at least not when he has to be present for that disaster-in-waiting.
(the universe is rarely so kind about these things)

At any rate, they find themselves in that dark dark room, lit only by distant stars, or some reasonable fascimile thereof. (right?)

He has, yet again, a moment where he stares at Xantia. "Eat..." He pauses. Then shrugs, shakes his head, and gives up. "Fine. Yes, this room is going to eat us all, unless we can escape it." He points, again, at the passage in the distance, before preparing himself for a run.

For him, it doesn't go well. Despite racing the length of one avenue, making a jump for the next, and hurrying down it until it switches again, it's that last switch, a second too short, that proves his undoing.

The path vanishes.

As it does under similar circumstances for Xantia. He reaches out, knowing it's too late--
And Jean catches him. As Gwen rescues Xantia, similarly caught by the nasty trick the platform unleashes.

Judging from the look on his face, he did not expect that.

Not in a million years.

And from there, it's an easy trek to the doorway, outlined against endless night.

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

The party, having escaped from a blinking starfield, comes into another room that is more shaped by actual 'walls', of one kind or another. You can see where the edges of the maps correspond with the edges of each plane. In the center of this room are two bodies, clearly dead, and clearly identified by their nametags as the very people who spoke over the intercoms. Like the food, like the cake, like the *everything*, they have been preserved.

This room could almost be considered a coffin. They're perfectly preserved, far from the wrinkled corpses sometimes found in desert burials, but bearing just as much of the 'thing'ness a corpse registers on an unaccustomed human's senses. Loren may find a surprise of his own in the lack of sense their bodies present, not entirely adhering to a rational scale of decomposition.

They are dead, but they are not. They are alive, but they are not.

They are something outside of that, something that quickly becomes apparent as one reaches for the nearest, most unlucky party member.

"Be preserved in this moment of trimuph," Wilkerton says. "We have the technology to do so. You've sampled our many fine wares. But why not break free from the cycle of consumption and decomposition? Become something beyond it. Think about it! No need to suffer from the chains of hunger, fear, pain, or death. It's an entirely much more peaceful system once you convert over."

"Don't you see the advantages?" Holly exclaims, enthusiastically. "Become as eternal as the stars in the sky, never resting, always pulsing, always shining bright, bright, bright!"

They have become stars in full, lacking reason, drive, or attachment to life. They are not grounded to mortality but a false immortality, never changing, always there.

Their very existence warps the laws of time, slowing people's abilities to fight against them, while their own movements move as fast as lightning.

Gwen, taken by surprise, flinches back in an uncharacteristic scream, her face showing none of the wonder it had before. It's too much. She can't fit this into any sort of box to reason with it.

So, naturally, she tries to punch Holly in the face. This action usually helps things.

DG: Gwen Whitlock has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, The Unsent.
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

They're dead.

He's seen corpses before. He can know at a glance that these people are no longer present, metaphysically speaking.

But they're remarkably preserved for thousands-of-years-old corpses. Perhaps the same way that the cake was, he wonders, approaching one of the bodies with care.

As it lurches to its feet. He, the 'medical student' corrects himself. He. They're not dead. But neither are they alive.

He falls back a step, but doesn't get further than that as his hand is grabbed. Much as he'd grabbed Xantia's wrist minutes before, this time it's his turn.

"Let go--" He jerks his arm back, attempting to free himself. His gaze meets Wilkerton's.

Break free.
Escape.
...For eternity.

For eternity?

"--Absolutely not! Do you even know what you're talking about, you idiot?" He wrenches his arm, twisting his wrist in an attempt to break the uncorpse's grasp. "Watch the stars burn out? Watch the world die? Sit in an empty void, 'for eternity'? This is ridiculous..."

Accept eternity, and he might as well accept endless shame. There are only two options for someone in Gebler.
Death or glory.

He pulls free, and the two professors show them the stars.

Reaching into his kit, he hurls another vial at whoever looks like they need it most as the lasers begin to blaze across the room. "Catch!"

DG: Loren Voss has used his Tool Solarian Medical Kit toward his party's challenge, The Unsent.
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Joke's on Loren. Xantia's already been in contact with said Fire Element. The entire reason for her earlier perception regarding heroes: Seraphita said she was one. This can only end in tears. For Loren, anyway.

Despite her dismay at losing access to the cake and having to deal with a difficult vanishing path challenge while handicapped to avoid getting eaten... well, she gives it her best shot. She doesn't really have a choice. But the cake-covered boots make it impossible. She nearly slides off the path a few times, until finally she's unable to correct her balance in time and ends up flat on her back on the path. There's no way for her to get up in time before the platfrom disappear. Only her hand reaches up....

...and is seized by Gwen, who appears just in time to make the save. It's a rare moment where Xantia is too distressed to even say anything. It's not until managing to reach the doorway at the end that she lets out a breath, and finds her smile again. "Thank you, Gwen! Sorry about that... I should've known that cake had to be a trap, somehow." Or so it feels to her now, all things considered. "...but it was worth it, wasn't it?!" Not that she's learned anything from this.

Upon stepping foot in the room beyond, Xantia looks around in wonderment at the surroundings, not immediately noticing the corpses. Now that the void is no longer actively trying to swallow them, she can appreciate the star-filled surroundings for what they are. It's really quite pretty.

It would probably lose some of its luster if forced to stay there for eternity, is something she may consider later. But not in this moment, what with the corpse-like entities with familiar voices suddenly menacing them.

Xantia can't believe what she's hearing. "You mean... not eat anything, ever again?" Of course she'd focus on that part of the equation. "Why would I want that?!" And of course she violently rejects the notion. Violently, as in with punches. Gwen has a lot of sensible ideas.

Though Xantia has no way to directly fight against the time manipulation, she does seem capable of more or less taking it into account, given her reaction speed in response to the many things that are sent flying her way, in spite of the disadvantage. Now if only she could manage to catch the undead scientist pair off guard, as well...

DG: Xantia has contributed a Combat Basic Action toward her party's challenge, The Unsent.
<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

Expected or not, Jean saves Loren and doesn't even stop to ask for thanks. She sees his face, and doesn't draw attention to it; they all come from different lives, after all. He doesn't owe her anything, as far as she's concerned. She hits solid ground again and turns back to see the others. They're all save, in the end. ...For now, anyway. Xantia and Gwen together, the four of then move to the next room. There are... something like walls here, yes. Jean turns her head and sees the nametags. These people are... preserved, yes. The corpses before her are not strange at first; Jean has seen many, many corpses in her life. But they move regardless. They are ashen. They speak. Wilkerton offers them something. Offers them freedom, in a way. Eternal...

They are stars. And Jean stares at them for a moment before, unblinking, unspeaking, she pulls her flask again and drains it completely dry, a long draught in the face of death stretched out across so many lifetimes. Loren finds his hand is grabbed, and he speaks against them. He calls it ridiculous. Xantia speaks of not eating. She fights directly. Gwen... Gwen screams.

Jean is slowed, but it doesn't faze her; she puts down her flask and widens her stance, every inch in slow motion for a moment, except for her words. "...I won't serve death again," she answers, completely serious, utterly solemn, not the bright-eyed dancer but someone altogether different. Abrubtly she shimmers, dark blues and violets and blacks outlinning her form before there are four Jeans, all around the corpses before them.

The throwing of her needles is only the beginning; they move in perfect time, striking outward, and as the light crashes through one they all disappear to become the one behind. Jean moves quickly, brutally, with hard kicks and awful strikes meant to shatter bones and snuff out what unlife remains.

She is not cruel, but her power radiates darkness. It is not Ether. It is something different, her own energies turned to the purpose of killing that which was meant to die. She is not perfect, but she does not cry out even when struck.

"...I won't allow this," she speaks.

DG: Jean has used her Tool Emergency Liquor toward her party's challenge, The Unsent.
===============================<* Seven Sages *>================================
==========================<* CHALLENGE - The Unsent *>==========================
|Type: Final       |Dungeon Ability: Combat    |Challenge Rating: 3          |
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 You enter a simulation room of star maps lining the floor sky and walls. On
 the ground, you also find a pair of corpses. Their nametags identify them as
 Professor Wilkertonand Professor Holly Dayes.

 After examining the bodies, they reach for you and stand up on their own
 power, looking ashen but stable and mobile.

 "We have shed our heart's pulse." Holly says. "Join us and never rest."

 "Why do you hesitate?" Wilkerton says. "You have been excellent subjects.
 Let us help you shed your gravity."

 Then they attack with darkness-type symbology and ether techniques that
 periodically speed them up and slow you down! Periodically, constellations
 light up along the floor walls and ceilings and send bright death lasers
 crashing around!

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=68wk6m05ojw
=Dungeon Conditions: Suffer===================================================
==========================<* Seven Sages - Round 6 *>===========================
============================< Results - The Unsent >============================
Player                               Exhaustion                      Pass/Fail
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Gwen Whitlock                       45 --(10)--> 55                Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Xantia                              55 --(10)--> 65                Fail
Fight                               0   Combat  Effects: BASIC
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Loren Voss                          50 --(5)--> 55                 Pass
Solarian Medical Kit                1   Combat  Effects: Cleanse
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jean                                55 --(5)--> 60                 Pass
Emergency Liquor                    3   Combat  Effects: Rally
-----------------------------------< Party >------------------------------------
Leader: Loren Voss                  75 --(35)--> 110               Pass
Conditions: Madness|Suffer(1)
Effects: Cleanse
===============================< Dream Chasers >================================
DG: You have overcome the dungeon's trials! This run is a success!
DG: The party led by Loren Voss has successfully explored Seven Sages!
===============================<* Seven Sages *>================================
===============<* CHALLENGE - WARNING WARNING WARNING WARNING *>================
|Type: Discovery   |Dungeon Ability: Conclusion|Challenge Rating: 1          |
---------------------------< Challenge Information: >---------------------------
 After a hard fought battle, Holly and Wilkerton start to fade away.

 "You are throwing away a tremendous opportunity." Wilkerton says. "You may
 return when you are ready to change your mind..."

 And the two vanish and a door opens. Inside, you find a terminal you can't
 access. It says another individual has placed it on lockdown but it
 helpfully provides a time for when the lockdown will end. A nearby lever
 will helpfully summon a two-way portal to the ruin's entrance so you can
 return at the appointed time without traversing the ruins again.

 OOC: You unlocked a boss fight! Please contact Asteroid the Kid with
 availability if you desire to pursue this thread.
=Dungeon Conditions: Treasure=================================================
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

"Yes, yes, never eat anything, never want to eat, never consume. Never be consumed. Please, consider it," Wilkerton says, his face still locked in that cheerfully droll expression. He isn't disappointed at all, even as Xantia violently refuses the very suggestion of not eating. Even when her fist manages to slam into his face, his body falling backwards. He simply gets back up, the depression in his face slowly curling back to its former pallid shape like a sluggish plastic ball.

"We shall fill the void and go where the stars go," states Holly happily to Loren. "You will understand. We will be happy to wait for this eventual outcome to happen. If many of us go, we can fill the vo-i--d----" Her body and voice is splintered, now echoing through the needles that pierce through her mouth and cheek. Jean's kicks and punches follow quickly behind, coming faster than the two scientists' abilities to heal from their injuries.

Whatever counts as 'healing' for them, anyway.

And then, the very molecules that hold them fast as solid objects just unfasten, beginning to disperse outwards until the time they could recollect again, probably a while after the party leaves.

They have all the time in the world, after all, and their cycle shall simply begin anew.

<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

As you reach the last room, there's actually someone in the terminal room before you. It's an eight foot tall man with broad shoulders and so frankly built that he looks like he could tackle through an entire football team. Despite his build, he is wearing research labcoat and a pair of large bulky fist sized arms. He was sitting before you came inside but when you enter, he straightens up to his full height and looks down upon the team. He gazes down at the assorted gang, his eyes hanging for a moment longer on Loren Voss. He pushes up his glasses and says, "This is a pickle. I should kill all of you, but..." He cricks his neck. "Besides, you're not the ones who took out several of my team members..."

He walks over to a nearby lever and pulls it with a rumbling sigh. A portal opens up in the room and he starts making his way towards it.

"I placed that terminal on lockdown while we're downloading the data. I strongly suggest you don't return."

He pauses and then adds in Solarian.

<"Be careful of where you lead your lambs.">

He steps through the portal and vanishes.
Fei Fong Wong just looked at you.

<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

Loren, vaguely, even as he thinks about such a meeting -- how it should never happen -- has a slight sudden chill.

In the gap before those who have apparently escaped the relentless hunter of all that draw breath explain themselves, make their case, and back up their words with pain.

It is a pretty room, if one that he doesn't have the time to even briefly appreciate. It's too bad, this would be quite interesting under non-lethal circumstances.

"'Fill the void'? With what." It's not even a question, just a snappy rejoinder as he falls back, a beam of light slicing through the spot he occupied moments before. "It's impossible."

But they're all realizing it, in their own way (with a few of them even throwing a punch): the offer they've been made isn't one they can seriously consider. There's too many holes, Loren thinks, drawing a gunsmoke ARM from under his jacket -- yet another tool to help maintain his cover. A shot cracks off, but as time slows... does it hit?

Jean, amidst the impossibility of the altered flow of time, rather casually breaks several essential laws of physics.

It gets Loren's attention.

Martial arts, a part of his mind supplies as she first enters the stance. Before a chill ripples across the room, a wave that reminds him of Keil's power, and she simply splits into four Jeans, unleashing all of her fury in a coordinated blow.
But it's not ether. It's not anything he recognizes. Martial arts, maybe -- but of a form beyond anything he's (a medic, with some grounding in at least recognition of a few styles) ever seen. Incredulous, he stares, and should Jean look, she'll see the expression of a man attempting to categorize something new into a cabinet with labels made over a hundred years ago.

This is going to be a weird report, he considers distantly.

It's sufficient, all told, to reduce these things to apparent nothing, just dust floating in the air.

Just one door.

And on the other side is an absolute giant of a man, the weight of whose attention lingers on Loren. The medic furrows his brow. "Who are you?"

Before the man pulls a lever, mentioning a lockdown status on the terminal.
And before the man says a few important words.

Important because of mode they're delivered in, rather than any content they express.

His eyes widen a touch, but here -- for the sake of everything -- Loren remains pokerfaced.

"Whatever you're doing... I don't plan on sticking around," he says, affecting as if he hadn't heard the last sentence whatsoever, that it meant nothing to him. "I think I've faced enough death here today."

And he gestures with his hand still hanging at his side in muted version of a military handsign. It's deliberate, but it could easily be mistaken as an odd fidget.

'Retreating'.

He hasn't heard about any operations out this way. Which means...
He'll need to speak to the Major. This goes too deep.

He's not staying around.

<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Though initially successful, Xantia's efforts to strike back at the animated corpses are continually frustrated by time shenanigans. She grits her teeth upon her third failed attempt to blindside the magic-slinging undead entities. "Still not fast enough," she mutters, before being forced back into dodging. At least she is able to keep herself from being hurt too badly, and deliver the occasional simple blow. Anything more fancy than that just isn't working. A frustrating reminder that she still has a ways to go to truly make the most of her abilities.

The end of the battle thus comes as a relief. This was tiring her out way faster than she thought. In the end, she can only conclude, "Should've eaten more of that cake while I had the chance..." Still the greatest of worries for Xantia.

At least up until the party enters the room beyond, and she has to briefly worry about needing to have to another fight without rest in between. Though she's quick to reassume a fighting stance, thankfully enough, the man they find there leaves on his own. Should kill them, but won't, good enough for her. She's with Thomas on not sticking around, and relaxes a little.

Even so, she visibly remains bothered by something, her brow furrowed. On the way back, she remains notably quiet, the complete opposite of the endless chatter making up the journey here. It's not about the cake, as one would be forgiven to assume, or even so much anything about the undead encounter. For some reason she can't quite place, she is far more concerned about that man they encountered at the end of it all.

What was that language? And why does it feel like she's heard it somewhere before?

<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

They're gone. ...Gone, and Jean takes a breath, putting her weapons back where they hang about her hips, glancing to the others. She has wounds, sure. ...She doesn't pay much attention to them for the moment. Instead, in the last room, she spots a very large man. He says something strange. His... Team members? A language she doesn't know?

Jean glanes to the portal. "...Who are you?" she asks, but she doesn't get an answer. There's a lot she doesn't understand here. At least Loren answered, too. ...He doesn't plan on sticking around. Xantia wishes they'd had more cake. But Jean? Well...

Jean, for her part, refuses any questions whatosever about her martial art. She looks at the asker funny, tells them they're talking pretty weird, that nothing unusual happened, and leaves it at that. But otherwise?

"...It's nothing we're going to figure out today. Take care, you two. I'm sure I'll see you again."

She'll leave with Gwen. She has a lot to think about, too.

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

Death was not a stranger to Gwen. It lurked like an old friend during her childhood, its presence both a source of comfort and of distress. There was no need to worry about things like growing up, or thinking about her future. She simply 'was', with each month and year a gift she never accounted for, but weren't entirely surprised by, either. She wouldn't die by a mass shootout. She wouldn't die lonely. She wouldn't die unnoticed. She wouldn't die old. She may even go in her sleep.

She wanted to live, even in the state she was. And death afforded it to her, That was just the way it was, and it was comforting, in a way. Even as her status changed, many of those truths seem to hold fast. She wanted to live. Each month and year was a gift, even if the novelty was worn off by now.

She just doesn't really think about death anymore, visits by Solarian assassins notwithstanding.

Somehow, the presence of something completely opposite the 'normalcy' of death just spooks the courier in a way she wasn't sure she could be. She's scared in a way that she can't put her finger on, so much so that when the two scientists disperse, there's a wild look to her cool grey eyes, like a horse ready to startle at any moment.

Especially when there's another man there, speaking first to them, then in another language(?) that Gwen's completely unfamiliar with.

When Loren mentions leaving, for once in Gwen's life, she doesn't object, her face betraying the grimmer emotions it had when Jean first got her to go out training. "... Yeah. Let's get going." She doesn't want to think about any of this for quite a while.

Too bad Frea will still want that report.